Thursday, June 27, 2013

An Experiment in Exhaustion and Fighting

It started with a terrible night's sleep. When my one-year-old wasn't screaming for Mommy I was tossing and turning. Were it not for the fact that we've moved our clock so it can't be seen from the bed I'd probably have spent hours staring at the numbers tick away.

When morning came I was beyond exhausted.

After I made a breakfast of ham and eggs for the kids I put it on the table, retrieved a knife and fork and stood there staring at the ham.

I was thinking, I need to cut this. I put the knife in my left hand and went to cut and realized it felt awkward. What am I doing? What hand do I use to cut with?

When I figured out that monumental task I sat at the table sipping coffee my eyes fighting to stay open.

I'm so tired I can't function. I thought. And my luck this is when someone would decide to break in my front door.

That thought stopped me cold. What if someone broke into my home at that exact moment? How would I preform being so tired?

I decided I would find out.

Usually when we are that tired we make steps to conserve energy or renew it. We take a nap (or try to), limit our exertions and maybe look forward to an earlier bed time. These are things I would have done on any other day but I decided I was going to test myself. That night was Krav and for the past few weeks I've been going to the gym daily to lift weights.

I decided that I would forgo a nap, go about my day and workout as usual (no lowing weights or skipping out on certain exercises) and go to Krav and see how I performed.

It was a long hard day, my workout sucked. I dragged myself to Krav and flopped down on the mat.

"I guess you want me to take it easy on you now?" My instructor asked.

"Absolutely not! I want you to bring it!"

He shrugged and we went to it.

We've been working on advanced (or.. more advanced) hitting this month. Class starts out with about 10 minutes of continuous hitting work on dummies. We work jabs from both hands, jab and cross, hooks to the body and head, then he'll mix it up and have us throw a knee or elbow in there somewhere or work against striking pads while he moves around.

It's exhausting when you aren't already exhausted.

I could tell my strikes were not as hard as usual. I wondered if it wasn't because I just finished working my upper body in the weight room or because of my exhaustion. Probably both. Either way, I was not finding my force. I was also having to drop my arms more often.

I could not get "I'm so tired" to stop reverberating through my head.

After we were done with our warmup strikes we were paired up. Usually we switch partners throughout the night but not that night. My instructor stayed with me the entire night. We worked blocking strikes and striking back. We worked moving around the strike and coming inside of a strike to do a simultaneous defense and offense.

He didn't hold much back. He kept the pressure on me and kept it up.

An opening!
He had told me that he saw the video of the New Jersey home invasion that resulted in a woman being beaten in front of her daughter and he said when he saw it all he was thinking was that I would be beating the crap out of the guy. I was thinking he had way more faith in me than I have in myself.

I'm not sure if he was testing me or what but out of left field he decided to throw a large right hook very similar to what was thrown in the video. I blocked it with an elbow and punched him in the face, kneed him in the groin, pulled him down and kneed him in the face.

When he tried it again with the other hand the results were similar.

He would vary it from time to time but in general I was performing decently. I certainly can't say I would have gotten out without a black eye and other bruises. There were also times he would switch it up so fast I would stand there with a blank mind thinking, Damn! What the heck am I supposed to be doing here?!

I could tell that my reaction time and decision making were suffering. I am certainly not to the point where fighting is instinctual. There's a lot of thinking that goes on still and when those mental facilities are tired it definitely slows me down.  

Then he decided to up the stakes a little bit.

We haven't worked ground fighting in a while and we usually only go to the ground when a sparring match gets a little intense and goes to the ground.

He came at me swinging and when I tried to get away from him he grabbed me and set me up for a take down.

I started screaming, "No! No! I don't want to go to the ground."

I was yelling, "No! No! No!" all the way to the floor.

I was so exhausted I knew my ground fight would suck more than usual and that gave me just enough fight to throw my knees up and stop him from falling on top of me. I pulled my feet in, hooked them on his hips and kicked him off me.

I scampered up off the floor and laughed. I was so desperate to not ground fight I think I had my best ground fight yet.

We kept at it for the whole hour and when it was finally over I was ready to collapse.

I rewarded myself with a double bacon cheeseburger, a hot bath and an earlier bedtime. I slept like a rock.

Now, before I get the scolding of concerned followers let me say that this is not something I will make a regular practice. I know that my body needs sleep and rest. I know that I need to take care of it. I know that it seems kind of stupid to purposely put yourself through that kind of experience. But I also know that you don't know your limitations until you push yourself there. I made a conscious decision to test the limitations of my ability to fight when fatigued and I learned some very valuable things about myself and my abilities (or lack thereof).

I expected some of the results, such as the weakness and lag in reaction time. But I hadn't anticipated the huge hit to my decision making abilities. There were a couple of times I had to completely disengage just to buy a few seconds to think. I was getting very frustrated with my inability to get a hold on what I was supposed to be doing. And getting hit in the head because of my inabilities was a harsh reminder of what was at stake.

I also didn't anticipate such a violent reaction to the potential of a ground fight. My strong aversion to being taken to the ground seemed to kick something into gear that was had previously been coasting. I was glad it found itself though because ground fighting our instructor really stinks. Not as bad as fighting my husband, but close.

It was a good experience and one that I think people should at least consider. Maybe you don't need to go out and exhaust yourself and get into a sparring match but doing so in a controlled environment is a good place to see where you need work and how you will respond.

And that's not considering the personality consequences of being exhausted. Many people get far more cranky or confrontational when tired. Their increased agitation can play into their responses and likelihood of getting into a confrontation. Other than losing patience and finding everything funny, my personality stays relatively the same when tired. So unless someone is offended that I'm laughing at them I don't think my exhaustion will spark any fights. 

I hope that as I continue to train I will have to put less and less thought into what I'm doing and more fighting instinct will take over for me. I also hope that I never have to legitimately fight someone when I'm exhausted because it really is not a pleasant experience. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What Do You Tell Your Pediatrician About Guns In Your Home

If you have kids you take them to the pediatrician. You have to fill out 1,000 forms just to get to the nurse and then answer 1,000 questions to get to the doctor who asks you the same questions the nurse asked you and you may or may not be on your way depending on the reason for your visit.

