Musings on Current Events and Concealed Carry

English: Taken by Paul F. Maul, an original ph...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a guest post from a very good friend of mine, Dave Windham. Dave has spent his entire adult life in the company of firearms much like myself. He is a former law enforcement officer and corrections officer and he and I worked together in some of the worst spots in central North Carolina without the luxury of backup.

Let me start by saying that I am in no way an attorney, nor do I claim any legal expertise in any area of the law. I’m not attempting to provide any legal advice or tell you what you should legally do or not do.  I am strictly writing this as a citizen that carries a firearm regularly and attempting to convey some concerns that I have as well as my personal observations and opinions.

Having said that, the Brew haha surrounding the Zimmerman incident and subsequent trial has raised a lot of questions and concerns with those who conceal carry on a regular basis. I personally have carried regularly since the age of 21 and I’m now pushing the big four-O. Some of that was while on duty as a police officer, corrections officer or as an armed guard. The majority of the time I carried off duty and I continue to do so.

When you are forced to use your weapon in self defence, some of the many things that will be called into question after any use of a firearm are { 1) type of weapon used, 2) the caliber of the weapon used, 3) state of carry, 4) features of the firearm used, 5) training of the user of the firearm, etc.} This is by no means all encompassing, but it’s a good foundation of what you can expect to be questioned by a prosecutor or attorney in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Let’s start with the type of weapon you carry. Most of us that carry concealed tend to carry smaller firearms of smaller calibers so that they are easily hidden and you have the maximum amount of ammunition.  I personally don’t subscribe to this logic as I carry a full sized duty gun chambered in 9mm with a twenty one round capacity. If you carry a larger caliber or one with a ton of ammunition on board, expect to be questioned on why. Study up on past shootings from both civilian and law enforcement. You need to have a well thought out and researched answer. Your choice of firearm doesn’t need to be arbitrary and ignorance is never a defense.

Patronen: 9mm LUGER; 7,62 TOKAREV ; .357 SIG; ...

Patronen: 9mm LUGER; 7,62 TOKAREV ; .357 SIG; 10mm AUTO; .40 S&W; .45 GAP; .50 AE; (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now let’s talk a little about the caliber of your chosen weapon.  If you decide on an oddball or large caliber it will definitely be called into question. In other words if you carry a 10mm Glock, .38 Super, 7.62 Tokarev, .50GI,  or 1911, people will ask why. Worse yet, if you carry a revolver in .44 Mag, expect to be called “Dirty Harry”. I personally like any of these choices for any type of carry. They are great stopping rounds that were developed to do just that, stop an aggressor. That is the goal in a life and death situation after all. Again, just be willing to explain why you carry said caliber. I personally carry a 9mm, and I do so for a couple reasons.  First, it is a very well-known caliber that doesn’t set off alarm bells if I have to use my gun. Second, it is a great round for stopping an opponent (modern ballistic testing has proven 9mm, .40S&W, .357 Sig, and .45ACP to be almost equal). This isn’t the movies, and people don’t fly off their feet in real life when they are shot. I read a recent article where a suspect was hit in almost every vital organ with .45ACP and continued to fight and he actually emptied multiple magazines of ammunition after being hit. There is no magical caliber, so don’t put yourself at risk legally under the assumption that your chosen oddball caliber will save your life over another effective round.  If you dare to be different, then be able to articulate your choice to do so and have good reasoning behind it.

Thirdly, the state of you gun will be called into question as well.  Do you carry a 1911 style gun that is cocked and locked? Do you carry with a round in the chamber and the safety off?  Does your gun even have an external safety? The correct way to carry any 1911 variant is with one in the chamber and the hammer back and thumb safety engaged.  The entire firearms training community advocates carrying your gun with a round in the chamber, and many modern firearms don’t even come equipped an external safety. It doesn’t matter how you carry or what you carry, you need to know why and you need to be able to explain why to a person that has never touched or seen a gun before in their entire life.  The media or ignorant will see you as gun happy and ready to kill because your 1911 was cocked and ready or because there was a round in the chamber. There is a huge divide between those that own guns and those that do not. If you aren’t educated then you have no chance to defend yourself in a legal manner. The way you carry your weapon should be backed by training and the person or business that trained you needs to be willing to testify on your behalf as an expert if needed.  This is one of the many reasons that training is so important. If you don’t receive professional training then you are leaning on your own opinions.  Your opinions will never stand up in a court room, because you are the accused!

When I say features of your weapon, I mean additions or custom work that has been done to your carry gun. I’m referring to optics, custom finishes, contouring or chopping of the grip, trigger guard indexing or anything else that makes you carry gun look like a professional race gun or something from Star Trek.  This even extends to the internal parts. If you’ve had trigger work done and now have a “hair trigger”, then you’ll have some difficult explaining to do. The external work just isn’t easily understood by non-gun types so, yet again have a reason and be able to explain why. You and I know that the holographic sight installed on your M&P helps you find your target and fire accurately, and that the work done to the grip makes the gun an extension of your arm, and so on and so forth. You have good reasons, but you need to find a happy medium that is easily explainable if needed.  Don’t go all Captain Kirk and hope people get it, they won’t.

