I decided to put my money where my memes are, and shoot the Marine Corps Combat Pistol Program Qualifier with my carry gear, from concealment.
Now, as I shoot a 9mm Shield with a max magazine capacity of 8 rounds* and not an M9A1 with 15 rounds, I had to alter the ready magazine routine a bit and shoot from multiple mags. Also, I didn’t score, paste and repair in-between strings because I wanted to see my results all at once.
Now Kevin, I hear you say, there are only two holes outside of the 10 point scoring zone on that target. How could you have scored only 376 and not 396? Well, the truth is, on the last string of fire on Stage One, the one with the Tactical Emergency Reload, I got my cover garment (a loose t-shirt) stuck on my tourniquet pouch and it took me 14 seconds to make the reload which resulted in two shots that were on-target but outside of the par time and therefore count as misses.
Other than that, I found the par times were ridiculously long for each course of fire. I didn’t quite shoot each string in half the required time, but I was shooting them in 2/3rds the time or less. I also learned a valuable lesson about practicing with your carry gear: Practice with ALL of it, rather than just the shootey bits. My t-shirt got hung up on something (my tourniquet) that I’ve never had on me in a class or at a match.
Knowing that I qualified at the Expert level is an ego boost, and it’s potentially a boost in the courtroom as well if I shoot it under supervision. It also gives me another baseline to measure my progress on my ability to defend myself with a pistol, and gives me a platform to reach up even higher.
Ok, I’ll admit it. For years, I carried my Shield around in a hybrid holster, a Crossbreed Minituck. I bought the holster because it seemed like a good compromise between comfort and retention, and at the time, I had little experience with other holsters.
Things have changed, though, and I know longer carry in a hybrid, for pretty much the same reasons that John Corriea lays out here:
So, what have I learned after wearing different holsters for the same gun for a month apiece?
I really prefer holsters with an “FBI cant,” where the holster tilts the gun forward slightly. The Klipt is the only holster that doesn’t have that feature, and I found it very uncomfortable to wear on a day-in, day-out basis. I’m not going to wear it anymore, and in the future, I’ll avoid IWB holsters without the cant.
The hybrid holster was just as comfortable to carry as the other two holsters. Hybrid holsters are marketed to be much more comfortable than holsters made from other materials, but my experiences is that cant and position on the belt (straight up 3 o’clock in my case) made much more of difference than what the holster was made of.
Safely re-holstering my gun in the leather holster was a challenge at times. While the holster does stay open on the waist to allow it to be re-holstered, but there isn’t the smooth transition between “out of holster” and “in the holster” that there is with kydex.
The Florida heat made no difference in which holster was most comfortable, but then again, I’ve been wearing an undershirt since I first moved here, which provides an extra layer of padding.
All of this is subjective, though, so I thought I’d do a test to see which is fastest on the draw. I setup an IDPA target inside and then drew and fired one “shot” close to the Down Zero zone three times from each holster from three yards away, recording the result with the iDryFire2 app. I set up this test to remove accuracy on the draw, and isolate on how fast I could get the gun into play and get off a decent shot. Also, the tests were shot without drawing from concealment as I wanted to get an idea of how the holsters themselves behaved, rather than testing how well I cleared my cover garment.
A few notes:
Getting a good firing grip on the Crossbreed required a lot more legerdemain than the other two holsters. Even though the holster has a “combat cut” that facilitates a faster, easier grip, it just wasn’t as easy to grab the gun securely than the other two were.
The leather on the Galco held onto gun a little more than the other two holsters, resulting in a slower draw time compared to the Kydex, but faster than the hybrid. Now, I haven’t lathered any Draw-EZ into that holster (yet), but that might help even the. score a bit.
The “click” you hear re-holstering in a Kydex is a real comfort. No, it doesn’t substitute for watching your gun back into the holster, but it is yet another indication you did it the right way.
So is Kydex the be-all and end all of all holsters? Maybe, maybe not. As I said before, I didn’t smooth out the draw on the Galco leather holster before this test, so that might level the playing field a bit and help smooth the fussiness of re-holstering with that holster as well. However, if you’re currently carrying in a hybrid holster because you think it’s super extra-specially more comfortable than kydex or leather, I suggest buying a quality kydex or leather holster and find out for yourself what you’re giving up in return for pretty much nothing at all.
I made a trip last week up to the local public range (the official name for it is the “Cecil M. Webb Shooting Range,” but I like to call it the “Dunning-Krueger Exhibition and Fairgrounds”) to sight in a new rifle scope (more on that next week) and to put some more rounds through the Colt Competition 1911.
