Gun control and the allocation of risk

Our country remains deeply divided on not only gun rights, but on what rights are in general. We have enjoyed decades or relative prosperity to the point that we have completely conflated the concept of rights and entitlements. This conflation manifests itself in the anti-rights debates in our country in some fairly peculiar ways that, when analyzed, fail to pass muster on validity to curtail the right. Here are some examples:

False: “I have the right to feel safe.”

Actually, you do. But even better than having this right, you have complete control over how you feel about something. Through thought, analysis, and simple control of emotion, you can completely adjust how you feel.

I once had a coworker who went through a routine every time he was given a new assignment. Step 1 of his project always seemed to be pre-populating his list of excuses why he will fail. He pointed out aggressive deadlines (they actually weren’t, but his work ethic caused them to be), supposed equipment conflicts (someone else is using the equipment I need), anticipated vacations that he had not yet put in for, probable excessive sick time he’s known for taking, lack of support from the development team (they were actually incredibly responsive), and even more.

The point is, he had a lack of control over his emotions, and was very vulnerable as a result. Had this coworker taken the time to understand the project fully, worked with the other testing personnel on some basic scheduling, and been willing to put in the effort necessary to diligently, but not break-neck, work towards his goal, he would have easily accomplished his project milestones.

Similarly, in view of our society as a whole, if there is something making you feel unsafe, you can either succumb to the emotion of fear and demand the government allay that fear by restricting the rights of others, or you can do something to address the fears, such as training, risk assessment, or more.

Those that utter “I have the right to feel safe” do so in an attempt to create a false obligation in others.

Instead, those that utter this line do so in an attempt to create a false obligation in others to manage their emotional state for them. No right may create an obligation in others. No one is required to coddle you and make you feel better. No one is obligated to give up their property to help you manage your emotions that you are proving you cannot manage on your own.

False: “I have the right to not be harmed and that trumps your right to own guns”

First, I am not entirely sure a person has the right to not be harmed. It may be pure semantics and I am open to debate on this, but a person, by their mere existence, has the right to avoid harm, but I’m not sure they have the right to not be harmed. The reason I suggest this is because the right to not be harmed creates an obligation to the universe to do no harm to the person. The universe does not obey that obligation. (As an aside, people do not have the right to harm others, in general, but we’ll get to that…)

Therefore, a person has the right to avoid harm. A rabbit has the right to run from a fox, but the rabbit cannot simply sit there and say “Sorry bruh, you don’t have the right to chow on my eyeballs” and expect the fox to slink off into the woods. Likewise, a person has the right to self defense. Through the means they are capable of, whether fight, flight, posture, or submit (people don’t ‘choose’ to freeze), they may attempt to avoid harm.

This being said, the person that erroneously equate another’s gun ownership to their potential harm attempts to create the obligation that someone else is responsible for their state of well being. They are not. This erroneous equivalency attempts to remove actual rights to own things to bolster a supposed right to not be harmed, while they shirk their actual right to avoid harm through their own means. Their supposed right to not be harmed creates an obligation in others to remove dangerous things, therefore it is not a right.

The allocation of risk

Politicians attempt to balance “managing the herd” with “getting reelected”, and this regularly creates a conflict of interest. If a politician were to hear a constituent say “I have the right to feel safe!” and reply with “No, you don’t!”, he would be vilified in the media and probably not get reelected, even though he was absolutely, entirely correct. Therefore, we will likely never see a society where our true rights are respected AND false rights are dismissed. It is because of that, we have gun control debates.

We must therefore come to the realization that to respect rights AND health of the populace, we must allocate risk appropriately. Simply put, as a peaceable protector, the in-the-moment value of a person’s life is inversely proportional to the level of force they are using against you.

The in-the-moment value of a person’s life is inversely proportional to the level of force they are using against you.

For the non-math oriented folks, inversely proportional means that as one value goes up, the other goes down. In this case, as the amount of force someone attacking you with goes up (they are threatening you with greater and greater harm), the value of the attacker’s life goes down.

This can be an incredibly unnerving thing to hear and come to grips with, but it is instinctively understood. If we are getting yelled at, chastised, or berated, we will likely either yell back, apologize, or move on. We are having verbal force used on us, which is not life threatening, and we are unlikely to escalate further because we generally don’t want to harm others. We may think ill-will of our tormentor but we do not necessarily wish to see them dead.

If that force is increased, and we are getting shoved, assaulted, or punched, we will do so in return to negate the threat. We are unlikely to escalate beyond what is necessary or what we perceive the level of harm being. As decent people we generally value peoples’ lives. Again, there may be emotional turmoil around the event, but we are unlikely to rush right to killing our attacker. There is more force being used against us, and we are willing to inflict greater harm on our attacker.

Most of us, if faced with threat of great bodily harm, will protect ourselves with the necessary force to stop it. If our child is being attacked or kidnapped, we will most likely use whatever force necessary to ensure it doesn’t happen. If we have a bat, a knife, a halberd, or a firearm, we will use it to the best of our proficiency to ensure we or our loved ones are not killed. Our regard for the attacker’s life drops to very low levels, and we hold their life nearly valueless compared to that of our loved ones.

Is there any sane person that would say “I took the beating because I didn’t want to harm my attacker”? What about “I let the kidnapper take my 13 year old daughter because I respect the kidnapper’s life”? As stark and blatant as it is, when we or our loved ones are faced with harm, we will do what is necessary to protect them, at the expense of the attacker. The attacker chose this level of consequence, we did not. It is the attacker that has chosen that the value of their life is inversely proportional to the force they are using against us.

It is the attacker that has chosen that the value of their life is inversely proportional to the force they are using against us.

As an aside, the attacker’s life value never drops to zero because it is ethical to neutralize the threat only, not to kill the attacker. Our application of force must cease when that threat is neutralized.

