Bullard's Dual Carry: Three months later

As I wrote earlier, I like D.M. Bullard holsters. They make leather goods, not plastic, not kydex, not a combination (hybrid). Just plain, high-quality leather holsters designed to do what good holsters should do. I'm not saying that other materials used by other makers are not good. In fact, I also own a few holsters not made from leather and they work well too. But, for me there is more than just plain function. Good leather holsters are statements of the craftsman's art. 

Almost anyone can make a holster from kydex. Buy a sheet of the material, a piece of dense foam, a sheet of plywood, a couple of heavy duty hinges and a cheap toaster oven. You have all you need to press a synthetic holster for your gun. But, should you want to make a good leather holster you will need materials, certainly, but you will also need to learn how it is done from an experienced craftsman. Or, even better, apprentice yourself to a master holster maker. This will take you a few years to approach that level.

Also, and this is certainly a personal bias, a well made leather holster is just a thing of beauty. Really. Set a holster like the Bullard Dual Carry, or a Mitch Rosen holster next to any kydex holster and, well, there is really no comparison. Also, kydex does not break in. Leather does conform to the person using it over time.

All that aside, I can report that the Dual Carry is an excellent choice for those who appreciate high quality leather holsters. It breaks in over time, comforting to you and your gun, which means it just becomes more familiar and comfortable the more you use it. It is easy to convert from IWB to OWB. Takes a screwdriver and about two minutes of your time. 

The dual carry, being both IWB and OWB, can be seen as a value since you only have to have one holster for both types of carry. I recommend you give it serious consideration if leather holsters are of interest to you.

Serendipity

BORAII and the Ruger LCP II

Serendipity, n. "The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way."

Or, in this case, when two acronyms combine in a serendipitous way to bring safe, effective and comfortable pocket carry to the average person.

BORAII + LCP II

I've long been a fan of Ruger's LCP. I've had two of the original versions but finally gave them up for the basic reason that I could not train myself to shoot them accurately enough in a potential self defense situation. As I've said elsewhere, it is imperative that one only shoot the intended target and never endanger innocent people in a self defense scenario. If you can't shoot your carry gun accurately enough to meet this requirement, then get one that you can, or quit carrying.

When I heard about the LCP II, and saw enough about it from people whom I respect, I got one as soon as I could. It has certainly met all of my expectations for daily carry. And, yes, I am more than familiar with the "caliber" and "capacity" wars. I believe there will be no satisfactory answer to the arguments on all sides, however, my personal practice is based on the notion that I am an ordinary citizen, a man who is physically fit but in his senior years. I do not live in an overly dangerous place, although I sometimes visit places with a much higher crime rate and risk factor than my small town. The most realistic scenario I am likely to encounter is a quick, person to person confrontation that will begin and end quickly. If firearms are resorted to, I expect that only a few seconds and a few shots will be consumed. While it is possible that I might get involved in a running gun fight with multiple assailants extending over a longer period, this is so unlikely that I don't care to prepare for it.

I don't disagree with, or begrudge those who think otherwise. There are times when I think it prudent to carry my high-capacity 9mm with a reload, but given my situation those times are few.

After getting the LCP II, I carried it either in the pocket holster Ruger supplies with the gun, in the appendix position with a pjholster that is built to be tuckable, or, when home or around town, in my Bullard Bodyguard OWB holster. (I've had this Bullard holster since my first LCP. It fits the LCP II like it was made for it. Lucky me.) When I'm at work in my little rural health clinic, the place where security is furnished by the maintenance crew when necessary, I sometimes carried the 9mm with my shirt tucked. While a basically good idea, I don't particularly enjoy this method. I prefer pocket carry, which, with my larger semiauto, was just not feasible. Some people can get away with a Glock in the pocket, but i'm not one.

