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Category Archives: defense

Personal Security and Security Cameras

Personal Security and Security Cameras

Security cameras have never been high on my list of priorities for our home. I simply never saw the need for them. We live in a low-crime area, there is someone at our home a vast majority of the time and security cameras are expensive. They are a pain. They are unnecessary.

Right?

Well, now we have them. And I can’t see myself going back to not having them any time soon.

The decision to get cameras was mine and mine alone. I have been traveling a lot of late and my children are spending more time with sitters. Not more time than what they spend with me or their father but more time in general. I am uncomfortable being away from my children and not being able to see or hear them or even know if something is happening to them.

I’ve also watched way too many videos of people finding out their pets or children are being abused via security camera to dismiss the idea that people can seem perfectly reasonable and trustworthy until they think you aren’t watching them.

I have trust issues.

So, I bought and installed security cameras in our home primarily for the purpose of being able to check in on my children and home at any time, day or night, when I’m not there.

When I started looking for cameras I was both unsurprised but amazed at how far the technology has come. Of course, like anything else, I could have gone super cheap and limited such as limited, low-quality video only to super expensive and sophisticated with pan and zoom, HD video with sound and recording capabilities. For less than $100 I got two cameras that have the capability of taking video and sound, day or night (via IR) that transmits via our wireless network in our home.

I got the cameras on a Friday and had them set up in a few hours. I also learned these puppies have some cool features I wasn’t expecting such as motion and sound detection that can be set by sensitivity and location. I also learned that with an app on my cell phone I could get notifications of movement and sound anywhere I had a cell signal.

Figuring out where to put the cameras was an interesting chore.

My poor husband had exceptional patience with me as I took each camera, connected to an extra-long extension cord and had him follow me around the house with my laptop so I could see at what angles I had the most coverage of the most lived rooms in the house.

We got them set and I started fiddling with the features.

Since we have pets, motion detection, I thought, was going to be a drag. Until I learned that I could narrow the scope of the area to report motion detection to select areas of the camera’s view including up, off the floor. I narrowed in the motion to areas of entrance to our house so that I wouldn’t get notifications for my cat jumping on the couch or the kids watching tv. For the most part it works very well.

I do get false motion detection notifications from time to time but not on such a regular basis that it keeps me from checking them.

For sound detection, I was able to set the decibel level to be alerted to for each camera but I eventually turned that off because, with kids, the decibels are all over the place. I can remotely turn it on and off if we are out of the house or schedule it for certain hours.

Which leads me to the moment I realized that these camera things have a lot more potential for home and personal security than just checking in on my kids and home while I’m away.

It all started while I was at swimming lessons with my kids. My phone alerted me that one of the cameras had detected movement. I touched the notification while sitting beside the pool and was immediately shown live video feed of my home where I saw the figure of a man entering my house. I looked at the time and noticed it was early to be my husband but within moments the man came into view and I saw that it was, indeed, my husband.

“How cool!” I thought. I sent my husband a text message, “Welcome home!” to which he responded by telling me how creepy it was to know I was watching him.

Knowing that I would be alerted to anyone being in my home before they could even get through my door was a pretty cool feeling which led me to my next big personal security revelation.

A few days later, after parking in the garage, I picked up my phone and did a quick remote scan of the house before deciding to go in. While there are certainly blind spots that the cameras don’t see I liked the idea of being able to visually check where I was going before I went there, a luxury we rarely get.

When the time came to leave our children with a sitter, with the help of the sound and motion alerts I was able to check in from time to time and see them being played with, fed and kindly cared for in my absence. Everything a concerned parent wants.

I admit to being a total feed-viewing junkie for the first few days which lead to my husband’s sigh and a hopeful, “When the novelty wears off, I hope you stop going all NSA on us.”

My remote viewing has certainly died down quite a bit, but I still enjoy watching him scurry around the house to clean when I message him to tell him I’m on my way home (not that it’s required of him, but that he does that out of love for me) or even getting short bursts of play that I’m missing while at a class or an event.

I go back and forth between feeling paranoid and relieved and even though my husband doesn’t particularly like the cameras he’s been happy with my reports of feeling positive for buying them.

“$100 is a small price to pay for peace of mind,” he tells me and he’s right. There is a certain amount of peace-of-mind that comes with them where a big question mark was before.

We’ve even decided to add a few more and to enable recording to eliminate the few blind spots we have.

So far, all we’ve caught is a lot of play, love, some jumping on the couches and cat baths. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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Dear Gun Manufacturers: Make Me A Gun!

Dear Gun Manufacturers: Make Me A Gun!

I love that gun manufacturers are starting to really give us little people what we need.

With concealed carry booming and available in all fifty states of our union, with national reciprocity of some sorts on the horizon (it’s going to happen, people!) and the continued surge of female carriers and shooters the need for full-size, double-stack combat pistols is going to be met by the need of compact pistols that people can carry concealed but also shoot well.

Ahh.. shoot well.

There it is. The operative phrase.

Shoot. Well.

Let’s not mince words, there are hundreds of compact carry pistols on the market. I could go to a gun store today and pick up a P3AT or an LCP or a S&W Shield or Bodyguard or a Kahr PM9. I could go even smaller if I wanted to cut caliber or more capacity and potentially increasing my displeasure at the range. I could also go slightly larger and find a far more comfortable shooting gun and struggle with concealment.

The problem is (and well known) that many of the best carry guns are notoriously hard to shoot. Okay, the Shield isn’t bad (it’s actually quite good), but there are still people who do not find it easy to shoot.

We NEED a missing link. I’m stressing need here because I’m going to be addressing the needs of many people (men and women) all over the industry.

I am a small female and I’m not the only one. I’m also not the only one who has small hands or prefers single stack firearms. There are thousands upon thousands of women and men, like me, who have been begging and pleading for smaller-framed firearms that fit better in the grip and hand. You have answered the call by making single-stack 9mms! Thank you!

