Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Fly Weight

A few years back I decided to scale back my armament when I traveled by Air on "low risk" jobs by leaving my 1911 at home and, picked up a second snub nosed revolver instead. The folks over at NRA's Shooting Illustrated let me put my thoughts to pen.

Shooting Illustrated's Fly Weight (air traveling with snub noses)

Monday, July 9, 2018

Cylindrical solutions and the ageless gap

In my late teens I narrowly avoided an assault while out on a solo hike. Being armed on that quiet sun lit day, changed those circumstances .

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Fifty dollar Colt

I'd never realized how thick the curtain was that separated the cockpit from the passenger area on the Dassault Falcon. When the pilot pulled it back to go use the head, the early morning sun seared my eyes till light was the only thing you could see. Had Jesus suddenly appeared inside the airplane I wouldn't have been surprised. So bright the light of the morning sun. The curtain closed and the darkness once more enveloped us.

Trying to settle back to sleep was no use, the raw sunlight had proved to be the ultimate alarm clock, albeit after being awake since Friday and, it now Sunday morning, it was the most unwelcome of all alarm clocks. Checking my chronograph, it was in the 7:30s. Trying to calculate when we had left Las Vegas I had us somewhere over Colorado, or possibly Kansas.

I looked around the darkened interior of the private jet and could make the outline of my Principal on one couch, his executive assistant on the other. I fished around for my Surefire 6P flashlight in my pocket until I remembered that it now resided in Vegas having fallen out of my pocket somewhere in the last fifteen to twenty hours. No doubt making some bouncer in a strip club happy. It seems ridiculous now, in the age of all things tactical but, in 2000 tactical lights didn't come equipped with pocket clips. I fished around in my bag for a minute and found a small low powered pen light and made my way to the galley to get a cup of coffee, moving quietly as not to awaken he-who-paid-for-my-services.

Coffee in one hand, a bagel between my teeth and an apple in my hand I made my way back to the seat and opened up Milton's "Paradise Lost" and once more attempted in vain to read the Englishman's prose. Eventually closing the book and letting my thoughts drift. A couple of weeks prior to the trip I had been in my local gun shop and had spied a 1991A1 Colt Combat Commander in 45 ACP.

The price tag on it was $550.

Not unreasonable, but still pricey enough for a twenty-five year old in the corporate executive protection game to give pause.

As the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban was in mid-stride the 9mm had struggled in the market, as the 40 S&W began it's rise in earnest and the 1911 and the 45 Automatic cartridge was once more center stage for the personal defense pistol. Regular Colt Commanders had a steel slide with an aluminum frame, something that did not interest me. The Combat Commander was all steel and, that did. They just were not common to find in the used handgun market, at least locally. I had two other 1911s, one was a very reliable 1911A1 complete with those bitty little GI sights. Not really something you want to be relying on given the fact that protection work generally meant, if you were going to get in a gunfight you were going to be in a gunfight around bystanders. My other 1911 was my much beloved Colt Combat Elite, with it's blued slide and stainless frame (something from an earlier gun trend you may or may not have been around for) Somewhere along the line someone told me I needed to safe queen the thing so in the late 1990s I stopped carrying it, opting instead for, what I thought at the time, a perfect marriage of gun and cartridge in the form of a 9mm Kahr. That was often carried in Thunderwear.

So lest you ever think that I have never carried a sub-compact 9mm in the appendix position I did.

In 1998.

The Combat Commander that laid under glass in the local gun shop seemed to beckon me more than most any other handgun before or since. There was nothing fancy about it but, it also wasn't some ugly, utilitarian thing. Just good old American steel, in the old war horse cartridge.

"What are you thinking about?" said the voice of my principal through the darkness, "A 45 automatic that I'm wanting." he himself was a bit of a gun aficionado, only without the budget constraints, as they were. Soon enough a voice crackled over the planes intercom that we were about twenty-minutes out. The shades went up, the chatting soon began and the dark and quiet solitude of flying was over.

