Talking with family members about defensive firearm ownership

Talking with family members about defensive firearm ownership

With the COVID scare and the unrest associated with the authoritarian abuse of power around the George Floyd murder, Americans who were once in the “opposed to” or the “neutral about” firearms rights have decided that a defensive firearm is an option to protect themselves and their family.

Unfortunately, most of the people in this belief group have had years of reinforcement that guns are bad, and that evil will invariably ensue should they decide to bring one into their home. Their quandary lies in the general assessment “does the added dangers of firearm ownership outweigh the dangers of being defenseless”? It is a very rational question; but the ‘quandary’ part comes far more from media misinformation being a seed in the decision making process about ownership, fogging all their data.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the things you should consider when determining if a firearm for home defense as right for you, and how to talk about it with your family. These items, in turn, help to demonstrate to loved ones that you have taken their safety into account in this decision.

Identifying fear

For most people attempting to discuss bringing a defensive firearm into the home, the issue will be managing their fear, and like was mentioned before, penetrating the wall of misinformation.

At its core, you must demonstrate you have an understanding of the risks of owning a firearm. You must show that these risks can be mitigated, and that the mitigated risk of ownership is less than the risk of remaining defenseless. To get this balance, we need education.

Education

Education is the antithesis of fear. When the HIV scare of the late 80’s hit, it was education that quelled the fear of getting AIDS from a mosquito bite or a public toilet. More recently, education has suppressed the Karens and their fear projection of public spaces and sans-mask interaction when facing the coronavirus scare. We now take educated precautions based on facts rather than listening to a bunch of Facebook posts about how walking in a park will end humanity.

When we are unfamiliar with a thing, we fear the thing. When we become familiar, that fear is replaced with understanding and respect.

For firearm ownership and usage, that understanding instilled through education allows the owner to pick up the firearm and operate its controls (actions, reloading operations, safeties, and trigger). We know how the device works and all the buttons and levers are not mysterious any more.

That respect instilled through education allows all this to be done knowing the firearm is potentially dangerous machine, and to perform all of its actions and operations in a manner that does not introduce additional risk due to ignorance or negligence.

Education, followed with repetitive training, instills the rules of firearm safety upon owners and users.

Take a class. Bring the adults. Our Essential Handgun course is set up specifically to take those first steps of ownership with you.

When we are properly educated on firearm handling, the risks of ownership are mitigated to a level lower than the risk of outside threats. But what about the uneducated members of the household? We must control access.

Controlling access

The simple truth is you are considering a firearm because you have people to protect. Yourself, spouse, children, Aunt Martha, whoever. They mean something to you. The biggest risk is the firearm hurting someone other than bad guy. To mitigate that risk, we control access to the firearm.

Controlling access to the firearm is simply this: Those authorized to use the firearm have access to it. Those who are not authorized to to use the firearm do not have access to it.

The gun safe may be an inexpensive handgun safe with a biometric sensor to open it, or it may be a massive 40+ rifle safe able to store a respectable collection. How you intend to store or stage the firearm will take some consideration, and the safe that is proposed should support that method.

The talking point here is clear: Adults will have access to the gun via the safe, and the children will not. The gun will be in the safe unless it’s being used.

An interesting aside here is the safe’s ability to protect from fire. Full rifle safes are often fire rated, which means your important papers, jewelry, silver dollars, grandma’s keepsake necklace, and your nice watch collection can all benefit from this purchase. We all have things we would prefer to put in a safe if we give it some thought. Here’s one opportunity to do so.

Any discussion about what firearm to purchase should also include what gun safe to purchase. Make it a part of the ‘total proposal’.

Training

This goes beyond mere education. Education is ultimately the gathering of knowledge. Training is the ability to put knowledge into practice. Training is the commitment to continued safety, and increasing education.

Training is available before you even buy your first firearm. All decent schools will grant their students access to firearms to use, and responsible instructors will respect a student’s decision to acquire training before a gun purchase is made. If you, or you and spouse take training together, have a talk about the shared experience, and get the concerns in the open, training becomes an excellent way to bring familiarity to a topic to make it approachable.

The major takeaway from training is to acquire wisdom-based safe practices.

Develop safe practices

If your circle is unfamiliar with the sight of a firearm, bringing it out of the safe may be a cause for alarm. Cleaning it at the kitchen table may be a source of nervousness. Do not introduce these stressors.

If the firearm isn’t being used, ensure it stays in the safe, ready to be used. (As an aside, the NRA safety rules state to keep a firearm unloaded until it is being used. The Keep and Bear, LLC position on this practice is that a firearm in a safe ready for home defense is “staged”, not “stored”, and that it is indeed being used, just not actively wielded.)

Before the purchase, you can demonstrate your intentions to develop safe practices by setting up an area on the workbench for gun cleaning. Put a “No Ammunition” sign up in that location to demonstrate there will be no negligence involving gun cleaning. If asked about it, use it as an opportunity to show that you are addressing fears.

