I am often asked about different methods of carrying personal firearms. Lately, one specific topic comes up - Vehicle Carry and different methods of safe carry while driving.
So for the sake of this blog, let's presume it is legal for you to have a loaded gun where you live and that you have the required permits. Know your state and local laws and NEVER cross state lines with a loaded gun unless you are certain it is legal to do so.
I am also referring to loaded handguns. In many states, including here in PA, it is illegal to have a loaded long gun in you vehicle. I am personally not in favor of a dedicated handgun for my vehicle, but to each his own. If you have one, it is imperative that it is hidden and locked away when you leave your vehicle. If your vehicle is stolen, you are responsible for potentially putting your gun in the hands of a criminal. If you accidentally leave you car unlocked, you could be responsible for a curious child getting their hands on your gun. That's a lot to consider.
Never drive with an unsecured gun. Specifically, do not put your gun under the floor mat or on the seat next you. The gun can slide away and it will be hard to resist the temptation to grab at it. That is an accident waiting to happen. So is getting you gun jammed by the accelerator or having it bunch up your floor mat and doing the same thing. Secure your gun in a holster, center console or door pocket. Muzzle awareness is critical. The gun cannot point at yourself or a passenger.
Keeping your sidearm on your body is presumably the best option. There is a caveat here as well about muzzle control: Depending upon your method of carry, it may be next to impossible to draw your gun without muzzling yourself. Dry fire practice with your gun in its holster until you know the gun can be safely drawn. If you cannot draw your gun without pointing the gun at yourself, do not carry it on your body while driving. Outside the waist band will be the safest as long as the holster does not interfere with your seat belt.
If I am going to be driving any distance, or if I am going to drive through what I consider an "unsafe" neighborhood, I remove my pistol from my holster discretely before entering my truck and put it in a holster that is mounted to my center console. I feel that I can draw my gun much quicker this way. When I reach my destination, I remove the gun from the console and discretely put it back on my belt AFTER I have exited the vehicle. Sometimes that means stopping around the corner from my destination or going to a less busy area of a parking lot. I tend to park away from other vehicles anyway to minimize door dings. The lesson here is to never muzzle yourself while unholstering or holstering your sidearm. This is almost impossible while seated in most vehicles - you need to perform this while standing next to your vehicle and use your open door as a screen from other people. Remember the 4 universal gun safety rules: All guns are loaded, keep your finger off the trigger, never cross your muzzle over anything you are not willing to kill or destroy, and be aware of what is around your target.
I personally know an experienced firearm owner that shot himself in the calf. He has a resume that included three tours in Iraq as an operator. After he was discharged from service and back home, he was driving on a long car trip and his inside the waistband pistol was digging in to him. As he was driving, he removed his pistol and went to stash it under his seat. He hit a big bump in the road, his finger was on the trigger, and he put a hole in his calf and through the floor of his car. He knew better. It still happened. Do not take anything for granted and never take your safety lightly!
Seems simple enough - keep a clear head. When faced with a life-threatening situation, it is easier said than done. The martial arts instill control of self -emotion. Regardless of whether you train in a martial arts discipline or not, it takes practice and repetition.
Being alert to possible threats allows you to have more time to avoid the situation completely. Avoidance is always the best course of action if possible. If the threat is unavoidable, the bit of extra time allows you to make a good decision followed by decisive action against the threat. Situational awareness is important; your self-defense is not complete without being prepared.
Mentally, you need to control the situation. If you are completely prepared and thinking clearly you may be afforded enough time to allow the bad guy to make a mistake. This is especially true if you are in familiar surroundings such as your home. If an intruder broke into your house and you were able to get your family together in one room and call 911 - YOU would be in control. There would be no need to clear the house and take on the intruder. The outcome would be either that the police come and take control of the situation or that the intruder makes a mistake in an unfamiliar environment. If the bad guy's mistake is stumbling into the room where you hunkered down with your defensive weapon, YOU are still in control.
Possessing a thorough grasp of your state's laws about self-defense also give you an edge. During a defense of self and family is not the time to ponder what amount of force is legally justified. Instead of wondering about legal ramifications, you can focus on your personal safety and react appropriately.
If you have trained with us, you know how many times we repeat how stress will affect your ability to use fine motor skills, see, and think. The frequency of your training as well as the realism of the training will carry you through these difficult scenarios. Muscle memory is an amazing thing. However, it does not come without repetition.
Remember combat efficiency. We do not teach our students to hit little 10 rings low on the body. Center of mass - as fast as you can. The ability to make life-saving decisions while under extreme stress will save your life and factor in to the positive outcome of a life-or-death situation considerably more than your shooting ability or your physical size.
