Self Defense Training Articles
Design Of The 1911
A 1911 utilizes a sear to engage the hammer spur. This means two little metal points interact to create a clean break of the trigger. If one of those points breaks the hammer has a secondary slot called a half cock that should catch before it engages the firing pin. Theoretically this could break and cause a hammer to go forward without pressing the trigger and discharge the firearm. I have never actually heard of or seen that happen which is why it is a theoretical problem. The half cock generally stops the hammer going forward and so too does the safety.
The gun is actually more likely to enter into a full auto mode with the hammer falling forward every time the slide moves forward and engaging out of battery. The sear is hardened steel and is incredibly tough but when the slide is dropped on an empty chamber the sear hits the hammer with substantially more force than if the chamber were loaded. Beyond that we have the slamming of barrel lugs, lock up pins etc. taking added abuse without a round slowing the forward momentum. Any of these components can fail as well, rendering the gun unusable and sometimes non repairable.
Glocks & Other Pistols
The fact is that it benefits no one to do it and could possibly cause issues even if the chances are remote. You gain nothing from doing it and certainly risk a lot. So what is the risk to reward ratio? Ultimately someone will chime in with the statement earlier about doing this 1000's of times with no issues.
A few notes on that: 1st I've been in my car 1000 times with no problems but I still wear a seatbelt. That argument is flawed and immature logic. Secondly, when you did this in the Marines you had service pistols and armorers. Guns were built to loose tolerances with someone ready to fix it on the taxpayers dime. What you did not have was a highly tuned custom 1911 that cost $1000's and the sear engagement is refined and polished.
I won't go so far as to state that dropping the slide makes you an amateur because it simply does not. I will say that I no longer do it on any pistol and I cringe whenever I see it. Will it result in an issue with your pistol the truth is probably not... But remember when you are betting your life on something 'probably' isn't good enough particularly when there's no benefit to the sacrifice made.
Our country is so divided these days politically and morally and one of the biggest dividing conversations you can potentially have is over your firearm. Even amongst my family, there’s a huge division on this topic and yes, unfortunately it tends to be the leftest policies and propaganda fueling this division. I’m assuming if you’re reading this article it is because you are a believer in the 2nd amendment and either chose to conceal carry or are seriously considering it.
It doesn’t take much in review of crime stats to understand why more and more people of all backgrounds are choosing to be able to defend themselves verses becoming a victim. (I am not going to debate the pros and cons of open carry and will focus on why we chose to conceal carry.) Remember, choosing to conceal carry does not mean you don’t care about the 2nd amendment but are choosing to keep your firearm private.
It really is nobody’s business but your own if you have your gun on you or not. Do not feel guilty one bit for choosing to carry it hidden thus avoiding potentially heated discussions and discrimination. It is an unfortunate reality that depending on where you live, you could be a targeted victim of swatting or online shaming because of your choice to exercise your 2nd amendment rights and protect yourself.
Most people are too caught up in their own world and cell phone to notice if you are properly concealing your firearm but there are definitely some dead giveaways to avoid (pun intended.) Pulling, scratching, or readjusting your firearm is a big giveaway and draws attention right to the area you do not want anyone to notice. If you need to readjust your holster, it’s best to do this in the privacy of a bathroom stall or in a discreet area away from prying eyes and cameras.
People of ill intent are looking for others with potential weapons for various reasons and the last thing we want to do is draw attention to the fact that we have a firearm. Drawing attention to yourself drastically reduces your ability to stay concealed and act quickly from a surprise position.
Second, and probably most important, wear a properly fitted and comfortable holster. All holsters are not made equally and this is one area not to skimp on. Having the right holster will help hold your gun in properly and securely thus reducing the need to readjust and pull on it. Ladies, we have a lot of options for properly concealing - everything from belly bands, running belts, sports bras and clothing with built in holsters, there is no reason to wear something that won’t work.
Every body type is different and you will have to consider your outfits more carefully than most men, but it’s certainly doable. I have both an inside and outside the waistband holster, belly band and a running belt that I regularly rotate through not including two different conceal carry purses. At the gym today I was able to conceal my firearm while running without anyone being the wiser.
Your body type will dictate how easily you can hide a larger pistol - I have to carry a compact size pistol (think Glock 43X or Shadow Systems CR920) in order to keep it from printing while my husband can carry something full size. I buy clothing specifically to accommodate these choices. Your gun choice is also super imperative to get right.
Too small and it doesn’t provide the protection you might need, harder to manipulate but super easy to conceal. Too large and it’s bulky, heavy and uncomfortable all the while printing which gives away the concealment. Spend some time at the gun range and find the biggest gun you can comfortably conceal while still being accurate. There are plenty of online ladies forums that will give you some good leads on potential guns to try but do not let anyone bully you into one brand or another. (I have my favorites and am always happy to share why) Find one that fits budget, security need and then go train with it and buy the appropriate holsters and gear.
Finally, don’t engage in discussions with those in public who are aggressively opposed to the 2nd amendment. The last thing I want to do is discuss what I’m carrying and where on me to someone who doesn’t hold the same values or in conversations that can be overheard. I do not mind discussing our 2A rights, policies and local laws but I will not engage in specifics of if I am currently carrying.
Never show how you currently concealing even when directly asked. This could be considered a sign of aggression, especially by a bystander who might not be privy to the ins and outs of the conversation. (A dear friend of mine asked me to show her how I was carrying while we were out in the grocery store parking lot and I politely refused and explained why.) Your biggest voice will be your vote. Please stay informed on all the 2A legislation and vote accordingly. Of course, engage in meaningful discussions and online posts but do so with discretion. Train regularly and always be prepared. Your mindset is key to your survival and those you are protecting. Do not be ashamed or timid with your choice to conceal carry but keep your head up high, be alert and ready. See you in the voting booth and at the gun range ladies!