Finally we should address training. Shooting in your backyard is NOT training. Get training, and I mean real training from a real instructor. The level of training in the concealed carry classes is laughable.  The basic training for most law enforcement and military is barely passable as training. If you are falling back on, “I can it a tin can 9 out of ten times” I hope you enjoy your cell block. The other thing that I touched on earlier is that a true firearms instructor can testify on your behalf and will have connections in the gun community that you don’t.

The bottom line is that carrying a gun is a huge responsibility. With every passing day you come closer to having to use that gun on your hip or in your purse. Don’t carry a gun blindly with no plan. Talk to an attorney, have a plan in case you do need to actually use that weapon you carry to protect yourself.  Lord willing you will never need to pull the trigger, but if you do your life will never be the same. Stack the odds in your favor so that you come out relatively unscathed after a critical incident.  You will be treated as a murder suspect, accept that. You may even spend some time in jail until you can be bailed out, you need to accept that too. You are going to be treated guilty until proven innocent, get over it! You are alive!!

Do your part to be responsible, know what you can and can’t do, and know what is just plain smart. I hope this made you think a bit and if you need to make changes then do so quickly. You may need to use that gun very soon. This world isn’t getting any better. As for now stay safe, train and have a good un’.


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Patriotic Motivation


I just wanted to share with you a speech that was written and presented by USMC Gen. John Kelly a few years ago that memorialized the lives of two young marines that were lost on April 22nd 2008, a date I was still in Iraq myself, counting down the weeks before it was time to go home, while still running long daily missions into the heart of Baghdad. These two Marines embodied the warrior spirit that is the reason we are able to enjoy the celebration of our independence . So please, while you’re out grilling and enjoying well deserved time with your families, keep these two men in your mind and truly appreciate our great country.

Two years ago when I was the Commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, in fact, the 22nd of April 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 “The Walking Dead,” and 2/8 were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion in the closing days of their deployment going home very soon, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour.

Two Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines.

The same broken down ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, also my men and our allies in the fight against the terrorists in Ramadi, a city until recently the most dangerous city on earth and owned by Al Qaeda. Yale was a dirt poor mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him and he supported as well. He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle class white kid from Long Island.

They were from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple America’s exist simultaneously depending on one’s race, education level, economic status, and where you might have been born. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman.

The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went
something like: “Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized
personnel or vehicles pass.” “You clear?” I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like: “Yes Sergeant,” with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, “No kidding sweetheart, we know what we’re doing.” They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, al Anbar, Iraq.

A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alley way—perhaps 60-70
yards in length—and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest two hundred yards away knocking most of a house down before it stopped.

Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives. Two died, and because these two young infantrymen didn’t have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers-in-arms.

When I read the situation report about the incident a few hours after it happened I called the regimental commander for details as something about this struck me as different. Marines dying or being seriously wounded is commonplace in combat. We expect Marines regardless of rank or MOS to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different.

The regimental commander had just returned from the site and he agreed, but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event—just Iraqi police. I figured if there was any chance of finding out what actually happened and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I’d have to do it as a combat award that requires two eye-witnesses and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements. If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer.

I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi
police all of whom told the same story. The blue truck turned down into the alley and immediately sped up as it made its way through the serpentine. They all said, “We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing.” The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and then to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion.

All survived. Many were injured … some seriously. One of the Iraqis elaborated and with tears welling up said, “They’d run like any normal man would to save his life.”

What he didn’t know until then, he said, and what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal. Choking past the emotion he said, “Sir, in the name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did.”

“No sane man.”

“They saved us all.”

What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, recorded some of the suicide attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis had described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated.

You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: “… let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.”

The two Marines had about five seconds left to live. It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were—some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live.

For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing non-stop…the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore in to the body of the son-of-a-bitch who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers—American and Iraqi—bedded down in the barracks totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground. If they had been aware, they would have know they were safe…because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber.

The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread should width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.

The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God. 
Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty…into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight—for you.

Happy Fourth folks, and as always train, stay safe and have a good un’.

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Skills v.s. Gear

Afternoon all,

Combat focus class at memorial shootingcenter

Combat focus class at memorial shootingcenter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been doing some observing lately at the range and on a few of the forums that I frequent and one thing that I am noticing is that there is such a zeal to outfit ourselves with the latest and greatest gear from the most awesome manufacturer we can afford. Personally, I think this is a horrible idea.

