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.38spl vs. .380Auto

There is a heavy increase in the .380Auto caliber handguns we have seen come through our doors. Most who purchase this pistol are first time gun buyers or new to concealed carry.

The Shinny Object

I’m not surprised and here is why. There is a huge surge in concealed carry evidence by the rise in application submission and this platform is appealing to a new gun owner. The actual number of private citizens who carry regularly hasn’t increased with the same pace. In fact, I’d almost bet it has stayed proportionately the same. Most new gun buyers wade into the market carefully. Ask yourself the same question, if you were to venture into a new area would you look at making the smallest investment with the lowest impact to success. While I’m sure there are plenty of people who do extensive research, discuss their purchase options with experts and make informed decisions. There are still many who make impulsive decisions in an effort to check the box.

The Other Side of the Coin

This is where I see the .380Auto being so popular. I don’t necessarily think it is the best idea for many though. As they learn when putting these little guns through what we consider to be a low round count class it becomes evident. While I cannot comment on the justification behind their purchase I can comment on the difficult many face. While the recoil impulse may be less dramatic, the smaller frame makes controlling said reduced recoil impulse more challenging. Smaller hands ideally suited for the smaller framed guns make a good combination. I caveat my comment with the student having a solid understanding a good crush grip. The smaller hands around a smaller framed gun with a crushing grip will produce a great outcome. I like these smaller framed guns, they open the market up to many new shooters who otherwise might not be willing to venture into the self defense game.

Squeaky Wheel

Once you have managed the recoil impulse and grip issue these smaller framed handguns make for a great option, but do they out perform a 5-shot “snubby” revolver. A lot will depend on how you choose to define performance. At some point, terminal performance has to be brought into the conversation. With most lethal encounters having less than five rounds being fired the possibility of a reload is reduced. The argument for a faster reload does go to the auto-loader, provided a spare magazine is carried. Both of these cartridges have been around for a long time, but have they maintained the attention of premium self-defense ammunition manufactures.

Penetration & Expansion

A problem with .380Auto loads is small selection of loads that exhibit good penetration and expansion. Selecting your defense loads will be more difficult due to the smaller pool to choose from. Testing for functionality, regular replacement due to wear and checking point of impact mean you will invest in a descent stockpile. How much will depend on how serious you take carrying this as a self defense tool. Conversely, looking for self-defense loads in .38 Special will be more flexible since there is more availability.

Point of Aim/Point of Impact

As mentioned above, you will need to fire a sufficient number of rounds to test the point of impact. Many times, students are surprised to learn their defense loads will hit in a slightly different location. How slight will depend on the types of loads and types of platforms, but it is an important consideration. Using a good marksmanship centric drill to test both your accuracy as well as confirm any shifts to point of impact will go a long way towards gaining confidence in your loadout. One complication is the shorter sight radius of both platforms make this a challenging exercise. Something I find valuable is this challenge also helps for students to learn the limitations of these platforms.

Any system, loadout or platform will have limitations and it is up to you to become familiar with them. In the end, nobody wants to get shot by either.

Operationally Ready

There are many ways to do something right the wrong way. For instance, carrying a handgun for self defense is the right choice for many people, but with an empty chamber is the wrong way.

Comfort is a State of Mind

This came about through conversations I recently had in two different states. It was interesting this subject could be brought up within a week across so many miles. Both conversations were centered around carrying concealed and both had comfort at their core. The users were not comfortable carrying with a live round in the chamber. This is a more common occurrence as we see more people entering the concealed carry world. I don’t see as much wrong with this idea for the simple reason many who would not carry are carrying. Granted they might not be doing it the way I would, but it is a start. My belief is as they grow as a student they learn more about the best way to manage their carry loadout. With time they realize there is a better way.

In One Ear and Out the Other

It is important to understand why folks are not comfortable. You can tell them what they are doing is not ideal, even wrong, but you more than likely will not make any headway. When I was asked this question I wanted to understand the reason so I could better address the issue. If they are afraid to carry a live round in the chamber because they don’t feel safe is it because of their holster. If they don’t like the idea of carrying a live round in the chamber holstered inside the waistband then carrying on the waistband may be a good way to breach this obstacle. If they are concerned they may shoot themselves then explaining how to safely draw from the holster is a great place to start. Many times what seems simple to many is overly complex and intimidating to others.

