In this, the final installment of the seven part series (the first six installments may be found here: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6), we’ll explore the basics of holster choice and several other related issues.
What should guide one’s choice of a holster? What will be comfortable, concealable, and most importantly, what you will actually wear every day? A holster that looks great but just doesn’t fit your body or life will be of little use. There are several primary categories of holsters useful for concealed carry, but much depends on the individual–not only their preferences but their anatomy–their lifestyle, the climate, and their weapon. Generally, those living in predominantly hot climates have fewer choices than those who live in cold climates as coats and jackets can effectively cover a wider variety of weapon/holster combinations than a shirt. Shoulder holsters, for example, while looking sexy on James Bond, are generally not a great choice in hot climates. As it is best to carry only one gun, it is best to always carry it in the same holster.
Keep in mind too that when concealment is the primary concern, speed must necessarily take second place. Our contemporary gunslingers—police officers—wear their handguns on their hips. Many use security (AKA: “anti-snatch”) holsters that make it difficult for bad guys to simply pull their handguns straight up and out of their holsters. Such holsters commonly require the user to perform one additional step between releasing the thumbsnap and drawing the weapon, such as thrusting the rear sight forward (releasing an internal retention device) before being able to withdraw the weapon. Of necessity, this slows the draw, but it’s a reasonable balance between safety and speed, which is always a concern for uniformed officers.
While a patrol officer, I put aside fifteen minutes every day on our indoor range before my shift began to practice basic drawing and presentation drills. Because of this daily practice, I was consistently faster—much faster—than my fellow officers, none of whom did the same practice (most cops are not gun people). As a detective, I did the same thing, but even though my concealed carry holster held the weapon in place only through friction—I did not have to release a thumbsnap or engage in any other contortions—I was measurably slower on the draw due to the necessity of clearing the drawing path of a sport coat during the presentation (as in drawing and aiming the handgun–weapon presentation).
While on duty, I never buttoned my sport coat, which if buttoned would have slowed the draw even more and would have “imprinted” the gun against the fabric of the sport coat. The same was true off duty where my choice of holster—primarily pancake or inside the waistband—made my handgun even more concealable, but slightly slower on the draw. Regardless of the cold, I always left my jacket or coat unbuttoned. As cold bothers me little or not at all, this was not a problem, but it surely can be for many people.
Here are the primary options:
BELT HOLSTERS: These come in a variety of materials–primarily polymer, nylon or leather–and styles, and attach to a belt by means of various clips, slots or paddles. Among them, the widely used “pancake” holsters hold the weapon close to the body, but are marginally slower to draw than holsters that are not so body-hugging.
This leather model from Gould and Goodrich, available through Midway USA for about $50 has three slots that allow some adjustment of carry angle on the belt. Notice that the leather is carefully molded to the shape of the handgun. The primary drawback with any leather holster is that when the gun is drawn, the holster tends to collapse–particularly any holster that has been worn for some time–making it difficult to reholster one-handed.
Here is a simple polymer holster and mag pouch available directly from Glock (less then $15.00 each) and other sources. The holster has a built in friction retention device and holds the weapon very closly to the body. The small plastic bars in the belt slots may be cut out for a variety of belt widths, to slightly adjust the carry angle, or to slightly alter the height of the gun or magazine on the belt. Unlike leather holsters, polymer holsters remain open when the gun is drawn, making holstering the weapon easy. While these particular holsters and mag pouches might more or less fit some other handguns and magazines, they are designed specifically for Glocks.
Fobus makes a line of inexpensive, very rugged and effective polymer holsters that allow easy adjustment of the angle of the holster on the hip. This model is a paddle type (about $30.00) that makes it easy to place and remove without having to undo the belt. Like the Glock holsters, it has a molded in retention device that securely holds the gun in the holster. Fobus also makes a line of “roto” paddle holsters that allow the angle of the holster on the belt to be adjusted.
This is a Fobus paddle type magazine holder. All Fobus products are lightweight and virtually indestructible.
Keep in mind that handguns with added aftermarket accessories, such as higher profile sights, laser sights, flashlights, etc. may not fit standard holsters. They are designed for standard handgun models configured as they leave the factory.
NOTE: A simple trick that will help to condition and ease the draw with leather and polymer holsters is treating their interiors with silicon spray. For polymer holsters, it will help to overcome the inherent friction of molded-in retention devices, but will not allow the handgun to accidentally separate from the holster.
Generally, all belt-type holsters require a substantial leather or nylon belt to keep them in place and to keep the weight of the handgun from pulling the holster outward from the body. By substantial, I mean something wider, thicker and stiffer than belts whose primary purpose is making a fashion statement. Absent a substantial belt, one can always pull a belt very tightly to achieve something of the same effect, but that does tend to turn one’s upper body red.