This Pistol Doesn't Fit My Hand
I would ask that you don’t disregard this article as another one from a Glock fanboy, I own many firearms and though I love my Glocks, I love many others as well. When I talk about Glocks I simply find them useful as an example. And for those still wondering I actually carry and compete with a 2011. Again Glocks are just great as an example because they hit all the extremes.
The phrase “it doesn't fit my hands” usually aligns itself with a particular firearm (generally referring to a Glock,) or the converse point of “this one fits my hands really well.” The latter argument I see a lot with people that bought a poor quality pistol and are trying to justify their purchase to themselves or a fellow gun owner. If you fall into this category believe me when I tell you, most serious shooters have a literal or metaphorical box of holsters and guns labeled What Was I Thinking. As an instructor I hear these comments in referencing a particular firearm so many times I’d retire if each of them took a class from me. Let’s dissect this a little and figure out what is fact and what falls into the categories of myth and lore.
First, we can start by acknowledging the fact that everyone has slightly different biomechanics on how they are made up. Generally speaking we all have ten fingers and somewhere in there are two opposable thumbs, but the spacing between fingers, distance from the palm, length of fingers all of this changes from person to person. I realize this is fairly common knowledge (at least I hope it is) I only mention it to illustrate to the reader that I understand this and admit that it is in fact true. This will come to be more important later on.
Glocks have “beefier” grips then a lot of other firearms do and that’s where this notion that “they don’t fit my hands very well” comes from. A lot of it began with the FBI trying to utilize the Glock (and to a certain extent the S&W) 10mm pistol as their primary side arm. They ran into issues with both makes because the 10mm is a longer bullet and the guns were bigger and bulkier because of the pressures created by this monstrous round and the inherent size of the bullet. As such, smaller statured people struggled to retain a grip that wrapped all the way around the firearm and they became uncomfortable with it. Thus springing forth the notion that Glocks fatty grips were difficult to handle for people with small hands. One note to mention, is that the perceived lack of grip by those shooters was just that, a perceived lack of grip not an actual failure to grip the pistol.
When the original Glock pistol was designed it was actually correctly designed to fit naturally into a shooters hand. In 1911 when John Browning designed the grip angle he did so utilizing a group of Soldiers, who had been firing the Colt SAA their entire, lives; they had adjusted to an unnatural grip. Everyone is different, personally I find a 1911/2011 to be the most comfortable fit and most natural pointing pistol even though I actually started with a Glock.
The answer to adjusting to your preference is in the training. A trained shooter can pick up almost any gun made and be proficient with it. Some will feel less or more comfortable to the shooter but the excuse that “I can’t shoot them very well” is not in their vocabulary. A lack of comfort with any firearm is actually a lack of training with that firearm or with firearms in general.
So now we can jump into the biomechanics I mentioned earlier. Ask a shooter where their strength in their grip comes from and they will tell you front to back. Of course every aspect of our grip is important but pressure exerted front to back from our bottom three fingers is the foundation of our grip. So I’ll ask you a question about that gun that just doesn't fit very well, can you exert that pressure? do your fingers reach the front strap of the pistol? The answer is almost invariably “yes." My only point with this is that you need to find a better reason not to shoot that gun. You don’t have to like Glocks, plenty of respectable shooters don’t but don’t carry a junk pistol because you made a foolish purchase and continue to justify it.
The phrase "it doesn't fit my hand" has become ubiquitous with the lexicon of firearms language surrounding Glock pistols. However, the equal and opposite argument from the other side is “this one fits me.” Again we come back to this not being a valid argument, my brothers corvette fits me but my Jeep performs a little better off road. The right tool for the right job regardless of which one fits better. My framing hammer is my favorite hammer- it melts in my hand but it doesn't work well for finishing work. If the pistol you are using is not a quality self defense pistol then it is a moot argument to use it.
That’s another one of gun myths we hear spewed out of the mouths of the internet crowd “Shoot what you’re comfortable with.” Though that is true to a point, in the case of an M&P vs. a Glock 17 shoot what you are comfortable with. They are both quality firearms, the Glock is my preference but you would not be faulted in using either one. However, if we take a Kel-tec (pick a random model it doesn't much matter) and compare it to a Glock 19 obviously one is superior for a combat engagement so at that point it doesn't matter which one is more comfortable.
Choosing a quality firearm in a respectable caliber is paramount to what is comfortable (I have yet to see a Keltec I felt was built to the standard of a defensive pistol). The grip you elect to hold your firearm with is the foundation of your shooting and more importantly is the only thing that will likely remain constant. What I mean by this is that we know in an engagement we will never enter a good Weaver Stance. However, the closest we can get to a guarantee is that our grip will be solid, maybe not perfect, maybe even one handed, but it will still be solid.
The fundamentals of your grip come from front to back and our strength and power of our hands comes from the bottom 3 fingers. The point being that simply because the grip is fat, double stacked, too large a caliber, or whatever other reason you have, if you have achieved the former mentioned goal of proper pressure it’s only psychological and is not necessarily a biomechanics issue. I once worked with a Green Beret that was 5 feet tall and 145 pounds wet, the guy was tiny; but he never used the excuse that his gun didn’t fit, he simply trained until it did.
Others will make the argument that they don’t want to have to train their carry gun to the point of comfort but that it should be comfortable at purchase. I see this a lot when Mr. Smith buys Mrs. Smith her carry gun which was a pink .380Auto that looked “cute.” My response is always the same “quit carrying if you are unwilling to accept the responsibility of training.” As a responsible gun owner you have to be familiar and comfortable with your firearm don't shoot what you’re comfortable with but become comfortable with what you shoot.
I trained a student once that refused to use a quality firearm (in the name of keeping the peace I’ll leave out the particular brand he was using) in so doing he malfunctioned at least once every magazine, literally this is not an exaggeration. But he refused to listen to logic and reasoning and not have that be his carry gun he only continued with the argument that it was comfortable in his hands, even when I let him use my Glock 19 he used the other excuse that “it just doesn't fit.” He was a friend of mine and as such I worked with him multiple times over the coming months and that was really the first time I started to document this issue. What is really interesting about what I found out in my experiment was when I made him a deal.