Highest State of Readiness

In some cases, there is the notion during a lethal force encounter you will be able to chamber a round to bring the handgun to the highest state or readiness. My suggestion is to always holster a handgun for self-defense in the highest state of readiness. Make this part of your loading procedures; which will help build familiarity. This familiarity will bring confidence in the process. The reality is while there may be some who can do it scripted and planned they are largely based on having both extremities available. While you may be able to use a one handed technique why would you engage “hard” mode so early in a critical incident. Time is of the essence and no matter the technique, all things being equal it is slower.

The Ready Position

Perhaps the biggest issue for me is how carrying an empty chamber greatly reduces your ability to draw your handgun to a ready position. All to often we forget this very important skill. Yes, you may need to draw your handgun and go straight to the target to stop the threat. If you opt to carry an empty chamber you give up the utility of drawing to the ready position. You of course, could charge the handgun and return to the ready, but then what will you do if the threat is stopped and you have to holster up. If you were willing to holster a loaded handgun in that situation, why not start that way. Of course, the flip side is you are not and then feel compelled to unload to re-holster. Something else to consider is if you do charge the handgun have you escalated the situation. If you are looking at charging the handgun akin to racking the action of a shotgun there are bigger issues beyond the scope of this article.

If you have concerns about carrying a handgun then try to address the root cause. Use education and training as your roadmap to overcoming anything that could give you a false sense of security.

Author: Jeff Gonzales

Appendix Carry’s True Strength

When I get asked for my opinion on appendix inside the waistband (IWB) I enjoy sharing my experience and observations. Many times, the students are surprised by my answer.

It’s Not New

This method of carry has been around for a long time, probably longer than most could track. It’s a common response, albeit with some cool pictures of civil war soldiers wearing their single action revolvers in a similar position. Let’s start there, I know this is obvious, but if you can see it then it is not concealed. Carrying in this mode concealed is somewhat new to the concealed carry community. How new, maybe a couple of decades, but again it is difficult to track. Then there are those who will chime in regarding safety. Many are quick to retort with comments along the lines if you can’t handle it then don’t do it or teach it. The problem isn’t the safety concerns, but the outcome should safety be neglected or an accident occur. Then there are those who will say it is faster than any other method. These types of comments are largely regurgitated from other sources who regurgitated them from some other source. I hope everyone is sitting down for this, but it is not really faster and here is why.

Baseline Study For Some Data

I got tired of hearing this comment as a Hail Mary pass to prove their point. These comments can be very subjective so we needed something objective like a study to help truly understand the benefit to appendix IWB. I conducted a study and encourage people to conduct their own so I wanted to share my framework for the study. First, you have to go into this without expecting an outcome. If you want to be objective you start by being neutral, someone in search of knowledge. I honestly expected a different outcome so I kept my thoughts neutral. I did everything the same, put in honest work on all fronts. This study was also fun and very beneficial so there is that as well. In this study we need some control measures to keep everything on an even playing field. I eliminated drawing from concealed and performed all these drills with IWB holsters that were carried in an open condition. This wasn’t about concealing, this was about which drawstroke was faster. Then to eliminate any bias regarding poor posture (see earlier article, Mobility Restrictions) I started each drill with my hands on my head. These control features allowed me to look at each without any bias.

Following Baseline Protocols

The drill was pretty simple, but rather than measure a one round drill; which is often not the best indicator of a skill it was a three round drill. The drill was fired from the 10 yard line versus a 6″ target. The distance and accuracy standards helped to ensure the shooter was skilled enough to have valuable input. The study was conducted following standard baseline protocol. The interval between sessions was approximately 7-10 days to ensure the best cold bore experience. Baseline protocol of 10 attempts to achieve seven clean runs was followed. Then the fastest and slowest times were eliminated to average out the remaining five runs. If in the session I was unable to achieve seven clean runs within 10 attempts the whole session was a wash and I would wait for the next opportunity. The point behind the baseline protocol is to measure performance in it’s purest form. The truth of the matter is many struggle with baselines; which makes it easy to see bias in opinions. This is not an easy endeavor, this takes time to complete properly. I started early fall of 2018 and finished recently. Because I wanted to reduce as much favoritism as possible I opted to use different firearms and holsters. I shot the baselines with Glocks & Sigs from various holster manufactures.

The Tie Goes to the Runner

My results surprised me, what they showed me was there really isn’t much in the way of speed advantage for carrying appendix IWB. I performed these baselines ten times each or 20 total baseline sessions and recorded the first shot and last shot for each. My first shot average for strong side IWB was 1.8 seconds and my first shot average for appendix IWB was also 1.8 seconds. Let that soak in for a little bit. My last shot for strong side was 3.1 seconds and my last shot for appendix IWB was 3.0 seconds. So, if you wanted to declare a winner I suppose you could say by a tenth of a second appendix pulled ahead. For me it only confirmed one thing, it is not about the perceived speed advantage. It is about the ability to conceal better for a lot of people. So, there it is and I’m sure there are plenty who disagree; which is why I posted the study. Feel free to take a shot at it and share your experience.

