Rule Three of Concealed Carry

You are a consistent follower of Rule One, so you always carry a gun.  And since you are not merely a gun owner, but instead are actually prepared to defend yourself, you also follow Rule Two, and have trained sufficiently (and have kept in training sufficiently) to have at minimum a solid grounding in the fundamentals of shooting and gun-handling while also acquiring the requisite knowledge of the law with respect to use of force, and use of lethal force.

So what’s the third Rule?

It’s quite simple, really, even though this is the situation where the largest number of people will create the most ridiculous rationalizations to defend their emotional investment in a piece of equipment.

Rule Three of Concealed Carry:  Carry the most effective tool that you can.

And with that, we’re off to the caliber wars.  And the 1911/Glock wars.  And the “my Taurus/Diamondback/Sigma is JUST as GOOD as a…” arguments.

And let’s not forget the “I carry a revolver because semi-autos aren’t reliable enough” crowd.

Rule Three is actually very straightforward:  With respect to tools for self-defense, there are poor choices and good choices.  And for any given situation, there are better and worse choices.

If there is a guy out there who, daily, is carrying a 44 Magnum Revolver with an optic and a 10″ barrel, loaded with alternating FMJ and Black Rhino Teflon-Coated Spinning-Wheels-O’-Death-brand bullets out of a SERPA OWB holster carried in a small-of-the-back position—well, he is at least following Rule One.  That makes him a LOT more prepared than the majority of people in U.S.

I’d bet he doesn’t follow Rule Two though he thinks he does (just a guess there) but very obviously, he isn’t following Rule Three.

Rule Three is SUPPOSED to be simple.  If you need a hammer, then while a wrench will sometimes do, you certainly would prefer to use a hammer.   You want to use the best tool for the job–and with respect to concealed carry, you can make all your carry choices in advance.  So…choose to carry the most effective tool that you can.

Rule Three is not a “GUN X IS THE BEST GUN” rule.  What you can carry depends on your circumstances.  Different people, with different jobs, in different places, wearing different levels of clothing, in varying levels of permissive places, means that you can’t just tell someone “Brand X in caliber Y is what everyone should carry!”  It doesn’t work that way.

However, this doesn’t mean that all guns are equal, and there ARE choices that are better or worse than others.

Here’s the criteria for measuring the scale of better/worse for Rule Three, and note that these are NOT in any priority order:

  1. The gun should use a caliber/round that gets as close to meeting the FBI Ammunition Protocol standards for that particular barrel length as possible, as that is currently our best measure of functional effectiveness in terms of stopping an attacker in a self-defense situation.  (Preferably using a round that has a historical track record of functional effectiveness, such as the 9mm Speer Gold Dot 124 +P round.)
  2. The gun should be as close to full-size as possible, as the weight, sight radius, and grip size all contribute to easier shooting at speed.  (The actual criterion here is “the gun should be as easy to shoot accurately at speed as possible,” but “fullsize” is about the easiest way to determine that.  Smaller guns are harder to shoot well, almost all of the time, no matter what people think about “how the gun feels in their hand.”)
  3. The gun should have the largest capacity possible, as we don’t know the number of rounds we will need to stop an attacker nor how many attackers there will be.
  4. The gun’s controls should be as simple to use as possible, including a trigger that is easy to shoot well under stress.  (This isn’t an argument against safeties and single-action semi-auto pistols, it is more of a “a 12-pound trigger is a worse choice than a 5-pound trigger, and if you can’t carry with a round in the chamber or need to operate awkward levers to make the gun run, it isn’t a good choice” sort of thing.)
  5. The gun must be reliable, and more accurate than you are.  “Reliable” in this case means “a proven track record of function without issue.”  “More accurate than you are” is generally not a problem until you get into REALLY poorly-made junk guns, but you should have at least tested to make sure the gun hits where it is supposed to out to the limit of your ability to make hits.

