At the last TacCon event, in March of 2023, I attended a lecture by my friend Darryl Bolke (herein abbreviated as DB) entitled, “The MOUSEGUN MINDSET.” It was a great talk about the rationale behind using small caliber guns in NPE scenarios, and the alterations necessary to the philosophy of the prepared Civilian Defender to make these small guns work for them. It takes some adaptation and effort! There is a good amount of study going into this line of thinking, and DB is one of the great minds leading the charge on this. Rhett Nuemayer is another fantastic practitioner and instructor who has the skills and the background to demonstrate and teach these same concepts that are needed to make the MOUSEGUN work for you. I will break down the big takeaways from DB’s lecture, and also spin some of my own experience into it. It really dovetails nicely into the mission of the Civilian Defender…we aren’t raiding the castle or hunting escaped fugitives…we are just trying to live our lives and go home safely at the end of the day. Lots of people forget this! Your local police might carry a Glock 45 with a RDS, and three spare magazines on their belt. They carry that pistol and that much spare ammunition because they are ACTIVELY moving towards the sound of gunfire, and they are charged with the duty of (hopefully) opting to effect an arrest or seizure of bad guys. We aren’t doing that! And military special operations personnel are responsible for directly engaging the enemy to complete some sort of tactical objective. Thus, they carry box magazine fed weapons that allow them to achieve that goal and they don’t have to care about the same things that the Civilian Defender does. We, as responsible Civilian Defenders are charged with avoiding trouble at all costs, but when it comes to us, we launch some sort of definitive counter ambush to force the bad guys to break contact with us. We aren’t trying to apprehend them like the police do, and we aren’t trying to destroy them with overwhelming firepower like the military does. We win 100% of the fights we don’t get into, and thus it is incumbent on us to keep our eyes and ears up and open and stay one step ahead of the opposition. Our mission is different…and the MOUSEGUN MINDSET fits right into that.
“No professional would ever carry a mouse gun.”-says the internet gun experts
As I’ve said many times before, many people in our circle believe that you have to carry a full-size, compensated service pistol with a red dot sight, a 1000 lumen weapon light and a 20 round extended magazine to be ready for any kind of danger that will come your way, up to and including a violent takeover of a mall or a professional sporting event, orchestrated by Islamofascist terrorists. This is a low probability event, and MOST regular Civilian Defenders are far more likely to encounter street (or more apropos, according to Tom Givens, “Parking Lot,” level violence) in the form of an armed robbery. You don’t need a full size Mark 23 to defend yourself from this type of attack, and the concealment infrastructure around a gun of that size is outside the realm of realistic practicality for 99% of the population, the people living in Wyoming or Alaska excepted. For everyone else, this kind of look will be noticed even by the blissfully unaware phone monsters that most of us work and live around. Thus, something more discreet, practical and concealable is called for. The limits of concealability these days are really in flux; on the Phlster Facebook group, there was recently a picture posted of a fit woman wearing a g-string and a sports bra, with the caption that in that same photo was a Phlster Enigma carrying a Glock 19. How she did it, I don’t know, but it was there, apparently. I kid, but only slightly. People can hide large guns, on small frame bodies, with the Phlster Enigma. It is truly a game changer and a practical option for the average Civilian Defender.
A FEW BULLET POINTS OF DB’S SALIENT THOUGHTS RELATED TO THE MOUSEGUN MINDSET
◦ (MOUSEGUNS) ARE Really good guns when you can’t have a gun or you don’t want to look like a cop; if you get made you are getting killed
◦ Your Bill Drill times will suck with them
◦ “When you carry a .22 revolver you don’t do stupid stuff. It completely changes everything about your mindset to NOT being about the gun.”
◦ He rationalized it by saying that if he had operatives overseas, he put them there with a .22, and it was concealable, wouldn’t make them want to be in a gunfight, and left no casings behind
◦ If you were in any leftist owned city these days, you MIGHT want to carry a gun that leaves you in a situation where the PROBLEM HAS TO COME TO YOU (get out of trouble guns)
◦ How many people do we know break the rule of stupids BECAUSE they have a gun (gas station at 1230am)
◦ All DB’s cop friends are now carrying J frames so that they DON’T get in trouble by accidentally interfering in dangerous situations
◦ What is the more tactically correct thing to do? Don’t be a big damn hero
◦ When you don’t shoot people through the heart or the brain, they don’t become incapacitated; most pistol bullets don’t work unless you shoot people in the right places
◦ John Helms Mindset; greatest extant gunfighter today: sights I can see, trigger I can manage and it should be reliable. The rest is fairly irrelevant
KICKING THE CAN DOWN THE ROAD
I would take DB’s MOUSEGUN MINDSET and further apply it to the Civilian Defender philosophy. As I said in the opening, we aren’t going out looking for trouble. We are out looking for used cars, good samples of granola at Costco, a tasty burrito at Chipotle, or a quiet walk on the beach with our friends and/or family. If the criminal element decides to victimize us, they have to be nearly at arm’s reach. Inside that space, a small caliber gun will work! See the above anecdotal stories… Furthermore, the .22 S&W revolver in the Phlster Enigma that is worn at the time of the robbery beats the Roland Special that is left in the safe at home. Yes…shot placement with MOUSEGUNS is paramount, but isn’t it also paramount with full sized, or compact sized service pistols (the answer is YES)? So what is the difference? The difference is in the practice required to achieve proficiency. With purpose built defensive rounds like the Federal PUNCH in .22LR, there is now a predictable, penetrating, nearly hardcast type bullet that works well in both pistols and a revolvers, and works well in both ballistic gelatin and in anecdotal reports. And, despite what you may believe, I don’t put much stock in compilations of shooting reports under the guise of, “scientific research.” What you’re reading is largely a literature review of the field reports and studies about what is out there, and what works. There is enough variation in individual human anatomy that even if you could rig up an experiment where all other variables were controlled, down to the distance from the muzzle, the clothing worn, and the angle and point of impact, unless you were shooting identical twins (and that’s not ethical) then you are going to have skewed results. So yes…we can look at ballistic gelatin and clear gel tests to get comparative testing, but those are also not a panacea. They’re merely a good test medium to use to compare the performance of projectiles against other projectiles. So stop worrying about the performance of the rounds…worry more about where you are putting them, and be able to deliver tennis ball sized groups, as fast as possible, out to the distance of two car lengths (about ten yards). This will prepare you for probably 90% of all violent confrontations. Like we’ve all said, civilian interpersonal violence takes place at conversational distances…nobody is going to rob you or carjack you from across the parking lot at the Super Walmart.
Go into thinking through the problem with the underlying motive of, “How will I extricate myself from this situation?” Pulling out a gun and just start blasting is only a piece of the algorithm. It’s not THE solution…there is far more to it than that. The gun is a small piece of the overall pie.
I tend to think a lot…some might say too much. I credit my philosophy degree with giving me a wider viewfinder on the world, but what I think it really did was make me feel comfortable with my pondering thoughts while doing other things, and giving me a creative outlet (like writing) to express them if I have a particularly good one (SPOILER ALERT…they aren’t all good). So I drive to and from work, often listening to a podcast or an audiobook, all whilst thinking about some of the stuff you read here. I scribble down notes, ideas or outlines and then, if they make the cut from the, “drafts,” folder to the, “published,” folder, you see them. Like I said, not all are published. I’ve got a few that have been swirling around the can for a couple years.
