The shooting enthusiasm blog Range365published a post recently wherein the author, David Maccar observed:
“With proper training, this kind of handgun is perfectly safe, but there’s no way to train for holster obstructions, short of tactile or visual inspection of the holster before inserting the gun each time—which is hardly practical.”
This is an objectively false and dangerous statement. Not only is visual inspection of your holster before inserting the gun practical, it is a responsible imperative. To suggest otherwise in a gun publication is, at best, grossly ill advised and, at worst, criminally negligent.
Visually inspecting the holster and looking the handgun all the way into the holster—while holstering in a reluctant fashion—is compulsory firearm safety. It’s what safe gun handlers do. Those who do not habitually execute this procedure are unsafe; a danger to themselves and others. As such, they should train in proper fashion to make proper reholstering habitual before strapping on a loaded firearm ever again.
Given the gravity of this mistake, I’m personally appalled at Range365 for letting such an obviously irresponsible statement escape their editing process.
It is relevant to point out that the post in question is one dealing with a new-ish accessory for Glock pistols, called the Glock Striker Control Device (SCD) from the Tau Development Group, commonly called The Gadget. Its effective purpose—one clearly supported by the blog post in question—is to compel Glock owners to dispense with compulsory, habitual safety and instead entrust safety (and their firearm’s reliability) to an add-on accessory.
A firearm is neither safe nor unsafe. Only a person is safe or unsafe. A safe individual is one who adheres to the 4 rules of gun safety without compromise and who never, ever cedes their responsibility to a mechanism or gadget. As this Gadget trains gun carriers to dispense with habitual safe practices, it is—by definition—a device designed to encourage firearms negligence. Responsible individuals must not entertain ideas of utilizing this or any other similarly destructive device.
This ridiculous, dangerous device aside, those who operate Range365 should reconsider their policies and advice. Everyone who touches firearms should adhere to the 4 rules of gun safety and otherwise exercise safe practices and habits with firearms…instead of becoming lazy and complacent; secure in the delusion that a gadget will take up their negligent slack.
Handling firearms comes with a mandate: habitual, uncompromising firearm safety. Following this mandate keeps us and those around us safe. The rules of gun safety are vital not just for our own safety, but for the fact that often when we’re handling guns we’re surrounded by other people.
Despite this mandate, I see unsafe gun handling every time I go to the range. Not sometimes, not most of the time, but every time I’m at a gun range.
Safe shooters unconsciously adhere to the four rules of gun safety. These rules are perfect and need no addition to ensure that our actions cause no harm to ourselves or others. What they do not account for, however, is the fact that some of the people who handle guns are incompetent, unsafe, or otherwise fail in their adherence to these important four rules. Therefore, responsibility requires that we follow yet another rule. A fifth rule.
The 5th Rule of Gun Safety:
“Pay attention to where other peoples’ muzzles are pointing.”
This “rule” is handwritten on the whiteboard at the outdoor practical range I visit once or twice every week. There are several skills classes taught each week at this range and the safety briefing given to the students in each of these classes includes a reference to this rule. And with good reason.
I understand that this extra rule of gun safety was proposed candidly one day by Brian, one of the instructors there at Proactive Defense. Makes perfect sense. With a number of shooters training on the line in one of the bays—students in a class or just people out for a day’s training and with all of the involved manipulation—there are a lot of gun muzzles for a range officer or an instructor to monitor. There are too many, in fact, from moment to moment. Therefore, he recognized, if we’re going to be safe we all have to keep track of where nearby muzzles are pointed.
Brian’s logical epiphany is not something he coined or otherwise imagined first. Situational awareness is common among responsible people, especially at the gun range. But like the other four rules of gun safety, this one is not something the average citizen thinks about and it cannot simply be learned. Gun-safety rules can be learned in 5 minutes, but this learning is irrelevant until after months of continual forging of unconscious habit. Like the other four rules of firearm safety, this one has to be drilled into the student and rehearsed time and time again until it becomes a habitual action one performs moment to moment, with all manner of manipulations, and under all sorts of circumstances without ever thinking about it. Finally, one becomes almost incapable of unsafe gun manipulation and is, finally, safe with guns. But before this can happen, the idea of a rule must be codified. That codification is precisely what Brian and my friends at Proactive Defense have accomplished, and then train into their students.
