My mustache is making me more powerful

Yes, I have recently grown a mustache. It’s pretty great, reminiscent of the glory days of cop mustaches. Somehow, it’s granted with me extraordinary powers as well. Allow me to explain.

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Basic Knife Skills for Concealed Carry with Greg Ellifritz

Odds are that a significant percentage of the readership of this site carries a knife of some sort on a regular or semi-regular basis. The odds are also pretty good that most who do regard the knife they carry as a potential defensive weapon for dire circumstances.

I suppose this dates me, but I remember the days when the “tactical folder” was becoming a big thing. The new “tactical folder” knives were optimized for sheath-less carry and quick one-handed opening. The ubiquitous Buck 110 style folder (which, back in the day, was a darn good general utility knife) or more traditional Case-style pocket knife was supplanted by a Spyderco, Benchmade, Emerson, or even a Cold Steel clipped to a pocket. It seemed like a pretty good idea to me too, so I bought one and carried it around in a pocket for years. Some time later it dawned on me that I really hadn’t the foggiest idea how to effectively use a knife as a defensive implement.

I’d dare say that most people are like me in that regard. They may have purchased a “tactical” knife designed as a defensive implement but they don’t have any relevant training or experience in actually using the knife as a last-ditch tool of self defense. What to do?

I found out a bit earlier in the year that FPF Training was bringing Greg Ellifritz down to teach a knife class oriented towards concealed carry. I’ve mentioned Greg several times in this space  so he shouldn’t be a stranger, but it’s worth mentioning here that Greg has been teaching knife classes to police officers and to motivated citizens for quite some time both in his capacity as a policeman and as a trainer working for TDI in Ohio. I’ve done a few classes with Greg and I’ve been reading his blog for some time and I generally like his take on things, so I was eager to see what he would present in a knife class.

The day started with a discussion of philosophy: Greg’s instruction focused on things that are easy to learn and I’ll refer to as “high percentage” in application. By that I mean techniques that are highly likely to be successful against most criminal assailants.

Knife use on the street rarely looks like what you see in the movies:

Two people do not square off and duel with knives any more than they square off and duel with firearms. The knife usually comes out in the initial stages of a criminal assault:

…or, in lawful use it comes out when the good guy is losing a physical fight to a superior opponent (either in size, strength, or skill) with the expectation of severe and potentially lethal consequences. Think of a police officer who is fighting with someone who is trying to take their sidearm, or the intended victim of a rape who uses a knife to cut her physically superior attacker off of her so she can escape.

After discussing his overall philosophical basis for the course and the realities of knife use in criminal assaults, Greg discussed hardware selection. He had a big bag full of knives representative of the options available on the market. I took a lot of notes on this section but instead of reproducing all of that here I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes version:

  • Fixed blades are superior in every respect, most importantly in ease of access and speed of deployment.
  • Small fixed blades are extremely effective, especially when used intelligently. You don’t need huge blades…2.5 to 3″ is usually sufficient for most defensive purposes.
  • Fixed blades are also more legally restricted.
  • If you have to carry a folder because of the law, you want one with a strong lock. Frame locks, back locks, and pin style locks are typically the strongest. Liner locks the weakest.
  • Automatics have a bad habit of opening when you don’t want them to.
  • Assisted openers tend not to lock if they are even minimally obstructed.
  • You want an easily used ambidextrous opening mechanism and a decent choil to keep your hand from running up on the blade.

After the hardware discussion was over, we disarmed ourselves of any live weapons, buddy checked, and then started to work with training knives. Greg brought a bunch of fixed-blade trainers and folding trainers so everyone could get hands-on time with both types of knife. Those who had their own trainers were free to use those as well.

We spent quite a bit of time on what Greg said was the most important part of using the knife defensively: Access. It’s one thing to be able to draw the knife when you are standing and relaxed, but that is usually not when people reach for the knife. Usually it’s when there’s some bigger, stronger dude on top of them trying to beat them to death and in those circumstances accessing and drawing the knife can be incredibly difficult.

