Tripping The Lights Fantastic

Tripping the lights fantastic

Ever since Guffaw wrote about his flashlights, I’ve been wanting to do a side-by-side comparison of the various and sundry flashlights I have around the house.

So I did.

I don’t have any Tier-1 tactical lights in the house: I just can’t justify spending $50 or more on a AA-powered LED “tactical” light” when there’s good flashlights to be had for half (or a third) of what I’d pay for a “name” brand.

Flashlights

That’s my well-loved 4-D Cell Maglite up top, and then left to right, a Photon Micro-light II, a Fenix E01, an Insight MX3, a Coleman 3AAA LED, a AA Maglite and a Pelican AA LED light.

The testing setup is the same I used for testing the Insight light: I set up my D70 with my 24-70mm lens set at 35mm about 12 feet away from the cinder-block fence in my backyard. The exposure this time was 1 second at f5.6, ISO 400. As a comparison, that’s about 1/1000th the exposure needed for taking photos in daylight.

First up, the Photon Micro-light II.

Photon II

Then, the Fenix E01.

Fenix E01

And the Coleman 3 AAA LED.

Coleman 3AAA LED

And the Pelican AA LED.

Pelican AA

And the Insight light.

Insight MX3

And now the Maglites. First, the AA version,

Maglite AA

And now the 4 D Cell thumper.

4 D Maglite

Conclusions: 

1. That little Photon is pretty astounding. It’s TINY and at under $10, relatively cheap, yet it kicks out an amazing amount of lumens for its size.
2. Either the Pelican or the Coleman are a good choice for someone who wants the lighting capabilities of a Surefire without the Surefire price tag. I’d also add that both of those lights have AA/AAA lithium batteries in them, giving me the long shelf-life advantages of lithium with the flexibility and low-cost of alkalines if needed.
3. The day of the Maglite is over. I’ll still carry that big ol’ 4D Cell mamajama in my car because it comes in handy in other (defensive) ways, but it’s not king of the candlepower hill any more.
4. As a comparison, I took a shot illuminated with my iPhone’s Flashlight app.

iPhone App

Yeah that didn’t work…

Rubberneckin’

Rubberneckin’

First thing in the morning
Last thing at night
I look, stare, everywhere
And I see everything in sight

Elvis Presley 

One of the more useful things I learned from my time at Front Sight last month was in the “Color Code of Mental Awareness” lecture (the one where they DIDN’T mention Jeff Cooper). Our instructor mentioned that if you’re a “people watcher” by nature, you’re well on your way to having good situational awareness and staying in Condition Yellow most of the time. 

I like this approach to mental awareness because it’s so non-threatening to new shooters. Yes, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.” sounds all tacticool and oh-rah, but that’s probably the last thing a young woman in a defensive handgun class needs to hear. She doesn’t want to become GI Jane, she wants to be safe and free from fear and the minute she sees wall-to-wall 5.11 gear and hears things like that, her fear level doesn’t decrease, it increases.

Not the desired outcome. 

Finding the points of commonality between leading a life of personal self-protection and our current lives has to be a priority for any successful “gun-culture 2.0”- centric training course. People aren’t looking to become Dirty Harrys or Harriets overnight, they want to keep safe in an uncertain world. Adding to that uncertainty with unfamiliar phrases and methods will make you as an instructor feel more tacticool, but it won’t help your students.

 

Threats Analysis

Threats analysis

I’ve been thinking more about the comment I left in a post last week.

There are, as I see it, two kinds of violent encounters: Predatorial and Adversarial. 

The “sudden encounter” is a predator attack, be it mugger, rapist or Rottweiler. Those types of encounter require you to be on your game rightthisveryinstant and respond to the attack with enough force to end things.

The Adversarial attack is road rage or the loudmouth in bar itchin’ for a fight or the jealous spouse of a co-worker or the fight between friends that gets out of hand. Those happen on pretty well-defined patterns, and if they get out of hand, they get out of hand in predictable paths that can be countered (or better yet, de-escalated) in predictable ways. 

