Posts Tagged ‘Self defense’

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Id like to share a a few thoughts I had on the value of good men and masculinity in a societal culture that would have us all in man buns and rompers.

The headline reads, “Gun guy gets rid of his AR15 after Florida shooting.”

Not any of these “gun guys.” A term I despise, I would gladly stand on the line next to any one of them. Because in the current climate of an all-out culture war against masculinity, they are exactly the kind of men we need.

Does the gun make the man? No, of course not. It is the principles that brought them out on a cool rainy day to train hard that make them men. Good men. Husbands, fathers, brothers and sons from all walks of life, why do they do it? Why should they? Especially in the face of blistering criticism from those that oppose their very existence?

I suppose to them it’s simple. Confident in their convictions, they understand the importance of taking responsibility for themselves, their own safety and most importantly, the safety of their families.

Because we need more masculinity (“toxic” or otherwise). Not less.

Because we need more mental toughness. Not less.

Because we need more critical thinking. Not less.

I’m willing to bet that, to a man, any one of them would pick up a weapon and put themselves in harms way to protect the innocent and defenseless from the evil that will never respect the laws of men, or the sanctity of life.

The louder your media screams that they should be feminized, disarmed and disregarded as deplorables, extremists, or enemies of progressive culture, the more you should open your eyes to the fact that now, more than ever, we need these men.

@vikingtactics Carbine 1.5 July 2016

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As a gun owner/advocate I feel strongly about taking the responsibility of owning and carrying a gun seriously. To me that means being proficient in not only the safe handling of your guns, but also the efficient employment of your defensive firearms. There’s a significant difference between a range gun, one you like to shoot for fun, and a gun you rely on to save your life and the lives of your over ones if needed. The best way I’ve found to determine which category one of my guns falls into is to take it to a class and train with it. Not just practice at the range on my own, but to run it hard it all day, or multiple days, through a variety of drills, positions and weather. At the end of a training evolution like that you should be able to tell whether you’re going to want to fight with that weapon or just plink with it on the range.

Case in point: Last year, I was bitten by the AK bug, and decided that I really wanted to add an AK47 to my safe. Because, you know, all the cool kids had one. I did some research and bought a Century Arms C39v2. One hundred percent made in the USA it seemed like a decent option for a somewhat less expensive AK. Now before I go on, whatever you may have to say about the Internet rumblings about CAI reliability, standby, I’ll speak to that in a moment. Moving on. So, I had my new AK and immediately took it to the range. It ran great, but as an AR15 guy, I realized I was going to have to I spend a good deal of time learning how to actually operate this rifle in the way it was intended, as a fighting rifle. I did a lot of reading, made some functional cosmetic changes – swapping out the nice walnut furniture for Magpul polymer, and adding an optic. After all that, and hours of dry fire and live fire practice, I finally felt ready to take it through some training. I signed up for a one day rifle class at the Sig Sauer Academy in Epping, NH. I’ve taken quite a bit of training with them, so I was confident that I was going to get a good day of work in running this rifle. My goal for the day was to be able to tell if I, as a lefty, could run the AK47 platform as efficiently as my AR15.

First, the rifle, now with over a thousand rounds through it, ran 100% reliably. No malfunctions whatsoever. I’ve found some wear on my bolt and carrier but none of that has affected its performance. All guns will fail at one point or another but so far my experience with this AK47 has been positive. Before getting into the operation of the gun I will add that the C39v2 with its milled recover is heavy, weighing in at just under 9lbs with no magazine. That’s pretty stout when you start adding body armor, sidearm, additional mags and gear. For the class my loadout probably weighed in the vicinity of 50lbs. Definitely doable, but something to take into consideration.

Concerning left handed operation of an AK47. Its no secret that being a left handed man operating in a right handed man’s world takes constant adaptation and improvisation. Running an AK47 is no different, and as such, there are pros and cons to being a lefty with an AK. With the charging handle located on the right side of the gun, if you watch a right handed guy running a reload of an AK you’ll see him doing a couple of different things to reach it to rack a round into the chamber, reaching under or over the rifle to operate the action. So here’s my big win for the AK: since the charging handle is on the right side of the gun I can keep my left hand on the grip and rack the bolt with my right hand after loading a fresh magazine. This makes for a super fast and smooth reload sequence, assuming I do my part.

Here’s what is less awesome: the safety. Unlike the AR15 the AK47 is decidedly less modular and an ambidextrous safety simply isn’t an option without a significant amount of work, and probably a gunsmith. I’ve done plenty of reading that says as a lefty all you have to do is swipe the safety off with your right thumb and go to work. Sounds easy enough, right? Sure, and it does work. The problem I found is that if you want get your support hand out on the end of the rifle for more control, it’s slower than already having an established grip. I recognize this as a training issue, and by no means impossible, but I’m not sure how practical it is in real world employment. From the low ready position, it’s not bad but from the high ready I found it even more difficult to get the safety off, my support hand out and the shot off in any kind of reasonable time. The trained AR guys were smoking me. I eventually gave up moving my support hand at all and just held the magazine. It should be noted that if you’re going to do that, get your thumb out of the way of the charging handle. The charging handle doesn’t care about you or where you put your thumb. Ask me how I know. Lastly, when put into a real world simulation at the end of the class, I found that when forced to moved to multiple firing positions, flipping that safety on and off between moving was clunky and slow. It was obvious how much easier the AR15 thumb safety was to operate in that kind of dynamic environment.

