Where Is Your Stopping Point?

Where Is Your Stopping Point?

”I hope I am over wary; but if I am not, there is, even now, something of ill-omen, amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgment of Courts; and the worse than savage mobs, for the executive ministers of justice. This disposition is awfully fearful in any community; and that it now exists in ours, though grating to our feelings to admit, it would be a violation of truth, and an insult to our intelligence, to deny…”

– Abraham Lincoln, Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois
January 27, 1838

Following up on a post I made over at Ricochet.com, what happens when the culture war breaks out right in front of you? What do you turn down a street and find out that Antifa has decided to declare martial law?

Another example: My family makes it a habit to join hands and give thanks before every meal, whether we’re at home or not. We’ve had people approach us and thank us for this open display of faith, but what happens when some Social Justice Warrior sees us, takes offense at such a thing and gets up in our face? Do we leave? Why? We were doing nothing wrong, and now we have to deal with an angry, potentially violent person who is a potential threat to us.

Or what happens when you and your mates are having a cold one, talking about guns, and someone overhears your conversation and decides to loudly lecture you on how the NRA is a terrorist organization. Do you leave? Do you ask the manager to call the cops? Do you argue back?

We’re in a Cold Civil War right now, and the battlefield is our nation’s cultural norms. Where does escalation end and fighting for the future of America begin? We can, (and should) retreat if the fight is personal, but what happens when the fight starts because of what we believe in? The stakes are enormous in this fight, because if retreating in the face of an enemy attack becomes habit to us, we will lose the fight and cede the cultural battlefield over to the mob.

Where do you stand? What cultural hills are you willing to die on?

More on this tomorrow.

Flash Site Pictures

Flash Site Pictures

I did the writeup on the Beretta APX Compact for Shooting Illustrated. It’s, um, a compact 9mm striker pistol that feels great and shoots great. As I said before, it’s really, really hard to buy a lousy gun these days: Pretty much everything you can buy new in your local gun shop will do the job, and do it well.

Speaking of Beretta, I wrote something for them on what to do before you take a concealed carry class.

I don’t feel particularly under-gunned when I carry my .380ACP LCP2. Can I successfully shoot a Bane Drill with it? No. Is it an ineffective defensive tool? Also no.

You carry a tourniquet? Great! Do you practice deploying it under less-than-ideal conditions? No? Well, here’s a few simple drills to help with that.

Thanks to the tribalization that’s powered by a global communications network, we are rapidly approaching a post-Westphalian model for government. It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that a lot of tribes are very nasty indeed.

Think that the police are standing by to use cutting-edge tactics and gear to save you from an active shooter? Think again.

Some really, really good tips on surviving a “grid down” situation in an urban environment from someone who is going through a bout of homelessness right now. Bottom line is, want to avoid being prey? Then don’t hang out where the predators are.

Life During Wartime.

Life During Wartime.

One year ago today, the eye of Hurricane Irma passed right over my house, knocking out power and cutting us off from the world for days.

What have I learned since then?

  • Prepping means preparing long before you’ll need the things you’re storing up. Seems simple and obvious, but it was amazing to watch bottled water disappear from the store shelves when things got dicey.
  • The sound of garbage trucks is the sound of civilization returning your community.
  • Lumens are life. Multiple sources of light, enough for at least one light for each member of your household, are absolutely essential: they’re right up there with water and food.
  • Lumens also let people know that you care. We had a couple of cars poke their nose into our street after curfew, but a quick 500 lumen blast told them they might want to go somewhere else.
  • A solar recharger is DARN handy. It’s the absolute minimum for any grid-down situation, especially when your flashlights use rechargeable batteries.
  • Generators are better.
  • Gas cans are cheap. Fill them up at the first indication that the storm is headed your way.
  • The shortages after the hurricane passes will be worse than you think. It was days until we could fill up the cars with gas, and weeks until food supplies were back to normal.
  • A good supply of cash on-hand gives you the same comfortable feeling of security that a good ammo supply does.
  • Expect not to be able to communicate for at least a couple of days.
  • Most importantly, GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS. I relied on the people of my street to help put up shutters and keep us safe, and I helped out a friend of mine after the storm had passed. To quote the 20th century’s greatest philosopher, a man alone is easy prey. Do something about that.
Product Review: SouthOrd Lock Pick Set.

Product Review: SouthOrd Lock Pick Set.

A few weeks ago, LockPick World contacted and asked if I wanted to review some of the products they offer.

Now, you have to understand that for me, lock pick sets are forbidden fruit. Growing up in Canada, lock pick sets were COMPLETELY off limits, along with shuriken* and pepper spray.

No, I don’t get that either.

Despite this, I grew up reading the exploits of Raffles and The Stainless Steel Rat, and because of this, lock picking was a skill I really wanted to acquire. And so when Lockpick World made their generous offer**, I jumped at the chance.

