Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Tactical Diaper Bag

I hate diaper bags. I hate them so much I never really had a true "diaper bag." I was gifted one before my son was born, used it for about a week and ditched it in favor for something lighter and smaller.

Most of the time, barring extenuating circumstances (such as medical conditions, etc), your child does not need a built-in 1/2" thick, folding changing pad just to change a diaper. He doesn't need six changes of clothes for every clime and place. He doesn't need two blankets and six bottles. If you need all those things you are going on a trip, not just out and about and you might as well be taking a suitcase, not a diaper bag.

And who needs to be carrying BOTH a diaper bag and a purse? I know some women who work need to have the diaper bag to drop off at the baby-sitter or daycare and the purse to go to work with them but for the rest of us it's perfectly acceptable to combine the two AND make sure we have all of our self defense tools at hand as well.

I have put together what I have considered to be my "tactical" diaper bag (no matter how much I despise using the term "tactical").

A tactical diaper bag is more than what is carried in the bag but here are some things you might find if you were to search such a bag:
  • gun

  • knife

  • multi-tool

  • spare magazine/speedloader 

  • pepper spray

  • tactical pen

  • medical supplies (beyond just a few bandaids and neosporin)

  • flashlight

  • Taser

  • Stun gun

  • Personal Alarm

Some people (men and women alike) think that just because they are carrying a certain tool (whether that is a knife, gun, pepper spray, Taser, etc) they are ready if they should need to use it.

Often, when I get to talking to other women about self defense they will chirp proudly, "I carry pepper spray."

To which I respond, "Great! Where is it?"

At which point I watch and silently count off the seconds as they retrieve their purse off the floor and dig through it while mumbling, "Well, it's around here somewhere."

We're lucky if they can gain access to it in less than twenty seconds.

That, my friends, is far too long.

A tool is only as good as its accessibility and even if you can't carry on body or choose to carry off body in a purse or bag it doesn't mean that you have to sacrifice that accessibility and security.

Maxpedition Versipack Jumbo
A tactical bag takes the carrying of the defensive tools to a whole new level of security and accessibility. There are bags out there that are specifically designed to be "tactical" and they make it very easy to put together in a configuration that works for you both as a kick-ass mother and as a warrior woman.

I have one of these such bags which I have often used as a diaper bag/purse. It is a Maxpedition Versipack Jumbo bag. When I got mine they only came in a very limited number of manly colors as they were originally marketed to military and police but when mothers like myself started to catch on to their potential in the civilian sector they added many more color options.

 The greatest thing about these types of bags is that they assume you will be carrying defensive tools and/or weaponry of some sorts and they make provisions for such tools.

All the goodies I frequently fit into my Versipack.
The back pocket of the bag is designed to hold a gun if you wish. There is a holster accessory you can purchase separately that you attach to the inside of the pocket to secure your firearm. The shoulder strap (which is designed to be carried cross-body) has a quick-release snap but also small loops and hooks for anything you might want to attach to the strap like a pen or pepper spray or even your car keys. In addition to that there are many more pockets and pouches that allow for reasonable placement of items by level of importance.

There are other "tactical" bag companies out there that make bags specifically geared towards the carrying of weaponry, but, let's face it, most of them look like.. well, tactical bags.

Some people don't care. In fact, as long as they can get a tactical bag in baby blue or pink with their child's name embroidered on the front it's good enough for them. But, some women do care what their diaper bag looks like and want something that is both aesthetically pleasing as well as functional as a tactical bag.

Before we talk about how to make or change your average diaper bag into a tactical diaper bag I want to talk about some rules to having and/or using a bag as a duel tactical/diaper bag.

Be Safe
Remember, a diaper bag is to aid you in caring for your child and is going to be around your child. If you plan on carrying a defensive tool of any kind in your diaper bag (whether it's a gun, knife, pepper spray, etc) you have a responsibility to make sure yours or any other child cannot gain access to that tool. It is your responsibility to have control of the bag at all times; be vigilant of your bag at all times for both access and security; be responsible for the items contained in the bag so that you never hand over the bag to someone else who is either unauthorized or uneducated in the tools within that bag; always have a way to secure your bag or your tools in the event you need to leave the bag, etc. Be safe and responsible.

Check Legalities
You and your baby (and therefore your diaper bag) go a lot of places. Some of these places do not allow specific defensive tools like guns and knives. Check the legalities of your tools in the places you are about to go before you go and have a back up plan for storage of your tools in the event that they are not allowed.

With that in mind, let's talk about how to choose a bag and set it up in a way that is both optimal for you as a mom, and as a defensive tool bag--a tactical diaper bag.

Have a shoulder strap that allows for cross-body carry.
There really is no negotiating this point. If you are going to carry a defensive tool in a bag it should be able to be attached to your body in such a way as it cannot easily slip off or be taken. The most secure way to carry a bag is to sling it across the body. This protects you from losing your bag and from someone doing a quick run and snatch.

A gun gets its own pocket.
This is another non-negotiable point. Every couple of months I read a story about a gun that goes off in a store because it was carried in some woman's purse and something got inside of the trigger guard causing a discharge. This should never happen. If there is going to be a gun in a bag or purse it should ALWAYS have it's own pocket (preferably with a zipper, snap or velcro for concealability and to keep little fingers out). That pocket should be equipt with some sort of a holster devise holding the firearm in such a way that the trigger cannot be accessed and so that the firearm can be gripped and drawn quickly and safely by the legal carrier. If you have to modify a pocket in your bag to do this then do it, but just accept the fact that if there is going to be a gun in the bag it's going to have its own designated pocket.

Prioritize placement of products in pockets. 
Ask yourself this question when considering what you are putting in your bag and where in your bag you are going to put it: "When am I going to need this?"
Even if you are going to need something several times a day (diapers or a change of socks, let's say) you don't necessarily need them IMMEDIATELY. Typically, you wait to change a diaper until you are in a place where you can lie your child down in a relatively controlled environment. You may be better served reserving the most accessible pockets and locations of your bag for items that you are may immediately need--such as a defensive tool. As stated before, the bottom of a purse or bag is no place for a defensive tool. If you can't access it it is no good to you.
Put priority on the things that can save your life and the life of your child and put those in a dominant, easy to access place while also considering safety and legalities.

Modify your bag. 
If you want a place to hook your pepper spray, keys or tactical pen on a strap or external pocket, get yourself a D-ring, S-biner, key ring, some heavy-duty thread, a needle, a nylon strip or other other attachment method and modify! Or, have that friend of yours who sews rig something up for you. If you feel your bag would better suit your needs if it had this or that modification, then do it. Make it quality work and make sure it's safe and responsible, but modify!

To show you just how easy it is to make even the most non-tactical diaper bag into a tactical diaper bag I'll give you an example to consider.

