My dear friend, Claude Werner, AKA, “The Tactical Professor,” had a term attributed to him called the, “Werner Test.” Claude probably didn’t mean for it to end up as eponymous reference, but thanks to the internet, here we are.
From my buddy Darryl Bolke: “The Werner Test is for firearms training folks to get a job for six months at a place like Target, Home Depot, etc. where you wear a issued set of clothes that means a thin tucked in shirt and pants not made for concealment and work amongst several hundred people daily for three months in a job like that where you are often on your knees stocking shelves or climbing on things while the public and other employees are watching with guaranteed termination and never get made.”
Claude was speaking about the real life dilemma of concealing a capable handgun, and ancillary support equipment in actual clothes, not the, “tactical hobo,” or, “tactical carpenter,” look that so many in the culture wear. He was talking about real people, who work real jobs, where being discovered as a concealed pistol carrier could result in loss of employment, or worse. So from here on out, for the purposes of the article, this is the meaning of the, “Werner Test.” Effectively concealing a means with which to defend yourself where you must conform to uniform standards, or if an untucked shirt tail, concealment garment, or suspicious bulges are a no-go. If you want to think about it in real nerd terms, he’s talking about being a complete James (or Jane) Bond where it would be absolutely inconceivable to the casual onlooker or even trained eye that one was carrying a pistol? Still think that’s you? Think again…it might not be! The true impetus for this idea from Claude was about the unrealistic expectation that many firearms trainers have that, “regular people,” (i.e. CIVILIAN DEFENDERS) like them, have the capability to wear a full size pistol, complete with light and optic, two spare mags, and a variety of support gear. Fact is, many people TRAIN that way, and then upon completion of the class, they doff that gear set, only to put it on again, the next time they train. The J frames, Ruger LCP’s, SIG P365’s and Glock 43/43X/48 that they ACTUALLY carry and wear everyday, well those sit in the center console of their truck until the training class is over. Thus, many firearms instructors have no real idea about WHAT IT TRULY TAKES to conceal and fight from the clothing and gear set that REAL people wear under REAL daily life.
A FEW STORIES TO ILLUSTRATE MY POINT
Back in the armored truck days, the holidays are always a bit different. More deliveries, more trips through the mall, more danger. As such, it wasn’t odd for the company to add an additional security person to the route to strictly, “ride shotgun.” The term is used these days thoughtlessly, but it once referred to the passenger on the stage coach who actually sat on the box containing the valuables the stage transported, and their sole job (other than to take over driving duties in the event of the driver being incapacitated) was to use a shotgun to repel any marauders or unauthorized boarders. One such holiday season, I was the shotgun rider for the mall route in Northern Washington State and the guy I was working with was frankly a doofus. He was later arrested for and incarcerated (wait for it…) robbing an armored truck (not the one I was on), but that’s another story. As licensed armed guards by the state, we were authorized to open carry pistols in a duty type rig, as well as open carry long guns as needed. This particular guy, who mind you had poor physical fitness, intense body odor, and less than adequate marksmanship skills, of course carried five guns total; four concealed about his person and one on his hip. On one such foray into the mall around Christmas, he was essentially speed walking through the mall corridor, and inadvertently whacked one of his ankles into his other ankle, which caused the nylon POS ankle rig he was carrying to lose his AMT Backup .380 ACP and send it hurling down the tiled floor of the mall about twenty feet ahead of him. I was following him about five yards back, and saw it happen. He scurried ahead and crouched down to pick up the small gray pistol and put it into the messenger bag he was carrying the deposits in. Interestingly, although this was in the pre-cellphone era, and the mall was brimming with people, nobody noticed! People were busy shopping, walking from place to place, and although somehow that little AMT skidded between the feet of about four different people before it came to rest, NOBODY saw it.
Another time on the armored truck service, a gent came into the office inquiring about work. He looked like a typical PNW’er, dressed for the times of the peri-Grunge era. Military shorts, crew neck sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off, and he looked like he was about 15 pounds from being in really good physical shape. He was an affable guy, and we were talking outside after the route. We started talking about guns, and he lifted his sweatshirt up to show us that he had a 4” .44 Magnum revolver and a full size Taurus PT92 9mm on his belt! Completely concealed! He surprised all of us, and turned out to be a great employee. Although he would’ve qualified for the tactical hobo look by today’s standards, he didn’t look out of place at all, given the casual dress mode of the 90’s in the Seattle area!