I made him a deal that for an 8 hour training session I would let him use a Glock 19, I simply asked him to put his pride aside and give an honest opinion when the training was complete. He began the class uncomfortable with it but it took less then half a day for him to develop his level of comfort with a different weapon. The remaining portion of the day proved extremely successful and he eventually developed a much more lethal shot group and speed with the Glock 19, that he sold his pistol and transferred to the Glock (to be fair he carries an H&K VP9 now which I have yet to review).
If you take nothing away from this read I would ask only that you remember training is paramount to initial comfort. The old advice to try several guns and figure out which one is most comfortable to you prior to purchase can be deadly. Get your training, do your research and please buy a quality pistol.
Components To Carry
There are three main components to the physical aspect of carrying a gun:
Let's start by discussing what we want to look for in a firearm. There are several attributes: Quality, reliability, affordability, repairability, shoot-ability and wearability. Every gun sacrifices in one area to increase strength in another. Guns that are comfortable to carry are generally too small to shoot well and vice versa, it's a compromise. Guns that are reliable loose accuracy and vice versa, it's a compromise. However, a quality producer of firearms can balance all these traits well to produce a firearm that you can carry and shoot well while being reliable and accurate.
Quality in a defensive firearm cannot be overstated. We certainly do not want a failure to happen in a gun fight but low quality guns are hard to shoot, difficult to find parts or support for and are generally just not fun to own. Doesn't seem like a big deal for a tool designed to save your life until you realize if it isn't fun to shoot you wont actually get out and train with it.
There are brands to absolutely stay away from, there are brands that make some good guns and some junk, and there are brands that make almost exclusively quality firearms with a few bad models scattered throughout their past (no company is perfect). Because people always ask me my opinions on brands Ive made the chart below to help get you started. In no way do I aim for this to be all inclusive. I also do not represent that every model in the Quality Brand category, or EVERY model in the Poor Quality category is true to its category just that the overall company seems to represent themselves in those categories.
It Is also note worthy that Smith & Wesson along with other large brands have some series of guns that are incredible and others that are so so, along with some crap. As such they might be in multiple categories. The people that test their guns the most are cops, military and competitive shooters, the quality brands listed are the ones we see most often in the those arenas.
Pick quality firearms, pick quality brands and do your research and ultimately be ok with the decision that it is probably wrong and that you will probably upgrade at some point in time. That is ok! Technology changes new guns hit the market, you make more money and can afford higher end guns. Bottom line is life happens. If you are having trouble figuring out what to get I tell people to start with a Glock 19 and buy 10 magazines for it.
From there you can learn how to use it, learn how to carry while becoming proficient and saving and researching for a new firearm as you learn what you look or don't like. A Glock 19 is a respectable gun that anyone can shoot and never hurts to have around even if you change to a different gun later. However, picking a concealed firearm is an article all to itself.
Reliability is the cornerstone of a defensive pistol. So much so that Glock has made their bones off of being the most reliable gun on the market (though there is some debate). People brag about being able to throw Glocks in water, mud, sand, etc. and that they will still fire. And they will but so too will a lot of other guns. But more importantly do you intend to do that with your guns? I don't and even if I going to war and infiltrating into enemy lines I wouldn't be doing that so what's the point of the test?
My Toyota will die just the same without oil as my Subaru, if they are both cared for is the Toyota more reliable? Sure maybe but cared for they are both extremely reliable. So why wouldn't we do the same with our guns. At the end of the day if you care for your guns they will be a functioning tool provided you purchased a quality brand. Reliability is something to consider when purchasing a firearm but it is not the only thing to consider.
Affordability in a firearm is subjective to the purchaser. What a doctor in Seattle finds affordable is different than what a waitress in rural Idaho finds affordable. On the low end I would say it's hard to find a NEW firearm of quality for less than $500. However, Smith & Wesson M&P's as well as Glocks are generally safe to buy used and the law enforcement trade ins are available at pretty good savings.
My personal carry gun is a Wilson Combat SFT9 which is a $3500 gun, but I didn't start there. I started with a Glock 21 I got with a blue label special for $450 (the only gun I sold I wish I had kept). Over the years I upgraded both in knowledge and equipment cycling through a Glock 17, Glock 26, Shadow Systems CR920, Shadows Systems MR920, to what I carry today and will carry for a long time my favorite pistol a Wilson Combat SFT9.
What is important to remember is that the initial cost of the gun is only the base line. For each gun I own I get at least 10 total magazines, i'll purchase 2000 rounds if i'm getting a new caliber, a duty belt holster to go on my battle belt, an appendix holster, and any necessary upgrades to the firearm (usually sights depending on the gun).
Magazines may be $12 for a new Pmag for your Glock or $45 for a Wilson Combat or worse yet $65 for a staccato. If the gun comes with 2 I need 8 or $360 worth for my Wilson or $84 worth for a Glock that already came with 3. Current prices of 9mm are about $0.30 per round so $600 for my minimum load out. plus $300 in holsters and $100 for sights. So it costs money to get in to this. Have you taken a training class yet? Do you have concealed carry insurance? If not you need them.
For those of you really new to this you might think that 2000 rounds is excessive because you heard on CNN that the "shooter had 1500 rounds of ammunition." One range session can easily go through 100 rounds before you've even unloaded the truck. Remember too it generally takes about 400 rounds to 'break in' a new gun. (Even Glocks should be broken in though the manufacturer doesn't require it.)
So before your first trip to the range is done you're down 400 rounds. You took a professional class thats 500 rounds meaning you have 1100 left. At 100 rounds a training session once a month you have a years worth of ammunition on hand. Don't forget to add in your self defense ammunition which is about $1.00 a round.
