Update on the "Who" and the "What"

It is now mid-February. I've received no communication from either AlienGear or StealthGear on the status of my numerous requests to review a sample of their gear.

It is not incumbent on them to agree with every review request. I have been turned down before but to completely ignore what is a real communication from someone in their potential customer base is pretty bad especially when assured that they would "get back to me."

It's OK. I can take rejection, but to ignore your customers is a really bad sign.

Now It’s The Who, Not The What

I have used and reviewed many holsters over the years. I try to be selective in the ones I review because doing fair and objective (as objective as possible) product evaluations and then writing the review, giving that to the maker for his review for factual accuracy, further edits, photos and publication is a lot of work. I choose holsters that show originality, innovation in design and quality of construction. I will use a holster in my daily carry life for weeks and months before starting an article on it because once the honeymoon period is over the real character and usefulness of that piece of gear will become apparent. 

Some holsters work out fine for their intended purpose. Others don’t. Such is life.  

Selection used to be fairly straightforward. There were holsters made from leather, synthetic soft materials,  kydex and plastic. Then there appeared “hybrid” models made with kydex screwed or bradded to leather backing. Then the leather backing was replaced by a synthetic material allegedly for better ventilation. We also got moulded plastic holster shells with proprietary retention features attached to neoprene. The latest models feature modular plastic, metal and synthetic soft materials that can be reconfigured into different styles. 

There are hundreds of leather holster makers, more than hundreds of kydex holster makers and the hybrid makers are somewhere in the middle. Making a quality leather holster is not easy. It requires good material and tools, and most importantly years of experience. A quality leather holster will set you back a hundred dollars. Perhaps more. Anyone can learn to make a kydex holster after spending an hour or two on YouTube. The materials and tools are cheap. The designs possible with kydex are limited. That’s why most of the kydex holsters offered today all look pretty much the same.  

Moulded plastic holsters are more expensive to manufacture and require a large start up cost. Part of the cost recovery goes into advertising and packaging, like most small businesses do. You won’t find plastic and modular holster manufacturers working out of their garage. 

So, what does this mean to you, the average person who just wants a quality reasonably priced holster or two? It means you now have a ton of choices from many different holster makers (the small outfits, working mostly by hand, up to the large mini-corporations with facilities, employees, management and advertising). Given that most holsters will perform adequately, what differentiates the good ones from the not so good is one thing: customer service. Do the makers of your holster care about you, their customer? 

This seems simple but isn’t. A small shop may indeed care, stand by their product and be there when needed, but they may not be there for long. Most small businesses are not noted for longevity. Large outfits may be around longer but may get sold off and are typically more interested in the number of sales they make over the quality of their relationships with individual customers. 

These attitudes have been reflected over the years in my experiences working with many different holster makers. I have worked with a few grumpy holster makers who, frankly did not like my criticisms of their products. This is not surprising. I’m not an advertising agency, just a normal guy who carries daily and is willing to evaluate a product as honestly as possible. In some instances makers have taken my critical observations and made modifications that resulted in a better holster. However, occasionally merely getting a holster for review becomes more trouble than it is worth. Lately, with the large number of holster makers struggling to differentiate their products and designs from the rest, the opportunities for a solid, critical review are becoming fewer if the reviewer isn’t a solid member of the gun press or a leading voice on YouTube or social media. That would not include me.

Case in point: Since September of 2016 I have been negotiating with Stealth Gear to get one of their IWB holsters to review against their claims for it and my real-world work experience with it. They were going to send one of their “new” models then nothing happened. I contacted them again in 2017 pointing this out. The employee I had been working with had left the company and no one had followed up. They would take care of this right away I was told. Fine, I said, just let me know one way or the other. Nothing happened for a couple of months. Another contact by me. Working on it they said. Don’t worry. That was before Christmas. It’s now the last part of January. Specifically, I want to see if their technological claims for superior performance and comfort justify the very high cost of that holster.

I also contacted AlienGear last year to review their ShapeShift system. Same kind of deal except after speaking with someone at the company I was sent a “reviewer form” to complete and submit for consideration. I did that in December last year. No response so far. I contacted them again for status. The reply is that it is “in progress”. Must be a giant organization since it’s taken weeks to review a one page form. 

My conclusion is that these are two holster manufacturers that have become disconnected from their customers, not because they haven’t complied with my request to review their product - companies are free to choose what gets reviewed by whom - but because attempting to communicate with them is like running into the beaurcratic wall. I’m certain no one in either company thinks they have begun to isolate themselves from their customers and potential customers, but after weeks and months of trying to get a simple and definitive reply to a standard request, I would beg to differ. 

I can guarantee that if my request to review one of their products, to put in hours of evalution, write up an extensive draft review, return it for their comments, edit it, take photos and publish on a website I pay for, if my request was accompanied by payment in full for that product, I’d have it in hand within a week. 

So, instead of reviewing one of their holsters, this has beeen a review of their company’s attitude and practices toward their customers and potential customers. If Stealth Gear or AlienGear cares to explain or comment, I welcome their input. Given what’s transpired to far, I’m not holding my breath.

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Is There a “Best” Concealed Carry Gun?

Attempting to define the “best” of anything is an exercise fraught with peril, fear and loathing. The fallout from these kinds of disagreements occasionally causes the end of friendships. Opinions are, as my old boot camp CC said, like a certain body part, everyone has one. Another problem with this kind of question is, who gets to define “best”? Usually, when people disagree on what is best, they are coming from different yet unstated ideas about what each thinks of as “best”.

 “Best” is both a relative and subjective notion. It is relative to something, a standard or perhaps a purpose. Which billiard ball, for example, is best in meeting the criteria of being a perfect sphere? Maybe the criteria is defined as the ball having the best elasticity and rebound when struck by another billiard ball. As my project management mentor told me, “It depends.”

”Best” can also be subjective as in which cabernet has the best taste? Well, depends on who is doing the tasting. Which hand gun shoots the best? It depends. Does accuracy trump reliability? Long range or short range accuracy? Is a softer recoil better than a sharp one? The way it fits and feels in the hand? Whose hand? Is it a better gun when I shoot it or when you do?

The search for absolutes is a fool’s errand. So, let’s set some parameters. 