The Ruger pocket holster works. Mostly. But I don't like it. There is no assurance that it will remain in my pocket with the draw, and it is soft and flexible which is not a confidence builder when carrying a gun like the LCP II that has no manual safety. I spent time surfing the web looking for pocket holsters. There are more than a few, but to me, they all suffered from the fact that they were holsters made to be stuffed into a pocket. The best are synthetic - kydex or plastic - and have various features their makers incorporate to keep them from coming out of the pocket with the gun. Hooks, curves, thumb push-offs. These all appear to be add-ons to a basic holster and I have never been confident in them.

Then, I stumbled upon the BORAII. The name grabbed me at first. BORAII? What could that mean? Oh, Bill Of Rights Amendment II. I'm for that. Then the photo was perplexing. The thing doesn't look like a holster. No, and that's because it really isn't a holster per se, it is an attachment to orient and conceal a pistol in the pocket, and, more importantly, to protect against a negligent discharge. It is small, minimalist and covers only those parts of the gun that it needs to. Think about it.

Why does a gun that is carried in a pocket need to also be covered by a holster? Basically, the gun needs to stay oriented in the proper way so that a quick and secure grip can be made while in the pocket. It needs to not look like you have a gun in your pocket. It needs to detach itself from the gun when it is drawn from the pocket.

But, in the case of the BORAII, it also protects the shooter and bystanders from a negligent discharge while drawing, loading, unloading or pocketing the pistol. Ingenious. Brilliant.

The only thing the BORAII has going against it is tradition. It doesn't look like a "holster". That's because it isn't. It performs the same functions as a holster, but also provides more with less.

I thought about it. Made sense to me, but the proof is in the using so I contacted the folks who make this pocket carry device and asked to try one out. They quickly sent one and I've been using it for a few weeks now. Everywhere. It just works. And, I feel much more confident when handling the LCP II, loading, unloading, carrying.

Now, the lightweight combination of the BORAII and the LCP II with a spare magazine accompanies me everywhere and no one is the wiser. 

If you carry a smaller semiautomatic, larger perhaps than the LCP but still of pocket size, get yourself a BORAII for your gun. You won't spend more than $20 and you will be glad you did.

D. M. Bullard Dual Carry Holster

D. M. Bullard's Dual Carry Holster with the Ruger SR9c

It is no secret that I like Dave Bullard's holster designs, and I appreciate the quality and craftsmanship that goes into their making. My oldest, and still used, holster is one of their Bodyguard models for the Ruger LCP. I no longer have that particular LCP, but I do have the holster and it now carries the new model Ruger LCP II and it fits like it was made for it. I suppose that is another marker of a quality holster, being able to properly fit different firearms that are very similar in size. A good leather holster can accomplish this while a synthetic holster such as a kydex or plastic one will not. This is perhaps a positive benefit for the holster makers since a new gun, regardless of how similar in size it may be to another, will require a new synthetic holster. Or, at least a new "shell". Some holster makers have addressed this characteristic by making holsters that can be disassembled and reassembled with different "shells" – the outer portion of the holster – to fit different guns while the back part remains the same.

Leather holsters are more forgiving in this respect. My second oldest holster is a Bullard belt slide made for the Ruger SR9c. I found that it also almost perfectly fits the S&W M&P Shield 9mm or .40 cal as well.

I have owned, used and reviewed many holsters over the years and it seems I have winnowed my preferences to two types and styles – leather or kydex. I do not own any hybrid holsters, whether leather backed or synthetic. I've tried a number of them and they eventually go into the drawer or off to someone else. I find they are too big, too wide, difficult to attach and remove and have too many parts.

I like minimal kydex for AIWB carry. Carrying a gun at the 2 o'clock position all day requires, among other important properties, that it be in a secure holster of minimal size and bulk. A thin, minimal kydex holster carried AIWB is surprisingly comfortable. A good leather holster can also be comfortable although by definition it has more bulk than the kydex holster. And, it can also be weather dependent. I live at 7000' in the mountains. It's cold in the winter and warm in the summer, so I'm more often wearing the leather holster when it is cold and I dress in heavier clothing. The kydex is more suitable to summer.