And as things are now, we spend a LOT of time preparing and training for the Predatorial attack: The mugger, the home invasion, the sexual assault. It’s not that these kinds of attacks aren’t real, it’s that for us law-abiding folk, they are just not that common. 

Predators tend to prey on the weak, and if you’ve taken the steps needed to secure your family at and away from home, you are not easy pickin’s no more. When such an attack happens, there’s little you can do to de-escalate the action, in fact, trying to de-escalate it will probably get you killed dead. Such an attack requires the immediate and swift application of force sufficient to end the threat. Anything less just ain’t enough.

Which leaves adversarial encounters. These differ in that we can and should control the level of force needed to end things. “A soft answer turneth away wrath” ain’t in the Bible because it sounds nice, it’s in there ’cause it works. 

Adversarial encounters can get out of hand quickly if no one choses to de-escalate. Ask any cop who’s had to arrest someone for a barfight or the murder of a friend and he’ll tell you the number one thing they’ll hear from the poor soul who’s now cuffed on the curb is “Why didn’t he just back down?”. 

I turn that around and ask “Why didn’t YOU just back down?”

Is an insult, a bad lane change or a loud remark worth twenty years of your life and the loss of your firearms freedoms? Is it worth not seeing your kids grow up or your friends? Is it worth a black mark on your record that will follow you wherever you go? 

We spend hours on the range and in the dojo preparing for the predator’s attack. How much time do we spend learning the difference between backing down and giving up? 

 

Defence By The Numbers Part II

Defence By The Numbers Part II

Ok, so we know what type of violent enocunters are most likely to happen around us. What about the “Black Swan” moments, or expecting the unexpected? 

Aye, there’s the rub. 

Three examples.

One: Many years ago (too many, if I’m honest…) a group of friends from my church’s college group were camping out on the Mogollon Rim, about to fall asleep, when another campsite erupted wild drunken hoots, hollers and gunfire, with what I assumed at the time were shotgun blasts into the air. 

There were twelve of us, seven college-age men and 5 girls (in a seperate tent. This was a church outing, after all…), and the best defensive weapon we had was a hatchet. If those drunks decided they wanted to “party” with the girls, there wasn’t a whole lot we could do about it. 

Two: My wife grew up on an acreage in the forests of northeastern Arizona, surround by her Dad’s extended family. One night, the black sheep of said family decided to invite Arizona’s most notorious motorcycle gang up to his property for the night. Her Dad spent the entire evening on their front porch with his shotgun in his lap, watching over his family as gang members loudly partied less than a 200 yards away from his house. The gang left in the morning and didn’t come back, but it made for a tense, sleepless night for her family. 

Three: Right after my wife and I were married, a cousin of hers took what I considered to be an unhealthy amount of interest in her whereabouts and well-being. Said cousin was 6’5″, 220lbs with a prior conviction for manslaughter for killing an undercover cop during a drug bust. He has since done the world a favour and killed himself, but it did make for a few tense months in our lives as I wasn’t sure how to handle someone like that if he came to our home with evil on his mind. 

What do all three of those examples have in common? 

1. There was a threat of imminent lethal force. 
2. The nature of the threat is outside the daily routine. 
3. Non-lethal force would not be an effective deterrent. 

We don’t carry because we expect trouble, we carry because trouble happens when we least expect it. If a shootout can start up outside of a quiet suburban shopping mall, it can start anywhere. 

Defence By The Numbers, Part 1

Defence By The Numbers, Part 1

We shoot. We train. We compete. We carry our sidearms with us every day so we can defend ourselves on that horrible day when we need them.

But what do we really need them for? What exactly are your risks?

With the help of crimereports.com, I’m able to see the type and severity of crime in my quiet surbanan Phoenix neighborhood, and the answers surprised me. This is what the police responded to within a one-mile radius of my home over the past six months.

Type of Crime Number of Crimes since April 2011
Assault w/ Deadly 2
Breaking and Entering 7
Disorderly Conduct (Fighting) 11
Other Assault 11

Right off the bat, the number of violent, non-lethal crimes jumped out at me. I am much more likely to get my @$$ kicked than I am stabbed or shot (although one of the Assault With A Deadly Weapon Incidents happened on my street. Yikes!).