For access purposes, a small fixed blade carried on the centerline of the body is king, as five minutes of drilling against an opponent will teach you. It is possible to get the knife and use it effectively even if you are flat on your back locked in a bear hug. If you cannot carry a knife that way and are forced to carry a folder in a pocket, make sure you can reach it with either hand and that you can open it with one hand, preferably without having to rely on an inertia opening. (Flipping the knife open) As we practiced the techniques in class we got quite used to to seeing folders fly through the air after a failed inertial opening attempt.

Under Greg’s instruction, we worked with partners to give experience deploying and using the knife effectively under pressure. It was remarkable for me to see people who were showing visible trepidation early on transformed into people who were effectively accessing a knife and then using it to very quickly work over their opponent by the end of the day. One of the highlight exercises started with a group of students standing, hands at sides, with eyes closed. The other group would then randomly “attack” them. I “attacked” an inexperienced middle-aged woman with a double handed choke from the front, and without missing a beat she whipped out a fixed blade trainer and simulated a filleting of my forearm. As I moved to stop that, she transitioned to a stab attack under my arm aimed at my brachial artery. When I moved to stop that, she slashed at my jugular and then “stabbed” me in the groin…all improvised as she reacted to what I was doing.

I don’t think most bad guys are any better prepared to stop that kind of counter-assault than I was.

Greg concluded the day by discussing a few tricks he’s used to carry and use a knife in high threat areas where it wasn’t possible to have a gun, useful information for a number of students in the class who have to live or work in areas/countries where they cannot carry firearms but still face a very realistic threat of assault.

The class was fantastic. Greg has effectively distilled years of training and teaching this topic into an easily digestible program that just about anyone can pick up in short order…and it’s stuff that has a very high likelihood of success if the need to apply it ever manifests. Greg is good at what I call filling in the “cracks”: providing useful instruction aimed at the gaps most citizens and police officers have in their defensive game. This class won’t make you the world’s leading knife fighter, but it does a damn good job of filling that “crack” and giving you an effective plan B for those occasions where you don’t have or can’t get to your firearm to defend your life.

I took this class with a buddy of mine who recently retired after 25 years as a police officer. He told me afterwards that in the whole of his career he had never encountered any defensive tactics training that was even close to the quality or effectiveness of Greg’s instruction. He further offered that he couldn’t think of a single criminal he ever arrested who would have been prepared for just how dangerous the students in this class would be with a knife.

CCW game on point

Who says you can’t carry a good gun and look awesome at the same time? Now that the grip screw situation has been solved, I can set up my Springfield Armory RO with my red Crimson Trace 20th Anniversary Master Series grips. This grips…man they just look amazing. The best part is that they still perfectly perform their intended function as an aiming device.

The 5 worst examples of gun buying advice

We’ve all done it. A friend, colleague, relative, someone who is new to guns comes to us to get advice on buying their first gun, because we’re their token “gun-friend.” It happens, and hopefully we haven’t jacked people up too much. However, when you’ve been doing this for a while, you start to hear common examples of advice that people are given. Often I hear them when someone comes through a class and I ask why in heaven’s name they have that particular piece of gear. After sitting down, I picked the first worst (best?) examples. If someone comes to you for advice, don’t do this.

5. Get the biggest caliber you can control
Sigh. I’ve probably said this at some point in my past, and for that I’m very, very sorry. This nonsense is how untalented, brand spanking new shooters end up with tiny carry guns chambered in .40 S&W and .45 ACP, which results in them developing a wicked flinch whenever they go and fire it. Think about it: someone with no real gun experience goes and buys a Glock 27 because it’s small, and chambered in a “powerful” cartridge. They go the range and it’s all sturm and drang and sharp recoil, so they’re disinterested in future practice with it.


