How do you forget you’re carrying a gun?
This question was posed in relation to a recent article about a former teacher leaving his pistol in the stall of a public restroom. The pistol was shortly thereafter fired ‘to see if it was loaded’ by the homeless man who found it. A spirited discussion ensued on my Facebook Tactical Professor page about the topic.
The discussion brought to mind something John Farnam spoke about at his class I attended 20 years ago. John wrote one of his published quips about the topic years later. It is well worth reading and considering. One of his points about competent gunhandlers is: “We don’t have accidents with guns.” Accidents is a category that includes more than Negligent Discharges by the homeless. It also includes losing control of your personally carried weapon, either by leaving it behind or by unintentionally allowing others to gain access to it.
Following is John’s commentary.
Living with Guns
By John S. Farnam
Many years ago, while attending The US Army Command and General Staff College at Ft Leavenworth, KS, I submitted a paper entitled, “Living With Guns”. In it, I described my sometimes exasperating experiences as an infantry second lieutenant, platoon commander in Vietnam in 1968. I observed that, during that War, although we all had been theoretically trained to operate small arms, nobody had ever taught us how to actually live with them!
I submitted that individual soldiers need experiences that prepare them, not only to operate, but to actually live with, loaded guns during prolonged periods of intermittent (and sometimes continuous) fighting. One may argue that such training is dangerous, but without it I contended, our soldiers will continue to accidentally shoot themselves and each other with distressing frequency the moment they enter an area of active fighting.
For a long time, I’ve wanted to do a comparison of two very popular pocket pistols; the Airweight J Frame and the Ruger LCP. This #wheelgunwednesday, I made it happen. In this case, I used a S&W 642-2 for the Airweight.
The test I used for the comparison was the Nevada Concealed Firearms Permit Qualification Course. I used this as the graduation exercise in my Snub Nose Revolver Classes many times. It’s still one of my favorite CCW qualification courses. The course goes as follows:
The humanoid target, B27 or B21 or equivalent as determined by the firearm instructor shall be utilized.
For 6 shot or higher capacity:
3 yards 6 rounds No time limit Freestyle
5 yards 12 rounds No time limit Freestyle
7 yards 12 rounds No time limit Freestyle
For 5 shot or lower capacity:
3 yards 5 rounds No time limit Freestyle
5 yards 10 rounds No time limit Freestyle
7 yards 10 rounds No time limit Freestyle
A total of 30 rounds for 6 shot or larger capacity, 25 rounds for 5 shot capacity must be fired. A 70% minimum (18/25, 21/30) must be scored to pass.
Notice that as with the majority of State Qualification Courses for Private Citizens, drawing from the holster is not required. Nevada is not one of the States that forbid drawing from the holster, so I include a little holster work.
The way I did the test was to:
- Use the -1 zone of the IDPA target. Then, I fold the bottom tapered part up behind the target. This gives an area approximating the FBI QIT target, which I like.
- Shoot 25 rounds with both guns, even though the LCP would fall into the ‘6 shot of higher capacity’ category. This gives an apples to applies comparison of the two guns.
- Conduct the first Stage as five individual one shot draws.
- Do the second and third stages as two individual strings of five shots each.
- Carry the 642-2 in an AIWB holster, concealed under a polo shirt.
- Carry the LCP in a pocket holster.
- Start the draws with hand on gun.
- Start the Five shot strings with the gun at Low Ready, aimed below the base of the target.
In the end, I was able to achieve slightly better results with the 642-2 (19.87 seconds) than with the LCP (20.71 seconds). I’m not sure a 4% difference is worth writing home to Mom about, though.
Both guns were mostly stock. The front sights on both are painted with Fluorescent Orange paint. The LCP has a Hogue Hybrid Handall installed. This makes the gun much more pleasant to shoot and I highly recommend it. The 642-2 wears Sile rubber stocks, which are no longer made, unfortunately. No special trigger work has been done on either, other than a fair amount of dry practice.
In the end, either of these in your pocket will provide more personal protection than some big honking clunky autoloader that gets left home. What’s the best concealed carry handgun? The one you have on you.