But for some reason you’ve assumed that means we have to have short barrels, too. That’s not necessarily so.

We all know that the lighter and more compact the firearm the more recoil the shooter needs to control and absorb. For individuals who already have lesser upper body strength, small hands or disabilities like arthritis this makes compact pistols intimidating and hard to control. Even if they love the gun for its size they shy away from shooting it or muscle through it for the sake of training to end up with sore elbows and wrists and arms. Not to mention we all know that longer sight radii help with accuracy.

Where are the small-frame, single stack, long-slide firearms that don’t come in the form of 1911s or also have long grips?

Glock 43 vs a S&W Shield

Glock 43 vs a S&W Shield

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my Shield. It’s a great carry gun and the best compact 9mm I’ve ever shot. I will likely end up with a Glock 43 in my arsenal as well. I might even carry both. At the same time!

But I (and others) would pay good money for a S&W M&P 9mm Shield with a 4″ barrel (particularly threaded so that I might be able to add weight to the end for better recoil management, but I’ll start with a standard barrel, thankyouverymuch). I would also love for the grip to remain the same length but with options for larger/longer magazines. This way I could still carry the 4″ model if I wanted to (because it’s the grip that is hardest to conceal, not the barrel) but I could still compete and practice with a 9 or 10 round magazine.

Glock, if you’re listening, how about a 44? Please? A G19 length barrel with a G43 frame… that’s all I’m asking (oh, and larger capacity magazines with sleeves but baby steps).

Pretty Please? I would rock that.

Forever Yours,
Melody Lauer

The Value of Training in Dollars and Sense

The Value of Training in Dollars and Sense

This blog post isn’t for you. It’s for me. If you happen to take this ride with me you may or may not learn something. If you do learn something, tell me what it is. This isn’t a vent or rant. It’s just something that I’ve been discussing with several of my instructor friends and something I wanted to get onto the proverbial paper.

What does it take to attend quality firearms training and why would someone do it?

This year is going to be my most intensive training year to date.

Escaping from zip ties from behind using a paracord saw in the Unthinkable class.

Escaping from zip ties from behind using a paracord saw in the Unthinkable class.

Already this year I have been to Ohio for Unthinkable and down to Memphis for the Tactical Conference. In June I’m off to Washington State for an Instructor Development Course with Kathy Jackson and in July I’m sitting in on another instructor Development course in Iowa. Then it’s down to Virginia in September for Advanced Tactical Handgun with Ernest Langdon and the very next week I’m off to Oklahoma to attend an Advanced Instructor course with Tom Givens. Then, I have another defensive pistol class in November? Somewhere in all that I have to reserve our spots in next years’ Tactical Conference before all the tickets sell out and start reserving my places in next years training events.

I’m super thrilled. I’m also freaking out. How am I going to pay for all of this?

No lie. I’m running on faith a little here.

I think I’ve had people assume that just because I take my training seriously and attend training we’re somehow wealthy.

Yes, we have a training budget but that budget is usually maxed at about 2-3 classes. In case you weren’t keeping count, I’m scheduled for five more classes in addition to the two I’ve already attended this year. 

The fact of the matter is we are solidly middle class Americans who aren’t as wealthy as we are lucky and creative. We have the same considerations any other family has to face. Childcare, travel expenses, time. 

To go to Ohio we had to pull in some favors and do some bartering for time and money particularly where child care is concerned.

The hoops we’ve jumped through already to get to the Tactical Conference are pretty crazy when you think of them from a purely economical stand point including driving a total of 300 miles out of our way and adding two days on to our trip to find a care provider for our kids. Yes, there was the added benefit of spending some time with some great friends and they greatly lightened the burden of the expenses by putting us up for two nights and watching our kids.

Shooting bowling pins at 30 yards at Partner Tactics.

Shooting bowling pins at 30 yards at Partner Tactics.

I’ve enjoyed other help along the way that leaves me struggling to express my gratitude.

I’m graciously at the mercy of strangers who will be picking me up from airports, allowing me to room with them in hotels to split costs or even crash on their couches.

Right now I’m sitting down to amend our budget again for any and every last drop.

Why?

Because some time in 2012 I decided I wanted to earn my way to a place  where I could give back in some way. Knowledgeable, experienced instructors (particularly female) are getting harder to find and are becoming diluted amongst the deluge of inexperienced and not-so-knowledgeable instructors.

That isn’t a slam to anyone, just a fact.

I’ve set my goal to being a Vicki Farnam or Kathy Jackson or Lynn Givens. The problem has become that this investment seems to demand so much sometimes with no return in sight.

Not when people say things like, “That costs too much,” or “I wish it were closer.”

It may be easy to assume that people in the training industry only push training because they want to fill their classes and make money. I have yet to meet a single instructor who feels that way. Of cours the money would be nice but the people I know in the training industry commonly undersell their classes, give way too much of their time, donate hours upon hours, spend weeks away from their families all for the singular goal of preparing people to defend themselves.

They do anything they can to make it accessible to the common man or woman only to be rejected.

Shooting an attack target in IDPA.

Shooting an attack target in IDPA.

Very few instructors actually make a living from the training they provide.

“Come to Virginia!”

“I have a class in Lynchburg on the 23rd.”

“That’s an hour away. I can’t attend.” “I can’t find a babysitter.” “I’ve never been away from my children that long.” “Saturday is our family day and I don’t want to take that time away from them.”  “That costs too much.”

It’s often not considered that the people providing training are taking time away from their families, possibly finding babysitters, traveling just as far or farther than you and making next to nothing for their efforts.

Like I said, this isn’t a rant. or a vent. It’s just the way it is and it’s not going to change. Not any time soon at least. And not without a realignment in what a majority of people think about training.

Instead of thinking of it as an investment or a need or a priority it’s often thought of as a box to check, a luxury or a recreation.

Make no mistake about it, training can be fun but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s frustrating or embarrassing, exhausting and hard work. Many times it does nothing more than highlight how much more training you need.

