Gym Guns…”CHANCHO…I need to borrow some SWEATS!”

You can call them, “Gym guns,” or, “Gi Guns,” or, “Sweatpants guns,” or, “Board shorts guns,” but we are all talking about the same thing…an abbreviated version of a full size pistol, or a purpose built compact or subcompact gun, made for ease of carry, and less for ease of use.  MANY folks are relying on these guns in the limited or specialized role of low profile carry to the gym/yoga studio (although how in the hell someone does yoga with a gun on, without everyone seeing said gun, is beyond me) or running in the park or the track.  Along those same lines, many members of the Civilian Defender crowd rely on an abbreviated weapon, for everyday carry, either out of convenience (hey, smaller guns ARE easier to carry!) or because they don’t want to get made by their peers, or their employer, either out of embarrassment, or because they might lose their job.  We’ve all got to put food on the table, and the best way to do that is through gainful employment!  Luckily, I’m self employed.

Rio Bravo4
I could walk into work with a lever action rifle in hand, like old John T Chance here, and really (you’d have to see the neighborhood I work in) and really not look THAT out of place.  Other folks are not so lucky, and they don’t have the benefit of lugging around a full size service pistol, spare mags, Clinch Pick, OC spray, and a Spyderco Endura.  An additional note, film director Quentin Tarantino once said that he has found that if people do not like the film, “Rio Bravo,” he generally doesn’t get along with them.  Of all the litmus tests for human compatibility, I think that this is probably the best one!

I work out, five to six days per week, in a style of workout called, “High Intensity Interval Training.”  I’ll make the caveat that HIIT workouts aren’t for everyone; either you love it or you hate it.  I find that it works well for both my fitness goals, AND since I’m recovering (3 months now) from heart surgery, it allows me to give my recently remodeled and rebooted heart a good amount of stimuli, to encourage healing.  On Mondays, the workout consists of a 60 minute interval of jogging/running and sprinting on a treadmill, and lifting weights, specifically focusing on the arms.  There are a number of different trainers, who do a number of different workouts.  It is really hard to get the same workout twice, even from the same trainer.  So, I went to a trainer that has a VERY difficult arm day, in hopes that I would not be able to lift my arms afterward, and be really shaky.  Of course, this feeling is transient, and is gone within a few hours.  But, I thought it might be interesting to shoot a series of abbreviated guns, using the TACTICAL PROFESSOR’S BASELINE PERFORMANCE DRILL, and see how I faired, with noodle arms.

I shot the drills faster than I normally do.  Normally, I really stress accuracy, and that is the point of the drill, but with my arms smoked, I didn’t really feel like holding them out in front of me, as long as I normally would in a non-tensed state!  Not spraying and praying, by any means, but definitely faster than laying bullets on top of other bullets.  On the 3 shot and 4 shot strings, I was going for .5 splits or better, regardless of range.  The other complicating factor is that all of these guns have short sight radii, meaning that the distance from the front sight to the rear sight is abbreviated, and thus a bit of a wobble that might be barely perceivable on a 4″ barreled service pistol, is QUITE apparent on the shorter barreled guns…and even worse with the shakes.

I’m sure that there will be people who will disagree with me on this, but I find that in the majority of situations that a CIVILIAN DEFENDER will find themselves in, the choice of the pistol matters not.  My personal caveats are that it is chambered in a round that is effective (READ:  .38 Special is my minimum) and that it is controllable (READ:  I don’t like Scandium/Titanium frame J frames…partially because they are brutal to shoot, which inhibits regular practice, and also because they are ammo sensitive; you cannot use certain bullets since they will pull, with inertia, from the cases).  I don’t care if you use a revolver (duh) or a pistol for personal self-defense.  Nobody is raiding a fortified Nazi castle here…we are just regular Joes and JoeAnne’s trying to get back to our car with a load of groceries.  Tom Givens from RANGEMASTER keeps a database of all of his students that have been involved in self-defense shootings.  Of all of his students, he has had 65, to date, that have been involved in armed self-defense situations.  Of those 65, three of those students were murdered, for the contents of their pockets, because they were unarmed.  The other 62 were armed, and were victorious.  Of those 62, whether they had a pistol or a revolver, they made it through their nightmare.  So, while it would be GREAT for everyone to pack a Glock 19 or a Smith M&P, I know that isn’t a possibility for everyone due to stature, or finances, or simply aesthetics.  So whatever you use, make sure you can get it out of the holster and onto the bad guy quickly, hit exactly what you are aiming at, reload it if it runs empty, and fix it if it stops running.  Make it a point to achieve a high level of mastery in all of those skills, and you’ll be well prepared for the majority of situations you’ll encounter.  The choice of pistol is really not as important as most people consider it to be.  Don’t buy or carry crap, but think of it analogously to a car, that you may have to drive across the country.  Would you buy an uncomfortable, poorly functioning, piece of crap, made of pot metal and held together with wood screws?  Guns in the same vein exist, and some foolish boobs use them for self-defense.  Don’t be that guy or gal.

Gen 4 Glock 26 with Ameriglo CAP sights, in the EXCELLENT JM Custom Kydex, “IWB Universal,” kydex holster.  It features a user-adjustable, metal clip, that allows the wearer to alter the cant to their preference.  The clip will hold onto a belt like it was welded to it, AND it will hold onto the elastic and drawstring waistband of gym shorts, just as securely.  Also pictured are two, currently popular after-market GLOCK magazines…the Magpul GL19 and the ETS (translucent) versions.  In the limited use (fifty rounds) of the test, they worked fine.  I’ll run them more in the coming months.  I’ve found that G26’s don’t always run well with full length magazines from G19’s and G17’s, as well as the 33 round magazines.  Also, as much as I love Sgt. Dave Spaulding’s writing, I really have come to love higher mounted sights.  These sights are great for carry, and for the user looking for a 1:1 steel replacement for the factory OEM Glock sights (er, I mean, “dovetail protectors,” these would fit the bill nicely), but I’ve become so accustomed to the Warren height uppers on Glocks and M&P’s.  In recoil, with the shorter sights, I have a tendency to dip the muzzle looking for the front sight on the follow through.  Seems to be exacerbated shooting these smaller guns.  Hrmph…must investigate further.
Old Faithful…the Smith and Wesson J-frame.  This is an all stainless, Model 640.  There are probably a good number of readers that use a J frame of some iteration, as a self-defense piece, and I salute you!  Like I’ve said in past articles, there are days when revolvers can be finicky.  This particular day was one of the finicky ones.  Although the revolver worked correctly in the firing phase, the cylinder release took an inordinate amount of pressure to open!  I think that may have had something to do with the hotter-than-regular-Air Force-ball-Federal ammo that I was using.  I didn’t chronograph it, but it seemed to be moving, and the muzzle blast was impressive, even under the lights of the range.  The gun probably heated up quickly, and that led to problems with the cylinder opening.  Not a big deal in practice, but in a confrontation, I’d rather just pull another gun.  Of course who wears 2 guns to the gym?  Put your hand down, you wild man!  So, you can see why it could be important to be able to open the gun, and then reload it, under the pressure of someone trying to kill you.  Anyway, I counted this as 49/50, although you could make the argument that the upper hit was within the bounds of the clavicle, that is, inferior (below) the clavicle.  There is still  number of good targets in that area, but, since I wanted to make this hard on myself, and since I wasn’t aiming at the clavicle, I counted it as a miss.  In all of the tests, I am aiming for the (somewhat ambiguous on this target, and that’s by design…pay no attention to the poorly scaled and somewhat ectopic organ systems depicted) is the imaginary zone defined at the lateral borders by the nipples, and at the upper border of the manubrium (the top of the sternum) and the diaphragm at the lower border (bottom of the sternum).  Anything outside of that imaginary zone, is a, “miss.”
The Smith and Wesson Model 12.  This is a 2″ barrelled, aluminum K frame revolver.  This was, “THE GUN,” to have back in the police wheelgun days, if you were a plainclothes investigator.  The gun is stock, except for red nail polish on the front sight ramp, the hammer is bobbed, and the stocks are made by Ahrends grips, in the version they call their, “Tactical Model.”  Airweights like this carry great, because they are a full size grip gun, but they are very light.  Airweights like this are a handful to shoot, because although there is plenty of gun to hold onto, they don’t weigh much, and they have some recoil to them!  Recoil is subjective, and I think it is fun, but when you’re arms are shaky, the long (albeit smooth) DA pull of a revolver like this makes your arms feel the burn, which equates to some not-so-straight shooting at 15 yards.  I dumped two rounds here, below the level of the diaphragm, which I’ll count as misses here.  Sure, the guy might die days later of a septic infection, or bleed to death in an alleyway hours after the confrontation, but that’s not what we are trying to achieve.  We are trying to make the badguy STOP whatever thing he is doing that makes him a badguy.  We can only get badguys to stop what they are doing by delivering accurate hits to vital targets.
The Gen 4 Glock 26.  As weird as the Glock mini-guns feel in the hand, they shoot well!  I enjoy them, and I think they just may well, “be,” the 21st Century J-frame.  Many armed citizens and police officers use the subcompact iterations of the Glock as primary or secondary weapons.  As with the revolver, those 10 and 15 yard strings require a good deal of focus and stability.
The Smith and Wesson Shield 9mm.  This is a great gun too, and what I feel is the best of the breed, when it comes to single stack 9mm carry pistols.  I have tried other, “small,” single stack 9’s and the Shield is the only one that I really felt confident with.  With that said, I have yet to try out the Glock 43 (stay tuned) but I have used the Walther PPS, and the Kahr PM9.  I liked the Walther, but it wasn’t, “that,” compact (although it is FLAT) and the Kahr was just too small for me to get a good thumbs towards the badguy grip without burning the end of my thumb, because it extended past the muzzle.  I know that some folks have had bad luck with their S&W Shields, but I’ve been happy with mine.  And really, I feel about the same, shooting-wise, with the Shield as I do with the 9C.  I think with work, I could produce the same kind of accuracy I get with my J frame, and (dare I say) retire the J frame for only super-discreet carry roles.


The Smith and Wesson M&P Compact 9mm.  Similar in size envelope to the Glock 26 (sorta halfway in size between a Glock 26 and a Glock 19) is this handy little machine.  My significant other has one of these as her carry piece, and although I’ve had this pistol for several years, I bought it, got distracted by something, and it just sat in my safe.  I changed the sights from the factory Novak with 3 painted white dots (which I have found have a tremendous propensity to fly out of the sockets of the sights, while shooting) to the Dawson Precision, “Charger,” fiber optic sights.  Partially because like I said, I don’t like the ejecting dots on the Novaks, and also because I wanted to test the utility of fiber optics on a carry gun.  I REALLY like the rear sight on this.  If the front sight takes a dump on me, I’ll just replace it with something that is the same height and width, but made of steel.  