Here’s why these things are important:

The point of carrying a concealed weapon is so that you have a self-defense tool in case you are the victim of a lethal-force-level assault.  In other words:  Someone is trying to kill you, rape you, or permanently main you.  You don’t know what the situation will be or how many attackers there will be–so whatever you bring with you is IT.  As such, you want the most gun that you can shoot accurately at speed with the highest capacity that has known functional effectiveness for stopping attackers in a lethal-force situation.

If you wish to argue your gun choice based on different criteria than the above, ok….but that’s not why the rest of us carry a gun.  Your attacker may be a strung-out teenage junkie who can barely hold the knife in his shaking hands, and who will run the minute he sees your hand go for the gun.  Or instead you might be attacked by three people in an alley who plan on beating you with baseball bats until your arms and legs and skull are broken, raping you repeatedly, then setting you on fire to watch you burn to death.  (Neither of those situations, I note, are made-up.  They are not hypothetical.)

You don’t get to choose which situation happens to you.  That part isn’t up to you.

So your defensive tool had better be as close to an optimum “can handle anything” as possible.  (Note:  The gun itself can’t handle anything.  But….certain guns can enable YOU to handle many things.  Others won’t.)

If your circumstances are such that you can carry a Glock 34 loaded from mags with extended basepads so you have a 23-round capacity—excellent!  That’s an easy-to-shoot, reliable gun in a known-to-be-functionally-effective caliber and round, with a large capacity.  But most people can’t carry guns that size on a daily basis, so they have to start picking and choosing from a subset of smaller guns…and sometimes, that means that people start making choices that aren’t optimal for them.

Sometimes people even pick full-size guns that aren’t good choices, as least not good choices for the reason you might need a carry gun.

Do you carry a Taurus Judge*?  Do you like having lower capacity and a gun that is harder to shoot well at speed?  Do you feel a need to handicap yourself with respect to your ability to respond with lethal force in a wide variety of self-defense situations if necessary?

Do you carry a Hi-Point* pistol?  Do you prefer a firearm that at any point in time when shot, may catastrophically disassemble itself?  Yes, yes, I know—yours has “functioned flawlessly for hundreds of rounds.”  And yet…given Hi-Point’s quality control and materials choices, you literally DON’T KNOW what is going to happen when you fire the next round.  It might be fine.  It might not.  You don’t know.

Some things are poor choices.  That’s how it is.  There are plenty of guns that are the exact same size as the above that that hold significantly more ammunition and DON’T have reliability problems, durability problems, ammunition capability problems, or trigger issues.

(There is nothing about a Hi-Point that causes it to be a better choice than any other similar gun OTHER than “it is the only one I can get.”  If “it is the only one I can get” is NOT your reason, then you are making a poor choice.  If that IS your reason, then excellent job of following Rule One, and I hope your circumstances improve so that you can upgrade your self-defense tools.)

In this day and age, UNLESS you’ve been shooting one your whole life and you’ve actually practiced with it so that you are extremely accomplished, AND you are old and don’t have time before you die to train to a similar level of accomplishment with a different gun (and this describes almost no one), why would you carry a full-size revolver*?    Again, there are a significant number of firearms of similar size that score much higher on the criterion scale with respect to why you are carrying in the first place.

If you can carry (for a non-random example based on a discussion regarding the Rule One article) a S&W model 327 TRR8 8 shot .357 Magnum revolver—why aren’t you carrying a Glock 34?  Heck, you could carry a Glock 40 MOS in 10mm with an RMR on it, and STILL have it be a) an inch less in length, b) the same height, c) have a trigger pull HALF that of the revolver, d) have it weigh over a third of a pound less, and e) have 200% of the revolver capacity.

Note:  I’m not saying an RMRed G40 is a good choice for self-defense carry.  I’m just saying—if you feel the need for round with significant thump, noise, and blast and you can carry a weapon that size, why not maximize what you can get?

Unless, of course, it isn’t actually about maximizing your defensive capability.  Don’t get me wrong, the 327 TRR8 is actually a sweet revolver. I wouldn’t say no to one, and I don’t even LIKE revolvers.

