Force of Habit

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At first, I didn’t even notice I was doing it.

I was in the restroom, getting ready to do…umm, restroom things. The holster my M&P usually rides in (an appendix carry rig from Crossbreed) rides somewhat high on my waistband and, consequently, has a tendency to flip over my belt when I undo my jeans. So I’ve gotten into the habit of grabbing it with one hand, lest it dump my gun out onto the floor at an inopportune time.

But the other day, while doing the dance of clothing and gun belt, I noticed something interesting. When I’d taken hold of my gun, my right index finger had – without conscious thought – settled on the top of my belt, holster, and jeans, extended straight out just as as it would have lain along the side of the frame were my pistol in my hand. The habit I’d drilled into myself, the one I drill into those I teach, held firm even with a holstered gun. “Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target and you’re ready to fire,” the little voice inside my head said, and automatically my muscles moved to obey.

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The Choices We Make

2013-11-26 07.34.18“What about a gym? I’m not sure I’d want people to concealed carry in a gym!”

I looked curiously at my friend. We’d been discussing gun stuff, and he offered the thought that there are some places that should be off-limits for law-abiding citizens to carry a concealed weapon. When I asked him for an example of such a place, that was the one he came up with.

“Why a gym?” I asked him.

“Maybe this isn’t a problem for women,” he replied, “but I know the testosterone gets pretty thick in a gym, and I’d hate for someone to see a gun under my shirt and make a grab for it. It’s just not worth the risk. I mean, what would you do?”

I thought about it for a second. “If I felt that having someone make a grab for my gun in a gym was a serious risk,” I answered, “I’d probably choose someplace else to work out.”

His next question threw me for a loop. “Don’t you feel like your focus on safety and self-defense is limiting your life too much? Where’s the point at which you say it’s not worth it?”

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Group Tactics in Public

20130114-182245.jpgI felt my friend C.’s hand brush against my hip and across the handle of the knife I had clipped there. “Just making sure I could reach it too,” she said. “You see him…at your four o’clock?” I nodded, my eyes tracking him, unsurprised that she’d noticed him too. The newcomer was young, dressed in a dirty jacket and jeans. But it was the way he moved, and the way he stared at everyone female in the restaurant, that had set off my alarm bells.

We were at a a fast food restaurant on the way home from the range after Ladies Night, and had decided to get a drink and a snack. The man C. and I were now watching sat perched on the edge of a table near the door. His body was never still, his eyes scanning in a hungry, desperate way. His movements were jerky and awkward. If I had to guess, he was either mentally ill, high, or up to trouble. Maybe all three.

A moment later, he leapt up and bolted out the door. I thought I saw him stop behind a concrete garbage can just outside the door, but a glare on the window made visibility hard. The third member of our group sipped her coffee, oblivious to the stranger’s actions and to the whispered conversation between C. and I. “Let’s get out of here,” I murmured. C. nodded agreement. “D. in the middle,” she said. “You take rear, since you’re armed and I’m not.” She turned to D. “Let’s get out of here.”

We stood and made our way to the car. The stranger was there, behind the garbage can, and his eyes fixated on us as soon as we got outside. C. and I both made eye contact with him, and something in our expressions made him hesitate. It was all the opening we needed to get past him and to the car. C. watched the man while I unlocked the car and D. and I got in. Once we were inside, I locked the door and we left without incident.

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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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False Positives

20121129-214128.jpgBy the time my eyes and brain consciously registered his presence, my “Spidey sense” was already on red alert. He’d stepped out from the shadows between two parked cars and headed directly toward where I was standing, in the parking lot next to a grocery store I frequent. He was scruffy-looking, wearing long and slightly dirty khaki shorts, a white T-shirt, and a battered leather jacket with sleeves much too long for his arms.

I turned when I saw him approach, mentally calculating whether I had room to return to my car before he reached me. I didn’t, and so I made a snap decision to stand my ground and let him know, with my body language, that I’d seen him and his approach. Had this proved ineffective, I’d have retreated into the store, but as it turned out that wasn’t necessary. He stared at me as he drew closer, his gaze laser-focused. I met his look with mine, my hands automatically dropping my keys and cell phone into my shoulder bag. I would, I knew, have more options to respond to him if my hands were empty.

I’m not sure which of these actions made the difference, but I could see in his eyes the moment of decision. Muttering a curse under his breath (I couldn’t hear what he said, but have enough deaf friends that I can read lips a little) he veered sharply away from me and back across the parking lot.

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For the Good of the Children

20121125-220322.jpgWhen they’re pushed for a justification for the latest proposed restriction on the right to keep and bear arms, gun control advocates often dredge up the rationale that it’s “for the children”. They assume that the public will support any measure that claims to make society safer for our kids, and unfortunately, too often in the past the public’s fallen for it.

I had a couple of teaching and shooting things going on this past weekend, and one of them was a Ladies Night at the range I frequent. I took the almost-16-year-old daughter of a close friend of mine who enjoys shooting (and has quite a bit of natural aptitude), and enjoyed watching her score hits on her target. While we were shooting and afterward, we talked quite a bit, and so I’d like to share a few things that I think are good for our our kids.

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Risk Assessment: Frequency, Stakes & Cost

20121118-175227.jpgI was talking with a family member recently about why I choose to live a lifestyle that includes armed self-defense. “Surely the risk of becoming a murder victim is vanishingly small,” he said, “so why spend all this energy preparing for it?”

In trying to answer his question, I began thinking about how we assess risk in our lives. The way I make these decisions is to consider three aspects of any potential emergency: frequency, jeopardy and cost.

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Paint On a Wall

20121112-160605.jpgFor many people, it’s a little thing, if they even see it at all. A few marks of paint on a wall or a fence or the side of a building. An annoyance that somebody needs to clean up. They might cluck at the disrespect it implies, or disparage the values of today’s youth, but that’s all. Just paint on a wall.

When I see this kind of graffiti popping up in my neighborhood, though, I recognize it for what it is. It’s a warning, a sign that I need to be just a bit more vigilant in my day to day dealings. The fact that the vast majority of gang violence is targeted toward other gang members will, I know, be of cold comfort if I find myself caught in the crossfire.

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Real-World Halloween Safety Tips

October 31 – Halloween. All Hallow’s Eve. For those who practice neo-Pagan spiritual traditions, the festival of Samhain. Also, a time when the mainstream media and pop culture take the safety of our kids and turn it into insane, mindless hysteria.

This year, the media hysteria seems, as usual, to center around two common fears: Pedophiles, and tainted candy. I’d like to talk about each of these in the context of awareness and risk assessment, and then offer some more common-sense tips to keep yourself and your children safe tonight.

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EDC: In My Purse

Some time ago, I did a post about the things I carry every day in my pockets or on my body. In it, I promised to talk about the stuff that I always keep close by but not necesarily on my body. For this purpose, I’m using the phrase “in my purse” somewhat loosely. Depending on the situation – where I am, who’s with me, what’s around me, these items might not literally be in my purse. But they’re almost always close at hand.

Ready to take a look? Here’s what I’ve got:

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