The Carbine In Context


My AR-15′s and the SU-16C aren’t my “go-to” weapon. It’s not even my secondary weapon, (that’s the Mossberg I have in my safe room), the rifle is my third choice: It’s gun that I would use if I need something more than my CCW gun if I’m outside the house. I’ve taken a really good defensive carbine training class, but I need some defensive shotgun training, as (God forbid), that would be my secondary weapon I’d go to not my AR-15.

Oh, and I need a good class in first aid/trauma. That too. 

Default Settings.

Once people figure out that you’re a “gun person”, the question will inevitably arise, “Hey, so I was thinking about getting a gun for self-protection: What do you recommend?”

When I got gear questions when I was a photographer, I knew what they were looking for was a quick fix to taking better pictures. The real fix was shooting a lot more film and analyzing their mistakes, but every once in a while I’d talk to someone who knew what they were doing and had reached the limits of what their camera could do. At this point I’d usually recommend a Nikon FM, a 35mm f2 and Tri-X. Because old school. 

So what do I recommend for a pistol? Shockingly, not a CZ. I really love my CZ75 and my P07, but the fact is a double-action trigger is a hard thing to master, and the time and bandwidth needed to reach a level of comfort with such a trigger is better-spent elsewhere for a beginning shooter. Don’t get me wrong, I think double-action triggers are just peachy, it’s just not a place I’d start with a beginning shooter. 

When people ask about a self-defense gun for beginners, unless they talk about a need for concealability or easy shooting, I usually end up recommend the Smith and Wesson M&P series for first-time shooters.


Shocker, I know. 

Ok, why? 

  • I’ve gained a new appreciation for the M&P after owning and shooting my Shield
  • It’s easy to find accessories for
  • It’s an easier transition to other pistols than the Glock
  • It’s striker-fired so there’s only one trigger pull to learn
  • It’s easy to shoot
  • 9mm is (theoretically) common to find

Ok, so was my thinking out of line? What would you recommend?

Home Is Where The Lockdown Is


Schools have fire drills.
You have fire drills.
Schools have lockdown drills.

You have… what? 

As part of his first year in Cub Scouts, my first son and I created a home fire drill plan for our house. We sketched out our house and figured out how we were going to get out quickly and safely in case of fire, and then we turned around and created a home invasion response plan focused around our family going to our safe room inside the home rather than leaving the house.

And out of the entire troop, we were the only ones to do do. Our scout troop is smack dab in the middle of a very conservative and gun-friendly area of a conservative and gun-friendly state (which has had more than it’s share of home invasions), and we were the only ones to face the reality that violence was/is a greater possibility than a house fire.

Having a fire drill plan for your home is a great idea, and it’s an accepted part of society that every family should have one. I’ll never know why, then it’s considered “paranoid” to have a plan and the means to deal with physical violence, something that is far more likely to occur.

The Safest Way to Store Your Gun In Your Home Is…

… the safest and easiest and quickest way to store your gun outside your home. 

On your person. Duh. 

When I mention in an online forum that I yes, I carry a pistol on me when I’m at home, people who are otherwise ok with concealed carry will ask “Why would you carry at home? Are you that paranoid?!” 

Well, no. And yes. Yes, I am aware of the face that whether it’s inside or outside the home, a cop WILL NOT be around when I need one, so why would I think that rules that keep me safe outside of the home (namely, having a gun ON me, not sorta near me) would NOT protect me when I’m inside the home? If, God forbid, I’m faced with a home invasion, it’s going to happen with the speed and surprise of a mugging and not be telegraphed in advance. Therefore, I carry at home, and when I go to sleep, I look up my guns in a quick-access gun safe. Having a gun on or in the nightstand might be faster, but for me, with my family, that’s a option I’m not prepared to go with right now. Yes, on the day (or night) that I need it, it would be faster, but on every other day of my life, it’s a risk I’m not willing to take.

Customer-Focused Firearms Training

Not For CCW

As a semi-professional firearms student, I think Todd’s on to something here

“When one of these non-shooters, whether he’s a MLB star or Joe Sixpack, comes to class and clearly demonstrates no desire to train regularly I don’t bother talking about sights or how to press a trigger. We talk about safety… a lot. Then we hit the range for some simple drills to get used to the gun making loud unpleasant noises. I want the student to get comfortable with a gun going off in the hand, and then build his confidence in an ability to point the gun toward a humanoid target and hit it in the chest (or thereabouts) with some degree of rapidity.” 