I decided to up the workout I was putting on this gun and shot 100 rounds of Federal Aluminum-cased 230gr .45ACP FMJ through it, and because the range bans “rapid fire” (and with good reason, I might add…) I worked on one-handed shooting and accurate shot placement.
All 100 rounds of ammo fed into and out of the pistol with no issues, except that my arms wound up covered in bits and flakes of charred paint or something similar. How much of this is inside the gun and how it will affect performance is anybody’s guess.
I usually work in a “business casual” environment, and so I have spent years carrying around a compact .380 pistol and not a whole lot more. I’ve had to learn just what a pocket .380 can do and can’t do, and while I’d like to carry around more with me, the fact is, I can’t, so I work within the reality I’m dealt with, not the one I want.
Which is why I’ve clung to the idea of a trunk gun for so long. The lack of decent sights and small size of a compact .380 means that a 25 yard shot is theoretical at best, and even 10 yard shots can be a challenge, so it’s nice to have something nearby that treats 25 yards as point-blank range.
Trunk guns are, by their very nature, in the trunk of your car (duh), which means that you’ll need a minute or so to get to it. Also, unless they’re locked away in a strongbox or something similar, (which will increase your access time to the gun even more), they’ll be the first things stolen if your vehicle is broken into. Both of these are not the sort of thing I look for in a self-defense firearm.
Also, I’ve been re-thinking the gear that I stow away in my car. I’m moving the emphasis away from a “do anything” pack that will keep me alive for an indefinite amount of time, and moving towards a “get home” bag that’s more limited in scope but is right there when I need it. That same concept of “if it ain’t handy when you need it, it ain’t your primary” is also changing what I carry in my car for defensive firepower.
We have all heard that “a .22 on you beats a .45 in the truck,” and the car gun corollary to that is “a pistol you can deploy right now is better than a rifle that’s in your trunk.” As such, I’m switching out the trunk gun with a backup pistol that’s secure but yet reachable from inside the passenger compartment. Yes, I am giving up something in firepower to do so, but it makes little sense to me to have a gear bag that I can grab quickly but a defensive weapon which takes me a lot longer to get my hands on.
As such, I’ve put my backup Shield into a Hornady Rapid Vehicle Safe, and the primary means to open it is the RFID chip on the back of my phone case. Because I use my phone for directions and listening to podcasts while on the road, it’s usually in the console right next to me as I drive. I can grab it, open the Rapid Safe and retrieve my gun for use in just under four seconds.
Try doing that with a rifle in your trunk.
Right next to the safe in the passenger foot well is my get home bag, which means I can grab gun and bag and head out in just a few seconds. Yes, the bag is out in the open, but it’s black on black, which means a potential car thief will need to be eagle-eyed indeed to spot it as he saunters past my car.
The 9mm Shield gives me more thump than my LCP2, and can be used as a backup for when I’m carrying my primary Shield. Inside the get home bag is a Sticky Holster that can fit both the Shield and LCP2 and yet serve as a pocket holster or an IWB holster if needed in a pinch. Yes, a dedicated holster is better choice for IWB, but we are talking about a situation where something that can do 80% of more than one job is better than carrying two tools that can do 100% of their dedicated job.
So between the get home bag and the gun safe, I think I’ve finally settled on a system that will keep me and my loved ones safe, no matter where we roam. Hopefully, I’ll never have to find out, but I ready if that day ever arises.
You can last three minutes without oxygen (Note: This also includes bleeding out after a traumatic injury like a gunshot wound…)
You can last three hours in harsh weather without shelter
You can last three days without water
You can last three weeks without food.
This is what drives my gear choices. I find no end of amusement in “survival kits” that include fish hooks and fishing line but don’t include some means of purifying water. Priorities, people, priorities! Also, if the medical gear in your “bug out” kit is nothing but a few bandaids and some gauze, you are not preparing for the things that will kill you dead quickly, you are preparing for a paper cut.
I’ve been trying for a years now to compile a small, lightweight 24 hour kit that doesn’t look like I’m headed off to Fallujah. I’ve used everything from an OD Green bag covered with MOLLE to a canvas and leather man-purse, and yet I couldn’t seem to come up with the right combination of utility and ubiquity. After yet another failed attempt, where I bought a cheap, tiny MOLLE sling bag and then added on pouches for a water bottle and medkit, I went back to where I started: The old UTG* messenger bag I bought years ago to serve as the original bug-out bag in my car.
And you know what? It works pretty well. My mistake last time with using this bag was trying to cram in too much gear into it, so once I pared it things down to the bare essentials, it works great. That whole “Two is one and one is none” thing is fine if you’re not humping around your gear, but once you realize that carrying redundant gear means carrying around twice the weight, you pare things down to just the bare minimum.