By the end of the day I could draw a few conclusions. First, I knew that I could reasonably operate this rifle, and fight with it if I needed to. I feel pretty good about that. However, I also recognized that as much as I like it, the AK47 is not going to be my go to defensive rifle. Will more training and practice smooth out these issues? Absolutely, and I will continue to work with it. But if you asked me to grab a rifle out of the safe right now and defend my loved ones, the AR15 would be the first one out the door. That realization alone made the cost of admission and ammunition more than worth it.

I have and always will encourage gun owners to get out and train. It’s easily the best money we can spend and best way to tell if your guns and gear are going to work when you need them. I will be the first to tell you that there are plenty of shooters out there, far better than me, that have forgotten more about shooting than I’ll likely ever know. It’s in our interests to seek those people out and learn from them. We don’t exist in a vacuum. Techniques and and technology are constantly evolving. We must evolve with them or be left behind.

Gear Check

Posted: March 2, 2016 in Shooting
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It’s a popular, and well reasoned opinion that you should clean and inspect your defensive tools often. Keep your folding knife sharp, change the batteries in your flashlight, clean your gun regularly, check your mags, and cycle out old ammunition. These are good practices that will ensure that if you ever need any of your gear, you can count on it to work.

I wrote recently about moving my spare magazines back to my pocket for ease of carry. I haven’t had the opportunity to get out to the range so the other night I had some time to myself and thought it would be a good time to do some dry fire practice, including simulating emergency reloads from the pocket using snap caps (inert training rounds). As I was downloading my mags I noticed the follower was hung up inside the body of one of the magazines. I shook the last few rounds out and attempted to unstick the follower. It wouldn’t budge. I took the magazine apart and found this:

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This small pile of paper somehow managed to work it’s ways inside the magazine causing the follower to get stuck. This is critically important because if I were using this magazine I would have experienced a failure that would have required an immediate action drill: Tap, Rack, Strip, Reload, Bang. If I encountered this failure at a time while relying on the handgun and this magazine for my life, I would have been in one hell of a tight spot. I’m glad I found it when I did.

Preflight your gear people, and do it often.

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A few months ago I went through the somewhat painful process of choosing a new every day carry pistol. After some trial and error, I tabled my ever reliable Glock 19 for the smaller and slimmer Smith & Wesson Shield. I’m pleased to report that after about 1000 rounds the Shield has turned out to be a reliable pistol up to the task of every day carry. Of course, the system doesn’t stop with the gun, it needs a holster, which anyone will tell you is almost as important as the gun itself.

Before making the switch from my G19 I ordered the Incog Holster with the Mag Caddy option from Gcode Holsters. The research indicated that this was going to be a solid, and complete carry system. This is all true. The retention of the gun in the holster is about as perfect as anyone could ask for, and the belt clips lock tightly around the entire belt which means once you clip it in, it’s not coming off. I thought the mag caddy was a great idea to keep a magazine handy so I don’t have to dig through a pocket to reload. It’s a complete system. So when I bought my Shield I ordered the same holster with a detached mag pouch.

So why am I writing about this?

After a few months of carrying in the Incog I found a few problems. First was concealment. It’s good and bad. The way the clips are designed, they push the gun up tight to the body which, in terms of concealment, is a pretty good thing. The downside is that to achieve this, the clip actually pushes the belt out a little bit causing a fairly noticeable bulge under tighter fitting clothes. Add the magazine pouch to this and the result is a shelf like bulge at the waistline, which in the world of concealed carry is a lot like a neon sign screaming “I HAVE A GUN!” This is undesirable. I realize that 97% of people would likely never notice, but to me if feels pretty obvious.

Getting a complete grip. So yeah, this one is important. To make the gun as concealed as possible, the holster is set with a low ride height, meaning the grip of the gun rides almost right on top of the belt. I have two issues with this. First, in the draw stroke I found it difficult to get a complete grip on the gun. I would have to two finger grip it, then reestablish the grip during the presentation. If I actually had to draw my gun in an adrenaline dumping defensive scenario, this is never going to work. Additionally, because I’m left handed the magazine release faces out. This is important because with the low riding holster I had a consistent tendency to eject the magazine in the draw. Kind of a problem here too. There’s not much I can do about the button itself, so I decided to try changing the ride height, and have the gun sit higher above the belt line. This was a notable improvement in establishing the grip without ejecting the magazine, but it’s also where I started to struggle with concealablilty. I ended up ditching the mag pouch and going back to pocket carry, which helped a bit, but it’s not a solution I really like for my mags.

Lastly, is comfort. Not that it’s completely uncomfortable, it’s just not…. Great. Even tucked into the right spot in front of my left hip, I could never get it in a comfortable position, and with the added mag pouch, it was worse. I think it has something to do with the clip pushing the belt out and wearing clothes that actually fit. This is, of course, the least important issue, but as I have said before, if your system is uncomfortable, you’re not going to carry it.