Let me clarify, I’m not saying that you don’t need to buy gear; what I’m saying is that you don’t need to break the bank to look like a “cool guy” at the range when your skills may not be up to par with your look. I know that sounds harsh but stay with me here. What is important is training and meaningful trigger time at the range. Having the latest and greatest dump pouch and plate carrier aren’t going to reinforce your fundamentals or make you shoot more accurately. I liken this to those teenagers that slap all the aftermaket part stickers all over their Honda Civic they possibly can, all the while not having the parts or driving skill they’re advertising. I’m not saying that you won’t need any gear, that’s just silly. What I am saying is that you don’t need to drop the thousands of bucks on tactical nylon that all the Navy Seals are using these days. Just get the basic lightweight gear that will allow you to be operational. A holster for your sidearm, a quality sling for your carbine, a quality optic if you like those, maybe a “Battle Belt” or nylon “tac vest” to securely hold your magazines and other necessary gear while training.

What I feel is far more important than buying gear is that you take lessons at your local range if they’re offered, or seek out schools like Defensive Concepts North Carolina, Vickers Tactical, Haley Strategic, Costa Ludus or contact me. I attended a handgun class with Defensive Concepts a few years back after returning from my second tour to Iraq and was shocked to see how much I learned.  There are schools all over the country and there are many that will fit your budget. Make sure you show up with the right attitude and be prepared for the class with everything you will need.  Getting quality training can be a humbling experience so be prepared for that. Don’t let your ego take over, take the advice of the instructors and enjoy the great strides you will make in your abilities. Now that you’re all trained up, you can feel free to upgrade your gear to be more on par with your skills, just make sure to get what you will need and stay away from anything you don’t.  Remember that the most important things to consider when selecting gear is utility, weight and simplicity. Big, heavy and complicated gear is gear that will hinder you not help. As for now stay safe, train and have a good ‘un.

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A Primer on Situational Awareness Part 2

Good Afternoon All,


DSCN1504 (Photo credit: Luodanli)

A former co-worker and very good friend of mine has asked me to expound upon my original posting on situational awareness. This is essentially the next step in  situational awareness that I outlined earlier. I originally wanted to get into a bunch of specifics regarding physically dealing with a threat but, I didn’t think that it would be prudent for me to attempt that through this medium. Those are skills that one should learn in a CCW and other hands on training classes. This is intended to be a guide and a way to get you thinking. This is not a substitute for real training or legal advice. Seek out the training you need to make you successful in a deadly force encounter. No amount of reading can equip you better than hands on in person training can.

Essentially at this point, you are the master of your surroundings, you know what is going on around you and you are able to identify a potential threat. The next step is what to do after the threat is identified. You are there trying to conduct your business. You have a few more errands to run today but it’s starting to get dark. You’ve just left the drug store and you’re headed to your car to move on to the next destination. You’re looking around and you observe a subject moving towards you from around the back side of the pharmacy. What now?

Once you have identified a potential threat, you have a few choices to make. Do you try to escape? Do you deal with the threat? If your decision is to escape, it would be prudent to do so in an efficient manner. You should maintain the option of engaging the threat if the escape isn’t going as you had hoped. In a perfect world you would have enough time to go through several steps in order to neutralize the threat without having to resort to deadly force. Often times you’re not given enough time to actually go through the steps and you may have to skip a few, this is okay. The world isn’t perfect, things escalate quickly, people are unpredictable. This is an important thing to keep in the back of your mind. Those of you in the Military/LE fields are well versed in what is called the Use of Force Continuum, this is very simply an outline for steps to take in the use of force. An example of a Law Enforcement Use of Force Continuum goes like this:

  1. Officer Presence. A situation where Officer presence alone de escalates the situation
  2. Verbal Commands. Verbal commands are given to the offender in order to subdue them.
  3. “Soft Hands”. Joint locks or “come alongs” are used to gain compliance.
  4. “Hard Hands”. Hard strikes/baton/punch, kick are necessary to gain compliance.
  5. Deadly force. You are presented with no other option, your opponent is attempting to use deadly force against you or if you were to continue with the current struggle, you would no longer be effective in the fight and you would lose control of your weapon.

As an armed civilian sheepdog, you are not constrained by the professional standards necessary in LE. A Use of Force Continuum designed for LE isn’t going to be suitable for use by you, the armed civilian sheepdog. It has to be adapted to your individual needs and capabilities. You have the ultimate right to self preservation and the preservation of others. You can apply the necessary and appropriate level of force without having to necessarily worry about apprehending a suspect. Did you catch that part about necessary and appropriate? That is the standard upon which civilian uses of force are judged. You wouldn’t break up a simple fistfight with deadly force, nor would you attempt to stop a rape with a couple slaps.

