Monday, February 18, 2013

Answering questions re: Thoughts on concealed carry II: pimpin' aint easy

Bob asked several good questions on Thoughts on concealed carry II where my answers started taking up quite a bit of space in the comments on that post, so rather than have a huge block of text there, I decided to answer them as another post because it made more sense, and there's a chance that a third reader of my blog will see it and hopefully it'll be useful. So, here's my answers. Bear in mind, these are my thoughts, and its a way, not the way. YMMV.

What I'm wondering is why do you feel the person Open Carrying was 'drawing unneeded attention'? Bear in mind, I was speaking of an incident in TN. In that state, open carry is only legal with a permit; the very same permit that allows concealed carry. Because of that, open carry in TN is VERY rare. Its almost an invitation to get FI'd (Field Interviewed) and perhaps detained in handcuffs by Clarksville PD. In a state where open carry is common, it's not a big deal. In a state where its not, open carry, when one could be carrying concealed, is opening oneself up to be harassed. Its a case of "just because you can doesn't mean you should". That's not to say that's going to happen, but the possibility is certainly there, and a lot more likely than if one is doing a decent job of concealed carry.

I actually was FI'd once while I was carrying concealed. The alarm at the shop had gone off, so I went to reset it. The alarm company called the Police to respond, who showed up as I was locking up the building again. I explained who I was, what caused the alarm, and that I'd reset it. The responding officer verified who I was, because he and the other officer that responded were probably the only guys in the area that I didn't know yet, or at least didn't know who I was. The whole time while he was calling in my information. I kept my hands in front of me, fingertip to fingertip, looking a lot like a very tall Spock. I gave him my license, but neglected to give him my permit at the same time, which I should have. He didn't ask, I didn't tell because he didn't ask, and the whole situation went down with no drama at all. Same would have happened if I had given him my CCDW license, because I was where I was supposed to be, doing what I was supposed to do. Carrying means being even more vigilant than the average person to be within the law.

I understand some people feel that Open Carry puts a target on your back but isn't it just as likely that Open Carry means people will leave them alone going for the easier target?
Who's the easier target? The guy who's carrying concealed and you can't tell, or the guy who you know has a gun? What if there's three of 'em and they see this particular guy doesn't have his head on a swivel (I've seen it a lot from people carrying, both open carry and concealed). Doesn't that make him the easy mark now? There's really nothing beyond supposition that says it's any kind of deterrent. Lots of very experienced members of the law enforcement community have as many examples where it was no deterrent at all as when it might have been. It falls under the "facts not in evidence" heading. Many of the people I see open carrying are carrying non-duty quality firearms in cheap holsters, which generally means they haven't invested in getting trained, either, and aren't invested in their protection in any other way. Carrying a gun isn't the Ark of the Covenant, it's just another tool in the force escalation continuum.

Second, why would you assume someone carrying "might" be breaking the law?
Again, bear in mind where the incident in question happened: in a military town on the border of two states with fairly different laws concerning the carriage of defensive weapons. Chances are good, based on nearly ten year's experience working with the military community, that this person in question was ignorant of the law. That store isn't all that far inside TN, and what's legal a couple miles down the road isn't legal there. If he doesn't have a permit from a state with reciprocity, carrying a gun open or concealed is illegal. If he does, why open carry, which I stated before is very rare in TN, when he can carry concealed? Again, just because you can doesn't mean you should.

Would you assume someone walking down the street with a child might be abducting the child?
Maybe. That would be totally situation dependent. Circumstances surrounding would determine whether something in need of investigation would be required, and there are several ways to handle that if it is. I have a lot of local PD officer's cell numbers saved in my phone. If there's something worth investigating, they can get a unit sent to check it out, with probable cause.
Or someone with a camera might be taking cihld pron (deliberate misspelling) ? I appreciate that; thanks. Again, it would be a totality of the circumstances that would determine that. It's a matter of developing the situational awareness to be able to see what's what. That takes practice, and I learned it a couple ways: first, nearly 25 years in retail, and several more years in the service sector. Second, I made it a point to watch people and observe without being observed. I learned that by walking around and taking a seat at malls, parks, amusement parks, sporting events, and like that. It takes effort, but it pays off.

Remember, with rights come responsibility, and just because the state issues you a permit after completing the class on the law regarding carrying, doesn't mean you're now an expert on carrying. You become expert through practice and repetition.

