by Frank Winn, Guns & Gear Editor - Friday, February 12, 2016
Any fair-minded analysis reveals that the roughly 13.5 million concealed-carry permit holders in the United States make astonishingly few mistakes with their firearms. Serious mistakes, where actual injuries occur, are rarer still. Despite literal decades of media hysteria—“People will be shooting each other in the streets over minor traffic accidents!”—the evidence pointedly says otherwise. And the evidence is not just about mistakes, but conclusively about the underlying “law-abidingness” of permit holders, too. Well done, you.
Still, it’s a huge responsibility. We owe it to each other to never forget just how high the stakes and consequences are, especially in the media environment firearm carry faces at present. With that in mind, here are some lapses we encounter. Examine your own habits, maybe?
3-gun competitors can describe this to you in a twinkling: The necessity of a firearm for which you are responsible leaving your control. In their world, this implies a particular condition—for sure on mechanical “safe” with the barrel pointing in a safe direction (known backstop), and at other times empty in every sense of the word (no magazine, no rounds in the gun anywhere: chamber, cylinder, etc.).
For the carry practitioner, this may prove even more complex. The reasons are no mystery: If you’re “out and about” and armed, you may be faced with a need for abandonment to enter places like banks or government offices.
Our point is a simple one: Have a plan. While there are many car lock-ups out there, they generally share three weaknesses: power, removability (read “theft”), and the “tell” associated with using most of them. This last can draw so much attention that it makes your device more of a problem than a solution, and especially if you clear your firearm as you should. Here’s a very little good news: You’re not alone. Federal agents have genuine problems sorting out this dilemma too.The “tell” associated with using most of them can draw so much attention that it makes your device more of a problem than a solution.
Probably the best fix is good route or activity planning. If you must go somewhere where your firearm is at least unwelcome (and perhaps prohibited), don’t pull up out front and take your countermeasures in view—plain, or otherwise. Instead, lock your (unloaded) firearm in the trunk at home, go to the bank, renew your license, mail your package, whatever, and then retrieve and discreetly don your firearm. This reduces your window of vulnerability, but also draws far less unwanted interest or scrutiny.
2. One Firearm
We appreciate that it’s a serious and potentially expensive business to select that perfect carry arm, only to have us assert there’s no such thing. We do so nevertheless. There are many, many reasons why this can be so, so we’ll pick just one, and generalize. We have complete confidence you’ll apply the lesson to your own case.
We hope it’s not further annoying that we can do it with a single word, to wit: Summer.
Wardrobe considerations are a fact of life anyway, but we find seasonal changes are not accounted for with regularity, and well beyond thoughts of a cover garment. A simple alternate example may help: The kind of belt on which you can easily hang a fine FNS Compact or Kimber Ultra CDP II may be great eight or even nine months a year in most U.S. climes. There will be times, however, when it’s fundamentally impractical. You now have a choice: Telegraph that you’re armed with inappropriate attire (a problem all its own), or go unprepared.
So think about a second carry firearm. Granted, it means more time at the range to get and keep proficiency, but we know that somehow you’ll struggle through.
There are many parameters for a “good” defensive shooter, but as we’ve posited repeatedly, personal security is about a lot more than skill at arms.3. One Carry Method
To an extent, we understand that our number two implies this: A second defensive firearm will almost certainly call for a second carry method. And while true—in the details, at least—this is a narrow way to think about the challenge of adopting and mastering another technique.
We’d go back to wardrobe for justification, seasonal or otherwise: There are times when a favorite method or position simply will not work. If you’ve never trained to anything else, you’re in the same out-of-luck spot. You’re either improvising (an almost certain path to embarrassment, if not out-and-out danger), or leaving your wherewithal at home. Neither is recommended.
This may be where you encounter a silver lining. For a host of subtle reasons, we take predispositions and/or unconscious preferences into many things, and kit or technique selection is no exception. Almost any good trainer will confirm this unconscious baggage as his or her biggest obstacle to helping students. (It’s certainly ours!)
But when we make ourselves look at a second option, we often dispense with those preferences, knowing at some level they’re accompaniments of a box already checked, and that we must now consider alternatives. On this cleaner slate, a better technique is often discovered. Your original choice may now become a finely tuned backup—useful still, but seen for what it actually is, and replaced by quicker, safer, more versatile, or you-name-it.
4. Abandonment, Part II
Have you considered that your carry firearm is “abandoned” at home, too, at least in the sense we previously reviewed? That is, it’s out of your direct control when you take it out of a purse or briefcase, or off your belt, and put it wherever you store it? Deep down, you know the rules: If it’s out of reach, make it safe. And reconsider Numbers 2 and 3.
5. “My Skill Is Better Than Your Skill”
This one could be pages and pages by itself, and the shabby manifestations of this counterproductive mindset are everywhere. The short version we’ll attempt exhibits both practical and philosophical dangers, and it’s tough to decide which is worse.
In the physical/practical sense, it’s ol’ fashioned foolishness. There are many parameters for a “good” defensive shooter. But as we’ve posited repeatedly, personal security is about a lot more than skill at arms, though that final “enforceable ‘no’” will necessarily be a firearm for most. Blazing speed or pinpoint accuracy are both wrong solutions in some circumstances. The key here is an out-of-fashion character trait—humility—and the surest cure is to get it through your head that nobody with any real sense is ever done learning. And especially not about something as consequential as armed self-defense.
In the philosophical (and political, since we’re in an election year) sense, it plays right into the hands of people—still great in number—who don’t want anyone except their own protectors to be armed. They furthermore believe anyone without military or law-enforcement training, and, increasingly, many with that background, are incompetent, and are perpetually on a self-serving, liberty-killing hunt for proof, however ersatz. Don’t be the reason they find it.
If you think this couldn’t possibly be you, we offer a test: When was the last time you introduced a genuine challenge into your training/practice regime, or smirked at someone else’s? This is the surest, simplest sign you are content when you shouldn’t be.
You’re a sophisticated carry practitioner indeed if you don’t see yourself in any of these. Congratulations are in order, and keep up the good work.
If you’re like the rest of us, maybe you see a short cut or two that is better avoided.
Now Carry on.
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