Sunday, April 28, 2013

Don't get caught with your pants down... Restroom Basics for Concealed Carry. That was the sound as a shiny Smith & Wesson Model 60 slid across the tile floor in front of my feet from the stall next to me in the courthouse restroom one morning many years ago when I worked in law enforcement. I was taking a moment of relief in the first restroom stall as a detective prepared to do his testimony in the stall next to me. His open-top, inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster let loose of his snubby as he dropped his pants.

Next was a short chorus of four-letter adjectives as he grabbed his pants and shuffled out, doing his best soft-shoe routine, to find his wayward revolver. While I literally laughed out loud, I am also reminded by the memory of my own restroom mishap.

I had gone into the restroom at the local Big Boy restaurant while on duty. Taking my duty belt off, I hung it on the coat hook on the back of the stall door. Unfortunately, the weight of my boat-anchor... er... Smith & Wesson 4516 .45ACP semi-auto along with extra magazines, handcuffs, a PR-24, a portable police radio, a folding knife, and several other items that would have made Batman's utility belt jealous... was just to much for the poor stall door. The top hinge of the door let loose and the door and my duty-belt, along with my S&W 4516 and friends came crashing down. When I put on a show, I bring down the house... literally.

Aside from the normal typical safety and security concerns with public, and even private, restrooms... the regularity of "gun found in restroom" stories that seem to be in the news is quite concerning. It seems that all kinds of folks forget to check their firearms after they zip up. Federal agents, police captains, secret service agents, deputy fire chiefs, armed school security guards, and even regular concealed carry folks seem to inadvertently leave their guns behind in restrooms.

If you wear a gun for your job or as a citizen exercising your God-given rights protected from the government by the Second Amendment... KNOW WHERE YOUR GUN IS AT ALL TIMES! Seems simple, but it only takes one quick lapse.

Now when using a restroom, whether public or private, you need to consider both practical and tactical aspects so you don't get caught with your pants down. When entering a restroom, choose the best restroom you can.  Can you wait until you get back home or until you reach the hotel room? Can you avoid a crowded restroom and find one in a better location that is less crowded? Is it a multi-person restroom or a one-at-a-time restroom.

Gals often have additional considerations as they typically have purses, sometimes packages, and often kids with them. Yeah, I know guys do too, but more often than not, I see the gals with the munchkins. If you are with your family or friends, all of you don't need to use the restrooms at the same time, but take turns so someone can maintain a watchful eye and also manage the kids, packages, and other concerns outside the restroom.

Pay attention to who enters the restroom before you and who is hanging out in the general area of the restroom. There are criminals waiting for victims. Can you leave extra belongings or your jacket and other items with somebody you trust? Notice who enters after you. Do you really want to use the urinal with your back to a potential attacker?

Personally, if I'm carrying... I always use a stall. Can the gun remain holstered on your belt? Can the gun be set somewhere safely where it won't slide or be accessible to someone else? Check the stall out, is there some place to set your firearm while you're taking care of business? Why set your firearm somewhere? ...because for many folks, it's hard to get the pants down and back up while working their belt with a loaded gun in an IWB holster with and extra magazine on the weak side.

Kathy Jackson recommends you leave the gun holstered, but I know that creates a juggling act for some folks... so do what you have to.  You might even want to do some "dry-fire" practice (pun intended) with a chair at home just to get used to getting your pants down and up again with your holstered gun and spare magazine.

I prefer the gun to remain holstered and if I remove it... I'll remove it in the holster if I need to.  Also, I've personally talked with two people over the years who have sent their guns (and a third who sent his iPhone) in for a swim trying to pull their pants up while holding the belt, the pants, the holster and other items all at the same time... so be careful.

Why not just leave it holstered on your belt and lower it to the floor and your ankles with your pants and belt... well because most restroom stalls have a foot of visible space at the bottom where someone outside might see your gun... which can result in the "man in the restroom has a gun" report to the manager, security, or police. Whatever you do, CHECK your gun BEFORE YOU LEAVE to make sure it leaves with you and not later on with someone else.

Some other considerations... I've seen folks toss their coat over the top of the stall door so someone on the other side could grab it and run... all why their pants are down around their ankles. Gals, I hear from some of you that purses are often set close to the edge of the stall on the floor where someone outside the stall could easily grab it and make a run for it.

I prefer on-body carry for gals - which I recommend as an instructor, and if you can find a stall with a solid wall on one side... preferably your gun side, it's a good idea for both guys and gals. Is there a diaper-changing station that you could use as a temporary shelf to set your gun and belongings on? And if you use that coat hook on the back of the door, check it first for sturdiness... or you might bring down hook or even the whole door if you're not careful.

