Remember When 60 Lumens Was Enough?

This won’t be a long winded post, like they usually are. Someone recently asked what flashlight I carry, because he was getting tired of having a 6 inch roll of quarters sized Surefire G2X Tactical in his pocket every day. I gave him a quick answer, but it got me thinking about what we gun-totin’ parents and average folks need in a flashlight.

My training in flashlight use consists of short modules in several pistol classes and one where flashlight technique was a huge portion. Shivworks A.M.I.S. (a must take), Armed Dynamics Pistol 1, Paul Gomez and Claude Werner impromptu tutorials and a few local classes. Not a lot, but probably enough for my needs. That and a lot of home practice. So turn back now if that’s not enough for me to have an opinion.

LED flashlights have spoiled us. Remember when 60 lumens in a xenon G2 was plenty for a defensive light?  It needed 2 CR123’s and is the same size as the G2X noted above. It would allow us to identify threats, light our sights, and fill the room with enough light for what we needed…60 lumens.

We live in a golden age of LED technology as they get smaller and brighter and cheaper. The tactical/LEO/MIL guys, rightly so, are screaming they want “All The Lumenz!!!”. When I’m out with my family, I’m not that guy. I just need enough lumens.

My needs in a handheld:

  • Ability for momentary on with a tail button
  • Bright enough to identify people/critters/trip hazards/dropped keys at 15 yards or so. Let’s say 50-100 lumens
  • Bright enough to identify what’s in someone’s hands at 5 yards or so
  • Size envelope that doesn’t require me to wear the baggy 5.11 style pants to fit the light in my pocket. My wife likes me in jeans. This matters.
  • Readily available batteries, since it’s also getting used in a utility role.
  • Price point less than $50, because I lose pocket lights like it’s my job.

That’s pretty much it.

Here’s some lights that I have bought and carried in the last few years:

All I’m saying is, let’s remember what we need and keep the context clear. I need to be willing to carry my light first and foremost. Are there gripes with the above lights? Yes of course. I wish they’d be single mode, momentary push/twist on. But, I don’t want to have to wear suspenders to keep my pants up with my every day carry stuff, so I make due. 60 lumens used to be enough. For my current needs, it still works just fine. Your mileage may vary.

What Does Average Joe Need In A Trigger?

Have you ever had a Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon moment? It’s a type of cognitive bias where you could swear that the frequency of mentioning a topic has seemingly increased to impossible numbers for no apparent reason. I feel like I’m experiencing one with Double Action/Single Action (or DA/SA) and Double Action Only (DAO) pistols as of late.  It seems like all the people I respect and listen to are talking about the merits of DA/SA guns for a host of reasons. It has caused me to give DA/SA more than a passing consideration.

Beretta M9

Striker fired guns are easier to shoot well

I began carrying a gun every day nearly 10 years ago (time flies). The Glock 19/26/42 primarily, but also the S&W shield, and even an X D45 for a short time. I carry in the appendix position (1 o’clock) exclusively. I also carry a few double action only guns when I have to be very discreet, but I bought them for their size, with no real consideration for their mode of operation. I bought and carried the striker guns because of their reliability, capacity, and consistent trigger pull. It’s what my first instructor told me to buy and I have been pleased with my purchase. When you’re just learning to shoot, having one repeatable trigger press makes things easy, and a novice shooter can get up to speed quickly with a relatively short, light, and consistent trigger. Until relatively recently, I didn’t understand why someone would want a DA/SA pistol like a Beretta 92 or Sig P series pistol for concealed carry or a home defense gun.  Striker fired guns are easy to shoot, after all. I was ignorant of the benefits and I now realize the appeal, let me try to hash it out…