Ongoing vigilance

You know why mom is reluctant to get another pet? Because she’s the one that feeds the current pets. When the new puppy goes from being new and exciting to watch his every move to a known and accepted member of the household, his care must continue.

So too with firearm ownership. Do not let all the above demonstrations of responsibility be temporary. Maintain an ongoing vigilance to safety, education, storing/staging, and training. If you’ve reached this stage, you might have already been given the green light to get the gun. Show you were worthy of that concession. Keep your circle’s concerns and safety in the forefront.

Communicate

This is truly a family decision. The adults must be on the same page. If Cousin Larry is a scumbag and will probably hock the gun, and you leave it out one Tuesday when he’s over… It’s up to you both to ensure that he doesn’t know about the gun, cannot get access to the gun, and you’ve agreed giving him the combination to the safe just isn’t happening.

You must be brutally honest about your situation, and you must accept if the risks cannot be mitigated. An adult child with mental issues prone to anger at home may preclude firearm ownership to ensure he/she does not harm. A son/daughter with lots of friends over all the time may prevent firearm ownership due to the transient nature of guests in the home. Your own issues, such as depression, anger, etc may mean it isn’t the best choice. Be honest with yourself, and be honest that you may not be able to address every fear or concern brought up.

Similarly, going back to fears, what are each person’s fears around firearm ownership. Address them. Don’t call the concerns stupid or unjustified. Fear is an emotion and could quite well be unjustified. The end game is addressing the fears, which , for a rational person, means reducing the perceived risks. Show you can reduce them, you will reduce them, and they will stay reduced.

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.

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!

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.

2020 Class offerings available

Our site is up with the currently scheduled 2020 class offerings. Our current fare continues to include our standard classes:

  • Family Firearm Safety
  • Essential Handgun
  • Michigan Concealed Pistol
  • Michigan CPL Renewal
  • Martial Gunfighting
  • Firearm Cleaning and Maintenance
  • Personal Protection
  • Tactical Tomahawk
  • Emergency Preparedness 1
  • Emergency Preparedness 2

Additionally, we are in the process of securing a venue to host our intermediate classes:

  • Intermediate Handgun 1: Foundational skills for operating the handgun in a protection-intent situation.
  • Intermediate Handgun 2: Environmental factors for operating the handgun in a protection situation (protective moment, cover/concealment).

Lastly, we are excited to announce our latest class, Emergency Preparedness 3! This class will be hands-on with YOUR emergency kit and contents. Building shelter, purifying water, starting fire, and more! Expect situational considerations and survival prioritization to be a big part of what you will face.

We sincerely hope you are getting trained up to protect you and your circle, regardless of the nature of the threats we may face. Whether through us or other great educators, investing in your skill set is the most value for your dollars you can get.

Safe travels

With the holiday season approaching, many families will be setting out by car or mass transit to other destinations. Whether to escape the frigid winter or visit family, this escape from routine brings up a few questions to the protection and preparedness mindset. Here’s some common concerns…

IMPORTANT: We are not lawyers and we did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. It REMAINS the reader’s responsibility to determine the legalities of protection tools and actions in the various governing body regions in which they travel.

Can I take my handgun in my vehicle (no CPL)?

In general, the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986 created a “Safe Passage” clause in the US Code that allowed for interstate travel with a firearm (unloaded, not accessible to vehicle occupants). The stipulation was that if the firearm was legal to possess at the departure point, and legal to possess at the destination point, then the owner was immune to all strict gun control measures in between. This supposed that the “in between” did not include anything other than brief stops (food, gas, bio-breaks, overnight lodging as necessary).

It should be noted that many over-zealous legislatures and LEO’s have made stops on people, and pressed charges, based on characteristics of the firearm that were made illegal in state/municipality areas. Local laws such as magazine size restrictions, or other firearm features are often attempted to be prosecuted despite the safe passage laws.

If you are traveling, be sure to review the laws in each state you will be traveling through, as well as the levels in which states restrict the rights of the people. Know the laws, know the prescribed method of transport, and drive in such a manner that your “just passing through” goes unnoticed.

Can I take my handgun in my vehicle (with CPL)?

Because each state infringes on the Second Amendment to varying degrees, and because Concealed Pistol Licenses are handled at the state level, navigating where you can and cannot carry concealed with your CPL can be challenging. Many states have ‘reciprocity’ with one another: they will honor your CPL in their state since people from their state have theirs honored while visiting your state. Driver’s licenses enjoy this reciprocity state-to-state throughout the nation. CPL isn’t as encompassing, yet.