The failure of a gun-control governance

The failure of anti-rights politicians is that they listen to the false rights of the herd when making policy, without properly allocating the risk. All policy for the governance of a peaceable people must allocate risk to the evil-doer and not to the peaceable.

All policy for the governance of a peaceable people must allocate risk to the evil-doer and not to the peaceable.

In the case of anti-rights politicians outlawing firearms, it should be understood as axiom that the law will affect the law-abiding far more than the criminal. The law has created a state where the criminal now has a far superior potential of force to wield than the law-abider. The politician has failed his constituency by creating a vulnerability where the peaceable person’s life is far more at risk than the criminal, and the criminal may act with increased impunity.

Politician either naively believe , or they lie, that if the gun is taken away from the people, then all the statistics around gun violence will stop and those homicides will not occur. In reality, they will decline slightly (because the firearm does not rely on strength to wield effectively) but many of these homicides will shift to a different weapon type.

Additionally, many statistics around homicides do not take into account ‘justifiable homicide’. These are the instances when a firearm is used in a protective manner and a criminal was shot and killed while committing a crime. These instances show up as homicides. When a politician or government enacting gun control claims a decrease in firearm homicides, they rarely mention that a portion of that decline was from defensive gun use, and the defender may have incurred far more harm than if he had a gun to protect himself.

The root cause

Hopefully I wrote something above that infuriated you. That sentence was “Politicians attempt to balance ‘managing the herd’ with ‘getting reelected'”.

We are not a herd.

In an ideal world, the politician is not managing us as a herd, because we are individuals with individual rights. The politician should be managing a system that ultimately respects the true rights of the individual people that make up the populace.

The very notion that people need managing and that a politician is empowered to dole rights out or take away is a problem. The fact that so many believe it is actually government’s prerogative to do this is the root cause of the problem.

We, as a people, must tell government “No. That is my right. You are not taking it.” We must force all policy to allocate risk to the criminal and not to the peaceable.

Protection training during Stay-At-Home

Most of the USA is now closed for business. For many of us, we have lost access to martial training and firing ranges. This doesn’t mean we should be putting our protective training on hold, though. Here are a few ways to adapt or develop new training methods.

Strength and cardio training

There are honestly thousands of books, videos, and other sources out there for this training. For protection, a definite balance between strength training and cardio is needed. Look for strength-increase and flexibility-increase videos, not just “bulking up” exercises. The same with cardio.

Strength and cardio training by “definitely not me” and “also not my wife”.

If you don’t happen to have any equipment at home, add “no equipment” to your google searches. There are still many exercises that can be done using body weight resistance, as well as stretches!

Practice the basics you DO know

There are a number of martial arts apps out there that show applications you can do from your screen. We advise against these because there is no instruction or critique to break you from a bad habit or incorrect movement. Without this, imperfections (vulnerabilities) can become ingrained and need to be relearned.

But, if you happened to have trained well before this self-distancing, AND if you know some moves well enough to have not been significantly corrected on, continue practicing them!

I can honestly say that when troubleshooting trainee technique at the dojo, most of the trainee issues stemmed from improper positioning caused by poor footwork. If your training includes footwork patterns or routines, do them over and over, taking care you are doing them well.

Punching bags and artificial targets

Percussion training is kinda hard to get wrong. With some basic combinations under your belt, train them, and train them hard. Work them into a cardiovascular workout. If you have the means, a torso target allows you to work on target selection far better than a punching bag, but be prepared to load it up with sand (they leak a bit, don’t use water) to make it stable.

Physically striking is far superior to “punch into the air” martial movement. there is no substitute for actual striking to ensure your fists or chopping hand strikes are resilient.

Another great tool are the Cold Steel line of melee training weapons and the Rings Blue Gun line of firearm training weapons. These can allow for great weapon manipulation and movement training. If your martial skills involve breakfalls and rollouts, practice going into prone, supine, and urban prone. This will not only improve your ability to obtain cover/concealment, but the large movements will improve cardio.

Dry fire dry fire dry fire

When practicing dry fire, set up a place that you know is safe, and keep it that way. The rules of gun safety are not suspended while doing this; they are more important than ever.

Safety steps:

  1. Pick a dry-fire location in the home free from others, including pets or important valuable. Establish that this sectioned area is an ammunition-free zone.
  2. Ensure the area you will be dry ‘firing’ into is safe, and what is beyond it is safe and will trap a bullet if all else fails.
  3. Read your owners manual and confirm that firing on an empty chamber is not detrimental to your firearm. Most modern semiautomatic and revolver firearms are able to handle dry firing. 22LR pistols are a notable exception.
  4. In a separate area, remove all ammunition from your firearm. This includes the magazine and chamber or the cylinder for most modern pistols. If you have a training barrel for your firearm, install it here. Confirm the firearm is empty through sight and touch.
  5. Move to your dry fire location. Ensure it is free of obstructions and people.
  6. Reconfirm the firearm is empty through sight and touch.
  7. If for any reason you must pause this training and leave the area, perform all safety steps over to ensure the firearm and training area are in known states when resuming training.

Dry fire for sight alignment and trigger congtrol

A training program I took emphasized that most firearm issues can be resolved with sight alignment and trigger control. After spending a full 8 hours on these two factors alone, I am in complete agreement.

Fortunately, these two factors can be practiced without ammunition. When dry firing, you can work on maintaining sight alignment and picture while manipulating the trigger. These items are the very fundamentals of superior marksmanship, and it can be done for FREE.

  1. Perform all safety steps noted above.
  2. Practice dry firing by squeezing the trigger while maintaining sight alignment/picture on a target fastened to the wall.
  3. Pay special attention to any movement in sight alignment that trigger actuation provokes. Correct it. There is no rush here, and each trigger pull can take as long as needed to perfect.
  4. Repeat until your trigger actuation does not affect sight alignment/picture at all. (This can take years!)