I have been interested in Bullard's Dual Carry holsters for some time. With winter coming I obtained one built for my trusty SR9c and have been wearing it and breaking it in. I am reserving my final judgement on it until it's been properly broken in and carried thoughout the season. First impression reviews aren't really reviews but more of an indication of the reviewer's enthusiasm with a new product. This holster is, as are all of Bullard's products, extremely well made to exacting standards. It fits the Ruger precisely and as all good leather holsters do, requires a period of wear and break in to the gun, and to the wearer's body, before any realistic assessments can be made. But, a few initial observations are in order.

The Dual Carry can be configured to be worn IWB or OWB by a clever arrangement of how the two metal clips are attached. Each clip is held by only one screw and fits into a slot in the wing of the holster. Remove the screw. Slide out the clip. Turn it around 180 degrees and slide it back in. Attach the screw. Done. Each clip can be mounted low or high since two holes are offered for each screw. This permits the holster to be raised or lowered about 1". It is also possible to adjust the cant with these screw positions, but I don't think that is necessary. The holster is designed with about a 25 degree cant which properly positions the grip to be minimally obvious under a shirt.

This isn't a holster meant to be carried at the 3 o'clock position. It rides best, and conceals best at the 4 to 5 o'clock positions.

It is effective IWB but because it is full grain leather with a reinforcement strip across the outer lip, it is bulky. I am six foot three and 220 pounds. If I were smaller I'd say it might be too bulky if worn IWB. Worn OWB, it is very much like their standard Bodyguard model, the advantage being that it can double as either IWB or OWB, and with the dual clips, worn OWB, it is very easy to attach and remove.

I'll report more on the Dual Carry as I put it through its paces over the winter and into spring.

D. M. Bullard Dual Carry Holster

Bond Arms Derringer: Final Verdict

If you have read my entries here in reviews and in the articles section, you will know I've had an on again, off again relationship with the Bond Arms derringers. After an extended period I've come to the verdict that this handgun's place in a self defense carry system is as a backup or car weapon. I've detailed the idiosyncrasies of the weapon in some detail. You have to understand them and learn how to deal with them in any event. What solidified my opinion was when I had other shooters try the gun with different ammo.

First, I can't recommend the new Hornady CD with the hollowpoint and two ball loads. I, and others, have experienced jamming when trying to get the spent shells to eject. They must be pushed out with a rod, or pried out with some soft metal object. Not good.

Second, everyone who has shot the pistol complains of the stiff hammer. Cocking with the thumb of the shooting hand alone is difficult for some, impossible for others. And, everyone has also experienced the trigger. If you don't get a proper grip of the gun with a good wrap around on the trigger, it can be almost impossible to pull. As I've noted before, the trigger moves both back and down, in a kind of rocking motion. Pulling straight back without a proper grip will often not move the trigger far enough to release the hammer.

And, there can be times when two shots are just not enough.

Taken for what it is, the Bond Arms derringer is a quality firearm, well built and effective. But I don't recommend it as your only self defense carry gun.

The Bond Arms Patriot: Is It The Best Carry Gun?

Bond Arms Patriot model fitted with a 3 1/2" "Snake Slayer" barrel set in .45 Colt/.410 gauge

Many handguns are available for concealed carry. You have a choice of make, model, caliber, capacity and actions. The great majority of them shoot relatively standard pistol loads, that being a single projectile fired from a standard casing and from a few different platforms: revolver or semiautomatic, single or double action, hammer or striker-fired actions. Most of them are solid, well made and effective in the hands of a reasonably trained shooter. The "reasonably trained shooter" is where the potential issues lie. It is my opinion that the majority of civilians carrying a concealed handgun for self defense are not reasonably trained. In my state, for example, one may qualify to process an application for a concealed carry permit by attending a class recognized by the state to provide sufficient education in handgun safety and the law. No range or shooting qualifications are specified or required. In other words, a person may never have fired a handgun, take the class and with the certificate one gets from that, apply for, and probably get, a concealed carry permit. Now, would any reasonable person consider that to be a good thing? I don't. Even to get licensed to drive a car, one must pass an actual basic driving class. Given this situation, I wanted to see if there are any advantages or liabilities in which handgun might be best both for the shooter and any unfortunate and innocent individuals who might happen to be on the scene if an untrained concealed carry person actually had to fire their weapon in self defense or the legal defense of others. The two criteria that became quickly obvious were to 1.) hit what is being aimed at, and, 2.) greatly reduce the chances of injuring innocent people.