The concealed carry gun has to be a handgun. It must be capable of being concealed for many hours by the average person without creating comfort or safety issues. From these modest beginnings we should be able to state what the best guns for concealed carry may be. We can certainly state which ones are not the best.

While it is true fundamentally to say that any gun is better than no gun when you need one, it should be pretty obvious that some guns will perform better than other if called upon to get their work done. The nature of that work is what will guide a definition of the best concealed carry gun. 

It should be small enough and shaped for concealment, but not too small to be difficult to handle or to deliver an insufficient or marginally powerful projectile into the target. It should be big enough to carry a reasonable number of rounds. What is reasonable? Most modern semiautomatic pistols designed for concealed carry have a six or seven round magazine. This means one can carry seven or eight rounds in the gun, ready to go. Is this enough? Again, it depends. 

Study real world statistics on gunfights and you will probably say, no. Not enough. Most people who think about using their concealed carry gun in a self defense situation envision themselves in a confrontation against another assailant. But, isn’t it true that bad guys often run in pairs or even small groups? Yes. Isn’t it also true that people are notoriously bad shots with a pistol, especially when the crap has hit the fan? Yes, even trained law enforcement officers miss more than they hit the intended target in gun fights, even shockingly close encounter fire fights. So, your seven or eight round advantage shrinks rapidly to four or even two rounds, or less, per assailant. This can’t be really all that good. 

It would seem that without going John Wick and packing fifteen or eighteen rounds per gun, and two or three guns, that ten to eleven rounds is a reasonable capacity for a gun that is also small and light enough to be carried concealed all day.  

You can, and should, carry a reload. This is a bit outside the scope of considering the best concealed carry gun except to say that if a gun cannot be easily and quickly reloaded it shouldn’t be considered as a carry gun. Adios five shot wheel guns, as cool as they are. Yeah, speed loaders.  They are not speedy except in the hands of the occasional show off who has spent the better part of a year perfecting the speed-loader technique.  

A concealed carry gun must be reliable. Period.  

So, what does that leave as the best concealed carry gun? 

1. Not too small, and not too big

2. Designed to be concealed

3. Medium capacity

4. Semiautomatic

5. A track record of reliability

And, finally, a gun you like, one that feels good in the hand and is easier for you to shoot accurately.

What about caliber? Stopping power, you may ask? 

First, the idea of handgun stopping power relative to caliber is an absolute mess. A myth. The only hand operated guns with actual stopping power are rifles in African big game calibers, .50 cal sniper weapons or fully automatic military grade  weapons. There are too many incidents in which a person is shot multiple times with “heavy”caliber handguns, yes, even Magnum loads, yet they keep on fighting until blood loss finally brings them down. Some survive. The size, mass and speed of any handgun bullet is insufficient to stop a human in his or her tracks. Except in Hollywood. So, my view is that any of the semiautomatic pistols that meet our criteria will be fine with modern self defense ammunition if they are at least 9 mm in caliber. This includes the American .380, which the Europeans call the 9 mm “short”.

The make and model is a matter of personal preference if it meets those requirements. I know this may not be to the liking of many Model 1911 fans but for the average citizen, young, old, male, female, weak and strong, the best concealed carry gun will be one that does.

It is relative and subjective, remember.  

Blackhawk SERPA, A Bad Idea

This is not a holster review. This is a report of my experience with this holster.  

I received a Blackhawk SERPA holster for my Ruger SR9c for Christmas. Fine. I had been wanting an OWB holster with active retention for some time. This one, I thought would be a good choice: modern, technical, widely available (that had to be a good thing, right?).  

Not so much. 

Right off I installed the paddle. Easy on, easy off, I thought, no belt loops to thread or unthread. Yes for the belt loops. No for the easy part. The contortions I put toward getting the thing on were nothing compared to removing it. I made a number of attempts, each trying a new approach but nothing worked without much travail. 

I got the screwdriver out, removed the paddle and attached the belt loops. This made the holster easier to put on, but not very comfortable.  

Next, I checked the passive retention. Decent. No need to adjust that. Then, I tested the active retention, the reason for getting this holster in the first place. It worked. Then it didn’t work. Then it worked. Then it sort of worked. The variable seemed to have been how much draw pressure I put on the gun and when I applied it. Grasp the grip, but don’t pull up, then at the same time push the release button with your trigger finger and then pull up the gun to draw. That is the sequence you must follow to get the active retention to release the handgun.

If grabbed the gun in a hurry, like I might do when under sudden pressure brought on by fear for my life, then tried to push the release button with my trigger finger one of two things happened. Either the gun would stay locked in the holster because the upward pressure exerted on the gun by my draw stroke would not allow the locking mechanism to release the trigger guard, or if,I put a strong enough pressure on the release button my gun would suddenly fly from the holster and my trigger finger would snap into the trigger guard and engage the trigger. Because I was pushing hard on the release button to force it to release the gun, that tension in my finger drove forward in a firing motion the moment the gun came free.

Not good. Bad. If my gun had been loaded I would have had a negligent discharge. I could easily have shot myself. 

Looking into this issue afterward, something I should have done before opting for this holster, I found that this is a known issue reported by a number of credible reviewers and firearms trainers. There is a video online actually showing a man shooting himself in the leg while trying to quickly draw from a SERPA in a close up training scenario. https://youtu.be/zYvAxLX6OzE

”Things just tend to happen,” said Tex, the man who shot himself. Yes, life is a compilation of things that happen to people. Not all of them are bad. Sometimes a person makes mistakes and bad things happen. In order to learn one must take responsibility for one’s actions and decisions. This kind of firearm discharge is called “negligent” for a reason.

Tex also said, “I don’t blame the holster.” Well, he should blame the holster as much as himself. He had been practicing this same draw and fire drill with a different holster and had no issues. When he changed to the SERPA, which required his trigger finger to press to release the gun, he shot himself. I would say the holster design is at least a major contributing factor to his negligent discharge. 

Additionally, the holster has a reputation for locking up and not releasing your gun if something should get into the release mechanism and foul it’s operation, like dirt or a stone, and in one documented instance, snow. One LEO's SERPA had his weapon locked in the holster after being in a fight with an assailant and being dragged a few yards across an asphalt surface, which ground down the plastic edges of the release preventing it from freeing the gun. Fortunately, the officer had backup and he was unharmed.

