Thursday, July 7, 2016
Basic Versus Enhanced Protection by William Tracy
Handgun Combatives follower William Tracy sent this to me and it has some pretty sound advice. Thus, I thought I would share it with everyone…
So often when we discuss personal protection we, as firearms enthusiasts, go straight to the issue of gun choice. But that is only one of many aspects to personal safety and protection, and beyond that, individuals facing sufficiently specific or personally directed dangers must take measures beyond those basics.
Little of what I have to follow is original to any degree, and even if I thought of it, someone else likely conceived the idea also, but I’ll try to give credit as best I can. What follows is not necessarily in any order of priority.
Awareness: Have you ever looked at people walking to their car at the shopping center? I have, and I can’t tell you how many times I see them not even looking both ways as they cross from the curb. You should be routinely scanning around yourself in an alert, relaxed manner when out in public. Most of us will probably never have to worry about a criminal attack (in which case a few more seconds can make all the difference), but there can be much more mundane hazards, including, but not limited to overhead construction items falling, or inattentive drivers. Likewise, I don’t like the idea of walking about in public having both ears plugged with ear buds from an MP3 player or similar device. Hearing will serve to draw our attention to activities beyond our field of vision. By removing or diminishing it, we limit our early warning system to what we see.
First Aid Kit: I’m talking pretty basic here. A stethoscope (preferably dual tube), blood pressure cuff, box of 4x4 inch gauze squares, a couple of roll gauzes, tape, a can of spray saline (the type used for contact lenses), and either a pair of scissors or small tactical knife to cut away clothing over an injury, and a ventilation mask. None of this is meant for treating major multiple traumas, but in a pinch you can get creative. A blood pressure cuff and some gauze can serve to apply direct pressure to smaller extremities such as forearms, hands, ankles or foot when there is significant bleeding. The stethoscope tubing can be used as an impromptu tourniquet for legs. Saline in a spray can will keep for extended periods and is useful for clearing blood and debris from a smaller injury without further traumatizing tissue.
Exterior Lighting: A motion activated light at entranceways is not a bad idea, and doesn’t have to be obtrusive, though I’ll admit to a mea culpa on this. At least have functioning lights at entrances. If you live in an apartment or other rental housing and entrance lighting is not working, put your request in writing if any verbal request is not acted upon within a reasonable time.
Basic Handgun: Have at least one reliably functioning handgun, preferably one that can serve both for home defense and concealed carry, as your applicable laws allow. My usual first recommendation is a mid size to low end of duty size polymer frame pistol in 9x19 with a 4 to 4.25 inch barrel. Examples include Glock 19, Springfield Armory XD (standard model with 4 inch barrel), or Smith & Wesson M&P (standard 4.25 inch model). Smaller guns might be slightly more concealable, but the somewhat longer grips and barrels on these make for greater handling and shooting ease, and they’re not all that hard to conceal with good holsters. For those who have neither the equipment or inclination to reload, 9x19 factory FMJ ammo is the cheapest available for practice, and any number of premium hollowpoint factory loads provide decent stopping effectiveness. And, though none of these models would be considered “game” guns for competition, they can still serve very well for IDPA SSP or ESP or for USPSA Production, thus further familiarizing the gun owner with awareness of their capabilities.
Be discreet in your possession, transport and carrying. I’m a life member of both USPSA and the NRA, but you’ll never know it by looking at my house or car. There may be times you’ll have to leave a weapon secured in your car. Anything suggestive of a house or car containing a gun can make it a target for thieves. When carrying as per your laws, avoid clothing which might suggest being armed or having a too casual attitude regarding use of force. The first can make you a target for an armed assailant looking to eliminate resistance and either can potentially provide fodder as to liability. I never wear any of my match t shirts as an outer cover garment when carrying.