Of late there has been a trend popping up in pediatrician offices all over the place and that is the question of guns in the home. You may get it on a form or you may get it verbally asked to you by the pediatrician himself or both. The question might be stand-alone (like they were asking if you have lead paint in your home) or it could be more direct and depending on your answer can be grouped with other questions like, "Do you have a safe? Where do you store your ammunition?" etc. 

Just recently a mother messaged me and asked me what I advised to tell the pediatrician regarding gun ownership.

This topic has come up on Defensive Carry (a forum I frequent) and I've also done some searching around regarding the topic to better understand how it may affect me and my family if at all.

Make no mistake, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not like guns. Their own memos to pediatricians and parents advocate removing firearms from the homes where children are present and at the very least keeping the guns unloaded, locked up and ammunition stored separate. In the past they have been strong advocates for laws in states that require such storage measures.

They want pediatricians to advocate for removing guns from the home. They want them to encourage parents to ask other parents if there are guns in the home before they allow them to go to play dates. They want them to speak out about guns.

Of course, the truth of the matter is that there are some pro-gun pediatricians out there. They know that the average citizen is a responsible citizen and don't have a negative agenda regarding your gun ownership. I have heard of said pediatricians telling parents not to bother answering the question if it comes up on a form and will not ask in the office. They refuse to keep record of gun ownership.

Some pediatricians are totally neutral on the subject. They couldn't care less either way and asking whether you have a gun in your home is just another check box on the way to getting you out of there and on to the next patient.

And then there are some pediatricians who really have it out for your guns and will put you through the wringer if they find out that you do have a gun in your home.

So what do you do as a parent? Do you tell your pediatrician that you have guns in your home? If they ask should you answer truthfully?

I won't answer that question for you. I'll only tell you the perceived pros and cons of both sides of that coin and let you decide for yourself.

First, as far as I know, there is no legal obligation to answer any question on any particular medical form.

That is different if you are answering questions in regards to joining the military or seeking employment at a particular company or agency or when it comes to applying for insurance. The repercussions of withholding certain information or lying on forms for employment, etc vary by the employer, agency or insurance company and it is up to you to decide if that particular job or whatever is worth the question or not. Often medical questionnaires for employment or insurance do not include questions regarding firearms ownership.

In the civilian sector, however, you have no obligation to check yes or no to that box. If they press you to answer one way or the other, to my knowledge, you have every right to tell them it's none of their business.

And it really is none of their business. I thought long and hard about the possible benefits to telling your pediatrician you have a gun in your home and I couldn't come up with much.

The only possible positive I could come up with is if a parent is truly clueless about firearms and his or her partner were to bring a firearm into the home and they really had no clue how to safely store the gun. In which case the pediatrician is usually a poor source of information for that parent anyway. They often have no resources or better advice for individuals apart from telling that parent to get rid of the gun. If asked how, the pediatrician would likely not know other than to refer the parent to the police.

I would like to see them advocate contacting a local NRA certified instructor for information on safe handling and storage. I'm sure there are a few pediatricians out there who would do this but more often than not there is little discussion one way or the other on the subject and the parent goes away no better prepared to handle a firearm in the home than when they came in.

So what could be the down side of answering that question in the affirmative?

For starters, now there is a record. A searchable record at that. Almost everything these days is computerized and it wouldn't take more than a mouse click to see which patients have admitted to having guns in their home and which do not.

What could they do with this information?

They could make you feel uncomfortable. This may be minor to some people but it may be a big deal to others. No one wants to be made out to be a bad parent and having your pediatrician stand over you and berate you because you have a firearm in your home would certainly make some people feel belittled or perhaps even negligent of their children's safety. A mother or father who might not be comfortable with a spouses decision to bring a gun into the home might feel especially berated or even like a bad parent. The anti-gun pitch by the pediatrician being used as a tool to perpetrate an unreasonable fear of firearms in parents and children.

It could be used as a back-door registration. I'm not one for conspiracy theories but the government is not very good at respecting our privacy. As our healthcare system changes and gets more digitized and bureaucratic it's not at all a stretch of imagination to assume yours and your children's medical records can and will be viewed by some form of government at some point in time. There's also a lot of talk around the table about changes being made to HIPPA laws to allow more sharing of information between hospitals and agencies. There's no saying who might end up with that information in the future.

Why would they want to know if you are gun owner?

Will it come to the point where your seeking help for a mental or medical condition means a revocation of your Second Amendment rights? I don't know.

But they are already trying to do that to veterans. It isn't a leap of logic to assume it will be attempted in the civilian sector as well.

Will it get to the point where your coverage is affected due to your status as a gun owner? I don't know. But, again, there is no perceivable benefit to yours or your child's health by them having a "yes" checked off next to "Do you have a gun in your home?" in their computers.

I don't advocate lying to anyone. I certainly don't advocate lying to a physician about medical issues. I do, however, advocate using extreme caution telling anyone (including a physician) anything they don't have a need to know. If it's not relevant in treating the wellness of you or your child, omit it.

If you go to the doctor for a gunshot wound the question of gun ownership is relevant. If you go for a runny nose or a wellness check it is not.

Of course neither confirming nor denying their gun question is usually an confirmation of sorts. But if you have a strong ethical code against lying you might find refusing to answer the question the most palatable. Some even try to come up with clever ways to convince themselves they are not lying such as, "No." I don't have it in the home, I have it one me. It's up to you to decide how you want to answer that question.

My family has a long history of fighting with insurance companies over checked boxes on doctor forms and a long time ago my father warned me to be very careful about answering in the affirmative for any question regarding depression, head injuries, gun ownership or emotional issues.

That should never keep you from seeking medical attention for those conditions but you don't have to go check-happy on their intake forms.

Be aware that some pediatricians are going to great lengths to find out if you have guns in your homes. I have been made aware of a few cases of pediatricians questioning the child about guns in the home without the parent present. State laws vary as to the legality of questioning and treatment of minors without their parents consent. I challenge you to learn your own state laws so that you can be aware of whether or not your pediatrician can legally try to phish information from your child without your consent or knowledge.