G19 w/ TTI +4 basepads
My Current Carry

It’s Not Just About Shooting

Based on training I had done with Claude Werner, The Tactical Professor, and with Craig Douglas of Shivworks in his A.M.I.S. coursework, it becomes clear that not everyone needs shooting. As Craig says, there are shoots, no-shoots, and don’t-shoot-yets. The seed was planted that learning to think and talk with a gun in your hand under stress was a skill worth developing. So is learning to hold someone at gunpoint safely. Up until these things became clear to me, I thought the most important thing was being fast. Competing in IDPA and working with a timer, while critical for improving pure shooting,  neglects the soft skills of people management. The ‘hardware’ (AKA stuff you can buy) component of this wasn’t clear at the time, but started to come together for me recently. I have been lurking at Pistol-Forum.com and found a nugget of wisdom worth sharing from respected member GJM:

For a game gun, my priorities are how easy it is to shoot other stuff. For a defensive gun, my priorities are not shooting myself, not shooting something I don’t intend to, and then how easy is it to shoot something you do intend to shoot.
. . .
I think short, light striker triggers are overrated on a carry gun, regardless of how they perform on pure shooting tests. I do love pistols with short, light triggers to game…

There is a lot of discussion of the ‘street trigger’ over at Pistol Forum. This thread is worth your time.

Let’s consider GJM’s three points for a defensive gun in his order of importance, since I totally agree with him.

Not Shooting Ourselves:

Just recently, a young man accidentally shot himself in his thigh and bled out after taking a selfie with his gun. Whether it was an XD45 (a striker fired gun) or 1911 with safety disengaged, it’s unimportant. It highlights a likely lack of training, possibly poor equipment,  and/or a gross lapse in concentration and judgement. Would a DA/SA gun with a long trigger pull and exposed hammer for thumbing while holstering have saved him in lieu of proper training and gun handling? We won’t know. But it’s worth consideration with the amount of folks with either no or only state mandated safety courses under their belt. It’s also worth considering that everyone can make mistakes and no one is infallible.

The exposed hammer is something I hadn’t considered as important. As I said, I’ve always been a Glock guy and I’m always careful when I holster and always look the gun into the holster. But I remember a few years ago I read about Todd Green of Pistol-Training.com developing The Gadget, which replaces the standard Glock Slide Cover Plate and rides the striker so that you can feel the striker moving as the trigger is pulled. Todd sent me an advanced copy to play around with while I wait for the one I paid for to ship. I’ve had it on my G19 for a few weeks now and I have to tell you, it’s something I didn’t know I would want until I had it. I like the idea of knowing if the trigger is moving when I’m putting the gun away. This has me considering DA/SA and DAO guns with exposed hammers.

Gadget
The Gadget on my G19.

Not Shooting What We Don’t Intend To:

This section will be short because all I have to go on is anecdotal evidence about long trigger pulls allowing more time for thinking during an adrenalized encounter. I’ve never shot anyone, nor have I had to hold anyone at gunpoint. But guess who has? The Police! They regularly point their guns at people and usually don’t have to shoot them. Several instances I’ve read about have credited a long double action trigger pull with not having to take a life because there was enough time for either recognition that there was no weapon present, or the situation was changing during the trigger press and there was time to let off before the bang. Just because I’m justified in taking a life, doesn’t mean I want to if I can help it.

So how does this apply to regular Joe Homeowner? Very often, when we pull a pistol on someone who needs a pistol pointed at them and show clear intent to use it, we don’t have to shoot. This is threat management. When we hear a bump in the night, 999 times out of 1000 it will be someone we don’t want to shoot in the house.

So imagine waking up from a dead sleep from the house alarm blaring, feeling the adrenaline coursing through your veins, grabbing your pistol, and going hunting where you heard the noise… you see a figure in your garage, you level your gun, and in the time it takes you to begin to press through the double action shot… you realize it’s your daughter sneaking in at night. You yell at her and ground her and nearly have a stroke thinking you might have shot your daughter. That’s exactly what didn’t happen here. The deputy made several mistakes, two glaring ones are not having a light and not issuing a verbal challenge to the ‘figure’ in the garage. So would a long DA trigger pull helped here in lieu of white light and verbalization? Who knows. But it certainly has me considering  DA/SA and DAO guns very seriously for the long first trigger pull.