At the 2023 TacCon in Dallas this past March, while making the 11 hour drive from TN, I had a lot of alone time to think. I planned on competing in the annual shooting match, which I have had some limited success in the past, making it into the TOP 16, twice. My problem has always been nerves and competition. Like many of you, my wheels tend to fall off in competitive environments. Which is weird, because I’m a pretty secure person, I don’t have a fear of public speaking like most people do, and I actually enjoy public performance, thanks to my extensive experience in the music and as a college professor. And, in the few self-defense situations or law enforcement actions I’ve been in, I have always stayed cool. So I thought I’d try something a little different for this year’s competition…
First off, don’t try this at home. I decided that I would drink two, 20 ounce, four shot espressos, 30 minutes before my competition time. A mega dose of caffeine CAN make you sick, give you heart palpitations, or push you over the edge of sanity, so like I said, if you try this, proceed with caution. My thought was that if I could get a good enough buzz, I would get my baseline heart rate into the 110’s (my resting HR is usually around 65bpm) then once the competition started, and I got the competition anxiety, I would ramp up into the 150’s. I got into the 140’s, but my sight picture was a steady hum of vibration. Still controlled though. I made all of my shots except the headshot tie breaker, which split the line (with one shot). Aside from that, my shooting was solid and I placed 71 out of a couple hundred shooters. I thought it was an interesting exercise and required further investigation.
I don’t know anyone who has been in a life or death situation that didn’t experience at least some of the effects of epinephrine (AKA adrenaline) on their sympathetic nervous system, and had some kind of sympathetic nervous system activation. Even seasoned gunfight survivors STILL got a FIGHT/FLIGHT/FREEZE response. I’m sure that there have been tests done in the past by actually injecting shooters with epinephrine in controlled doses to illicit a sympathetic nervous system response, but I don’t have the controlled environment to be able to do that. So knowing what I do about humans, anxiety, the sympathetic nervous system, and human physiology, I deduced that a high dose of caffeine would kick me into enough of a sympathetic response that it would heighten my anxiety for competition, and allow me to objectively battle through it, since I was ultimately at the, “helm,” of the experiment, and only worried about competing against myself. It was interesting…those that came to my lecture as short time after, I hope you had a good time because when I am really energized, my lectures are the best version of my oratory work!
BACK TO THE OLD DRAWING BOARD
I’ve recently relocated to an area where I have ready access to a very nice indoor shooting range facility. I can now practice weekly, sometimes twice a week, in addition to shooting in a weekly revolver competition league. This allows me to test my skills against drills that guys like Greg Ellifritz and Tom Givens publish in their writing. I thought that it would be interesting to replicate a similar experience to the TacCon competition, but in a faster format. So I elected to do a similar test on Tom’s ARMADA STANDARDS. From Tom’s newsletter, the ARMADA STANDARDS are as follows:
I drive a Toyota Tacoma, and my vehicle is 19.5’ long, but the concept stands! Both are big vehicles, and like Tom wrote, it is quite plausible that a self defense shooting would take place within that 6-6.5 yard range. This set of standards has everything…shooting from the draw, offhand shooting, strong hand only shooting, and shooting to empty and reloading. I also thought it was most useful to shoot this drill cold, to get the best idea of what it was actually measuring. Of course, since I was trying to shoot it in a very heightened and agitated state, I consumed a 5-shot espresso, 30 minutes before executing the standards!
FINAL THOUGHTS ON SHOOTING UNDER MEGA DOSES OF CAFFEINE…
This was an interesting test for me to set ground work to get over the feelings of anxiety I have when shooting competitions. I’m getting better, but I still get agitated when that BEEP hits! I also am quite happy with my ability to press the trigger smoothly while aligning the sights, and also being able to manipulate loading process and run the slide. LOTS of people won’t be walking into their next gunfight in a completely sober state…hear me out. They will be under the influence of whatever they have on-board AND THEN THEY will also be under the effects of adrenaline on top of that. Whether that’s antidepressants, beta-blockers, anxiolytics, you name it. I’ve seen students in classes that take all of those things and more! Yet, while they are used to training and working while taking those medications, they aren’t used to fighting for their life while taking them! And that is difficult to replicate. Yes…you get a certain kind of buzz from Force on Force and competition, but that doesn’t happen to everyone. But a real fight…that’s a difficult stimulus to replicate.
Townsend Whelen once said, “Only accurate rifles are interesting.” I would agree, but I would add that in my view, ONLY accurate firearms are interesting. I’ve had some well renowned guns that were duds, and even with a variety of ammunition, they were just not accurate. I recently had a well-known lever action rifle manufacturer service a gun that had a non-concentric bore. While it would print a group, at 25 yards, that group was about 4 feet HIGH, and three feet LEFT. They replaced the barrel and they zeroed the rifle with the ammunition that I was using, and returned the rifle to me with the rear Skinner Peep sight scooted ALL OF THE WAY to the right! I lost interest and ended up trading the gun for something else. I’ve had a few other guns in the past that were also just dogs, and they wouldn’t shoot to the sights or zero with an optic. The ability to deliver rounds accurately and have 100% accountability for every shot fired is essential to my requirements for a firearm and especially for a firearm that is used for self-defense. Thus, only accurate guns are interesting to me.
I’ve heard several well-known firearms instructors that specialize in the shotgun that each shotgun barrel is a unique individual and will have an ammunition preference. For some, this is cheap RIO brand or WOLF 00 buckshot, and for others, Federal Flite Control (or one of the big brand licensed copies that use the Flite Control wad). I’d go so far to say that this, “ammunition preference individuality,” applies to all guns, and not just shotguns! I have a number of revolvers of similar configuration, barrel length, frame size and some will shoot a particular loading to the sights, while others do not. You really have to check the loading with each gun you use, and make sure that there is coincidence between the sights and the point of impact of the projectiles. It CAN make a difference even in identical guns! I have two S&W M&P 2.0 METAL pistols that luckily, shoot and digest the same ammo, so I can use both with the same ammo, and use one for practice and training, and one for carry.
I recently entered a weekly pistol league at my local gun range. I decided to enter the revolver division, since I enjoy revolvers, and also because the competition is good, but the pool isn’t necessarily as deep as the more-common semi-automatic pistol division. I also believe that if you are a competent revolver shooter, you are probably competent with most any self-loading pistol, whether it is striker-fired, double action-single action or double action only of course. I shot the first week’s completion with a police surplus S&W M14 with a 6” barrel. In Southern California, up until the 1980’s, six inch duty guns in .38 Special and .357 Magnum were still on the streets. I’m sure there were probably a few holdout diehards that continued to use the 6” guns into the 1990’s as well. The guns had a fantastic reputation for accuracy, and many used them in PPC events with great effect. I will continue to use the Model 14 for the rest of the league this season. But the weirdo in me started to wonder how my other service size revolvers compared in terms of rapid fire accuracy (one shot per second) at ranges from 5-20 yards. So I set out to do a little testing to evaluate where I was with various service revolvers I have.