In the end it's up to you to decide what you want to share with your child's pediatrician. If you haven't been asked by your pediatrician yet, be aware that it will probably come up at some time. Be prepared to have an answer. I've already gotten notes from parents who say they were so taken back by the question that they just blurted out, "Yes" and later regretted the decision to disclose. Be aware that the question will likely come and choose carefully how you would wish to answer it.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Man Crutch

"When are you coming home? I want to go to the range."

This quote is real.

I said it.

I was barely twenty-one years old and hadn't been shooting very long. My husband was out of town on business and to that point I had never been to the range without him.

His response was pretty classic, "You know you CAN go to the range by yourself."

Of course I knew I could go to the range by myself. I even knew that eventually, with how much my husband had been traveling, in order for me to have any practice whatsoever I would have to go to the range by myself. The problem was that I didn't want to do it. Going by myself intimidated me. It scared me to think that I wouldn't be under his tutelage, that I would have to take full responsibility for all of my gun handling. I was new at this. I hadn't done much handgun shooting to that point.

I knew there would be a range full of guys watching me, maybe even asking me questions I wasn't able to answer. Maybe someone would even see my guns and would target me for them because I was alone. What if I had a malfunction I didn't know how to clear? What if I did terribly and everyone laughed at me? What if someone was mean to me?

I hid behind my husband and I darned well knew it. After all, that was kind of the point. I felt safe behind him. And we all like safe.

There were so many fears and what ifs and maybes that I could offload on him when he was with me but being alone meant that I would have to face them. 

And male or female, there is a certain amount of comfort in being able to say, "He told me to do it that way" if/when you screw up.

But I'd made a commitment to continuing to move forward in my training and I'd learned the joy, pride and sense of accomplishment that comes with facing one's fears.

So, I collected my things and headed to the range.

The range officers put me on the center lane, right in front of the window facing the store and watched my every move with a pair of binoculars.

I shook like a leaf. I had a knot in my stomach the whole time. I felt the eyes of the range officers burning into my back. I was self conscious. And, yes, I did terribly.

But I did it.

And the next week I did it again.

And the week after that I did it again.

Eventually the awkwardness went away and before long I was on a first-name basis with the staff. My shooting improved. My confidence improved. My gun handling improved. I was trusted with my own lane away from the window and a month later I was asked if I wanted a job. 

Stepping out on my own became a stepping stone to the rest of my entire life. If I never took that step I don't think I'd be where I am today. I don't think I'd be running off to gun classes and matches by myself and comfortable going up against men in any variety of self defense classes. I don't think I'd have been comfortable selling guns and learning my own style of shooting and carry. And I certainly don't think I'd be out there teaching!

Now, I look at the demographics of my followers. I know that 80% of them are male between the ages of 25-40. So..

  • I'm going to talk to you guys first

And I'm going to tell you this:

It's okay to be a crutch. But don't let yourself become a wheelchair. 

My husband married a hot mess of a woman. And, bless his heart, he knew it and took me on anyway. Considering my issues with trust and self image and everything else it could have been easy to pass me by or to mold me into a woman who relied totally and completely on him for everything.

Some men like that. They like the idea of being so needed that their woman cannot function without them. Some women like that arrangement as well.

I'm not in the business of telling people how they should construct their relationship dynamics but it doesn't take much imagination to see how a dynamic like that could cause problems. Someone who is so reliant on someone else may not be able to defend herself. There are levels of dependance of course and we are all dependent on others at least to some degree (unless you are truly out there building your own home; growing, cooking and storing your own food; raising and slaughtering your own meat and so on) but there are some things that everyone should know how to do. Defending her or himself, I believe, should be on that list.

It's getting less common in this generation but even my mother admits to not knowing a thing about defending herself. "Your father has always taken care of us," she'd be quick to say. And while that is true and there is a certain amount of romance in the image of a man defending his woman and family there's not a whole lot of practicality in it, especially if the man isn't always present in the home.

But, pushing a woman to do something she is not ready to do can also cause contention. There are learning curves. There are times when she does need support. Throwing someone in the water (so to speak) and expecting them to swim may work in some cases, but in others the person just might drown.

So, my husband did a good job of being my crutch for as long as I needed him. He helped me learn the basics and guided me to finding resources beyond himself I could trust. He was always there to help but not above saying, "You can do this by yourself," when the time came. He didn't let himself be my wheelchair. He didn't let me rely on him completely and when it came time to have me take my shooting to the next level he took the crutch away.

Yes, it helped that he was out of town, but I have no doubt that eventually he would have encouraged me to step out on my own anyway. He married me knowing that he was going to have to be careful not to enable me. I had a tendency to hide behind the familiar and I was seeking someone who would challenge me. He took the roll seriously and has always excelled in pushing me to take on more responsibility, independence, personal strength and individuality.

There comes a time when, if a woman is serious about defending herself, she needs to step out from behind you, or her girlfriend, or her coach, or whatever crutch she is holding on to. 

Encourage her to that end.

Yes, you want to shoot, too. Yes, you want to make sure that she is safe. Yes, you want to be there to help her if she has any questions. Yes, you want to show her that you are supportive and will be there for her. Yes, you want to make sure she doesn't drop your $700 gun and get a huge scratch in the side. Yes, you want to be there to feel that sense of pride when she hits the bullseye at 20 yards for three shots in a row. I commend you for wanting to take an active roll in her training.

But eventually she has to do it on her own.

Back off and let her go by herself. 

Sign her up or let her to go to a class without you. 

Once she's demonstrated that she can follow the rules of safe gun handling, that she knows the workings of her firearm and that she understands the rules of the range, it might be time to sit back and say, "Honey, how about you take some time for yourself and go shooting without me? I'll even pack your range bag for you!"

If she doesn't want to, that's fine. Go with her, but take a less and less active roll in her shooting. Encourage her to troubleshoot on her own. Encourage her to get her own shooting lane and set up her own targets. Let her load her own magazines and work her own gear.

And then, when you think the time is right, encourage her to go by herself again.

You love her. You want what's best for her. That might mean letting her do her own thing.

I'll close this point and open the next with a story about my parents:

My father loves my mother and wants to protect her. He's always said that she needs to learn how to use a gun for self defense. This year he bought her a gun.

When I went home to visit my parents my mother asked me to show her how to use it. I took her down in the basement with her new gun and we had a very impromptu, dry-fire gun lesson. I taught her what a semiautomatic was versus a revolver. We went over grip and stance. We talked about sighting and trigger control.