The point of the study wasn’t to declare a winner, it was to reinforce a major benefit of appendix carry. Whether it is right for you is another story along with your mileage varying.

Author: Jeff Gonzales

On the Mark…or not

I get asked what I carry on a regular basis. I try to deflect the question or ask it back by getting to know their needs.

The Good, the Bad and the Bullet

At some point the conversation will evolve to defensive ammunition. For self defense, whether in the home or out in public you will need to consider some type of high performance round designed to fit your needs. When we define our needs, we narrow the field of options. More importantly, you identify what is important. What you should focus on, to the point it is a “go/no go”. If it doesn’t meet certain performance objectives you look for better alternatives despite all the hype or “celebrity” endorsements.

The Return of the 9mm

We have seen the ammunition world evolve big time over the last couple of years. First, when the FBI announced they were going back to the 9mm service wide. It didn’t take long for just about everyone else to follow suit. There are still hold outs here and there, but they will come around with time. Of the current selection of high performance defensive rounds; which ones best fulfill the average citizen. Most defensive ammunition is designed for law enforcement who’s mission or needs might differ. The possibility of penetrating intermediate barriers is very unlikely so do you need a round that excels in this capacity, but gives up ground on other fronts.

Possible, but not Probable

For the average citizen defending his person, loved ones or home it may be possible, but not probable they will have to shoot through an intermediate barrier such as a car door, interior wall or safety glass. One thing to remember is you will have to justify your actions for using deadly force. While you might have chosen ammunition that performs well here, was it the best choice. I am far more likely to recommend looking for a defensive round that reliably goes bang every time you pull the trigger and penetrates to a minimum depth of 12 inches. The often overlooked piece to this puzzle is our ability to hit the target with the defensive round.

Trust, but Verify

While you might have selected the most awesome defensive round currently available what if you fail to hit the target. Will it really matter how cool the box looks or a clever marketing slogan. Probably not. Yes, you will have to train and train hard to have reliable skills for deadly force encounters. This includes knowing the performance of your defensive ammunition selection. I encourage you to buy enough of your intended selection so you can test it yourself. Maybe not elaborate gelatin testing, but you can test for reliability and functionality through your chosen defensive handgun. If it doesn’t feed reliability or function in your handgun, you need to look hard at your choice.

What’s Point of Impact

Once you start shooting the defensive rounds you may notice something different. Typically they will have more felt recoil due to the rounds be loaded for higher velocities; which should equate to improved terminal performance. You may also notice less flash since most use powder with flash retardant properties. The most interesting attribute you may notice is a difference in accuracy. While most defensive rounds are built to be more accurate they are still not match grade. The biggest difference is the shift from point of aim/point of impact between your training round. It is not often you see these two sync up so the best solution is to shoot them enough you understand the difference so if you need to take a high percentage shot you know precisely where to aim.

Nothing is free, you cannot expect much from your gear if you don’t know the gear’s limits. Take the time and make the investment to learn not just about the performance, but where the performance ends.

Author: Jeff Gonzales

The struggle is real

There is a lot of buzz over some of the new micro & subcompact handguns designed for concealed carry. This a great time within our industry to see so many products marketed to the concealed carry consumer, but what is the tradeoff.

Little Blasters

I am all about encouraging as many people to take personal responsibility for their own personal safety. This comes in many different packages. An obvious start is a handgun and obtaining a license to carry. Many new to the market will see a handgun in a small, compact package and assume it is ideal for carrying concealed. It very well can and does this mission well. The problem is many of the new shooters are not privy to the challenges these little blasters bring to the table. By the same token, with quality training and the proper equipment these are great for the selected mission.

Rapid, Accurate Fire

Recently I decided to have some fun with these little guys. I put each of my sub-compacts and micros through a test designed to measure pure marksmanship. The first challenge is the reduced size equaling less grip surface. A lot of times people run out of space for their pinky. An easy fix is not to worry, just curl your pinky finger under the magazine base pad and it will greatly improve your performance. The other complication is the less gripping surface equals a greater recoil impulse. Plinking on the range can leave you with a sense of accomplishment. Trying to perform rapid, accurate fire at extended ranges will challenge the best of shooters.