Repairability is basically what aftermarket or manufacturer support is there for your gun. Not including a doomsday event where support is what parts can you pull of the zombie corpses. But most large producers have pretty decent support. Shadow Systems is superb and so too is Wilson Combats.
1911's and Glock designs (Shadow Systems, Zev, PSA, etc.) all have tons of aftermarket parts for them, to the extent that you can repair a damaged plastic frame! H&K has notoriously bad customer support and they are difficult to get replacement parts for. Which is why they aren't big in the competition community where guns get worn out and repairs are necessity.
New models suck because they don't have a lot of support so be wary of purchasing something that hasn't been on the market a long time. Beyond finding parts sometimes you cant even find holsters which renders the weapon useless except for home defense.
Shoot-Ability refers to the general ease of which the gun can actually be used in an engagement. A pocket pistol like a Ruger LCP is easy to carry but ultimately is worthless in a gun fight, on the opposite end a Glock 34 with a frame mounted optic, weapon light and 33 round magazine might be ideal in a gun fight but it can't practically be carried on a daily basis.
I tend to like what is generally referred to as a compact gun but is really full size just slightly smaller than a duty size. Glock 19s are a compact gun that we even carried as a duty gun in Afghanistan so they fit the bill for a lot of occasions. A subcompact is the next size down and is really about as small as I would ever go for a defensive gun that is what Amandlyn carries and I admit I carry it as well when I get tired of lugging around a true compact.
Sub compact guns or pocket rockets aren't really appropriate as a defensive though it is better than throwing rocks so I would encourage you to carry that as opposed to nothing at all. Duty sized and competition models are generally too big to practically carry but some people do choose to do so and my hat is off to them. A friend of mine from years passed carried a Glock 34, with Surefire 300 Ultra on it with a reflex sight as his daily carry. The more impressive aspect is he did this from an appendix holster!
Within reason the larger the gun the easier to shoot the smaller the gun the harder to shoot and less accurate. Remember what a pistol is for though. By definition a pistol is a compromise if we didn't have to compromise we would all walk around with a rifle slung over our shoulder instead of having a pistol anyways.
Conclusion We will discuss the details of working with your body and the gear required to carry a gun in the next two weeks articles but the bottom line for carrying a gun is to first pick a gun of defensive quality. This takes some research to do correctly and like anything you will continue to learn as you move further into the art. Just like no painter can pick out the best brush on their first piece neither can you.
You have to dive into it a little at first. You can ask other artists and research what brush you would like to start with but the bottom line is that you first have to start painting to see what it is that you like. Use this article as a guide to get started so that you can start learning and developing yourself as an artist... an artist of defensive pistol use.
,The fact that you’re reading this article suggest you probably have some firearms stockpiled with a bit of ammunition available for them. Good for you but let’s hit on some points. First, firearms are the last line of defense. I realize they are cool and fun but truthfully we need to look to the first steps of our defense plan before we jump to them.
Some people simply don’t like guns, are uncomfortable with them, and just simply don’t know how to use them. As an instructor, I’m here to tell you if this is you it’s ok. You can still do a lot for your personal security without arming yourself.
Our home is our castle and this is one of the big reasons I’m not a fan of bugging out unless you absolutely have to I.e. you’re going to die if you stay in place guaranteed. Obviously if money is no object we would just build a new house with security as the first part of the plan. Part of the house would be below grade with a hidden escape tunnel, the entire building would be concrete with reinforced doors and bullet proof windows.
Most of us do not have the funds for this and even if we did, we may not be wiling to spend that much on them. A house like this would cost most the fortune you have saved up. However, when purchasing a home we can look for upgraded features, like stone and brick veneer instead of vinyl. It’s not bullet proof but it will stop a bullet a hell of a lot better than vinyl siding.
A home that backs up to a hill gives way to vulnerabilities by providing attackers the high ground and vantage points, but provides more protection for tornadoes, storms and hurricanes. Everything is a balance; I’m a very security minded person but I’m going to be hit by bad storms and tornadoes multiple times a year. I might be the victim of one robbery in my life and most of us will not ever see a home invasion. So which threat is the priority? The one that is immediate, deadly and more often. So I prioritize storm protection over protection from 2 legged animals.
Some of features work for both such as storm shutters. If used with discipline every day when you go to sleep or when you leave your home, they can provide substantial protection. The same holds true with upgrading doors and windows with security film and higher quality security doors. But more on this in a minute.
If you have already bought your house and you can no longer take these things into consideration, we can still build a defensive plan that comes into play long before the guns. The secret here is much like the old joke of the bear; where you’re not trying to outrun the bear just the buddy you went hiking with. That’s true in home defense in making your house less appealing than your neighbors for an attack. There are some simple common sense solutions that people have either never put any thought into or are simply too lazy to get it done. If you’re on a limited budget start here.
These are all simple to do and relatively easy for the average DIYer. Even paying a handyman to do this wouldn’t cost more than a few hundred but this entire list minus the security camera can be done for less than $1000 over a weekend or two.
As you continue down this path you will ultimately have more money and time to add to your home security. If you’re in a house you don’t plan on leaving anytime within the near future we can take these things a step further.
The goal in doing this is to avoid a situation where you have to use a firearm in self defense. Is it expensive to do this? Sure but whats the cost of a home intruder getting in? What's the cost of shooting a home intruder and defending yourself in a civil and criminal case? A few thousand dollars to upgrade your security is a minor expense in the grand theme of avoiding a dangerous encounter.
Keep in mind if you live in an area that is not known for their self defense freedom you may have a responsibility to retreat from your home prior to defending it. As backwards as most of us find this check your laws especially if you live in a more liberal area. This isn't to dig on anyone that is a democrat but it is a simple reality that democrat policies and laws on self defense and defense of your home error on the side of preserving the offenders life while conservative laws and policies error on the side of individual liberty. Meaning the right to protect yourself and your property versus the right of the offender to not be shot.
