Shooter Ready

Posted: May 31, 2013 in Shooting
Tags: , ,

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Unlike a lot of people I meet at the range, I don’t come from a family that embraced gun ownership as a way of life… Or as something even remotely acceptable. My parents, bless their misguided souls, raised me to be a pascifist. Turn the other cheek, talk your way out of problems, don’t start fights etc. To be fair, I credit that upbringing to my ability as a teenage male, to avoid, and escape many potential fist fights in school. Not an easy task. Although, all these years later, I think I probably could have used a good ass kicking.

At any rate, part of that upbringing involved the “guns are bad and only police should have them,” philosophy that persists in my family to this very day. So how did it start? I never shot a gun as a child, I wasn’t raised in the hunting/sporting tradition that much of the firearm supporting country embraces. So how did I become a gun owner? And how did that gun ownership lead me to become an instructor and supporter of Second Amendment rights in this recent fevered push for gun control? I blame Roger Fitzgerald. (Name changed to protect the innocent)

Roger was a buddy I knew college, who for a period of time crashed on my couch. He was a gun owner and if memory serves had a Springfield 1911. While I doubt he would remember, it was Roger that took me to the shooting range in Van Nuys for the first time and showed me how to shoot… Or more to the point, how to go to the range and not shoot myself. Needless to say, I was hooked. Not long after, to my parents dismay, I bought my first gun: a Glock 19. I’d go to the range with my friends when we had time and turned our hard earned money into noise and small holes in paper. Life was good….

Until my car got broken into. I was broke, and realized that if I was going to fix my busted ride, I was going to have to sell my Glock. Drag. So, I sold it to a friend of mine for half of what I paid for it, and fixed my car. Before I moved out of California to start my aviation career, I offered to buy it back from him for more than he paid, but he wanted to keep it. He still has it 15 years later. I’m still a little pissed.

Over the next decade, I would shoot here and there, but because of my transient life, I never settled long enough to get back into shooting as a hobby. About ten years ago I met my wife, and settled back in New England. Not exactly a firearms Mecca, but she was (and still is) pretty awesome, so we set our roots and here we are. Once we settled on a town, I decided that I wanted to explore the licensing process in Massachusetts (no small task), and again become a gun owner. So I did some research, emailed a lot of very kind strangers who offered good advice, and went through the process of getting the License to Carry (LTC-A).

Carry a gun? Who ever needs to carry a gun? There are police to protect you. You don’t need one of those things. More on this later.

I was approved for the unrestricted license and could now legally carry a firearm loaded and concealed on a public way. Awesome. But, there was a small problem. I had no idea what I was doing. Sure, gun goes in holster, holster goes on belt, and all that, but I had never really received any formal training never mind instruction on what kind of gun to carry, caliber choices, what kind holster, how to conceal etc. So I did what a lot of people do. I bought the 1911 I always wanted (Smith & Wesson variety.. thanks Roger) for the range, and a Walther PPK for concealed carry (CCW). If it worked for 007, it’ll work for me.

No so much.

Its important to note that the gun you choose to carry is a very personal choice. Your buddy’s free advice is worth exactly what you paid for it, and you need to try out a lot of guns before you make a decision. Its kinda like dating. Only you get slapped a little less…

With that in mind, finding the right gun to carry involved a great deal of experimentation. While its good to find out what you like, its as important to find out what you don’t. So I eventually arrived at the conclusion that I hate… HATE… tiny guns. Sub-sub compact for “deep concealment.” It’s all nonsense. With the appropriate equipment, you can conceal a full size handgun just as easy as a small one. There’s no need to carry “The Noisy Cricket” just because it’ll fit in your pocket. This learning process started with the PPK, later a Ruger LCP and finally a Sub Compact 1911. All are fine guns and are great for CCW, but they just weren’t for me. My philosophy on choosing a carry gun goes a little like this: If you are going to carry a gun, you have to practice with it, which means you have to shoot it. If you have a gun that you hate to shoot because of recoil, or feel, or whatever, how proficient are you going to be if, god forbid, you ever had to use it. Not very. After much trial and error, I settled on the Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm compact. After a much needed trigger job, it was a fantastic gun. Accurate, easy to carry, and reliable. I still had a crappy holster, but the gun was great.

When we finally moved north into New Hampshire, less ridiculous gun laws allowed me to become reacquainted with Glock. I started shooting International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) matches, and picked up a Gen 3 Glock 34. What a fantastic gun. As I shot more competitions, it occurred to me that it would make sense to have a carry gun that had the same feel and features as my competition gun, so I sold the M&P. Re-enter the Glock 19.

Oh, hello.

I stopped buying handguns after I picked up my second G19. Now, people will say that for CCW you need the sub compact G26 because of its smaller grip and ease of concealment. With my limited experience at the time, I decided that the slightly larger gun was worth three extra rounds, a consistent grip and a longer sight radius. Now that I found the right gun, I needed better equipment.

By way of confession, I have to admit that I love 5.11. I know, as a civilian, it makes me a tacti-nerd (I just made that up) But it’s true. Tactical pants, polos, boots, gloves, whatever, they make great gear. I tried one of their leather belts and while it was a solid platform I couldn’t get the fit right, so I went to a reinforced nylon belt. It’s sturdy, carries the weight well and it’s perfect for dialing in the fit. Not the best looking thing ever, but its concealed. Function over form ftw.

In my search for the right holster, I tried several makes and models, and in that process, accumulating a pile of holsters, I discovered that I preferred kydex (plastic)over leather. Leather holsters are slow, require break in, and I found the draw stroke to be less consistent than kydex. The next obvious step was to try out some belt mounted kydex holsters. while a decent improvement, I found they didn’t conceal as well as I would have liked. So the search went on. Finally, my research led me to Crossbreed Holsters. An inside the waistband holster, the Crossbreed Supertuck is a leather platform with a kydex holster. Genius. It is, hands down, the most comfortable holster I have ever carried, and conceals my Glock 19 exceptionally well.

Ok, so, ive got a decent gun, holster, belt, and fancy tactical gear…. Whats missing? Oh that’s right, training. Lots of training. Basic Practical handgun, intro to/and defensive handgun courses, carbine courses, a basic pistol instructor certification, and combat focus shooting/advanced pistol handling. Thousands of rounds down range, rain, cold, hot weather, shredded hands, stone dust EVERYWHERE…. That kind of training. The truth is this, as responsible gun owners, we have an obligation to train. Thats right, I said it. An obligation. We have to learn safe gun handling, learn how to efficiently present and recover the gun to and from the holster, become proficient at clearing malfunctions, and equally important, understand what it means to carry a gun. There are endless sources of information on this topic. No doubt, firearm training is expensive, but well worth the cost in tuition and ammunition. In my evolution from a novice to shooter to instructor, I’ve learned that money spent on training is money very well spent.

Its been a long road since the days at the Van Nuys shooting range in the late 90’s. When I talk to people just getting introduced to shooting I always say that like anything in life, we are never done learning. Every time I take a course I learn something I didn’t know before. While some techniques may differ from class to class, the message is always the same: be smart, be safe, and never stop training. We owe it to ourselves, our families and our community.

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