Thursday, October 24, 2013

"Can't" And All The Lies It Tells

"I can't...."

One of the most self-defeating phrases in the English language. Probably also one of the first learned and most often spoken as well.

And if people aren't proclaiming their own self-made limitations they are busy projecting them on others.

"You can't...."

We know that "can't" is lie. Still we claim it as truth in our own lives and force it on others with a ferocity that can range from benign to flat-out criminal.

Time and time again we've seen the lie that is "can't" be exposed for the facade it is...

You can't travel faster than the speed of sound. 
You can't travel outside of earth's atmosphere.

You can't run a mile faster than four minutes.

Even though we know, now, that given the right time, about of knowledge, skill, tools and motivation darned near anything is possible, people insist on limiting so much...

I can't be happy.

I can't find love.

I can't get that promotion. 
I can't get cancer.

I can't be in an abusive relationship.

I can't watch my family be murdered before my eyes.

That took a dark turn, didn't it?

The act of throwing up a middle finger to "can't" and telling it to copulate with itself is not limited to the positive things we want in life.

"Can't" is as much of a lie when you are denying an ugly reality as it is when you are denying a positive opportunity.

And yet, I see this type of "can't" being propagated in the self defense community. I see if every day in the comments I read on Facebook and YouTube and blog posts all over the internet.

"You can't let him get that close to you."

"You can't let it get that far."

"You can't let someone pull a knife on you."

I've got some really bad news for you: YOU FUCKING CAN!

You may not want to. You may do everything to avoid it. But it can happen. And it can happen to YOU!

And now that it has happened, what are you going to do about it?

Some people respond, having seen you work your hardest to prepare for those worst-case scenarios, by throwing in an extra bushel of "can't" for your dying pleasure.

"You can't get out of that hold."  
"You can't hold, draw, shoot, load, etc your gun like that."

"You can't defend against that."

"You can't work that technique."

"You can't survive that."

Well, I'm certainly going to try!

I prepare for the worst-case. I don't believe that carrying a gun and a pocket knife renders me perfectly prepared to combat any foe. I don't live in a fantasy world that makes me believe I can't be taken by surprise or ambushed. I don't believe I can keep every bad person out there at a twenty-one foot distance from me. I don't believe I will be able to perfectly perform every defensive technique I've ever learned at any given time. I'm preparing for the possibility that I might panic, freeze, forget, be sick, distracted, exhausted, afraid but so damned trained I will at least do SOMETHING to the best of my ability to survive.

I've experienced some of the ugliest truth of what CAN happen to me and I've lived through it all to the end that I work my ass off to be as prepared as I can be should I have to face it again.

I share what I do with others so that I might be able to track my progress, be inspired and motivated by those more prepared than me and maybe inspire others to abandon the lies of "can't" in their own lives for both the good and the bad.

Some use that openness on my part as a chisel to try to break apart my own efforts and training. They try to tell me what I'm doing isn't effective or won't work or isn't good enough. They may be right. They may be wrong. But one thing I know to be a fact is that I'm out there doing the work. I'm learning. I'm putting forth the effort. I do what I can do in a way that won't cripple myself or those I train with. Sometimes I do well. Sometimes I get my ass kicked. But always I am learning and working to be that much better, quicker, and fiercer than anyone who might try to harm me. I may never be bigger or stronger but I believe I can train until I can outsmart, outmaneuver or just plain outbluff or outluck someone who thinks they can harm me or mine. 

And so I ask... What the hell are you doing?

If you're out there working beside me and doing what you can do in the limits of your own time, money and life, then bravo! We're on this road together.

So many are still hiding behind the mask of, "That can't happen to me." And not all of them are anti-gun idealists either. Some carry guns and hold on to them like magic talismans disbelieving that anyone could get through their "situational awareness." Their eyes are blinded to the dark possibilities of the world. They stand proud and secure in their own illusion of what can't possibly happen but does every day. And still others look at people like me and find nothing better to do than project more negativity because, surely, the little woman can't beat the big guy.

Shit happens. It can happen to you. The bad guy can get to you. And sometimes the little gal can win.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Appendix-Inside The Waistband Carry: Practical vs Hype

I've been in the firearms community for well over six years. While appendix carry (the practice of carrying a firearm inside the waistband, forward of the hip bones) was around back then I couldn't give you the name of a single person I knew who carried that way. Then, again, perhaps my circle of gun-totting friends was a lot smaller back then.

