A lot of folks in the gun community that I talk to express some frustration, because they don’t know where to start when it comes to dressing better.
For many they think that if they need to dress up, they just put on a suit & tie and they’ve probably got one in the back of the closet somewhere so that’s fine. Combined with the contempt that some people have for the idea of wearing suit jackets regularly, most don’t bother.
The biggest distinction that I want to highlight is the fact that there’s a huge difference between dressing well and dressing up. It’s entirely possible to be well dressed, and still casual. Dressing well has less to do with what you’re wearing and more to do with how you wear it.
This video serves as a primer to help people new to the style world, and provide a visual template from which to work.
First I highlight the importance of fit. Inexpensive clothing that fits well is infinitely better than a $5,000 Tom Ford suit that’s baggy or too tight. This is one of the universal rules that applies equally to your casual clothing and your suits. I do touch on a couple of common mistakes dudes make when it comes to suiting that make them look sloppy and out of place.
Then I delve a little deeper into some mistakes that I’ve made in the past so that, if you do choose to up your style, you don’t end up looking like you’re trying too hard or that you don’t know what you’re doing.
We spend a lot more time speaking with people than we do fighting, stabbing, or shooting them. I mean, unless you’re a complete psychopath, in which case please stop reading this. I don’t want my explosion of publicity to be “The People’s Exhibit A”.
On top of all that, being able to effectively communicate with people and control your message can allow you to prevent a situation from ever getting got the point that force is needed.
The challenge, as I see it, is that a good portion of people that are into guns are those that interact with their world physically. This is easy because there are “moves” to practice, and tangible results of your efforts in the form of holes in the target.
There seems to be some resistance to the idea of leveraging communication as somehow cowardly or less manly; not wanting to fight. But I’ll remind folks that “Verbal Judo” is a thing for a reason.
If you had to fight with someone, would you rather they be resisting you with everything they’ve got, or not even know that they’re in a fight? If your goal is just to fight (or spar), then the resisting opponent might be fun. But if your goal is to prevail, why make the job harder than necessary.
The other major reason that verbal skills are critical is because if you don’t have them, it’s easy for someone to jam you up and now you’re at their mercy. The reason why a lot of muggings start off with a request for the time, a cigarette, or change is because, while your brain is tied up responding, you’re not processing what they’re doing (read: initiating the attack).
Just like how you want your draw, trigger press, and reload to be so automated that they don’t require active thought, the same is true of your verbal skills. You want to have some appropriately automated responses (John Farnam calls them “Tape Loops”) established so that you can focus more attention on what they’re doing vs. what they’re saying (or trying to get you to do/say).
Having active, intentional control over the words you use can also ensure that you don’t create a situation that requires more force. Watch the video to see what I mean.
Across all aspects of life there’s generally a core set of concepts that are the foundation of proficiency.
When it comes to shooting that’s going to be your grip, your draw, your trigger press, and your sight picture.
It’s the platform for everything else, and one of the areas where I’ve struggled the most. It’s amazing how nuanced the grip can get, not just “grab the thing” or “grip harder”. My current grip consists of elements taught by Spencer Keepers, Paul Sharp, and John Johnston. I’ve written in depth about each of those classes, and if you’re interested in learning more you can find those posts here.
Grip needs to be mastered first, because otherwise if you jump into your draw too quickly you end up reinforcing bad habits that will negatively impact your performance. You’ll have a much harder time shooting consistently (ask me how I know).
The biggest thing to keep in mind is that there is not one singular “right” grip. There’s an almost infinite combination of hand shapes & grip geometries, so you’re going to have to play around with it to see what allows you to control the pistol most effectively. A few placed to get some ideas are Aaron Cowan, Scott Jedlinski, and Bob Vogel. Not saying it’ll work, but it might give you an idea to play with.
Once you’ve got a good grip on the gun, now it’s important to be able to bring it to bear quickly and efficiently. The great thing is that this costs absolutely nothing. You already own the gun, you’ve already got the holster, you have plenty of clothes.
Whenever you’re doing dry work, it’s critical to ensure complete safety. No ammo in the room, a dedicated practice space, conscious, intentional repetition, and a backstop that can stop a bullet if everything else goes wrong.
This is also helpful to find out how your wardrobe and carry gear work together (or don’t). Trust me when I say it sucks to try and fight against your own equipment.
Having a shot timer is definitely helpful. Target Barn was kind enough to send me one and I can say it’s significantly more convenient, but there are several free apps you can download to your phone to get started. I also did a video about some of the ways to use that timer in practice.
I find it helpful to video yourself, so you can see where you’re wasting time/effort. I’m still trying to break myself of the habit I’ve got of hunching my shoulders on the draw. Jedi has some great pointers on developing your draw stroke as well.
