Underground Tradecraft: Tactical Applications of the Defensive Sidearm, Part 1.5
(In the vein of “rolling with the punches,” or “going with the flow,” I’m going to take a slight tangent off course with this installment of this article series, and cover two or three things that resulted from the apparent widespread interest in the previous installment. –J.M.)
The Appendix, Inside-the-Waistband Carry and holster selection
As I mentioned in the previous installment, the A-IWB is not new. It’s been around for a really, really long time. In some ways, it is nothing more than a concealed carry version of a psuedo-crossdraw that was popular with old West lawmen. The idea behind the A-IWB carry, to me (I’m not speaking for anybody else that carries this way. This is SOLELY my experience), is three-fold.
1) It provides the simplest, most secure concealment for your weapon. In crowds, no one (well, except hot chicks hopefully, or Tinkerbells, not hopefully), are going to “bump” into you with their hands or body where your gun rides, when you carry A-IWB. Additionally, you don’t have to keep reaching back and finger-fucking your weapon, to ensure that it remains concealed by your cover garment. All you need to do is check to make sure your shoe laces are tied. Simply looking down at the ground for a split second, will tell you if your cover garment is hanging naturally, or if it is sticking out somewhere, hung up on the gun.
2) It offers absolute, positive physical control of the gun. We’re going to get into this in more depth later, but the reality is, if you need to go to guns, and all you’ve got is your sidearm, concealed, there’s an awfully god-damned good chance that your fight is going to be less about how fast you can draw (not to imply that a fast draw to accurate first shot is unimportant. There’s a reason that I’m excited that I finally got my draw stroke-to-first-shot break down to .75 seconds, by the PACT Timer), and more about how well you can fight the fucker with your unarmed combatives, in order to clear room to go for your gun without getting it taken away and fed to you (for the “I’ve got a gun! I don’t need that unarmed combat bullshit!” crowd of idiots. There’s a reason that my combatives training programs START with creating space to get your gun into action). If the gun is behind your back, or off to your side, you decidedly do NOT have positive control of it. I don’t care if you’ve you’ve got the most technologically advanced, cool-guy quadruple-retention holster that was specifically engineered for JSOC covert operators by NASA engineers. If the gun is on your side, you do NOT have positive control of it. You can only protect the gun with the hand/arm on the same side. With appendix carry, as the Team Sergeant pointed out to me in an email comment on the last installment of this article series, you can physically grab the gun and hold on to it, while beating the living fuck out of the dude with your other body weapons.
3) It’s the fastest position available for the draw stroke. There is a reason that so many IPSC and IDPA competitors carry their guns forward of the point of the hip. The gun stays in, and moves through, a very compressed range-of-motion. That’s good, because the shorter the distance it needs to move, the faster it can get to the destination. If you’ve never seriously trained with A-IWB carry, but you’re interested in getting your gun into the fight quickly, you’re in for a very present surprise.
That having been said, there are a couple of what are potentially very significant drawbacks to the A-IWB carry.
1) The most obvious is the position of the weapon. It’s pointed at your dick! For the love of God, who wants to intentionally point a loaded weapon, in Condition One, at your own dick? For the ladies, it’s still pointed at your femoral artery. Now, I’m not going to engage in the obviously mistaken hubris of the late, great CPT Fairbairn (I say mistaken because it’s been conclusively established that his “Timeline of Death” chart was seriously flawed, from a medical/physiological standpoint. Not to denigrate the man or his legend), and try and tell you how long, to the second, it will take for you to bleed out from a femoral artery penetration. Let’s simply agree, it’s going to be fast, and unpleasant for you.
This major drawback is the primary reason that so many people who disparage the A-IWB carry do so. In some ways, I agree with them. If you’re not 110% absolutely, positively, consistently sure of your safe firearms handling habits and skills, do NOT attempt this carry method, because you will shoot yourself in the fucking dick. That will suck for you.
