A quote from outdoor writer , syndicated newspaper columnist and fellow TF&G editor Kendal Hemphill:
"....my experience (though limited) has been that people dont listen to advice like yours [LaMascus]. Especially men.
"Women dont have a problem admitting they dont know how to shoot. All men do. Including me.
"Until I actually went to a basic pistol class, I thought I knew pretty much all I needed to know, I just needed more practice. Turns out I knew pretty much nothing. So that was a big surprise.
"Men dont want to be told they arent exceptional drivers, exceptional shooters, or exceptional lovers. I think those are the top three things all men tell themselves theyre good at, no matter how much evidence they might have to the contrary.
"But if someone listens to your advice in the article, and gets training, they will see that they need more of it."
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A great many people seem to believe that merely having a gun will keep them safe. They think that if the bad guy sees the gun he will automatically tuck tail and run like a scared puppy. Well sadly enough, that is far from correct.
As a person who has carried a gun for most of his life, and had to use one a time or two, I can tell you from experience that the most surprising thing is the number of people who will completely ignore that gun and continue with whatever it is they are doing. You see, it seems that many of the bad guys have come to the conclusion that the average person will not pull the trigger, and they may be right. They also seem to believe that the average person who does pull the trigger will miss them. And again, they may be right.
First I will make a short statement about the first observation. If you are going to carry a gun, you need to decide, before you ever strap it on, that you will use it if necessary. Make that decision, and then think about it every time you put that gun into the holster on your belt, because you will not have time to think about it when the time comes. Just dont think you will be able to forecast what will happen and when. I was surprised every time I was ever faced with with such a situation. I survived only by divine intervention, and to a lesser degree by quick reflexes honed by constant practice and by trying to be ready, mentally and physically, for any possible eventuality.
As for how good you need to be with your handgun, that is simple. You can never be too good, so you need to be as good as you can possibly be. Each of us has a different level of reflexes; we each react differently when surprised by a deadly situation. My wife has no combative gene in her body. Her reaction, every time, is to scream and run. My reaction has always been more combative, and honed by over 20 years of law enforcement, and over 40 years of practice, I automatically reach for a gun.
Some of us are very good natural shots and some of us only attain mediocrity after considerable practice. I had an acquaintance who was a Border Patrol Agent. He loved guns, traded guns, shot a lot, but could just barely qualify each quarter. He simply didnt have the hand/eye coordination that it takes to be a good shot. However, he did qualify each quarter and carried a gun in the Border Patrol for over 20 years.
Here is something you need to know and understand. The State mandated course for getting your concealed handgun license is not in any shape, form, or fashion, a training course. The truth of the matter is that it is merely and only a test to see if you qualify. If you are looking for training, look elsewhere. I have recommended before in these columns that you seek professional training. This is not an idle thought. A truly knowledgeable professional will teach you things that would never occur to someone who has not had the experience. However, there are instructors out there who do not teach the things you need to know, so check them out, thoroughly, before you decide to take their classes. Then after you have had the training, continue to practice, religiously, every chance you get.
As for how you need to go about practice, all I can tell you is that it takes certain steps, and that you need to practice what you are worst at, not what you do best.
Learn to shoot with a .22 before stepping up to a higher caliber weapon. And then practice as much as possible. Photo: STEVE LAMASCUS
First you need to learn how to shoot. This means buying a good .22 handgun and shooting it, a lot, until you are thoroughly competent in shooting at a target. At this point you can begin to practice draw and combat techniques. But starting out with a high-powered handgun, shooting fast and often at a silhouette target, only serves to ingrain in you the bad habits, not the good. I think it is a travesty that the Border Patrol has done away with the one-hand target shooting portion of its academy. That is where many of us learned what is really meant by trigger control and sight alignment. Starting a student off with a duty weapon and full-power ammunition is, in my opinion, counter-productive. But I wasnt asked.