After going out with Beth one night and feeling like I looked like someone getting ready to give birth to…. something…. I decided it was time to try something else. I recently advised my father in law to go with a Crossbreed Mini Tuck holster for his G43, and since I used to use a Super Tuck for my G19, I thought it would be a good place to start over. I put in an order for the appendix holster for the Shield in the hopes that it might remedy some of the issues I discovered with the Incog. In initial testing, the first thing I noticed was that the ride height was about the same as the adjusted setting on the Incog, and once I got the cant adjusted I could get a full, complete grip on the gun without inadvertently hitting the magazine release. That’s a pretty big improvement. Like the Incog, the Crossbreed comes equipped with a strong belt clip, but because the clip doesn’t push the belt out, it creates a less obvious bulge under an untucked shirt. Lastly, I find the design of the Crossbreed, kydex over leather backing, distributes the weight of the gun and holster so there isn’t one point of pressure, making it more comfortable and easier to carry.

Although it’s still early in the trial process, it seems that the Crossbreed Appendix holster is an improvement over the Incog. The only problem I haven’t solved is how to carry my spare mags. I don’t love pocket carry for a number of reasons and finding an IWB mag pouch that is comfortable and actually works is proving to be a challenge. It may be that pocket carrying magazines is a training issue that just has to get worked out. Time and range trials will tell.

Lastly, I feel it’s important to note that the Incog really is a good holster. My findings here are just the result of trying to integrate it into my personal system. Your own experience may be different. I would not hesitate to recommend the Incog to someone looking for a well made, top of the line kydex holster.

Ok, that was more like 1000 words.

A War With No Fronts

Posted: November 14, 2015 in Shooting
Tags: , , ,

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Preamble:

I love Paris. On November 13, 2006 my wife and I got engaged on the Eiffel Tower. In 2010 we went back after a year of unemployment to see more of the city and the French countryside. Our hearts are heavy for a city that means so much to us. 

What can we do?

Beth asked me that last night while watching the coverage of the terrorist attacks in Paris. The truth is that as civilians, in a war with no fronts, no battlefield and against an enemy that strikes with little to no warning, there isn’t a thing we can do to prevent such attacks from happening again. It’s not our job. However, as responsible civilians I do think there are a few things we can do to look after ourselves and our loved ones:

1.) Carry a weapon and train with it. You’ve got a hand gun and some mags? Great. Go get trained up and become proficient in the use of that tool. Then, carry it every day.

2.) Stay alert and aware of what’s going around you. Do this for a while and you’ll know when something isn’t right.

3.) You’ve got a rifle and some mags? Even better. See number 1. If you don’t have a rifle and the gear to go with it, go shopping.

4.) Walk out into the world peacefully, but prepared to return fire.

5.) You’re law enforcement? Carry your creds and your weapon off duty. See number 4.

6). Train. Keep training. And then train some more. This will be the best money you ever spend.

7.) If you’re new to this stuff, ask someone you know who has experience. I always encourage people who are seeking knowledge to come out to the range with me and take the first steps into a larger world. I will never say no to someone who wants to learn.

Am I afraid? Sure. It’s only a matter of time before these strikes come home to an American city. This enemy is clearly motivated and willing to attack unarmed civilians, and their eyes are fixed on the US. These few things are the ways that I choose to deal with that fear. If you happen to be in that place when violence breaks out, you will have a choice to make: Do I die cowering in fear, or on my feet at slide lock?

Truly, I hope it’s a choice we never have to make.

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Smith & Wesson M&P Shield.

The process of finding a quality single stack 9mm concealed carry gun has been surprisingly difficult. But I think I’ve (again) come to a well thought out decision. Let’s recap.

After a couple weeks of research, and irritating my wife in endless conversations, I bought the Springfield XDs. Im still shocked at what a complete failure this gun was. Countless reviews said an equal amount of glowing things about the XDs, and to have it fail so miserably was nothing short of a surprise. Undeterred, I went back to the drawing board. There was one option remaining and that was the Glock 43. As a self disclosed Glock “fan boy” I knew I couldn’t make a complete decision until I had shot it. Fortunately, the public rental range had one in stock, so after dinner a few nights ago, Beth and I went to go try it out.

My impression was this: the Glock 43 is a fine pistol purpose built for the job of concealed carry. We only ran 50 rounds through it, but it never failed and I could shoot one ragged hole at seven yards. My complaints about the pistol are small, but I think important. First, magazine capacity. This has long been the reason I’ve avoided the G43. The six round magazine is just too limiting. Since my initial post, I’ve learned that there are aftermarket extended base plates available which would alleviate this issue, but I have some concerns about the reliability of those parts. Regardless, it’s a solution. Additionally, I noticed that because of its slim profile and light weight, I found the G43 to be snappy. This means that, to me, there was more felt recoil, making it less comfortable to shoot. I think this contests my requirement that my defensive carry gun should be shootable. Could I run it in a 3-400 round class? Sure, but would I love it? Meh, I’m not sure. Lastly, it’s simply more expensive. This isn’t as serious of an issue, but when you’re committing to buying a gun, upgraded sights, at least one extra magazine, and now base plates for those mags, the cost adds up quickly. It’s not a make or break part of the decision making process, just something to consider.