Shooting from unusual positions in Extreme Close Quarters.

Shooting from unusual positions in Extreme Close Quarters.

In my “other job” I’m an EMT. That job requires so many hours of continuing education in order to stay certified. The complaints I hear at medical symposium and classes are the same I hear in regards to firearms training with a select difference. The people in the medical classes have to be there. The consequence in not attending is forfeiting their licenses. They gripe about having to find babysitters, they whine about how much they’d rather be mowing their lawn or attending a barbecue but they are more invested in being able to recertify than they are in their free time. Magically, they find a way to attend. They drive the hours, they get the hotel rooms, they make it work. Because they have to.

I don’t believe in requiring people to take firearms training but I do believe that people should set themselves the same standards and think of training as something they must do rather than something that is optional.

I’m looking at my training schedule and my investment and wondering if I’ll ever see a return on it in the financial sense of the word. Probably not. But that’s not what I’m looking for. I’m looking for a security return from my students.

From a consumer standpoint I’m investing in my ability to effectively defend myself in a time of need. That’s something I must do. The stakes are too high.

And because I must do it I will find a way to pay for it. I’ll go over my budget again and find a way. I will compromise my own comfort and free time to attend. I will spend a month pumping milk for my son so I can leave him with a babysitter. It’s not something I want to do (well, not entirely. No lie. There’s some want). It’s something I must do.

Force on Force at the Tactical Conference

Force on Force at the Tactical Conference

Rangemaster Tactical Conference: 2015

Last weekend I attended my second Rangemaster Tactical Conference.

If you’re not sure what that is, just imagine every self defense trainer you’ve ever wanted to train with under one roof for three days and you get to choose from any number of blocks of instruction you want to go to from couples tactics to use of cover, to knife defense and more. You can also compete in a match, win door prizes, rub shoulders with some of the greatest minds in the industry and meet some amazing, like-minded new friends.

Last year I was five months pregnant and constructed my schedule around things I felt I was lacking in my training. This year, while there wasn’t a single block of instruction I did not want to go to, I chose to invest most of my time into the blocks of instruction that offered experience vs knowledge. In other words, the live-action blocks.

On Friday I attended:

Teach ‘Em A Lesson with Tiffany Johnson

Tiffany gave instruction on constructing presentations that engage students and convey your content without boring or confusing. I found this block of instruction inspirational and helpful as it showed a lot of the mistakes presenters make and how to avoid them. I realized I’d made many of those mistakes in my own presentations and immediately set about to fix them upon returning home. Bettering my presentation because of it.

Next, I attended Lethal Encounters taught by Jim Higginbotham. This entire block seemed very familiar and I realized it was because I’d attended the same block by a different name the year before. It was a good reminder, however, on what actually incapacitates attackers and how to construct your training to maximize effectiveness with something as potentially incapacitating as a handgun.

Spencer Keepers teaching Critical Handgun Skills

Spencer Keepers teaching Critical Handgun Skills

My afternoon was supposed to be Critical Handgun Skills with Spencer Keepers but ice on the range shut down the afternoon and I headed over to Paul Sharp’s Weapon Retention and Disarms. My husband, John, and I only got to stay for a few minutes, however, as it was our turn to shoot the pistol match. We were both hoping we would be right back into class but they were running behind which kept us stuck outside of the range.

It wasn’t all bad, however, because I got to spend that time listening to Claude Werner talk about his recent research into the OODA loop. I was absolutely fascinated by his research and kind of bummed when they finally called us into the range. I can’t wait to hear about the rest of his research.

After the match we headed over to Massad Ayoob’s class on Witness Dynamics. A fascinating look at how fallible people are at recalling what happened in any given situation and how their perceptions can be used in court to make it seem as though you are lying.

With that in mind we were done for the day and met up with some pretty high class people down at a local eatery for some great fun and amazing food.

I was lucky enough to get sat across from Spencer Keepers and John Hearne and got about two hours worth of shooting advice from both of them. I was just a bit start struck.

Saturday opened with Southnarc’s Experiential Learning Laboratory. Craig Douglas, known as Southnarc to many, sets up a blind scenario based upon plausible, real-life scenarios. After all live weapons are removed from participants you are given a brief scenario and a regular task. In this case, “You’re leaving WalMart. Your task is to get in your car and go home.” Along the way you are presented with a challenge that may or may not require the use of a firearm. The point, of course, is to test your ability to gauge and handle potentially life-threatening situations. I wasn’t quite sure if I’d make the cut as only about 15 people get to participate but eventually I made it into the group of 15 that would participate. The experience was enlightening as well as humbling but vital in its use for self assessing my progress on this self-defense journey.

From there I headed over to Spencer Keeper’s Critical Handgun Skills class. I’d been looking forward to this class since I’d heard he was teaching it. He had promised to challenge me and my shooting ability as I expressed to him I’d been feeling a bit like I’d plateaued. Unfortunately, it was pouring down rain and even though we worked as much as we could, the rain really hampered things like speedy work from the holster. It was a unique experience to have my gun so wet that water was running off the muzzle and down my pant legs whenever I holstered it.

I was supposed to assist Lynn Givens with the woman’s Primary Marksmanship Skills class in the afternoon but it was cancelled due to the rain and even though Spencer offered to keep working with people who were willing to stand in the rain, I was loathe to miss the end of John Hearne’s lecture on Performance Under Fire. I had attended John’s four-hour version the year before and knowing that he’d added two more hours of information was too much to pass up. I snuck in just in time to hear him talk about some of the sacred cows the shooting industry still holds on to in regards to things like fine motor skills, the inability to see sights in gunfights and heart rate dictating performance.

