Below are some book recommendations that we think are worth reading and adding to your library. Often, these are books mentioned in our blog posts, but there are also just some favorites from our personal collections that have influenced our thinking and writing. Also, this list is subject to constant revision and additions, so check back frequently! We have provided purchase links for some of the books through our Amazon Affiliate link, which is a great way to support the blog at no extra cost if you like the content we offer.
- As I discussed in this post, Ed Lovette’s “Snubby Revolver: The ECQ, Backup, and Concealed Carry Standard” is an excellent reference for those that choose to carry the ubiquitous snub nose revolver for any of the purposes identified in the book’s subtitle.
- A great book that was recommended and reviewed by Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training on his blog is “gunFight!” by Richard Nance. I was not familiar with Nance before reading the book, but I am impressed enough with his writing to recommend the book as an invaluable reference. In my library, it serves as an up-to-date (2016 copyright), detailed, and inclusive source of knowledge regarding close quarters FIGHTING when carrying a gun. As has been pointed out by many before me, the root of the word gunfight is “fight,” not “gun.” This book will give you an excellent overview of how to do just that at bad breath distances, whether you’re the one holding the gun or your opponent is.
- As referenced here and here on the blog, Jocko Willink is a former Navy SEAL, was the commander of Task Unit Bruiser during the Battle of Ramadi, and with his former teammate Leif Babin, founded Echelon Front, a company that teaches corporate clients how to apply leadership lessons learned in war. Willink and Babin subsequently co-authored “Extreme Ownership,” a book that is as much a recounting of scenes from the Battle of Ramadi as it is a preeminent guide to becoming a better leader, no matter the task or team. I highly recommend adding it to your personal library and applying the principles within.
- This list would not be complete without mentioning the works of Jeff Cooper. Colonel Cooper founded the American Pistol Institute that became Gunsite Academy and is considered to be instrumental in creating the foundations of modern pistol doctrine. Cooper was a prolific and insightful author, and many of his writings remain relevant today. One perennial classic that should be required reading for all armed citizens is his short book entitled “Principles of Personal Defense.” Also in my personal library are “The Art of the Rifle,” “To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth,” and an autographed copy of “‘C’ Stories.” My signed copy may be a bit unique in that it was signed not only by Col. Cooper, but also by his wife Janelle! I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet both of them briefly when I attended Gunsite in 2004.
- Chris Kyle probably needs no introduction to the readers of this blog, but for those that may have been living under a rock, he is famous for being the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. Prior to his tragic death, he authored two books. My favorite is his second book, “American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms,” published posthumously. As the title suggests, Kyle highlighted ten firearms that he viewed as having a pivotal impact on U.S. history. The book brings history alive for the reader and inspires one to collect reproductions or current examples of each of the ten firearms that Kyle describes. His autobiography is a war memoir worth reading as well, if for no other reason than to begin to understand the enormous sacrifice made by the warrior elite and their families in their service to our country.
- Some fun fictional books with some sobering implications for reality are Matthew Bracken’s “Enemies Trilogy” series of books. They are quick and engaging reads that strike at the heart of gun control schemes and governmental tyranny. The first book in the series was the author’s debut novel, and I have since read everything he has published. His plot lines are plausible and captivating, with good character development and realistic details. Bracken was a Navy SEAL, and seems to have a love for all things nautical. His novel “Castigo Cay” exemplifies this with its main character inhabiting an inherited schooner that he uses to navigate around the dangers of excessive government and taxation. Finally, “The Bracken Anthology” is a collection of thought provoking essays that is well worth contemplation.
- As discussed in this post, Michael Seeklander’s “The Low Light Fight – Shooting, Tactics, Combatives” is an excellent reference that anyone that carries a gun should read. If you have questions about how to fight with a gun in the dark, then this book has some answers!
- I’m going to include a kid’s book in this list, simply because educating the next generation is of vital importance in terms of gun safety and 2A advocacy. I first learned of “Safety On: An Introduction to the World of Firearms for Children” by Yehuda Remer when Greg Ellifritz shared it for his readers with young children. I promptly ordered it and added it into the rotation for nightly story time with my kids. The book is an excellent overview of firearms safety for young kids, incorporating Jeff Cooper’s fundamental four rules and aspects of the NRA’s Eddie Eagle program. Teaching gun safety to children can be challenging, and this is just one way to make it a bit easier and more normal. If you have young kids, I think it is an ideal addition to their bookshelf.
