Why Is It Always The AK Guys?

“I’m like father for my students: I love you all, but do not mistake my generosity for weakness…
Bottom line, you will learn!
@Safety Nazis – just STFU. This was 100% controlled environment and at no time students were at any risk.”

This video has been making the rounds and it’s emblematic of the kind of stupid, dangerous antics that make some firearms training unnecessarily hazardous and unserious. Somehow it’s always the AK guys doing this crap.

Continue reading “Why Is It Always The AK Guys?”

Listen to your instincts

That video is a dashcam capture of an attempted carjacking that took place some time ago, but was only shared to the web earlier this week. Most of the action takes place behind the running dashcam, but the audio is sufficiently clear to allow you to get the flavor of what happened. The victim of this crime actually posted a thread on Reddit where he shared his account of the carjacking attempt and this video.

Many victims of violent crime are caught entirely by surprise because they are not paying attention to the world around them. Descriptions like “he came out of nowhere!” and the like are pretty common when you talk to police who have investigated these crimes. Based on victim statements it is often as if the bad guy beamed down right next to them and stuck a gun in their face. This carjacking, though, wasn’t like that…and I’m willing to bet there are an awful lot of crime victims who have had a similar experience.

The victim here related the following in the Reddit thread:

This happened about 5 months ago. I was having nightmares about being shot in the chest and bleeding out for a week or two after the experience. That’s why it took me a while to upload the video. It’s a little difficult to watch. I have even had a few of the ‘getting shot in the chest and bleeding out’ nightmares since editing and uploading the video. That’s about the extent of the psychological damage though. That and being a bit more paranoid to the people walking around me. I saw the guys acting a bit suspicious after all. I just thought I was being racist and gave them the benefit of the doubt. I don’t give people the benefit of the doubt any more.”

These bad guys did not materialize out of thin air. The victim noted their presence and was immediately suspicious of their intentions…but he did what he has been socially conditioned to do and suppressed his instinctual reaction to their behavior in favor of a more socially acceptable reaction of criticizing himself for being “racist” and behaving as if these shifty characters that caused all his spidey senses to tingle had no ill intent towards him.

It turns out his instincts were not, in fact, racist. They were accurate.

For the majority of human history survival often depended on recognizing dangerous situations and dangerous characters before the danger was fully manifest. The human brain is actually hard-wired for what I’ll term “survival instinct.” The human brain is able, often on a subconscious level, to recognize vulnerability in a situation or malevolent intent in another human being.

Let me put it this way: How many times in your life have you been approached by someone who did not mean you any harm? It’s likely too many to count. Think about a few specific instances of that. Under what circumstances did they occur? How did the person approach you? What was their demeanor? What was their body language? You have likely interacted with thousands of people who posed no threat to you whatsoever, in circumstances that did not give you any concern for your safety. Your brain is used to that. It’s seen that movie. The human brain is big on pattern recognition, and whether you realize it or not over many benign encounters with strangers your brain has stored a lot of useful information about how people who mean you no harm approach and make contact with you.

When someone approaches you in a manner that does not fit with that pattern of benign behavior, it sets off alarm bells…and it should. When this victim saw these guys “acting a bit suspicious” he was not being racist or using the Force. He was subconsciously and instantaneously comparing their body language, demeanor, and method of approach with thousands or tens of thousands of benign interactions with other human beings and noting that these two dudes were different.

His subconscious mind was doing an exceptionally high speed, high stakes version of this:

 

…and realizing “Those dudes don’t look right!”

His subconscious mind was not screaming at him because of any evil “ism” he was failing to suppress, it was because these guys did not fit the behavioral expectations of a benign or friendly contact.

There are a bunch of crime victims who have the same story. They saw somebody who they thought was up to no good, but actively suppressed that instinct and took no proactive measures to protect themselves. Then they get a gun stuck in their face and they’re stuck praying they don’t get shot or trying to fight their way out of the problem. That sucks.

When your brain picks up on the “One of these kids that’s doing his own thing!” don’t argue with it. Don’t question it. Act on it immediately. By “act” I mean do whatever is necessary to get away from that person(s) as quickly as humanly possible. Your instincts will not be perfect in every situation, but remember that you don’t owe somebody you don’t know a damn thing.