But…what we carry should be based on maximizing our functional effectiveness.  If you can carry a revolver that size, and if functional effectiveness is what is important, then you probably should be carrying a Glock 34 or something else of similar size and capacity.

Some people’s reasons for carrying smaller guns that are less effective ARE reasonable.  For example, some people (for example, folks with severe arthritis) literally cannot take much recoil.  Even a 9mm is something their hands and wrists cannot handle, so for their cases, something like a .22 may be their only functional choice.  (.32s and .380s often have extremely sharp, snappy recoil, and unless you can find a larger gun in those calibers like a Sig 250, they can’t shoot them.)  If they want a gun, then a .22 is it.

But…there are choices they can make around that.  There are full-size and compact versions of .22 pistols that are extremely easy to shoot well and have decent capacity with good triggers.  Even if (due to their environment) they have to go with a compact gun, they don’t have to choose a tiny .22 revolver with vestigial sights and a horrible trigger.  Even a Beretta Bobcat is better than that!  (And a Bobcat is actually a handy little gun.  Claude Werner, for example, makes a point to show how smaller pistols really CAN be useful for self-defense purposes.  He isn’t saying they are “better” than larger pistols in larger calibers–but his writings and demonstrations show pretty clearly that if you follow Rule One and Rule Two, a Bobcat can often be sufficient for Rule Three under many circumstances.)

Maybe because of the movement requirements of your job (and the clothing limits) you can’t carry a full-size gun.  Maybe it is an extremely non-permissive (though legal) area, so you can’t afford to print at all, or potentially flash the gun.  So you need a deep concealment holster that doesn’t restrict movement, and a smaller, flatter gun.

There ARE sometimes valid reasons why people don’t carry full-size semi-autos in effective calibers.  However…that doesn’t mean that there still aren’t better or worse choices within the limits of the gun you can carry.  You want to attempt to meet as many of the criteria above as you can, within the range allowed by your situational limits.

If you read any Internet gun forum, it won’t take long to run into MANY MANY EXAMPLES of people making non-optimal choices.  And that’s fine.  If you are one of them, you can do that.  It is your choice.  But….the argumentative rationalization of your choice based on your emotional investment isn’t going to be convincing to anyone else.  Should anyone yell at you for your choice?  Of course not.  But it is certainly true that you might be told that there are better choices, particularly if you are trying to argue that your particular choice was fantastic and flawless, and definitely if you are telling other people to make the same choice you did when they are interested in making a better one.  Just because you are emotionally invested in your choice doesn’t mean you made a good one, and it also doesn’t mean that anyone else has to agree with you–which means they are free to point out the flaws in your decision-making process.

Are there actual valid reasons why you aren’t carrying a full-size, full-capacity handgun that shoots a round that passes the FBI Ammunition Protocols?  If you can’t come up with valid reasons….then you are making a poor choice.  You should switch to a better choice.

If there ARE actual valid reasons, are you coming as close to the criteria as you possibly can, given your circumstances?

Hint:  If you are carrying a Ruger LCP in an Fobus OWB holster, the answer is “No.”  And you should probably think about it.


In case you haven’t read them in order:


 

*Cue the Judge/Hi-Point/Revolver defenders going ballistic.  Remember, we don’t use crescent wrenches as hammers either, given a choice.  You can, but it isn’t an optimal choice.  (Though using a Judge as a defense gun is more like using a frozen banana as a hammer.)  It might get the job done…but even if it does, it’ll take longer, it’ll be a lot more painful, and sometimes it just won’t work.  Perfectly good wrench, should be used for wrench things, not hammer things.

Ralph Mroz liked my article!

Ralph Mroz liked my article about expertise, where I discussed some of the things Tom Givens said about who is qualified to have an opinion in a technical field.

https://thestreetstandards.wordpress.com/2016/05/21/what-are-appropriate-credentials-for-instructors/

…and he and Tom Givens made some interesting comments as followups, too.    In particular the important question: “What constitutes “experience” in a civilian context?”

