Monday, December 30, 2013

Training - Don’t put a hole in your ass . . . .


There are many important components to keeping yourself safe in today’s world . . .

  • Be aware
  • Be fit
  • Get trained
  • Carry a gun
  • Don’t shoot yourself in the ass . . .

Let’s chat a bit about that last one.

There’s been a running discussion for the past few days about an article from a paper in Lansing, Michigan about a guy in the Home Depot who shot himself in the butt. The incident came to light in an anti-hit piece that used it as the typical fodder for “reasonable” gun control and a sure sign that all gun owners are mindless idiots. Of course the fellow didn’t do himself or gun owners in general any favors. And the woman writing the article was definitely long on ASS-U-ME and kinda short on facts. Regardless – there was some “meat on the bones” of the article so to speak. This was my response to the FB group.

Agreed on the article - pretty thin on facts and long on anti-opinion. That said, there is some “meat” here to look at.

Complacency can do you real damage. If you are carrying concealed you need to practice your draws so you don’t “mistake” a loaded weapon for a wallet – or anything else.

Your trigger finger is NEVER part of the grip – ever. On target, on trigger - off target, off trigger.

Pocket guns have long/hard trigger pulls, if something feels different when reaching for your wallet – or anything else, STOP.

Really?? His weapon and wallet in the same pocket? Again, details matter and this young woman is playing loose with the facts I suspect.

Says volumes about carrying a “real” gun is a good holster on a sturdy belt rather than chucking a life-saving tool in a pocket. Wonder what would have happened if he’d have tried to draw under stress while someone was trying to stick a knife in his neck?

We have chosen a serious path in self-defense – carrying a loaded weapon to protect ourselves, or family or our friends. It pays to take that decision seriously.

Finally, virtually the same argument applied to this accidental discharge could be made about driving, drinking, surfing, skydiving . . . and the same reality would apply. Do dangerous things stupidly . . . it will not end well.

You – as a defensive shooter – put yourself in real danger from your carry weapon at two distinct times. During the draw – and when you reholster. In this case the man put an extra hole in his ass . . . not good. Imagine what could have happened if he appendix carried. A round – high in the crotch – is a very bad day.

Handguns have a number of “safety” features. I put “safety” in quotes because the ultimate safety is the shooter himself/herself and in most cases where the put a new hole in the body it is done through simply being complacent. The shooter is the best – and ultimately the only “safety”.

As I stated above, there is much that the fellow did wrong. What can you, as a person who carries a handgun as a defensive weapon do better? A few thoughts:

  • Wear good gear. I know there are times that pocket carry is your only alternative – I get it. Use a good pocket holster.
  • Dedicate a pocket to JUST CARRY YOUR WEAPON!
  • Train with your pocket gun/holster/pocket combination so you know how it feels and you can do it smoothly.

Use dry fire practice to work out the kinks of your system. Honestly, this should be part of training regardless of the weapon your carry. I do in excess of 50 draws 4-5 days a week on my dry fire range. If you don’t hone this single part of your skill set – your weapon is worthless. You could be a lethal shot but if you can’t get your weapon out of the holster and on target, your accuracy simply has no value.

Your trigger finger is NOT PART OF THE GRIP to draw your weapon. Keeping it straight until you are on an IDENTIFIED threat and you have made the DECISION THAT YOU ARE WILLING TO SHOOT is a must – period. I teach my students to stick the tip of their trigger finger in the ejection port so it has a “home”. So they have a tactile memory of what it feels like when their finger is off the trigger.

Your finger is the primary safety to any weapon you carry, from handgun to carbine. If you don’t put your finger on the trigger – it isn’t going to go BLAMMM!!!

But – if your trigger finger gets ahead of your brain . . .

If you decide that your trigger finger is just one more piece of your grip . . .

If you don’t pay attention . . . .

A new hole in your ass . . . or leg . . . or your wife . . . or child . . .

. . . is a very real possibility.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Commentary - Please, don’t rush the season . . .


Just a thought if you please . . .

Please don’t rush the Christmas season . . .

I know, I know – the tree needs to come down, ornaments need to be stored, houses need to be cleaned . . . I know . . . I know . . .

But why??

Growing up in my house Santa put the tree up while we were at Christmas Eve services. They were long, filled with prayer, worship, song and “The Play”. While the children were anxious to return home to either open presents or put out the milk and cookies and get to bed to try to sleep . . . the service was unhurried and rich in meaning and tradition.

For us, returning home saw my dad waiting and presents around the tree. I have few memories of these evenings honestly as my dad died when I was 7 just prior to Christmas. I can look as I type this and see his last present to me sitting atop the hutch – a spinning globe that was part of a game than neither my mom or I could ever bring ourselves to learn.

Still, our tradition of presents after church continued while tree decorating became a joint effort between her and me. Perhaps she is the one who taught me to savor Christmas – the entire 12 days of Christmas. In fact, mom loved Christmas trees and they usually remained standing until the needles easily fell and clogged the vacuum as they were picked up.

And so it is in our home – our tree usually remains up until the middle/end of January. Opened presents usually remain as well – as do the memories of this year and past years.

What’s the hurry . . . .?

Time passes quickly . . . please, savor time spent with family, friends and Him. Sometimes if feels like folks try to put Christmas “behind” them . . . when it truly should be in front of us each and every day. “He is the reason for the season” and for our family the Christmas tree has always incorporated Him in the decorations both hanging from the tree as well as the Manger scene below. Ornaments are relics of our lives – handmade or purchased with specific purposes. They incorporate our worship of Him and the love of “us”.

Try a different tradition . . . leave the tree a bit . . . let the hustle and bustle of Christmas and New Year’s die down . . . then take a Sunday afternoon to slowly take down the tree, savor each ornament, each memory . . . . there’s plenty of time . . .

What’s the rush??

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Commentary - Merry Christmas 2013!!


Christmas Tree 2013

Merry Christmas to you all!

This time of year always seems to wrap me in memories, and our family tree embodies them for me. Virtually every ornament and length of ribbon carries a story of a time in our life as a family, a memory of one of the 13 exchange students that shared our home and holidays, of time of pure joy and times of blinding fear. It’s all there . . .