Trigger control ties in to grip on a couple of levels. A good grip sets you up for a clean, uninterrupted trigger-press. A strong enough grip can also compensate for some flaws in your trigger pull (not saying that should be your goal).
I’ve found that the Dry Fire Mag to be extremely useful because my biggest issue was hard to diagnose on single trigger pulls. I have a tendency to milk the grip if I’m shooting (combined with a flinch I’m still trying to break).
Trigger finger placement is another area where people get dogmatic about THE way that it must be done. Bullshit. For the same reason that there isn’t one single master grip, the size of your hand and your pistol grip will dictate where your finger falls on the trigger. Pat McNamara has some great ideas on the subject.
There’s some discussion as to in what order these elements should be prioritized. I put sights last because if your trigger pull sucks, it doesn’t matter what your sight picture is because it won’t be there when the shot breaks.
Sights are another place where you can end up fighting your gear. I tried shooting a 25 yds. B8 at an indoor range with standard 3-dot night sights, and spent the entire time cursing because the lighting was JUST dim enough that it was hard to make out the front sight effectively enough.
I’ve become a huge fan of blacked out rear sights, and a high visibility front. Personally I like fiber. My Warren Tactical sights are just about the closest equivalent to red-dot optic you can get with conventional irons.
The other reason I think trigger comes before sights is that, once you have an appropriate sight picture, that’s the instant you want to make the shot break. Shooting various drills will help you to understand what that sight picture needs to look like in order to achieve a desired result.
Play around with this stuff. It’s going to take some experimentation to find what works for you.
Spencer’s choice for the course name is purposeful. It’s not “Introductory Handgun” or “Handgun Basics”. The fact that he calls it the “Essentials” class very much intentional: these are the things you should know to be prepared for a use of force event as a private armed citizen. You shoot a decent amount in this class, but you don’t just turn cash into noise. Spencer makes sure that there’s a reason for every round you fire.
Full disclosure, I took this class as Day 2 of a training weekend with Spencer, so I don’t know of the tempo/cadence/sequence changes if you take this as Day 1 or as a stand-alone class.
Let me start of by telling you what this class isn’t:
This class isn’t if you want to pretend your some hardcore elite door kicker, doing God’s work at the tip of the spear
This class isn’t designed to work on your weapon manipulation or mechanics. (none of the strings we shot required a reload. Most of the reloading we did was either in the holster administratively, or topping off between strings)
This class isn’t scenario based training. All the drills can be extrapolated to real world concepts, but you’re not yelling “stop” and side-stepping as you draw.
This class is to allow you to become intimately familiar with your handgun if you aren’t already. You’ll shoot enough, and with enough guidance that you’ll be able to identify where you suck and what you need to work on most. Spencer’s class isn’t a “familiarization” class, but it’s definitely an exposure class.
For someone like me who hasn’t really shot under time & accuracy standards before, I came to 2 very important realizations:
Shooting accurately and quickly isn’t this magical voodoo that takes decades of zen-like study to understand, and
It’s sure as shit not as easy as it looks on Instagram either.
So, here are the top 3 things taught in this class
X-Grip: Many instructors try and teach either a “front-back & side-side” or “push/pull”. The way Spencer teaches it, your grip forces are forming an X through the middle of the pistol grip. It’s kind of hard to explain, so I’ve included a diagram for reference.
Target Transitions: Lots of the drills had you switching targets. Sometimes you were shooting at different reference points on the same paper, sometimes you were changing targets altogether. Some involved minimal movement, some involved a lot more. But rarely did you shoot more than a few rounds at the same spot.
Balancing Speed & Accuracy: Spencer has spent a lot of time with Tom Givens, both as a student and Assistant Instructor. One of Tom’s observations is that people who have been shooting (at speed) for any period of time have a familiar cadence, a rhythm with which they shoot. It’s almost like “cruise control”. Your system is familiar with the task and sets into that pace, regardless of it’s appropriate or not. You may have more time (i.e. slow the fuck down and make better hits), or you may need to push the speed a little bit, because your target is a little bigger and the time constraint is a little tighter. This was best represented in some of the drills where we had the whole “head” of the “bowling pin” target as a hit-zone instead of just the 3×5 card that represents a face shot.
Top 3 things I learned
You literally cannot grip hard enough with your support hand: Before I took this class, I had been watching some videos. Primarily Paul Gomez’s “Tweaking the Grip”. Spencer’s method stops at the “thumbs forward” stage of that video. Reason being that it better complements the X-grip that he teaches. Now body mechanics and hand specs are all different, so it may not work for you specifically. I can tell you that I saw a dramatic improvement in my ability to shoot quickly and precisely, by going back to the traditional “Thumbs Forward” grip, and just absolutely gorilla-gripping the everloving shit out of my left hand. This was the first non-combative 2-day class that I walked away from sore. Arms, chest, shoulders, all of it. Granted that’s not all good, there’s some excess tension in there that I need to work out, but that’s beside the point. If you feel like you’re having difficulty controlling the gun, or if you feel like your grip is constantly shifting, just crank down on it. You may be surprised as to how many issues that fixes.