INSIDE THE BELT/WAISTBAND HOLSTERS: Made of leather, Cordura (the same synthetic material from which high quality backpacks are made) and nylon or polymer, these are among the most effective concealment holsters as they minimize the appearance of a handgun and hold it as close to the body as possible, between the waistband of the pants and the body. They are slightly slower to draw than pancake holsters, but for most people, drawing speed is not the primary concern. Most require a belt for proper support and to keep the pants from constantly sliding downward under the weight of a handgun. Few, if any, have active retention devices as the pressure of the belt and waistband of the pants tends to keep the handgun firmly in place.
This is a Fobus inside the waistband holster (about $30.00). Unlike most others of this type, its polymer construction allows the holster to remain open which makes holstering much easier.
This is a DeSantis Sof-Tuck inside the waistband holster (About $20.00). Its leather construction is common, but this particular holster has an adjustable polymer retention device for the belt.
ITWB holsters do not require quite as substantial belts, as the function of the belt with such holsters is primarily to provide a place to anchor the holster to keep it more or less in one place. The weight of the gun and holster are primarily carried by the friction of the body and pants.
CAUTION: The photo of the DeSantis holster should call to mind one of the drawbacks of the ITWB holster: sweat. Because these holsters place the handgun directly against the body, particularly in hot climates where they may actually be in contact with skin, sweat can be a significant problem, requiring more frequent–probably daily–cleaning to remove it. Some ITWB holsters feature material between the body and the entire grip, trigger guard and frame of the handgun which helps with this problem.
SHOULDER HOLSTERS: Made of leather, Cordura and nylon, polymer or combinations thereof, shoulder holsters are generally comfortable, particularly if balanced by two magazines on the opposite side of the body. However, they do require loose fitting outer garments to properly conceal them and generally cost much more than other types of holsters. In addition, one cannot take off the outer garments without revealing the very obvious holster harness and handgun. They come primarily with vertical or horizontal holster orientations. Vertical holsters are necessary for very large handguns or handguns with long barrels.
This is a Bulldog Pro Series shoulder holster system made of nylon and cordura (About $26.00). It is available through Midway USA, other outlets and directly from Bulldog. Notice the wide shoulder straps to help bear the weight of the gun and magazines. Nylon systems tend to be very light and comfortable and easy to clean.
This is a more traditional system made by Ross Leather. It is made of molded leather and is available direct from Ross for about $175.00, though some larger retailers like Midway will likely have it more cheaply.
Shoulder holsters are easy to don and remove, and allow the carrying of a handgun and two spare magazines in one convenient package, however, they are useful primarily in colder climates.
FANNY PACKS: Usually made of Cordura, nylon, some combination of these or leather, these devices are normally worn with the pack on the front of the body or on the hip. Depending on their release/opening mechanism, they may afford a rapid draw. Some use zippers, other have various Velcro mechanisms whereby the shooter simply tears the Velcro seals open by grabbing the front of the pack, exposing the handgun. Anyone wearing a pouch that opens by means of a zipper should thread a length of knotted parachute cord through the zipper tongue so it can be found easily by feel.
Obviously, fanny packs allow the convenient carrying of a handgun, magazines and other common items with little concern for wardrobe. These are a particularly good choice for hot climates, but avoid units that place the belt release buckle on or near the back. It’s far too easy for a bad guy to make off with the pack, thinking he’s getting a billfold, only to find an entirely unexpected windfall. If you know how to sew or have friends that do, it’s not hard to adjust even these packs to better position the release buckle to the side of the body.
This is a Bulldog fanny pack available from Midway USA for about $15.00, or directly from Bulldog. Like shoulder holsters, they allow handguns and magazines to be carried in one, easily donned and removed package, but are far more concealable than shoulder holsters.
This is a DeSantis Gunny Sack available through Midway USA for about $55.00 or directly from DeSantis. Desantis was among the first to popularize such holsters and produces a full line of excellent holsters and other accessories of all types.
Fanny packs can be a very good choice for women, whose clothing options tend not to be as numerously carry-friendly as those of men. As I mentioned earlier, many belt holsters require a substantial leather or nylon belt to work properly, which in turn requires wide, substantial belt loops, something many women’s pants simply do not have. In addition, women’s torsos tend to be shorter than men’s, making some belt holsters ride too highly for comfort. Women’s generally smaller waists also make some holster types uncomfortable. An unobtrusive fanny pack accessorizes well with pants and skirts alike, as long as they’re not too formal, and can double as a small purse. “Formal fanny pack” is an oxymoron.
