The Folly of Chasing Gear – CCW Version, Part 1

When I wrote my original post on the folly of chasing gear for competition I did so at a point where I had been competing for a little over a year and had less than ten matches under my belt.  For a reference I write this post having concealed carry for almost 12 years and in that time I have changed guns and platforms an order of magnitude more than I did with competition gear.  With Part 1 I will look into some guns I tried and what I learned.

If you are new to concealed carry this as an example of what not to do; If you are a CCW veteran this might seem familiar or even laughable to you.  Either way I present to you a method not worth repeating.

The First CCW Gun

The first gun CCW gun I bought was going to be my last – or so I thought when I paid for it – a Rock Island 1911 Officer’s model.  Presently Rock Island (Armscor) has built a reputation for decent 1911’s; mine was not made in the era of praise.  It had so much going wrong for it I can’t list it all; a sample includes: GI sights, no beaver tail, a gritty 7+ lbs trigger, sticky mag release (it would stick in!) and the worst Parkerized finish imaginable.  It would feed 230 grain ball ammo, sometimes and it would feed JHP’s exactly never.  I did a little work on it, got it to function semi-reliably and actually used it in the shooting portion of my licensing. It was accurate: when it fed.  For the record, the magazine brand or type didn’t matter, this sucker was the king of feedway stoppages!  I quickly quit trying to make it a reliable gun and relegated it to range toy, but it sucked at that as well.  I sold it, with full disclosure of the problems to a guy who wanted it for a truck gun on his ranch.  As far as I know he hasn’t shot it even once.

That was followed by a string of mediocre garbage by Bersa, Taurus, Rossi and Kel Tec.

Lesson #1: Don’t believe what you read and damn sure don’t listen to the guy behind the counter.  Find a reputable trainer/friend/co-worker and get several opinions and never, ever, ever, never, ever buy a cheap 1911 and plan on it saving your life.

The Airweight J-Frame

In my string of crap I did manage to hit a home run, at least with reliability, build quality and accuracy.  I bought a slightly used S&W Model 642-1.  I slapped some Crimson Trace grips on it and carried it often.  8 years later I still have it.  It has ridden IWB, OWB, in my pocket, on my ankle, in my console, and in a backpack. It goes bang every time and after putting untold rounds down range I can actually make decent hits with it. It is not extremely fun to shoot, but it works. I WOULD NEVER RECOMMEND ONE FOR A FEMALE BEGINNER! For that matter, I wouldn’t recommend any J-Frame to a female beginner. If I am really dressed up, ala’ funeral or wedding (one and the same?) then you’ll find that old 642 in my pocket. Otherwise it spends it days in peaceful solitude, secure in the fact I can never be sold because of the discoloration caused years of sweat and grime.


Lesson #2: The Airweight J-Frame’s are fine firearms, IF and only IF you are willing to learn it. It is not a gun for people who are recoil sensitive and it is not range toy.  It is ultra reliable, easy to carry and will always be there for you.

380 ACP? I’ve owned a few

An old FI Industries D380 1911 look-alike, a Kel-Tec P3AT, the Bersa Thunder CC and most recently a Ruger LCP. After shooting way too many rounds of over-priced 380 ACP I can safely say I am done with that cartridge. Fixed barrel blowback operated 380’s have more muzzle flip than an equivalent size 9mm with a normal recoil operated action. The smaller guns hold fewer rounds and with a shorter barrel you generally get weaker performance compared to the S&W 642. Before some smart ass says it, no I don’t want to be shot with either one. The small LCP/P3AT carried great in my pocket, but so does my 642 and it is not as susceptible to lint and if I am shooting from an odd grip or odd position I won’t be the recipient of a  stove-pipe.  For me, the small 380’s and 5 shot revolvers fill the same role.  Choose wisely.

Lesson #3: Carry the most powerful handgun you can conceal, all else being equal. Any handgun cartridge is a poor man stopper, don’t make the situation worse by compromising.

With that I will wrap up Part 1.  If this offended you just wait for Part 2!  The mathematical constant in all of these lessons is wasted time and wasted money that could have been spent on training and ammo.

Do you feel I am grossly wrong?  Have you made similar mistakes?  Tell me below.

Lessons from Las Vegas

If you’ve been paying attention in the last week, you’ve doubtless heard about a pretty horrific event in Las Vegas. Two worthless dregs of society walked into a CiCi’s Pizza place where a couple of police officers were having lunch and ambushed the officers, shooting one in the back of the head while he got a soda and killing the other before he could get his sidearm into the fight. The national media has made these jackasses famous, cooperating nicely with their desired end result. The two officers who were murdered in cold blood, Igor Soldo and Alyn Beck become footnotes in the story as the media tries to grind a political axe by pinning a couple of violent nutcases on political movements that don’t meet with Madison Avenue approval. Such is the curse of our modern age: All we get is spin. All spin, all the time. News isn’t really news in the sense we traditionally think of it. It’s not objective recounting of facts, it’s all a “narrative”. A story. Stories designed to promote a particular political orthodoxy above all others.

