Thursday, May 26, 2016

Concealed Carry Mistakes

Several years ago, while still writing for the gun magazines, I had the opportunity to travel to Gunsite for a two-day seminar called “Pocket Pistols and Penlights.” An original idea of Dave Biggers, formerly of XS Sight Systems, the course was a way to explore what Dave called “the guns and flashlights that people really carry.” Meanwhile the guns used were popular snub revolvers and pocket-sized .380’s, in conjunction with the palm-sized Surefire Back-Up flashlight. Gunsite instructor Giles Stock led the class, mostly writers and industry executives, in a number of drills and exercises designed to simulate street combat. While I came away from the seminar with a greater respect for the capabilities of these small guns, I also came away with a greater understanding of what I already knew...I don’t want to have to rely on one of these ultra-compact guns to defend my life or the lives of those I care about, period!

I realized long ago that gunfights are quick but complicated affairs, often times won by the person who can “see through the fog” first, adapt accordingly and apply the skills needed to overwhelm their opponent. This is complicated enough, but to add to it by carrying a gun so small you cannot get your whole hand around it seems a bit, well…crazy! I learned this valuable lesson a number of decades ago while out to dinner with my family. My kids were small then and I figured that we were going to a “nice” area for dinner, so I dropped a small .25 caliber semi-auto into a pocket of my summer shorts. While trying to help my wife cut our kid’s food as it was served, I heard the front door of the restaurant open and a man enter with a rifle! Bad things happen to good people in “nice” places...

For a moment I thought that things were going downhill fast, but then noted that the rifle was a muzzleloader. I then remembered that an antique store shared the restaurant’s premises and it all fell into place as to what was really happening...he was coming in to sell the gun to the store. Whew...dodged the bullet that time. But what if it hadn’t been an innocent circumstance? What if it had been a real active shooter...a term that did not exist then! It made me rethink what I was doing and come to terms with why I was really carrying a gun. After all, it’s not a fashion statement—it’s a tool for personal security. My weekend at Gunsite made me revisit at the phenomenon of pocket guns and the “carry convenience” they possess.

While the allure of pocket guns is certainly a year-round thing, it is the warm months of summer that really make people contemplate their “carry-ability.” After all, when it gets hot, it’s natural for people to want to wear less clothing to help compensate for the rising mercury. Shorts, t-shirts and sandals become the norm, making concealed carry of a larger handgun increasingly difficult. But again, why are we carrying a gun in the first place? Are we carrying it because it makes us feel secure or are we carrying it because we want to BE secure? They are not the same thing. Lets go a bit further... if you were in my shoes in the incident I described earlier, except the threat was real, is this the moment that you want to rely on an easy-to-carry gun or do you want to fill your hand with a larger gun? Convenience does not equate to effectiveness, and at that particular moment I wanted a .50 caliber, belt fed, machine gun... but I can’t find a holster to carry it.

While I do realize that concealing a larger handgun is problematic, it is not impossible. It just requires a bit of thought and planning. First, you don’t try to fit a gun into your mode of dress—you dress around the gun. Several of the tactical clothing manufacturers make casual clothing with the expressed intent of concealing firearms year round and are worth a look. At the same time, it’s not hard to take the clothing that you have and make it work for warm weather concealment. For example, are you headed out for the evening in a pair of shorts, sandals and a t-shirt? Add an open front short sleeve dress shirt to the ensemble. It’s easy to do and my more fashion-sensitive spouse (she calls khaki tactical cargo vests “fashion emergencies”!) says that it actually looks good. If the evening is breezy, just button the middle button and if the gun is needed quickly, rip the shirt open! What is one button when your life is on the line? Better yet, a small tab of Velcro is low key and can accomplish the same task.

The safari or photojournalist vest that was so popular for many years (see above wife’s comment!) is pretty much blown with the criminal community. A few years back, I was guarding a felon who was watching a number of federal agents come and go wearing khaki cargo pants and safari vest combos. He looked at me and said, “Who are they kidding? Do they really think no one knows they’re cops wearing that get up?” While a summer weight vest can still be a good choice for concealment, you might want to pick a style that does not look like what fellow writer/trainer Mike Boyle calls “contractor casual,” referring to the unofficial uniform of security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Any number of companies make plain vests that don’t scream “gun carrier”, my favorite comes from The North Face.