THE COURSE OF FIRE
In the semi-spirit of Claude Werner’s, “Baseline Evaluation,” I shot a variation of that drill, consisting of six rounds at each distance, for 24 rounds at 5 yards, 10 yards, 15 yards and 20 yards. I fired one round per second, starting at the ready, and then advanced the target out to the next distance. Throughout the evaluation of these seven revolvers, I experienced no malfunctions or stoppages of any kind. I used Federal 130 grain round nose ball for the entirety of the test. I scored the target that ANY round outside the 9 ring was regarded as a miss.
I’ve been a fan of VZ revolver grips for a few years. I am now a TRUE BELIEVER in them on all the wheelguns they make them for! The hard material and aggressive texture makes controlling brisk recoil easy. They’re also rugged and withstand abuse well, and they’re relieved for speedloaders. They also don’t hang up empties on ejection like some grip panels do.
Shooting on poorly lit indoor ranges really highlights the need for high visibility front sights. Smith and Wesson adjustable sight revolvers have talk front sights that are easy to see…if you paint them with a bright contrasting color! I use a white fingernail Polish as a base layer (two coats) and then several (3-5 coats) of an obnoxious red/orange color. I bought the fingernail polishes at Walgreens. We’ve all gotten spoiled with the plethora of highly visible semi-automatic sights from places like XS, Night Fission, Trijicon and Ameriglo, but DIY is largely necessary for wheelguns! It’s ok…it adds to the fun!
Good gear is helpful. But squeezing performance out of anything requires practice. I dry-practice almost daily, and I live-fire practice once a week or more when time allows. Lately, time has allowed for more live fire! Which is good. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about topics to write about here, that I think will be interesting and useful to my readers.
We are in a revolver renaissance right now…many people are discovering how fun and rewarding revolver use can be. Revolvers aren’t dead! Any skilled revolver shooter will see the revolvers strengths, and appreciate them for what they are. They’re not a panacea of course, but in their niche (guns staged for long term storage, guns used in grappling situations, guns used for fighting in confined spaces, carrying in deep cover/NPE’s, large caliber animal protection or for 50 state legal requirements) they excel. And if you’re an instructor, someone is going to show up to learn how to use a wheelgun. You better know how to use one, so you can teach them!
THANK YOU FOR READING! Like, subscribe to my feed and please share on social media! The internet is doing a fine job of suppressing pro-freedom content, but they can’t stop you from reading or sharing! Thanks again-Dr. House
My dear friend, Claude Werner, AKA, “The Tactical Professor,” had a term attributed to him called the, “Werner Test.” Claude probably didn’t mean for it to end up as eponymous reference, but thanks to the internet, here we are.
From my buddy Darryl Bolke: “The Werner Test is for firearms training folks to get a job for six months at a place like Target, Home Depot, etc. where you wear a issued set of clothes that means a thin tucked in shirt and pants not made for concealment and work amongst several hundred people daily for three months in a job like that where you are often on your knees stocking shelves or climbing on things while the public and other employees are watching with guaranteed termination and never get made.”
Claude was speaking about the real life dilemma of concealing a capable handgun, and ancillary support equipment in actual clothes, not the, “tactical hobo,” or, “tactical carpenter,” look that so many in the culture wear. He was talking about real people, who work real jobs, where being discovered as a concealed pistol carrier could result in loss of employment, or worse. So from here on out, for the purposes of the article, this is the meaning of the, “Werner Test.” Effectively concealing a means with which to defend yourself where you must conform to uniform standards, or if an untucked shirt tail, concealment garment, or suspicious bulges are a no-go. If you want to think about it in real nerd terms, he’s talking about being a complete James (or Jane) Bond where it would be absolutely inconceivable to the casual onlooker or even trained eye that one was carrying a pistol? Still think that’s you? Think again…it might not be! The true impetus for this idea from Claude was about the unrealistic expectation that many firearms trainers have that, “regular people,” (i.e. CIVILIAN DEFENDERS) like them, have the capability to wear a full size pistol, complete with light and optic, two spare mags, and a variety of support gear. Fact is, many people TRAIN that way, and then upon completion of the class, they doff that gear set, only to put it on again, the next time they train. The J frames, Ruger LCP’s, SIG P365’s and Glock 43/43X/48 that they ACTUALLY carry and wear everyday, well those sit in the center console of their truck until the training class is over. Thus, many firearms instructors have no real idea about WHAT IT TRULY TAKES to conceal and fight from the clothing and gear set that REAL people wear under REAL daily life.
A FEW STORIES TO ILLUSTRATE MY POINT
Back in the armored truck days, the holidays are always a bit different. More deliveries, more trips through the mall, more danger. As such, it wasn’t odd for the company to add an additional security person to the route to strictly, “ride shotgun.” The term is used these days thoughtlessly, but it once referred to the passenger on the stage coach who actually sat on the box containing the valuables the stage transported, and their sole job (other than to take over driving duties in the event of the driver being incapacitated) was to use a shotgun to repel any marauders or unauthorized boarders. One such holiday season, I was the shotgun rider for the mall route in Northern Washington State and the guy I was working with was frankly a doofus. He was later arrested for and incarcerated (wait for it…) robbing an armored truck (not the one I was on), but that’s another story. As licensed armed guards by the state, we were authorized to open carry pistols in a duty type rig, as well as open carry long guns as needed. This particular guy, who mind you had poor physical fitness, intense body odor, and less than adequate marksmanship skills, of course carried five guns total; four concealed about his person and one on his hip. On one such foray into the mall around Christmas, he was essentially speed walking through the mall corridor, and inadvertently whacked one of his ankles into his other ankle, which caused the nylon POS ankle rig he was carrying to lose his AMT Backup .380 ACP and send it hurling down the tiled floor of the mall about twenty feet ahead of him. I was following him about five yards back, and saw it happen. He scurried ahead and crouched down to pick up the small gray pistol and put it into the messenger bag he was carrying the deposits in. Interestingly, although this was in the pre-cellphone era, and the mall was brimming with people, nobody noticed! People were busy shopping, walking from place to place, and although somehow that little AMT skidded between the feet of about four different people before it came to rest, NOBODY saw it.
Another time on the armored truck service, a gent came into the office inquiring about work. He looked like a typical PNW’er, dressed for the times of the peri-Grunge era. Military shorts, crew neck sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off, and he looked like he was about 15 pounds from being in really good physical shape. He was an affable guy, and we were talking outside after the route. We started talking about guns, and he lifted his sweatshirt up to show us that he had a 4” .44 Magnum revolver and a full size Taurus PT92 9mm on his belt! Completely concealed! He surprised all of us, and turned out to be a great employee. Although he would’ve qualified for the tactical hobo look by today’s standards, he didn’t look out of place at all, given the casual dress mode of the 90’s in the Seattle area!