I know the basics of picking a lock: One tool (the pick) puts tension on the lock, and another, the rake, pokes and prods the tumbler pins until they fall into place and the lock pops open, but I’ve never had the chance to put them into practice until now. Fortunately for me, LockPick World was kind enough to also send over a practice lock with the SouthOrd pick set they sent over, so I could put my technically-legal (but kinda shady) skills into practice.

And it was FUN! I was able to pop open the practice lock in under a half-hour on my first try, and now I’m moving on to simple locks like luggage locks and smaller padlocks. I’m watching “how-to” videos on YouTube, and I’m taking a few moments every week to calm my nerves and practice the delicate art of theoretical larceny.

Now, will I put these new skills to some ill use? Of course not. Is it a handy trick to know? Well, I’ve had more than one friend open up his car with a pick set after leaving his keys inside, so yeah, this skill comes it handy.

Thanks to LockPick World for opening up the world of the amateur cracksman to me.

 

* And yet throwing knives are completely legal up there. Think there’s an anti-Asian bias to the weapons laws of Canada? I do.
** What part of “sent me product for review” is hard to understand here, FCC?

The Working Gear Bag.

The Working Gear Bag.

I’m going out on location for stories more often these days, and there’s also the fact that I usually attend SHOT and/or NRA each year. As such, in order to keep all my krep in one place while doing such things, I built up a small little bag that will hold all my “Hi, I’m a gunwriter” stuff, but not weigh me down too much.

And just so you know, this sort of bag has been an obsession of mine for decades now. When I was a (photo) shooter, I worked up a nice little Domke-based kit that could hold an FM2 w/drive, a 105 f2.5, a 20 and a 35 f2, along with a 285, cords and a brick of film. There honestly was very little I couldn’t shoot with that rig, and it went with me everywhere*.

So I built this kit to be lightweight and easy to carry, but still have all the tools I need to write and shoot a story on just about any topic. Also, because I’m a paranoid right-wing gun nut, I tossed in a few little trinkets needed to get by should things get dicey. This all fits into the cheap-o sling bag I bought earlier this year, and it’s light and small enough to carry around for extended lengths of time without getting in the way.

Clockwise From Upper Left

Prep/ Daily Use Gear
Bandanna, lighter, some simple pain killers, rain poncho, a few first aid items, a mylar poncho, Imodium, painkillers, Tums… the kind of things that make you say “Oh, I wish I had (X) right now!” I’ve carried that sort of stuff with me when I was a photo assistant, and it comes in useful all the time.

Backup Battery for Phone
This is one is a bit bigger than most, and I like having that extra power on-hand. I use my phone for both consuming media (videos, Spotify, etc.) and creating media (photos, writing) so having enough juice to keep it going all day makes sense to me.

Camera
Here’s the deal: I know sweet bugger all about today’s cameras. I got out of the photo business right as digital came onto the scene**, so as such, I know my ancient D70 and that’s about it. Fortunately, for me, Tam‘s kept up with what’s going down in digital cameras, and on her recommendation, I picked up a gently used Nikon P7000 on Amazon for a song.

And that little thing is a joy to use. It’s the perfect blend of my old beloved FG and my old and even more beloved Olympus XA, with a few new digital tricks thrown in. It can do 90% of what my D70 can do and costs under $200. How cool is that?

Strobe
Repeat after me: Built-in flashes SUCK. I’m still working on getting it to fire correctly via remote TTL, but pound for pound, that little Meike strobe is amazing. It has full manual down to 1/128, tilt and swivel, a built-in slave and it also comes with that little diffuser. It ain’t gonna light up a room, but it’s just dandy for fill flash or portraits. Oh, and did I mention it’s got a USB plug on it so you can recharge Ni-CADs without opening it up? So. Cool. I’ve also tossed a small soft box (not pictured) in the back pocket of the bag to help smooth out the light a bit when needed, with some pretty good results, as we shall see…

Keyboard
Love that little iWerks folding keyboard. I’ve used it for almost four years now, and to be honest, I prefer using it for serious writing than I do my laptop or desktop computers. Yes, the feel on it is a bit weird and some of the keys aren’t where they’re supposed to be, but when I use it in conjunction with my iPhone or iPad, I’m forced to concentrate on just writing, which makes me much more productive.

Tourniquet
SWAT-T. I’m trying to standardize on those because a) they work and b) they’re a little more compact than a CAT.

Phone Gear / Cords
SD Card connector for my phone, various cords and plugs, spare batteries, etc.

Pocket Trauma Kit
This one is my own creation, but it’ll be swapped out for a PHLSter Pocket Emergency Wallet as soon as it shows up on my doorstep.

Multitool
Warming up to that little Gerber Suspension. The price is certainly right, it feels good in the hands, and it’s got all the stuff I need with very few things I don’t.

Nitecore T10 Flashlight
A disappointment. The Internet told me it was one of the best budget flashlights out there. The Internet was wrong: Go with this ThruNite instead. It’s about the same price, and it has basic features like a tail switch that the NiteCore doesn’t have, along with other features like variable power.