For another view on this holster and these situations, see: https://youtu.be/GDpxVG9XFJc 

I think another interesting and unsettling effect of this last video are the responses posted on YouTube. The majority are supportive of the holster and blame the user for all problems that they might experience using it. They blame the user not the equipment, which is to say that even with faulty gear, one has to take full responsibility for any problems that result. This is fundamentally stupid. If one buys a faulty tire, then has an accident because that tire fails, why would any sane person blame the person who bought the tire, not the tire? Doesn’t make sense. In one respect you can say that it is the responsibility of the user to understand the limitiations of equipment he or she may purchase and use, but that is not always possible. Early adopters of new technology experience this as there is no or little information available about a new product until it’s been used, evaluated and reported which takes time. As to supporters of the “it’s not the SERPA, it’s the user’s lack of training” commenters, they are almost without exception SERPA owners. They claim it is ok because they have not yet shot themselves. Kind of reminds me of people who keep rattle snakes as pets. They haven’t been bitten yet either.

So, a word to the cautious. Take the time to do thorough research before depending on any holster system that actively locks your gun in the holster. 

That did it. The end. The holster is going back with a note to the retailer about how hazardous this holster is. 

Hopefully, I will be using and testing a few other modern, technically innovative holsters and holster systems. Technology is good, when it works. Reviews are good when they are thorough, based on real-world experience and conducted over a suitable period. The honeymoon seldom lasts. It’s the long haul that counts.

Be safe. 

1, 2, 3 Over

One thousand one. One thousand two. One thousand three. That’s about all the tme you get when a gunfight develops, if you are reasonably lucky. Sometimes it is quicker, and occasionally you may have enough time to see what develops. But, usually not.

The remarks that follow are intended to apply when the bad guys are not professional or trained firearms users. Most situations involving civilians involve untrained assailants and usually minimally trained legal gun owners. Think of a visit to the market when some basic low-life criminals decide to rob it and everyone in it, or you are at the ATM when a gun-toting street hood decides to hold you up, take your money and maybe kill you in the bargain.

Two Arms length. That may be all that separates you from the assailant when the fight is up close and very personal. To put this more clearly, a great many altercations that involve someone having to draw and use his or her gun happen extremely quickly and closely, within three seconds and five or 6 feet. These conditions result in four consequences.

The first is that one must be able to access and draw their gun very quickly. This requires a good holster worn so to keep the firearm in the best position for quick and reliable access . Carrying at the 3:00 to 5:00 o’clock position works well in this regard if one is not sitting down. Some seats, especially car seats in which one is belted are very inhibiting to any kind of quick access to a firearm worn at 3:00 o'clock or, worse, further back.  One answer to this is to carry your firearm off body while seated at a desk or in your car. Or, to dedicate a separate, easily accessible firearm to those environments.  Another solution while seated is to carry a firearm in the appendix position or as a cross draw carry.

Successful appendix carry is very dependent upon one’s body type and the size of the firearm.  Although some people can comfortably carry large to midsize firearms in the appendix position, generally it requires a flat stomach and a smaller firearm footprint for any kind of long lasting comfort. It does not bear repeating although I’m going to repeat it anyway, if your personal carry isn’t acceptably comfortable you won’t carry it, which basically defeats the purpose.

 So, where ever you are most comfortable carrying your gun, it pays to make sure that it is quickly accessible in any situation whether walking standing or sitting.  If you can’t access and present your gun ready to shoot within three seconds then you may not be adequately prepared for a quick developing, close-in encounter. 

Distance is the second consequence that devolves from a rapidly developing situation. Most altercations involving deadly force happen within about 6 feet.  The bad guy or guys always want to get close to control you and the situation. Consequently, when someone is close you do not want to extend your gun out away from your body as many firearms instructors teach. This may put your gun in range of a grab or slap by the bad guy.

 The Isosceles Stance. If the assailant if close, say an arm's length from this man's extended gun, then the changes radically increase that he can get a hand on the gun to grab it or slap it away. Keep your gun close when the threat is close.

The Isosceles Stance. If the assailant if close, say an arm's length from this man's extended gun, then the changes radically increase that he can get a hand on the gun to grab it or slap it away. Keep your gun close when the threat is close.

 

“The toes face the target and are aligned. The knees are flexed at an angle that varies somewhat and the shooter leans forward from the waist towards the target. The shooter's arms are extended and form an isosceles triangle, hence the name.” May 31, 2017, https://www.policeone.com/police-products/firearms/training/articles/7981637-The-3-shooting-stances-Which-ones-right-for-you/

The isosceles and the Weaver positions are secure and stable but not the only ones you should learn and practice. Going into these stances automatically can put you in danger if the bad guy is in arms reach of your gun  

High Ready

 Photo courtesy of Policeone.com

Photo courtesy of Policeone.com

Draw and bring your gun up with two hands into the high ready position. From there you reduce the chances of the bad guy getting a hand on your weapon. Doing so will allow you to get a shot or two into your assailant extremely quickly while keeping him away from your gun. Remember, in this scenario there will be no need or opportunity to aim the weapon. It is truly a point-and-shoot situation.The one who gets the first shot on target is almost always the one who wins that fight.

In some situations you will not have the use of your non-gun hand. It may be injured. You may be fending off the bad guy, or he may have grabbed you by that arm or hand. You may be pushing an innocent person out of the way. In any event, it also pays to be able to draw, get the gun hand's wrist firmly planed against your ribs, gun pointing directly at the assailant and making sure your other hand and arm are out of the line of fire, shoot from there.

The third consequence is the need to shoot quickly and possibly with one hand only. If you carry a semiautomatic pistol for self defense then you should carry it with a round chambered. Modern semi autos in good working condition will not fire unless the trigger is pulled. Carrying your semi auto in a quality holster, and practicing safe trigger discipline will safeguard against negligent discharge. If your gun has a manual safety and you choose to use it then practice swiping the safety off during the draw until it becomes muscle memory and second nature. This is not always possible, however. I know from experience that you will occasionally forget to swipe off that safety. A number of gun makers these days are following in Glock's footsteps and offering their semi autos without a manual safety. I tend to use the manual safety on my guns that have them when they are not being worn in one of my holsters. When I holster one of these guns, I click the safety OFF. It is in the holster, safe from discharge until I draw it and put my finger on the trigger. I will only do this if I have to shoot. And, I don't have to rely on memory, muscle or otherwise, to move the safety to OFF.

