Category: Blog

Book release: A Woman’s Toolkit for Recovery from Violence and Trauma

Happy to have been able to make a small contribution to this as content editor, along with some other awesome people*.

Amazon USA
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK

* Awesome people: Real Editor Hannah Mann, Designer Dan LoGrasso, help from Barbara J Bailey, Anne Barkema, Sara Cooper, Eric Plume, and Peri Ackman, and Sr. Instigators Marc MacYoung and Rory Miller.

3 Ways to Get More Out of a Training Class

There’s really only one I’m going to cover here because it’s the key to everything else: maintain a good mindset. Here are three ways to help you do that.

Attitude

My friend Kathy Jackson put it best: ”You come to class to learn something new, not to show off what you already know. If you don’t already know everything – okay, maybe not anything – that’s going to be covered in the class, that’s a good thing. It means you’re in the right place.”

There are lots of specific ways to allow yourself to learn, but that’s the chewy center. You’re there to learn stuff from the instructor. Do that.

Take Care of Your Brain & Body

There’s enough to learn without having to struggle through avoidable issues that make it harder and less safe. Sleep deprivation, dehydration, low blood sugar, physical exhaustion, pain, and drugs & alcohol make your brain suck at its job. Since you need both your brain and your body to be working in class, do the things that help them and avoid the things that make them worse. Keep yourself as rested as you can, both by getting enough sleep and by conserving energy in down time. Stay hydrated and fed. Wear shoes and clothing that won’t chew your body up. Come prepared to deal with the weather, including avoiding sunburn. Obviously, be sober—that means not being hung over, either.

Arrive Early & Prepared

You can avoid a lot of unnecessary stress by getting there early and ready to go. Ready to go means having your equipment in order, any paperwork you got in advance done and ready to turn in, food and beverages to get you through the day, any batteries you need charged, note-taking materials ready, etc. Be ready to start participating in class without having to run around to take care of random stuff first (except going to the bathroom).

Flashbang Bra Holster: First Impressions From A Male Instructor

Flashbang Draw at Cornered Cat Instructor Development
Doing the “traditional” downward Flashbang draw at a Cornered Cat instructor development course. Photo courtesy of Tamara Keel—thanks!

A few weeks back there was a discussion among a few instructors about whether the Flashbang bra holster was safe to allow in classes. I’ve played with one a few times with guidance from Kathy Jackson of Cornered Cat, who first taught me to use one in an instructor development class of hers last year. Haven’t done all I’d like or am planning to with it yet, and there’s plenty that I simply can’t, but here are a few notes so far:

All holsters can be used dangerously. Not all can be used safely. Whether you use the traditional draw, Melody Lauer’s (which draws out to a “high 2” position rather than down), or something else altogether, the Flashbang can be used safely. It is not an inherently dangerous design. Like any other holster, you have to know how to make it go right and how to spot and correct when it’s going wrong.

It’s a real holster. Good design, good build quality. It’s not a gimmick or a toy. Like AIWB (“appendix carry”), it provides a realistic solution to an actual problem that people may actually have.

Access under stress. I spent some time with a 220 lb guy who’s a handful to fight. I had him attack me from a bunch of worst-case starting points, both standing up and on the ground. I’m a 6’ tall man with a man’s upper body strength and no boobs, so take this with a grain of salt. I’m specifically not saying my experience would be the same as a 5’2”, 120 lb woman’s would in the same situation. But—for me in my body, access is easier than I thought it would be. Much easier. Discovering I could get the gun out going down through the cover shirt’s neck hole instead of having to clear it from waist to neck was a game-changer. There were situations on the ground where getting the gun from a Flashbang was actually easier than from a belt holster (we tried both to compare).

Is access perfect? Like any other holster or place on the body, no. There’s simply nowhere that can be reached in every situation. But access was much better than it seemed like it “should” have been before I tested it.

Will it stay attached? The strap that holds the holster to the bra closes with a snap, and I was worried about that. If you need the gun, you need it to come out and for the holster to stay behind. What you can’t see in pictures online is that it uses a locking snap, which works surprisingly well. I’ve done lots of draws from it, using plenty of force, and it didn’t come off once.

Some have asked why most of the videos of people using it show dangerous and stupid things. Since it’s relatively new, even people who’ve been through a ton of professional training may not have learned how to safely use this design because the institutional knowledge just isn’t there yet. That has nothing to do with the safety of the holster itself. It can change, and I hope it does because…

It’s a real holster that can solve a real problem and can be used safelywithout resorting to off-body carry. This is awesome.

