Reality (re·al·i·ty noun \rē-ˈa-lə-tē): the quality or state of being real, a real event, entity, or state of affairs, the totality of real things and events.
Have you heard the phrase “reality bites”? As you can see from this Webster’s Dictionary definition, reality is the state of being real…not what want reality to be, but what it is. Every time I talk with a reader or student about the subject of concealed carry I can’t help but think of the phrase “reality bites”. Why? As I listen to why people carry guns, they are seldom based in reality…”I won’t actually use the gun, I just want to scare them so why carry a big one?” How about “I don’t want this to change my lifestyle, I just want to know it’s there!” My all time favorite is “Why do I want a permit? It’s my right!” I agree it is your right to be able to protect yourself…what does that have to do with carrying a gun?
What do I mean by this? Personal security does not come from the barrel of a gun; it comes from having the willingness, commitment and training to employ the gun if the situation warrants it. I am a student of armed conflict; I have been my entire adult life. Not just in the tactics and techniques of how to do it, but in the history of how we have arrived at where we are. Learning to use the handgun for personal protection has been a long process, something that has been going on for centuries, yet many still cannot get their head wrapped around the concept that being able to repel an attack does not come from a piece of hardware, it starts in the mind. Being combative (ready and willing to fight) is a mental and physical process that is 90% mental and 10% physical. And the mental process starts with truly understanding what armed conflict and accepting it’s reality…it’s bloody, dirty, probably close, fast and final. It is probably not what you envision.
Mark Moritz stated decades ago, “The first rule of gun fighting is to have a gun”. While Mark hit it right on the head, can’t help but add “enough gun”. What is enough gun? I can’t answer that, only you can answer it for you, but I am willing to state it should probably be a hand full of gun. The gun should be large enough to fill your hand without fingers hanging off the bottom of having to change your grip in order to reload it. By having a hand full of gun, you probably have one large enough to control in rapid fire (what are the chances you will miss under the stress and duress of combat?), it likely has useable (read that view-able or reasonably visible) sights and it is large enough to practice with on a regular basis without pain. While training with your carry gun is certainly important, practicing with the gun once training is completes is equally important. Is the gun you have selected for concealed carry large enough to fill your hand? Have you trained with it? Practiced regularly with it? If not, do you really feel you can protect yourself (or your loved ones!) with it? Yep, reality bites!
What do you view as your potential threat? Are you concerned about being mugged in the parking lot of the shopping mall? An active killer/shooter situation? Rape? Kidnapping? How about good old wrong place at the wrong time? What if I told you that all of these were a possibility? Are they probable? I don’t know, only you can decide this and it should be based on a no B.S. assessment of your real world of work and play. All of us should consider ourselves potential victims of random violent crime while any female should consider themselves a potential rape victim. Kidnapping, terrorism, active killer/shooters can and have happened and statistically the possibility of such events is remote, but do you trust statistics? Hard questions, but if you truly wish to enhance your personal security, they must be considered.
A full size 1911 .45 is certainly a powerful handgun that is easy to shoot, but how many people will really put up with the bulk and weight on a daily basis? I know some who do, but I know many more who “talk a good game” about carrying “full size fighting handguns” and then slide a snub .38 in their pocket. I was attending one of the major training schools and right after receiving a lecture on carrying a “real” gun, I saw the instructors pack up to leave and slide Smith & Wesson J frame revolvers in their pockets. There is nothing wrong with this, but it seemed a bit contradictory considering what they had just said. What I think this incident represents, however, is the reality of concealed carry. People want to be armed they just don’t want it to interfere with their lifestyle…which is impossible. If the gun is small enough to require no change in dress of behavior, the gun is probably too small to be of use in a fight.
This reality was brought home to me many years ago when I was a young police officer. My wife and I took our children out for a nice dinner (a rare event on my then salary!) and while I cut my oldest daughter’s food, I heard the front door of the restaurant open and looked up to see a man enter with a rifle. I was “armed’ (if you want to call it that) with a .25 caliber Baby Browning with no reload because it was “convenient” but was it effective? In a split second I realized I might as well be unarmed as much good as a .25 would be against a rifle. The first rule of gun fighting is to have enough gun for the confrontation at hand and I did not have enough. Fortunately, the gun was not a threat…it was an antique muzzle-loader headed to the antique shop located above the restaurant. My wife was oblivious to all of this but as she looked up and saw me pale and sweating she asked, “are you feeling alright?” Hell no! I was unhinged!
You would think I had learned my lesson, and I did for a number of years, but as time went by I allowed complacency to once again take over. What brought me out of this was an incident at a drug store I frequent involving a man with an AK-47 assaulting the pharmacy in search of drugs. The suspect was stopped by a very brave township police officer who confronted him with his Glock sidearm and shot him as he launched rounds through the windshield of his cruiser. The moral of this story is bad things happen to good people in nice neighborhoods. Lesson learned (again)! I split my time between a Glock 19 and Ruger SR-9 both of which are fine combat handguns. Both fill my hand and are reasonably easy to conceal under a jacket or large shirt. The problem arises when hot, humid weather is the norm and wearing such clothing is not only impractical, but actually stands out as looking odd. “Regular” folks don’t notice, you say? Don’t bet on it…they notice when someone wears a vest, jacket or some other garment when the weather is hot especially in tourist areas. I was in Florida several years ago wearing a concealment vest when a man I didn’t know saw me in a restaurant and said, “Going on safari or are you carrying a gun?” Hmmm…
Concealed carry is not only a lifestyle commitment; it is a compromise that must be carefully considered. The easiest thing to do is just carry a smaller, lighter gun but we have already discussed that so I decided to find a thinner, more compact version of my regular carry gun, but one that will fill my hand. The search was not as easy as you would think. The most important feature would be a trigger with a similar feel and length of travel as my carry gun(s). A sub-compact Glock or SR-9 would be the obvious choice but both are still wide and I wanted something to conceal under light summer clothing. After trying a number of guns, I settled on the Walther PPS in caliber 9mm. The PPS is very thin making it easy to slide inside the waistband in a pair of shorts covered by a tee-shirt. Though the gun is tall in the hand, the grip feels very good and with interchangeable back straps, it can be adjusted to fit a wide range of hand sizes. Today, the PPS has been replaced by a Glock 43 as this pistol is even more compact!
My choice of carry ammo is obvious…at least to me: Corbon 115 grain DPX +P. The all copper bullet expands unlike any bullet containing a lead core and penetrates well due to the lack of fragmentation or jacket separation. Two six round magazines (with one in the pipe) give me a fighting chance even in an extreme situation like the AK toting drug abuser I talked about earlier. Don’t misunderstand, I don’t want to take on a rifle wielding suspect with a handgun but I certainly feel better doing it with the 43 or PPS than I would a pocket .380 or .25 auto.
There is no way to totally avoid danger save never leaving your home, so all of us assume some risk just living in modern day society, but this doesn’t mean we must sacrifice personal security. By staying “switched on” to our environment and trying to avoid or evade danger, it is possible to minimize our chance for conflict while maximizing our enjoyment of life. Think about the environment in which you work and play and give it an honest assessment. Carefully select a gun that is a reasonable compromise between concealment and combative capability and then try to stay alert for danger as we must all be active participants in our own rescue. As WWII German Ace Erich Hartman was quoted as saying, “The pilot that sees the other first already has half the victory!” This from a man that flew over 1,000 combat missions with 352 kills and never lost. Certainly something to think about…
Definition of REALITY