I find that sentiment to be at odds with the impression I'm getting of Open Carry.
How could he become an expert without practice or repetition? There is no other way. There's information to be had from experienced and expert people, and I'm blessed to have much better sources to get information from than most everyone else, but it is out there if diligent searching is undertaken. What is generally found is that expert and experienced people have a lot of agreement in what they do. Add to that practice that involves careful observation and examination of what one is doing, and eventually expertise is gained. That's equipment choice, situational awareness, and other tools to use in personal defense; all that stuff matters and has to be examined. Some people just stuff a gun in a holster and go about their daily lives in blissful ignorance of what's going on around them, just like they did before they get their permit. The ones that become expert in it treat it like any other field of endeavor and become students of it, get trained to do it. What I was getting at is that the class teaches the law regarding carry, not the logistics and all the ins and outs of actually carrying every day. But, if the option to carry concealed is there, why open carry? Doesn't make sense.

Thanks for the questions, Bob. Hope that helps explain where I'm coming from. As always, YMMV.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Spammity Spam Spam

I get some pretty decent spam submitted in the comments of my blog. Since I approve all the comments, both my readers don't see them, but they're still there. I don't know why exactly that happens, since you'd think that it'd make more sense to spam places with a lot more traffic, but I guess it works because they keep doing it.

Sometimes I get some really interesting ones that I'd publish if it wasn't for the spam factor, and sometimes I get some, like the one I'm gonna C&P here in a moment, just don't make even a bit of sense. If you can interpret what this means, by all means let me know, because while the words are English in origin, I can't make heads or tails out of what it's supposed to mean. Something about Gaga...
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Thoughts on concealed carry II: pimpin' aint easy

Yesterday was a pretty good day, for being so cold. I was wearing a lot of layers and still found I didn't have enough for that particular range day. Cold and windy is a brutal combination. Of course, I carry to and from the range, and since I had a couple stops to make (Books a Million for the latest issue of SWAT that features a couple of ATS chest rigs, and Red Top Barbecue in Guthrie, KY because it's awesomely greatly awesome), I made sure I had a cover garment. I was carrying my standard load out: cell phone, SAK Classic in the left pocket, folder (Spyderco Endura 4 that day) in the right, G19 (one day I'll list the mods and the why's; I know nobody cares, but I gotta post something, don't I?) in the Safariland 529 and a G17 spare mag in a Safariland 074 pouch. I mention that only to have a baseline for the sake of the post.

As I mentioned previously, I had several layers on; a couple black base layer long sleeve shirts, a black Marmot Powerstretch fleece zip up (been getting a LOT of use of that garment this year!) and a dark gray Gander Mountain GSX shell that was a Christmas gift from friends a couple years ago. Been wearing the heck out of that, too. Since I was wearing thermal bottoms, I had one of my baggier pairs of pants on, a fairly old pair of Royal Robbins 5.11's in very dark blue. Incidentally, the holster, belt and pistol are all black, too.

Now, the color being black isn't really significant, except in terms of whether the gun is seen or not. I've never been one to put an excessive amount of weight on "printing". Its just not that important, because people have a hard time seeing a couple inches in front of their face, much less recognizing a concealed weapon. But a little attention must be paid to contrast, and here's what brought this whole post on.

I should have clicked a photo, but I couldn't pull it off surreptitiously, so I'll have to describe what I saw. I was in the Publix in TN (which is significant, due to the state it's in) getting some protein because their meat department is a lot better than Wally World's. While I'm checking out, I'm looking around; I try to be conscientious of looking around constantly, in order to be aware of what's going on around me. In the next lane over, there's a young man, probably a Soldier judging from his appearance (haircut and what he was wearing), checking out with a pretty large order. He's wearing a long sleeve thermal type shirt and blue jeans on a regular black pants belt. Why would I notice the belt? Because of what was on it: an open carried Taurus 1911 in a Fobus holster. Now, I'll get into the choice of weapon in a different post, but what's relevant here is twofold. First, the black pistol and black holster against blue jeans and a white shirt draws the eye of those looking for it like a moth to a flame. Secondly, he was open carrying in a state with particular laws on that issue. In TN, the permit to carry is a handgun carry permit. Carrying at all without a permit in TN (a shall-issue state), open carry or concealed, is illegal. Yes, you can carry either way with the permit. So, either this young man was breaking the law, or drawing unneeded attention.

He might have been breaking the law; I didn't talk to him, because nobody else seemed to notice and I didn't wanna be the one to point it out. If he wasn't, all the notice I was paying him could have been avoided by wearing a long sleeve shirt, baggy sweatshirt, jacket, or almost any cover garment other than a 5.11 vest (they only blend in at an IDPA match) and carrying concealed. If he'd been wearing a black shirt instead of a white one, the noticeability of what he was carrying would have been cut dramatically. I would still have seen it, but the casual observer surely wouldn't have. I've watched that over and over again: groups of people going about whatever their task at hand is are oblivious to what's going on around them. Go to a supermarket or the mall or whatever and watch people. You'll see in short order how unaware of what's going on around them they are. You should do that anyway, although you can just incorporate it into your day to day activities after a little while; it becomes second nature rather quickly. Remember that old saying "be kind, be courteous, and have a plan to kill everyone you meet"? Yeah.