The med bag, approved by Caleb Causey

The med bag, approved by Caleb Causey

In keeping with my theme of wanting to focus on live, action based training and assessment, I started my Sunday morning in line for Caleb Causey and Karl Rehn’s Low Light Force-on-Force incorporating medical scenarios. I had cornered Causey in the hall way the day before, telling him I was an EMT and looking forward to his block of instruction. His response was, “Oh, good! I have a scenario I want to use you for.”

I got nervous.

Not only would this be a pseudo-assessment of my problem solving and tactics and chaos management but also my medical skills. I felt I’d left a lot of the angst in regards to scenarios behind me when I walked out of the door of Craig Douglas’ learning lab and was ready to take on this new challenge.

While these scenarios would be blind they would also be dark and be dealing with a portion of self defense that a lot of people don’t consider–how to treat yourself or those you love if you are injured in a fight.

I plan to go into further detail later. For now I’ll just say that this class was a great lesson for me as an EMT as well as a civilian. Working scene security and tactics as well as treatment and scanning was a new adjunct to the skills I got to practice, however briefly. It was also great to have Caleb there to look over my medical kit and give his suggestions. I fully anticipate seeking out training from him and Karl Rehn in the future.

To finish out my weekend I went to Greg Ellifritz’s Close Range Handgun Threat: Empty Hand Skills class. I’d attended his Extreme Close Quarters gunfighting class in October of 2013, the day before I found out I was pregnant with our third child. Feeling I didn’t have the chance to practice a lot of the skills he taught I felt this was a good opportunity to refresh as well as keep with my theme of attending action-based blocks of instruction.

My sparring partner and I did get a little rambunctious now and then (apologies to everyone we ran into) but it’s a relief to get paired with people who actually aren’t afraid to tussle with a small female.

I won a holster as a door prize and Lynn gave me a belt! I didn’t place so hot in the match but that’s okay, too.

As the conference progressed I took notes in the back of my notebook as to the things I wanted to do or improve upon in the coming year.

They are as follows:

Redo my babywearing and carrying powerpoint presentation (done)
Start carrying my spare magazine on body
Start carrying a fixed blade forward of my hips again
Get new sights on my Shield
Achieve a 1.5 second draw/shoot time from concealment with one good hit on chest of a 7-yard target
Work more strong-hand-only drawing and shooting
Work more low-light tactics and shooting
Work more movement and drawing or reloading

I also want to keep teaching, keep running EMS and continue with my hand-to-hand training as well.

AAR: Insights Two-Day General Defensive Handgun Class

This After Action Review (AAR) was originally posted on DefensiveCarry.com on Oct 2, 2007. It was my very first defensive handgun class and I still remember many things about that class. To go back and read this review was a fantastic glimpse into how far I’ve come in the last seven years. I remember the level of stress I felt taking this class and to think back on it makes me almost laugh but also reminds me what new students face and it’s an important reminder not to look critically at people who are taking their first baby steps into a new world. To read the original draft, click here. Enjoy.

Introduction:

When it comes to training someone to defend himself (lethally if need be) there are as many theories, techniques and idea as there are shooters. It can be like math, or it can be like history.

Some training is as simple as two plus two. There are simple rules that need to be applied, such as grip, stance, the draw, and so on. These things are fundamentals that can be built upon and used to solve more complicated problems later on. Other instructors may encourage their students to go about those things a different way but the principle is entirely the same: do what you need to do safely and efficiently so you can save a life.

However, there is also another side to firearms instruction and that is made up of ideas, constructed within laws, facts and other ideas. Who do I choose to protect with my firearm? When is the appropriate time to draw? How do you deal with the police? What should I do after an encounter? One can instruct on these matters within the law, based of personal experience and ideas, but it is up to the individual doing to learning to decide what they will accept and what they will not and what I may glean as true and right may be what another shooter rejects. This is neither a good not a bad thing. It’s evidence that we are individuals with individual minds, beliefs, ideas, and morals that we want to individually adapt and morph. It is up to us to decide what consequences we will accept for those beliefs and ideas.

As evidence to this fact, my husband and I both took the two-day, General Defensive Handgun Class provided by Insights Training Center and if he were to write a review of the class it would probably be a lot different than mine. While the company is based out of Washington State, they travel the country providing more localized training. This particular class was held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and cost 300 U.S. dollars per student.

Day One:

Day one started with introductions of the instructor, Greg Hamilton, and the participants of the class, of which I was the only woman enrolled. After we got through firearms safety we went on to what I like to call the arithmetic of shooting, the basic rules to be built upon to make them an advanced shooter: grip, stance, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, follow through and so on. Some instructors may disagree on certain techniques, but the result is the same: kill him before he kills you.

A number of these “basics” were not new concepts for me, but were modified slightly or explained and shown to me the way no one had been able to do so before. What I knew in theory finally became practice.

Finally, the instructor imparted on us poor souls the key to being a successful shooter. The principle is simple, yet profound, and it is that you never miss. You will always hit what you are aiming at, and you’re bullet will always go where it is pointed. The principles of stance, grip, sight alignment and picture and follow-through are all in place to help the shooter aim sure, putting the front sight where needed so that the bullet can follow.

We then learned the priorities of survival:
1) Mindset
2) Tactics
3) Skill
4) Equipment

We’ve all heard, dozens and probably thousands of times that mindset is the most important part of self-defense and I don’t think that anyone would argue that point. The idea is that without the will to live and to fight and to survive, it doesn’t matter if the person has a bazooka in their hands. There are little old grandmas who defeat attacks from much more able-bodied attackers just because they had the mindset that said they would not be victims. Mindset is the first priority.

Second, is tactics. Some tactics can be learned, but some are born out of the necessity of the situation. The people who are unarmed, but have the mindset to survive and to prevail will improvise their tactics to succeed, no matter what is required.

A person can be born with a measure of skill, but usually skill is learned. However, someone does not need to be skilled to survive and that is why it is more important to have mindset and tactics than it is to have skill. The little old grandmother with her bare hands can be just as effective as the skilled, training shooter, as long as she has the will to get going and the idea that sets her will in place. However, skill can help and be built upon and keep you alive longer and healthier than the lack thereof.

