21 October 2013

Defensive Handgun Concepts and Principles

The past decade has become the perfect storm when it comes to more and more Americans deciding to arm themselves.  The War on Terror with it's ugly sister, the systematical dismantlement of our civil rights, has people that never before had any interest, strapping on a pistol.

Most of these people, in addition to those that came before them, will seek no training at all, fundamental marksmanship training, or training with former or current military or police whose application is totally different than theirs.  Regardless of what category folks fall into, whatever they feel they are lacking will be filled in by fantasy and knowledge gathered on the internet.

The idea of this article is to cut through all the bullshit, save you money, and keep you from looking like an idiot in front of others who actually know what they are doing.  As with anything I post, if you have a way of doing something that works for you, by all means stick to it.  If you don't, try mine until you find something better.

Your pistol is not a monument-  Your pistol is not a monument to your skill or wealth.  Nobody gives a shit what kind of gun you carry, or that you have Punisher Grips on it.  The #1 thing you need in a handgun is 100% reliability.  To me that means not carrying a gun that only functions reliably with certain rounds, because sometime in the not so distant future it will be hard enough to just find the right caliber ammo.  Your pistol is nothing more than the answer to an interpersonal violence problem as a fire extinguisher is to a fire.  It is only a tool and should always be treated as such.  If the thought of having to slide your carry gun across the concrete brings tears to your eyes, there is something wrong.

Auto vs Revolver- Unless you plan on dedicating a lot of time to learning a different manual of arms than used with auto pistols, revolvers are probably not for you.  Most that are carried for personal protection have a short sight radius and often diminutive sights, as is the case with my Ruger Speed Six 357 MAG with a 2.5 inch barrel.  For many this will lead to very frustrating range time.  For the most part, autos are easier to shoot and handle.

Carry the damn thing- Regardless of what you chose, you need to carry it.  What you will probably soon find is that like with jackets and bags, one handgun will seldom works for all occasions.  Personally my needs are met with my Kel Tec P3AT, Taurus Model 85 UL, and Glock 19.  Having a few handguns that fit different roles ensures that you are never tempted to go unarmed.  As for those who will poo poo the 380, I only ask that you let me shoot you in the face with it.

Belt carry- Carrying on the belt regardless of position is by far the fastest and most reliable method.  The foundation of belt carry is.....a good belt.  For casual use, I use an Instructors Belt from The Wilderness.  For formal attire, I use a lined leather dress belt from D3 Protection.  You will not be able to find a belt suitable for carrying a handgun at Wal Mart.  If you are not willing to spend the money on a proper belt, you need to reconsider your priorities.

Holsters-  The choices are overwhelming.  The first thing to remember is to only use a holster that was designed to fit the gun you are carrying.  That means no gun show nylon, one size fits all bullshit.  I like leather from Soteria Holsters and Hootch Holsters.  For kydex these days I like Panther Concealment, Vigilance Tactical, R Grizzle Holsters and Henry Holsters.  The number one thing to avoid on kydex is moving pieces.  There are holsters out there that have so many configurations that the chances are small that the one you prefer will be perfect.  If at all possible, borrow a few holsters before spending money on something you will only end up selling at a loss.

Carrying spare ammo- The #1 reason to carry a spare magazine for a double stack autoloader is to remedy a tumbled magazine.  For those who are not familiar, a tumbled magazine occurs when for some reason the spring in a double stack magazine gets stuck in the down position allowing rounds to tumble around.  If you speak of this to someone and they dismiss it, it is because they have not been around long enough to see one first hand.  The reason you carry a spare magazine for a single stack auto or speed strip for a revolver is for spare ammo.  Even though many shootings only involve 3-5 rounds, you always want to reload when safe to do so.  I prefer speed strips over speed loaders for auto because they lay flat. Spare ammo for a revolver is always carried on your strong side because you reload with your strong hand.  Typically spare magazines are carried vertical on your support side or horizontal on your strong side just to the side of the belt buckle.

Grabbing spare mags- spare mags should always be grabbed so that the tip of your pointer finger is on the tip of the bullet.  Not only does this lead to a faster reload, but it also allows you to quickly index loose magazines on the floor board of a vehicle or the bottom of a nightstand drawer.