Deep carry is overrated, but if it makes you as the person carrying concealed more comfortable, then go for it. Just be sure you are practicing out of your carry gear and can actually access your pistol or other weapon when you need it and without undue stress and histrionics. Get good out of your carry gear, or you're putting yourself at a major disadvantage. It's just your life we're talking about.

The bigger point, though, is that if you're going to carry, you have two things that you need to do. First, put a little thought into your wardrobe. You may need to buy some new clothes, but that's doubtful unless you're one of those skinny jeans wearing emo people. You do need to consider it, though, because your goal is to be the grayman (or woman; grayperson sounds stupid so I won't use it)  and avoid trouble as much as practicable. Secondly, be very aware of what the laws are concerning carry where you are, especially if you're like me and live in a border town. You've got to know that you're within the law; carrying illegally is a great way to get popped in a high stress situation, for you and the arresting officer) for a completely avoidable crime. Remember, with rights come responsibility, and just because the state issues you a permit after completing the class on the law regarding carrying, doesn't mean you're now an expert on carrying. You become expert through practice and repetition.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Holster thoughts for Concealed Carry

One of the great things about living in a "shall issue" state is that citizens come to realize that they are responsible for their own safety, and they take steps to do something about it. There are a lot of missteps, of course, but steps are steps and as long as you're trying to learn and grow and keep moving forward, that's all that matters to me. Its not easy to remember, sometimes, that everybody starts at zero, regardless of how much you know now or how good your sources of information are.

I've noticed, though, that a lot of holster customers don't really have the information they think they do when they're looking for a way to carry their chosen weapon. For every upside, there is a downside, and that's doubly true for carrying a pistol because all these different areas work together...or against each other if you're not aware of what's up with the what's up. To that end, I wanted to share some thoughts on holsters and the pluses and minuses of them. Hopefully I'll be able to show that unconventional carry is unconventional for a reason, and it's not always a good one.

So where do you start this journey? With a belt. You must have a belt that's built for supporting a pistol. Lots of people hate wearing belts and want to use a paddle holster instead. Well, guess what: a properly designed paddle holster, that's built not to come out with the gun when you draw it, is meant for use with a belt. A good belt is an investment, because quality lasts. They don't have to cost a ton, but the "you get what you pay for" axiom holds true here, too. There are lots of choices: great leather is available from commercial sources like Galco and Bianchi and custom leather makers like Mernickle Custom Holsters, C. Rusty Sherrick and Haugen Handgun Leather. If you want something dressier than nylon without being leather, there are Biothane belts from Maxpedition, who offer the Liger Belt line, and First Spear. There's lots of good nylon, too, from The Wilderness, Ares Gear and others. No matter what you choose, you have to have a belt that will support a holster and the gun that's in it, so stiffness from edge to edge is critical. Flexibility from end to end will generally make a more comfortable belt, but it HAS to be stiff enough to support your holster. Get a belt specifically designed for the purpose and you'll experience way more comfort and far less fatigue, and fatigue is one of the things that will keep you from carrying all the time. The gun you don't have with you when you need it doesn't help you.

The first general category is what I will call belt scabbards, and those can be inside the waistband (IWB) and outside the waistband (OWB). OWB holsters are generally a lot easier to draw from because there's a bit of stand off from the body, at least in comparison to IWB. IWB are generally a good bit easier to hide but hide the gun a good bit more, which is handy when in places where lots of people tend to be, like a movie theater or at church. There's a ton of different materials available, and all of them work while having different characteristics. Leather and synthetic leather will generally be the most comfortable because they eventually break in and mold themselves to you. My main holster is a synthetic belt slide, a Safariland 529 that I've been using for a couple of years now. Incidentally,
those belt loops are snapped, and they work in the easy-on, easy-off method that most people think a paddle will. There are also all-Kydex holsters from Raven Concealment Systems and everyone that's copying their design and making refinements and changes to it (some good, some bad, depending on how much those makers know about carrying a gun). This is the go-to type of holster that is money in the vast majority of situations.