Loading bags into the bag of the Range Rover parked on the tarmac I remember feeling toxic, not wanting to be awake and planning on sleeping until Monday if I had anything to say about. A short time later we pulled into the driveway of the Principal's home, I was slightly thrilled that I had managed to not wreck the expensive SUV by falling asleep at the wheel, though I wasn't quite sure how we had got from the airport to the house.

After making sure all was right, correct and positive in so far as my responsibilities went I started making my way towards my Jeep that was parked in what I called "the servant's driveway".

"Plan on being back around 4:30. We'll get an early dinner and call it a night.". Suddenly Paradise Lost was more than just a book and through the thousand yard stare I looked at my Client and said

"Never can true reconcilement grow where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep...”

".....Okay so plan on being back around 5."

I was now approaching 40 hours without significant sleep and wondered if I should just sleep in the Jeep, shower with a garden hose worrying about all of it later. Somehow I managed to home and into bed. When my alarm went off at 3:30 that afternoon I rolled out of bed to discover I still had a shoe on. That shoe had been on since Friday and I could feel the laces piercing into my foot.

Despite the fact that the gravity seemed excessive in the afternoon, I showered, shaved and suited up and made for the door, not before swapping out the Kahr 9mm for the 1911 in the gun safe. If I wasn't going to be buying that Combat Commander anytime soon I could at least still slide a rampant Colt into the Galco shoulder rig.

Fortunately, dinner did prove to be a relatively quiet affair, albeit it wasn't exactly an early evening but, I had long dismissed that idea with this Principal. Eventually the restaurant closed and, the hand was forced. 

I had concluded in the drive back to the residence that if the "Ninjas in the trees", as one of my instructors had once referred to as imaginary threats, actually decided to attack us this night, we were all dead. I was physically and mentally exhausted. 

Finally the black SUV found it's way up the driveway and into the parked position. We often times like to rage against the idea of routine, that it can lead to complacency, which it can least one take their eye off the ball for too long. It can also see you through when you bear the minimum capacity to function. After clearing the house to ensure that anything that went bump in the night was visiting elsewhere, I wondered outside to make sure all lights were lit. 

The grounds secured I returned inside to, hopefully, be dismissed for the evening and then sleep. Wonderful, beautiful, the much denied, sleep.

My Principal was standing in the kitchen, the house quiet and dark. We made brief small talk about the weekend and, cut me loose. As I headed for the door he said, "Oh...I have something for you.", I turned around and saw him fishing through his small black bag that lay on the kitchen counter. Handing me a small fold of bills he said "Thanks for the work, thought this might help with that new .45 you were talking about.". 

Things, such as that do not happen much in the Executive Protection world. Even with the really good clients, which he was. I was truly grateful, saying as much to him.

Tossing my work bag into the Grand Cherokee's passenger seat I sat there for a couple of minutes, before finally pulling the folded bills from the breast pocket of my shirt. 

And then there it was. 

Five, one hundred dollar bills.

Glancing at my watch, I saw that it was going to be a long ten hours before the gunshop opened in the morning. Now how was a guy supposed to sleep with that on his mind.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


Our conversation had started with me asking “So who shot you in the throat?”, a basic conclusion on my part, because on one side of his throat he had a very small round scar, on the other side, a jagged dime sized scar, accompanied by a damaged voice. It had the hall marks of a twenty-two caliber wound and this had peaked my interest. He was an ex-convict and career criminal, who had spent part of that career as a car jacker in the late 1980s and 1990s. He had a rather successful run (according to him) until he went from car-jacker to attempted to car-jacker. As we sat and talked in his now paroled and work released based probation he explained the scenario that led to his down fall.

