This is the final installment of the Gun Ownership Primer series, which I hope you’ve found useful. For reader’s convenience, here are the first 14 installments:
ADDITIONAL HOLSTER NOTES: Recent advancements in holster design have provided some previously unavailable options. The trick is to make holsters that don’t look like holster, or that look like some other common item, such as a holder for a large smartphone or small tablet.
This is a holster made by Sneaky Pete Holsters. They come in several colors and materials including leather and nylon, and several means of attachment. This one has two belt clips, and the cover closes by means of two magnets. The holster entirely encloses the handgun, in this case, a Glock 26, and costs $54.95 in leather. The size of the holster is, of course, dictated by the size of the handgun. Sneaky Pete also makes magazine holders in the same materials.
While this holster is well made, like many holsters, it will not work when one adds some common aftermarket modifications to a handgun. In the case of my Glock 26, all my magazines have Pearce magazine baseplate/extensions, which adds enough length to prevent a Sneaky Pete holster from fitting my Glock. This is something about which to be aware when considering holsters. Devices such as lasers mounted under the barrel, will tend to render many holsters unusable for a given handgun.
This is a Gun Caddie by DeSantis. It’s designed to fit smaller handguns and revolvers, and also looks like a large cellphone or small tablet carrier. It retails for $43.99 and attaches to a belt. Similar, but not purpose-designed, nylon pouches intended for multi-purpose use are also available from a variety of manufacturers and are easily adaptable to the same purpose.
Obviously, those with sewing skills and the right materials–heavier Cordura and nylon–can make similar holsters, and at substantial savings.
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FLASHLIGHTS: Smart police officers carry a flashlight no matter when they work. They know that even during the day, they will be indoors, sometimes in dark conditions. All those who carry concealed handguns should have a quality “tactical” flashlight handy, at least in their car.
By a “tactical” flashlight, I mean a flashlight designed to be light, small, but very bright, far brighter than common hardware store flashlights using “D” “C” or “AA” batteries. Consider 65 lumens to be the bottom line for a tactical light. Proper tactical lights are amazingly bright and can actually temporarily blind an attacker—a great advantage. In fact, many LED models in the 500 lumen range are now available, though they cost from $150 to $300. There is, however, a dramatic difference in brilliance and range purchased with that extra money.
Two primary manufacturers of such lights are Sure Fire and Streamlight. I’ve carried flashlights made by both and been quite pleased. By all means, take the time to peruse their websites. You’ll be amazed by the variety of flashlights and accessories they provide and will likely realize needs you didn’t know you had.
Everyone who keeps a handgun for home protection should keep a proper flashlight with that handgun. Having the light immediately at hand when forced to investigate a possible home intrusion in the middle of the night provides a substantial tactical advantage, particularly if employed properly.
This is a Sure Fire G2 Nitrolon Flashlight, available from Sure Fire for about $59.00. It uses an incandescent bulb and is only 5 1/8″ long and 11/4″ at its widest point and is quite lightweight. It provides 65 lumens of light for approximately one hour. This is so because it uses two 3-volt lithium batteries (also available from Sure Fire at very reasonable prices). Because such lights are very bright–this one is a 6 volt light as compared to common flashlights with half that power and much inferior brightness–they burn battery power quickly. Their lithium batteries have a very long shelf life—as long as a decade or more. I have seen this light available for as little as $30.00.
This is a Sure Fire P2X Fury Light Emitting Diode (LED) Light. It is slightly longer than the G2 and sells for $155.00 direct from Sure fire. It produces 500 lumens and uses the same batteries, but they last approximately 1.5 hours. Like the G2 and most tactical flashlights, this light is activated by a momentary on/off switch on the base or by screwing the end cap inward to activate the light until the end cap is unscrewed. However, the Fury has dual output feature, allowing the light to output 15 lumens, which lasts for a very long time. I have one of these lights and it is small, light, and dazzlingly bright.
This is an interesting light, obviously an evolution of under barrel weapon lights. It is the Sure Fire Y300 Ultra. It’s quite short 3.6” long, compared with 5.4 for the fury), and is a dual output light like the Fury (15/500 lumens). It places the two batteries in a side by side configuration. A neat feature is a magnetic base with an included clip that allows a variety of positioning options. I also have one of these lights. It’s quite small and handy, and has a powerful magnet indeed.