An example of an armed civilian sheepdog Use of Force Continuum goes a little like this:

  1. Verbal Commands. Issue verbal commands to your threat, ensure they are loud and easily understood. You want any potential witnesses in the area to be able to hear you. Call attention to what’s going on. Stop! Get Back! Please Stop! Continue to make the verbal commands.
  2. Attempt to retreat. There are many states where you have the legal duty to retreat from an attack if possible. The key there being “if possible”. I don’t have much of an issue with this, you just need to be able to justify either why you didn’t retreat or articulate how you did retreat and it wasn’t successful. The best fight is the one you don’t have to be in.
  3. Draw Weapon. Well that escalated quickly! You don’t have to get into a physical struggle with an attacker. Draw your weapon and keep issuing those verbal commands.
  4. Deadly Force. Your attacker has ignored your verbal commands, they have ignored the fact that you have a weapon in your hands pointed at them and they continue to advance. They are reaching for something hidden in their waistband. They have left you with no ability to retreat. You have only one option left. Use deadly force, your life or the lives of others depend on it.
  5. Call your lawyer. This is the last step on my Use Of Force Continuum. I highly suggest that it’s on yours as well. Your adrenaline is rushing, you’re distraught and possibly in shock or injured. This is hardly the best time to be giving a statement to the police. They have a job to do and will more than likely be on your side but you don’t want a statement you made in the heat of the moment to be used against you in criminal court or in a lawsuit. Get yourself a lawyer and make your statements through them, it’s their job to defend you and make sure nothing can be used against you. This is also something to be done before you wind up in a deadly force situation. Research attorneys in your area and meet with a few. When you find one you like and want to do business with find out what’s necessary to have them on call for you. A lawyer will be your best friend.

Prior to your decision to use deadly force, there are many things to consider. If you are able to, maneuver so you are able to safely engage your threat. The firearms safety rule “be aware of your target and what’s beyond” applies off the firing line as well. Being aware of crossfire is very important as well, particularly if you’re in a busy area or are with your family. This only applies if you are afforded the luxury of time in a bad situation however. Ultimately, you have to make the decision and it’s not an easy one to make. This is why training is so important. Take classes and talk to your fellow armed civilian sheepdogs. Develop a relationship with local LE. Learn as much as you can about deadly force situations that have happened in the past and what made them successful or failures. All of these things can help you, should you wind up having to use deadly force. As for now stay safe, train and have a good ‘un.

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A Primer on Situational Awareness

Hey Folks,

Today’s discussion topic is situational awareness. Any of you Military and LE folks out there have had these two words drilled into your head since day one of training. Those of you in the civilian world that have had no experience in the professional LE/Military world may not be aware of the utmost importance of this. Situational awareness can be translated simply as being aware of your surroundings and adapting to the observations you make. If you are an armed sheepdog or not, being aware of your surroundings is just so incredibly crucial. “I never saw the car that hit me.” “No Officer, I don’t remember what the mugger was wearing.” Would somebody who is constantly aware of their surroundings have to say these things?

Don’t get me wrong here, being aware isn’t a simple mindless task. It’s actually quite the opposite. Being situationally aware is a deliberate and actually somewhat tiring task that requires development and constant honing much like any other skill. How many times have you been out and about and you’ve been approached by someone that you would have rather not dealt with? Did they make you feel uncomfortable? Did the hair on the back of your neck stand up? What was the outcome of that encounter? If it was something that didn’t result in you becoming a victim, I’m willing to bet that at the very least it left you feeling uncomfortable and possibly somewhat shaken.

A few weeks ago my wife, infant son and I were returning from having dinner with her parents. We stopped at a busy local and very well lit gas station to fuel up at about 8:30pm. Upon driving into the gas station I made sure to survey the area for any potential threats both inside the main building and by the pumps. I pulled up to a pump which is clearly visible from the main street, took another look around and exited the vehicle. As I began to gas up the car, I observed a 30ish long haired and bearded white male in blue jeans and an unbuttoned green flannel shirt walk up to a middle aged female patron who was seated in her vehicle and knock on the window(remember that whole hair on the back of the neck thing?). She was visibly startled and stayed where she was and refused to engage the subject. He was telling the woman something but at this point the interaction was too far away from me to hear. She kept her eyes to the front after initially viewing him at her window and didn’t respond to him. Since he wasn’t getting what he wanted at that vehicle, the male subject then walked towards another vehicle with a female inside. He appeared to be visibly nervous and twitchy. He attempted the same thing with the next female patron who was closer to my location. I was able to overhear his pitch this time. “My buddy ran out of gas, can you help us out?” At this point my spider senses were tingling. What kind of person is intentionally seeking out the female patrons versus the other male patrons that were around? This individual then appeared to notice my wife seated in the front seat of our vehicle and began walking towards her. I stepped from around the vehicle and positioned myself between him and my family. I then instructed him that he was close enough and to stop where he was. He complied with my instructions and began his pitch to me, although with me he added the statement “well I bet you won’t help me anyway but..” I informed him that I was unwilling to help and suggested that he move on from the area. He quickly walked back towards the main building of the gas station and kept walking passed the entrance to a black coupe idling in a parking spot and got in the passenger seat. I completed refueling our car and we departed the area before I could observe if they left.

