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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 AIWB Holster Hack

The AIWB Holster Hack

I’ve been carrying Appendix Inside-the-Waistband (AIWB) for almost six months now. The only holster I’ve used has been the Keeper Errand which I reviewed some time ago. I have found no reason to go away from Keeper’s fine holster.

My much abused foam wedge compared to the gel insert.

My much abused foam wedge compared to the gel insert.

One of the awesome things about Spencer’s holster is the foam wedge that helps pad the holster, cushion it for comfort and support an ideal carry position. For the most part, his foam holster wedges did a really good job of making AIWB carry that much more comfortable and convinced me they were a great addition to the AIWB way of carry.

However, after losing 10 lbs in the last few months I found the foam wedge not doing much to pad the holster. Not to mention the foam wedge only covered the tip of the holster, not the rest of the back where I needed more padding against my pelvic bone. The first wedge wore out (foam does that) and I was just about to change it to the next wedge when I went to the range. That trip changed my AIWB carry forever!

I have awesome ear pro! The muffs aren’t foam padded they are gel padded and even wearing glasses underneath of them is no problem. The gel forms a perfect seal around my ear and doesn’t leave pressure points or hot spots. That got me thinking. Could there be something similar for an AIWB holster?

So, off I went to walmart to look at shoe inserts. And there, descended from the heavens of the AIWB gods, were Dr Scholl’s Massaging Heel Cushions.

At $5.50, there was no reason not to try them.

Men's and women's heel cushions and Industrial strength Velcro. Less than $10 at you're local walmart.

Men’s and women’s heel cushions and Industrial strength Velcro. Less than $10 at you’re local walmart.

Not wanting to whip out my holster to check which size I would need, men’s or women’s, I bought both along with a box of industrial-strength Velcro.

If you carry an AIWB holster, this is pretty much the best thing you can ever do in the way of comfort and cushioning.

The women's size 6-10 is the perfect fit for the Keeper Errand.

The women’s size 6-10 is the perfect fit for the Keeper Errand.

The women’s size 6-10 might as well have been custom fit for the Keeper Errand holster. It fits like a glove.

Not only do they have the wedge shape that is great for AIWB that keeps it in ideal place for carry but they also have a wrap-around support meant for a heel that is perfect for protecting a wearer’s skin from the rough and pinching edges of kydex.

The back of the Keeper Errand is already covered in soft Velcro for the foam wedges so all I needed to do was carefully place the hook-side of the Velcro to the inside of the gel heel cushions and stick it to the holster.

Not only is it far softer and cushier, the increase in surface area of the heel cushions to the holster vs the foam wedge significantly increases the overall comfort all the way up the back of the holster vs one spot.

Men's size 8-10 fits perfect on the JM Custom Kydex.

Men’s size 8-10 fits perfect on the JM Custom Kydex.

That evening, when my husband got home from work, I asked him to try it. He was amazed by how much more comfortable it was and asked me to do the same mod to his JM Custom Kydex AIWB holster. His holster has a larger footprint and, as fate would have it, the men’s heel cushion was the perfect size for his holster.

A quick application of Velcro to the cushion and the holster and he was rocking his own AIWB Lima-mod. another thing he noticed was the stickiness of the gel keeps the holster form shifting and even helps keep undershirts tucked in. Another added benefit.

Because it’s attached with Velcro its easily customizable to your needs to cover any hot spots and being a sturdy gel it will far out-last any other cushions you could hope to add to something so well-used as a holster.

If you carry AIWB, this might be something to check out.

Oh, by the way, you’re welcome!

A little added Velcro and ready to install.

A little added Velcro and ready to install.

Pressure on the holster wraps the gel around the holster for more cushioning around the sides.

Pressure on the holster wraps the gel around the holster for more cushioning around the sides.

Look at all that padding!

Look at all that padding!