The bottom line here is that the first step in planning is to do the boring work of upgrading your home and providing more security on the front end. Guns & self defense are the last priority and our focus should be on preventing the attack first, stopping or slowing the attack second, and defending the attack as a final solution.
I recently read an article on this topic from a huge gun association and with the exception of 2 points out of their 10, I disagreed. From a legal aspect, I understand why they wrote what they did, but let’s just say they’ve lost their edge on standing up for not compromising on out 2A rights. This article is in response to their soft, ill-advised advice but politically correct advice.
Family functions can be the most stressful periods of time for us. I think my situation is unique because I have the most amazing in-laws and my side of the family has completely disowned me because of differing political views so there’s virtually no holiday stress! Certainly not going to complain but I do remember plenty of gatherings with my family that were very stressful and I wish I had had the guts to stand up earlier for my beliefs. Yes, the obvious stressor is when you’re conservative/libertarian and they’re progressive left. And yes, even with everyone agreeing not to mention politics or religion, someone inevitably will -so you might as well be prepared.
First rule that should always be followed: never drink and carry a firearm. Be the designated driver. Know the laws in the state you are in regarding alcohol consumption while carrying a firearm. Expect more holiday check points with police and we want to set the best example for responsible and safe gun ownership. Don’t drink, drive and carry a firearm. Period. Keep your firearm safely locked away if you choose to drink over the holidays and certainly don’t drive. We want to live a life of no regrets and the consequences of mixing alcohol with firearms and driving are severe.
Second: While hanging around family who simply don’t understand your rights and desire to conceal carry, try to keep your gun and holster as concealed as possible. Expect to eat a lot and hug a lot so be mindful of how you carry. There are so many options to keep your firearm concealed so that no one knows you have it on you unless you directly tell them. It’s always best not to start something that can be avoided by being mindful of something we can control - how we dress and what we say. I personally wear leggings and a sweater that will comfortably conceal a belly band while allowing for plenty of food consumption. Men can easily conceal under a loose enough shirt or vest either appendix or at 3 o’clock without anyone knowing. Not a fan of clothing that you carry your firearm in because then you can’t take that outer garment off without locking it up. (And I never carry in my purse at family events because of the other children who might access it accidentally.) Be strategic in how you dress for the company you will be with.
Third: Avoid bringing up controversial topics but be prepared knowing someone probably will. I try to stay informed of the latest bills, Supreme Court gun cases in review, new laws in liberal states and general stats that are often misquoted/favorite liberal talking points - ie: gun deaths are the number one death for children. Be knowledgable on the topics you care about so that when the occasion arises, you’ll know what’s really going on and not just propaganda being regurgitated.
Fourth: Be kind and respectful during potentially heated discussions. Realize there are always people who just won’t admit they’re wrong or believe the truth and facts no matter what you say. You can present data and information and your beliefs as respectful as possible without being belligerent or rude and ‘in your face’. Nobody likes a know-it-all, even when they’re right. And if it’s the other person being rude, walk away and go talk with someone else. Don’t waste your time on family who insist on antagonizing and dominating the conversation based on an emotional argument. There are plenty of other conversations you can join, ignore or steer to more neutral conversations without being a pushover.
These are the rules I try to live by - there are articles that say to get your host’s permission to conceal carry before doing so and maybe that’s the best legal advice. I’m not a lawyer and am not giving legal advice. I personally don’t care what my host says as long as I can legally conceal carry in the state I’m in, my husband and I will do so. I do not think it’s anyone’s business if I’m safely conceal carrying for the protection of my family and myself. It’s certainly not ideal to leave your best means of protecting yourself locked away in your car or worse yet, at home. Honestly, it’s not anyone’s business other than your own if you choose to conceal carry. Be discreet, don’t drink, drive and conceal carry and certainly don’t show anyone how or what you carry when you’re in company that doesn’t have the same values as you. It is better to have your firearm with you and not need it than to keep it locked away and be in need. Of course, train hard, train smart and carry on. Enjoy the holidays with your family and friends and be safe. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Discussing how to carry your conceal carry firearm can be a touchy subject. Ladies who every day carry generally have their opinion on which way is better and why. It’s important to remember that there is no one size fits all for every person and occasion. However, the short answer is; on the body is always best whenever possible. Now let’s dig into the nuts and bolts as to why and how.
I carry every day and buy my clothing in order to fit this lifestyle choice and for the most part, I can fairly easily conceal carry on my body. (The only time I had trouble with on the body EDC was when I was pregnant - it’s really hard and expensive to keep accommodating a growing belly.) It is important to remember that your firearm must be in a secure holster that protects the trigger and is able to be concealed. We do not want to alert the general public that you have a firearm hidden on your body. It must be secured in a way that it will not fall off during the course of your normal activities and is not able to be taken off ie: in the pocket of a jacket is not considered on the body. Your firearm must be easily accessible in the time of an emergency and while there is debate over what it means to be easily accessible - remember, you want to be able to get to it as quickly as possible. Items often used in on the body conceal carry are inside the waistband holster on a gun belt, comfort carry belts, belly bands, ankle/thigh holsters. There are various shirts, sports bras designed specifically for this as well but finding one that will accommodate concealing anything the size of a Glock 43 or bigger is hard to do so without looking like you have a third boob. I’ll write a blog later on my favorite ways to specifically carry on my body (think comfort and safety with style!) but on the body is by far the best way to be able to protect yourself the fastest and most securely because you have complete control of the firearm when it is physically on you.
Off the body carrying is a bit complicated and is certainly not my favorite choice. Off the body means the firearm is held within another device such as a backpack, purse, brief case or even coat jacket pocket in a secure holster (secure holster is key!). Each of these methods is susceptible to theft or heaven forbid, a child having access to it. If you choose to carry your firearm off your body, whatever bag you are using must absolutely be on you in the most secure fashion as possible (across the body for a purse, backpack on both shoulders etc) and not draped across the back of your chair, checked at a coat closet, left under a table or casually left in your vehicle unattended. Your firearm must have its own dedicated holster and empty compartment within the bag for maximum protection against a negligent discharge. If you cannot physically keep it near you, as a last resort, place the bag in a locked drawer. For obvious reasons, carrying off the body is the least secure option with the added downside of having a much longer draw time.