My mother was really excited.

There was only one problem; my hovering father.

Every other sentence he would jump it, "Well, what you need to do is hold the gun like this," "Well, I think you should be able to sight like this," "No, no. You need to rack the slide like this."

No matter how many times my mother or I told him to leave us alone he would not back off. Yes, he wants my mother to be able to defend herself but the idea of backing away and letting her do it all on her own seemed like almost an affront to him and it was as though he physically could not leave her alone to learn separate from him.

She told me later that it was the first time in her life she felt like she was really getting it and that we'll have to try again when my Dad cannot interfere. I agree.

  • But that leads me to my second point and that is to address the ladies!

Ladies, you can do it! You should do it!

If you are using your man as crutch for self defense or just for shooting, recognize you are doing it and then make a conscious decision to wean yourself off of him.

Make the decision to take a class without him. If he's like my Dad and can't seem to keep his nose out of your training then use an all female class as an excuse to ditch him for the day. If he won't let you go to a class or the range without him, even when you want to, then I'd say that you have some deeper issues in your relationship that you may need to address and are outside of the purview of this blog post.

Yes, it's okay to go with a girlfriend or just go and watch for the first couple of times. It's okay to ask questions and get help. But eventually you will have to just knuckle-down and step out by yourself.

Trust the knowledge and experience you have received to that point. Follow the four rules of safe gun handling and do it.

Yes, you may feel uncomfortable. Yes, you may feel intimidated or scared. It's okay. Think of it as mental training. Defending yourself is going to be uncomfortable. Probably even intimidating or scary. Learning to face those discomforts head-on is good practice.

  • To the initiated, I say: Let her be! 

That's right, oh-helpful-range-officer. You, Captain America, who cannot resist trying to "help" every individual who happens to share the range with you (especially if she's a she!). You, the instructor who's just there plinking and cringing at her stance. Mr Critical who has some choice things to say about the gun she's shooting and how much you don't like its trigger. Unless you see something that is unsafe, close your mouth and leave her alone.

Let her take the steps to self-discovery.

She probably doesn't want your phone number. She likely doesn't need your advice. She certainly doesn't need your criticism. You're not doing her much good by making yourself available as another crutch. At worse you don't want to intimidate her into never coming back.

  • Finally, I'd like to address the people who grab life by the horns!

You know who you are. You are the type of people who know no fear. Someone says, "Hey, you should try this!" and you jump in with both feet without a second of hesitation.

You didn't wait for someone to hand you a gun. You went to the range with no prior training or experience and without a twitch of doubt or worry you stepped up to the firing line and did it all on your own.

Good for you!

I've seen and worked with your type. You are some great people! People I secretly envy.

But you sometimes don't understand people who are inhibited by their fears. It's easy to look down on them. Make fun of them or even undermine them.

Careful! Acknowledge that it took some doing on your friend/girlfriend/wife/brother/mother/sister/whoever's part to get up and do something they weren't comfortable doing.

Encourage them!

Lastly, while I wrote this blog in a very gender biased tone I realize that the opposite is certainly true. Men can be just as intimidated by a solo range session as a woman can. And I realize it can be even harder for him to admit it. I've talked to more than a few men who have former military or law enforcement or just spouses that were raised in a more gun-friendly environment and is more than comfortable going to the range and shooting or carrying a gun and he is the one who is afraid to enter that world. It's easy for those men to feel embarrassed or belittled or intimidated because of it.

The same sort of encouragement applies.

The crutch doesn't have to be spouses. I have girlfriends who won't go to the range unless I'm with them. I am their crutch. And I'm okay with that for now. Some of them are very new. They like having me there to make sure they are safe and to reenforce good habits and encourage them. But my goal is to get them to a place where they are comfortable without me. I'm honored to help them along that road. 

This kind of hesitation can be applied to other areas of life. I'm putting myself through the uncomfortable process of facing my fears of the weight section in our local gym. I'm still very uncomfortable and, yes, I DID hide behind my husband the first time I went. I hid behind a girlfriend the second time I went. But I understood the need to get away from my crutches and face my fears and my third time was completely solo. My hope is that any future uncomfortable situation I face I'm able to plow into with even less hesitation. Maybe one day I'll be that fearless person!

So, in closing.....

Don't let yourself be a permanent crutch!
Don't use a crutch forever!
Don't make yourself a secondary crutch!
And Don't poke jabs at the person using the crutch!

Monday, June 17, 2013

When You Hurt Yourself

I stole a second to actually browse the recommended videos YouTube had for me on my page today and was caught by the title of a video called, "I got stabbed:( and some sweet knife porn !!"
I wanted to hear the story of this one so I clicked on the video and started to watch.

If you would like to watch, here it is:

Before I go any further I would like to say that this isn't a blog to bash on this guy. To my knowledge I've never watched one of his videos before nor have I interacted with him. I really don't even know what his channel is about other than knives. So, all that being said, I have absolutely nothing against this guy.

To my knowledge he's neither stupid nor ignorant. He just happens to be someone who posted a video about his experience and I happened to come across it and thought it would make some great talking points. And so here we go..

He starts the video explaining about how he accidentally stabbed himself in the leg.

While working on a Spyderco Cat (with a 2.438 inch blade) he dropped the knife.

Some of you may remember this status update I posted in April:

He had lapse in judgment.

Again, he probably knew better. According to him, he's used to trying to catch screws and tools with his legs so his trained response upon dropping anything in his shop was to close his legs and catch said object in his lap.

What he caught was a 2.438" blade in the thigh. Hilt deep.

He then pulled the knife out, went upstairs, called his father-in-law, went to urgent care, got ten stitches (five internal and five external) and lived to make a video about it.

My first point should be pretty obvious.

1. Don't try to catch knives or guns. Or get in habits that would condition you to do so.

Really and truly! Sometimes those of us who work with guns and knives get a little complacent. We get so used to handling them that we take them for granted. We do silly things with them and while we may not break any specific rules we may think we are above being extra cautious. It can happen to anyone of us and it's a credit to the responsible people in the gun/knife communities that it doesn't happen as often as you'd think.