To give you an idea of what all this stuff is capable of, I took that photo of a Walther PPQ SC with  the camera and strobe I just talked about, edited it with Photoshop Express on my phone, and now I’m finishing up this post using the iWerks keyboard.

I think I’m set.

Other stuff I have in the bag are pens, pencils, business cards, a little book, some earphones… all the little stuff you need when you’re away from a hotel room for an extended length of time.

And no, a gun is not part of this get up. I’m not that big of a fan of off-body carry anyways, so if I have a gun, I have it on me, not in a bag. I do, however, have a spare knife in the front pocket of this bag, because knives are always handy. The purpose of this bag isn’t to keep me going in a grid-down situation, the purpose is to keep me churning out content in the middle of a gun-related convention.

 

* Check out The Strobist for the modern-day equivalent of that type of shooting.
** I mean, I’ve never used Lightroom. Ever. I was born Photoshop, and I’m a-gonna die Photoshop.

Flash Site Pictures

Flash Site Pictures

There used to be a time when Wired would be happy about a product that empowers people to fight against tyranny. This is no longer the case.

Related: “Significantly, the government expressly acknowledges that non-automatic firearms up to .50-caliber – including modern semi-auto sporting rifles such as the popular AR-15 and similar firearms – are not inherently military.”
That, my friends, is a huge, huge win, and a knife through the heart of any so-called “assault weapons ban.”

The reality that you are, and always have been your own first responder is starting to seep into the general populace. Good.

Speaking of must-have items, Chuck Haggard has a great article on how and when to spice up somebody’s life with a blast of OC spray.

I’d like to see the .380 added into this test, but if there’s not that much difference between what 9mm does to a target over .45, why carry a lower-capacity .45 instead of a 9mm?

What happens when civility REALLY breaks down and the Communists Democratic Socialists and the fascists National Socialists go at for real? You get years of lead. Read and ask yourself whether this will happen in the United States sometime soon.

I hope it doesn’t.

Lessons From Maryland

Lessons From Maryland

The horrific massacre at the Capital Gazette newspaper is not following the established narrative for such events. First off, because the shooter was Hispanic and used a shotgun and Maryland has ridiculously tight gun laws, it’s going to be hard for progressives to blame “assault weapons” and the NRA for this one. Also, CNN, in a shocking display of sanity, is not publicizing the shooter’s name.

Good. These maroons do this for the publicity, and the less of that they get, the less chance that someone else will do similar.

The cops had a sixty second response time, which is blazingly fast, but five people still died. My response time to active shooter? About 1.7 seconds, from concealment (-ish) and my response time to a traumatic injury? A minute, tops. The shooter had multiple restraining orders against him, but I’ve yet to figure out how a piece of paper is a more effective defense against a maniac than 124gr hollow points. The fact that he was this crazy and still bought a shotgun is an issue we need to look at, but only if we gun owners get something in return. The days of us giving up a thing that is dear to us in return for nothing at all are over.

Finally, a Reuters editor tried to claim that the shooter was wearing a “Make America Great” shirt and was pro-Trump, and rather than other papers picking up that narrative and running with it like they did with the shooting of Gabby Giffords, that editor apologized and might be facing disciplinary measures at work.

Might a little sanity be creeping into our media? I certainly hope so. It’d be nice to have the adults back in charge once more.

Done With The Trunk Gun.

Done With The Trunk Gun.

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.

But.

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.

Factoring into this decision is that I’m pretty comfortable with my ability with the 9mm Shield I carry around in more casual settings. I’ve shot the FBI qual twice with it and scored at the Instructor level both times, and I know I can consistently make first-shot hits from the holster with it out to 50 yards within three seconds. A rifle it’s not, but then again, I’m not looking to solve rifle-sized problems, I’m looking to get the hell out of dodge with what I can lay my hands on this very moment.

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.

Move And Shoot

Move and Shoot

The motivation for yesterday’s post on slimming down my “get home” bag came from Greg Ellifritz’s excellent article on this topic. Call it your social disruption bag or unexpected tornado bag or whatever you want, it’s the bag you grab when you have to leave your car RIGHT NOW. I’ve always thought that Echo Sigma was on the right track with their pre-packaged 24 hour bags built on a plain ol’ hydration pouch: Something lightweight, low-key and yet capable enough to deal with a wide range of emergencies, and so that’s where I started.

Rather than go with their kit, though, I wanted to build my own, and I based what I carry on the wilderness survival Rule of Threes:

  • 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.

The contents of the bag are much the same as my previous tactical hipster bag, with a few additions.

  • I’ve a little more up to speed on trauma stuff, so I swapped out the (questionable) SWAT-T tourniquet in my old bag for the proven SOFT-T and a Pocket Emergency Wallet from PHLster.
  • Water. I love these Berkey bottles, as they clean up the taste of nasty-smelling municipal water and, along with a coffee filter and an Aquatab, allow you drink just about any available water, potable or not. I also added in a small stainless steel camping cup, because needing to heat or boil water is always a thing.
  • 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.