But for today – this evening at Mass – and tomorrow, I pray we all take time to remember the reason for this holiday . . .

That a Creator looked at our path and was we were truly lost . . .

That out of His love He looked at his only Son and sent him on a mission . . .

A mission of love and redemption . . .

A mission to show us – by example – how to live our life . . .

A mission to sacrifice himself . . .

For our sins . . .

For the life of me, in the depth of my soul . . . I cannot wrap my head around such a sacrifice, such a gift . . . it is beyond me.

My chrism is “Faith” . . . and I do have faith that the gift is true and real . . .

But “understanding”?

Not so much . . .

Merry Christmas folks, thanks for stopping by.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Survival - Dressing for cold weather . . . Cotton Kills!


Well . . . as the song goes “The weather outside is frightful . . .” with a high today of -1F, lows tonight expected to be around -15F with wind chills in the -30s and -40s . . . thought it might be a good time to write a post about dressing for the cold.

First off – there’s “cold” . . . and then there’s “COLD!!!”

That’s NOT to imply that “cold” isn’t dangerous. It’s at that temperature where you are tempted to throw on a light jacket and tennis shoes because it’s “not that bad” out and your only driving a few miles, the snow isn’t falling too quick and the roads aren’t real slippery – a light jacket and tennis shoes will be just fine . . . More people die of hypothermia in these conditions because they use poor judgment, take shortcuts in clothing and gear and end up dead. My advice – pull your head out of your butt and “dress for the worst” – not hope things will be fine.

What I want to chat about is dressing for when it’s “COLD!!!” When exposed skin freezes in the 10 minutes it takes to shovel off the front stoop. When your hands will succumb to frost bite in the time it takes to change a tire. When the “3-Hour Rule” (find shelter within 3 hours) may well claim your life on a poorly traveled back road when you hit some black ice and slide off the road. Lethal “COLD!!!”

Let’s start from the bottom up – boots.


There are two important issues with survival in extremely cold temperatures – temperature management and moisture (sweat) management - including boots.

These are my “COLD!!!” weather boots made by LaCrosse. They are waterproof, lightly lined and Gor-Tex lined. They fit a bit loose with normal socks and just a bit more snug with my cold weather sock combination. You do not want “snug” “COLD!!!” weather boots for a variety of reasons. At tight points of contact blood flow is reduced; this creates a cold spot on your foot and can lead to frost bite. Also, tight fitting boots do little to allow the sweat from your feet to escape – you need to allow for natural evaporation. When fitting these – wear your normal “COLD!!!” sock combination then try them on – again looking for a slightly loose fit.

On these particular boots, if you look at the inside toe of the left boot (as you are looking at the photo) and you will notice a flat spot. We were camping on a particularly chilly winter’s night and I was warming my feet by a fire ring . . . turned out I was touching the fire ring with that part of the boot. Suddenly my foot felt VERY toasty! Even smelled it bit! I had melted a fair portion of the sole away on the outside of the fire ring. Not enough to damage the boot – but enough to take crap for ever since. Head in the game folks – across the board – every day – all the time!


I’ve always been picky about socks and “COLD!!!” weather only makes me more so.! My base layer for my foot is a polypropylene sock that I pull up over my long-john lowers. An example is provided by my favorite trekking store – REI. It is the Fox River X-Static Liner.


This is then covered by a very thick, well padded, wool sock. Not a traditional Smartwool sock that is my normal hiking fare – but a very thick, well padded, wool sock designed specifically for cold weather. Here is also example from REI. It’s the REI Merino Wool Expedition Socks. Note that the reviews all talk about moisture wicking, temperature management and cushioning. These are things you want to pay attention to!


This combination of a looser fitting boot, a well-padded foot and socks that wick moisture, manage temperature and cushion your foot is the key to keeping your foot warm and dry – even in the coldest of temperature.

Pro-tip! Always carry a spare set of socks – inside a ZipLoc to keep it dry in case you fall through ice or get your feet wet in some other manner. Wet feet, subzero temps – and you may well be a few toes short next winter hiking season.


The answer is boxers . . . poly boxers. Again, sticking with REI – their Boxer Jack Underwear is a good example of poly underwear. You are looking for something to reduce friction, wick moisture and a material that will not “bunch” together.


Ladies – I would suggest you forego everything from the thong to the French cut undies and go with more of a boy cut similar to the Patagonia Active Boy Shorts. Again, this provides excellent moisture wicking, temperature management and it’s a material that will not bunch up on you. The longer legs will reduce the possibility of chafing as well.


Finally – powder . . . One of the most tender patches of skin is a baby’s butt. And one of the most ruthless environments known to man is the inside of a baby’s diaper. Trust me . . . been there . . . done that . . . both cloth and these new-fangled disposables . . . I have all the frickin’ T-Shirts!


No possible combination of skin and chemical is harsher to a human’s skin. To that end there is a product with over a century of R&D behind it that is specifically designed to protect this exact region of a human’s body . . . Baby Powder. Yes – I take crap for using it . . . but trust me on this – for long hikes/paddles or days spent in cold weather gear, baby powder will go that last little bit to insure you do not arrive home with a crotch that is nothing but raw meat. Put some in your socks too – your hiking partner will thank you! Get a small bottle, throw it in your gear bag . . . Your Welcome!!

Long Johns

There have been a broad range of synthetic long johns appear on the market over the past 10 years or so. All are some combination of polypropylene based product. I have both “cheapie” sets and some nice, higher priced Under Armour Men's UA EVO ColdGear® Compression Leggings.


These are matched with Under Armour Men's ColdGear® Evo Long Sleeve Compression Mock.


This gear would complete your “base layer” – and yes, there is a “right” way to put it on. Remember, moisture control is one of the goals and you want to be able to allow the moisture to flow away from your body. The air immediately next to your body is what will be warm and moisture filled – you want to provide an exit for this, to allow it to flow easily. Remember, warm air rises – and hopefully you’ll be vertical for most of your time outdoors. This provides the direction of flow – up, and we want to put our gear on in a way that facilitates this process.