Coach Diaper Bag
This Diaper Bag made by Coach has "tactical diaper bag" potential written ALL over it (in addition to all of the "C"s). It has a shoulder strap capable of cross-body slinging. The pockets on the ends are perfect for things like tactical pens, pepper spray, knives, spare magazines/speedloaders and tactical flashlights in addition to a bottle or water bottle on the one side. The large pocket on the front is a zipper pocket that is perfect for something like a gun which could be retrofitted with a holster like a Remora that will keep the firearm both protected and in place. The heavy D-ring hooks on either side of the bag could be modified for keys with the addition of a simple S-biner.

Not all bags have "tactical diaper bag" potential but with these guidlines you should be able to shop smart and find a bag that works both for your needs as a mother and for your needs as something to tote around your tactical gear.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Week 8: Fight or Flight, How It Affects You And Baby

The first time I heard of "Fight or Flight" in association with pregnancy was while going through my first child-birthing class while pregnant with my first child. The class instructor (a labor and delivery nurse) was talking about how women who are unfamiliar or new to the birthing process may get frightened by what is happening sending the body into what is called "Fight or Flight" and essentially throwing a huge wrench in the entire birthing process.

Of course, being a firearms carrier and instructor I was very familiar with the term "Fight or Flight" but in an outwardly-danger type of environment and I was interested in hearing more on how this could effect me as a pregnant woman.

For those who may not be familiar with the term "Fight or Flight" is a quick and simple way of saying, "acute stress response." You can read far more technical information about it here or even here.

To put it as simply as possible, when an individual is frightened or threatened the body responds to the perceived threat and prepares itself to either defend (fight) or run (flight). How it prepares itself is fascinating. Pupils dilate, heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure all increase. To put it rather simply, the body tries to direct blood and oxygen to the places it will need it the most (the brain, heart, lungs, muscles, etc) and temporarily shut down regular flow to places that are considered expendable at the moment (skin, digestive system, reproductive system, etc).

Of course a normal, non-pregnant individual fighting for his or her life probably doesn't care that blood flow is being shut down to their reproductive organs. All he or she cares about it surviving and he or she may greatly appreciate the increased adrenaline and blood flow that allows him or her an advantage of increase strength and/or speed and a chance for quicker thinking. But for a pregnant woman reduced blood flow to the reproductive organs means one very serious thing: reduced blood flow to her baby.

Thankfully, your baby has his own defense mechanism and that is placenta. Engorged with rich, oxygenated blood, the placenta is made exclusively for the needs and protection of your child and while experiencing a fight or flight response it will do its job to nourish the baby until conditions return to normal. Unfortunately, however, the placenta can only defend a baby for so long before it too needs a replenishment of blood and oxygen from mommy's body. Therefore, a prolonged fight or flight response could have devastating effects on an unborn baby.

In labor a woman experiencing a fight or flight response may experience stalled labor and be diagnosed with what is called "failure to progress." She may also experience increased pain and, if the response is severe enough, fetal distress. Though, of course there are many other medical reasons for these diagnoses as well.

After hearing about fight or flight in pregnancy as it related to childbirth in my first childbirthing class and then in my second, I decided to research the topic a bit more and find how it could affect a woman experiencing fight or flight in a violent encounter and the steps she might be able to take to minimize the effect on herself and therefore her child.

As stated, the placenta does a fabulous job of temporarily protecting a baby during a fight or flight response but in the first trimester of pregnancy while the placenta is still being formed there is little protection for a fetus from the natural fight or flight response. Because of this it is not surprising to note that women who experience an acute stress response in this time period have a higher chance of miscarriage (per this article by Sid Kirchheimer for WebMD).

After the placenta is fully functioning the baby is better protected, but, as stated, it cannot protect its delicate ward forever without a replenishment of blood and oxygen. Even in the second or third trimesters women experiencing fight or flight responses (especially for prolonged periods of time) can find themselves in preterm labor as the body tries to expel the thing which is trying to take necessary blood and oxygen the body thinks should be used for fighting or fleeing.

The hard truth of the matter is that if you find yourself in a fight for your life you will not be able to stop the acute stress response. It will come whether you want it to or not and the consequences will be what they will be. Provided you use the tools your body has given you and get out of the fight or flight situation as soon as possible, the most you (as a pregnant mother) can do is try to minimize the length of time you allow your body to remain in an acute stress response therefore minimizing the effects it will have on you and your baby.

But how does one minimize an acute stress response (fight or flight)?

1. Get out of the situation. However you have to do it, by whatever means at your disposal, get out of the environment that is causing you stress. If you have to fight? Fight! If you have to flee? Flee! But get out of the situation as quickly and safely as you can.

2. Get medical attention. Because this is a blog centered toward women who carry guns the worst-case scenarios I can think about in context are scenarios that required lethal force. If you are in a violent encounter and lethal force was required (or even if it wasn't), even if you are not injured, it would be in your best interest to ask for medical assistance as soon as possible. Police will be called, they may even want to place you under arrest, and whether or not you choose to give a statement is your call and I hope you have considered the consequences of speaking to police without legal representation present. But, as a pregnant woman who is thinking about the care of her child, one of the first things out of your mouth should be, "I'm pregnant! I need to go to the hospital." The medical staff will be able to evaluate your condition and the condition of your baby and perhaps just hearing your baby's heartbeat and being assured that everything is fine with your child will give you enough reassurance to complete the next step.

3. Relax! Utilize deep breathing techniques. Pray. Practice deep relaxation. Hum. Do whatever you can to get your body back to normal as fast as possible. If you are in a hospital environment (which you should be in after a violent encounter) the staff may be able to help with this step medically if necessary. They understand the severe effects of high stress on pregnancy and will do what they can to assure you and your baby are cared for. If preterm labor begins they will more-than-likely attempt to stop and control it. They may also be the buffer you need to keep police officer traffic to a minimum and media and other stresses away until you are less anxious.

4. Seek Help. If you have ever talked to a combat veteran or a police officer involved in a shooting or read any kind of authoritative book on the subject (On Killing by Lt Col Dave Grossman is one such book), you will be made aware that the after effects of a lethal force encounter can be quite devastating from an emotional standpoint which does have a physical stress effect on the body. Keep that stress to a minimum by seeking help as soon as possible. Again, in a medical environment your options may be far more varied than if left on your own or, worse, held for questioning at some police station. While you should still exercise caution in how much you say in regards to the lethal incident and be cautious who you share information with, if you need help, do not hesitate to ask for it.

5. Take time. Recognize that the affects of a fight or flight response can last for days or even weeks. There will also be added stresses with an investigation into the incident. If met with any complications at the hospital they will likely hold you until you have stabilized but upon release be conscious of your body and how it is responding. Take time off or work, put the kids in day care, run yourself a relaxing bubble bath and do all you can to stay calm and relaxed. If you begin to experience anxiety or contractions put yourself back under medical care.

Fight or Flight is a gift your body gives you in a time of need. Unfortunately, your body is selfish and its only priority is saving itself. It's up to you to do all you can to get your body back under control and back to protecting your baby as well.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Week 7: Carrying to Doctor's Appointments

If you haven't already been to your Ob/Gyn for your first prenatal appointment it is probably coming up shortly. These days doctors encourage the start of prenatal care as early as possible even as early as five or six weeks. Often, to get an accurate gestational time line you may even get an ultrasound in those early weeks to confirm that everything is where it is supposed to be (most importantly, baby).

