The Military and Concealed Carry: What You Should Know

     The last decade or so has been a bonanza for Second Amendment rights for most citizens in this country. Except for just a few states, most law abiding citizens who are concealed carry license holders can legally carry a concealed weapon in most states. If you remember to just 10-15 years ago it was a significantly smaller number of people and states that could do so. If we look at present day, some states do not even require a permit for residents to carry concealed within its borders. Because of this freedom, we have seen a boon in the firearms industry to respond to the consumer.

     Again, if you look back as recently as the early 2000’s, compact and sub compact pistols were not very common and the few that did exist were marketed mostly as police backup guns, because they were some of the only ones who could and did carry in plain clothes. Now, just about every manufacturer has some version of a pistol marketed towards the concealed carry consumer. We have in 2017 a plethora of firearms, holsters, accessories, and instructors all touting to be the best at making the customer mo’ bettah at shooting. Some of these products are good, some not so good, some downright awful.  Regardless of whatever brand loyalty you adhere to, the amount of availability and options the concerned citizen has to choose is staggering. We truly are living in blessed times.

     Despite the leaps and bounds our nation and states have made towards greater 2nd Amendment freedoms, there was/is still a shortcoming that may not be a visible to most but is apparent for a few of us that endure it daily. There is an entire group of people that have been prevented from protecting themselves and their comrades against those that would do grievous harm: the military folks.

     For years personally owned weapons (POW) were either banned on post, or they had to be kept at the Provost Marshal’s (PM) armory. Sometimes they were allowed to be kept in the home, but they all had to be registered with the PM. Several of the DoD’s top leaders were/are vehemently against the Service Member (SM) from carrying on or off post, on or off duty and have testified to Congress on the matter. The same SMs are trained regularly to be proficient at killing our Nation’s enemies, then deployed to fight said enemies. Kinda seems like a double standard, doesn’t it?

     We are good at fighting, excuse me, the best. But when we were home, we were prohibited from protecting ourselves, we weren’t trusted with our own safety. This made us soft and easy targets for those who sought to hurt the country. The Chattanooga Recruiting Station, the Fort Hood SRPC building, the IHOP in Nevada, and several other incidents all stick firmly in our memories.

     Well, is there are any good news at all? Yes, there is

     This mindset of troops being unarmed stateside is changing. Steps are being taken to allow the SM to defend themselves and their comrades. The first change came with LEOSA being extended to include the military in 2013. However, unless you were already an MP or a National Guardsman/Reservist who worked as a LEO on the civilian side, it had limited effect. Since 2015 several states (I don’t have an exact list of the states, look it up) started providing their National Guard with the policies and training to properly equip and arm their Soldiers and Airmen against domestic terrorism. Most states require a memo from The Adjutant General (TAG) or other convening authority in order to authorize a SM carrying a concealed weapon. These policies, though well minded, did little to nothing for the active duty SM who spends most of their time on and around active duty bases, or the military recruiter who is often working alone in a metro area. In November of 2016 the DoD came out with a policy (http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/521056_dodd_2016.pdf) allowing Commanders(O-5 and above) to authorize the carrying of POW for personal protection on active duty bases. There are quite a few stipulations and requirements that must be in place, but it is not any more stringent than most civilian CCW requirements. So, while we still may be in the “Crawl” phase of getting concealed carry to uniformed SMs, at least there are steps being taken in the right direction.

     For those military people who are so fortunate to have the LEGAL authorization to carry, here is some good news:  it is somewhat easier than our civilian counterparts. Why? Here goes.

     Our uniforms are conducive to carrying concealed. Regardless of what branch we serve in, we all wear blouses and baggy pants that are generically sized a little too big. We all wear thick web belts designed to be stiff and support loads. Lastly our uniforms are camouflaged in patterns designed to break up shapes. This means that we are afforded an ability civilians can only dream of: comfortably carrying and concealing a service sized pistol. With our baggy and slightly oversized clothes, carrying a belt holster and a Beretta M9 (if you so choose) is very comfortable, and very concealable.

     Something to consider is that the enemy that has targeted SMs in the past is different from what the average civilian CCW holder typically faces and trains for. How so? The enemy we face is well trained (sometimes by us), well armed (think self-loading long arms and/or AP rounds), and sometimes armored. They are typically alone or in small groups and usually adhere to a radical extremist or anarchist philosophy. They are well organized, documenting and planning their operations months in advance. These facts should be considered when training and selecting gear.