However you choose to every day conceal carry, make sure you take the time to practice with your gear. When you hit that gun range, after your formal training session, add an additional period of time to practice drawing from your conceal carry positions. Bring the purse or back pack you keep your firearm in and practice wearing them and drawing from that concealed position. If you have an infant or toddler that you haul around, take a bag of flour or rice that’s an approximate weight and practice drawing while holding that practice bag (not your child). And while I certainly don’t advocate being in a gun fight while holding your child, you might not have an option but to defend yourself and your children and it’s best to be as prepared as possible. If you carry inside the waistband (which I highly recommend), wear an undershirt/tank under your shooting clothes and practice drawing without fear of flashing everyone around you. (In a real life attack, no one is going to care who you flash if you are drawing to defend yourself.) If you choose to use a purse or backpack, bring it to the range and time your draws. Bring a bag you can shoot through for additional practice - I buy practice bags from the thrift store and modify them to accommodate my firearm for range practice and real-life use. There will always be exceptions for any situation - yes, I generally wear on the body but earlier this year, I went to an awards ceremony in an evening gown and had to carry in my special purse. While pregnant, I outgrew all my belly bands and didn’t have pants with belt loops, so for a few months, I used a conceal carry purse. Where there’s a will, there’s a way and no matter how you carry, be sure to train often and regularly. The main point is to carry and to do so in the safest, most reliable manner that fits your needs and lifestyle
So you’re ready to buy body armor. Maybe you’ve been running and gunning for a years now and it’s simply the next logical step before night vision. Or maybe you’ve seen the writing on the wall that things are going downhill fast and a little extra protection in this society is pricking the back of your mind. Or maybe you just think it’s wise to have a set of armor to go check on those bumps in the night.
Whatever your reason, it’s hard to argue with any of the logic. The simple fact is everyone should have body armor and truthfully everyone should probably have two sets (but more on that in a minute). But what kind of armor do you need? I get asked this all the time and it’s truthfully a hard question to answer because just like picking a carry gun; the answer is “it depends.”
To begin, we need to recognize there are two basic types of armor. One: a hard armor which is typically steel or ceramic plates. Steel can be hit multiple times but doesn’t generally stop as high a caliber rounds as ceramic. Ceramic is also a lot lighter but the internals can fracture causing failure of the armor so it needs to be checked periodically for internal stress fractures often caused by slinging it around nimbly bimbly.
Hard armor is what we think of we envision soldiers running and gunning in Afghanistan. It usually has magazines, medical pouches, or other gear attached to the molle webbing. It used to be that steel plates were all that was available but modern ceramic plates are much lighter and provide more protection for the solider who is not financially responsible for the replacement of the armor.
Soft Body Armor
Soft armor is what cops wear under their uniform. We grew watching shows like Magnum P.I. or Tango & Cash where it seemed like cops wouldn’t be outside without it. Riggs would have died in the first Lethal Weapon had he not been wearing it for the shotgun blast that knocked him 5 feet back.
Soft armor usually has a stab rating as well since they can be penetrated with force and are really only designed to stop bullets and blunt force attacks. The rating itself will be measured in joules of force.
Armor Levels And Ratings
Body armor comes in various levels; the lowest level is not level one for some reason but is level IIA. Apparently when level 1 was discontinued in the 1970’s it was just replaced with a slightly higher end level IIA.The National Institute of Justice requires level IIA to be rated for a 9mm at 1165 f/s and a .40cal at 1065 f/s.
Level II jumps the notch up (why we don’t just call IIA level I is beyond me) and must stop a 9mm at 1245 f/s and a .357 Magnum at 1430 f/s. These are easily concealable vests that provide substantially more protection that IIA making IIA virtually obsolete.
Level IIIA jumps the notch up once more and must stop a .357 Sig FMJ moving at a rate of 1470 f/s or a .44 Magnum at 1430 f/s. This is still in the soft armor category but is harder to conceal. I would liken this to what we see amongst a lot of our patrol cops. They aren’t yet in full battle rattle like a swat team but they aren’t concealing it like we’d think of an investigator or detective doing.
It’s interesting to note that modern technology has allowed IIIA to get a lot lighter and more concealable making level II almost irrelevant and harder and harder to find. I was actually looking at new armor for me and Amandalyn while I was writing this and I had a hard time finding level II and certainly at a reasonable price with the same company offering level II for $1200 and level IIIA for $500 while it only weighs a half pound more.
Level III is generally where we start seeing plates though some IIIA will have it or have the option of adding it. Steel plates must be able to stop a .308 cal bullet at 2780 f/s. These are extremely heavy weighing in at just under 10 pounds. Ceramic plates are available that will weigh 1/3 that and are much nicer to wear all day. However, they are only good for a few rounds where steel (though not approved for use again) can be used indefinitely. This comes in to play if you’re planning for the apocalypse more so than a home invasion. However, a home invasion would be over fairly fast and I’m not sure it matters since you’re not patrolling in those heavy weights.
Finally we bump up to level IV which offers the highest protection designed to stop one armor piercing round. It’s important to note that III is designed for multiple hits so depending on your mission IV is not necessarily better. To my knowledge there’s no hard and fast rule and with technology changing so fast this could be inaccurate by the time this is published but I’m not aware of any steel level IV plates and the only ones I’ve seen are ceramic.
Before moving on, it’s important to designate one more option that is sometimes seen and that is the + options such as level III+ which is not actually rated by the NIJ but is an independent designator done by manufacturers with no standard. Do I think it’s worth paying for? Only from reputable manufacturers. Personally my main plate carrier is Level III+ from Ar500.