So why the Shield? The gun I shot had two stoppages in two magazines with of shooting, both of them stove pipes. I can’t explain why that happened, but it did. After those two malfunctions, the pistol ran just fine. There are two things I liked more about the Shield than the G43. First, I found the ergonomics of the pistol to be much more comfortable. As I have evolved as a shooter, smaller guns bother me less than they did a few years ago. Having circus freak small hands aids in this, as does a much better grip. The Shield is only 2 oz heavier than the Glock but that little bit of added weight and just slightly larger frame made the gun feel like a softer shooter. Less felt recoil = more shootability. And then there’s the magazine capacity. The Shield ships with a seven and eight round magazine which means no aftermarket parts to bring it up to a more acceptable level. Again, I’m sure those parts work fine, but for a defensive pistol, I’d rather not introduce any possible weakness into the system. The extra round capacity gives the Shield a slightly longer grip than the G43. That means I am able to get a nearly full grip on the gun, which I could not do with the Glock.

So what sucks about the Shield? The trigger. Holy crap that trigger. The free state version isn’t that awful, but I had the extreme misfortune of testing the Massachusetts compliant version. I didn’t have a trigger scale but having owned a Mass compliant M&P trigger in the past, I can tell you it was pulling upwards of ten pounds. That much weight in the trigger adversely affects accuracy, and that is a problem. Of course I wouldn’t buy that model, but it does mean that even the free state version is going to need the Apex trigger kit to get it under control. If I did nothing else, that would still put it ahead of the Glock. That, and I think an upgrade to Trijicon HD Night Sights would be a welcome improvement to its three dot sight picture.

So yeah, about that trigger. It’s not great. I found myself pushing rounds to the right with some degree of flinch. This is mostly me, but I think it’s im some part a result of the heavier trigger. I know, I know Smith says 6.5 pounds, but I don’t buy it. Unlike my short experience shooting the Glock 43, my groups at seven and ten yards were not great. However, after I started to get a feel for the trigger they did tighten up. I had to ask myself today, what is this gun for: bullseye shooting or self defense. These are two very different things. The stock trigger, paired with short sight radius is not going to afford you award winning accuracy over distance. This is just fact. However, inside ten yards in a defensive application, it will serve just fine. My groups at 15 and 20 yards weren’t what you would call spectacular either, but for the first time getting to know this small pistol and its stout trigger, I was relatively pleased.

Having now completed initial testing of the Shield I can draw some conclusions. This afternoons range practice involved 275 rounds of ammunition varying from the super cheap to super expensive. Here’s what I found. One hundred percent reliability. That’s great. Considering the epic failure that was the XDs I was more than happy to see this gun cycle everything I put through it. I say initial testing because I’m a firm believer of at least 500 rounds through a gun before putting it in a holster. So, while I wait on my holster to ship, I’ll get it out to the range a few more times to put it to work.

The only thing left to do is integrate the Shield into my everyday carry system. Updates to follow.

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…when I was pretty convinced that Springfield Armory’s XDs 9mm was the sound choice for a single stack concealed carry firearm? As I recall I made a pretty solid case for it. It was like, last week. Memba dat? I know now that it was probably the codeine talking

Yeah, so weeks of research, reading endless reviews, forums, and advertisements, plus test firing the competition, and watching hours of user reviews led me to the gun shop this morning. I found the best price, and felt as confident as ever in my decision. I filled out the form, passed the background check (yeah, that’s right) and walked out with what I thought was going to be my new carry gun. Then, I got it to the range.

Nope.

What? How could that be possible? All the data pointed to this gun as the right choice, didn’t it? The answer: failures. In 150 rounds I had a about a dozen. I’m not talking about your run of the mill failure to feed or eject failures. These were different. I experienced at least six failures to return to battery. That means that after you pull the trigger to shoot and the gun cycles, it fails to return to the firing condition. And what that means is if you have to pull the trigger again to save your life right after that happens, you’re dead. This is a huge deal. Then, and this may be associated, I had an equal number of off center light primer strikes. Sounds bizarre right? That means the firing pin is not doing its job and the result is when you pull the trigger you hear a click and not a bang. I mean, sure, I know what to do when that happens, but if you’re putting a gun into the role of self defense it has to be reliable. It has to go bang every single time. Anything less is unacceptable.

So what now? I’m out $400ish and I’ve got a gun that is utterly unreliable. I don’t feel right selling it to someone who may rely on it for self defense so I will likely trade it in for something else. What, I don’t know.

I don’t fancy myself a gear reviewer. There are plenty of YouTube channels for that. However, I can not in good conscience recommend the Springfield XDs 9mm to anyone who takes their own personal security seriously. It means I’ll lose money on it, and that’s fine. I’ll sleep better at night.

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Ive been giving a great deal of thought lately to changing my every day carry system. That’s right folks, it’s 2am and you know what that means: time buckle up for another EDC blog. I know you’ve probably read like, eleventy billion of them just this morning, but here it is. Prepare to be amazed.

So right, changes to my EDC load out. Like any good system it has evolved a bit over the years from its initial inception. In fact, as I go back and read my previous post about my EDC items it is apparent to me that nearly everything has changed except the clicky pen, my defensive firearm, and of course the mints. Part of the reason for keeping tabs on my system is to see how my thinking has changed from year to year. What worked for me in 2013 may be obsolete in 2015. Ah, evolution.