I know that someone with a science background is going to read this and flip their wig at all the variables that I threw in here.  So, in that vein, no…it is not, “rigorous scientific testing.”  However, it is reproducible to you, the reader.  Go beat your arms to a pulp, in whatever form of exercise you prefer.  Then take any accuracy intensive drill (preferably one you know how you shoot, “cold,” in a non-tensed state) and shoot it when your arms feel like limp spaghetti noodles.  Compare your scores.  MY TAKEAWAY from this is that sights and trigger manipulation will get you through, even if you’re not using a gun you’ve completely, “bonded,” to.  Also, the acceptable, “wobble zone,” when you are in a post-exercise state, “moves,” quicker.  The involuntary rattle in the limbs and hands does a pretty good job, I think, of simulating peri-incident stress.  That makes the wobble zone, especially on the distant shooting strings, more difficult to manage, and really requires a sure grip, and careful manipulation of the trigger.  A few readers have asked how I manipulate the trigger, and I use the, “flip and press,” method taught by Bill Rogers of the Rogers shooting school.  I find that I don’t have the, “trigger freeze,” issue that some folks experience when switching from pistol to revolver and vice versa.  I can also switch from DAO autos to DA/SA without a drastic transition.

But that wobble zone…shooting at distance, even only 45 feet, when your arms are burning and weak feeling, is difficult!  Give it a try and post your thoughts in the comments section.  Thanks for reading!

-Dr. House


It has been nearly four years since Paul Everett Gomez died, in Seattle WA.  Paul was on his way to British Columbia, to deliver his unique brand of training.  Paul had two flagship courses, 1.  RPM…”Robust Pistol Manipulation” that was Paul’s unique spin on ambidextrous gun handling, both shooting, loading, and fixing malfunctions, with EACH hand and one-hand-only, and 2.  “Urban AK,” which was essentially, utilization of the AK at distances normally reserved for pistol and shotgun work, that is, inside of 25 yards.  Paul slept on my sofa bed, the night before he departed Nashville for Seattle, and he left his carry pistol, a Glock 17, and his, “bag gun,” an underfolding AKM, in my possession.  Paul stayed at my house regularly, every couple of days, and this was the custom when he flew to places he couldn’t carry at.  I still have Paul’s guns, and they will be given to his children once they are old enough to have them.

One of the many t-shirts inspired by Paul.

I first met Paul at a Tactical Response, “Fighting Rifle,” course in about the Fall of 2006.  Paul and I were the only students in a class of ten, that were using AK variants.  At the time, the carbine itself cost less than $350, and a case of Wolf ammunition was $99, and sometimes you could find it for $79!  Very inexpensive by today’s standards.  Magazines were plentiful, and could be had for $8 to $10 each.  Well, Paul and I were, at first, the odd men out, as everyone else in the class had an M4 of some sort, along with the flashlights, and red dot optics that work so well with the Stoner family of carbines and rifles.  Paul and I had simple, wood stocked rifles, with simple nylon slings, and iron sights.  They were about as, “stock,” as an AK could get.  The weather was cold, and there was even some snow on the ground, but despite the precipitation, neither of our rifles had any malfunctions, and we both finished the class admirably.  Our friendship was forged from there on out.

These were the gents from one of the first instructor development classes at Tactical Response.  Circa 2007 (approx).  We all bought Gomez shirts and hats to wear for our final exercise, as an homage to Gomez.  

Over the next several years, I trained with Paul extensively.  Sometimes we went to conferences, and would be in the same instruction blocks, and other times, we would just beat the stuffing out of each other in my living room, garage, or backyard.  We also worked and taught together, both at the home range in Tennessee, and on the road.  We formed a local training group, which used a rural range to test out various experimental training blocks, that would eventually become Paul’s flagship course, (RPM) as well as his Urban AK class.  Paul and I devised an, “AK battlefield pickup,” drill that we ran students of varying skill levels through, at a tactical conference.  Paul favored the AK, and I was a fan of the shotgun.

Before Paul’s death, he had been working on a book covering his method of AK utilization, for the civilian user.  It was never published.  Excerpts of it are here, and will illustrate what Paul thought that the AK could do for the self-defense user.

Understanding the Role of the Carbine in Self Defense
It’s been said that defensive gun training should begin with the handgun and after sufficient skill has been gained with it, training with carbines, rifles and shotguns is appropriate. The same people who make that statement generally go on to explain how poor the pistol is at stopping fights and that the only reason to carry a pistol is because it is not socially acceptable to walk around town with a rifle slung on your shoulder. I maintain that if you are not going to carry a pistol with you at all times and have it immediately available for use, if you are going to have to go and fetch a gun in times of duress, then you would be vastly better served by fetching a shoulder fired, magazine fed, semiautomatic carbine. Everything that the pistol can do the carbine can do better, except remain unseen. Even if you do carry a pistol with you at all times and you are aware of a problem brewing which you cannot avoid, you would be better served fetching that same carbine to the fight.
There exists a misconception that shoulder fired weapons are for use at great distances and, somehow, they are inappropriate for use in close range affairs. This is nonsense. Starting in the early 1980s, some trainers in the private sector began offering training in the short-range use of the rifle. Unfortunately it took events such as the so-called “Miami Massacre” on 11 April 1986 and the “North Hollywood Shootout” on 28 February 1997 and many less tragic events, to gain wide spread acceptance within the general law enforcement and training communities.
Comparing the shoulder fired, magazine fed, semiautomatic AK directly to the handheld, magazine fed, semiautomatic pistol should clarify the issues involved.
• The carbine fires a cartridge that strikes with appreciably greater authority than any defensive handgun cartridge. There is simply no comparison between the damage done by handguns cartridges and that done by, even relatively puny, rifle cartridges like the 7.62×39.
• The greater sight radius available on long arms aids in practical, real world accuracy. “Sight radius” is the distance between the front and rear sights. On pistols it is minimal. For instance, on a Glock M19 the distance between the front and rear sight is a paltry 5.75 inches. On a standard AK, the sight radius is 14.25 inches. The closer the sights are the greater the error as range increases. This means that I could have a sighting error approximately 2.5 times worse when using an AK and still hit as well as I could with a Glock at the same distance. In other words, due to the greater sight radius, we have more room for error with less disastrous effects in close range engagements with the carbine than we do with the pistol.
• Due to the greater number of interface points, or physical reference points, between shooter and gun with the carbine you can utilize your whole body to mitigate recoil and control and move the gun. When this is coupled with the longer sight radius, the ability to get hits under stress is vastly superior to the pistol.
• Standard magazine capacity for the AK is 30 rounds. Standard magazine capacity for most pistols is rarely greater than fifteen rounds and the availability of standard capacity magazines for pistols is problematic and, in some cases cost prohibitive. Thirty round magazines for most AK carbines are readily available for less than $10 apiece at the time of this writing. Having a large on-board ammunition capacity allows the operator to expend less time and energy manipulating his equipment and spend more time involved in solving and/or extracting himself from the problem.
• Lastly, the use of the carbine is largely range independent. With an appropriately zeroed weapon, you merely put your sights on what you intend to hit and work the trigger without disturbing the alignment, regardless of distance from two feet out to beyond 200 meters. You cannot do this with any other platform. Not with pistols, not with long guns chambered for pistol calibers and not with shotguns.
Understand that the defensive fight does not magically transform into something other than what it is based on how you have chosen to arm yourself (the number of bad guys doesn’t change, their intentions don’t change, whether they are wearing body armor isn’t affected by the presence of a rifle, etc.) but, also understand, you may effect great changes upon the participants based on how you have chosen to arm yourself.
Paul was literally a walking, talking database of names, dates, factoids, and seemingly miniscule details on the most arcane, odd, and strange things of anyone I have every known.  Most folks remember Paul being an amazing historian and expert in just the firearms and training fields, however, he was also AS knowledgeable in general!  So, in the spirit of Paul Everett Gomez, I sought out one of Century Arms’ latest creations, an American MADE Kalashnik0v variant (the Hungarian AK63D), and ran it through a series of drills, instruction blocks and bumping around on my travels, to see how it held up, and if it would function in the capacity of a self-defense weapon, or, THE URBAN AK!
AM63D side
With the stock in the, “folded,” position, the AK63D fits into the cargo compartments of many pickup trucks, and boats.  It is far more portable than a full size carbine, in this configuration.  Notice I didn’t say that it should be USED in this configuation, merely stowed, stored or transported.  For business operators (like myself) that rely on firearms for self-protection, and have businesses that are targeted frequently, being able to discreetly transport a carbine like this in a low profile bag, is a wise option.  I have installed a, “retro,” Vickers sling on the carbine, that works simply, and attaches easily to the factory supplied front and rear sling loops.
One issue that many American shooters gripe about with Kalashnikov pattern rifles is the safety (AKA selector) lever.  On some weapons, the safety lever will flop about, willy-nilly, and on other samples, it will be tight and nearly immovable.  The AK63D’s selector lever was moved easily, and clicked into place with a very positive and palpable fee.  Paul’s thoughts on safety lever manipulation were as follows:
Manipulating the Safety
The two biggest complaints with the AK platform have always been the sights and the location of the selector lever. Thankfully, we have sighting options now that we didn’t have just a short while ago, but we are stuck with the clackety-clack selector lever. The selector lever is placed in a completely inappropriate location which prohibits the user from maintaining a firing grip on the gun while being in a position to disengage the safety in a timely manner. There are several different methods of actuating the safety, as well as simply carrying the gun with the chamber empty and the safety off and racking the action prior to engagement. I would no more advocate carrying a carbine with the chamber empty than I would for carrying a pistol in that condition. If you store your AK with the chamber clear that’s well and good, but when it is put into defensive service, it needs to have a round in the chamber and the safety engaged. The method that I advocate maintains a physical reference point on the pistol grip, keeps excess movement to a minimum, and allows positive control over the weapon should that become an issue in close quarters.
As the weapon is depressed into the ready position, the gun-side hand loosens its grip allowing the fingers and wrist to rotate to make contact with then selector lever. The thumb of the gun-side hand stays around the pistol grip as much as possible. For me this means that the tip of my right thumb back to the first joint stays around the pistol grip and my second (social) finger contacts the shelf on the selector lever, with my index finger resting above and my ring finger resting below. Once contact has been made, upward pressure moves the selector lever to safe and the hand maintains its position with the fingers staged on the selector lever and the thumb hooked around the pistol grip. The gun-side hand maintains this position at all times unless it must perform a task which requires it to move elsewhere. To disengage the safety and establish a firing grip, the fingers initially move as a unit dragging downward in a tight arc. Once the safety has been disengaged, the fingers continue moving towards the pistol grip, with the exception of the trigger finger which immediately locates the trigger and begins the firing stroke. This action sequence is known as “Click-Touch”. As the selector lever disengages the safety (click) the trigger finger locates the trigger (touch) and begins to remove the slack (if you intend to fire immediately).
Due to the positioning of the gun-hand thumb, it is very intuitive to help secure the gun by grasping the pistol grip tightly to aid in retention. With many of the other methods taught for actuating the safety, the gun-side hand is merely resting on the selector without assisting in controlling the gun at all. Should a disarm attempt be made against someone holding an AK in that fashion, the gun literally peels away from them. Maintaining a firm grasp of the magazine and having the gun-side thumb indexed to grasp the pistol grip goes a long way toward insuring your control of the gun.
AM63D pistol grip
One thing I didn’t like about the carbine (and this is no fault of Century Arms) is that the interesting shape of the pistol grip, gets to be rather abusive with continued firing.  That sharp, 90 degree angle on the back of the receiver really digs into the proximal joint of the thumb with heavy use.  That camming motion of the bolt pushing back into the receiver cover really gets to the thumb.  Gomez used to say, “Water is wet, fire is hot, gravity is cruel and AK’s are sharp…wear gloves.”  I would agree.  Fortunately, a large market of AK accessories exists, and a more ergonomic pistol grip from Magpul or Tango Down would give the user a more comfortable hold on the gun.  The Hungarians, no doubt, had some rationale for the shape of the grip when they first designed the rifle, but I can’t imagine what it was!  The wood sure is pretty though!