Dry fire for draw and acquiring target

Once the fundamentals of sight alignment and trigger control are well understood, it’s time to bring the drawstroke into play. Using ALL the same safety steps shown above, AND all the sight alignment/picture and trigger control exercises, practice drawing from holster, presenting the firearm, and getting on target with a proper sight alignment and trigger actuation.

Remember the fundamentals of a good drawstroke:

  1. Using support hand, remove concealing garments from the holster area.
  2. Primary hand acquire a solid grip on the firearm with thumb-forefinger webbing lodged firmly in the tang of the handgun and fingers in a solid grip. Trigger finger must be extended.
  3. Draw the firearm deliberately to the pectoral index point. Support hand comes to the chest.
  4. Rotate firearm to the front. Shooter may need to engage from this position and firing from this position should be practiced for close quarter engagements.
  5. Extend the firearm forward with a “punching out” movement. Support hand should naturally acquire a proper grip on the firearm during this extension. During extension, begin to acquire sight alignment and sight picture. Shooter should be able to put rounds on target during the extension action for close quarter engagement training.
  6. Once at extension, finalize sight alignment and sight picture.
  7. Actuate trigger during the drill at the appropriate time determined for your practice.

Dry fire with moving and shooting

Using ALL the above steps, and adding in objects, navigate to cover/concealment, move around obstacles to get on cover. Add partial cover to your target… the list is endless what you can do here, and it all builds in movement familiarity with the firearm.

By now it should be apparent that there is so much that can be done with dry fire. In fact, the only thing missing is recoil management and the assessment of shot placement.

Train the mind

Internet research costs little, and finding good sources doesn’t take that long. Train the mind with good information. Justifiable use of force, the laws of protection and firearm ownership, the anatomy of violence, and so much more. Go for depth, not breadth. Find a subject and truly deep-dive it. Surface smatterings of many topics are easily obtained. Focused knowledge in one thing leads to much more understanding.

Training beyond stay-at-home

Of course, ALL of this must be reinforced with this most paramount of paradigms: You are NOT PLAYING. This isn’t a tactical LARPing exercise, Mr. Wick. You MUST do all the above training as if it is a live-fire exercise, with the exact same mindset for training and consequence. Do not train in poor muzzle discipline. Do NOT train in a bad drawstroke. If needed, record your training and play it back and scrutinize as if it were someone else’s Facebook post that the world will nitpick into oblivion. You could even send it to your instructors for their review, or a close group of training friends operating in an ego-free way.

Most of us have been ‘gifted’ with extra time on our hands. Whether it be working from home and no commute time to actually being furloughed. These times are hard, and they will get harder before it’s said and done. In desperate times, the worst in some people comes out, and the best in others comes out. It’s up to us to ensure our best is greater than their worst. Train hard, train focused.

Setting up a home quarantine room

The world is watching the Coronavirus spread with great concern. Prior to that, it was Ebola, or HIV, or whooping cough. In our increasingly interconnected world, disease can spread quickly and over great area. The Coronavirus has hit Wuhan, China hard. One of China’s major trade centers is effectively shut down, with industrial implications for the entire world.

Here at home, Michigan USA, the concern has become real. Being the cradle of the US auto industry and much of that industry having ties to China, it is not a stretch to realize it will affect our economy significantly. How can we, as emergency preparedness practitioners, take steps to ensure our family remains safe?

Understanding how disease is transmitted (routes of transmission)

There are 3 main types of disease transmission. Setting up a home quarantine room will need to ensure that all forms of pathogen transmission are addressed.

Aerosol

This form of transmission is when the pathogen are suspended in the air, either through vaporous liquid droplets (like coughing and sneezing) or particulates (like dust or pollutants). The pathogen is then inhaled, absorbed by the recipient (through eye or mouth deposit) or deposited onto a surface and later touched. Most pathogens do not survive long in an aerosol state, and close proximity to the infected person is required for transmission. Coughing, sneezing, and exhaling are all forms of initiating aerosol transmission.

The COVID-19 virus has been found to be transmissible through aerosol.

Direct contact

Transmission is achieved when contact is made with the pathogen. The pathogen is usually introduced by contact through skin, blood, mucous membranes, saliva, etc.

Oral/Consumption

Pathogens are often introduced through food and water. Unclean practices like failure to wash hands can introduction fecal and urine particles onto food which sustain the pathogen long enough for transmission.

There are other subtypes of these transmissions. Venereal is direct contact through reproductive activity. Fomite transmission is when a carrier touches an object that is later touched by a receiver (such as door handles, etc.). Vector-borne is a direct contact transmission through a carrier, such as a mosquito.

Considerations for the quarantine room

The widespread nature of this virus means for most of us, it will be a matter of when, not if, a loved one gets it. With hospitals quickly reaching capacity, the need WILL be to stay home and self-quarantine.

The following items and considerations will be needed to effectively quarantine a room and be able to tend a patient at home. Note that these considerations are to reduce/eliminate pathogen transmission. They do not include patient treatment. Isolating pathogens to this room and preventing spread to other areas is the primary objective.

Sanitation cart

A cart that can be easily moved as needed is ideal for a sanitation cart. Some people will choose to use a stationary location such as a linen closet or bathroom cabinet. Whichever is chosen, it should be easy to access and easy to determine when supplies are running low. Consider the following items for a general sanitation cart, and UNDERSTAND what items are applicable for the pathogen in question:

  • Antibacterial wipes.
  • Bleach (or other medical grade cleaner) and cheesecloth towels.
  • Disposable nitrile gloves.
  • Face shields, face masks, and safety goggles.
  • Biohazard and vomit bags.

Room preparation

If at all possible, the quarantine room chosen should be free of porous materials and surfaces. Cushioned furniture aside from the bed, clothing in closets, stuffed animals, papers, books, carpet, and more, should be removed or minimized. This may be well above and beyond the capability of most to do, but understand that these surfaces can harbor pathogens and are a risk to those giving care to the quarantined person.