Shooting something we intend to shoot:

This is the category that I only have experience with double action only J-frames and tiny .380’s. I extensively dry fired my J frame for a year and it made me a better shooter on all of my guns. I’m not a great revolver shooter, but I can tell you that with dedicated practice, it’s not only an arm’s reach gun. The same is obviously true with DA/SA guns. People have difficulty with the changing weight and length of the trigger between the first and subsequent shots, but this is a practice and training issue.

Watch Ernest Langdon of Langdon Tactical run the F.A.S.T. with a Beretta PX4 compact
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGJZRapjzOo]
Sure they are ‘harder’ to shoot well. I likely won’t be as fast as I am with my Glocks. But I like a challenge. I like new stuff. I like change. A few tenths of a second might be worth the safety margin in every other facet of handling. Watching people like Mr. Langdon shoot a DA/SA like that makes me want to try a DA/SA gun and see how I do against the clock.

So is it worth the switch?

I don’t know if it is. I’m intrigued by the prospect. I definitely think it’s at least worth considering. There’s lots of options. Here’s a thread from P-F to give you some ideas.  Sorry I’m late to the party DA/SA and DAO guys and gals. Mock me if you must.

Protect the Brood and don’t accidentally shoot yourself or your daughter,

Defensive Daddy

Mundane Movements: Making CraigsList Transactions Less Murdery

They planned to drive about 200 miles from their Cobb County home to look at an antique car for sale. But the vintage Ford Mustang didn’t exist.

After four days of searching, investigators said Monday afternoon that two bodies believed to be the couple were found in southeast Georgia…

http://www.ajc.com/news/news/suspect-in-custody-in-case-of-missing-marietta-cou/njxGW/

Craigslist can be a great resource to pick up used goods for not much money. But obviously, it has been used to setup many robberies and some murders. When high dollar items are involved, the other party knows you’ll either have a valuable item or a pocket full of cash. Scumbags can’t resist easy money.

This one happened near me, so I wanted to write my thoughts. It’s not difficult to find ‘how to not get ripped off on Craigslist’ lists out there. Here’s a couple:

This one deals with the electronic security side:

http://netsecurity.about.com/od/advancedsecurity/a/How-To-Stay-Safe-On-Craigslist.htm

This one makes mention of the in-person, physical side of security:

http://www.denverpost.com/ci_20605127/how-be-safe-craigslist-precautions

Insist on a public meeting place like a cafe.

Do not meet in a secluded place, or invite strangers into your home.

Be especially careful when buying/selling high-value items.

Tell a friend or family member where you’re going to meet some-one you contacted through Craigslist.

Take your cellphone along with you.

Consider having a friend accompany you during Craigslist purchases.

Trust your instincts.

This is good advice. It’s very vague and hand-wavy advice, but good. Since ‘be especially careful’ is completely non-actionable advice, I’ll try to get a bit more specific to guide you to safer CL transactions. I won’t pussy foot around. I will tell you the most secure way to do a CL transaction. It will involve carrying guns. This is probably something your local newspaper will fail to include in their article about CL security. Mine will augment and detail some of the points from the above list.

  • Tell a third party friend the time and place of the transaction, and give them the phone number that the CL buyer/seller gives you. The bad guy in the above article used a burner phone, but not all bad guys are smart like that.
  • Always take a friend.
  • Always take a gun and wear it concealed during the transaction.
  • Always make sure your friend has a gun too. Discuss your plan if something goes south.
  • When talking to the seller/buyer, have them describe their car ‘so you can spot them coming’. Whether you are early, or late, you can keep an eye for their vehicle and any extra passengers or vehicles.
  • Always plan to arrive 5-10 minutes late (or early) to the transaction. If you’re late, you can pull a quick surveillance run around the parking lot where the transaction will take place. It also will give you an excuse to get a description of the buyer/seller vehicle before you arrive. If you get there early, you have the advantage of monitoring all incoming vehicles to the parking lot and will be able see the number of occupants and if there is more than one vehicle making the same movements in the lot. Look for the number of people in the buyer/seller car and if there are any adjacent vehicles where people are paying attention to you.
  • Use Police Station’s parking lots when possible. If that’s not possible, pick the most public and heavily trafficked lot you can think of. Walmart, Mcdonalds lots, etc. If someone is asking you to meet them at 2am, it might not be a great idea.
  • When you make the transaction, take a page out of the cop’s playbook. Use a ‘contact/cover’ type arrangement. Average Joe won’t notice that your friend is casually leaning on your car or walking around in adjacent parking spots during the transaction. While you’re doing the deal, have your friend outside of the car feigning a phone call or just looking around. Here’s a photo I found of the police technique. One officer is the contact officer who deals with the person, and the other just sort of watches. Think of this when you run a high dollar CL transaction. (1/30 edited this section to clarify).
  • Helmets optional.
  • As you leave, remain aware of people or vehicles moving around your car. Also keep an eye on your rear view mirrors for a few minutes to see if any other cars are tailing you.