It’s also news to no one that a gun is not necessary to defend one’s self. In the absence of a gun anything can be used whether it be a knife, hands and feet, a fork, a chair or a gallon of milk. Those who choose to carry a gun for self-defense are a step up on the equipment scale, but a $3,000 gun will never mindset, tactics or skill, nor should it.

Then we were lectured on the two Principles of Personal Defense
1) Awareness
2) Decisiveness

You can have all the things necessary to survive a confrontation, but if you are unaware of your surroundings or undetermined as to whether you should act, you are as hindered as though you have nothing.

He also talked about expectations in a gunfight, which I found to be very helpful to me. He expressed that it is true that more than likely only a few rounds are necessary to end a fight in a personal defense situation, don’t expect that. My favorite phrase of the day was, “I expect to shoot through the entire magazine in my gun, my entire spare magazine, jump on top of him and beat him with my empty gun and then cut his head off with my knife, because everyone knows the fight isn’t over until his head is not at least three feet from his body.” It was a very unique way of looking at the situation.

Finally, after lunch we got to do some shooting. The first moments on the firing line were as terrorizing, as they were stressful, intense, confused and aggravating. Our instructor had said stress management was a key to being a good defensive shooter and that one of the ways to ensure you do not act prematurely under stress is to make sure that your practice is as stressful or worse than the real thing. He had told us he was going to make our practice stressful and he was right.

He was screaming, there was gunfire, brass was flying, the brain was going a million miles an hour trying to remember everything he just said, he was behind you, screaming, and you’re trying to act, all at the same time. Luckily there were no dropped guns, but there was a lot of cursing and startled faces. The worst part of the first few moments on the firing line was the fact that we weren’t doing very much. We weren’t drawing, we were moving, we weren’t doing anything but extending our firearms from the ready position, finding our sights, pressing the trigger and tactical reloads. Looking back I’m sure there’s not a one of us who doesn’t feel silly for how panicked we all felt in those first couple of minutes, but it was a stepping-stone to greater things.

Finally, we did get to doing some drawing, then more work on sight alignment, and we went back in for more lecture on the difference between justifiable and criminal force before we all went home to prepare for the next day.

Day Two:

On a personal note, I was sicker than a dog for the start of day two. We assembled in the classroom but started our day immediately on the range. I was sick enough to have to run to the bathroom a couple times, but determined to go on despite the pain in my gut, the nausea, and chills, and the desire to curl up in the fetal position and die. Amazingly enough, that morning while doing accuracy drills, I kicked everyone’s butt, but hardly cared at the moment. I wanted a painkiller and a bed.

From accuracy drills we moved right on to firing from the ready position, drawing and firing and rapid firing. After which we went inside for more lecture.

I sat at the table curled into a ball, clutching poor JD’s leg, trying to distract myself from the agony I was feeling in those moments but still listening intently.

Now we went into the Defensive Condition Color Codes of Awareness:
White (Unaware)
Yellow (Relaxed Alert)
Orange (Specific Alert)
Red (Fight Imminent)
Black (Fight Confirmed)
“Triggers” (Situationally Dependent)

Then we also went into the ready positions for the Color Codes of Awareness.

We also discussed guns, holsters, and other useful equipment like OC spray, flashlights, cell phones, knives and in what situation we might decide to use one over the other and how those tools can be used as deterrents so that one may never have to escalate to using a gun.

It was lunch before we went out to do more shooting and I was starting to feel a little better, so I did order a sandwich, only to regret eating it later.

I was again, in agony, while we did “identifying the target” drills.

We went back into class to discuss ballistics, gunshot wounds, shooting through the pain (which was a very appropriate lecture for me at that moment) and the aftermath of a shooting—everything from psychological, physical and legal.

We also discussed a little bit more about expectations and where to fire and to keep firing until the threat was down. And even then we should still be reloading and preparing ourselves for more while searching for secondary targets. He also warned us never to get into the idea that just because a threat is running away or on the ground the fight is over. One can still be running away and firing, or just running to cover to return more fire. He can still be on the ground with a gun. One should fire until the threat has stopped doing whatever he was doing to start it all in the first place.

When we went back out again, we did speed reloads and clearance drills. Loading up our magazines with snap caps and live ammo and going to town while still identifying out targets, drawing, firing, following up and scanning the area.

By the time we moved on to practicing the three zones of fire—the chest, head and pelvis—I was finally starting to feel like a human being again. My energy and good nature was returning and I wasn’t feeling so ill. It was a good thing too, because now we moved on to moving and shooting while doing everything we’d mentioned before. Finally, we added in communication to the mix: screaming commands to the attacker and to by-standers both before, during and after the shooting, to make sure everyone knows what’s happening and what to do next.

During that string of fire I saw a piece of brass enter my field of vision just before it clocked me a good one on the nose, bounced and hit my glasses and then left my field of vision as I kept shooting. My nose was stinging like crazy but I didn’t stop. I felt something sticky after the firing was over, turned to the instructor and asked if I was bleeding and he said I was. I now have a nice cut on the top of my nose from a piece of angrily wielded brass from the .40 caliber next to me (at least that’s where I assume it came from). I was not having a good day as far as my health was concerned.

We pretty much ended the class on that note and all went away with smiles on our faces.

When the instructor asked us if we all felt we learned something, everyone was nodding and telling their stories of what they learned. Because I was still feeling poorly and not very talkative, I was keeping to myself when he pointed at me and said, “I know you learned something.”

I was a little shocked and asked what that was and he said that by the end of the class he could see I had much better control of hands and body and more fluid control over the gun. I took that as a pretty big compliment as our instructor only gave out about six compliments the entire class. It wasn’t that he scolded people; he just spent more time moving people forward than congratulating them on what they did. He made sure to tell us to congratulate ourselves however.

What Did I Learn?

