Lessons Learned from the Stephen Willeford Interview

This past Tuesday night on the CCX2 show we had the pleasure of interviewing Stephen Willeford, the man who interdicted the active killer at the Southerland Springs Baptist Church.  The interview is almost two hours long and full of amazing lessons and information.  Beyond that, myself and the other hosts spoke with him for an hour before the show went live, and then for an additional hour after the show finished.  Therefore, in four hours of conversation with the man I wanted to highlight several points that you should consider.  Most of this information was touched on in the interview, but there are some points that we discussed while off air, and I want to share them with you here:

1. The importance of staging a rifle for quick access.  When Stephen responded to this event, he had to dig his AR15 out of his safe and he had no magazines pre-loaded, so he shoved seven rounds into a magazine and ran out the door to respond.  He explained that he could hear gunfire continue to ring out while turning the dial of his safe, and this whole procedure cost him 90 extra seconds.  I know many of you probably keep a rifle loaded and ready, but as Stephen explains it, beyond his handgun, he simply did not anticipate anything like this “happening here.”  He now keeps an AR ready with a loaded magazine and urges others to do the same.  Even if a rifle is not your preferred home defense weapon, consider neighborhood defense.  It would never happen where you live, right?  That is what Stephen would have thought.

2. “Stopping power” does not exist, even with a rifle.  I believe this conversation happened off air, but Stephen has moved to keeping a rifle chambered in 308 because he was unhappy with the performance of the 5.56 round.  One of the hits he put on the killer went in between the body armor plates on his side and hit the lung, but the killer still got in his vehicle and drove over eleven miles before self-terminating.  Stephen says he loaded the gun with American Eagle XM193.  This is a standard military ball round that has been used for a long time.  Stephen thinks that had he loaded the gun with a good hunting load the performance would have been better.  This is likely, but I think the incident simply re-iterates that there is no magic bullet and we need to be prepared for ongoing hostility from a bad guy until a switch gets flipped, no matter what you shoot him with. 

3. The mentality of “it would never happen here” needs to end.  This incident happened in Southerland Springs, Texas, a town of only six-hundred residents.  Everyone knows everyone, a quiet, rural town.  Certainly, such a thing would never happen here.  Until it did.  If you think that you do not need to prepare for violence because you don’t live in “the hood” and criminals can’t afford a mortgage in your pristine neighborhood, you are fooling yourself.  Any place on earth that is accessible to human beings is susceptible to unspeakable violence.  Period.

4.  These kinds of killers come to complete their mission.  Stephen said that the killer in the church “dropped fifteen thirty-round magazines” during his rampage.  Think about that.  He fired 450 rounds through the rifle in a matter of minutes, and had moved to finishing people off with his pistol by the time Stephen interdicted.  This is the mentality of such perpetrators.  If you think that you will be spared by such a creature in such an event, if your plan is to rely on mercy from the monster, consider this. 

5.  You don’t know the day or the hour.  When the news of Southerland Springs broke years ago the first thought that crossed my mind was “why, in Texas, did nobody in that church have a gun to shoot back?”  Well, Stephen explained that there were four men who attended that church that were always carrying.  Two of them were away, and two were coming, but were running late that day.  Therefore, at the moment the monster arrived, those four defenders were absent.  Consider this.  The only person who can protect you and yours is you, and you don’t know the day or the hour.

6.  Training, even informally, rules the day.  Stephen handled things very well in a horrific and unusual circumstance.  I would propose that the most remarkable aspect of his performance was his ability to quickly and clearly make decisions while under such stress.  This was the result of training.  He has trained a lot, even though not formally, as he explains in the interview, and he has a background shooting competition.  I have always been an advocate of competition shooting because it forces you to think with a gun in your hand.  It looks like we have another testimonial to the benefits of competition shooting.  If you have never competed, get out there and do it.  You don’t need to go nuts with it, but shoot a couple matches a year.  You will gain a great return on that investment.

7. Being armed and trained means you at least have a choice. The one thing said that effected me the most: at one point Stephen stated, pertaining to the killer, “he changed my life, but at least I decided how he would change it.” I want you to think about the wisdom in that statement; the people who were unarmed and helpless in the church did not get to decide how the monster would change their lives. Tragically, many of them had their lives cut short, or went on to live with life-altering injury. While a violent act against you will certainly change your life in some capacity, being armed and trained gives you a “choice” as to what that change is. If prepared, you will at least have a say in the matter.

Stephen Willeford is an amazing man, and we can all learn a lot from this horrible experience he endured.  If you did not see the interview, check it out:

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