An unloaded gun. Think about this. You have three seconds to shoot a criminal who is threatening to shoot you or someone else. You are carrying a semi automatic handgun that is not ready to shoot because there is no round in the chamber. You have basically an unloaded gun. You are in a convenience store. Two masked men walk in pointing guns at everyone and demanding that you all get on the ground. One accosts the cashier and the other turns away from you to threaten a customer. No one is looking at you. You have about three seconds to do something. During that three second period you must draw with one hand, rack the slide with your other hand, put the gun on target and fire. What happens if you short stroke the slide and the round jams in the chamber, or as you rack your gun, the bad guy ducks behind cover shooting at you as he does, or you have to push an innocent person out of danger and can’t rack the slide at the same time? Worse, what about if you are fending off the bad guy or maybe his partner with one hand and only have one to draw and fire? 

If you are carrying an unloaded gun, why carry in the first place? 

The fourth consequence of the quick and close fight is the necessity to train for it. 

Most of us understand and practice proper draw, presentation and stances when we go shooting. This is usually a fun and leisurely activity when our focus on the actual shooting is not happening in a sudden adrenaline rush while the clock ticks down in seconds. Training ourselves for the worse case scenarios is important. Why is it that hardly anyone does this? If you spend some time on YouTube you will find many firearms "instructors" with their own training programs and philosophies. Some are quite good. Many are not. They run different kinds of self defense firearms classes from their own school locations and some travel to different parts of the country to offer classes. They have videos of their students and training exercises. All this is well and good, but these kinds of classes are rare, compared to the number of gun owners in the States. If one is close enough to take one of these classes there is still the matter of having the time available and the funds to pay for them. They are not cheap.

Even if one can afford the time and expense necessary to take a single or multi day course, how often will one be able to continue training in the principles learned during the class? I'd say not very often. You can't go into tactical handgun training exercises at the local range. You can basically stay in your stall and shoot your pistol down range at a paper target. That's it. And, that is far from what happens in a gun fight. You could go out to the country with a like-minded friend and work on these tactical issues and drills, but how often does that happen? Around here, we have six or seven months in the year when we can count on decent weather for outside shooting and practice.

I know a number of people in my area who routinely carry concealed. I know only one who is conversant with these different, real-world tactical practices and he is a sworn police officer. I have a good friend who has many more guns than I, who loves to shoot and has a bunch of reloading equipment. He practices none of these tactical drills.

The best I can offer is to suggest that you set up a regular schedule, say once a week, for unloading your carry guns, donning your favorite carry holsters and do an half hour or more of dry fire practice in these techniques and from different positions: walking, standing, sitting. Develop the muscle  memory and automatic reflexes necessary to successfully execute these actions should that ever become necessary.

And stay alert. Avoid trouble if you can, fight effectively if you have to.

Stupid With Guns

 What's wrong with this picture?

What's wrong with this picture?

Sometimes you see something that just calls into question the validity of everything else involved. This is a still from the movie Avatar, actually one of my favorite films of recent years. The character is allegedly a bad-assed Marine turned mercenary. He certainly looks the part until you see this. No one who is knowledgeable about guns, especially a veteran or active duty service member would EVER stand around holding a firearm with their finger on the trigger. That, in the real world will quickly lose friends and in some circles get your ass kicked. Just as bad, he is casually pointing his sidearm up at the sky or overhead. With his finger on the trigger.

Justice is finally delivered to our pseudo-Marine, but I'll let you discover how that happens on your own if you don't know already.

 Now, this is how to handle a gun safely. Keep your finger off that trigger until you actually shoot. Period.  Once, decades ago, I was assigned duty as one of a select group to stand guard on nuclear weapons. I will skip the details. Part of the requirement was to qualify on combat shooting with the .45 Model 1911. We spent some hours on a Marine Corps base being trained by a couple of Marine sergeants. In my mind, the best in the business. Although I am certain that tactical handgun operations have evolved a great deal since then, some basic safety rules still apply.   Always assume any gun is loaded. It doesn’t matter if you have watched a person unload one, treat it as a loaded weapon anyway. Check it for yourself. Visually and tactilely. Put your finger in there and verify there are no rounds in it. The closest I came to being shot was when relieving the watch. I was going off watch. I dropped the magazine, cleared the weapon and put the ejected round and magazine on the small working desk we had. I doubled checked to ensure the pistol was not loaded and handed it to my relief with the slide locked back. Then I made a mistake. I did not watch to see that my relief properly checked and reloaded the gun. I was writing in the log book when he fired a round about a foot away from my head. I whipped around. He was frozen, his finger still on the trigger, staring wide-eyed at the pistol. I reached out, grabbed the slide and barrel firmly and with my left hand got the web between my thumb and finger jammed between the rear of the frame and the hammer. I took the gun from him and unloaded and cleared it again. No need to relate what happened next. It wasn’t pretty and needless to say we lost a member of our watch team.   Some would call that an ”accidental discharge”. I call it stupid and negligent.   Another way to be stupid with guns is to forget that you are also responsible for any bullet that leaves your gun. Do not point a gun at anything you do not intend to shoot except for a safe area of ground. Don’t carry a gun pointed at the sky or a ceiling.  a bullet that goes up, unless it lodges in an innocent victim above, has to come down. There are instances of people being killed or injured by bullets falling from the sky.   Physics. There are a number of internet videos documenting that not understanding basic physics can get you or someone else hurt. A fired projectile can rapidly change direction depending on what it hits. If you shoot at the wrong thing, it can come back for you or someone else. Find the YouTube video of Mr Stupid shooting a .50 cal at a vertical steel plate. If that returning round had been a half inch lower the result would have been too bloody and gruesome to have made it on YouTube.   Lastly, do not attempt to teach a novice how to shoot without a lengthy, hands-on gun safety lesson first. Otherwise, you will be putting them, yourself and any bystanders in danger.   Guns are dangerous weapons. They are supposed to be. Treat them that way. 

Now, this is how to handle a gun safely. Keep your finger off that trigger until you actually shoot. Period.

