Here is some advice on creating a get-home bag for your vehicle. Note that a get-home bag IS NOT A 3-DAY ASSAULT PACK. We’re talking about an efficient, light, bag of essentials and good-to-haves that can help you get home.
This is my friend John. He’s at the range almost every week working on practical manipulations, technical fundamentals, and marksmanship. Last week, though it was warm, he brought a variety of jackets, coats, and a sweatshirt to practice deploying his carry pistol from under different types and layers of winter clothing. Unlike most, John is a responsible man. God bless John and those few like him.
Following any shooting conspicuously covered by the media there are a few predictable responses in the public discourse. All of these responses are perfectly natural and describe the human experience in its many variations. Among these responses, patterns emerge and in recent years some of these patterns have become not just firmly established, but have taken on the characteristic of a shibboleth. A leftist shibboleth.
This virtue-signaling, leftist shibboleth is, “We need new laws.” Leftists recite this demand every time they encounter a behavior that they find distasteful or, as with free speech or a mass murder, an act that threatens their feelings of safety. These new laws, they promise, won’t be like the ones before them. Leftists proclaim and believe that these new laws will have some extraordinary power to do what no law or combination of laws before them has been able to do: prevent the legal transgression of criminal violence. New laws, you see, are magical.
The reason leftists always want to use new law as the means to address choices that they find distasteful and choices that result in criminality is because they do not understand the purpose or function of law. Leftists ever imagine that laws are meant to control people; to control behavior and compel compliance. Control has never been the function of law and law always fails in this misdirected purpose, which easily explains why leftists are forever unsatisfied by how their laws fail to impact crime. Yet in the face of repeated failures they continually sell the idea of the Magical Law that will once and for all correct the problem. Why, then, does the magic never work?
As John Adams rightly observed in his letter of October 11, 1798 to the Massachusetts militia…
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Those paying attention today will note how modern leftist society is tearing at the edges of this very inadequacy that Adams warned us about. The spirit of Adams’ sentiment here touches on the proper function and purpose of just law. Laws are boundaries. The purpose of law is twofold: 1) to describe prohibited behaviors which would otherwise infringe on citizens’ individual liberty and property (e.g. don’t steal, don’t murder), and 2) to describe rules of order so that many people can operate and interact safely in a complex environment (e.g. traffic laws). Component to these functions, law also describes the penalties for transgression. Nowhere in these functions is there any ability of law to control individual choices or prevent transgression. Civil society operates on a mutual agreement to obey the law AND to do so with the promise of punishment for transgression. Note that this promise of punishment is not just meant to function as a deterrent. Just as this promise is the gauge by which bad people might weigh risk, it is also the gauge by which good people will determine an administration’s worthiness to govern (is it or is it not enforcing the laws?). In the end, by cordoning off unacceptable behaviors from acceptable ones, our laws describe our public mores and cultural character.
Law has no capacity to prevent someone from robbing a store or from making an illegal purchase or from murdering a neighbor. These are acts of volition; free choices that are a byproduct of life in a free society. Yet when some bad person commits some terrible act, leftists in government and civil society will cry, “If you want these things to stop, we must make more laws; tougher laws!” What they mean is, “This time it’ll be different, but we must destroy your liberty to make the difference!” Oh, and it is never different. It’s never different because criminality is the product of culture and character, not of laws.
Leftists ever work to craft a society that proclaims, “Character and culture don’t matter! Depravity is just as functional as morality! Refutation is hate speech!” Yet when one understands law and human behavior, and examines the record of crime and social interaction throughout human history, it becomes clear that with regard to man’s capacity and choice to commit violent crime, character and culture are the only things that matter.
You, the reader, likely own some kitchen knives or gardening implements, a baseball bat, or perhaps even one or more firearms. You deliberately chose to purchase these products that have been used by people to kill millions of other people throughout history. But in accordance with civil society, you simply agree not to murder someone with these tools. This is a choice that you are free to make or not make. Should you choose to commit a murder with one of these tools, no law could prevent you. You would likely be apprehended and rightly punished, but no law compels your choice. Instead it is your core values and morality that drive your choice to live peacefully within the law or to break the law by committing violence against an innocent.
The leftist observes your moral, peaceful choice and does not trust it. The mere fact that you could choose to behave in a criminally violent manner threatens their concept of social order. Moreover and because of what they know of themselves and those like them, they believe that being armed with a firearm changes people into power-drunk ogres who will shoot you down if you dare disagree with or annoy them. Also, leftists don’t believe in good and evil because that would imply that there are moral absolutes and that core values matter. Therefore, your freedom to choose peace or violence is reason enough in their mind to prove that your potential means of inflicting terrible harm must be outlawed or highly constrained. And if you own the outlawed means for inflicting harm it must be confiscated from you. In this effort they seek to remove your ability to choose and instead control your actions under their regulations rather than your free will. In other words, since people may choose to do bad things, and we can’t tell the good from the bad until they do harm, rights are irrelevant and we must destroy liberty to preserve (the feeling/delusion of) safety. This ridiculous approach seems appropriate to leftists because they subscribe to the fallacy that if you but pay close enough attention to your emotions you’ll find that so-called God-given rights don’t really matter. Instead, what matters is how people feel. Therefore, the fact that putting up a “Gun-Free Zone” sign has no effect on those who choose to ignore it (again and again, with bloody results every year) is irrelevant. Prohibition and destruction of rights is all a leftist knows. When he believes something must be done, he has logically but one card to play: tyranny.