I found myself a few years ago, sitting in my personal truck eating, as I tend to do, especially when I’m on the road. Not the safest practice, I know, but I was hungry, didn’t want to sit inside and eat, and so I sat in my truck enjoying my lunch and listening to a podcast. I saw a fellow who was an employee from a nearby gunshop heading into the Subway to get food presumably. What immediately stuck out to me wasn’t the fact that he was wearing a SERPA holster, it was that he was wearing a SERPA holster WITH 1 7/8″ J-frame in it. WHAT SIR? You’re working in a gunshop, where open carry is apparently now the L’ordre du jour amongst everyone who works in gunshops currently, BUT you’re carrying one of the most common, popular and ingeniously designed concealment pieces EVER? WHY? Why not just carry a Keltec P32 in a belt holster, made by FOBUS? Silly…so this man works in an environment where he can literally carry anything he wants, even a shoulder holster if he was so inclined, yet he chooses a gun that is actually ridiculously easy to conceal? Doesn’t compute to me, but he made his own choice. If I was in that exact position, I would’ve dropped that revolver into a pocket holster in the size 70″ waist pants he was wearing. You read that right…
One last story…I had a patient recently that was older, retired, and had the tactical hobo uniform on and in full-effect. I thought about asking him if John Farnam knew he had been raiding his closet but I erred on the side of caution and elected not to. As the patient sat down, and I reclined the treatment chair, I noticed a SIG 938 in a leather pancake holster. Again, like the former story, a SMALL gun, made for concealment, in a holster that is no doubt comfortable but also HUGE. And with some judicious guidance of the cover garment, it wouldn’t have been an issue to simply conceal ANY pistol that he had on his hip, from my view. Even in the exam chair. I asked him about it and he was shocked that I noticed. I told him he didn’t have anything to fear…and that my office was always going to be gun-friendly.
Back to the Werner test. “Non-Permissive Environments,” means different things to different people. And since we are ultimately talking about the armed civilian defender ultimately suffering some kind of loss due to being discovered as a concealed pistol carrier, let’s think from that perspective. What CAN we do to prevent that? Many people who DO NOT think of this problem (and inevitably, dress like a tactical hobo with their Keen work boots, four concealment vests, M64 Field Jacket and 5.11 ballcap) will say pedantic things like, “Just dress around the gun!” OK…but what if you cannot dress like a hobo and you have to wear scrubs? You’d stick out like a sore thumb if you wore a tactical safari vest with your scrubs and slip on clogs (as they yell out, “YOU’LL NEVER SEE ME IN CLOGS!”) or if you’re stuck wearing a company uniform of some sort. Even in a semi-fitted suit, you’re going to have issues concealing a gun…and then what if you need to take your jacket off? Pocket holsters work with suits sometimes, sans jacket, but if the gun is too large, it’s going to be painfully obvious.
Now I fully understand that most people are so blissfully unaware and in their phones that you could actually be wearing six inch platform shoes with goldfish swimming in them, and have bright blue hair, and unless you were ablaze, nobody would notice. I’m not worried about getting made by those people. I would be more worried about the people that see you routinely…in my profession, everyone seems to be on an endless loop of fad diets, gastric bypass and massive weight loss. So everyone else is very cognizant of even a bit of an overall change in someone’s appearance. That can be a problem. Also, scrubs can be deceiving. I’ve seen people who look like they’ve been spray-painted on them, and not in a flattering way, all of the way to people who look like they were just turned loose of the local drunk tank with scrubs four sizes too large. But professional, pressed scrubs are difficult to hide guns under since they’re relatively form fitting, usually lack belt loops and don’t have extra material to drape over the gun. If you’re an athletic person or you are particularly fit, when you’re in scrubs, people are going to know that. If you’re shaped like a potato, people are going to know that too. I can’t speak from direct experience but I imagine the same is true for many places that wear uniforms. I have had the unique experience of working as a pizza delivery driver in the early 90’s, as well as working at a taco restaurant and both places required a polo shirt, tucked or untucked. With an untucked shirt, it was not difficult to carry discreetly, a five shot J frame in an Uncle Mike’s faux suede clip on holster in the appendix position. If someone was going to make you wearing that rig, they’d have to touch you awfully close to your genitals. And in the two times that has happened to me in my entire life, I’ve plainly said, “You just touched my penis,” which makes it just awkward enough that people quickly forget anything having to do with the event and move onto a less taboo conversation, or more apropos, leave the room completely. “Managing Unknown Contacts,” isn’t just being witty with bad guys in parking lots y’all.
So the Werner Test is a good thing to consider. To be honest, I’ve worked in professional environments, both rural and urban, where I can get away with wearing a scrub shirt and some sort of khaki or chino pants, and still maintain a professional appearance AND could carry a full size gun, and all the accoutrements. I’ve also worked in places where I could carry a J frame in Thunderwear (looking at you Mark Luell) and that was IT. Getting made would’ve been too easy. I’m honestly jealous of the people who can wear whatever they want, and wear whatever kind of gun they want, in a variety of conditions. But when I think more about what me, and the average civilian defender is liable to face, it’s an ambush type robbery for either money, or controlled substances/prescription pads that my office has. So while I’d love to have a twenty shot nine millimeter that would allow me to launch off a tremendous volley of aimed fire, possibly against multiple attackers, is the gun truly the limiting reagent in that scenario? Have many parking lot robberies been lost because people ran out of ammo? Have many bad guys continued to press the fight after they experience an explosive counter attack, regardless of what the rounds were? These are all questions that are highly individualized, and require dedicated thought on your part. I can’t tell you what to do, I can only describe to you what someone like me would do in my unique corner of the world. I don’t know what your gunfight is going to look like, and none of us are fortune tellers!
ACTIONABLE INTEL…preventing the ULTIMATE loss
Cecil Burch, Darryl Bolke and Chuck Haggard teach a brilliant, multi-day seminar called, “Counter Robbery and NPE,” which deals specifically with the eventuality of facing an armed attack in the form of violence most commonly experienced by normal people, the street or parking lot robbery. They cover accessibility, the concealed/covert draw, pocket carry accessibility, and in addition to the live fire range exercises, they also go through simulation drills with blue guns/training guns to illustrate the utility. Many people go out in the world, who take training courses, which is great, with a full-sized pistol, big holster that is easily accessible and compatible with range (i.e. weather appropriate clothing) and then when they actually carry in-real-life, they strap on a micro-9 or drop a .380 or J-frame in their pocket, and thoughtlessly think that the same skills they’re on the path to mastery with on the big gun, translate to the little guns. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Using the small guns in the 5-7 yard envelope of violent social interaction is an application that only a few trainers in the community deal with directly; and the Counter Robbery/NPE course is one of them. All of the aforementioned trainers, Cecil, Chuck and DB talk about this engagement space problem in their other training, so it all meshes together nicely and fits into the grand scheme of overall response, coupled with the primacy of putting early-warning and pre-loaded responses into play, quickly when the violent stimulus arrives. Using enough force, soon enough, can often prevent having to use more force in the immediate future. This is why there are so many defensive gun uses (DGU’s) that end immediately, once the bad guy realizes that they are now on the receiving end of a counter ambush…they quickly break contact and go find someone else to victimize, or just leave the area completely. You win 100% of every fight you can avoid, and if a prepared and legally warranted display of a firearm is what ends the confrontation, then all the better.