Put on your boxers first – with baby powder. Next, put on the long john top. This is followed by the long john bottom that is pulled OVER the top – allowing warm air to flow up, out of the top and over the outside of the top. Next, your liner sock – again with a dash of powder – and that is pulled over the bottom of the long john bottom’s leg. Your wool outer sock is pulled over the liner sock. And there you go, this will provide the ability of the moisture that comes off your body to flow upward and out of any gaps it can fine – open neck, open coat, open outer shirt.


Here too, a poly blend is the way to go. There are any number of good hiking pants, I find I like many carried by REI and their brand in particular. Their REI Sahara Convertible Pants have seen me through thousands of miles – both summer and winter. Their ability to convert to shorts, their resistance to dirt and their quick drying make them a solid choice. This is the type and style of pant you want to wear – winter or summer.



I wear a number of different shirts – from just plain T-Shirts, to polos to long-sleeved shirts in the winter. It’s hard to go wrong with a quick dry shirt from Columbia like their Men's Tamiami II Long Sleeve Shirt of which I have a half-dozen or so. It offers vents to allow removal of body moisture, the material is quick dry and it moves easily within a coat insuring it doesn’t bunch up somewhere.


I’m fond of a light weight fleece to go over a shirt. Should the temperatures rise unexpectedly, it can act as an outer garment. And, should the cold deepen, it can act as an additional layer as well.  Columbia offers many varieties of jacket that fits the bill.



I am fond of a Jacket system that is waterproof, breathable with a removable inner liner. Again, Columbia does a great job in this area. An example of their current product line is the Columbia Men's Back To Hells Mountain Interchange Jacket. This combination is usable across seasons, allows you to ascend and decent through different environmental regions and will allow you to easily manage your body’s temperature regardless of weather.


Outer Pants

Finally, a pair of outer pants for truly cold weather. These are meant to keep you dry when trekking through show, rain or sleet – whatever nature wants to throw your way. They are not meant for warmth, but for keeping dry. Again Columbia fills this slot in my gear bag with their OmniTech technology. Mine are currently over a decade old but work as well as the day I bought them. Here is a more up-to-date example.


So there you have it . . . everything you need to stay warm when it “COLD!!!” outside. The next step – use it!

Cotton Kills!

What’s with the final tag line in the title – “Cotton Kills!” , what the heck does that mean? Basically, what that means is that cotton absorbs moisture but does not release it easily. Therefore it holds moisture next to your body and accumulates it as you sweat more. Eventually its ability to keep you warm degrades and you begin to loose body heat. Given enough time – things will not end well. Now, this certainly won’t happen in an hour or two hike – or even a day hike. But, on an overnight – when you need to switch into sleeping gear – you’ll be stuck with soaked undergarments. Given enough days, again, things will not end well. Leave the cotton home, move to poly blends that provide both warmth and the ability to wick moisture away from your body.

“Range Work”

In keeping with the general theme of this blog – firearms training and one of the fundamental truths about firearms training – range time matters – so to in working with cold weather gear and cold weather survival. The only way to learn how to use this type of system is to . . . . use this type of system.

Start out with an hour or two walk, move that up to a half day hike, they a full day. Finally, do a couple of over-night campouts. I find in the winter I usually shed the tent or hammock for simply a tarp and ground cloth. Do this in a park that is nearby with your vehicle available in case you have severely underestimated the conditions. Don’t “wimp out” – but don’t succumb to a fatal mistake either. Finally – expand to a 2-day or 3-day weekend trip. You simply must do this a couple of times a winter – it is the only way to hone your skills and develop this skill set.

We’ll work on winter camping another time – that is a series of posts in and of itself!

So there you go – this IS my winter system. Typically only broken out on a training weekend or on days like today – when it’s “COLD!!!”

Develop your own, work with it and make it part of your overall skill set – it may well let you get home some evening on a dark and “COLD!!!” night!

UPDATE:  One of my regular readers pointed out I have forgotten to speak about headgear and gloves.  Heavy Sigh – so I had . . .


Frankly, I’m a baseball cap kinda guy.  From a soft crown cap for most of my daily wear to a wool Detroit Tiger’s cap for winter wear, that is what you will see sitting atop my head most times.  In fact I did a post about Caps and their importance in my life some time ago

I find that caps suit me just fine for cold weather. “COLD!!!” weather is an entirely different critter.  For this environment I lean towards a knit watch hat and a hood attached to the outer jacket.  The biggest issue I have with this level though is temperature and moisture management.  The rule of thumb is that an individual looses around 70% of their body heat through their head.  As they say – “if you’re cold, put on a hat!”  A watch cap rides in the top pouch of my pack and is frequently employed in my sleeping bag on chilly nights – “summer” months included.

However, it’s also easy to work up a head of wet hair (for those of you who still have hair!) with such gear as well.  For this I find it frequently take down the hood, take off the watch hat and wipe off my head with my ever present “sweat towel” while letting the hat air dry a bit.  Should the day warm, I always have a baseball cap along and will simply switch to that.


I guess I skipped over gloves because my hands are seldom cold, even in “COLD!!!” weather.  This time of year it’s not unusual for me to spend 2-4 hours on the shooting range gloves free.  While I may stick my hands in my pockets to warm them a bit, it’s not high on my list of concerns.

That said, for wilderness treks and campouts – good gear to protect your hands and keep them warm is a must.  These are grouped into “gloves” and “mittens”.  The difference is obvious – gloves have individual fingers while mittens contain your entire hand in a single protective enclosure.

For “COLD!!!” weather, keeping your hands dry and warm is a must so I lean heavily towards waterproof gloves – especially for treks and camping.  This usually implies a Gor-Tex outer glove and some kind of insulating material inside.  Here too, you need to be mindful of moisture control withdrawing your hands periodically and drying them and air drying your gloves/mittens as well.

The advantage to gloves is increased manipulation of gear and equipment since you have full use of your fingers even though they are encased in a lining of some type.  Their biggest disadvantage is that each finger “stands alone” in staying warm.