Why did I tell you that story? Well there are tons of hypothetical situations that go through my mind when I get approached out in public. What is this person’s intent? Capability? Mental state? Weapons? Can I see their hands? Like I said before it’s tiring work. I told you this story to illustrate the “right way” to do it. I made the decision to go to a well lit and busy gas station. I made a visual check of the area prior to parking and getting out of the vehicle. I was being observant enough to see this guy walking up to people and making a note of his appearance and demeanor. I kept an eye on the guy to see what he was up to but this didn’t completely distract me from my task at hand, although I would have had no problem leaving the area and moving on to another gas station should it have been necessary. I also made a note that this guy was only approaching females. That last part alone is more than enough to justify my suspicion of this character and his decision to attempt to approach my wife while seated in our car was the last straw. My actions were non-violent but I did made it abundantly clear that he wasn’t welcome in the area anymore. Was he trying to rob a woman who would have been gullible enough to believe his story? I can’t say with certainty, but if I had to wager a bet I’d put my money on yes.

Being aware of your surroundings is more than passive observation. It’s the act of taking that passive observation and translating it into whatever necessary actions you need to take. It’s what dictates whether or not you need to pull your firearm or other chosen defensive tool. It’s what dictates whether or not you run away or just simply dismiss the observation as a non-threat and carry on. Too many times I see people nearly walking into things because they’re too wrapped up in whatever piece of technology they have in their hands. They wouldn’t see a threat until it was literally too late to do anything about it. The same goes for people walking around with headphones on all the time.

Here are some steps to take to kick your situational awareness up a few notches.

1. Put the phone down. There is no reason to walk around texting constantly or be on a Bluetooth headset all the time. If you need to make a quick text to get a question answered, get out of the way of others and do it quickly, the same applies for phone calls. These are distractions that aren’t necessary and can be detrimental to your situational awareness. Pay attention!

2. Keep your head on a swivel. Don’t get yourself sucked into “oooh shiny” mode. Constantly look around and take in what’s going on around you. If you are holding a conversation with someone, they may see this as disrespectful. If you feel the need, just let your conversation partner know that you just like to be aware of whats going on around you and leave it at that. No need to go into detail. Continue with the conversation.

3. Make meaningful decisions. Make these decisions based upon the information that you take in. It may be something as simple as changing lanes on the highway because you see a car pulled over by the police up ahead, but by making that choice you may well have saved yourself a ticket or prevented a fatal accident. If you’re making the effort to expand your awareness, then use the information you’re taking in.

4. Trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t. Move on to your next task and come back to that one later. If that isn’t an option then deal with the issue as necessary.

5. Be the master of your surroundings. While you may not be able to control everything in your environment, you can control what the environment is. Make sound choices in where you go, avoid places where less than desirable things tend to occur. Avoid any potential threats, this will help to force a threat to extend themselves into your world versus you stumbling into theirs.

Situational awareness is a skill that constantly needs work. I don’t expect to be able to show you a picture and have you recite every single detail from a short look. What I do expect is that this will help you to be more aware of what’s going on around you. The actions of others have an impact on you and you need to be thoughtful enough to know what to do when those actions force you to react to them and be a step or two ahead. I came across a post the other day from ITS Tactical that ties into this topic very well. Please take a moment to take a look at that as well. As for now stay safe, train and have a good ‘un.

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The Beretta/Stoeger Cougar

Good Day All,cougar

Today I’m going to tell you about a firearm that is near and dear to my heart, the Beretta Cougar my first handgun. This Particular handgun was brought to the market in 1994 and received a slightly less than stellar reception. This can be attributed to two things in my opinion, Beretta‘s famously understated advertising and the Glock craze that was going on at the time and still continues today. Don’t get me wrong, the Glock is a fine firearm, but it is far from the only game in town.

English: This is a picture of the rotating bar...

Beretta Cougar Rotating Barrel Lockup (Credit: Wikipedia)

The Beretta Cougar was brought to market with several different models (F, G, and D) and calibers (9mm, .40S&W, .357Sig and .45ACP). Those of you familiar with Beretta’s more commonly available models the 92/96/M9 the Cougar will have a very familiar form factor and controls. The profile from the operator perspective of the handgun is identical to the 92 making it a very comfortable pistol choice for prior military personnel like myself. The cougar operates on a rotating barrel locking system where the barrel does not tilt up like on most other pistols. The barrel instead rotates to unlock the barrel from the slide when it recoils then extracts the spent cartridge and loads the next into the chamber. This method, in theory, is more accurate than the other more common system that is used in most other handguns. It keeps the barrel on the same plane throughout the entire operation cycle. Personally I’m not aware of any other firearms that use this same system other than the successor to the Cougar, Beretta’s PX4.