In keeping with the Gomez Doctrine, I decided to put the carbine to paper, in a test that would demonstrate many of the operating characteristics that Paul believed make the AK a superior weapon for the civilian defender to use, in lieu of a pistol, at, “probable,” engagement distances.  That is, particularly 5-10 yards (household distances) and a maximum of 25 yards (upper limits of the majority of civilian self-defense shootings).  To do this, I used one of my (NOW) favorite benchmark tests, THE TACTICAL PROFESSOR’S, “BASELINE PERFORMANCE,” drill.  I slightly modified it for the rifle, starting at the Gomez, “Low Ready,” and shooting the drills at 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 yards.  I used a 30 round Bulgarian Waffle Magazine, and a 20 round Hungarian magazine for the drill.  As I said, I started from the, “Low Ready Position,” that Gomez talked about, here:

Deployment from Ready Positions
Low Ready
The default ready position for use with the Kalashnikov, or any other carbine, is known as the Low Ready Position. It is important to understand that low ready is a flexible position. It is not a fixed point, such as “the support side arm must rest against the ribcage and the muzzle must be held at a 45-degree angle” but rather any point along a given arc that accomplishes the necessary goal at that time. Low ready can be with the gun muzzle depressed just below the eye-target line and it can also be with the muzzle pointing six inches forward of your toes. I feel quite strongly that good guys don’t point guns at other good guys, so for me, my default low ready position directs the muzzle at such an angle that it is pointing towards the ground in front of whomever I am interacting with. The exact angle changes based on distance and environmental factors, but this position allows me to observe the scene while obstructing as little of it as possible, not violate any of the universal gunhandling rules and still present and aggressive image.
To familiarize yourself with the low ready position, begin with the gun on point, in the offhand position. From the offhand position, depress the muzzle. Realize that only the shoulders and the upper portion of the stock are moving. As the muzzle moves downward, the butt stock will begin to move away from your chest. As long as the lower portion of the stock, called the toe, remains in place and both hands maintain their original positions on the gun, you are in an acceptable low ready. The toe of the stock maintaining contact with your chest serves as a physical reference point which, along with the cheekbone, allows you to rapidly return the gun to the offhand position and engage the threats as need be.
Anytime that the weapon is not on point, aimed in on a target, or malfunctioning, it should be on safe. Practicing moving the selector lever from safe to fire as the AK is brought from ready to point and as it is brought from point to ready you should practice the reverse. It does absolutely no good to quickly get your gun on target only to discover that it won’t go bang and it’s rather embarrassing.
For additional study, I’ve included Paul’s thoughts on the, “extreme low ready.”
Muzzle Depressed Centerline Ready
Muzzle depressed centerline ready can be thought of as an extreme low ready. However, it possesses some unique attributes which must be addressed separately. The purpose of the muzzle depressed centerline position is to allow unrestricted movement in 360 degrees. If you were to attempt to turn completely around with your carbine in a more traditional low ready position, the cone that would be swept by the muzzle would be unacceptable in many situations. It would also require an inordinate amount of attention to continuously adjust the muzzle to avoid non-threats in the environment. With the muzzle depressed centerline ready, the gun can be “parked” with the muzzle straight down between your feet. To place the AK into muzzle depressed centerline ready, dismount the gun from the offhand position into low ready. As the edge of the magazine contacts your centerline around waist level, rotate the gun towards your non-gun side so that the ejection port is facing forward and your grip is maintained on the magazine which is now facing towards your gun-side. The gun-side hand releases from the pistol grip, except for the thumb and stages on the selector lever, as described previously. To return to the offhand position from here, simply rotate the gun inboard which returns it to low ready and continue back to the offhand position.
AK63D Performance Standards
This carbine is capable of GREAT accuracy at the distances I prescribed in the drill.  NOTE:  I mismarked the target…I did drop one shot out of the, “8,” ring at 25 yards, that I didn’t note on the target!  I did shoot the carbine outdoors, on steel, and it was easy to do a walkback on a 12″x12″ steel, out to nearly 200 yards, without any holdover required.  Recoil is manageable, and not brutal, even though the cheekweld is strictly supported by the metal arms of the underfolding stock.  There was only one limiting factor in the user-friendliness of the sighting system:

The stock sights are made to please the collector and military purist crowd, and they simply are tough to use!  There is almost no light visible on either side of the front sight, in the stock configuration.  I did paint the front sight with red nail polish, after shooting outdoors in the bright sun, to help pick it up, quickly.  I will also take a dental diamond bur to the rear sight and hog it out into a, “U-notch,” not unlike the Warren Tactical Sights on my pistol.  If you don’t have access to dental rotary tools, you could use a dremel, and I know other folks that have done the same thing manually, with a chainsaw file.  This seemingly simple and basic modification makes a simple rifle even better.  Hit it with a Q tip full of cold blue to cut down on the glare, and you are ready.


Paul and I used to argue at length, over sasparillas (me) and Shock Tops (him) about the viability of the AK as a home/shop defense weapon for the (what I am now calling) CIVILIAN DEFENDER.  I was a dogged fan of the shotgun for home defense, and he was an AK proponent, although we both practiced with each weapon type.  At the time, the Corbon DPX for the 7.62×39 had been widely released, and Paul was a fan of it for anti-personnel use.  We talked about the danger of pellet accountability, but I think a great deal of that would have been remedied by the Federal Flite Control buckshot loading.  One thing I learned from Paul (of many) was to thoroughly think through a problem…no matter how small, and study the component parts, to figure out what the best direction to find the answer was.  I think that Paul would LOVE the Century Arms American Made AK’s.  Even though he would probably prefer a stamped receiver, instead of the milled, due to the weight savings, he would agree that the AK63D is a rugged, accurate, well-handling machine, with just a couple of tweaks (to the grip and the sights), would serve well in the role of the, “Urban AK.”

The world lost a Great Father, a Good Friend, a Wise Instructor, and a Brilliant Polymath in May 2012.  Paul lived to seek out knowledge, and he was very much a believer in the idea that if you wanted to master a subject, you should teach it!  Paul loved attending multidisciplinary tactical conferences, like the RANGEMASTER Polite Society Conference, as well as other regional and topical conferences.  In that vein, in the day following the discovery of Paul’s death, I began a monetary trust to support Paul’s three children, so that they would always be able to educationally prosper, and not go without the things that their Dad would have provided for them.  With HUGE support from Craig Douglas, Paul Sharp, Chris Fry, Cecil Burch, Tom and Lynne Givens, Claude Werner, Rob Pincus, Larry Lindenman, Chuck Haggard, Caleb Causey and the entire TPI (Total Protection Interactive) community, Dr. William Aprill and I organized the first PAUL-E-PALOOZA MEMORIAL TRAINING CONFERENCE in 2012.  It was a huge educational and philanthropical success.  We had the second PEP in 2014, and the third in 2015.  Every year, we gather more interesting instructors AND great corporate sponsors (in keeping with the mood of the conference, our only educational requirement of the instructors is that the material has to be part of the multidisciplinary spectrum, and the weirder, or more arcane, the better.  KEEP PEP WEIRD).  The NEXT PAUL-E-PALOOZA MEMORIAL TRAINING CONFERENCE will be in August of 2017.  I will post details as soon as they become available.  ALL of the funds that are generated by the tuition fees go into the Paul E. Gomez Children’s Trust, and so far, we have raised over $100,000 for Paul’s kids.  We have paid for Paul’s eldest daughter, Gabriella, to attend LSU, and we have paid for the other kids’ Boy Scout Camps, medical expenses, and so many other things that their Dad would’ve handled, if he was still alive.  It’s something that I plan on continuing as long as I am able to!  If you have attended the past PEP’s, THANK YOU for doing so, and if you want to attend the PEP’s of the future, stay tuned here, for updates on the specifics of the next conference.

Thanks again for reading!

Dr. House

Gomez, me, and a giant on the BAT BRIDGE in Austin, TX, circa May 2010.  Paul and I had just taught the largest Immediate Action Medical class we’d ever done.  Everyone in attendance had a great time and learned things that have served them well in their lives.


The Remedial Action Revolver Kit

Smith M66
This is a Smith Model 66, that has been rendered DAO, had the hammer bobbed, and it has C&S fixed sights.  The strain screw on this lady is highly mobile…I have to keep an eye on it, otherwise it’ll drift right out.

If you spend any amount of time shooting revolvers you’ve no doubt discovered that revolvers can be , uh, fickle.  Some days, they work with the perfection and regularity of a Swiss watch, and other days, they are like the Fiat of guns.  This can be really frustrating!  There are times where I want to throw the offending wheelgun into the nearest body of water, and simply press-on with life, using a semi-automatic pistol.

In my estimation, a revolver is very similar to the car you had in high school.  It was your, “first,” love.  You either bought or were given that car and you were responsible for its care.  When you think back, you kind of miss that car.  Even though it probably wasn’t the most state-of-the-art vehicle on the road, or didn’t have the most comfortable seats or the greatest sound system, you loved it anyway, despite its flaws.  And you look back at it, wistfully.  Revolvers, for many people, hold the same amount of nostalgia.