If you have already had a child you can start nodding in agreement, but if this is your first child you will find that you don't get to keep your clothes on very much when it comes to doctor's offices and pregnancy. Let's face it, everything of importance to your pregnancy is located between your rib cage and your knees which means doctors are going to need access to it. "Lay back, put your feet in the stirrups  and spread your knees," will be the most commonly heard phrase at your doctors office of the next nine months. It's just a fact of pregnancy life.

So if you carry on body (as you should) and it's legally permissible for you to carry into your doctor's office in your state you can find yourself standing in an exam room with a gun and holster in your hand thinking, "Dear God, what do I do with this thing?"

Fear not. I've gone before you and come up with a few solutions to help with this problem.

Again, if this is your first pregnancy you might not be aware of the processes involved in prenatal care. One such process is that of getting your blood pressure, a urine sample and weight at the very beginning of your visit. If you are carrying a gun, of course your weight may be a little on the heavy side if you have not already removed your firearm. Throughout my first pregnancy I would remove my firearm in the restroom while providing the urine sample and store it in a variety of ways (which I will go into shortly) throughout the remainder of my visit.

As a precautionary warning I will say that the less you handle your gun the less likely you are of having a negligent discharge. Safety should be your top priority and the safest method of handling your firearm is while it is in a holster. Your holster really is your best friend when it comes to carry. Your holster protects your gun from you and you from your gun. A quality holster (which is the only type you should be using) will form to your gun and will completely protect the trigger guard area from accidental tampering from anything, whether it be a finger, a pen, a tube of lip gloss or a set of keys. Unless absolutely necessary and/or you intend to shoot it DO NOT take your firearm out of its holster. Keep your gun in your holster and remove the entire rig from your body to store it.

Also, remember your four rules of gun safety and make them your practice while handling any firearm:
  • All guns are loaded all the time--treat them that way.
  • Point the firearm in a safe direction.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger.
  • Be aware of your target and what is beyond.

Considering what you might have to go through once you get into the office you may want to consider leaving your firearm in your car or at home for your appointments. If may decide you would feel much more at ease if you didn't have to worry about what you are going to do with your gun.

One of the best ways of securing your firearm in your vehicle is with a car safe such as a Center of Mass Car Safe. They are very cheap, can be secured to the car and can hold quite a bit of stuff depending on the model of safe you buy. Depending on your holster you may also be able to store the entire rig in the safe and not have to remove the firearm from it's holster. This requires no or minimal handling of the firearm which is ideal.

If you choose to leave your firearm in your car and do not have a car safe I prefer to disable it in some way so that if my car is stolen it can not be immediately used by the criminal who may find it. If this disabling can be done without removing the gun from the holster it's even better. On some firearms there are key locks such as some Taurus firearms and S&W revolvers (as an example). If your firearm does have a key lock read the owner's manual carefully to make sure you are locking your gun appropriately. Put the key on your key ring or in your purse or wallet and make a habit of locking the firearm before you store it in your vehicle OUT OF SIGHT (I know that should seem very obvious but I one processes talked to a woman who left her firearm on the passenger seat of her car and was shocked when she returned to find her car broken into and her firearm gone.. be smart). This method usually requires minimal handling of the firearm (depending on the locking mechanism) which is next to ideal.

If you do not have a car safe or a lock on your pistol you can simply unload it by removing the cartridges from the cylinder of a revolver or removing the magazine and round from the chamber of a semi-auto. Obviously this involves a little more handling of the firearm and should be done with utmost care. If the first two options are not available to me I will go to this option and take the ammunition with me while I leave the gun in the car... Out of sight.

The last means of disabling your gun is to disassemble it. If I'm carrying a 1911-style pistol without a firing pin safety I will slip off the back stop, remove the firing pin and take that with me while I leave the gun. Some advocate taking the barrel but that can mean completely disassembling the firearm and can be messy and time consuming and depending on your make and model can mean loosing some small parts or needing to remember to take a take-down tool with you. Remember you are doing this in a vehicle where others might see you which can add stress as a distraction (something you should try to minimize while handling your firearm). This method also requires the most handling of your firearm and should only be done as a last resort and if you are extremely familiar and comfortable with your gun handling. I have only done this method less than a half dozen times. Often I will recommend locking the gun in the trunk in a box with a padlock before I recommend disassembly though it is, of course, an option.

Decide what method of car storage you are going to use (if you choose to do so), practice it at home in a safe environment until you are comfortable, safe and quick with it, and then stick to it. Remember to store your gun out of sight, lock your doors and don't forget to reassemble or unlock your firearm before you put it back on.

If you should choose to take your firearm with you into the office here are some methods for securing it. No matter which of these methods you should choose, however, make sure you are, again, being safety conscious, careful and watchful. Never leave your firearm unattended and be conscious of what is going on.

1. The over-sized purse, bag, etc.
I'm not a big fan of purse carry and if you are committed to on-body carry I applaud you. That doesn't mean, however, that your purse can't come in handy in times like these. Just because you don't carry in your purse doesn't mean you can't temporarily store your gun in your purse while being examined by doctors. Either while in your car or before asked for your weight or immediately when you get to the office, you can slip into the bathroom and put your entire rig into your purse for temporary storage. If you have a gun purse with a designated pocket for your gun, PERFECT! If not, consider taking a purse that has a little extra room and a good zipper or flap to it where you can comfortably hide your entire set up for the duration of your visit. It's easy to take from room to room and keep an eye on.

2. The coat or sweater or cover garment.
Your cover garment can be just as concealing off body as it is on body. Again, in the bathroom, and before asked for your weight, take off your entire rig and with your gun still in the holster wrap it securely in your coat, sweater or cover garment. Make sure it is completely concealed and secured so that if will not just slip or fall out while being carried (I have even put my gun inside a zippered sweater, zipped it up and then folded it around itself for added security). Even if you have to tie the ends of your garment together for added security, do so.

3. Trusted, legal friend or spouse.
Chances are if you are in a committed relationship going through this process your partner is going to be with you for some of these appointments. Ultrasounds and important discussions about certain processes of the pregnancy are going to want to be shared with the person with whom you are going to be sharing the life of your child. Chances are also pretty good that that person is legally permitted to carry as well. If not, then keep those legalities in mind and do what is right according to law. If so, it's an excellent idea to let that individual take possession of your firearm throughout your visit.

A final note: 
A lot of women take their children with them to prenatal appointments. Some doctor's offices discourage the practice but when you have frequent appointments for a mother with young children it can be hard for her to find day care and most offices will forgive them dragging their little ones along. Perhaps you have to bring your own little one along. IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO INSURE THAT ALL UNAUTHORIZED PERSONS (INCLUDING AND ESPECIALLY CHILDREN) CANNOT GAIN ACCESS TO YOUR FIREARM. If there is any doubt in your mind that you will be able to safely store your firearm at your doctor's appointments, err on the side of caution and leave it at home or in your vehicle. You are far more likely to have an accident than be attacked while giving a prenatal urine sample. Be legal. Be safe. Be responsible.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Armed Pregnancy: The Guide to Carrying a Gun While Pregnant

Because I have basically moved this blog to Facebook where I feel I can interact with people so much more easily I have not updated this one in months. .. maybe even years.