     What kind of pistol/gear/ammo should a SM that is authorized carry? Any CC pistol that is highly recommended and used by the civilian sector will work just fine, however our uniforms allow us to carry much larger, more accurate, and higher capacity weapons. Part of the deal with your commander may require you to carry a service pistol, in that case it would be an M9 variant or in rare cases the M11, M1911A1, M5, or Mk25.

     If you are allowed to carry a POW as your concealed carry pistol, I would stick with well known, reputable pistol brands that are used by LEOs or Military. These could be SIG, Beretta, HK, Glock, Ruger, S&W, Colt, FN. Calibers should be in common Military and LEO chamberings such as 9×19, 45 ACP, 40S&W, 357 SIG. I would stay away from smaller calibers like the 380, 9×18, or 22lr, or large, boutique cartridges such as the 10mm or 460 Rowland. I would also stick with pistols in semi-auto configuration. There is nothing wrong with revolvers, they just lack authority with only 6rds when you have the option for 7-20 rounds in a full size service pistol.

      Holsters should be the same type that LEOs typically carry when in plains clothes or undercover, If you are carrying IWB stick with a 100% kydex holster such as the Raven Concealment Eidolon, or 100% leather such as the Alessi. Stay away from soft cloth-like or hybrid-kydex holsters as they can collapse and fail to retain the handgun. If you choose to carry OWB, 100% leather retention holsters made by Galco, Bianchi, and Triple K are all well made and comfortable.

     If you are carrying openly for whatever reason, (field exercises, perhaps) the holster you should carry needs to be able to retain the firearm securely, not just from the elements and from you jumping around, but also from threats trying to disarm you. A Level II or III retention holster is recommended. There is a proliferation of Blackhawk SERPAs in the military, mostly due to an RFI (Rapid Fielding Initiative) that occurred 2007-ish. Do yourself a favor, junk it. Get yourself a Safariland, and get a good holster belt. This applies for all holsters: if you can buy it at Wal-Mart, it ain’t worth it.

     As for ammunition, there are a few street proven brands that consistently deliver optimum expansion and penetration, something you need both of. Federal HST, Speer Gold Dot, and Winchester Ranger-T are top notch ammo choices available in the calibers I noted above

     Now that we have talk through arms and accessories, let’s talk about the most important facet of gunfighting: training. Here is where some of us may get offended, but I don’t care.

     Just because you are in the military does not mean you know how to shoot a pistol.

     I’ll say it again. Just because you served in X-Branch for Y- Years and have deployed Z-times does not mean you can shoot a pistol well. Actually, as whole force, it means you have probably very little to no formal experience with a pistol. I am not saying you never shot a handgun at your uncle’s farm, I am saying you have probably never been through a formal pistol orientation and live fire qualification. The good news is you do have a formal firearms training background already in place. The foundation is there, there just ain’t no house to live in, yet.

      The military does a fantastic job of teaching and qualifying everybody to use rifles at close and long ranges effectively. However, as a whole we are lacking in terms of pistol fighting. The few SOF and MPs that actually train and qualify regularly with their duty handguns may be the exception. I know several SMs who have seen heavy combat and are mad geniuses when it comes to handling and employing crew served and individual weapons effectively yet have minimal handgun exposure. Pistol shooting is simply not taught on a formal level in the military like with long arms and crew-served weapons. Keep this in your hip pocket: patrolling in full kit with a rifle or SAW, with team or squad level support is very different from being a uniformed concealed carrier. It requires similar mindset, but different tactics. Remember, you have the foundation, you just need to build from it.

     What do you need to do, then?  Swallow your pride, pull out your checkbook, get yourself some quality training from a vetted instructor, start with the NRA basic Pistol course and continually get more advanced. Take a few days leave, spend some money and go to GunSite or Thunder Ranch. If you cannot take that much time off or can’t afford the class cost yet, take a 1-2 day training class from Active Response Training, Personal Defense Network, I.C.E. Training or Handgun Combatives.

      I am not advocating anything a lot of you don’t know. I realize there is a lack of information when it comes to our specific situation and I wanted to help those who may be in the dark about it but have a vested interest in keeping themselves and their comrades safe.

     Something I want to be very clear about. I do not advocate the illegal carrying of weapons by SMs. End of story. Do the right thing by being legal. Please talk to your chain of command and/or your Commanders (O-5 and above) privately about it. Find out what your state and local regulations are. Get some quality training. The only way you can affect change in policy is by talking with your superiors and demonstrating knowledge on the topic.

     I wish all of you God Speed. Watch your six. Take care of your buddy.

 

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