So, if you are a gun owner, here is your mandate—the fifth rule you must internalize and forge into an unconscious habit: pay attention to where the peoples’ muzzles are pointing. Despite the continual efforts of organizations and individuals, some of the people around you who are manipulating and firing guns have no grasp of the four rules of gun safety. Your life is at risk and only your vigilance can preserve it.
Be responsible. Be vigilant. Pay attention to where other peoples’ muzzles are pointing. When you observe someone violate one of the vital rules of gun safety, don’t hesitate but offer a kind-but-firm admonishment—or ask a range officer to be your proxy. Impress upon your fellow gun enthusiasts the imperative of gun safety. Live to train another day and help others to do the same.
You carry concealed: pistol, holster, mag pouch, extra mags, weapon light. You carry every day without fail and train so that you can hit what you’re aiming at should the situation require it.
I maintain that this is not enough.
Your EDC rig is a complement of components that you HAVE to know how to run and manipulate given any circumstance and under all sorts of conditions. Ideally this means:
Knowing without a doubt—without thinking—what condition your weapon is in at every given moment should you have to draw and engage (Should never vary. Ever.)
Ability for immediate draw from concealment and first shot(s) on vital target in less than 2 seconds (less than 1 is better)
Ability to exchange magazines (reload) and fire accurately again in under 2 seconds
Doing all of this after your strong (or weak) arm has been incapacitated
Ability to manage your weapon light and place rounds on vital target under duress in darkness while maintaining tactical advantage
Ability to immediately manage any malfunction and get back into the fight in under 2 seconds: one-handed or two handed
Ability to hit small targets (eyes & nose) at 25 yards quickly (less than 2 seconds is best)
Ability to do all of this while running oblique towards or away from your target, while being shot at, while seeking or from behind cover
Knowing what your holster feels like when there is the slightest obstruction while re-holstering
The times referenced here are optimal. They’re what you should work toward. Regardless of the strict times, If you cannot do these things like a boss, you need more training from qualified instructors and heaps and gobs of practice. Continually.
Or what was it you thought you were doing, carrying a gun?
Harsh? Not near as harsh as what’ll happen if you’re ever required to depend on these skills you in no way possess.
If you’re in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, hit me up and I’ll try and direct you toward proper resources to set you on the right path. Happy to help!
If you carry a concealed handgun, it means that you’re committing yourself to a few logical conclusions. In the event of a life-threatening event, carrying means you’re committed to:
drawing a live weapon from concealment in the heat and chaos of a terrifying moment,
doing so safely and competently, despite your adrenaline-compromised state of mind and physical mechanics, so as not to injure yourself or those nearby,
bringing the weapon to bear while avoiding physical or projectile attack upon yourself,
making the life-and-death decision to fire or not fire as the situation develops, moment to moment,
putting rounds accurately on your target, should you deliberately choose to fire, avoiding endangering innocents in the vicinity,
being able to properly decide when and if the threat has been stopped, and if there are other threats besides the initial one,
and, when the danger has passed, re-holstering your live weapon safely.
Now, how many times/week do you train to do those things, at least the mechanical things? How many times per day do you draw your live, chambered weapon from concealment with speed and deliberate intent and bring it to bear on a target, and then re-holster back into your concealed holster?
What about doing all this with the t-shirt that is longer than others you wear; the shirt that’s a bit more clingy than your others; with the jacket you wear zipped in cool weather; with the heavy coat you have on you during winter; with the gloves you wear while outdoors? How many times do you train to speedily and competently draw your live, ready-to-fire weapon from concealment under these garments…and safely re-holster? How many hundreds of times each month? Because hundreds of times each month is what is required for gaining any semblance of competence.
I wonder if most concealed carriers think about these things. Any of them.
In my experience most concealed carriers imagine that when they feel the need to defend themselves, some nonspecific things will “happen” wherein their weapon will move, safely and surely, from concealment into the perfectly formed grip of their outstretched hands…and, after some quick and easy decision, the threat “will be neutralized.”
I could be wrong. Perhaps I’m prejudiced by the fact that of the people I know who carry concealed, very few of them spend any time at the range training to do or handle or examine any of the things listed above. But they should because unless you have practiced unconsciously correct mechanics and habits, when you try and bring a loaded weapon into play from concealment while under duress—or while trying to perform quickly in a practical training class—you’re likely going to mess up in one or several ways. You might possibly even shoot yourself or someone else due to your negligence in training and resultant incompetence.