The Beretta Cougar holding it's own next to more "modern" handguns in a large round count class.

The Beretta Cougar holding it’s own next to more “modern” handguns in a large round count class.

I purchased the .40S&W model from a fellow police officer friend of mine quite a few years ago who had bought it and never shot it. I have put several thousand rounds through it since, without much issue other than replacing the extractor and extractor spring as they had worn out after a significant period of time where I was shooting hundreds of rounds on a weekly basis. When you shoot a lot, parts tend to wear out. This is true of any firearm even the precious Glock.  This pistol conceals as well as any other large frame semi-auto with the correct holster selection and is as reliable and rugged as its bigger brother the 92FS/96FS/M9. Shortly after returning from my second tour to Iraq I signed up for a class from a local training group. The class was a one day defensive handgun class with a 600 round count for the day. My Beretta was pitted against Glocks, Springfield XD‘s, S&W M&P‘s, and of course the expensive and very awesome Sig. My Beretta did not experience any malfunctions other than the ones we purposely induced for training purposes. I definitely had the most different handgun on the line that day and it performed flawlessly. Later on I wound up using my Cougar as a duty weapon while working a private security job with the NCDOC, I shot a perfect 100 on both day and night qualification and later as a police officer I qualified with it again as an off-duty gun and shot 100 day and night. This pistol in my hands is far more comfortable and accurate than the Glock 23 I was issued as my duty weapon as a police officer.

English: Beretta 8040 Cougar Pistol disassembl...

English: Beretta 8040 Cougar Pistol disassembled to show parts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Several things are important to consider with this particular pistol. It is a little lacking in the accessory department. Holsters are available but usually require special order, the choice of sights are a little limited but both Trijicon and Meprolight night-sights are available. Grips are available from Hogue in the aluminum and wood variety and of course you have the option of using the universal grip sleeve from Hogue as well. Another important note is that Beretta is no longer manufacturing this pistol, it is now being made by their subsidiary Stoeger. Stoeger is based out of Turkey and makes mainly shotguns similar to the models already made by Beretta and Benelli. Stoeger does not manufacture the .357Sig model, but I personally don’t really see this as a great loss. The .357Sig cartridge is an expensive and difficult to find round and as far as I’m concerned the merits of it’s ballistics don’t outweigh it’s cost and difficulty to procure. It is also important to note that the .45ACP model is actually a larger pistol than the .40S&W and the 9MM models so holster selection is made a bit more difficult for that particular model. The offering from Beretta did not have an accessory rail available on this pistol. I don’t see this as a shortcoming personally. Adding a light/laser on a handgun makes it bigger and harder to conceal. I carry a Flashlight with me all the time anyway and I have trained using my support hand to use a flashlight in low-light shooting situations. There are Stoeger models that do have an accessory rail on them if that is a necessity for you. The best part about this pistol? you might ask, well it’s very budget friendly. My father and brother both just bought Stoeger Cougars in .40S&W and 9MM respectively. The total bill for both handguns came in at under $900 out the door from a local dealer here in NC, and that is during the current buying frenzy going on. I’ve given you quite a few things to consider here, take the knowledge and run with it. As always stay safe, train and have a good ‘un.

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.22 Training

Hey Folks,


Ammunition (Photo credit: simonov)

Ammo prices have gone through the roof. Gun store shelves are bare as can be. This is most likely a sign of many more things to come. Given new state government regulations in New York and several states to come, it is now going to be very difficult to train or even just enjoy a day at the range. I’m sure most of you have considered this and have already or are planning on taking appropriate actions.  Today I am going to outline why a .22 is going to be such an important firearm in your collection for training and survival.

There are many things to consider when training and above all is whether or not your training has any true value. By this I mean that you should be getting true benefit from it. If you are not benefiting and growing with each day of training you put in. Another very important thing to consider is that you can’t reap any benefits from training if you can’t afford to do it. Ammo in major rifle and handgun calibers is so hard to get ahold of that I myself have just stopped trying for now. I’ve built a very modest stock of what I can carry in a “worst case” situation and that’s been about it. Even now .22 ammo is hard to find but when you can find it, it is still cheap and available in bulk packs of 500 or so rounds for what you’d pay for a 20 round box of 5.56/.223. Firearms in .22 are usually more inexpensive than major caliber firearms with a few exceptions and from what I’ve seen are still widely available. This makes a similar “for training use only” firearm to what you already own a little more budget friendly.

I myself do not own a .22 version of my defensive carbine or handgun, but I do own a simple bolt action .22 that my father taught me to shoot on.  Time with that rifle is spent on the range perfecting the basics of marksmanship (Trigger manipulation, breathing, sight picture and sight alignment). With constant work in these areas it is of great benefit to me in both rifle and handgun shooting.  Not flinching is something that I constantly have to work on as well and I’m certain that most of you have this issue as well.