In this scenario, there are two options for good advice. If you think the person is interested in actually becoming a shooter, tell them to get a friggin’ .22 LR. Then they can actually learn stuff instead of just hammering bullets low and to left in a B27. However, if you don’t think they’re really interested in guns as a hobby and just want something for home protection, just tell them to get a full size 9mm service pistol. Be a good friend and explain that handgun stopping power is a myth, and there is not significant difference in terminal ballistics between any of the service cartridges.

4. Get a pocket gun because most self-defense situations you don’t need to shoot
This one drives me up the wall, but I’ve heard more than a few people say it. The line of reasoning is that since you probably won’t need to shoot your gun, the best idea is to get something that is completely unobtrusive, that you won’t have to put any effort into carrying. The thing that obviously drives me nuts about this is that it kicks off a logical progression that if followed to its only conclusion is that you don’t really need to carry a gun at all, all you need is a gun-shaped object.

Here’s the problem: what if your gunfight is an actual gunfight? What if you actually need to shoot someone? All of a sudden that little .380 with crappy sights and a heavy trigger isn’t so optimal, is it? No one who’s ever been in a real fight wished they had a smaller gun or less ammo; so why would you intentionally compromise your choices?

3. Get a revolver because they never jam

wiley clapp feature revolver

This one is a personal pet peeve of mine. I love revolvers. I think they’re great. They’re mechanical interesting, they challenge me as a shooter, and they connect us to history, just a little bit. They also absolutely do fail mechanically, and when they do it frequently requires tools to fix.

I get the reasoning behind this one though, because it assumes the novice is going to want something that is easy to deal with if something goes wrong. Yes, it’s true that if you get a light primer hit on a wheelgun, the fix is simple: pull the trigger. But there are plenty of things that could happen to a wheelgun that aren’t light primer hits, and fixing those is a lot more complicated than “just pull the trigger.” Especially if you can’t pull the trigger, because I’ve seen that happen.

2. Get whatever your local police department uses
I personally have fallen prey to this one on multiple occasions, because the logic behind it is so appealing. On surface it makes sense, because the odds are that your local PD isn’t going to be carrying some derpy POS around. But the flip side of that is that a gun selected by a committee that is largely disinterested in anything other the price, and intended to be carried around on a duty belt for 12 hours a day unconcealed may not be the best choice for concealed carry.


Additionally, political administrators frequently like to saddle their officers with trigger mechanisms that are intended to inhibit negligent discharges, but all they really accomplish making the gun more difficult to shoot should you actually need it.

1. Get whatever feels best in your hand
This piece of advice however is the worst of them all. It rules the roost of bad gun buying advice, because what you’re asking a newbie with little understand of guns to do is select a piece of life saving equipment based purely on how it feels in your hand. Let me tell you something, cochise. There are a lot of aggressively shitty guns that feel wonderful when you hold them, but that can’t get through a box of ammo without crapping out.

That’s really the problem. I’ve had lots of people complain that Glocks don’t “feel good” in their hand. Tough noogies, because they’re awesome. Thankfully, I’ve almost never heard the same thing about M&Ps, which are also awesome, and generally have “feel good.” But just relying on how a gun “feels” in your hand is the peak of bad advice. It doesn’t inform you on how the gun functions, how accurate it is, how reliable it is, or even if it’s comfortable when you start to shoot it. There are guns that feel great when you’re just holding them, but when you start putting rounds down range you discover that recoil changes things. A great example of this is the Ruger SR40, which I generally like, but when I started shooting it a lot, the safety ended up chewing a hole in my hand.

The point of all of this is to not give people bad advice. When someone who isn’t a gun person comes to you for advice, they’re in the awful situation of not knowing what they don’t know; and they’re likely relying on your opinion to steer them in the right direction. What can you do to help them? The best advice possible is to try and get them to take one of the many “introduction” classes, where you don’t need a gun to attend, because the range provides all of that. If that’s not an option, help them pick a reliable, concealable defensive handgun chambered in 9mm. Like a Glock 19. Or an M&P Compact.