This is one of the things that I’ve talked about before, regarding military or law enforcement “experience” when talking about people who are qualified to teach citizen CCW courses–which Tom Givens discussed also, and I mentioned in my original article.

Mr. Mroz brings up an important point also, which is:
“No one has had enough statically valid experience, accounting for all the variables, in lots of different kinds of environments.  Therefore, no one’s experience is universally extrapolateable.”

…in other words, if your instructor is telling you “this is how it is, because it happened to me like this” then he’d better be talking to you ONLY about a situation that matches exactly what happened to him.  Chances are, if he is talking that way, he’s actually trying to generalize based on his experience—and that may not be germane to your situation.

There’s a reason why paying attention to the current research in the field is incredibly important—it is the only way to get a large enough dataset to actually draw supported conclusions.  (Put it this way:  If your self-defense instructor has been in enough self-defense situations to create a large dataset, do you WANT to do what he’s doing?  Why in the world has he been in so many self-defense situations?!)   This doesn’t make it EASY to draw conclusions (sometimes the research doesn’t cover what you need it to cover, so their conclusions aren’t valid for what you want), but conclusions drawn from large datasets are simply more robust in terms of removing the “we succeeded due to luck or incompetence on the part of the criminal, but we think it is because our technique was so good” responses.

I’ll note the “this worked for me once, so it is the right answer, and it’ll work for you” occurs a lot in unarmed self-defense classes, too.  Unfortunately, sometimes concepts taught for that reason can also catch on and become well-known, because most people will never NEED to find out if it’ll really work.

I personally hope that none of my students ever have to test whether or not what I’ve taught them is going to work.  At the same time, though, I try to make VERY sure that what I’m teaching them is as effective, realistic, and as practical as I can make it–because if they need it, it is going to be IMPORTANT.

You’ll never miss on the street…

(Second in the series about thoughts spawned by attending the Rangemaster Instructor Development Class with Tom Givens.  Last time, the post was about something that hadn’t occurred to me.  This time, it is about something I already knew, explained in a different fashion.)

If you are carrying a concealed firearm, and have occasion to use it in public on the street (in a Walmart parking lot, at the local gas station, in a Walgreens store) you are never going to miss.

No, seriously, you aren’t.  No round you fire will have a bullet that misses.

That’s the problem, you see.  In public, every single bullet fired from your handgun will hit something.  You will not miss.  You may not hit your assailant, but you WILL hit SOMETHING.

That something may be a pregnant woman who was shopping.  That something may be a 4-year old child skipping merrily to school one morning.  That something may be 9 other people hit either by errant shots or by fragments.  Maybe you’ll get lucky and only hit brick buildings—but since you are already having to defend your life, it already isn’t your lucky day.

You aren’t going to miss.  Every bullet is going to hit something. As such, your practice needs to reflect the importance of hitting your target every time.

Now, this concept isn’t new—but I don’t really like the common “Every bullet has a lawyer with a 5 million dollar personal injury suit attached to it!!” type of phrasing, because we do not want people too scared to defend themselves.  We don’t want people thinking “I better not do this because I might get sued” at the moment where they have to be making a decision to defend themselves.

We need people thinking in practice:  I’m going to hit my target every time, and I’m going to practice enough to consistently hit my target every time.  That way, if I need to use my gun, I’ll do what I practiced so I don’t have to think about anything but saving my life.

While yes, you need to think about your surroundings in a self-defense situation, that is different from being too terrified of possible consequences to act.  We practice to hit our target at speed under stress.  We use this thought (“You aren’t going to miss in real life–you WILL hit something.”) to drive our practice so that we have the discipline to hit our target under stress in a real-life self-defense situation.

I practice differently with my competition gun and my concealment gun.  (This shouldn’t be a surprise.)  When practicing with my competition gun from my competition rig given an audible start signal, I push myself in terms of speed and movement, to the point where I might miss the target entirely.  I then dial it back until I get hits, get better at it, then dial it up again.  I push myself to the point where I miss.  When practicing with steel targets, I miss fairly often when I push myself.