Before you get ready to leave the stall, check your gun, holster, and other items to make sure you have everything... especially the gun.  If you're carrying concealed... make sure you get the concept of concealed before you step out to wash your hands.  Personally, I like to stand where I can wash my hands and have a clear view of the restroom... whether it be directly or with the mirror on the wall.  I also like to stand with my gun-side away from others that are in close proximity to me.

You have to maintain your situational awareness at all times before, during, and after using a restroom as there is often only one way in and out and very limited room maneuver or to put distance between yourself and potential threat. Remember, most restrooms have no window, no security cameras, and are often down a hallway or out of the way by design... which gives both folks and criminals the privacy they seek to do their dirty business.

Those are just a few thoughts to consider so... you... Don't get caught with your pants down... Restroom Basics for Concealed Carry.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Looking for a few good instructors...

I'm a GREAT instructor! (tongue firmly planted in cheek)... I am now in my third decade of teaching and training folks and kids with firearms... pistols, rifles, shotguns. I'm highly recommended by former students, my post-course evaluations are always excellent, women in particular find my instruction on-target for them and regularly recommend me, I have books full of certifications from the NRA, 4H Shooting Sports, firearm training entities, and from my days in law enforcement... I'm even an NRA appointed Training Counselor who can train other instructors. So I wouldn't recommend me...

See, with all that being said, ya'll should know that you should never, ever take a firearms course from me... if it focuses on door-kickin' ninja tactics, thousand-yard long-range shooting, or even Filipino knife-fighting techniques. They're just not my areas of expertise and my knowledge, qualifications, and experience are limited in those fields of firearm discipline.

There are a lot of folks who ask me about my courses and classes, or want recommendations for good firearms and tactics instruction. Kathy Jackson, over at The Cornered Cat, has a number of posts about what makes for good training and good instructors. I've also read other posts on this topic and with that I'd like to share my thoughts in case you're thinking about finding a good instructor... which also should be related directly to instructors who want to be good. So here goes some of my thoughts, though not in any particular order:

Good firearm instructors are good students, life-long learning students. As an instructor, I'm continually learning.  I seek out and attend training on a fairly regular basis, I read constantly, watch videos, constantly try out new techniques and products.  I'm proud of my NRA and other certifications, but truthfully... those are evidence of basic competencies as an instructor, but not necessarily proficiency or mastery.  Good instructors will learn more than just the minimum.  For example, some men might not admit it, but I even own a Gun Tote'n Mamas leather purse and a FlashBang holster among the piles and boxes of training aids and materials I continually acquire for my students to better learn in my courses.

Good firearm instructors are proficient and effective with their tools of the trade. Yeah, I understand the ol' coach doesn't have to be able to kick a forty-yard field goal or pass sixty-yards on the run to be a good coach, but when it comes to firearms... a good instructor is more than just competent, they are proficient.  Can I out-shoot Todd Greene on the FAST test or Rob Leatham on steel... nope. Can I shoot pretty darn well with what would be considered above average in the firearms community... meaning proficiently and effective... yes.

Good firearm instructors know their limitations. "Dirty" Harry Callahan famously said, "A good man always knows his limitations." While firearm instructors have to take the first step into teaching and training various things, they shouldn't do so without being well practiced and prepared. After extensive planning and preparation, I often have couple of direct and honest friends do a complete, live, run-through of any course, tactic, firearm, or technique with me before I even consider trying instructing it for the first time in a regular class. Please realize though, every instructor has to begin somewhere, so as long as they are beginning in an area that is appropriate for their skills and abilities... that's ok. I highly recommend to new instructors, and follow the advice myself, to work with observe, and collaborate with other, more experienced firearm instructors when they can to learn and get constructive feedback.

Good firearm instructors don't need to have law enforcement or military experience. Don't get me wrong, there are many good folks who have served our country and citizens -and- who have acquired terrific experience and training that helps them greatly as instructors. There are others who have not kept up on their skills and knowledge, or spent their time driving a truck or calculating logistics (admirable and appreciated, but not really related to being a firearm instructor), or have to run through qualifications three times to keep their gun on their hip while on duty. There are also a lot of good folks out there who have no law enforcement or military experience who have developed excellent teaching skills and abilities while acquiring outstanding, real-world skills without driving a cruiser on patrol or engaging the enemy on foreign soil.

