Swift | Silent | Deadly

Wives’ Tales, Sea Stories, and Gun Shop Lore

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I recently had to attend my state’s concealed carry permit class. While I offered a detailed review of the class (you should really go read that for a more full explanation of this post), these are some of the wives’ tales that were passed off as gospel. I’m not going to fully explain all the ways that all of these are wrong; we’d be here all day. There’s going to be no consistent theme here – just a list of some of the dumb stuff I heard in class.

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It really seems like the instructors’ firearms education ended in the late 1980s. It was also obvious there was no willingness to learn anything new – they just wouldn’t have it. To be clear, there isn’t really much of a lesson to be learned from this post – it’s mostly just an outlet for me to release some of the frustration I have post-class. Maybe some of you will get a chuckle out of it.

On Shotguns

“Bird shot is just as good as a slug at any kind of home defense distance and it’ll stay in the building.” Well, you’re half right – it will probably stay in the building. You know what will keep most other defensive types of ammunition in the building? Hitting what you’re aiming at. Bird shot is a bad choice for home defense. In the same author’s study of stopping power, he found that immediate incapacitation occured in only 17% of cases with bird shot, but 54% and 67% of cases with buckshot and slugs, respectively. Don’t use bird shot for defense.

And speaking of shotguns, there was also some really interesting advice about the ready condition of a shotgun. I store my shotgun in cruiser ready. When the instructor began talking about storage conditions, I thought that’s where he was going, but then he took a radical left turn. He described loading the gun (presumably with bird shot), racking the slide back (opening the action), and pulling the round out of the chamber. He then places that round “behind the picture of [his] mother. That way all I have to do is grab that shell, drop it in, close it up, and I’m ready.”

He also explained this might save him should he come home during a burglary in progress. “If I come home, he picks up my gun, shuts the action and he thinks it’s ready to go. But it’s not, and that might be just the advantage I need…” This is stupid. First, why would you interrupt a burglary in progress? The class (and state law) made clear that defense of property is not a lawful use of deadly force. The more prudent course is to wait outside and call the cops. Secondly, bad guys aren’t stupid. Most of them have training and experience. They’re probably going to realize how your shotgun works well enough to get a round in the chamber. Maybe not, but I certainly wouldn’t bet my life on it.

On Carry Methodology

“Carry with an empty chamber is OK if that’s what you want to do.” Oh man. Fortunately the instructor talking about this was smart enough to at least hint that it’s better to carry with a round in the chamber. He wouldn’t come out and say it, though, and hedged his bets. “On the other hand, I have a friend who is really fast getting the gun out and racking that slide.” Yeah, with no one bashing his face in or on top of him. Chamber-empty carry works OK on the range but it makes an awful lot of assumptions about the time and space you’re going to have in a fight for your life.

“Small-of-the-back carry is fantastic.” Small-of-the-back (SOB) carry might be acceptable in some very narrow circumstances that I’m unaware of. SOB carry is really bad in a LOT of normal situations for a lot of reasons. It is slow to draw from small-of-the-back. It’s difficult to draw and holster without flagging yourself and others around you. It’s very difficult to holster one-handed. A gun in the small of your back is a huge injury hazard to your spine if you fall on it, or are taken to the ground on top of it. Small-of-the-back carried guns are very difficult to defend. So yeah, outside of those minor disadvantages, it’s fantastic. Maybe I’ll get a SOB holster, just so I can speak more intelligently about how bad they are.

On Semi-Auto Manipulation

“There is only ONE WAY to rack a pistol. Like this. Any other way is stupid. I don’t care who trained you or why they did it – it’s stupid. This is the only way.” Honestly, I don’t have any fault with having a preferred way to execute a given technique, provided the technique is sound. I don’t even have a problem with the instructor’s preferred method: pinching the rear of the slide and “sling-shotting” it forward.

I guess in a perfect world you’d be able to explain why you prefer it, and why you don’t like other techniques that accomplish the same task. What I can’t stand is an unwillingness to acknowledge that someone else might have equally valid reasons for choosing the technique they choose.

Also, just as an instructional technique, calling anything “stupid” is, well, stupid. By this point I was pretty much over the class anyway and just trying to get through it. If this had been an instructor I had any respect for whatsoever, he or she would have lost me with that statement. There’s also an issue of the timing of the statement – it wasn’t in a portion of the class pertaining to how to rack a slide or how to manipulate a handgun. The instructor had just just cleared the handgun to demonstrate something else, and that thought popped into his head. It really seemed he just wanted something to have a strong opinion on something to demonstrate how much he knows.

Also, just out of curiosity I referenced Mike Seeklander’s Your Defensive Handgun Training Program and Kyle Lamb’s Stay in the Fight. Both men are recognized handgun experts. While both men prefer other techniques, neither calls the overhand grip of the slide “stupid.” In fact, in some situations both recognize it as a valid technique. I’m going to go out on a limb and say IDPA National Champion Mike Seeklander and former Delta operator Kyle Lamb know a little more than the local yokels that ran my concealed carry class.