The quarantine room should also be chosen, ideally, to have its own bathroom with shower. With water vapor, toothbrushes and toiletry needs, and human waste disposal, this bathroom is a significant source of pathogen transmission.

Quarantining aerosol pathogens

This is the hardest thing to accomplish, as airborne pathogens can become direct contact pathogens as well when contaminated particulates land on surfaces. Those items will be covered below, and this section will focus on the aerosol nature of transmission only.

Create an entry/exit barrier. In addition to the room’s door, a plastic sheet hung a few feet outside the door creates a double-door barrier with an ante room space between them. This is the bare minimum necessary for effective quarantining. The care giver can gown outside the area, enter the first “door”, close it, then enter the second door. This greatly reduces the pathogen’s likelihood of escaping the quarantine room. When exiting, the caregiver leaves the second door, closes it, de-gowns and disposes of the gowning material inside the ante room space, then exits the first door and disposes of the gowning material.

While cleaning the quarantine room, vacuum carpet using hepafilter vacuums only, while wearing face shield, goggles, and respiration mask. This is a high risk activity that is agitating particulate matter in the room. Another alternative is to use a true steam-cleaning carpet cleaner at 170F or at least 5 minutes per surface, or 212F for 1 minute per surface.

If cleaning items in the room, minimize movement of the items, and do not shake out bedding, clothing, or other fabrics. This releases whatever pathogens were on them into the air. Aerosol transmission is the most difficult to mitigate. Do not take a direct contact item (pathogen on an object) and purposefully make it an aerosol.

If the temperature allows for it, close the vents from this room to the rest of the house. If conditions do not allow for it, add filtration and UV irradiation as necessary.

Install cold air return filters in the quarantine room and bathroom. Filters are rated with a “MERV” value, and a MERV value of 13-16 are medical grade that block bacteria, most dusts and aerosols, and suspended water droplets. Well ahead of needing this room, install a cold air return register than accepts these filters.

For the furnace filter, install a filter with at least a MERV rating of 9-12, but 13-16 is better. By the time a pathogen has gotten to the furnace, it will have traveled several yards or more. Most pathogens cannot survive an extended period of time in open air, and between the cold air return filter, the distance to the furnace, and the furnace filter, there is little chance of a pathogen being redistributed into the house’s HVAC system. These filters are an excellent preparedness item to stock up on before they are needed, and kept in their sealed packaging until needed.

Some return vent housings are able to accept filters in them.

Portable air filters that use filtration (not ozone) can help, but one must purchase the correct filters (HEPA only, not “HEPA style”), change the filters as indicated (they can get expensive), and actually leave it running.

Another excellent means of air filtration is an Ultraviolet furnace insert. These high intensity ultraviolet bulbs are excellent to destroy virus, bacteria, and mold, with the added benefit of reducing maintenance for mold on AC coils, etc. They can be expensive, but this is one of the more certain ways one can ensure air returning to the rest of the house is virus-free.

Quarantining direct contact pathogens

By creating a quarantine room, an attempt is being made to limit direct contact to one area only. Regular cleaning in this room is required, and wiping down all flat surfaces regularly with antiseptic cleaner is an important first step in minimizing direct contact transmission. Here are a few other tips:

  • Be prepared to dispose of everything: The clothes in this room, the cot/bed, blankets, books, TV Remote, etc., can all hold a pathogen. While a pathogen may not live on a surface for very long, porous surfaces can hold enough contaminant to allow a pathogen to live long enough for transmission. It may not come to this, but be prepared for this.
  • Learn to degown in the correct way so that degowning does not create an exposure. Have waste bags available for disposed of gowning.
  • Any eating utensils and serving ware should be immersed in a tub with bleach concentration, fastened with a lid, and removed to the house’s kitchen area.
  • Read, understand, and practice the surface decontamination methods for the cleaners you are using. Lysol disinfectant sprayed on a surface requires TWO MINUTES to be fully effective. This is very different than the typical wipe on / wipe off method most people use for cleaning.
  • Wear a face mask and goggles when dealing with all things in this room. It will help with instinctually touching face and eyes.

Quarantining oral/ingested contact pathogens

For quarantining, an important objective is to ensure food items and eating utensils do not pose a threat to those that use them subsequently. For best results, dedicate a set of utensils to the infected person and wash them separately. If this is unmanageable, soak the utensils and serving items in a basin with 1 tablespoon bleach per 1 gallon water for at least 2 minutes after all extra food material has been rinsed or scrubbed away. After that, run in the dishwasher with the highest heat setting available.

Cleaning kitchen sponges, washclothes, and more can be done by soaking in the same bleach concentration, then rinsing well, putting on a microwave safe plate, then microwaving the items for 2 minutes on high. Ensure there are no metallic strands or abrasion materials in the cleaning supplies when doing so.

Another important factor to consider is preparing foods in a clean way. First, ensure that the food preparer is not ill. Notrile glove, mask, and eye protection are excellent means to prevent contamination of food items, as is minimizing the handling of packaging and subsequent handling of the food item.

For cooked items reaching high heat, they will be pathogen free after heating up provided the heating goes above 170F for at least 5 minutes (assuming the heat has time to transfer throughout the food so that all areas of the food are 170F for at least 5 minutes). The very best practice one can do is to minimize direct contact with the food after heating.

Conclusion

Not all the above items will be affordable or even necessary depending on the pathogen that is being quarantined against. Nor should the above take the place of medical professional practices. This article should be seen as things to consider, and best practices to thoroughly research and enact.

Our very best option is to self-distance and prevent getting this virus in the first place.

Don’t drink the water (before filtering!)

Living in the Great State of Michigan it is said that you are never more than 20 miles from a major body of water; fresh water to boot! The Great Lake State has fresh water that is the envy of the world, and rightly so. Its beautiful, fun and vitally critical to life as we know it; but sometimes we take that last part for granted!