"I'm 6'2", and I had a big old revolver that took .44s. You look down that barrel and you think, 'take what you want, please don't kill me with that thing. But not this one guy. I stuck the gun in his face yelling for him to get out of the car, and as he is sliding out I hear the little 'pop' sound. I kinda saw his hand coming up, but my mind was all focused on his face and my gun in his face, and I couldn’t really see much else. So I hear this 'pop' and, next thing I know I feel like I'm gonna throw up or something. I can't talk right and I spat blood all over the place. I didn't know what happened. I'm looking around, but I see blood all over me, and I can't breathe. I'm trying to get out the passenger side of the car, but it's not my car and it was like being in a nightmare. I couldn't find the door handle, and all I know is everything is going bad. I'm thinking 'I don't want to go to jail! I don't want to die!' I get the car door open and fall out on the ground and stumble all over. I'm spitting blood. I'm scared out of my mind. I can't see anything. Turns out, he shot me with this little .22 derringer. This told me two things: 1) That dude had that planned out what he would do. He had this little nothing gun and was ready to go if he had to. 2) I had this big gun and didn't think I had to do anything other than stick in someone's face. I was wrong about that..

According to neuroscience, we don’t “feel” pain. At least not in the way we tend to think. From an elementary perspective we think of pain as being at the location of where the damage has occurred. In other words, you smack your thumb with a hammer, then the pain “happens” in your thumb. Yet, that is not what occurs. The injurys location is obviously, for our example here, to the thumb that was struck by the hammer. The pain, however, happens in your head.
All pain is based on tissue damage. That damage report is sent off to your brain by specific nerves, known as nociceptors, that are tasked with detecting tissue damage. Once the nociceptors delivers the message to the brain, the brain now has to decide what it going to do about the pain.
There is a caveat to this process.
When contact between the hammer and thumb is made, the arm jerks the finger away from the immediate area. The body’s own stop gap as it were. Naturally we would suppose that this action occurs in the brain, yet it does not. Instead the reaction comes from a muscle arc in the spinal cord. This is why your hand jerks back from touching a hot surface. If you ever wondered why your brain can react quicker to an injury as opposed to being surprised visually or from an auditory perspective, the simple truth is in the immediacy of an injury the brain is simply not involved. There is no mental processing.
In the Defensive Firearm culture we have a variety of thoughts, opinions, and, experience levels. We also tend to struggle with what I tend to refer as O&D, or Obsessives and Dismissive’s.  Take for instance the obsessions with bullet penetration, velocity, magazine capacity, etc. There is a large contingent of the shooting community that places an almost religious fervor on the alter of ballistic gel, with Youtube raising up an entire generation of charismatic ballistic bible thumpers or heretics, depending upon your personal beliefs.  The hallmark, of course for all backyard ballistic preachers is the almighty number 12. Because, according to the F.B.I. "a handgun bullet must consistently penetrate a minimum of 12 inches of tissue in order to reliably penetrate vital organs within the human target regardless of the angle of impact or intervening obstacles such as arms, clothing, glass, etc." With 18 inches being seen as a somewhat often unattainable holy grail, as it were. At least for the auto pistol shooter.
Then of course there are the Dismissives. Where velocity is party to the obsessives, momentum is to the Dismissives. Few, if any, of this modern age seem to place any value in the aspect of a heavy bullet having to suddenly come to a halt, and what this does to the intended target. Richard Mann, in his 2016 Shooting Illustrated article, Bullet Penetration and Expansion surmised it like this, "You cannot have deep penetration and wide expansion, because defensive-handgun cartridges must divide their energy between the two..." Regardless of any personal thoughts, opinions, and beliefs, his quote is precise and accurate.
My personal beliefs on the matter is the party of wide expansion over penetration (in case you wondered which way you should exercise your prejudices towards me).

Yet, in my opinion, one largely overlooked category amongst the Defensive Firearm culture is pain.
Specifically pain that is inflicted on the Bad-Guy-in-Question when shot by the armed citizen in a defensive circumstance. We talk at length about "shooting to eliminate the threat," whether that means that the wounds themselves lead to a fatal injury, or if the realization that the assault initiated by the B-G-I-Q is now lost, seems to be ethereal in discussion. Or at least prohibited as a topic in polite company. 

Though I suspect that a large reason pain is ignored from the discussion of fight stoppage largely has to do with a lack of experience on part of the average defensive shooter. Paper and people of course not being equals, with paper being utilized as a measurement tool regarding accuracy potentials without providing any inclination towards perceived slights, let alone felt pain.