The company also makes a model called the Marilyn, which attaches to the side of the bra, where it rides under the arm like a shoulder holster, rather than in the middle of the bra as the Flashbang does. I’ve spent less time with that one than with the flagship Flashbang model, but from what I’ve seen so far, all of the above holds for that one too.

I simply can’t know what it’s like to live with this holster every day, or use it at all in a female body. I can’t say whether it’s right for anyone in particular in their life. Kathy Jackson of Cornered Cat and Melody Lauer of Central Iowa Defensive Training have the most experience with it of anyone I know personally, and they know more about bra carry than I ever will.

What I am comfortable saying at this point as an instructor is that it’s a legitimate, quality holster and a viable option, and thanks to Kathy’s guidance, I can teach people to use it safely.

The worst purse carry photo I’ve ever seen

A derringer as a primary personal protection device. The two-round capacity indicates a level of untenable optimism for a tool carried to save your life in an actual worst-case scenario. No trigger guard—that thing is just hanging out there where anything can actuate it. Muzzle pointed at the hand, which violates one of the cardinal rules of firearm safety. What could possibly go wrong?

Image search engine TinEye shows this image appearing in 27 other places. This is what’s being modeled. I am disappoint.

Emotional Stopping Power

There’s a lot of talk about “stopping power” in the world of defensive shooting. A “stop” is when you get someone to stop their attack, and there are two kinds: physiological and psychological. Physiological is when someone becomes physically incapacitated to the point where their body is, in that moment, no longer capable of causing you harm. Psychological is the same thing, but in the mind—you get someone to give up. It could be that things aren’t following the script they had planned. It could be that the amount of resistance they’re meeting, or the amount of pain or damage they’re taking, is more than they bargained for. It could be that they have ideas about what’s “supposed” happen when they take certain types of damage. Or it could be they they go to an emotional place where they simply will not act to protect themselves and are therefore utterly at the mercy (don’t count on it) and whim of their opponent. It seems that people’s minds often give up well before their bodies do.

This is hugely powerful. Getting someone to give up with less force than is required to physically remove their ability to hurt us is both efficient and a good risk management strategy. It can cut both ways. When used by an innocent defender, it prevents further violence, because an innocent defender’s goal is to get away unscathed. When used by an attacker, it can enable further violence, because the attacker has other goals, and they can do whatever they want to someone who won’t fight back. Given that things can go much better for us if this goes for us and much worse if it’s against us, it follows that learning to use it in our favor and to resist it coming from others is a good idea. It also follows that allowing or inducing an emotional stop in ourselves is a bad one.

My mother had a live-in boyfriend who was functionally my stepfather for 9 or 10 years. He was a drunk and an asshole who went out of his way to express his anger at me. A pattern quickly emerged when we all moved in together when I was about 6: he yelled, I cried and went away. Once I started crying, I’d shut down, and it was over… he’d won, I’d lost, and there was no point in going through the rest of the motions. Crying meant losing.

There’s a deadly idea in there that many of us pick up early. It’s replicated in lots of self defense training. We think that if someone gains a certain position (joint lock, choke hold), does a certain thing (lands a certain strike, shoots or cuts someone with a training weapon), or creates a certain reaction (momentary freeze or panic) in their opponent, that person has automatically won. We think when that happens, there’s simply nothing we can do except give up. This is wrong.

I worked hard on not crying, but it had become a conditioned response that I couldn’t see how to break. I could delay the tears, but stopping them altogether seemed almost impossible. As time went on, I didn’t cry about anything else, just when that one person would ride me in a certain way. He yelled, I cried; he won, I lost. Crying meant losing—game over—and I did it every time.

One night when I was probably 15, he attained that perfect drunken state of peak danger where he was loaded enough to be at maximum rage with minimum inhibition and self-restraint, but without having lost the physical coordination to destroy. He was angry, wanted to break something, and started riding me hard. He was going way further than he had before and was clearly working himself up to letting himself off the chain. In that moment I had no money and nowhere to go, so leaving wasn’t on the table. By this point in my life I’d skated by death a few times and had faced and escaped a lot worse than this guy, who hated my existence but had never actually laid a hand on me, so me crying made no real sense. Some conditioning runs deep. I held them back for a while, but eventually the tears started as he vented his rage into my face from a few inches away. Previous experience told me that I had just lost, but the stakes were higher as a hospital-at-least beating seemed imminent. Trying to walk away or hide would have probably just encouraged him to chase me, with bad results. Picking up something to use as a weapon would have escalated things to a very bad place very quickly. So I stood there. He coiled to swing and I told him, through the tears, that if he hit me, I’d hit him back. I meant it. His body language changed, he blustered for a few more seconds, and then disengaged. I walked away and we both literally lived to fight another day.

