Be Vigilant!

When you were a kid your mom taught you a very important lesson about crossing streets. Do you remember what that was? My mother said you must ALWAYS look both was before crossing the street. Not one way, or not just the other way, but both ways. I guess in essence my mother was teaching me viligence. Watching out for on-coming cars. Don’t ever cross a street without looking both ways, and sometimes looking both ways more than once. How many of you do this out of habit now? Maybe because it was ingrained in you or maybe becuase when you got older you finally figured out the reason behind the warning.

Well, why should the other things we do on a daily basis be treated any differently? What kind of things? How about getting gas, walking up to an ATM, driving through an ATM, walking into a bank, walking up to a store entrance or back out to your car? How about the fast food drive through, the mall, your daily morning or evening walk or run, going to the gym, looking at real estate? Or how about when the exterminator or pizza delivery person comes to the door? And, even when you take your friends and families out to eat at a restaurant?

Whether you want to admit it or not you have a routine that you perform almost every single day. You may alter it depending on your tasks, your job, a vacation, etc., but in general you keep it the same. My friends, it’s time to shake things up!!!

For the Christain we are told to be “sober, be vilgilant, because our adversary the devil lurks around like a lion seeing whom he can sneak up on and devour”! The surfer is always warned to watch out for sharks who may also be surfing the waves looking for an easy prey. The ice fisherman is always told to test the ice and look for cracks to make sure it is not too thin. The avid hiker is warned to carry a GPS or a compass so he/she can keep track of where they are so they do not get lost. A pilot is taught to trust the horizon, not the instruments. A shooter is taught to ALWAYS know what is behind his/her target. And, a shepherd is taught to look for the wolf who likes to “blend” with the sheep.

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

How do we as busy people do this, or incorporate these admonitions into our daily routines? Here are some ideas based on many of the things we just mentioned (as daily activities) above and how we MUST incorporate vigilence into these activities.

Let’s start with getting gas. First of all, I try to make sure that I take my wife’s vehicle to get gas so she does not have to. I’m not always successful, but I try. But experience kept me out of harm’s way in 2009. Late one night I responded to a server issue at our office downtown. When I finally left in the early morning hours, I realized I was practically out of gas and knew there was no way I could make it very far without stopping. I went across the street to the only place that was close enough, but they only had the pumps turned on… the store was not open. Many of these late night stations go to 1/4 power, including their lot lights, so it can be pretty dark. Through experience and habit I always get out of my vehicle, lock the doors and place the keys in my front pocket. Then, while gasing, I stand about 5-6 feet away from the rear driver’s side bumper. I do this for two reasons. First, so I can see in almost all directions around my vehicle and secondly, if something happens, I can use my vehicle as a shield, a defensive position, keeping my vehicle between me and a potential attacker. Sure enough, long story shortened dramatically, an attack was attempted but I had the upper hand because I saw it coming and time to plan my defense. Let’s just leave it by saying that I am alive today because my vigilence this particular night paid off!

When you stop at the gas station to get gas, get your gas and get going! Stay off the phone (no talking, no texting, no surfing!), lock your doors, if you are a woman, put your purse on the floorboard under your steering wheel. It is a known fact that bad guys look for easy targets. These are people who are distracted, people who have their car doors open (a lot easier to take your vehicle or your purse with your car door wide open), people who are chatting away about the terrible day they had at work or posting their latest fantastic purchase from their favorite store. PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT IS GOING ON AROUND YOU, WHO IS NEAR YOU, WHAT THAT PERSON IS DOING, WHAT HE/SHE IS WEARING, IS THERE ANYONE WALKING OR STANDING CLOSE TO YOUR VEHICLE!