Once, decades ago, I was assigned duty as one of a select group to stand guard on nuclear weapons. I will skip the details. Part of the requirement was to qualify on combat shooting with the .45 Model 1911. We spent some hours on a Marine Corps base being trained by a couple of Marine sergeants. In my mind, the best in the business. Although I am certain that tactical handgun operations have evolved a great deal since then, some basic safety rules still apply. 

Always assume any gun is loaded. It doesn’t matter if you have watched a person unload one, treat it as a loaded weapon anyway. Check it for yourself. Visually and tactilely. Put your finger in there and verify there are no rounds in it. The closest I came to being shot was when relieving the watch. I was going off watch. I dropped the magazine, cleared the weapon and put the ejected round and magazine on the small working desk we had. I doubled checked to ensure the pistol was not loaded and handed it to my relief with the slide locked back. Then I made a mistake. I did not watch to see that my relief properly checked and reloaded the gun. I was writing in the log book when he fired a round about a foot away from my head. I whipped around. He was frozen, his finger still on the trigger, staring wide-eyed at the pistol. I reached out, grabbed the slide and barrel firmly and with my left hand got the web between my thumb and finger jammed between the rear of the frame and the hammer. I took the gun from him and unloaded and cleared it again. No need to relate what happened next. It wasn’t pretty and needless to say we lost a member of our watch team. 

Some would call that an ”accidental discharge”. I call it stupid and negligent. 

Another way to be stupid with guns is to forget that you are also responsible for any bullet that leaves your gun. Do not point a gun at anything you do not intend to shoot except for a safe area of ground. Don’t carry a gun pointed at the sky or a ceiling.  a bullet that goes up, unless it lodges in an innocent victim above, has to come down. There are instances of people being killed or injured by bullets falling from the sky. 

Physics. There are a number of internet videos documenting that not understanding basic physics can get you or someone else hurt. A fired projectile can rapidly change direction depending on what it hits. If you shoot at the wrong thing, it can come back for you or someone else. Find the YouTube video of Mr Stupid shooting a .50 cal at a vertical steel plate. If that returning round had been a half inch lower the result would have been too bloody and gruesome to have made it on YouTube. 

Lastly, do not attempt to teach a novice how to shoot without a lengthy, hands-on gun safety lesson first. Otherwise, you will be putting them, yourself and any bystanders in danger. 

Guns are dangerous weapons. They are supposed to be. Treat them that way. 

The Problem With Concealed Carry

Yesterday my wife and I were having lunch at a favorite local restaurant. We live in the southwest so green chili breakfast burritos and burgers were on the menu. We had just started our meal when an old cowboy walked into the room. He was probably in his seventies, lean and somewhat frail because of his age. Wore a gray beard, a black hat, western shirt, jeans, boots and what looked to me like a large caliber revolver strapped to his right hip in a black leather holster with a thumb break. He was seated quickly after a short friendly chat with the wait person. No one seemed to notice or care about the gun on his hip.

I was carrying a Ruger LCP II, appendix, in a minimal kydex holster. The place was full. Looking about I wondered, not for the first time, how many other people – not just men – were also armed. No way to tell. I know one woman who lives here, a gray-haired stone church lady who always packs a .38. Another cowboy, younger than the man in the diner who works on his own small ranch, always carries a colt out in the open. Goes well with his work boots and spurs. No one seems to find this odd either. There was the UPS guy who delivered to the bakery one morning sporting a Glock on his hip. A few of the more liberally-inclined diners were a bit taken aback, but it was not a big deal for most everyone else.

Carrying a pistol openly in my state is completely legal. Even so, in some locales it will generate more trouble than it is worth. Try it in Denver or Boulder and you will be certain to not only receive hostile looks but also a visit from the law. I suppose they might question you and perhaps emphasize that open carry is not a good idea but I think they can't make any kind of legal case against you for it. Personally, I don't intend to find out. I'm just too old to put up with the certain hassle and notoriety. I'll just keep my firearm under wraps and my license on my person.

Having to carry concealed is the result of social pressure and fearful people. One of them said to me two days ago, "I don't like guns." Well, there are many things I don't like that are perfectly legal but I don't try to apply social or political pressure to stop them or prevent them from happening. The message was not "I don't like guns.", but, "You are morally at fault if you do like guns, and, consequently, you have to stop liking (owning, carrying, etc.) guns."

No.

Just, no.

However, attitudes like this have driven legal gun owners toward concealed carry and prevent most folks from carrying openly even when it is legal and one's right to do so. I occasionally strap on my 9mm black scary gun out in the open and go about my business around our small town, just to keep things a bit in balance. The problem with concealed carry is that it hides our right to keep and carry firearms. If you see someone out and about packing a Glock on their hip you don't have any doubts or confusion about where that person stands on gun rights. You may encounter another person who is also packing a concealed gun, but you have no way to know that, or that person's attitudes toward guns. So, I'm thinking that on occasion, practicing open carry can be a good thing. Educational even.

One of my friends, who is has an absolute horror of guns, seeing me walking by with my 9mm on my hip, called out something about did I think I was protecting myself? I replied, "Yes, and I'll protect you too." His only response after a pregnant delay was, "The pen is mightier than the sword." Lame. I could have said, "Stick and stones will break my bones but hollow points expand on impact." But I didn't. Probably wouldn't know what a hollow point was anyway.

The other problem with concealed carry is that one is forced to find a good holster that can be concealed while functional, secure and safe. And, most importantly, comfortable. Why comfortable? Because if it is not, you won't carry it often. You will end up leaving your firearm at home on the day you really need it. How do I know this is true? Because Murphy's Law exists for a reason. So, the only prudent thing to do is to wear your gun whenever you go out, like you click your seat belt every time you go out in your car. Why? Because bad things happen whenever they happen. The Boy Scouts were right. Be Prepared.

So, that shouldn't be so hard, finding a secure, safe, accessible, comfortable holster that will adequately conceal a firearm. Right. If you don't know already, you will soon find out that concealed carry results in a phenomenon called holster accumulation syndrome, HAS. If you start to conceal carry you will end up with the proverbial box of holsters. Many holsters. Too many. The reasons are many but in my experience they often come down to these.