Honestly, my first take on this was “Why, that’s just silly, a firearms teacher needs to instill the fundamentals of marksmanship in a student in order to start them off right!”

But then I realized that the training model that worked in the past might not work today. How much of what we “know” about pistol training is based on bullseye shooting and PPC matches? How much of it is based on what we “know” about Weaver stance and The Modern Technique? 

And how much of that is relative to someone who just got their concealed carry permit and wants to feel competent with their handgun of choice? 

Note: I said “feel competent”, not “be competent”. If a trainer insists on teaching his/her students something that is difficult for beginning students to accomplish, like rapid sighted fire, that trainer is setting his students up for failure. He’s also extinguishing the desire for further training because his student will see something that looks simple (shoot accurately AND quickly) and not be able to accomplish it. 

Both the NRA trainers I’ve worked with and the Combat Focus Shooting classes I’ve attended do just that, but from opposite ends of the spectrum. Combat Focus Shooting is all about the act of putting hits on a target that work in defensive situations want teaches safety in that context, while an NRA class teaches safety, safety and more safety and then works in trigger press and gun handling. One compliments the other, and I’d recommend both to new shooters looking for a way to feel confident about carrying a gun. 

Top Ten Cheap Guns

None of theseLet’s face it, sometimes your budget overrides everything else and you’re forced to make compromises. Me? I’d love to spend my vacation touring Europe for the three months, but I have neither the time nor money for that, so my family vacations at Disneyland, not Scotland. 

There are so many people out there who tell you “You shouldn’t compromise on your defensive handgun, you’re entrusting your life to your gun!” 

In theory, this is true. However, I trust my life and the lives of my family to the tires on my car, but for budget reasons, I buy the middle-of-the-road brands at Discount Tire, not top-of-the-line Pirellis, so yes, I am willing to compromise on some critical things in life. 

Sue me.

Can you compromise when it comes to defensive handguns? Are there guns out there that work perfectly fine as a concealed carry gun that won’t break the bank? 

I think you can, and here are ten guns that’d have no problem recommending to people who just don’t have the money to spend on a more expensive gun. I’ve built this list with new gun owners in mind, and before you say “I don’t understand why *anyone* wouldn’t spend $500+ on a CCW gun,” realize that not everyone *can* do that or wants to when they are just starting out. Money is tight, options need to be weighed and choices need to be made. I think everyone who understands the need to be their own first responder should have the tools they need right now. In other words, a decent gun on your hip right now is better than buying your dream gun three years in the future.

The Rules: 

  • New guns only. There are good values out there in used police-issue Glocks and the like, (and I loves me my CZ-82), but those come and go and can’t be found day in, day out. 
  • No Hi-Points or similar guns. If you have to ask why, you won’t understand.
  • $400 retail, without FFL fee. Why that amount? Because over that amount, choices begin to open up and “normal” pistols like the Walther PPX become viable options.
  • No pocket .380′s. I like my P3AT and I’ve shot LCP’s and Bodyguards, but those guns are just not the best option for beginning shooters because they’re not easy to practice with or fun to shoot.
  • Nothing less than .380. This is a list of defensive guns, and .380 is the minimum caliber I’d recommend for daily carry, with a preference for something more.

The List 

In no particular order…

  • Sccy CPX-2
    I own Gen1 version of this gun, and it’s been a problem child for me. However, people I know and trust recommend the newer CPX-2, so I guess Sccy has solved their problems.
  • Kel-Tec P11
    Kel-Tec was a pioneer in the mini 9mm market, and the P11 (and it’s smaller cousin, the PF9), just keep going and going and going and selling and selling and selling.
  • Smith and Wesson SD9 VE *
    S&W has really improved this gun recently, and it’s turned into a true bargain. 
  • Diamondback DB9
    Until Glock makes the 42 in 9mm, this is the gun to own if you want a mini 9mm with Glock’s look and feel.
  • Taurus Slim 9mm
    Taurus has really upped their game as of late, and I have friends who carry a Slim every day. 
  • Kahr CW9
    Kahr is another first-mover in the mini 9mm world, and their guns have a great reputation for reliability and accuracy.
  • Ruger LC9
    Honestly, I was shocked that the LC9 was so inexpensive. This would be the gun I’d recommend the most on this list.
  • Bersa Thunder *
    A really terrific value and a very popular gun.
  • LC380 *
    Like an LC9, but chambered in .380 ACP, not 9mm. 
  • Walther PK380 *
    Maybe not the most-well known of all the guns on the list, but a good balance of power, size and controllability.

