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CCW: Some more thoughts on the appendix position for concealed carry.


The appendix carry position (so named because the gun is on the front of your body, between your navel and the point of your hip; roughly on top of your appendix if you're a right-hander) has gotten quite popular in recent years. That popularity has made it the subject of both scorn and praise, with some believing it's the work of Beelzebub himself and others opining that it's the best thing since a bunch of duck hunters in Louisiana decided to go into full ZZ Top mode.

As I mentioned a couple of months ago, I've generally been agnostic where the appendix position was concerned. I've tried it, with several holsters, and found that it simply wasn't comfortable for me. I've also noticed that the people who like appendix carry tend to be taller than I am, with longer torsos, and are usually fairly athletic. Since I'm short, with a correspondingly small distance between my beltline and hip joint, sitting down with a gun in the appendix position is quite uncomfortable regardless of the size of the firearm. I do have a lot of students, however, who use and like that style of carry.

It wasn't until doing instructor development for the Advanced Pistol Handling course from I.C.E. Training about a week ago that I really grew to appreciate some of the less-obvious advantages of the appendix position. Its proponents tend to emphasize the speed with which the gun can be accessed when standing (which is undeniable), but I noticed that it had some distinct advantages when shooting from more unorthodox positions.

When in the driver's seat of a car, for instance, it's easier to access the gun from that position than when the gun is worn behind the hip. The seatbelt is not nearly as much of an obstacle, and presenting the gun to a threat on the passenger side is simpler. When knocked on your back, a common occurrence in a fight, getting the gun into play from the common 4-o'clock position requires more movement and body shifting than accessing the gun that's carried in front.

From a grounded position where you've been knocked down on top of your gun, making space to access the gun in the appendix position (on your stomach) is much easier than with strongside carry (on your side.) This also applies to situations where you might be standing but otherwise confined, such as being up against a wall or in close contact with another (innocent) person.

In general, getting the gun oriented on most targets from the appendix position requires less movement than a corresponding 3- or 4-o'clock carry position. It's also easier to access by the weak hand should your strong hand be injured at the initiation of an attack.

While it's still not for me because of the comfort issues, appendix carry has a lot to recommend itself when you consider the whole range of plausible situations in which you might need to access the gun.

There is always the issue of safety, of course, and if you decide to CCW in that position you need to be extra vigilant on both the draw and the re-holster. Making sure of exactly where the muzzle is pointed and where your trigger finger is placed are crucial, and learning to arch your back and drive your hips forward to clear a path for the muzzle is imperative. If you're conscientious and train properly, I see very little increase in risk but a very big increase in achievable efficiency. It’s also a little harder to conceal the gun if one eschews the untucked shirt aesthetic that tends to accompany the method!

Appendix carry isn't for everyone, but for those who take the time to train properly it has some undeniable (and compelling) benefits. Now, if I were just a few inches taller...!

-=[ Grant ]=-
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The open carry debate rages anew.


On Monday, Rob Pincus posted a note on the
I.C.E. Training Facebook page about his opposition to open carry (OC). This is one of Rob's personal 'hot button' issues, and he doesn't shy away from the debate. (Rob doesn't shy away from much, actually, but particularly so with regards to this topic.) It garnered a lot of attention, making the cut at both Gunnuts and Say Uncle (amongst others.)

Given my association with Rob and I.C.E., it wasn't terribly surprising that I should receive an email asking, in essence, if I agree with everything he says. Sometimes yes, sometimes a little less so, but not for the reasons you might think.

On the self defense aspects, I think OC when concealed carry (CC) is available (which is darned near all of the country these days) is silly. I won't debate that point of view at this time, but for now I'll just say that I don't believe OC has any advantage over CC from a tactical standpoint.

On the social and political fronts the situation is a little less clear. I often wonder if the civil rights activists of the 1960s and the gay rights activists of more recent memory would have made the gains they did without their open and sometimes controversial exercise of their rights. Just fifty years ago restaurants and theaters were routinely segregated; thanks to the confrontational activities of civil rights advocates, today integration is so normal that we don't even think about it. The same could be said for abortions and being openly gay.

