The latest from Matt Bracken:
by Matt Bracken
The Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando taught millions of ordinary citizens something very important. It confirmed for us that seventeen years after the Columbine massacre, we can still find ourselves penned inside a disarmed-victim slaughter zone by an armed maniac or maniacs, and while innocent people are bleeding to death and futilely calling for help, government law enforcement agency employees might decide to take a powder, set up a security perimeter, and then burn three irreplaceable hours while debating how best to attempt a rescue operation. And when it finally happens, the belated rescue operation might end up killing many more victims than if some of the aforesaid victims had simply pulled their own guns on the madman in the first place, three hours earlier, and shot him dead, even in a vicious cross-fire.
This lesson also carries over to the recent Bastille Day truck massacre in Nice, France. It took good men with guns to finally stop the bloodthirsty Tunisian’s motorized rampage. But the truck and its driver did not cause all of the carnage in one go—according to various news reports there were fits and starts when the truck slowed and even stopped, and when this happened, brave but unarmed men tried to climb onto the cab to end the carnage with their bare hands. Unfortunately, the only good guys with guns in their possession belonged to government law enforcement agencies or GLEAs, and they were not in position to shoot the driver until 84 innocents were killed and many more were severely injured.
Can anybody claim that the outcome in Nice could have been worse if an armed citizen or two or three had jumped onto the cab during a pause, and fired their own pistols at the Tunisian driver? With weapons dispersed among the Bastille Day crowd, concealed among trained and trusted military veterans, for example, would the death toll in Nice have been as high? Can anybody imagine a truck driver conducting a two-kilometer kamikaze rampage against pedestrians in Tel Aviv or Texas, without his taking effective fire from armed citizens every fifty meters along the way?
Even beyond the lessons of Orlando and Nice, we recently learned in Dallas and Baton Rouge that first-responding GLEA employees cannot even protect themselves from a single deranged gunman, much less protect anybody else who happens to be in the madman’s range. In both cases it took even more good men with even bigger guns arriving on the scene to put the cop-killers down. In Dallas and Baton Rouge the killers were only targeting police officers, but what happens when the killers are targeting shooting galleries full of unarmed trapped civilians?
Fort Hood and San Bernardino come to mind. Innocents trapped in gun-free killing pens will be slaughtered until the killers depart, or the SWAT teams arrive and shoot their way in. This is not rocket science. Fort Hood, San Bernardino, Orlando and Nice have taught us that when we are faced with an armed homicidal terrorist, we will have nobody but ourselves to depend on for our self defense during the first minutes, or even hours. As the saying goes, “When every second is a matter of life or death, the police are only minutes away.” Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan Theater in Paris also spring to mind. Nobody on the scene at the beginning of a murder rampage will have a gun except the killers—and those citizens who accept the responsibility of being armed in their daily lives.
In the United States we are blessed with the Second Amendment to the Constitution, affirming our God-given right to self defense, which we know as the right to keep and bear arms. State and federal laws and politicians might come and go, but as Americans, the right to armed self defense is coded into our DNA. Five politically-appointed black-robed Supremes cannot change the meaning of the 2nd Amendment: it was written in plain English so that we the people can understand it.
Today, in the face of a rising tide of Islamic jihad terrorism on top of the usual random assortment of homicidal maniacs, a well-armed citizenry is more important than ever. In 2016, GLEA employees who might take three hours to mount a “rescue” (and tag the bodies) are simply not a reliable part of our self-defense equation. By the time the SWAT breachers blow holes in the walls, hours too late, you and your family might already be dead. If the Second Amendment means anything, it means that we have the right to bear arms to protect ourselves, our families and our communities from armed terrorists or other violent lunatics. Police, politicians and judges cannot protect us: they can only respond after the fact, meaning, after we are dead.
State and local laws concerning the open and/or concealed carrying of firearms vary, but even where open carry is legal, many people prefer to carry concealed for their own reasons, and I will not attempt to change their minds. For folks who like to carry pistols inside their waistbands, or IWB, there are many fine options, and some of the best are leather and Kydex hybrid holsters. But let’s face it, IWB carry can be awkward and sometimes uncomfortable, and if you are a right-hander who carries on your strong side, this arrangement is a hassle when driving, with the seatbelt locked over your concealed pistol. But if you like IWB carry, great, carry on. What works for you, works for you.
But whether your pistol is carried inside or outside of your pants and belt, to qualify as concealed carry you still have to cover up the exposed parts of the gun and holster by wearing a loose untucked shirt or jacket over it. Lots of guys don’t mind that look, and a loud untucked Hawaiian shirt is also great for concealing an expanding waistline. But what if you are not an old guy with a beer gut? What if you are a slender guy or gal who wants to wear a form-fitting t-shirt, or even to go bare-chested or in a swimsuit around the beach or the resort? In that case, what are you going to carry concealed, inside of your clothing, other than perhaps a tiny .380 pocket pistol?