With a mitten – your loose dexterity because your whole hand is encased – but you share warmth between individual fingers.  Here too, moisture control is an issue throughout the day.

Both glove and mitten have their place in your pack.  Find a good set of well insulated, water proof for each style and find which works best for you.

A thank you goes out to Brighid for catching this omission – darn good thing someone is looking after me!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Training – Home, Safe . . .


I have a friend and LEO who is a trainer for the “Below100” initiative sponsored by LawOfficer magazine. Since 1944 the annual death toll for Law Enforcement Officers has exceeded 100. Sadly, 2013 will be no exception with the 100th death of an officer in the line of duty occurring in Alabama on December 20th. While reading through the tenets of the program, it’s history and goals . . . it got me thinking. What 5 tenets could we – as individuals and instructors, who carry and teach personal defense - adopt to give us the best chance of getting “Home, Safe” each and every day? This post are my thoughts – comments and ideas are welcome!

First a review of the 5 tenets of the Below100 program:

Take some time and read the linked articles. There is a tremendous about of common-sense information that can go a long way towards insuring that you – while more than likely not a LEO – arrive “Home, Safe” each and every day.

While adopting a number of these tenets, for the civilian they have just a bit of a different slant and emphasis. And a couple are just different. Here they are:

5-tenets of “Home Safe”

Drive your vehicle

WIN – What’s Important Now

Be Aware

Master your weapon

Remember – Complacency Kills

Drive your vehicle

You are the PILOT – not the passenger of the vehicle you’re driving . . . act like it!

When I was young there was a traffic accident just down the road from my home. My dad and I walked down to see what/who was involved. Peering through the crowd and into the drivers-side window the driver could clearly be seen . . . . with the steering wheel shaft driven through his chest. It was the mid-50s and well before the dawn of the seat belt and collapsible steering column. Today, the auto industry is trying to save your life with seat belts, air bags and steering columns that absorb energy rather than driving a chunk of steel through your chest.

The best plan to reduce vehicle deaths in America – and for you – is to DRIVE YOUR DAMN CAR!! YOU are responsible for its path, its speed, the conduct of your passengers. YOU!

  • Wear your belt.
  • Insure your passengers wear their belt.
  • Use child seats.
  • Put down the damn phone and use hand-free tech instead.
  • Don’t do paper work!! (yes, I have seen people driving 70+ MPH with a file open on top of their steering wheel!)
  • Don’t speed!!
  • Road Conditions Matter – slow down!
  • Don’t drive “under the influence” of . . . ANYTHING!
  • Drive “Aware” of your surroundings.

According to the CDC’s National Vital Statistics of 2011 there were 34,677 vehicle related deaths. I suspect many were truly “accidents” . . . yet I am equally certain that many were because the driver had their head buried! Don’t be a statistic!

Drive Your Vehicle!

WIN – What’s Important Now

There is a single instant in time where you can affect change . . . NOW! You cannot return to the past and change events. You cannot leap into the future to view possible outcomes. You only have NOW, this moment, this instant, this second.

What’s important to do NOW, so you get “Home Safe” tonight? So your life continues on the best path possible? Is it time to end your shift or day at the office?  Going to hit the bar with friends, or would going home to your wife/husband and kids serve you better? Should you eat the donut or take a pass? Push back in the recliner or spend 15 minutes on the treadmill?

Are you running late? Would a “little over the limit” get you there on time . . . or dead? When the waiter asks your table if anyone wants a second glass of wine – do you really “need” it?

When it’s a choice between the school play, the kid’s game or the Christmas Concert and a few extra hours at work or a second round at the bar . . . which choice will serve you better?

We all face dozens of moments throughout the day where our choice affects our path . . . as the old knight would say – “Choose Wisely!”

Be Aware

“The best way to win a gunfight is to never get into one!” A well-known phrase attributed to a handful of people, yet filled with common sense. From the NRA’s “Levels of Awareness” to Jeff Cooper’s “Color Code” or Col. Boyd’s “OODA Loop” – all stress the importance of being “aware” of your surrounding and the things going on around you as a key element to your survival.

Move to a state of “living in yellow” – “Aware”. With the today’s fondness for new games . . . like the Knock-Out-Game . . . it just makes sense to scan your surroundings, be aware of people moving towards you, of things that just don’t “feel right”. We all have “Spider Senses” – hone them!

And, along with this new found awareness – be willing to ACT on what you see or sense. If it feels “off”, it probably is. If there are a group of young men locked on you – wishing things to be different will not change the situation. Be willing to move to a safer place, to create distance and – as a very last resort – be willing to defend yourself, your family and your friends with deadly force.

Master Your Weapon

Your concealed weapon is your very last resort to protect your life, that of your family or friend. It’s not meant as a tool to threaten or to warn. It’s meant to be used only if you are unable to evade or escape attack. If you do not employ it in your defense . . . you go home in a ZipLoc. It only makes sense to me that you are its MASTER!

What does that mean exactly – to “Master” your weapon. To me it means that it has become an extension of your body. Its draw, extension, target acquisition is as natural as you pointing your finger at a person. That should events unfold that you have determined your single last resort is to use your weapon to protect your life, or the life of a family member or friend you don’t have to think . . . Access Chest, Grip Chest, Draw Chest, Rotate Chest, Join, Extend . . . your weapon is simply out and on target.

It means that if a malfunction occurs you don’t have the urge to call a little range conference of your friends to determine what the heck happened . . . you simply clear the malfunction.

It means that you take care of your weapon – clean, lube and inspect it with the sure knowledge that at a critical moment, this is the only thing that may well stand between you and your Maker.

It means that you are NEVER SATISIFIED with your skill level. It means that your train diligently on the range, that you continue to take course work and that you work to be the absolute best shooter you can possibly be.

That YOU are its master!

One other thing . . .

Carry the damn thing . . . EVERY DAY . . . WITHOUT FAIL!!

Remember – Complacency Kills

Murphy is a brutal teacher caring little whether you arrive home safe tonight or are lying on a steel table at the local coroner’s office. The feelings of your family and friends matter little to him.