Good firearm instructors can readily recognize and assess the abilities and limits of their students. I've been to some more advanced classes over the years where there were some students who were completely beyond either their abilities or limits. This can at a minimum slow the class down, taking away from students who are at the requisite level and at most it can create unsafe and even deadly situations. That doesn't mean a student shouldn't take a class to push themselves and provide a challenge, but a good instructor sometimes needs to tell that student who obviously is in a course or learning situation they are in no way ready or qualified to attempt or continue that it's time to call it a day... and a good firearms instructor will recommend, adjust, or provide appropriate levels of training or recommendations for the student.

Good firearm instructors are professional. They act and treat folks with respect. They don't berate or embarrass students. A professional firearm instructor should avoid language and actions that are prejudicial or biased regarding race, gender, ethnicity, etc. If an instructor is disorganized, looks like a slob that slept in their fatigues for the last three days with enough food stains they could boil their camo down for a pot luck soup... it probably indicates a lot about their training. That doesn't mean you might not get dirty during instruction, but a professional should act and look like a professional.

Good firearm instructors ALWAYS maintain a safe learning environment. While I'm not perfect either, you shouldn't be muzzling your students even if your finger is off the trigger. I don't know who these other six guys I just met ten minutes ago in class are, so I don't want to walk out on the range to hear the instructor say, "We're operating by 'big boy' rules today." A good instructor teaches safety and maintains safety expectations at all times. I've actually seen an instructor get down range from his students to take photographs of the firing line... yeah, I know, Darwinism at it's best.

So if you're wanting good firearm instruction, do your homework... check reviews... speak to other students... be honest about your own abilities and limitations... and be prepared to properly compensate for your instruction. Good firearm instruction may not be cheap and good firearm instructors have invested a lot of time and money into their training, materials, preparations, and hardware... and remember... good firearm training is not an expense, but an investment. This May I'm teaching firearm classes on my own and I'm also taking firearm classes down at TDI... to practice what I preach.  TDi, between the ammo and the instruction, isn't cheap, but it IS a good investment for me.

So if you own a firearm, you should be seeking out opportunities to regularly learn and train... which means you should be... Looking for a few good instructors...

I know there are other firearm instructors out there, so whether you're a student or an instructor... feel free to "fire back" in the comments...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

To the weaker sex: accept it, plan accordingly!

My daughter is now seventeen, getting ready to graduate from high school next month... and much to her dismay, she seems to be stuck at an altitude of five-foot, six-inches.  She's still Daddy's little girl, but as I've said before, "We're raisin' a Christian daughter to want a man in her life, but never need a man in her life." With that in mind, she has been taught to know, determine, and maximize her abilities, her knowledge, her resources, and also recognize and admit her limitations.

"To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man's injustice to woman. If by strength is meant brute strength, then, indeed, is woman less brute than man. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man's superior. Has she not greater intuition, is she not more self-sacrificing, has she not greater powers of endurance, has she not greater courage? Without her, man could not be. If nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with woman. Who can make a more effective appeal to the heart than woman?" ~Mahatma Gandhi

Unfortunately for Gandhi and the rest of us, nonviolence is not the law of our being and a woman needs to equal the brute of a man when necessary.  I've met so many gals in my NRA and Ohio CCW courses over the years that never seemed to realize that or were just in denial of how unprepared they were to deal with a violent encounter, or even just a physically stronger man, until they had a life-changing experience smack them in the face... or worse.

Now this is not to say that there are not weaker men out there, but on average... most men have a significant physical strength advantage over most women.  With that in mind, a gal needs to educate herself, train, plan, adapt, and adopt force multipliers and tools... such as a mindset, defensive training, knife and firearm usage, and other tactics that can help them be prepared to defend themselves and/or their family.

My daughter heads off to college next fall being denied the legal ability to defend herself with the one tool that Sam Colt created to make men equal.  She'll have to use what she has available to her since the university even limits students to knives with blades less than three-inches in length.  The blades on the knives they eat lunch with are longer than that!  While we're taking her to the Tactical Defense Institute's Defensive Pistol Levels I, II, and III in this spring, I'm still hopin' to get her to Greg Ellifritz's defensive knife course in the near future.

So where am I headin' with this whole diatribe... well I'm tired of gals who tell me they'd do anything to protect their kids when they don't have a plan, training, or tools for that night when some scumbag kicks in their door during a home-invasion. You don't need a "rape whistle" or to fire off a double-barrel shotgun into the air. You need sound advice and the determination to take care of yourself and survive no matter what you encounter.

It's not paranoia, just reality and the world we live in... so... To the weaker sex... accept it and plan accordingly!

Go ahead gals... fire back... and feel free to share how you're preparing too!