AN OLD FASHIONED GUNSMITH

If you spend any time shooting a great deal, or especially using guns in an official capacity, you’re going to have guns break, or need modification work done on them. And like I said, if you carry a gun in an official capacity, you want to be able to assert positively, under oath that your gun was not modified by anyone who wasn’t a professional armorer or gunsmith.

Gunsmiths, like many tradesmen, are becoming more and more rare. The legendary gunsmiths that we all read about growing up have passed away. Some taught their secrets to apprentices, but a good deal of that knowledge is gone. It’s really quite sad. As the popularity of modular guns that require only armorer level maintenance to mobilize become more popular, some people and many gun shops, where gunsmiths used to abound, are now replaced by kids who watch YouTube videos but don’t have the capabilities or artistry of a true gunsmith.

Jeff Walle is a gunsmith that is local to me, and operates out of the fantastic gun shop, “Guns and Leather,” in Greenbrier TN. It’s a short drive to the shop from Nashville, and worth the trek. Jeff hails from the great state of Colorado, where he graduated from Gunsmithing school back in the late 1970’s. His shop is something out every gun guy’s dream and he offers the full scope of Gunsmithing and repair capabilities. He also works on Smith revolvers and Marlin lever guns, and I’m particularly hard on those, so I’m glad he is there and accepting work. He repaired my S&W pistol while I waited, and I was back southbound in no time flat!

If you are in need of an ACTUAL gunsmith in the Nashville area, and not just someone with an AR bushing wrench and a sight pusher, go see Jeff Walle and tell him the Doctor sent you!

YOU CANNOT BUY SKILL…BUT YOU CAN BUY ERGONOMICS. FEATURING VZ REVOLVER GRIPS

The stainless 6 shooter versus the magic framed 8 shooter…

One of the fun things about weapons craft and martial arts is that since you’re constantly testing yourself under realistic conditions, you continuously refine your methods. It is really a beautiful direct application of the scientific method because constantly testing, analyzing results, and refinement of the experiment gives more and more usable results. Occasionally (and ideally) this would lead to mastery or perfection. But rarely does that happen…but constant experimentation CAN get you closer to the PATH of mastery.

The late, great firearms trainer Todd Louis Green used to say, “You can’t buy skill.” Meaning that there’s no piece of equipment you can buy that will instantly improve your skill at arms. Skill improvement will always require work on behalf of the user to get to a measurable increase in performance of said skill.

So if we accept the premise that we cannot buy skill, it goes without saying that we CAN buy improvements in ergonomics that allow us to improve our interface to the weapon’s grip. Especially with firearms, the grip on the gun plays a large role in determining the quality of trigger control. The best trigger management occurs when the trigger can be manipulated straight to the rear, without any upward (or downward) deflection of the trigger finger.

For years, decades in fact, one of the negative qualities of N-frame S&W revolvers have been the size of the revolvers grip. Conversely, the K frame grip has always been known as the, “every person’s grip,” since it can be adapted to fit nearly anyone. As modern combat revolver shooting techniques changed to be primarily/all double-action based, revolver grips that fill in the sinus behind the trigger guard were created to allow the index finger to depress the trigger straight to the rear. The problem arises when the rest of the grip grows…material is added to the sides of the grip as palm swells, or by adding material to the backstrap. This greatly increases the trigger reach…and that makes the gun feel bigger. So shortening this distance between the backstrap of the revolver to the trigger face is akin to shortening the length of pull on a shotgun. If you’ve ever used a shotgun that has too long of a stock, you know how uncomfortable a long length of pull is! You can’t really get comfortable behind the gun and the recoil forces aren’t directed straight perpendicular to the user’s body. A similar application of recoil force occurs when the grips are too big in girth or in the distance between the backstrap and the trigger face. It makes shooting uncomfortable and you lose control of the weapon. You become a passenger and are no longer a driver…you’re simply along for the ride.

Enter VZ Boot Grips. I have a set for both my N-frame round butt S&W 327PC and my K-frame round butt K-frame S&W 66. I took some measurements after an acquaintance on Instagram asked me some questions about the dimensions of the different guns with the grips attached.

He was curious if the round butt dimensions of the K frame could be replicated on the N frame. And with cursory measurements, the differences are slight! LOOK!

Trigger face to backstrap on the 327PC
Trigger face to backstrap on the 66
Grip girth on 327. Approximately 4 5/8”. Measured right above grip screw socket.
Grip girth on 66. Approximately 4 5/8”. Measured right above grip screw socket.