Today, appendix carry (or AIWB) has risen in popularity and gained quite a foothold with many long-time shooters and trainers. The last two trainings I've attended had several AIWB shooters in them, my husband carries AIWB and several of the well-known instructors I have been following over the years carry AIWB.

AIWB is not a new method of carry by any means. For as long as people have been carrying guns they have been sticking them down the front of their pants. Hand a dummy gun to someone who's never carried a gun before in his or her life, tell them to hide it on their person and a good majority of the time you will see them attempt to AIWB carry it. It's even the preferred method of your average bad guy (sans the holster). It's a very logical place to carry and hide a firearm.

For a long time (and still in certain circles) the AIWB carry method has been demonized as unsafe or as a "gangsta" way to carry. It was purported that those with training and "in the know" carried behind the hip and only those who were careless and didn't mind being viewed as a "bad guy" carried AIWB.

But while the nay-sayers blasted well-meaning carriers with threats of blowing off manhood and bleeding to death from a negligent femoral artery shots, those who are willing to judge the method dispassionately and have confident handling of their firearms are finding it a valid and possibly ideal means of carry.

The benefits of AIWB have been well-established but in case you may have missed them here they are:

- Ease of access
Our arms, though capable of reaching behind our hip, are not naturally inclined to reach there. Our natural work space for our hands and arms is in front of our hip bones. We are strongest and fastest when we work in that area and we can better handle and access items kept in that area.

- Time
Because we are stronger and faster when dealing with things in our arms natural work zone (in front of the hip bones) it stands to reason that we can work things faster in that area as well. The draw (or presentation from the holster) is often faster when we only have to reach down a few inches vs back several inches. Many long-time shooters and competitors have reported faster draw times from appendix vs hip carry. Some have seen no or very little difference in time.

- Concealment
Greg Ellifritz illustrating poor concealment
carrying behind the hip on a bicycle

This seems to depend a lot on body type, gun carried and holster. While some find appendix carry to be far more concealable, others find it less concealable. Some find it more concealable in certain situations like bike riding where behind the hip carry would be far more pronounced. Others find it difficult to conceal double-stack firearms but not single-stack. Sometimes a thick holster can make concealment harder in AIWB vs behind the hip. It cannot be denied, however, that some people have far better success concealing AIWB than other carry methods.

This also applies to concealment of the draw stroke. It's a lot easier to sneak a gun out of the holster in the AIWB position than behind the hip.

- Comfort
Again, this seems to vary widely with body type and the type of gun carried along with holster selection. I've spoken to some that find AIWB to be extremely comfortable and some that find it extremely uncomfortable. One friend of mine finds behind the hip carry to mess with her gait and cause problems in her strong-side leg. She finds AIWB to be far more comfortable and easy on her legs because the weight of the firearm is more centrally located on her body. Some find that the muzzle of their firearm in AIWB will press uncomfortably in certain locations, especially when bending or sitting. For some this depends entirely on the size and length of the gun and holster.

- Ease of retention
Because the area in front of our hips is our natural work zone it is easily accessed by both of our hands. Because of that we can put two hands on a firearm that we are fighting to retain when it is carried in that area. From behind the hip we are limited to the hand closest to that firearm. We also have more strength when our hands are working in that natural work-zone vs stretched behind the hip.

- Ease of presentation
Anyone who has trained hard knows that in a fight for one's life it's very likely you may not be standing straight and in the ideal stance. You may have to draw from seated, from your back on the ground, from your side, etc. And, again, because your arms are working in a natural work zone they can better access an AIWB position than a behind the hip position from certain positions.

My attempt at concealing a double stack HK P2000SK AIWB
I don't like to give opinions about things until I've tried them myself and for a very long time I've been fooling around with AIWB.

I am a very small female and I like larger fighting guns (the Glock 19 being my regular carry gun). That particular combination does not seem to do be very conducive to AIWB. No matter how hard I tried I could not conceal a double-stack firearm AIWB. The thickness of the firearm and the holster would press out the front of my clothing and make me look at least a couple of months pregnant or clearly trying to conceal something large.

I was not willing to go to something so small as a .380 unless it was as a back up gun. My own personal standards are that my primary carry gun will be a 9mm, have a full size grip and good sights. Many of your pocket .380s obviously do not fit those criteria and finding a thin, single stack 9mm meant I had to give up the capacity I've grown to love in my 19.

Because carrying behind my hip had never been a problem for me I never prioritized AIWB carry.