I’m talking about people like me here, but my first handgun was a revolver.  My first formal instruction was with a revolver, and my first several years as a professional armored truck crewman found me armed with a revolver.  So I know the beast well.  Times have changed, and although I still carry a wheelgun as a back up gun on my ankle, I still put in more time on other revolvers, aside from the BUG.  With weekly practice and training, I find myself sometimes thinking, “There has got to be a better way.”  Unfortunately, I haven’t found an ankle rig that conceals a pistol, as well as a revolver, so until that happens, my 640 is glued to me.

To combat the issues I experience regularly shooting revolvers, I’ve become accustomed to carrying several tools that make them, “run,” more efficiently, and allow me to clear common stoppages that inhibit proper functioning.  To think about this fundamentally, remember that to load and unload a revolver, you essentially have to disassemble it partway, swing the guts out one side, eject the spent cases, and then recharge the chambers, put the gun back together, and get back to it shooting.  Seems simple enough!  But, as with anything mechanical, the parts don’t always line up straight.  Literally.

Here are a few things that will help you keep your revolver running,  in optimal shape.  Since you are probably relying on a revolver for self-defense (maybe only in a back up gun role) then you understand why it’s important that it works, correctly.  These are a few issues I have encountered that can ruin your day, and how you can better prevent them.

  1. CHECK YOUR SIDEPLATE SCREWS.  It isn’t often that the side plate comes loose, however the screw that is farthest forward on your side plate (crane screw) CAN work its way loose with normal use.  If it unscrews itself completely, the next time you open the revolver, the cylinder will fall out onto the ground!  That’s not a good thing, so make sure that the screws on your side plate are snug.
  2. CHECK UNDER AND IN FRONT OF THE EJECTOR STAR.  Unburnt powder getting stuck in the ejection machinery of your revolver is a show stopper.  It can prevent the cylinder from opening, or even lock the ejector rod in place.  Either of these stoppages can be prevented by thoroughly keeping that space and those parts free of unburnt powder.  A note on that…I LOVE shooting wadcutters.  Depending on the brand, you may have a good deal of unburnt powder that literally falls out of the fired cases, sometimes in what seems like ridiculous amounts.  Be mindful of that, and keep that star spotless!  (The MASS of unburnt powder can also happen with ammo other than wadcutters, too.  It really varies with the brand, and even the lot of the specific ammunition.
  3. CHECK THE CHAMBERS OF THE CYLINDER FOR UNBURNT POWDER OR A DEBRIS RING.  If you have a .357 Magnum revolver (or a .44 Magnum, .454 or any other revolver caliber that is capable of firing cartridges of the same diameter, but have shorter case lengths) then a ring of debris can form around the inside of the chamber, preventing insertion of the longer (Magnum) round(s).  Also, unburnt powder (as mentioned in #2 above) can simply get caught in the chamber, preventing easy insertion and extraction of other ammunition.  In dental school, we were always taught, “Don’t blow on it, Doc,” meaning that we should try and break the natural human habit to want to blow air onto something we are trying to take dust off of (and yes…there are dentists who blow on someone’s denture, then hand it back to the patient, for their approval.  GROSS.) but in this case, I’d say blowing out the chambers is a good thing!  You may or may not have a brush with you that can do the same thing.  Hence, the purpose of this article in the first place.
  4. BUILD UP ON THE FORCING CONE THE FRONT OF THE CYLINDER AND THE TOP STRAP.  Your revolver is a precision instrument.  It was designed to operate in a certain set of parameters.  However, with use, that window of operable parameters widens.  Not to the point that the gun will no longer function, but it can stop functioning as well.  When you shoot lead bullets, the soft lead, and the lube that often accompanies lead projectiles, can become very hot, and shear off of the main projectile in small, molten fragments, and those fragments can fuse to the forcing cone.  If this build-up of crud gets thick enough, it will inhibit the free rotation of the cylinder face, which makes your double action trigger pull increase significantly.  If the buildup gets to be enough, it will gum up the rotation of the cylinder and make the gun inoperable.
  5. HEAT.  As metal heats up, it expands.  Heat a revolver up enough, and it will expand significantly.  When I shoot revolvers in classes, especially in classes that are designed around semi-automatic pistols, they can get hot fast.  So, I like to bring a pair of revolvers, so that when one gets really hot, I can let it cool down, while the other one gets hot.  And correspondingly, the hotter the ammo (meaning rounds loaded to higher velocities) the hotter the gun will get quicker.  Again, like in #3 above, the trigger pull will start to drag, due to the impedance of the cylinder face on the forcing cone.
  6. AMMO ISSUES.  One of the often quoted, “advantages,” of revolvers over semi-automatic pistols is the point of, “less ammunition sensitive,” which is, in my opinion, a misnomer and not quite accurate.  For example, while a semi-automatic pistol may not eject a round completely, due to a light powder load, a revolver may not chamber a round completely, due to a manufacturing defect like a bur on the case mouth, OR allow the cylinder to close due to a high primer.  So, it’s important to inspect your ammo, to make sure that it will actually work, when you need it to.  In this same category, I would include the use of moonclips as a possible hindrance to good function in your wheelgun.  If the clips are slightly bent or deformed, they can prevent proper seating of the round in the chamber, and tie up the revolver.
  7. STRAIN SCREW COMING LOOSE.  Some S&W revolvers have a screw at the front strap of the grip frame, that place tension on the revolver’s mainspring.  That screw is a certain length for a reason, and needs to be screwed into the grip frame to its depth limit.  These screws CAN back out, and lessen the tension on the mainspring, compromising the ignition reliability of your revolver.  Some grips cover the strain screw enough to prevent it from backing out, but in the, “stock,” configuration, that screw is open to the elements, and free to do as it pleases.  Be mindful of that screw, and if you see it marching out, put it back to its fully seated depth.
Smith 640 star
This is the ejector star of the Smith 640, and I keep it meticulously clean with a toothbrush.  I’m a dentist…toothbrushes aren’t hard to come by in my life.

There are other issues that can happen with a revolver, but these are the common ones that I encounter in my own practice and life with revolvers.  Of course, some of these are S&W specific, but I honestly don’t have enough time with malfunctions in the Ruger and Colt guns to complain much about them.  The GP100’s and Service Sixes I own have literally been utterly reliable (but that’s another article entirely).  However, they don’t have the feel of a good Smith K frame.  Not knocking them, but there is just a palpable difference in the feel and handiness of the two makes of revolvers.


If you rely on a revolver for defense, you need to have a plan for what you are going to do once you run that cylinder through.  Statistically, you should have enough ammunition in the gun to handle what you will be faced with, but statistics don’t always adhere to reality.  If you do run the gun empty, OR have a showstopping malfunction, you will need a plan.  The best plan, if the fight is still on, is to go to a second gun.  If possible, it’s always good to have the capacity to escape from the immediate area.  Run through these scenarios in your mind’s eye, so that when you need them, you won’t have to spend valuable time trying to come up with an option…have the option ready.  As much as I love my revolvers, I really don’t want to have to stick somebody, eyeball to eyeball, with a Spyderco, because my revolver is empty or because the mechanism took a huge dump on me.  I DO carry speed strips or speedloaders to reload with, but the chances of actually getting to reload, in the civilian context, are slim.  However again, the statistics can only grant so much predictive power…nobody has a crystal ball and can tell the future.  So have a plan, and have an alternate plan, in case your primary plan fails, but also have a contingency plan, in case your alternate plan fails, and lastly, have an emergency plan in case ALL of the other plans fail.  A revolver as a primary (or even BUG) doesn’t require MORE planning to use than a semiauto, it just takes SOME planning.

Eaten up wadcutter
This a a 148 grain wadcutter made by FIOCCHI.  It had a case bur that prevented it from fitting into the cylinder of the Model 66 in the background.

Ayoob Dejammer
Here it is…the REVOLVER REMEDIAL ACTION KIT.  It consists of a toothbrush (soft bristles all you macho guys…hard bristled brushes aren’t good for your guns OR your teeth and gums!) a .356 caliber cleaning brush, and an Ayoob DeJammer.  The Ayoob DeJammer was designed by Massad Ayoob, years back when Kubotans were commonly used as defensive tools by police officers.  His variant included an open threaded socket at the distal end, that allows the user to screw a cleaning brush or jag into it.  It’s also really helpful for punching out cases that are stuck.  You can find them on Ebay, and I believe that Monadnock is still making them.

ETA:  One of my mentors, the great Tom Givens, posted this on and it is too good not to share:

The old crap about revolvers being more reliable than autos arises from the ammunition that was available when autos first appeared in military and police service, circa 1900. Ammunition of that day had unstable primers that deteriorated quickly when exposed to gun oils, solvent vapors, and just ordinary exposure to weather while carrying the loaded gun and ammo on the belt. The primers of that day contained mercuric salts, which gather moisture from the air and cause corrosion. These “corrosive primers” made cleaning the gun the same day it was fired an absolute necessity. If the gun was not cleaned immediately the mercuric salt deposits in the barrel would gather moisture and cause rust overnight. Unfortunately, these mercuric salts in the primer gather moisture when ammunition is worn on the belt and often failed fire when needed. This is no longer an issue as these mercuric primers have not been used in the US since World War II. Modern primers contain lead styphnate, not mercuric compounds. Modern primers are far less susceptible to oils, solvents, and the weather. However, when auto pistols first became common the mercuric ammunition was all it was available and misfires were common. If a revolver misfires the user simply pulls the trigger again and a fresh round comes up for another try. If a cartridge in a semiautomatic pistol misfires the user must perform an immediate action drill to get the gun back in operation. With modern ammunition a properly maintained semiautomatic pistol is about as reliable as machine can be.