The moral person understands that in a free society bad people will sometimes do bad things and the proper response to this fact is to preserve an individual’s liberty to defend against this unwelcome anomaly. He understands that civil society is fostered by and must be built upon the family and the instilling of moral core values; in the absence of which a society spoils and crumbles. The immoral, emotion-driven person believes that free will cannot be trusted. He understands that civil society is built upon government programs and forced compliance (with the proper allocation of resources). Therefore, government should be set up to compel compliance and greatly limit choices in order to prevent unsafe or illegal ones. The difference here is one between a society where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are cultivated and revered – and – one where existence, obedience, and the pursuit of compliant virtue are enforced and despised. The former is the American ideal. The latter is the leftist ideal. They are enemies and the one must crush the other…and keep crushing it lest it take hold again.
In the United States of America, our unalienable rights to keep and bear arms, to free speech, free association, free practice of religion, and more are being continually and incrementally crushed by leftist tyranny because the leftist fallacy of magical law, with its allegiance to emotion rather than to morality, is never sufficiently challenged. If our unalienable rights are to endure, we must defend them with vigor and righteousness, and if necessary—as is our right and responsibility—with arms.
I’ve done it. You’ve probably done it. But pulling the trigger “to be sure the gun is safe” is idiocy and is the opposite of safe gun handling. Let’s stop this idiocy now.
We are at war. Since one never knows when the war will be brought by mob of leftist thugs or Islamic terrorists to the street one is driving on, it makes sense to have enhanced defense capability in one’s automobile.
My SBR goes with me everywhere.
As a matter of course, and like many responsible Americans, I am armed every waking moment with my Glock 19 (and 2 spare magazines whenever I leave the house). Additionally, I carry a RATS tourniquet and both folding and fixed-blade knives with me. Since this is a time of war, whenever I leave the house I bring my .300BLK short barreled rifle with me. My rifle is loaded, but one magazine might not prove sufficient in a situation where my vehicle is blocked or disabled and a violent mob descends upon my location; or if a small team of jihadis armed with fully automatic AKs decides to make a religious statement in my location. So I carry a light-but-effective chest rig, too.
I carry my Haley Strategic Disruptive Environments chest rig in the driver’s-side door panel of my truck.
Note that the rig is fitted to my body size and the ends of the straps are wound up with 100MPH tape, so there are no loose ends flopping around.
The rig’s contents include:
- 4 full rifle magazines
- 2 full pistol magazines (for my EDC pistol)
- 6″ compression bandage
- write-in-the-rain pen and pad
These—along with the med kit in my truck that quickly clips onto the chest rig, the tourniquet, flashlight, and multi-tool in my pocket, and the knife and phone on my belt—are a nice complement to my EDC pistol and rifle. With these I can shoot, move, communicate, and treat a serious wound.
It is rather unlikely that I’ll ever need to employ my truck rig’s capabilities. But it’s also rather unlikely one would ever need to employ a fire extinguisher. However, as history clearly illustrates: better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
In order to develop physical and technical gunfighting skills it is necessary to run many individual drills many times. This means you go to the range, choose a drill and run that drill over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.
Then you chose a different drill and run it over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.
It’s possible that you could then chose another drill, but it’s likely that by then you’re probably out of ammo for that day.
These drills may be as simple as pressing out from compressed ready, or bringing your rifle up, and putting one round on target at a specific range for time. Or as complex as a multi-person, multi-target, multi-distance, multi-mag, multi-weapon drill that involves some static or fluid scenario plus time and accuracy measurements. Regardless, it is repetition of actions plus measurement and reflection on the results that forges mastery. Without it, you don’t get it.
Firearms training is boring, but so are good shooters. Repetition and measurement; there is no other way to develop technique and skill.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Train often, train well, and be boring.
In what condition is every gun you own right now? Unloaded? Loaded? Loaded and chambered? Is the external safety gadget on or off, for each firearm? Are they in different conditions or all the same? How do you know? Are you 100% certain or would you have to do a press check to be sure? Does everyone in your household know with certainty the condition of each firearm you own without touching it? How?
This is not a situation you can treat with casual negligence. If you own one or more firearms, responsibility requires that you and everyone in your household know at all times with 100% certainty the condition of every one of them. If you or they do not, you must fix that situation. Right now.
This means that for any of your firearms, holstered on your person, stored, staged…no matter where or how they are placed, located, or carried, there should never be a moment where you or anyone else in your household has to wonder whether it is unloaded, loaded and/or chambered, or if a “safety” selector is on or off. In the event someone in your household finds a firearm they did not expect to find (in a closet, in a drawer, etc…) or if they grab it in a time of desperate need, they can be certain of its current condition even without touching it, and be able to act deliberately rather than tentatively.