Shooting fast isn’t nearly as daunting as I thought it would be: The only other time I’ve been on a timer was the shooting qual at MAG-40. Anyone who’s taken that class knows the goal isn’t to shoot fast. There just needs to be a measurable standard for your accuracy. Spencer’s class is completely different. You shoot fast. You shoot faster than you’ve shot before (if you’re like most folks who have lived their lives on a square range and have never competed). You’ll shoot faster than you’re comfortable with, and that’s the point.
Now I want to point out up front that at no point are you pushed past what you can do safely. There’s no instructor yelling at you and you’re never out of control, the closest analogy I can think of is it feels like the very first time you rode a bike without training wheels: the body mechanics and the machine you’re using are both familiar, and it’s something you’ve done hundreds of times already, but it’s unfamiliar enough territory to make you feel uncomfortable.
The idea behind this is that, if you’re not missing, you’re not pushing yourself. If you’re missing inconsistently, or if you’re missing way too badly, then you’ll be encouraged to back it down to a level where you can consistently produce results, but in Spencer’s class missing is a good thing.
There’s a certain pace at which you’re still in control, but you’re going just fast enough that you can’t over analyze. This sort of melds in with the previous point. The idea is that, if you’ve mastered the basic mechanics enough, then you can start pushing your speed to see where your capabilities actually lie. Understanding that “good enough is never good enough” Spencer isn’t looking for perfection. He’s looking for pragmatic, functional results. The idea behind this class isn’t that you walk away a card-carrying master pistolero, but that you have a much better understanding of what you need to work on to get you to that level.
During the course of the shooting strings, you start to feel what right feels like. It can be tricky for an instructor to help get you dialed in, simply because they’re not seeing what you’re seeing and not feeling what you’re feeling. A good instructor though, can help create an environment where you’re in tune with what’s going on, and is able to replicate things enough for you to recognize certain patterns.
Top 3 things I’m going to change.
I’m going to be a lot more attentive to my grip, and a lot more aggressive with it. Cranking down on my grip was the singular most productive thing I’ve done to my shooting performance in recent memory.
I’m not going to fear/mock the timer. You hear a lot of critics say “there’s no shot timer in a gunfight” which is a little myopic. Being faster certainly can’t hurt. That being said, it’s not the only thing that matters, but being able to get effective hits on target quickly is certainly not a bad thing.
I’m going to start a dry-practice regimen. My main focus for that dry practice (for now) is increasing my draw speed.
*special thanks to Short Barrel Shepherd for this 3×3 format.
This was actually the first day of our training weekend. The very first thing Spencer does when you train with him is take you out and have you perform a shooting evaluation totally cold. He does this for 2 reasons:
It’s a reality check for you, because if you ever need those skills, you’ll have to perform cold, on demand. There’s no warm ups in “da streetz”
It’s a good gauge for him of the ability of the shooters in his class.
I’m not going to tell you what that drill is. I didn’t get a chance to practice it beforehand, so I’m not giving you that chance either.
I always like to say up front what the class isn’t, to help manage the expectations and let people decide if this is a class they’d benefit from or not.
This is not just a shooting class. I honestly would almost suggest that Spencer change the name to “AIWB Lifestyle”, because he covers all aspects of AIWB. How to dress for it, how to live with it, and a bunch of gun handling considerations.
You get a pretty great crash course in holsters. Spencer goes over a lot of the “industry standard” designs, and then walks you through the logic of why they’re not well suited to appendix carry. He of course has a few examples of his design as well, and is able to effectively articulate the why behind each of his design elements.
One thing I can tell you right off the bat is this: I’ve worked in sales in one capacity or another for the last decade, so I can sniff out a sales pitch from a mile away. This isn’t Spencer’s timeshare presentation; he’s not suckering you into a holster sales pitch under the guise of a pistol class. Now don’t fool yourself, he believes in his product, and he’ll tell you why his is better and why everything else comes up short, but if you run one of his loaner holsters (assuming he has one that fits your gun) and then come to the conclusion “you know what? It’s not for me”, you won’t hurt his feelings.
Most of the shooting drills are geared around familiarizing you with the access and presentation from the appendix position. There are some off-hand/support side/ whatever the trendy new term is for the hand you don’t write with drills. The main purpose of them, at least that I took away, was to show how beneficial appendix carry is for off-hand weapon access, and how important a good holster is for one-handed weapon manipulation.
