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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An Update…

Well, it’s my fault mostly.

I know all of my dedicated readership is wondering what happened to me (thanks Mom, I’m ok). It has been a while, I think 3 months, since I posted any new articles or pictures or even really interacted at all on social media. Don’t worry, I am not dead. I still really enjoy shooting and other outdoor activities, and writing articles about my hobby. However, in the last few months my interaction level has plummeted to near non-existence. Why? The biggest reason is my own failure to manage my personal time. To be quick, I have mentioned before that I am a Soldier. To be more specific I am currently an Army National Guardsman. I also have a full time job on the civilian side. Up until  3 months ago I had a very regular schedule at my civilian job that was easy to plan around my personal activities and my hobbies.

That all changed.

My unit was alerted for a deployment in the near future and I have been tasked with helping to prepare them on a full time basis. This is on top of monthly drills and a robust training regimen in preparation for said deployment.

This means that my work schedule and free time have  been altered dramatically. It’s not that I don’t get time off, I do. I actually get to spend more time with my family and my sleep schedule has improved, two very important things to me.  It has just been difficult to adjust my old activities into my new schedule. Recently, I feel  I have  gotten the swing of things and can fit in some more writing before I have to leave.

Now for the good news.

The first is I have purchased a GoPro camera, this will allow me to shoot better quality photo and (crossed fingers) videos in the near future. I have been using my iPhone quite successfully, but I think we will have more dynamic content with the action camera.

I also have access to a much better range for shooting. To give you a little background, I typically used one of two ranges for shooting and testing. The first range wasn’t bad, but it only allowed for 25-100 yard testing, plus it was public access, which meant I had to fight the crowds, and it was very structured in its allowed use. The other range I used was the backyard of my in-laws, which gave me the privacy and anytime-access I enjoyed, but I could only use it for very short pistol work.

This new range is privately owned, and extends from 0-550 yards. This means I can take on a whole new level of testing and evaulating products, while also honing my own skills at long(ish) ranges. I am super excited about this.

So, while I will be taking an extended break from writing in the future, rest assured that I have not fallen of the face of the earth and that there is some good content coming your way soon!

Thanks.

TWGG

 

The Hog Hunt That Wasn’t: Part 4

The three of us got on the road early and arrived in Texas the next day. We were told by the ranch owner before we left home that the easiest place to get the requisite hunting licenses for our group was at Wal-Mart of course. He directed us to the closest one to the ranch, also the only one for hours in any direction. We got to the Wal-Mart in the afternoon, tired and road weary, only to find that the license machine in the sporting goods section was broken and that we could not get our licenses there. We were at a loss for words. Where could we get them?! None of the Wal-Mart employees knew, or probably cared. It seemed to be a dead end for us. Luckily, a customer heard our woes and piped up. “I think you can get them at the local state park, they have a ranger station there and sell hunting licenses sometimes.” We perked up and asked for more details. I was able to Google the station and found that it was only a few miles from where we stood. We rushed to the truck and sped off to the station. We arrived at the park and found a British expat working the counter of the station. She sold us the licenses and sent us off with a “Cheerio!”

With all of the necessary stuff we had to do done, we were able to get to the ranch, go through “Orientation”, and get set up in the tiny cabin/bunkhouse by mid afternoon. The guide for our hunt explained that each hunter would set up in a tree stand blind overlooking a feeder that would dump bait at certain times during the day. All of the shooting ranges were less than 75 yards, and were clear of brush. All a person had to do was sit and wait for a pig to come along at supper time. Too easy!

I should mention that at this point in our trip, we were salivating with blood lust for hogs. We had bets going for who would shoot the most pigs, the biggest pig, etc. The guide gave us a map, walkie-talkies, spotlights for night time, answered all of our questions, showed us the stands and where the most activity was, and the most recent kills were, and then said to call him when we shoot a hog. He then asked us if we were ready to go hunting. We didn’t need any prompting. We were ready.

And then it began to rain.

