Rule One?

Rule One?

Rule One? 1800 1800 Greg Ellifritz

A couple months ago, Alex Ooley interviewed me on the topic of travel safety for his “Forge of Freedom” podcast.  Alex was an excellent host and I really enjoyed talking with him.  You can watch/listen to the podcast at the link or embedded video below if you are interested, but doing so isn’t necessary to understand the context of this article.


Episode 87. Choose Adventure: Safe Travel in Dangerous Places by Greg Ellifritz


I was looking at the listener comments (I know. Dumb move.) on YouTube and saw this one:


“I highly respect Greg, and agree with almost everything he writes, and without hesitation would ask him to join me in a foxhole. But, every time I read about his travel escapades I think to myself, why does he insist on violating rule #1. The fact that he may be better than 99% of people in doing this safely does not mitigate whatever risk he exposes himself to. Unless he’s doing it to deliberately expose himself to that 1%.”


It was an interesting and respectful comment.  I get this question from gun people a lot and think it might be useful to discuss my thought process.



“Rule #1” for those who don’t know is:”Have a gun.”  It has been attributed to the legendary Col. Jeff Cooper in the quote: “Remember the first rule of gunfighting … have a gun.”



The commenter was remarking on the fact that I often travel to other countries where it is illegal for me to carry a gun.



That baffles a lot of gun owners.  The idea that a full time gun instructor like myself (who carries a gun whenever he leaves his house while in the USA) would voluntarily visit a place where he can’t carry is the very definition of insanity for a lot of the people I teach.  I want to take some time to explain to those folks why I spend a couple months a year violating “Rule One.”



Most of world thinks regularly carrying a firearm is an aberrant behavior.  The Earth has over eight billion inhabitants.  How many of those folks do you think carry a gun every day of their life?



Let’s be honest, even most American gun owners who have legal carry privileges often refrain from carrying guns.  In my cop career, I stopped a lot of people with concealed carry licenses for traffic violations.  It was exceptionally rare for me to encounter someone who was actually carrying their firearm, even when it was legal for them to do so.  Very few Americans carry guns everywhere they go.  Even fewer people in other countries carry on a daily basis.  In most of the world, it is only the cops, the military, and the criminals who carry guns.  Have you ever wondered how all of those eight billion folks manage to survive every day without carrying a gun?  Maybe you should ponder that for a bit.



I’m not saying that carrying a gun is bad.  I carry one constantly when in the United States.  With that said, we gun owners should recognize that our carrying guns is often considered strange and unnecessary by the rest of the world.  If all of those eight billion people on earth manage to survive without carrying guns on a daily basis, why do you think that you will most certainly die if you leave your house without your pistol?  Is it possible that you could survive a vacation without a gun just like all the rest of the residents of the country you are visiting?  It’s something you should consider.



A gun is just a piece of emergency equipment.  I find it odd that the people who won’t leave their houses unarmed don’t have the same level of equipment fetish for other emergency gear.  I have a few fire extinguishers in my house.  I carry a fire extinguisher in my car wherever I drive.  Fire extinguishers are useful to have in an emergency, just like guns are.  I would argue that most of the “never unarmed” folks are probably at a greater risk of experiencing a dangerous fire than a lethal criminal attack.  Why aren’t we seeing the “never unarmed” people sharing “pocket dump” photos on social media that contain EDC fire extinguishers or AED machines?



If it bothers you to go anywhere without your pistol, you might ask yourself why you don’t feel the same anxiety about being deprived of carrying your fire extinguisher.  Interesting thought exercise, huh?



There is a difference between being in a dangerous situation and one where your response options are limited.  I wrote about this concept extensively in an article titled Danger? 



In the article I discuss the fact that you are not in any more danger should you venture out of the house without a gun.  Not having a gun doesn’t change the nature of danger in your everyday activities, it just limits one of your possible responses to that danger.  This is a concept few gun owners have considered.



If I think a situation is too dangerous, I will attempt to avoid it whether I have a gun or not.  Going without a gun doesn’t actually increase my risk for attack.  It only limits my response options once that attack commences.  That is an important difference.



Being unarmed forces us to practice our awareness, avoidance, and de-escalation skills.  While I never want to get in a fight with a criminal, I’m extra careful to avoid those incidents when I’m unarmed.  I think sometimes we get lazy when we have a gun.  If something pops off, we have the ability to handle the problem.  Without that problem solving ability, we have to rely on our skills and instincts to keep us away from danger.



In the last quarter century, I’ve taken over 4500 hours of formal training in firearms skills, intermediate weapons, empty hand fighting, and counter terrorism topics.  Despite all that training, I’ve learned far more from traveling alone in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language.   Being forced to handle unique challenges without assistance in a foreign country provides more training in adaptability, survival, reading social cues, and staying calm than all the tactical training I’ve taken.



Risk versus Reward Calculation.  Traveling without a firearm slightly increases my risk of being hurt or killed should I be attacked.  That’s what most folks in the gun world focus on.  What they don’t consider is that our decisions are made by balancing risk and reward.  What about the “reward” side of the equation?



For me, the reward of solo travel is extensive.  I truly love learning about other places and cultures.  I enjoy interacting with new people and solving unique problems.  I greatly enjoy the confidence and insights on the human condition that I can only get by traveling to countries where I can’t carry my gun.  I suspect for many of my critics, the “reward” side of the equation for foreign travel might not be so valuable.  That’s fine.



For me, the tremendous increase in benefits from travel is worth the small increase in risk I suffer when not carrying my firearms.



I’ve trained extensively to defend my life.  I want to ensure I’m living a life worth defending.  I’d much rather carry a gun in most places I go, but I’m not willing to forego the amazing life experiences I can have by rejecting any location where I can’t legally be armed.  Your mileage may vary.