Life In The Fringe

A couple of VERY good posts on staying aware and alert without busting a mental muscle.

The Cornered Cat: Alertness Tips 

Sometimes it feels like you just have to walk and text. Maybe you and your friends are going to meet up with someone else, and you’re the designated message-sender. Or the group navigator. Whatever. So here’s what you want your friends to do: you want them to promise you, really promise you, that they won’t let you get surprised by anything while you’re paying attention to your phone. They’ll spot the other people and warn you those people are there. 

Marc MacYoung: Fringe Areas 

Fringe areas are places “in between.” And it is here that criminals usually operate. Fringe areas are usually places that you pass through on you way to and from the crowd. In the middle of the crowd, there are too many people for the criminal to operate safely. Too far from it, there is nobody for him to attack. At the fringes, there are enough people going through that the criminal can find victims, but not enough to effectively hinder him. 

This is true in the smaller sense (parking lots, movie theaters, college campuses, office buildings, etc) as we make our way from one place of relative safety (a crowd) to another (our car, home, or other such place), and it’s true in the larger sense as well. I don’t go the really nasty areas of the West Side of Phoenix, but do I go to, say, Seventh Ave and McDowell?

Oh yeah.  And it’s those areas where I need to more alert and aware of what’s going on than in my sleepy little suburb. 

Phoenix gained a reputation as the kidnapping leader of North America a few years ago. While that may or may not true, does anyone really think that the drug gangs that currently infest our city are going to go away quietly? What happens when things get rough for them (and everyone else) and the drug gangs in the U.S. start to do what their louses-in-arms have done in Mexico City and turn to kidnapping as a means of increasing revenue (pdf link)? 

It’s the fringes. It’s the in-between spaces where the predators are going to look for their prey. They’re not going to do it in their own den, because the people there don’t have the resources to pay. And they’re not going to go to places where they’ve never been, like my suburb. They’re going to go to places that are just familiar enough to be comfortable yet have the targets they’re looking for. 

And man, I really, REALLY need to read more Marc MacYoung. His stuff just makes too much sense not to. 

Getting more from a paradigm than just twenty cents

I spent some time a couple of weeks ago with Jim Neff of Generations Firearm Training doing some night shoot practice and working on my colder-weather draw. This wasn’t a formal class per se, but just a few of his more advanced students hanging out and swapping ideas back and forth and working out new ideas for drills and practice routines.

A couple of his students have been trained in what’s loosely called “executive protection”, and they showed us a few simple drills for keeping someone safe as you engaged a threat with your handgun…

… and that’s when it hit me. The skillset I’m looking for as an armed civilian with a family isn’t the skills of a SWAT cop (which seem limited to shooting dogs and busting down the door of the wrong house…) or the skills of a beat cop or an Elite Tier One Tactical Operator, it’s the skills of a bodyguard.

My goals are not to execute a perfect breach-bang-clear or CQB drill as second nature: I want my family to survive the worse day of our lives, and that’s exactly what a bodyguard does.

Now I’m not going to bulk up, shave my head, get a pair of Ray-Bans and wear a bluetooth headset wherever I go, and I’m not going to watch “In The LIne Of Fire” over and over to pick up tips on how to protect my principal (even though it’s one of my favorite movies) and I’m definitely not going to give my family code names like Rawhide or Timberwolf, but I am going to filter what I’m learning through the lens of someone who wants to keep someone safe. It’s not that much different than why I’m studying karate: I know I’m not going to become a cage fighter in my middle age, but if someone throws a punch at me, I want some options available to me that involve more than cowering in fear.

This where the integration of situational awareness/empty hand/armed response comes in, maybe something like the DSG’s Box Drill with airsoft and live participants. Is there a threat? Where is it? Does it represent a danger to myself or my loved ones? Is the correct response to the threat retreat, de-escalation, an empty-hand response or deadly force? Can I safely execute the response?

That sort of scalable response is just not taught to civilians as an integrated package with practice drills and tests to make what you learn stick into your muscle memory and become second nature (kata, if you will). I can practice karate and I can practice shooting and I can practice situational awareness, but I’m not yet seeing a way to bring all the elements together in a way that is repeatable, testable and practical.

Yet.

Kel-Tec does something completely different. Again.