Take a look at how folks are dressed in the area where you work and live. You might be surprised to note that many people are wearing clothing that would allow you to carry a larger handgun, provided you are willing to make the lifestyle commitment. My friend Massad Ayoob once told me that any standard dress shirt could be used for concealment provided it was “opaquely woven”, meaning there is no chance someone could see through the fabric. A square bottom dress shirt is easy to use for concealment, however, these days any shirt tail, regardless of length or cut, is fashionable when worn out—which is in direct contradiction to how my mother taught me to dress. It’s been a bit of adjustment, but I have learned to embrace this new fashion trend, especially when wearing a concealed gun in the summer months.

When selecting a carry gun and holster, it is wise to keep in mind that it will be carried under lighter clothing, so buying a holster that will help keep it close, but accessible, is important. For me, the gun was a no-brainer...I carry my Glock 19 year round (though a G43 has  really been helpful when I need low-profile),which gives me continuity of gear as well as peace of mind. Having confidence that my gear will work at the moment of truth is a huge advantage over any potential opponent, so I carry the G19 regardless of weather. I am also unconcerned about the whole stopping- power/9mm debate, as I realize it is shot placement that will produce incapacitation. But to ensure that I have as much edge as possible, I load my G19 with Federal HST or Speer Gold Dot hollow-points.

As far as a holster and magazine pouch is concerned, I have been wearing a Raven Perun for quite awhile now. I like its light weight, ability to adjust the cant, its tight to the body fit and it low price. Another good choice is the EDC Rig sold on the Handgun Combatives Store.  AIWB is quite popular these days and while some instructors have banned it from classes, I choose to enhance student's ability to wear the rig. Admittedly, I would prefer students carry the gun more to the side in a true appendix position (as defined many years ago by Bruce Nelson) but I can work with those that carry it more towards the navel or abdominal carry. Holsters made specifically for this mode of carry make it even more viable. My favorite comes from Bravo Concealment (the Torsion holster) with a close second being the Raven Eidolon and the Haley Strategic INCOG.

Once you have made the lifestyle commitment to not only go armed but also go armed with a fighting-size handgun, practice will be the final part of the equation. It’s important to go to the range and practice in the dress and weather in which you will be carrying. Heat and humidity can make gear stick or slick as can rain, so know how your holster and related gear will perform when wet or covered with sweat. How well will the light summer shirt “clear” during a rapid concealed draw? It will be different than a heavier garment, so “flinging it” back out of the way might not be as advisable as staying in contact with the garment and “evacuating it” instead. How will movement affect your light summer clothing? Standing still in a fight makes you an easier target, so practice drawing while aggressively moving with the garment you will use for concealment.

If you happen to be out shopping this summer and are caught in the middle of this nation’s next active killer event, you will be glad that you made the commitment to be armed with a handful of gun carried in quality gear that you can count on. Anything less will not be exactly confidence inspiring.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Facing the Active Killer: The choice is yours.

In 1984, James Huberty entered a San Ysidro, Calif. McDonald’s with several firearms and began to kill its patrons for no apparent reason. In one of the largest mass killings in history, he shot 40 people, killing 21. Experts pontificated on the possible reasons for his actions, but no one re- ally knew. In the end, he was deemed a “crackpot” and life went on.

This incident had a profound effect on me, and I read everything that I could find about it. I began to wonder what would have happened if my wife and children had been in that restaurant. What did the responding officers feel as they stood back and watched? They must have felt so helpless as they stood by and waited for command officers to issue an order. What would have happened if this had been a school building?

Unfortunately, we now know the answer to this last question. Such incidents have occurred with enough frequency that law enforcement had to make changes in the way we respond. SWAT was thought to be the answer. We trained police officers to set up a perimeter, contain the situation and wait for SWAT to respond. The incident at Columbine changed everything. While containment was being established, children were being murdered. A public outcry immediately followed the incident.

The next evolution was the creation of the “Rapid Response System” (Quad and “T” systems) in which officers were trained by SWAT to create ad hoc entry teams to deal with shooters before more innocents died. I attended several of these courses. They were all well thought out, but as I completed the courses, one question remained, “Will these four officers from different agencies be able to come together three or four years from now and perform this action?” To be honest, I doubted it.
Today, some trainers are breaking away from impromptu teams and calling for one or two officers to enter and cautiously move toward the sound of gunfire to stop the carnage, a move that I support.