Whether you agree or disagree with those subjects isn't important to this discussion - what is important is that what was normal was changed, thanks to people who were willing to stand up for their rights and risk ridicule and arrest to mold society's opinions.

To say that such activity was acceptable for them, but not for Second Amendment advocates, seems on the surface to be a little inconsistent.

OC activists insist they're doing the same things for the same reasons, and it would seem to be a hard argument to dismiss. I do think, however, that there is a big difference between open carriers and civil rights marchers: the rights being defended here are already well established (if not in fashion), and are subject to a different standard of comportment. It's called "just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

Rosa Parks was doing something that the law said she couldn't. Open carriers are doing something that the law already says they can. That doesn't seem like a huge difference, but it is.

If OC advocates were carrying guns in areas where laws unjustly say they can't, then I'd support them fully. The problem is they're not, and in my opinion that removes the civil rights rationale from their argument. Carrying a gun openly in a city like Portland, where it is against the law, is advocating for change and pushing people to recognize other's civil rights. Doing it in an area where it's allowed, even if uncommon and misunderstood, is usually just grandstanding.

I understand the argument that rights which are not exercised are ripe for abrogation, and that OC is a strong exercise of Second Amendment rights. That doesn't mean one needs to do so from a posture of defiant confrontation, which seems to be the norm for open carriers. We already possess those rights, and it's incumbent upon us to exercise them responsibly and intelligently. Like it or not, that means not scaring the public.

Yes, people who are scared of the sight of guns are irrational. I agree. Yes, cops who don't know the nuances of the law are ignorant. I agree. Getting belligerent in public isn't going to change either of those. Want to advocate for actual social change? Open carry in a city where it's illegal; get arrested like the civil right marchers did, then use that to help publicize your case for the repeal of unjust and unconstitutional laws.

That's real political activism. Being a contentious loudmouth on YouTube isn’t.

-=[ Grant ]=-
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The snakepit of groupthink.


Every so often I'll have a spare moment and just happen to be sitting near the computer. It's at those times that I visit one of the gun forums (fora?) just to see what's up with the world. More precisely, what's up in some very small portion of the world, one which is usually severely skewed.

One such moment happened last weekend while I was waiting for dinner to finish cooking. (Actually, I was waiting for my wife to finish cooking dinner since my culinary skills are limited to "I'd like to place a to-go order".) I dropped in on one forum where the main topic of conversation appeared to be the emergence of flash mobs for nefarious purposes.

Up until lately flash mobs existed to do stuff like umbrella dances and public sing-alongs. I'd always found them charming in an urbanites-need-something-to-take-their-minds-off-the-cage-they're-in sort of way, but over the last several weeks they've come to be used for criminal activity. It was, in hindsight, inevitable.

The discussion on this particular forum centered on how to protect oneself from a flash mob attack. It started out with a discussion of how much ammunition you should be carrying on your person (naturally there was the obligatory picture of one guy's carry rig with the proud explanation that he'd found a way to tote over fifty rounds, ready to go at a moment's notice.) Talk quickly devolved to OC grenades and how many of them you should have in your car. Some were even wondering if they were legal for concealed carry.

Yes, grenades. Yes, they were serious.

You can't prepare for everything, if for no other reason than you can't carry everything you'd need for all contingencies. Like Steven Wright says: "You can't have everything -- where would you put it??" You have to decide what are the likely threats you'll face and pick your skills and equipment to deal with those situations. Whatever level that may be is going to be different from others, because the probabilities are dramatically influenced by your environment and your habits.

Just because some anonymous nut on a forum is carrying OC grenades doesn't mean that you need to. Remember, a dispassionate review of the risks involved would probably lead to the conclusion that HE doesn't need to either. Finally, keep this in mind: whatever hardware you decide is appropriate for you, it needs to be such that you can carry it all the time. Loading up for the Apocalypse on the weekend but having a .380 automatic in your pants pocket for the bulk of your week isn't consistent, and it's probably not congruent with the threats you're really facing and where they're likely to occur.

-=[ Grant ]=-
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Someone is spying on me.