Springfield Range Officer 9mm 1911 Update

No video this week, as I was in Des Moines attending a defensive pistol class taught by Melody Lauer (more on that later this week). I did have one malfunction during the class, a classic stovepipe failure to eject during a weak-hand only string. It might be because I was limp-wristing the gun, but it also didn’t happen again during class, so I’m going to go ahead and count it against the pistol. The malf happened with PMC 115 grain FMJ, which I generally really like for practice ammo. It seems to be loaded light, which makes shooting it a lot of fun.

Here’s a quick breakdown on the gear I’ve been using with the Springfield. Unlike the Taurus, I’m carrying the Range Officer, so for EDC I’m using a Shaggy by Custom Carry Concepts. I do like to carry a reload when I run a single stack. When I do carry a reload, I sacrifice a little concealability to get the spare mag in quicker, so right now I’m carrying my spare mag in a simple Blackhawk single stack magazine pouch. While it doesn’t hold the magazine as tight to the body as some other pouches, it does make for a slightly faster reload. It works very well under an open front concealment garment.

One of my shooting goals this year is to take an Ernie Langdon class and take another run at getting a FAST coin. My last attempt for the record was almost four years ago now, and I finished with a 6 and change, which I know I can do better on. To that end, I’m doing most of my training with a retention holster, because if you game out the FAST, an open top retention holster is probably the way to go. Because I like to use the best possible gear, I’m rocking a Safariland ALS.

Right now the Springfield sits at 650 rounds, with a running score on our 1911 scale of 86/100. One thing I have noticed is that it’s much more sensitive to lubrication than the Taurus was. During the class I noticed that slide operation was getting really sluggish, despite having only digested 500ish rounds at that point. So, I lubed it up, and everything was hunky dory again. It’s an interesting data point. Without using actual tools, I can tell you that the SA subjectively feels like it’s tighter than the Taurus was. More shooting this week!

Virginia will again recognize other state’s carry permits

Last weekend, Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia announced a bipartisan deal that would restore CCW reciprocity to the state of Virginia. The new bill will grant reciprocity to more states than were covered under Virginia’s previous agreements. The bill is still working it’s way through Virginia’s General Assembly, so there is a chance that it could get derailed.

In exchange for expanding VA’s reciprocity, VA House Republicans agreed to provisions that would take guns away from anyone subject to a domestic restraining order, and would also have the VA State Police attend gun shows to provide background checks for private sellers if so requested.

Overall, this looks like a pretty solid deal for gun rights in Virginia. If the crybaby reaction of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence’s reaction is any indicator, it’s actually an excellent deal for gun rights.

Mr. Governor, you have been a good friend and led the way on this issue for many months. But if you think we are going to let you drive this bill home without a fight, you’ve got another thing coming (sic). It is terrible.

Good luck to Virginia getting this billed passed. I’ll be watching its progress through the VA General Assembly as it would be nice to be able to carry in VA again.

Tactical lingerie

No, I’m not talking about camouflage undergarments for ladies, although that is also (sadly) a thing. No, I’m talking about tactical CCW gear, generally marketing towards women, that looks cool/hot but is pretty much useless.

bass pro camo lingerie

For example, thigh holsters. Not tactical drop leg holsters, which while frequently used incorrectly do have their purpose, but rather those inner thigh holsters you see at crappy gun shows and from shady “custom” holster makers. These holsters usually consist of an elastic band with a holster body crudely stitched on to the band to accommodate the little lady’s chrome plated .25 or whatever silly bullshit gun they’re carrying. You know, like this appalling piece of crap.

Image from Femme Fatale Holster
Image from Femme Fatale Holster

The reason I’m writing about this today comes from the discussion around Shelley’s post about Women’s Concealed Carry, which addressed some of the issues the firearms industry has around products for women; in Shelley’s usual speed-of-thought style. An offsite discussion brought up the topic of what we consider to be gimmick/sub-par carry methods, like bra holsters or thigh holsters as acceptable options to quality products. This of course drove me off the rails, and lead to me coining the term “tactical lingerie” that you see in the headline of this post. A piece of gear is tactical lingerie if it’s designed to look cool/sexy but has little to no practical application whatsoever.