Reloads- There are two types, want to and have to.  The first is a hot reload which simply means reloading when the slide locks to the rear of an auto pistol signaling it is out of ammo.  When doing a hot reload, you let the magazine fall from the pistol and worry about it later.  The second is a save reload.  A save reload is done when you have expended enough rounds out of your auto pistol that you believe it would be a good idea to put in a full magazine.  The other time is when the smoke has cleared and you feel the need to put a fresh magazine in.  When conducting a save reload, NEVER drop the magazine from your pistol until you have retrieved a full one from your belt.  After retrieving a magazine from your belt, drop the magazine from your pistol into your hand and insert the fresh magazine.  The partial mag can be stuffed anywhere for later use except a magazine pouch.  Magazine pouches are for storing full magazines.

Flashlights and handguns- Anyone who is not dedicated to carrying a proper flashlight all the time has no business carrying a handgun.  You will obviously have more cause to illuminate something than to shoot it.  The flashlight comes before the gun.  What I mean by that is that I am not aware of any situations where the flashlight and handgun have been drawn at the same time.  There is an excellent chance that the flashlight will be in use before the gun.  It is for this reason that for the armed citizen I despise lights on handguns.  The primary reason is that it ends up being used a a light with a gun attached and not vice versa.  If you do have a light on your handgun, that light is a secondary light because it is attached to a deadly force option.  You need to carry a primary light.

Handgun sights-  Their is a huge market for aftermarket handgun sights.  The truth is that in a shooting you will probably not see your sights for two reasons.  The first is that most shootings occur at distances so short that it is physically impossible to get the gun up between your eyes and the threat.  The second is that under stress we tend to fully extend our arms, so if there is enough room for you to get the pistol to full extension, the front sight ( you know the thing you have been preached to focus on) will be at twice your natural focal distance for which most people is 11-13 inches.  You will be focused on the threat since the sights are not trying to kill you.  If you want to spend the money, then spend the money, but in my opinion it is a waste.

Cross eye dominance-   If I see one more thread on this I am going to kick a puppy.  You will likely find it impossible to close one eye during a stressful situation., and you definitely cannot do it if you or your the threat is moving.  If you are overly concerned with cross eye dominance there is a good chance you are training more to shoot paper than bad guys.

The devil is deployment- Anyone can pick out a gun to carry, carry it religiously, and be a good marksman.   The hard part overlooked by many is when and how to deploy your pistol.  The majority of square range training and scenarios created in your head are based on someone pointing out as a threat to you or your having a line in the sand.  Not to mention square range training usually has your shooting in response to a whistle, buzzer, or some other audible cue, when in reality it will be a visual cue that causes you to fire.  Think long and hard about different situations that you believe would cause you to deploy your pistol.  Citizens do not have the luxury of "drawing down" on people like police do.  For this reason they often jump the gun or wait too long.  You need scenario based training.  The second part is being able to physically deploy your pistol from disadvantaged positions such as behind the wheel of a car, or after being knocked to your back and having someone jump on top of you (can you say George Zimmerman).  For this type of training it is imperative that you have a Blue Gun in the model of your carry gun.  Be sure to ground the front sight off to save wear and tear on skin for weapon retention work.  No need to grind off the trigger guard as many do since it may cause the gun to not lock into certain holsters.

Force on Force- You absolutely need it and there is no substitute for it.  With a few dedicated friends and some short drills you will quickly realize how little all your time on the range translates to the reality of a real shooting involving dynamic human movement in 360 degrees.  You have probably heard some people rave about Simmunitions.  Here is why they suck for training for defensive pistol, you are not supposed to shoot them within 7 yards, which is exactly where actual shootings occur.  Not to mention they are prohibitively expensive.

Open hand skills- Having a handgun as your only tool during a violent encounter is the same as only having sprinklers to deal with fire hazards.  Even if they work perfectly, there will be a lot of irreparable damage that could have been avoided by having a layered defense.  You are much more likely to be punched in the face or slammed into a wall than attacked with a weapon.  Only deadly force justifies deadly force, so you better have some open hand skills to deal with lesser threats.


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  2. As a citizen who would like to be prepared to response optimally against unexpected violence, I've recently been considering how best to prepare for the most likely violent situations I'll find myself in.

    While I have some training in open hand skills through martial arts (judo, Muay Thai, eskrima/kali, Krav Maga), I've learned enough to realize how much I had NOT been taught about the realities of sudden violence. Your blog and the writings of several others who focus on these points have been critical in focusing on the basic principles that inform the hundreds of tactics that are out there.

    I'll be referencing this post when I decide to make time to learn practical concealed carry -- the full sequence of Select-Carry-Deploy-Use -- so that I can actually be a trained asset out on the streets instead of a liability.