This individual trained himself over and over and over again to catch falling things with his legs. When he dropped a knife he did what he trained himself to do. I suspect that conditioning will stop after this and he will find a way to capture falling screws and tools without assistance from his thighs.

2. Have some medical knowledge and think before you act. 

I'll admit. The EMT in me was just about having a fit when he said he pulled the knife out and THEN ran upstairs to call his father-in-law and get help. She was screaming, "You NEVER remove a penetrating object!"

But the regular gal in me shrugs and says, "Shut up! You would have done the same thing and you know it!"

The negotiator between the two sides says, "Now girls, stop fighting! We all know that she would have assessed the wound and made an educated decision as to whether it was wise to remove the knife or not."

I don't know how much the author of the video knows about knife wounds, treating them and so on. I don't know what kind of assessment, if any, he gave himself before pulling the knife out. I won't speculate. I only know that my first reaction is to say that pulling out the knife was a dumb thing to do. There's a lot of vital stuff running through the thigh and many times the impaled object acts as a plug to the wound and keeps lots of blood from being lost. That's the textbook EMT talking.

The practical individual in me says that as long as I was able to look at the wound, where it was located and the vitality thereof, a razor-sharp knife in my own thigh would probably be coming out sooner rather than later so that I could get pressure on the wound and not have to worry about accidentally cutting myself further as I tried to move around and get help. Yes, I'd probably get the same speech at the hospital I am giving you now but I know I have at least some knowledge in treating myself.

In an absolutely worst case scenario I could always have grabbed my EDC bag and thrown a tourniquet on myself.

That being said, if this were you, would you have the knowledge and skill to assess your own wound and determine whether or not you would remove the knife yourself and how you might treat it if it didn't stop bleeding?

If you chose to leave the knife in place would you know how to stabilize it? 

Would you know the danger signs of arterial bleeding vs venous? 

Would you know how to treat yourself for potential shock?

What if this had been a firearms accident? Do you know how you would assess yourself for a gunshot wound?

3. Don't underestimate your wound.

I can't say whether or not this individual underestimated his wound or not. I didn't see the wound. But, he called his father-in-law and his father-in-law was who took him to urgent care. He even expressed in the video how this was better than the ER. It very well could have been. However, we have 9-1-1 for a reason. We have ambulances for a reason and we have an ER for a reason. They can be more expensive but don't let saving money be a reason for not calling for more immediate help.

That being said, he's not the first individual who has had an accident like this and not called 9-1-1. My own brother had a firearms accident that was very serious and he drove himself home. Once he got home my father drove him to the hospital. In retrospect, he should have called 9-1-1. Or, at very least, my father should have called 9-1-1 the moment he found out that my brother had accidentally shot himself.

While it did turn out okay in the end, that's a perfect example of someone underestimating the severity of their own wound and not opting for the paramedics with cool drugs in the vehicle that can legally go through stop lights coming to pick you up vs trying to be a man and drive himself. He could have passed out on the road, bled out in the car, all sorts of bad things. There is a time to say, "Hey, I think I need to call 9-1-1."

4. Learn from the experience.

How did you end up hurting yourself? Was it an accident? Was it negligence? Was it someone else's negligence? Was it a bad habit? Was it poor or faulty training? What can you change to make sure something like that never happens again?

Can you learn something else?

The author of this video noted that the entire incident didn't hurt until much later. He said he figured getting stabbed in the leg would hurt like crazy but it didn't at all. We can apply that knowledge to everyone out there who tries to rely on pain compliance for self defense. A lot of times, due to adrenaline and other factors, there may be no pain. Pain compliance is a lousy self defense tool. Can it be used? Absolutely! But it has its time and place and often should be nothing more than a by-product of you doing serious damage to someone.

My brother said getting shot felt like getting stung by a few bees. Like the author of this video he said he didn't really start to hurt until the next morning. And as I remember it he spent several days laying on the floor because it hurt to much for him to even try to get up onto the couch. The day of the incident, however, he was as mobile as though nothing had happened.

It's not impossible that we may have accidents and hurt ourselves. We avoid threats and danger because we don't want to have to use our tools of self defense. But, just in case, we plan for a lot of "what if's." Accidents should be one of them. Plan for them. Avoid them. But plan for them.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Maxpedition Gearslinger Lunada Review

PreSchool backpack, can of coke and Lunada for size.
 The day before my birthday I got an email from Maxpedition asking me if I was willing to review a few of their products. As someone who has carried a Maxpedition bag almost daily for the last five years and was in the process of looking for another one I readily agreed.

It took me a total of a week to pick out the products I wanted to review and around the middle of April I got a box in the mail from Maxpedition. The first bag I put into use was the Lunada.

I told my contact that I would take about a month to review a bag because I wanted time to play with the product, get to know it and see how it held up over time.

I've carried the Lunada for a little over a month now and I am thoroughly impressed with this little bag.

MOLLE on both sides, front and shoulder strap
I say little because it is a smaller bag. Some people I have polled have said they think it looks like a preschool sized backpack and they wouldn't be far off. It's over all length from top to bottom is only 11 inches (give or take some flex) and the width is about 8 inches (give or take flex and any MOLLE attachments you might add. As far as thickness is concerned, totally packed out makes it sit at around 7ish inches.

The bag has five main pockets: A large, open top pocket on the back of the bag filled with hook and loop wherein you can put anything from a gun to a notebook or random odds and ends; a main, large, zippered pouch with two smaller open top pouches and a small zipper pouch; a short and wide pocket on the top of the bag that can fit a pair of shooting glasses with a smaller open top pouch equipped with elastic loops for small items like lighters; a medium-size zipper pouch with more open top pouches and loops and a final zipper pocket on the front of the bag for narrow items.

The bag itself is covered in webbing for any MOLLE attachments you might want to make. My last Maxpedition bag had webbing for MOLLE attachments as well but not in any places I could see reasonable to attach anything. The Lunada is different. I have discovered a love for MOLLE I never had before and have a MOLLE pouch, a knife holder, my trauma sheers and my cell phone holster all
held to the bag with MOLLE. I have plenty of room for more if I want it, too.