Stuff like this goes back to the idea of the gun as a talisman instead of a tool. Self-defense isn’t about what you’re carrying, it’s about your mind. A gun in a thigh holster, or a corset holster (that’s also a thing, apparently) is functionally inaccessible if you actually need it in a hurry, and I’d be willing to bet my sizable collection of M&Ps that no one who’s ever carried in one of these garbage holsters has ever spent any kind of time practicing getting their gun out in a hurry to actually shoot a fool. That’s genuinely important, because while we gloss over it all the time in the name of political correctness, the entire point of carrying a gun is so that you can use it to defend your life. It’s not a cute little fashion accessory, it’s a gun.

Maybe this is just me getting old and crotchety, which I’m fine with too. But stuff like this, gimmick holsters, gimmick guns, it all drives me up the wall. It cheapens the idea of self-defense and reduces the serious responsibility involved in taking up that burden to the same trivial level you’d assign to a pair of cute panties. Worse, it creates a false sense of security in the fundamentally unskilled and unserious person that because they have a gun, they’re safe. That person can then abrogate any sense of self-awareness that should come with going about their life armed, because “they’ve got a gun.”

Mindset is always the first tool of self defense. It doesn’t matter if you’re carrying an M&P under a polo shirt in 5.11 pants or a Spyderdo in a sundress. Everything you add on top of mindset is just tools. Stop pretending that shitty tools are as good as the real thing.

Women and Concealed Carry: Solved

Carrying a gun is difficult. You have to do things like train with it, and put it on every day.

Actually, let me rephrase: carrying a gun properly is difficult.

Actually, let me rephrase: carrying a gun properly requires a modicum of work and people don’t like work.

shelley rae 870 fde

I carry a gun. I get up in the morning, I put on jeans and a tank top (yes, I often still wear tank tops in winter in South Dakota) and I put on my gun. If I’m wearing an outfit that doesn’t accommodate my appendix carry holster (I wear tank tops in the winter because I rock sundresses all summer) I use other forms of self-defense, like a knife or pepper spray.

I go to the range (on my days off, paying full price, thank you very much) a minimum of once a week and shoot my gun.

Boom. Concealed carry solved.

Instead, firearms trainers and marketers and shoppers have turned “concealed carry for women” into this whole convoluted thing where we can’t just pick out a gun and a holster that work for us and then go about our lives, so instead of TRAINING women obsess about “oh I have hips and boobs and my hands are whatever and I need something special” when really they just need to get a gun and a holster that work for them and then train and then put it on every day. Or not, and then have back ups, and then oh yeah train because that’s really what’s important.

We are conditioned from an early age that guns are manly and scary, then we get stuck in some class with a bunch of other women and we are told that because we are women we have all these special considerations and so we enter the world of firearms thinking that somehow having internal genetalia makes us carrying a gun COMPLICATED and we need all these special bullshit guns and products to compensate for the fact we can lactate when really we just need to find a gun we like and a holster we like and train just like everyone else.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t market to women or continue to develop products for them, I’m saying we need to stop making this more complicated than it needs to be. I, for one, overthink everything in life plenty enough without some dude standing over my shoulder asking if I can rack the slide on a 1911 and telling me about this awesome .380 that will FIT MY CURVES and the TOTALLY FASHIONABLE holster purse that he must’ve seen in GQ or something since he’s SO FASHIONABLE. I also don’t need some woman telling me that because I have a butt I need a special fricken holster as if no guy on the planet has ever done squats before.

Get a gun. Get a holster. Take a class. Wear your gun.

Problem. Solved.