- When Jerry Wetzel’s new book “Red Zone Knife Defense” popped up on my Facebook feed, I took notice primarily because of the positive social media reactions of a few notable trainers that I know and trust. I must confess, I was not previously aware of Wetzel or his Red Zone program, but I’m glad I discovered the material. I ordered the book and after reading it, I think it is a worthwhile addition to this list. Wetzel spends the first section of the book dispelling common myths surrounding knife attacks and knife fighting and clearly defines the problem of defending against a knife attack. The second part of the book is dedicated to dealing with the problem. I noted several common themes in the material presented that resonated with prior combative training that I’ve had. While I am by no means an expert in hand to hand combat, the system explained in the book is simple and robust, which are in my opinion key elements to any self defense plan and system. The author notes that reading a book is no substitute for hands on training on the mat; but nonetheless, I think the book serves as a good primer for anyone interested in the subject.
- Having so far trained twice with Mike Pannone (AARs here and here), the first book I must mention is “Tactical Pistol Shooting (2nd Edition): Your Guide to Tactics and Techniques that Work” by Erik Lawrence and Mike Pannone. This is a fantastic resource for the beginner or the experienced pistol shooter, covering all of the fundamentals of pistol marksmanship along with other things like malfunction clearances, strong and support-hand only shooting/manipulations, reloads, etc. The book is full of full-color photos of Mike Pannone demonstrating everything explained in the text. A really first-rate book.
- As a civilian practicing concealed carry, I can think of no better resource to offer anyone than Tom Givens’ “Fighting Smarter: A Practical Guide for Surviving Violent Confrontations.” Though I have never trained with Givens (John has), the record his students have put up in actual gunfights is astounding. This book is full of wisdom, covering everything from the use of force, mindset, choosing a pistol, choosing a holster, what to practice, etc. I only recently purchased this book, but the chapters I am so far finding most interesting are his statistical breakdowns based on the shootings his students have been involved in and other available stats, such as those provided by the FBI. This is truly must have.
- Another useful resource for anyone who carries a pistol is “Combative Fundamentals: An Unconventional Approach” by Jeff Gonzales and Louis Awerbuck. I have the older edition that is divided into pistol and carbine sections. These can be difficult to find for a reasonable price. However, a pistol-only edition is available for a very reasonable price on Amazon, and in my opinion this is the better part of the larger version anyway. This book is another great book for the beginner or veteran pistol operator, covering all of the fundamentals of pistol marksmanship in addition to things like reloads, malfunctions, etc. Grammar Nazis will have a lot to complain about, but this is another great resource to have on hand.
- Although law-enforcement based, I feel a must-read is “Jim Cirillo’s Tales of the Stakeout Squad” by Paul Kirchner. Cirillo was a founding member of the NYPD Stakeout Unit and, as such, was involved in many shootings. Though the events described in this book happened in the late 1960s and early 1970s, some of the lessons and descriptions of this type of close quarters fighting are at the very least interesting and possibly of real value to the concealed carry practitioner.
- Readers of my AARs will no doubt be familiar with my affinity for Paul Howe. Though you’ll have to wade through some typos and usage errors, his book, “Leadership and Training for the Fight: Using Special Operations Principles to Succeed in Law Enforcment, Business, and War” is a great read. The format of most of the book is to outline operations–or portions thereof–in which Howe took part, and then outline some of the lessons learned. These lessons, as the title of the book implies, can be applicable to people in a wide variety of careers or circumstances.
- David Klingler, a former police officer and now university professor, wrote a great book a few years ago entitled “Into the Kill Zone.” I first heard of this book when I heard Klingler interviewed by, of all people, Terry Gross of NPR’s “Fresh Air,” and I immediately purchased the book. It is based on his interviews with, if memory serves, over fifty police officers who either shot someone, were shot by someone else, or had the chance/legal standing to shoot someone, but chose not to. Though obviously law enforcement-based, there are lessons in here for people of all walks of life. Some of the stories are tragic, and a few are downright humorous! I really need to re-read this book. I often recommend it to my idiot Facebook friends who get upset when the police shoot someone, as it really shows the difficulties officers on the street face.
- Another great resource for the armed (or even unarmed) civilian is “Sentinel: Become the Agent in Charge of Your Own Protection Detail” by Pat McNamara. I thought the title was hokey when I first saw it (even though I love McNamara’s videos), but I bought the Kindle version for $1.99 during a sale and read the book in one day. It is very well-written and is full of all sorts of nuggets for average Joes like me. It contains advice on everything from how to maintain situational awareness to setting up rally points for your kids at an amusement park to maintaining physical fitness. The chapters each pretty much stand on their own, and one chapter doesn’t often have much to do with the one before or after it. I actually found this format refreshing, as it keeps things interesting. A fast read and a great resource. I have read this book twice already!