And, by the way, this is an easy standard to maintain when you use a system of simple conventions.
A System of Certainty
Here is a simple system that I know from experience works well to ensure you and those in your home never have to lean on discrete memory in order to know any of your guns’ condition. So long as you have no children younger than 6 to 9 in the home, even if just on occasion, System 1 is likely best for you. Otherwise, System 2 is likely best.
System 1 Conventions:
- All guns are always loaded, except while being cleaned, no matter whether they’re currently carried, stored, or staged.
- All pistols in a holster are loaded and chambered, whether on your person, stored in a safe, staged for home defense or even if in a range bag; holstered means chambered.
- All semi-auto/auto rifles have the bolt closed on an empty chamber (with a full magazine loaded, per convention 1) and the selector is on safe (this convention includes any “pistol”-configured AR or AK firearms).
- For pistols, bolt rifles, and shotguns, if there is an external safety control, the control is set to fire. Always and without exception.
You might use slightly different conventions. Maybe your pistols in holsters are not chambered. Maybe your semi-auto/auto rifles are chambered. I don’t recommend those approaches, but they may be appropriate for your situation. The point is to have as much blanket consistency as is practicable.
If you’re going to keep any of your guns unloaded, it is then imperative that you keep ALL guns unloaded (convention 1 must be 100% applicable to all guns not currently on your person) and perhaps opt for System 2 (below).
A System Variation
System 1 conventions might not work well for you if you have young children – and/or young children are sometimes in the home, like grandchildren, neighbors’ kids, or friends’ children. As such, System 2 might be best for you.
System 2 Conventions:
- All guns stored or staged, are always unloaded (and yet always treated as though they are loaded).
- A pistol carried on your person is always loaded and chambered (and in a holster).
It’s no more complicated than this. Once your children are of a certain age (that you determine, perhaps around 6 to 9 years old) and properly trained, it is best that you change to the more relevant and appropriate System 1 conventions.
For Carry & Training
If you don’t have an inviolate rule regarding the condition of your carry gun at all times, you cannot act deliberately when required. Instead, because of ignorance or second guessing or a simple mistake, you must act tentatively or mistakenly. This sort of irresponsibility can easily cost you your life, or the life of someone you love.
Component to the aforementioned systems, to gun safety, and to carry competence is the fact that one should never reholster an unloaded pistol; not at home, not in training, not in a class: never. When you’re training at the range and drawing from and returning to a holster, and run empty, you must either reload the pistol before reholstering – or – place the pistol on a barrel, table, or bench and pointed in a safe direction with the action open until you are ready to reload it.
If you get into the habit of sometimes, even rarely, having an unloaded pistol in your holster, you will never again be able to be sure of your gun’s status. You may think you can, but you are wrong and 100% guaranteed to fail.
And yes, this means that if an instructor requires that you have an unloaded or even un-chambered pistol in your holster during a class, don’t take that class. It stands to reason that if you are unsure about the conventions of an instructor’s class, discuss this matter with them and explain your inviolate personal rule before you commit to the class. It is likely that accommodations can be made. If not, you know your choice.
To engage in dry-fire practice you have to introduce a mild variation into your system. While the gun carried on your person will still be loaded, it will just be loaded with snap caps rather than with live ammunition.
For dry-fire practice you will unload your firearm and take it, your magazine(s), and snap caps into a different room where no live ammunition is present, and charge your magazine(s) with the snap caps, which you will load and chamber into your pistol before holstering it. If you have a gun that has a workable trigger and doesn’t need to be charged for each dry shot, use mags loaded with snap caps anyway so that you don’t get into the habit of being okay with an empty gun (you must never put an empty gun into your holster).
When you’re finished with dry-fire practice, reverse the process and take your now-empty gun back to where your ammo & mags are (the one place where you load, unload, and clean your guns) and return it to its proper condition; be that loaded or unloaded for storage – or loaded, to again be carried on your person (in which case I highly recommend repeating, out loud, “My gun is hot now, and loaded with live ammo,” a few times before getting on with your day.
Human beings are creatures of habit. The only way to eliminate negligent habits is to forge unconscious, deliberately uncompromising, safe habits (as described in the 4 Rules of Firearm Safety) and to never rely on gadgets, mechanics, or technology in place of individual responsibility.
A firearm cannot be safe or unsafe. A person is safe or unsafe. No firearm gadget or lever can make an unsafe person safe with a firearm. Graveyards are filled with the victims of those who negligently believed otherwise.
You do not want or need the anxiety of ever wondering whether your gun or one of your many guns is loaded or unloaded, chambered or un-chambered, safety on or off. These are things that responsibility requires you and your household members know with 100% certainty at all times.
Use a system. Make sure everyone in your home knows the system. Conduct periodic pop quizzes to ensure everyone is on the same page. Be safe and be certain.
The shooting enthusiasm blog Range365 published 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.
I made this graphic at work a couple years ago. Follow all four and you have zero chance of causing negligent harm to yourself or anyone else.