Real World Personal Defense Lessons from Hamas’s Drugged-Up Terrorists

by Tommy Grant

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The original assassins had hashish, the Moros in the Philippines used a native opioid, the Somali pirates and terrorists chew khat, and now there is a new terrorist drug of choice…Captagon. Numerous dead Hamas terrorists in Israel were found with pockets full of what is called “the poor man’s cocaine”.

What is Captagon and why should we be concerned about it? 

 Captagon was the brand name for a legal drug used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, narcolepsy, and depression in the 1960s and 1970s. The substance became illegal in most countries, including the United States, in the 1980s. Today, counterfeit captagon production is concentrated in Syria and Lebanon, and serves as a primary source of revenue for the Bashar al-Assad regime. Multiple relatives of the Syrian dictator are involved in narcotrafficking operations. Regional seizure data valued the captagon trade at $5.7 billion in 2021.

What are the effects of the new Captagon? The benefits to the terrorists who consume these little pills like candy are euphoria and a feeling of invincibility. Illicit Captagon was used by ISIS in 2015. They both took it and sold it to fund their activities. This same drug has been found in Ukraine during the recent conflict.    

Creating Type 3 Attackers

For years we have been teaching our students there are three types of attackers that they might encounter.  A Type 1 attacker will surrender/flee when faced with resolute defense. You display a firearm with intent to use it and they run away. A Type 2 attacker will not flee at the sight of a gun, but if they sustain any kind of injury — even non-life threatening — that’s enough to change their minds. They will surrender or flee. Both Type 1 and Type 2 attackers stop because they’ve made a psychological decision to do so. 

The Type 3 attacker isn’t afraid of your gun or being injured. They will absolutely not stop their assault until they have sustained so much physical damage that their body can no longer obey the commands of their brain. 

Michael Platt, the bank robber who killed two and gravely wounded three other FBI agents in April of 1986 in Miami is likely the most famous Type 3 attacker. Platt sustained a total of 12 gunshot wounds before stopping. He also killed and wounded the FBI agents after receiving what doctors described as a “non-survivable” gunshot during the first 90 seconds of the gun battle. Platt was not under the influence of drugs. He was fueled by hate and adrenaline. 

We teach the three types of attackers to our students to help them understand that they need to be mentally prepared for their attacker to be unimpressed by their gun. Thinking that every hood or thief will melt away at the sight of your pocket blaster is a recipe for failure.

The Type 3 attacker is, fortunately, the most rare of the three. However, that doesn’t mean we should discount their existence. We need to be both mentally prepared and have the skill to deal with such monsters. 

As we’ve seen, the use of pain-killing/psycho-boosting drugs by jihadi terrorists isn’t something new. What should be of concern is the rampant use of the new “cocaine for the poor” Captagon by terrorists all over the Middle East and now in Europe. The use of this drug essentially creates Type 3 killers who are euphoric and feel invincible. 

When the next jihadi terrorist attack occurs on American soil — whether it’s at a mall, a church, a school, or a synagogue — it’s a safe bet that they will be wired and amped up on drugs. That is their M.O. Why should we expect anything else?  

You Default to the Level of Training You’ve Mastered

For decades American law enforcement has been teaching the “Body Armor Drill.” They have cadets shoot two to the chest and then, to simulate an opponent wearing armor, they have them fire a shot to the head. I know that my police academy class practiced this in 1992.

In 1997, two heavily armed men wearing body armor robbed a bank in North Hollywood, California. The robbers fired upon responding officers immediately. The dozens of officers returned fire with their Beretta 92 service weapons. These officers knew that they were scoring hits, but the bad guys wouldn’t go down.

How many of the initial police officers who responded fired two rounds then transitioned to a head shot? Based upon the evidence of the encounter, the answer appears to be zero to none.  

But why? Didn’t these officers go to the academy where they did the “Body Armor Drill”? Yes, however, the reality is that for every “headshot” taken in training, a hundred rounds are fired “center mass.” When you’re under the effects of adrenaline during a life and death scenario, you won’t “rise to the occasion.” Instead, you’ll default to the level of training that you’ve mastered.

If over the course of your training you have fired thousands of rounds at the “X” in the center of the silhouette target and perhaps a hundred rounds, spread out over years, at the head, what will your default be?   

Training to Defeat Type 3 Threats

No, we don’t need to switch to .45s or try to conceal S&W Model 29s on our persons. The solution is mindset and training, which go together. We needed to come up with a way to make putting rounds in the right place standard practice, not an occasional occurrence. 

Around ten years ago I was tasked with coming up with a Skill Maintenance target for Student of the Gun University. Much thought went into the project. The upper section has a half-silhouette with a Thoracic Triangle preferred zone. For the uninitiated, to find the Thoracic Triangle we draw a line from the bridge of the nose down to the right nipple, across to the left nipple and back up to the bridge of the nose. Note that the frontal bone of the skull is tough and thick by design and has been found to deflect handgun bullets on innumerable occasions. 

Handguns are poor fight-stoppers. However, it’s tough to load the groceries in and out of your car while holding an M4. We carry handguns because they are convenient and better than harsh language and sharp sticks. If you had your choice for a fight, a rifle or shotgun would be better tools. Nonetheless, when you’re going about your normal life, the pistol is going to be it.

Understanding that handguns aren’t the best fight-stoppers, we need to focus on putting bullets where they will do the most good for us and the most bad for the recipient. The Thoracic Triangle on a homo sapiens contains a lot of important stuff. The heart is at the bottom of the triangle, there is also the upper spinal column and the brain stem (behind your nose). Humans generally have an aversion to bullets impacting their necks/throats and faces. Bullets through the heart aren’t instant stops, but you’re well on your way to ending the fight. 

During our Martial Application of the Pistol training course, we teach our students that during drills which require shots to the silhouette, only rounds inside of the thoracic triangle count. 

By making the TT area of the human silhouette the standard, we have moved away from the old routine of shooting “center mass”, but occasionally taking a “headshot”. If called upon to save their lives in a deadly attack, the default training that our students should have mastered, and therefore defaulted to, is putting rounds into the TT area. 


When preparing yourself for the real threat of an attacker who has decided he’s not going to stop, your mindset must be that you will train and practice in such a way that they will not be given a choice of stopping. You will make them stop.

For years we have taught that any self-defense technique that requires the cooperation of your attacker is inherently flawed. The lesson here is directed at the people who think that showing a gun to an attacker will scare them away or, just as bad, the people who still embrace a “shoot to wound” or “fire warning shots” mentality.

This world is a dangerous place. The best advice I can give is for you to be prepared to deal with it and the range of threats you may encounter. 

Paul G. Markel is the founder of Student the Gun University and has been teaching Small Arms & Tactics to military personnel, police officers, and citizens for over three decades. He is the author of numerous books and is a combat decorated United States Marine veteran. 

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