This is the final article in the series, which ties up loose ends. You may, gentle readers, wish to stick around for the next few Tuesdays as I provide more specific primers on revolvers, semiautos and rifles.
ADDITIONAL HOLSTER NOTES: Recent innovations in holster design have provided some previously unavailable options. The trick is to make holsters that don’t look like holsters, 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 Ruger LC9, and costs $59.95 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. They manufacture these holsters for handguns up to the size of the Glock 19.
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 allow purchase for the little finger. This 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 or flashlights mounted under the barrel, will tend to render many holsters unusable for a given handgun, and the same is true for small optical sights.
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.
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.
Two primary manufacturers of such lights are Sure Fire and Streamlight. I’ve carried flashlights made by both and been well served, those these days, I carry Sure Fire lights exclusively. 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 Surefire Titan, a tiny light weighing less than an ounce, but producing 125 lumen for only $70.00. It uses one AAA battery for as much as 13 hours of run time. This kind of power in a small size was not available five years ago. Light emitting diode–LED– technology is dramatically improving. Where something in the range of 125 lumens was considered state of the art not long ago, 500-600 lumens is now more or less the default standard, and that’s what I carry. The difference in range and brightness between 125 and 500 lumens is dramatic. It has a low power setting and of course, the full power setting.
This is a Surefire Sidekick, a 300 lumen light small enough to hang on a keychain. Because of its small and rounded shape, it is easy to slip into a pocket without fear it will quickly wear its way through the material. Interestingly, it’s a rechargeable light, and retails for $80.00. It has low and medium output settings as well as the full power setting.
This is a Surefire P2X Fury. It sells for $160 direct from Surefire, but can be found for less elsewhere. It produces 600 lumens and uses the same batteries, but they last approximately 1.5 hours. On its low power setting, a pair of 123A batteries can last up to 46 hours. Most Surefire lights use 123A batteries, which sell for only $25.00 for 12. One other worthwhile feature is they have a ten-year shelf life.
Surefire has a wide variety of interesting and useful accessories for all of its lights, and manufacturers a variety of weapon lights that attach to under-barrel handgun accessory rails. They obviously attach to standard rifle–as in AR-15 type rifles–rail systems.
One thing to keep in mind when looking for these lights on the internet is one might save $20.00 on the retail price, only to lose it again, and more, in shipping and related charges. As always: caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).
ANOTHER ILLUMINATING ACCESSORY: LASER SIGHTS. Lasers are available for most popular handguns in two types (red and green) and several mounting methods: incorporated in the handgun grip, attach to an under-barrel rail, or attached to the trigger guard, that method being necessary for small handguns without under-
barrel rails. Most laser manufacturers are now making very small models that attach to the trigger guards of small, concealable .380 ACP handguns like the Ruger LCP. My article on the Crimson Trace LG-436 for the Glock 26 is available here. I will also be publishing an article in the near future on the Glock 43 9mm pistol and the Crimson Trace Laserguard Pro laser/flashlight combination. Smith and 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 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 a far less significant issue than it might seem. For most people, a red laser will be quite sufficient. Some models feature 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. Crimson Trace provides batteries, once a year, free for life, for laser/light purchased directly from them.
This is a Crimson Trace CMR-201 Rail Master Universal Laser Sight ($159.00). It will fit all standard accessory rails and is activated by the tip of the trigger finger, though it is ambidextrous. While all contemporary lasers have the same power rating–5mW-there is often a considerable difference in dot coherence and intensity. I’ve found all Crimson Trace products to be superior in this regard. They tend to produce a brilliant dot no bigger than ½” at 50 feet, smaller, of course, at shorter distances.
This is a Crimson Trace LG-401 Lasergrip designed for 1911 pattern handguns. It 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, for some people, may interfere with proper slide cycling technique, though one can relatively easily work around this issue.
This is the Crimson Trace LL-803G Green Laserguard Pro for the Glock 42 and 43. It retails for $379.00, but the same device in a red laser costs $279.00. As I previously mentioned, green lasers are much more expensive than red lasers. This model clamps on the trigger guard, and is very secure once installed. It has not only the usual excellent laser, but a 150 lumen LED flashlight. One may select only the laser, only the light, or both. Like most Crimson Trace products, the laser is activated by a switch, which falls naturally under the fingers when properly gripping the handgun. Like all laser sights of this kind, holsters designed for the non-laser equipped Glock will no longer fit, though CT provides quality holster choices for guns equipped with their products.
Laserlyte makes a 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 $256.10, it’s not exactly cheap, but could potentially save a great deal in practice ammunition.
All of these products may be found through other sources, sometimes more cheaply. It will likely be no surprise to learn Amazon.com handles tactical flashlights and firearm accessories, including laser sights, usually at reduced prices.
Some of the major Laser manufacturers are:
A visit to their respective catalogs will be—illuminating.
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 18 years (my article on that weapon is available here). For the last sixteen years, I have carried it almost exclusively in a fanny pack. This makes sense as I live in Texas where it is commonly hot. I was raised in the north, so cold bothers me little. In an average Texas (what passes for) winter, I 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, keys and a cell phone in a belt holster. One of the advantages of this method of carry is 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 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. With a bit of easily done sewing modification, this one works are well as several I’ve carried at substantially greater cost, and when it wears out, $21.00 is no burden to replace.
I chose the Glock 26 because of its small size, light weight and 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. Mrs. Manor, 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? Possibly. Any spring will eventually weaken, but it may well take many years. For relatively little extra cost, the potential problem is lessened or eliminated. I only know that with this practice, 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.
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, external safety devices, but three separate internal safety mechanisms incorporated into the design. A few years back I 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 carried have easily been the most reliable handguns I have ever used.
Another advantage of Glocks is the manual of arms is identical for 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 2017, for around $550.
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 2017, for around $300. Mrs. Manor 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 similar. My article on that handgun is available here.
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 somewhat difficult to find in much of America, a problem likely to persist for some time.
The most significant–and potentially useful–difference is 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.
A similar gun is the Ruger SR22, currently retailing for about $400.00.
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 less than $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 person to fear is not the person with a great many different guns, but the person 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 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?”
Interestingly, with the advent of the Trump administration, it is now at least possible that easy citizen access of suppressors may become a reality. There is no such thing as a “silencer.” All suppressors do is reduce the sound of firing to a level that will not immediately damage hearing, a real concern for home defense and many other common uses. Even a suppressed gun shot sounds like a gunshot, just somewhat different than a non-suppressed shot.
(2) Use the Weaver Stance. Information is widely available. Some may argue this point, an no single approach is perfect for everyone, but it is a foundational issue, and it works.
(3) Be purposeful, focus your attention and be firm, but always work to be, above all else, relaxed and smooth. Smooth is truly fast. You can be relaxed while firmly gripping your gun 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–I’ve patronized them all–you may wish to visit are:
(3) Midway USA
INTERESTING PS: Despite what some gun banners suggest, Federal law requires 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. The same applies to Internet sales. You may buy from an internet source, but all final delivery 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. Most dealers charge a small fee for this service. 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 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.