Combining these criteria with the established fact that even trained individuals, such as law enforcement and military personnel are poor marksmen especially in highly volatile, high pressure shooting incidents (yes, you can look this stuff up and get actual but not encouraging statistics), led me to the notion that for most people, a short range, but widely effective type of weapon would be preferred over those that shoot a long distance and are difficult to aim and shoot accurately under self defense shooting conditions would be ideal. In other words, a shotgun would be the best gun to have in these circumstances. A handheld, easily carried and concealable shotgun that would be effective at close ranges but not threatening to anyone at longer ranges and didn't have to be aimed with pinpoint accuracy.

These considerations led me to look closely at the Bond Arms offerings. I chose one of their pistols with a 3 /1/2" barrel because it will shoot 3" .410 shotgun shells loaded with five pellets of 00 Buck, each of which is roughly equivalent to having five .38 special rounds in two barrels. Bond Arms was kind enough to agree to my request for one of their pistols to use in my evaluations and sent me one of their new Patriot models.

I have been carrying that Bond Arms Patriot model derringer since mid-2015. My intention has been to determine if this small but substantial gun can be used for concealed carry, and if it might be feasible to rely on it as one's primary concealed carry gun (CCG). I won't go into the Patriot's detailed specifications here, that information is readily available on the Bond Arms website. The Patriot, like all Bond Arms derringers can be easily and quickly fitted with different barrels in different lengths and calibers. I prefer the .45 Colt/.410 Gauge barrels for self defense, and the .410 gauge 00 Buck or one of the self-defense shells made specifically for pistols. Being able to launch the equivalent of five .38 Special rounds with one shot from 3 1/2" barrels is a significant persuader in my opinion, especially since those five balls will spread out quickly to cover a man-sized area at short distances.

I plan a future article focused on the shot patterns and shooting experiences with the 3" and 3 1/2" barrel sets using different .410 loads as well as .38 Special rounds. But for now, I want to address using the Bond Arms Patriot in a concealed carry, self defense role.

Carrying the Bond Arms Patriot

Many of the Patriot's attributes seems to have been designed for concealed carry. It is small and smooth, with few sharp angles that might cause printing. The grip is substantial, yet subtle, providing a quick and secure grip for the draw from a proper holster. The front sight, which is not functional for a pistol like this one in a quick, self defense mode, although large, is well rounded and doesn't get in the way of a smooth, quick draw. I suppose if the pistol was equipped with a different caliber barrel set, like a .38 Special or 9mm, and used primarily in a non-concealed carry mode, having front and rear sights might make some sense. Otherwise, having sights on a 3 1/2" hand-held shotgun isn't necessary.

When I received the Patriot for T&E, I contacted Paul G., owner, designer and chief bottle washer of pjholster.com and asked for one of his excellent kydex IWB holsters for it. Paul acquired the necessary molds and went to work, quickly producing two nice holsters for the gun, one with a hammer shroud, and one without. Like all of Paul's holsters these are light, secure, easy to clip on and take off and conceal the Patriot so that it disappears under a light T-shirt. Paul also put together a light, two round kydex holder for the .45 Colt and .410 rounds. Bond Arms asked to see his work and after looking them over decided to recommend his holsters to their customers. I second that recommendation.

 So, the Patriot with either 3" or 3 1/2" barrels is a concealable, high-quality handgun easily carried in a quality holster like one of Paul's creations. What about utility and effectiveness in the concealed carry, self defense role?

The good: The Bond Arms Patriot, like all of their pistols, is small, but substantial. Very well made. Heavy, as it should be. Easily concealable with a good holster. High quality construction that will easily last longer than most of us will. Chambered for about any round you would reasonably shoot from such a gun and smart, quickly interchangeable barrel sets are readily available. One can attach the .45 Colt/.410 gauge set for concealed carry, or an "around the house" gun and be adequately armed. Put on a .22 cal set and go have fun without spending the month's utility bill on ammunition.  