Take a moment – every morning – before you take up your EDC gear and clear your head. Focus your mind. The arguments of the night before, the tasks of the day, the stresses of life – little and large – all can get in the way of your primary task for the day . . . getting back home, safe. Go through your mental check list.

  • Weapon?
  • Magazine firmly inserted, round in the chamber?
  • Spare magazine?
  • Backup knife?
  • Flashlight?
  • Do you have all EDC gear you normally carry?

No excuses . . . “Well, I don’t think anything’s going to happen today – I think I’ll just leave all this crap home today!”

Pick up your scanning . . . and make it your goal to live in Condition Yellow, “Aware”.

Set aside distractions – your iPod/MP3 player, leave texting until you’re at your destination, insure your clothing provides you maximum visibility. All simple things – and that’s the problem. They’re simple to do . . . and just as simple to forget.

It’s your job to keep you head in the game all day . . . Murphy’s waiting . . .

If each of us take these 5 tenets to heart . . . make them a part of our daily life . . . we significantly increase our chances of getting home, safe.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Training – The “ZipLoc” Test . . . .


There has been a running discussion on a number of training blogs/Facebook pages that I frequent recently on the topic of when, exactly, would you or I, as a person who carries a weapon for personal defense, inject ourselves and our weapons into a confrontation between two or more other people. A dicey situation to say the least. One that can easily be made much complex if we come into the middle of the situation rather than being able to watch it unfold before our eyes.

There is a well-known blogger/trainer/police officer by the name of Greg Ellifritz who recently related a call he was involved with in an article entitled “A Cautionary Tale for CCW Permit Carriers”. The link will take you to his company page. Take a moment and read the article, it will put the rest of this post in context.

There are many ways this event could have gone sideways. The civilian could have shot the loss prevention officer. Or, the officer could have engaged the civilian. The officer arriving on scene could have engaged the civilian. Thankfully the civilian left, the thief was arrested and everyone went home at the end of the day.

There are other examples floating around out there – and they all give pause to this thought . . . what would YOU do? Let’s talk about this a bit.

I divide this topic into two separate categories – “Accompanied” and “Un-Accompanied”.


I am out and about “accompanied” by my wife, friend, kids, grandkids or someone else I would consider as being under my protection. And THAT is where my allegiance lies should I happen upon a situation where it appears that one person is being attacked by one or more attackers. Those people IN MY CHARGE are my primary responsibility and I will do what I must to protect THEM from harm – period! I will guide them away from the area immediately if possible, I will take them to cover if that is my only option and I will remain with them and protect them until help arrives or I’m dead.

There is a great deal you can do that is helpful while you are securing your charges. Call 911, tell them who you are, where you are, what is going on, give full and complete descriptions, tell them you are protecting those in your charge and that you are armed, describe your location, what you are wearing and then stay on the line until assistance arrives. Your moral obligation lies with those in your charge – and nowhere else.

Sound harsh? Perhaps, but if your involvement has any possibility of putting your loved ones in harm’s way – I earnestly suggest you take a pass, protect your charges and then be the best witness you can be.


In this case, I am out and about by myself – no charges under my protection. At this point I recommend the “ZipLoc Test”. I see an encounter between two people – and it is obvious that one of them is about to go home in a ZipLoc – the person under attack may be about to be shot, stabbed or beaten to death with some blunt object. At that point I would make the decision whether to intervene or not. Honestly, I do not believe I could take a pass and walk away and let a person be killed in front of me. Gratefully I have never been in such an encounter – but I have thought about it, have gamed different scenarios as I walk the street or parking lot or restaurant or store. And the ZipLoc Test is my go/no go point.

Once that decision has been made – that you ARE going to act, a number of other factors come into play . . .

  • One or Multiple Attackers
  • Type of weapon/weapons the attacker is using
  • Possible “tail gunners” (others involved that are hanging in the crowd to see if there are any “Duddly Do-Rights” like you out there)
  • By-Standers
  • Do you have a shot?
  • Where are the exits and entrances?
  • Is cover available?
  • Have the police been called?

Once you decide to act, once you have drawn your weapon – you have entered a world where you have chosen to use deadly force to stop the encounter if necessary. From the instant your weapon clears the holster you own everything you do – the words you use, the rounds you fire and the lives you take. You MUST be able to justify every action and every piece of equipment you have on you from your weapon to the rounds in the chamber. You must be able to articulate this in a clear and concise fashion.

And, should the attacker suddenly turn on you – you must be willing to stop the threat. That instant is life changing. It is a grave responsibility to take another life. The time to prepare for an encounter like this, or an encounter that threatens only you – is now, today . . . not with your attorney as you prep for your trial.

You MUST be proficient in the use of your weapon. You MUST understand how to defend your actions. You MUST be able to justify and articulate your actions, your weapons, your ammunition, your training . . . your entire history in the use of firearms. In the course work I teach I continually preach the idea of a “thinking shooter”. I understand the “rush” of the quick draw and the two rounds on target in less than two seconds. But if it is done in situations like those above and done without thought or full evaluation of what is going on . . . your day may not end well.

Obviously the response to a direct “Condition Red” situation is much different than you being drawn into a situation involving two or more other people. In “Condition Red” you are simply reacting to save your own life. But, to inject yourself into someone else’s situation – that demands that your head be in the game, that you be a thinking shooter and not just some guy/gal packin’ heat that decides to go all sheepdog.

Bottom line – YOU are responsible for your actions . . . and you better be damn clear why you took them . . .

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Just the Basics - Your Every Day Carry – EDC – Gear . . .


At times there seems to be a lot of mystique around E.D.C. gear – Every Day Carry equipment. There are some that seem to promote the idea that there is some type of mysterious mix of equipment that only the “learned few” firmly grasp. The reality is much simpler . . . much more focused . . . and targeted for your specific needs/wants. I’ll review my gear in a bit but I’d like to spend a bit on the “why” of EDC gear.