What about the fast food drive through? Seems harmless enough, right? Well, have you ever gotten stuck in the line at a Chic-Fil-A (if you just said no then you have never gone on a Saturday), what about McDonalds, or any popular fast food chain drive through? So, think about this… you drive up, place your order, but they are busy, there are one or two cars ahead of you and now a car or two hind you, and normally you pull up close to the bumper of the car ahead and the car behind pulls up close to your bumper, sound about right? What happens now? Oh yeah, your window may still be down, you are searching for your credit card or hunting for spare change, chatting with the people in your car or even talking on the phone while you are waiting your turn. But, why aren’t you consciously scoping out an escape route? You are saying, “oh bother, Scott has lost his mind! Why in the world would I need to do that?” Case in point… My friend Tammy and her family were coming back recently from a family outting. They were hungry so they decided to stop at the McDonalds and get some food for the family. Tammy’s husband placed the order and then pulled up. They were busy and now they had cars in front of them and cars behind them. Tammy, happened to be scanning her surrounds and caught a glimpse of a man in her side mirror, walking up to the vehicle. She looked behind her to the other side and saw there was another man coming up the driver side as well. She is a concealed carrier and calmly pulled “Emily” (yes, it is quite ok to name your favorite guns!) out of her purse and put it in her lap and told her husband to look in his mirror. As soon as he did two or three poilce cars arrived in the McDonalds’ parking lot with lights flashing and low and behold the two strangers bolted in the other direction. What could have happened if Tammy wasn’t paying attention to her surroundings? What should you do in ANY drive through? Know what is around you… is there a curb? Can your car or truck handle it if necessary? Is the drive through well lit? Are there a lot of bushes around? Don’t talk on the phone. Get your card or money out and watch your surroundings. Keep your windows up until time to pay and then again until it’s your turn to get your food! And, MAKE absolute certain that you DO NOT pull too close to the car in front of you. Leave enough room between you and them in case you need to make a quick getaway! If you carry, have it out and ready in case you need it.

Do you ever stop at your bank and go inside to make a desposit, withdrawal, etc.? As most people do, I am sure you may be thinking about your task. You get out of your car, walk up to the doors and go right in to the teller line. If you do this, change it. Have your deposit or withdrawl ready if at all possible. If you carry concealed, make sure your firearm is easy to get to. Before you walk in, scan the parking lot for suspicious vehicles and try to look inside. You certainly do not want to walk into an ongoing bank robbery! When you leave, before you ever get close to the door, put your money away. The worse thing you can do is have your cash or an envelope full of cash in your hand as you are walking out of the bank. When you get to the door, scan your surroundings again.. make sure no one is standing or walking around the outside doors of the bank. If they seem suspicious to you go back to a bank representative and tell them. If the bank has a security guard or a cop, they will send them out to check it out.

When you go to a restaurant do you choose your seating or do you allow the host or hostess to seat you where he/she wants? Three things I would recommend here. First, if the host/hostess seats you choose or request a booth or table that faces the front door. Do not sit with your back to the door. If you can watch the front door then you can be aware of anything happening that looks out of the ordinary. Secondly, before you sit down quickly scan and plan an exit route. Are there side doors, rear doors, doors by the carry out or bathrooms? And thirdly, this may not always be something that you can easily do, but I almost always do it in a fast food restaurant (if for some reason I eat in, which I rarely do), keep your sunglasses on (well, if it is daylight out, of course). If something happens or someone suspicious comes in they cannot tell if you are looking at them. FBI crime statistics show that in many cases people in stores, restaurants, banks, etc. are shot simply because the victim was looking at the attacker. If they cannot see your eyes, then they cannot tell you are watching them and prepared to take on the threat if necessary.

Have you recently been looking for real estate? You know, buying a new house or even looking to purchase a building or office space for a business. In 2012 there was a warning to realtors that violent crimes committed on real estate agents were on the rise. The article posted in the Realtormag.com stated that in 2011 there were 16 assaults and 7 murders committed on professional realtors throughout the country. You can read the entire article “HERE“, but the author also cited the following: “REALTORS® are targeted because they are crimes of opportunity, says Marcia Peot, a full time police officer and chief safety officer with StreetSafe, a mobile safety app. The rise in offenses also has to do with the economy putting more people into desperate financial situations.” So, to my realtor friends and those of you looking at real estate, same rule applies as previously stated… stay vigilent! Be aware of your surroundings… be aware of what could be hiding in the closets, attics and garages.