The VZ grips have the best fit of nearly any production grip I’ve ever seen. There is no space on the front strap and the rear of the grip from the bottom end up to the frame horns are tightly adapted with no space. They are held in place by either a black or stainless T15 Torx head screw. And since they’re made of synthetic materials, they’re moisture resistant which is vital for a concealed carry revolver. In my subjective opinion the grips transfer the recoil energy of the gun like synthetic grips do, which is to say it seems like the dense material absorbs some of the recoil. I mostly use wadcutters so the recoil with those out of a compact carry revolver is minimal anyway. They also allow a full firing grip for every finger…and most, “boot grips,” do not allow space for the pinkie finger. The shape of this grip is more reminiscent of the old OEM, “banana grips,” of yesteryear. I have a pair of Beez speedloaders for the 327 inbound so I can’t say if they will clear it, but I CAN say that Safariland Comp 1’s and HKS do clear the grips on the 66. I mostly use a speed strip for my revolver reloads though, which of course work great!

I’m really glad that forward thinking companies like VZ are making modern products for us old folks that like wheelguns. The melding of modern materials and design with 19th century based technology is an interesting juxtaposition, but it works. I bought these grips myself…I have no business relationship with VZ. But if you buy a set to try out, tell them you read about them here on CIVILIAN DEFENDER and that the Doctor sent you! Thanks for reading!

WHEELGUN WEDNESDAY…The Smith & Wesson Model 327 PC and the Fricke Archangel

I have been experimenting with the Smith 327PC as a viable carry piece for the wheelgun savvy shooter for a bit more than a year now. I finally got the stocks/grips situation solved with the VZ N-frame boot grips, and they’re fantastic. After I got all of that locked in, I needed a carry option.

Unfortunately, not every holster works for every gun out there. What I mean by that, is that first, not every maker supports every model of pistol and revolving pistol, and not every holster model works for every handgun. For example, I’m a big fan of the Tucker Gunleather CoverUp, and I have a few for both J and K frame revolvers. For those small and medium frame revolvers, that holster works great. But with the N frame 327, it just didn’t work. I’m a big guy and the footprint of the holster wouldn’t fit in the space between my hip bone and my belt buckle. So the search continued.

Tucker Cover Up…not what I had hoped. It’s an odd shaped gun.
Two Tucker Cover-Ups that I absolutely adore. I’ve used both extensively and have no complaints…
The Kramer #5

I next tried an old favorite I’ve had luck with in the past. Kramer holsters is an American classic builder, creating tough-as-iron Horsehide holsters. Although the rig was comfortable and well-made, the ride height and cant didn’t work for me. It’s a beautiful holster though. The search continued…

Dale Fricke Archangel AIWB with BTA (butt tuck adapter)

I loved the gun, but still hadn’t found a good way to carry it. I had a Simply Rugged Sourdough which is AWESOME for 3-4 o’clock carry on the hip. But unless I’m in uniform, I prefer to carry AIWB. It just works better for my build and how I shoot and fight. I should’ve thought of this earlier, but I emailed my friend Dale Fricke and asked if he could make a version of his Archangel for the 327. I have used a version of Dale’s Archangel going back to the early 2000’s. Dale makes some of the most rugged AIWB holsters around, and he supports a huge number of handguns INCLUDING every S&W revolver around.

The biggest objection most people have to using kydex with revolvers is that they’re hard on the finish. I think that’s probably true with any holster, regardless of material. I have seen high grade 1911’s that have never been in anything outside of a Milt Sparks Summer Special and have NO finish left on any edge of the gun. I haven’t really ever been one to concern myself so much with the esthetics of my tools, so I find the accelerated wear from kydex to be a non-issue for me.

I emailed Dale Fricke on a Monday…and had the holster in less than a week! That’s a tremendous turn-around time for a custom maker, and was a pleasant surprise. I immediately unwrapped the rig, affixed it to my belt, then did a series of unloaded dry practice runs to see how it rode and presented…all systems go! I loaded it up, and hit the trail with my Weimaraner to see how it wore in relatively vigorous waking/jogging/stepping over several miles. No hot spots, no shifting, no tipping, and no idiosyncrasies that cause a commonly overlooked holster issue…the unconscious, “holster check.” Lots of people do a great job of hiding big guns, but give it away with their incessant picking to see if their gun is, “still there.” I work to NOT do that and using sound gear that works as it should makes confident carry easy!

Dale’s holsters are made of thicker kydex than most makers use. This means that while his holsters appear to have less detail molding, they’re actually more rugged and have less edges and angles that create hot spots of pressure when worn. And they still have a positive seat on reholster (an audible, “click,”) There’s a distinct difference these days between the makers who design and build holsters made for actual wear and hard use, and those who design and make holsters that are intended for Instagram photos…know the difference. 😉

The Smith 327 PC is a great carry piece. Strange in appearance, but wonderful in performance, it combines modern technology with Victorian era appearance. An American iteration of the British Bulldog revolvers. And now my favorite dog-walking piece.

