The G.L.O.C.K.s of Self Defense: Using a Model to Guide Training and Practice

Although I have been attending self-defense and firearms courses for decades, I still make efforts to participate in multiple trainings each year. Some of these courses are selected to push my own skill sets but in many of these classes I am more a student of how they are teaching than what they are teaching. Guiding the experience is my own professional and educational background.

students at self defense training aim pistols at the firing line
Formalized training is a great way to work on skills, but any practice or training can benefit from a model focused on realistic goals.

The Benefits of Acronyms

I am an organizational psychologist by training and occupation. Within my field, psychological acronym-based models are common. In addition to many visual models to help communicate motivation, performance, and job satisfaction there are many verbal models to describe best practices, as well.

Examples include the S.T.A.R. model for interviewing in which someone describes past behaviors based on the Situation they were in, the Task they had to complete, the Actions they took, and the Result of their behaviors. Another example is the S.C.A.R.F. model for difficult conversations. This model considers everyone’s Status, how Certain they are of the potential issue, their perceived control or Autonomy, attending to the similarities between people through Relatedness, and attending to the Fairness of the situation.

Additionally, having spent a significant amount of time in higher education (formerly a Full Professor of psychology), I am used to the two hours for one-hour model of undergraduate college courses. At its simplest level, college courses are designed so that for every hour spent in guided instruction or training (read: lecture) there are two additional hours expected to be spent practicing the materials outside of the classroom (reading, reviewing, and engaging). This is why a 12-hour course load (12 hours a week of training) is considered full-time (24 additional hours are expected out of the classroom (practicing)).

These experiences inform my own training, practice, mindset, and mental models. Any time I sign up for a training class I automatically assume I will spend additional time practicing the skills and techniques taught that I want to incorporate into my own skill sets.

Fortunately, most major training academies have several models that they train around. Examples would include the four rules of gun safety and Col. Jeff Cooper’s color codes of awareness. Although such models are common, my own professional field’s love of acronyms is less common.

Finding the Right Acronym for Self Defense Training

As I was coming back from a recent multi-day training, I started to reflect on my overall goals in training and whether there was a common word that could be adapted into an acronym model to illustrate the overarching concepts of training for self-defense.

This led me to ask what elements I would want to see in an acronym representing training, practicing, and incorporating skills and knowledge into a defensive framework. It is not just the skills or tools, but also the defensive mindset that we are all hopefully training and developing.

The next step was to find a common word within the firearms industry that could then be adopted to capture these elements. I did consider many options including working with the letters of Colt; however, I ended up settling on a different name. Though I own many handguns from many manufacturers, I almost always carry and train with my 5th Gen Glock 17 in 9mm. Additionally, as I considered the market position of Glock in the U.S. civilian and law enforcement worlds, Glock seemed to be a natural fit.

I decided to utilize the letters of Glock to define five areas of training and practicing for self-defense that should be focused on for defensive use. Due to the popularity of the firearm, I went with an acronym that would be easy to remember, but it is worth noting that this usage is in no way endorsed by Glock, Inc.

Dr. Joel Nadler with target that has shot groupings that indicate accuracy in shooting.
Training and Practice are different; training is guided instruction while practice is using that instruction to further build your existing skills. Once you have learned a new drill or skill in a class it is time to continue practicing it outside of the class.

So, what is the model I came up with? Well as the article’s title suggested, it is the G.L.O.C.K. model of maximizing firearms training. The G.L.O.C.K.‘s of defensive training include:

G: Generate scenarios and build mental models to anticipate situations and prepare proper mindset.
L: Location evaluates any given environment for best defensive locations and assets.
O: Observation utilizes situational awareness looking for threats.
C: Carry focuses on having the gear and equipment needed to defend oneself and making sure of your own competency.
K: Knowledge of the signs of threats, potential tactics, and the laws governing the use of force.

Let’s go into detail on each of these terms and how they relate to training.

G: Generate Scenarios

The first key concept to incorporate into your practice is to Generate scenarios into all your range time practice. This is the act of incorporating a defensive mindset into all your training and shooting.

At an initial level, it involves thinking about potential scenarios and how you would react. Even without practicing behaviors, having a mental map of what you would do in a given situation has been found to more often result in action over freezing. But beyond thinking through likely defensive situations it is also incorporating defensive scenarios into all your practice.