When practicing to defend myself with my carry gun from concealment, on paper targets I have a small “sufficient hit” zone.  Part of the rest of the paper target is a “insufficient hit” zone, and worse than that simply isn’t acceptable.  If my technique is bad enough that I’m putting shots into the “insufficient hit” zone, I need to fix it.  My “pushing the speed” results in occasional shots into the “insufficient hit” zone, NOT the miss zone.  I don’t allow shots into the “miss zone” when I’m practicing to defend myself.

That’s significantly different from my competition training–and that’s just fine.  I might be using the same target for both, but they mean very different things.  I have a different mindset, I have a different mode of practice, and I have a different set of “what is allowed” for accuracy.

Here’s the two versions of “acceptable hit thinking” that I use for practice (of course I don’t write the words on the targets I use, but that’s how I think about it).  Obviously competition shooting is on the left, and self-defense practice is on the right:

You aren’t going to miss on the street.  So make sure that the hits you get are the ones you want.

 

Crime definitions you should think about…

I took the Rangemaster Instructor Development Course with Tom Givens just the other weekend. For the most part, it pretty much validated for me (using actual research data) the training priorities I teach with respect to citizen self-defense—which made me happy, because if I am teaching people to defend themselves, it is important I’m doing it right.  If I do it wrong, it can literally get people killed.

So yeah—a good presentation (from the holster) is important, point-shooting is stupid as using the sights can be done and WILL make a difference, shooting on the move, using cover, and having flashlights might be useful but almost never are even remotely necessary in a self-defense situation and as priorities fall far far far far far behind 1) having a gun, 2) being able to get it out quickly, and 3) being able to get multiple shots on target quickly.

….and what a surprise, citizen self-defense data, FBI agent data, and DEA agent data all support this.

Unsurprisingly, the class also gave me a number of things to think about, mostly about new ways to present things I already teach which makes sense as it was what the class was about.

However, occasionally there was something in the class that REALLY struck me.  As such, over the next couple of months, I’ll be writing some articles about some things that perhaps you haven’t thought about–and should, if you think that it is important that you be prepared to defend yourself.

Here’s the first:

When is the last time you heard someone being charged with attempted murder?  Never, right?  Why is that?

Because to convict on that, you have to prove intent to kill. And intent is tough.

So instead, what gets charged for the exact same situation?  Aggravated assault.

Here’s the thing–because of the wording, most of us think of “aggravated assault” as a slightly-more-serious version of “assault.”  But here’s the actual legal definition (wording may change slightly per jurisdiction, but it’ll still mean this) according to the FBI:

Aggravated assault—An unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury. This type of assault usually is accompanied by the use of a weapon or by means likely to produce death or great bodily harm. Simple assaults are excluded.

Note the important phrase:  “…means likely to produce death or great bodily harm.”

That’s attempted murder.  However, since “intent to kill” is not part of the definition, it is easier to get a conviction on an aggravated assault charge.

Why is this important?  Because from a self-defense perspective, the criminal was trying to kill someone–or at the very least, knew what they were doing could kill someone else and didn’t care if it happened.

So when you look at crime statistics and think about homicides, you should probably actually add the “aggravated assault” category AND the homicide category together—because in both cases, the victim could have gotten killed.  In the aggravated assault cases, the criminal was just incompetent, or the victim got lucky.

In Omaha in 2012, there were 41 criminal homicides.  Sounds scary, but not a large number.  However, there were also 1442 aggravated assaults in the same year and every single one of those could have ended up a criminal homicide if the criminal had been even a little less incompetent, or the victim a little less lucky.

That we know of, criminals tried to kill someone else one thousand four hundred and eighty-three times in Omaha in 2012.

That’s a number you need to think about.

(In Lincoln criminals tried to kill someone six hundred and seventy one times in 2012.  And just so you know, in both Omaha and Lincoln, aggravated assaults were reported several times more often than robberies.  Yes, criminals doing something to kill you happens more often than criminals trying to rob you.  In Lincoln, 3.4 times as often.  In Omaha, 1.8 times as often.)