You’re not getting that feeling of suspicion or unease because you’re an idiot or a bad person. You’re getting it because that dude isn’t fitting the well established pattern of a benign contact. You don’t have to figure out why he’s not fitting with the pattern of all the nice people you’ve interacted with over the years. In the parking lot of a Wal-Mart at 11:30 PM or at the ATM you aren’t required to figure out why he’s not approaching you correctly. You don’t owe him the benefit of any doubt. You owe yourself and your family the benefit of the doubt. 

If somebody doesn’t look right, assume he ain’t right and get the hell away from him/them ASAP.

Listen to your instincts.

Traffic Stop Etiquette

It’s fairly late, and I’m leaving a Chilli’s where I’ve been having dinner with some friends. It’s an area I’m not terribly familiar with and unfortunately the Eye of Sauron (aka Google) has not cast its gaze across the new construction recently finished in this area and as a result their maps app on my phone is giving some pretty bad directions. I finally sort out where I’m supposed to be going to hit the major thoroughfare that’s going to take me to the next major thoroughfare that actually gets me home when I notice that some jerk speeds up and gets right on my bumper. As in he’s so close his headlights are barely visible in my rear view mirror.

“I wonder what this dude’s malfunction is.” I say to myself. policelights

As soon as the last letter passed my lips, an amazing technicolor light show begins to emanate from the vehicle behind me. Ah. So that’s why he’s on my bumper. I haven’t quite memorized the headlight profile of Ford’s latest interceptor vehicles so it catches me completely off guard. My brain still expects a Crown Vic. I signal, pull over to the shoulder, and put on my hazards.

One of the most common questions I get from folks new to concealed carry is how a concealed carrier interacts with a police officer without triggering a shooting. Some may think that sounds a bit paranoid but any time there is an interaction between a police officer and an armed citizen there is at least the possibility (however remote) for tragedy. It’s been a while since I looked at the stats, but I believe that the traffic stop is still the most common setting for a police use of lethal force. The police officer has no idea who he is pulling over and what their intentions are. It could be a car full of nuns on their way to a prayer meeting. Or it could be this:

 

Most stops are pretty routine but the officer who assumes that the next stop will be routine sets himself up for disaster. To him, you are an unknown contact. If you had to interact with an unknown contact who happened to be armed, how cautious would you be?

The citizen on the other side of the blue lights knows very little about the officer as a human being, but we have the luxury of knowing that police officers in a proper uniform driving a proper police car are more than likely not pulling us over so they can rob us. Good guys do not have halos, but a police uniform in the United States is about as close as you can get to a reliable visual indicator of “good guy”. When we’re stopped, we know more about him than he does about us.

So let’s talk a bit about what you can expect during a traffic stop and some techniques that I use to try and put the officer at ease.

When I am pulled over, I do the following

  • Pull over as quickly as it is practical to do so. Police officers will typically only hit the blue lights when they assess that it’s safe to actually conduct a stop, so I go with that.
  • Roll down my window. Should be pretty obvious as to why.
  • If it is dark out, I turn on my dome light. The more the officer can see, the better.
  • Before the officer approaches, I get my wallet out, open it on the dash, and get my driver’s license and CCW permit out. I can usually accomplish this before the officer approaches my car.
  • I keep my hands on the steering wheel, clearly visible to the officer at all times with my license and permit held in the fingers. Police officers are trained to watch someone’s hands. If mine stay in his sight he has less reason to be worried.
  • When asked for my license and registration, I will hand the officer my CCW permit on top of my license. Some states require permit holders to inform police officers that they are carrying a weapon. My home state of Virginia has no such requirement, but I believe it’s good to be in the habit of informing the officer right off the bat by presenting your permit. I even hand over my permit on occasions where I’m not actually carrying a weapon because in many states your driver’s license is flagged when you are issued a CCW permit. This means that when the officer runs a check on your license dispatch or his computer will tell him that you’ve been issued a permit. I’d rather be the one relating that information, personally.
  • After I’ve handed the officer my CCW permit on top of my license, I return my hand to the steering wheel. This is a biggie. I’ve just told the officer I’m carrying a weapon. I want him to process this information. I don’t want to start grabbing at stuff while he’s still figuring out what’s going on. I wait for the two inevitable questions.
  • When asked if I am armed and where I am carrying the weapon, I do not gesture toward the weapon with my hands! I use a verbal description of the weapon’s location like “Right side, appendix” to give the officer an idea of where the gun actually is…while my hands stay on the wheel. I have been asked these two questions on every stop I’ve experienced. It’s understandable…if I was stopping somebody with a gun I’d want to know where it is, too. I would also prefer if they didn’t move their hands near that weapon.
  • I will then ask for permission to retrieve my registration from the glove box. Even though the officer already asked for the registration earlier in the stop, the situation has changed dramatically since then. He now knows he’s dealing with an armed individual. Asking for permission to retrieve my registration serves to demonstrate my good intentions and keeps the officer feeling in control of the stop.
  • While my left hand stays on the wheel, I will retrieve my registration with my right hand and present it to the officer, and then I put my right hand back on the wheel. 