This past weekend, Friday through Sunday, was the 20th Anniversary Rangemaster Tactical Conference. I have a long history of wheelgunning at the Conference, having shot it with a revolver in 1999 through 2001.
This year was no exception. I’ve also taught for many years at the Conference. This year I decided to re-visit teaching my Intro to Snubby Skills block of instruction. One of the other trainers had to cancel due to a family emergency. This gave me the opportunity to conduct my class on both Friday and Saturday. A total of 37 shooters took the two classes. I kept it to two hours and less than 50 rounds. Shooters sometimes lose their focus if the class is longer or the round count is higher and I want to set them up for success.
The topics I focused on were:
- Grip the snub firmly
- See the sights
- Press the trigger smoothly
We did all the drills dry first and then live. For the live practice, most included spinning the cylinder after a few shots to create a ball and dummy drill. Revolvers do this much more efficiently than autoloaders. I also emphasize loading with loose rounds because speedloaders are not as secure an ammunition holding device as an autoloader’s magazine.
As the final exercise, the shooters fired all five shots into an eight inch circle, reloaded with two loose rounds and then fired both shots at a facial target 3 inches by 4 inches. This is a good exercise for practicing shooting quickly and then accurately.
After the second class, I then shot the Pistol Match with a Model 65 S&W revolver. Out of 186 people who chose to shoot the Match, two of us used revolvers. The Match featured turning targets, which made it both challenging and fun. The entire match is shot with the shooter’s equipment concealed.
I’ve been using a Galco Walkabout holster for my J Frame so I used a homemade Kydex centerline speedloader carrier. I’m finding that a speedloader carrier at the centerline is extremely fast. One observer noted that on the Stage that required a mandatory reload, I finished first among my squad.
For each string, we had to shoot a given number of rounds in a fixed amount of time while the target faced. Those who fired a perfect score made it into the Semi-Finals.
The Semi-Finals were held on Sunday morning. Turning targets were used again but this time the Course of Fire was only 10 rounds and was shot on a B-8 25-Yard Timed and Rapid Fire Target. The Course of Fire is revolver neutral but I threw two shots into the 7 ring and that put me out of the running for the Final Shootoff.
The Final Shootoff was a single elimination contest shot on reactive falling targets. Two mannequins with a concealed steel hit area had to be knocked down first. Then a mini Pepper Popper had to be knocked down. Whichever shooter knocked down the Popper first was the winner. The competition was fierce and Mr. Gabe White was the winner.
The Ladies did not have a Semi-Final and the top eight Lady shooters of the Match went straight to the Shootoff. It followed the same format as the Men’s Shootoff. Once again, the competition was fierce. Ms. Melody Lauer was the Winner.
Three days of good training was a true pleasure. There were more blocks of instruction, both live fire and lecture, than can be attended. It was a great time and I’m glad I was able to attend and present again.
Next year’s Conference will be held just north of New Orleans on March 15-17, 2019. It is open to all those interested in personal protection.
Police responded to the scene and determined that a person who had a valid concealed firearms carry permit was seated in the theater and had accidentally dropped his firearm to the floor and retrieved and re-holstered it.
I have no idea what kind of holster this man had. What is clear is that the holster didn’t perform a primary function, to wit: keeping the gun in place. Who knows, it might even have been the crappy holster that inspired my Scam artists in the firearms community post.
Keep in mind that when carrying a gun in public, eventually you will probably sit down. Make sure your holster doesn’t rely solely on gravity to retain the gun. When you sit or slouch, that’s going to stop working. Either a retention system or being fitted to the specific handgun is important.
When carrying a pistol, the gun and holster form a system. That system has to work in a lot of conditions other than what you will encounter at a gun shop or shooting facility. Have that fundamental reality as part of your purchase decision.
Safariland, Galco, and even Blackhawk make decent holsters. Well, some Blackhawks, anyway; my distaste for the Slurpa is well known. But I’ve never heard of a Slurpa letting the gun fall on the ground in a movie theater, so there’s that. There are numerous smaller manufacturers who make high quality gear, as well. One clue is that if it’s made from nylon fabric, you should probably choose something else.
Having to interact with Law Enforcement because your gun fell on the ground is a Serious Mistake. Don’t scrimp for a few dollars and put yourself in that position.