Of course, there’s much debate regarding which response is the best method, and I’m sure this debate will continue for the foreseeable future. I made my decision many years ago. Right after the incident in San Diego County, I gave much thought to what I would do if faced with a “slaughter in progress” (the term Active Shooter was yet to be coined), how I would respond to the death of women and children before my very eyes. I was a young SWAT officer at the time and while SWAT tactics were not as refined as they are today, entry tactics, room clearing, movement/shooting and communication were much the same then as they are today. Patrol rifles were not common, but every car had a shotgun, and I carried a box of slugs in my briefcase and I knew their POA/POI at 50 yards. Once I was assigned to SWAT, I had either an HK MP-5 or an AUG-P 5.56 in the trunk to work with.

In any event, I decided that when faced with an active killing I would go in, alone if necessary, but preferably with another officer to act as a rear guard. I didn’t worry about specialized training. I decided I would use building search tactics that were standard and well practiced throughout Ohio thanks to Bill Groce, a forward- thinking instructor and mentor at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy. My plan was I would enter and tell my backup officer to watch our backs. I would move, slice the pie and clear hallways and rooms as I had been taught. The difference is I would compress the time it took to perform these actions, hopefully hastening my identification of the shooter’s location and stop his/her actions.

If shots were being fired, I would move in the direction of the sound as quickly as possible, scanning
in a 360-degree arc for other threats. Having responded to an actual fire at an elementary school (not a fire drill), I realized that frightened children might try to cling to me, but all I could do is peel them off, offer a few quick words of comfort and move forward to the sound of the gun(s). If I arrived at the scene of the carnage and the shooting had stopped—say it had turned into a hostage crisis—I would back off and wait for SWAT. My response would depend on whether or not the shooting was ongoing when I arrived.

It was a simple plan really, based on existing training and known skills. It’s what I had at the time. To this day, I have not changed my mind about my active shooter plan and if I were in a situation like this as a legally armed citizen, I would respond much the same. Some will think I’m crazy, but I long ago made up my mind that children, the future of our society, are worth dying for and that I will do whatever I can to see that they live to become adults. This is a personal decision and not one I made lightly. I’m not trying to push my decision on you. However, this situation could happen to you, as the trend of active murder seems to grow. As our media gives huge coverage to such events more and more people seeking notoriety go on killing sprees… nut jobs all!  What will you do if you face an active killer and you’re all alone? Maybe you work in a rural area and you’re the only patrol officer for miles around or an armed citizen in the right pace at the right time…what will you do? Regardless of your circumstances, it’s a good idea to decide now and make a plan.  

Active killer training continues across the country, and some programs are better than others. While I attended several while still a serving law enforcement officer, the best one I have attended was the Active Killer for the Armed Citizen course at the Tactical Defense Institute ( in West Union, Ohio. I have come to believe over the years that if any program requires a lot of choreography and complex skills, it will fail in a crisis. The programs I like best are those based on simplicity and good common sense. The problem is not every officer or armed citizen across the United States will receive such training. Further, as police officers leave or retire and new ones come on board, the training must be repeated which oftentimes does not happen due to budgeting.

If you haven’t received such training, you can still prepare to face such situations. Get a reliable carbine or practice with a shotgun loaded with slugs. Practice until you know you can hit what you aim at. Practice basic building-search skills, sharpen your room-clearing ability, and work on negotiating halls and stairways. These are not complex skills and should not be confused with the cool-looking hostage rescue or raid entry tactics seen in the movies or on You Tube.

Above all, keep your head. When the time comes, don’t let the cries and screams of those in fear divert your attention from the task at hand. You are moving towards a committed killer! Right now, someone is preparing to meet you and beat you. So train hard, and stay on guard.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The inter-net idiot: The desire for notoriety must be great!

According to Mr. Webster, the definition of “idiot” is as follows:

An utterly foolish or senseless person, a buffoon:
If you think you can wear that outfit to a job interview and get hired, you're an idiot!”

In times past, it was a clinical definition for the mentally handicapped that indicated a grown individual who had the mental acuity of a three year old. Of course, this is no longer used, as it is obviously offensive to many, though I sometimes wonder if it should not apply to the current generation of inter-net troll as they so often act like a three year old. No, more like a girl in Junior High/middle school…yeah, that would be just about the right age for the behavior these people display while on-line.

I have been on the receiving end of such juvenile behavior, behavior I know would not exist if the idiots involved were required to do so face to face. Why do they do it? I believe it is just like the junior high girl, it is a way to raise their profile in a world where being recognized is important…where they want to be recognized as an authority. They feel the need to stand above the crowd; the problem is they have no real skill, knowledge or reason to stand out so they do so by being “snarky”, disagreeable, mean and hateful in such a way that would get their ass kicked if they could not hide behind their keyboard.