So now, you have a weapon-mounted light (WML) on your gun. Excellent. Let's move on to the second step. A hand-held light is also required. Imagine if every law officer conducted nighttime searches with their pistol-mounted light. Common sense should tell you that it would be a dangerous situation. It is no different for a civilian. Your hand-held light is your first source of illumination until you have made the conscious decision to engage a threat. Once you make that decision, drop your hand-held and flick on your WML. Either drop the hand held to the floor or use a VERY short lanyard or bungee to attach the light to the back of your hand. A long lanyard may snag or stick in the slide of your gun!
Light discipline is as important as muzzle discipline. When you turn on your light, let your eyes gather the information quickly, then turn it off. As you turn the light off, MOVE! The bad guy will shoot at the last place he saw your light. Use your momentary on switch - not the full on off switch so you can transition from on to off quickly. Use your light sparingly. Use whatever ambient light is available and your memory to guide you. Do not allow yourself to be backlit by any light, theater it be form a lamp that is on or form ambient light. Change elevations from time to time as well. Remember, when you turn on your light, you just gave your position away. Turn it off quickly and move! Stay mobile.
Don't be without a light on you or near you if you carry. Just a reminder, the "flashlight" on your phone is not really a flashlight!
Come train with us to learn more!
As mentioned in our last post, Weapon-Mounted Lights (WML) have a distinct advantage over hand held lights. The biggest being that the operator can keep both hands on the gun and have an excellent sight picture at the same time.
If you keep your defensive pistol secured in the house or vehicle, carry is not an issue. If you carry your pistol, you will need a new holster to accommodate the pistol with the light attached. There are several inexpensive options in a "universal" fit, but they may not be the best solution. There are also rather expensive units that come with dedicated holsters from companies such as Crimson Trace and others. A middle of the road option is a Fobus holster. This is an outside the waistband holster that works well with a cover garment. For inside the waistband, you will probably need a custom rig.
Don't forget defensive rifles and shotguns. A larger more powerful right might be in order as there typically is more room to mount a unit. However, the small pistol sized lights also work in this application. A side benefit to having a light on your long gun is that no special holster or case is needed.
If you do not currently have a tactical flashlight, perhaps the first step is to own a quality hand-held light. This should be a quality light that you always keep with you or nearby. A cheap Chinese unit from Home Depot does not qualify. Remember, you are conceivably staking your life, or someone else's on this tool. Units from Streetlight and Surefire are our favorites. The light does not have to be overly large and should fit easily in your pocket. The bezel of the light should protect the sense. The flashlight can be used as a last ditch striking tool if it has this feature. LED bulbs have become standard. Strobe features might be interesting but they also may be complicated to use under stress. Somewhere between 100 and 200 lumens is sufficient. You do not want a light that is too powerful as you may end up blinding yourself from the "splash back" off walls in smaller rooms. Battery choice in the light is another factor. The CR123 batteries last longer and make for a smaller flashlight. However, AA or AAA are typically more readily available. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the switch of the light needs to be on the tail-cap and have a momentary "on" and a full "on button.
Give us a call or email and we can set you up with a light that fits your needs. We will also show you how to properly use it! We also offer low light firearms classes where we go in-depth in the proper use of defensive lights.
More to come....
I would like to explain the lifesaving features a Weapon-Mounted Light (WML) can offer to the person defending themselves with any gun.
WML's allow the operator to positively identify a threat vs. a child coming in past curfew with a friend. It will also allow the user to identify a keychain from a knife. Your weapon-mounted light can prevent a tragedy and save a life.
A gun-attached light also improves accuracy immensely. You can keep both of your hands on your gun. There are not any acrobatics or complex movements required in order to manipulate both the gun and the flashlight.
We teach our students how to use a hand-held light in conjunction with a gun in our classes. It could be a lifesaving skill. A hand-held light is also useful to verify and identify a subject when your life is not on the line. It is certainly safer to point a hand-held light at a person than your WML. When it comes to shooting with the assistance of a light in the dark, the use of a WML over the hand-held is amazing!
WMLs have another benefit. They provide a "stand-off" effect that allows a semi auto pistol to function properly when the pressing the muzzle against a surface (bad-guy). The WML protrudes just past the muzzle of a pistol. This allows the pistol to stay in battery when pressed against a bad guy and allows more than one shot. Without the WML, the pistol will go "click, not "boom" on the second shot. Such incidents can occur during close quarter altercations.
A quality WML on your gun and a good hand-held light is smart insurance for your home protection firearm. I compare a WML to a scope on a hunting rifle. A hunter that uses his scope rather than binoculars to scan for game is an irresponsible jerk: the same is true for someone that uses his WML when searching a room. Have both light sources, practice with them, and be safe!
Cajun Arms sells a variety of quality WML and hand-held lights. Give a call to review your needs. We will discuss some of the issues in owning a WML in regards to concealed carry in future posts - stay tuned!
Jim Benoit's thoughts on guns, gear, & training
CAJUN ARMS & TUSCARORA TACTICAL TRAINING
WEST CHESTER, THOMPSONTOWN, PA