We simply cannot dismiss pain nor the problems it creates for an attacker. Pain affects the mind’s ability to function in a clear and efficient manner. Pain causes fight, flight, or freeze to be re-assessed. Pain means a decision has to be either re-affirmed or abandoned. All of this, while there is the separate dilemma of what to do about the sudden difficulty in breathing, the increasing loss of motor function from one (or more) appendages, the sense of confusion, and the already present tunnel vision that is seemingly increasing. The deer, the elk, the bear, the man, they all feel pain. But the man understands the pain and the causation of it. There is also a severe effect on the human attacker's psychology of “I’ve been shot.” Compound this with the dilemma of the attacker now has to "flee" in order to avoid suffering any further damage.
We should never underestimate an attacker. Ever. A fight for your life is that. A-fight-for-your-life. 

However, it should be that. 

A fight. 

Your attacker should have no misgivings once the dance has started. His life is in just as much jeopardy as yours and, if applied with enough intent from you, his being more so.There are no damage proof super-villains in the world. The PCP laden attacker that soaks up cylinder after cylinder of 357 Magnum is the stuff myths are made of.
Unfortunately, statistics and theories have come to over-ride the discussions to the point of becoming gospel instead of what happens in the reality. Disregarding the physical and mental impact of how one or, if properly applied, multiple gunshot wounds affect the outcome of a gunfight is a mistake. There is only one guarantee in a gunfight and, that is violence of action will occur, but continual application of a proper mind set, training and practice will do much to win the day.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Mexican Confessions

We were waiting for the kidnappers to call.

They called everyday at 3pm, on the dot and it was day four into it for me. The old man was a vaquero, the real deal, who owned several rancheros down in Mexico. Most of them small plots of land, ten to fifty acres with one or two going up to a couple of hundred. For all intents and purposes, a middle class man leading a middle class life. I hated that we had met under such bad circumstances.

His son had been kidnapped by Mexican gang bangers not exactly the cartel types but, no less violent, no less dangerous. They had kidnapped him while he was visiting family for the Christmas holiday but, instead of his son coming home from the trip he received a ransom note demanding of $200,000. He had paid them $5,000 here, ten thousand there but, it was nowhere what they had wanted. Finally, a cousin of the old man had reached out to me and there I sat waiting for the phone to ring.

Negotiations had now started in earnest and, it was going better than I had hoped as they had started to move down in price. Me being at $25,000. The kidnappers, now being at $125,000. Which was far better than when we had started with them offering $10,000 for each ear lobe returned and me telling them to that I don't pay for parts or damaged goods, followed by hanging up the phone on them.

It was cold outside. The five below kind of cold. So, we sat in the hotel room waiting. 

Growing up as a Midwest kid who loved all things western I relished in any tales of "old Mexico". Using the cousin as a translator I inquired about the old man's life. "Ask him if he ever carried a pistola?" ,without missing a beat the old Vaquero said "Si, pistola" and patted his leg. I grinned and imagined him either carrying an old Peacemaker or, a Colt 1911 in .38 Super. He continued with, now using the cousin and me being able to pick up with what Mexican I knew, that he had in fact carried a Colt Super 38, which is how it was originally termed.

In the old days of Mexico, when the honest man could be armed, the 45 ACP was a "military" cartridge and forbidden from civilian ownership, so South of the border the .38 Super flourished. Then in broken English he said "everyone carried pistola" again patting his leg "Vaqueros carry pistolas into the mountains, to fiestas. Everyone carry pistola back then. No trouble. Now, no pistolas and much trouble.".

If you could surmise gun control into a Spanish styled haiku, the old vaquero just had.

Then he added "Federales say NO pistolas! and everyone..." and, he indicated through pantomime, that people stuck the guns in the waistbands and covered them with their shirts. "Now some pistolas. No holsters", again patting his leg. Hence the origin of the term "Mexican Carry".

