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.