Generally by this point in the stop the officer has figured out that even though I’m armed, I’m not a threat. So far I have never had an officer indicate any desire to actually disarm me during a stop. If it does happen, I’ll be nice and cooperative but I won’t touch my gun. If they want to disarm me, they’re going to have to do it.

The officer who stopped me after my trip to Chilli’s handled the stop well. He positioned his car to make maximum use of his spotlight. Between the light show from the various flashing lights on his cruiser and the almost painful number of lumens being put out by his spotlight, I couldn’t see a bloody thing until he was right on me. I only knew he was coming near the window when I heard his footsteps. He kept himself positioned so that I had to interact with him at an awkward angle. After I asked for permission to go to the glovebox and retrieve my registration, he followed my hand with his flashlight the whole way there and back. You should expect an officer to use these kind of procedures when they conduct a traffic stop because it gives them as much advantage as possible should they happen to pull over someone who means them harm.

After I handed over my registration, the officer asked me if I knew why I had been pulled over. I had just joined the highway and I hadn’t yet reached highway speed, so I knew I wasn’t speeding. I had absolutely no clue why he had pulled me over.

My car’s headlights have an “Auto” setting that is supposed to turn them on when the sensors on the car determine it is dark. The area I was in was so well lit that apparently the sensors didn’t see the need to turn the headlights on. I, being a dingus, didn’t double check.

“Often when we see someone driving without headlights…”

“They are inebriated.” I interrupted. The officer looked puzzled for a second. I’m guessing that the term “inebriated” isn’t often used with correct diction by people who are intoxicated. It’s late on a Saturday night and I’m driving without my headlights on. I can absolutely understand where he’s coming from.

“I’m not inebriated, sir. Just stupid.” I continued with a grin.

“So you’ve had nothing to drink tonight?”

“Nothing but iced tea.”

He checked my license to make sure I wasn’t a wanted man, then gave everything back to me and sent me on my way.

That leads me to the final element of what I do when I’m pulled over: Be nice.

I find that I get a lot farther with people when I don’t react to them out of pique even if I am not the least bit happy about the circumstances of our interaction. I don’t like getting pulled over. It’s always inconvenient and sometimes it’s damned expensive. Even so, being a jerk about things is not going to serve my interests. I’ve found that concealed carriers who are polite and show consideration for the officer’s position and situation often get verbal warnings instead of an actual citation.

If you haven’t developed a standard approach to being pulled over while carrying concealed, I humbly suggest adopting my strategy as outlined above. As a concealed carrier, your chances of being shot by the police during a traffic stop are pretty minimal, but it doesn’t hurt to adopt some simple practices designed to prevent any misunderstandings.

 

The Gadget: an additional safety device for Glock pistols

The Glock 17 burst upon the world pistol scene in the 80’s. Chunky, inelegant, having a polymer (“PLASTIC?!” the purists cried) frame, and…..lacking an external safety but for the tab on the trigger.  Naturally, everyone kept their boogerhook off of the bangswitch and everyone lived happily ever after, right?