Karl Rehn and Caleb Causey’s Low Light Force-On-Force

Karl Rehn and Caleb Causey’s Low Light Force-On-Force

In my overview of the 2015 Rangemaster Tactical Conference I said that I was focusing on “action based” blocks of instruction. Having taken time off to have yet another baby I wanted to use my time at the Tac Conference to gauge what I’m retaining, what I’m learning, what I’ve overlearned, what I need to work on and where I need to focus my training efforts going forward. It’s hard to do that without action-based assessments.

Karl Rehn and Caleb Causey’s Low Light Force-On-Force was not only an assessment of low light tactics but also incorporated medical scenarios. Being an EMT I was excited for the opportunity to practice and be assessed in some of the trauma skills I have been trained in but blessedly don’t have much opportunity to use.

I’d heard a lot about both Karl Rehn and Caleb Causey from other instructor friends but this was my first time meeting or training with either of them. Karl has extensive experience running force and force and Caleb is a veteran combat medic who now teaching civilians the principles of providing trauma care in hostile environments.

This would be a new experience for me. The few traumas due to violence I’ve responded to in my capacity as an EMT have all been secured prior to entry by law enforcement. The only potential criminals I’ve treated have been in handcuffs with a sheriff’s deputy standing over both of us. I’ve never had to provide both security and medical treatment or to pick priority between the two.

The class could only take 15 participants but we snuck a 16th under the door because he was a local officer who brought his own airsoft gear. The class opened with introductions and then Caleb asked how many of us carry medical gear with us everywhere we go. There were a few people who said they keep it in their car but as far as I could tell I was the only one who professed I carried it with me everywhere.

I don’t think Caleb believed me. He told me he wanted to see my bag and how I carried it and I welcomed him to do just that. In fact, I was hoping to get his take on my kit anyway to see if there was anything I needed to add or change. I can now proudly say that my med kit is Caleb Causey approved!

Karl ran the make up of the scenarios while Caleb ran the medical portions. All of the scenarios would be blind but with the same basic scene. The scene was set up as though there were a massive power outage. You were exiting your place of work into a parking garage that had automatic locks so you couldn’t retreat back into the building. Cell phones did not work and at the end of the parking garage was your car and the street. Karl would pull out a few people, take them aside and give them instructions, turn off the lights and the welcome the participants into the scene, usually in groups of threes. Injuries were indicated with strips and pieces of bright orange duck tape. Not all participants were armed and not every scenario was a fight or shooting scenario.

Those not involved as roll players were allowed to stand aside in a predetermined area in the room and watch but could not interfere in any way.

The first group of three walked into a pitch black room where four individuals were fighting. As soon as they came in, two of the individuals ran off and what was left was a man lying on the floor, unmoving, and a woman running around frantically screaming for help for her loved one.

Two of the participants had recently gone through a tactical combat medical class and while not entirely versed in the concept of triage, did quite well with their assessment and treatment of both the man on the floor and the woman who, it was later discovered, was shot in the chest.

The scenario brought up concepts like triage and focusing treatment on outcomes you can change and allocating resources and making advanced decisions about getting help vs staying and treating. When it came time to move the patients it became quite obvious to many that moving dead weight humans is a lot harder than most people anticipate and deciding to move someone vs calling in help may be an important advanced decision to make.

The next scenario had three individuals walking into an ambush. All three of them were shot–one in the upper thigh, one in the strong hand and one in the belly. Their med bag was stolen and they had to clear the area.

Had this scenario been real life it wouldn’t have boded well for any of them. None of them had medical training and clearing the room to find their med bag was difficult due to a lack of tactics and application of using lights and cover. When they did get their med bag they had to take the additional time to attempt to read the instructions on the back of packages on how to use the medical gear, all with injuries and while one of their participants bled to death. The scenario was ended early to walk through how it could have gone and to drive home the lessons of seeking training in medical skills and movement and off-hand shooting.

This scenario was designed to show the need for a security priority but also to use everyone for that means of security. We also talked about setting up a secured location where even the wounded can provide security and using cover and concealment.

