Andrew Branca, Crimson Trace, Glock, Holster Choices, laser sights, LaserMax, Ruger, SIRT 110, Smith & Wesson, Sneaky Pete, Streamlight, Sure fire, Surefire Sidekick, Surefire Titan, tactical flashlights, US LawShield
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, semiautomatic handguns 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 LC9s, 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 the Glock 26 I used to carry, all my magazines had Pearce magazine baseplate/extensions, which allow purchase for the little finger. This adds enough length to prevent a Sneaky Pete holster from fitting the 26. 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 Guncaddie 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 $50.99 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, though 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 the light is properly employed.
This is the 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 brightness in a small size was not available even 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 the 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 $30 dollars, less than half the original price. It has low and medium output settings as well as the full power setting. It doesn’t have the sharply focused beam of a larger light, but is impressive for its size.
This is the SureFire G2X Pro. It sells for $70 dollars direct from Surefire, but can be found for less elsewhere. It produces 600 lumens, which on maximum power lasts approximately 1.5 hours. On its low power setting—15 lumen–a pair of 123A batteries can last up to 52 hours. Most Surefire lights use 123A batteries, which sell for only $25.00 for 12, and 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, and 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, and some manufacturers have models with integral lasers.
In March of 2017, I adopted the Glock 43, primarily because Mrs. Manor liked it, and it’s good to be able to share magazines. It’s also a very light, concealable 9mm handgun, with all of the features I’ve come to appreciate in a handgun. Even so, I augmented the handgun with a Crimson Trace Laserguard Pro, which features not only a laser, but a flashlight as well, in one small package (take the G43 link).
I also outfitted a Glock 19 and a G17 with the Crimson Trace Railmaster Pro, a laser/light unit suitable not only for handguns, but long arms as well. Smith and Wesson designed its original 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 daylight conditions over somewhat 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 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 (easier to see in some situations) are 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 technique, which is an important issue for any shooter, but particularly for beginners.
Another interesting laser, which is really a training aid, is the SIRT 110. It’s a laser trainer modeled on the Glock 17. The slide is non-functional, but the magazines are appropriately weighted, so magazine change drills can be easily done. The trigger feel is quite close to that of a Glock. For additional information on their product line, go here.
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, and can show where the shooter’s bullet would impact and why.
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 Universal laser sight. It retails for $145.00). It will fit all standard, contemporary accessory rails is activated by the tip of the trigger finger, and 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. I have this sight on my S&W MP22 Compact. It works well indeed.
This is a Crimson Trace LG-401 Lasergrip, designed for 1911 pattern handguns. It retails for $310.00. 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 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 Laserguard Pro for the Glock 42 and 43. It retails for $350.00, but the same device in a red laser costs $260.00. 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 many 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 many guns equipped with their products.
Laser manufacturers can easily be found via Google, and of course, Amazon carries all of these products and more, often at lower prices.
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. I recommend products I’ve tested because they work well, at least for me.
I’ve carried Glocks since the first G19 was available for sale in America, and have been carrying the G43 for the last three years. As I previously mentioned, Mrs. Manor carries the same handgun, so we have magazine interchangeability, which is always a good idea.
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 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/groups: 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. When I traded my G26 for a G43, 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 (yes, I know about the VP-70) to market a widely marketed 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 G43 with a 6 round magazine, to a full-sized G17 with a 17 round magazine.
This a Glock 44, Glock’s first .22LR pistol. It has only recently been on the market, and features a polymer/steel slide. It is the same size class as the Glock 43 in 9mm, and is somewhat smaller than the MP22. Both are reliable, quality handguns, and the manual of arms—the specific techniques for handling and shooting a given model of gun—for both are essentially identical for larger, centerfire handguns. For beginners, the extremely low recoil of both weapons is an encouraging feature. These are ideal handguns with which to introduce anyone skeptical or afraid of guns to shooting.
The greatest advantage of a .22LR handgun is the cost of ammunition. While a thousand rounds of 9mm ammunition is relatively inexpensive, for centerfire pistol ammunition, .22LR is much less expensive. Unfortunately, at the moment, due to the Coronavirus, .22LR remains somewhat difficult to find in much of America, but as was the case with the Obama years, and the potential of a Hillary Clinton presidency, this too shall pass and prices will normalize.
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.
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–or less–a month, 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 that changes guns like underwear, 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 find Glocks ugly and think they 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.
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. Dry firing does not harm modern handguns, and anyone too lazy to take the time to let you be sure of your purchase is not likely to be helpful in the future if you run into problems.
For anyone carrying a concealed handgun, knowledge of the law is of vital importance. A book everyone must have is Andrew Branca’s The Law of Self Defense. Branca and I have corresponded and linked to each other’s work.
Also absolutely necessary is self-defense insurance. US LawShield provides coverage across the nation. Coverage is very reasonable, primarily because armed, honest citizens so rarely have to fire their weapons. If you’re forced to defend yourself, they’ll defend you.
I have not spent much time delving into the specifics of training. There are a great many books and professional, private training academies, including NRA instructors, 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, but again, you get what you pay for. One hint: remove batteries when you’re done at the range, particularly if you’re not going to use the protectors for awhile. It prevents corrosion. It used to be thought unmanly to wear hearing protection. As a result, there are a lot of very virile men of an earlier shooting generation walking about saying things–-in a very macho manner–-like: “Eh? What’s that?” or “You say something?”
The potential of easier access to suppressors at the beginning of the Trump Administration has not materialized. 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, and 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 simultaneously firmly gripping your gun.
(4) Consistently train the same way. 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 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 allows the purchase of 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 final delivery of new weapons must be done through federally licensed dealers in your home state, and in the presence of that dealer, 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 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.
Why would you want to buy a gun online, sight and touch unseen? If you know it’s precisely what you want (manufacturers make some common models in special colors or configurations for some retailers), your local dealer can’t get the same item, or the price is low enough to justify the wait and whatever fee the dealer charges for handling and the transaction, it might make sense. Otherwise, not so much.
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 to the town and found a fencing master. He begged the Sensei (teacher) to loan him a sword and to teach him something so 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 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 made his excuses and 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.