What if you want to dress for the heat, or to wear form-fitting clothes, but you still want to keep a serious pistol close at hand? Something that carries a double-digit load of major-caliber ammo? Some of my friends shove a compact double-stack down their crotch in a sling holster, and they swear by it. And if that works for you, great, but what if you don’t like your blaster aiming at the family jewels, or you find crotch carry too awkward or uncomfortable to consider? Not to mention, if you are of the feminine persuasion?
What if you don’t want to carry a chopped-off compact pistol at all, but you want the real thing, full size? Something with a grip big enough to grab with all of your fingers around it, that doesn’t try to buck out of your hand in rapid fire? I know some guys who “Mexican carry” full-size pistols, but only on an empty chamber. Another idea is to open-carry your major-caliber pistol, and then to untuck your shirt or throw on a light windbreaker when you decide to conceal it. My point is not to get into a pissing contest about the best ways to carry a concealed handgun. That’s for you to decide. But I would like to expand the options under your consideration to what some call “Off-Body-Carry,” which means carrying pistols in hard and soft cases, sling bags, messenger bags, fanny packs and so on.
In light of recent history I have named this option “Orlando Carry,” and not because half of the tourists seen in Rat Town are already laden down with every size, type and color of gear bag imaginable. I named it Orlando Carry because when the shit gets serious, you’re going to need a serious firearm, and plenty of ammo. And nothing is more serious than what went down inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last June.
Sneakypete (and some other holster manufacturers) have a very good external-carry option which will conceal many but not all pistols. I just ordered a Sneakypete for my S&W Shield 9mm, but that is still a compact pistol with a limited number of rounds on board.
Because I didn’t see anything like a Sneakypete for full-size pistols, but I like the overall concept, I decided to make my own prototype “maxi-Sneakypete” out of the materials I had on hand. My Frankenstein prototype is only meant to test the concept in public for a while, to gauge the reactions of civilians and GLEA employees. (If you were wondering, the exterior dimensions are six by eight by one and three-quarters inches.)
I’m sure a clever holster maker with superior materials handy can make something much better than my prototype on his first try. The cardboard box I started with simply fit the dimensions of my Springfield XD9, that’s the only reason why I chose it. I used the cardboard flaps as I found them, but a bigger top-opening flap like a Sneakypete might work better. I cut and glued the cardboard to hold my pistol securely even with the two side flaps open, then glued black denim material over it all. Common office staples held everything in place overnight while the glue set. Holster makers are encouraged to fabricate their own models from better materials. I think a Velcro-attached “tear down” external flap would be best, leaving the grip fully exposed with the pistol held in an interior Kydex holster and ready to draw.
If you think a soft case is the way to go, then just take a few pistol measurements and head to the electronics department of your local big-box store. There, you will find some iPad cases that will do the trick for transporting your preferred blaster and an extra mag or two while clipped to your belt. They will not be perfect holsters when you purchase them, but they are rectangular and they generally won’t show the outline of your concealed pistol. If the foam padding behind the fabric exterior is thin, then slide a piece of plastic inside across the bottom, and your pistol’s off-center muzzle won’t “print” at all. Dig a detergent bottle out of your recycling bin, and cut the plastic to fit. A spare mag might fit opposite the barrel, balancing the overall shape of the contents of the case.
Every modified zipper case holster situation will be a little different, so while you are in the big box store, head over to the fabric department near the sheets and pillows, and pick up some black “upholstery thread” and a pack of heavy-duty needles that can pull the thread through lots of layers of material. You can turn a zipper case into anything you want, if you have imagination, black upholstery thread, big-ass needles, some black Velcro tape and a few other odds and ends. The spring-steel belt clip from a rejected holster might find a new life on the back of your modified zipper case holster.
What I am trying to get at is this: don’t be afraid to customize your own Orlando Carry rig if you can’t find a commercially available product that meets your needs. In 2016, an ambiguous gadget case mounted on the hip is a typical part of the urban and suburban landscape. Concealed is concealed. The more varieties out there, the better for all of us.
These measurements can serve as a rough guide when you go shopping. A standard five-by-seven gadget case will contain a S&W Shield 9mm. A zipper case that is six by eight will conceal a full-size double-stack pistol like an XD9. You can work out the details to suit your pistol and your preferences.