When it came time for “my” scenario I was told that I’m walking to my car with my two friends. Neither of them have medical training and neither of them are armed but they both know that I’m armed. I sighed. I pretty much knew what was coming.

I was told my med kit was in the car and we were sent into the room.

Right away one of my companions blasts out ahead of us to “the car” while myself and my other companion are taking our time. Just about the time we come to our first corner, I hear her get into a tussle. She’s yelling, and there’s some popping from the airsoft guns and I push my companion behind me and into a nook behind cover, turn off my flashlight and draw my gun.

I hear, “Oh Shit,” ring out from the darkness.

It’s completely dark for a few moments. There’s no sound and no movement and I’m trying to take some time to think about what to do next. In many of the scenarios, once the initial violence was done the bad guys ran off. The bad guy could have run off or he or they (I didn’t know how many there were) could be waiting for me. My companion could be shot or hurt and needing help. Either way, help and rescue are forward and I have to move out of my relatively good position.

I step out from behind cover and turn on my light again and the moment I do the officer who brought his own air soft gear flies around the corner and shoots me in the leg while I shoot at him. I don’t know if I got any hits on him.

Caleb pauses the scenario and says, “Ok, well you weren’t supposed to be doing this so well so let’s just fast forward this and just say you are up here by the car,” he moves me into position, “and shot here” he puts a piece of tape on my left arm, “here” on my left upper thigh, ” and here” on my left upper chest. “You are having difficulty breathing and cannot stand. Go.”

I lay down on the floor, take a moment to collect myself and tell companion number 1 to go for help. He leaves to do that while I ask companion number 2 to bring me the med bag and I start walking her through treating me in order of importance. Apparently because I was helping too much Caleb then decided that I’d also been shot in my upper right arm and tells me that I now cannot speak for 20 seconds.

I’m lying on the floor, spread eagle, not able to talk or use any of my limbs and my companions are supposed to have no medical training. Goodbye, cruel world.

When Caleb told me I could talk again I had her put the med bag on my chest and show me everything in the bag one item at a time. When I identified what I wanted I talked her through applying it to include putting a tourniquet on my leg, a chest seal on my chest, searching my back for any exit wounds, putting a pressure bandage on my right upper arm and holding pressure on my left arm until help arrived.

At that point I was pretty thankful for the loads of “bystander” scenarios we did in EMT school where we had to direct clueless bystanders.

This scenario was supposed to illustrate the short-sightedness of people who say things like, “Well, my friend is armed,” or “My friend is a medic, if anything happens, we’ll just let you take care of it.” If your armed medic goes down, you might be up a creek without a paddle.

The scenario was also meant to illustrate to me the difficulty in “treating through a barrier” which is a medic having to direct someone else in providing care vs doing it themselves. In a high stress environment, trying to explain to a frightened individual what to do and get them to understand things they’ve never had to do before can be quite challenging. Placing a tourniquet or even identifying a tourniquet or defining what a windlass is can be maddeningly frustrating. It’s frustrating enough without real blood and pain and nerves. It can be fatal otherwise.

I hadn’t heard her but when my companion ran ahead of me and was accosted by the bad guy she had screamed out, “She has a gun!”

Going dark when I heard the commotion was exactly the thing to do but I exposed myself and gave away my position when I turned my flashlight back on and that directly led to me getting shot.

Flashing and moving or staying behind cover and flashing and moving to another piece of cover would have been far better for me. I need to work on my movement between cover and concealment and using my flashlight.

The next two scenarios were more along the lines of teaching wound priority and just because someone is making the most noise doesn’t mean they are the most wounded and not everyone who needs help is a good guy.

Each of the scenarios were built to illustrate a vital point and not a single one of us went away without having learned something very important from the experiences.

My biggest take-aways were security priority, maintaining that security throughout treatment and using that light to your advantage. Scene safety is drilled into anyone who attends EMT training but it means something entirely new when you are in a hostile environment that doesn’t include police officers standing by.