We didn’t mind the rain at first; we soldiered through it. But then it wouldn’t quit raining. It rained a steady drizzle everyday we were in Texas. We would walk to our blinds, set up, and wait for all the hogs to come running out of the forest for us to shoot. The only problem was they didn’t come in droves. They didn’t come in pairs. They never came. So now we were wet and hog-less. The peculiar thing was the feeders that went off at certain times during the day did their jobs fantastically. When they would dump their bait, all sorts of critters would come scampering out of the forest to have some lunch. We saw tons of different game birds, squirrels, coyotes, tiny Texas deer, I even saw a bobcat one day. No pigs.

At the end of the hunting day, we would trudge back to the bunkhouse, sopping wet, covered in red mud, cold, frustrated, and hungry. We would strip out of our wet clothes, put some logs in the fireplace, and pull out classic deer camp fare: MREs, Vienna Sausages, PopTarts, and soda pop. We would huddle around the tiny television in the cabin that was (surprisingly) hooked up to cable, and watch a weekend marathon of this television show on Comedy Central called “Impractical Jokers”. The little cabin rocked with our laughter for hours into the night. Then we would all pass out from exhaustion,(or starchy, sugary, carbohydrates, I’m not sure which) wake up early in the morning, and go out and do it all over again the next day.

When the day came to leave, we quietly packed up our gear, tipped our guide, and left for home. We hadn’t seen a single pig, but that was okay. As I reflected on the trip during the long drive home I found myself wanting it to not end. I knew that after today it was over and we’d all slip back into our normal lives again. Our family was very close, but once all of us kids moved out, got jobs, and married, it got harder and harder to stay in touch, and coordinate schedules where we all could be together. So to be able to spend a weekend with my dad and my brother where we stunk, slept, ate, shared in frustrations, and laughed together was way better than finding “adventure”.

 

We found family.

 

And Larry…I found Larry.

The Hog Hunt That Wasn’t: Part 3

It was way too late in the day to drive straight to Texas, so we decided to stop in Fort Wayne, Arkansas for the night. I got us a room at this fleabag motel that was dirt cheap and right off the interstate, and as such, shared a parking lot with a liquor store, a pawn shop, and a McDonalds. The room had all the latest styling and accouterments you could hope to find: dull semi stained carpet, a tv bolted to the wall, Wi-Fi was 5 bucks a night extra, towels that smelled of smoke. And most importantly two twin beds with three grown men abiding in them. You do the math. We decided that Dad would get his own bed, and that my brother and I would share the other one.

My brother and I were hungry so we walked to the McDonalds across the way to grab some dinner to go, carrying concealed of course. My brother had a very conventional CCW rig, a .380 ACP single stack pocket pistol in an inside the waistband holster. I, on the other hand, was trying to pull double duty with mine. My weapon of choice was an N-Frame Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum with a 6 ½ inch barrel in an original Smith and Wesson shoulder holster. It laid comfortably under my armpit and against my rib cage, and was much easier to conceal that I had imagined, with a coat on of course. I figured that it would work equally well on pigs as other critters. Plus, I felt a little like Det. Harry Callahan. Luckily, we encountered no mischief and we got back to our room unscathed with a big box of chicken nuggets and soft drinks in tow.

We ate dinner by the soft glow of the neon lights at the liquor store while watching a very strange Japanese language sci-fi film. After the film ended we went to sleep. Correction. My brother and my dad went to sleep. I spent a good portion of the night elbowing my brother to stay on his side, stop snoring, and to prevent him from spooning with me. The combination of the late night junk food dinner, strange dreams in Japanese, and my brother’s attempt to try and score with me did not lend itself to a good nights rest.

The Hog Hunt That Wasn’t: Part 2

The night of the 18th of December it was a balmy 48 degrees and dry; lovely tanning weather here in the Midwest during wintertime. The local news station warned that a winter storm warning was issued for Northern Kansas and Missouri. I thought little of it as my mind was pre-occupied with things of a more important matter. When I went to sleep that night I was ready for 4:00 AM, I had all my gear packed and laid out neatly so that there would be no waste of time in the morning.