The not so good: Two shots, then reload. Obviously, if you have a derringer you will understand the capacity limitation. In a self defense role, it might become significant. I think it is important but not a totally constraining factor. Let's consider a few arguments that are both pro and con.

Most self defense gunfights are over after one or two shots. This is a story that just won't die. I suspect that its proponents have cherry-picked the data to support this contention. However, looking at statistics from law enforcement gunfights and from all self-defense type incidents, this argument doesn't hold up. Sometimes assailants are shot numerous times before being neutralized. Often, multiple shots are fired before effective rounds hit the target. People miss. The cops miss. Well trained veterans miss. Two shots may well be all that are necessary in some situations, but evidence says that is not sufficient in all situations. What are the options with a two-shot self defense gun?

The 3 1/2" barrel set, top with 3" 00 Buck .410 shells and the 3" barrel set, below, with .410 self defense rounds (3 copper disks and 12 BB pellets each)

Getting enough practice to enable very rapid ejection of the spent shells followed by reloading to get back into the fight would be one answer. I've seen videos of a Bond Arms shooter who reloaded his derringer faster than I can drop a magazine and reload my Shield. But, he is certainly the big exception to this rule. I wonder how many rounds that person sent downrange during his many practice sessions to be able to do that. Most of us don't have the time, opportunity, inclination or money to get to that level of expertise. I'm more concerned about the ordinary person who is carrying a weapon for self defense and does not have the time or interest to become an expert. For most of us, two shots with a derringer and the game changes if the bad guy, or guys, are still a threat.

Another option is to have another gun. Many experienced individuals advocate carrying two guns. They have various reasons, most of which are really good. I sometimes follow their advice, but not always. I'm not in law enforcement and don't expect to get into situations where two guns may be necessary, and, frankly, it is a pain to carry more than one gun most of the time. However, when going to towns, cities and places where I think the likelihood of danger is higher, I have carried two guns and the Bond Arms is an excellent choice for a second gun. I don't call it a "backup" gun because I may carry it in a position in which, circumstances depending, it might actually become the main, or first gun I resort to. I may have an SR9c riding on my strong side, with the Patriot at the appendix or cross-draw position because sitting in my car or at a restaurant for example the Patriot will be much easier to draw, and far less obvious to get my hand on if I need to do so without drawing attention.

Not all situations are the same, and it might well be the case in some of them that one can fire off two rounds, then have the time and opportunity to reload. Not all incidents happen and are over within a couple of seconds, though most street incidents do, according to many law enforcement speakers I have heard. Even so, these quick-fire actions do not always revolve around a fast draw contest. Often, if one is aware of what is happening as we should be, one knows that the situation is turning bad and has time to bring a gun into play first and get off an effective well-aimed shot. 

There are no hard and fast rules except to carry your gun legally all of the time. You will have to make the call about which gun or guns you are most comfortable with. Away from home I have carried only the Patriot with two rounds in one of Paul's mag carriers on my belt, and two more in my pocket, just in case. I didn't feel under gunned or particularly vulnerable, but I don't live in a very dangerous place, so I think that was appropriate.

Continuing this line of thought, it is my opinion that the Patriot is an excellent choice for what I call an "around the house gun". I am a believer in the philosophy that if one decides to go to the trouble to carry, one should carry whenever possible, and that means around the house as well as around town. Now, I live in a pretty peaceful place. We've had the rare assault, break-ins, and a couple of years ago, one drunk young man stabbed another, killing him. Is this a crime wave? No. But, I also know that unbalanced individuals have, and will continue to go about killing people at random, robbing civilians on the street for drug money, or for more gas to get out of town. The reasons people kill other people are many and some are not easy to believe until you understand that some individuals just don't care if they kill another person. They don't think or feel as most of us do, and they make up a certain percentage of our population. It's not out of the realm of possibility that a couple of meth-heads, looking for money or to satisfy their strange logic, will crash into someone's house at night and go to work. That is not likely to happen where I live, but it is not impossible either.