Another thing I found interesting was how fixated we all got during treatment to the point where guns were being completely forgotten. Some of the scenarios would end and people would be left looking around for the gun they were supposed to have during the scenario. I had lost mine because I’d been told I was shot in both arms and to drop it but others would put theirs down to treat, move and completely lose track of them. With security being a priority, keeping track of that firearm is pretty important.

I liked both Karl and Caleb. In addition to being knowledgeable they were both edifying and constructive in their criticisms. It can’t be easy teaching a class with participants from all ranges of skill but they pulled it off nicely, challenging those who needed to be challenge and instructing those who needed instruction and inspiring everyone.

I look forward to taking more training from both Karl and Caleb in the future!

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.


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.)


Med Pocket


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.


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.


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!


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

Keeper Concealment Errand – My First AIWB Holster Review

Keeper Concealment Errand – My First AIWB Holster Review

Let me tell you a tale. A tale of a holster and a gun.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, a young princess heard about Appendix Inside the WaistBand (AIWB) carry. Little did she know about this carry system and even when her handsome prince switched to AIWB she considered herself unable to acquaint herself to such a new and awkward mode of carry.

The years rolled on and fondly did she look upon this means of carry with desire. But it was not to be.

Then, one day, a knight shared his secret of the mystical weapon called, The Shield. It was concealable! She purchased one but still had no holster.

Another knight sent her an Errand to try. The match was made. The relationship was forged out of mutual respect, superior concealment, comfort and ease of use. The kingdom rejoiced and they lived happily ever after.

That’s the truncated version.

It’s also the true version.

When I got my safety-less S&W Shield and was considering my first AIWB holster Spencer Keeper’s Keeper was on my list of potential holsters, but not at the top. I feared his holster would be too thick and I wouldn’t be able to conceal the firearm well. I am, after all, a pretty petite female.

Knowing I was searching for a holster, Spencer contacted me and asked me if I wanted to try his new holster he dubbed The Errand. It wasn’t out on the market yet and he wanted to see what I thought. He told me he wasn’t expecting miracles with concealment because I am so small but I could try it.

I immediately accepted. I had nothing to lose. It was a chance to try one of his holsters without being out a lot of money and if it didn’t work out I could go back to my long list of holsters to start working through.

I got it in the mail a few days after our conversation (November 8th, to be exact) and I don’t really remember my first day carrying with it. Or my second. Or my third. Or my first time going to town. Or the first time to sit down and nurse my baby while wearing it. Or the first time I fell asleep wearing it. In other words, the holster system immediately melded into my daily life and practices.

It entirely surpassed all of my expectations for a concealed carry holster and even a way of carry. More importantly, however, was the fact that I could carry my Shield from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to bed in total comfort and concealment (if I chose) and even in unconventional clothing.

The Errand in draw-sting sweats.

The Errand in draw-sting sweats.

At first glances it looks like any other kydex holster with a few oddities. If you’re curious, like me, you call Spencer and drill him for an hour as to what those oddities mean. In the true form of someone who understands guns and long-term carry, Spencer designed a purpose-built holster with a specific reason for pretty much every nook and cranny of the design.

The Errand doesn’t rely on belt loops like a lot of conventional holsters. Instead it has a wide, stiff belt clip that is stippled on the tooth for better grip on casual wear like sweat pants or shorts. The whole point of the holster is that it’s meant to be something you could wear at one o’clock in the morning for a trip to the convenience store in your pjs, or bumming around the house in your sweats, or to and from the gym in shorts. No one wears jeans and a belt 100% of the time and the Errand is meant to fill that gap.

Despite being designed to be easily worn in the comfort of sweat pants and belt-less shorts, it still fits snug with a belt and, of course, has more stability and perhaps a little more concealment when one is used. More on that, later.

Belt or not, the clip makes for comfortable, stable carry.

Belt or not, the clip makes for comfortable, stable carry.