Well, no.  Several lawsuits were filed by law enforcement personnel.  Many of these lawsuits were attempting to blame Glock for negligent discharges when disassembling the pistol in order to clean as one must pull the trigger in order to disassemble it.  Nonetheless, there were and inevitably will be more, lawsuits resulting from negligent discharges when attempting to reholster a Glock pistol.  Some examples are:

1. An FBI agent

2. Massachusetts officer shoots hole through pants reholstering

3. Officer Bill McMahan

4. Harlan County

So, do we have a mechanical problem with Glocks and other pistols that have the safety on the trigger or do we have a training problem?  Obviously, every pistol owner should take a training class that goes beyond the good Lieutenant Colonel’s Four Rules.  However, with full time law enforcement personnel experiencing negligent discharges from their issued Glocks they were trained to use, should we not expect negligent discharges from Glock owning citizens?  The answer is “yes” and aside from the very real (though not widespread) danger of negligently firing a Glock when reholstering, Glocks have many virtues:

  • fairly corrosion proof
  • Not difficult to learn how to use effectively
  • Not expensive
  • Extremely reliable and durable (please ponder the difference between the two)
  • A simple design, easy to clean and work on

So, some years ago a visionary met the engineer who could implement his vision.  No, I am not talking about the venerable Woz and Jobs but rather the shooting instructor “ToddG” and his student and friend Tom Jones.  ToddG had an wistful dream.  You see, ToddG is known far and wide for personally choosing to carry his pistol at the appendix position and inside his waist band, popularly known as “AIWB” (Appendix Inside Waist Band).  ToddG was in the middle of one of his famous fifty thousand rounds in six months pistol tests and the current test pistol was a Gen4 Glock 17.  ToddG had learned to enjoy the additional safety of reholstering his test HK P30 with his thumb on the hammer, thereby effectively negating any chance of a negligently discharged bullet hitting either his groin or his femoral artery.  ToddG wished aloud in Tom’s presence something along the lines of “I wish I could reholster a Glock like I did my P30.”

Sometimes, a spark like that is all you need.  Tom thought upon ToddG’s idea and went to the pen and napkin drawing room.  The next day he presented ToddG with his idea. After that day, he went to his workshop and thought, designed, and built what is now known as the Gadget Striker Control Device (for the sake of brevity, I will refer to it as the Gadget).

The Gadget is a safety device for Glock pistols.  It is two pieces of metal that replace the Glock’s slide cover plate.  It has one moving part.  Upon inspection of a Gadget installed Glock, the observer must carefully examine the pistol to ascertain what aftermarket part has been installed.  Should the Gadget have its lone moving part broken (this has not happened in four years of testing), the pistol will continue to function.  The Gadget is for all intents and purposes, aesthetically identical to the factory OEM slide cover plate.  Functionally, it is also corrosion proof and insofar as four years of testing by dozens of testers can rule out, idiot proof.  Maintenance is very nearly fool proof.  Apply one drop of lubricant (I used Slip2000 EWL) to each side of the lone moving part.  That is it. 

Installation of the Gadget is not an involved process.  Unload your Glock.  Do this again, four times.  Move to a room with no ammunition in it.  Retract the slide on your Glock, engage the slide stop.  Turn the weapon upside down on a flat surface, resting it upon its sights.  Take a smaller flathead screwdriver or a knife tip or a ballpoint pen tip and press the spacer sleeve (part #6 on this diagram forward, that is towards the end where the bullets come out.  Pushing towards the bottom of the slide with your other thumb, remove the slide cover plate.  Keeping the spacer sleeve depressed, slide the Gadget in until it covers the spacer sleeve and then you will have to depress the spring loaded bearing and slide the Gadget until it clicks firmly into place.  Cease pressure on the spacer sleeve, disengage the slide stop and allow the slide to go forward.  Rack the slide and inspect the chamber to assure yourself that no phantom rounds have been chambered.  Pointing the weapon in a safe direction, attempt to pull the trigger with your strong side thumb on the Gadget or where the slide cover plate was.  If you have installed the Gadget correctly, any pressure on the trigger will be instantly felt by your thumb that is resting against the Gadget.  Furthermore, your thumb’s pressure on the Gadget will easily overpower any pressure on the trigger.