Glock 19, 4 o'clock
S&W Shield, AIWB
at ECQ
But after making a plea on Facebook to try AIWB again, an instructor friend of mine and gunsmith, David Bowie, from Bowie Tactical Concepts and instructor at the Tactical Defense Institute offered to let me borrow his S&W M&P Shield in 9mm and AIWB holster for the duration of the Extreme Close Quarters gunfighting class I took the first week of Oct.

I arrived on the first day and he had the gun and holster waiting for me. My immediate instinct was to put the firearm dead-center on the front of my body, right below my belly button and directly beneath my belt buckle.

After getting the gun and holster on I covered it with my shirt and went to show the instructors, Greg Ellifritz and David Bowie. While I was already seeing a huge improvement in my ability to conceal the single-stack 9mm they helped me adjust it to the right of my belly button and into the natural hollow just inside my strong-side hip bone. I was concerned that the grip would print more in that location but it was not an issue.

I was also immediately impressed with how comfortable it was. The gun was short and small enough not to press on the crease of my thigh when I sat or dig into my ribs when I bent over. Immediately, I ran through some deep squats, bends and twists to check for comfort and found it to be exceptionally comfortable.

I definitely wanted to try this new method of carry throughout the course of the class, however, it was not how I normally carried. It seemed counter-productive to do a whole class with a method of carry and gun I didn't use so I kept my Glock 19 behind my hip where it normally would sit. I decided to run the whole weekend with both guns, splitting each drill and exercise between the two guns and carry methods.

The holster I was using was a modified Comptac 2 o'clock holster that had the sweat shield cut off and a c-clip instead of the loop. It was a decent holster and did well but the c-clip was not as secure as I would have liked due to it being a little big for my belt. The gun tended to tip in throughout the weekend and while it was never a problem I found myself having to readjust after any rigorous activity. I don't think I would have had that problem had my belt and the c-clip been better fitted to one another.

Yes, I looked a little paranoid running both guns all weekend (including spare magazines for each and a TDI knife) but it was a great experience!

Bowie's modified CompTac 2 o'clock
with an M&P
Before class started I took Greg aside and asked him to give me a really quick crash course in drawing and holstering from AIWB so I did it safely as, though I'd tried AIWB before, I'd never actually done live-fire from the position nor had any real-world experience with it.

He reminded me that the most dangerous and important part of safely carrying AIWB was re-holstering (which is true of behind the hip carry as well). Because of where the gun is located, a careless reholster could mean a bullet in the inside thigh with potential of hitting the femoral artery. I also wanted to make sure that I didn't have the tendency to draw the firearm and sweep everyone to my left by pulling the gun in an awkward manner before pointing it straight down range. Greg watched my draw a couple of times, patted me on the back and called it good and we started class.

Getting to work both methods of carry simultaneously allowed me to immediately compare their methods. Interestingly, the hardest part of the weekend was remembering which spare magazine to reach for when I needed to reload with either firearm. There were at least two times I tried inserting a Glock 19 magazine into the the single-stack Shield.

The ECQ class was a great environment wherein to try AIWB for the first time and to compare it to the traditional behind the hip style of carry. In addition to shooting (which can be the least difficult part of using a firearm in self defense) we worked gun retention, drawing and shooting from unusual positions, one-handed operation, contact shooting, fighting to the gun and so much more. There really was no better way to directly compare both methods of carry.

I started immediately liking AIWB carry. It was easier to defend and very comfortable. It was concealable and the draw was quick and easy. I have strong confidence in my gun handling so I did not have a moment of fear or hesitation on either the presentation from or return to the holster.

I did not, however, like my depleted ammo supply. I found it very frustrating to have to reload the Shield so often and at one point, while clearing a jam in the Shield, I discarded a partially full magazine, reached for the spare and realized that had been my spare. I quickly switched to my Glock but felt that rush of heat knowing had that been a real encounter and I was limited to the one, low-capacity gun, I'd be out.

I liked shooting the Shield. It was comfortable and it was accurate and it had already had a trigger job so it was just as good to shoot as my Glock. It's low-profile top did not lend itself to easy one-handed operations like racking the slide but a new pair of rear sights would fix that. My Glock felt more familiar every time it was in my hand solely for the reason it's been my training and carry gun for far more years than the Shield. Even so, I could see myself picking up a Shield in the near future.

When Sunday rolled around and it was time for the force-on-force scenarios with Greg I offhandedly joked that I would continue to carry both guns. At which point Greg said, "Good, twice and many chances to disarm you."