Physical conditioning: I hadn’t really thought of this as an aspect of personal defense until I read some comments by Dave Spaulding, but he made a valid point along the lines that if you do nothing more vigorous than reach for the TV remote, you can’t expect to put up much of a fight. Although an activity such as certain martial arts might seem most applicable, the more important overall point is to regularly participate in a sufficiently vigorous activity on a regular basis. Not every aggressive action by an assailant calls for use of a gun or to stand and fight when fleeing is appropriate. Besides, you reap the inherent health benefits.
Flashlight: Get any of the small tactical flashlights on the market. You never want to shoot anyone you’re not justified in doing so to, especially non aggressors. They are bright enough to disorient a potential assailant and possibly help avoid the need for shots to be fired, and can serve as emergency lighting when moving around in the dark, as happened with a power outage in my area last fall.
Cell phone: They provide you mobile access to emergency services, both medical and law enforcement, though coverage can be erratic in some regions. I’m uncertain how well triangulating technology works for any given region or provider, so give as specific a location as possible. I’m not entirely ready to dump my hard line though, but regard them as complementary. The redundancy of having both cell and hard line phones can actually cut both ways. There was an instance in my county (Allegheny) a few years ago when 911 calls made on hard lines did not get answered due to a system programming error, but cell calls DID get answered. It happened again in recent weeks in a county north of me, Venango. In any case, give specific descriptions of yourself and any assailant present if calling law enforcement, as a protection for you and police who may arrive on scene.
Fire extinguisher(s): It’s a good idea to have one or more in any household. You can get small household ones in most any hardware or home supply store. I keep one near my bedroom and another at the top of my basement steps, to cover the mid and lower level areas of my house. And no Clint Smith, I didn’t get the idea from you (though I did see it in an ad for his personal defense series) they can serve as an improvised weapon via spraying an opponent’s eyes, enabling one to flee or access a better weapon.
All of the above basic items, as you can see, has multiple applications, and in the case of handgun choice, multiple competitive venues to which it can be applied at a relatively modest cost as compared to other choices.
Now if a person is facing relatively specific threats, there are a host of other measures which need to be considered, the ones utilized to depend on how truly serious and ongoing the danger might be.
Record of hostile contacts: Keep a record of hostile contacts, including e-mails, police or insurance reports of property damage, or harassing phone calls. You can print out hard copies of e-mails-contact your ISP as to how, if at all, for them to keep a record of any harassing e-mails. Save any answering machine tapes of harassing calls if you have this type of machine-contact the manufacturer as to how to save calls for legal purposes if you have a digital machine. If you have electronic voice mail for either a cell or hard line phone, contact your provider as to how to save calls for legal purposes. If possible, set up your caller ID so it won’t accept calls from blocked numbers. Note the time of any harassing calls and the number (if displayed) on your caller ID. All of this can serve as evidence for charges of harassment or stalking, and in a worst case scenario, be proof of acting in reasonable belief of harm if you need to use force.
Home alarm systems: An alarm system won’t necessarily scare off or stop a truly determined intruder. For an unoccupied residence, it might only make them aware they’re on a tighter time schedule. The most important benefit is in giving one more time to react when an intruder comes into an occupied residence. If they mistakenly broke into a place they thought was unoccupied, they MAY be more likely to flee if encountering an armed and prepared person. If it is someone who broke in KNOWING occupants were present, it gives the occupant(s) valuable moments to set their defenses and call to have police in route-any intruder who intentionally breaks into an occupied residence is a very potentially dangerous individual.
Remote car starter: I know some will think protection against explosive devices tied into the ignition, but I feel that’s truly a rarity. The greater benefit, I feel, when facing harassment or potential threat from another person or persons is narrowing your window of vulnerability as you approach and get in your car. With a remote door key you can have the care started and unlocked as you enter it, greatly decreasing the time an assailant can approach.