All of these steps add zero time to your transaction, take longer to read than perform, and will keep you much safer. I realize it reads like paranoia and like I think I’m a Mall Ninja. It’s hard to convey the tactics any other way, or I would. I realize the probability of you getting robbed/murdered during a CL transaction are very slim, but it’s trivial to add a few precautions that can help guarantee you prevail in the event of a robbery. Besides, statistics are a small comfort when you find yourself to be the rare exception.

Contrast the above story to the one that happened TODAY 1/30/15, also in Georgia.

Parish said the breeder, identified in the DeKalb police incident report as 40-year-old Walter Gonzalez, was initially hesitant to meet the buyer late at night at the home, but did so after the suspect offered him an additional $500.

When the breeder and a second Winder man, Salvador Burgos, arrived with the dog, they saw the suspect and another man standing outside by the garage.

“Mr. Gonzalez got out of the vehicle and met with the suspect near the vehicle,” the incident report states. “After Mr. Gonzalez showed the suspect the dog, the suspect drew his weapon on him.”

According to the report, the suspect, whose name has not been released, then demanded that Burgos get out of the vehicle.

“Mr. Burgos stated that as he moved over from the driver’s side to the passenger side of the vehicle, he drew his firearm and fired upon the suspect,” the report states.

Gonzalez and Burgos told police they left the scene because they were afraid that the other man that was with the suspect would return, but stopped a short distance away and called police.

Responding officers found the suspect dead in the front yard of the home.

So our good guy took a friend…with a gun…and didn’t get killed and put the bad guy in the ground.

Which story do you want written about you? Planning isn’t paranoia.

Stay Safe and go get a sweet deal on a used treadmill,

Defensive Daddy.

Note: Edited 1/30/15 with a new news story and clarification of the tactics I mention.

Hardening the Home, Part 1: A ‘Case’ Study

This article will be about how to evaluate your home’s curb appeal to burglars and other scumbags who want to take your stuff and kick your door in while you’re watching TV at night. It will be holistic approach that will build layer upon layer of security without spending an inordinate amount of money. I will be using my house as a ‘case’ study (without giving away too many personal security details) to illustrate the methodology for doing this. In future posts, I’ll highlight the specific upgrades that I’ve done to deselect and harden my home from criminals.

Mission: Systematically evaluate our own homes for vulnerabilities and weaknesses to burglaries, and then harden our homes both physically and by projecting strength with simple budget minded improvements.

What are Burglars looking for when they are choosing a target?

I had been researching and reminding myself about all of the home invasion and burglary statistics I could find over the last several weeks. Then, like a tactical angel, Greg Ellifritz shared a very timely post with some stats and information that was new to me (and more recent). In it, he links to a really neat study “Understanding Decisions to Burglarize from the Offender’s Perspective”. I encourage you to read Greg’s summary of the study so you can get an idea of what sort of person we’re looking at, what they want, how they choose their targets, and what deters them.

For this article, we’re only really interested in what deters them. Here’s a quote from the study,

“Close proximity of other people (including traffic, those walking nearby, neighbors, people inside the establishment, and police officers), lack of escape routes, and indicators of increased security (alarm signs, alarms, dogs inside, and outdoor cameras or other surveillance equipment) was considered by most burglars when selecting a target”

“About 60% of the burglars indicated that the presence of an alarm would cause them to seek an alternative target altogether. This was particularly true among the subset of burglars that were more likely to spend time deliberately and carefully planning a burglary.”