Lastly, it should also be noted that the rating system is changing and the new publication came out two days before this article (so I’m outdated before publishing). The new ratings have similar requirements but level IV is no longer on the list and instead everything is changed to Handgun Level I and II, and Rifle Levels I, II and III.
Armor Use In The Real World
Alright, so that’s the down and dirty on body armor but what do you actually need. Well my argument is always that everyone needs two sets of armor. One hard and one soft armor set per person of fighting age in the family. Let me explain.
First the hard armor; everyone wants to play with hard armor and go out with their AR15 pretending to be Rambo and running and gunning with their buddies but the simple reality is that it is highly unlikely you will ever use it in that sense. Even in some non permissive environments it isn’t appropriate to wear full body armor.
We see this in natural disaster areas and economic collapse world wide where citizens may setup safe havens with armed guards but they are short lived and often over taken by government forces where armor and guns are confiscated.
Hurricane Katrina is a great example of this where groups of individuals setup safe spaces with armed guards but eventually the National Guard and Police Departments started confiscating weapons and gear at road blocks all in the name of “public safety. “
Does that mean you shouldn’t have hard armor and train with it? absolutely not. In fact I think it’s very important to train some for the worst case scenario which could see you in full body armor for short periods of time or maybe just for a night of fighting off looters intent on taking over your home.
But the simple reality is that that day will likely never be in your future but what may be in your future is a day where you’re in a semi permissive environment and the need for body armor that can be worn under your daily clothing presents itself. For those of you screaming how wrong I am I want you to think about Argentina, Katrina, Minneapolis during the George Floyd riots, any number of civil unrest scenarios that take place in our post modern societies. These scenarios happen at local, state, and national levels across the globe leaving citizens begging for soft armor to be legal.
The scenarios are certainly present for both armors being needed and in some instances during the same disaster, such as the conflict in Israel happening right now where citizens are demanding the right to private ownership of firearms. But we can see much more application of soft armor in that it can be used as a safety protocol during range training, can be worn in degrading societies or natural disasters and is generally far more applicable as civilians than hard armor so it should be your first purchase.
Our general recommendation for students seeking body armor is to get level II or IIIA soft armor along with a pancake style pistol holster and two magazine carriers for your belt. This can all be concealed under an oversized button down shirt and can be worn in permissive, semi permissive and non permissive environments. Train how you fight and work movement with this equipment. A load bearing vest (LBV) can be thrown over the top with shot shell holders or Ar15 magazine carriers for home defense and some models have spare pistol mag carriers built in defending on how you desire to set it up.
We sacrifice some defense stopping power for conceivability and usability during the most likely course of action we would end up engaging. Admittedly this sacrifices some in the most dangerous course of action but still provides protection. Keep in mind at a later date the ideal situation is to get level III, III+ or IV body armor. Level IIIA used to be reserved for more law enforcement purposes but modern technology has made it more affordable and closes the gap on comfort between Level II and IIIA.
Ultimately you need to be comfortable with your decision but a quality soft vest is far more versatile than hard armor and though it may not perform as well in highly dangerous environments it would be unusual and exceedingly rare that we would find ourselves needing the higher end armor as anyone other than swat teams and military patrols.
When we think of backup guns we can envision the scenes in Max Payne when Mark Wahlberg fires the snub nose revolver through an ankle holster or pulls the Taurus Judge from the small of his back and blows open the bathroom stall doors before questioning the suspect. Though these are pleasing in a cinematic setting it is far from reality.
Backup Guns otherwise known as BUG guns (which technically means Backup Gun Gun) have a few primary purposes. First, it is a weapon to potentially arm someone else. You could be in an active shooting engagement and giving someone a snub nose revolver is a far cry above letting them throw rocks to draw fire. Second, it serves the obvious purpose of replacing your primary if it were to fail or have a malfunction. Third, it could potentially be your fastest draw, more on this later.
BUG guns come in many designs and sizes you can elect to use a small frame .38 special revolver; some people I shoot with use a Glock 26 and their primary is a Glock 19 so the magazines are interchangeable; You could even pick a pocket rocket like a Ruger LCP.
I will say that my general advice on BUG guns Is that I would never choose a gun that I didn't want to get in a gun fight with. In which case the Ruger LCP would not be an option and a .38 special snub nose would only be slightly better. Though situations are not common I want to make sure that the gun I have is adequate to perform a 20 yard head shot.
The simple fact is ALL guns jam break, fail, double feed, squib, or are otherwise made incapable of firing a next round. (yes even Glocks, revolvers and 1911's are not immune from this). A BUG gun is some protection from the inevitable failure. Is it likely that you will be in an engagement where your gun fails? No probably not. But it has happened and as I've always said statistics are a poor comfort to the man that was just struck by lightening.
Finally, we get to the issue of speed. A backup gun in your pocket can actually be brandished by holding the handle in the event you feel an engagement is imminent but maybe not escalated to the point you would be allowed to draw your primary gun or even put a hand on the handle.
An appendix draw from a trained shooter is going to be at about 1.5-2 seconds to the first shot on target. An exceptional shooter will be 80/100 of a second to 1.3 seconds. However, even a novice shooter can start with their hand on a snub nose revolver in their pocket and draw in less than 1.5 seconds. Simultaneously, if the draw is practiced from the non dominant hand we then provide a final benefit of an off hand firearm which has tactical advantages in a self defense close quarter engagement.
The simple fact is it is tactically advantageous to carry a BUG gun. It is however tactically advantageous to wear body armor, a war belt and carry a battle rifle. The simple fact is that we have to draw limits. So what are my limits? I generally stay out of areas where I think a BUG gun would be needed so it is not generally a part of my daily life. Though I will have spare guns and ammo in backpacks and vehicles I do not typically carry one on me.