Speaking As A Child of the Crime Bill of 1994

What a buzz kill…it was 1993, I had just turned 18, had a job working as a full-service gas station attendant and as a police explorer cadet, and I had JUST enough money to scrape together to be able to start buying guns. And then all of the desirable semiautomatic long guns that any young person would be enamored with, were gone. Literally made unobtainable by some weak legislation in hopes it would curb violent crime (SPOILER ALERT…it didn’t). So what to do? I did what I could with manual action long guns (an 870 and a lever action/bolt action combo). But I was bummed.

A few years later, I got a job working full time at an armored truck company. I carried a pair of revolvers (one in my duty holster and another on my ankle). And when I was off-duty/street clothes I would sometimes carry 3 guns, working side gigs where I could mostly in the field of valuable/cash transport. It wasn’t optimal. It wasn’t ideal. But I pivoted to adapt to the market, the world and what I could afford at the time (a used K or L frame was in the $275 range, a J or N frame was closer to $400 at the LGS). And the x-factor here (that many overlook) is I used what I could afford AND still train with. I could get all of the .357 Magnum and .38 Special I could shoot, as long as I turned in the empties (on a 1:1 trade). Many of my coworkers gave me their ammo, and a few of them did that in return for me riding shotgun for them. Because why practice yourself when someone else can do the hard work for you???

This was the trio I carried in the 90’s. When I carried all 3, I wore a hoodie, and had a shoulder holster with the 681 under it, and I carried the 28 AIWB, and the Bodyguard on the ankle. Yes…it gave me the payload of a Glock 17, but those were hard to find. And, if you could find one, it had a 10 round mag. Again, it’s a multi factorial argument…and this does/did have its shortcomings. But if you free your ego from the equation, you can make most anything work. That is, if YOU are willing to do the work. I carried full house 125 grain semi-jacketed hollow points in all three, qualified with that load, and won the company, “Top Gun,” award every year I worked there.

I think that in the next couple years, due to the weirdness of the world, people’s relative apathy to said weirdness and government legislation, we will have an entire new batch of, “Crime Bill Kids,” who will also have limited defensive options. They’ll have to get what they can from the secondary market, feed it with ammunition they can reliably (and affordably) source, and still have the resources necessary to practice or train. The elders of the community can be self-righteous jerks and say, “Well you should’ve been stacking it up!” or, “I prepared for this? Why haven’t YOU?” But that’s not a solution…and the older I get the bigger my Dad her gets and the more I value people that are part of the solution, not accessories to the problem.

So no surprise from me, but the, “most useful,” gun for strange times can be wheelgun. Here’s a few reasons why: 1. Dry-practice with a trigger pull that EXACTLY replicates live fire. “First round hits,” are all the rage currently, but they’ve always been amongst those that know best. How do you get that skill? Dry practice helps TREMENDOUSLY. 2. Ammunition versatility…a .357 Magnum revolver can also fire .38 Special and some can even fire 9mm with a conversion cylinder. Also, you can fire whatever you can source. Light/fast ammunition that may not cycle the action on a semiautomatic pistol reliably, will work fine in a revolver. I’ve noticed a ton of weird, foreign, lightweight/high velocity Ammo in the store when everything else is gone. 3. Ammunition durability. All ammo is relatively fragile. Continually reloading the same cartridge into a self loader can and will decrease the ignition capability of that specific cartridge, or set the bullet back and create pressure issues. So not a big deal to build a zip-lock bag of, “discard,” carry ammo to shoot at the next qualification, or practice session, but in the middle of an ammo shortage, that one round is a valuable commodity. THAT could be the round you need to save your life. With a revolver, the trauma to the individual cartridges is minor or a complete non-issue. And since the state of readiness of a revolver can be ascertained by looking in the cylinder, there’s no need to remove the cartridges from the individual chambers or, “press check,” like many folks do with semi autos. You can open the cylinder, see the primers and close the cylinder. You’re ready. 4. Revolvers are adaptable. You can find OR MAKE (3D printing nerds…looking at you here) revolver grips that will fit any hand or esthetic. Finger grooves are optional, and in many cases, can be removed with patient, cautious abrasive application. And places like VZ grips can make stocks for revolvers that make the BIGGEST revolvers around feel and actually be, volumetrically smaller without compromising comfort or function. 5. Sights. You can DIY many revolver sight options. Some of the greatest revolver pistoleros did this, and with a little hobby paint from Michael’s Treasure House, you can too. Even blacking out the rear notch on a fixed sight stainless revolver can make your sight picture cleaner.

DIY is probably one of the revolver’s greatest adaptability strengths. The guts of the gun largely inhabit the middle of the revolver…the sights and the grips lay at either end. And you can manipulate the ends without affecting the function of the middle. Something to consider.