I believe this is what will likely happen because gun owners tend to shoot themselves when they “try something;” something they should try time and time again, every week of every month of every year of their lives. But they don’t, so they shoot themselves in the groin or the hip or the leg.
Instead of doing what is responsibly required of someone who carries a deadly weapon, I believe most concealed carriers merely practice drawing and re-holstering at home (when trying out a new holster), with an unloaded weapon, and I believe only a relative few of them visit a gun range to practice more than a couple times a year. And when they do they’re standing statically in a bay, slowly firing ball ammo rounds at a static target 7 yards away. This, anyway, is what my acquaintance, observation, and conversations with other shooters proves to me.
My tone here may seem a bit harsh, but, to take from a political aphorism, concealed carry ain’t beanbag. It’s deadly serious stuff that directly impacts people’s lives and fortunes in all sorts of ways. I therefore believe that those who aren’t prepared to meet their responsibilities with respect to carrying a concealed weapon should stay out of it.
Untrained and incompetent firearms owners seem to shoot themselves or others quite often. I say quite often because that sort of thing should never happen, given how easy it is to be safe with a firearm. Easy, yes, but safety and competence each require work. Lots of work and on a regular basis. It’s easy, but so many don’t seem to bother with it; the required training to forge competence and safe habits, I mean.
A Few Tips
The way to not shoot yourself while drawing your handgun is to do so with your index (trigger) finger ramrod straight along first the holster, then the frame of the handgun. You then keep your finger ramrod straight along the side of the frame until your sights are on your target. You need to do this thousands of times, perfectly, so as to make it automatic. You need to do this so many times that you become unconsciously incapable of putting your finger anywhere else.
If you do not do this thousands of times, you will fail when your conscious mind is occupied by some immediate threat and your unconscious mind is screaming, “Find the trigger! Find the trigger! Shoooooot!” In that case, you’re likely to shoot yourself or the ground while drawing.
The way to not shoot yourself while re-holstering is to
Look your weapon back into the holster. The whole way.
Know the habits of your outer garments as they hang and behave while you’re holding them out of the way while re-holstering. Know this from your thousands of repetitions in training. Know this about all of the kinds of outer garments you wear; not just clothing types, but each of the specific individual shirts, jackets, coats, etc.
Know the habits of your pants and undershirt, if you wear one. Know, from thousands of repetitions in training, how they may try and interfere with the opening of your holster; especially an IWB holster.
Re-holster slowly and surely, and know (from thousands of repetitions in training) what it feels like when some unseen piece of fabric is in the way.
Keep your index finger ramrod straight along the frame of the weapon the entire time, and keep your thumb on the back of the slide, so that it won’t be pushed out of battery by the holster or anything else.
Replace your garments to their normal hang/position and know the feel (from thousands of repetitions in training) of something being a bit out of place.
Do all of these things perfectly for thousands of repetitions in training, all while obeying the 4 rules of firearm safety out of habit (developed through consistent, ongoing training around other people), and you will never shoot yourself. Fail to do things this way and you will eventually shoot yourself. I’d almost bet my mortgage on that.
Last year, firearms trainer Larry Vickers announced that he was banning AIWB (appendix-inside-the-waisband) carry from his classes. Why? Because most people don’t train enough and don’t train correctly. Given the fact that his classes are open to shooters of various skill levels, in his place I would likely do the same. Because unsafe people are unsafe.
In his announcement, Larry observed…
“I know of two different students in two different classes taught by two different instructors who have shot themselves reholstering – I don’t want my name added to that list.”
Indeed. And negligently shooting oneself in the groin area is perhaps more traumatic than shooting oneself in the hip or outer leg. However, what’s at issue here has nothing to do with carry position. Rather, as always, the only relevant issue is safety and competence. Unsafe people are unsafe and incompetent people are incompetent. You may know them by their repeated lack of training and practice.
How To Not Shoot Yourself: Train
The thing that separates safe and competent shooters from unsafe and incompetent shooters is ongoing, contextually appropriate training. By this, I mean training that involves (after sufficient, requisite safety and mechanics training) drills that require drawing a live weapon from concealment while moving off the X and engaging targets effectively…while around other people…and then safely re-holstering the live weapon. Then doing it all over again and again and again. Even better if drills involve moving to and/or using cover, and better still if they involve speed reloads from concealment (you do carry a spare mag, don’t you?).