Greg Eliifritz’s article reminded me of how common airborne particulates are in an urban emergency, so I added in a pair of safety googles and a filter mask, and I also added in some work gloves, because they’re useful.
Rain (and lots of it) is my primary weather concern here in SW Florida, so shelter-wise, rather than go with an umbrella that requires a free hand and can break in high winds, I went with a plastic rain slicker. The secondary weather concern is the heat and humidity, and downsizing from a huge backpack to this small bag will significantly decreases my burden if I need to walk for a while before I get to someplace safer.
A fixed blade knife (a Mora, because they’re decent and I won’t cry if I lose it) and a nice, bright flashlight, in this case a Streamlight ProTac 2L-X that kicks out 500 lumens and is USB-rechargeable. I also added in some moleskin bandages, because if I’m not able to drive, that means I’m probably walking, and there’s a good chance the shoes I’ll have on at the time are not meant for the long haul.
Inside the back zipper pocket is a holster, namely, a Sticky Holster that fits my two most-common carry guns, the LCP2 with laser and the S&W Shield, and I’ve included a dozen or so extra rounds for each gun in the bag.
The black bag disappears against the black carpet of the passenger foot well in my car, making it inconspicuous and unnoticeable to the casual outside observer. When someone sits in the front seat, the bag goes into the back seat, and if all the seats are full, well, then, it goes in the trunk and we deal with that reality when/if it happens.
I’ve also ditched the trunk gun, because even though I’ve gone to great lengths to make my car as inconspicuous as possible, there is still a non-zero chance it will be broken into and the rifle I had been keeping in my trunk would wind up on the street, which is the definition of a sub-optimal outcome.
And let’s face it: If I can’t deal with what’s happening around me outside of my home with a pistol and some spare rounds, it’s time to go full roof Korean and call up some friends to help me out.
More on my vehicle-based self-defense changes tomorrow.
* Yes, it’s a UTG, and no, I don’t care. If I were shooting people in the face more often, then I’d care, but I’m not, so I don’t. So there.
I had a conversation with a friend of mine awhile ago who was recently mustered out from combat military duty and is now in the gun biz. When I told him that for me, an AR-15 is at best a tertiary weapon, he paused for a second to process that information. When he was in the service shooting people in the face, a rifle like the M4 was his day-in, day out weapon, but for me in the civilian world, I even if I could carry a rifle on a regular basis, I don’t, because I don’t want to be That Guy. As a result, I am much more concerned about my ability to deploy my carry pistol as the situation requires (or not), because the chances are that’s what I’ll have with me when things get wacky. To borrow from my friend Peter, if it ain’t on you when you need it, it ain’t your primary weapon.
With that in mind, I’ve been re-thinking the gear that I have with me but not on me. I’ve had a large bug out pack in my trunk for years now, but the fact is, that pack is inaccessible to me unless I stop, park, get out my car and lift it out of my trunk. This is great for when I’m camping or traveling far from home, but how does that work on my daily commute? What if Occupy $NAMEOFCITY decides to do something stupid on my way into work? How does a 72 hour bag and trauma kit in my trunk help me when I have no time to get to my trunk?
Answer: It doesn’t.
I’ll still keep the big bug out bag around, though, as it also serves the same purpose that my bug-in kit serves: It will help keep me and my family safe for 72 hours or more, no matter what happens. It’ll will also be useful to have when traveling out of town and also help augment the bug-in kit, but it won’t travel with me every day anymore.
As a result, I’ve put my in-car kit on a diet and pared it down to something that I can easily store inside the passenger compartment of my car, ready to grab at a moment’s notice if things get a little weird and crazy as I’m out and about.
Cops have a lot of jobs to do, and shooting people is only one (very small) job among many. I’m ridiculously happy that the cops are around and they should be celebrated for what they do, but chances are “firearms instructor” is not one of the jobs they perform on a regular basis.
Speaking of trust icons, let’s talk about the “I know how to shoot, I was in the military” canard. Yes, you may know how to lay down suppressive fire with an M240 Bravo, but that skill (thankfully) doesn’t have a whole lot of application in the civilian world.
Pistols? Pistols have a LOT of application in the civilian world, and the standards for excellence in the military for pistols is not so excellent.
Yes, you have FIVE SECONDS to draw and shoot two rounds into center-mass of a target that’s seven yards away, and the rest of the par times are equally ridiculous. If you’re any kind of competition shooter (like D Class or better) or have taken a decent two-day pistol course, you should have no trouble qualifying as Expert on this course of fire.