When my alarm went off that morning, I was awake and out of the bedroom before the second beep. I quickly showered and dressed. I hurried outside to start my diesel pickup truck, and when I opened the door I looked out into a sea of white. During the night while we slept, the temperature dropped to about 32 degrees and it began to snow gently. The temperature then climbed to about 33 or 34 degrees and it quit snowing and melted all that had settled on the ground. The temperature then dropped to about 18 degrees, turning all of the water on the ground into a thin sheen of ice, and then dumped almost ten inches of snow in about six hours on top of it. All of this became very apparent as I began to drive.

As soon as I was packed, I kissed my wife goodbye and told her it had snowed a little during the night. She smiled sleepily and went back to dreamland. I went back outside, locked my hubs in four-wheel drive, and let the old turbo-diesel crawl out of the driveway. As soon as I got to the junction of the county road and the highway, I shifted the transfer case out of 4×4 and attempted to get onto the highway, which hadn’t been bladed. The resulting donuts prompted me to put it back in 4×4. Luckily, there was no one to see me perform my tricks. As soon as I got up to about 40-45 mph on the slick highway, I could feel the truck start to skid and slip, so I ensured that I stayed under 40. At about this time, the heavens proceeded to dump more snow on top of the already Arctic-like conditions.

I should point out the drive to my parents house is about an hour and a half from my place when you are driving the speed limit of 65mph. As I was driving at about 38-40 mph, I knew we weren’t going to be able to leave at the scheduled time. First wrench thrown. I simply gritted my teeth, turned up the heat and the radio, and drove on through the snow.

As I drove by some of the bigger towns, traffic, and accidents, increased. There were cars driving way too fast, and some way too slow, both of which are equally dangerous when the roads are as badly iced and snow covered as they were. There were dozens of emergency vehicles and snow plow trucks along the highway responding as fast as they could to the amount of motorists in the ditches and snow on the road. I particularly remember seeing a red Audi, a very rare car in these parts, blaze past me at what was probably too fast for good road conditions let alone these conditions. About ten minutes later down the road, I could see headlights pointing up towards the sky where a car had run off the road into a very deep creek bed. I looked to see if it was really bad. My headlights caught a glimpse of red, European styling, and a figure in a long coat with their hand to their ear, presumably calling for help on a cellphone. It was too dangerous for me to pull over, and I was somewhat satisfied with that outcome anyways, so I drove on.

As I got past the towns and into the country, the number of accidents decreased, but the danger of driving did not. After I had driven about an hour, I saw a figure walking on the shoulder. It was still dark out, so I slowed down a bit and positively identified a person trudging through the snow on the shoulder. At this point, I couldn’t take it much more. I pulled over as safely as I could manage and turned my hazards on. I could see the figure begin to trot over to my truck. I had never picked up a hitchhiker before. All the stories one hears about picking up hitchhikers flashed in my head. Well, I reasoned, this person was more likely a stranded motorist and not a murderous hitchhiker, considering the circumstances. Plus, I was well heeled at the time, so if this person wanted to play dirty, I was up for a game anyways. My thoughts were interrupted when the cab door opened and a red faced, thin man in a snow covered windbreaker jacket, blue jeans, and tennis shoes hopped up and sat in the passenger seat. He stuttered out the words “Thanks, man” and shook hands with me. Ice cold hands. I got back on the highway and began my 40mph trudge again. After “Larry” had warmed up and stopped shivering, I asked him where he was going. He said he lived in a town that I was going to be driving through, so that was pretty lucky. The only catch was that town was twenty miles away. I asked him where he came from, and he said he had gotten off of work at midnight in the previous town, but couldn’t get his car unstuck, so he just started walking. Larry had been out in this dangerous weather for more than five hours and had walked almost twenty miles when I had picked him up and still had twenty to go! Larry could have very well died from exposure if I had not put aside my personal qualms and pulled over to pick him up. We didn’t really talk after that. We just drove and listened to the radio. After we got to the town where Larry lived, I dropped him off at his house, shook his now warm hand and drove away.