I realized that it might be time to choose a single method of carry. I thought about it hard and, after sizing Ellifritz up a few times, opted for the Shield in the AIWB position.

During the first scenario he didn't attempt to go for my gun. We ended up on the ground with myself on my back underneath of him. I kicked him off of me, draw the Shield from AIWB and simulated shooting him in the chest and head.

I watched the video later and wondered if the Glock carried behind the hip would have been easier or similar in that particular position.

I had good distance. I had pushed him away with my feet. I would have had to have rolled a bit to my side to gain access to my Glock but I don't think it would have been much of a hindrance. I believe I would have been able to get a similar shot off had I been carrying behind the hip vs AIWB.

Below you can watch the first scenario.

In the second scenario we started on the ground with Greg on top of me. The point of this exercise was to illustrate that even if you have a lethal force tool and are completely justified in using lethal force, you may have to fight quite a bit before you can access that tool.

Greg later admitted to cheating. The rules were that he was only supposed to go for your gun if he saw it but he decided to go for my gun anyway. He didn't remember which carry method I chose and was reaching behind my hip. Watching the video later there is at least one moment where he probably would have been able to take my gun if I'd been carrying behind the hip vs AIWB. Carrying AIWB I was able to use his body as a means of retention. When I felt him trying to reach for my gun I would drop my hips below his or lay on top of him, pinning my gun between us so that he couldn't access it. It worked very well and even though I wasn't able to access the gun during the fight, I was able to get to my knife and cut him in the groin and get out of the situation.

I thought long and hard how that scenario would have been different had I been carrying behind the hip. He may have been able to take my Glock away from me easier but I may have been more aware of that and tried harder to keep it away from him instead of finding security in his inaccessibility to my AIWB carried Shield.

Below is the video of the second scenario.

The bottom line is that I felt AIWB would be easier to retain and that is why I chose that method of carry when I ran those scenario vs behind the hip.

If I could conceal my Glock 19 AIWB I would switch methods of carry tomorrow. I have been convinced of the superiority of that method for certain situations, particularly retaining the firearm and I see no benefit of behind the hip carry over AIWB other than possible concealment and comfort issues with less-than-ideal body types. 

For me, my hesitation rests only in the fact that it would require me to downgrade to a lower capacity firearm to successfully conceal AIWB and I am very hesitant to give up my 16 rounds of 9mm in a gun I know I can conceal well behind the hip for 7 or 8 carried AIWB. I have not been able to decide if the benefits of AIWB outweigh the drawbacks of the low capacity.

I find what Todd Green said in this article regarding capacity to be quite accurate regarding my own feelings: 
Bullets are opportunities. They’re options. Having more of them is always better than having less, even if you don’t need them.
I may find myself switching between the modes of carry in the near future as I am saving up for a S&W M&P Shield. And when I get said gun I will be carrying it AIWB. Who knows, maybe I'll carry both. There really is no quicker reload than grabbing a fresh gun!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Shot That Breaks The Legal System's Back

When people work self defense scenarios or force-on-force training the question of legalities--always so black and white on paper--present themselves in a hazy variations of muddled gray.

And if you add the stress and excitement of working a scenario you very well find out that a split second of irrational thought could be the difference between justified self defense and aggravated assault, manslaughter or a variation thereof.

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to take a class that's been on my short list for three years: Extreme Close Quarters at the Tactical Defense Institute.

On the second day of the class, attendees are invited to participate in two force-on-force scenarios. You can choose to participate in one, both or neither. The point of the scenarios is to let you work the techniques you've learned over the weekend and to put them into the context of a physical assault.

Something unique about the scenarios is that you are also supposed to think about the legalities of your actions. Class attendees who are watching the scenario act as a pseudo jury and opine as to whether or not they believe your actions were justified as you fought.

The first scenario is a "stand up" scenario which usually begins with some sort of interview process. Deciding when and how and what level of force to use can be much more tricky.

In the second scenario, it is assumed you have been hit and rendered unconscious. You come to with your attacker already on top of you, beating you. It assumes lethal force is already justified. The point of the scenario is to illustrate that even though lethal force is already justified you may have quite a bit of fighting to do before you can get to a lethal force option like a knife or a gun.

I was the first student in this scenario. I laid down on the mat and the lead instructor, Greg Ellifritz, got on top of me in the mount and said, "Go!" while wrapping his hands around my neck.