The topic of the .22 as a survival rifle has been covered by so many others and there is a wonderful wealth of knowledge available all over the internet.  I am not a survival expert, that’s not my training background. I am a self proclaimed firearms expert with much to learn still. Here is what I do know. .22 rifles are quiet, light and you can carry hundreds of rounds in a package about the size and weight of one .223 30-round magazine. This affords you a very portable package that can be packed with you virtually anywhere that will allow you to get small game and extend your life span in a survival situation. So the next time you see that old .22 just sitting on the rack at your local gun shop, give it a serious consideration. That very firearm might be the most important purchase you ever make. As for now train, stay safe and have a good ‘un.

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Knife Sharpening

Afternoon all,

Today I’d like to talk about a somewhat little considered necessity for survival and field craft; Keeping our knives sharp. There are so many different methods out there to get your blades razor sharp. There are stones and similar tools like diamond files, kits from all kinds of manufacturers are available for all kinds of budgets. Today I’d like to gloss over a few of my favorites that won’t break the bank. There are options out there that are  just so cost prohibitively expensive that I’m not even going to go over them here.


Credit Smith’s

One of my go to knife sharpening implements is my Smith’s Diamond Precision Knife Sharpening System. ($39.99 MSRP) This tool is very useful for getting a good usable edge on your favorite daily carried blade. I’ve had this kit since about 2007 and used it quite often on my knives and the blades of my buddies while in Iraq. This kept our blades combat effective for opening our MRE‘s and packs of bottled water among other things. This method has a guide you clamp onto the blade that offers two options for blade angles a 20 degree and a 25 degree. The latter being the more durable blade angle which in theory would require less maintenance. The 20 degree is more suited for kitchen knives or anything you’d like to put a more fine edge on. That being said 20 degree was my go to setting. This set comes with three “stones”(a strip of metal coated with a diamond abrasive) a coarse, fine and a serrated edge stone which has a triangular shape. This works well for most serrated edges but not all and requires a careful and light touch. The individual stones have metal dowels that are screwed into the end of the stone to maintain the angle. This system works very well and it has served me well for years. Make sure you use the supplied oil with the kit and follow the directions.


Credit Smith’s

Another tool I have found useful is another offering from Smith’s. It is pretty much identical in function to the tool above with a few obvious differences. This tool is the DCS4 Smith’s 4″ Diamond Combination sharpening tool (MSRP $19.99). The type of abrasive used is identical but doesn’t have a guide so you have to sharpen free hand. This tool works as well as the previous system and for me is better suited to field use. I don’t find it practical to carry a full sharpening kit into the field where weight and size is of the utmost importance, also I don’t use this method nearly as much as other options as this is more suited to maintaining an edge quickly versus creating one after hard use of the knife.

My current go-to method of knife sharpening is what is called convex knife sharpening. This is the opposite of what is called “hollow ground” and results in a very sharp and durable blade. This is however by far the most complicated and difficult method for knife sharpening. With this method you are going to be using a bench top belt sander. With this method you have to be very cautious with what you’re doing as any slip of the hand or inattention to what you’re doing will result in a knife that is no longer usable or that will require a lot of grinding to fix. I only recommend this method to the experienced hand if you don’t have much to practice with. The belts necessary are also a little difficult to find. I had to travel to two separate woodworking shops to find the sanding belts needed to get a good edge. The first belt I use for a blade I haven’t sharpened with this method before is a 600 or 650 grit. Moving down the way I wind up with a micron grit belt which is comparable to a 3000 grit belt. I use several steps moving up methodically in grits, all the while maintaining a constant pressure and angle for the blade. The blade is finished off with a leather stropping belt to get the smooth finish on the edge. Many people use a compound to finish off the blade. I have used compound and have gone without and I can’t tell any appreciable difference in the finishes.

I have tried a few other inexpensive methods like “pull through” sharpeners that usually have two carbide or other ultra hard substances set to a fixed angle that are designed to “shave” off the metal on the blade to create an edge. I have not once gotten a good edge from one of these sharpeners and do not under any circumstance recommend them. Also I have recommended two sharpening systems from the same company and I am aware of that. These tools are inexpensive and work. These are meant to be an illustration of the method more than the exact item. If you have any questions for me, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section and I’ll get back to you. As always stay safe, train and have a good un’.

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RV Travel With Firearms

*I am not a lawyer and none of the information in this post is to be construed to be legal advice.*

Recreational Vehicle

Recreational Vehicle (Photo credit: *Grant*)

Afternoon all,

Late last month, my father and I began a discussion about traveling with firearms. My dad has purchased a small RV and was keen to hear my opinions on carrying a firearm while on the road. This sent me on a trip of my own to do lots of research on the subject.  I rarely travel myself so I had to rely on the experiences of others to formulate an educated answer to my dad.

