polite society

The Polite Society

The Polite Society is an organization that holds shooting events designed to test defensive skills with the handgun. This organization was formed primarily by Tom Givens of Memphis, Tennessee and Jim Higgenbotham of Kentucky, both of whom have military and law enforcement experience, and both actively train civilian, military, and police departments in various places around the country. The Board of Directors has several other members that also have similar "real life" experience to draw from.

The society name and idea come from a quote by Robert A. Heinlein who wrote: "An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life." --Beyond This Horizon (1942)

After exploring various formats for about a year, the Polite Society was formed as a not-for-profit corporation and officially opened its doors for membership on February 21, 2003.

Competition rules

All equipment used by competitors must be appropriate for everyday concealed carry. Any equipment that does not meet this requirement cannot be used in a Polite Society match.

Stages in any Polite Society event must represent real scenarios that are actually likely to happen in real life or must test skills relevant to real life encounters.

Targets used are generally one of two types; Humanoid reactive, or humanoid cardboard/paper targets with scoring zones. When using cardboard targets, the requirement is usually a minimum number of points on the target for it to be considered neutralized, and not something arbitrary such as "two hits per target." Scoring zones on these targets will place a major emphasis on accuracy, requiring the contestants to actually hit what would be considered a "vital zone" on a human.


Polite Society events do not focus on sport shooting or competition but instead on the triad of marksmanship, gunhandling, and tactical skills as all of these are considered important in order to be a well-rounded gun person. You do not come to a Polite Society event in order to win a trophy; you come in order to improve yourself and others, and to gain knowledge and information.

Scores are involved in many of the shooting programs, and they are scored under a wide variety of systems, but the thrust is to gauge skill, not to compete – basically you should be competing against yourself or against a standard of excellence. It may seem strange to some people that you might go to a shooting event where some (or even all) of the tests do not result in the actual firing of your weapon, or where there is more emphasis on use of cover than marksmanship. You may travel a long way to an event and fire only a few rounds, but the knowledge gained will be as significant, it not more, as if you fired 300 rounds in routine competition.

Most major matches include separate training classes or seminars in addition to the shooting event. In particular, the yearly national match at Rangemaster in Memphis, TN hosts multiple trainers from around the country, and any shooter that attends the event may attend any of the additional events that strike his interest for no additional charge. This typically results a student being able to participate in training that would normally cost as much as several thousand dollars for only the nominal fee to attend the event (approximately $100 to $200). Because it involves so much more than just the shooting, the event is usually billed as a "training event" rather than a "shooting match." In fact, there are people that attend the events who don't shoot; they attend in order to participate in the classes and seminars.

The Polite Society was not designed to replace or compete with any other shooting sport. It was designed to provide a training venue for like-minded individuals; those individuals who realize that many competitive shooters focus too little on real life skills needed by the everyday permit holder or police officer who carries a gun for self protection, and who are not worried about owning guns or practicing techniques that only serve to help win shooting matches.

The Polite Society fully supports all other sports and heartily suggest participation in them for gaining skill at marksmanship, and, in fact, most of the trainers and board members still hold active memberships and compete in most of the other shooting sports, and many have served on the board of directors of other sports. We exist to raise the consciousness of those who believe that mechanical skill is but one facet of one’s entire self defense package and that good tactics should not be discouraged by the scoring system and poor tactics should be penalized.

The Polite Society has already attracted many quality trainers and is in the process of developing an advisory board of the best-known weaponcraft trainers and experts extant. Already that list includes (alphabetically) Tom Givens, Marty Hayes, Jim Higginbotham, Keith Pridgen, Karl Rehn, Andy Stanford, Gabe Suarez.

Utah (Greater Salt Lake) holds a Polite Society Event the first Saturday of every month. The general public new to the concept of armed self defense and concealed carry has become the focus of the group. Many founding members have attended shooting schools such as Front Sight in Nevada and Gunsite Ranch in Arizona. In spring 2007, UPS hosted Gabe Suarez for a week long close range gunfighting and force on force training session. Utah Polite Society is a resource for new CCW holders as well as experienced handgun shooters to build on tactics and real-life skills that can't be found at the local shooting range. The concept of getting "Head in the Fight" has been found to be as important as "shooting." There is as much analysis as there is trigger time at these shooting matches. Having pre-thought many of these "in the news" events has improved members "survivability" in simulated events.

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