Statistics Don’t Lie

A justification many will use is how most self defense shootings are close range in nature. There may be some truth in this statistic, but let me lay something pretty heavy on you. If you fired your gun in self defense you are already a statistical anomaly. Making an excuse why you’re not shooting at distance does not make for a good plan. Pushing these baby blasters at extended ranges was not only eye opening, but fun. Yes, they are plenty accurate for the task at hand, but their inherited challenges do force the shooter to have their skills fully developed.

Training Junkie & Ammo Whore

What I recommend is to improve the sight system right away. Nothing out of the box is really that good, but when you are pushing the envelope already every little bit helps. What prompted all this fun was breaking out my Glock 26 and upgrading it with some fiber optic type sights. Thin and plain allowed me to see them better and and perfect my aim. While the other blasters had different types of sights, I noticed the difference immediately. Performance was still good, but not good enough for me. I literally walked off the range and immediately ordered replacement sights for all, but one blaster. I cannot wait for these upgrades, as if I needed an other excuse to practice. They will all get more trigger time and more exposure in our classes.

I’m all for options, for being able to select what best fits your needs. Don’t forget nothing is free and you will have to know your limits as well as your equipment’s.

Author: Jeff Gonzales

Mobility Restrictions

When I was younger I can remember when someone asked me if I was going to warm up before a run. My comment usually was “sure, I’m just going to run slower in the beginning.”

High Mileage Athlete

As I get older and the high mileage starts to show my body recovers slower. Nothing should be earth shattering about this fact, pretty much a no brainer. What I have noticed more recently is how its affecting my performance. This week has been brutal on the body, doing “2 a day” workouts. It doesn’t help that my lifting sessions have been centered around Olympic lifts. These explosive lifts are great for my training plan, the fit in quite nicely. The down side is the days after I have reduced range of motion. Yes, there is a little soreness, but what does the soreness mean. For me, it means my muscles are tight. When they are tight they have reduced their overall range of motion. Normal everyday movements are minimally impacted.

Economy of Motion

What I notice is how my drawstroke is affected. My dry fire and live fire is a mixture of the various carry conditions. Both open and concealed conditions as well as strong side, appendix and ankle carry positions. What I specifically noticed was how I had to accommodate with either extra or altered movements. One thing I try to emphasize in classes is not to add anything unnecessary and to do the minimum work necessary. If you are interested in being fast the natural response is to move faster. Simple enough. The first thing to do is clean up your technique so it has the minimum movement required for the action performed with a high level of precision. Having limited range of motion effected my movements. I liked discovering this, since my lifestyle has extensive periods where my range of motion may be suboptimal it reminds me of the importance of my mobility work.

Limited Mobility

I have a mobility program I consistently follow. A prime directive in my strength programming is injury prevention. It includes both pre and post workout. It has significantly improved not just my recovery, but my workouts and my quality of life. What I see as a common dilemma in our classes is students who as a result of injury, lifestyle or not knowing any better have terrible mobility. I see this easily demonstrated in posture. I joke about this in class, but if you grew up in Texas and had a mother like mine who constantly scolded you for not sitting up straight it left a mark. Among many things in my childhood she was right. Probably the two biggest posture issues I see involve shortened hip flexors and rounded shoulders.

Adapting to the New Norm

The shortened hip flexors will pull on the front part of your hips. I had this pretty bad when I was younger. Once the muscles and tendons shorten, it is difficult to get them to return to their normal position. Trust me on that one. My lower back continues to send me flowers ever since. To be honest the rounded shoulders were the least difficult of the two to correct. They both had a negative impact on my shooting. They affected my shooting mainly in recoil management, but other areas as well. When I corrected them I saw the positive impact in my shooting. At first in small dosages, but with time big changes. The human body can adapt and accommodate to many different conditions, but that doesn’t mean it is a good thing. When on the firing line I’m looking at the student’s posture to help identify potential problems.

If the shoulders are rounded and the hands rest in front of the hips realize this is not natural. It may have become the new norm, but it is not natural.

Author: Jeff Gonzales

Injuries, They Suck

With an active lifestyle it is hard not to see the occasional injury. Add a lot of mileage as an athlete and you can expect to see the negative side of all those miles.

All In, All the Time

Carrying concealed is something you either go all in or just walk around edges. Very few take the plunge or at least on a long term basis. Once you reach the level where you truly are carrying everyday your gear selection becomes essential. Add your work conditions and other obstacles and finding a good system becomes complex. The mistake many make is investing in one system then being so shut off it becomes your only way. At some point you find yourself looking at the round hole as a square peg.

