19 October 2014

Understanding risk and risk mitigation.

With all the drama about carrying round in the chamber, verses chamber empty I thought I would dedicate a third post. This post is really about the process of understanding risk and mitigating the effects of doing risky things. I am simply using carrying a pistol as the vehicle for explaining the process.

Most of the people who are advocating for carrying a round in the chamber are not veterans of multiple pistol fights and random knife attacks. I'm not either, but what I am is someone who has had to deal with the aftermath of Soldiers having negligent discharges where they either killed themself, or someone else.

Anyone who says that the risk of shooting yourself can be eliminated by proper training doesn't understand risk. Risk can be mitigated, minimized, and addressed, but it cannot be eliminated. That being said, the process of risk management is to identify risks, frequencies, and come up with strategies to minimize the enduring risk after mitigation strategies are implemented.

Here are the two most dangerous risks associated with carrying a round in the chamber that I've identified.

1. Trigger is pulled by equipment or foreign object (stick/antennae/belt end/strap).
2. Pistol discharges following a tumble.

The first risk, that the trigger gets pulled by something other than your boogerhook, can be mitigated by choosing a holster that also covers the trigger and trigger guard. If you carry a pistol with a manual safety, try to choose a holster that also covers the safety from unintentional manipulation. I will come back to this point again.

The second risk can be mitigated by ensuring that the trigger pull is not lightened beyond a safe pull, and that trigger pull length is not shortened, and all springs and engagement surfaces are in spec. If you are using a factory stock pistol this is the default mitigation as long as everything is in good working order. After 5000 rounds a parts kit to keep everything in spec is probably in order.

The second risk can also be mitigated by using a holster with positive retention. But positive retention also brings about the risk that it can slow or deny your draw if the retention system fails to let you pull the pistol in time. I think positive retention is better suited to open carry than concealed carry based on a risk analysis of that feature, but your choice may be different.

Now that is the process, identify a risk, identify a strategy to actively mitigate that risk, and then go forth and do great things.

But getting back to risk number one, the unintentional trigger pull caused by something other than your boogerhook, the risk really isn't with the pistol but in the interactions between your gear and the environment you are in.

If you are carrying concealed consistently in the same place, with the same holster, without adding or subtracting mission specific equipment then one risk assessment is all you need. But when you move the pistol to a different holder, to a different location, you need to re-assess the risk for that configuration.

A lot of Soldiers like to carry a pistol on their hip around the FOB, then transition the pistol to their body armor for going on missions. A couple of holster makers have made it simple by making adapter plates for the pistol/holster combination to get unsnapped from the belt and snapped on to the body armor. This is good, but you need to ask yourself if that radio antenna is going to trip the trigger where it sits on your gear. And you need to organize your gear so that you minimize the risk of shooting yourself by going back through and checking out exactly what the risks are in that configuration.

I will specifically recommend temporarily not carrying with a round in the chamber for the following people in the following scenarios.

1, you are carrying a new to you pistol (different make/model, significant service or repair).
2, you change holsters for a pistol you've carried for a long time.
3, you change the location of where you carry the pistol.
4, you add a new piece of kit to your carry routine (or vastly change the clothes you are wearing).

Once what is new becomes something old, and you've figured out the best way to configure everything, by all means load the chamber and continue to carry. I won't say that you need to carry in condition three for any specific length of time, because the length of time should be dictated by how long it takes you to figure out how your gear is going to interact so that you don't experience a negligent discharge.

This could be a few minutes checking yourself out in a room before going out, this could be a few days for someone who is trying to be really thorough. The time doesn't matter so much as the process.

In this case, I do want people to make my choice, and that is to make a conscious effort to see how their gear interacts with their carry piece. At the end of it, whether you choose to carry with a round in the chamber, empty chamber, concealed or open, in a minimalist holster, or a double positive retention holster, is all on you. As long as you go through the process to arrive at a level of risk that keeps you as safe as you are going to be, rock on with your bad self.

18 October 2014

The most ineffective military ever at firing senior officers is firing senior officers at an alarming rate.

So the "military purge" meme keeps coming up on the book of face, so I will address it here, again, and maybe you can spread the word to stop with the conspiracy theories.

Two years ago Thomas Ricks gave this interview to NPR two years ago I nodded along. He is correct, we rarely dismiss a Division or Corps commander any more. Except that GEN McChrystal was sacked two years prior to that for the Rolling Stone incident in 2010.

A more in depth review of Ricks' work can be found here:


But how do you square that data set with the "unprecedented" number of senior leaders who have been removed in the last four years?



On a more personal note, the Officer Separation Board and Enhanced Retirement Separation Board have given over a thousand Captains and Majors the pink slip.

These two points seem very contradictory until you realize that:

1, Ricks is correct in that Generals are not being fired like they were in WWII. They were fired then for ineffectiveness and or cowardice, now they are fired for some sort of misconduct.

2, The military is being "purged" of Officers from the ranks of O3 to O6 simply due to downsizing. Shake the blanket and Officers with derogatory marks in their file are the first to go.