The actual patent for the Gadget Striker Control Device illustrates the elegant simplicity of the design.  This is a schematic of the device itself.  Pictures being sometimes louder than words, click this link to see exactly how the device keeps the Glock’s striker from moving to the rear and thereby canceling out the firing process.

So what is it like in practice, having a Gadget equipped Glock?  Reassuring.  Once you teach yourself the nearly instinctive placement of the thumb upon the Gadget, muscle memory takes over.  Whether it be my Safariland GLS, my JM Custom AIWB, or my JM Custom IWB 3 holster, I always thumb the Gadget when reholstering.  It would take conscious effort not to do so.  I have been personally using a Gadget during training, some competition, and personal practice for nearly four years including one Vickers Tactical class.  The device has never malfunctioned for me nor any of the other dozens of people who were testing it.  It requires perhaps two drops of oil every few thousand rounds.  It develops a slight bit of surface wear and then stops wearing.  In my opinion, Glocks need at least two upgrades from the factory:  decent sights and a Gadget.

So, the inevitable outcry will be shrill.  “Glocks don’t need additional safeties!”  “THIS is my safety.”  “It’s just a trinket.”  “This is NO substitute for training.” (I absolutely agree with the last).  My personal favorite is “This will get you killed on the streets in a gun grab if your attacker grabs the rear of the slide and disables your Glock!”  This moronic argument completes ignores the existence of hammer fired pistols that can be disabled in an identical manner such as the HK P30, M1911A1, Sigs, the Browning Hi Power, and so on.  Watch Tom Givens put that silly argument to rest in this video where he demonstrates how you can disable a Glock without a Gadget.   And so, will the predictable phrases be uttered by those who have not used one of these devices nor even have seen one in person.  However, if you think you would like to be able to reholster a Glock in a completely safe manner using a simple device that will not break and that if used properly, will guarantee you will not say have a negligent discharge due to a drawstring on your jacket getting in the trigger guard.  Furthermore, the man when it comes to actual fighting with guns, ground fighting with guns, and training you how to deal with a gun grab; Craig Douglas AKA “SouthNarc” of ShivWorks has the following to say about the Gadget:

Todd gave me two gadgets a few years ago to put on two Glock 17 Sim guns to test this very issue. I ran them for a year and in that time had about 500 entangled gun fights with them in my coursework. I have yet to see the Gadget be the factor in a failure to fire. The vast majority of the time if it’s a failure to fire it’s the slide being pushed out of battery.

You may purchase a Gadget here at IndieGoGo.  The current Gadget has been tested on 9mm, 40, 45, and 10mm Glocks of all frame sizes.  The only Glocks that will not accept the current Gadget as-is are the 42/43. Specific decisions and plans regarding those models have not been finalized but it’s safe to assume that it’s being looked at seriously.

 

The Gadget installed in my Gen4 Glock 17
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This picture illustrates how the Gadget moves with the pistol’s striker if the striker is being engaged.  

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The Gadget uninstalled using the tip of my Joe Watson HITS knife.

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Clearly the Gadget does not have to be clean in order to function. My Glock gets a cleaning every few thousand rounds whether it needs or not.

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AIWB Safety and Sanity

You may have heard recently that at least one relatively high profile firearms instructor essentially banned appendix inside the waist band carry from some of his classes. That announcement has led to a lot of discussion of AIWB carry…some of it useful, some of it so unbelievably stupid that I felt a bit dizzy and asked myself “Is this real life?” In the hopes of furthering the useful discussion and stopping the stupidity, let’s separate the fact from the fiction.

Around 1980, Bruce Nelson...the guy who designed the Summer Special...using it as originally intended. AIWB. This method of carry isn't new by any stretch.
Around 1980, Bruce Nelson…the guy who designed the Summer Special…using it as originally intended. AIWB. This method of carry isn’t new by any stretch.