I learned that my expectations were a bit skewed and while they were not incorrect I was looking at them from a different angle.

I learned to put into practice things that I knew were correct in theory but never had anyone to instruct me on.

I learned to get angry and act when threatened (not always lethally, of course) instead of getting afraid and indecisive.

I learned that someone could bleed a LOT before they die and it can be nasty but it’s necessary to continue the fight, even if wounded. If you’re alive enough to realize you’ve been hurt, you’ll probably still be alive when you’ve returned fire and help has arrived. Even death is a lousy excuse for not fighting back.

I learned practices for better situational awareness and ways to manipulate my surroundings, even my attacker, to my advantage.

I’ll probably be figuring out all of the stuff I learned for the rest of my life and I hope I never stop learning from that class. I would strongly recommend it to anyone.

Carrying It All

Carrying It All

At least once a month I get asked how I carry everything. I also get asked exactly what I carry.

I have never done a post about everything I carry or how because that fluctuates rather frequently and I get sick of people who try to tell me what I should and should not carry and how based upon not knowing me, my lifestyle, my needs or my priorities. But I get to ignore those people!

I drop hints here and there which inevitably ends with someone asking, “How do you carry it all?”

For those who are genuinely interested, here it is!

The things I carry can be broken down into four categories: defensive, medical, baby, and chapstick. Each category has its own rules, rolls and priorities, and by those rules and priorities they are organized and carried.

wpid-20150104_232957.jpgDefensive

The rules: Defensive, lethal tools are carried on body with minimal exceptions. This is to maximize my access and minimize unauthorized access.

My gun, a S&W M&P Shield, is the primary defensive lethal tool that I carry on a daily basis. It is carried Appendix Inside the Waistband (AIWB) pretty much from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed with very few exceptions.

My secondary defensive tools are any number of knives (the TDI LEO, Benchmade Mini Griptillian or Benchmade Triage) or a collapsible baton (an ASP Agent P12). If I have a pocket it more than likely has a knife in it. The other pocket might have my baton or chapstick or my flashlight (A Streamlight PT 1L) depending on foreseen.

ASP kubaton and pepper spray is carried in hand.

ASP kubaton and pepper spray is carried in hand.

My other defensive tool of utmost importance to me is my kubaton and pepper spray combo, the ASP key defender. It looks like any black, cylindrical key chain but it has a small safety catch that can be flicked off that allows you to push a button on the back end of the device and eject a blast of pepper spray. Because it is small it is discreet but it’s still big enough to be a formidable little weapon. Because it’s attached to my keys it spends a fair amount of time in my hand. I carry it in my hand when walking to and from my car and or it is loosely hooked to my person in some way for easy access at any other time.

Because I have so many knives that can be used for utilitarian or defensive purposes my knives often move from pocket to pocket and to my bag and back again.

My baton also seems to do that. I don’t concern myself with my baton too often, however, because any one of my knives or my flashlight or even my kubaton and pepper spray combo key chain can be used as impact weapons. Though there has been one particular time I deliberately prepared myself to use my baton over all of my other defensive tools. (Another story for another day.)

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Med Pocket

Medical

The rules: All medical supplies are carried in my Maxpedition Lunada in a single compartment where they can be immediately accessed, one-handed if need be. No other, non-medical equipment is kept in that compartment to limit disorganizing the contents thereof.

My EDC bag is a roving medical kit. It includes quikclot combat gauze, a C.A.T tourniquet, an Israeli pressure bandage, a pair of trauma sheers (bad ones, actually), co-flex, paper medical tape, more bandaids than should reasonably be in a bag, an Epi pen, nitrile gloves, four triangular bandages, some 2×2 and 4×4 gauze pads, petroleum gauze and a tension pneumothorax needle.

In other locations in my bag I also have two bandanas, an EMS field guide book and a small pouch on the side of my bag filled with paper tape and 2×2 gauze pads for my son who is allergic to the adhesive in bandaids.

Lots of people have assumed I leave this bag in the car. They are mistaken. My EDC bag goes with me. Everywhere. If I need medical equipment I likely don’t want to have to go out to my car to get it. If my husband or son is having a severe allergic reaction to a sting or my daughter pulls a shopping cart on top of herself and smashes her face in (true story), I don’t want to have to go to the car. I like being able to unzip my bag, pull out what I need (one-handed, because the other hand is usually cradling a baby) and do what needs to be done. Which would also be helpful if there were any other serious trauma going on.

Baby

The rules: Baby gear goes with baby and is limited to what can reasonably be expected to be needed in the given time frame.

If I’m running in and out of a store, I don’t carry anything baby related. If I’m going to be somewhere for a couple of hours I might throw a diaper into my bag. If I’m going somewhere over night, I will add wipes, a change of clothes and a couple more diapers. Baby carriers are usually left in the car and depending on where I’m going, when and for how long I might choose to wrap my baby, put him in a stroller or in a shopping cart.

As in the picture above, a hip wrap allows me to carry baby and my bag and still have access to my gun. A win all around.

wpid-20150104_234445.jpgChapstick

The rules: Everything else is up for grabs!

Everything else is my bag is filed under “chapstick” because it’s not necessary to my survival but it’s really nice to have. There are important things in that category like my wallet, my cell phone, my flashlight (when it’s not in my pocket) and chapstick. There are some convenience items, too, like hair ties, feminine products, a comb, a lens cleaning cloth, a small pouch of essential oils, a couple multi-tools, some rubber bands, a gift card for starbucks and other junk that I’m too lazy to claw out just to list for you.

If, for whatever reason, I was expected to leave my bag behind I would make sure to take my ID, carry permit and money out of my wallet and find a way to carry them on my body or in hand along with my phone and my flashlight. There are those who adamantly believe those items should be carried on body and prioritized along with guns and other defensive tools. I don’t disagree that they are important but when you are as little as I am you have to pick your space pretty carefully. When I carry that stuff on my body or in hand I find myself putting it down too often or fiddling with it which is why I carry a bag in the first place. No fiddling!