Also, no sexual assaults or rapes, although there is one registered Level 3 sex offender within a mile of my house.

Oh joy.

A number of those assault charges are multiple charges for the same offence on the same day, i.e. Disorderly Conduct and Assault With Reckless Injury charges.

I’m also more likely to have my house broken into than I am facing a deadly weapon, which suggests than an alarm system, big dog, porch lights and anything else I can do to “harden” my home and make it less attractive to burglars is a good thing.

Now, does this mean I should forgo firearms training and run to the dojo?

No, of course not.

For one thing, there is no real substitute for a defensive sidearm. Martial arts and pepper spray can help, but the only sure way to end an attack with lethal force is to respond in-kind. The chances of defending myself against an active shooter are infinitesimally small, but the same skills that I use to keep myself safe day in and day out also apply equally as well against a homicidal madman.

Also, those are the stats for my neighborhood, but that is not my world. I regularly travel throughout to the Phoenix area, sometimes to nice places, sometimes not.

What these numbers tell me, though, is that I need to integrate my training. I need to be able to stop any threat, any time, from 1 inch away to 100 feet away, with whatever tools are appropriate and handy. Training and training for a 20 yard pistol headshot does me little good if someone throws a punch at my head.

Part II Tomorrow: What about random acts of violence?

The Source Code

The Source Code

This is why I’ve chosen to defend my life and my family. Things like this

Mesa Police say a 1-year-old boy died after getting shot in the head Monday morning in a possible home invasion.

The shooting happened at an apartment complex near Main Street and Horne around 7 a.m., according to Mesa Police.

Mesa Fire official Forrest Smith said crews transported the child in extremely critical condition to a nearby trauma center where he later died.

Mesa police Sgt. Ed Wessing said two unknown suspects are on the loose and may be responsible for the shooting.

Wessing said five children, between the ages of 1 and 8, were at the home at the time and were being watched by their grandmother.

The grandmother was doing laundry and had the door open when the suspects showed up, Wessing said.

Some type of confrontation took place and the boy was then shot, he said.

I know those apartments: A college classmate of mine used to live in them, and while they’re  not the best neighborhood in the Phoenix area, they’re not the worst. My thoughts and prayers are with this child’s family, and my hope is for swift and sure judgement on his murderers.

I have two wonderful sons in elementary school and an amazing wife. We live in a nice, quiet suburb and avoid getting into dumb places at dumb times where dumb things might happen. 

But I can’t really avoid driving down Main Street in Mesa altogether. Or ignore the west side of Phoenix for the rest of my life. Or live inside my house all day long and never go out for the best tacos in the east valley ever again. 

So what can I do? Carry the means to protect myself from armed OR unarmed assailants. Learn how to use them, then learn some more. Enjoy my life, but keep my eyes open. Stay safe. Have fun. 

Time Out Of Mind

Time out of mind

Caleb talks about the mental game of practical shooting. 

The question then becomes, how do you train yourself to stay focused? The thing is though that what works for me to “stay in the game” may not work for someone else. Everyone is set up differently mentally, and you need to find out what works for you to keep your head in the game.

I confess that this is my next hurdle to cross. I’ve reached the point where I can deliver the shot, now I need to do it on command, every time. 

The problem is, staying “in the zone” for a 2-4 hour match can be quite a challenge. I want to talk to my friends, relax and have a good time while shooting and not turn into a hyper-competitive jerk, but I still want to shoot well. 

One trick I’ve found to stay in the zone (and don’t use often enough) is pre-visualization: I “see” my sights on the target during the walkthrough, and I keep in that virtual sight picture in my mind as a I reset and tape targets. When I walk up to a target to tape it up, I imagine my front sights on the A Zone. When I walk up to a popper, I imagine what it would look like falling down after being shot from my end of the gun. I “see” these results in my mind, over and over again as I reset the stage for the shooters in front of me in the hopes I can re-create the results for real when it’s my turn to shoot. 

Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I do know I tend to do better when I practice this routine diligently. 

And yes, the title is yet another musical reference.

Self Defense Insurance Comparison

Self Defense Insurance Comparison

Update: I have a newer, more comprehensive comparison over here. And hey, if you’re new to the site, feel free to stick around and/or give me a Like on Facebook.

There’s now three self-defense insurance plans out there for CCW carriers (and others) who want to win the court battle that comes after the gun battle. We spend hours on the range and thousands of dollars on guns, ammo, gear and training to prepare to defend our lives, but don’t spend a nickel on preparing to defend ourselves in court. Once my current bout of funemployment is over, I will be taking advantage of one of these offers, and it’s something I’d recommend for every civilian who carries a firearm.

Armed Citizen Legal Defense Fund

The purpose of the Network’s Legal Defense Fund is to provide legal defense support to Network members, when these lawfully armed citizens face prosecution or civil lawsuit after exercising their right to self defense. The Network does not offer an insurance program or a prepaid legal fee service, but rather a number of benefits are made available to members. If a member is involved in a self defense incident, a fee deposit is paid to the member’s attorney by the Network to get the legal defense immediately underway, with representation during questioning, and arranging for an independent investigation of the incident. If the incident results in felony charges the fee deposit is $10,000; if the member faces misdemeanor charges, a $5,000 fee deposit is sent to his or her attorney.

Network members, by virtue of their membership, are entitled to case review by one of the Network experts and have access to contact information for Network-affiliated attorneys and expert witnesses. For this service, there is no charge beyond the Network membership fee. Beyond that, distribution of monetary grants to help with legal fees is at the discretion of the Network’s Advisory Board, comprised of Massad Ayoob, John Farnam, Jim Fleming, Tom Givens, Dennis Tueller and Network officers, Marty Hayes and Vincent Shuck, as ex officio members.

NRA Self-Defense Insurance

Update: NRA Self-Defense Insurance is now provided through NRA Carry Guard.

Our Self-Defense Insurance protects National Rifle Association members who need extra protection not found in most homeowners’ policies.

The coverage is a rider to the Excess Personal Liability coverage, and provides civil defense and liability and criminal defense reimbursement if you are involved in an act of self-defense.

What’s Covered:

• Provides coverage up to the limit selected for criminal and civil defense costs.
• Cost of civil suit defense is provided in addition to the limit of liability for bodily injury and property damage.
• Criminal Defense Reimbursement is provided for alleged criminal actions involving self-defense when you are acquitted of such criminal charges or the charges are dropped.

US Concealed Carry Association Legal Defense Foundation

The Self-Defense SHIELD consists of an insurance policy owned by the USCCA that designates the members as beneficiaries. No individual ungerwriting is required. As a Silver PLUS, Gold PLUS or Platinum PLUS member you automatically receve these insurance benfits. The USCCA owns and pays for the policy while you get the benefits.

Criminal Defense Grant
This layer of the Self-Defense SHIELD can help you pay for your criminal defense lawyer if you’re charged with a crime.

Court-Related Expenses
Our final layer of the USCCA Self-Defense SHIELD allows active members to apply for an additional grant for any other court-related expenses.

Policy Comparison


Criminal Court Costs Civil Court Costs Expert Witneseses Addt’l Grants Cost /Year
USCCA Silver $25,000.00 $50,000.00 Y $25,000.00 $127.00
USCCA Gold $50,000.00 $100,000.00 Y $50,000.00 $197.00
USCCA Platinum $75,000.00 $300,000.00 Y $75,000.00 $297.00
NRA Self-Defense Insurance One * $50,000.00 * $100,000.00 * N N $165.00
NRA Self-Defense Insurance Two * $50,000.00 * $250,000.00 * N N $254.00
Armed Citizen Legal Defense Fund $5000/$10,000 Y ** Y Y *** $85.00

* Total coverage is split between civil and criminal cases, with a $50,000.00 sub-limit on criminal court cases