Concealability, adaptability and availability are just a few of the revolver’s strengths. Is it weird that someone would chose technology from the 19th century to defend themselves in the 21st century? No, but also yes! It isn’t going to be easy, but I don’t think the choice of weapon is the weakest link, nor the most significant in what the cognoscenti like Massad Ayoob, outlined in his, “Survival Priorities,” so many years ago. Utilization requires thought, but any cop who grew up and worked in the, “bridge generation,” between the nationwide switch from revolvers to semiautomatic pistols will tell you, they’d still hit the streets with a revolver and feel fine about it. But all the same, they’d also tell you to bring a spare or two. 😉

This might be the ideal carry piece for the next Generation. Light enough to carry in even gym shorts (an overlooked fact of living with guns) but carrying 8 rounds, it’s nothing to disregard. And the short tube? Roughly the same runway as a Shield or Glock 43 (Add the barrel to the cylinder length). And versatile grip options to fit every hand. A good thought experiment…does your trained adult child or spouse need a gun? Would you consider loaning or gifting (in compliance with the law, of course) THE gun which you are considering? I wouldn’t lose a wink of sleep about my wife or Son’s defensive capabilities with this particular gun. And with my Son’s grappling capabilities coupled with this gun? They won’t get it away from him…the mechanical advantage given to the shooter here is tremendous. But OOF…there’s the elephant in the room that many don’t like to mention; that is, the TRAINING part is the hard part. The gun part isn’t an afterthought but the training part takes preference, at least for me and my small tribe. The hard work is also the most fun (and most rewarding) than just ogling over hardware and rubbing it with a cloth diaper.

Recharging the Drive

I’ve been active in the, “tactical training community,” for nearly 30 years now. I started training back in the early 1990’s and I’ve never stopped. I’ve had some slow-downs due to school, residency training and life-issues, but I’ve never had a training lay-off in that time period longer than 3 months. The focus of my training lately has shifted towards the hands-on Brazilian JiuJitsu/grappling/combatives arena, and that opens an entirely new can of fun worms.

So the other areas of study from the CIVILIAN DEFENDER concept, tend to get pushed to the back burner, and while not entirely neglected, they just don’t get hit as readily. And honestly, much of the firearms training industry rotates about the gear issue…that is, trying out the latest and greatest in technology (which generally isn’t new, or even novel, and harkens back to something that is decades or even a century old). But when you don’t get ga-ga for gear, and have a great appreciation for the SOFTWARE behind the gear utilization, you still get areas of interest. A few of the more esoteric concepts I’ve been actively experimenting with currently include the S&W 327PC in-fight weapons access issues and 0-5 foot application as the ultimate, “gun grappling,” revolver. Another is exploring Colonel Jeff Cooper’s hypothesis on the, “Scout Rifle,” concept, which, while the technology of today has far surpassed What Col. Cooper had available in the 1980’s, the mission is interesting to me. And I’ve been doing more and more with edged weapon utilization, mostly in the BJJ-integrated training ideology. And although I haven’t gone full ham on the red dot sighted pistol, I have one, and I plan to do some work with it under the qualified guidance of several thought leaders in the industry.

S&W 327 PC

But like any of us, I get bored…I get bored with, “guns.” So I tend to hit the, “other,” areas more. I primarily teach medical subjects, both as my primary vocation as a college professor at a medical college, and in open-enrollment classes I teach on weekends to the general public. Dealing with bleeding is something I literally do everyday. I’m planning on adding some of the excellent material produced by Ed Monk on active shooter interdiction in my Hemorrhage Arrest Course. Thinking deeply about dealing with the problem of spree killers lately, which has heavily permeated the current news cycle, has renewed my interest in many areas of firearms training where my interest and enthusiasm has waned. Since I recently attended Tom Givens of RANGEMASTER Tactical Conference, I took several notes which gave rise to more questions that I need to pose to the respective teachers that inspired the thoughts, but also do more work on my own, through research and experimentation. There’s no time like the present, and while the public is busy largely believing in the mass hysteria that the media is heaping on everyday, there must be more done in terms of promoting facts, not hysteria. So now is the time to spread solid, fact-based information. I’ll add what value I can to the conversation and further try and cross-pollinate by disseminating good ideas from those who have them.

I don’t have a big presence in the industry. I have a small sphere of influence thanks to my friendship with a few of the big names. (As I’ve always joked, I occupy the rearmost table next to the restrooms in the corner of the swap meet…and most of the interest in my table is from people looking for the restroom). In my school, I have a larger influence since every student and resident has to come through my clinic to complete their educational program. And as a reserve police officer, I am part of a small department that I have the ability to lead through doing the right thing, being bold, and also demonstrating sound survival and rescue skills in real-life work. This brings me to a great quote:

The world is a strange place right now. The LAST thing that any of us need to be doing is taking a break. We can’t quit right now. Because in the face of mounting legislation, pandemic weirdness and the everyday hustle of life, it’s easy to get bored, distracted and fall into the groove of an apathetic routine. We CANNOT stop training and we CANNOT stop educating those who are receptive to our message (nobody is coming to help you, and it’s up to you to acquire and maintain the skills necessary to preserve your own life from existential threats). As Professor Paul Sharp of SHIVWORKS and SBG says, “EVERY DAY ON NO DAYS OFF.” Constant pressure, applied daily, leads to massive changes over time. So let’s keep on driving. And remember:

THE SECRET OF BRAZILIAN JIUJITSU WITH PROFESSOR CECIL BURCH OF IMMEDIATE ACTION COMBATIVES

Don’t let the idea that you’re too old to start training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I was 44 when I started, and I train with people who have started even older than that. Many people give the excuse of, “I’ll start when I get a little stronger,” or, “I’ll start training once I lose a little bit of weight,” but both of those things just prolong progress! Have no fear, visit an academy for a trial class, and fall in love with your new favorite hobby! For this class we trained outside in the sun, and it was 78 degrees and a little breezy. Beautiful day! I’m peeling now so I wish I would’ve worn a bandana to protect my scalp. But practicing outdoors was new to me, felt very Brazilian, and was a blast!

I had the pleasure of attending the Rangemaster Tactical Conference this past weekend in Dallas, TX. The conference consists of dozens of different areas of topical study, all related to the finer aspects of both personal responsibility and self-protection by thought leaders in their respective fields. I spent a portion of the three day conference training with the, “Shivworks Collective,” which is comprised of a group of professional martial artists and multi-disciplinary practitioners who specialize in both the armed and unarmed projection of force in the 0-5 foot range. I highly recommend this type of training for anyone, but especially for the CIVILIAN DEFENDER who also has an interest or trains in any type of grappling.

Professor Cecil Burch of Immediate Action Combatives taught a stand-alone seminar on the last day of the conference that was geared towards welcoming new students to the art, and also rethinking basic concepts to other BJJ practitioners of all levels. After all, as it is so often stated, there is no advanced anything…it’s just a mastery of the basics. Professor Cecil talked about the importance of knowing the lineage of the Professor or Head Coach at the Academy you choose to train at. Cecil traces his lineage as follows…Wellington “Megaton” Dias, Royler Gracie, Helio Gracie, Carlos Gracie and Mitsuyo Maeda.

We set up mats in one of the flat, grassy areas of the range where no live-fire events were taking place, and we also used the grass to drill on. Professor Cecil took us through a truncated version of a normal training session with him, beginning with BJJ specific warm up drills. As anyone who has trained BJJ for almost any length of time knows, the difference between great BJJ and just, “going through the motions,” is largely a function of hip activity. That is, having both proprioception (knowing where your hips are located, in space, at any point in time) and also having enough flexibility and mobility in your hips to effectively move. The difference between, “just ok,” and, “great,” isn’t much, but small adjustments cause a tremendously beneficial downstream effect! Two of the movements we worked on the most were based on the hip bridge and the hip escape (or shrimp). These basic movements are at the heart of many of the fundamental escapes in jiujitsu, as well as being foundational for so many of the attacks. To the uninitiated, this at first seems like a tremendously exhaustive and impossible series of exercises to attempt, but trust the process and understand that after a period of a week or two, your core muscles will adapt to the movement and it will become far less uncomfortable and fatiguing! Since the course was of limited duration (immediately before the lunch break) we weren’t able to get to the live-rolling portion, also known as, “sparring.”

But, before the class adjourned, Professor Cecil, (with Shivworks Collective member and BJJ Blackbelt Larry Lindenman as his co-instructor and Shivworks Host, Alum and BJJ Blackbelt Guy Schnitzler) we covered two techniques that are relatively straightforward to learn, but still have applicability to any level practitioner. The first was a closed-guard attack called the, “Kimura,” which is a double wrist lock type of submission that, if the opponent doesn’t tap-out to, will result in a heavily damaged shoulder! The other technique is a closed-guard pass that Professor Cecil calls, “Meg’s Pass,” after his Professor Megaton Dias. In my home academy (Artista BJJ in Nashville TN under Professor Felix Garcia) most people call this same technique the, “Log Splitter Pass,” It is a particularly effective and not-fun (for the person getting passed) because of the amount of pressure involved, but since I am a larger, older, not-nearly-as-fit-as-I-once-was practitioner, it works great for my slow-paced game and I’m looking forward to putting it into regular use. I normally stand up to break the closed guard and then try and drop into a knee-slide pass, Torreondo or double under pass, but this method is safer, minimizes space and maintains the attachment of me to my opponent. So less scrambling and smoother transitions to other positions.