Please don’t do this. There are a lot of newcomers to the world of weapons carry and there are no shortage of hucksters who are doing their best to take advantage of the newbies.
I’m not going to dignify the ad by posting the link. It’s for a $25 holster that has no value whatsoever, despite being advertised as a $99 value. If you see this foolishness, you know that ad in particular and the company in general are just scams. Don’t patronize them.
I’m taking the NRA Personal Protection Outside The Home Course this week. Taking the Course is a prerequisite to becoming a PPOTH Instructor but I also like to get back to Basics periodically.
Yesterday, I did the Range Exercises for the Basic level of the Course. PPOTH has Basic Level range exercises of 100 rounds. The Advanced Level range exercises total 112 rounds. The exercises are detailed in a Condensed Reference Guide available from the NRA.
The exercises are nothing fancy or ‘high speed’ but they emphasize fundamental skills that everyone who carries a weapon should be able to execute flawlessly. Most are shot at seven yards.
- Presenting the pistol and firing one shot (that hits) while not wearing a concealment garment
- Presenting the pistol and firing one shot (that hits) while wearing a concealment garment
- Presenting the pistol and firing two shots (that hit) while not wearing a concealment garment
- Presenting the pistol, moving to a position of cover and firing two shots (that hit)
- Presenting the pistol and firing one shot (that hits) using the Shooting (Dominant) Hand Only
- Presenting the pistol and firing two shots (that hit) at close range (2 yards)
The exercises are done dryfire first and then live fire. Generally, 10 to 20 repetitions of each exercise are done. Accountability for the rounds is stressed. I like that. I’ve used the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program in a number of classes. What my students found was that getting 100% hits on a 12 inch circle at seven yards wasn’t as easy as they thought it would be.
Repetition and performance measurement are the midwives of skill development.
The standard I established for myself yesterday to get all my hits in the 10 ring of the NRA AP-1 target. This is an eight inch circle, which is a relatively well established standard for defensive accuracy among those who can shoot.
I’m looking forward to taking PPOTH and doing the exercises with someone else watching. That’s another of my standards; being able to perform on demand while others observe what my results are.
My colleague Melody Lauer posted an interesting question on Facebook.
What malfunction to shot ratio would you accept on a carry gun (without said malfunctions being purposefully induced)?
Since this had been a topic of conversation with another colleague only a few days before, I posted the answer we both agreed on.
“How many magazines come with the gun? … It needs to be 100% reliable for the number of rounds in the magazine(s) that come with it or how many a person carries, assuming the person even bought a spare magazine. More than that is superfluous. For many autoloaders now that means one magazine plus the round in the chamber.
The multiple thousand round reliability tests that the ‘cognoscenti’ are in love with are meaningless except in a very narrow context. The desire for those kind of tests is generated by training junkies who want to make it through 2-5 day 1500+ round training classes without having a single malfunction. Their applicability in the real world of peoples’ lives is nil.”
I was unsurprised when many folks responded, in generally polite ways, that I was crazy. Most of the cognoscenti want to run at least 1,000 rounds through a carry gun before they ‘trust’ it. My comment relating to ‘Arbitrary Reliability Assessments’ was pure heresy. There was also a considerable amount of mathematical ‘logic’ in the discussion that I found obtuse. For instance, if a gun could be expected to have 5 malfunctions out of 1,000 rounds, it could also be expected to have 1 malfunction per magazine. That was difficult for me to understand but I was told that I just don’t understand math and statistics. If I’m going to have one malfunction per magazine, I’ll just keep carrying a revolver.
Let’s think about the issue in some depth. My questions are:
- 1,000 rounds of what kind of ammo?
- Under what conditions?
- With which magazines?
- With which guns?
- Number 1 carry gun?
- Backup Gun?
- Spare carry gun?
Addressing those questions in order brings some other thoughts to mind.
- Ball or duty ammo? Often, guns shoot well with some ammo and other ammo, not so much. Because of that fact, running 1,000 rounds of ball through a gun and then a box of duty ammo through it doesn’t seem to me to accomplish any more than shooting the box of duty ammo alone. So, in the case of a Glock 19, 15 times 3 plus 1 = 46 rounds. Three magazines for those who like to carry two spares. That leaves 4 rounds out of a box. Always save the last one for yourself. Some folks are such terrible shots they better save two.