I found myself a few years ago, sitting in my personal truck eating, as I tend to do, especially when I’m on the road. Not the safest practice, I know, but I was hungry, didn’t want to sit inside and eat, and so I sat in my truck enjoying my lunch and listening to a podcast. I saw a fellow who was an employee from a nearby gunshop heading into the Subway to get food presumably. What immediately stuck out to me wasn’t the fact that he was wearing a SERPA holster, it was that he was wearing a SERPA holster WITH 1 7/8″ J-frame in it. WHAT SIR? You’re working in a gunshop, where open carry is apparently now the L’ordre du jour amongst everyone who works in gunshops currently, BUT you’re carrying one of the most common, popular and ingeniously designed concealment pieces EVER? WHY? Why not just carry a Keltec P32 in a belt holster, made by FOBUS? Silly…so this man works in an environment where he can literally carry anything he wants, even a shoulder holster if he was so inclined, yet he chooses a gun that is actually ridiculously easy to conceal? Doesn’t compute to me, but he made his own choice. If I was in that exact position, I would’ve dropped that revolver into a pocket holster in the size 70″ waist pants he was wearing. You read that right…
One last story…I had a patient recently that was older, retired, and had the tactical hobo uniform on and in full-effect. I thought about asking him if John Farnam knew he had been raiding his closet but I erred on the side of caution and elected not to. As the patient sat down, and I reclined the treatment chair, I noticed a SIG 938 in a leather pancake holster. Again, like the former story, a SMALL gun, made for concealment, in a holster that is no doubt comfortable but also HUGE. And with some judicious guidance of the cover garment, it wouldn’t have been an issue to simply conceal ANY pistol that he had on his hip, from my view. Even in the exam chair. I asked him about it and he was shocked that I noticed. I told him he didn’t have anything to fear…and that my office was always going to be gun-friendly.
Back to the Werner test. “Non-Permissive Environments,” means different things to different people. And since we are ultimately talking about the armed civilian defender ultimately suffering some kind of loss due to being discovered as a concealed pistol carrier, let’s think from that perspective. What CAN we do to prevent that? Many people who DO NOT think of this problem (and inevitably, dress like a tactical hobo with their Keen work boots, four concealment vests, M64 Field Jacket and 5.11 ballcap) will say pedantic things like, “Just dress around the gun!” OK…but what if you cannot dress like a hobo and you have to wear scrubs? You’d stick out like a sore thumb if you wore a tactical safari vest with your scrubs and slip on clogs (as they yell out, “YOU’LL NEVER SEE ME IN CLOGS!”) or if you’re stuck wearing a company uniform of some sort. Even in a semi-fitted suit, you’re going to have issues concealing a gun…and then what if you need to take your jacket off? Pocket holsters work with suits sometimes, sans jacket, but if the gun is too large, it’s going to be painfully obvious.
Now I fully understand that most people are so blissfully unaware and in their phones that you could actually be wearing six inch platform shoes with goldfish swimming in them, and have bright blue hair, and unless you were ablaze, nobody would notice. I’m not worried about getting made by those people. I would be more worried about the people that see you routinely…in my profession, everyone seems to be on an endless loop of fad diets, gastric bypass and massive weight loss. So everyone else is very cognizant of even a bit of an overall change in someone’s appearance. That can be a problem. Also, scrubs can be deceiving. I’ve seen people who look like they’ve been spray-painted on them, and not in a flattering way, all of the way to people who look like they were just turned loose of the local drunk tank with scrubs four sizes too large. But professional, pressed scrubs are difficult to hide guns under since they’re relatively form fitting, usually lack belt loops and don’t have extra material to drape over the gun. If you’re an athletic person or you are particularly fit, when you’re in scrubs, people are going to know that. If you’re shaped like a potato, people are going to know that too. I can’t speak from direct experience but I imagine the same is true for many places that wear uniforms. I have had the unique experience of working as a pizza delivery driver in the early 90’s, as well as working at a taco restaurant and both places required a polo shirt, tucked or untucked. With an untucked shirt, it was not difficult to carry discreetly, a five shot J frame in an Uncle Mike’s faux suede clip on holster in the appendix position. If someone was going to make you wearing that rig, they’d have to touch you awfully close to your genitals. And in the two times that has happened to me in my entire life, I’ve plainly said, “You just touched my penis,” which makes it just awkward enough that people quickly forget anything having to do with the event and move onto a less taboo conversation, or more apropos, leave the room completely. “Managing Unknown Contacts,” isn’t just being witty with bad guys in parking lots y’all.