Half-cock was recommended as a viable carry condition of the 1911. “This gun is a single-action. It is meant to be carried cock-and-locked. What I found in South America is that if you drop it and it [begins rolling the gun around in the air, as if to demonstrate it falling] rolls down a hill – ‘bam, bam, bam’ – the safety can come off and BANG! [indicates gun landing on hammer]. So what you can do is carry it like this [lowers hammer to half-cock]. Now you can drop it and it’ll be fine. Just remember, now you have to cock that hammer as you pull it out!”

Where do I even begin with this one? First, carry in half-cock itself is slow to deploy. You have to cock the hammer before the gun can do anything. I (and you) can disengage the safety on a 1911 with a normal firing grip; neither I nor you can cock the hammer with a normal firing grip, so you have to draw, cock, then obtain a good grip. It’s just not very efficient. Secondly, you have to lower the hammer to half cock from full cock, which certainly carries risk of losing control of the hammer. There’s also serious debate about the safety of carrying at half-cock. My take: it’s not safe. Carry it cock-and-locked, or find a new weapon system.

“Controls on the left side of the gun are for the left hand. Your magazine release – you should be pushing that with your left hand, not trying to contort you right hand [makes exaggerated contortion of right hand] to hit it.” This is news to me. I have attended quite a few handgun courses, including some military close-quarters battle packages and some training courses with other government agencies. I’ve never been taught to actuate the magazine release with anything other than the strong-hand thumb.

On AR-15s

“ARs don’t need no oil. That’s the most commonly over-oiled gun I see.” This statement was followed up with some garbage about, “the only place you need to lube is a drop or two of oil in those two little holes on the bolt carrier.” I rarely like to cite my own experience, but after six or seven trips to the sandbox with an M4, I can say pretty confidently that your AR/M4 will run best when well lubricated.

If you don’t trust me, you might trust Kyle Lamb. I also referenced his Green Eyes & Black Rifles. Kyle, a former SGM with 25 years of experience in a top-tiered special operations outfit and the owner of Viking Tactics says, “place a liberal amount of lube on the bolt,” and “place additional lube on the bearing surfaces of the bolt carrier, buffer spring, and hammer.” Again, Mr. Lamb is a recognized authority, so I’m going to go with his advice here.

On “Combat Shooting”

“Never invest more than three shots in a target. He’s either hit, got his head down, or running, and he ain’t a threat then.” Tell that to this guy.

“When I was a cop I was only allowed to shoot anybody twice, once in the chest and once in the pelvis. Back then they said if you can’t take someone into custody after shooting them twice, you need to go be a fireman.” This came right after the instructor told us, “we were only allowed to carry eighteen rounds,” and that he could get them all off in about 20 seconds (which actually seems totally plausible). I don’t know much about police training in the 70s, but this one seems like bullshit. And it makes me wonder, if you could only shoot a bad guy twice, why did you need eighteen rounds? That’s enough for nine bad guys!

“All that [demonstrates searching with a pistol at arms length] started on TV because Mel Gibson wanted to look cool. Our military and police saw it on TV now they’re doing it that way. It’s stupid if you ask me. This is just a manufactured thing to be angry about, a straw-man to knock down, and a way to show how smart you are and how dumb everyone else is. I assure you our military doesn’t develop its tactics, techniques, and procedures from watching TV. A lot of hard lessons have been learned in blood over the past fifteen years, and these lessons have shaped the way CQB and other combat tasks are conducted.

In fact, the opposite is kind of true: generally, TV imitates what our military and law enforcement communities are doing – not the other way around. Also, since this guy admittedly hasn’t been in the military – and hasn’t even been a cop or a “merc” since at least the 80s – I’m curious to know how he knows what our military is doing.

On Revolvers

“You should hold your revolver like this [demos thumb over back of strong hand] so you can thumb back your hammer real fast if you need to [demonstrates firing the revolver really fast in single action].” Self-defense revolvers don’t need a single-action capability. Cocking the hammer creates all kinds of hazards. Instead of explaining this, I’m going to let Chris Baker do it. If you’re going to use a revolver for self-defense, you NEED to get comfortable with double action, and pretty much forget about the single-action trigger.

To be a good revolver shooter, you need to be able to stage the trigger. Also wrong. You need to be able to work a double-action trigger, not try to turn it into a half-ass single-action trigger. Does staging a trigger have a place? On the target range, in hunting and other long range pursuits, perhaps. In self-defense? Honestly, instead of listening to this instructor, I think I’m going to defer to Greg Ellifritz, Chuck Haggard, Mike Seeklander (all of whom I’ve trained under) and Grant Cunningham (whose revolver books I’ve read). None of them advocate staging the trigger when using a revolver for self-defense. You should “roll” smoothly through the trigger’s movement. It should be like paddling a canoe: no stopping and no jerky movements.

Revolvers with hammer-mounted firing pins cannot be safely carried with a round under the hammer. If it’s dropped it’s gonna fall on the hammer, and what happens with the firing pin hits the primer? Boom. Demonstrably false. Modern double-action revolvers have a hammer-block safety that prevents firing pin contact with the primer unless the trigger is to the rear. This is just basic, demonstrable fact. I don’t really know what else to say here.

