One of the first things I tell a newly “Christened” Concealed Carry Licensee when they come to train with me is this:
“From now on There will always be ATLEAST ONE FIREARM present in every shitty situation you get into: YOURS!!! Understand you may see this is a huge POSITIVE, but as soon as your ENEMY REALIZES you have a gun, they will ALSO see it as a BIG POSITIVE, and attempt to turn it into a BIG NEGATIVE by taking that gun from you, sticking it up your ass and killing you with it. Therefore, your first priority as a serious student must be not how to have the coolest holster or the fastest draw, but how to NOT get your gun TAKEN FROM YOU and KILLED WITH IT.”
For some of my students, this has been a shocking, if not terrifying realization. You can literally see the fear in their eyes and the second guessing in their minds. You then realize (with amazement) that they had never taken the time to contemplate this sobering fact until now. They have been so caught up with the excitement of getting their license and the camaraderie of their state mandated 8 hour CCL Class, that they had totally forgotten the stark reality of what it means to carry a lethal weapon around with them.
Enter the Need for Advanced Concealed Carry Weapons RETENTION Training!!
To cover this topic in a thorough manner , we need to divide it up into two main subjects, as in all things “tactically” related, those two areas are: Hardware and Software.
OK, so you got your license and you got your gun, now you are going to have to decide on a holster type/material and carry position. Since this is not a beginner article about “How to Choose the right Carry Holster” or “The Best Holster Position for a Concealed Handgun” I am going to dispense with all the pro/con stuff of both subjects. Do your homework if you have not already..plenty of data out there.
Having said that, let’s talk about IWB retention holsters for a minute. No matter the material you go with, kydex or leather, most all of the major manufacturers offer some type of Level 1-3 Retention holster. The question you will have to answer is do you want to go the Retention route?
It has been my experience in many hours of firearms and combatives training that a Retention holster DEMANDS advanced training to be effective and MUST be paired with the SAME User and Weapon ALL the time. In other words, this is not a piece of kit that can just be thrown on one day and everything continues like it was..NO…a retention holster changes the entire dynamic of how you train with your sidearm.
FACT: Anytime you change the way you ACCESS your weapon, you change EVERYTHING related to your firearms and combatives training!
Don’t get me wrong, the added weapon security that a retention holster gives is undeniable, but at the same time, that same security can turn into a huge NEGATIVE to the CO under the stress of combat. We have to remember what happens to the human body under severe stress: fine motor skills and minutia task management virtually disappear; As blood flow is directed away from the brain and heart and rushed to major muscle groups, so Gross Motor Skill becomes easier.
Ask yourself this question: Can the problems that you are attempting to solve with a piece of kit (a holster) be equally if not better solved by an increase in better gun handling skills and Realistic ECQ Combative Tactics Training?
If the bad guy is not close to you, he cannot grab your gun. I know, this is a lot easier said that done..the reality is, despite what the “Reactionary Gap” doctrine states, we all live in a world that requires us to be relatively close to people, it’s just the way it is, but this does not mean we cannot be AWARE of what they are doing. Secondly, thanks to YouTube, most LEO dashcam and Private CCTV footage has proven that a majority of street encounters end up “hands-on” meaning, even if a weapon is involved, the final distance between the bad guy and CO typically ends up less than 3 feet.
So ultimately, for the CO to stay realistic in his training, instead of trying to avoid getting close to people or trying to invent “mall-ninja” methods of keeping people away from them, we need to train for the inedible eventuality of fighting “close in” (aka bad breath distance) with an attacker (ECQ) and having a tool box of skills ready for that moment.
This means in staying with the Combative Continuum we will be prepared no matter what is thrown at us. The heart of ECQ Combatives as my friend CW sais is “Violence of Action combined with compressed weapon positions”.
CCW Early Deployment
I have heard this termed “Concealed pre-ejaculation” by some instructors (I know there are a myriad of good jokes that could be inserted here, but let’s stay on task!) aka Deploying your concealed weapon too soon or too fast, thereby giving your enemy “heads-up” notification that you are IN FACT Armed. This can apply to any weapon system, but mainly concealed firearms. Obviously, if you are a practitioner of open carry, you can skip over this section, but for you Concealed Carry folks, listen up. Carrying a Concealed Weapon has with it many advantages and many dis-advantages. The advantages STAYING advantages are mainly dependent on YOU keeping a low profile and keeping your weapon CONCEALED (this would include the proper cover garments) until you are DAMN SURE you are ready to use it. Surprise in warfare is a HUGE DEAL, read Sun -Tzu’s “Art of War” and he can tell you all about it better than I can. Bottom line in the words of Foxy Brown “My daddy said Don’t ever take your shit out until you are ready to use it.” Nuff Said?