Honorable Mention
The Walther PPX. I’ve found a few online stores that have it listed at *just* over $400.

* Indicates a gun that would be a good choice for someone who’s recoil sensitive, because not everyone likes shooting .460 Alaskan snubbies…

So, what did I miss? 

Gun Culture 2.0 as a way of life.

I really enjoy reading the Gun Culture 2.0 blog because it presents a reality check on the new realities of owning guns. There’s a post on the site about Jennifer Dawn Carlson’s analysis of CCW in Detroit that has me wondering, though.

In Carlson’s analysis, the social identity of the citizen-protector: (1) “Redefines lethal shooting, under certain circumstances, as a morally upstanding response to violent threat and an affirmation of one’s love for life,” (2) “Draws on the duty to protect as a historically male-dominated social function,” and (3) “Emphasizes protection as an esteemed form of masculinity.”

Thus, to understand why a growing number of Americans are getting licensed to carry handguns in public (or are exercising their right to open carry without a license where that is allowed) requires getting beyond the gun itself. Carrying a gun is about more than personal self-defense; it is an assertion of “relevance, dominance, and dignity.”

The thing is, she’s not wrong, but she’s not exactly right either. Where I think Ms. Carlson misses out on things is where she chose to do her research: If I lived in Detroit, you are DARN RIGHT I’d have a CCW. Heck, I wouldn’t feel safe there with anything less than a company of Marines.

I digress. 

As I said in a comment on that post…

Interesting idea, and as a Canadian living in the United States who carries both openly and concealed wherever I can, there is a large grain of truth to what Carlson is saying.
However, there is an element of personal empowerment in the new realities of Gun Culture 2.0, and I am not sure that she is giving too much weight to “the decline of society” based on her conducting her research in Detroit. Gun permits are booming *everywhere* they can, and one would hardly say that the economy of Texas or Florida is in decline.
There is a unique boom in personal empowerment going on at a level not seen since the early days of the printing press. We don’t need Walter Cronkite or the NY Times to tell us what the news is, we can chose from hundreds of cable channels or millions of online resources. If I want to read the news in my hometown of Calgary, I can read it on the Herald’s website myself, not hope to see glimpses of it on the news or pay outrageous amounts of money to have the paper shipped to me in the U.S.
With the legalization of marijuana and gay marriage and other trends, people are realizing they need a large state less and less to guide their lives.
So why then, do they think they need to hope there will be an armed representative of the state around when they really, really need one?

So is the decline of society your reason for carrying, or is it the acknowledgement of personal empowerment, or is it something as simple as “Because I can!”?

Pop quiz:

This happened in a WalMart I used to got to on a regular basis, and the CCW holder in question was not charged with a crime. 

The question is, did he screw up, and if so, when? 

If you answered “At 0:13, where he doesn’t say ‘Oops, sorry, my bad, I can wait’”, you are, IMO, correct. Is a place in line something you are willing to shoot someone over? if your answer is anything other than “No”, please, for the love God and everyone around you, don’t carry a gun. 

Testing a gun storage myth

I don’t recommend people keep loaded guns in the open around the house. I think the safest place to keep a gun in the home is the safest place to keep a gun outside the home: In a holster, on your body, and if you don’t want to carry it on your person, put it in a safe. 

But, you say, a safe takes sooooo long to access. Why can’t I just put the gun in a drawer and load it when I need it? 

Because that’s not faster than a gun safe, that’s why. 

If I’m honest, that result completely surprised me. I was not expecting it to be so close that my shot timer app couldn’t tell those two shots from each other. The gun safe we used was this safe from Paragon Safes, and I think if we had put the drawer where it belongs (in a nightstand) and used a GunVault safe (which are easier to use), the results would have been even more in the gun safe’s favor.