On The Other Hand

I sprained my left wrist last week and can’t even remember what happened, but the experience has given me some food for thought and reinforced some things I’ve done and taught through the years.

All my life I’ve been ambidextrous, able to do most things with either hand, but since we live in a world with mostly right hand dominant people, most things are set up and more convenient to do with the right hand. This, of course, is a problem for people with a true left hand dominance, but usually not much concern to me.

But I did notice right away that I was having trouble because I would reach for things or, especially, try to lift things with that left hand and even dropped a few of them. Not good. I hadn’t really considered how much I count on having both hands to work with until it became very painful to use the left one.

Then I went to the range and discovered I could not shoot with the left hand as I always do. Of course, I could have done so if my life depended on it, but what if it were broken and in a cast, or damaged severely some other way that prevented me from drawing and firing the gun?

That’s easy for me, I can just use the other hand. Sure, but what if I had never practiced shooting with the right hand? What if I were left hand dominant and believed I couldn’t do anything much with my right hand? What if I broke my right arm, was right hand dominant, and had never trained to use the left?

In the course of many years giving the handgun and self defense classes, I’ve only encountered a few people who insist that they “can’t” use the non-dominant hand to do anything, and most of them are hard to convince to even try shooting that way. For those who are left dominant, I suspect it’s at least partly due to the extreme pressure so many of them encountered in childhood about their left handedness, especially older folks. It used to be treated almost like a minor crime, or at least a character defect.

I don’t find quite so much resistance among the naturally right handed, but it can still be difficult to convince them to even attempt to shoot with the left hand, and a great deal of persuasion is sometimes required to get them to consider shooting with either hand alone.

But it is important to learn to do so, and to practice it consistently. The reason seems self evident, but I’ll repeat it. What happens if you hurt your dominant hand and can’t draw or fire then, even if you use both hands? If you’ve got a cast or sling or brace on your hand/arm, you will also be seen as even more vulnerable than ordinarily, I suspect.

Seems to me to be important to at least consider learning to shoot with either hand, and either hand alone. You can’t pick and choose the time or place you will be attacked, so you have to be ready for whatever comes. If you’ve never fired your gun with your non-dominant hand, or never practiced shooting with either hand alone, you are due for another trip to your friendly firearms instructor and need to add a few more things to your regular dry fire and range sessions.

I Am NOT A Victim… even with only one hand available.

Are you?

Changing how you carry

No matter how or where you carry a gun, I’m sure you know how important it is to train with it and be comfortable with it there. I carried several different guns openly, in a belt holster, for many years, but after I started teaching concealed carry, I knew I needed to carry that way myself enough to work out the kinks and understand completely how it worked and become comfortable with it myself. You can’t really teach what you don’t know.

I’ve gone through the CC training myself several times over the years, trying out many different holsters and carry locations, and discovered that I just couldn’t get comfortable with anything under my clothing, or having to partially undress to draw a gun. None of that was going to work for me.

So, about a year ago, I bought my first nylon “fanny pack,” made especially to carry a gun. The semi-automatic wouldn’t fit into it, so the Ruger Sp101 revolver wound up as my carry gun. I wore it, trained with it, and worked hard to get good with it, but the five round limitation of the revolver always bothered me. I carried two “speed loaders,” but reloading a revolver is anything but speedy, and I couldn’t imagine being happy with it in an emergency.

I haunted the gun shows and tried out any number of “gun purses” and fanny packs, but they all had more problems or limits than what I already had, not to mention the fact that most were seriously expensive. And then I found the ONE I’d been looking for. My Springfield XD compact 9mm fits in it like a hand in a custom made glove, and the spare magazine fits into a front pouch perfectly – leaving plenty of room for wallet, lip balm and a pack of tissues. I have not carried a purse for many years, and I discovered it was nice to get all that stuff out of my pockets.