OWB (outside waist band) holsters are usually more comfortable than IWB (inside waist band) holsters but, given that they hang off your belt, they are not a concealable as the IWB variety. You have to cover the OWB holster with a loose shirt, a vest, jacket or coat, otherwise the firearm will "print", meaning it's outline will sometimes be visible through the covering garment. OWB holsters and guns don't generally play well with T-shirts for example, or with thin sweaters in the colder months. Now, you might be surprised at the amount of printing you can get away with. Most people are not looking for a gun hidden beneath your shirt, so I have worn rather large handguns OWB under a loose-fitting t-shirt with few people being the wiser. Those who might have tipped to the notion that I was carrying were probably carrying themselves or just didn't care. But you can't count on that. So, you buy one that seems good enough for the job. But after a while, maybe a short while, you don't like it. Gun rides to high or low, or the cant is wrong. Sticks out too far. Uncomfortable. There are lots of reasons. So, you get another, different OWB, maybe adjustable and even somewhat padded. This eventually ends up in the box too. 

So, the next choice is to use an IWB holster that keeps itself and the gun between your pants and body. This usually calls for a light undershirt to keep the gun and holster from contacting your bare skin. So, now you will have some kind of bulge in your waistline which must also be disguised. And, you have a heavy piece of metal and other stuff like leather or plastic hanging on your belt and pushing into you as you sit, stand and walk around. Not comfortable.

This one also goes into the box and you opt for one of those hybrid, leather and kydex models, complete with adjustable clips, hardware and an allen wrench. It's even bulkier and larger than the last one and really hard to get on and off. The clips are good but tend to get hung up on certain shirts or sweaters. In the box.

You will read that some holster makers and reviewers say things like, "I forgot it was on me.", or, "I didn't know I was carrying a gun." Bullshit. No one "forgets" they are carrying a gun. If they did they shouldn't be allowed to go outside alone. And, yes, you do know you are carrying especially when that big holster and heavy gun press into your side, stomach or ribs when you move, sit or stand. Please. Get real.

So, IWB carries the conundrum of concealment and comfort. You can't have them both. What I suspect is that you can find a holster system that will provide an acceptable level of both but nothing is going to give perfection in concealment and comfort. Regardless of what the advertising materials, videos and internet reviews may say.

This leads me to the conclusion that a person needs to find two holsters that will provide comfort, security and concealment for both OWB and IWB carry. There will be times when OWB can be adequately concealed by shirts, coats, etc. and times when IWB is the best solution given the circumstance and garment requirements. 

I am constantly on the look out for high-quality holsters that will provide these options. Presently, I am looking at Stealth Gear and Alien Gear holsters as innovators that have gone beyond the ordinary answers to this issue but with different technologies and solutions. I am in the process of requesting holsters from both organizations to test, carry in my normal routine, evaluate and report on here. Stealth Gear's equipment looks good and has a reputation of being well made and comfortable. However, one would have to get two holsters, one OWB and one IWB and they aren't cheap. In fact they are significantly more expensive than similar designed holsters. Are they worth the extra money? Would they stay out of the HAS box?

Alien Gear has announced a very innovative and new holster "system", the Shape Shift. One can get a system in one box that will built up into four different holster carry systems: two OWB and two IWB configurations. This for about the same cost as one expensive holster. The question is, will it work well enough to supplant two holsters of similar design, OWB and IWB?

Somewhere there is the holster, or holsters, that work so well, I can empty out my HAS box and just get on with life in the concealment lane. Time will tell.

Test of Time

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For anyone keeping up with current events, it is a dangerous time. Everywhere. As I write this the London Bridge jihadi knife attacks were only a few days ago. London. Well, the British have accepted thousands (perhaps millions?) of Moslems into their country, many of them have formed virtual enclaves of Islamic communities hostile to western values, law or influence, and, surprise, hosted many militants, or became the breeding ground for jihadi radicalization. The British also decided long ago that guns are bad and ordinary law abiding citizens should not have them, use them or carry them.

Perfect.

A number of knife-wielding maniacs shouting the equivalent to "glory to god" had their way with the unarmed civilians that day until the police managed to intervene almost ten minutes later. Anyone who doesn't understand how bad this is, go stand in the middle of a crowd, like a shopping center on a busy day, and wait there for ten minutes. Use your watch. Think about how many people walk past you. Think about those two bearded youths over by the Microsoft store who might whip out knives and begin cutting people up. Think about how good it would be if there were a number of armed, legal concealed carry people around should that happen.

Things happen fast. I've been doing some training, part of which is to familiarize myself with real scenarios in which civilians and law enforcement must resort to armed force when situations go bad quickly. They usually do go bad quickly and understanding this along with maintaining your situational awareness is very important in being able to react appropriately should something like this happen to you.

One particular thing that is common to most of these quickly developing attacks is that many potential victims, although armed, are not adept at getting their handgun quickly and effectively into play. Poor situational awareness is a problem. Often, insufficient training and muscle memory development is the culprit, but also important is where and how their concealed firearm is carried. I have watched videos in which armed people being attacked struggle to reach and draw their weapon. That is bad enough, but in many cases once the firearm is drawn the owner will extend it to arm's length, sometimes right into the attacker's territory where it can be subject to deflection or a grab, before the defender is able to shoot. Many untrained people also resort to one hand shooting in the heat of the moment which is almost guaranteed to produce misses and injured bystanders.

So, to this I have distilled my carry methods severely. Spending a number of hours in an office environment I formerly resorted to either carrying a small .380 in an IWB appendix holster or occasionally in a pocket holster. But now i have rethought this practice. Even though I spend a greater portion of my work day sitting before a keyboard, screen and window open to the public, I think the appendix carry offers limited, if any, advantages over a more conventional hip carry, certainly where mid-size to larger handguns are involved. While a .380 carried AIWB (appendix in waist band) is comfortable, it is a bit less so than the same gun carried at the OWB 3:00 o'clock position. Carrying a heavier, bulkier mid to large size gun appendix all day is no picnic.

The OWB 3:00 o'clock carry is still easily reachable in a chair, is a bit easier to grasp the gun's grips without interference from one's gut and when being cleared for action does not point at vulnerable anatomy like one's stomach, legs and major arteries. Some people advocate carrying a semiautomatic handgun with the chamber clear for this reason. This is basically stupid. Guns are meant to shoot, and in situations that demand quick reaction from you in order to get your gun into the fight, trying to do so with basically an unloaded weapon is just stupid.