The revolver’s basic design makes it far more fragile, and far more susceptible to serious malfunctions that take too long to fix in a fight. If you will think about it, a revolver has five or six individual chambers, each of which has to line up precisely with the pistol barrel upon firing. A misalignment by just a few thousandths of an inch results in bullet shaving off the forcing cone, or the primer misaligned with the firing pin causing misfires. In order to time the action so that each chamber locks in place exactly in alignment with the barrel each time the trigger is pulled the action of the revolver has to be precisely timed and balanced. The inside of a double action revolver somewhat resembles the workings of a wind-up watch. Small delicate parts, small springs, and so forth require perfect fitting and no wear in order to maintain these extremely tight tolerances. Here are some of the basic malfunctions that occur with the double action revolver and what you might be able to do to fix in the field.
Failure to fire – you pull the trigger, nothing. With support hand palm, strike cylinder on left side to be sure it is closed fully. Pull trigger again. If no bang, transition to back up gun. This can because by a high primer jammed against the recoil shield, or a jumped bullet lodged against the forcing cone. In in either of these cases, your only viable option is a backup gun.
Failure to fire – you pull the trigger, get “click”. Immediately pull the trigger again. If it clicks twice it is empty, the ammo is dead, or the firing pin is broken. Speed load or transition to a backup gun. If you reload and it goes click, the firing pin is probably broken. If you’re still alive transition to your back up gun.
Cylinder won’t open – ejector rod may be backed out; high primer may be stuck; bullet may have jumped, ejector rod may be bent. Primer metal may have flowed into the firing pin hole in the frame, locking everything up. This is most common with Magnum ammunition. Transition to your backup gun.
Cylinder won’t turn – you pull the trigger but it won’t move and cylinder won’t turn. Crap under the extractor star has bound up the action. See first entry. Or, ejector rod is bent, or eject rod has come unscrewed. Transition to your backup gun. Titanium guns and lead bullets don’t mix – they recoil so sharply that bullets tend to jump forward under recoil and tie up the action. Transition to your backup gun.
Cylinder will not accept new ammo on reload – Dumb ass! You failed to eject the spent cases vigorously with the gun vertical and the spent case(s) got under the extractor rod. Transition to your backup gun. Later, if you survive, hold the extractor open and pry out the case.
Failure to fire – the Taurus or Smith & Wesson goofy internal lock has engaged spontaneously. Transition to your backup gun!
Failure to fire – the strain screw in the front strap of the grip has backed out due to the vibrations of recoil. If this screw backs up a couple of turns the firing pin strike will be too light to ignite cartridges. Periodically check this screw and make sure it is tight. Also, check your firing pin frequently if you have a hammer mounted firing pin as opposed to a frame mounted firing pin. The firing pins mounted on the hammer are subject to breakage.
As you can see, there are a number of mechanical reasons why your revolver may fail, and unfortunately, most of them require time and tools to fix. In a fight you will have neither.


Becoming the Civilian Defender

This is a weird time we live in.  You cannot turn on the TV without seeing horrible events of human atrocity, occurring twenty four hours a day, worldwide.  It seems that everything, everywhere, is in some type of disarray.  I think that preparing for emergencies that are commonplace in the world, is a good thing.  It is empowering; it makes you feel like you are not simply at the will of whatever danger or force is at work in the world.  And, it is fun!  As a lifelong student (I spent ten years in college/professional school/residency) I enjoy learning something new, everyday!  With preparation for emergencies, you can develop a graduate school level of education on something that very few people know about and are truly prepared for.

Years ago, Massad Ayoob, police officer, expert witness, and author penned a list of priorities that he probably, at the time, had no idea how influential they would be into shaping the training doctrine of so many capable thinkers in the future!  People have taken his list, and chopped it up or added to it to suit their particular end, but the original form is still the best.  It reads as follows…

Ayoob’s Survival Priorities

  1.  Mental Awareness and Mental Preparedness
  2. Tactics
  3. Skill
  4. Equipment


What I take from Ayoob’s list is that, at the top, the MENTAL AWARENESS AND PREPAREDNESS priorities are most important.  With enough mental power applied to an equation, nothing is insurmountable!  In context, this would explain why so many people have emerged victorious in the face of massive technological adversity, greater firepower, or superior numbers.  Thus, sharpening our mental prowess, is the absolute, most important action we can take to prepare ourselves to survive an emergency, of any kind.

This list is in order of priority, where a person needs to focus their intensity, when it comes to training to be, “THE CIVILIAN DEFENDER.”  Some people call this role different things…Pat McNamara called it, “The Sentinel,” and I like that, but out of respect for Pat, I’m not going to steal his idea.  He wrote a great book aptly called, “The Sentinel,” that covers a great deal of important information, and I recommend that.  Many folks these days use the, “sheepdog,” analogy, and I don’t care for it, as a sheepdog is a proactive animal and role.  Some people call the role I’m describing as the, “WATCHMAN,” but I don’t really think that is appropriate either, as a, “Watchman,” in the traditional sense (or in the Alan Moore sense), was a person who was up, awake, proactively guarding an empty building or a section of a town, from the criminal element.  Since what we are talking about is regular folks, like doctors, lawyers, IT professionals, pharmacists, secretaries, etc. we are talking about people that are on the, “reactive,” end of the equation.  We have to live our daily lives, care for our families, earn money, maintain our lifestyles, and enjoy life.  I’m NOT advocating that THE CIVILIAN DEFENDER learn any of these skills to replace the kind of help that our standing army, fire departments, police departments or emergency medical staff provide to our society…quite the contrary.  I’m advocating that THE CIVILIAN DEFENDER educates themselves to the end of being able to survive situations they may encounter, when the aforementioned public servants won’t or cannot be there to swoop down and save them from whatever perils they encounter. THE CIVILIAN DEFENDER’S job is to…PROTECT!  Protect themselves from bodily harm, protect their family from bodily harm, and protect their livelihood and quality of life, from the forces of evil, gravity, accidents, or whatever pitfalls that life throws in the way.  Being THE CIVILIAN DEFENDER is a lifestyle adaptation that simply ADDS to the quality of the possessor’s life.

I feel that there is a fundamental knowledge base that makes up the education necessary to give THE CIVILIAN DEFENDER the ability to better handle the MOST common situations they will encounter.  I know what you’re thinking, and since you are reading this, you are probably, a, “gun person.”  You might be surprised that there are no helicopter rescue courses recommended, nor are there a bunch of carbine urban assault courses listed.  I like to think of the aforementioned classes as, “electives.”  Just like in college, there are courses you NEED to earn your degree, and courses that you take simply because you have an interest or because your friends are doing it!  I took bowling as an elective in college, and I loved it.  I ended up taking beginning bowling, intermediate bowling, advanced bowling, bowling independent study, and I was a bowling teaching assistant.  So, just like my foray into the weird world of bowling (this predates the Big Lebowski by about five years) happened because of an initial interest that just happened to fit my schedule, you may decide at some point to take up an entirely new skill.  But, keep in mind the context of what you’re trying to accomplish!  Hit the subjects most relevant to your vocation, first.  Since you’re a regular guy/gal, your vocation is CIVILIAN DEFENDER…and here is what I feel should constitute the undergraduate education of THE CIVILIAN DEFENDER:

  1. Criminology/Street Smarts/Physical Preparedness
  2. Defensive Driving
  3. Emergency Medical
  4. Legal Preparation, Aftermath and Rules of Engagement
  5. Less Lethal skills
  6. Handgun Carry Course
  7. Handgun Skills and Tactics Course
  8. Defensive Tactics

You might be wondering why I listed the fundamental areas of study in this order, it’ll be clearer by the end of the essay…I have two models of course selection and you can pick the one that works best for you.  In the above list, I’ve ranked the fields of study in the areas that I feel that they are most commonly needed by regular people.  In people that are what I call, “higher risk,” (like shopkeepers, doctors, lawyers, jewelers, real estate agents, stalking victims, etc.) categories, the list can be chopped up and rearranged, to better suit their most omnipresent threat(s).  If someone comes to me and says, “Sherman, I know nothing about self-defense and I don’t know where to start,” this is the path I would recommend.  Along the same line of thinking, I have a ten-year old boy, and I’ve already started him out on this path, as well.  It could be equated to, “Eagle Scout Curriculum for Adults,” if you really want to break it down.  It is a path of study that aims to make the student a better person, with more utility to themselves and their environment, than the average civilian.


The best way to sum up this category is, to steal a phrase from Tom Givens, “Define the Threat.”  You have to know what you are up against.  How can you possibly defend yourself from something you’ve never experienced?  Most people come from law-abiding, peaceful areas, and have never faced the criminal threat, belly to belly.  So how can you possibly react thoughtfully and effectively in the face of extreme danger if you are stunned into inaction by the presentation of a weapon, extreme physical aggression, intimidation or violence?  As GI JOE used to say, “Knowing is half the battle!”  If you have defined the threat (and this can vary, geographically) then you can have at least somewhat of a blueprint into the kind of criminal (or terror) threat you may face.  Under this same category lives the skills of avoiding criminal threats, and not being a victim, as well as the (now beaten to death term) “situational awareness.”  The prototypical training courses for this area of training are Southnarc’s (SHIVWORKS) “Managing Unknown Conflicts,” or MUC.  Also, Dr. William Aprill’s, “Violent Criminal Actors,” lecture series, as well as his other work regarding sociopathy, and psychopathy.  Tom Givens also teaches many lectures relative to the criminology/street smarts/criminal psychology end, that any student would find value in.

Now that the student has developed their understanding of the kinds of threats that they will face, they will also understand the who, what, and why the criminal element operates the way that they do.  The student will have also begun the process to sharpening their spidey senses, so that hopefully, they can avoid any kind of criminal threat in the first place, through avoidance, deterrence and deescalation (in the words of John Farnam).

Another area of study I would include into this category as electives are skills like, “Defeating Common Restraints,” by Greg Ellifritz, or Mindset Laboratories Lock Picking classes.  Also, other soft skills like verbal judo, persuasion, and any other number of things that the THE CIVILIAN DEFENDER can find useful in their practice.  I would also recommend that, “simple,” life hacks be included here, such as operating a dry chemical fire extinguisher, or understanding how to use public transportation, like the bus, or subway (Hilary).  Skills that are simple, but not-familiar to the user can create bedlam if they are not practiced.  Being in the middle of a grease fire in your kitchen isn’t the time to realize that you haven’t unboxed or read your fire extinguisher’s instruction manual.  It also bears mention that, “addressing terror threats,” and, “surviving an active killer/spree killer,” are also now areas of knowledge that everyone can benefit from.

Lastly, physical preparedness is important, because you cannot rescue your own butt or your family if you have a heart attack or stroke out, because you have no exercise capacity.  Also, physical preparedness makes training for any other physical skill easier.  Shooting, fighting, wrestling, are all physical skills. So be ready for the challenge!


I’m not talking about dodging car jackers and flash-mob rioters with your car here, (although that WOULD be a, “DEFENSIVE DRIVING ELECTIVE”) but simple defensive driving.  It is darn near impossible to drive anywhere these days, without seeing a legion of hapless fools behind the wheel of their car, completely oblivious to the massive, thousands of pounds of moving metal and plastic around them, because they are so involved in talking on their phone, or (even worse) texting someone on their phone!  If you spend any degree of time in a motor vehicle, you could stand to learn more about being a better driver.  As I’ve said in past articles, your state’s driver testing doesn’t give you any of the knowledge you need to be a good driver…it just gives you enough information to be the least skilled and knowledgeable driver allowed by law.  You are literally at the command of a 2500-10000 pound cannonball when you are behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, but many of the folks in the concealed carry crowd are far more concerned about the outcomes and intricacies of directing a 115 grain bullet around their locale.