HOWEVER, I will take a moment out to update this blog with a new one: Armed Pregnancy

There's so little information out there for pregnant mothers who wish to carry guns and I hope to remedy that with this new blog.

Week 6: Choosing a Pregnancy Carry Gun

You're now entering the period of pregnancy which is reported by mother's like yourself to be the most uncomfortable and miserable of the entire pregnancy (short of labor, of course). You may not look pregnant. You may not even feel pregnant. You may, however, feel as though you are dying from the inside out. If you do, you're not alone. If you don't, I'm supremely jealous of you. You may also only experience mild symptoms that are completely livable or last only part of the day and can be easily taken care of with a little extra rest and peppermint tea. If that is the case, I'm both very happy for you and jealous. :D

Bloating, morning sickness, breast tenderness, headaches, fatigue, cramps and a slew of other symptoms are commonly reported between now and somewhere in the beginning to mid second trimester.

Some women, like myself, also experience what I would call "symptom sensitivity" regarding things carried around their midsection. What I mean by this is that pressure around the abdomen can make the symptoms and discomfort worse. Belts, stiff-waist slacks or jeans are enough to make the nausea, cramping and discomfort that much more unbearable. If this is your case, the best result, then, is to cease from carrying anything in that location and moving instead toward comfy elastic-waist slacks.

But what does this mean for carrying a gun?

It means you do the best you can. If you can stick it out and are dedicated despite your misery you can certainly continue to carry around the waist, but if not, you can seriously consider a carry system that is not centered around the waist as discussed in Week 5.

Also, it may be time to consider what kind of gun you are carrying or going to carry throughout the rest of your pregnancy.

Bear with me as I go against conventional wisdom and recommendations for a few moments as I advise on armed pregnancy guns.

Picking a Gun For An Armed, Expectant Mother

In general, I recommend firearms are that are easy to handle and have a good capacity, can be surely and solidly gripped and easily operated. I generally recommend AGAINST your tiny, little, pocket guns that have low capacity and are not fun to shoot except for as extreme concealment firearms, backup guns or, as you will see, while pregnant. It has been said, and it is true, that having a small gun on your body is better than not having the larger gun you left at home because it was too uncomfortable for carry.

Some people will ask why I don't recommend tiny-frame pocket guns for carry in general and the answer is that a good combat handgun has a full grip; decent, easy to acquire sights; a capacity greater than seven; a good sight radius (distance between the front and rear sights) for longer range accuracy and can easily be controlled for fast follow up shooting.

Those things cannot always be said about your tiny little pocket firearms. In general they have much smaller grips; small, low-drag sights; between two and seven rounds of capacity; a short sight radius and are often much harder to control because of their jumpy nature upon recoil. While some have mastered the art of the pocket pistol and even succeed in shooting to competition accuracy and speed with them your average concealed carrier who dons one does not have that kind of time and expertise with them.

Most of the time, the reason people do not put in the time and energy to get good with these tiny pocket guns is because they can be very uncomfortable to shoot and large round counts through them can not only be painful but literally damaging to the human hand, wrist and elbow. Most people who get proficient with them do long sessions of dry-fire practice (something we will discuss shortly) or use a heavier model of the same firearm with weaker loads to protect against that damage. The latter is not always available to all civilians in an economic crisis.

That being said, these tiny pocket guns are on the market for a reason. They are lighter than some wallets, smaller than some palms and still great little fighting guns when you need them. And when you can no longer carry a large-frame firearm anywhere lower than the bottom of your ribcage they become extremely attractive to a woman in need of such a gun.

During pregnancy your body and clothing may demand you pick a smaller, more concealable and easily carried gun. In the event that this does happen (and it may not), you may find yourself prone to leave your normally carried, larger firearm at home.

So what do you want to consider in a pocket pistol for a pregnant woman? The same things you would consider in purchasing any other firearm, just in a much smaller form.

It's true, you are looking for a smaller firearm to carry, but is there such a thing as too small? Yes! If the firearm limits the ammunition capacity to less than five or drops the caliber to less than .380 ACP I would say the firearm is too small. You should still be able to get your first two and a half or three fingers on the grip and be able to reach and operate all of the controls easily. This is, after all, still a fighting gun.

Handgun calibers, in and of themselves, are pretty horrible man-stoppers and once you drop below .380 ACP you are getting into dangerously low terminal ballistics. While many people have still died from being shot with smaller calibers such a .25 or even .22 it is generally accepted that your service calibers (9mm, .40 S&W, .357 Mag, .357 SIG, .45 ACP, etc) preform better (not best) against other human beings. You are already limiting capacity, try not to limit caliber if you can.

Gun fights are won with what's already in the gun and many a police officer has been found dead with an empty gun and a spare magazine in hand. This means they were attempting to do a reload and were gunned down in the process. While your average gun fight ends in about 2-3 shots that doesn't mean you won't be on the high end of those statistics and need 5-7 shots to stop a determined attacker. In the trainings I have been to the average number of shots expended per attacker is 2-3. This means if there is more than one attacker the shots needed to neutralize the threat increase by at LEAST two shots per attacker. This means, one attacker? Two shots. Two attackers? Four shots. Three attackers? Six shots. And this is assuming these are very well-placed shots. Knowing what I know, training how I've trained and having read what I have read about ballistics, stopping power, and gun fights I'm not entirely convinced that sixteen rounds of ammunition is sufficient for a single attacker but statistically 5-7 rounds of a decent caliber should send a clear message that you are not going to be a victim.

Recoil Control and Follow Through:
Follow through is defined as applying the fundamentals of shooting to include, stance, grip, sight alignment and trigger control, through a shot and into the next. The more recoil you have to control through each shot the longer it is going to take to get back on target and ready to shoot again. There are large caliber pocket guns that have very decent capacity, but the recoil in them is astonishing. Granted, in a life-or-death situation recoil is not going to be something you are going to be worried so much about but it doesn't mean it shouldn't be considered while you are picking out that pocket pistol. The larger the caliber also usually means a drop in capacity which is something to consider.

There are three final things you, as a pregnant woman, must also consider while picking out a smaller, more comfortable carry pistol:

1. You are a woman.
2. You are pregnant.
3. You are pregnant.

1. You are a woman. In general, though it sucks, we women do not have the upper body strength of men. A man can generally control a small pocket pistol far easier than a woman can by the very nature that he has big strong hands and arms. To even the playing field as much as possible do work on strengthening your hands and arms through the use of an exercise ball or equipment such as a grip master (I have one in both the 5 lbs and 7lbs models) and continue (or start) some kind of exercise while pregnant (after consulting with your doctor, or course). Swimming, light weight lifting, etc, can keep your upper body fit and strong to control that little pistol.