Firstly, AIWB carry is most definitely not a “fad”. The first handguns were often stuffed in a sash or sturdy belt at the front of the body because they carried and concealed pretty easily there. It’s kind of silly that people are running around calling a carry practice about as old as the actual concept of the handgun a “fad”. Go look up depictions of pirates sometime.

One of the primary reasons why AIWB is enjoying a resurgence of popularity is because more people are discovering that it allows them to more effectively conceal more gun more of the time. If you are remotely serious about the defensive carry of a firearm then you are perpetually on the lookout for a better mousetrap. I’m amused by the “fad” angle because a bunch of people squawking about it have bought more rail systems for an AR-15 they will never carry than you can shake a stick at, and yet they want to thumb their nose at people looking for a more practical and effective way to pack a handgun for personal defense? Rule of thumb: If you’ve purchased more than two different compensators for a 5.56 rifle, you don’t get to talk smack about “fads”.

The major issue, though, is safety. Carrying the handgun on the front of the body places the muzzle in uncomfortable proximity to the genitals and the femoral artery. Unintentional discharges when attempting to draw or reholster a firearm are fairly common:

 

The exact orientation of the holster plays a role in determining exactly what bits of one’s anatomy get pierced by a bullet should an unintentional discharge occur. In Mr. Grebner’s case the strong-side hip placement of the holster led to a relatively shallow, straight-through gunshot wound that did only minor tissue damage. One could certainly conclude that had Mr. Grebner made this series of mistakes with a holster in the AIWB position the consequences could have been much more severe…if not outright fatal.

An unintentional discharge while reholstering...luckily without any injury to the shooter.
An unintentional discharge while reholstering…luckily without any injury to the shooter.

Because it is relatively well known that the draw and reholster are significant vectors for accidents with firearms, and because it is reasonable to believe that more severe wounds would be sustained if these accidents happened in an AIWB orientation, some instructors have limited or outright banned the use of AIWB holsters in their classes.

I have a slightly different take. I think that teaching a safe draw and reholstering method should be an important focus of any handgun class. Handguns spend their time either in our hands or in our holster. When it comes time to use one whether that is on a square range in a class, in a competition, or on the street in a defensive encounter, we have to get the gun out of the holster without making ourselves a casualty in the process. This is a fundamental skill. It cannot be glossed over without doing a serious disservice to the student.

If a student is exhibiting problematic or unsafe behavior while drawing or reholstering a firearm that needs to be addressed regardless of where, exactly, the student is carrying the handgun. A student who ends up with a relatively minor gunshot wound that just gets bandaged is certainly better than having to apply a tourniquet to a massive arterial bleed…but bullet holes in students are a bad thing full stop. There needs to be focus in class on preventing students from getting shot rather than hoping that if they get shot they only get a little bit shot by forbidding AIWB carry.  

If people don’t learn proper handling into and out of the holster in a class, where in blue hell are they supposed to learn it?

I also have to take a minute here and mention that I’ve been in a number of classes with a number of people and only a relatively small percentage of them had a stated medical plan in case of injury. I’ve mentioned this before in a previous article. Yet some of the folks with no stated medical plan for their classes are banning AIWB carry. It seems strange to me to worry that a particular mode of carry might lead to more serious injuries should an accident occur and yet have no actual plan in place to deal with an accident in the first place. 

In various training endeavors I have encountered poor class structure with too many people in a class leading to insufficient supervision of students. One instructor cannot hope to keep careful track of what twenty students are doing on the line at the same time…or what one relay is doing on the line while another is back at the benches screwing around with lethal weapons. I have personally placed my hands on someone else’s weapon on multiple occasions in some of these larger classes to redirect it away from themselves or another innocent person because I was the one catching it rather than the overtaxed instructor and assistant instructor. (Although in many cases there IS no assistant instructor in some of these classes)

If we skip fundamental holster skills, don’t have a sensible medical plan in case of emergency, and we structure classes so that the instructor has no hope of keeping track of what’s going on then the risk of all manner of bad things happening goes up considerably…and banning AIWB carry doesn’t do beans to address any of that.