…but we don’t do that sort of nonsense here. I couldn’t care less why those two losers decided to murder some cops and then a bunch of other people. It’s irrelevant. The fact is that human beings have never lacked inspiration for violence and that a certain percentage of the population is going to behave like this no matter what laws are in place. Murder will always be with us.

So what can we learn from this incident?

Firstly, everybody needs to cool out on the situational awareness front. As soon as the details of this thing started to flow people showed up on the web talking about it as a failure of situational awareness. I have news for you, folks: No human being on earth has perfect situational awareness at all times. Everybody can be ambushed. We know next to nothing about how these two jokers walked into that restaurant or how they conducted themselves while in the restaurant. Good situational awareness is always an asset, but it’s not the same thing as being able to read minds or sense a disturbance in the force. It’s about looking for stuff that doesn’t fit or cues that violence is probable or even imminent. Sometimes bad guys are sophisticated enough to blend in and not give off any bad guy cues until it’s too late. Most who end up injured by criminal violence do indeed miss signs of the impending conflict, but that doesn’t mean everyone who ends up hurt (or worse) got it wrong.

That leads us to the third victim of this repellent act…Joseph Wilcox. After the two losers murdered Igor and Alyn, they went into a Wal-Mart where the male fired a shot in the air and started giving the customers orders. One of them, Joseph Wilcox, had a CCW permit and was carrying at the time. He told the friend he was with that he was going to try and stop the guy.

Mr. Wilcox, God bless him, had an option. Try to blend in with the rest of the crowd and maybe escape, or close distance on a dude with a rifle and attempt to engage him to prevent harm to innocent people. Mr. Wilcox chose to go after the bad guy. Most of the time you don’t get a choice on matters of violence. Generally those who use a firearm justly are under a direct assault and their options are to either fight or die. That’s a relatively simple problem. It’s much more complicated when you’re presented with a situation like the one Mr. Wilcox faced that day. Making the decision to go after the bad guy willingly lays everything on the line. I’m not one of the umpteen online “sheepdog!” dudes who is going to argue it’s your basic moral duty to risk your life and your family’s future anytime some nitwit decides to shoot people. I don’t presume to have the moral authority to tell other people what they should be willing to risk death for. I don’t think Mr. Wilcox had any moral duty to deal with the bad guy and stop this violent rampage. He gets all the credit in the world for making the hard choice and risking everything to try and defend strangers from a psychopath.

Sadly Mr. Wilcox died in the effort. While focused on the male subject with the rifle, he didn’t notice the female accomplice behind him who shot him in the back, fatally wounding him. Details are still sketchy, and some reports make it seem like Mr. Wilcox might have tried to verbally confront the male subject. If that’s true, it was an understandable mistake.

See, good people like Mr. Wilcox often do not have considerable experience with criminal violence or with the sorts of personalities who would execute the first couple of uniformed police officers they came across because of some imaginary political grievance. As I’ve written before, bad guys do not hesitate. These two losers made their decisions long ago. They were playing for blood and weren’t going to surrender. In the first Terminator movie Kyle Reese, in his effort to protect Sarah Conner, says:

Listen, and understand! That Terminator is out there! It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

That’s a pretty good description of the sort of person who decides they’re going to murder their way out of the world in a blaze of media glory. The only answer to their sort of problem is the judicious application of violence. You are under no moral or legal obligation to verbally warn somebody who is on a murder spree that you will use deadly force to stop them. If, God forbid, you’re ever faced with such a person let your bullets do the talking. They had their chance. They made their decision. What happens to them is on them, not you. The stats tell us they are likely to die either by their own hand or at the hand of the police. The only question is when they’re going to expire and how much damage they will get to do until then. Pulling the trigger on someone like that is just saving innocent life. So just do it.

Don’t hesitate. If you have surprise on your side, then let the first indicator of your presence be the impact of bullets in the active shooter’s anatomy. Expect there to be at least one more bad guy than what you see.

The bad guys settle on their course of action long before the moment comes. The good guys need to settle on their course of action long before the moment where it’s necessary if they are to have any hope of a happy outcome. Train yourself. Think through the problem. Know the sort of person you are dealing with now and make peace with what must be done if you find yourself in the path of such an individual. It’s a heck of a lot better to figure all of that out now than to try and accomplish all that in the moment. Having your mind right before the fight starts guides your decision making in the moment and gives you a better shot at a happy outcome. Experienced instructors don’t talk about mindset for nothing. It matters, and it matters in ways that can make all the difference in a critical incident.

I’d like to hope there will never be another incident like this…but many thousands of years of human history says otherwise. I’ll be content to hope that the next Mr. Wilcox gets to go home in one piece.