If you haven’t considered what you’d do if the water suddenly stopped flowing through your taps I’d encourage you to look into it. Keep & Bear has a wonderful Emergency Preparedness class that addresses the need for clean H2O. It is an important topic but I want to talk about something else that can be overlooked: How do you get clean water on the move?

My wife and I enjoy traveling. To date we have been to some beautiful places. In our travels we rarely go the ‘tourist resort’ route and routinely find ourselves in places lacking in the creature comforts of most of
the USA. Clean water is chief among them.

While bottled water can be available, carrying the amount needed isn’t always practical. The rivers, lakes, streams, and waterfalls may be all around, but they are often teaming with microscopic organisms hostile to the human digestive tract. The solution is finding a way to filter out the bad and keep the good.

Thankfully you and I don’t have to figure out how to do this (at least in its basic form). The wonders of the free market have done it for us. Prior to our last trip to South America my wife researched and purchased a water purification bottle. She settled on the Grayl Ultralight Compact Purifier. This bottle was designed to fit in backpacks and be easily transported. With a 16 ounce capacity it could filtered out waterborne pathogens (viruses, bacteria, protozoan cysts), including Rotavirus, Hepatitis A, Norovirus, Giardiasis, Cryptosporidium, E. Coli, Cholera, Salmonella, Dysentery along with pesticides and heavy metals. It could turn contaminated water in to drinking water in 15 seconds! Its filter is good for 40 gallons and is replaceable when its limit is reached.

Using the bottle is simple. From as clean a water source as can be found, fill the “cup” part of the device to the fill line. Place it on a firm surface, then insert the inner assembly. The o-rings at the bottom keep the water from simply displacing up and out of the cup. The downward force the user puts on the inner assembly forces the water through the orange filter housing and filter. The filtered water is then forced into the clear reservoir area where it is stored until used. The bottom o-rings and the lip at the top ensure unfiltered water doesn’t have a sneak path along the outside of the inner assembly and into one’s mouth when tilted up to drink.

With this little bottle we were able to climb Machu Picchu, hang out in Cusco, and explore the Sacred Valley of Peru. We never had to worry about our water or risked getting sick! For traveling I can’t think of a better thing to bring along. Of course its not limited to just traveling. There are many instances where something has happened to the local water supply (broken water main, contaminates in the system, Flint…) where having an effective water purifier on had would be invaluable.

Berge, Kim, and a Fitbit reading 86,372 flights of stairs. Achievement unlocked!

I use Grayl and its line of purifiers, whether this works for you or not, I highly recommend you find one for yourself!

Concealed means concealed

What to do when your concealed pistol isn’t as concealed as you thought…

In our classes we always tell the students that if you are carrying concealed properly nobody else should know.  Last Sunday, in church no less (I am authorized to carry there), I let a few people know and it was an oopsie on my part! As I sat in the pews I thought nothing was amiss.  My Sig P226 was secured snugly to my side in a slim pancake holster covered by my sport coat. It was a nice new sport coat that fit well and has a cut that lent itself to great concealment.  It also had a 4 inch slit in tail of the coat that I thought nothing of as I shifted in the pew. The service was nearly over and I rose to walk up and take communion.

Creative commons photo courtesy of www.amtec.us.com

As I returned to my seat I noticed my friend in the next row.  Wide eyed and almost in a panic he silently mouthed ‘Your GUN!’ At first I was confused then I realized I was exposed! It seemed the handle of the pistol had poked through the slit in the tail as I shifted in my seat, when I rose it was pinning the sport coat to my body fully exposing itself on my right hip!  Now, thankfully I attend a church where the pastor is very happy to have me carry during service and there are other law enforcement officers that attend as well. No one who saw was too concerned. I quickly covered up and had a chuckle with my fellow LEO after service about what I just did. I’m not excusing my mistake, but it happens.  Here are some pointers to keep in mind should you commit this CPL faux pas.  

Regain concealment

If you are in a public setting (out on the street, in a store or the like) and you realize your pistol is exposed, or worse yet, have someone tell you it is, don’t panic!  Nothing has gone terribly wrong at this point. Chances are not too many people, if any noticed it. Its a sad fact that many of our fellow citizens go through their lives unaware of those around them.  Simply covering your pistol and straightening your clothes might be all you need to do. Do it quickly but in a manner not to draw attention to yourself.

Concealing and securing your pistol is priority one.

Deescalate

Generally speaking those folks that are weapon adverse that happen to notice it probably won’t make a scene so much as quickly exit the area.  If they are sticking around, you may become the center of their attention. You may have garnered the attention of some anti-gunners who believe it is their civic duty to accost and harangue you in public for your decision to peacefully and legally exercise your rights. Here is where it is very important to keep your cool.  If you are confronted by such a person this is not the time to have an argument. Someone confronting you in such a manner is not interested in opposing view. They are just interested in virtue signaling to all in earshot that they believe such and such and anyone who doesn’t is worse than Hitler.

Don’t give them the satisfaction of a confrontation.  Remember that everyone has a phone with a camera. Anything out of the ordinary will find its way to the Interwebs! Be kind, be courteous and go about your business. If they press a confrontation, remember it is not worth your aggravation, and simply leave. This isn’t about right or wrong, its about taking the most prudent course of action.

Mitigate unwanted response

You may have garnered the attention of someone who calls 911.  If the police arrive, stay calm; they are responding to a situation they have little information on and may act in a manner you perceive to be belligerent.  Don’t argue at that point. Their primary purpose at that point is to secure the situation and ensure their safety. If you comply the situation, if it was escalated, will quickly de-escalate. 

Thankfully the great state of Michigan recognizes that carrying a pistol is a right. While in the past the police could be hostile to this idea, that is not the case today. Most police officers are very enthusiastic about the private citizen being armed.  To that end they will simply ask you some simple questions to establish who you are and what is going on. Its a no-harm no-foul situation. You may get advised to keep that pistol concealed, but beyond that they will simply take your information (to confirm that they indeed made contact with you) and be on their way. 

