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

7 thoughts on “Gym Guns…”CHANCHO…I need to borrow some SWEATS!”

  1. Is there contact information where I can send photos via email to you? It is a Dale Fricke “Jonathan” which rides low and I had him make it with plastic clip for me. I modded the clip to allow me to clip it on to belt and it works decently but not great on shorts beltless. It is possible the holster will come off with the draw maybe 1/10 draws. I think the JM clip looks superior.

  2. I have found a G42 in clip on holster to work great in the gym gun application. For anything involving sprinting, weight is a much greater consideration than size, and anything over 20oz is just too heavy to clip on without a belt IMO.

    Agreed on Dale and I may have to give JM a try, but my current holster isn’t broken and works well for the application.

  3. Okay: Fricke or JM? You have both. I have Fricke exclusively thus far.

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