Spencer’s goal was to make the Errand as thin as possible. I asked him why he then chose to put the loop directly on the thickest part of the holster vs by the trigger guard where a lot of other AIWB holster makers put their loops or clips for a thinner overall profile. He said he’d considered doing that but without the stability of a belt, one of the heaviest parts of the gun, the slide, would be forward of the clip and could cause the gun to start tipping in.

Having experienced that with another AIWB holster that was not fit well to my belt I understood how that could be a concern. The centrally located clip does leave the gun more stable on not-so-stable clothing.

When I got the holster, at first I was a bit confused as to why it is so long. The length of the holster is about an inch longer than the gun itself. The tip tappers down on both sides to a comfortably rounded point that is open. I didn’t even get around to asking Spencer why this was before he started explaining that small guns like the Shield are heaviest in the rear and many holster makers leave their holsters so short that the gun can roll out over top of the waistband. Particularly those with generous midsections. The extra length of the holster keeps the gun from rolling out and the tapered, rounded tip eliminates pinching in the soft tissue of the thigh or groin but also allows air to circulate to cool hot muzzles while attending classes or having high round count range sessions.

The entire rear and tip of the holster is covered with soft Velcro and this is for the application of Spencer’s unique foam wedges. I’ll admit that I thought the wedges were dumb, or at least unnecessary. Most importantly, they were ugly. Why that mattered to something you stuck in the pants? I don’t know. But I’m a chick. We chicks are funny about those things. I also didn’t feel like I needed them. The point is to cushion the bottom of the holster and press the muzzle out so that the grip will be held more snugly to the body. The holster was very snug to my tiny little body. So for the first month I didn’t put them on the holster.

When I called Spencer to talk to him about the holster one of the first things he asked me was if I used the wedges. The holster comes with two but replacements can be purchased from his website. I confessed that I had not. “You should try them,” he chirped, and left it at that.

I felt guilty. I also felt like if I were to do a thorough review I should at least try so I could explain why I chose to leave them off. I wasn’t entirely sure where I wanted to put one because I really didn’t feel like I needed it. Then I remembered that in one pair of my jeans when I wore the errand I would get the slightest bit of chaffing on the inside of my right thigh. I figured that was a good place to start.

The foam wedge makes the holster that much more comfortable and concealable.

The foam wedge makes the holster that much more comfortable and concealable.

I put the wedge on the bottom of the holster so that it wraps around that area and it has stayed there ever since.

My only complaint is that I didn’t do it sooner.

I didn’t see a noticeable difference in my concealment (because, well, I really am tiny) but it does help push the grip into the belly more.

It’s ugly. But it works!

The Errand has a pretty generous sweat guard. In general, I am anti sweat guard. All of my favorite holsters have the sweat guards removed or I asked holster makers to cut them down. The first AIWB holster I ever used also did not have a sweat guard. I thought I would eventually want to take a Dremel cutting tool to it but I no longer see that happening.

AIWB carry is different in that you are going to be to bending your body around your gun. If you squat, sit, reach for anything or move you are going to have your belly moving around your gun. With no sweat shield or undershirt that is going to mean, A: that you will get sweat on your gun and B: that you will end up with a nice little imprint of the side of your gun in the skin of your belly.

It’s also probable that you will end up with a nice little hot spot where the rear sight and slide have been stabbing you.

A well formed sweat shield keeps the rear sight and slide from poking and pinching.

A well formed sweat shield keeps the rear sight and slide from poking and pinching.

This has not happened with the Errand. The sweat guard comes off the body of the holster strong, tapers in slightly and then flares out again before curving around the back of the slide and rear sights. This added curve protects the body from any pinching or poking of the rear sight and slide and leaves the wearer very comfortable.

Even with the large sweat shield, the magazine release is still accessible. Something I am fond of seeing in any holster. Neither does the sweat guard prohibit the shooter from getting a high, sure grip on the firearm as many sweat guards in the holster industry over are wont to do.