Basically, they are your base-line survival kit – other than that kit you carry between your ears anyway. Your EDC gear is meant to keep you in communications with the world – be they family or emergency responders. It should be able to provide you directions or – at the very least – indicate your direction of travel. You should be able to light up dark places and make minor repairs. It should provide you a primary weapon for personal defense and a secondary weapon should your primary fail and maybe a third, just in case. It must provide the means to easily carry this equipment while fully concealing it from those around you. And, finally, it should be comfortable enough that you will wear or carry it EVERY DAY. Hence . . . Every Day Carry . . . Let’s take a look at my EDC gear – most of which I’ve carried in one form or another for 40+ years.


Leatherman Juice CS4: I carry two knives – one as part of my pocket tool kit and the second as a backup defensive weapon. I’ve carried this specific Leatherman Juice CS4 for over 10 years. It is built tough and I have used

JuiceCS4 (Medium)

every component in it from the saw to the awl to the scissors to the knife blade. It’s my primary tool I carry to customer’s businesses for computer repair. If I need more than what’s on this tool – the computer goes back to the office.

You’ll note I carry it in an old Gerber tool pouch with two other vital pieces of EDC gear – ways to start a fire. I always teach my scouts or anyone I teach wilderness survival to – you MUST carry 3 ways to start a fire on your person every day – period. Here you see a small, disposable lighter and a scraper/striker combination for starting tinder with a spark. Also, tucked away in my wallet is a small frenzel lens to focus sunlight as a third option to start a fire should the need arise.

I see this knife/kit as a foundational element to any daily gear and survival kit.

Kershaw Skyline: As a backup defensive weapon I carry the Kershaw Skyline folding knife. It rides in my right-side pants pocket and is the latest iteration of a carry knife that has ridden in that location for more years than I

kershaw1760 (Medium)

care to remember. I find the Skyline slim and light. The G10 panels provide a firm grip and the blade is sturdy and easily holds an edge between routine maintenance stops. It’s a great carry option.


I firmly believe watches should perform multiple functions. My watch of choice is the Casio Pathfinder 2000T. Obviously it tells time . . . using a solar powered system . . . and radio sync to the national time standard. Let’s just say it keeps good time! Since I spend time in the wilderness it has three

Casio Pathfinder 2000T (Medium)

additional functions that are a must, an altimeter that at least provides an indication of traveling up and down and is typically within 600ft., a barometer – worth its weight because it can inform you of changing weather patterns. It typically gives me about a 2-hour heads-up on arriving storm systems. And a compass that I simply hold to my chest, press a button and my heading is immediately shown for about 15 seconds. It has timers and alarms – none of which I seem to use. The watch’s primary purposes – time, barometric readings and direction make the Pathfinder an essential part of my EDC gear.


I’ve been carrying the Surefire LED 6P Defender for a couple years now. It’s rugged, reliable and easily acts as a second backup weapon by using the

SF 6P LED Defender (Medium)

serrated bezel as a striking face. I find I change out the batteries (C123s) about every 6 months whether it needs it or not. Honestly, I can’t see leaving the house without this in my pocket!


I am a geek through and through. I typically fit the “early adopter” category. My current smartphone is the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. Given that I build my first computer in 1978 I find I am still amazed to hold this piece of gear in my

Galaxy-Note-2-Display1 (Medium)

hand. From an EDC POV this “phablet” provides a communication system, navigation system, electronic compass, the ability to photograph or video record a scene/event and store a host of documents from survival guides to weapons manuals. If you have not taken the leap to a truly powerful smartphone I would encourage you to . . . it’s time.


Your belt needs to be sturdy enough to not only hold up your pants/slacks/skirt . . . but also a couple pounds of gun and ammunition. DON’T GO CHEAP!! For me, 90% of the time I wear the gear belt from 5.11

511 tac belt (Medium)

Tactical. I purchased the double sided one but find I seldom have the black-side out. This is a spectacular piece of gear that truly knows its purpose in the world and does it well.

Carry Weapon:

My typical carry weapon is a Glock 17 carried in a Blackhawk leather IWB holster at the 4 o’clock. This combination works great for me and is a change from the LC9 a carried about 2 years ago. It’s been a good move providing a full sized handgun and 15 rounds available to put down a threat (I never load a magazine to full capacity – old habit). For cover garments I typically wear an un-tucked polo shirt or Henley. Or, I wear a cover jacket or sport coat.

Glock 17 in Holster 1 (Medium)

A word of caution – if you are reading this and are new to carrying your weapon on a daily basis . . . please, spend a significant amount of time using dry fire to practice your draw – extension – engagement of a threat. I’ve promoted the crap out of LaserLyte rounds or SIRT pistols for that purpose – use them. But your draw needs to be automatic, instinctive, swift . . . and the only thing that will get you there is hundreds/thousands of draws. There is no shortcut.

Spare Magazine:

I always carry a spare magazine – again loaded with 15 rounds. I do this for a couple of reasons. Honestly I do not expect an engagement to take over a couple of rounds to determine the result. If it requires the full 15 rounds in my

Glock 17 Magazine (Medium)

carry weapon – I’m in deep, deep crap and I do my best to stay out of those locations. However, you may well be in a situation where you face multiple attackers – that changes the game and a second magazine may come in handy.

More likely is a magazine failure. Yes I check my magazines, yes – I maintain them, Yes – I use them. But that’s no guarantee that the one in my carry weapon won’t go to crap at the exact time I need it . . . it’s nice to have a spare.

“Yes . . . but you don’t carry every day . . . right?”

Murphy is a brutal teacher caring little whether you see you wife/husband/child again. Yes . . . I carry every day. After my morning S-S-S, I put on my T-Shirt and pants. Before I buckle my belt I pick up my holstered weapon from its place next to the bed and place it at the 4 o’clock – then buckle my belt. After shoes and shirt I slip my flashlight, Leatherman and Kershaw into their proper place. On goes my watch, smartphone in the rear-right pocket and spare magazine in my rear left pocket or the new pouch I’ll currently test driving. At that instant, I’m as ready as I’m going to be to defend myself, my family or my friends. Everything remains in their “home” until I get ready for bed where I reverse the process finally placing my holstered weapon and flashlight on a small chest next to my side of the bed . . . ready for the next day.