Keep in mind that some police officers and tactically aware people will suspect that anyone wearing a fanny pack is carrying a concealed weapon, but so many people carry them for reasons other than carrying handguns they generally draw little, if any, attention.
POCKET HOLSTERS: This type of holster is relative new on the mass market and is an outgrowth of the many small, light handguns—commonly chambered in 380 ACP—now on the market. As long as pants aren’t too tight, they will neatly conceal a handgun. Obviously, if a given handgun won’t easily fit in a pocket, such holsters won’t work. They are commonly made of Cordura and nylon or leather. Special care must be taken with such holsters as they tend to promote rust since the handgun is worn so closely to the body.
This is a DeSantis Nemesis pocket holster made of cordura and nylon. The handgun depicted is a Ruger LCP. The holster is available through Midway USA for about $16.00 and also direct from DeSantis.
This is a pocket holster I made of Cordura. Notice that it neatly fits a S&W bodyguard .380 ACP pistol and also holds one spare magazine. It is essentially a pouch with a double layer of Cordura with a thin layer of polyester batting between. It is the same size as a common wallet, and works beautifully in any pant (such as BDU-types) with cargo pockets on the thighs. No closure or retention device is necessary as gravity and the pocket keep things in place. It also has a pocket for a driver’s license and concealed carry license, etc. I have about $5.00 in materials in the holster. Sorry: I don’t have the time or inclination to make or market these, but anyone with basic sewing machine skills can easily fabricate one.
The primary weakness of such holsters is that they are slow on the draw. In many cases, they must be withdrawn from the pocket to allow the handgun to be drawn or reholstered. However, if the wearer is tactically aware—in condition yellow—as all who carry concealed must be, they should be able to anticipate the need for a handgun and old west fast draws will be unnecessary.
GUN PURSES: For those women that constantly carry a purse, the purpose-made concealment purse is a viable option. They allow not only the carrying of the usual contents of any woman’s purse, but actually allow a reasonably rapid draw.
This model is by Gun Tote’N Mamas (don’t you love that name?) through Midway USA and costs about $85.00. Midway has a wide variety of models and colors available, and of course, such purses are made and marketed by a variety of sources. They tend not to be small evening purses, but many are quite stylish.
There are, however, a number of issues with purse holsters. Once a handgun is placed in a purse, the character of the purse immediately changes. It can’t be allowed out of one’s immediate grasp. Purses are easily forgotten, lost, or stolen. If you’re in a restaurant, you can’t simply put it on the floor near your chair. It must be in your lap and the strap tucked under your leg. You also have to be careful to load your purse so that nothing interferes with the acquisition and drawing of your handgun; this is why purpose-made gun purses, with their dedicated handgun pockets, are a good idea. Keeping the handgun pouch clean and free of debris is also another mandatory concern. Handguns carried this way tend to collect a great deal of dust and lint (and other mysterious, feminine substances), so may need more frequent cleaning. This is generally a far more serious issue for revolvers than semi automatic pistols.
OTHER HOLSTERS: There are a variety of other specialty holsters for a wide variety of weapons. Among them are ankle holsters, which work best only for very small and light weapons, and of course, require the wearing of appropriately loose fitting and long pants. Other types include holsters attached to wraps that allow them to essentially disappear against the body, holsters that position a handgun essentially in the front of the body below the waistline (these tend to make me a little nervous as parts to which I am attached reside there), various vests, coats and similar articles of clothing with built-in holsters, and a variety of other clever types for special purposes. New on the market are holsters that consist of little more than a rigid polymer clip with a post that inserts into the muzzle of a handgun. They are very lightweight and are, for the most part, ITWB holsters. Versacarry is the best known manufacturer. Some companies even make bras with holsters included between the breasts (insert your own size joke here). Two of the most famous holster makers are Bianchi and Safariland.
PUBLIC RESTROOM ISSUES: Those that carry concealed weapons have another concern not shared by their unarmed friends: public restrooms. Whichever kind of holster you carry, you must develop consistent habits to deal with the possibility you will misplace or lose your handgun. This is a real problem in bathrooms. Many years ago, one of my fellow officers left his Walther PPK in its holster on the tank of a toilet in a lawyer’s office bathroom. When he realized his mistake and returned only a half hour later, it was gone. It was never recovered.
If the handgun can remain on the belt or inside the pants, the problem is essentially solved, but never allow a handgun in its holster to sag below the level of the partitions between stalls; such things are easily grabbed when you’re in a very poor position to resist or pursue. If a handgun is in a purse or fanny pack, simply hang it around your neck while conducting your—ahem—business. Putting the purse or fanny pack on the floor is, again, an inducement to a quick snatch and dash, and don’t for a second doubt that many thieves look for just those opportunities.