The company that came out with a pocket .380 and a mini 9mm loooong before those guns were cool has re-imagined the defensive flashlight.

Almost a good idea

The small size of the CL-43 makes it possible to hold and operate parallel with a handgun without impairing a conventional two handed hold. If required, and with some training, the light can be operated one-handed together with the gun. 

The unique features of the CL-43 include:

  • Superior ergonomics due to the forward facing push button switch.
  • Small size. Can be enclosed by one hand and operated in parallel with a handgun
  • Extreme light power. 420 lumens and an optimum beam angle.

Sounds neat.

But.

“The switch is operated like the trigger on a gun, pointing the light as an extension of your arm. ” 

Ok stop.

Didn’t we have this discussion before with the SERPA? We know that having your trigger finger twitch while drawing your sidearm out of it’s holster is a bad idea? So why is having your middle finger of your gun hand or the trigger finger of your support hand flick a light on and off whilst your finger is on the trigger any less of a bad idea?

I’ll give full credit to Kel-Tec for thinking outside of the box on this one, but I can’t see it as something I’d but or recommend it as it’s designed now.

Hammer down

Michael Bane nails it (pun not intended this time).

As CCW has grown from a few citizens concerned with their personal defense into what I would contend is a national phenomenon, I see more and more people who think that every solution to a self-defense problem is a “gun” solution…hey, that’s what you’re carrying!

We need to move to a more holistic view of self-defense situations in the classic definition of the word, that is, a view of the more complete system rather than an analysis, or a dissection, into parts. Think of it this way… we’re much better at discussing self-defense caliber choice than we are at understanding how awareness and avoidance much earlier in the situation may avoid that violent confrontation in the first place.

I’m seeing the same thing as I progress thru the ranks of Wado-Ryu karate. The answer to any self-defense solution is a throw, punch or kick (or some combination thereof). Michael and Mike Janich and Mike Seeklander (do you HAVE to have Michael as your first name to be on that show?) have done us all a great service by showing how awareness and de-escalation can solve many a problem without the need to throw a punch or clear leather, but nobody out there is teaching civilians what cops learn in the Academy: How to move up and down a use of force matrix in any given situation.

We can go to a dojo and learn empty hand techniques. We can go to a firearms trainer and learn to shoot. We can spar in competition to learn what works on the mat, and we can shoot IPSC and IDPA to learn what works on the square range.

Where do we civilians go to learn all of those at once, and get in the practice (kata, if you will) that allows integrated techniques to become second nature to us?

Because the light belongs to us

… so after reading your gracious comments about everyday carry flashlights, I went with a Streamlight AAA Microstream.

Why?

  • Size. The durn thing is TINY, yet has a clip for carrying in a shirt or pants pocket
  • Power. At 20 lumens, it’s a bit shy of the 70+ I originally asked for, but it’s enough to light up a house from the other side of the street
  • Cost. If I lose it or it gets trashed rubbing up against my keys for months on end, it’s no biggie
  • Flexibility. It takes one AAA alkaline or lithium battery, which means I can find replacement batteries at any convenience store around the world

So how does it compare against my other lights?
Size-wise, it’s much handier than my Photon Micro II, which always seems to get lost on my keychain, yet it’s much more compact than a AA MagLite. That clip allows me to carry it in a pocket, which means I always know where it is when I need it.

Flashlights

And light-wise, it out-performs the Photon. The setup for these shots is the same as last time, a tripod-mounted Nikon D70 set on ISO 400, f5.6, 1 sec, 18-70mm lens at 35mm, shooting a grey cinder block wall 12 feet away.

Photon Micro II
Flashlight

Streamlight MicroStream
Streamlight

Not bad.

I also have a couple of other new lights, a UTG Deluxe Tactical rail-mounted light and a Crimson Trace Railmaster (on loan from Great Satan Inc.), which I’ll be using in an upcoming night-time Carbine/Pistol match at Rio next month.

UTG Deluxe Tactical
flashlight

Crimson Trace Railmaster

Conclusions: 

That cheap little UTG light isn’t half-bad. Sure, it may not take a beating like a high-end Surefire, but for under $30, it’ll do the job. Compare it to a $75 Insight xenon light.
MX-3

That’ll work.