The second major drawback of this carry method is that it can be rather uncomfortable, depending on weapon and holster. I’m not sure there’s any way to make a Government Model 1911 or a SIG P226, or any other full-sized service weapon, for that matter, completely comfortable in A-IWB carry. Hell, even my compact G19 isn’t what I would particularly call “comfortable,” as compared to carrying it on my hip or in my Safariland drop-leg rig. I’m sitting in a Denny’s restaurant, at midnight (PCT) right now, waiting for the pre-class link-up in the morning, as I write this. I’ve got a G19 in my VG-2 on, and two spare G17 magazines in Cobra Skins mag pouches on my left side/front, opposite it. It’s not “uncomfortable” (I’ve had it on since I got out of bed at 0600 this morning, after all), but it’s certainly noticeable that it is there. Other holsters I’ve used, from jerry-rigged affairs I cobbled together out of Kydex and/or leather, to Kydex rigs I’ve tried from other makers, are certainly more noticeable.
However, as someone once pointed out very adroitly (Did I use that word correctly? I THINK I did...), a concealed carry weapon is not supposed to be comfortable. It’s supposed to be comforting. It is.
A-IWB certainly takes some getting used to, both from the safety standpoint, and the comfort standpoint, but it’s well worth the effort expended.
As I pointed out in the last article, the current resurgence in popularity of this method of carry, while it is certainly nothing new, does owe a great deal to Craig and Gomez. As some commenters have noted, this was/is a very popular carry method with drug enforcement undercover operatives, for the same reasons I love this method of carry. I’ve known a lot of very experienced, Cold War-era SF guys who loved this method for the same reason.
Several commenters also noted other desirable holsters available for this carry method that work really well. I’d LOVE to be able to comment on those, but I’m a poor working slob, and can’t afford half the gear I do own. I would LOVE for gear makers to send me shit to T&E for them, but none have so far (I doubt any will, unless they genuinely have absolute confidence in their product, ’cause I’m not going to win any rapport-building points if a piece of gear sucks).
I really like the Dale Fricke holster I have, but I absolutely LOVE my VG-2. If I have a bitch about it (and you know I do), it’s that Raven Concealment hasn’t come out with a weapon-mounted light compatible version of it yet. I really prefer carrying a weapon-mounted light, but I can’t with the Raven (Tom Fineis, are you reading this? PLEASE. Pretty please, with sugar on top? I really want a version that will fit my G19 with a Streamlight TLR-3 mounted on it….). I know at least one company, Armordillo, is making light-mounted A-IWB holsters that are light-specific, but I’m loathe, at this point, to spend a lot on a holster from a company I don’t know, if I don’t have a LOT of feedback on the comfort and security of the rig…..unless the Armordillo guys want to let me T&E one? (Can’t blame a dude for trying, right?)
So, on to the next topic….
Aimed-Fire versus Point-Shooting
There’s really no argument here, among learned shooters. While there are certainly times that preclude visually using your sights (like, shooting from retention at contact distances in a “wrasslin'” match), their can be no legitimate debate that using your sights is better than not. I’ve read a lot of Roger Phillips’s arguments, and at first glance, they make some sense. Unfortunately, in the real world, they fall flat.
Lest I offend anyone, I’m going to break this down into the simplest, most easily understood grammar school language I can manage….
Whether you are operating in a combat zone, as a uniformed service member, are a cop in a LEO role, or a survivalist in a TEOTWAWKI, who accepts the very real need to maintain good rapport with neighbors and community members….you are, absolutely, 100% accountable for the FINAL destination of every single fucking projectile that exits your muzzle. Period. Full-stop. End-of-story.
Those fucking sights, on top of your weapon, were put there for a reason. They are not an after-thought. They are not a conspiracy between gun-designers and clothing companies to rip your shirts and cost you money. The fucking original Colt Paterson revolver; the first functional, commonly available repeating handgun, had sights (however rudimentary they were….and they were pretty fucking primitive), for a reason.
Will point-shooting work reasonably well at common hand-gun ranges? Sure. Absolutely. Hell, I’ve made hits on an index card at 30 feet, with my eyes closed, point-shooting. Not with regular consistency though. A trained, practiced shooter, running a modern, semi-automatic pistol, using his sights, can put four rounds per second, or more, into a 3×5 index card at 30 feet, in less than one second; every single time. When a point-shooter can do that, and prove it, I’ll start taking a second look.