Dealing with unintended separation

If, in the process of carrying, you physically get separated from you pistol (it came out of the holster, fell on the ground, or the worst: you left it somewhere), your first duty is to reacquire and secure that pistol. In a public setting if it hits the ground, heads are going to turn! Quickly and deliberately get control of that pistol in a manner that doesn’t endanger those around you.  If someone else should pick it up, using an authoritative voice, calmly and firmly instruct them to give the pistol back to you. Of all situation this is the one with the most risk. Hopefully they will comply quickly. If they do not, I cannot advise you on the proper course of action other than to say that you are responsible for that pistol and you need it to be safely in your possession. 

To that end you might have to do something. People will be watching and more than likely the authorities will be called. At the conclusion of such and incident, and God willing nothing bad has happened, you will need to re-evaluate how you carry and take deliberate and effective steps to ensure this occurrence is not repeated.

If you carry and do so responsibly, chances are nothing like the above will happen to you, but in the event something doesn’t go as planned, remember that you assumed the responsibility for concealment, there are cameras everywhere, and the best way to make up for irresponsible actions is to assume that responsibility immediately.

Stay Frosty!

Concealed Pistol Licensees and Legal Retainer

Concealed pistol licensees carry a protection-intent firearm because they understand the risk of violence in our society. They are willing to take the personal responsibility to reduce the risk of harm to themselves and those they love by possessing the means (skills and devices) to neutralize an attacker’s ability to carry out harm. In doing so, CPL’ers have an additional risk for themselves; the legal aftermath of a violent encounter. (Which is better than being severely harmed or dead and not enduring this risk…)

After an encounter where lethal force was used, there will be a thorough police investigation. They will use the evidence at the scene, witness statements, and statements from those involved, to build an understanding of the scenario. This can take a significant amount of time. Once documented, the case will be presented to the district attorney, who will then determine what charges will be brought against those involved.

The main determination against the CPLer will be if lethal force was justified. A significant contributor to that is the statements the CPL’er gives to the police. Namely, how clearly and articulately the threat was described. In other words, how well did the CPL’er portray that they reasonably believed they were threatened by great bodily harm.

As a caution, after a violent altercation the defender may be feeling survivor elation. They may be giddy just with the idea of still being alive. That could be portrayed as excitement or happiness by an overzealous prosecutor. The defender may be feeling self-doubt, or remorse. “Why did I kill this guy?” A jury hearing that will have to be swayed that the question was remorse and not doubt around the facts of the scenario. Whatever wild moods are hitting the defender, and an eagerness to return to normalcy, defenders have been known to say some incriminating things.

This is where your attorney comes into play. Before speaking to the police or making any statement, the defender’s only statement need be “I want to speak to my lawyer.” But, who is “my lawyer”? Is there one? Is he a court-appointed defense attorney? Is she an excellent criminal defense lawyer with decades of experience that I picked myself? Who is “my lawyer”?

Hiring an attorney on retainer is one of the most important things a CPL pistol carrier can do. Establishing a relationship with an attorney before they are needed ensures the vetting and selecting process happens thoroughly from a living room computer and not hastily from a jail cell or by a relative.

The purpose of a lawyer on retainer is so that they will be there representing the defender, ideally immediately after an encounter where they may need representation. The retainer is essentially pre-paying for a set amount of legal service. During the initial investigation, it is crucial that a good lawyer represent the defender to help steer the investigation the appropriate way with statements and facts presented in such a way that do not expose the defender to additional legal risk. While the investigators are trying to get to the “truth” of the matter, the defender should have a person representing his best interests. This goes beyond the truth and protects his exposure to risk. This educated ‘hand on the wheel’ from the get go is crucial in surviving the legal aftermath of the altercation.

What are some things to be considered when selecting a lawyer and getting a retainer agreement?

Cost and Service

Obviously. The best lawyer one an afford, for as long as the case may drag out, is ideal. We cannot have what we cannot afford, so cost will be a big determiner in lawyer selection.

Related to cost, the retainer cost will be linked to an amount of service. Are you pre-paying 4 hours of legal counsel? Eight? The cost will rise with the amount of service expected. Eight hours should be considered a bare minimum to have counsel represent the defender while the basics of the case are being investigated.

Renewal

How long is the retainer good for? If the retainer is only for representation should a violent altercation occur, and the lawyer will not be legal counsel for other matters, then the renewal should be a few to several year terms. They are a “just in case”, not a “I need you constantly” purchase. This is a low duty cycle for the lawyer but they are indeed committing to be on call for the client virtually 24/7.

Experience

All lawyers will have basic knowledge of the law as it pertains to self defense. A criminal defense attorney will have specialized practice in criminal defense (this doesn’t mean the defender is a criminal, but rather is defending against criminal charges). The criminal defense lawyer will likely have time working with various judges and the DA and this familiarity will help him better stand up for his client’s rights in the case.

A lawyer on retainer can start relatively inexpensively, and should definitely be considered as one of the must-have firearm items in a CPL’ers inventory. Firearms, ammo, training, counsel-hours. Add it to the list!

This old revolver

Last month I got my hands on an old revolver my uncle had back when he was a cop some 40 years ago. I was, as always, excited to get a new gun in my hands, even if it was 40 years old. It was clear that the pistol, a snub nose .38 S&W, had not been fired for a long time. It was not dirty on the frame and the cylinder spun freely. The trigger pull was smooth and gave no sign of dangerous wear that could cause a failure. I ran a cleaning cloth across the pistol and was excited to add it to my collection.

photo by Berge Avesian

Later that week I grabbed a box of paper punching .38s and headed to the range. The first rounds down the barrel were smooth and surprisingly accurate for a snubby. Both double action trigger and single action trigger pulls were smooth and broke crisply and I was pleased with the gun. After 50 rounds I put it away and headed home, planning to give it a good cleaning later.