Its not just the gun portion of the inter-net, it is every where. My wife likes to log in to home decorating and clothing sites/blogs to see what is new and notable. She tells me there are some great ideas out there, but the people who go out of their way to me mean spirited should be prosecuted. I do not know who THE PIONEER WOMAN is, but my wife says she has some interesting stuff to say and has made a great deal of money doing so. Good for her. She also told me there is an opposing web site called “I hate the Pioneer Woman.” What in the hell is that all about? I would suspect a HUGE dose of jealousy, just like the junior high girl. If you don’t like someone’s ideas, what ever happened to the courteous and professional way of offering an opposing viewpoint with well thought out, documented reasons for said opposition? You know, offer a logical counter-argument? I really believe these people are not smart enough to do so, thus they launch a verbal tirade that is borderline obscene, which is the hallmark of the idiot. Who reads this dribble? Like-minded folks who want to be something they are not and do not want to take the time or effort to develop, so they pile on in an effort to make their miserable lives seem more important. If your life sucks, make it better…don’t lash out at others, you piece of shit. Wow, that felt good even if it was a waste of time and effort. You see, this has NO AFFECT on the idiot as it is their M.O.

Recently, Panteao Productions posted a promotional photograph of me to help promote my upcoming video. It was a single photo of a moment in time of a simulated struggle in which it appears I have my pistol pointed in the direction of my arm on the other side of my opponent’s head. Anyone who looked at the photo can tell it was two bodies in motion, but to those who were just looking for a reason to lash out and raise their profile it was the perfect opportunity. Surprisingly, I saw several people I personally knew…and know THEY should have known better…also pile on so I’ll remember them as they are not the professional I thought. Idiots take all shapes and sizes in their non-internet life.

Of course, the safety at all costs Nazi’s started laughing about how I would shoot my own arm and at that mille-second of time that might have been true (though I don’t think so and I was there) but that is what a fight is about…it changes constantly and you don’t get the chance to fight safely. In a close quarter struggle involving a gun there is a real possibility it might be pointed at you are someone else and it has happened in the real world. While fighting to save my life I might shoot my arm…a small price when considering getting shot in the chest or head if I loose the gun. It all a matter of going home at the end, but the inter-net idiot does not care to think of reality…they like hate speak…

Fighting safely is a great concept…to bad its ill conceived and those that think it is possible are people who have never actually been in a real fight for their life struggle. If you punch someone…and you will in a fight…there is a good chance you will injure your hand, even if you don’t throw a closed fist punch. I know as I have done it. You might also get punched in the head…done that too…and t will affect your ability to fight. Damn! I just wish I could fight safety…that would solve all of these problems.

Those who have been in real world conflict will give you a list of personal injuries they have suffered…those who have been in such occupations understand this going in and those that talk about it like they read it in a book, well…probably read about it in a book and have no idea what they are talking about. Another trait of the idiot…

Yep, it’s easy to spread silliness on the idiot-net and those who want to raise their profile while spending NO time building a reputation, real world experience or any knowledge base at all, for that matter, will continue to do so. As an armed professional, it is your job to know what is solid info and what is hate speak. I have come to realize the best thing to do is give these people NO notice what so ever. If you try to reason with them, or worse yet argue with them, all you do is fall right where they want you! Now you have given them recognition …the notoriety they so desperately desire…because they want to be where you are! Or at least this is what I am told by my many students who just shake their heads at such antics. These folks know to just ignore the idiot as they are professionals.

Last but not least is the fan boy…the person who follows a particular celebrity (or instructor) like a teenage groupie following a rock band. This is more adolescent behavior from grown ups (idiocy), which I do not comprehend. These folks are the ones that attack others on line so their guru does not have to. I have been told the guru himself oftentimes directs these attacks! This is just too weird for a real grown up to wrap his head around and is certainly deserving of the idiot definition listed above.

This is the new normal for the firearms training world…I do not see it changing anytime soon. All I can say is those who are truly students of our art PLEASE ignore these people! If you don’t read their silliness, maybe hey will dry up and go away. It is my sincere hope they will grown up and go away! Finally, if you are new to all of this and are not sure what type of person I am talking about, just stand by and read the comments listed below…they WILL show up at some point and show us just how big an idiot they really are!

Thanks for checking in…