It is very unlikely that I will be involved in a traffic crash, but I still wear my seat belt, make sure my airbag systems work and keep my car insurance up to date. I also carry a gun for much the same reason.

So, around the house, where we spend much time, is a good place to carry. Many people, perhaps most, who have a gun around the house keep it somewhere not on their person. This makes little sense to me. I'm in the kitchen. My gun is in a drawer in the bedroom. Some idiots crash into my house, waving guns, knives, baseball bats and decide to quickly take care of me and my wife and get what they want. I'm probably not going to make it back to the bedroom, retrieve my gun and start shooting. I'm probably going to be dead first. This is where the Bond Arms can come into it's own around the house. 

If I shoot one of these individuals with a load of five 00 Buck pellets accompanied buy one of the loudest explosions they have ever heard going off in their face, the other(s) will likely run. If not, I've got another round to shoot again and increase my odds of getting to the other gun. While some might note that this situation is far from ideal (ideal would be to have a fully loaded semi-automatic 12-gauge loaded with 00 buck at hand) it is certainly better than not having a gun at all.

The Patriot being an easily carried, comfortable and concealable gun with a devastating punch is an ideal choice for an around the house, and out in the yard gun.

It is also a good choice to take along in the car, stowed in an accessible location, in case some idiot confronts you with deadly force while you are seated. A situation like that will be at very close range where the .410 barrels come into their effective best.

The not so good: Hammer and trigger. Derringers classically are made as single action, hammer fired weapons. Firearms technology has moved on since those early days and we now have reliable, easy to use mechanisms that are superior to single-action, hammer-fired pistols. There is nothing wrong with the early designs. They are time-tested and extremely reliable, which can not always be said about some of the newer technologies. However, in a self defense role, when speed and ease of actuation is at a premium, they are not the best choice available.

I have had conversations with Bond Arms about the hammer on their guns. I have also had conversations with other Bond Arms users and with some very knowledgeable people who are critical of the pistol for that reason. Simply put, you must cock the hammer before the gun will fire. Being that it is really not a good idea to carry a cocked single action pistol, even with the manual safety engaged, in a holster, especially a concealed carry holster, it is necessary to draw, then cock the hammer before firing the gun. This should not be an issue for a self defense gun. There are pistols with hammers that are easily and quickly cocked by the average person. The Bond Arms derringers are not among those. These hammers are controlled by springs that are strong and make them difficult to cock with one hand.

Let me emphasize here that this criticism, that the Bond Arms pistols' hammers are hard to cock one-handed is directed solely toward the pistol's use as a concealed carry self defense handgun. At this point, I have personally cocked and re-cocked my Patriot's hammer hundreds of times, perhaps as much as a thousand, in order to see if the action will smooth out and become easier. It did improve after the first 100 cycles or so, but beyond that it is essentially the same: difficult. I am over seventy years old, but I am also 6' 4", 212 pounds and in pretty good shape for an old guy. I have trouble cocking the pistol with one hand, especially after the first five or six times in a session. Of course, it is easy to cock the pistol with my non-shooting hand. When I lift my cover garment and draw the pistol my left hand is in a perfect position to fan the heel of that hand across the hammer, quickly putting it into the cocked position. This almost always works. However, as you know, you might be in a situation in which your off-hand isn't available: you are shielding someone, or moving someone out of the way. Your off-hand is injured or caught or you are using it to protect yourself from a close up assault. In these instances you must be able to draw, cock and quickly fire. This isn't always possible with the Bond Arms since the hammer is stiff and difficult to operate with one hand.

Cocking the hammer with thumb on top. Less leverage, not as easy as a higher hammer grip.

Cocking with the thumb well up over the hammer increases leverage and decreases the necessary force needed.

Those of us who are small, have weak grips due to size, health or age, will have a problem with the stiff hammer spring.