I once walked out the back door of a dental office to see a large black bear within ten feet of me, eating out of the biohazard container. Not what I was expecting to see! When I got home that night, I loaded up my .45-70 and put it in my truck and carried it to/from my parking spot into the office, and left it, at my desk, without anyone on the staff (or probably 99% of the patients) giving a damn if they had seen the rifle. Most casual onlookers would be more curious about what it was, what kind of rounds I had loaded in it, and where they could buy one! I’ve worked in other places where identical behavior, EVEN IN THE PRESENCE OF MAN-EATING BEARS, would result in a SWAT team response, helicopters, news crews, the whole bit. So in one setting, THE WERNER TEST MUST be passed with flying colors, 100%, everyday. In the other, it was the norm for the staff, patients, and townspeople to go about armed. So the WERNER TEST was a complete non-issue, except in explicitly posted, federally regulated locations.
Going full tilt carry, and going as concealable as possible are both feasible options. What you do, depends on you, and what you are willing to lose. It could be your job, your freedom, or your life. Pre-planning, and formulating an intelligent response is important for the well-equipped civilian defender to consider. The game is mostly mental, with a touch of equipment involved. Rehearse accordingly.
Thank you for reading! Please like, subscribe to my feed, and share on your social media pages if you found something interesting or helpful! Thanks! -Dr. House
Let’s just say that hypothetically you’ve found yourself living in an area due to life’s circumstances, that is run by law makers who don’t give a damn about US Constitutional Law. If you had nothing in the way of defensive long arms, what would you do? Semi-automatic defensive rifles are obviously the best choice for most people, but if you’re in a state where semi-autos aren’t on the menu, what other options do you have? In one such state, new gun buyers are finding that their options are limited to lever action, pump action or bolt guns. Not optimal, but also not the worst. Infringement on freedom is garbage, and we are all hopeful that every state with a ridiculous, “Assault Weapons Ban,” that does absolutely NOTHING to stop any violent crime, will soon fold and involute under the force of the Supreme Court of the United States. Enough for politics…
I am a fan of lever actions. Whether in the futuristic, steampunk guise of, “Firefly,” or in western film classics like, “Rio Bravo,” or modern tales like, “Yellowstone,” or, “Longmire,” the silhouette of a lever gun is unmistakable. Many of us grew up with Red Ryder BB guns, which were also lever action, and that nostalgia sticks with us through adulthood, and persists! Don’t discount the utility of a good lever action though…Colonel Jeff Cooper himself advocated for law enforcement use of the lever gun well into his twilight years (the so-called BROOKLYN SPECIAL) and many of the mainstream trainers you know (Clint Smith, James Yeager, Lee Weems, Randy Cain, Darryl Bolke and others) have either advocated, demonstrated or taught a curriculum specific to manually operated guns for areas where people are subject to gun control laws. They’ve worked for about 160 years now, and they still work today.
WHAT THEY DON’T DO WELL…
CAPACITY: Lever guns are a lot like revolvers in practical use…there are easier ways to operate. Like Tom Givens says, “I don’t carry a semi-automatic pistol so I can shoot more; I carry one so I can reload less.” A good lever gun in a 20” barrel can carry 10 rounds. Some can hold more (especially rimfire variants) and some like the mighty .45-70 hold far fewer. In a civilian defender emergency (e.g. repelling home invaders) scenario, a situation requiring more than 10 rounds would be unlikely. But, if you’re attacked by a team of 11 home invaders, make it interesting for the first ten through the door…so capacity COULD be an issue.
DURABILITY: This one will ruffle some feathers because people LOVE their lever guns. Yes…I know you inherited it from your Grandad and he never had any issues with it, but trust me. If you put it on the range in a relatively rigorous volume of fire class, you will see some issues. Stoppages that tie up the gun severely enough that it won’t run without some love from a competent lever smith. Lever guns have lots of moving parts, several screws and they’re made from a design from a time where smokeless powder wasn’t around, and the metals (like metals are apt to do) expand with heat and that makes tight tolerance parts, tighter! So for large volume classes, where you may fire 250 rounds in an 8 hour course, you can have issues. It would probably be smart to bring a backup gun, so you can alternate between the two when one gets really hot or if you experience a break down that isn’t amenable to immediate action drills (i.e. running the lever again).
INDIVIDUALITY: Like shotguns and revolvers, each are their own individual, and may either be stand outs from their respective kind, or complete lemons, even among makes and manufacturers that are thought of as being normally high-quality. Also, due to variances in headspace, barrel concentricity, and crowns, accuracy can waver from phenomenal to horrid. I had a major manufacturer rifle that had a non-concentric bore which made it zero at 50 yards, about two feet right and three feet high off the bullseye. It would group nice, but I didn’t want to have a gun that was that cockeyed, so I contacted the manufacturer and they gladly replaced the barrel after confirming my diagnosis.
LOADING GATES: Two kinds of loading gates exist (all variants of the, “King’s Loading Gate” which was the original inventor of the side-loading gate back in the 1860’s) and they’re either effortless and you can thumb rounds into them with aplomb, even when you are lacking mechanical leverage (like when the gun is shouldered) OR the loading gate is so tight and sharp, that it takes pieces of your thumb with you when you load it. There are some aftermarket fixes for this issue, and there are a few great gunsmiths who still work on lever guns, but the real geniuses in that subset of gunsmiths are the SASS and CASS (Single Action Shooting Society and Cowboy Action Shooting Sports smiths) who make these guns run like butter and load nearly effortlessly.
AMMO PICKINESS: Rounds in the magazine tube of a lever gun have to be of a certain bullet profile to not only feed effectively, but also to not inadvertently cause a chain reaction of rounds going off in the magazine tube if the bullet noses of the rounds hit the primer of the round in front of it. Not good! Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons had this happen to him a few years back with a Henry Rifle, but I believe the etiology of the chain fire in his case was because of the follower impacting the primer of the first round in the tube. Either way, you don’t want to experience that! So in addition to finding ammo that your gun likes, and coincides with the point of aim/point of impact, you need to find one that is a profile that won’t cause a chain fire AND STILL feed into the chamber. Hornady’s Leverevolution rounds have worked in .45-70, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum and .45 Colt for me. For practice/training ammo, I go for flat nose rounds like the Keith wad cutter profile rounds.
WHAT THEY DO WELL
PROFILE: Long and lean…you can (and I have) set a lever gun in the space next to the center console of my truck and the passenger seat. At less than 2” thick down its entire length it hides well, and stays secure for the drive. I can’t easily do that with my AR’s.
NOSTALGIC AND NON-THREATENING APPEARANCE: Many people equate lever guns with movies, or simply as deer guns and don’t regard them the same way they’d look at an AR-15 or even a Mini-14. They just don’t seem that threatening. Marty Hayes of the ACLDN (Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network) has said that in some actual legal cases as well as mock trials, the appearance of a long gun that was used in lawful self-defense was brought into question. This is hypothetically less-so with traditional looking, archaic firearms designs like the lever gun. People look at them and think of their childhood, John Wayne or their grandparents.