If I were a police officer I would absolutely carry a BUG on duty assuming my department allowed. But even as a Private Investigator I do not find myself in precarious enough positions to justify it. If you feel you can comfortably and reliably carry a BUG I encourage you do so, but in reality most people wont for any extended period of time. It is also a lot harder to conceal two guns in July in Alabama than it is in a Minnesota winter so keep that in mind.
With the plethora of sights available on the market today it becomes difficult to determine which ones are best suited for defensive use. Tritium, fiber optic, red dots, lasers, blacked out rear, blacked out front, brass bead, aluminum bead, U notch, V notch, the list goes on. You can find sights for just about any weird fetish the shooter desires but the reality is there are only a couple truly worth considering.
Before beginning lets remove some sights off the list. First are the wildcat sight designs. These pop up periodically and are specific to a particular sight or gun manufacturer like the Steyr M9 V Notch sights. These lack the accepted use by professionals in the industry to be considered. Put simply if I cant buy it for a Glock or a 1911 which are the two most popular designs in firearms history it’s not something Im going to spend my limited time on within this article. If you’d like to argue the merits of wildcat sights go for it but each sight would need its own separate article then you need only to find wide spread industry adoption so it can become viable option.
Simultaneously we will exclude any sights that would not traditionally be deemed acceptable for defensive use. This generally means sights with an adjustable elevation and terrain adjustment screw typical of bullseye shooters. Adjustable sights are a poor choice for a defensive weapon since they lack the robustness of solid sights, the dialed in accuracy is not needed, and they are slower to engage with because of the tighter field of view around the front sight when aligned with the rear.
Lastly, Ill exclude red dots and electronic sights since discussing them would require its own lengthy article for each reflex sights and lasers. So what is left? You might ask. Plenty and truthfully up until recently all the most common. It is true that reflex sights have taken the market by storm to the point we are seeing them utilized by police departments, competitive shooters, concealed carry shooters and anyone not on that list. But iron sights will always be the fundamental basic for reliability, ease of use, and affordability.
There are three main types of sights utilized in defensive shooting. Tritium, Fiber optic, and what would be referred to as solid post. A solid post sight may be brass bead, aluminum bead, blacked out, or a non tritium dot. This list refers specifically to the front sight while the rear sight has a few other variants.
Options for the rear are typically blacked out, two dot, or a reference indicator specific to the manufacturer. Like Glocks U, XS big dot utilizes a line, etc. The rear sight is really a simple discussion for defensive shooting get a blacked out rear sight. There isn’t much debate about the validity of the others with some proponents advocating the XS line.
The simple reality is that the rear sight is never a point of focus. Weather you focus on the front sight or the target is debatable but no one advocates focusing on the rear sights so why place the distraction? Three dots on the rear is an old standard that is not only not used anymore but is pretty well pushed out by everyone that can call themselves a shooter. When adrenaline is rushing trying to line up three little dots, or put the dot in the U is a slow process requiring changing points of focus while it is being done. it is ultimately too slow (which is why competition shooters remove it), and distracting for defensive use. All in all it is completely unnecessary.
Keep in mind if you can see the front sight from a full extension with a solid grip on the firearm it is almost certainly between the rails of the rear sight regardless, so aligning the sights with little dots on the rear is not necessary, not helpful and potentially harmful.
Regarding the front sights each have their respective advantages. To begin fiber optic is the gold standard for competition shooting. It tends to be the brightest and most visible in daylight. The fibers are cheap and easily replaced as they will dull a little with time. Generally the recommendation is once a year for a gun that is used a lot.
There are a few downsides to fiber optic. Though it is arguably the most visible during the day it is truly not that much more visible than a tritium sight. Fiber optic requires occasional replacement, and they are typical a fairly weak attachment by comparison. The sight itself might stay fixed just fine but the fibers will occasionally work their way out of guns that are used a lot. This is fairly common at competitions where inevitably you will see a few people have a fiber optic failure at every match. They tend to be a bit more “snaggy” with clothing but the biggest downside is they don’t glow in the dark.
Ultimately this isn’t the tactical mistake everyone seems to proclaim because the reality is you shouldn’t be shooting if you cant see what you are shooting at. In which case every shooting engagement is a low light situation with the exception of military operations which can be a true no light engagement using night vision.
However, glow in the dark sights allow your eyes to easily pickup the sight in low light or twilight settings where the fiber optic will just look like a blacked out front post. Can it still be shot? yes but it is slower and harder to shoot.
Competitive shooters needed a solution for the fragile nature of the fiber optic sights so they went old school to the brass bead and aluminum bead sights. This is just a solid black post with a small brass bead installed in it. The bead is very secure from a reliability standpoint and gives a small picture for more accurate shots at distance but ultimately it is too slow to acquire for a defensive gun and really should be limited to the bullseye shooting crowd.
The best option for a defensive gun is the tritium glow in the dark front post. These sights are robust, easily picked up in day or night shooting. Certain models have the brass bead in the center and give you the best of both worlds. From a defensive perspective there isn’t much of a better option, though there are some die hard fiber optic folks out there there’s very little benefit over a quality tritium sight with a lot of negatives for a carry gun.
This is obviously an opinion post and others may disagree but I and my wife as well as the majority of our students after class agree a tritium front sight post and blacked out rear is the best defensive combination. We train how we fight which means for competition we use a similar setup. I don’t agree with having “competition” guns that do not have a real world application but that is a topic for another discussion.
is an entrepreneur and content creator. He lives on a small homestead in central Alabama where his wife and three children raise livestock and enjoy the quit life on their farm. He served as an Infantry Officer in the United States Army from Alaska to Afghanistan and currently owns, along side his wife, Timberline Security Solutions LLC based in Birmingham Alabama.
Amandalyn has spent her professional career doing a little bit of everything from being a licensed real estate agent, to a Private Investigator. Currently she operates, along with her husband, Timberline Security Solutions LLC to train civilians, military and police officers for the battle they may one day face. Together with Mackay they work as Private Investigators and conduct executive level protection details.