I believe in being flexible and accepting of new ideas when they present themselves. Additionally, as I’ve gotten older (maybe not wiser) I have learned to never say never. I mean, never is absolute, right? Why would we want to back ourselves into some ideological corner by refusing to change because, ‘reasons’? Mostly this equates to keeping an open mind. One piece of kit may work great, but as circumstances change there might be a logical reason to update the system. So where do we stand for 2015? Clicky pen and Sharpie, of course. What else?

Spyderco Tenacious – Black
5.11 TMTplx Penlight
Leatherman Juice S2 – Orange
Glock 19 plus extra magazine
Crossbreed Supertuck

The tools have changed considerably. I had no problems with my Kershaw Skyline folding knife, and the only reason it got replaced was simply because I thought I lost it. I was pretty bummed out about that by the way. I mean, seriously. I almost dedicated an entire blog to the crushing loss I felt and the ridiculous amount of research that went into choosing the Spyderco. Aren’t you glad I’m in therapy? Fortunately, in a fit of spring cleaning I found the Skyline again under a dresser and voila, extra knife FTW! The Spyderco is a fantastic blade, and while it is a little heavier, it’s not noticeable and I’ve been happy to have it along.

I tried hard to love the Preon 2. Primarily because it was stupidly expensive for what it did. The tailcap was finicky, and even though it had all these cool functions, I never actually used them. Then, at some point in its life, I made the mistake of dropping it and it never functioned properly again. I kept it for a while after that but whenever I’d talk about my kit and show it to the unsuspecting individual who made the unenviable mistake of engaging me in an EDC conversation, it wouldn’t work. Yeah, there’s nothing more awesome than sounding like you know what you’re talking about only to have your gear not work. So the Preon 2 was out on its ass. It wasn’t a total waste though. Because of the Preon 2 I discovered how well the penlight format works from a size and weight perspective. My search for finding a reasonable replacement was running pretty much in circles when, one afternoon in a gun shop, I came upon the TMTplx. Half the price of the Preon 2 and from 5.11, I figured it was worth a shot. I am pleased to report that it has been a reliable addition to the system and I think a great example of how you don’t have to spend absurd amounts of money for a quality EDC purposed light.

The Leatherman Juice S2. Oh, man. I’m a little embarrassed at how much I like this thing. So much so that when I left it at the range one evening, I got up extra early the next morning to make the 45 minute drive back to retrieve it before someone picked it up. The Juice has all the function of a full size Leatherman in a much smaller, more portable package. It rides in the coin pocket of my jeans, and I simply can’t tell you how many times it has saved the day. As a gift from my inlaws, it is one of my most cherished pieces.

And that brings us to firearms. You might want to sit down, this is gonna get stupid.

I have spoken, and written at great length about my Glock 19. It is hands down one of the finest, all purpose firearms ever made. Concealed carry, duty carry, home defense, competition, it can do, and excels at whatever mission you throw at it. I have put literally thousands upon thousands or rounds through it with 100 percent reliability. Why on earth would I ever consider changing it? First, I’ll be clear about this, I will never sell it. I made that mistake many years ago and regretted it. This one is here to stay. It might just find a new job. As much as I love this gun, I have been giving some thought lately to replacing it in my EDC load out. It started this summer when I purchased Sturm & Ruger’s new Lc9s for backpacking/motorcycle carry. The G19 is a little too big and heavy for those purposes and the new striker fired version of the Lc9s fit the bill pretty well. It’s a nice little gun for specific missions, but I don’t think up to the task of every day carry.

Choosing a concealed carry firearm is all about compromise. The G19 carries 15+1 rounds in a relatively compact platform, but to get that capacity you need a double stack magazine. What that equates to is the overall width of the gun. When you’re carrying IWB (inside the waistband) width can be a real issue. Carrying the Crossbreed Supertuck at the 7-8:00 position (because lefty) it’s not a huge issue if you’re willing to wear a slightly larger pair of pants to accommodate it. But, it you want to wear something that actually fits, you might run into problems. I know female shooters run into this issue quite a bit. Here’s the deal, you want your concealed carry system to be comfortable so you actually carry. Having the permit and the gun is useless if your carry system makes you feel like you’ve got a cinder block tucked in your pants. So that begs the question: what’s more important, having a gun with slightly fewer rounds you carry every day because it’s comfortable, or no gun at all because you can’t stand to put it on? Hold that thought.

My thoughts of changing EDC guns started with my thoughts of changing my carry position to the appendix, or centerline position after I picked up the Lc9s. From a tactical standpoint, appendix carry allows you more control of the gun in terms of retention, and equally important, makes it much easier to access from any position other than standing at the range. I’ve been experimenting with the G19 in this new position, and it works. It’s not super comfortable in fitting pants, but it works. There are, however, some other options that might fit this new carry position better. Remember we said width was the controlling measurement for IWB carry? So that means finding a gun with a single stack magazine. And what that really means, is giving up rounds for comfort. Compromise.