Carry Handle
Padding and traction on back of Lunada and shoulder strap
A huge improvement over my last Maxpedition bag is the carry handle on the top of the Lunada. It's made of a neoprene type of material that is comfortable to carry. This is essential if you are going to find yourself quickly carrying the bag from place to place and don't want to sling the entire thing over your shoulder. Or, if you are trying to hang on to it to retreive things from the bag. 

The Lunada comes from the Gearslinger line of Maxpedition products which means that it has one shoulder strap and the bag is mean to be carried across the wearers body. But, unlike the Versipacks, the Gearslingers can be adjusted for either right or left shoulder carry with the switch of hook.

The strap itself is wide and padded and makes for very easy and comfortable all day carry (if you have healthy shoulders and don't weight the bag down too much). The strap also has MOLLE attachments on it and my love for MOLLE has spread to that region. I have attached a wrist watch and a knife and flashlight to the shoulder strap in a location I can easily access with the bag on my back.

Shoulder Strap
The strap is also exceptionally long for adjusting around even the most thick amongst us but can be cinched down quite well for us tiny people as well. What's even better is the addition of an elastic band on the strap that allows you to roll up any excess strap and secure it from floating around and getting in your way.

The strap also had a few D-rings on it for things like keys or whatever else your imagination can foresee connecting to it.

The shoulder strap also has a quick release latch for those of us who may want to escape our bags quickly or run the strap through something for extra security.

 For added security for on-body carry and for a little more support for long walks, a second strap can be secured to the back and shoulder strap to hold it more firmly to the body. There is also a belt-wrap on the back of the bag that allows a third attachment point to the wearer. Those who are into extreme adventuring or find themselves hanging upside down for any reason can be assured that their bag will stay on their back and around their waste and their items will be secure (provided they remembered to zip all of the pockets).

Additional Strap with whistle, belt loop and backing
The back of the bag is padded with a ventilated foam that is wrapped in another breathable rubbery material. Anything hard or pointy in the bag can be carried in comfort and despite a whole month of daily wear and carry I have yet to see any evidence of a breakdown in the material despite the frequency of taking the bag on and off.

I chose the Lunada because it was the smallest Maxpedition bag said to be able to fit a tablet. I was not disappointed. While it won't fit securely in the back-most pocket (it will fit enough to make a quick get-a-way), my Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, with case, fits perfectly in the main zippered compartment. With little stretching I can also fit my 11.5 inch bluetooth Logitech keyboard that I may take with the tablet for moments like this when I need the ability to do a lot of typing but don't want to lug around a laptop.
Lunada and tablet

The bag itself can hold quite a lot of gear. If you are looking for an Every Day Carry (EDC) bag that has a lot of capacity you may love this bag but you might also think it doesn't have enough.

It is a very compact bag and stuffing some of the pockets may mean a little difficulty in putting things in other pockets.

I use this Lunada as a purse, diaper bag, blow-out bag and just a bit of a "get home" bag. For its size it fits its many rolls very well. I can fit my wallet, diaper and wipes in the bag with my cell phone MOLLE attached to the outside. I like this arrangement because it allows me to answer my phone without having to dig in my bag and I can finally hear my phone when it rings, too. Because I'm a chapstick junky I've also MOLLE attached my chapstick to the outside of the bag while I've put things like my sun/shooting glasses in the top pouch along with sun screen, a lighter, some hand wipes, hair ties and nail file (very useful for those moments when you get your nails broken in someone's face in Krav).

Tablet with Case in Lunada
In my last bag I was forced to spread my blow-out/survival gear all over the bag. In this bag its all in one stop. My pressure bandage, tourniquet, medical tape, chem lights, epi pen, petroleum gauze, compressed gauze and so much more is all in one location. I never have to even open that pocket unless it's an emergency and that keeps everything well organized and in its place.

Tablet with case and 11.5" keyboard in Lunada
In the very outside zipper pocket I have a seatbelt cutter and window breaker and some disposable bibs for my kids and a package of kleenex. Nothing says prepared like being able to wipe a nose and extricate yourself from a vehicle all in one pocket.

Lunada Main Compartment Contents
Tablet, Wallet, Diapers, Wipes, Bandanas,
Crayons, Survival Tin, Lotion, Keyboard (occasionally)
In the smaller compartments inside the main pouch I keep bandaids and femenine products and bandanas, some coflex for my son (who is allergic to bandaids) and a tin with spare batteries for my flashlight and some alieve for Krav nights that
are particularly brutal. I also have a tin of crayons for the kids.

Also attached to the outside of the bag via MOLLE is a small med pouch specifically for my son. Because he is allergic to bandaids and has pretty severe reactions to some bug bites I carry paper tape and some 2x2 gauze, hand sanitation wipes and a tube of Cortisone10. I can take off the pouch and leave it with him without having to empty and repack my bag.

Lunada Main Compartment Zipper Pocket Contents
Bandaids, Condoms, Feminine Hygiene, Medication
With all of that in the bag it's packed pretty tight. Fully packed with tablet and keyboard my bag weighed 14 lbs this morning. I may have been able to pack just one more thing in the main pouch but not without feeling I was
weighing down myself. Some already think I carry way too much on a daily basis. Some would think I don't carry nearly enough. I feel the contents and bag are right on the "just right" line. Any more and I feel I would find myself leaving my bag in my car and opting to just take my wallet and cell phone with me when I needed to make stops which, consequently would make me feel lax in my preparedness as what good does a bag of supplies do you if you don't have them with you when you need them?

Because the bag carries high on the back instead of low around the hip it makes for much easy carry similar to a backpack with less fatigue on the shoulder and neck than with the bags that carry around the hips. The trade off is that it can make you feel as though you can't access the contents of the bag as quickly. With a little good organization, the use of MOLLE and the quick release latch on the strap I have yet to feel as though the bag where too slow to access. I've also developed my own way of quickly switching the bag from back to front carry without having to remove it from my body. I'm also very happy to have the contents of the bag with me vs left in the car. Having the bag on my back also makes me feel as though my arms and side are much more free to carry anything from my children to guns and magazines. 