- Under what conditions? Unlike wheelguns, autoloaders are subject to the vagaries of the person/machine interface. That’s largely the crux of the reliability question.
- Is the 1,000 rounds to be shot in casual range shooting with no pressure? I can’t count the number of people shooting IDPA matches who have said to me “I don’t understand it, Claude, my gun never malfunctions when I shoot it for practice.” Even small amounts of stress can have an effect on how the shooter holds and fires the gun. Perhaps it would be a good idea to involve at least some significant percentage of the test under conditions that might induce a malfunction, such as a State or Area Championship? Yeah but shooting competition will get you ‘killed on the streetz.’ Or maybe all 1,000 rounds should be shot under extreme pressure, such as the first two to three days at the elite Rogers Shooting School?
- Is the 1,000 rounds going to be shot with both hands? One of the things I noticed at Rogers was how many more malfunctions occurred during one handed shooting. Should the 1,000 rounds involve some shooting with Dominant hand only? How about the Support hand only?
- Since ‘everyone starts moving after the first shot,’ how much of the 1,000 rounds is going to be shot while shooting on the move? It’s probably a good idea to shoot some Box Drills and Figure 8s as part of the testing process. Perhaps including a 50/25/25 percent mix of Freestyle/Dominant hand only/Support hand only during at least half of that 1,000 rounds should be the protocol.
- With which magazines?
- Magazines are often the weakest link in the reliability of any autoloader. Doing a reliability test with ‘training’ magazines and then switching to magazines ‘reserved’ for carry defeats the entire purpose of the test. It’s completely non sequitur.
- But if a person only has three ‘carry’ magazines, that means the test may involve dumping them on the ground somewhere around 20 times apiece. How comfortable are you with those magazines after they’ve been beaten up a bit? You tell me, it’s your decision.
- Which guns to test?
- How many people who carry a Backup Gun run the 1,000 rounds through it? Especially for those using small autoloaders such as an LCP, my guess is almost none. If you don’t run your Backup through the high round count protocol, do you still trust your life to it? If so, why is the main pistol any different?
- I’m a firm believer that anyone who carries a pistol should have a spare. Regardless of the circumstances of a shooting, the police will take the pistol as evidence. If you don’t have a spare, preferably identical to your carry gun, then you’re going to have to go buy one and run it through the testing protocol before you can ‘trust it.’ Back to Square One.
I don’t understand it, Claude, my gun never malfunctions when I shoot it for practice.
There are other considerations such as the effects of and on weapon mounted lights, lasers, or red dot sights, but that’s gilding the lily perhaps.
For those who only have one gun, such as the great majority of gun owners, how long is it going to take to conduct this 1,000 round test? Even at 100 rounds a week, the test will take the better part of three months to conduct. In the meantime, how do you feel about the gun? Do you want to have that “I’m still not sure I trust this piece” feeling in the back of your head for three months? How will that affect the person/machine interface?
In the end, if shooting 1,000 rounds before you ‘trust’ the gun makes you feel better, then go for it. But if you don’t design and follow a protocol that really relates to how you’re likely to use the gun in a situation where you have to protect yourself or your loved ones, the whole exercise is just an excuse to go shooting. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
A discussion developed on Facebook about carrying a gun for another person. I have done this in the past for a girlfriend who was a proficient shooter but didn’t carry because her tight and skimpy clothing didn’t permit it. The gun I carried for her was a small auto or J frame in an ankle holster.
However, an implied task of this situation is developing and practicing a protocol to make sure there isn’t a negligent discharge while the weapon is being passed to them or they are accessing it from the carrier. This implied task is not as cut and dried as it might seem.
My colleague Greg Ellifritz thought this was a good enough topic to put on his blog. Since I respect Greg’s opinion, I will reproduce my thoughts here.
My protocol when carrying a gun for another person and then passing it off to them is as follows:
- Draw weapon with right hand (I’m right handed).