The “Gun Tailsman” Syndrome: Addressing the Distance Problem
The one thing I see in training time and time again that could solve 75% of weapon retention problems IMO is what a friend of mine (B.E) calls the “Gun Tailsman” syndrome. How many times have you seen this: The shooter “Sticking” or “Waving” the gun out in front of them as if it is “warding” off some terrible evil in front of them; as if that gun is producing some kind of force shield that is keeping the attacker at bay. This is what another good friend of mine calls “Fantasy Gunfighting”; not good folks. To correct this, we need to first understand where this all started. Many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, what we now call “Combat Handgun” techniques came, initially, from Competition IDPA Shooting. To make a long story short, basically these techniques held that to be accurate with a handgun, and to hit your target, you HAD to have a 2 handed grip on the weapon with a FULL Extension of your arms, elbows locked with the correct stance. Later on, Jeff Cooper came along and simplified the equation with the Modern Technique. OK enough history, moving on.
Well, without getting into the details of ALL the flaws of this type of thinking, (and they are a lot of them!) The main one was it did not take into account the DISTANCE you were from your target. I mean what if your attacker is “bad breath” distance from you and not the stipulated IDPA 7 Yards?? Do you still want to lock them arms and elbows out to ensure you get a good “hit” and in the process hand that meth monkey your gun!? No, of course not.
Fast Forward a few years and some really smart folks, in coming up with a “4 step” sidearm presentation, came up with the “Compressed Ready” Shooting positions. The heart and soul of this position is keeping the gun close (but your enemies closer..ha ha, sorry had to throw that in there!) to your body and AWAY from the threat. What is cool about this is that DEPENDING on where your attacker is (proximity of how close they are to you), you have a pre-designated position where you can PRESENT and/or FIRE your weapon if need be. Without getting too technical, there is the:
- Half-Hip or Speed Rock Position: This is a one-handed grip, where the gun barrel has just become horizontal to the threat out of the holster.
- Compressed Low or High Ready: This is where your grip joins together either at chest or belly level.
- Half-Extension: The two-handed grip is now extended out from your body about a foot or so..this of course can be tweaked according to the distance to the threat!
- Full-Extension: Arms extended, elbows locked; best position when distance from threat allows it.
Along these same lines is also the SUL (Portuguese for “South”) Position, adopted by a majority of SWAT and HRT Teams for room/structure clearing; it basically tucks the gun into the chest (giving retention) but hands are connected in a way that allows a quick presentation. At the same time making the gun “safe” by directing the muzzle down, which allows movement without at anytime “covering” anybody close by with the muzzle.
Another huge fallacy that made its way into Self-Defense Shooting via Competition Shooting back in the day is the ideal you cannot shoot accurately with one hand. As Combative Handgun Techniques and ECQ Firearms Training became more formalized, and as this training found its way into the real world (or is it the other way around?) civilians and LEO alike showed, that YES, in fact, you could shoot accurately with one hand and survive the day, in fact a large percentage of LE dash-cam video shows that in the moment of truth, officers were shooting one-handed, while at the same time, “Getting off the X” or simply, getting out of the kill zone!
As Combative Firearm training has further evolved, it is now widely drilled in ECQ (for civilian and LEO alike) when the firearm is deployed, to maintain a one-handed compressed high ready position grip on the firearm (muzzle at the deck, elbow tucked) while the other hand is out front, ready to fend, if necessary. This position has proved to be one of the easiest ready positions to fight from (and shoot from) when the shooter gets surprised in a ECQ situation. Compare that to the “Gun Tailsman” syndrome that we looked at and you can see very quickly, logic and common sense have (thankfully) prevailed!
So in closing, to answer the question I first asked at the beginning:
“Can the problems that you are attempting to solve with a piece of kit (a holster) be equally if not better solved by an increase in better gun handling skills and Realistic ECQ Combative Tactics Training by the end-user?”
I think a better question to ask here is “Isn’t it good that we asked ourselves this question!!” I mean, whenever you choose to question the status-quo and explore new ways to solve a problem, you will by consequence of that, TRAIN HARDER! Compare that with relying on a piece of gear to solve a problem and I think you have done yourself a huge service! Remember the mantra: FIGHT FOCUSED, not WEAPON or GEAR focused!!
Keep that Gun Close, Stay Frosty and Stay Dangerous!