Like the last guy to show up to your party and not bring beer, this year Glock released the G43 single stack 9mm pistol after nearly every other manufacturer had one on the market. What makes less sense than not bringing beer to a party is that they did it with the smaller 6+1 magazine capacity. Yadda Yadda Yadda, I’m not really impressed. The Lc9s has a 7+1 capacity as does the 9mm offerings from Springfield’s XDs and Smith & Wesson’s Shield. So why, when choosing comfort over round capacity, would I choose a gun that’s even more limited than its competitors? Because Glock? No. I love my Glocks, but their addition to the single stack market has missed the mark for me. That pretty much leaves me with the Shield and XDs. I’ve shot the Shield and while it’s not a bad gun, I didn’t love it. I also had the opportunity to shoot the XDs .45. That gun, is ridiculous. Much like my S&W Pro 3″ 1911, it’s a beast to shoot and I struggled to make accurate follow up shots. All that for the placebo effect of having a .45? Not worth it. So that brings me to the XDs in 9mm.

I wrote once that a primary requirement for my carry gun is shootability. I have to want to shoot it, practice with it, and train with it. I have to be able to shoot it so much that I feel proficient with it, because if the day ever comes that I need it, I will be better prepared. A gun you hate shooting and only take to the range occasionally but carry every day is more a liability than insurance.

What about limited round capacity? No doubt, that is an important issue. 7+1 isn’t nearly as comforting as 15+1. What I think it means is now carrying an extra magazine is a requirement. I maintain that for the responsibly armed citizen carrying the spare mag is mostly about fixing malfunctions than it is about more rounds. However, if you’re running a single stack gun with limited capacity, you may find yourself in the position of actually needing those extra 7 rounds. So, carry a spare magazine and be able to perform reloads under stress. And what does that mean? Training. We all talk so much about the physical tools. What doesn’t get nearly as much attention is training and mindset. All the cool gadgets and fancy guns are useless if you don’t know how to use them. I have said it so any times, training is mandatory for those who choose to legally carry concealed firearms. Mandatory. It is expensive, but like the quality gear you spend money on, its worth it.

Lastly, in talking about mindset, I think we all can agree that situational awareness is something so many people lack in the world. I’m not suggesting living life as though you’re hoping the next mall shooter is going to kick down the door at the Yankee Candle while you’re picking out your fall scents. I submit that we as people living amongst other people should simply be aware of our surroundings and enter into those environments with proper tools and mindset. There are a few exercises I do that help keep me engaged in my environment. For example, I watch the people around me; look for avenues of escape when I walk in a room or store; I read license plates as cars go by and try to pick out the description of the driver, and never ever walk with my eyes down in my smartphone. These are just a few things that keep my mind working. Most of the time life is pleasantly mundane, but keeping up your head up and eyes out just may help you pick out that person in the room that isn’t quite right. This isn’t black ops, secret squirrel, ninja stuff, just a few things I try to do to stay plugged into the world around me. No, I’m not perfect at this, and I don’t always do it right, but I make an effort to stay engaged.

I understand that this may seem long winded and perhaps a bit repetitive, but my goal here is to show the thought process that goes into choosing tools that may save your life, or simply help jumpstart your mom’s Prius in a snowy parking lot. The kit you take with you out into the world doesn’t have to be a combat load out, but a few well thought out tools that do their jobs when you need them too. As for my choice of firearms, I remain on the fence pending future testing. There is much to consider.

And so ends the EDC update for the near end of 2015. If you’re still here, I’ve got a great therapist I can recommend.

Rifle Evolution

Posted: July 30, 2014 in Shooting
Tags: , , ,

This is how my rifle started its life, a standard, no frills DPMS AP4 Carbine. Nothing really interesting to see here, right? I agree. It wasn’t super flashy, but it was my first real rifle, and I was pretty happy with it.

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Like all things in life, the evolution of my rifle was inevitable. After doing a fair amount of research on the AR platform, I decided it was time to start making some changes. The transformation began the following spring when I installed a 7″ Troy drop in quad rail and this absurdly large fore grip by Tango Down.

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I thought that looked pretty cool, and the only thing missing was a red dot sight to replace the carry handle. I ordered a Primary Arms Multi Reticle sight as I was trying to keep to a budget and I had heard good things. (I’m happy to report that I still have nothing bad to say about the Primary arms optics. I’ve run them pretty hard and they have always held zero and I have found the battery life to be more than adequate.)

Ok, I’ve got a quad rail, this giant fore grip and an optic. Tacticool FTMFW! But it still needed something. Obviously it was time to class it up by adding some magpul accessories. You can’t be tacticool without some magpul gear. Enter the MOE stock and grip and XTM rail covers.

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Yeah ok, that got a little out of hand. I ended up removing the top rail covers for a Blackhawk low profile rail cover. I threw the AFG on for good measure and I thought I was good to go.

Then I discovered ambi parts for standard right hand rifles.. What the…? Parts that will make running my rifle so much easier for the left handed masses?? Sign me up. And so more parts got swapped out for the Magpul ASAP sling plate, Troy ambi mag release Rock River Ambi Safety and the ArmaDynamics ambi charging handle made their way into the picture. And let me tell you, that shit was expensive. It ain’t easy being a left handed man in a right handed mans world. Adapt and overcome.. Check.