Finally, how do you answer the door when the exterminator, pizza delivery person or the UPS or mail carrier rings your door bell? If you have kids do they go running to the door and answer it? BIG MISTAKE!!! What about if they know grandma and grandpa are coming for a visit and we assume that is them ringing the door bell?! You go to the door, do NOT let your kids open that door! Are you expecting the exterminator? If not, send him away and tell them, through the door, that this time isn’t convenient and you will set up an appoinment! NEVER let anyone come to your home without an appointment. Don’t let a salesman talk his way into your home… “Oh, I was in the neighborhood and and thought you might need some new gutters!” Did you just order a pizza? Great… YOU go to the door and be prepared! Did you know that according to pizza.com (yes, there is such a website) there is not a day that goes by in which a pizza delivery person is not robbed?! In fact, as with realtors, pizza delivery robberies are on a dramtic climb! You can check out that article here at “Pizza Delivery Robberies On The Climb”. At my house I have three very vocal announcers. If they see someone walk by the house or walk up to the house they are immediately at the front door letting me know someone is there and announcing to the person on the other side of the door that they know he or she is there! And, every single time I answer my door, yes, I have a gun either in my hand or on my belt with my hand on it!

So, my friends, no matter what you are doing, where you are going, you have got to make certain in this day and age, that you are vigilent. Pay attention to your surroundings. Are there any changes around your house? Has anything been moved? When you are running or walking do you go the same direction every time? I know it’s hard to do sometimes, but when you are at the gas station or walking out of the bank or a store, STAY OFF YOUR PHONE! Coming out of the grocery store or SAM’s CLub? DO NOT have your keys out and ready and DO NOT open your automatic lift gate until you are right at your vehicle. You know the old axiom… an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Look, some of these things my be silly to you now, especially if you are not a concealed carrier yet, but trust me, changing your habits and paying close attention to your surroundings at all times may one day save your life or the life of a friend or family member!

As always friends, stay focused!!!

Hey, What Kind of Gun Should I Get?

If I could get a dime every time I heard that… AND a $100 every time someone answered with the words… “You SHOULD get blah blah blah because it is the best handgun in the world and there is nothing better and nothing smells better, looks better or shoots better and it should be the only gun anyone ever ever EVER buys because there is none other like it and it is the greatest of all time hands down, bar none, no joke, I’m not kidding and you better believe it! So get this one!!!” WHEW!!!! I’m EXHAUSTED listening to this line of common sense reasoning!!!

All my friends in the industry… Matt, Whitney, Nathan, Daniel, myself.. we have all experienced it more times than we can count. Look, EVERYONE has their favorite. Just like everyone has their favorite car, truck or food. Just because you like it does not mean someone else will, or has to! So PLESAE STOP with that!!!!

So… let’s just talk about this a little. Let’s talk bullets/calibers for handguns and why we need to teach our students, friends and family about the differences. Caliber may make more of a difference with some people than the actual gun itself. I’ll explain shortly. But, of course the barrel length, width and the mechanical components of the gun will assist in making that difference as well. There are many cailbers (or sizes of bullets) for handguns out there, but for the discussion we are having I am just going to talk about the 5 most popular.

Let’s discuss calibers, or bullet sizes.

Calibers

Above are the most popular calibers in the industry. The .38, the .380 (or 9mm short), the 9mm, the .40 caliber and the .45 ACP. The .38 is specifically designed for revolvers (a revolver is a handgun that holds its bullets in a round cylinder), the rest of these calibers are designed specifically for semiautomatic pistols (semiautomatic pistols hold their bullets in what is called a magazine).

The .38:

.357 & .38

The .38 was developed by Smith & Wesson and was the standard service cartridge/bullet/caliber of most police departments in the United States from the 1920s to the early 1990s. Noted for its fine accuracy and manageable recoil (Recoil ~often called knockback, kickback or simply kick~ is the backward momentum of a gun when it is discharged, or fired), it remains the most popular revolver cartridge in the world more than a century after its introduction. It is used for target shooting, formal target competition, personal defense, and for hunting small game. As you can see in the photo of the revolvers above there are different sizes. The little one is great for “pocket protection” and the larger one is better suited for home or vehicle protection. Here is where size does matter. The little revolver shoots the same exact .38 bullet as the the larger one, but the recoil, or kick, is considerably stronger. The reason being is that the energy has much less distance to be expelled once the bullet is fired. The shorter the distance the greater the recoil. The larger revolver with the longer barrel is easier to manage in terms of its recoil, but of course it is a much heavier gun than the smaller sister. So, just to clarify, since my firearm aficionado friends will surely make comments… The larger gun in the photo above is called a S&W 686 357. This particular gun can shoot either a .357 cartridge or a .38 cartridge. But, since we are focusing on the 5 most popular cartridges/bullets, I just wanted to emphasize that a specific caliber, or size of bullet, is not necissarily confined to a specific size of gun. Make sense? Let’s move on. If you have questions, post them and I will respond.