One of the bug-a-boos that too many people harp on, especially those new to concealed carry, is the so-call "printing problem". What is "printing"? Let's say you don your favorite sidearm in an OWB holster, then pull on your snug light sweater or spandex workout shirt, or a snug fitting T-shirt to display your manly or womanly form, the tight fabric will readily conform to the outlines of your gun and holster. Sort of like printing the outline on your clothes. Don't do that. With common sense, meaning loose (doesn't have to be sloppy) shirt, a top garment with a pattern like an "aloha" shirt or just a darker material, a decent size handgun worn OWB can be effectively concealed. The main reason for this is that most people are not looking for a gun. Really.

I've spent a number of hours whilst waiting on one thing or person or another in public places playing the who is carrying today game. I think I may have spotted one or two, but I'm not certain. I live in Colorado in an area where our local sheriff thinks everyone should carry, and where many people do. He's right. Yet, even looking for that concealed handgun, I know they are devilishly difficult to find. I am only sure of one time and that was when a visitor to our local market was leaning over the counter to pick up his package and his shirt rode up revealing a small chrome-plated auto.

One day last week I went to work in my little health facility that is thronging with people. I wore my Ruger SR9c with the 17-round magazine in my D.M. Bullard belt slide OWB holster. All day. I had a loose fitting aloha (Hawaiian) shirt over it. Of course during the day the shirt exhibited a few sharp angles and bumps, but NO ONE noticed. I was careful to not let anyone bump into me, but that should be the rule anyway regardless of where and what you are carrying. My carry of this relatively heavy gun (an SR9 with eighteen rounds on board is not a lightweight regardless of what Ruger may say) was comfortable. The old Bullard belt slide performed as it has over the last ten years keeping my handgun snug, cocked at a good enough angle to disguise the long grips and at ready access all day. While I do own a couple of kydex holsters and like them, whenever I put on the Bullard leather belt slide holster it's like greeting an old friend. I stumbled across some postings on a gun forum the other day lambasting Bullard holster quality and customer service. I was wondering which planet the complainers were living on. Frankly, they came across as entitled cry-babies. I bought my Bullard belt slide about ten years ago. In fact, I think they called this style the "Bandit" back then. It fits the SR9c like a glove and I even used it for a while to carry my M&P Shield when I had one.

These days I'm moving back to a more conventional "hip" carry with my belt slide and will sooner or later get another Bullard Belt Slide for my Ruger LCP II. I'm thinking that for comfort, access and ability to get my handgun into play quickly from different positions and situations this may just the be final answer for me.

I'm supposed to say something like "your mileage may vary", and, of course it may. But taking into account the important factors for carrying a handgun for self defense, mileage doesn't vary all that much. And, besides, I'm old, I'm from Fort Worth and I like old school ways.

 

What? No Permits?

Not keeping up with the news, I was unaware that there is movement toward eliminating state concealed carry permits entirely. I'm not certain of what this means now. More research is needed on my part. But, as one person asked me yesterday, did I think it wise that concealed carry be allowed without a permit? Yes, I think it is wise and unnecessary.

As I pointed out, when a person purchases a handgun from a reputable dealer, yes, even at a gun show, a background check is required and must be passed before the sale can be made. Then, if that same person wants to carry the gun they just bought, after passing a background check, they must pay more money to take a class to get a certificate which they then take to the local law enforcement authority, pay more money to apply for a concealed carry permit and have the same background check run that they just paid for at the gun shop.

This is yet another crazy governmental process devised and implemented by the Department of Redundancy Department. And, it is completely unnecessary.

The standard rationale used by anti-gun people, who keep crashing up against the Second Amendment of the Constitution is summed up neatly by the website: http://smartgunlaws.org/

It is rubbish, of course. Read for yourselves:

People carrying hidden, loaded handguns in public create unnecessary risks of intentional or accidental shootings. Carrying concealed weapons (“CCW”) increases the risk that everyday disagreements will escalate into shootouts, especially in places where disputes frequently occur—in bars, at sporting events, and in traffic. Permissive concealed carry laws violate the shared expectation that public places will be safe environments free from guns and gun violence.
— http://smartgunlaws.org/gun-laws/policy-areas/firearms-in-public-places/concealed-weapons-permitting/

"Risks of unnecessary intentional or accidental shooting." What, pray tell, would be an "unnecessary intentional" shooting? In these people's view it is the fear that a person who is legally carrying a concealed weapon, someone who has gone to all of the time, trouble and expense, have taken classes in legal and ethical responsibilities incumbent on someone who is carrying a loaded weapon, would suddenly haul out his or her weapon and shoot someone "unnecessarily"  Like, Fred thinks you are an idiot for voting the way you did, calls you an idiot, so you take out your gun and blast him for it.

How stupid is this? Very, but that seems to make no difference. How many "unintentional" shootings have occurred by people who are legally carrying a concealed weapon? Few if any.

Then, there is the "accidental" shooting. Allegedly, carrying a loaded handgun concealed in a holster will somehow pose a serious risk of going off spontaneously and accidentally shooting someone. Guns are, you know, evil, and just waiting any excuse to spontaneously fire. And, how many of these incidents have occurred involving concealed carry permit holders? Again, very, very few, and accidental (what we gun people call negligent discharges) shootings are not limited to concealed carry permit holders. Perfection in gun safety is a false goal, as is perfection in any other field of human activity.

Then there is this fear:

Carrying concealed weapons (“CCW”) increases the risk that everyday disagreements will escalate into shootouts, especially in places where disputes frequently occur—in bars, at sporting events, and in traffic.

Except that the "risk" is almost non-existent. In all states where concealed carry permits are available, and in the ten where they are not required, no such violence has occurred. In fact the correlation between the higher number of concealed carry people and the reduction in violent crime, and the corresponding high violent crime rate in places with repressive gun laws, suggests just the opposite. Yet, this is a canard still trotted out by the anti-gun people to scare people who do not know the facts. The allegation that "everyday disagreements" will escalate into gun violence in places where concealed carry is permitted is just false. It has never happened. Ever. Since it is so often repeated by people who definitely know better, it is just a plain lie.