Here's how things work around here: I collect interesting snippets of information that are relevant to the topics of this blog (namely revolvers, shooting, and self defense) and write posts inspired by those snippets. Sometimes it's a news story that sets things in motion, sometimes it's my own experiences, and occasionally it's a remark by another blogger.

I usually write something up and hang on to it for release when I have room. For instance, Fridays are always devoted to an off-topic surprise so I hold any topical things for the following Monday. This week the CenturioGroup nonsense about lumens popped up and I was so excited to comment that I bumped the article I'd planned to today. It was based on a post last month at another blog, but there was no hurry because it wasn't any sort of current event.

In the meantime several other bloggers jumped in to comment, making me look like a Johnny-come-lately. This isn't the first time I've been scooped, though; I've lost count of the number of times I've thought "I'll get to this next week", only to have the entire blogosphere jump on the topic while I was busy doing more important things -- like earning a living.

Just so you know: I wrote the following last week. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

--

Miguel over at The Gun Free Zone recently wrote a piece
defending the 'shoot me first' vest -- that item of clothing, usually attributed to photographers, which is often the choice of the IDPA crowd. I don't like the things. Not necessarily because a bad guy will target the wearer of such a vest (there is no evidence either way on that assertion), but simply because they are an affectation. They always have been.

Back in the early 1980s I was working in a camera store and selling gear to actual working photographers. We had 'photographers vests' for sale, but rarely sold any -- and never to a real professional. Everyone considered them a mark of the dilettante, and no one I knew would be caught dead in one. Flash forward to 2011 and they still look silly.

That's not to say that you can't wear one (it is, after all, a semi-free country), but it's advisable to do so only if it's not out of place in your environment. I'm a big believer in blending in whenever possible, of not calling any more attention to oneself than necessary, and the 'photographer's vest' is almost always anomalous. Off the top of my head I can’t think of an environment where one wouldn’t stand out, save an IDPA match.

The funny part is that if one is fixated on concealing via a vest there is almost always a style that
will look right at home. Here in the Northwest, wool vests from Filson hit just the right balance between casual and business formal and look right at home in a wide variety of settings. For women, a patterned vest of some type usually looks good with just about any pants outfit. Canvas work vests are common in the trades, and in the trendier areas one can still occasionally find an argyle vest (though I think of them as quite hipsterish.)

When you get asked if you're a photographer or a fisherman that's not proof that you've pulled off some great feat of concealment; it's a sign that you've stood out enough to make people question your presence. I remain (while admitting that my Stetson occasionally puts me in that situation) of the opinion that such an event is not a Good Thing.

-=[ Grant ]=-
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Perfectly suited.


I get a surprising number of inquiries about carrying in an office (suit and tie) environment. I spent a few years wearing Italian suits and selling to corporate types, so I'm passingly familiar with the problems involved.

There are a number of ways to carry a gun in a suit: belt holster, shoulder holster, pocket carry, bellyband, Thunderwear (aka 'crotch carry'), and in an ankle holster.

Belt and shoulder holsters can be considered together, as in a corporate environment they share the same major disadvantage: you can never take the jacket off. If you go to your office every day, sooner or later your co-workers are going to notice that you never remove your coat! For a salesman, who doesn't actually work in the offices he visits, these can be viable. In those cases, the suit needs to be tailored to fit around the gun - and no, going to Men's Wearhouse to buy your suits isn't going to cut it. You need a real tailor, who can either make a custom suit or modify an off-the-rack example to fit properly.

Of course, this means you need to wear the gun and allow the tailor to work around it. This can be easier said than done, particularly if you live in a gun-unfriendly city (which is to say, most of them.) The best thing to do is call around and discreetly inquire if the tailor has experience working with legally armed clients. There are always a few, and it pays to seek them out.

(My favorite clothing store back in the day was owned by a mother and son, neither of whom had any problems with concealed carry. In fact, I got to know the son fairly well, as he routinely carried a very nice Colt Model M in .380, aka Model 1908 Pocket Hammerless. It was his opinion that the sleek little Colt was "the perfect gun for the well-dressed gentleman.")