The .380:

.380s

The .380s are popular concealed carry guns, generally due to their size and the bullets are fairly effective for self defense purposes. A .380 is a lighter bullet than a 9 mm but only marginally. Sometimes called a “9 mm short” .380s are the same diameter as a 9 mm but are 17 mm versus 19 mm (so they are referred to as 9×17 versus the 9×19 rounds described below.) In larger or heavier .380 handguns (such as the Bersa Thunder .380 or the Walther PK380) this bullet is very comfortable to shoot. As with the .38 previously discussed, the .380 has several guns with varying sizes that are manufactured specifically around the .380 bullet. In the photo above we compare the S&W Bodyguard .380, the smaller gun, with the Walther PK380. Once again, the same principal applies… shorter barrel length, compact design equals greater, but manageable recoil. Longer the barrel, larger the design of the gun, less recoil and possible better overall comfort in handling. The .380 is a well proven leader in law enforcement “backup” guns as well as personal protection carry guns for many females.

The 9mm:
9mm

Above is the Glock 19 9mm handgun. Unfortunately I personally do not have two different sizes of the 9mm. But, The Glock 19 has a baby sister called the Glock 26, which is smaller and a bit more compact than the 19. You can see the comparison below.

G19 and 26

The 9mm is the most commonly used pistol caliber in the world. Its relatively low recoil allows for quick, accurate follow-up shots. The magazine capacity is usually much greater than other larger calibers (consider the Springfield XDM which holds 19 rounds/bullets in its full-sized model). The cost of ammunition is (well, was) very reasonable and the availability is (um, was) excellent, making the 9mm an attractive choice for proficiency and pleasure shooting. As with the .38 handguns and the .380 handguns the 9mm has a multitude of designs surrounding the caliber. Anything from what is refered to as a full-size gun to a sub-compact or ultra carry gun. And again, the same principal applies. Longer the barrel, larger the design of the gun, less recoil and possible better overall comfort in handling. The 9mm took the spotlight from the .38 beginning in the 1990s. The 9mm, although shorter, is more powerful than the .38 and a semiautomatic 9mm pistol can hold up to 19 bullets in some standard gun magazines. A standard revolver can only hold 5 bullets in the cylinder. This makes it a no-brainer for many. Plus, it is much easier to control the recoil of this caliber bullet than let’s say the .40 caliber and the .45ACP.

The .40 caliber:

40 Cal

I like the .40 caliber. It is kind of a hybred, a bit larger but more powerful than the 9mm but not quite as large nor powerful as the .45 ACP. I used my Glock 23 in IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) competition and loved the weight and overal feel of the gun and I feel the recoil, at least for me, is plenty manageable. Compared to the 9mm, it does have considerably more recoil. Many of my students will shoot the 9mm and then try out the .40 caliber and decide they like the 9mm. The .40 caliber has been gaining popularity among law enforcement for years. It is a more powerful round/bullet than the 9mm and a magazine can hold almost as many bullets as that of a 9mm. A larger bullet, greater velocity, increased damage equals a hard hitting winner among many, including myself. Most law enforcement agencies have made the switch from 9mm to the .40 caliber just for these reasons. Above we compare the Glock 23, the smaller .40 caliber to the Glock 22. Yes, the .40 caliber can come in many different sizes as well.

The .45 ACP:

45s

The .45 ACP (which stands for Automatic Colt Pistol) was designed by John Browning in 1904. To use this cartridge John designed a prototype semiautomatic handgun that eventually became the wildly popular Colt 1911. The .45 ACP uses heavier, wider bullets than the 9mm which travels at somewhat lower velocity. The U.S. Military, all branches, officially adopted the Beretta 92 9mm 25 years ago. The majority of Marine units adopted the gun as well. But, the U.S. Marines had been using the Colt M1911 pistols for almost 100 years and did not want to completely give them up. And, based off the data collected from combat missions conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan the Marines felt it was abundently clear that the 9mm cartridge was woefully under-effective in combat. In fact, there are many accounts of soldiers in hand to hand combat would empty an entire 16 round magazine into an enemy that was doped up with adrenaline or opium without any effect whatsoever from the 9mm. In 2012 The U.S. Marines officially decommissioned the Beretta 92 9mm and placed an order with Colt Manufacturing for several thousand brand new Colt M1911 .45 ACP handguns! The permanent cavity (on ballistics gel) created by a jacketed hollow point (JHP) .45 is about 40% larger than JHP 9mm. Recoil is more severe than the 9mm, and magazine capacity tends to be much lower. Most law enforcement officers will say (referring to a point-blank gun fight), if you don’t hit them in the first three bullets, you aren’t going to hit them. So, large capacity magazines mean less than you may think.

Many law enforcement agencies have not only converted from the 9mm but have gone far up the ballistic food chain by requiring their officers to carry .45 ACP caliber sidearms. It is mandatory for LA Special Crimes units use the full size Glock 21 .45 ACP and they encourage the officers to use the Glock 30 (a small sub-compact .45) as their back up gun. The uniqueness about this is the fact that the Glock 30 will accept the Glock 21s 10 round or 30 round magazine! But, keep in mind, the .45 ACP is a large, hard hitting caliber desinged to inflict the most amount of damage with the least amount of ammunition used. The drawback to the .45 is the massive recoil and the size of the majority of the .45 ACP caliber guns on the market. In the photo above you see a comparison between the Glock 36 (compact .45 ACP) and a Kimber full size 1911.

That was a lot of information but hopefully it was geared in a manner that makes more sense. So the crux of this entire conversation is that what someone tells you what you should shoot is NOT necessarily the best gun for you. Several critical components come into play. The caliber, or bullet size can make or break one’s desire to shoot and/or carry a specific handgun. You have small hands, then a large framed heavy caliber bullet like the .45 ACP or even maybe the .40 caliber may not only fit your hand but even more critical, may not be enjoyable to shoot. You have large hands, then a small, compact framed gun may not be for you either. Your fingers have to wrap comfortably around the grip of the handgun and you want to use the tip of your index finger as much as possible when pulling the trigger. There are so many makes and models available. You may be more comfortable and more confident with a revolver. You need to consider what you will be wearing, how you will conceal your gun (for those of you with coneal permits)… once again size matters. Comfort, reliability, performance, practice, safety should all be components factored into your handgun making decisions. If it hurts to shoot or is not comfortable to manage, then I guarantee you that you will not shoot it! You practice with what you carry all the time.

On a personal note I carry the Glock 36, which is a compact .45 ACP. I have it on me almost all the time, where I can lawfully carry it. I do have a backup gun. It is the S&W Bodyguard .380. Slides down into my front pocket without being noticed or I carry it in a holster in the small of my back. And yes, I sometimes carry both of them at the same time! The element of surprise may save my life! Any of you who are reading this and have taken one of my classes understand already that we cover much of this in our beginners class. The table has a variety of handguns to try out and see what works for you. I highly recommend that if you have not made a daily carry purchase yet that you get with your instructor and have him or her assist you with that process. You will be glad you did.

Be careful of the “expert” who wants to tell you what you should carry… it may not be good for you! Do you have any experience dealing with this topic? I would love to hear/see what you have encountered, taught or experienced.

Stay focused! Stay in control!

Happy Mother’s Day…Now Carry On!

Mama

Today is definitely one of the most quintessential of all of the U.S. holidays, in my humble opinion! Mothers are given a day to be honored and showered with gifts, cards, love, special meals and “time off” from some parental duties and maybe even short little vacations. I am honored to have so many friends that are great moms! But, I count it an enourmous privilege to be able to teach moms and daughters, of all walks and ages, gun safety, gun mechanics, how to shoot and how to shoot better with time and practice! You have heard (ok, or read) me say this dozens of times… I am giving a woman the ability, the strength, the courage and the committment to act in a positive way on their inate desire to protect family, friends and themselves from potential danger.

A week ago I had the opportunity to volunteer at the 142nd NRA Annual Meetings here in Houston. On the last day I was a Range Safety Officer for the 3-gun airgun shoot at the NRA Youth Day.