After you have a good command on defensive driving skills, THEN skills specifically relative to vehicle defense can make more sense.  Having been in a vehicular defense situation, I can tell you that it is far easier with less hassle altogether, to simply drive out of a ambush, car jacking, or aggressive driver (road rage) scenario.  I was fortunate in that I learned a great deal of defensive driving training (also EVOC and EVAP) from my time in the fire service, as well as while working as an armored car crewman.  If you can drive a 20 ton firetruck, defensively, at speed with lights and sirens, you can most certainly negotiate rush hour in a Toyota Camry.  There are many places where regular folks can learn how to drive defensively, and I just last week I noticed that the local Subaru dealership has a program where they teach people to drive their products more efficiently and carefully.  Well done Subaru!  There are local driving schools, which also offer additional training to drivers, regardless of skill level.  Not many of these schools will seem, “tactical,” or teach you how to drive like Jason Bourne.  But really, how often would you need, “those,” skills?  I’d be far more concerned about learning how to drive actively, alertly, and with a great deal of respect for the physics at work in your own car and the other cars on the road.  Most people DON’T understand the danger that they face in their cars.  The NUMBER ONE cause of motor vehicle collisions is people not looking in the direction that they are traveling in.  Training can correct these errors in judgement and technique, and make you prepared to handle the modern roadway.  “VIP Driver,” or, “Executive Protection Driver,” courses could be thought of as elective skills in this category, to give the student and even broader range of expertise.


If I could add anything to the national modern High School educational standards, it would be to teach every student the current, “First Responder,” curriculum.  When I was in Junior High (in the 1980’s), I was required to take a very gory (complete with 1970’s, practical special effects laden, reel to reel films) “Practical First Aid,” class that also included CPR, which I used to great effect, on several occasions, prior to getting more training in emergency medical skills.  Unfortunately, not many schools have these kinds of opportunities available for students.

While not everyone has the need to drive (like people that live in big cities and rely on mass transit) EVERYONE who has blood running through their body needs emergency medical skills.  Whether for self-rescue, or for helping someone else, emergency medical skills are VITAL.  Have you ever watched someone die, at your feet, because you couldn’t/didn’t have the skills or knowledge to help them?  The regret and self-doubt that would come from such an incident would be a terrible burden to bear.

Furthermore, if you are planning on spending any amount of time on the shooting range, you NEED to have emergency medical skills.  As much as it eats me up, there are IGNORANT, CARELESS people that are free to practice unmitigated idiocy on the shooting ranges of America, simply because they’ve paid their $20 and want to shoot.  I try to go to ranges during the, “slow,” hours so that I can work in relative peace, and not have, “neighbors,” of dubious skill levels bracketing me, and muzzling me with loaded guns.  Although it doesn’t happen frequently, these boobs will often shoot themselves, or their buddy, via a negligent discharge.  Of course, as a citizen you have no duty to render aid to strangers, although you could if you wanted.  If they inadvertently shot someone that YOU brought to the range, then you would most definitely want to know how to address that kind of injury.

It goes without saying that everyone should know how to perform single-rescuer CPR, and also 2 person CPR, the Heimlich Maneuver, as well as run an AED (automated external defibrillator).  Also, learning how to use a tourniquet, wound packing and pressure bandage can be the difference between being useful, and being a shocked onlooker.  I’ll always pick the option of being useful.  Elective areas of study in emergency medical skills are huge, and include emergency wound closure, rescue techniques, emergency veterinary skills (for our furry family members), dealing with environmental emergencies (like heatstroke, hypothermia and animal/reptile/insect bites and stings), and a myriad of other topics.  There is LITERALLY an entire industry dedicated to providing medical CE, and nearly all of it is open source.  I even know a guy that will teach the prepared CIVILIAN DEFENDER about the most mundane of topics, including addressing common dental emergencies!  Literally, if you can think of it, you can find a course on it.


Attend any gun-centric self-defense course, and there will be, “that guy,” who asks every conceivable hypothetical under the sun, relative to the scenarios he has thought of in his head.  Some of them are ridiculous and fantastical.  Some are plausible.  Unless you’ve thought through these problems, and applied a rigorous interpretation of the laws of your state, relative to self-defense, you will find yourself horribly behind the 8-ball once you’re in a life-or-death situation.  When you are shocked, scared and not able to think clearly, that isn’t the time to think through complex, multi-faceted problems!  There are a few training courses that can adequately prepare you for the legal planning, “rules of engagement,” for a violent encounter, and for the legal aftermath of a justified self-defense event.

Three organizations I know of that can prepare the student for the legal battle are the Massad Ayoob Group, Andrew Branca (The Law of Self-Defense) and Marty Hayes at the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network.  This is an often overlooked area of CIVILIAN DEFENDER preparedness training, but think about it…if you DO need to defend yourself, you will most definitely be placed under close legal scrutiny, in both the criminal and civil legal system.  In our current day and age, there is no, “free pass,” regardless of the, “righteousness,” or, “clear cut,” nature of YOUR particular self-defense case.  In order to survive the legal battle with your finances, reputation and sanity intact, you have to make specific preparations, mentally, to be able to defend yourself within the bounds of your state law.  Your carry permit class doesn’t count…that information is so basic in scope that it cannot possibly cover the myriad of information that you WILL BE expected to know, if you must physically defend yourself.  So knowing that information, long before you need it, and have a LEGALLY VERIFIABLE record of that information, will prove invaluable when you have to defend yourself.


Not all self-defense problems are lethal force situations.  Some, while you may be authorized to use force to defend yourself, you will have to use your bare hands, or some other means to do so.  In cases like this, having a less lethal option, like pepper spray, a club of some sort (like a baton, sap or blackjack) or an electronic control device like a taser, could be a viable option.  Not everyone has the stature or the physical prowess to mount an adequate physical defense, so a less lethal option is a MUST for these people.  Even for the physically able, a simple canister of pepper spray on the keychain can allow the user to escape from a situation that they might have otherwise had to slug their way out of, eyeball to eyeball, with their attacker.  Options are good things to have in physical altercations.  Adjuncts that can allow the user to simply escape unscathed, are REALLY good alternatives to have at your command.  Chuck Haggard, a retired Topeka, KS Police Officer, is an outstanding national level trainer that teaches a very thorough and useful pepper spray course.  Many shooting ranges also offer pepper spray training courses, as well.


You thought we’d never get here, didn’t you?  The carry permit class shouldn’t be thought of by the astute student as anything more than a, “check in the box.”  What training value does the permit class hold?  None.  What practice benefit (meaning what skills does the course teach that you can take home and practice on your own) does the carry permit class give you?  NONE.  The ONLY reason you take the class is so that you can get the permit.  That is unless you live in a Constitutional Carry state, in which case you don’t need a carry permit.  Until the rest of the country catches up with those few CC states, we are stuck with permits.  So treat the permit requirement for what it is…a government regulation hoop that you must jump through.  Don’t look at it as preparation of any kind, for a self-defense emergency.


You will need to find a handgun skills and tactics class that teaches you more than just blazing away at a piece of paper on the range.  You need to take a class that will teach you the SKILLS you need to run the gun in the broadest range of common circumstances.  Notice I say COMMON.  That means that you DO need to learn how safely and quickly draw the pistol, fire it with both hands (or one hand), reload the pistol and fix malfunctions that the pistol may incur.  All of this doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and although the skills can be learned singularly, they need to be practiced in context, so a class that requires the student to, “think,” through problems with a gun in their hand is desirable.  There are a number of classes and instructors that teach this type of, “integrated,” curriculum (some which include Force-On-Force classes), but a few are Greg Ellifritz (Active Response Training), Chris Fry (MDTS), Dave Spaulding (Handgun Combatives), John Farnam (DTI), Craig Douglas (Shivworks), Marty Hayes (Firearms Academy of Seattle), Rob Pincus (ICE Training), Darryl Bolke and Wayne Dobbs (Hardwired Tactical Shooting), Chuck Haggard (Agile Training and Consulting), Massad Ayoob (Massad Ayoob Group), James Yeager (Tactical Response), Paul Sharp (Sharp Defense), Claude Werner (THE TACTICAL PROFESSOR), and Tom Givens (Rangemaster).

Whichever class you chose, make sure that it is preparing you for the threats you are likely to face.  This is where, “context,” is important.  You are a regular person…you aren’t a law enforcement officer or a direct action military operative.  You are just an average Joe or average JoeAnne trying to get home from work.  So find a course that caters to YOUR demographic.  I’m not saying DON’T take the long range precision rifle class, or the Urban Carbine course, I’m just saying put a sound, solid pistol class in front of it.  Besides, when the day comes you will need a gun to defend yourself, what are the chances that you’ll have your carbine handy?  If you are one of those people that believes that you will, “fight my way to my rifle/shotgun with my pistol,” then you are probably mistaken.  If you have to run from danger to get to your rifle, why stop?  KEEP RUNNING.  Remember, as the CIVILIAN DEFENDER, we aren’t looking for a fight; we are just reacting to the fight that has been brought to us.  There is no shame in escaping without a shot fired, and if that is a workable solution, it should be attempted!  However, if you are faced with the scenario of having to defend yourself, the statistics reflect that it will most likely be outside of your home, and it will be in a, “street crime,” scenario like a strong arm robbery or carjacking.  You may truly have no avenue of escape, and you might have to shoot your attacker.  So, as much as we’d all like to have the rifle or shotgun in hand, since it stops fights much more decisively anyway, chances are, we’ll be armed with only a lowly pistol.  So plan accordingly, train appropriately and pack accordingly!


This final category of training prepares the THE CIVILIAN DEFENDER to do a few things.  ONE, defend their gun from being taken away from them.  This is not as easy as it sounds!  Second, it prepares the user for situations where their gun isn’t available (like on an airplane) or where the gun isn’t appropriate due to the totality of the circumstances.  Also, in this category of training would be fixed or folding blade knifework, if you chose to carry one and they are legal in your area.  There are a number of combatives trainers that are proponents of the multi-disciplinary approach, including Michael Janich (Martial Blade Concepts), Craig Douglas (Shivworks), Paul Sharp (Sharp Defense), and Greg Ellifritz (Active Response Training), Cecil Burch (Immediate Action Combatives), and Larry Lindenman (Point-Driven Training).