Every day is every day . . . and that is exactly why choice of weapon and gear is so important. While a Desert Eagle .50 Cal may be a cool lookin’ weapon . . . you’re not going to strap that gun on each and every day. Find a gun that fits, get a good holster and belt and simply wear your defensive weapon . . . EVERY FRICKIN’ DAY!

Like I said at the beginning – there is nothing mysterious about EDC gear. And yours may well turn out to be different than mine. The bottom line is to prepare, to get your head in the game, to acknowledge that “shit happens” and today may well be your day. . .

EDC gear – it stands between you and the bad guy. Carry it! Every Day!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Survival - Care and Feeding of Boots . . .


I’m sitting at the kitchen table this morning, watching the sunrise and getting my morning dose of Vitamin D. It’s chilly out – about 13F and the wind is rockin’ the trees/wood patch outside my sliding doors with gusts over 30mph. The past couple days snow – a dusting really of about 4 inches – is blowing past the doors – it’s seems Winter is determined to settle it.

This requires some “adjustments” – winter gear in both my Jeep and my wife’s van. The heavy leather flight jacket, lined workman’s gloves, Smartwool socks and a change if foot wear as well. I tried to stick with my Rockports yesterday . . . . time for “boots”.

I have three pairs of boots – the “holy crap is it cold and I’m going to be out in it on a campout for the weekend” pair, the “Hiking Boots” and the “Combat Boots”. I’m going to pass on the “holy crap” pair for this post – they may well need a post of their own. So let’s spend some time on the care and feeding of my “Hiking Boots” and my “Combat Boots”.

They have been my “Hiking Boots” since I first bought this particular pair. They are made by Monarch and are Gore-Tex lined. I purchased them – and a lady’s pair for my wife – in preparation for our “hike across Scotland”. We began in Inverness and ended 10 days later on the Isle of Skye. It sounds tougher than it was. We would travel to a region, stay in a bed and breakfast and then hike the local area. From city to peat bog to mountains to sea shore we covered around 70 miles. What a great trip, made better by good foot gear.

A hiking boot – one constructed especially to protect and support your foot and ankle during extended foot-travel needs to do a number of things. It needs to provide a solid foundation for your specific foot. This is done through a combination of a sturdy sole that can grip the expected terrain firmly, a snug (NOT tight) fit and with boot inserts that can further tailor the fit of the boot to your individual foot’s need.


It must protect your foot from the typical abrasions of foot travel – scrapes against rock, plant life and downed branches.

And, it must protect your ankle from the unexpected twist or fall.

It should be loose enough to allow some movement of a foot encased by a base sock of polypropylene that is covered by a good wool sock – I like Smartwool socks best.

If you are an all-season hiker – hot Hiking Boots (Medium)or cold, dry or wet – it should do its best to defend your foot from the elements as well.

There are endless types of boots but they basically break down into two major categories – composite/synthetic or leather. A composite boot has a synthetic sole and a synthetic upper that – for my purposes – would extend over the ankle and typically include additional support structure. These may or may not be Gore-Tex lined and can be waterproofed by any number of silicone sprays. I have never found a pair that truly fit my foot for the long haul and have not purchased a pair for over a decade – though I do have a remaining pair – the topic for the next boot-type.

A good leather boot essentially meshes with your foot – becomes “one with your foot”, all while providing comfort, a solid fit and good support. This is what I find with my Monarch’s. For me – distance hiking or just good support during crappy weather – is best handled by a good pair of leather boots. Period.

Their care and feeding is not much different from the care and feeding of my weapons or my knives or my other camping/trekking gear. My boots want to be clean, they want their laces updated periodically, they want the spaces between their cleats clean and they want to be “lubed”.

To clean my boot – especially if muddy – I let the mud dry and the brush off as much as I can with a fairly stiff brush. Once clean I’ll use some of my wife’s Kiwi Mink Oil (Medium)saddle soap to remove the remain dirt and again let them dry. Finally I apply a fairly thick layer of Mink Oil for waterproofing and to keep the leather supple. That is what I did this morning as I watched the snow blow by. I dug out my can of Mink Oil, the tooth brush I use as an applicator, and I worked it into each crack and crevice. I typically do this about 3 times a year. It’s a labor of love that I find very relaxing – and I enjoy the resulting warm, dry feet as well.

My second primary pair of boots are my “Combat Boots” because, well, I was introduced to them as I got my issued clothing when reaching my final base in Vietnam. Obviously, this particular pair is not my final pair of in-country boots. But they are virtually identical to those I wore 40+ years ago. They are my paddling boots.

When you prepare to take a long distance paddle – multi day, multi portage, let’s say 50-100 miles – foot care is vital. There is no help . . . you can’t dial 911 . . . twist an ankle, cut a foot, break a foot . . . you and your Combat Boots (Medium)travel companions must get you out. It’s important to find a boot to fully protect your foot.

Add to that the whole idea of whether you want to travel the day “wet footing” or “dry footing” and another parameter is added. To make it simple for me, I have long since decided I’m fine with “wet footing”. The typical combination of a polypropylene base sock covered by a Smartwool sock provides good cushion whether my foot is wet or dry. The design of the Vietnam era combat boot was a composite sole with a metal insert to protect the bottom of your foot, leather lower around your toe and heal and then a canvas upper with additional strapping for ankle support. It is the ideal paddle boot. It has a number of advantages for the “wet footer”. There are small ports built into the arch of the boot that allows your natural walking movement to pump water out of the boot. The canvas upper will dry fairly quickly and the boot “breaths” again allowing your foot to dry once you have stopped moving for the day. (Though I typically pack a pair of camp shoes of some type to allow the boot to fully dry overnight).

When not on a paddle, these boots are my yard-working boots. They are decades old, very comfy and honestly I do little maintenance on them as can be seen in the photo. They do exactly what they were designed to do – take the rigors of combat in a jungle environment, protect and support my foot – and require little or no maintenance in the meantime.

Boots are your travel base. If your feet blister, if your boot does not protect your foot from the terrain, if your boot does not protect your ankle against sprains . . . your journeys may be short and painful.