If you read this, and you have some BJJ or grappling experience, you understand the terminology and general direction of what I am describing. If you are new to BJJ or grappling and want to know more, you should seek out Professor Cecil and train with him. He teaches at his home academy in Arizona and also around the country at various locations. He is very approachable and dispenses with much of the boorish behavior that tends to sour people new to BJJ. He answers questions, demonstrates hypotheticals and does a fantastic job of explaining concepts to people who literally have no experience outside this class! Learning two hours of Brazilian jiu-jitsu is hardly a compendium of study, but that isn’t the purpose of this seminar; the purpose of the seminar is to expose new people to BJJ and also give BJJ students of any experience level, a focus on the basic movements that will help them refine their own practice. And since you read to the end of the article, Professor Cecil also gave us the secret to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and that is, “SHOW UP!” It is that (deceptively) simple! Only a concentrated effort over a long period of time will net measurable results! And even though the road is fraught with bumps, bruises, minor injuries, sweat and maybe a couple of tears, the pay-off is worth it and the difference it makes in your demeanor, confidence, physical conditioning and self-defense capabilities is tremendous! As Professor Cecil put it, he has spent decades working on his brand of, “Sloth JiuJitsu,” so do not be put off by any physical shortcomings you may feel you have…he can help anyone improve. Seek him out for training, find a local BJJ academy and get to work! And tell Professor Cecil that the Doctor sent you!

Professor Cecil is an admitted Brazilian JiuJitsu evangelist, and he does a phenomenal job of introducing the uninitiated to the wonders of his life’s vocation. Although I’m new to BJJ (14 months experience) I find myself spending most of my free time either reading about BJJ, watching videos about BJJ or practicing BJJ either at my Academy or at our home. It becomes an obsession, but a very healthy one at that. I tend to make better choices when it comes to how I eat, behave and train to maximize my capabilities when I’m in the academy. And as a both a past philosophy major and a continuing student of philosophy, there is no shortage of material about the the philosophical warrior underpinnings of BJJ, along with the stoic ideals of undergoing rigorous physical education and continuing despite great opposition. It is addictive, and the path to eternal self-improvement never ends! I’m looking forward to training with Professor Cecil more and also getting more experience in the SHIVWORKS methodology of armed and unarmed combat!

The 21st Century J-Frame

It’s probably not what you think…years ago I wrote a piece about the Glock 19 and how it had become, for good or ill, the 21st Century K Frame. You can read that essay here.

The Ruger LCR, (which I’ve been using for years and have written about here and here) truly does everything the J frame can do, but with a few distinct advantages. First, no safety lock to contend with. There’s been anecdotal reports of the lock failing on S&W revolvers of recent manufacture, and although I’ve never seen it myself, my mentor Tom Givens has and it completely immobilized the gun until the lock could be turned off. Next, is cost. LCR’s are less expensive and even in the odd political climate, they’re still quite inexpensive.

I’m a fan of the high-tech Cyberpunk esthetic of the LCR series, but the grips have never really done much for me. While I really like the function of the Hogue Tamer grips on the range, in actual use as a concealment piece, they impede the draw when carried on the ankle because the rubber grabs the pant leg. And when carried AIWB or under a light shirt in an OWB, they grab material as well. So while I dig the ergonomic shape, I wish HOGUE would make an EXACT copy of the rubber Tamer but make it out of Goncalo Alves and checker it. I know this is possible because some other makers have done it. And I know they make a G10 version but it is HUGE. Putting giant stocks on a carry revolver might be awesome for some people, but I’ve never understood the point…just get a bigger gun. Also…the aluminum and polymer frame of the LCR coupled with wood grips makes for an interesting recoil impulse. Not awful, just different. It would be even more wild with the magnum variants, I’m sure.
The LCR is capable of great accuracy, even with more-than-mild loadings. I wouldn’t hesitate to use an LCR in any capacity I might need a subcompact, personal defense weapon.

But even though the LCR is a capable weapon, and would really work in well for personal defense missions, the technology has changed and there are new technological innovations in even just the past few years that bring new capabilities to the CIVILIAN DEFENDER in need of a personal defense weapon for concealed carry. Enter the…

SIG P365. Thought by many to be the pinnacle of self-defense weapons, the relatively new technology has many great features. Most notably is the size which despite it being smaller than even a Smith Shield, it carries more rounds (standard capacity magazine holds 10 rounds) and it also has great ergonomics that allow it to actually be shootable. Add to that a weird, but usable trigger and great sights, and you have an interesting entry into the practical carry gun realm.

Like most new guns, there were some teething issues. I didn’t jump on the P365 train initially. I test-fired one at my annual police department qualification in 2018, and had no issues running through a steel plate confidence course. The recoil impulse was quite pleasant, despite the gun’s diminutive size. It shot to the sights and was as, “easy,” to shoot as a full size duty pistol.