POWER: Leverguns for defensive use, in common calibers like .30-30, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum .45 Colt and .45-70 have loadings in power levels that vary from low power cowboy rounds, all of the way up to hard cast flat nose rounds that can take any large game in North America. In rounds that are commonly used in revolvers, the longer barrel of the lever gun gives much more stabilization, as well as velocity to the projectile that results in sometimes awesome effects down range. Chuck Haggard and I have used .357 Magnum rounds in the 125 grain range that produced results that were indistinguishable from an AKM firing 123 grain rounds in blocks of Clear Ballistic Gelatin with four layers of denim on the front. BOTH rounds were recovered in the first half of the second block, with nearly identical wound tracks. I’ve also euthanized 150-200 pound pigs before with 158 and 125 grain .357 Magnum rounds with great effect. Bottom line…some Magnum revolver rounds (and .45 Colt) give even better performance out of longer barrels. You just have to figure out which you like, what feeds, and what shoots to the sights (or zeroed optic) on your gun.
SAFETY: A traditional (not with the additional safety devices that silly states have enacted and forced some manufacturers to incorporate like Winchester Rossi and Marlin) lever gun is essentially a single action type trigger attached to a tube feed gun. The trigger does one thing, and that’s release the hammer which fires the round. The lever ejects the fired round and then allows the next round to load into the chamber. You can safely carry a round in the chamber with the hammer down on SOME modern lever actions. Thus, if you need the gun, you simply grab the gun, fully cock the hammer and fire. Of course, you can also carry in a, “cruiser ready,” condition with an empty chamber and a loaded magazine tube, and all that is needed to put the gun into action is rack the lever to load it. The corollary is also true; once you’re done shooting, you have to safely decock the hammer to the down/half-cock condition. Mishaps can be minimized if you are trained to do this safely (READ: the FOUR FIREARMS SAFETY RULES are always in play and full effect).
FUN: People are interesting creatures…we tend to do things more if they’re fun! I’ve used rifles in a professional capacity, and although it isn’t as high-tech or state of the art as self-loading rifles, they are so much fun! And fun, consistent practice lends itself to recent, realistic and relevant training. Shoot the same drills you’d do with your handgun, at the same distances you’d do with your pistol. Yes…some of us may have longer shots in their home. But longer than 25 yards? You SHOULD be doing some 25 yard work with your pistol, but most of it should be done within the bounds of the length of a car (16 feet). The rest, weak hand, multiple targets, the Parrot Drill, The, “TEST,” (or the SUPER TEST) are all in play and for the, “Urban Carbine,” as coined by Clint Smith, we are talking about using a long gun in a space envelope that is normally considered pistol distances.
Thank you for reading! Something a bit different…and while not comprehensive, it’s a start of an interesting project. If this piece proves popular, I will continue to write more about the research and testing I am doing in this area with lever guns. Like, share amongst your friends and on social media and subscribe to my feed if you want to hear more about the defensive use of manually actuated long guns! THANKS AGAIN! -DR. HOUSE
In my profession, I see lots of people who have been shot in the face. Rarely, do these people die immediately. They sometimes succumb to an infection, or other complication, but rarely do they die in the immediate aftermath of the gunshot wound. This mostly applies to pistol caliber rounds and I’ve seen all manner of them ranging from .22’s all the way up to the mighty .45 hit someone, somewhere in the maxilla or mandible, and the wounds, while often horrific and ultimately disfiguring, don’t always render the recipient unconscious even. In many cases though, the recipient DOES stop doing whatever they were doing BEFORE they were shot in the face.
Case in point…this person was the recipient of two blasts from a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with shot and there are twenty five plus pieces lodged in their face and neck, all resulting in superficial injuries, EXCEPT FOR the injuries he sustained to the eyes, which resulted in immediate blindness due to the ocular damage. Eyes are a superficial structure…it doesn’t take MUCH to render them inoperable.
But, like in so many cases I’ve seen before, the, “psychological stop,” that occurs with a significant facial injury isn’t to be overlooked. People get into a mindset of singular purpose (retreat and seek medical care) when they’ve taken a round of any kind to the face, and that is safe to say, vocationally generic! Good guy, or bad guy, when people get shot in the face, they most typically break off the attack! A rare exception to that I can think of is superhero Jared Reston. His case is uncommon though. I see a number of these patients come through the surgical service at my work and they most always change their tack, as soon as the round hits!
So something to consider and think about. I am not a fan of birdshot for defensive purposes as I think that the pellets lack the mass to penetrate once they encounter tissue resistance. The hollow bones of the face don’t resist ballistic attack well; they most always perforate or fracture and let whatever is coming in, come in! In this case, nearly all the wounds were superficial, and except for the few that were removed with digital pressure or a small forcep (think popping a BIG zit) the rest were left in place, as many are adjacent to vital neurovascular structures that would be potentially hazardous or further debilitating to remove.
So, in summary, small shot…leave it for smaller animals. Use time tested buckshot in a shotgun that you’ve patterned with said buckshot. The shot placement here was good, and in a civilian context, it was a win, because the actions of the recipient ceased immediately. Remember, we’re not trying to assassinate anyone as responsible Civilian Defenders…we’re just trying to get home. If you fire a shot and get a good hit, and the attacker breaks off, mission accomplished! Top off, check yourself for injuries, grab some cover if you haven’t already, keep your head up and get on the phone to the police. So next time someone tells you that a headshot with a shotgun is invariably fatal, well, you can argue that it isn’t EVERYTIME!
If you’ve been around for a bit here, you’ll recall that my site used to be called, “REVOLVER SCIENCE.” After awhile, the late Dr. William Aprill talked me into calling the site something else, and so I settled on CIVILIAN DEFENDER. The thought being that revolvers were past their apogee of development and that there wasn’t any sense in beating a dead horse talking about what was widely becoming historical knowledge without much utility, besides to the, “FUDD X,” gang (so eloquently coined by friend Darryl Bolke) who started using revolvers at the beginning of the semi auto era, and continued using them. Many of us during the 1994 Crime Bill used revolvers with great aplomb in service and in concealed carry applications.
Thanks to a volatile gun industry, capacity restrictions, modern/effective defensive ammunition and more states granting either Constitutional Carry, or carry permits, there has been a big uptick in revolver sales and use. Some are calling this a REVOLVER RENAISSANCE. I think the proliferation of better/improved designs, and the simple utility of revolvers has recaptured the imagination of the shooting public, and the relatively small national firearms training community (Tom Givens estimates that the national training community that progresses past a permit class is approximately 10,000 members strong) who NEVER STOPPED using revolvers can now be public about it in ways that actually encourage revolver neophytes to join the dozens of us (literally DOZENS OF US) revolver users.
As the technology in sights, trigger, holsters, ammunition and reloading devices has improved, revolvers are still going to revolve! There is lots going on in the lock work of the gun to allow the cylinder to turn and the hammer to draw back, all from the pressure on the trigger of the revolver. The relatively short sight radius of compact or snub revolvers, combined with a relatively heavy trigger pull and with a grip that can be altered relative to the shooter’s hand to change the geometry of the trigger engagement are all problems that can now be overcome with technology.
The short sight radius and difficult to see sights of the J frames, D-frames and Ruger products of years past proved challenging for some people. Brightly colored paint, or XS EXPRESS type sights and fiber optic tubes have been used to improve the sight picture of the small revolving guns. Adding a holographic sighting system to a compact revolver, offers a few distinct advantages that can be overlooked by people who aren’t hardcore revolver enthusiasts.