- Though I am not necessarily a fan of his position on civilian gun ownership, there is perhaps no better book about predicting human behavior (especially dangerous behavior) as “The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Instincts that Protect Us From Violence” by Gavin de Becker. This book has been a #1 best-seller and has been much lauded over by Oprah Winfrey, amongst others. It is one of the best-written books I have ever read on any subject. The personal accounts de Becker describes are riveting to say the least, and his ideas are heavily influenced by top researchers in human behavior, psychologists, etc. I would especially recommend every parent give a copy of this book to their children–especially girls–before they go to college or otherwise off on their own. Gavin de Becker is a true subject matter expert in this field, and that is one of the major reasons why his company protects some of the richest and most famous people in the world.
- I love to read military history books, especially World War Two-present day, so it should come as no surprise that I recently finished “Relentless Strike” by Sean Naylor. The book outlines the history of JSOC from its inception up through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Though I was familiar with elements of some of the operations discussed in the book, several were new to me. Perhaps the biggest takeaway for readers of the blog would be the number of covert/singleton/plain clothes assignments by members of “the Unit”. Considering a lot of these guys are now instructors, this information puts to bed, in my opinion, the attitude of some other instructors that “all those guys know how to do is kick down doors.”
- Growing up reading gun and law enforcement-oriented magazines, I had often seen references to the Newhall Shooting or Newhall Massacre but never knew anything about it. Somewhere I saw “Newhall Shooting: A Tactical Analysis” by Mike Wood favorably reviewed (the book has a foreword by Massad Ayoob which lent it some pre-purchase credibility), so I decided to spring for it. Wow! Quite a book, including helpful diagrams and color photos. The author–whose father was a member of the California Highway Patrol–does a great job of describing what happened and then providing an incredibly detailed analysis of where things went wrong, from training through the decision of the officers involved in the event that left four officers dead in 3 minutes’ time. Obviously, more oriented toward law enforcement, but the lessons for the private citizen are there as well since a random civilian actually became involved in the incident by picking up one of the officer’s guns and shooting at the bad guys! A very-well written and well-researched book.
- I am a regular listener of Mike Seeklander’s American Warrior Show podcast, and in a past episode he interviewed Steve Tarani, author of “PreFense: The 90% Advantage“. I was intrigued enough by the interview to purchase the book, and it’s a good one. The basic gist is that 90% of an attack (assault, mugging, etc.) actually takes place before the attack itself, so it is during that 90% that we can best defend ourselves. Fans of Boyd’s OODA Loop, William April’s techniques to de-select ourselves as potential victims, and others who preach similar stuff will appreciate everything in this book. Sections of the book can get a bit repetitive, but I feel like this would be a worthwhile investment for those looking to improve in situational awareness and avoiding “bad things”.
- Together with Massad Ayoob, Andrew Branca is probably regarded as the nation’s foremost authority on use of force legalities. His book, “The Law of Self-Defense: The Indispensable Guide for the Armed Citizen”, recently had its third edition published. I had heard Branca interviewed on both The American Warrior Show and Ballistic Radio podcasts, which is what alerted me to the existence of his book. Branca is a wealth of information who can also explain things effortlessly in layman’s terms. I read the above book over the summer, and it immediately jumped to the top of my “must-have” list for anyone out there practicing concealed carry. In the book, Branca clearly outlines the five elements that must be present in order to mount a successful self-defense argument: Innocence, Imminence, Proportionality, Avoidance, and Reasonableness. In doing so, he draws upon actual cases—some of which the reader will have heard of, others more obscure—to illustrate key points. In discussing each of the elements, he points out how to be sure each is present and how easily each can be “lost”. Also covered are topics like defense of others, defense of property, and interacting with police in a post-self-defense situation. The last third of the book is a giant appendix devoted to the specifics of self-defense laws in all 50 states. This book is truly a vital piece to my library, and I recommend it as highly as any book on my list.
- Though outside the normal scope of our blog, “American Gunfight” by Stephen Hunter and John Bainbridge, Jr. (hardcover can be found used, and a Kindle edition is available), is a mostly interesting read that contains at least a few lessons for our target audience. The book is about the now nearly-forgotten assassination attempt on President Harry Truman in 1950. Though at times a bit long-winded, as it includes many of the historical issues that led up to the 38.5 second gunfight, the story it tells managed to keep my attention throughout. There are historical lessons in the training received by law enforcement during that time period (not unlike the lessons outlined in the book on the Newhall Massacre I reviewed above), the fog of war/battle/gunfights, and, probably most importantly, the necessity of fighting on even when grievously wounded. The book includes comparisons to portions of famous gunfights like the 1986 FBI shootout in Miami, the above-referenced Newhall Massacre, and even the gunfight at the OK Corral. Not the greatest book I have ever read, but a worthy addition to any library.