Reports from my friends having issues with their P365’s gave me pause. I didn’t want to commit to a platform that had so many issues. Some people had problems with accuracy, primer deformation from the striker impact/metallurgy issues. And others complained of the sights not staying put. All things that I hope worked out over time. It’s probably useful to note here that I pay little attention to what the gun media promotes as, “absolute reliability,” because a 50-200 round range session, most often on a climate controlled range, with high quality performance ammo isn’t a very good barometer for using a gun under real-world conditions. I want to see how guns work in actual use…students bring them to class dirty, sweaty, and improperly lubricated. They load them with crap ammo or poor quality remanufactured ammo. THOSE are the conditions I want to hear about. Because many of the guns we think about as being the, “benchmark,” guns WILL PERFORM QUITE ADMIRABLY under these same conditions. Glocks, Smith & Wesson M&P series, as well as some CZ’s, HK’s and other reputable pistols.

I waited until May of 2019 to purchase the P365, and I found the NRA Special Edition sitting lonely on one of the LGS’ shelves, NIB. I handled and function checked it, then slid my driver’s license to the salesman to begin the purchase. The little pistol has repeatedly performed with aplomb, through 1000 rounds of (pre-pandemic) American Eagle 115 FMJ and 200 rounds of SuperVel all-copper hollow points. The little gun shoots right to the sights, and works as well in my big hands as it does in the medium-larged sized hands of our 15 year old.

Range day. Early quarantine, my Son and I went to a place where hungry wildcats had been spotted milling around, so I brought something more substantial in the event we stumbled across one we shouldn’t have. Luckily, we didn’t see any! I bring a full bore medical kit anytime I go to the range especially in remote areas like this place.
The J frame and the SIG P365 are similar in size and role. And there the similarities end…for a deep concealment appendix carry, ankle rig or ballistic vest BUG, the P365 is hard to beat.
23 ounces (loaded with 11 rounds) the P365 is only 6.5 ounces heavier than a Smith M38 loaded with 5 rounds.
The OEM sights from SIG are very bright, with a tritium vials front and rear. The front vial is surrounded by a large luminescent green halo that makes picking it up at speed easy even for aging eyes. A PRO TIP I picked up from the LEGENDARY LAWMAN MARSHAL CHUCK HAGGARD is to color in the rear lamps with a red Sharpie, which cuts down on the distraction of the rear dots in daytime and lowlight conditions. The dots are still barely visible in no-light, so that the pistol on the nightstand is still visible if you know roughly where you left it (next to your flashlight, hopefully). The factory texturing gives good purchase without unnecessarily eating large holes in clothing or cover garments, and even with the light weight of the P365, it doesn’t abrade the hands like many mini-9’s tend to do, especially with hot ammo.
The DARKSTAR GEAR HITCHHIKER https://darkstargear.com/product/hitchhiker365/ is the primary way I carry this pistol. DSG’s owner Tom, is a multi-disciplinary practitioner, and understands intimately the attributes a concealment holsters needs but also how to optimize the in-fight weapons accessibility qualities of a true carry holster. This rig does both, allowing the user to customize both the level of retention with grommets and set screws, but also the height at which the pistol is carried in relation to the belt line. There is a provision within the design of the spring loaded clip that allows for carry with good stability and retention of the holster on belles pants and shorts (like gi pants, yoga leggings and athletic shorts). This makes the rig great as a, “grab and go,” rig to head to the corner stop and rob, or the mailroom in your building. Tom makes this rig long enough to carry the shorty P365 or its weird sibling, the 365XL. Fear not though shorty P365 users…the extra length of the holster really helps with ballast to keep the short gun from, “flopping,” over the belt. This is one area where the AIWB revolver wins over the self-loading pistol. The weight of the pistol is in the grip, so the design of a proper holster necessitates being able to balance that grip. The bulk of a revolver’s weight is midship, in the cylinder, and thus directly under the belt of the wearer, so a shorter holster for a revolver actually balances in that position without issue. So don’t hate on the extra length of the rig. It is undetectable while wearing.
The ten round, standard capacity magazine. A marvel of firearms engineering. I remember back in the day thinking that a ten-round Smith 6904 magazine was small…this is even smaller.

So there you have it…several of the features that I feel are worthwhile about the SIG P365, and why it has supplanted the J frame that has been a regular feature in my carry arsenal since the 1990’s. The real majesty of this pistol is the magazine. The SIG P365XL is slightly larger, but can carry an impressive 15 rounds using an extended magazine, that still doesn’t look or feel unwieldy. This continued reduction in overall size envelope of carry pistols used in the PDW role, begs the question, will, “full size,” 9mm carry pistols that also hold approximately 15 rounds become superfluous? Just like the N frame revolver gave way to the more compact and lighter/shorter K (and later L) frame revolvers, with no discerbal loss in real performance/capacity, will, “reduced design,” carry pistols become the norm for all except for uniform carry? Time will tell, but it’s an interesting trend.