- Place weapon into palm of left hand with fingers of left hand around fingers of right hand, fingers running perpendicular to each other.
- Release weapon with right hand into left hand. Barrel/slide is now in palm of left hand with fingers wrapped around trigger guard from top to bottom. This protects the trigger guard from having the other person’s finger getting into it, assuming they are right handed.
- Pass it toward the person with the muzzle pointed forward, i.e., away from both of us.
- The other person takes hold of the butt of the weapon with trigger finger on top of my fingers, approximating the register position.
6. Time permitting, I will ask “Got it?”
7. If she feels she has a good grip, she will respond “Got it.”
8. I then release my hold on the weapon and then pull my hand straight up from it so I do not sweep my hand over the muzzle.
This is also how I hand guns to other people in general and how I teach gun passing in my classes. The muzzle may be oriented in a different direction for safety.
I believe Scott Reitz teaches something similar to this with regard to gun passing. That may have been the origin of the idea, I don’t recall.
Some folks objected to the idea of carrying a gun for someone else who “isn’t serious enough to carry on their own.” The decision is based on a personal assessment of METT-TC (Mission, Enemy, Terrain, Troops, Time, Civil Considerations). In this case, I was satisfied that her attitude toward the enemy and proficiency with a handgun justified the tradeoffs involved. Would I rather she carried her own gun? Certainly. Would I prefer she was unarmed in a precarious situation? Certainly not.
Up until now, Friday Fundamentals has focused on mechanical issues. This issue is going to focus on mental processes. An incident that was in the news recently drives the discussion.
“It scared me absolutely to death,” said Sherry McLain. She was loading groceries into her car this past Saturday in the crowded Walmart parking lot on Old Fort Parkway in Murfreesboro.
That’s when a strange man approached, surprising her, and she pulled her revolver. “I have never been so afraid of anything in my whole life I don’t think,”
There are a number of problems here that led to her arrest.
- Her level of fear was irrational. Witnesses and surveillance cameras confirmed that the man simply spoke to her from 10 feet away.
- Being startled and being legitimately rationally afraid are two entirely different things.
- She doesn’t understand the difference between setting boundaries and enforcing boundaries.
- Because she doesn’t understand the difference, she didn’t comprehend that when we are defending ourselves, there’s a hierarchy involved. First, we set the boundary and then we enforce it, not vice versa.
- As a result, she now has another issue; the criminal justice system. She was arrested for aggravated assault and reckless endangerment. Based on the current information, I doubt that will go well for her.
Let’s make something clear at the outset, when you pull a gun on someone, you’re threatening to kill them. It doesn’t matter whether you say a word or not, you’re threatening to kill them. Some people apparently don’t understand that and the gravitas it carries. You better have a good reason for doing so. Irrational fear is not a good reason. Simply being startled is not a good reason.
The question of how this might have been avoided brings us to the issues of controlling fear, setting boundaries, and enforcing boundaries.
Controlling fear is a complex topic that is not often discussed in the training community. If anything, the community tends to promote fear, “I was in fear for my life” having become almost a mantra. The woman in the incident invoked it but the police were unimpressed. The difference between reasonable fear and irrational fear is frequently left out of that discussion. It’s somewhat pathetic that there’s better literature in the competitive swimming community about how to control fear than there is in the self-defense community. Learning to control fear is a process beyond the scope of a single blog post. It behooves those who carry deadly weapons to do some research on the topic.
The next issue is boundary setting and boundary enforcement. This is a process more easily trained than controlling fear. Boundary setting and enforcement are simply elements of a process. All we need to do is understand the process and practice it.
It’s important to understand that we set boundaries with communication and barriers, not with tools. The communication can be either verbal or non-verbal. The most obvious form of barriers are the homes we live in, assuming the doors and windows are closed and locked. If a criminal fails to respect the boundaries we set, then we use tools, in this case weapons, to enforce the boundaries. We don’t use tools at the outset to set our boundaries.
One of the biggest issues we have as a society is that we have forgotten or gotten out of the habit of saying NO! That can be done either verbally or non-verbally. Training to say NO! should be a primary lesson in every class on personal protection and people should practice it on a regular basis. Simply raising an outstretched hand and shaking the head can accomplish a lot. Keep in mind that a great deal of communication is non-verbal; we can use that fact to our advantage.