I worked the ground fighting techniques we'd learned over the weekend and in Krav and while he was trying hard to get my gun off of me I was able to adequately defend it. However, towards the end of the scenario I was feeling as though I was running out of time. He grabbed my left hand and pulled me across him so that he had access to my waistband. I felt him grab at my magazine carrier/knife sheath. I heard something hit the floor, looked and saw he had successfully taken away my spare magazine.

I realized that, given enough time, he'd get my gun or knife and making space for me to get to my gun without having better control of him would mean he might be able to take it away from me.

I needed to make a move, now!

I dropped my hips below his to take away his reach and with my right arm pressed under his chin, trying to choke him with my forearm I drew my knife and buried it into the inside crease of his right leg and groin. I twisted it a couple of times simulating a deep wound and when I felt his legs loosen from around me I darted back and away.

While falling back from him I drew my gun, aimed in on his head and started pressing the trigger.

He was sitting up by now and staring at me.

I was surging with adrenaline and still had my knife in my off-hand. I wasn't even thinking about legalities. I was only thinking how scared I was at how close he came to getting my knife and how lucky I was that I got it first.

I can't tell you what stayed my hand but I didn't shoot. I screamed at him to stay back and the scenario was over.

I holstered my gun and deescalated. I didn't think about the scenario again until I watched it later on video my husband had recorded.

Between the time I cut him and my gun aimed at him is about 3 to 5 seconds. In that time I'm pushing myself away from him, making my way to my feet and drawing my gun. I've also put about 10 feet between us.

In that time a lot changed. I'd already used lethal force against him and with the type of cut I made it would be very likely that he would be bleeding to death. However, the dynamics of the scenario had changed.

If you are a student of self defense it's important to become familiar with the principles of AOJP in order to use lethal force.

A = Your attacker has to have the Ability to cause death or great bodily harm.
O = Your attacker has to have the Opportunity to cause death or great bodily harm.
J = You have to believe your life or limb is in Jeopardy.
P = There has to be no other reasonable option for you to remove yourself from that scenario or defend yourself. This is known as Preclusion.

In that scenario the AOJP was satisfied enough for me to be entirely justified in using lethal force as a means of self defense initially.

My attacker had the ability. He was a healthy, large, fully-functioning man.

He had the opportunity. He was sitting on top of me.

I was certainly in jeopardy. I was beneath him with his hands around my throat.

There was no preclusion. I had no other reasonable options. Despite how I tried I was not able to get away from him until I cut him in the groin.

There was also some disparity of force and position going on. Lethal force was justified.

And in 3 seconds the scenario changed drastically.

My attacker may still have had the ability to cause me death or great bodily harm (at least until he passed out from blood loss) but he no longer had the opportunity. Depending on how badly I cut him he may not have been able to use his leg to come after me. While I certainly could have felt like my life was still in jeopardy I now had reasonable options of escape. I didn't need to shoot him. I could leave.

I wasn't thinking about those things at the time. At the time I was feeling a mixture of fear and relief and I was putting pressure on a trigger beneath the barrel of a gun pointed directly at his head.

The threat was over and had I put another pound of pressure on said trigger I would have been stepping beyond the boundaries of self defense. The AOJP would no longer be satisfied.

If it had been real would I have been charged given the nature of the scenario? I don't know.

Would I have been convicted? Again, given the nature of the scenario, I don't know.

But the fact of the matter is, those 3 seconds and the smallest press of my trigger finger could have landed me in a serious mess of legal trouble I couldn't begin to comprehend (much less afford) if the scenario had been real.

There will be some that will argue that I would still have been justified in taking the shot. There will be some that will argue that I would not have been. I anticipate getting private messages from now until kingdom come with differing opinions. And it will all go to illustrate one thing: that that shot would not have been clear-cut self defense.

And therein lies the importance of thinking about these scenarios and attending force-on-force and the kind of training we worked over the weekend. Until you are there and experiencing the adrenaline and wondering what you are supposed to do and afraid and, yes, a bit panicked, you have no idea how well you will judge the scenario, when to use lethal force and when it may no longer be justified.

These classes not only help you learn about techniques of self defense but set you up to better judge situations. You learn how you can work them and when they may be over while also preparing you to continue to fight if need be or search for more threats. They construct patterns of behavior that are within legal boundaries (or at least they should!) and help you identify lethal force moments.

They also help you identify when you have fought yourself to a position of no longer needing that force.

If you haven't taken a class like that yet, I recommend you go out there and find one!

And if you want to watch the scenario for yourself here is the video. Watch between the :44 and :58 second marks.