DTOM Concealed Carry Fanny Pack BUFFALO / BISON LEATHER-Tan
by DON’T TREAD ON ME CONCEAL AND CARRY HOLSTERS

Training with it came next, and it took me a little while to change a few things I’d been doing with the previous fanny pack. Then it was ready to take out into public. So far so good. The concealment is far superior to any holster under clothing, as far as I’m concerned. There is no possibility of “printing” or accidental exposure. If I avoid the “tell” of patting or adjusting it constantly, nobody will know the gun is there. And, unlike a purse, I likely won’t ever walk off and leave it.

I much prefer to carry openly, and my belt holster hasn’t changed in seven years, but I’m still interested in looking at and talking about the different ways people find to carry concealed, especially other women.

How do you carry? If you’ve tried using a “fanny pack” or purse for CC and didn’t like it, or still have problems with it, why not drop a line here and tell us about it? If we put our heads together, we can probably come up with something.

Experience, Mindfulness and Gun Safety

GALs1159_zps256b745aI was at the range all day Saturday, teaching in the women’s shooting program that our range runs. The program began as a quarterly thing with 20 or so shooters, and has now grown to a monthly event with many more students, many more instructors and a long waiting list.

I was there, and teaching, despite the fact that I’d been sick all week and my throat was raw. It didn’t hurt too much, but when I talked it sounded roughly like someone had stepped on a bullfrog. Oh, well.

One thing I’ve noticed as that as we’ve been doing these clinics, we’ve gotten better at it, and things went much more smoothly this time. I did, however, notice one thing I wanted to talk about today, and it’s a lesson which goes right to the heart of Safely Rule #1.

The lesson is simply this: Just because you’re holding a blue gun, a SIRT pistol, or a gun with a training barrel doesn’t mean you get a free pass on where your muzzle is pointing.

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“Mommy, Why Do You Have a Gun?”

20130120-125837.jpgMWaG Facebook fan Dana Edwards Stallings asked a question yesterday that I’ve been meaning to talk about here. She wrote:

Any recommended articles on how to approach CC with my toddlers? I believe in an open, honest policy with my girls (ages 2.5 & 4) but I’m curious as to what Mom With a Gun recommends when they see mom carrying?

As it happens, I’ve been discussing this topic recently with a friend who’s the mom of three small kids and a new shooter and gun owner. So I have a few general thoughts, but I’m also thinking about going into some of these areas in more depth. If this is something you’d be interested in exploring more deeply, please let me know in the comments.

In no particular order, then, here are a few of my initial thoughts about making the choice to employ armed self-defense with little ones.

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On Instruction and Risk Management

1156423_19045308If you’ve taken training classes, or spent much time at a range, you’ve doubtless seen instructors – or gun owners who are teaching newbie shooters but who aren’t actually trained instructors – do stupid and potentially dangerous things. I know I have.

I’ve seen people pointing muzzles at themselves or putting their hands in front of the end of the gun. I’ve been swept with the muzzle of a gun in a training class. I’ve seen negligent and unintentional discharges that ended up in the berm rather than the shooter’s leg because of accident more than intent. I’ve seen guns malfunction in potentially dangerous ways, including an AR-15 with a malfunctioning trigger group; bumping the trigger while the safety was on would cause a round to discharge when the safety was subsequently disengaged.

I get it – accidents happen, and novice shooters don’t always have the experience and knowledge to know what’s safe and what’s dangerous. But I’ve also seen instructors who do careless, stupid, or even outright reckless things with guns and think that, because they’re the teacher, the safety rules don’t apply to them.

This is my public service announcement to you: Get with the program. You are responsible for your students’ safety, and for managing the level of risk they face. If one of your students shoots themselves, or someone else, saying “they didn’t follow the safety rules; it’s not my fault” isn’t going to be nearly good enough.

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Buying Little Guns

20130112-223457.jpgAs those of you who follow me on Facebook know, I was at a Ladies Night event at my local range today. Two female friends of mine decided to go with me, and one of them wanted to show off a new gun her husband had bought her recently.

“D. said ‘It’s so cute!'” my other friend reported she’d said. I smiled, but inwardly I had a sneaking suspicion about what was coming. “D. said she wants you to look at it before she shoots it, because her husband got it used, and she also wants to know how to clean it and what kind of ammo to get.” I promised I’d take a look before the Ladies Night.