It could have gone very differently, but thankfully this ended as a pretty low-level event that wasn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things. It does illustrate something important, though: fear and our bodies’ natural reactions to stress aren’t necessarily the only internal things to deal with when we need to protect ourselves. Emotion and conditioning can be factors as well. If an emotional obstacle rears its head at say 2% of the spectrum of force that could be used against us, and we allow that to stop us and we shut down, we’re defeating ourselves by doing 98% of the attacker’s work against us for them. It may be through shakes, tears, or such a profound sense of wrongness about asserting anything in the physical world to protect yourself that you feel like you might hurl your guts out, but even if you’re experiencing emotion or are fighting through your conditioning, you can still actively participate in your own protection and survival.

Transporting Long Guns On Motorcycles

There aren’t many good options for transporting rifles and shotguns on motorcycles. Fortunately, several companies now have bags that fit my parameters: must have two straps, hold at least one broken down, defensive-length long gun, look normal (i.e. not screaming THERE’S A GUN IN HERE or SO TACTICAL!), and be well made (a bag coming apart while you’re riding is a serious safety issue—ask me how I know).

A few things to bear in mind: since these have to be taller than average to accommodate the firearm, the tops of the shoulder straps attach below the top of the pack, which will stick up above your shoulders. This is good—otherwise they’d ride low over your butt and you’d have a hard time sitting—but it affects aerodynamics for me on my bike (a standard, naked/no windscreen or fairing), especially in high wind. Positioning my head to reduce the gap between the back of my helmet and the top of the pack helps. May work differently for you on your bike.

I haven’t used them all personally, but all of these manufacturers have good reputations for making quality products.

 

London Bridge Trading/2 Vets Arms Covert Pack

Comes with one padded, zippered sleeve that holds a gun with hook-and-loop anchors, and has a small internal storage pouch. The sleeve fits right into the bag, which holds a single sleeve with room left over, two sleeves with no room left over, or one sleeve and a top-to-bottom, hook-and-loop-mounted pouch set with no room left over. (Pro tip: if you get an additional sleeve, get a different color from the first one so you can tell which gun is where without looking inside). Functional but narrow top carry handle.

I’ve used this one for about two years with the extra sleeve. So far, so good: it’s very well made and has held up to everything I’ve thrown at it. This is probably the way to go if you want to carry two guns.

26″ x 11.5″ x 4″, 1940 cubic inches. $200.

 

Noveske/First Spear Concealed Carry Backpack

Most normal/sporty-looking color combos, beefy-looking rubber-coated top carry handle, external water bottle and mesh pockets on both sides.

28 ¼” x 13 ¼” x 5″. $199.

 

Eberlestock S34 Secret Weapon

This has two compartments, one for a broken-down long gun and another for random stuff, including a laptop sleeve. Comes with a removable waist belt and a rain cover that stows in the pack. Doesn’t look from the pictures like it has a top carry handle.

30″ x 13″, 7.5 lbs. / 3.4 kg, 1800 cubic inches / 29 liters. $299.

 

Tactical Tailor Phantom Trekker SBR Bag

Traditional hiking backpack look, stowable straps & waist belt, side handles for suitcase-style carry, big top carry handle.

Main Compartment: 30 1/2″ x 13 1/2″ x 6″
Front Pocket: 20″ x 6 1/2″ x 3″
Top Pocket: 2 1/2″ x 9 1/2″ x 8 1/2″
$350

 

Warnings

Obviously, make sure you comply with all applicable laws when transporting firearms.

Falling off a motorcycle with any kind of bag strapped to your back may cause additional injury.

Related: Easy Rider: Handgun Carry While Riding a Motorcycle, by Deryck Poole of Echo-5 Training at PDN

Situational Awareness Failures

The aim of this post isn’t to belittle the people in these videos, but to illustrate a point. These people probably know how to walk and NOT crash into dangerous things like fountains, planters, bears, stairs, etc., but that doesn’t help if they don’t apply it when they need to—possessing the skill alone is not enough. As Col. Jeff Cooper said, “If you don’t know you’re in trouble, no amount of ability on your part will save you”.

Texting While Walking Accidents & Fails Compilation (not embeddable, click to watch)