It was almost 9 in the morning before I got to my parents house, and the weather showed no sign of stopping. The roads were even worse now, as it was warming up and the snow was melting again. It was 1pm before we deemed it safe to load up in my dad’s truck and hit the road again for Texas. Ironically enough, once we had drove for thirty minutes south, there had been very little snowfall at all and the roads were completely clear.

The Hog Hunt That Wasn’t: Part 1

In June of 2014 I was hankering for something exciting to do. I was hearing about all these different adventures that my friends were going on, I had no prospects lined up for any future excursions, I was finished with all my schooling, and my job at the time really sucked. I was bored. As luck would have it, one evening I was reading an article on this rather famous hunter/ adventurer and his exploits of daring-do all over the world. I remember thinking to myself, “I want to go on an adventure! Why can’t I do something this cool?” As I bemoaned my stability and safety my mind began to wander; I began to envision myself as a sort of fedora wearing professor, or maybe a Hawaiian-shirt wearing private investigator. I could see it now: seedy characters, dangerous creatures, damp jungles, hot deserts, and dark alleys. Me, the hero, always on the brink of danger, ready to swoop in and save the day with a crafty plan and blued steel.

I was brought back to reality by sound of the cat scratching at the front door wanting to be let back inside the house. As I let her in, I thought to myself about what sort of realistic possibilities there were for me to have a modern day adventure. I concluded that an out of state weekend hunting trip would certainly suffice for now as a good introduction to being an adventurer. I began to search online and figure out what was even out there. What I did know is that there HAD to be an element of danger to this hunt, so prairie dogs were definitely out of the question. What I found in my scrounging about is that there are a myriad of places throughout the South offering very affordable wild hog hunts. Aha! Now there is an idea! I could see it all so clearly, stalking a boar through the scrub brush and palmetto fronds, ready for 300 pounds of muscle and tusk to charge, only for him to meet his death knell at my feet. There was romance, there was danger, there was adventure!

I called up my dad and brother and proposed the big trip. Both jumped at the idea immediately and threw their hats into the ring. As it were, they were in need of adventure as well. After I got the Missus’ approval, I spent the next few weeks looking at different ranches for the best combination of quantity and quality of hogs. We all decided to settle on a ranch about two hours south of Dallas, Texas that offered a great deal on all three of us to hunt for three days for an unlimited amount of hogs the week before Christmas of 2014. Visions of ham danced in my eyes. An unlimited amount of hogs?! I couldn’t book us for the trip fast enough.

Over the next six months, we planned every last detail of the trip down to the gas stations we would stop at. We would all arrive on December 19th at my parents house in the early morning, load up and drive down to the ranch, hunt the 20th, 21st, and the morning of the 22nd, pack up and drive home laden down with dead pigs in the pickup bed. We talked with people who had been on hog hunts, watched every YouTube video on hog hunting, bought every hunting magazine that had an article dealing with the subject, and made trips to the local Cabela’s for new hunting gear. My dad even bought a new rifle, a Savage “Hog Hunter” in .338 Winchester Magnum, just for the trip. I spent hours at the local range practicing with my personal rifle at different ranges and positions to ensure that no matter what the field conditions if any pig dared to cross into my shooting lane it would be the last thing that pig ever did.

Speaking of gear, my personal loadout was my Marlin 1895 lever action rifle in 45-70 with a Williams receiver peep sight. I had worked up a hot load for the 45-70 that comprised of a 430 grain hard cast lead bullet with copper gas check running to the tune of about 1750 feet per second at the muzzle. It was a veritable Mjolnir of loads that I could manage to prints groups that landed within an inch and a half at 100yards. I had heard of the ubiquitous “shield” of cartilage and gristle that a full grown boar develops under its hide to protect itself from fights with other pigs and could, under the right circumstances, deflect a lighter or poorly constructed bullet. This was our first time and I didn’t want any wounded pigs running away because I was “under gunned”.

To say that we were ready for whatever hit us was an understatement.

Until Whatever hit us.