I shoot between 100 and 200 rounds a month through my carry guns, sometimes more. I also shoot a lot through a .22 handgun. This amount of practice, done in the right way, will keep your skills in tune. Shooting this much is also expensive, so I reload almost all the ammo I shoot in practice. With the price of ammunition going up all the time, I could not shoot this much if I didnt reload. I also cast almost all the bullets I shoot in my revolvers, but I buy the bullets I shoot in my semi-autos. I buy in bulk, blemished bullets (blems) when I can find them, and also plated lead bullets, which function smoothly in the semi-autos and dont cause the problems that plain lead bullets do.
As I said, you can never be too good, and you really cant have too much practice or too much training. I simply recommend that you get all the training you can afford, and shoot all the practice you can afford. As for what you can afford, only you can determine that, but it should be balanced against what your life is worth should you be faced with a situation in which all that stands between you and a grave is your gun and your ability to use it well.
Andas con Dios, amigo.
Concealed Carry Methods
Concealed carry is big in Texas, and rightfully so. Responsible, law-abiding citizens everywhere should be allowed to defend themselves. Carrying a gun is the same as having a spare tire in your vehicle or keeping a fire extinguisher in the home, you never want to have to use it, but if the situation arises, you should be prepared.
In exercising your God given right to self-defense you may have to be creative in how you carry. Most experienced shooters have a drawer full of tested holsters because it takes several products to find that ideal way to carry your sidearm.
The 5.11 MOAB and COVRT ZAP bags are designed with the CHL Holder or LE officer in mind. Among other features they boast of discreet and easily accessible Velcro lined pockets sized for a full size pistol. Photo: DUSTIN ELLERMANN
The most popular form of concealed carry is inside the waistband (IWB). With an IWB holster you can safely tuck away your pistol at arms reach and conceal it with a loose fitting shirt. One of my preferred rigs for this is the Crossbreed Supertuck, its a kydex and leather hybrid that comfortably rides against your body with the solid slab of leather against your waist and the pistol safely holstered between the leather and your pants in the molded kydex. It secures onto your belt with two steel spring clips that adjust for height and angle. The clips are attached to the lower part of the leather giving space to actually tuck in your shirt between the gun and your pants for deeper concealment. The kydex allows a smooth fast draw and easy one handed reholstering. I have worn my Crossbreed with my slim Walther PPS in .40 S&W 24/7 and after a year noticed a crack in the kydex but Crossbreed replaced it for free honoring their lifetime warranty.
For deeper concealment in warmer weather sometimes you may be forced to downsize to a lighter, smaller pistol. In the summer heat the Governor Perrys coyote slaying Ruger LCP in .380 with a Crimson Trace Laser can be a good choice. Built just small enough for deep concealment it fits nicely into my pants pocket. This isnt as accessible, quick on the draw, or as powerful a cartridge as my IWB rig but its a compromise without as much heat rash. It is recommended to never carry a pistol in any way without a proper fitting holster that covers the trigger guard. I purchased my pocket holster directly from Crimson Trace and it has a rubber lined outside to hopefully stay in the pocket on a draw. For every type of carry you should practice extensively with a safe unloaded gun until you are confident with the motions of drawing and presenting your pistol in an efficient and safe manner.
Finally there is bag carry. Informally called a "man purse" I refer to mine as a "car bag". 5.11 Tactical has a great selection of discreet carry bags that are durable and well designed. Their COVRT line offers a ZAP Assault bag built for undercover law enforcement. It carries with a single sling that can be slung diagonally over your back and then pulled and tightened to your chest allowing for a draw from the hidden Velcro lined pocket. It also features a compact hydration/ballistic panel rear pocket, a Velcro area on the front to quickly attach law enforcement ID, and a hidden channel for flex cuffs. Then for a little more outdoor look and durability the 5.11 MOAB has all the features of the ZAP bag less the flex cuff channel but adding on MOLLE loop features.
While I do prefer to carry on my person, it is nice to have a larger sidearm close by in my car bag. It also enables me to keep a trauma pack and other essential gear with me at all times when traveling. If I need to access my firearm in a hurry its easier for me to do so without fumbling around my seatbelt for my IWB rig. The pistol in my car bag can also be a larger frame and capacity, which in turn demotes my smaller IWB pistol into my backup.
Whatever method of carry you choose, I encourage everyone to get training, get your concealed handgun license, be prepared, stay safe, and carry always.