** From the comments: “In your comparison grid you incorrectly state that the Network extends no assistance forcivil court costs. That is not correct. While The Network is not an insurance scheme, and thus does not have coverage limits, our commitment to our members who have had to defend themselves against criminal attack is to assist in their legal defense — be that a criminal trial or civil litigation — to the extent that our advisory board deems appropriate.”
The post has been updated to reflect this new information

Also from the comments: “The NRA-endorsed insurance programs require that you be an NRA membership. Average price is about $25 per year. The ACLDN membership requires no other membership costs. The USCCA Self-Defense SHIELD memberships at the Plus levels also include membership in the USCCA at the listed level which costs $37, $67, or $97 for Silver, Gold, and Platinum respectively.

In addition, the spreadsheet only marks the NRA coverages as having the criminal limit being included in the civil limits. The SHIELD program does the same thing. The listed limits are per occurrence, including all coverage – civil and criminal. The criminal limits are the portion of the total which may be used for criminal defense.”

The table also misstates the USCCA coverage for expert witnesses. The summary of benefits states the coverage includes “reasonable and necessary costs and expenses incurred in connection with the investigation and/or defense of any criminal charge or criminal proceeding caused by the use of a firearm”. After checking with the insurance company, Tim Schmidt confirms that this is the correct interpretation. The USCCA Self-Defense SHIELD program does indeed include coverage for expert witness testimony, private investigators, laboratories, and any other related expenses that would be needed to prepare and present the necessary defense.”

*** Grant amounts are unspecified

All descriptions of the policies were taken verbatim from each organization’s website.

 

Worst-case Scenario

Worst-case scenario

This is going on about 6 miles away from me as I type this.

A Baja Fresh at Chandler Fashion Center remains surrounded after a shooting suspect apparently opened fire in the area and then ran into the mall.

Officers at the scene tell ABC15’s Brien McElhatten that the suspect inside the Baja Fresh is believed to have several hostages with him.

All of Chandler Fashion Center remains under lockdown as the police situation continues in the popular East Valley mall.

According to Pinal County Sheriff’s Spokesperson Tim Gaffney, the suspect is 25-year-old Daniel Munoz Perez, a shooting suspect who was mistakenly released from jail last month.

This isn’t some shootout in East L.A. or Detroit, it’s not even in the free-fire zone that is the west side of Phoenix, this is my family’s primary entertainment/shopping destination.

Now would be a good time to review Bob Owen’s guide to surviving an active shooter in a mall.

Get in.
Get low.
Get out.
Keep moving.

Read, as they say, the whole thing.

One That’s Spelled L-I-T-E

One that’s spelled L-I-T-E

It’s late at night, and you’ve been at your job for far too long, but things are wrapped up now and you FINALLY get to do what the rest of your coworkers have already done and head home for the evening. 

The sun’s gone down, and night has settled in. You navigate to your car by the glow of the street lamps, and suddenly you hear a noise. Could be a prowling cat, could be someone getting ready to jump you, so you pull out your trusty Surefire G3 to see what’s up and… 

… you realize you left the Surefire at home because it’s just too big for everyday carry.

Whoops. 

Flashlights are like firearms: It’s better to have one and not need it than need one and not have it. And just like firearms, a small but adequate light on you at all times is better (day in and day out) than a 500 lumen blaster in the car. 

I’ve carried a flashlight with me at all times for a long time now. First it was a tiny little AAA MagLIte, which was the best option at the time, and when I was a photog, I had a AA MagLite on my belt at all times, right next to the Leatherman and my cell phone. 

I used to carry a Coast LED light, but since I found out (the hard way) that they are not washing-machine safe, I’ve switched to a small but rather bright Pelican LED light. It’s not as bright as a SureFire or even my Coleman LED lights, but it’s so small and light I can carry it everywhere. A light this small is  not going to light up a person a half-mile away, but it will toss out enough light to let me identify people and threats at ranges that I can reasonably engage with my Kel-Tec P3AT or other carry pistol, and that’s all I need it to do.