In the absence of this training, a person lacks competence at every step, which is highly dangerous given that it all involves manipulating a deadly weapon while doing complex things. Drawing a live handgun from an inside-the-waistband holster is not in and of itself dangerous at all. But the fumbling, unsure hands of one whose conscious attention is occupied by an immediate threat or training objective, without benefit of automatic muscle memory and unconscious habits, turn that multi-step operation into a crap shoot (so to speak), fraught with deadly danger.
An Anecdote: My Training
I draw and re-holster my loaded and ready-to-fire pistol at least 480 times every month. At least 320 of those reps are done in live-fire training on the range, where I draw from my AIWB holster and engage one or more targets, then re-holster the still-loaded pistol (Note: it’s a bad idea to holster an empty firearm. If you deliberately or accidentally make a habit out of doing that, it may one day get you killed. Besides, since you MUST treat every firearm as though it is loaded, make damn sure it is always loaded. Any other habit sows the seeds of failure.).
Here’s an example (below) of a concealed-carry competence drill:
Every morning after arming myself, I perform at least two draws of my loaded, ready-to-fire weapon from concealment. Additionally, I perform at least two reps of drawing my replacement magazine. I do this so that, outside of any range training I’ve done, I have a practiced understanding of how these clothes are best manipulated in drawing from concealment, today. I then do the same thing at the end of the day when taking off my weapon. This regimen isn’t enough by itself, but it’s a daily reinforcement of what I’ve forged on the range. It’s like brushing teeth; you just do it.
Now, I mention these facts to present readers with an example of where competence comes from. It comes from training; lots of training on a regular basis. And in the absence of lots of training on a regular basis, the result in every case is an unsafe and incompetent individual. There are and never have been any exceptions to this fact.
So don’t shoot yourself. Train right, train often, and pay particular attention to the draw and re-holster operations. Pay attention to these things a few hundred times a month. Or else.
Among quality firearms there is no such thing as an unsafe gun. A well-made firearm is just a tool. On the other hand, a person can be safe or unsafe, dangerous or harmless, responsible or negligent. These are human qualities. With regard to firearms, safety is governed by human behavior and not gadget settings. Yet, ridiculously, some people maintain that the existence or absence of a mechanical switch defines or governs the differences between these human qualities. These people may be sincere or merely demagogues, but the results of their distortions are equally destructive.
The sincere ones are motivated by their ignorance. The demagogues are motivated by any number of factors, including a desire to sell gadgets, a desire to harm the reputation of a particular firearms manufacturer, or even a desire to see all firearms banned. Perhaps most common, though, is the irresponsible, malevolent, and otherwise pathetic desire to hold others responsible for one’s own irrational fears.
Those who believe and evangelize the notion that safety is a mechanical setting are not seeking safety. They’re seeking absolution. They want to be absolved of their apprehensions and, just as important, they want to be absolved of responsibility. Worse, they want to legitimize their fictional and irresponsible idiom by endearing themselves to others who want the same things.
The kind of person who believes a gadget will make an unsafe person safe is also the kind of person who, when their negligence results in damage or harm, will blame anything or anyone other than themselves.
As to apprehension when handing a firearm, it is necessary, healthy; it means that you care. That apprehension reminds you to be responsible when loading, unloading, drawing, holstering, or otherwise manipulating a firearm. Without healthy, warranted apprehension, a person becomes careless. Gadgets and mechanisms that are meant to mitigate apprehension, by definition, cultivate carelessness and irresponsibility.
So just like the hoplophobes who believe their own irrational fears should be everyone’s concern and then seek to destroy civil rights and ban firearms, these gadgetophiles work to make themselves and others feel safer instead of be safer. In doing so, they dismiss and compromise actual safety in favor of the illusion of safety. Moreover, they deliberately cultivate irresponsibility and carelessness in themselves and encourage these failings in others.
Absolved of apprehension and responsibility, people tend toward laziness and complacency. With respect to firearms, that laziness and complacency is negligence. After having purchased or relied upon a gadget or switch instead of responsibility and when their negligence leads to mishap, injury, or death, they have a scapegoat. Worse, in such cases, other weak-minded people seem all too willing to accept their pathetic and impossible excuses:
People hear and accept the lie:
Something failed! The damn thing just went off!
instead of the fact:
I failed to keep my finger off the trigger as I drew my pistol from the holster.