Even when I am competing, I try to incorporate simple movements and tactics into my shooting as allowed by the rules of the competition. For example, when shooting the static indoor GSSF matches, I will start to the right of the shooting booth with the gun as close to ready to defensive punch out as allowed. When the signal to start shooting is given, I step left as I present (reinforcing a simple movement into my presentation). Once I finish the course of fire, I step back right (as the booth will allow) and make sure to scan my environment (keeping the gun in a safe direction). In this way, even though I am competing I am also reinforcing defensive skills.

Additionally, I also try to incorporate these behaviors into casual shooting practice as well as always generating a self defense scenario before shooting. This can be as simple as visualizing the target as an attacker and engaging the target defensively.

L: Location

The first rule of real estate is location, location, location, and in many ways, this is true for self-defense as well. Location is a reminder to always consider your environment in any situation.

Another way to think of this is environmental awareness. Where is the nearest exit and all entry points? What location will provide you with the highest likelihood of early threat identification? What assets are available in the environment such as cover or concealment? If a situation did occur where would be the best defensive location relative to your current position?

In other words, if you are not able to take position at the ideal location, where is it and how could you get there if needed? In many ways, this is a subset and a precursor to the next concept of situational awareness, but it is also a reminder that being aware is often limited by our locational choices.

O: Observation

Observation is key as all the training and tools will be useless if you don’t perceive a threat in the first place. Situational awareness is taught in some form in almost all classes usually following Col. Jeff Cooper’s color codes of White (unaware), Yellow (being aware and passively looking for threats), Orange (identifying a potential threat and deciding on an action), and Red (taking action).

The stepping and scanning after an engagement in training and practice that I previously mentioned under “generate scenarios” is a common example of building up behaviors that allow for situational awareness in high-stress situations. But practicing good situational awareness skills in all situations requires practice as well. The aim is not paranoia but developing a solid set of passive observational skills.

C: Carry

Carry is a catch-all category to remind us that having the right gear that we are competent with on hand greatly enhances our range of options to respond to a difficult situation. Have you trained to defensive competency with your firearm? Do you trust that firearm and your chosen ammo to perform when needed? What other gear do you keep always available?

Common gear might include a knife in good repair, a flashlight, a phone, and a tourniquet. I suggest it is better to be aware (Location and Observation) and unequipped than caught well-equipped but totally by surprise. However, being aware (Location and Observation) and having the right trustable tools that you are practiced at getting to and using (Carry) is optimal.

Joel Nadler drawing pistol from OWB holster in self defense training
Gaining proficiency with your equipment is important, but you also need to make sure you have developed mental models (Generate), environmental awareness (Location), and situational awareness (Observation).

K: Knowledge

Knowledge is the final foundational component we are hoping to develop. Knowledge can take many forms including gathering data to create reasonable plans based on likely risks.

  • Knowledge of risk factors in situations as well as knowledge of methods used to de-escalate a situation.
  • Knowledge of tactics and actions more likely to succeed.
  • Knowledge of who you would call and what resources are available after an event.
  • Finally, the knowledge concerning the laws and restrictions of whatever jurisdiction you are currently in. What are the laws concerning use for force, defending your occupied dwelling or vehicle, carry options, need to inform officers of a carried weapon, as well as the force of law enforcing no gun zones?

Knowledge allows us to incorporate this information into our models and plans, increasing the likelihood of success and staying within the limits of the law.


The G.L.O.C.K.s of self defense training and practice hopefully can provide a framework for you to evaluate and expand on any training you take. This evaluation will hopefully aid you in incorporating new information into your existing skills and knowledge sets. Finally, this framework can serve to augment your practice (whether you are actively practicing a skill, competing, or just relaxing at the range).

Obviously, there are other ways to categorize these components, but the G.L.O.C.K.s do capture most of what we need to integrate to be ready to defend ourselves and our loved ones.

Joel Nadler is the Training Director at Indy Arms Company in Indianapolis and co-owner of Tactical Training Associates.  He writes for several gun-focused publications and is an avid supporter of the right to self-sufficiency, including self-defense. Formerly a full professor, he has a Ph.D. in Psychology and now works as a senior consultant living on a horse ranch in rural Indiana.  Feel free to follow him on Instagram @TacticalPhD.

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