3, I have witnessed no ideological purge. Some of the most religious and political conservative leaders I've had have moved up the chain without a hitch. The military as a whole is a lot of "Motherhood and Apple Pie" true believers who think of the profession of arms as a calling. There are more and more like me who view it as a job, but we are still a distinct minority, in my experience.

Massive downsizings happen when wars draw down. If you don't like it contact your Representatives and Senators.

17 October 2014

The Tueller Drill

It is common wisdom that the Tueller Drill is all the justification you need to carry a pistol with a round in the chamber and no safety. Because everyone knows that inside of 21 feet a knife beats a gun. I don't believe in things that "everyone knows" so we are going to some videos to look at the how time and space play out in a contact weapon verses firearm actually plays out.

Watch the video below. If you've seen it before, go ahead and watch it again. 

In the first part of the video, where the cop approached the suspect, would have carrying a live round in the pistol prevented the officer from getting stabbed or slashed? Obviously not.

In the second part of the video, where different distances are examined, you see that it is possible to draw and fire on an attacker inside of 21 feet successfully, but not every time. At 7 yards, drawing from a holster and engaging a charging target is completely feasible.

Now compare that with the video below.

If your first instinct is to say, "well there wasn't any knives involved" please understand that fists are considered lethal weapons too, and there is no "hierarchy of lethality" if you subscribe to Massad Ayoob. For training purposes, a fist is as good as a knife for working on reaction time and responses.

Now for a real world video.

Notice that the successful defenders control the space, and unsuccessful defenders don't? Successful attackers close the space, and unsuccessful attackers don't?

Also, how many of the real world attackers used such a manic slashing motion as the original training video that popularized the Tueller Drill? If you answered, not many, you would be correct. You can expect a stab more often than not. If you work in a prison, you can expect a stab way more often than not. The manic slashing is designed to overwhelm the victims OODA loop to keep them from getting to the "decide/act" part of the Boyd cycle, but it isn't something you see very often in reality.

The take away is this, surviving a fight is more about situation awareness than whether or not you are carrying with a round in the chamber. Space is your friend, space gives you time. If you let someone into "halitosis" range with your guard down it doesn't matter if you have a round in the chamber or not.

What matters is the same thing that has always mattered, getting off the line of attack to create space, then choosing to close the space and engage, create more space and engage, or flee.

To end with, here is Chris Costa telling a war story about situational awareness. To sum up my thoughts, I don't really care whether you carry a round in the chamber or not, just know that if you don't have the situational awareness to use the fraction of a second that it buys you, might want to spend more time training on how to increase your awareness and control space in a fight.

16 October 2014

Seriously, stop helping

Sometimes I have a glimmer of hope for the "Patriot" community. I envision learned men and women who read Hobbes, Plato, Spooner, Jefferson and Madison. I think of men and women who look at complex problems and come up with workable solutions. I think of men and women preparing for the worst while praying for the best.

Sometimes I delude myself into thinking that the Patriot community can grow beyond the reputation of backwoods yockels wearing tinfoil hats claiming the government is always out to get them.

Other times I'm presented with the reality of things like this:
Marines and Airman install concertina wire. Not evidence of a conspiracy.
I mean seriously, this is a picture of service members laying a basic force protection barrier. It might be stretch to say I've laid miles of the stuff, but I've definitely laid more than enough to know that when there aren't enough concertina gloves to go around, sacrifice the thickest pair you've got to save your hands. Also I think they didn't place the pickets close enough together and the stretched part on the left side of the picture is too tight to be an effective obstacle.

So that is what the picture is. There is a very long list of what that picture is not. Basically that picture is not anything Tom Gonzalez said.

It isn't evidence that anyone in that picture is a useful idiot. It isn't evidence that this is a roadblock. It isn't evidence that guard towers will be installed (though they should be, or at least have vehicles with crew served weapons placed where the towers would normally go). And it is most definitely not training for any operation designed to attack the American people.

If you know people like "Tom Gonzalez" please tell them to have a nice tall glass of shut the fuck up, sit the fuck down, and stop helping.

Follow the money

Hat tip to Mississippi Rebel who pointed me in the direction of something that seems a little off for lack of a better phrase.

Now the NRA is a single issue organization, it ranks politicians solely on their support for gun rights, which is how Harry Reid continues to get NRA support. So that may in part explain how A rated politicians can start taking money from Bloomberg front groups despite having an "A" rating from the NRA.

The questions that I have about this aren't about the money per se, but whether or not the NRA ranking system really means anything.

If you support youth hunting, should you still get an "A" rating for supporting more stringent and unnecessary background checks? Will the NRA update White's ranking after she took money from Gun Sense Vermont?

Now I've paid my life member dues simply because as a competitor in disciplines governed by the NRA it makes sense to be a member. But I realize that I am in a very small minority of NRA members in that regard, the training and competition budget is very small compared to the legislation and lobbying arms of the organization.

I have no complaints about how the training and competition side is run, but how the NRA keeps being slow off the line against state level anti-gun rights initiatives (such as I-594 in WA) makes me think that either the national organization needs to understand that state organizations need proactive national support.