Training for the changing threat

A couple of posts popped up on my radar today that both hit on the same subject – how we’re training and what kind of threat we’re training to fight. First up is Todd at Pistol-Training, talking about the emerging active shooter/terrorist threat:

While there are still muggers and rapists and thieves aplenty in our society, this year has seen a rise in organized, trained, well armed, and fearless teams of ne’er do wells who are all too happy to kill their victims. Murder for them is a goal, not an inconvenience.

Caleb Area 3 with Colt 1911

Next is a post from American Handgunner, where Ralph Mroz talks about how he’s changing his training focus from extreme CQB (inside 3 yards) to more short/intermediate range training; reasoning that the data from recent civilian and LE shootings shows most fights occur outside the “phonebooth” envelope.

We now have the only good data set on civilian defensive uses of guns (Tom Givens’ data published in Handgunner (Sept./Oct. 2014 edition) which indicates most civilian deadly force encounters happen at about 5 yards, at least in his data set. This means we definitely need to train at that distance — plus or minus a couple yards, so say 3 to 8 yards. Further, the astonishing success rate of Tom’s students suggests we need to pay attention to Tom’s fairly traditional training too — sighted shooting with two hands on the gun.

I have always advocated that self-defense training should be focused on making difficult shots under tight time limits, with the simple reasoning that if you’re capable of making a pair of head shots on a 3×5 card under 2 seconds from concealment at 7 yards, a wide open torso at 3-5 yards is an easy shot. Or to put it another way: “No one rises to the occasion, you default to the level of your training.”

It’s sort of like the zombie apocalypse joke: if you’re prepared to survive a plague of the undead sweeping across the land, a tornado is just an inconvenience. I’m not saying that everyone should immediately run out and take a carbine operator course, rather that people should take an honest look at the self-defense skills you have, identify weak areas, and then train to make those weaknesses go away. The mere act of carrying a gun for self-defense means that you acknowledge the possibility, however unlikely, that you may need to actually use that gun for self-defense. If you’re mentally capable of realizing that, it then follows that it’s in your best interests, and the interests of those around you, to be prepared for the most extreme situation in which you could use that gun. Because if you’re training to make 25 yard head shots on moving partials, you’re going to be able to make the easy shots.

But what does that look like? How can we go from “not ready” and find the road that leads to being ready for an unthinkable day?

  1. Evaluate your gear. Step one is simple. Look at the gear you’re carrying right now. I understand some people can’t carry in the workplace, so look at what you can carry. If you can and do carry at all times, what are you carrying? A j-frame? A Glock 19? Is your equipment, be it holster, belt, or gun itself a limiting factor in your ability to make hard shots at intermediate ranges? I would casually suggest that if you can’t make an untimed headshot on an IDPA target at 15 yards with your current gear, you might want to look into changing it up.
  2. Evaluate your skills. Can you make an untimed headshot on demand at a 15 yard target? What about hitting a 2 inch circle at 5 yards, or a 3×5 card at 7? There are a ton of drills available online that you can use to benchmark your skills, whether it’s a good old fashioned Bill Drill, the FAST test, the iHack, whatever. Find some drills, test yourself, and see where your weaknesses are. If you’re good at bill drills shoot a drill you’re not good at.
  3. TAKE A FRIGGIN CLASS. Once you’ve found out where your weaknesses lie, take a class from a reputable instructor to have professional adjustment made on those skills.
  4. Pressure test your skills and training. Once you’ve received that professional instruction, you need to pressure test what you’ve learned in the white hot fire of the furnace of the crucible of motorsport competition. Weird things happen to people’s skills when you put them in front of other people and on a timer.
  5. Practice. Once you’ve done all these things, you need to set up a repeated schedule to practice and continue to build speed and efficiency. It doesn’t do you any good to learn new stuff and pressure test if after that you just sit around for 2 months waiting for your next match. Dry fire. Even if it’s just for a little bit. Go the range and train.

The bottom line is that once you’ve accepted that the world is a dangerous enough place to warrant carrying a gun every day, the only logical extension of that thought is that the danger is significant enough that you should be training to kick its ass.