While still more expensive, generally, than incandescent flashlights, LED lights are rapidly becoming less expensive and are generally more rugged. They are certainly far more powerful, and most manufacturers are now offering a variety of models in the 1000 lumen range. If price is no object, Sure Fire does offer one model at 2400 lumens, for a mere $1370.
[There are quality lights from other manufacturers. One we have personal experience with and can highly recommend is the 500 lumen Olight M18 Maverick. We picked ours up at the Gunsite Store for $59.95. — ed.]
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ANOTHER ILLUMINATING ACCESSORY: LASER SIGHTS. Lasers are now available for most popular handguns in two types (red and green) and four primary mounting methods: Incorporated in the handgun grip, attaching to an under-frame rail, or incorporated into the rear sight. The fourth method is a result of small handguns without under-frame rails. Most manufacturers are now making very small models that attach to the frame and/or the trigger guards of small, concealable .380 ACP handguns like the Ruger LCP. My recent article on the Crimson Trace LG-436 for the Glock 26 is available here. Smith & Wesson designed its Bodyguard .380 with an integral Insight laser, making a very trim and purposeful package. Smith has since switched to Crimson Trace lasers.
LaserMax makes lasers that replace the guide rods of semiautos, though this limits the models for which the laser is available and they cannot be finely adjusted for precise accuracy. However, since they don’t alter the exterior dimensions of the handgun, all the holsters that normally fit that gun still work. Quality laser sights run just a bit over $100 to as much as $500 (usually for green lasers) and many are amazingly small. One caveat: cheaper lasers are available, but it has been my experience that you very much get what you pay for. Cheaper designs tend to be unreliable and their windage and elevation adjustments tend to be crude, imprecise, and tend to shift when the weapon is fired.
Red lasers are more common and much less expensive than green lasers. The only real advantage green lasers have over red is that the laser dot is more visible in a wider range of lighting conditions over greater distances. Red laser dots might be hard for some people to see in bright sunlight, particularly at ranges greater than 15 yards, while green will commonly be more visible. However, since virtually all handgun engagements take place at ranges under seven yards–-usually within near-touching distance–-this is not as significant an issue as it might seem. For most people, a red laser will be quite sufficient, and this problem is reasonably effectively addressed with a pulsing laser dot, which is more easily seen than a solid beam. Lasers that are user-adjustable between solid and pulse modes are quite common.
Lasers are a real solution to the generally poor, non-adjustable “iron” sights standard on most small revolvers and many small .380 semiautos. Lasers are also an excellent training tool, giving shooters immediate visual feedback of their trigger techniques, which is an important issue for any shooter, but particularly for beginners.
I learned handgun skills when virtually all American law enforcement agencies allowed only revolvers. As an Air Force Security Policeman, I carried a revolver, the S&W Model 15 in .38 Special. One venerable trick was to balance a coin on the front sight of an unloaded revolver (on the flat side, not on edge—that would be a real trick!) and practice double action fire until it could be done without disturbing the coin. The laser provides essentially the same feedback as the dot dances on the target or wall, but can show exactly where the shooter’s bullet would impact.
For any shooter, lasers can improve speed and accuracy, and for shooters whose eyesight is not as sharp as it once was, are an obvious benefit. They also encourage shooting with both eyes open, which should be done, laser sight or not. Some may ask “but what happens when the battery fails?” Simple: just use the sights that came with the handgun; they don’t require batteries. It’s a good idea to practice with them, even if one has a laser sight. I change batteries yearly, and despite relatively frequent use, I’m always replacing batteries that still have useful life remaining.
This is a Laserlyte SCV4 rail-mounted laser. It is quite small and light, and retails for $119.95 which is a very good price for a quality laser sight.
This is a grip-mounted laser by Crimson Trace designed for 1911 pattern handguns. It is the model LG-919 Master Series, which retails for $399.00. The activation switch is mounted in the portion that wraps around the front of the grip and is activated by normally grasping the handgun. It can be turned off by simply slightly relaxing the pressure of the finger in contact with the switch. This method of laser attachment also does not interfere with holsters. The only significant potential problem with this kind of laser is the laser emitter housing tends to interfere with proper slide cycling technique, though one can relatively easily work around this issue.