And it’s not like the target they use is extra-small, either. The 10 Zone, the highest-scoring part of the target is bigger than the already generous scoring area of a USPSA target, and compared its a veritable broad side of a barn compared to the IDPA target in the photo to the right. Heck, I’d bet that 3/4ths of my friends on social media could qualify as Expert using half the allotted time for the drill, and more than a few of them could easily do it in half the time and at double the required distance.
Are their good, nay, great military and law enforcement shooters? Of course there are. Does being in the military or law enforcement automatically make you a great shooter? Probably not.
The Walther PPS is a popular defensive pistol because it’s thin, compact and easy to shoot. The new M2 model is an updated, improved version, but the original PPS is still a terrific little 9mm gun for concealed carry.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t get better, and here’s some suggestions for getting the most out of your PPS.
Spare Magazines. The PPS ships with two seven round magazines, one with flush-fitting baseplate and one with an extended baseplate to give you a better grip on the gun. This is good, but if you’re going to do any training at all with your PPS, you’ll soon find out that you need more magazines. Also, because they wind up getting dropped on the ground and smashed into things, a pistol magazine is, in truth, a semi-disposable item. Get more than what ships with your gun. You’ll need them.
Sights. Three dot sights are common on defensive pistols, and the PPS has a decent set of them. Three dot sights have a downside, though. It’s not unusual for your eyes to dart between the front sight and rear sight, and the sights on the PPS aren’t night sights. That’s easily changed, though, and several manufacturers make sights for the PPS. I myself am a huge fan of Trijicon’s HD sights because they have an easy-to-post dot on the front sight but still have a night sight capability that shows up when it gets dark.
Holster. There are essentially two options for holsters for concealed carry: Inside the waistband (IWB) and outside the waistband (OWB). Me, I’m a fan of IWB holsters because in general, they’re easier to conceal than OWB holsters but is just as fast to draw from. For first-time gun owners, though, I recommend an OWB holster because they don’t require you to wear pants that are an inch (or more) wider than what you you wore before you carried a gun. Galco makes a terrific leather OWB holster for the PPS that I can heartily recommend for everyday carry.
Because I hate wasting good stuff at an away game.
Dear Tactical Abby,
I’ve been told by people on the internet that I must have a “no compromise” attitude when it comes to my personal security, but I worry that I have made a very bad decision. I really think that I’ve compromised my personal security and the safety of my family by not carrying around an M4, a plate carrier and a half dozen 30 round mags, as experience has clearly shown that this is the optimal choice for self-defense. Instead, I’ve foolishly, even recklessly compromised my security, and I’ve decided to carry JUST a pistol. What ever shall I do? How shall I rectify this dangerous oversight on my part? Because of what I’ve done, Abby, I’ve put myself and my entire family at risk!
Signed, Defenseless in SW Florida.
Dear Defenseless in SW Florida.
Have you ever considered learning what you can and can’t do with a pistol, no matter if it’s a full-size service gun, compact 9mm or a .380 pocket rocket and then putting that knowledge to use defending yourself and your family? Metal and plastic don’t adapt to changing environments, people do, though, and they do so all the time. That’s what training does for you; it also you to adapt faster than the other guy and come out on top.
A pistol, any pistol is a compromise, and any pistol is also a suboptimal personal defense weapon. This is the reason why the military carries rifles around to shoot people in face rather than pistols. People like you and me, however, don’t carry around rifles because we don’t want to look like those open carry maroons who walk into Starbucks with their rifles at low ready. Instead, we choose a suboptimal platform (a pistol) for our comfort and the comfort of those around us. Get a pistol. Learn to use it well and then most importantly, carry something with you wherever it is possible to do so. Even the wimpiest of .22’s on your person when you need it is a more effective defensive tool than a tricked out Glock that’s nowhere to be found.
Or as I should say, everyday everyday carry, as I’m not working in a office right now.
I update and change what I carry as experience and training demands. For instance, I’ve recently increased my tactical trauma knowledge, and so carrying an actual tourniquet on me is more of a priority. Also, using the PHLSter skeleton holster for my Shield in a training class and in a few matches has shown me that it’s just not right for me, so I’ve changed up my holster game as well.
Bandana, wallet, keys, lighter, 9mm Shield with MagFix baseplate and MagGuts +1 follower.
And yes, all of this either fits on my gun belt (I’m using a Wilderness Tactical Instructor’s Belt these days) or inside the pockets of my jeans, and all of it conceals with an un-tucked t-shirt (although the gun does print a bit, I must confess). In particular, I really like the Ten Speed pouch for carrying a tourniquet, as it’s about the same size as my pistol reload and a breeze to conceal under my shirt, and the MagGuts follower allows me to have 9+1 in my Shield, which is a nice comforting thought.