Priorities

I prioritize what I carry and organize it by what I deem to be most necessary to save a life in any particular emergency.

Because a fight for my life will likely be immediate, I carry my lethal defensive tools on my body.

While certainly emergent, a medical or trauma emergency will likely be after the fight for my life is over or in a setting where taking the second or two to open my bag isn’t going to make a huge difference in the outcome. Even within the pockets of my bag my items are organized for quick access and order of emergency. My tourniquet and Epi pen are probably two of the most immediately accessible items in my bag. My trauma shears aren’t even in my bag, they are on the outside. If one of my family is having a severe allergic reaction or bleeding to death in front of me I don’t want to be fumbling for the right gear.

Baby and Chapstick items are not emergent. When I need those items I have time to look in my bag for them. Thanks to the organization of my bag, however, I usually don’t have to search long.

The Maxpedition Lunada

The Maxpedition Lunada

The Bag

It stands to reason that in my discussion about what I carry I should talk about the bag itself. I didn’t just grab any old bag off the shelf and expect it to fit my needs. I tried a few different ones, too, and took quite a bit of time decided what would work best for me.

I wanted something small–well, smaller. I knew that whatever bag I got I would fill and more stuff means heavier bag and there would be a point where it would be so heavy I would start leaving it behind. That had happened with my last bag and I wanted to avoid it.

I also wanted something that would carry on my back and be ambidextrous to keep my hands and hips free for baby. I needed something I could organize into specific pockets for med gear and MOLLE is always a nice touch.

The Maxpedition Lunada fits all of those needs and then some. I have plenty of room for what I need and some left over. There’s a quick release on the front strap in case I need to ditch the bag completely. I wrote a more comprehensive review of the bag a while ago which you can read here.

My carry system allows me to carry everything I believe I might need to save my own life or the life of someone I love in a pretty wide variety of emergencies. The way I organize it makes sense to me as far as access, safety and time concerns. It keeps me fairly unencumbered and hands-free but within arms reach of whatever I might need.wpid-20150104_235201.jpg

The Pros and Cons of Babywearing

The Pros and Cons of Babywearing

I have three beautiful children. As a parent, my style could be summed up in what is often referred to as Attachment Parenting. I have practiced extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping and babywearing with all three of my children. I’ve also been armed.

These practices have made for a rewarding, close and loving environment for my kids but there are some fall backs when it comes to defensive tactics.

The social and developmental benefits of babywearing are often debated among mommy groups all over the place, neither of which I will discuss here here. If you babywear you know the benefits of it for your family.

If you are interested in some basic babywearing and gun-carrying tips, please read Carrying A Gun And A Baby.

What we are going to discuss here is the narrow scope of the pros and cons of babywearing from a purely self-defense standpoint.

Pros:

– Free Hands

One of the best aspects of babywearing is that it allows for hands-free activity. Fighting, drawing a weapon, controlling an attacker long enough to gain access to a weapons, etc., are all easier with two free hands.

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Front-carried baby can inhibit a front-carried defensive system.

Whether the baby is front or back carried will also have an effect on how easy it is to work in a particular space or allow access to tools. Babies too young to sit up on their own are primarily carried in front carriers and wraps. However, this position limits your range of motion slightly with a child on your chest and if you carry a defensive tool on the front of your body they can hinder access to said tool, depending on how high you carry and the size of your child. It will also completely impede your access to something like a flashbang holster.

Front carrying a baby with a front carry defensive (handgun, knife etc.) system also hinders your ability to look and reholster your tools. It’s not a huge issue if it’s a fight for your life, but it’s something to consider.

– Baby Cannot Be Left Behind

This is both a pro and a con (as we will discuss later) but a baby that is physically strapped to your body obviously cannot be easily left behind.

One would think this would never be a concern but it is something that has happened on several occasions when it comes to violent crime or other emergency situations. This has a lot to do with the freeze, fight or flight response. These responses are designed for your personal self-protection and do not concern themselves with the defense of others. It is possible to leave your child behind in a flight response, but obviously not if that child is strapped to your body.

– Baby Is Secure

Baby back carried makes defensive tools carried front-body more accessible and vic versa.

Baby back carried makes defensive tools carried front-body more accessible and vic versa.

Child snatching is a huge concern for many parents, despite the fact that it is statistically unlikely to ever occur–especially via a stranger. That does not mean it cannot and has not happened, however. A baby attached to your body cannot be snatched either as a means of kidnapping or to be used as a tool of compliance. There is also no chance that your child will be accidentally dropped in panic.

– Movement Is Easier

To a degree, movement is easier when you are carrying a baby on your body. Yes, having an 8-20 lbs. child strapped to your body does degrade your movement to some point, but it’s a lot easier to move around with your child strapped to your body than with a baby in a stroller. If trying to escape a burning building I’d absolutely prefer to have my child strapped to me than in a stroller or in my arms. I would be less likely to drop my child, get caught up fumbling with my baby and a door, or have him knocked from my arms by other panicked patrons.

Cons:

– Holster Systems Can Be Hindered

This is the single most common issue I see with babywearing and carrying. Because of the nature of baby carriers that attach around the waist, over the chest, and across the back, some of the most common carry locations for firearms are compromised or hindered due to the carrier or baby interfering with the holster or draw. Sometimes it’s a simpler solution like changing the babywearing method or going to a different holster. Sometimes it means coming up with an entirely different defensive carry system depending on the method of carrying the child. What I have seen in practice is parents compromising access and putting their guns and holsters in places that are impractical and potentially dangerous for a self-defense situation.

But that will be a blog for another day.