It is possible to teach sensible holster skills in a relatively brief period of time, even with AIWB carry:

 

The objection at this point is usually that one cannot rely on students to observe safe holstering procedures as shown above every time they reholster a weapon. In a class setting students will be putting a pistol back into the holster dozens of times. Some of those reps will be done when the student is feeling considerable stress or frustration. Some of them will be done when the student is sunburned, dehydrated, and generally drained in both a mental and physical sense. (People dramatically underestimate how physically demanding a day’s training on the range can be.) They are likely to forget proper reholstering procedures and with an AIWB holster that can lead to serious consequences.

There’s certainly some merit to that argument. Let’s remind ourselves, though, that during a drill we are asking that same person to pull a loaded firearm out of a holster and use the thing around a whole bunch of other people without shooting any of them with it. If we cannot rely on students to safely reholster their firearms, why do we rely on them to not point their gun at someone else on the line?

Instructors constantly pound muzzle discipline and trigger finger placement throughout a class…and well they should. Why are sane holster practices not given the same level of attention? Again, we are talking about a fundamental skill necessary for the use of a handgun and a well documented danger zone for launching rounds unintentionally…yet I’ve been through a whole bunch of classes where safe handling into and out of the holster were never mentioned in the first place, much less pounded continually throughout the day the same way that muzzle and trigger finger discipline are.

I’m all for increasing safety on the range but instead of focusing on a particular mode of carry as if that will fix the problem, let’s ask questions about why students are shooting themselves in the first place and fix it for real. Part of fixing it will be placing more emphasis on training fundamental holster skills. Part will be structuring classes so that there is a sane instructor to student ratio. Part of fixing it will be bluntly telling a paying customer that they can’t be on the line with a loaded gun because they are a danger to themselves and others. 

I happen to agree that AIWB carry isn’t for everyone and that the potential downsides of launching a round unintentionally, particularly when reholstering, requires some serious thought. When I started carrying AIWB I changed my carry gun away from a striker-fired pistol to the H&K P30 primarily so I could physically block the hammer’s movement with my thumb as an extra layer of safety on top of sane reholstering protocol. As a general rule, I tell folks that I do not advise carrying a striker fired handgun with no manual safety in an appendix holster/orientation. I try to choose my carry gear (which is the gear I train with as much as possible) with the supposition that I’m likely to screw something up and I layer in as much safety as I can on top of that.

In the classes I’ve done recently with FPF Training and Tom Givens of Rangemaster, I used a Wilson CQB 1911 pistol carried in a “Keeper” from Keepers Concealment. I like this combo for AIWB carry because the weapon itself has two manual safeties on it that I can activate (changing how I hold the gun re-engages the grip safety) before putting the weapon back into the holster. The holster itself will actually engage the thumb safety if I ignore my usual pre-holstering protocol of deliberately checking the thumb safety. I also press my thumb into the face of the cocked hammer so that there’s flesh between the hammer and firing pin just in case something goes horribly wrong. I also use a reholstering technique similar to the one Todd demonstrates above to keep my delicate anatomy clear of the muzzle.

Is any of that “unsafe” for a training environment? Of course not. Does everyone put that much thought into their gear and how they are using it? No…and that is the problem. Everything we do with a deadly weapon should be done with great care, including consideration of our gear and how we use it. What we really need to increase safety is critical thinking on the part of every person who is handling a weapon…and that doesn’t happen if we allow this discussion to devolve into yelling UNCLEAN!!! at somebody who has their holster in the “wrong” position.

We are already in an environment where a lot of ranges won’t allow ANY work from the holster due to the risks. There are no shortage of examples of people who have shot themselves either trying to draw or reholster a weapon, the vast majority of them using a strong-side holster when it happened. (Isn’t it funny how that just seems to get glossed over in some of these discussions? People are getting shot…that’s uncool even if the injury is thankfully minor.)This state of affairs is not improved by banning AIWB carry and calling it a day.

By all means, let’s have discussions that promote safety on the range…but let’s have a sane, reasonable discussion with everything that matters on the table.

 

 

 

Always observe the four rules of firearms safety…

…even if you are handling a dangerous item that isn’t a firearm:

 

If you are sure of your target and beyond, you don’t end up axe-ing some poor drummer minding his own business.