A proper sequence that would have kept this woman out of trouble might be as follows:
Recognize that being startled is not the same as being afraid. She was startled because she was task fixated on loading her groceries in the car, i.e., she had not one bit of situational awareness. Most people are like that. In this sort of a situation, looking around before you get to the car, as you arrive at it, and then after loading each bag goes a long way toward avoiding being startled. Positioning the car for safety helps too. In the sense of color or awareness codes, she was in White or Unaware.
If she had been in Yellow or Aware and seen him approach, there’s nothing wrong with being proactive and raising the hand in the ‘stop’ gesture. That’s the first step in setting a boundary. Her mental state at that point could be described as Orange or Alert.
And yes, at this point, we could invoke the boogeyman of ‘The 21 foot rule’ that Dennis Tueller himself says has become terribly misconstrued. But the circumstances where a criminal runs up to someone in a WalMart parking lot and slashes their throat are far less common than ‘incrementing,’ which is a standard way for criminals to operate. Whether those throat slashings are in fact, reality or figbars of overactive imaginations remains to be seen.
If the person continued to advance, a default verbal response of ‘Stop, don’t come any closer’ clearly sets the boundary. Any decent person would stop at that point. If the person doesn’t stop, it’s an indicator that something nefarious is developing. The mental state shifts to Red or Alarm. Once the intent of the other party becomes more clear, then we can make a decision about which tool we want to employ to enforce the boundary. We can also determine what barriers we might employ in the process. That, too, is a discussion for another time. The boundary setting and enforcement decision process is what’s important in this particular case.
Another thing to consider is that any time we get a gun out for defensive purposes; be that from a holster, purse, nightstand, safe, or whatever, there’s a possibility it’s going to be fired, either intentionally or unintentionally. The more scared we are, the higher that possibility. Therein lays one of my chief objections to brandishing, which is what the lady did; the possibility it will culminate in a Negligent Discharge.
Since thinking about the ‘worst case’ is something many people like to do, let’s examine the possibility of a Negligent Discharge in this situation. Say the woman had an ND as she pointed her revolver at the man or the other people present. It’s probably a good thing for all of the parties involved that she had a revolver and not a striker fired autoloader. If her irrational fear had caused her to have an ND, what would be her eventual statement in court? Something to the effect of “He asked me for a light, I was scared so I drew my pistol, I had an Accidental Discharge, which resulted in a death. It was an accident.” Most likely, she’d go up the river for Manslaughter. Fortunately, that particular Negative Outcome didn’t happen. What did happen was the Negative Outcome of ‘Police Involvement,’ to wit, getting arrested.
If this lady had understood the awareness and boundary processes and then used them properly, she probably would have gone home instead of getting arrested. That’s something for all of us to consider.
Isn’t it just common sense to ensure you know what you’re shooting at?
That question was posted on my Claude Werner, Researcher and Analyst page.
It’s an important question that we need to put in perspective.
Not intending to be pejorative but there is no such thing as ‘common sense.’ What we refer to as ‘common sense’ is actually learned behavior based on our past experience.
For instance, as adults, we consider it ‘common sense’ to not stick our hand in a fire. When we were three years old, we didn’t know it would hurt and probably found it out the hard way.
Similarly, we as gun people would consider it ‘common sense’ to not look down the bore of a firearm. If you gave a pistol to an Australian Aborigine, one of the first things they would do is look down the bore because in their worldview, knowing what’s in a hole is really important. Even Al Gore did it when he was searching for the Internet in Viet Nam. That was before he realized he had to invent it.
Ninety-nine percent of what most people know about firearms usage they learned from TV and the movies. In those media, there is never any ambiguity about the shoot/no shoot decision. As a result, when people get placed in a real set of circumstances, they do indeed default to their ‘training,’ which is the media programming. So they tend to make mistakes and shoot, even if it’s not appropriate. I once bemoaned to a colleague that my Threat Management classes didn’t sell. His response was “Nobody buys a gun with the idea that they’re not going to use it.” His comment put it in perspective for me.