Interview With Massad Ayoob — Part 1

Even if you are just a casual shooter, you probably know the name, Massad Ayoob. He has been handgun editor of GUNS magazine and law enforcement columnist for AMERICAN HANDGUNNER since the 1970s, and has published thousands of articles in gun magazines, martial arts publications, and law enforcement journals. He is the author of some twenty books on firearms, self-defense, and related topics, including “In the Gravest Extreme” and “Deadly Force,” widely considered to be authoritative texts on the topic of the use of lethal force.

The winner of the Outstanding American Handgunner of the Year Award in 1998, Mas has won several state and regional handgun shooting championships. He was the first person to earn the title of Five Gun Master in the International Defensive Pistol Association. He served 19 years as chair of the Firearms Committee of the American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers, and several years as a member of the Advisory Board of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association. In addition to teaching for those groups, he has taught for the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors and the International Homicide Investigators seminars.

Massad Ayoob expert witness
(Photo: Tactical Tangents Podcast)

Mas has received judicial recognition as an expert witness for the courts in weapons and shooting cases since 1979, and served as a fully sworn and empowered, part-time police officer for 43 years, mostly at supervisor rank. Ayoob founded the Lethal Force Institute in 1981 and served as its director until 2009, and now trains through Massad Ayoob Group. He has appeared on CLE-TV delivering continuing legal education for attorneys, through the American Law Institute and American Bar Association, and has been retained to train attorneys to handle deadly force cases through the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network. Ayoob served for two years as co-vice chair of the Forensic Evidence Committee of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He also appeared in each episode of Personal Defense TV (Sportsman’s Channel). Mas was named president of the Second Amendment Foundation in September of 2020.

If you carry a concealed weapon, you can thank Massad Ayoob for your ability to do so legally. His testimony, writing, and influence has made that possible in nearly every jurisdiction since the notion of “shall issue” became a thing in the late 1980s.

His knowledge and more importantly, his ability to relay that knowledge to his audience through the written word was one of my inspirations to start writing about firearms two decades ago.

Massad Ayoob
(Photo: Wikimeda Commons)

We sat down with Mas a little while ago to sort of pick his brain about training, firearms, and his work.

This is Part 1 of a 2-part interview with Massad Ayoob.

GunMag Warehouse: Mas, I guess I have to start at the beginning. What got you into law enforcement?

Ayoob: It was probably the most venal of things. I was a young competitive shooter at 23 years of age. A buddy of mine said, “Hey, have you ever seen a PPC match?”.
These practical police courses were strictly for law enforcement. And I said, “ No I’ve read about them, but I’d like to see one.”

So we went out and watched and I said “This looks like a hell of a lot more fun than the stuff I’ve been doing. How do you get into this?”.

He said, “Well you have to be a cop.” So he was a part-time officer and we wound up talking with the head of the police in a small town. And we told him what if he gave us badges that we would win the state championship pistol match for him next year.

They said “Yeah well, trophies are nice but I need cops, you’d have to learn the job get out there, and do it. I thought “Hey, that might be fun”.

So, my first night as a ride-along was an option there. Right away, I was like to hell with shooting, where has this been all my life? This is cool. So I started as an active part-time officer and did that for about 43 years. I would have done it full time but I wouldn’t have had the opportunity for my career to go all over the country, take classes, go shooting, study threat management, investigating officer-involved shootings, all that sort of thing. At about the same time I was writing my first article and it was published at the same age of 23 and I found myself writing for a lot of the police journals.

Subsequently, a group that was publishing a bunch of state-level police journals called me and said, “We read some of your articles in Law and Order magazine. And our problem is we’ve got cops on the job that can’t write or aren’t inclined to write. And we’ve got writers who don’t understand police work. How would you like to travel all over the country writing articles for us?”

And the money was good. So I promised on that and spent several years doing that and that in turn got me in more training. So I found myself teaching in the mid-1970s.

GunMag Warehouse: Was this civilian students or police students?

Ayoob: I started teaching cops in 1972 and civilian courses since 1981. I did the pilot civilian course for the Chapman Academy in Columbia, Missouri. And that was very successful and Chapman, the first world champion of the combat pistol who ran that school said, ”You know, you really ought to open a school of your own.” My wife and I talked about it and I thought, hey it might be fun, you know, do a class a month or something. And within a year that became the tail that wags the dog. We started the Lethal Force Institute in 1981 and by 1982 it became my primary occupation and has been ever since I left Lethal Force Institute in 2009. I started Massad Ayoob Group, which is the mantle I teach under now.

Mas with his Ed Brown Signature 1911.
Massad Ayoob with his Ed Brown Signature 1911.

GunMag Warehouse: That’s incredible, now how did you get into the expert witness field? 

Ayoob: In 1979, I was asked to do an expert witness case in New York City and from there it got around by word of mouth. I’ve been successful at that and I’ve been doing that ever since. My most recent trial was about two days ago. On the gun owners and civil rights side, I was on the board of trustees for many years, for the Second Amendment Foundation and was president of the organization in September 2020. So, I wear a lot of different hats. Uh But I’ve enjoyed the whole ride.

GunMag Warehouse: One of the things that always kept me reading your articles over the past 4-5 decades is that you’re a great writer. True, the information you put out is definitely in my wheelhouse, but you have that ability to hook readers in with your way of telling the story. I’ll never forget a piece you did in the Ayoob Files. I started reading, thinking it was a modern story involving local law enforcement, federal law enforcement, a confidential informer, and a street gang. Then halfway through it turns out it was your retelling of the Gunfight at the OK Corral. It was pure genius.

Ayoob: (Laughs) I try to do a few stories like that every once in a while. Of course, the point of it was to show that the dynamics of human violence seem to be timeless. All that changes is the clothes, the weapons they bring to the gunfight, and the conveyance to get them there.

GunMag Warehouse: Speaking of that, I know you’ve gone through all of what I call the caliber wars. I’ve seen it myself but I know you have much more input. The old 9mm versus 45 versus 40, etc. Yet, it seems like everything’s centering in back on the 9-millimeter. Is that what you’re seeing, too?

Ayoob: I do and it doesn’t worry me. I carry a 9mm, probably 2/3 to 3/4 of the year. But, people telling me 9mm equals 45 ACP is a bit much; they haven’t changed the laws of physics yet,

But the lighter recoil, the easier trainability for people who don’t have a lot of training time, lower cost to the ammunition, more rounds in the gun where that’s legal are all genuine advantages with the 9mm and the 9mm of today is way better than it used to be. But so, of course, is the 45 ACP.

Gunmag Warehouse: It’s almost unbelievable how far things have advanced in the past decade with 9mm as a cartridge and of course the size of the guns with these little micro compacts, like the Sig P365 and the baby Glocks and all the others. I know I see it as a gun reviewer. I’m finding it hard to write a bad review anymore.

Ayoob: Oh, we have the best guns, the best ammunition, the best holsters and the best training that we’ve ever had.

Massad Ayoob
Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of our interview with Massad Ayoob!
Mike Searson is a veteran authorr who began his firearms career as a Marine Infantryman at age 17.  He has worked in the firearms industry his entire life and is both an experienced gunsmith and ballistician. Mike has been writing about guns and knives for numerous publications for years- over 3,000 articles worth, for a wide array of titles. He also consults with the film industry on the subject of weapons. You can learn more about him at or follow him on Twitter, @MikeSearson. He's on Instagram @mikespartansearson.

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