IWB has the advantage of hiding the gun "deeper", but at the expense of making the draw a little more difficult (or a lot more, depending on whether the designer has drawn guns from IWB concealment before) because the gun's grip is held closer to the body. Still, a well designed IWB is very comfortable and hides the gun exceptionally well. My primary IWB is a Bianchi M135 Allusion Suppression which is a great holster with a terrible name. It's a hybrid in that it's a leather base with a kydex/leather pouch for the pistol. The flange of the holster makes it wrap around the hip and is super comfortable, but is easier to draw from and return the holster to because it doesn't collapse.
It's also tuckable, which means that you can tuck your shirt in behind the belt loops to cover the gun even more, but I don't want to make the gun that hard to get to; I don't tuck shirts in. In an office situation where you're in a suit and have to take that jacket off from time to time, you may not have a choice. My friend Greg Peters at Peters Custom Holsters makes a great IWB holster from Kydex called the Hold Fast that's great, and there are many, many others.

The above are the common methods because they've been proven to work in the widest arrays of situations. Sometimes situations call for alternatives, but they should be seen as alternatives in special situations, rather than primary modes of carry. Why? Because other modes of carry have significant downsides to them, and one must balance those downsides versus what is to be gained. Often, those other modes aren't necessary and put the gun carrying person at a disadvantage. That doesn't make them wrong; far from it. They may be suboptimal for your requirements, and unnecessarily handicapping you. I'm just gonna point them out and give the upside and downside to them. As always, Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV).

Lately a lot of people I know have been using Appendix Inside the Waistband carry (AIWB), which puts the gun on the front of the body on the strong side (whichever the dominant hand is). The plus side to this is that it puts the gun in position to be drawn quickly with little extra movement, and it hides the gun really well, especially with the very minimalist holsters used in this position. There are a couple downsides, too: you're limited by comfort and practicality on what guns you can carry this way;  subcompacts like the Glock 26/27 don't have enough muzzle to them to stay put well (obviously depending on holster design) and large guns like a 5" 1911 (the only 1911's as far as I'm concerned; I'm pretty old school in that regard) can be quite a load in that position. Additionally, forget sitting down like a normal human; you're going to have to recline or get jabbed by the gun's muzzle, or carry a much smaller gun with less barrel. I'm not a fan of carrying the smallest possible gun, but I am a fan of carrying the smallest gun YOU CAN EFFECTIVELY FIGHT WITH. Another downside: its not for plus sized people, so if you're carrying a decent sized flesh doughnut, this method isn't going to work optimally for you.

More or less opposite of AIWB carry is Small of the Back (SOB) carry. Again, the plus side is deep carriage of the gun, but there are two significant downsides: first, having a gun in the small of your back may make sitting down very uncomfortable, so i you spend a lot of time seated, this is probably the worst option for you. The other significant downside is that when you go to draw the gun, an adversary can put you in a hammerlock position with just a little pressure on your drawing elbow.

Shoulder holsters work well for carrying under a jacket, and in crappy winter weather are somewhat easier to get guns out of than a waist holster is. The downside is that if the gun is horizontal, your muzzle is constantly sweeping others, and if its vertical, its more difficult to draw from.

Ankle holsters are often seen as the deepest cover position, and in some cases that's true. It's one of the best options for carrying in a seated position, such as when you're driving. When it's your primary method, though, you're limited to what guns you can carry (obviously, the bigger the gun, the less comfortable it is) and can lead to all the impediments you can think of that come from having weight on one foot and not on the other. They may not be severe, but that doesn't mean there's no penalty. Additionally, if you're walking down the street and need your gun, you have two choices to get to it: first, take a knee. If you're getting shot at, you have to choose drawing and returning fire for as long as it takes you to get that gun from your knee, and then moving to cover. The other choice is to be on one foot for as long as it takes you to get the gun off your ankle. If you're on uneven ground or on the low ground, that can present its own set of problems.

Ankle carry is a decent option if you're driving a lot or spending a lot of time at a desk where having a gun on your waist is not practical. Carrying a gun in the car is a tough situation, because the laws governing that can vary a LOT. In KY, its legal to transport your gun on the passenger seat, while I don't believe that's the case in TN, and I'm sure several other states. What several friends have done is to screw a holster to the underside of their steering column, and putting the gun there while driving. I'm still examining that option, and I like the idea. There are other options, as well. In KY, I can conceal any weapon I can inflict deadly force with, so I have other close combat options that other states don't have, and some states may be excessively restrictive on a gun but may not be on a baton or a knife. Know your local and state laws to see what your options are. While I don't believe in taking a knife to a gun fight, I always have a knife at the gunfight.

This post was intended to get a shooter new to carrying to think about the options they have to do so. It's not the be all, end all, and it certainly isn't the exhaustive list. While nothing is always true all the time, with some training, practice and experience, most will find that strong side carriage on the waist is the best option. Don't try to reinvent the wheel just because you're new to the scene, learn from those who've gone before and save yourself some headaches...sorta like how every dang holster ever designed is made for the Glock first. In Police work, they call that a "clue".

Pictures courtesy of Safariland and Bianchi.