2. You are pregnant. This means you won't be able to go to the range and shoot to get the kind of practice you would expect to get on an average carry gun. You are going to want to get something you already know or suspect you can handle well. If you are used to a .380 don't jump to a .357 or .45 ACP, especially in that little pocket pistol. Keep it within the calibers you have confidently mastered and take comfort in those few extra rounds of capacity you'll likely get. Also, combat your inability to go to the range with at least an hour of dry-fire practice a week.

3. You are pregnant. This means a hormone known as "relaxin" is coursing through your body loosening your ligaments and muscles so that your abdominal muscles can stretch and your hips can widen and make room for your babies birth. This hormone does not stop at the waist, however. Many women experience clumsiness and even grip, back, arm, knee and ankle issues which can make it even more difficult to control a large caliber, small-frame firearm. Again, keep the caliber a comfortable one that you are confident you can handle. Confidence can go a long way to ensuring you are ready if (God forbid) you need your firearm to protect yourself and your growing baby.

As a general rule, .380 or 9mm pocket guns seem to have the best balance between capacity, caliber, size and recoil control.

S&W 360PD
My choice during my first pregnancy (and now that I'm pregnant again) has been my S&W 360PD.

Because it has a scandium frame it weighs only about 14 oz. and it is small enough to fit into a generous pocket or even a nice shoulder holster. Being chambered in .357 MAG I have the option to load it up with .357 defense loads for carry and do any practice with .38 Special. Though, I must say, that with such a small, light firearm, it doesn't much matter how light of a load is put in it. It still isn't comfortable to shoot it. I am not, however, trying to win any competitions, I'm just trying to find a semi-comfortable way to protect myself and my growing child while pregnant and I'll take a small five-shot revolver over strong words and a mean look any day of the week.

Below I have compiled a list (that will very likely continue to grow as I remember different models of guns or get recommendations from other wise individuals) of some good quality, small-size pocket pistols that may be considered if you do feel you need a smaller, more concealable firearm:

Ruger LCP
KelTec P3AT
Ruger LCR
S&W J-frame Revolvers (especially in an aluminum or scandium frame)
SIG 238
Taurus 738 series
S&W Bodyguard 380
Kahr P380
Kahr PM9

What's going on with your baby?

This is also the time to note that your babies external ears are starting to form. The inner ear (the part that constitutes hearing) won't form for another six to ten weeks so you still have a little time before you have to worry about the noise issue. It is coming, however, and knowing at what exact stage your growing child is developing is crucial in understanding when such limitations take effect. Unless you know you exact conception date or have had an early ultrasound to determine almost the exact gestational age (the later the ultrasound the harder it is to determine exact gestational age) of your baby it would be best to err on the side of caution and stop all trips to the range around your eleventh week of pregnancy. If you are fortunate enough to know your exact conception date it's time to wrap up any shooting without a silencer between twelve and thirteen weeks.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Guns Were Designed To Kill And So They Are Evil. Right? Wrong.

For a long time I struggled with this one. No matter what kind of logic I have shared with some people they come down to this final conclusion: "Guns are designed to kill. The intended purpose is to take life and I will not have an instrument of death in my home or near myself or my family." Then usually they follow that up with, "And I think anyone who does is sick."

That is a tough one, for sure, and when that gets thrown out there it's also usually where everyone agrees to disagree and go their separate ways or they start name calling and slinging mud.

Gun advocates know it's a cop out response and gun haters know it's the Ace in the hole. For people on the fence about the gun issue, however, they're not sure how to process that information.

Is an object with the sole purpose of killing a healthy thing to have in my home; around myself, my spouse, my kids? Am I being a bad individual by exposing my family to something so macabre in its invention?

It's a very serious question for people who have no experience with or around firearms and who aren't sure whether or not they want that kind of experience. These people (perhaps you're one of them) vote on all of our gun rights and an argument as strong as "I'm protecting my family from evil by not having guns" can have a strong emotional sway. As I've said, I struggled with an answer for quite some time, until, after a little more research and time and sleepless tossing and turning in my bed an answer slowly formed in my over-active brain. It may not be the best answer, as I will freely admit my own fallacy, but it's my answer and my educated opinion.

To answer any question like this you have to break it down. First, we have to find the operating statements. Guns kill, killing is evil, therefore guns are evil.

Now we have to work out each phrase individually.

Guns Kill.
Well, yeah. You got me. If someone is shooting a gun at something their intention is not to tickle it. The firearm was invented as a means to shoot a projectile at an enormous speed which results in holes, damage and wounds in living tissue that can result in death. We won't deny this.

Moving on...

Killing is evil.
This is where I ask you to pause. Is killing, in all shapes and forms, evil? I submit to you that it is not.

Your average human today is so isolated from killing that he or she fails to see it's necessity to life.

Let's look at killing from a global and natural standpoint. Nature is ripe, if not teeming with killing. It is, in fact, natures balancing mechanism. Without bats killing mosquitoes and other bugs they would multiply to unbearable proportions. Without the deer population being controlled through killing by predators such as dogs and large cats their numbers would increase dwindling the supply of eatable herbs for other herbivores. Even in the ocean the process natural killing keeps the oceans in balance without which our entire planet could suffer. If anything killing (not just death) is a vital part of nature's life cycle.

Animals kill for food, to protect themselves and their young and to defend their territory. Contrary to what many people believe, man is not the only species that kills for the fun of it. Some animals do indeed kill for pleasure. Animals of the cat kingdom, being the most notorious killers for pleasure, will often kill for no other reason than because they can even going out of their way to go on long hunts just to kill and then discarding their spoils after playing with them. Ants will also indiscriminately kill as will chimpanzees and even dolphins. Not to mention we are often stumped to find a friendly dog or horse or other beloved pet randomly turning on another animal or human and killing. We try to explain it away but the fact of the matter is, animals kill.

To take it a step further people will often say, "Well, animals do not kill within their own species." Not so. Male cats will kill any young cubs they come across. Chimpanzees will randomly snatch other young chimpanzees and start a feeding frenzy. Dogs will happily make a meal of any injured members of the pack. Pigs will allows runts of the little to starve to death. Ostriches will trample their own eggs and the list goes on and on. Either through neglect or direct consequence, animals kill within their own species.

Does this make them evil? I guess that depends on your personal definition of evil. Evil implies maliciousness and immorality which needs a moral standard with which to be judged. Is there a moral standard for animals? If not then how can an animal be evil? If it's not evil then how are those killings justified or do they need to be justified? Is it permissible--dare I say natural--for animals to kill because they want to or because one of their kind is ill or because they can?

But what about humans? If you accept the widely believed notion that humans are evolved animals then the question is not, "Why do we kill?" but rather, "Why don't we kill more?" From nature's perspective we humans are a bunch of softies. Instead of kicking our sick to death, eating them or leaving them to die we put them in hospitals and care for them. Instead of eating our young we care for them and nurture them. Instead of killing or abandoning any member of the pack that ceases to be useful we tend to them, help them, feed, cloth and house them. We are even just as compassionate to the animal kingdom, going out of our way to rescue injured animals, fix them up and release them back to their natural habitats when their own species have left them for dead. We humans do not follow natures prescription for balance.