Middle Zipper Pocket Contents
QuickClot Combat Gauze, Petroleum Gauze,
Epi Pen, Triangular Bandages, Duct Tape,
Compressed Gauze, Chem Lights (Red, Blue),
Medical Tape, Tourniquet, Thin Cinch
Pressure Bandage, 4x4 Surgical Sponges,
Lunada Right
Med Pouch, Sharpie, Tape Measure
Knife/Chapstick Holder
If there is a downside to the bag it might be it's small size. But it may also be its best quality as it's still smaller than some purses but much better organized. We all know that the larger the bag the more likely you are to fill it making it too heavy to comfortably carry. The Lunada fits a lot of stuff but limits you from carrying too much unless you are carrying particularly heavy items like boxes of ammo, lead weights or gold bars. That being said, you are not going to be able to use this bag for anything larger than a tablet, a hardback book and a portable keyboard.

While I've been loving the Lunada for it's very utilitarian design I was a bit bummed that it did not feature a water bottle holder. I am, after all, a mom on the go and water is an important resource and while I understood I could get a MOLLE water bottle holder for the side of the bag it wasn't until I carried around a water bottle in hand for a few weeks that I had my AH-HA moment and realized that the torch holder (the elastic drawstring on the front/top of the bag) actually made a phenomenal water bottle holder. Problem solved!

Also attached to the outside of that pocket is a sort of slip sleeve with some hook and loop I was a bit at a loss with what to do with (other than affix an American flag patch a friend of mine gave to me). Finally, while looking the bag over for places to hide weapons I discovered that would be a pretty good place to conceal a fixed-blade knife. Attaching the sheath to a dog-tag chain and securing it to the bag I now have a nicely concealed neck knife on hand.

To test the water resistance of the bag I decided to turn the hose loose on it on a rain setting. For about thirty seconds I simulated a pretty aggressive downpour. I put paper towels in the bag to see how wet they would get and the only parts of the towels that got wet were those closest or touching the zippers. The water resistance works well but it's certainly not water proof and more than a minute in solid rain may end with the contents of the bag getting wet.

Some people are also concerned that the bag looks too "tactical" giving them away as someone who might be a gun owner. While it's true that this bag is nothing you would take to the opera or even a date at a five-star restaurant it's not as "tactical" looking as people fear.

Hidden Knife
In an attempt to see just what your average lay-person had to say about my bag I conducted a series of interviews of complete strangers. I asked a total of two questions:1) If you were to describe this bag to someone who never saw it before, what general description would you give it? (designer purse, military bag, etc) 2) Given that you can make certain assumptions about people based on the products they use and carry, what, if any, assumptions would you make about me because I'm carrying this bag.

Shooting Glasses in Top Zipper Pocket
Top Zipper Pocket Contents
Hand Wipes, Shooting Glasses, Sunblock, Lipstick,
Hair Ties, Comb, Nail File, Lighter
The overall consensus was that the bag looked outdoorish, hippy or utilitarian. One person said it may look like a tool bag if it weren't for the fact that it was being carried by a woman. Only one person pegged it as being a "military type" bag. The assumptions that were made about me was that I was hipster, someone into whole-foods and natural products, a lesbian and only one person said they figured I was an EMT because of my trauma sheers stuck in the MOLLE. Only a few people (mostly Moms) have stopped me to ask me where I got my bag because they love how organized and comfortable it looked. One man in line behind me at a burger stand said, "Wow! Everything in its place!" when he saw me retrieving certain items from my back without ever even having to turn the
bag around. I said, "Since you brought it up, does this bag scream 'gun' to you?"

He said, "Oh, God, no! Wait. Is there a gun in there?" I told him there was not.

The only person who associated the Lunada with a gun was an off-duty police officer who asked me if the bag was a Maxpedition  and wanted to know where within the bag they kept the hook and loop for the holster having owned Maxpedition products in the past.

Lunada Left with Cell Phone
The conclusion of my surveys was that there was no general impression that made your average individual assume I was any more armed than they were.

The Lunada will remain at the top of my list in terms of EDC bags and I don't believe I will find myself wanting to replace it any time soon.

While my first impression was to feel I made a mistake in that it might turn out to be a little small for my needs, I have discovered that this bag has perfectly fit my needs for what I should be carrying on a consistent basis. While I very well may end up with a larger bag for the car with more "get home" items like a change of clothes for myself and additional pairs of shoes, the Lunada is a perfect choice for the ins and outs of daily life, all that goes along with that and a little more.

If you (male or female) are interested in a good utilitarian bag for EDC carry, I would recommend giving the Lunada a look.

Alternate Use for Torch Hold

Friday, June 7, 2013

Manual Safeties and Children: Should You Have One Without The Other

I was twelve years old when I walked in on a friend of mine who had found my brother's handgun underneath of the bed and was trying to pull the trigger. She couldn't accomplish this task because the firearm was equipped with a manual thumb safety on the side of the firearm that she didn't know how to disengage. I stopped her, helped her unload the pistol and showed her how to use it. I loaded it back up, put it back under my brother's bed and no one was the wiser. I didn't think of that day again until I went to buy my first handgun.

That experience left a huge impression upon me and I insisted on buying and carrying a firearm that had a manual safety.

"Who knows what would have happened had that gun not had a safety," I used to tell people. "I could have lost my best friend."

Because of that singular experience I carried a 1911-style pistol for years, operating under illusion that it and its two manual safeties made me safer and that it would somehow protect against negligence. I also was under the impression that it was necessary in order for me to be safe.

"I just feel better having it," I would say.

As my training progressed and my comfort with all types of firearms expanded I started to learn some valuable lessons regarding what makes a firearm safe and unsafe. My husband and I also started talking about wanting children and suddenly I was faced with a question: Should I own and carry a firearm around my children that does not have a manual safety? Does not having a manual safety make me irresponsible?

I also had to come to terms with what had happened in my brother's bedroom over a decade ago and what that meant for me and for parents everywhere.

Firearms Are Only As Dangerous As We Make Them
A firearm has the potential to be dangerous but I do not believe them to be inherently dangerous. Unloaded they are no more than intricately-working paper weights. Even loaded they don't spontaneously fire. They don't orient themselves to a target and they do not operate of their own accord. It is the action of their handlers that make them a potential danger.

What made the situation in my brother's room so dangerous was not the firearm. It was the access to it. There should never have been a fully-loaded .45 under a bed with easy access to it. Especially with children in the house who did not know how to safely operate it. That action (or inaction, depending on how you want to look at it) is what made the dangerous situation.

