New Movie Rule of Thumb

20. Leave the gun, take the cannoli.

Thanks to Kevin Creighton, who was watching The Godfather, and posted it on the book of faces. He reminded me of a phrase I use a lot, to mean dropping what I don’t want, and keeping what I do.

See them all at my Movie Rules of Thumb.

Movie Rule of Thumb 4: Never Take Your Shoes Off At a Christmas Party, or When There Are Terrorists in the Building

Source: Die Hard, my favorite Christmas movie.

WARNING: Harsh language!

Lesson: it’s never really okay to let your guard down. I covered this once before in my post about awareness. Always maintain a state of alertness, whether things seem normal or not.

Always be alert. Always be in Condition Yellow. Can we ever relax, then? Yes, but with caution and alertness.

In the movie Die Hard. New York police detective John McClain, played by Bruce Willis, goes to California to visit his wife for the holidays. He arrives at her office during the Christmas party. Someone he meets along the way gives him some advice on how to relax after a long trip – take off your shoes and scrunch your toes in the carpet. John does this in his wife’s office, and it seems to help. But just then, a group of terrorists take over the building. Now John has to fight a building full of terrorists in his bare feet. Mayhem ensues.

Now, if John McClain had kept his shoes in his hand, ready to put back on, things would be have gone differently. Not for the bad guys, but for certainly for John.

The Rule started out as “Never take your shoes off when there are terrorists in the building.” But this implies that we can know when there are terrorists in the building, or a mugger around the corner. So I added the innocent phrase “at a Christmas party.”

Yippee ki yay, Mister Falcon.

Movies at My House

My followers on Twitter can attest that my movie watching habits can be strange, especially when it comes to movies like Tombstone or Blazing Saddles. All I can say is, if you think my Twitter feed gets strange, you should be at my house when the movie is on.

We were watching Saving Private Ryan last night, and my son (he prefers to be called the Dauphin) was in rare form.

I should explain that his career goal is to become a military historian. I think it all started when we visited a lot of the museums and memorials in the Washington DC area a couple of years ago. In any case, it fits his personality, because he has always been interested the history of battles and wars, not just the what happened, but the why. He just started high school, but he already knows where he’s going and what he plans to study.

He started going on about the M1 Carbine again, and how the ammunition for it was merely an illusion, an urban legend, meant to scare the Nazis. Like Patton’s inflated tanks in England before D-Day.


More Dauphinisms:

The bazooka was devised as a way to let German tank crews know where the best American troops were located.

“Here, stand up. You be a Panzer tank. Now, I’ll be a bazooka team.” He tapped me lightly on the shoulder, then he said, quietly, “Hey, Panzer, we’re over here! Here we are!”


When Jeremy Davies came on the screen as the translator Corporal Upham, he said, “You know why Faraday is so nervous? He’s worried that Benjamin Linus is going to show up.”

He once pointed out that John Locke was mayor of Tombstone, Arizona, in 1881, pointing at the screen and saying “Damn you, JJ Abrams.”


His name for the Sherman tank: The Suckie.

It has nothing to do with his Southern heritage.


He promises to develop his own translation of the Edith Piaf song playing on the Victrola. I can’t wait.


His college plans – research the best American History professors in Georgia, and get his BA with them.

Masters at Oxford. Research in Moscow, Paris, and Tokyo.

PhD at Georgetown.

“If you’re going to get a PhD in American Military History, go where it’s all kept.”

He eventually wants to be Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. At least he doesn’t aim low.


The current Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution is Dr. Wayne Clough. As a fellow graduate of Georgia Tech, I plan to write and ask for a short visit with him, when our family returns to DC next summer. It never hurts to ask.


Since he will be 44 at the centennial of World War II, he is planning to be at the centennial events at Pearl Harbor, Stalingrad, Normandy, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. I would love to be there with him.

I hope they’ll let me take my Mosin Nagant to Stalingrad. That would make one hell of a rifle match. The Vasilly Zaitsev Prize.


When he shot an AR-15 for the first time a couple of weeks ago, he fell in love. He’s as much the reason I want to build one as my own desire.

I pointed out that after high school, the US Government would give him one to shoot as much as he wanted. All he had to do was sign up for at least 2 years’ service. He wasn’t keen on that idea.

I have since broached the idea of ROTC in college. That way, he would come out as a Reserve Officer, and get first hand knowledge of military operations.

Plus, as an officer with a US History degree who wanted to be a military historian, he would probably be invited to speak with a lot of the real players in American military history.

He’s considering it.

Movie Rule of Thumb 3: A Man Has Got to Know His Limitations

Source: Magnum Force.

Lesson: pretty self-explanatory. Every person needs to know their limitations. Either you will find them out through life experience or training or self-examination, or you will have your limitations demonstrated to you, perhaps fatally.

This was the first Rule that came full blown from just one line in a movie. Harry Callahan used it to mock the bad cop Briggs, who had once used the line to try to tell Harry that he was outmatched.

This rule has many applications. For instance, there are physical limits to how much activity we can endure, or how well we can shoot, or how much money we can spend. There are also limits to what we are willing to do, for a number of reasons. There are moral limits to what a person is willing to do, too.