The first thing I did was look through several forums and blogs that are more dedicated to this particular issue. The one thing that I was able to take from them is that research on your destination’s local and state laws is paramount. First and foremost is the importance of the decision to carry a firearm with you in the first place. Carrying a pistol or rifle come with an inherent responsibility that you owe to every single person, place or thing that you encounter. Your decision to carry could affect the lives of many more than just yourself and travel companions. Once that decision is made, the decision on what to carry comes into play.  The primary question here is; what is your perceived threat? Do you spend a lot of time out in more primitive camping areas? Are predatory animals a concern? Do you tend to just pull up to any ole’ parking lot to take a rest for the night? Truck stops? What kind of lockable storage is available in your rig?  These are important questions to ask yourself and making a list of your answers is helpful.

Once you’ve narrowed down your needs then a selection is to be made. One thing to keep in mind is that RV’s are small cramped quarters. Shouldering a shotgun or long rifle isn’t going to be a practical option inside the RV. My suggestion here is to have a couple options on board. A handgun of course makes excellent sense inside a vehicle, I also suggest the consideration of a pistol caliber carbine that shares an ammunition and magazine commonality with your handgun. The same system applies if you’re more of a wheelgun fan, carbines are available in .38spc/.357mag and .44mag.  Of course you have the option to carry whatever you wish but this pairing in my opinion works well for the traveler. Whether you decide to go the route of a two firearm solution or a single firearm is a very personal decision and budget certainly comes into play here however, there are a few budget friendly options in these categories that offer all the benefits at the price of one “top shelf” handgun.

Gun laws are what will be the most important thing to consider after you’ve decided to carry a firearm in the first place.  Different states and municipalities have different laws and ordinances and when you place yourself with a firearm in that area, your ignorance of these regulations will not be a defense to your prosecution if you are discovered armed. These laws can limit the magazine capacity, length, and size of what weapon you can legally possess. There are a few websites that consolidate applicable laws in an easy to find database. is an outstanding and very well researched example of one of these. Getting yourself a concealed handgun permit/cwp/chl…whatever your state calls it, is a very advisable thing for you to do.  Many states have reciprocity with other states that allow you to freely carry your loaded and concealed handgun into and through that state, without fear of prosecution.  Be advised though, that these reciprocity agreements do tend to change some, so research immediately before your trip to see if anything has changed. There are also many states that are so called “open carry” states. This means that a loaded firearm can be openly carried without breaking any laws. What this means to the RV traveler is that your firearm can be close at hand provided that it is not concealed from view in your rig.

If you still have any questions after your research is done, a phone call or visit to the attorney general’s website for the state you plan to travel to could help to clear up a lot of things. Many places also recognize the fact that when your RV is no longer moving down the highway and is serving as your “home”, the legal definition of your vehicle changes to a dwelling much like a hotel room is recognized as your dwelling when you’re inside.  This is a good question to have in mind while you’re researching laws or if you call to the attorney general’s office. If traveling through more restrictive states, the federal standard for transporting of a firearm is to have it locked in a secure area (locking storage box or safe) and ammunition is to be locked away separately. I myself have no desire to visit places that would require me to give up my right and ability to protect myself and my family. The important thing to take away from this post is that your own research is necessary and so important to keep yourself on the right side of jail walls. The reason for traveling is to see wonderful sites and enjoy your time on the road. Simply ignoring the laws will result badly for you. Make good choices and train with your chosen firearms. That is what will make the difference if you’re ever forced to use them in defense. Enjoy your travels and have fun. As always stay safe, train and have a good un’.

If you’re looking for more information on the RV lifestyle, I urge you to head over to It is a great resource on the in’s and outs of living full time in an RV and has plenty of information for even the casual traveler.

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Good afternoon all,

Today I just wanted to take a brief moment to just say a few things. On this past Friday a horrible tragedy occurred in a small town in Connecticut. A town not horribly far away from where I was born. From what I remember of that area is that it is quiet, quaint and a close knit community. My heart goes out to the families affected by this horrible event. As a new father I couldn’t even come close to imagining the horror that these parents are going through. The initial reaction I had was to get online and begin to bring a political message to all of you, I have found that I simply can’t get into that here. I have engaged in political debates on Facebook and those of you that know me well, know exactly where I stand on the issue at hand. I’m not going to get into all of that here. This is an information blog and while I will offer opinions on many things, I just feel this is just not the time or place and frankly I just don’t feel as though I’m truly eloquent enough to do it justice. I will leave that to others. Lets all just calmly reflect and not rush to conclusions and perceived solutions that can’t be taken back once they’re put in place. The lives of the many should not be affected by the actions of the few. No matter how vile or misguided. As always stay safe, train and have a good un’.

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