While we’re at it, rule 1 of firearms safety is to never point a firearm at anything you are not prepared to destroy. This would be a pretty good rule of thumb for swords, too:

If you don’t swing a sword in the vicinity of someone you have no intention of killing, you’re much less likely to chop someone’s nose off.

What you are seeing here is the result of human beings who are handling dangerous weapons (axes can be tools and weapons) casually and without critical thought…which is common behavior by human beings in general whether they are handling an axe, a sword, driving a 2 ton vehicle, or picking up a firearm. When you are handling a dangerous object/machine, always do so with your conscious mind actively participating in the process. Otherwise you end up on youtube.

Stay safe…

On the Press Check

On Friday, Caleb had scheduled a post regarding the press check. He simply posed a question, and in true bloggy nature all of you answered with varying degrees of opinions and several insults. As you are all now stuck with me as primary content creator on Gun Nuts while Caleb is on a leave of absence for a couple months (a vast upgrade, I agree) I figured I would throw my opinion in with the bunch.

Now I'm a liar because I press-checked my M&P for this terrible photo. Also, I know my nails are chipped, sorry about that moment of weakness.
Now I’m a liar because I press checked my M&P for this terrible photo. Also, I know my nails are chipped, sorry about that moment of weakness.

Personally, if I’m picking up an unholstered gun, no matter its state or what it’s been doing, I press check it. Now, having said that, I haven’t looked inside the M&P that lives by my bed in like a week because, well, it’s been in a holster and it’s not like anyone’s been around to unload the thing. It hasn’t been touched since that night there was a screaming woman across the street (I’ve been trying to turn that into a blog post, but turning “I locked the doors and grabbed my gun and by the time I was at the window dialing the cops they were already there” into 300 words is more difficult than I previously imagined).

Press checks are an important part of a safety routine when you’re handling any firearm. On the same stroke, the holster is a lot safer place for a loaded gun than your hands. Which is why my M&P, for example, stays securely in its holster unless I know it’s been handled (so yes, the night with the screaming lady across the street it got a press check). My carry gun? Checked every morning before I holster it, because it’s being handled. It’s a pretty simple gut reaction for me.

So that’s where I draw the line between “paranoid about bullet gremlins” and “safety is the most important thing” (safety is the most important thing).

When it comes to safety, take nothing for granted

When handling firearms we layer safety procedures because doing so is the best way to prevent maiming or killing someone by accident when handling a lethal weapon. Unfortunately people do not often observe all of these rules carefully…especially when performing what we often refer to as “administrative handling” of a firearm. Administrative tasks like loading and unloading a firearm are, believe it or not, one of the chief vectors for accidents involving firearms. Often this is because of people doing foolish things like trying to manipulate the weapon with their finger on the trigger. Every now and then, though, your finger doesn’t need to be on the trigger:

 

The video captures what is commonly referred to as a “slam fire”, a circumstance where the closing of a weapon’s action on a live round will actually cause the round to fire. In this case it is a pump-action shotgun where clearly a part is broken or sufficiently out of spec that the act of chambering a shell causes the weapon to fire. It is possible for this condition to exist with any semi-automatic, pump-action, bolt action, or lever-action firearm…pretty much anything that isn’t a revolver. I’ve witnessed a slam fire in person on a couple of occasions with semi-automatic rifles with broken parts. Thankfully no one was hurt in those instances because the people handling those weapons did so with rule 1 in mind.

When handling a firearm, do not take for granted that it is in proper working order. Although this sort of thing does not happen very often, it does happen. That is why the first law of firearms safety is to keep the muzzle from covering anything you are not prepared to destroy. I’m sure the person who purchased this firearm had never experienced a slam fire before and was quite shocked when it happened…but by treating the weapon with proper respect they avoided hurting anyone and we got a useful video about why we layer safety practices rather than a news story about a preventable tragedy.

When it comes to firearms safety, take nothing for granted. If you treat every firearm you handle with the expectation that it will maim or kill if you screw up, odds are you won’t ever maim or kill anyone.

Stay safe…