We are also horrible killing machines. On the physical scale, humans have it very bad. We are one of the weakest species on earth in terms of brute strength. We have no killing teeth, no claws, no protective fur. We even aren't that fast. We can't fly. We can't breathe under water. We are, again, a bunch of softies. The only things we have been able to do to ensure our place on the food chain are build ourselves cocoons (cities, towns, houses) from the nature that is set out (and much better equipped) to kill us and invent weapons.

From the first stone that was thrown by hand to the modern day missile, we humans have been mastering the means to use projectiles to kill from a distance. Bows with arrows, catapults, slings with stones and guns with bullets.

If you see how fragile humans are in the grand scheme of things and you acknowledge the brutality and viciousness of nature you start to embrace the idea that the human inventions of things that kill is not only NOT evil but necessary to our very survival whether we killed to defend ourselves from other stronger animals looking to kill us or for food. I think we can all (by the very nature that we still exist) appreciate the invention of weapons.

And so the response becomes, "But we no longer have to kill for food or protection of our existence and so firearms are no longer necessary."

This, again, is not so. There are those of us who live in rural areas who still have to deal with the occasional predatory animal that will kill either a human or a human's livelihood. Defending personal life and means of life are still viable for humans to this very day and I suspect as long as there are bigger creatures out there it will always be that way.

So now I bring you back to the question of evil. Is the killing of animals in defense of a human life or way of life evil? There are some who would say yes and I'd very much like to understand their thinking on the matter. If animals can kill other animals without being deemed evil, why then should humans be considered evil when we kill for the same reasons? They simply can't be.

Some might then concede and say, "Okay, we'll let farmers and people who live close to the wild have firearms but there is no use for them in cities or populated areas." And now we come face to face with evil. The good of man fighting against the evil of man. We humans do have a moral separation from the animal kingdom. Unlike animals we are NOT bound by our natures alone and we choose to break those moral laws and when we do we cross over the boundaries of good and right and into the realm of evil. Greed, jealousy, revenge, or just because we want to we end other human beings' lives.

Some people think that if we all just loved enough there would be no need for weapons. I wish that were true. But because we humans are not animals and we are not bound by a natural order and balance. Because we can choose to break moral law there will always be someone who will prey on the love and good will of people who are trying desperately to do the right thing and be good people. When those good people are defenseless, evil reigns.

And so we use those tools--those weapons we fashioned to protect ourselves from nature--to protect ourselves from our fellow man. We employ men and women to do these jobs on a regular basis on a national, state and local level. We use these weapons to keep in check those who fear only the consequences of the evil they wish to do and we use them to immediately defend life against those in the process of trying to harm it. In America, some great leaders have seen to it that the average person has the means to protect him or herself from the evils of their fellow man. Does that make us evil? No. It makes us natural.

There isn't a creature alive that doesn't fight for its life with all that it has. A cub, even while being torn apart by it's father lion will scream and claw to the best of it's ability. Wounded dogs will still bite and fight to be spared the execution of the pack. How natural is it then that we humans use what we have invented for protection to protect us? How UNNATURAL is it then for another man to attempt to tell us we don't have the right to use what we have intuitively crafted in our own defense?

Are guns evil because they are constructed to kill? Absolutely not. They have no motive or moral imperative. They can and have been used for evil, yes, but they can and have also be used to overcome that evil and to protect and wouldn't they then be called good?

It's natural to want to protect one's own life and the life of those he loves. Some choose to do that with a gun and there is nothing evil in that. If one should choose not to defend himself or his or her own family with a gun I know of no one who will not respect that decision. We only ask not to be disrespected for ours.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Week 5: Pregnancy Carry Options to Consider

You may have just found out your pregnant. You may have also just started to "feel" pregnant or have symptoms of your pregnancy such as morning sickness, extreme fatigue, breast tenderness, etc.

Whether you are experiencing these things or not, if you have decided to continue to carry a firearm throughout your pregnancy this is the perfect time to start thinking ahead to the next nine months and what it might mean for you.

Right now you may still be able to wear a belt and feel comfortable doing so. You may even carry in a shoulder holster, a thigh holster or ankle holster and feel confident in your choice, but now is the time to recognize that these things are going to change. There is going to come a time when a belt is no longer an option, when a thigh holster (especially a good one which is kept from sliding down the leg via a garter around the weight) is inaccessible and an ankle holster is unreachable. Even thunderwear holsters that are hung around the waist below the belly are going to be extremely hard to access around your protruding belly.

It's safe to assume that everything from the waist down is going to be uncomfortable or inaccessible (especially in the immediate time frame you are going to need it if needed for self defense). It's time to think of alternate options and try them out while you still have the means to carry in the method that you trust and are comfortable with... Your FAST gear, if you will.

Your best options are going to be carry methods utilized above the waist or off body carry methods. A few to consider are as follows:
  • Shoulder holsters
  • Vest/shirt/undershirt or clothing holster (holsters incorporated into clothing) 
  • Purse/bag holsters
(As I come across any new methods of carry I will be sure to add them).

Research the options and consider what might work best for you (and fear not, I will be sure to document how I've found these options to work for me during my pregnancy so that you have someone's experience to reference). Since some of these holster options might take some time to order and arrive you may want to consider purchasing that holster option for later down the road (keeping in mind your growing body) and try it out so that when it comes to the time when you HAVE to carry in that new method you are already comfortable with it and don't have readjust. Who knows, you might even find something you love even when not pregnant!

But.. Aren't Guns Inherently Dangerous?

In my last big blog, "Guns, Shooting and Pregnancy" the main thrust of the article was addressing the components of a firearm and whether they are dangerous to a pregnant woman.

Though most people who read this blog are already pro gun and understand the message I'm about to write there are some who come across my writings, whether they be here or on my Limatunes/life blog and are genuinely horrified that a woman, a mother, a PREGNANT mother would have a gun anywhere near herself or her child because, in their mind and beliefs, a gun is a dangerous thing in and of itself.

So, why am I writing this if the majority of readers are already pro gun? Because there are some who are on the fence and this might be the balanced piece that gives them a little more information with which to make up their own mind.

I've seen it time and time again in mothering or pregnancy forums, blogs and articles, a young woman who never really had cause to stop and think about the evils and violence in this world gets pregnant and suddenly her eyes are torn open. She realizes that she is now responsible for another little and very defenseless life. She also realizes that her previously fit and nimble body is changing into one that is labored and weighted down. She is vulnerable and she knows it. She wants to protect herself. She considers a firearm for this purpose but is afraid of the previous spoon-fed notion that guns are, in and of themselves, very dangerous things that should be avoided. How does she decide whether or not a firearm is for her?

The place to start on this road to discovery is to point out what a firearm is at it's very core: an inanimate object. It has absolutely no power or means of action above and beyond what it's user bestows upon it. Not even your antiest of anti-gunners can deny that. A gun is only as dangerous as the person using it.

