Tactical Tailor

Gunfighter Moment – Mike Pannone


On New Year’s Eve 2011, alone except for her infant son and scared for her life and the life of her child, 18 year old Sarah McKinley still had the composure to give her infant a bottle to keep him quiet and ask a dispatcher if it was okay to shoot an intruder if he entered her home before she did in fact shoot and kill him. She never had a mindset brief; she got it done just the same.



1. The ideas and attitudes with which a person approaches a situation, especially when these are seen as being difficult to alter

I’m often asked why I don’t put greater emphasis on mindset in the form of “mindset briefings” or what I like to call “popcorn pep-talks”. I call them that because in the end, they’re really mostly hot-air. The concept of having a proper mindset is crucial in not only a combative environment but literally anywhere that an individual wants to compete, excel and succeed. The desire to persevere, endure, survive and win is a requirement for success in all but the rarest of events that just by sheer chance end positively. That said, here is something to keep in mind with all these flamboyant diatribes about how “you need to be the guy that’s going to get it done” and save the day.

I’ve been a couple of places and done a couple of things and have served amongst the best our nation, two different services, and three different special units could produce. I have seen what a good mindset can do in a bad situation and how it sometimes is all that saves lives even when the odds are not in your favor. In those dark times of consequence it has never been a briefing that got a guy through. It has never been someone yelling over their shoulder that has gotten them through. It is simple and pretty easy to explain how they got the mindset needed to persevere and win. It was the culmination of decisions and actions long before the event.

Understand that nobody can convince you to do something that you can’t convince yourself to do first. Mindset is not a brief you get; it’s not a condition of thought that just “happens” to you over time. Mindset comes from the life you lead. Be candidly honest with yourself. Be under no illusions as to who you are and what you are willing to do. Sarah McKinley never got the briefing, but she had the mindset to fight, win and survive.

Mindset – stop talking about it and start living it.

– Mike Pannone


Mike Pannone retired from the Army’s premier assault force (1st SFOD-D) after an explosive breaching injury. A year after his retirement America was attacked on 9/11 and he returned to help serve his country as the head marksmanship instructor at the Federal Air Marshals training course and then moved to help stand up the FAMS Seattle field office. In 2003 he left the FAMS to serve as a PSD detail member and then a detail leader for the State Department during 2003 and 2004 in Baghdad and Tikrit.

In 2005 he served as a ground combat advisor of the Joint Counter IED Task Force and participated on combat operations with various units in Al Anbar province. Upon returning he gave IED awareness briefings to departing units and helped stand up a pre-Iraq surge rifle course with the Asymmetric Warfare Group as a lead instructor. With that experience as well as a career of special operations service in Marine Reconnaissance, Army Special Forces and JSOC to draw from he moved to the private sector teaching planning, leadership, marksmanship and tactics as well as authoring and co-authoring several books such as The M4 Handbook, AK Handbook and Tactical Pistol shooting. Mike also consults for several major rifle and accessory manufacturers to help them field the best possible equipment to the warfighter, law enforcement officer and upstanding civilian end user. He is considered a subject matter expert on the AR based Stoner platform in all its derivatives.

CTT Solutions

Gunfighter Moment is a weekly feature brought to you by Alias Training & Security Services. Each week Alias brings us a different Trainer and in turn they offer some words of wisdom.

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10 Responses to “Gunfighter Moment – Mike Pannone

  1. Nattydreadbushdoc says:

    “We are what we continually do…”

  2. Bill says:

    “The Unthinkable” by Amanda Ripley didn’t get the circulation in the LE population I think it should, but it’s on my mandatory reading list next to “Deep Survival” by Laurence Gonzales.

    I’m also reminded of the young lady who was a surfer and lost an arm to a shark, only to return to surfing. Winners win, it’s what they do, and there isn’t a tab for it.

  3. Well said Mike – well said !!

  4. SR says:

    Mindset is a memory driven confidence not unlike muscle memory. Many shoot ineffectively or not at all through simple lack of exposure to someone with experience and confidence with the tools of combat. The same lack of exposure can be found in the mindset to survive in modern America where it is honestly not needed to make it through life, unlike the third world where simply living past 20 requires that mindset. Modern military training even attempts to correct this issue, through combatives, bayonets, and other moto stuff that is unlikely to see real use in any way other than a strong resolve to confront death when needed.

    We make more money from teaching them to shoot and selling them gear, but what are we doing *for* them if not at least offering insight into developing that mindset. It is developed over time, and in the service you can develop it quickly. We have team sgts to emulate, we have 1SGs to fear and we have endless peers of varied backgrounds and experiences to draw from and shape our inner strength that gives us the confidence to close with and destroy the enemy.

    Attempting to plant the seed of mindset into those without experience or access to that mentality who pay us to teach them how to survive should be standard. To not touch it seems insincere at best, and irresponsible at worst.

    As always, YMMV

    • Noner says:

      It appears that you read something into or out of this that was not there.

      “I’m often asked why I don’t put greater emphasis on mindset in the form of “mindset briefings” ”

      I don’t give a mindset briefing as a stand alone event because it is overwhelmingly ineffective. I weave it as a narrative of my training.

  5. Jose Gordon says:

    There’s your mindset lecture…Lead a life that will serve you and others well. Well done brother…

  6. Bradkaf308 says:

    Said a lot with just 2 paragraphs and 1 sentence.

  7. Joe says:

    Good article…but isn’t it kind of a mindset brief?

    • Noner says:

      No, it is not a mindset briefing because I do not believe in them. It talks about how a good mindset is important to success and that no briefing can give you one but only living the “mindset” does. If you have ever had a formal mindset briefing then you will see that this just explains that it will do very little good if you don’t live the life that facilitates success, not just get a brief and expect to succeed in adversity.