1. MATCHING GUN AND AMMO FOR POINT-OF-AIM and POINT-OF-IMPACT COINCIDENCE. If you’ve fiddled around with revolvers and defensive ammunition with any great degree of care, you’ve probably noticed that it can be either VERY easy to find a defensive loading (and a corresponding practice load) that corresponds to the point of aim. Meaning that when you press the trigger and send a shot at a given range, the hole in the target (point of impact) and the sights (point of aim) are aligned. Sometimes you get a great revolver that doesn’t have issues finding a load it likes, sometimes you can’t find anything that works for the gun. With the holographic equipped revolver, the POA/POI is easily adjustable by adjusting the elevation, windage (or both) to the loading you have available.
2. INSTEAD OF SETTLING FOR THE POA/POI OF WHAT WORKS FOR YOUR GUN, AND SETTLING FOR WHATEVER THOSE BALLISTIC QUALITIES ARE, YOU CAN SELECT FOR BALLISTIC CAPABILITIES AND ADJUST FOR BALLISTICS. I like to zero my revolver carry loads for 21 feet, and if I have to stretch out the distance, I’d rather adjust since the most common distance as Civilian Defenders we’re likely to be engaged in is within conversational distance and/or inside the length of a car. So if I have a loading, like a 110 or 130 grain loading that shoots really high, with the holographic sight, I can adjust any discrepancy away! This is also works in ammo droughts or traveling when Walmarts and truck stops will have classic loads available (like 158 grain RNL, LSWCHP, SWC or the like). Gold Dots in the 135 grain variants have been dead on in some of my J frames and awful in others. TO DATE, I haven’t had a J frame that won’t shoot 148 grain wadcutters to POA at 7 yards. YMMV.
3. CIVILIAN DEFENDERS THAT WANT A QUALITY DEFENSIVE REVOLVER THAT ALSO USES AN OPTIC AND IS FIFTY STATE CAPACITY LEGAL NOW HAVE AN OPTION. Thanks Taurus!
FUDD-Xers can’t help our fascination with wanting to hand electronics on revolvers. We have a had a few notable films in the past that inspired our technical imaginations.
For a discreet, concealable, and versatile compact carry revolver, Taurus has really stepped up their game. In the last three S&W revolver purchases I’ve made, two of the guns had to go back to the factory for repair or correction (crane that had bad metallurgy and deformed after shooting and one M69 whose barrel sheath unclocked from the sleeve). I have FOUR Taurus revolvers, three of which are 856 and one that is an 856 Ultralight that is ported. They have all worked flawlessly though two cases of USAF ball and I’ve loaned them to several students in my classes to use. Everyone has found them to be handy, accurate and 100% reliable. Caleb Giddings has recently joined Team Taurus and his firm straddling of the competition and self defense worlds has proven to be very effective and good for business!
I have NO FINANCIAL interest in Taurus nor was I compensated anything by them. All the guns, optics and ammunition in this article were purchased by me.
Stupid simple, stupid cheap. For less than 2 bills you can get a versatile, useful, defensive grade shotgun. She won’t win any beauty titles, but you can run the heck out of it, and it’ll keep on truckin. I put this bungee breaching sling on it, I bought years ago that is light weight, and is rigid enough it stays out of the path of the pump, so there are no hang ups. Lastly, I put a two shot side saddle on it. I don’t want to make it prohibitively heavy, I like keeping the wrist of the receiver narrow for manipulation and carry, and if I can’t handle a problem with seven rounds, then please tell funny stories about me at my funeral. One last bit…the Hogue youth stock has an 11.75” length of pull. Don’t say it’s too short…I’m 6’4” tall and it works great for me, with as little as a t-shirt on, all of the way up to layers of clothes under a parka. If you bang into your nose or your teeth, keep your thumb on the other side of the receiver.
I recently returned to teaching for Tactical Response in Camden TN. My dear friend, James Yeager, the founder and MFCEO of Tactical Response passed away in September of 2022, and a huge absence was left by him, not just in the company but in the training community. I have felt a huge hole in my being since he died, and along with all of my life’s other issues, it just seemed like it was the right time to return to teaching at Tactical Response. James can’t be replaced, but I feel that since I was one of his closest compatriots and he was my mentor, it would be fitting to his legacy and his family to return to teach for his company and continue to blaze a trail through educating others. In the spirit of true martial artists, when your Master dies, you continue his lineage of teaching. I don’t know how genuine of a martial artist I actually am, but I’m on the path. And I deem this to be a worthwhile effort.
As an instructor, you are expected to be able to demonstrate, on demand, anything you ask of your students. Seems simple enough. I like to demonstrate for students, not to show off, but to illustrate what we are looking for, and also what you want to see your students do. With that, I only expect to fire about 1/10 of what a student does in a class. Maybe even less than that. So I like to have a dedicated training gun, that mimics the features and feel of my duty guns. With my pistols, I use an identical mechanically (but marked with a FDE back strap) 9mm M&P pistol and with my rifle, I use two identical copies. Same with this shotgun. It is functionally identical to my duty shotgun, the only difference being the Pardner has a, “hump,” a la the Browning Auto-5. Otherwise, it’s an 870. I’ve heard rumors that these are actually made in China by Norinco, and imported to America by H&R 1871. Either way, for $175 NEW, this gun can be yours. Interestingly, the price has stayed pretty low. I bought this model back in 2007, and it has about 10K through it at this point. I’ve cleaned it exactly twice. I have changed the magazine spring twice as well. Not because it was having issues, just prophylactically.
And there you have it. Little different this time…more pics and less yakking. You could do a lot worse for a training gun for under two bills. And if you’re wondering, would I take THIS GUN over a Remington 870 EXPRESS, the answer is YES. The internals in this gun are made of metal. They may be made from melted down leaf springs, or Soviet T-72’s, but they are metal. The extended magazine holds five rounds and is very well balanced. The magazine extension/barrel retention nut stays snug after hundreds of rounds of full power rounds. It’s not glamorous, the finish is modest but does repel rust and corrosion even in Tennessee’s impressive humidity, and it just plain works. I’ve lent it out to students several times, and people always offer to buy it from me because they fall in love with it. I’m telling you…try a 11.75” LOP stock and tell me it doesn’t make an 870 feel like an M-1 carbine! It really does!
So if you’re in the market for a low budget 12 gauge, or something to stow in your boat or RV, or you’re a training junkie or an instructor who needs something that won’t break the bank but will serve you with minimal issues, look into the H&R 1871 Pardner in 12 gauge. Especially if you are an 870 person and want to have an understudy, you could do much worse than the Pardner!
I’ve known Chuck Haggard for years. First as an online buddy on the old GOTX and TPI forums of the early 00’s. Then in person through the Paulepalooza Memorial training events that began in 2012. Chuck is a unique guy in the training industry…he’s literally done it all. He’s one of the few guys around that can chew up a problem from the perspective of a military serviceman, a police officer or an armed civilian. I’ve trained with Chuck in the past and we’ve both audited each other’s classes. Chuck was recently in Nashville teaching for two days, and I had a break in my schedule, which allowed me to attend.