Thanks for reading this far.  I know it’s a big pill to swallow, but I really feel that this core curriculum, or, “Undergraduate Degree,” makes up the basis for the well-prepared and capable, “THE CIVILIAN DEFENDER.”  I listed the areas of study in the rank that I did, out of the probability that they will most likely be needed or used.  Sure, some of them could be argued to be of equal acuity, but I think that you get my point.  We are FAR MORE likely to need to avoid an inattentive driver or an aggressive driver, than we are to shoot a carjacker.  And many of the skill areas act as prophylactic medicine towards entering into the shooting problem.  For example, using your street smarts skills you acquired, you recognize that the three youths across the street, in front of the bank you are walking to, are in fact, gang members from a local set of the Latin Kings.  And thus, it might be smart to find a different bank branch, or at least wait until they abate the area.  What are they doing there?  Who are they there to meet/rob/murder/ambush/have lunch with?  Let the police worry about them, and you go elsewhere.  Get in your car and drive attentively and alertly to an area where the threat profile is lower.

Also, if someone moves through the skill areas as I have ascribed, they may decide, at any point along the curriculum, that they don’t want to go any further.  For example, someone might attend a, “Violent Criminal Actor,” course from Dr. William Aprill, and decide that they are going to move to a privately policed, gated community, that is 25 miles from the nearest urban housing project.  There, they can live a life of, “relative,” security (at least in their mind).  Furthermore, someone might take the permit class, and then decide that there is no way that they can fire a gun at another living human being.  In that case, at least they have a modicum of awareness training, as well as improved driving skills and medical skills, and possibly also have a good command of pepper spray skills for their own self-defense.  They may skip the firearms sections and go straight to defensive tactics, to round out their, “degree.”  In situations where people are facing a higher threat profile, they may have to obtain their core skills in any order possible, starting with the gun skills and then branch out to the other areas, since they MAY be under a higher probability of needing to use the gun to defend themselves.

I hope that I have maybe clarified some direction for some of you, into the skills that you really need to have at your command, when emergencies arise.  And maybe for some of you that have acquired these skills, but done it in an erratic, spontaneous, “willy-nilly,” way (looking at myself here), when someone you know asks what the best way for them to get, “educated,” in matters of personal defense and preparedness, you’ll have somewhat of a framework to give to them.  It doesn’t have to be exactly like what I am recommending, but remember that a good THE CIVILIAN DEFENDER education will prepare the student for the things that they are MOST LIKELY to encounter.  These days, you are more likely to encounter a violent criminal attack than you are a snake bite, shark attack or lightning strike.  However, you are FAR MORE LIKELY to encounter an aggressive or inattentive driver, or someone choking in the foodcourt or having a heart attack at the gym, than you are to have to shoot someone trying to rob you.  I hope that this helps clarify your thinking, or inspire new ideas to better direct your efforts.

Thank you for reading.

-Dr. House







The little gun that could. The LCR has a lot going for it. It is so light, it feels comparable to the Smith & Wesson Scandium frame products, but literally at a 1/3 of the price. Plus, the out-of-the-box sights are great, and they have plently of light on either side. Compared to most J frames of any vintage, that have almost NO light around the front sight. A smooth, rolling DAO trigger pull rounds out the package.


If you read my last article about the ongoing battle with the LCR, you’ll remember that I wished I could find a pair of stocks that I loved.  Well, I think I finally have.  This is the Hogue Monogrip for the LCR, sans fingergrooves.  It really ties the gun together.  This LCR throws wadcutters through the same hole, so I’m really glad that I found something I could really get a good hold on.  The grip angle feels far more like a pistol in general, and this set of stocks makes it feel even moreso.  I’m a surgeon…I can’t be needlessly battering the heck out of my hands.

If you’re a pocket carry guy (I’m not, really) then obviously these stocks will be way too big for that mode of carry, unless you’re Paul Bunyan.  I carry my revolvers at 12:30 AIWB, or at 4:00, and the stock length doesn’t matter so much there.  These are really grippy, too.  But I imagine they’ll, “dumb,” down a bit after rubbing against the firehose material of my jacket.

So, NOW the real testing of the Ruger LCR can begin.  Stay tuned.

The LCR with the Hogue, “Boot Grip,” which carries great but doesn’t have much to hold on to. For the smaller fingered/hand readers out there, I would look at this set of stocks if that is something you desire. But for the above average sized kids like me, you’re going to need something bigger if you plan on shooting this thing extensively. The OEM stocks are just OK…in terms of rank order, I’d put the Hogue Monogrip sans finger grooves FIRST, the OEM Hogue finger groove stocks SECOND, and the Hogue Boot grip, THIRD. The holster is a pancake variant, very nicely made by the great Sam Andrews of Andrews Custom Leather.


.45 ACP to the Midface

Several years back, I took this radiograph on a patient of mine, and I shared it with James Yeager and a few friends in the training community.  As luck would have it, the picture and my short narrative, somehow came across Clint Smith’s desk.  He shared it through his channels, and before long, this image was all over the interwebs.

Maybe you saw it back then?  If you didn’t, let me refresh your memory!  This patient came to me, at my dental office, for two reasons (it bears mention at this point that I’m not your regular dentist that does whitening and teaches you how to brush…I mostly address abscesses, rotten teeth, and dental trauma in the Hispanic population of Middle Tennessee) FIRST:  he couldn’t open his mouth, and SECOND:  he was concerned that whenever he drank water, it came out his nose.  Hmm…well, neither of these things is normal, so as is the custom in my office, the patient’s blood pressure and pulse are taken, their medical history is reviewed, and any necessary radiographs are made.

Imagine my surprise when I inquired about the patient’s black eye and small abrasion/laceration beneath his right eye.  (In Spanish). “Oh, I got shot.”

“You WHAT?”  I exclaimed.

“I got shot in the face.  I was minding my own business when a narco hit me with his pistol then shot me.  I passed out.  I woke up, and decided I needed to get out of there before the narcos realized I was alive.  So I got on a few buses and came here, to Nashville.”

After the X-ray, and my clinical exam, it was easy to see what happened.  The bullet (a Federal 230 grain Hydrashok) entered the patient’s midface, at a downward angle, and traveled through his maxillary sinus, exiting through the maxillary tuberosity, shattering the first and second molars, and entering his mouth (depositing pieces of jacket along the way), then spiraled through his mouth, into the right mandible, and then fragmented, leaving a large hunk of the jacket entangled just above the substance of his right parotid gland, THEN the remaining core of the projectile went left, further tumbling through his mouth and buccal mucosa, coming to rest in front of the tissue of his left auditory meatus.

So his chief complaints of not being able to open his mouth made sense, since the bullet had effectively, “door chocked,” his jaw from fully opening, mostly due to soft tissue swelling as well as the mechanical presence of the bullet’s core.  Also, he had what we call an, “oral antral  communication,” meaning the wall between his sinuses in his nose and the space inside of his mouth, were one.  Hence, the water when he drinks, coming out his nose.

When this information got out, people said silly things like, “.45…so puny it’ll send the badguys to the dentist!”  And other dumb nonsense.  But think about this from a defensive gun use perspective (even though THE facts of this case may have been otherwise) where the bullet actually did it’s job!  It was delivered to a vital area, did a considerable amount of internal damage, fully deposited all of its energy in the target, and made the recipient lose consciousness, instantly, at least for a indeterminate amount of time (he estimated five minutes or longer).  From a civilian self defense perspective, if I was forced to use THAT round delivered to that location, I’d consider that effect, a success!  That would give me enough time to run away, call 911, or get to a secure (or more secure area).

Bottom line, handgun projectiles suck at stopping people.  But this one, DID, in this instance.  It stopped them quite effectively, so much so, that they left the damn country!  .45’s aren’t a death ray, but they CAN stop people from doing whatever it was they were doing!

The Tennessee Handgun Carry Permit Class…AKA you are now safe to load, unload, and carry around a pistol. And that’s about it…

Forgive me for the snarky title.  I don’t mean it to be so obtuse sounding, but I feel that the idea of getting a carry permit these days, now that we are in the, “Shall Issue,” era, gives regular people a false sense of confidence in their abilities.  EXAMPLE:  let’s say that you and your favorite coworkers are standing around the water cooler Monday morning, and debriefing each other on the events of the past weekend.  That cut-up from IT, Herbert, is telling everyone about how his ex-girlfriend’s current boyfriend has been threatening him with texts and emails, and telling Herb how he’s going to, “Get what’s coming to him.”  Herbert did the right thing…he called the police, filed a harassment complaint, filed for an order of protection from his ex AND her boyfriend, and now, now he’s thinking he needs to get a gun.  “I’ll get my carry permit and then I’ll be good to go if Irene’s awful boyfriend, Fritz, decides he’s going to come to my house to kill me.”  Oh Herbert, if only it were that easy.

The, “carry permit class,” as it is so commonly called, is exactly that…it’s a state-mandated (READ:  devised by politicians) to put a monetary hoop in front of the applicant, and also require them to pass a background check (including fingerprints) and take and pass both a written and practical (shooting) exam to demonstrate minimum proficiency.  Just like a, “driver’s test,” that we all had to take to get our driver’s license, that test (nor the driver’s education class) make you a, “good,” driver.  If anything, they teach you the basic rules of operation, and remind you that if you hit something with any degree of speed, that you’re going to hurt or kill yourself or someone else.  In the permit class, the goal is much the same…keep the fire-hole-end pointed in a safe direction, otherwise you’ll drill a hole in something you didn’t want to, or kill yourself or someone else.

Unfortunately, just like driver’s education and the subsequent driver’s test, that results in a driver’s license doesn’t prepare the novice driver for the rigors and dangers of city traffic, the carry permit class and subsequent written and practical test, doesn’t prepare the novice citizen for the rigors and dangers of defending oneself from human predators.  Even if you think it does!

The classroom lecture was taught by a retired OKC Police Officer, Kent Harville.  Kent is a Rangemaster Instructor Course graduate, and did a wonderful job of conveying the state mandated material, and intertwining it with a series of relevant stories from his experiences as a law enforcement officer, to bring home his points.  It made material that is important to know, yet very dry, interesting.  The course was held at the wonderful NASHVILLE ARMORY just off of the freeway (and incidentally, four minutes from my dental practice) of I-65 in Nashville Tennessee.  The Nashville Armory has been in business for a few years now, and they run a great, clean, modern facility with a helpful staff, and Kent taught the material with authority.

For the live-fire portion of the class, fifty (50) rounds were fired, in the following course of fire, on a reduced size (half size) B-27 type target.  If the entire, “X-ring,” was shot away, the winner would get a prize:

3 yards:  10 rounds on the fire command from the low ready

5 yards:  10 rounds on the fire command from the low ready

7 yards:  10 rounds on the fire command from the low ready

5 yards:  10 rounds on the fire command from the low ready

3 yards:  10 rounds on the fire command from the low ready

Not a difficult course of fire, by any means.  I shot the X ring away, but wouldn’t you know it, when the target was reeled in and laid flat, a tiny piece of the, “red,” x ring was still present, having been creased and folded over by the 9mm Federal ball I was shooting.  Next time, when doing the old, “Shoot away the red,” carnival trick, I’ll bring a wheelgun and some wadcutters.  That red will never know what hit it.