This is a Laser Max Unimax Essential Series rail mount laser sight. It retails for $159.00 directly from Laser Max. This rugged sight mounts directly on any standard rail with handguns, rifles or shotguns. It is activated by an ambidextrous switch on the rear of the laser. Laser Max also makes a very neat kit for long guns that includes this laser and a slick momentary pressure switch and mounting hardware. I have these lasers with that kit on several of my AR pattern rifles and they work beautifully. An article on that system is available here.
Laserlyte makes an interesting and useful laser practice kit with a handgun that fires only a laser, and a dedicated target. This would surely be a useful practice toy. At $309.95, it’s not particularly cheap, but it could potentially save a great deal in practice ammunition.
All of these sights and the practice kit may be found through other sources, sometimes more cheaply. It will likely be no surprise to learn the Amazon.com handles firearm accessories, including laser sights, usually at somewhat reduced prices.
Some of the major Laser manufacturers are:
A visit to their respective catalogs will be—illuminating.
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Please keep in mind that I am not paid to endorse any product, so my suggestions are based entirely on decades of experience in carrying weapons, in the military, civilian police work, and as a non-badge-carrying citizen rather than motivated by financial self-interest. If I recommend it, I do so because in my experience it works and works well, at least for me.
That said, I have carried a Glock 26 for about 17 years (my article on that weapon is available here). For the last fifteen years, I have carried it almost exclusively in a fanny pack. This makes sense as I live in Texas where it is commonly hot. As I was raised in the north, cold bothers me little, and in an average Texas (what passes for) winter might wear a jacket two to three times at most. A fanny pack, which I wear on the right front portion of my body, allows me to carry not only my handgun and spare magazines, but other items like a checkbook and keys and a cell phone on its belt. One of the advantages of this method of carry is that when I have no choice but to enter a place that prohibits legal concealed weapons (which I avoid doing as much as possible), it’s easy to put the weapon in the truck of my car without making it obvious to anyone that I’m storing a handgun there. I’ve used several different models, but these days, I’m carrying a Bulldog Fanny Pack holster, which comes in several sizes and costs only $21.00. It easily allows me to carry my handgun, two spare magazines, and a Surefire Y300 flashlight with plenty of room to spare. With a bit of easily done sewing modification, this one works are well as several I’ve carried at substantially greater cost.
I chose the Glock 26 because of its small size and light weight while still keeping substantial magazine capacity (ten rounds in a short double stack magazine). With two spare magazines, I have 31 rounds handy, and keep fifty loose rounds in my vehicle. Because I have relatively large hands, I’ve equipped each of my magazines with a Pearce Grip floor plate/finger rest. This is a simple plastic device that replaces the floor plate of a Glock magazine (a simple and quick change) while providing a secure place to perch the little finger. This helps in controlling recoil, which with the 9mm in a pistol of this size is relatively mild. These neat little bits of plastic cost only about $10.00 each, are essentially indestructible, and are available for a wide variety of makes and models. Many women and men with smaller hands might find that the G26 grip is just fine without the addition of a finger rest. My wife, having much smaller hands, could probably do without them, but likes the way they feel.
While I’m on the topic of magazines, it is a good idea to have a complete replacement set of magazines. If you normally carry two spares, buy a total of six magazines. On a regular basis–say every two-three months–switch magazines. This allows the magazine springs to relax and lessens the chance of a magazine failure. Is this absolutely necessary? Possibly not. Will you experience magazine failures if you don’t? Eventually. Any spring will eventually weaken, but it may well take many years. For relatively little extra cost, the potential problem is possibly eliminated. I only know that following this policy, I’ve never had a spring-based magazine failure.
I also chose a Glock because I have long experience with them, in law enforcement and out. They are faultlessly rugged, reliable, accurate and work the way they should right out of the box.
In transition training from .357 S&W model 686 revolvers to Glocks, we were told if we lost our grip to simply let the Glocks fly. This is, by the way, mandatory advice for any firearm. Trying to catch a gun could easily cause an accidental discharge, while allowing it to hit the ground is very unlikely to do the same with modern designs. A great many were flung down our concrete-floored range, and aside from some slight scuffing on some sights (they’re plastic), showed or sustained no other damage. Doing the same with our .357s would have resulted in a great many non-functional, badly dinged and cosmetically defaced revolvers.
Glocks are also very easy to take down, clean, and reassemble, breaking down into only four parts: Slide, frame, barrel and recoil guide rod/spring. This is a happy consequence of Glocks having been designed as military pistols. There are no screws, tiny springs or other parts to lose or misplace during normal cleaning.