- In 2014, Patrick Van Horne and Jason A. Riley published “Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life“. Almost immediately, it received a lot of praise from a wide variety of sources. The book makes an excellent companion book to “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker, which I reviewed above (indeed, quotes from de Becker’s book abound in Left of Bang). It’s primary focus in on utilizing a variety of observation techniques and strategies in order to accurately predict dangerous human behavior. I would say that, overall, the book is probably more applicable to police, military, or other who regularly go into harm’s way. However, there are plenty of useful elements for the private citizen as well. Though I would describe “The Gift of Fear” as a better, more interesting book, there are plenty of nuggets in “Left of Bang” for the average citizen.
- Highly recommended by Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training, “The Siege: 68 Hours Inside the Taj Hotel” by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy details the events that took place inside the Taj Hotel in Mumbai during the terrorist attack in November of 2008. Besides being a well-written, incredibly researched, and interesting read, there are some nuggets in here for our readers. The more analytical of our readers will be able to place themselves into similar circumstances—perhaps at a hotel here in the United States—and look at what they could do to prepare and prevail in such an event. Simple things are evident like knowing the locations of all exits and stairwells, having a spare battery/cordless charger for your cellular phone, not assuming rescue is imminent, carrying the means to defend yourself, carrying a flashlight, keeping some food and water items on hand in case you are trapped, how to barricade doors against easy entry by bad people, and the necessity for tactical first aid skills (and gear). A great read that could really make you think.
- I received “Handgun Combatives: 2nd Edition” by Dave Spaulding as a Christmas present in 2016. It immediately moved to the top of my reading list, and I read it over the course of about one week. Unlike most similar books that might begin with chapters on all of the fundamentals of marksmanship, it is telling that the early chapters of Spaulding’s book cover topics like mindset, legalities of use of force in self-defense, physical fitness, and choosing a pistol. It is only in the later chapters that the fundamentals are addressed. Personally, I think Spaulding has his priorities right. After all, if you do not have the right mindset, why even own a firearm? The book covers all of the fundamentals and even gives some attention to other areas such as vehicle defense, low-light work, close-quarters shooting, malfunction clearances, and dealing with multiple threats. Some of these later chapters could have benefited from even more information, but for a basic book Spaulding has at least given the reader a taste. This is definitely a worthwhile book to add to your library.
- When the likes of Tom Givens and Greg Ellifritz heaping praise on a book, one should take notice. In this case, the book “Holloway’s Raiders: A History of the Dallas Police Department’s Deadly Shotgun Squads”, just published in 2016, was receiving praise not just from them, but from others as well. I decided to spring for a copy and was not disappointed. Those familiar with the NYPD Stakeout Unit (outlined in the book about Jim Cirillo above) will quickly recognize the modus operandi of the police in this book: place well-armed police in hidden spots within stores that were often robbed, and then wait until the bad guys show up again. Those in the LE community who read our blog might appreciate this book, especially since it details a time when the police could shoot a fleeing felon (and a Slurpee machine) with a load or two of buckshot and not face any repercussions in the department or the media. Private citizens might find the efficacy of the shotgun (loaded with plain-jane buckshot) of particular interest. This book is an easy read, a fun read, and a nice glimpse at a 20-30 year period of law enforcement history.
- I would assume that some of our readers are familiar with the Outdoor Channel’s “The Best Defense”. One of the co-hosts of that show, Michael Janich, is probably most known for his blade work and point shooting advocacy. However, his knowledge extends far beyond those two realms, and his book, “The Best Defense: A Complete Guide to Personal and Home Defense”, illustrates his eclectic knowledge-base. The book covers many different aspects of personal and home defense, including the hardening of entry points and other aspects of home security, safe rooms, managing unknown contacts, empty-hand tactics, pepper spray, use of the cane in self-defense, flashlight tactics, etc. The book is only 117 pages long, so it is not exhaustive on any one topic. Rather, I would say that it provides a solid foundation of core knowledge and skills. Those seeking deeper knowledge about any singular topic contained within would then be best served by obtaining further reading or training in those specific areas. Having said that, I must admit that I learned something from every chapter (15 in all) in the book, so it would be a useful addition to anyone’s self-defense library.