The trigger: Regardless of what a few people might say, the trigger on the Bond Arms guns is a fine trigger with a crisp and reasonable pull. Those who claim otherwise haven't taken the time to familiarize themselves with the pistol. The Bond Arms trigger is designed to be actuated a little differently than most. This trigger is made to be actuated with a simultaneous backward and downward motion. In other words, you roll the trigger back and downwards and, "snap", it releases the hammer. It is not meant to be pulled straight back. It is meant to accept the full joint of your index finger and is shaped to direct that finger's pull in the proper direction. From extensive experience and trials I can state that if gripped properly, with a full and secure grip, the trigger finger's first joint will naturally cover the trigger and protrude slightly out the opposite side. With this grip the trigger will easily pull with a natural squeeze. Those who have trouble with the Bond Arms trigger are almost always gripping the pistol improperly which results in only the tip of their finger riding on one edge of the trigger instead of lying fully across the trigger face as it should.

This isn't a problem with the trigger or its design but with the shooter holding the pistol improperly. A little training will easily overcome this seeming issue, which is not a gun problem but a "cockpit error". 

Given the advantages and limitations of the Bond Arms derringers mapped against how you plan to use them, it should be easy to determine if one of their handguns has a place in your self defense plan. I've found where the Patriot is most useful for me and recommend it as a solid alternative when choosing handguns for self defense and concealed carry.

A final note having to do with the usefulness of the Bond Arms guns in another role. I live in Colorado and have the opportunity to spend time in the woods, mountains and on the rivers here. A few years back, the Forest Service and Park Service rangers began going about armed. My understanding of this is that escalating confrontations with campers, hikers and sometimes fishermen from the urban areas and from out of state necessitated the officials being able to protect themselves and others from increasingly outlaw behaviors. I've backpacked into some popular but wild areas and before I started carrying did, on a few occasions, feel particularly vulnerable when I encountered certain individuals. Once, fishing a high mountain lake in California, I quickly disappeared when a gang of obviously drunk and stoned jerks drove up. Now, when hiking or wading a river while fly fishing I go armed. The Bond Arms is a good choice for this activity, especially hiking or backpacking not only due to those factors, but also when considering that a small shotgun might serve to put some food into the campfire stick if one was ever put in a survival situation. So, a Bond Arms with a .410 gauge barrel set and a few 00 Buck and #6 shot shells would go a long way toward a successful outcome.

My thanks to Gordon Bond and Bob Tolar at Bond Arms for providing the Patriot and extra barrel sets for testing and evaluation and for answering my many pestering questions. The folks at Bond Arms make a superior firearm that easily takes its place among the highest quality guns produced today. The company and their handguns deserve serious and even-handed consideration. I love mine and it has earned a solid place in my collection of useful things.

 

Rode Hard, and Put Away Wet

Bullard IWB

That's an old saying from my Texas childhood, which has survived the test of time. It's a compliment of the highest order in one way, signifying something that is used hard for it's intended purpose and that doesn't have to be pampered afterwards. As I've said here many times before, a holster for a concealed handgun is a very important piece of equipment, second only to the gun itself. Many people who carry concealed spend considerable time and money getting the right gun for them. Size, weight, caliber, shape, ergonomics, all of these play a role. But, what do these actually mean when it comes to carrying that gun on your person?

We have a retired deputy in town who is a nice and well-meaning man. He often appears for community events in the summer with his deputy hat and badge and his Glock stuck into the waistband of his jeans. No holster. I asked him about it one day and he merely said he preferred "Mexican carry". His term. I hoped he didn't manage to accidently shoot himself or someone else. He wasn't too pleased and told me his gun was "modified" against this eventuality. Didn't say how.

The point is, for the rest of us, carrying our handgun in the right holster for the time, place and person is critical. Why? Well, it must be all of these things: comfortable (or you won't carry), safe (so you don't have a negligent discharge), secure (so your gun stays put and doesn't come out at inopportunte moments), effective (so you can draw easily and quickly when necessary).

Which holster is best? I've tried most, if not all, of the major styles, except for the ankle holster: leather, kydex, plastic, hybrid. They all have their uses and some carry, for me, better than others, but the "best" holster is a personal and relative decision. My vote goes for those made by David Bullard in Azle, Texas.