Especially in Vermont which served as the original "Constitutional Carry" model for the rest of the nation. Vermont proves that "as goes California so goes America" isn't always true. At least not in the short term.

So, my proposal, any politician who refuses to return a filled out NRA positional form needs to be rated "F" right off the bat. Any politician who has something to hide from the NRA doesn't need an "A" rating.

UPDATE: Herschel Smith at The Captain's Journal also notes issues with the NRA politician grading system: http://www.captainsjournal.com/2014/10/14/notes-from-hps-83/

15 October 2014

Handguns suck, so you should carry with a round in the chamber

The previous post dealt with the argument for carrying in condition three. This post will give the counter argument, for carrying in condition one.

A firearm that won't fire is as useless as a non-opposable thumb. There are exceptions but most of us don't regularly pack a bayonet as backup for running out of ammo.

According to one source on the internet at least five American men have shot themselves in the penis in the last five years http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/193576/at-least-five-americans-accidentally-shot-off-their-penises-since-2010/ . Interesting fact, and proof that there is no cure for stupidity. More examples here: http://www.citylab.com/crime/2014/09/americans-who-carry-concealed-weapons-keep-accidentally-shooting-themselves-in-public-bathrooms/380327/

Those stories are either amusing or tragic, but every single one of those that shot off their own dick lived so they only get an honorable mention for the Darwin Awards. The murder death kill machines utterly failed to kill any one of them, despite a number of accidental discharges that did kill people.

Sometimes you have to take a harder look at the data to make a judgement call. The number of justifiable homicides is about ten times the negligent discharge death rate per year, the total number of homicides still greater than that, and the assault or other violent crime rate larger still. This means that in the grand scheme of things, death or injury by negligent discharge is a very minor thing.

To further look at that data set, when you take  look the total number of gunshot wound victims of handguns to total number of deaths due to handgun gun shots (which is most of them) you'll come to the conclusion that handguns actually suck at killing people compared to more mundane things like cars and medical malpractice.

It then stands to reason if your reason for carrying a handgun is to protect yourself, why make it less effective by making it slower to bring into use? Logically carrying without a round in the chamber defeats the purpose of carrying a firearm in the first place at that point.

If you don't know when something bad will happen, then you must be prepared all the time. That brings up the philosophical question, can you be truly prepared for the unknown? Obviously not, so you do the next best thing which is identify the most likely threats to you, and how you would go about dealing with them, and we have sufficient evidence to show that assault and other violent crime is a real threat.

A handgun is not carried for protection, it is carried for reaction. A handgun does not passively protect like body armor, a handgun must be actively used to stop a threat.

Until the assault and homicide totals drops below the number of accidental discharge deaths then it is more prudent to be ready to react to an assault, and that means not having to rack the slide.

Like I wrote before, I don't want you to make my choice, I want you to make an informed choice.

14 October 2014

Here it goes again...

This time it is Marko Kloos....
For the love of Odin, just STOP IT with the "Israeli carry" already. Toting a pistol with an empty chamber isn't tactical or smart. It turns your handgun into a handsgun, and you're betting your life on the fact that your other hand won't be busy with something else when you have to produce your gun, and that you'll be able to rack a slide under stress without inducing a malfunction.
The IDF teaches chamber-empty carry because the IDF is a conscript army that wants to keep the accident rate low, that's all. There is no--I repeat: NO--tactical or practical advantage to carrying a defensive pistol with an empty chamber.
RANT ENDS. I swear, I should open a shooting school and advertise "British carry", then make all students use Browning HPs from flap holsters, with empty mags and a sealed pack of ten rounds at the bottom of the holster.
If there was no practical advantage how does an empty chamber keep accident rates low?

We call that a failure in logic, stating that something has no purpose and then explaining the purpose in the same sentence.

Needing to draw a handgun to shoot to stop an attacker is a very rare event. So are plane crashes and ebola outbreaks. Sometimes things just happen. Sometimes having a round in the chamber is the difference between life and death due to bad guy, sometimes due to accident.

The 2011 CDC records for accidental firearms deaths are 569, or about one tenth the rate of justified homicides give or take how you quantify a justifiable homicide.

So, is it worth it to turn your hand gun into a handsgun? Is a 10% lesser risk of shooting yourself or a loved one worth it to you? Is that worth the odds of a 6 foot 5 inch Larry Correia pulling a Tueller drill on you?

Back when I was teaching and we'd do role playing during class, I had certain scenarios I reserved for those students who believed they could carry chamber empty. These usually involved the alteration unfolding while they were doing something else or the Rapist Interupted one where I got to demonstrate the Tueller Drill. After I got done stabbing the hell out of them with a rubber knife, I'd ask if they felt like they had time to rack the slide. After that there was usually no more problem. Larry Correia
Risk tolerance is something you need to analyze for yourself. I am very safety conscious, especially when I appendix carry.

I can't measure the benefit of carrying with a round chambered except in fractions of a second. I can measure the benefit of an empty chamber in lives lost.

Risk is real, and every choice has a trade off. I don't want anyone to make my choices, just informed choices.