If you feel the box or zipper case on your hip needs a bit of help in the camouflage department, you can obtain a sticker from a binoculars manufacturer. Or from a company that makes video cameras. Or just use an actual binoculars case as the starting point for a concealed pistol box. Or maybe your modified zipper case will already have a colorful Apple logo embroidered upon it. Or stick a red cross on it, and dangle an oxygen cannula tube out the side. Or just leave it basic black. It doesn’t matter. It’s up to you. Concealed is concealed.
Orlando Carry doesn’t only mean a box or a soft case hanging on the outside of your belt. Lots of companies make a variety of sling bags and even “active shooter” rigs adapted for carrying large pistols, extra mags, and other emergency gear. The “Safepacker” by TheWilderness.com is a flexible option that comes highly recommended. Maxpedition makes sling bags and belt cases for large pistols. Tactical Tailor sells the popular “Crossfire” rig. ShopWilsonCombat.com sells the “H.I.P.S.” (Hide In Plain Sight) rig that looks interesting. There are also fanny packs made for concealed carry with tear-away panels, (if you don’t mind wearing a fanny pack). I just ordered the very clever Hawkepaks.com “Micro GunPak-1,” which presents as a small EMT-type belt pack that could not possibly conceal a large pistol, but does.
I’m not trying to steer anybody in one direction or another, but only to make folks aware that many carry options are available other than conventional IWB and OWB holsters. The Orlando Carry concept is meant to bridge the gap between the open carry of full-size pistols and spare magazines on your belt, and using conventional concealment holsters with pistols hidden beneath your clothing. To bridge the gap, and even to go beyond it. (In fact, several gear bag companies even make concealed carry cases for shorty carbines. But I’ll save concealing long guns for another day. Or you can take a look at this piece I wrote for Western Rifle Shooters a few years ago: “Just a working man with his tools.”)
Going back to side arms, in the old days before political correctness reared its ugly head, security professionals used to refer to these “concealed in plain sight” options for large pistols and sub-guns as “fag-bags.” While I doubt that the expression persists within GLEAs in this PC era, I think that we should grab the fag-bag concept with both hands and adopt it as our own. The more armed citizens that are out in public carrying serious firearms in a wide variety of non-traditional rigs, the better.
GLEA employee: “What have you got in there, mister?”
“Why, it’s my transgender Android case, officer. But it’s not the Android you’re looking for.”
GLEA employee: “What’s that mean? Like an iPad? It looks too fat for an iPad.”
“If you must know, officer, it’s my Orlando bag. What, do you hate gays? Are you homophobic?”
GLEA employee: “No, I’m not homophobic. But I think you have a gun in there.”
“Think whatever you like, officer. But after Orlando and San Bernardino and Fort Hood and Nice and a lot of other places, I really don’t give a damn what you think is in there. But I know one thing for sure: I’m never going to wait for three hours until a good guy with a gun shows up. Not while people are bleeding to death, no sir. And do you know why not? Because there will already be a good guy with a gun right there when the bad shit goes down. No disrespect, officer, but we civilians can’t afford to just sit around for three hours bleeding to death, while your bosses scratch their asses and ponder their options.”
This is the bottom line: our armed self defense is up to us, it’s not up to GLEA employees. If that wasn’t clear before Orlando and Nice, it should be now. So carry the self-defense tools that you decide to carry, the way that you decide to carry them, when and where you decide to carry them. And that means thinking outside of conventional IWB and OWB holster options.
Now, since I’m using the Orlando massacre in the Pulse nightclub as my predicate, I’m sure that some readers will point out that firearms and alcohol should not be mixed, and for the most part, they would be right. But please bear in mind that the off-duty but in-uniform GLEA employee paid to protect the nightclub’s patrons seems to have—ahem—stepped outside for a breath of air shortly after exchanging shots with Omar Mateen at the outset of the massacre. So much for depending on armed, paid GLEA employees to do the heavy lifting at crunch time. Remember, it’s your life. Not his.
So how do we preclude bars and clubs that serve alcohol from automatically being disarmed-victim death traps like the Pulse club? Simple. Encourage sober designated drivers to pack heat by offering them non-alcoholic beverages and snacks gratis while they are sheep-dogging the friends they delivered to said bar or club. Plenty of social circles contain folks who choose not to imbibe alcohol for their own personal reasons. Any bars or clubs that recognize and reward DD-CCWs will go a long way to ensuring that the next Omar Mateen picks a less-enlightened venue down the block for his target. If your state or local laws currently forbid CCW in bars and clubs, change the laws to provide an exception for alert and sober DD-CCWs. Just a thought.
And as far as other places that still prohibit CCW, use your own judgment.
Remember: it’s your life.