People hear and accept the lie:
Glocks are unsafe for law enforcement use!
instead of the fact:
Glocks are no more or less safe than any other quality firearm. The record clearly shows that law enforcement has a culture of gun-handling complacency and negligence.
People hear and accept the lie:
This gadget will make your gun safer; will keep you from shooting yourself or someone else.
instead of the fact:
Gun safety is a human habit/behavior, not a mechanical setting. No gadget or switch can make an unsafe person safe.
The fact that a gun cannot be negligent or unsafe becomes irrelevant in the face of hoplophobic absolution. As a result, people get rewarded for negligence or, at the very least, escape the proper consequences for it.
Rewarding negligence begets negligence.
Firearm safety cannot be ensured by a switch and it cannot be learned. It must be forged into habit by proper, rigorous, and ongoing training until one is habitually incapable of unsafe gun handling. Anyone who says different is selling something and is encouraging you toward negligence. Don’t buy it.
Like many Americans today, I work with a number of gun bigots. They have an irrational fear of firearms and in their willful ignorance they misapply negative personality traits and motivations upon gun owners. Given where I work, this fact is highly ironical to me, since our company is in the business of recreational safety education, including hunter education and firearms safety education.
Due to my pro 2nd Amendment stance, sadly, I am regarded by some of my coworkers as a gun-crazed sociopath who is looking for any excuse to unload my weapon into some innocent citizen who offers me some slight insult. The idea that a person can make a distinction between the evil of attacking innocent people and the moral absolute of defending one’s life is entirely lost on gun bigots.
I became concerned this week when after I apologized to one of my colleagues for my visible frustration and agitation during a work-matter misunderstanding, he remarked, “Ah, no worries. It’s all good, unless you have your gun on you.”
– full stop –
He was not kidding. I did not address the issue immediately, but lost sleep that night over my concerns that he would think even for a moment that I could switch from good to evil on a whim. Just because of the presence of a gun.
So the next day I invited him to a private chat and confirmed that while he meant it as something of a flippant, mildly humorous remark, he did mean what he said. I expressed my concerns that he’d think such evil of me. I acknowledged what he knew—that I have trained for 25 years in several disciplines that involve the application of violence—but all exclusively in the context of defense.
He nodded and remarked that he understood and believed that.
I explained that like anyone, I’m susceptible to agitation or even anger, but these things are in no way some precursor to obtuse violence. I explained that even in the event that an argument gets heated and someone gets a bit physical with me, I make a distinction between addressing strong disagreement involving argument and/or shoving, and defending my life. In the unfortunate event that someone I know lost control to the point of getting physical with me, emotionally driven fisticuffs is not a threat to my life or family. Rather, it’s a sad event to resolve and move past (note that if it sounds here as though I fight with people on occasion, that is a mistake. I’ve never been in a physical altercation as an adult and hope I never will be).
He nodded and remarked that he agreed and believed that of me.
I reassured him that my years of defensive study, ongoing training, the weekly shooting regimen I maintain, and competitive shooting endeavors are all a part of what I understand to be my responsibility as a man and a citizen, and not fuel for some desire for violence. I explained that my ongoing training has forged in me and reinforces a very strong sense of moral responsibility to recognize the distinction between evil acts and righteous defense.
He nodded and remarked that he agreed and believed that of me.
I explained that the heavy responsibility that comes with carrying concealed and even being a firearms owner in general requires I understand these distinctions and be very conscious of my actions and intent in every consequential situation. As such, I’m continually reflecting on the effect my actions have on those around me, on my family, and my friends, as well as how my actions reflect on the responsible gun owners around the country. As such, I couldn’t consider engaging in any evil or obtuse response to some mild or heated disagreement with someone.
He nodded and remarked that he understood and believed that. And then he said that, even so, he would never be comfortable knowing someone near him was armed with a gun. Even if it were me. He explained that he believed that despite all I had shared with him, any disagreement or bout of anger involving someone who had a gun meant that lives were in danger.
I was at a complete loss. I couldn’t fathom how to make a dent in his bigotry.
The summation of our discussion is that he says he believes that I’m a good and conscientious person, but that if I am angry and I happen to have a gun at my disposal he fears that I will shoot people.
Bigotry can’t be fixed with logic and facts. To a gun bigot, a gun means impending violence and death, while logic and facts mean nothing at all.