Yahoo NRA Pic # 3

I had the privilege of working with kids from teens all the way down to 4 year olds! It was so much fun… I don’t know, maybe for me more than the kids! But so many mom’s thanked me for teaching their little ones how to shoot. To a few of the moms I whispered in their ears, “now it’s time for you to continue you on with their training”! Sure, these were “just” airguns, but, we treated it just like any other range and treated every gun as a loaded gun! You have to start somewhere. It was great seeing mothers (and fathers) bringing their kids out and giving them the opportunity to learn. This is great parenting!

I am going to give you a few quotes from some of the women I have recently worked with as well as someone who I hope will become a lasting friend in the industry, a daughter/mother firearms instructor team out of Michigan. I will start with Whitney and Cat. They own Applied Firearms Defensive Skills near Grand Rapids, Michigan (http://www.myafds.com/home).

Mother Daughter instructors

Whitney and I have communicated back and forth a few of times in the last several weeks. She was kind enough to give me a statement from her mother Cat on why she made the decision some time ago to carry. Cat says, “I bear arms because it is my constitutional right to do so. I carry because I refuse to be a victim. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, there were 83,425 forcible rapes in the United States reported to law enforcement in 2011 alone. The Intel available on this and other violent crimes is nothing short of staggering.
I also consider this right a tremendous responsibility. Said right requires me to act in a safe and prudent manner for the well-being and protection of those around me. I would encourage all who choose to exercise this right to go above and beyond any minimum, stipulated requirements and really take their ongoing training seriously…their own life or someone else’s may depend on it.” Do Cat’s words sound familiar???

Then we have Rene, my neighbor and good friend, who asked me some time ago to help her learn to shoot. She has two small children and is a stay at home mom. She wants to get over her fear of guns so that she can feel comfortable being able to defend herself and her family. She told me that she may never fall in love with firearms the way I do and I told her that that is absolutely just fine… what counts is being comfortable and in control of the firearm so that she can have the confidence in herself that she can control any bad situation.

My long time friend Courtney is just getting into guns. She made the decision a couple years ago that with all the travelling she does and being at home alone, that she should have protection. She is very excited about getting more training, learning about different firearms and becoming better at the mechanics of shooting! Her confidence is inspiring!

Another one of my long time friends, Catherine, lives in Boston and is moving back to Houston. With all that happened in Boston recently she called me and said “when I get back to Houston you are going to teach me to shoot”… she said she does NOT want to be a statistic! She eventually wants to be able to get her CHL so she can be protected all the time.

A former high school classmate and very long time friend of mine who lives in Tennessee, Kim, recently made the decision to get her CHL. What struck me about Kim is this conversation we had. She said the following… “I live in a good neighborhood. We know a lot of our neighbors. It wasn’t like this when we first moved here, but now we have to lock our doors all the time. Crime is creeping out this way.” Kim… practice, practice, practice!!! And hopefully I will set up an NRA class out there for her and her friends soon.

Danielle and Emily… they are family to me… daughter and mom! They would do anything for me and I would do anything for them! Her mom has been shooting for years. She stopped for awhile but we are getting her back into the swing of things. Emily has a slight disability but let me tell you.. I pitty the fool that tries to take advantage of that disability!!! I have been teaching Danielle to shoot since she was 16.. she is now almost 22! She can definitely handle herself and now wants to be an FBI agent!

One last story… my realtor and friend, Amy… she had a very frightening experience not long ago which convinced her that it was time to learn to shoot a handgun and get her CHL. She is bringing a whole team with her and we will get them all trained and comfortable to the point of being confident in their own abilities to be able to defend themselves. Amy is my inspiration for the Focus Forums I am now holding around town once a month to help answer questions about guns, safety, guns with kids in the home, concealed handgun licenses and anything else they want to ask but didn’t know who to ask. Thank you Amy!

All of these women are moms and daughters. Shooting is NOT just a male-dominated sport any more! Espeically when you have the likes of a 13 year old female junior champion for Team Smith & Wesson who has only been competing for a year and a 17 year old female junior champion for Team Glock who has been shooting since she was three and shooting competively since she was 12! Also, the NRA has seen an over 50% increase this year alone in women NRA members. And, as I have said several times, 99% of all of my students are women!

Moms… I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day… Now carry on!!!!

Mom and Daughter