That being said, the safety on that firearm only delayed her ability to make that firearm fire. I have no doubt that given enough time and enough button pushing she would have figured out that the safety lever could be disengaged and that a hole could be put through my brother's dresser.

What ultimately ended that situation was not the presence of a safety, it was the presence of a twelve-year-old girl who knew how to safely handle that firearm and had a healthy respect for it. 

I took it from her. I unloaded it. I told her not to point it at anything she didn't want to shoot. I told her to keep her finger off the trigger. I showed her the features of the firearm. I then safely reloaded it, reengaged the safety and put it back where she'd found it. Knowledge and proficiency did far more to neutralize that situation than a safety could have ever done.

Had I been an ignorant child who was just as curious as to the workings of the firearms as she was who knows what kind of an ending I would be writing about today, or if I would even be here to write about it. Which makes me believe that far more than any safety feature on any gun should be a drive to teach your children in your home how to safely handle every firearm you own.

Safeties As A Crutch
It doesn't happen all the time but every now and then I get someone who will use the safety feature on their firearm as a crutch to do something negligent with said firearm.

I was in a pistol class not to long ago where a man thought his firearm's safety was engaged. I told him it was not. He did not believe me. To attempt to prove me wrong he pointed the firearm at the ground and pulled the trigger. The whole class jumped about two feet in the air when there was a rather large, "BANG!"

The instructor screamed, "WHAT WAS THAT!?!"

The man sheepishly mumbled, "I thought it was on safe."

He learned some valuable lessons that day. 1) Never use a safety as an excuse to break the rules of safe gun handling and 2) don't let your ego get the best of you.
At least no one was hurt.

That event should never have happened. But situations like it happen every day. And they happen in homes with children. People leave their firearms unattended where children can access them and think it's okay because the firearm has a safety. They put their finger on the trigger or point it at things they aren't willing to destroy or generally act a fool because, "Hey, man, what's the big deal. It's on safe!"

The rules of safe gun handling are universal, safety feature or not and if you treat every firearm as though it has no safety at all you are going to save yourself at least the embarrassment of putting a round in something you didn't intend to shoot or, at most, a life.

A safety feature is not a replacement for good gun handling. Period!

The Benefits of a Safety
All of that being said, there is a benefit to having a safety feature. It does delay the firing of a handgun.

Notice I said "delay," not "prevent."

Children who have the time and inclination to figure out how to make a firearm work will eventually try to flip that little lever down (or up.. or in.. or over, depending on the firearm) and when they do there will be no stopping them unless there is someone there with a little more knowledge and proficiency to stop them or guide them in what they are doing. 

The  Drawbacks of a Safety
Other than a safety being used as justification for poor gun handling, a safety can also be a road block to winning a gun fight. Just like a safety delays a gun being fired when you don't want it to be fired it can also delay someone firing a gun when they want to shoot it.

Most advocates of manual safeties say this is a training issue. It can be. Lots of people do not train with their firearms enough whether they have a manual safety or not. But those who have manual safeties need to put in a few extra hours of practice to make sure they disengage it consistently on the draw. Even then, it's not always guaranteed.

Anyone who's been shooting with a manual safety long enough and regularly enough will admit to missing the safety at least once. Even if they didn't forget it there's always that time that your finger slipped off the safety while you were trying to disengage it and you had to try again. Could that mean the difference between life and death? Perhaps.

Or, you could have my bad fortune and have your manual safety break.

Many moons ago, while I was still carrying a 1911, said 1911 fell out of my shoulder holster I hadn't secured like I thought and impacted on the back side of the grip. The force of the fall actually racked the slide beneath the manual safety about a quarter of an inch and bent the safety out of the frame. It basically pinned the slide out of battery and the safety on. I did not notice it until I got it home to check it over after such a hard fall. It took almost my whole body weight to disengage the safety from the slide and allow the firearm to return to battery. Had I needed that firearm between the time it fell and the time I got home I would have been in for a very rude awakening when I went to thumb off that safety and it never budged.

Lastly, the safety can be a giveaway.

Even with all of the drawbacks I listed above and my broken safety, I continued to carry a firearm with a manual safety on it. I did not even begin to question my decision until I read the first hand account of a man who was caught up in a gun fight with his 1911.

He was in a meeting and carrying a 1911. The perpetrator came in and ordered everyone onto the floor. The man drew his gun from his holster and laid on top of it anticipating having to use it. But when he flicked off the safety the perpetrator heard the noise and came to investigate. A gunfight ensued and thankfully the goodguy won even though he did end up getting shot a few times.

A one-in-a-million happenstance? Absolutely! But it happened non-the-less.

That was the beginning of the end for me and my personal obsession with manual safeties.

I finally realized that manual safeties don't actually make a firearm more safe. They gave an illusion of safety, which, in the end, could prove to be more dangerous.

I came to the conclusion that there was no real advantage to requiring a safety on my carry firearms and I was only limiting myself, my shooting experiences and training. Was I ever going to be faced with a true drawback of having a safety? Probably not. But why limit myself? Getting rid of the safety crutch freed me to embrace and carry many more firearms I've greatly enjoyed getting to know.

I also realized that I did not need a manual safety to be a safe handler.

The manual safety continues to prevail in many agencies and in many homes.

Do I think that manual safeties have their place in the gun industry? Absolutely! And I will never criticize anyone who demands their firearm have a safety feature.

I think it's important, however, to realize what a manual safety is and what it isn't, how to use it, and to use it appropriately. And to never use a safety as an excuse to be negligent or in the place of common sense.

For the last several years I've carried firearms without a manual safety. Glocks, M&Ps, revolvers, the list goes on and I've continued to have the safe handling and accident free record I had before I lifted my ban on non-manual-safetied firearms.

When it comes to carry, the most important aspect is the holster and ensuring the trigger guard is completely enclosed in a well fitting holster. When it comes to storage the most important aspect is being attentive of the firearm, where and how it is stored and securing it in a way that children cannot access it. Better yet is teaching children to handle a firearm so that if they do come across it they do not handle it negligently. 

You Are The Safety! Be safe. Make your gun safe with or without a manual safety.