It’s a given, amongst serious students of pistol-craft, that however tight your shot groups are with your pistol, they’re probably going to widen up considerably when the shit gets real. Mine certainly did. The difference between my index card-sized groups on the training range, and my entire “sniper’s triangle” sized groups in real life and even in Force-on-Force training are significant. If your idea of a “good group” in training is keeping them all in the C-Zone, or even the A-Zone of a silhouette, instead of a small portion of the A-Zone, you’d better accept that a lot of your rounds, real world, are going to completely miss the intended bad guy.
There’s a couple of problems with that: first off, the more rounds you miss with, the longer the fight will last. The longer the fight lasts, the more chances there are for the bad guy to get a couple into YOU. That’s bad (although the bad guy would disagree…). Second, every single round that misses the bad guy has to stop somewhere. In a crowded, populated environment (the exact types of places where we CONCEAL our weapons…), there’s a god-damned GOOD chance that those stopping places will be other people, either non-combatants or even dude’s on your own team.
There is not a single serious gun-fighting professional organization anywhere, that I’m aware of, that uses point-shooting as a doctrinal method, for good reason. It’s NOT accurate. Anyone that claims otherwise is trying to sell you something. That something is generally brown in color, and smells nasty. I am well aware that Eric Haney, retired from SFOD-D, claims that he used point-shooting while in the Unit. Never having served in that unit, I can’t say, but every instructor I ever had who came from that unit, used aimed fire. There are plenty of veterans of that unit walking around in the training industry for guys to ask…Delta uses aimed fire, and for good reason. It works.
This is a very, very, very tired debate, that I can’t believe I’ve even let myself get dragged into, but what the fuck. If you want to point shoot, more power to you. Don’t do it anywhere around my wife and kid though, and do the world a favor, and quit telling people how awesome it is, until you’ve shot a quantifiable course-of-fire, with accuracy and time standards, to PROVE conclusively, that it is superior.
I am aware of course, that numerous “studies” have demonstrated the even “highly trained” shooters don’t use their sights in real-world gunfights. All I can say is, I remember always seeing mine, and so does every single other guy I’ve talked to from serious backgrounds who’s used their weapons in real fights.
As far as the old West gunslingers…yeah…number one, when you actually start seriously studying the history of those gunfights that did occur, rather than taking the word of “experts” like John Ford and Louis L’Amour, most were not the noble, stand-up in the street, and face the ne’er-do-well like a real man sorts of events. Most were drunken brawls and bar fights at or near contact distance, with little or no concern for non-combatant bystanders in the room.
I’m also aware that seriously qualified old-timers like Bill Jordan used a point-shooting variant. Same thing…a shooting at “arrest” distances may very well be pulled off with point-shooting. I’d also point out however, that Mr. Jordan also despised the 1911 and other auto-loading pistols in preference to the revolver for social purposes. How many guys who espouse point shooting are going to give up their modern sidearms too?
Guys, just aim your fucking guns. It does NOT take any longer, at the 1-10M distances we’re talking about for tactical applications of the defensive sidearm (seriously, most guys I’ve seen who use “point shooting” actually end up being slower than dedicated craftsmen who use their sights, just getting their first hit on the target, let alone actually putting multiple rounds into a target.
I genuinely don’t give two shits what you run, as long as you run it well, and it runs reliably. Yes, Glocks break. Just like Kalashnikovs, they’re just machines, and machines break. If you think you shoot a SIG or😄 or fucking Colt Paterson better, then by all means, carry that. Hell, I know a lot of “cowboy action shooters” who I’d just as soon continued carrying their Ruger Vaqueros over a Glock, because they’re super-fast and accurate with them.
The point wasn’t that you need to carry a fucking Glock 19 (although you do….), or even the A-IWB. The point was, if you’ve never had training from a qualified instructor (and only you can decide what that constitutes in your mind), there’s a 99.99% chance that you don’t have a fucking clue what you’re doing. I’d even offer that the fact that so many comments ended up in the pistol selection argument instead of discussing the modern isosceles or punch-out presentation, or anything else of substance in the argument is demonstrative of this. Of course, I’m an asshole like that, too….