We want to use these facts, and our own common sense to deter and deselect our homes from burglaries and harden against home invasion. To summarize:

The Layered Approach

In order to successfully deter this sort of crime, we need to have a layered approach. We need to project our security to the street, to dissuade bad guys who are ‘shopping’ for a home to burglarize. We must physically harden the points of entry so that if we DO get chosen, we make the entry as difficult as possible. If we can’t harden a point of entry, we have to provide ourselves an early warning to the intrusion. We must lastly have our safe room prepared so that we can have place to make our last stand.

Case Your Own House

  • Walk as far away from your house as you can while still maintaining a view of your house. How far away can you be and still see your home? If you have woods, walk into the tree line, and see what you can see. What doors, windows, entrances can you make out? Are there any shrubs or bushes that block your view of a window or door? Are there any windows without shades or blinds that you can see into? If someone were standing in these perimeter points, would they have a reason to be there besides casing your house (across the street at gas station, for instance)? In urban areas, look to see if you see evidence of people loitering in these observation points (cig butts, spit, empty cans, etc.)
IMG_4760
The large magnolia generally occludes the view from the street. This house was purchased partly because it sits in a cul de sac, in a quiet neighborhood, has a brick front, and large trees spaced around the house for privacy.
  • Now as you walk back, look at routes towards your house. Are there any obvious routes towards the entrances? Are there any natural or man-made obstacles in the way? Anything that would have to be disturbed that you would notice out of place if someone moved towards your house? Are there any fences or natural obstacles? Would these fences hide nefarious activities?
  • Look into your windows. What can you see around shades, between blinds, and through the side lights around the front door? Do you see anything of value like your computer, office, TV, so on. Where could you hide right up against the house that can’t be seen from the inside?
  • Have a friend walk around the perimeter of your house while you stand in different rooms of the house. Where can you see them as they approach the house? Are there any routes that keep them hidden as they approach? How close can they get before you hear them? What does the front porch sound like when someones walking on it? How about the crunchy pea gravel behind the house? Pay attention to how things sound when someone is encroaching on the house.
  • Look at where your external lights illuminate. Are there areas that your motion sensing floods don’t reach? Remember, you want to illuminate both areas you can see, and those you can’t.
IMG_4762
The “Dark Side of the House”. A few entrances, not many lights, minimal view from inside the house. This is the area that I would ‘harden’ first. And have…
  • Look for overgrown shrubs and trees that could hide a bad guy’s movement. Trim the hedges back so that you can see the windows from the road. Burglars aren’t in the business of being seen.
IMG_4761
That evergreen to the left of the stairs has to go. It blocks the front door (framed in side-lights) from view of the road. The bushes on the right are also getting too tall.

MS PAINT DIAGRAMS!

Now I want you to find your house on google.maps. Take a screenshot of the aerial view and paste it into MS Paint. Draw lines that correspond to your view from inside the house looking out. Also draw lines that show where your flood lights or spot lights shine. You will quickly get an idea of the areas that demand attention first. You will see the obvious approach routes, and the places that would be darkest for a bad guy to work. You can get quite elaborate here. You could document which bushes need to be trimmed, where you need shades in the house, and so on.

 arialhouseIn Closing

This is the first step in hardening your house. Think like a bad guy as much as you can. Be devious. Where would you break in? When would you break in? You have to build a plan to break in. Then you have to shut down your own plan with some simple and inexpensive upgrades. We have quickly evaluated how enticing our house looks to potential bad guys. In subsequent posts we will discuss simple tactics to bluff that you have more security than you do, some hardware associated with hardening the house, early warning systems, lighting choices, and the safe practices and the mindset it takes to keep ahead of home invaders and burglars.

Protect the Brood,

Defensive Daddy

Reference:

Jim Grover, “Street Smarts, Firearms, & Personal Security”