The next day I pulled it out of my safe to clean it, opened it up and discovered the cylinder would barely rotate. Closing the cylinder, both the trigger and the hammer would barely budge. I couldn’t believe 50 rounds of 38s would foul a gun so much.  I set to cleaning and oiling the pistol using M-Pro 7 foaming gun cleaner and Kleen Bore gun oil. When I was done the cylinder spun freely and the trigger and hammer moved smoothly.

Satisfied I had fixed the problem and cleaned the pistol well, it went back into my safe.  Looking at it the next day the same problems returned! It seems that the built up carbon from 40 years past was loosened and heated in the process of firing it and when cooled it gummed up the pistol.  My original cleaning would have been adequate for a pistol that was well maintained. This pistol needed a much deeper cleaning.

 I set to taking apart the revolver and removing the cylinder from the arm.  Bingo! 40 years of carbon fouling smeared off the cylinder arm. This gun was dirty!  

After a complete and thorough cleaning and oiling I’m pleased to report that the gun functions like new and there is no evidence of any old dirty carbon on the gun!  The lesson learned even if it looks clean, when you get your hands on a new (to you) gun, your first order of business is a thorough cleaning!

Happy Shooting!

Addressing the myths of the shotgun as a home defense weapon

I regularly watch several Facebook pages for new ideas and information around protection and preparedness. I pick up a new idea from these pages maybe once a month. More usefully, I can see what the ‘popular knowledge’ items of the day are. This knowledge is usually more ‘popular’ than it is ‘knowledge’. It’s important to know what misinformation there is out there and have the ability to correct it.

Photo by Mitch Barrie. Remington 870 Police model.

In the past week, I’ve seen the following myths perpetuated as “it is known” information. More sad that this information being passed on at all is the diligent devotion the ill-informed have towards it. Let’s look at some myths that need to go away.

Myth: The shotgun is the ultimate home defense gun

The shotgun is popular because many homes used to have shotguns. With different loads, you could drop a deer, hunt bird, and even deal with nuisance animals. But just because it was popular does not mean it is ‘ultimate’ in a home defense role. It was widely available, and pressed into protection-intent service in earlier days, just like a hatchet was pressed into service as a hand weapon (though the sword is a superior fighting weapon).

Despite its popularity, the shotgun is a subpar home defense gun.

This is not to say the shotgun isn’t effective. It is versatile and deadly. But if you’re putting your life and your family’s life as the consequence, do you want a versatile weapon pressed into service as a defensive gun, or do you want the ultimate defensive gun there is? Let’s look at some measurables for the shotgun, the AR-15, and a 9mm semiautomatic pistol.

In the above table, the shotgun suffers in recoil intensity, ammunition capacity, and overpenetration (for defensive loads). Long guns tend to be less maneuverable that the handgun. In reality, the shotgun has two things going for it the others do not: price and versatility.

Myth: You don’t even need to aim

The shotgun uses ammunition called a shotshell. This is a brass base with a (usually plastic) hull. The shell contains the primer and gunpowder like other cartridges. There is then a wad, separating the powder from the projectiles. The projectiles are either one large mass (a slug), a few large spherical balls (buckshot), or many small spherical balls (birdshot).

The only home defense loads that have reliable stopping power is buckshot and slugs. There are proponents of heavier birdshot, but penetration from these shells are not reliable and should not be used.

When fired, multi-projectile loads start to disperse, creating what is called a ‘shot pattern’. For bird shot from a 12 gauge, The “you don’t need to aim” crowd uses a birdshot dispersal pattern approximating 1 inch of spread per yard of travel. In truth, the pattern is not quite linear like that. Using this generalization, a home defense encounter of 10 yards will yield a 10″ pattern. Despite the myth, a spread such as this still requires aiming. For more realistic defensive distances of 5 yards with an estimated 5″ spread, aiming is absolutely required.

Myth: The ole switcharoo

This is my favorite part of the shotgun myth. The people that say “You don’t even have to aim” use birdshot dispersal pattern as their justification for this claim. When it is suggested that birdshot is not an effective threat neutralization load, they switch to “well a slug will take care of anything”. Yes, it’s true that a slug will take care of anything, but it is a single mass of lead, just like a bullet.

The “you don’t need to aim” crowd switches their logic from inferior birdshot neutralization to the superb stopping power of a slug without dropping the “you don’t need to aim” argument!

At some point in the shotgun, there will either be a slug or shot. When that shot goes off, the advantages/disadvantages of that load will be at play. There will either be some dispersal (shot) with insufficient threat neutralization, OR there will be no dispersal (slug) with superior threat neutralization. The same round cannot have both.

Myth: If you walk into a room and cycle the pump, criminal will wet themselves

It is true that, when faced with an armed protector, criminals will realize that their actions have consequence. No one prefers armed prey. This being said, relying on the noise of a firearm’s action as a deterrent is not an effective means of protection.

I had a person say “if you walk into a room with a shotgun and pump it, the criminal will flee.” My replies were as follows:

Why did you enter a room with a known home invader on an empty chamber? Wouldn’t you cycle the action while you have cover/concealment from another room? Would you really go confront when barricading might be the better option?

Can you guarantee they’ll flee? The only real guarantee is they will respond in some way. Is it fight, flight, freeze, posture, or submit? You do NOT actually know. If you bank on them fleeing and they rush you, that’s very different.

If you believe in pump-noising a home invader, will you have the muzzle covering the target or will you do the whole movie-scene pump holding the shotgun diagonally in front of your torso? Because if you don’t have the muzzle on target, and bad guy decides to charge you, at home defense distances there is a very real chance he will close the distance before you shoulder that shotgun and get the muzzle on target. You will be secure in your bravado and his charge will be complete before you get through the OODA loop that you are not the master of your domain.

The reality of the situation is the shotgun itself, the projectile, and the willingness to effectively wield it is the only reliable deterrent in the system. Relying on the pump action’s noise, the bravado around cycling the action, or a plucky attitude are all 100% unreliable methods of protection.