On Handgun Stopping Power

Caveat: this is the most difficult one to write. It’s hard to believe anyone with any familiarity with firearms said this, but here it is: “If you have to shoot somebody, where should you shoot ’em? Don’t shoot ’em in the head, cause it probably ain’t gonna do anything. OK, I’m not so sure about that one. Kernel of truth, I guess – the head can be more difficult to hit than center mass, and bone can sometimes change a bullet’s direction. He continues:

[Taps sternum] Right here. Know why? Because nine out of ten handgun bullets won’t go through that bone, they’ll just bounce off. But what happens when you get hit real hard right there? [Mimes breath being taken away] That’s a ‘stop shot’ but it’s not gonna kill ’em.” So what he seems to be saying is that a handgun bullet won’t penetrate the sternum. I’m not even sure what to say about that other than, “why bother with body armor if my skeleton will stop bullets?” Yes, a state-certified self-defense instructor said in class that your sternum will stop most handgun rounds. Later, he followed up talking about abdomen shots.

“You don’t want to shoot ’em here. This is soft tissue. That’s not a ‘stop shot.’ I seen one of my teammates get shot there. We stuffed his wound with a bleeding control agent and he fought for a long time. He died later but he fought for a long time.” Hmmm…he’s not totally wrong. However, hemostatic agents in the 70s or 80s? I’m of the understanding that local hemostatic agents came along in the early 2000s. I’m not an expert on emergency medicine, so maybe I’m wrong. I’m also fairly confident that hemostatic agents aren’t supposed to be applied inside the abdomen, but again I’ll defer to an expert. You know what – never mind. I’m going to stop beating around the bush and just say it: this seems like a lie to me.


We were also treated (of course) to a number of humorous anecdotes Actually we were told a ton of them, any time there was an opportunity to tell a personal story, but I’ll limit this to the ones that demonstrate my frustration most vividly. Note – these were probably not intended to be humorous, but they were. Here goes, along with a brief analysis from me at the end.

The Marine Sniper Anecdote

“Then there was the retired Marine sniper, 27 years. I was watching him shoot and he would drop every fourth round with his Glock. I said, ‘you want me to fix that?’ He said, ‘I’m a retired Marine sniper!’

[Pregnant pause]

“I said, ‘OK, but do you want me to fix it?’ I had him load up three rounds and I said shoot three rounds. He laid ’em in there on top of each other. I told him do it again. Same thing, he laid ’em right in there.

“Then I had him load up a full magazine and shoot three again. He laid them all in there on top of each other again. I said, ‘OK, now shoot four.’ He dropped the fourth one. I said, ‘That’s your problem: you’re only good for three. After you shoot three you need to stop and reset. In 27 years they didn’t teach you that in the Marines? I can’t believe that.’ He said, ‘no.’ I said, ‘well, I learned it in from the army. From Special Forces guys.’ He didn’t like that.”

My analysis: So, the point of this anecdote seems to be that some people are only good for a certain number of rounds (?). The instructor didn’t really offer a solution, he just showed the “student” how to avoid the problem (the two are NOT the same thing). To be honest, I’m not going to try to guess what the issue was (assuming this story is even true), but any instructor I’ve attended training with would have corrected the underlying issue. Are you losing control of the gun under recoil? Fix your grip. Are you speeding up? Fix your rhythm. Et cetera.

The Woman Seeking Training Anecdote

“A woman came in who had been to TEN(!) one-hour lessons with an instructor. She shot OK but just wasn’t where she wanted to be. I watched her shoot two magazines. I told her load up three rounds, just point at the target and ‘pow’ ‘pow’ ‘pow’ [really emphasizing his cadence of about a shot per second]. Her group went from this [basketball sized], to this [baseball sized]. She was just overthinking it! In ten lessons I don’t know how that guy hadn’t thought of that! And ten lessons? Come on! That’s probably milking the cow a little too much.”

My analysis: First the training thing: ten hours is “milking the cow?” So, despite being a former special operator, having several hundred hours of training, spending 60 hours in dry practice last year, and firing over 10,000 rounds last year, I paid out-of-pocket for over twice that amount of training in a single year. I must be an idiot.

Is there really a mentality out there that a mere ten hours of training is a lot? That’s barely enough to get someone to the most basic of proficiency.

Secondly, what is the point of his story? That she was overthinking it? I have way too many examples like these, where some simple, folksy wisdom saved the day for me to recount… I guess I don’t know what the point of his story was, which is kind of MY point.

Closing Thoughts

Be careful where you get your information from. If you know someone that is thinking about getting a concealed carry permit, maybe suck it up and spend the money to go with them to correct any misinformation. I’m not saying all concealed carry instructors are bad (indeed, there are some phenomenal ones!), but they definitely aren’t all good. As for me? I’m happy to be back in my circle of friends. That is, guys that subscribe to crazy ideas, like the crazy concept that your sternum will not stop bullets, and that bird shot is not buckshot.

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