If, like most people, you need to be more flexible with your habiliments, a close relative of the belt holster is generically referred to as a "tuckable." This is an inside-the-waist holster that allows you to cover the gun with your shirt - the shirt slipping between the gun and your waistband, then bloused a bit to conceal the outline. This leaves a small leather keeper visible on the belt, but if the belt and holster color are well matched it is difficult to spot. Of course, you end up looking a bit lopsided with a bulge on your belt; proponents argue that blousing of the shirt properly on the off side will help conceal the protrusion, but many people dislike the somewhat sloppy appearance which results.

One often overlooked method is the bellyband. Originally designed to be worn just above the beltline (hence the name), it can be effectively employed at the mid- to upper-torso level. At this position the gun is placed under the arm, very much in the same position as a shoulder holster. Getting to the gun is done through the shirt front, (again) using the same movements as one would with a shoulder holster. The shirt button at the base of the sternum is left undone, allowing rapid access to the gun; one's tie covers the buttons anyhow, so that the arrangement is not detected. Be sure that you do not wear 'athletic' fitted shirts - standard shorts only to allow plenty of room to hide the firearm.

The Thunderwear carry is often touted as a solution to many problems, but for those who sit for long periods of time they prove to be quite uncomfortable. They're also slow to access, and the size of the gun is very constrained. I do not personally consider them suitable for a primary sidearm, though they may be useful for backups or deep cover assignments.

Ankle holsters are another special-purpose carry method. They are very slow and cumbersome to access for a primary arm, and are best used to carry a backup pistol. Yes, I know that there are some fancy ankle holster draw moves which are surprisingly fast, but I encourage you to try them in a realistic force-on-force exercise. You'll quickly learn why I don't feel ankle holsters are a good choice for general armed carry.

Finally we come to pocket carry. With a proper holster and loose-fitting slacks, this is perhaps the most viable method of concealing a pistol in a corporate environment. They're reasonably quick to access, comfortable (if used with a lightweight gun), completely invisible (unless you wear your slacks tighter than a gentleman should), and has the additional benefit of allowing your hand to be on the gun without alerting anyone.

You'll need to shop for slacks with front pleats (provides blousing to hide the gun's bulge) and deeper pockets (some have shallow pockets from which the gun's butt can peek out.) I also recommend a medium-weight pant, which typically features a satin lining between the pocket and leg. The lining dramatically reduces chafing as the gun moves around, and makes sitting for long periods more tolerable.

-=[ Grant ]=-
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Risk assessment, or lack thereof.


I meet many people who possess concealed handgun licenses, but don't carry on a regular basis - let alone every day. The explanation is usually something along the lines of "I carry when I'm in a bad area" or "if I'm going into a situation where I'm more likely to need it, I'll take my gun". There are myriad variations, but the excuse always boils down to confusions between likelihood and consequence.

Likelihood (probability of attack) is variable. Yes, there are areas (and times) in which one is more likely to be attacked. This is what most people base their carry habits on: the less likely they are to be attacked (the lower the probability), the less compulsion they feel to carry a firearm.

While likelihood changes,
consequence doesn't. Consequence refers to the impact on the victim of an attack; consequence is a level, a magnitude. An attack that justifies the involvement of a personally carried firearm is, by definition, of extreme magnitude and thus high consequence. For such incidents, consequence is a constant - it is the same for all times and places. Thus, the necessity of response is the same.

The problem is that most people base their carry habits not on consequence, but on likelihood. I'm not sure of the reason, but perhaps it is societal: we have a tendency to defer issues of consequence to others, because facing them is unpleasant. Dealing only with likelihood allows people to focus on the pleasant (the probability is, after all, that everything will be fine) rather than dwelling on the unpleasant.

Acknowledging the consequences of an attack is frightening to a lot of people; not only do they have to contemplate their own death or injury, they also have to consider that of their opponent. It's ultimately about mortality, and that is more than many people can handle.

You'd think that the possession of a carry license would mean that the person had considered these issues, at least minimally. My experience says otherwise. Even serious gun enthusiasts seem to only face up to the realities of consequence when they have to, which is why even they don't carry all the times that they could.

Are you basing your carry habits on likelihood or consequence? If the former, you're not as safe as you believe yourself to be.

-=[ Grant ]=-
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