To start, look at every single state you will drive through. Then go to a website that is devoted to concealed carry reciprocity and see the results. DON’T STOP THERE. Trusting some web site isn’t the best move in the world. A good reciprocity map will have links to the attorney generals’ opinions from each state granting reciprocity. Review these carefully. Heck, even print them and put them in a small notebook. If you encounter a preference-enforcing government official, you will have access to the determination right there. At the very least, you will be able to demonstrate you did due-diligence before your travels.

IMPORTANT: You must carry concealed in a manner prescribed by the state you are in, and follow THEIR laws when carrying concealed. In Michigan, a “no gun” sign carries little legal weight. You must leave the premises if told to. In some states, that no-gun sign has rule of law. There are many other differences about where, when, and how concealed carry is permitted. You must know them all for each state you travel.

Big ole jet airliner… Flying with your firearm.

In public aircraft (not a private charter airplane), you may obviously not bring your firearm in carry-on with you. You must put in in checked baggage.

The TSA has this to say on the matter:

  • Firearms must be unloaded.
  • Firearms must be in a locked hard sided case. Only you should have the key.
  • Firearms must be declared to the airlines when checking the baggage.
  • Ammunition must be in checked baggage only.
  • Ammunition must be transported in a box designed to transport ammunition.

Similar to the “Safe Passage” rules above, the firearm must be legal to own at your departure point and at the landing point.

An interesting side note occurs when you must retrieve your baggage by exiting the secured area of the airport, getting baggage, then checking in to a connecting flight (say, 2 different airlines). There have been at least a couple instances were the authorities have been summoned because the firearm had characteristics not legal in that area. Depending on the political climate, this can be as simple as going on your way, or as complicated as “we will be making a lesson of you”.

If your flight has connections that require you to retrieve your checked baggage, understand the procedures for getting your baggage to the new check in area. If the flight is unanticipatedly diverted, talk to the airline crew once you exit the plane to make plans to have your carry-on moved by them, without you reclaiming it at baggage claim.

Always call ahead to your airlines to understand any accommodations that must be made by their policies. In a line at the airport is not a good place for a learn-as-you-go experience.

IMPORTANT: If you regularly use your trusty ole daypack as a range bag, and plan to use it as a carry on, spend a ridiculous amount of time ensuring there is no ammunition in the bag. Too many people are put in small rooms with uncomfortable chairs and subjected to questioning from officials from unfriendly.gov simply because of a few stray rounds of niner mike mike they didn’t shoot up last Saturday…

Do people still take trains?

Trains have a very similar policy as airlines. Firearms must be packaged appropriately, and in checked baggage. Amtrack has guidelines here.

International travel

The USA infringes on peoples’ firearm rights to a lesser extent than most other governments in the world. That being said, there are a number of countries that will honor your ability to own a firearm, though most will not honor your ability to carry it, concealed or otherwise. Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Panama, and South Africa have relatively easy to access CPL requirements.

First, before your departure, understand how to fly with your firearm. You’ll want to declare your firearm to Customs using the Form 4457 and get it signed. This helps your return to the US with that firearm as proof it was not acquired abroad.

Know where the US Embassy is when going abroad, and have that phone number recorded.

Knowledge and skills are not subject to laws

We regularly promote training beyond the gun. Everything from situational awareness to first aid courses to strong physical-level martial classes. These are where protection begins. Awareness gives you the much needed “heads up” something is amiss. Physical force gives you an edge no matter the type of conflict. Whether just confidence (there are nonverbal cues a person who knows how to handle himself gives off), the ability to repel a non-lethal attack, or the skills to get at your firearm in a mixed-force attack, martial skills come into play across the entire use of force spectrum.

These skills prepare you for interpersonal conflict. These cannot be outlawed (knowledge cannot be contained by any government entity). They cannot be seized at the border, and they do not rely on the possession of a thing in order to work (though weapons enhance these skills).

2019 In The Books!

We (Berge and Don) have had an amazing year with the opportunity to train some of the finest peaceable and responsible students. We are regularly honored and humbled at the trust you, our students, place in us. The skills we practice in are life and death, readiness for an encounter, preparedness for when bad things happen, and so much more. We do not take our roles in this regard lightly, and we both draw from our knowledge, training, and experiences to deliver you the most up to date, and grounded in reality information we can.

We had an excellent shooting season! Our classes were small enough (we do not want to be a 30+ student classroom) to be able to provide a very favorable instructor to student ratio which really allowed us to focus in on the drills being presented and the foundational skills necessary to master them.

In addition to a great shooting season, this year we had record attendance in our martial offerings (Personal Protection and Tactical Tomahawk) and our Emergency Preparedness (EP 1 and EP2) offerings, with our alumni stepping up to use our coupon codes. We are very thankful for this! The threats we face as Michigan individuals and families isn’t always a lethal force encounter, and isn’t even always an interpersonal conflict.

As we look to 2020, we will be offering more classes, with a return of our Intermediate Handgun series (levels 1 and 2), and a level 3 series of our Emergency Preparedness course later in the year.

Join us!