Finally, a Geissele SSA-E trigger group completed the mods, (Worth. Every. Penny.) and I was done. Really… I swear.

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Why shouldn’t I be done? I had a decent rig. It was reliable, accurate and a blast to shoot. But, I have problems (admitting it is the first step). Like most gear nerds, I continued to look for the next best thing to customize my carbine. I mean, there just HAD to me something else I could do. In admitting that I really only used the dot in my multi reticle sight, I decided to lose the weight and go to the Primary Arms MD07 Micro Dot. I didn’t really love the AFG, so that came off and I put a short Magpul fore grip on instead. So far things were looking up.

Then, I made the mistake of taking a three day tactical carbine course. The training was outstanding, and it was great to check out and shoot other rifles with all manner of different options. The bad news was that I knew it was time to start working on it again. (Hi, my name is Matt, and I have a gear addiction) By the end of the week I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted my rifle to look like.

Cosmetics are optional, but malfunctions make you have to change things, right? After several out of character failures to extract, it became obvious that after nearly ten thousand rounds, my extractor spring had finally failed. Not really the best timing ever, but thanks to the kindness of one of the guys in class, a borrowed extractor kept me running. Then the gas rings went. Well, one of them any way. I mean, it actually disappeared. Can an AR15 run on two gas rings? Sure, but you know, not that well. Add that to the list.

Then the cosmetics. Standby AMEX, this is gonna hurt. Let me start by saying that I never liked the A2 Front Sight Base. After five good years I decided it was time to part ways and go with a free float VTAC Alpha Rail. So I did what anyone else would have done, I got some punches and tried like hell to get the pins out… They didn’t budge. Not even a little. And for my troubles, I managed to mangle them to a point where I was pretty sure they were going to come out it at all. Hmm. Ok, I have an idea. So I bought this:

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Oh yeah, this is gonna be just fine.

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Nope… Not actually. Looks like I’m gonna need a new barrel.

Son of a… I wasn’t counting on that. Of course the bright side here is that a new barrel would mean a new mid length gas system and low profile gas block. Enter the BCM 16″ 1/7 twist barrel and his buddies the gas tube and gas block. Huzzah.

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Finally, I replaced the buffer tube and castle nut as they got pretty banged up when I initially installed the sling plate. Strictly a cosmetic fix, but it always bothered me.

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As of summer 2014 here it is in it’s “final” configuration:

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The stats:

BCM 16″ Barrel Mid Length
BCM Mid Length Gas Tube
BCM Low Profile Gas Block
BCM Extractor Spring Kit
13″ VTAC Alpha Rail
Magpul MOE Stock
Magpul MOE Grip
Magpul Ambi Sling Plate
Magpul Trigger Guard
Magpul Short Fore Grip
Magpul MBUS Sights
Magpul RSA
A2 Flash hider
Rock River Arms Star Ambi Safety
Troy Ambi Mag Release
Armadynamics ACLM Charging Handle
Geissele SSA-E Combat Trigger
Primary Arms MD07 Optic
DPMS Buffer tube – replaced damaged tube
Castle nut- replaced damaged nut

Needless to say, there isn’t much left of my original AP4. The receivers are still the same, as is the bolt carrier group, pretty much everything else has been changed. Aside from some wear on the lower from plenty of use, it’s pretty much a new rifle. I can’t wait to get it to the range and see how it runs.

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Recently, I read a book about the space race in the 1960’s. As one might expect, no account of those events are complete without referencing President Kennedy’s speech at Rice University in 1962. You know the one I mean:

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win…”

Like so many, I found those words inspiring, but realized that while I had heard this sound byte dozens of times, I had never actually heard the full speech. So, through the magic of YouTube, I sat down and listened to the 17 minute speech that talked about why it was important to take on the challenge of landing a man on the moon, and returning him safely to the earth. I know, I know, to raise funding and get there before the damned dirty Soviets (just kidding Putin, you da man). Still, I felt that I was missing something. So I read and reread the transcript, and I found this:

“All great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.”
– William Bradford; Plymouth Bay Colony 1630

Thats interesting. Anything worth doing is hard, and greatness lies in the courage to endure the difficulty. We might be onto something here.

Much in the way Kennedy challenged the american people to develop the means to land a man on the moon, using materials and technology that had yet to be invented, (which I’m sure at the time seemed a daunting task) we must challenge ourselves to do great things. Things that are difficult, and sometimes scary, and things we are absolutely certain we can’t do… Until we do them. It took me a long time to figure this out. I have spent a great deal of my life avoiding challenges that seemed too hard, or in my opinion, certain to fail. Until recently, I had positively identified my comfort zone and set up shop.

The comfort zone… Yeah, you know, that place under the blanket, on the couch curled up with the dog and the remote control. I love that place. It’s warm and cozy, requires no effort to enjoy. The dog looks up at me, wags her tail, and gets an approving scratch behind the ears for her trouble. Everyone is happy. Sounds great, right? Totally. Here’s the problem: What good are we doing ourselves by letting life pass by on the couch surfing daytime tv? Are we alive? Of course. But, are we living? This is debatable. Staying in our everyday routines, on the proverbial couch with the pooch, is safe and we know we cant screw it up. Getting outside the comfort zone means being willing to risk failure. This is obviously undesirable. Which begs the question: why? Why are we so afraid to fail? Vanity? Insecurity? Low self esteem? All would seem good reasons to stay ensconced in the relative safety of an epic dog hug, Seinfeld reruns and video games. To some degree, I struggle with all of these issues, and it’s not always easy to put them aside.