In addition, when engaged in a bathroom, you’re not in a great position to defend yourself. Criminals know this too. Always have your handgun in an easily accessible position, and if necessary, worry about cleaning up later. I know: Eeeeuuuww! Your mindset and willingness to immediately do what is necessary to halt or end an attack at any minute will determine your survival. The rest is easily handled with soap and water.
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, an extraordinary 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 G2Z Light Emitting Diode (LED) Combat Light. It is slightly longer than the G2 and sells for $115.00 direct from Sure fire. It produces 120 lumens and uses the same batteries, but they last approximately two 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.
Many manufacturers are taking advantage of advances in LED technology. LEDS are now are bright—or brighter—than incandescent bulbs, but draw substantially less current. As a result, they have longer run times, and very long life spans. However, they are still substantially more expensive than comparable incandescent light sources. Even the 65 lumen G2 is amazingly brighter than most common flashlights. There really is no comparison in terms of brightness and utility in tactical applications.
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 and Wesson designed its Bodyguard .380 with an integral Insight laser, making a very trim and purposeful package.
Some manufacturers also make models 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. 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–commonly a great deal under seven yards–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, 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. Yes, it’s a good idea to practice with them, even if you have 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 rear sight laser manufactured by LaserLyte. The model depicted is for Glocks and retails at $153.95 direct from LaserLyte. Mrs. Manor and I had these sights on our Glock 26 handguns. They are programmable for solid or pulse modes. Unfortunately, when it was time to change batteries, I discovered that the battery compartment cap had been cross threaded at the factory, and with such tiny threads, it was impossible to reinstall it. We switched to Crimson Trace LG-436 sights and have been satisfied with them.
This is a grip-mounted laser by Crimson Trace designed for 1911 pattern handguns, in this case a S&W 1911. I used a Crimson Trace grip laser for several years on my G26 and found it to be a well-made and effective sight. This particular model sells for $339.00 direct from Crimson Trace. 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 $149.00 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.
All of these sights 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. LaserLyte is the only manufacturer currently making rear sight lasers, but all three manufacturers make a variety of different types and mounts in the same general configurations. A visit to their respective catalogs will be—illuminating.
AN IDEAL SITUATION:
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.
That said, I have carried a Glock 26, and only a Glock 26, for about 16 years (my article on that weapon is available here). For the last twe;ve years, I have carried it almost exclusively in a fanny pack. This makes a great deal of sense as I live in the southern US where it is commonly very hot. As I was raised in the north, cold bothers me little, and in a common southern (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, including one by Uncle Mike’s, but these days, I’m carrying an Uncle Mike’s fanny pack, which comes in several sizes and costs about $46.00. 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 very 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 in the first place. 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. Mrs. Manor could probably do without them, but likes the 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 probably 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. 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 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 (at all), tiny springs or other parts to lose or misplace exposed in normal cleaning.
Glocks are also among the simplest semiautos, having no manual safety devices, but three separate internal and trigger 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 mass market a pistol with a polymer frame and many polymer parts, 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 for something more than $500 (circa early 2014), and if gun media accounts are accurate, seem to be having some initial teething problems, i.e.: more malfunctions than one expects with Glocks. However, my new fourth generation G26 has been flawlessly reliable.
Another handgun that is ideal, at least for me, is the Walther P22, which is a neat little double action .22LR handgun that sells 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. A thousand rounds of 9mm, again, can be found for about $220, while a thousand rounds of .22LR will fetch about $35.00 (during normal, non-Obama gun grabbing times). Unfortunately, as this article is posted, .22LR ammunition can be hard to find, and there is no immediate solution to this problem on the near horizon. All of the principles of marksmanship apply as well 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. 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 virtually 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.
Interestingly, S&W has only recently introduced the M&P22, which is a .22LR handgun modeled on their Glock-like Military and Police line of handguns. Designed by Walther, with whom Smith has a close relationship, it’s likely to be the .22LR handgun closest to Glock in terms of manual of arms and trigger action. I have yet to actually shoot one of these handguns, but I’ll look forward to it. At the moment, it retails for about $50.00 more than the little Walther.
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 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 few months 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, and as I’ve pointed out here, it’s wise to look into a wide variety of factors before making a final decision. A handgun chambered for a cartridge that is so pricey 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. 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 the Cheaper Than Dirt home 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 a few articles. And of course, please feel free to contact me if you have questions. If you’d like to e-mail me, hold your cursor on my photograph at the right margin of the home page. It will open a window for my profile; my e-mail address is there. 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.
Additional websites for all things guns and related accessories you may wish to visit are:
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.
As I close this series, I leave you with a wonderful 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.