Long guns: My first choice would be an AR variety carbine in a flat top configuration with iron sights in .223, next would be an auto or pump shotgun 12 gauge loaded with tactical buckshot, next would be a pistol caliber carbine. The first gives all the range you might need in any but a very rural setting (Pat Sweeney wrote a great article you should look up if this is an issue for you), the flip side being more penetration and range than you might want in an urban or suburban setting. The shotgun gives less penetration and range, thus it might be better in those settings, with a trade off in lesser capacity and less precision at longer distances. The pistol caliber carbine (semi auto) is a very valid option with range slightly beyond typical handgun ones via the longer barrel and sight radius, as well as being easier for recoil or blast sensitive individuals. And speaking of that, especially with the shotgun or rifle caliber carbine, the blast can do quite severe damage to your ears-not that a handgun round is anything good to set off near bare ears. If you’re routinely keeping a long gun of this sort for home protection, or facing a specific threat, electronic hearing protectors are well worth it to keep handy. They also give you the bonus of having softer sounds magnified.
Hardened fighting position(s): You needn’t have an extravagant “panic room” that costs as much as some small houses. If you have a house with much heavy stone construction or brick, particularly inside, you may already have hardened positions. (Another nod to Pat Sweeney on his rural defense article, since I hadn’t before thought of type of house construction as a means of cover. He also wisely pointed out that any heavy equipment a rural resident might have would be useful as cover.)
However, most of us won’t have this type of construction available as cover, or it might not be in a tactically optimal part of the house. Ordinary wall materials are more truly concealment rather than cover. It can be something as simple as some steel plate or heavy polycarbonate panel leaned against a wall just inside a door. If you wish to be more discreet, you can have it inserted between the walls through the door frame. Choose a location which gives you as much distance as possible against an approaching intruder.
Backup weapons: Traditionally, this is thought of as a small auto or snub revolver carried in a pocket or ankle holster, assuming typical strong side carry with the primary handgun. If carrying 2 guns, you may want to install a Sure Set Universal holster mount in your primary car, as trying to draw while seated can be devilishly tricky. Your backup might even then become your primary gun in certain circumstances. I pretty much set the .32 ACP as the bottom end caliber and power wise, but lean more towards preferring .38 Special +P or 9x19. One option to consider is a smaller version of your primary gun, especially in 9x19, thus being able to use mags from your primary if you lose use of that weapon. I’m not too keen on some of the extremely light mini guns in more powerful calibers given how difficult the recoil can be to manage in such weapons.
Ironically, a long gun kept for home defense may actually function in the backup role, given the handgun may be more rapidly accessed since it’s more portable, with the long gun kept near or at a more defensible position, hearkening back to Clint Smith’s saying,: “A handgun is what you use to fight your way back to the rifle you should have had in the first place.”
Legal aspects as to workplace: If you’re fortunate, you live in a state with shall issue concealed carry laws and a boss with no hesitation as to your carrying a concealed weapon for defense while on the job, but for most of us outside of law enforcement, it’s highly unlikely one can do so. The next best thing, if company policy and law in your area allows, may be to have a security officer meet you upon arrival at work and have you secure your weapon in the security office, then retrieve it and immediately exit after work. Next step down the rung is securing your firearm in your vehicle in the parking lot before entering work. Legal protections on this can very widely from state to state. Some specifically protect individuals securing their weapons in cars in parking facilities, others do not, while others leave you in legal limbo especially if you work in an “at will” state as to labor law. Check with a lawyer knowledgeable as to firearms law in your area.
Whether or not you can or do secure a weapon in your car, you can request permission to park in an area that permits quicker access to work entrances and a greater likelihood of other people nearby. If a verbal request to this effect is not honored, make one in writing, preferably via registered mail so they can’t claim they never received it. This can potentially serve as leverage for liability in case you are actually attacked or injured after requesting such parking accommodations, the idea being you were attempting to prevent “foreseeable damages”.
Body armor: We’re talking basic soft body armor such as can be concealed under average dress or casual clothing. It’s not foolproof-I know of 2 local cases of officers killed in the line of duty by rounds that struck above the neckline and another with a lower abdomen injury from a vest failure with penetration-but in the vast majority of cases they will stop common handgun projectiles or edged weapons, thus allowing the individual to either stay “in the fight” or retreat.