Notably, no endeavor worth doing is without risk of failure. It can’t be. We have to accept that, and more importantly, learn to embrace it. Failure isnt something to be feared, its something to learn from. With that in mind, locate the nearest emergency exit out of your comfort zone, and exit that mofo like its on fire. It’s making that choice, the choice to look uncertainty in the eye and take on a challenge, that defines us.

It starts with a choice. That’s the hardest part, choosing to go. Once committed to the challenge, less energy can be spent on focusing on how hard the thing is, and more on the overall goal. Thats not to say that I’m always confident. It occurs to me that if I cant be the very image of brimming self confidence, I can at least try to prepare as much as possible… And then fake it. Often times this translates to researching gear, techniques for completing the task at hand, and the experience of others. Part of my own insecurity lies in the unknown. But, if I develop a general idea of what I’m about to get into, I can mentally prepare. So, I pour over maps, read endless gear reviews to choose the right equipment, read and watch testimonials of those who have gone before me. Every adventure is unique, and one can’t possibly prepare for every eventuality but by laying the groundwork ahead of time, we can remove some of the unknowns. However, if and when we are faced with something we’re not prepared for, a simple, “Screw it, lets go,” may just be the answer.

That mental toughness is not innate. It has to be learned through experience. The first step is doing the thing that you’re absolutely certain you can’t do. “The way it works is, you do the thing you’re scared shitless of and get the courage after you do it, not before you do it.” (This was actually a George Clooney quote from a mediocre movie, but the point is no less valid.)

I submit the following short narrative of my wife’s (to this point) previously undiscovered inner badass. I like to refer to it as Warrior-Beth. It’s quite possibly one of my favorite things.

In July of this year, my wife and I took at trip to Sedona to celebrate our fifth anniversary with some outdoor adventuring. She thought I would really enjoy renting atvs and trekking out in the desert to see some Native American ruins. She was right. It was a blast. This anecdote isn’t so much about me. We are both motorcycle riders and didn’t give much consideration to the fact that riding a street bike has absolutely nothing to do with off road atv-ing. We get the quads, and I can tell she’s nervous. “How bad can it be?” I tell her. I promptly received the look husbands get when they say such stupid things to their wives… Who usually know better.

Undeterred, we head off into the Arizona desert. The large dirt road we were both expecting quickly turns into a rutted trail full of rocks. This trail eventually winds its way to the first of two “obstacles.” The obstacle in question is a steep, slick, rocky hill who’s grade is matched only by the size and number of the rocks found in it. We are going to have negotiate this treacherous slope on atvs we have never ridden before. Awesome. I look over to my wife to find that she’s less nervous now, and more freaking out. I couldn’t blame her. I wasnt sure how it was going to work out either. “Screw it….” I head down first and it’s uncomfortable and rocky and I have no idea what I’m doing, but somehow, manage to arrive safely at the bottom of the hill. I look up and I see she’s gotten around the bend, part way down, but I can tell she’s not going to be able to get it down the super steep part of the trail. I head back up to help, hop on her atv and just as before, slowly and awkwardly negotiate it down the hill. I felt bad that she was scared, but we had long since been committed to the adventure, and had to find a way to press on. We had plenty of time, so we took few minutes at the bottom to rest up and have a snack and some water. When she was ready, we got rolling towards the ruins

The vista was amazing, red rocks and plains for as far as the eye could see. When our engines were shut down we heard…. Nothing. Total silence. We could see the ruins off in the distance as we finally arrived at the second obstacle which was similar to the first in its grade and rockiness. The difference here is that there’s a slightly less steep way down. We take a look at it, and I tell her that just like before, ill ride down first and then come back up to bring hers down. I get the thumbs up and head down the hill. Just as I reach the bottom, I turn around to see her working her way down the obstacle with a huge smile on her face. She looked her fear in the eye, gave it the finger, and did it on her own. I asked her how she did it, and she said,”I just got angry at it, got it done.” I could not have been more proud.

This is the moment we should strive for. The moment where we overcome the fear, say some insulting things to an inanimate object, and accomplish something awesome, if for no other reason than to say we did it. My wife did exactly that. She did the thing that scared the hell out of her, only to discover that she was capable of more than she gave herself credit for. We should all be so lucky.

“But why, some say…. Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?”

In part, the answer, as George Mallory so aptly put it is, “Because it’s there.” While I understand what Mr. Mallory is getting at, I think there’s more to it. The purpose of choosing the challenge, be it climbing a mountain, running a marathon or landing on the moon is to discover something in ourselves. To become better people as a result of our endeavors. The pictures of us triumphantly standing at the summit marker or crossing the finish line signify not just the physical accomplishment, but the mental strength and determination it took to get there. It’s about finding out what you really can do if you simply choose to do it.

We are all capable of great things. It’s up to us to step outside the box and make it happen.