– Damage To You Means Damage To Baby

Herein lies the single most terrifying part of wearing a baby from a defensive standpoint: If you take damage, it’s highly likely your baby will as well. In other words, babywearing is like pregnancy. While pregnant and under attack there is nothing you can reasonably be expected to do to protect your child. The same goes for babywearing. Because you can’t put your baby down or distance yourself and because your baby is so exposed if you are taking fire, it’s highly likely your baby is going to be shot. If you are under a knife attack, it’s likely your baby is going to be cut. If you are being kicked or hit or punched, it is likely your baby is going to be on the receiving end of those blows as well.

You could certainly try to shield your baby from harm by turning him or her away and placing your own body between yourself and the attacker, but even that is no guarantee your child will not come to harm.

As terrifying as that is to consider, it is something that must be addressed. If all of your preventive measures are overlooked and someone chooses to visit violence on you while babywearing you must be aware and prepared for the fact that it will likely mean harm to your child.

– Baby Cannot Be Left Behind Or Handed Over

As promised, I told you this was both a pro and a con. The con side of this particular coin is that you cannot leave your child behind to draw fire or violence away from them. If you are the target and not your child and the violence is centered on you, there is no quick, easy way to separate yourself from your child or give your child to someone who can take him or her out of harm’s way. If the fight is on it’s going to require fighting around the child.

– Fighting Is Harder

Hand-to-hand fighting is hard enough. Doing it with a 10-20 lbs. weight strapped to your back or front will make it harder. Your center of gravity is off. Your range of motion is restricted. Your ability to clench up or ground fight is almost gone. Roundhouse kicks? Front snap kicks? Vicious knees? All harder with a child strapped to your body. Not to mention the elevated degree of violence you may need may mean harm to your child.

– Running Is Not An Option

Let me rephrase: Running is always an option. It’s not always a good option, but it is an option. Remember that women often cannot run as fast as men. If you are a man, 20 lbs. of strapped baby will probably hinder you as well.

If you have an opportunity to escape to safety you absolutely should take it! However, you have to reasonably understand what your capacity for escape is when you are carrying a child. Even if you are a runner, your ability to sprint with a child will be hampered. Try it sometime.

Thankfully, crime against parents while they carry their babies is still quite low. While it does happen, it’s not so common as to be expected. That being said, it’s still a possibility.

When the pros and cons are weighed exclusively from a defensive standpoint, babywearing is a terrible defensive tactic and has no real advantage and lots of disadvantages that can be devastating for both the parent and baby.

That being said, babywearing does have great developmental, bonding and even health benefits for the parent and baby. Whether or not one decides to continue to babywear should be based on all of those factors as well as risk factors for actual violence.

There are those who may decide that babywearing increases the difficulty in defending themselves too much and decide to no longer babywear. If that’s the case, that’s fine.

While I have continued to babywear, I have amended my practices to make the outcome better for the both of us.

Be smart about when and where you wear your baby.

This should go without saying, but it stands to reason that making smart decisions about where, when and who you are with when you babywear is going to help with your defensive options.

Do you and your husband and your kids all have to go to the grocery store? Can you or your husband stay home snuggling the baby while the other goes to the store by him or herself for some alone time and therefore not have to worry about defensive situations with a child in tow?

If required to go some place with a higher rate of violent crime, might it be better to place your child in a stroller vs babywear? It may seem counter-intuitive, as parents like to collect their children to their persons when they feel threatened, but from a purely defensive perspective it may not be the best tactic.

Have a means to get your baby off of you as quickly as possible.

Safety cutter on the Benchmade Triage.

Safety cutter on the Benchmade Triage.

This will have a lot to do with your type of chosen baby carrier. Buckle carriers are quicker to get in and out of than wraps, so given the choice between the two you might want to choose the one that is easier to get out of.

Make no mistake about it, in an immediate, violent attack on your life you are not going to have time to remove your baby from your person. However, immediately after or if in a lull or in other emergency situations, you might need to get your baby off you and quickly. Carrying items like safety cutters or seatbelt cutters for straps or wraps may be an advisable option. Be sure to carry them in a location they can be quickly accessed.

Decrease the clutter you carry.

If you babywear, it’s imperative that all other loads be kept to a minimum. Any additional bag will be that much more of a hindrance. Keep your on-body carry to your baby,  pepper spray, your gun, your safety cutter and/or knife, money, identification and carry permit (if required), and phone. Avoid putting your gun in any off-body carry system, and if you must have another bag for diapers and baby gear keep that gear to a minimum and be ready to ditch the bag.

Increase your personal boundaries.

It’s not easy to keep people away from you. We live in a world where people will encroach upon your personal space and it’s unrealistic to think you will be able to keep a ten foot radius of empty space around you at all times. That being the case, it’s still important to be aware of who gets within your space and control it as best you are able.

Move away from people if you can, be alert and aware of those who are around you and tell people to stop and back up who make you uncomfortable. Most people who do not intend harm, but may also think you are a little nutso, will respect your request for distance. Those who do not are of more concern and may lead to my next point…

Carry a less-than-lethal option.

This is not a suggestion as much as a command. Go! Do! Get pepper spray and carry it! Period.

Not everyone who is a threatening presence deserves to be, or can legally be, shot. But they might deserve a good dose of pepper spray. As an individual who should now be able to articulate the reasons why you cannot fight or escape with a baby strapped to your body, you may be able to explain why you preempted by pepper spraying someone who was escalating and making you feel threatened.

This absolutely does not mean that you get to go around pepper spraying people who make you feel uncomfortable. It is, however, an advisable alternative to going hands-on or escalating immediately to lethal force.

-Practice your defensive options with your chosen babywearing options.

Go to the range with your wrap or baby carrier and a weighted baby-doll or bag of kitty litter. Practice drawing and shooting, moving, magazine changes, and single-handed shooting. If you find errors in your carry system work them out now.

Babywearing and carrying a gun may not be the best tactical practice but that doesn’t mean it can’t or shouldn’t be done. If you choose to do it, make sure you do it as wisely as possible. Take some practical steps to ensure both you and your baby are as safe and secure as possible.

Melody Lauer

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