When we gathered at the appointed time to drive up to the range, D. produced a cardboard box. Carefully she opened it up and removed her new firearm. “See, it’s cute!” she said with a smile, handing it to me.

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A Conversation About School Violence

20130110-125219.jpgIn recent days the politicians have been calling for a “conversation” on school violence and gun control. Apart from the fact that a one-sided lecture isn’t the same as a conversation, I personally find it a little odd that the people most affected by the issue of school violence and mass killings in schools don’t have a voice in the conversation.

So, I decided to have a conversation about school violence with my nearest subject matter expert. I’ve talked before about my daughter, “Nutmeg”, but for the newcomers, she’s seventeen years old and attends a special school program that provides her extra supports with emotional and behavioral challenges caused by past trauma in her birth family. (Before you start screaming about her privacy, she read this post before I made it and doesn’t object to what I’ve said here.)

We talked while out running errands today, and the conversation went something like this – I’ve tried to reproduce the flavor of how she talks as faithfully as I can:

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Gear Review: Soteria Leather “Kratos” IWB Holster

20121224-155636.jpgI don’t know about you, but I appreciate gear that isn’t just functional, but that also looks good. Function is definitely important, but so are aesthetics and workmanship. I’ve never been excited by plain black Kydex holsters – they do the job, but I’ve yet to find one that qualifies as beautiful.

For that reason, I was excited to try a handmade leather holster from Soteria Leather. Soteria, the brainchild of Portland, OR-based entrepreneur and craftswoman Cerisse Wilson, produces custom-fitted leather holsters to fit just about any gun, with a dizzying array of thread and material colors and several holster styles. Cerisse’s holsters are definitely functional, but they’re also beautiful works of craftsmanship. I had high hopes for my holster after reading about them on Cornered Cat. Even still, what I got vastly exceeded my expectations.

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Deciding When to Carry

20121220-214104.jpgIf you’re new to firearms, shooting, and the consciousness of self-reliance and self-sufficiency about personal safety, you’ll probably need to make a decision at some point about whether, when, and how you want to carry a firearm for self-defense. Close to 40 states are “shall-issue” jurisdictions for concealed carry permits; that is, their laws mandate that the authorities MUST issue a permit to any law-abiding citizen who applies and meets their requirements. The lone holdout state with no provision for permitting at all (Illinois) has just been ordered by a court to create a permitting process.

This post isn’t going to be about the “how” of carrying a concealed weapon. Rather, it’s going to be about one of the decisions we make when we decide to carry. When, we have to decide, will we carry our firearm? I’m going to advocate a simple answer, and then explain why I feel that way: Once you have a concealed weapons permit, you should carry your firearm everywhere you legally can do so.

Why do I advocate such a blanket rule? Here are some reasons:

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Mechanical Safeties Don’t Guarantee Safety

20121216-162659.jpgAs December mornings go here, it was a beautiful one to go to the range with friends. It was a bit damp and misty, but the air was fresh, crisp and cool, and after several days of rain it felt lovely to get outside. We did some pistol shooting – my friend got a Glock 27 she wanted to put through its paces. Afterward, we moved over to the long range steel targets (200-600 yards) and she uncased her AR rifle.

She shot a couple magazines of ammo, and I got a chance to try out the rifle, landing a few hits and a few more near misses on a 150-yard steel plate. I handed the rifle back to my friend when I was done, and she reloaded. She put six rounds downrange, then engaged the safety and set the rifle on the bench to talk to someone for a few moments. When she was done, she took my seat at the bench, lifted the rifle to her shoulder, re-adjusted the bipod and stock, and flipped off the safety lever.

Ka-BLAM! They say the loudest sounds a shooter hears are a CLICK when she’s expecting a BANG, and a BANG when she’s expecting a CLICK. Despite the presence of ear protection, the report of that shot seemed deafening, and I’m sure mine wasn’t the only heart that was racing.

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