So the Werner Test is a good thing to consider. To be honest, I’ve worked in professional environments, both rural and urban, where I can get away with wearing a scrub shirt and some sort of khaki or chino pants, and still maintain a professional appearance AND could carry a full size gun, and all the accoutrements. I’ve also worked in places where I could carry a J frame in Thunderwear (looking at you Mark Luell) and that was IT. Getting made would’ve been too easy. I’m honestly jealous of the people who can wear whatever they want, and wear whatever kind of gun they want, in a variety of conditions. But when I think more about what me, and the average civilian defender is liable to face, it’s an ambush type robbery for either money, or controlled substances/prescription pads that my office has. So while I’d love to have a twenty shot nine millimeter that would allow me to launch off a tremendous volley of aimed fire, possibly against multiple attackers, is the gun truly the limiting reagent in that scenario? Have many parking lot robberies been lost because people ran out of ammo? Have many bad guys continued to press the fight after they experience an explosive counter attack, regardless of what the rounds were? These are all questions that are highly individualized, and require dedicated thought on your part. I can’t tell you what to do, I can only describe to you what someone like me would do in my unique corner of the world. I don’t know what your gunfight is going to look like, and none of us are fortune tellers!
ACTIONABLE INTEL…preventing the ULTIMATE loss
Cecil Burch, Darryl Bolke and Chuck Haggard teach a brilliant, multi-day seminar called, “Counter Robbery and NPE,” which deals specifically with the eventuality of facing an armed attack in the form of violence most commonly experienced by normal people, the street or parking lot robbery. They cover accessibility, the concealed/covert draw, pocket carry accessibility, and in addition to the live fire range exercises, they also go through simulation drills with blue guns/training guns to illustrate the utility. Many people go out in the world, who take training courses, which is great, with a full-sized pistol, big holster that is easily accessible and compatible with range (i.e. weather appropriate clothing) and then when they actually carry in-real-life, they strap on a micro-9 or drop a .380 or J-frame in their pocket, and thoughtlessly think that the same skills they’re on the path to mastery with on the big gun, translate to the little guns. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Using the small guns in the 5-7 yard envelope of violent social interaction is an application that only a few trainers in the community deal with directly; and the Counter Robbery/NPE course is one of them. All of the aforementioned trainers, Cecil, Chuck and DB talk about this engagement space problem in their other training, so it all meshes together nicely and fits into the grand scheme of overall response, coupled with the primacy of putting early-warning and pre-loaded responses into play, quickly when the violent stimulus arrives. Using enough force, soon enough, can often prevent having to use more force in the immediate future. This is why there are so many defensive gun uses (DGU’s) that end immediately, once the bad guy realizes that they are now on the receiving end of a counter ambush…they quickly break contact and go find someone else to victimize, or just leave the area completely. You win 100% of every fight you can avoid, and if a prepared and legally warranted display of a firearm is what ends the confrontation, then all the better.
I once walked out the back door of a dental office to see a large black bear within ten feet of me, eating out of the biohazard container. Not what I was expecting to see! When I got home that night, I loaded up my .45-70 and put it in my truck and carried it to/from my parking spot into the office, and left it, at my desk, without anyone on the staff (or probably 99% of the patients) giving a damn if they had seen the rifle. Most casual onlookers would be more curious about what it was, what kind of rounds I had loaded in it, and where they could buy one! I’ve worked in other places where identical behavior, EVEN IN THE PRESENCE OF MAN-EATING BEARS, would result in a SWAT team response, helicopters, news crews, the whole bit. So in one setting, THE WERNER TEST MUST be passed with flying colors, 100%, everyday. In the other, it was the norm for the staff, patients, and townspeople to go about armed. So the WERNER TEST was a complete non-issue, except in explicitly posted, federally regulated locations.
Going full tilt carry, and going as concealable as possible are both feasible options. What you do, depends on you, and what you are willing to lose. It could be your job, your freedom, or your life. Pre-planning, and formulating an intelligent response is important for the well-equipped civilian defender to consider. The game is mostly mental, with a touch of equipment involved. Rehearse accordingly.
Thank you for reading! Please like, subscribe to my feed, and share on your social media pages if you found something interesting or helpful! Thanks! -Dr. House