So, let's get even more basic and define danger and dangerous. Dangerous is defined as a potential to do harm. A person's comfort with an object or activity can dramatically change one's perspective of danger. A mountain biker who frequently bikes trails that are no farther than a few inches from a great precipice may have no real sense of danger is doing so whereas a casual observer may look upon the activity as one of great danger. Consequently, someone who has spent their life hunting and shooting for sport may find firearms no more dangerous than a shoe whereas someone else is petrified by the very sight of the object.

An object (unlike an activity), however, has no inherent danger. It is neither dangerous NOR safe. A pillow, used in the wrong fashion can be dangerous, even murderous. A car, a shoe, a kitchen knife, a broom, all have a potential for danger if applied in a dangerous fashion or misused. When left to themselves they are not dangerous but neither are they safe. We make sure young children don't sleep with pillows so that there is no chance of suffocation. We tell our children to walk with scissors and knives pointed down. We are careful to not leave our children in parked, running cars. We pad the corners of coffee tables while our little one's learn to walk. We make sure our children are looked after while bathing and swimming. We understand that while an object may be seemingly innocuous, there is a potential for harm when misused.

A firearm, is also one of those objects. It has no potential for harm unless misused or ignorantly used. It is neither safe nor unsafe. An unloaded firearm is little more than a paperweight made of plastic or steel. A loaded firearm is also only as dangerous as it is accessible to untrained/ignorant or neglectful or mischievous hands.

There are those who say firearms have a moral or psychological imperative in influencing a persons actions or thinking. As one woman put it, "And isn't an ever-present gun a constant reminder of potential (but statistically unlikely) dangers, like robbery, rape, and murder?" This is only as true as someone's experiences and predispositions to think in those terms. Just like someone who is exhausted might feel drawn to sleep upon seeing a bed or someone who is hungry might feel an urge to eat upon seeing a restaurant or someone who is dirty may feel an urge to bathe upon seeing a shower, a person with murderous intentions may have a surge of those feeling upon seeing a means with which to carry out their desires (a gun, a knife, poison, etc). This is where morality and self-control come in to play, and in the absence of those, the legal system which does a darned fine job (despite what some think) from keeping those kinds of people from getting their hands on firearms. And the blessed truth is that very very few people actually have murderous feelings and intentions. Even in the throws of the most heated anger your average person still does not consider murder as a viable option to resolution and is not predispositioned or influenced to act on any thoughts of violence beyond punching a door, yelling or throwing a pepper shaker across the yard.

Likewise, those who have had bad experiences with a firearm may be reminded of it's hurts (someone who witnessed someone being shot or was a victim of gun violence) but even those negative associations can be overcome.

A person who does not have those feelings, negative impulses and desires sees a gun as no more than a gun and has no associations of violence with it. It has no influence over them. The good, law abiding people who go through the multitude of background checks and paperwork to legally purchase their firearms and carry them have no such intentions or impulses nor are they influenced in a negative way by merely possessing or carrying a firearm.

A firearm is as safe as you make it and has no power (physically, mentally or emotionally) beyond what you give it. If you feel you are able to properly and safely utilize a firearm as a self-defense tool and do so responsibly then there is no reason why you should not be able to master a firearm as effectively as you've learned to master your toaster oven.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Weeks 1-4: Deciding to Carry

These days, due to advanced sensitivity in home pregnancy tests, women are finding out earlier than ever that they are pregnant.

I found out I was pregnant with my first at about 3 1/2 weeks which was the same for this pregnancy.

At that early in the pregnancy there is usually very few, if any, symptoms. Perhaps a little breast tenderness, bloating or nausea but in general the symptoms are usually very mild and almost nothing needs to change in the way of dress and carry.

If you are new to carrying a firearm you may be wondering if it's safe or even if a firearm is a good option for you. You can find more information about all of those things in the following blog posts:
Guns, Shooting & Pregnancy.. Is it safe to carry or shoot a gun while pregnant?
Aren't guns inherently dangerous?
Are guns evil or an evil influence on myself and my family?

If you are not new to carrying and have already decided to carry a gun during your pregnancy and if you carry around the waist (which is the most popular place to carry) and find yourself to be feeling especially bloated and uncomfortable feel free to unbutton that top button on your jeans and loosen a notch on your belt. A cautionary note would be to make sure your holster is providing proper retention if the belt or waist-band is loosened and that it's not to loose to the point where you can't draw your firearm smoothly and effectively.

If applicable, you may also want to invest in a pair of pants that are one size larger than what you would normally wear. Let's face it, you aren't going to be getting any skinnier in the next 36 weeks so you might as well spend as much time as you can being comfortable and you may find that that one-size-up pair of pants will be your best friend post postpartum (at least until you get back to your pre-pregnancy size and weight). A better fitting pair of pants will also be easier to carry in.

Switching to another method of carry is also an option, if only temporarily. Ankle carry, fanny pack, shoulder or even purses are all options for the pregnant mother provided care is taken to make sure your firearm is secure against unauthorized persons gaining access to said firearm.

It's also a good idea to keep track of what is developing with your baby each week. Pay close attention to any ultrasounds you receive and ask lots of questions. Knowing the exact stage of development for your unborn child can help you better gauge when noise may become a factor in stopping shooting or training.

Right now, according to there is a lot going on in your uterus during this time including fertilization, implantation and the development of everything from the placenta, amniotic sac and the organs that will eventually be your baby. Hormones are churning. This is a delicate time for you and your little one and getting enough rest and making sure emotions remained control are crucial for everyone much less those who carry firearms. Being able to keep a cool head and think with a clearly are important. Sometimes the increased fatigue and changes in the body can cause dizziness, forgetfulness or extreme mood swings which can have devastating results when firearms are involved. Be sure to talk to your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe as they could be related to much deeper problems that he or she might be able to help you stabilize. As your body goes through these changes keep evaluating yourself and your decision to be armed and your physical and emotional ability to carry a gun.

If you feel you need to put the guns away until you feel more stable, don't let anyone tell you that you are making the wrong decision. If that is your decision, however, remember that pregnancy is a vulnerable time for a woman and consider replacing your firearm with some other tool of self defense such as pepper spray or even a stun gun.

Take care of yourself and be safe.

Guns, Shooting and Pregnancy

Before we dive into how to deal with being armed while pregnant we need to deal with the topic of guns and pregnancy.

One thing a woman learns almost the moment she gets pregnant (or perhaps even before she gets pregnant) is that there are a multitude of things that are restricted or moderated while pregnant. Alcohol consumption, eating fish, certain activities, all of these things change in favor of a healthy pregnancy and baby. A pregnant woman learns to ask, "Is it safe?" before taking up any new activity or even continuing with older activities she may have never considered to be unsafe before.

You can imagine, then, how natural it is for the gun-toting woman, upon learning she is pregnant, to ask, "Is it safe to continue to carry a firearm throughout my pregnancy?"