Chuck calls the class I attended, “Pocket Rockets,” but it’s really just a catchy name. What’s a pocket gun for one person, might be a full-size gun to a smaller human. The chief difference between a full size or compact sized pistol and a pocket rocket could be defined as the size the pistol relative to the size of the user. I’ve known people who have pocket carried Glock 19’s and done it well, and I’ve seen people who couldn’t pocket carry a J frame in normal clothes, because that would be too big for them, and it would defeat the purpose of carrying a concealed gun that is obviously NOT concealed.
The point of the class is to be able to achieve precision hits on target, with speed but more importantly, adapt the user’s normal manual of arms to smaller sized guns. I used a SIG P365, as did many others. Several people used Glock 43, 43X and 48’s. One man had a Beretta 21 in .22LR and a few others had weirdos like the Shadow Systems guns, which I know almost nothing about. As anyone who goes from using a full size pistol to a smaller pistol knows, malfunction clearance can prove challenging. The TAP portion of the TAP-RACK-BANG (or TAP-RACK-REASSESS) is difficult to pull off with a small gun because if you’ve got a solid grip, and the gun only has room for one or two of your fingers at the bottom of it, you end up smacking your own hand. Conversely, ejecting a mag with the gun in your grip can also be delayed because your hand prevent the mag from falling free. Chuck has come up with a few solid operation algorithms that overcome that hang up, without drastically changing the way that you might have already programmed yourself to do them. I won’t give away Chuck’s secret sauce, and you’ll still have to take the class to learn them, but they work! Chuck is a master instructor so he understands that there isn’t a one shot solution for every person, and he teaches several different manipulations and one of them is bound to work for you, even if you lack significant hand strength, or coordination. Chuck has tricks! He’ll get you through it!
The course took place at the GLOCK STORE in Nashville on their 270 degree shooting range. The range has movable backstops that allow 270 degrees of fire. The range was lit but had very subdued lighting. And it was variable from the middle of the range to the edges of it. It was the first time in maybe forever that I was glad I had tritium sights on my gun, as it was difficult to see the sights on my Smith M15 when we shot the evening section with our revolvers! I had to dip/duck the front sight to pick up the edge. At 3 yards it wasn’t a big deal, but out at 10 and 15 and further, that obviously makes a difference. Even though I had painted the front blade with orange model paint, there wasn’t enough contrast to see. If you’ve shot Smith OEM adjustable sights (not the recent iterations) you know there isn’t a lot of space around that front blade…there is even less in low light!
We concluded the Pocket Rocket class with a qualification course with Chuck demonstrating each phase of the course. The range for each phase started at 3 yards and progressed to 25 yards. Getting solid hits, at 25 yards, with a 3” barrel gun, in poor light, with a time crunch, was challenging but also rewarding!
I think people often take classes like Chuck’s thinking that their performance with a smaller gun will be comparable to their capabilities with a full size (full size gun FOR THEM). But the truth is, little guns are harder to shoot. You have less sight radius, smaller guts inside the guns and thus operational idiosyncrasies, and truncated barrels that sacrifice ballistic performance in already marginally effective pistol ballistics. Small guns are lighter, there’s more recoil and less barrel so more unburnt powder and muzzle blast. So it’s a wake up call for many students! I’ve been using a J frame Smith of some kind for my entire adult life, so I wasn’t unaware of the hazards of downsizing to a smaller gun. But under pressure, when you really need it, you can’t expect the skills of the full size gun to translate to the smaller one…it’s a different animal entirely.
I was both shocked and amused by the number of students who had used guns that they actually carried but hadn’t tested. Meaning, they had a Glock 43X, that they added an optic, sights, a magwell and extended mag release to, but hadn’t tested it to see if they all worked together. One person’s gun wouldn’t fire more than one round without a malfunction because theit mags weren’t compatible with the magwell, and or the release. Luckily they figured that out in the class instead of in a parking lot somewhere! Testing your equipment, under the eye of a master instructor like Chuck, is important especially if you don’t necessarily know what you need to be looking out for. Very few machines in existence IMPROVE their performance with added complexity. The design requires miniaturization already, and stacking more parts on it for a negligible increase in performance can be a dubious foray into absurdity. Unless you can shoot to the mechanical accuracy of the gun, most people would benefit from the minimalist approach. I’m still undecided on the SHIELD magazines for the Glock 43X and 48. I know people that have success with them, but I’ve also seen a number of them fail. I chose to go with, “eleven for sure,” in my 43X, but you’re welcome to use what you like. I enjoy having the availability of a nearly 50 state legal pistol in stock configuration, but that’s my view.
At the end of the training day for POCKET ROCKETS, we had a ballistic gel lab where Chuck shot a number of rounds into a block of CLEAR GEL ballistic gelatin out of short barrels to see if the performance, penetration wise, was still within the bounds of effectiveness. As you no doubt recall, the FBI specifies 12-18” of penetration after passing through 4 layers of denim. Chuck fired a number of rounds, including my carry round, the SuperVel 115 grain solid copper projectile. The round went about 16” with great expansion and 100% weight retention. The SuperVel 115 grain is a round that shoots well in both my full size M&P as well as my P365 and Shield/Shield Plus. It’s widely available by mail-order on SuperVel’s website, and was one of the few defensive loadings that didn’t dry up during the pandemic. Chuck told us that many of the mono-metal projectiles like the SuperVel and DPX type rounds perform well in gelatin and have similarly good performance in actual shootings as well. I’ve heard similar intel from Professor John Farnam, another trusted source. I shot two mags (I rotate carry ammo on daylight savings time…change the clock, change the carry ammo), and it was THE most accurate ammo I shot all day. I used TULA 9mm steel case and aside from the impressive flash and fire tornado it launched at the target, it was boringly reliable and shot to the sights.
Wrapping up the long day, Chuck ended with a three hour session for wheelguns. I brought two…my Smith M15 2” and a Smith 66 2.5”. I shot a variety of 158 grain lead and LSWC as well as 130 grain flat nose FMJ. They all shot to a different yet acceptable POI. Chuck demonstrated and we used a method of punching out the empties from the cylinder using a hammer fist method. Just like it sounds, you hammerfist the ejector rod vigorously, and it launches the empties with gusto and considerable inertia, even in guns with short ejector rods (like the Model 15). I used the Zeta-6 rubber speed loaders and was satisfied with their performance (more on those down the road). Like I mentioned earlier, I had trouble seeing the sights, due to the subdued lighting on the range. But that’s probably more of a ME problem than it was the fault of the gun. I get spoiled seeing the high visibility dots on XS, Warren or Sevigny sights with lots of light around that front, which just isn’t a feature on the older Smiths. And even without a grip adapter, my accuracy and performance didn’t suffer. It’s only six rounds…I’d rather have better concealability and more of a hook shaped grip than have really comfortable grips, even when shooting stout .38’s. It’s not a .454 where grip shape and beating up the middle finger really comes into play. But I’ve got big hands too…
If you haven’t trained with Chuck, you should! He’s one of the few trainers on the road these days who really has many pieces of the pie to offer you. He’s seen it all…and done it all. If you fancy yourself a gunman, you’d be wise to seek him out and learn from him. His website is https://agiletactical.com/ . Tell him the Doctor sent you!