Source for violent crime stats:  FBI UCR Data-Reporting Tool

 

What do you need to CCW?

The difference between NEED and WANT is that need means “required.”  Wants are not required.

So what do you NEED if you want to CCW?

Not much, really.  Gun, ammo and appropriate carrier, holster–that’s the equipment.  Your state’s version of a permit.  Some type of clothing that’ll cover the gun.

And that’s it.  That’s all you need to carry a concealed firearm.  You have a right to self-defense, you have a right to use appropriate tools for self-defense—and that’s all you need.

This, however, is completely separate from whether or not that will 1) help keep you and your loved ones safe, and 2) keep you out of jail or civil court due to your actions.

If you want those things (or at least, a better chance of doing those two things), then you are going to want more than what you merely need.

Think you already know how to use a gun?  Okay—how do you know?*  Have you actually rated yourself in terms of pistol skills, using common drills and metrics?  How’s your safety practice?  What’s your skill level on draw speed and accuracy?

Think you already know how to defend yourself?  How do you know?*  Have you studied self-defense tactics?  Gotten training in effective choices?  Can you protect your loved ones in your home and outside?  Do you know how to recognize incipient violence, and how to de-escalate?  Do you know appropriate choices to handle violence?  Where did you get that information?  Have you ever had stress-based training?  Scenario training, force-on-force practice?

Think you know the laws regarding use of force and self-defense? How do you know?*  Can you recognize lethal force situations?  Can you recognize when lethal force is NOT a legal choice?  Do you have other response choices available to you, or are your choices either “gun” or “nothing”?

There is a lot more to carrying a concealed handgun for self-defense than simply “having a gun on you.”  Sure, that’s really all you need.

But it shouldn’t be all you want.

——

HowDoYouKnow*Notice how often I’m asking “how do you know?”  I’ve found that many, many people who say “I’m a good shot” or “I know how to defend myself” are just guessing–they really don’t know.  They’ve never gotten training in self-defense, they’ve never tested themselves objectively–they actually have NO IDEA.  Luckily for them, most of them will never get attacked, especially with a lethal level of force, so they’ll never have to find out that their abilities just aren’t that good.  It will mean that people around them will have to put up with them acting like skilled experts, though, even though they aren’t. Hm.  I think I may need to write about this more in a later post.

——-

Edited to add, due to a NUMBER of messages I’ve gotten  (5.  So far.)  :  Yes, I know the graphic is logically incorrect.  Quite so, actually!   What makes it funny is how people understand exactly what it means (very clearly) even though what it SAYS makes no logical sense.  (And it is so clear, even though it is obviously wrong, that many people miss the fact that it is wrong.)

And yeah, I didn’t make it clear that I knew that, and no one knows my sense of humor, so of course people think that I can’t read Venn diagrams.  Fine, fine.  {sigh}

Edited to add more, because I got to thinking about why this diagram makes so much sense to people, even though it is logically possible.  (You can’t know and not-know something at the same time..):

If you treat it from a statement case, instead of a meaning case, it really IS logically consistent.  After all, if there is something you know and you don’t know, either:

1) you don’t know you know it, or
2) you know that you don’t know it

This diagram picks only one of those to go with.   (The first one.)

In terms of meaning, then yeah, logically you can’t know and not-know something.

You could think of it in terms of operators, instead of cases:  This circle contains a group of things.  The operation is that we know this group of things.  This other circle’s operation is that we DON’T know this group of things.  If an item is in both circles, it depends on which operation we apply first:

We don’t know this thing, and we know it.  (don’t know operates first)
We know this thing, but we don’t know it.  (know operates first)

“Know” of course also meaning realize.  (We realize that we don’t know this thing.  We don’t realize that we do know this thing.)

That probably is why this diagram is so clear to people, even though from a meaning perspective it is impossible.  From an operation or status perspective, it makes perfect sense.