David's holsters are all made from quality leather to the highest standards. His designs are based on years of experience by him and his customers, and those now not with us who have carried a gun all of their adult lives, both professionally and personally. I know some internet experts who declare leather to be old school and a dead issue, preferring plastics and hybrids, but I don't agree. I think the leather and the gun form a symboitic relationship over time, each complimenting the other. The leather molds to the gun, and to the wearer, conforming to both and settling in to a comfortable, secure and effective carry combination. The leather takes on a patina and markings reflective of its service and duty life. It's comfortable and feels good, not like a chunk of plastic hanging off or inside your waistband.

Bullard hosters work exceptionally well for the types of carry I need: strong side, appendix and cross draw. All of these carry positions have their advantages and work better in some situations than others. Probably the most little understood and appreciated is the cross draw. Since most of us spend more time sitting than standing or walking, the cross draw enables one to carry concealed in any of those situations and have the firearm remain always accessible. Think about sitting in your car at a stoplight, securely buckled in, wearing a light jacket. If your gun is sitting in the strong side position, three to five o'clock, getting to it in a hurry is going to be a problem. Carrying it at the appendix position makes the task easier, but the shoulder strap and the jacket are going to be problems. The cross draw carry though is right there where you need it. This works in restaurants, theatres, and other places where one might be sitting down when the need to draw a firearm presents itself.

Bullard's OWB cross draw holsters excel at this, especially in the smaller framed and single stack handguns. They are secure and hold the weapon close enough for good concealment, draw easily and are quality pieces of gear. I use one for my Ruger LCP frequently, even in the summer with a loose shirt, or T-shirt. I think small frame revolvers and single stacks such as the S&W M&P Shield would also be ideal for this holster. Bullard's IWB design, shown above, is so versatile, with the adjustable belt loop, that I wear it IWB at any of the three positions: strong-side, appendix or cross draw.

Bullard's best seller, according to his website, is his Bodyguard model. This one is made to carry behind the hip. Not small-of-back (which I can't recommend), but at the 4 - 5 o'clock position for right handers. It incorporates a more radical "rake" or cant than most strong side holster designs but this is to aid concealment of any handgun, and especially larger ones like the 1911 .45 pistols. The position of the grips is such that they don't show and the design still permits a secure hold and fast draw. You might see some people wearing these on their hip, and complaining, but that's because they are not using the holster correctly. It belongs behind your hip, not on it. I have one each for my LCP and my Shield.

For basic, on the hip, 3 o'clock OWB carry I have a well-worn Bullard Bandit, now called a belt slide. Sure, I know I'm wearing it because you don't carry a gun on your hip without feeling the presence and the weight, but it is the most comfortable, and probably conservative of holsters. It does everything well and has definitely earned its keep. I should have one for each of my guns, and someday probably will.

If this sounds like a commercial for Dave Bullard and his crew, I guess it is. I like his stuff. I've tested a lot of holsters, and I have used most of Bullard's designs with both large and small handguns, and when all is said and done, I usually reach for a Bullard holster when leaving the house. Or, while at the house for that matter.

Check them out and tell Dave I sent you.

 

LaserMax Micro, Rail-Mounted Laser Sight

This is a really slick, rail-mounted laser made to fit any pistol with a rail, but especially meant for small, compact semi-automatics. Many people are buying and carrying the "compact" guns for self defense. It is an unfortunate fact that many of those, especially newcomers to concealed carry, do not have the opportunity or time for the level of training they need.

Read More

Dueling Lasers: LaserMax & Crimson Trace

My first comparison and evaluation is of the LaserMax Centerfire and the Crimson Trace Defender, both solidly in a competing marketplace for the popular Ruger LCP .380 pistol. Crimson Trace has long offered one of their 'regular' grip-actuated LaserGuard units for the LCP, and have recently introduced their new Defender series. This product is priced and designed as a direct competitor to LaserMax's Centerfire sight. Both companies have kindly supplied one of each unit for the LCP for this evaluation and comparison.

Read More