Myth: Muh Taurus Judge

While not a shotgun technically, a disturbing percentage of fuddlore exists around the Taurus Judge. This revolver is chambered in .45 Long Colt and can accommodate the .410 shotgun cartridge. The .410 is an inadequate shotgun cartridge for home defense. The cartridge was designed in 1857 as a “garden gun” suitable for pests such as snakes and vegetable-robbing varmint. Proponents of the Taurus Judge claim shotgun-like power from a handgun, while not understanding that the .410 shotgun shell loaded with a slug has 1/3 the muzzle energy of a 12 gauge.

The Taurus Judge in .45 Long Colt / 410
photo by BATFE

The misunderstanding around the Taurus Judge is that it brings the advantages of the handgun to the versatility of a shotgun. In truth, it does nothing of the sort. The firearm is expensive, there is no capacity advantage, it does have improved mobility, its effective range is even less than that of a 12 gauge, it has poor threat neutralization power (in fact, the .45 Long Colt cartridge would be a superior defensive load than the .410 slug), and has significant recoil. This option takes away any advantage a 12 gauge pump would have had.

Conclusion

Before folks get too up in arms over this article, yes, a shotgun is an effective threat neutralization weapon. It is cheap, it is versatile, and it is readily available. But again, as was asked in the intro: If you’re putting your life and your family’s life as the consequence, do you want a versatile weapon pressed into service as a defensive gun, or do you want the ultimate defensive gun there is?

If the shotgun is what’s available, it can be pressed into this role. If you have the means to select a purpose-driven platform for defense, the shotgun fills the role poorly compared to other choices.

Surefire E2D Exec Defender Tactical Flashlight -Final Review

It is with a not-so-heavy heart that I retire my Surefire E2D Exec Defender with the bulb (not LED!) as my EDC light. This light has been a part of my EDC and in my EDC pocket for literally a decade now.

I first started carrying the Surefire E2D as part of my martial training. We were focusing on modern protective implements that could be carried discretely every day. Outside a firearm and knife, the tactical pen and flashlight top the list in this regard for non-LEO carry. Their build is robust enough to use as a weapon, and proper shopping gets you something non-threatening in appearance for casual and discreet EDC.

Having a flashlight on my person was a game changer. There are many tasks we do where we “get by” with no augmented illumination, like when your black wallet falls under your car seat which has black upholstery, and it’s dusk. We can feel around for it, taking time, or just light up the space and grab and go. Similarly looking in bags, engine compartments, and any other tight space. Extra illumination is always a benefit (unless you still work in a photography darkroom).

When the LED lights started hitting the market, the argument was made that the solid state component was more durable than a bulb with a filament. I’ll concede that this is very likely the case. The part of the analysis that is left out, though, is whether the bulb is robust enough for its role. In other words, just because the LED might be better at enduring impact, does it mean that the bulb is inadequate?

I have a sample size of one. My E2D bulb light. During my 10 years with that light, I have used it as my primary illumination during low light shooting (support hand carry), primary illumination for a couple night navigation classes, and outdoor activities. I have run approximately 20 Personal Protection classes using it, and been a part of at least that many as a participant. These classes involve using the light to strike Bob (our assortment of torso targets) over and over, with different strike types, strike trajectories, etc. During these, the light is exercised as a possible blinding opportunity. Shine Bob’s eyes briefly and strike him. In short, I probably have well over 10k strikes with this same E2D in that time frame. Let’s be clear on some results:

  • 10 years of EDC use. Includes pocket use, wear, drops, etc. Includes indoor/outdoor use from 0 degF – 100 degF with Michigan humidity.
  • Approximately 40 classes, and personal practice, resulting in approximately 10,000 strikes on a torso target.
  • Minor transferred recoil force from low-light firearm training.
  • ZERO failures to illuminate due to (non-battery) issues.
  • ZERO bulb replacements.
  • ZERO switch issues.
  • ZERO non-cosmetic damage to the hull or bezel.
  • The E2D still functions.

Again, I have a sample size of 1 flashlight. Statistically that isn’t great certainty until you account for how far beyond ‘normal use’ this one sample has gone. For those discounting the longevity of a bulb, I’d have to argue against their stance.

So why switch now? In all honesty, I am not one for the latest gadget and gear for my protection-intent equipment. There is a wisdom in delayed-adoption of new technology. Performance gains are wonderful, but performance and reliability need to be balanced out. Since the single best place your money can be allocated is training, training can make up for the slight advantages early-adopters of new equipment have over the status quo.

Why retire this light? Basically, I want all the lumens. The E2D was a fantastic light for its era, with the bulb rated at 60 lumens output. Modern LED lights have far outshined (heh heh) this performance level, with $50 tactical-ish lights hitting 500 lumens. Dedicated gear like the Surefire E2D LED light will crank out 1000 lumens and has a low and high setting to help balance intensity vs duration needs.

In short, the LED technology has completely obsoleted the bulb light in this case. For a reasonable cost I can get over 10x the lumens. With the equivalent model E2D LED I have identical form factor. The only thing that has changed is brighter light and lighter wallet.

Training progression

We often get trainees who want their Michigan Concealed Pistol License, but could use some extra work on shooting fundamentals. Many of our trainees who pass the CPL shooting requirements voluntarily go back and brush up on basics. We are incredibly thankful to have such dedicated trainees who take the responsibilities of being armed that seriously.

Similarly, we have many trainees who get their CPL and want to go beyond the “proficiency demonstration” of the CPL class to improve their skills and prepare them for the parameters present in an actual altercation. We applaud this, and have multiple offerings that do just that.

Note that we are not “all about the gun”. We emphasize physical force training as well, and are happy to refer students to qualified intermediate force training venues as well.

This is our training map. The courses we have, and the progression we recommend taking them in, to help equip our students with protection proficiency.