Now, I am no doctor. Let's get that out of the way right now. But if there are two things I know it's guns and google. That knowledge combined with at least one successful pregnancy and some medical advice thrown in makes me feel confident enough to advise on the matter.

In order to answer the question as to whether guns are safe to carry while pregnant you have to break it down to what might be considered dangerous about the firearm you are currently or wanting to carry while pregnant.

First let's break down the gun and its components and see how they might be harmful (if at all) to a pregnant woman.

A gun is made of a variety of materials. Steel, plastic, a type of polymer, aluminum and other various sturdy metals such as scandium. Often there can be grip panels made of other materials such as wood, vinyl, plastic or even exotic stones. Unless one has an allergic aversion to any of these materials or is hit over the head with them, the materials in your average pistol are no more dangerous than the pot you cook with, the car you drive in or the plates you eat from. No threat to pregnancy in the materials.

Now it's time to consider the ammunition. Ammunition consists of a casing usually made out of brass or aluminum, a primer, a powder charge and a projectile or bullet. The projectile is commonly made of lead with a copper jacket encasing the lead core. Obviously brass or aluminum is not harmful (again, unless you are allergic or hit over the head with a large quantity of said materials). We have brass fixtures in our homes, aluminum is extraordinarily abundant and primers, unless you live in a home wherein someone reloads are never separated from their casings. Copper is used in plumbing and cookware and is perfectly safe. BUT you saw it. There it was, the magic word that stands people's hairs on edge: LEAD.


It's well known that lead is dangerous and can cause developmental and neurological problems. So to begin our talk about lead and guns we have to talk about how lead gets into the body. The two most common methods of lead getting into the body is through aspirating it into the lungs (that is, breathing it in) or ingesting it (eating or drinking it). Eating lead-based paint chips, breathing in lead dust from remodeling a house, handling lead and then not washing your hands before eating: these are common ways lead enters the body. Lead poisoning CAN happen through the skin as was evidenced by the lead-based makeup common in older Japan. However, this is extremely uncommon these days and takes long-term exposure through almost constant contact with lead particles. Almost any doctors office (or even construction company) can give you pamphlets on lead poisoning and how to avoid it on a daily basis around your home.

But what does that mean for you and your gun? Given the criteria for how lead gets into the body (aspiration or ingestion) lets look again at your average cartridge which is, again, a lead core encased in a copper jacket. Because the lead core is encased in copper that means the lead cannot be directly handled. Because it is not in dust or powder form it cannot be aspirated and unless you peel away the copper jacket and start chewing on the lead core (a feat in and of itself) you are safe from lead contamination from standard pistol ammunition.

In the interest of full disclosure and safety there ARE cartridges wherein lead makes up the entire projectile and is totally exposed. To be extra safe you may want to be sure your cartridges are jacketed or be sure to wash your hands carefully in COLD water after handling ammunition and especially before eating. It is very easy to tell the different between solid lead and jacketed ammunition. In solid lead ammunition the bullet or projectile is a dull gray color. In jacket ammo the bullet or projectile is copper in color.

Lead Projectile Ammunition
Copper Jacketed Projectile Ammunition

If you are particularly concerned about the lead in ammunition you can also purchase lead-free ammunition that does not have the lead core and even limited lead particles in the powder.

Where lead contamination (or even poisoning) and guns start to mix is when you get on the range. When a gun is fired the firing pin strikes the primer which ignites the powder that explodes, forcing the projectile down the barrel.

Not all of the powder is ignited and with every shot a bit of the powder and residue of the explosion is blown back onto the shooter. This is known as Gun Shot Residue (GSR). GSR is often talked about on crime shows when evaluating whether or not an individual has fired a gun. However, contrary to the television shows that only show GSR on the hands, it actually gets everywhere. It is more concentrated on the hands but actually gets all over the shooters face, clothing, arms, and even into hair. This residue can and often does contain lead particles. It is inhaled as the shooter breaths and if not washed off after a range session can seep into the pores on the skin. In addition to lead particles in powders, when the lead core of the bullet strikes a solid back stop it can fragment into tiny particles. If the range is not properly ventilated these particles can be aspirated by the shooter.

Frequent shooters who spend most of their time shooting on indoor ranges should get their lead levels checked annually and keep informed on the maintenance schedule of the range to be sure that filters are being changed often and ventilation systems are properly maintained.

I worked for a year at an indoor gun store and range and while all of the employees had slightly higher than average lead levels we were all well within the range of normal (which is considered anything under 10) and we were all in the range on a daily basis breathing in lead particles and I do have to admit that a LOT of snacking went on without washing our hands (we lived dangerously).  Even with all of that lead exposure most of the employees who were tested had levels between 4 and 6. The national average for the US is somewhere around 2 according to the CDC. Those employees with levels around 6 were taken off range duty until those lead levels went down.

I have, however, met shooters who have shot daily on old ranges that were not well ventilated in a time when the country was still relatively naive about lead and its effects. These shooters did not properly wash before eating or even going to bed and ended up with lead levels up to 16 and began experiencing the physical effects of lead poisoning and needing medical assistance to get those lead levels back under control.

Because of the understanding of the dangers of lead while shooting any reputable indoor range is required to have proper ventilation systems in place and in good working order and this is almost a non-issue for outdoor ranges.


In all probability, if you went out to an outdoor range every week of your pregnancy and shot your firearm and were careful about washing your hands, face and clothes as soon as possible afterward and did not consume food or drink until you had washed, you would more-than-likely not see a single point rise in your blood lead levels. Wearing gloves and a mask would protect you even further. There is, however, still an exposure that you would not get if you were not shooting.

Will that lead exposure be enough of an exposure to hurt your baby? More-than-likely, no. There is, however, no scientific data to indicate how much lead exposure is "safe" for a developing fetus and it's a risk that many pregnant mothers have chosen not to take. Not to mention that many ranges will not allow pregnant women shoot for the lead and noise pollution which becomes an issue somewhere between 13 and 16 weeks of pregnancy (we will cover noise pollution in a later post).

For those pregnant women who are forced to qualify with firearms (police officers or military personnel) for their job, rest assured that your exposure to lead is minimal and you can ask your superiors to put you on the firing line first (before the lead particles are airborne and stirred up), allow you to shoot and leave the range as soon as you are done. This is also an important request for any pregnant women who may be taking a firearms class. If your qualification or class is held on an open outdoor range, stand upwind where you can get plenty of fresh air and lead particles will be blown away from you if possible. If it is not possible to stand upwind then at least find distance from the firing line as often as possible for some fresh air and be sure to wash your hands, arms and face in cool or cold water (this keeps your pores from opening) carefully before eating or drinking anything. And keep all food and drink secure away from the range so that particles do not get in or on your food or drink.

Also, for those who are forced to use a firearm in self defense while pregnant, again, rest assured that the lead and noise exposure to your unborn child is minimal at best and probably far less taxing on either of you than the stress of the circumstances surrounding the shooting. 

I do, and will continue to shoot on a more limited basis until around that 13 week mark but an unfired firearm is safe to carry for the duration of the pregnancy.