When it first came into our lexicon, the term Mexican Carry, was somewhat specified as being carried in front of the waistband, absent of any holster, in the now very trendy "appendix carry" position. As time went on, Mexican Carry became somewhat fluid with a pistol tucked in the waistband, regardless of where on the body. Most people I knew, when they Mexican Carried, did so by slipping the gun in the back of their pants or, on their strong side, on the hip. 

One might reason, with some level of justification, why someone here in the golden age of holsters would even consider it? Especially when so many an "expert" has labeled it as damn dangerous. To the point that you will be met with an almost certain expectation of the gun failing either out of the waistband, down your pant leg, and onto the floor. Others will tell you that, it is an almost assured pathway to a negligent discharge. In truth, after a quarter of a century of experience I can tell you that it's not dangerous nor, is the chance of a negligent discharge any more possible than with any holster. 

Your pants have to fit right.

Your pants have to fit right because, simply enough they are the holster. Put your gun in a holster that fits wrong or loose and your gun is going to fall out. The waist band has to fit you somewhere between having a little bit of a gap and snug. From here a good belt acts as the tension device, allowing you to adjust as needed.

The small of your back is the worst place.

In the 1980s, this was where every rogue cop/action hero carried is 9mm Beretta. Standing up, they'd take the gun off the table and tuck into the back of the pants. All cool and roguish. The reality is, no worst position exists, than for the gun to be carried Mexican than when it's carried in the Five, Six , or Seven O'clock position. With even the Four and Eight O'clock positions being somewhat questionable, but largely based on body build. Here your mileage with simply vary, as the saying goes. 

The reason the small of the back doesn't work is that there is simply too much flex in the body here, too much give on a re-occurring basis with clothing. In other words, when you sit down pants tend to gape at the small of the back when sitting, thus causing the gun to slip down into the pants, swallowing the grip as well. Body size doesn't matter here, and the area should be avoided. 

Strong Side is the Best

Whether you're right handed or left handed the handgun is going to move the absolute least here. Mainly because the gun rides parallel to the body, it shifts as the body shifts. This is because the hip dictates the movement. It'd be wrong to tell you that the gun doesn't move or shift slightly out of position when you Mexican Carry on the strong side. It just happens in the opposite of what you expect. When you sit down, the barrel pivots forward and the grip moves rearward. This happens when you carry any handgun in any In-the-Waistband holster. The difference between Mexican Carry and IWB Holster carry is that in Mexican Carry the gun doesn't always return to position and, you have to rotate the butt of the weapon.  Understand, we are not talking about a large amount of movement, but rather fractions of an inch. Something you've most likely had to do even when wearing a holster. The reality is that, anything on the hip, whether it's a pistol, a phone, or anything worn on the belt moves at some point. Put it back where you want it and go on about it.


Some years back, I was out to dinner with some friends at a pizza place at the mall. My frequent carry piece was often an all steel Karh E9 (not a K9 but their early E9 model) in 9mm. After dinner was over we all headed out into the mall, in attendance that evening was a lovely red headed girl whom I had a rather severe crush on. Of course there was another guy there who also seemed to be interested in her. Suddenly for some inexplicable reason, he and I decided to race down the UP escalator. He had the advantage of being on the escalator first, hence making it impossible to pass him. Plan B game into my mind quickly enough and, felt that it was in my best interest to do what any Ninja....in a mall would do. I put my hands on the side when we were ten feet from the bottom and vaulted myself over the side of the escalator.

Now UP escalators have a funny tenancy to actually go UP. Including their hand rails. So while my brain had made the calculation for a ten foot landing, I was now presented with a fifteen foot drop as my hands were also carried up. My Altama Desert boots landed hard on the mall floor, but since a body in motion tends to stay in motion I quickly rolled landing hard on the 9mm in question. I popped back up, only to roll again and, again land on the pistol. So it would go, three more times, until finally I managed to stay upright on my feet. The pistol still in place.

When I returned to my loft later that night, I lowered my Levis to find a bruise on my hip in the same shape of the Kahr.

It did all work out in the end. The pretty red head married me a few years later. 