Going over the notes I took in the class, I gleaned the following:

  1. Revolvers…the instructor summed them up as, “Simple, but not easy.”  He said that they can be used by most anyone, however, they are not the ideal choice for beginners, especially in the Airweight or Scandium/Titanium configurations, because they are so abusive to the shooter
  2. The Golden Saber, .357 Magnum 125 Grain Jacketed Hollowpoint is a winner.  It shoots flat, and the recoil is managable in stainless steel guns.
  3. The course of fire gives a false sense of security (because it is really easy)  ALTHOUGH it DOES cover the range(s) at which MOST civilian self-defense shootings occur, that is, 3-7 yards (about the length of a car)
  4. The course (via a recorded DVD presentation) spent more time talking about the effects of alcohol and drugs on human physiology than it did on the principles of marksmanship.  This is unfortunate.

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right…I ALREADY HAVE a Tennessee Handgun Carry Permit.


A permit class isn’t training…a permit class isn’t practice.  A permit class is the bare minimum information that state bureaucrats think you need to be able to safely load, unload and carry a pistol, in legal locations, in the state in which you reside.  If you want to actually LEARN how to use that gun, you’re going to need training.  You don’t have to look far on this site to find great places to train, that will actually prepare you for what you will really encounter on the streets and parking lots of America.  Even if you think you, “know all there is to know,” about defensive pistolcraft, shooting under the supervision of a competent instructor who can see things you cannot, relative to technique, is invaluable.  I highly recommend you seek out competent instruction…getting the, “paper,” is just a legal hoop you have to jump through!

Plastic holsters for revolvers…HERESY!


TOP-JM CUSTOM KYDEX AIWB CLIP holster for the 2-3″ K frame Smith & Wesson. BOTTOM The Keepers Custom Kydex ERRAND for the Smith & Wesson Shield 9mm

These days, you can’t throw a stick without hitting six Kydex holster makers.  And that’s anywhere…go to a gun show or a gun trade show and that same stick will hit fifteen.  In a world of seemingly cloned look-alike holsters, the two makers I’m talking about here have really distinguished themselves.  I’m a huge fan of both of their products.

No surprise to anyone who notices my contrarian bent, but I like to put revolvers in Kydex holsters.  Do revolvers carried in Kydex exhibit finish wear quicker than when worn in leather holsters?  YES.  I don’t really worry about finish wear tremendously.  Most guns these days have coatings that retard rusting, and since I use the same gun(s), they get enough preventative maintenance to keep the rust monster at bay.  Besides, I use my guns enough, that they get finish wear even being carried in a leather holster!  (ANYTHING rubbing on metal will cause finish wear.  It just happens and is a function of how much you use/wear your gun and holster)  Down here in the South, the weather can get downright sweaty and uncomfortable, and leather holsters do retain moisture.  That moisture can get to the finish of the pistol.  Kydex isn’t immune to moisture; Kydex holsters will still aggregate sweat and they will also condensate, but they can be quickly wiped dry.  Leather has to air dry, which, also speeds holster wear.

What else do I like about Kydex?  It requires almost no maintenance.  Blow the dust bunnies out of it every few weeks.  Wipe it off if it gets dirty or wet.  The mouth of a kydex holster doesn’t collapse when you try and reholster your pistol.  You can cinch the heck out of your belt, and you won’t smash a Kydex holster down to the point you cannot reholster.  Some of my favorite leather IWB’s (Leather Arsenal DDCS and Milt Sparks SS2) WILL lose the capability of the steel reinforcement to keep the mouth of the rig open, under belt pressure, just with time and use.  If you train outside, and you’re in the sweaty South, this leather, “wear in,” doesn’t take long.  Eventually, the gun cannot be simply returned to the mouth of the empty holster; it has to be twisted or, “sawn,” into place.  If you’ve ever had to reholster under stress, you know the last thing you need to be worrying about is getting your pistol safely stowed in an expedient manner.  With Kydex, reholstering is easy.

What doesn’t Kydex do well?  My old buddy Paul Gomez was a fan of leather IWB holsters, particularly non-boned versions, because he liked to have the maximum amount of leather possible contacting both the pistol itself, AND the body of the wearer.  In pressure testing (READ:  when two consenting adults put on inert/sims guns in holsters, and sometimes a FIST helmet, and try to beat the stuffing out of each other and shoot each other with the other guy’s gun) Gomez demonstrated the effectiveness of leather over Kydex in defeating gun grabs (disarm) attempts.  Kydex DOES draw easier and quicker though.  The retention capabilities can largely be remedied through preparation and training, as well as having effective fighting skills to foil the disarm attempt in the first place.

So why holster a revolver in a piece of plastic?  The combination of convenience, draw speed, accessibility, and corrosion resistance make Kydex a good choice for an in-extremis personal defense revolver. Tony Mayer at JM Custom Kydex makes some of the most innovative gear around, and unlike many makers, he will bend Kydex around a WHEELGUN for all the Old Heads like me, that still put mileage on their revolvers.  Tony offers a revolver variant for nearly all his holsters.  Drop him an email if you have an odd barrel length or frame, but he can accommodate all new and old Smith products, as well as the current catalog of Ruger revolvers.

What about the clip?  Clip on holsters have a checkered past.  Twenty years ago, a clip-on holster was guaranteed to do one thing well…and that was sell at the local gunshop.  They didn’t stay, “clipped,” to anything, and were almost certainly going to be attached to the business end of the gun when drawn under stress.  I first became aware of the type of holster clip pictured above, when I received my ERRAND from Spencer Keepers.  I wear a thick (nearly 1/4″) leather gun belt, when I wear chinos, jeans, or shorts, and that clip holds that belt like the two were welded together.  However, it’s easily removed if necessary.  The ERRAND even has small serrations on the mouth of the clip, that allow it to work with althletic shorts, scrubs, or for women that wear leggings or yoga pants, all sans belt.  So let go of any security fears…the holster isn’t moving.  Craig Douglas has tested the holsters with his students in his rigorous ECQC curriculum, and the rigs have stood up to the abuse, clips intact.

One last thing…noise.  Many opponents of Kydex talk about the noise.  Noise of reholstering, noise of drawing, and such.  For regular civilian everyday people like me, this isn’t a concern.  Our pistol is a reactive instrument…so if we are drawing, we are reacting to a real threat.  The Kydex, “snuck-thunk,” noise isn’t going to matter much since it will probably be immediately followed by one or more gunshots.  Nobody will notice the noise.  And conversely, nobody will notice the noise when you reholster, either.  If anything, the audible and palpable, “click,” of the pistol seating into its home position in the holster, should be reassurance to the user that the weapon is now secure, and safely stowed.  So allay your fears and concerns, and embrace the fantastic plastic, to house your round guns!

JM Custom Kydex:

Keepers Custom Kydex, THE ERRAND:

Milt Sparks Holsters:

The Leather Arsenal (Elmer McEvoy):

27549 Middleton Road
Middleton, ID 83644 
Phone: (208) 585-6212

Low light, red sights, and Tom Givens’ Glock 35


Glock 34 with Warren/Sevigny black sights, with the front blade painted reddish orange





$40 for these sights…versus up to $160 for some versions of today’s popular night sights.  That’s a lot of ammo.

If you’re a regular reader of my musings here, you already know that I am a Tom Givens believer. There is a simple reason for this…Tom’s material works.  His lectures are relevant to the Regular Guy Civilian; folks just like me (and probably you).  His live fire courses tell you everything you need to know, that is, what you are MOST likely to encounter on the street.  There is no secret squirrel night vision component, nor fast-rope shoot house class.  I’ve read all of the books Tom has produced over the past 35 years, and most of the articles he has written.  His material all has a common core of relevance, yet the work has evolved to adapt to the continuously fluid nature of the criminal  (and now terrorist) threat that regular citizens will indubitably encounter, at some point in their daily lives.

At the 2016 Rangemaster Polite Society Tactical Conference, Tom gave a classroom lecture covering low light tips and techniques.  One of the big points he made in the talk was for students to take the money that they would spend on night sights, and instead use that money on ammunition for practice (this idea of emphasizing true economy, is pervasive throughout Tom’s philosophy…in summation, “Spend your resources on the things you are most likely to encounter or need”).  Some smart mouth in the back is going to say, “But what about the zombie holocaust, national terrorist invasion, etc?”  The scenarios won’t change…just the participants!  If the world falls apart, people will still need to be on guard from the four chief types of interpersonal, “parking lot violence,” (AKA, “Street Crime”) like robbery, rape, road rage and respect (meaning you looked at someone wrong and now they will attempt to harm or kill you in retaliation so that they don’t lose face in front of their peer group).  And, as always, raiders coming into your home uninvited will always be raiders, regardless of their undead status or their mode of dress.  Thus, your civilian mission won’t change in the face of any global disaster!

Tom carries a Glock 35 with metal sights on it, and the front sight is painted with bright red/orange paint.  He does this for severals reasons, but the chief reason being that in the 60 plus defensive shootings his students have been involved in, the lighting (or lack of lighting) was a factor in the outcome in exactly ZERO cases.  Also, bright orange (or whatever color you prefer) sights are simply easier to see, and as we age, the contrasting color only helps more.  Tom attributes the false urgency for night sights on defensive guns to the often misquoted crime statistics that are summarized as, “MOST violent crimes occur at night.”  The statistics ACTUALLY show that violent crimes most often occur during the hours of darkness, which is 6 PM to 6 AM.  Just because it is 2 AM, it isn’t necessarily dark!  Tom said, “There have been times where I have seen my sights clearer at 3 AM outside of a well-lit gas station than I have at 3 PM on an overcast day.”

To visually illustrate and demonstrate  Tom’s point, I took a facsimile of Tom’s carry piece, a Glock 34 (I don’t own a 35), with metal Sevigny type sights on it, with the front sight painted red, and I took (just the slide) to various locations I frequent regularly, where there is less than optimal lighting, to evaluate if I could see my sights clearly enough to deliver gunfire precisely, at common defensive-gun-use distances.  The following pictorial demonstrates the effectiveness of painted, metal sights in less-than-ideal, yet commonly encountered lighting conditions.






This is about as bad a view as I could get with the sights.  The thing is, even with tritium vials, when you aim in on a BRIGHT target, with dark behind you, the sights get washed out, and just look like a black bump on the slide, whether they have tritium or not.  Something to think about.