Find good boots, take care of them, wear them, enjoy them . . . they are one of the most important pieces of gear you own!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Commentary . . . Do you have rights? . . . Thoughts from an old fart . . .


A post appeared from a scout of mine on his Facebook page today. Our exchange went like this:

Scout: Do you believe that you have rights?...... Why? Who gave them to you? Can they be taken away from you? If they are inalienable and God given why do different countries have different numbers of rights? Why do some countries have no rights? Rights are nothing more then temporary privileges.

Me: Individual rights are a gift from God . . . but you have to want to keep them . . .

Scout: It seems to be the common explanation, I don't get it though, if God gave us the bill of rights why is there over 100 different rights documents in different countries that
say very different things? Did God just forget some inalienable rights for some people?
or perhaps God forgot how to count? Also what about amendments? did God change his mind due to reacting to some popular culture issue?

Rather than just a quick back and forth – I gave it some thought. We live in a disturbing time when Constitutional rights are simply ignored, when the “authorities” feel free to spy, invade, arrest at will. While it affects few – the effects can be felt throughout the nation. It unsettles me a great deal. After said “thought” – this was my reply:

Me: Perhaps take if from a different POV . . .God gave "us" preliminary guidance in the "Garden" . . . "do what I say", yet we also had free will and chose not to follow Him. He gave additional guidance in the 10 Commandments yet with our free will humans struggle with the "dark" and their ability to remain true to even these few 10 rules of civilized behavior. Throughout Jesus' life he led by example . . . actually showed us how to live our life . . . humans killed him for it.

Throughout history the strong have vanquished and ruled weak. I view our experiment as truly unique in recorded human history. You can view our Constitution however you choose - divinely inspired or just the work of truly gifted men that were - for the most part - men of faith. Their belief was that man . . . humans . . . were granted basic human rights, "life, liberty, pursuit of happiness". The Bill of Rights were an afterthought when fears of an expansive, repressive government crept in during the very early days of our government.

Personally, I choose to believe the "rights" as delineated are true whether put down on paper or not. The ability to speak freely, believe as I choose, associate with whom I choose, the right of personal/private property, to be treated equally, to be judged by my peers . . . and all the rest are my right as a human man. Regardless of location on the face of the earth. And, they are my mine to defend . . . or surrender as I choose. Countless people in the US - and across the world - have surrendered many of these freedoms in the "hope" of peace, in the "hope" of security, in the "hope" for freedom from want . . . and failed. There is nothing magic about the US. Many depend of the ruling government to provide for their needs and wants rather than the person they see in the mirror. Many live - actually depend on their continued ability to eat and have shelter - by the largess of the government. What the government gives . . . it can take away. Freedoms surrendered can be a bitch to get back.

I view the last election of Obama as a significant “tipping” point . . . he promised ice cream for all . . . simply lied in the face of those who placed their trust, their future, their wellbeing, their ability to have jobs, food and shelter . . . and still there is “hope” for “change”. We are now ruled by the “ice cream cone”. As for God – and His place in this, honestly I suspect he’s disappointed in our choices and directions. Still, we are choosing our path . . .

Not sure I will live long enough to see what happens when our social system collapses from its own weight. But as the saying goes – “that which cannot be sustained will not continue” . . . and our social network cannot be sustained . . . what comes after – it won’t be pretty. My advice?

  • Live small.
  • Make good friends.
  • Move to the center of the country.
  • Own enough property to be self-sufficient.
  • Own firearms, know how to use them and be willing to defend yourself, your family and your friends.
  • A strong faith will get you through the rough patches of your life, regardless of their cause.
  • Freedom is not free . . . ask a vet.
  • You, as an individual, choose to live free . . . or not

There ya go Doug, thoughts from an old fart. Remember, we live in the Matrix anyway . . . man that was a great trip!

I’d be interested in your thoughts . . . do we have “Rights”? What kind of danger are they in? Do you believe we, as a country, have the courage to stand up to an over-reaching government and simply say “No!”?

Big questions . . . big questions . . .

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Review - Basic Pistol 12-8-2013


With a forecast of 2-4 inches of snow, warmer temps – into the low teens, and two guys ready to jump into the NRA Basic Pistol course, what better place to be than in our local Ikes chapter house with its associated range to spend the day. And, TheBoy was lending a hand to give him some more instruction time as well, a nice bonus. Coffee made, furnace doing its best to warm things up, donuts at the ready and a 12 pack of Diet Coke . . . we’re ready to rock!

A lot of folks think fewer students means a shorter class . . . alas – not true. While you can save some time on the range, the rest simply “takes what it takes”.

In the winter, when “sun set” is essentially 4:30PM or so, I shuffle things around a bit so we can hit the range right after lunch. Both Jim and Bill are new to handguns which is usually good news to me. It means that I don’t have to beat my way through poor habits or heads filled full of misinformation.

So, we roll through SA, DA revolvers, SA, DA, SA/DA, Safe Action semi-automatics, safety rules, range rules, range commands, loading/unloading all handguns, safe handling . . . a full morning that ends with a SIRT range experience. I put up a couple targets, place the shooters at 21ft and work through their first “range trip”. I have to admit the more I use SIRT pistols with new shooters, the more I appreciate them. The difference on how they perform on a live fire range is really noticeable. You can cover everything from stance/grip/sight alignment/sight picture to range commands to duplicating how they will run the live fire qualification.

Following lunch we packed up gear, move a range barrel to the firing line and prepared them for their first target. I use this for their first course of fire – a single round followed by their second course of fire – 10 rounds. These first targets are theirs to keep. A second target is mounted and a 10 round qualification round is shot. I evaluate everything from their safe gun handling skills to their ability to place rounds on the target.

A word about shooting in cold/snow/wind/rain . . . just do it. It may require you to slow the pace of the range work – but weather is simply weather – deal with it.

We pack up, return to the warmth of the chapter house and finish out the course and the exam. Final result – two new NRA trained shooters, TheBoy got to work with students and refine his teaching skills and we all gained a few “range stories” of snow, cold and wind chills . . . a fine day indeed!