Not all guns are created equal

The idea most fail to realize is that the gun actually ends up with the trigger covered twice. Once by the pants, once by the belt. So the idea that you are going to somehow accidentally trip the trigger, is no more or less possible than if you were wearing a holster. It all depends on how you draw the gun. The pants, the shorts, the holster bear no significance in this. Where your finger is during the draw does.

Not all guns are capable of being Mexican carried. In my experience it has more to do with frame size and barrel length than anything else. For instance, over the years I have owned very small framed handguns like the wonderfully built North American Arms Mini Mag revolver and a few Beretta Bobcat and Tomcats. They are great miniature handguns, however they are not well suited for holster less in the waist band carry, simply because they are too small. 

The Mexican Carry method, in order to work well, relies on the gun's ability to be wedged in between the belt/pant and body. The grip had to be just long enough to hang over the belt. The barrel long enough to get below the belt line.  Consequently, get the barrel too long on the handgun, and it will want to push out when seated. In my years of carrying this way, the two guns I have carried the most have been either a 1911 or a J Frame Smith & Wesson 38 Special. The world being what it is, and my job having taken me all over there have been lots of pistols tucked into a pair of Levis sans holsters that worked well. A Tokarev in one country, a SiG P225 in another. I had a brief dalliance with a Makarov that I honestly miss, but is lost elsewhere to time now. A Ruger SP101 in 357 Magnum was sold to a friend. All Mexican Carried. All done so without incident.

That said, the idea of carrying a Glock sans, holster would be well advised to be avoided,

What matter’s most 

If you missed the part where I said your pants have to fit right, let me reiterate that here and a belt matters most. The belt acts as the retention device that allows you to adjust tension as you so desire to pull the gun in snug. If the pants are to loose in the waist, sagging off your hips and you decide to forgo a belt then one of two things is going to happen. The pistol is going to fall out when you sit down, or it’s going to slide down your pant leg as your stand up. I can not stress this part enough. Ill fitted pants are no different than an ill fitting holster and, it going to fail. After that, were your finger is when you draw or, re-holster is paramount. There is one caveat to this. Tucking the gun back in your jeans is a two handed method. You want to use your weak hand to pull the waistband out so you can slip the pistol in. The dumbest thing you can do in the “re-holstering” process in Mexican Carry is wiggling the gun in, because at some point you have to put the muzzle against your hip to open up the waist band. There’s simply no room for error here.


Finally, most of us who Mexican carry do so because there was a time when there wasn’t the vast array of ultra-concealable In-the-Waistband holsters available. Back in my corporate executive protection days most everyone I worked with did it this way. Bill, who had been in a few gun fights as a metropolitan cop routinely carried his Smith & Wesson Model 624, 44 Special in this manner. As for me the go-to holster for my 1911s is an old Desert Special from Dillon, the Progressive Reloader manufacturer, it’s a great IWB holster with God knows how many miles on it, as I have worn it more than any other. It also isn’t close to how concealable some holsters are now, and Mexican Carry is flat, fast, and very concealable. So the truth is, old habits die hard. The reality is there are fewer and fewer reasons to carry in this method as time goes on. While I think, personally, that we live in the Silver age of gun design, with all of the “meh” plastic guns being flashed around on social media, I do think we live in the Golden age of both holsters and ammunition and, you would be at a disadvantage to not embrace buying any number of quality holsters. That said, if you see an old timer who is Mexican Carrying a pistol you might want to forgo the lecture on his “careless” ways, because if it were in fact that, he wouldn’t have ever become an old timer.

As for the old vaquero's son who had been kidnapped? Well maybe one of these days I'll get around to writing that book.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Like the Last Time

If you have not heard of Sunday At Noon, now you no longer have to live in the dark.

Make America Rock again

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Leupold LTO Thermal Imager

Over the last few months I've been gear testing the Leupold LTO thermal imager and, was fortunate to be my thoughts out there for everyone via Shooting Illustrated.

Shooting Illustrated: Using the Leupold LTO tracker for personal defense

And, if you are curious as whether or not I bought one, yes I did.

Fly Weight

A few years back I decided to scale back my armament when I traveled by Air on "low risk" jobs by leaving my 1911 at home and, p...