Glocks are also among the simplest semiautos, having no manual safety devices, but three separate internal safety mechanisms incorporated into the design. I recently traded a first generation G26 for a new fourth generation G26. The only wear on my old handgun was some paint worn off the painted slide release (common in Glocks), and this in a gun regularly carried for more than a decade. In every field of endeavor, some manufacturers do it right from the beginning. Glock was the first to market a pistol with a polymer frame and many polymer parts in substantial numbers, and everyone else has followed suit. The Glocks I have owned and/or carried have easily been the most reliable handguns I have ever used.
Another advantage of Glocks is that if you know know the manual of arms for one Glock, you know them all. They share the same general configuration, triggers, and in every way that matters, work identically, making it very easy to transition from, say, a G26 with a 10 round magazine, to a full-sized G17 with a 17 round magazine.
Fourth generation G26s are going, circa early 2015, for something more than $500.
Another handgun that is ideal, at least for me, is the Walther P22, which is a neat little double action .22LR handgun that sells, circa early 2015, for around $350. My wife and I each have one of these, which we use about twice as often as we use our Glocks for practice. While not identical, the feel of the weapons is similar and the triggers, even though double action, are not greatly different than our Glocks. The manual of arms is also very similar.
The greatest advantage, however, is the cost of ammunition. While a thousand rounds of 9mm ammunition is relatively inexpensive for centerfire pistol ammunition, .22LR when it can be found, is generally much less expensive. Unfortunately, at the moment, .22LR remains hard to find in much of America, and this problem is likely to persist for some time. All of the principles of marksmanship apply to the Walther as they do to the Glock.
One major difference is that the Walther comes with differing backstraps to allow the user some adjustability (many new pistols also have this feature). But the most significant–and potentially useful–difference is that the Walther has virtually no recoil or muzzle flash and a mild report. It’s an excellent weapon for the first-time shooter and for training beginning shooters.
In practice, malfunction drills are identical with the Walther and the Glock, but you’ll likely have to rig them as both weapons have been malfunction free, at least in my experience. Having a Glock in .22LR would be ideal, however Glock has never marketed a .22LR version of their design. For some reason, my concerns don’t seem to figure into their marketing decisions. Go figure. The Walther is a reasonably close substitute.
The .22LR cartridge is not a good choice, as I’ve mentioned before, in a weapon on which you’re going to bet your life, but for training, it’s a very smart and inexpensive (usually) choice. If you can afford the expense, this–or weapons of similar quality and function–would be an excellent combination of firearms for a beginning shooter.
A WORKABLE SOLUTION:
If you cannot afford two weapons, or if you’d simply prefer to work with one– the same weapon you’ll carry–by all means, do that, but for the first year or so try to shoot at least 50–or better–100 rounds a month. With 9mm, that’s probably around $30.00 a month (9mm ammo is more plentiful and cheaper than it was only a short time ago in most places), and at the end of that year, you’ll be completely comfortable with shooting, taking down, cleaning and reassembling your weapon. It is that kind of experience that provides well-founded confidence. As I mentioned in the past installments of this series, the man to fear is not the man with a great many different guns, but the man who owns and carries only one.
Obviously, I prefer and recommend Glocks for the reasons I’ve mentioned. However, there are a great many fine handguns on the market, and no single make or model is an ideal choice for everyone. Some people think Glocks are ugly and feel “dead.” Some people don’t like the angle or configuration of their grips. They expect a certain elegance in their firearms and prefer the look and feel of deeply blued steel and finely crafted wood. I find Glocks to be efficiently designed and perfectly functional which should be one’s primary concerns in a carry gun. There is a certain beauty in purposeful design, after all.
Shopping for guns and accessories is part of the fun. Be careful, however, of gun shop salesmen who are pushing a given gun or caliber. Some gun shops do their best to push whatever isn’t selling well. Some earnest and well-intentioned gun salespeople latch onto the latest, greatest cartridge and/or gun and push that. As I’ve pointed out in this series, it’s wise to look into a wide variety of factors before making a final decision. A handgun chambered for a cartridge so expensive you’ll seldom be able to shoot it will be of far less use than one that may have less impressive ballistic performance on paper, but which you can afford to regularly shoot. The bullet that hits its target is always far more effective that a much more powerful bullet that does not.