It’s well known that re-holstering is the most dangerous time for any kind of carry. Those who carry appendix appreciate the re-holster even more because of the sensitive nature of the pelvic area over which the gun rests. Looking and carefully placing the gun in the holster are paramount when carrying AIWB and the Errand assists to that end. The large sweat shield and generous open mouth act as a sort of funnel that is very easy to slide the firearm into with a solid, audible snap once the gun is fully seated.

The hardware is metal. The main retention screw is a nylon lock nut so one does not have to worry about it loosening over time. While the retention can be adjusted by removing a thin metal washer or adding another I have found the retention (which comes from the molding around the trigger guard) to be pretty ideal. Tight enough to retain the gun, loose enough to not have to fight to get your gun out of the holster.

A high, complete grip while in the holster is paramount!

A high, complete grip while in the holster is paramount!

AIWB carry by its nature allows for better access than many other forms of carry but the holster can have a fair bit to do with it as well. The Errand carried the gun high enough off the belt to allow for a full firing grip on the gun while still in the holster but not so high that it is not concealable.

The overall molding of the holster is good. There is no over molding around the ejection port or front sight which prevents those parts from snagging on the holster during the draw (a problem I’ve encountered with other kydex holsters). If you’re into changing your sights there’s plenty of room around the top of the slide/slight area for new, larger sights. You can even order the Errand to accommodate a Red Dot Sight (RDS) equipped handgun.

Spencer doesn’t make the Errand to accommodate lights or other laser mounts but any grip-activated lasers like crimson trace will likely find no interference.

I saved concealment for last because it was where I was most skeptical. I am not exaggerating when I talk about my size. The reason I had to go to a S&W Shield at all was because concealing a Glock in the AIWB position looked like a tumor on me. Going down to a single-stack firearm was my only option if I was going to go AIWB and even then it is not as concealable as I would have hoped. That is no fault of the holster, it’s simply my body size and type. On larger frames I have seen this gun and holster combination virtually vanish. To illustrate that I asked my friend and trainer, Greg Ellifritz, to send me some pictures of him carrying the Errand. It’s remarkable to note the difference that body type can make in concealment.

Even as small as I am, however, the holster does a very good job of concealing something so large relative to my body size. It conceals well enough without wearing a belt but with a belt it seems to tug the gun into my abdomen and conceal itself nicely behind any belt buckle I’m wearing.

The Errand allows for full access and grip even while holstered.

The Errand allows for full access and grip even while holstered.

Conceals fairly well for such a small-framed individual.

Conceals fairly well for such a small-framed individual.

Greg Ellifritz wearing the Keeper Errand with his Shield.

Greg Ellifritz wearing the Keeper Errand with his Shield.

Far more concealable on larger-framed bodies. Even in fairly fitted clothing.

Far more concealable on larger-framed bodies. Even in fairly fitted clothing.

I’ve had this holster for just about two months now and have lost count of how many draw strokes I’ve put it through. I’ve run it through a two-day defensive handgun class and done a little rolling around in it. It’s been spit up on, had sweet potatoes down it and a whole other slew of madness. It’s still going strong and I anticipate it will for a very long time to come.

Spencer knew what he was doing when he designed this holster and from one end to the other it is packed with features only a seasoned shooter would appreciate. To say it’s a good investment is an understatement. Right now the Errand is going for $90 on the Keeper Concealment website and is available for the S&W Shield, the Glock 42, the Walther PPS and the Springfield XDs though I know Spencer is actively looking at adding more firearms to that list. If I were rating holsters on a 1-5 star rating system, the Errand would get a blazing 5. It fits every one of my needs. It is far more comfortable than I could have imagined possible. It is accessible and concealable but also stable. Rarely does a holster fill all of those criteria without compromise.

If you’re looking for a good holster for a compact gun, check out the Errand.

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.


– 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.

Photo on 2014-12-16 at 23.18 #2

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.


– 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.

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