The Path Less Traveled

When I carry, I typically have my go to or standard load out. It solves 50% of all my known problems for a good load out. I enjoy the comfort and capabilities it provides. I have been shooting these platforms for long enough to know them like the back of my hand. When something changes and I have to move off my beaten path I do so cautiously, but optimistically. Moving off the beaten path can be the result of several different factors or just one big one. It really doesn’t matter, the point is can you accommodate or improvise. To avoid being disadvantaged.

Nun-Yah…

I get asked all the time what I carry. Truthfully I rarely answer. Partly because I keep the information close to my chest, but also because it changes periodically. I will go from my go to blaster, to the one I reserve for special occasions, to the one I use because I’m being lazy. I feel as though I have good coverage to manage most of the crazy thrown at me or that I might walk into on my own. Lately, I discovered a flaw in my plan. It happened while on vacation, but it gave me great insight into changing things up on my load out. The catalyst was managing some injuries. These injuries forced me to carry well outside my normal load outs.

Some Things Don’t Change

The good news is principles transcend. It doesn’t matter, to a certain extent, what you may be holding as long as you apply the same principles. There will always be subtitles, but they mostly go unnoticed if you are focusing on the right thing at the right time. What I was pleasantly surprised by was the ease of my new carry method. When I say ease, what I’m talking about is my existing equipment I could make work. I didn’t have to go out and buy anything new or different. What was not easy was the changes meant I was sore in places I haven’t been sore in a long time. It took some getting use to carrying in this new configuration, but I’m already well adjusted and acclimated. Since then I’ve been putting a lot more time into this new load out. Practicing, shooting and sourcing additional supporting equipment. Maybe I should have given this more thought before my vacation, but I didn’t. Now, I have the advantage of the lessons learned to move forward.

Having used this setup at my last instructor course it gave me that comfortable feeling again. Don’t let your environment or equipment make all the decisions, think through how you can best accommodate or improvise.

Author: Jeff Gonzales

Gun Free Zone Trap

Gun free zones equal criminal empowerment zones. Places where criminals can and do get away with murder because they know no one will stop them.

Liberal Logic

I have been opposed to gun free zones since their inception. This is a classic example of liberal logic with deadly consequences. We do not have a gun epidemic in this country, we have a stupid problem. Where some people are too clouded in their own biases to see the real world. Ask yourself this question, why would a criminal commit a crime? What compels another human to commit murder? The truth is a bit hurtful in that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what compelled them to commit such heinous crimes. The fact of the matter is they did.

Curb Appeal

We may want to better understand the motives that lead to these horrible acts. That to me makes sense, but if we are truly going to dig deeper then we cannot bury what we find. For instances, why have the overwhelming incidents of mass shootings over the last several years been committed at gun free locations. Rather than try to figure out what propelled them to commit these crimes why don’t we start asking what lead them to choose their locations. In the past, the pattern was to right perceived wrongs. The Columbine shooting and several others of that time frame fit this narrative. More and more of the recent events happened for other reasons, but why did they choose the locations specifically.

Soft Targets

Why haven’t we asked these questions. If we were to ask these questions I bet we would get some interesting responses. I cannot begin to speculate or speak on their behalf, however if I were to look at this from a force protection perspective the locations they choose are soft targets. They have no visible security presence, no measures specifically targeting these types of attacks, no deterrences in place to prevent these atrocious acts of violence. When I operated in high risk zones through out the globe it was interesting to see how other countries interacted with their host nation.

Please Stop, Or I Will Be Forced To Ask Again

Most of the time, if they knew they were being surveyed as a potential target and most are, they don’t bother to tell terrorist they cannot bring bombs or guns to their facility. The operate under a completely different premise. The terrorist are already going to commit these acts, so how do we stop them. I’m not saying these force protection measures need to be adopted stateside. I’m saying it is a different mindset about the very nature of those who want to do harm.

Face The Facts

There is no illusion about force protection measure being “feel” good. They have to be good because people’s lives are at stake. Feel good initiatives are terrible, they fly in the face of practical solutions. If lives were lost because of a feel good initiative overseas there would be consequences. We know gun free zones don’t work, they enable criminals to commit murder because they know they can empose their will. They know they can do so without fearing for their own lives. Once confronted by a disciplined and armed fighter the outcome can be significantly altered. The real question is why would we continue to ignore this outcome.

It cannot be said enough, in a fair fight, one where both parties are armed the outcome is no longer left to being one sided. Now, each side is in charge or their own destiny and may the better party win.

Author: Jeff Gonzales

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