For me, this means I have to train so I know what I’m capable of doing physically. Many people think that when the time comes, they will “rise to the occasion.” But experience shows that we will actually regress to our level of training. So we must always be advancing our ability through training and practice.

It also means I need to have well thought out rules of engagement, that lay out what I will do in certain situations. No one should wait until an encounter to decide how they will act. This is especially true of self defense situations.

More on rules of engagement later.

Movie Rule of Thumb 2

Rule 2: If you find an ancient book of the dead, never read it out loud.

Source: just about every mummy movie made. The example below is from The Mummy.

Lesson: when you know something you’re going to do will have a bad consequence, don’t do it. This especially applies to things that have always resulted in bad results. Remember how Einstein defined insanity – doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Don’t be insane.

If you want to see this rule violated the most, go to just about any gun forum and look for the members with the least number of posts. It also seems like forum trolls have whole libraries of Books of the Dead.


Debating .45ACP versus 9mm.
Giving in to terrorist demands
Asking which is better training for the real world – USPSA or IDPA
Asking what would be the best handgun to carry in bear country
On a New York subway, asking “Mets or Yankees?”
For me, asking my son “So, when are you going to cut the grass?”

Movie Rule of Thumb 1

From Night of the Living Dead

I love movies. I’m one of those guys who will quote a movie line to you whenever the situation is appropriate. If you know the movie, and continue the dialog, we can be friends.

Those who follow me on Twitter probably cringe when you see that Tombstone is on.

Some time, long ago, I started accumulating some rules for life, that were based on things that happened in movies. I few years ago, I wrote them down, and I’ve added and edited them a couple of times.

These are my Movie Rules of Thumb.

Over the next few months I will share with you my rules, where they came from, how they apply to movies, how they apply to Real Life, and how they’ve been important to me.

It all began with

Rule 1: Always Shoot Zombies Through the Head.

(Sometimes including the follow-up phrase, “Don’t waste ammo on body shots.”)

Source: Night of the Living Dead and every zombie movie since then.

Lesson: Don’t waste your time doing things you know aren’t going to matter. Consequently, if you try something you think is going to work, and it doesn’t work, believe the evidence. Try something else.

Rule 1 obviously applies to just about every zombie movie. It also applies to a lot of other movies. If you don’t have a silver bullet, don’t even shoot at a werewolf. The same thing goes for vampires, if you don’t have a wooden stake, although I have to admit, I have paid zero attention to Twighlight and other recent vampire movies and TV shows, so I can’t say whether this still applies.

Interestingly, I did a Youtube search and came across this test of zombie killing effectiveness. Apparently, it’s a good thing my shotgun is back in action. Enjoy.

Rule 1 has lots of applications in Real Life as well. Because of Rule 1, I don’t use sarcasm with the TSA agent at the airport. I always go ahead and give my dog his treat when I let him in. I don’t argue about visiting my mother-in-law. I tip the bellman at the hotel.

Self-defense lesson: Never shoot someone to wound, or fire a warning shot, or shoot to get their attention. If you pull your gun, be prepared to shoot until the threat stops. That means shooting center of mass, with follow up shots to other areas as appropriate.

And yes, that might be a head shot.

Be Prepared, Part 3 – the Black Hawk Down Rule – Movie Rule of Thumb 18

Over the years I have developed what I call my Movie Rules of Thumb, insights into how to deal with life’s situations, each one based on some event in a movie I’ve seen. The most recent addition is what I call the Black Hawk Down Rule:

18. There are NO half hour missions.

Both the book by Mark Bowden and the film by Tony Scott tell the story of the US Army mission to try to capture Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid in Mogadishu in 1993. A lot of the soldiers on this mission got in trouble because they assumed the mission, taking place in the middle of the day, surrounded by his cronies, would take a half hour, in and out. Most took no provisions, no canteens, and minimal ammunition, because the plan said the mission would be too short for them to need it, and they would be back soon. Instead, things went terribly wrong, and the mission lasted all day and all night. 19 Americans died.

So what does the Black Hawk Down Rule mean to me? It means there is no ten minute jaunt to the convenience store for milk. There is no half hour walk around the block. There is no quick run through the drive-through for dinner. Because in all those situations, things can and do happen that can turn that quick trip into a long nightmare, and you need to be prepared.

This means dress for the long term mission. When I make a run to the ice cream store, I take off my sandals and tee shirt and put on running shoes and a shirt that can conceal the handgun that I always take with me. When I run or walk at 5 AM, I carry a Glock 19 in my fanny pack along with my ID and Georgia Weapons License, and a tactical flashlight in my left pocket.

It means I fight my wife to get her to bring her ID and cell phone when we go to pick our son up at a friend’s house, since if we ever got into a wreck and she needed to be treated at the hospital, it would be a great thing if they knew who she was and who to call.

If you’re one of those who hops in the car and goes (and believe me, I was that way once) then I hope you will reconsider that, and think about a worst case scenario as part of your planning. Because no one gives the Medal of Honor to crime victims.