The Crimson Trace light, on the other hand, doesn’t send out a beam, but rather washes everything with an even light that dies out around 50 feet, which is as far as you’d want to make a pistol shot in the dark anyways.

I’m pretty happy with these new lights, and want to thank everyone who pitched in some advice and helped me decide which one to get.

And yes, the title of the post is a Patti Smith reference.

Update: Hey, if you’re new to the site, feel free to stick around and/or give me a Like on Facebook.

Bleg: Everyday Carry Flashlight

Right now, the only flashlight I carry day in, day out is a Photon Micro II on my keychain. It’s good, but it’s not something I’d rely on for extended use nor something that can be used defensively. 

I’d like something bigger, something in-between a AAA Maglite and a AA Maglite, 75+ lumens, lithium battery and ideally something under $50 so I’m not heartbroken when I lose it. 

Suggestions? 

Ugh.

Woke up this morning to grey skies and mud, thanks to last night’s dust storm haboob, and creaky joints and sore muscles thanks to my dojo

3 gun ain’t happening today. Advil. Advil is happening today. 

No monkey dance for me

ENDO linked to a fascinating (and saddening) website listing the thugs and wannabes who post Facebook from Charleston, South Carolina.

This is just one website that posts stuff from Facebook from one city. How many thugs are there that DON’T post on Facebook, and how many other cities of similar size are there in the U.S.?

That’s a scary thought.

Also interesting/frightening is the weaponry these maroons are posing with. Yes, there is the obligatory Hi-Points and Bersas, but there’s also AR-15’s and Saigas in the mix. If this is what the cops are dealing with, maybe there is something to this militarization of the police thing after all…

What’s truly pathetic about all of this is how much of what is put up on Facebook and elsewhere is just posing. They want the world to know they’re not to be messed with and they are richer/stronger/more heavily armed than anyone else.

Fun fact. I don’t pose. Ever. Even when I have reason to do so. To quote Vince Lombardi, act like you’ve been there before.

This is why we train for the predator encounter and not the adversarial encounter: We’ve found ways to channel the social violence urge on to the golf course or the boardroom or our front lawns and we’ve left our violent urges behind us, Sunday afternoon “two hand touch” football games and church-league “no-hit” hockey games excepted, of course. 🙂

This works right up to the point we encounter someone who’s used to social violence, and because his world is not our own, he becomes a predator to us. To him, it’s a way of life. To us, it’s a threat against our life, and our response may not be what he’s used to, resulting in a chaos situation that may go quite badly for our would-be predator.

I will not be a threat to others, but will not have my family’s lives threatened. I owe them that much.

Play the odds

Paul at Safety Solutions Academy makes a very good point. The odds of winning the Mega Millions Lottery this weekend were 1 in 175 million. The odds of becoming a victim of violent crime? Much higher

So why do Americans spend almost $200 per year on lottery tickets and almost zero of personal defense? 

Sure, I bought a Mega Millions ticket. Heck, it was just a buck, less than a bottle of soda these days, and the payoff balanced out hte risk/reward scales rather nicely.

But I also know that a box of practice ammo or a few hours in the dojo would be a better use of my time and money. 

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Quote of the Day

“It’s starting to seem that a growing number of young adults think group vandalism is an acceptable way to bond.” 

– Editorial opinion of The National Post on Facebook, in response to this story.

Beer bottles, bricks and other debris rained down on police and firefighters in London, Ont., Saturday when St. Patrick’s Day celebrations turned ugly.

London police Chief Bradley Duncan, speaking to reporters Sunday, said he had never seen the level of violence and vandalism that he did Saturday night in his more than three decades on the police force.

“Last night, London experienced the worst case of civil disobedience our community has ever been subjected to,” Duncan said.

He said there was a very real risk that people could have been seriously injured, and even killed, after partygoers turned to setting fires and throwing bottles, stones and two-by-fours at police and firefighters. 

Unlike our cousins in the country formerly known as GREAT Britain, Canadians can still own guns, albeit with some silly (and ultimately useless) restrictions.

I foresee a dramatically huge increase in shotgun ownership in southern Ontario in the near future, with an equally dramatic decrease in youth violence in the areas where legal gun ownership is common. 

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