Also beware of shops that won’t allow you to handle a firearm or won’t allow you to try the trigger. The same is true for shops that become annoyed if you want to handle many guns. When Mrs. Manor and I were shopping for her S&W Bodyguard .380, we stopped at the local Academy, but they refused to remove a trigger lock, making it impossible for us to experience the trigger. A short drive to a local. well-equipped gun store store found salespeople more than willing to allow us to handle the weapon as required to make an informed choice. Academy lost that sale, and every subsequent sale we might have provided.
I have not spent much time delving into the specifics of training. There are a great many books and professional, private training academies out there that can provide what is not possible for me to do in this series of articles. I do, however, have several suggestions:
(1) Always wear hearing protectors and eye protection. Amplified hearing protectors are very neat and will allow you to hear conversation and instructions, but immediately mute when damaging sounds–like gunshots–occur. They’re available for as little as $30.00. It used to be thought unmanly to wear hearing protection. As a result, there are a lot of very virile folk of an earlier shooting generation still walking about saying things–-in a very macho manner–-like: “Eh? What’s that?”
(2) Use the Weaver Stance to the exclusion of all others. Information is widely available. Some may argue this point, but trust me on this one. It is a foundational issue.
(3) Be purposeful, focus your attention and be firm, but always work to be, above all else, relaxed and smooth. Smooth is truly fast. Yes, you can be relaxed and firm simultaneously.
(4) Train the same way consistently. As I’ve said before, train the way you want to fight, because you will fight as you’ve trained.
(5) Above all, train yourself to be so aware of your surroundings that you’ll likely never have to use your shooting skills. This is situational awareness. Predators notice such things and tend to leave aware and prepared people alone. If they’re too stupid to notice, you’ll be prepared to prevail.
Additional websites for all things guns and related accessories you may wish to visit are:
(3) Midway USA
INTERESTING PS: Despite what some gun banners suggest, Federal law requires that you buy firearms only in your state of residence. There is no such thing as direct sales from out of state suppliers directly to customers via the Internet or otherwise. All sales of new weapons must be done through federally licensed dealers in your home state, and you will have to fill out federal paperwork swearing that you are not a convicted felon, haven’t been judged mentally ill, etc. If you already have a concealed carry license issued by your state of residence, this will speed up the process in most states. If not, various delays or waiting periods might apply.
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As I close this series, I leave you with a story from Japan, a people with a longer martial history and tradition than ours. There was a master of the tea ceremony who was traveling. As he came to a crossroads near a town, he met a Ronin, a masterless samurai. The Ronin was ready to take offense at anything, and taking offense at the inoffensive man, challenged him to a duel.
The master of the tea ceremony didn’t own a sword and had no skill as a fencer, but could not honorably refuse. However, he was able to convince the Ronin to meet him at the crossroads the following day at the same time, giving him time to find a sword.
The master of the tea ceremony hastened into the town and found a fencing master. He begged the Sensei (teacher) to loan him a sword and to teach him something so that he could die with honor. Learning of the man’s skills, he asked him to perform the tea ceremony.
As the man displayed his skill, developed over many years, he was transformed before the Sensei’s eyes from a frightened shell of a man to a calm, graceful, confident man, at peace with the world and with himself. When the ceremony was done, the Sensei agreed to loan him a sword, but told him that it was impossible to teach him anything of value in such a short time.
The master of the tea ceremony was crestfallen. He asked how he could possibly die honorably. The Sensei told him to approach the Ronin with the peaceful confidence and grace he had just displayed and that when he did, he would surely return the borrowed sword.
The next day at the appointed time, the Ronin was at the crossroads, impatiently waiting. He saw a man approaching, a man wearing a sword, but it did not appear to be the same man he challenged. As the man drew near, the Ronin saw that it was the same man, yet not the same man, and certainly not a man he wanted to fight. He unceremoniously left. The master of the tea ceremony returned the sword and went on his way.
Be the master of the tea ceremony, but back up his tranquility and attitude with an effective handgun, and with consistent, correct practice. It is the man or woman carrying the gun that is truly dangerous; the gun is merely a tool.
Good luck, and welcome to the ranks of those who fully accept their responsibility to take care of themselves and those they love.
Mike’s Home blog is Stately McDaniel Manor.