Finally, twisting reality one final time we are told:

Permissive concealed carry laws violate the shared expectation that public places will be safe environments free from guns and gun violence.

Concealed carry laws have absolutely no bearing on whether a person will use a gun to shoot someone else in public or private places. Anyone today who expects public places to be safe environments free from guns and gun violence (or any kind of violence for that matter) is living in a dream world. Just consult the news. To think this is to live in a fantasy utopia that will never happen. History tells us at least this much. In fact, a strong case can be made that violence in public places will be less likely to happen if the people who wish to perpetrate it are aware that the other people who may be in those public places are armed and ready to defend themselves.

There is a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado called Shooters. The wait people, cooks, bartenders and cleanup crew, most of them, are armed. Customers who are carrying openly or concealed are welcomed. It's a lively place. No gunfights have broken out. No one has been accidentally shot. No guns have spontaneously fired. And, strangely enough, no bad people have attempted to rob the place or the customers. I wonder why. 

Think about it. Gun free places are invitations to bad people with guns, and knives, and bombs. When the good guys have guns at least they can go down fighting.

 

 

 

Ruger LCP II: Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Ruger's new LCP II, a "second generation" concealed carry

As most of the people interested in handguns know, Ruger has released a significant upgrade to their wildly popular LCP – the LCP II. Or, Gen 2 as some Glock fanciers have taken to calling it. I'll just call it the LCP II.

I have owned two of the early LCP versions. As Hickok45 said, the LCP is a gun I really wanted to like. And, like it I did. Only problem for me was that I could not learn to shoot it as accurately as I believe is necessary for a self defense handgun that might have to be used in a situation involving innocent bystanders. I operate under the principle that my foremost duty in the event I am ever involved in a self defense shooting is to not shoot anyone but the bad guy(s). Period. Better I get shot, stabbed, whacked, or beaten than I cause injury to an innocent person. 

I practiced with the original LCPs, but could not master the small size coupled with the long trigger pull so that I could reliably hit my target every time. Sadly, I sold both and moved on. Or so I thought. Then, a month or so ago, Ruger announced and released the LCP II. The two factors in the gun's redesign that motivated me most were the improved trigger and the redesigned form factor. A better trigger has long been the LCP Achille's heel. Ruger evidently listened to our complaints and has made a crisp trigger with a reasonable pull, between 5 and 6 pounds according to what I have seen. I also like the trigger safety mechanism built into it. Even though it remains a hammer-fired pistol, racking the slide cocks that hammer and the trigger safety coupled with deliberate trigger pull movement are all the safety features delivered by the weapon.

I have read many moans and rants over this feature on various gun forums. But, taking gun forums for what they are (having worked as a moderator for a gun forum with over ten thousand registered members), namely a whisper of good information among a storm of opinion, rumor and personal agendas, but in my view, this is a non-issue. As many wise people have noted, Glocks operate essentially with similar "safety" features even though they are striker fired. Given that almost anyone can own a gun these days, to expect a perfect safety record regarding negligent discharges is unrealistic at best, and foolish at worst. Handle and operate your gun properly and the chances of doing something wrong are minimal. Guns are dangerous weapons. Designed that way. Treat them as such and get on with life.

So, I now own another LCP. I like the new design, the new trigger and the ability to carry an extremely concealable, effective (yes, I know about the never-ending caliber wars, and frankly don't care) and more accurate handgun. 

I work part time in a rural health clinic, one that has no actual security on site, and is situated in an area of higher than normal crime and drug use. It is only sensible for people in these situations to be armed as a matter of personal security. I believe the Ruger LCP II is an ideal choice for situations of this nature. I will be carrying mine and reporting back now and then on the experience.

Two of the critical equipment components of concealed carry in addition to an adequate firearm are the holsters and spare magazine carriers. Holsters must be concealable, especially in a highly public venue, hold securely to the body and the weapon, and not hinder a quick and safe draw. This becomes especially important when designing for a handgun as small as the LCP. The gun's available real estate is very limited and compact but still must be configured by the gun's designers in such a was as to give the gun user quick and safe access to it, and promote accurate sighting and firing. One of the potential issues with the LCP II, especially when used with IWB and AIWB holsters is the fact that the magazine release button is positioned out of contact with the right hand shooter's thumb during holding and firing, but can be directly under the thumb, liable to be inadvertently pressed when the gun is drawn from a confined space such as in an IWB holster that leaves the mag release button exposed.

Most larger handguns do not suffer from this constraint. The grips are large and wide which provides enough real estate so that the thumb can't be placed far enough forward during the draw to actuate the button. But, on guns as small as the LCP II, this is not the case. Ruger has configured the grip such that the natural fall of the right hand thumb during firing is channelled above the magazine release button. This is also the case with many OWB holsters during the draw, although it might be a problem for some. There are far too many holsters available for a comprehensive statement, but it is something to be aware of when considering what holsters to use for the LCP II.

I know this from personal experience. I have had a few accidental mag drops when drawing from kydex IWB holsters that don't cover the magazine release button. It doesn't always happen, but it did on a few occasions. For a self defense holster, that's not acceptable.

I will be soliciting a few holsters from top, quality firms and makers to evaluate with my LCP II in my real world carry scenario. Once I obtain a few and give them sufficient test and evaluation time, I'll review and comment on them here.

Additionally, when carrying a small handgun with limited rounds on board it is necessary to carry at least one reload. Two is better. That leads to the second important component: the mag carriers. There are many available. A few, doubtless, are excellent. Many are so-so and some are just barely above carrying a naked magazine in one's pocket. There are few, especially double mag carriers, that are both concealable and comfortable enough to wear all through a busy day in a very public place. The ones that are, or that might be, are also expensive. i do not know of any quality double mag carriers that can be pocket carried. I'd like to find a few well made and useful mag carriers to evaluate along with the holsters. I'll be contacting a few makers to participate in my evaluations and review.

I think the most difficult scenario for carrying concealed, safely, securely and with spare magazines would be to pocket carry the LCP II along with two spare magazines while dressed in casual business attire, slacks and a tucked in shirt. Any holster and magazine carrier maker who can successfully pass that test will get very high marks and recommendation indeed.