With a list of real-world users like the SHIVWORKS Collective, and who I believe is the most innovative firearms designer of our generation (Chris G. Barrett of BARRETT FIREARMS MANUFACTURING) adopting the SIG P365 for hard use, anyone who has a need for a full-caliber concealment piece should consider the SIG P365. A, “RULE ONE,” gun (that is, a gun that allows the user to not violate RULE ONE OF A GUNFIGHT…”have a gun”) in the past used to be a J frame at best, and maybe a Ruger LCP .380, Keltec P32 or NAA .22 Magnum Mini-Revolver at the other end of the spectrum, but the P365 opens the performance gate to a class of weapons previously not usable in that same size. Although it had some growing pains at first, the P365 will probably go down in history as the concealment piece that changed the game.

THANKS FOR READING! FTC Disclosure- I have no financial interest in any of the companies mentioned and I am not receiving any compensation for this article.

Feedback on the HAC 8 Hour Course

It is always useful to me to hear how my students perform in real-world scenarios. Here is an email from a recent student.

“I am thankful for the little bit of first aid/trauma training I have. It might not have helped that fella much, but it sure helped me and my peace of mind today, and it was there for him if he had needed it.
A close friend, Scott Ferguson, admonished me multiple times about my lack of training, and how I needed to remedy it. I agreed, and he got me in touch with The Complete Combatant (Brian, and Shelley Luehder Hill). They were offering a trauma class by Dr Sherman House. This was one of the best 8 hour blocks of time I’ve ever spent on myself and my family. I can’t possibly recommend this highly enough! Dr House is unreal! I learned enough in the first hour to make the whole trip worthwhile, and I still had 7 more hours of training to go, that flew by.
Today, my family and I were eating out of town when a lady came in yelling about a man who fell and was in bad shape. I went and helped her. Long story short…70+ year old male approximately 250#, is bleeding worse than anything I’ve ever seen that didn’t have holes in it, and I’ve been present for motorcycle accidents at highways speeds with no gear. This guy was really banged up, but lucid. The car next to him looked like it had hit an animal, just from him using it to try and get up. The lady had been a nurse, and we worked together. We got him settled and sitting, checked him over for major issues, called 911 and his family, and then kept him stable until EMS arrived. This gentleman was so calm and so nice, and he was in such pain. He had huge hematomas (from mid triceps to mid forearm) and lacerations on his elbows and knees and both hands (entire backs of his hands were blood filled balloons), an obviously busted knee, and a pretty substantial hematoma on his head..at least 8″ in diameter. Now that the action has passed, I feel terrible for him. He has quite a few painful days ahead of him.
EMS arrived and took care of him. I paid my bill and left.Looking back, I have a few observations that I would like to pass along to my friends….many of whom realize they should take a class and just haven’t yet made it a priority:
1) NOBODY moves in an emergency. People wait for other people to move. They look around to see who will be the helper. Meanwhile, a problem is occurring and nobody is helping. I hate to sound like a plug for something, but the Image Based Decision Drills can help you start programming a reaction to those stimuli. Whether it’s just a surprise, an attack, or an emergency, mental mapping by using visualization, and forcing yourself through the reaction, will prepare you better for a problem, with or without an established program like the one I mentioned above.
2) I am so happy and so thankful that I have had at least a little training, and that I brought it home to my family. The instant I hit the door, I saw the gentleman and the very first thing that went through my head was the 5B’s protocol from Dr. House. I didn’t have to think or decision tree anything…it was laid out for me because of his class.I mentally checked off the B’s and I knew where to start and how to move forward. My son, Logan, was next to me. My IFAk was 50′ away (more on that in a sec). I could stay busy and send Logan for the IFAK if needed ……”Get the red medic bag from under the back seat, and hand me gloves and a TQ,” and he could have done every bit of it. We have practiced at home.
3) An IFAK is awesome, but if it’s 50′ away because it has just a couple things that make it too big to keep in a pocket…..it isn’t there when you need it. So I’m adding a pocket kit with just two gloves, an approved TQ, and compressed gauze.
At the end of the day, maybe a little about that situation was better for the gentleman because I was there or maybe it wasn’t, but at least I was in a much better place to help, or to at least not hurt than everyone else who sat still. I didn’t drive home, beating myself up because I didn’t know what to do,or because all I could do was stand around wanting to help. I learned a couple of tweaks to my plans in the event of an emergency. I learned some tweaks for gear. I sure hope Mr. Jack is okay tonight.I am online looking for my next trauma class right now. I hope all of you will do the same, it might be one of your family that needs help.”

UPCOMING VIRTUAL TRAINING OPPORTUNITY

UPCOMING TRAINING OPPORTUNITY! James Yeager and Tactical Response will be hosting me for a virtual training opportunity this coming Saturday, April 18th. This day-long webinar program will consist of three modules, covering the assessment and treatment algorithm of trauma, management of dental emergencies, and wound care and closure. Please, like, share and enroll!

CIVILIAN DEFENDER IMPROVISED MEDICAL CARE – VIRTUAL CLASS