3 major topics covered
AIWB gear considerations: Obviously the holster is a top consideration. What you learn is that a lot of manufacturers take the same holster body they’ve been making for other carry methods, and just change the attachment point to make it an “AIWB” holster. You quickly understand why this is a less than ideal solution. Next is the belt. Spencer recommends an “infinitely adjustable” type of belt; his preferred being the Wilderness Frequent Flyer. The ride height of your pants also factors in to the equation. This may come as a shock, but Spencer isn’t a huge advocate of skinny jeans. In all seriousness, he breaks down where the waist of your pants should fall on you to best position his holster for maximum concealment. This guy really boils every element down to its most important elements.
Once question I had for Spencer that’s been a big challenge for me up to this point was “How do you carry in dress clothes, especially given that your holster isn’t tuckable?” His answer was almost maddeningly simple, and I’m a little annoyed with myself that I didn’t think of it sooner: wear a vest. *Insert Dope Slap Here*
AIWB specific drawstroke: The way Spencer teaches the drawstroke, and specifically clearing the cover garment is zen simple. Grabbing the bottom of the cover garment with the curled fingers, and simply bending the arm at the elbow. The reason for this is two-fold:
It helps to ensure the drawing pistol doesn’t become entangled in the cover garment
It helps make sure that you don’t hang up on the fixed blade, center line knife that you’re likely carrying if you’ve had any exposure to the Shivworks curriculum.
AIWB specific reholster technique: aka “The Lean”. It’s somewhere between a limbo move and an obscene gesture. The basics of it are you push your hips forward, causing the muzzle line of the holster to be angled even further away from the body. The logic behind this is that even if the pistol discharges it’s pointed in the safest direction possible. Ballistic Radio did a good video of this technique with a cutaway holster and a T-gun. Look it up on YouTube. The other part of the technique that Spencer teaches is capping the back of the slide with your thumb. Now this only works if you’re running a hammer fired gun, or a Glock w/ a Striker Control Device (aka Gadget). Reason for this is, if the trigger moves during the re-holster, you’ll feel the hammer/gadget move. Not only will your thumb help resist the movement of the firing controls, but it also is a tactile alarm for “stop what you’re doing right now!”
3 things I learned
My carry gun & holster are too short: When I first entered the AIWB arena, I started with my Glock 19 a $20 Vanguard. My logic was it wasn’t a big financial risk, in the event that I didn’t like it, I hadn’t just burned a bunch of cash on another holster I’d never used. I was an immediate convert. I tried repurposing a couple of my old holsters, and it didn’t work too well. I finally bought a specific “AIWB” holster, but I was still having printing issues, so I went with a 26 for a shorter grip. I kept the same holster (which turned out to be my only saving grace), but still had issues. It was because the muzzle end of my holster wasn’t long enough. The more holster you have riding below the beltline, the more the holster can lever the grip of the gun in towards the body and keep it concealed. It also means a wider footprint and less digging.
I’m not moving my hands fast enough: Spencer’s biggest criticism of my technique during the class was that I wasn’t getting to the gun fast enough. I knew this to be true, because I was scared of going too fast and fumbling the grip. Now don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t berating me to go faster, just encouraging me that I have the capacity to go faster. I need to get past the block that there’s a difference between getting to the gun and building the grip.
Face-shooting paper isn’t as hard as I thought it was: No I was by no means the best shooter in the class. Most of the folks that took this course shoot a lot more regularly, and some even competitively. But even with the accuracy and time constraints that I’d never been presented with before, I never had a “wow do I suck” moment. Every failure, every missed shot had a reason behind it. Something quantifiable that I could identify and work on. I was able to walk away from this class feeling a lot better about how good/bad a shooter I am, because I have a game plan now.
3 things I’ll start doing differently
I’m buying a Keeper: Spencer had a loaner that I was able to run the whole weekend. There were times that I almost forgot I was wearing it. It was amazingly comfortable, and didn’t shift around as much as any of the other holsters I’ve tried. Part of that is because of the giant loop he uses on the holster body. Even if you don’t buy his holster specifically, if you’re buying an AIWB holster, buy it for the duty-sized/longest barrel version of your pistol. You’ll be doing yourself a favor.
Dry- practice regimen: For the time being I’m going to start off with just getting to the gun. Once I’m there, I’ll work on the draw itself.
Over-exaggerating “the lean”: It can’t be done. You cannot over-exaggerate that lean enough. There’s no such thing as overdoing it. I make sure to keep that in mind whenever I’m going to the holster now.
Everyone’s freaking out over something right now. Some over COVID-19. Others over how society is reacting to the virus. Others still are worried about the long term economic impacts, or the second and third order effects of city-wide shutdowns.
There’s plenty of anxiety to go around. That’s why, especially now, we’re as actively aware of our mental and emotional safety/wellbeing as we our of our physical.
A couple years ago, I found myself in this perpetual state of “blah”. On paper everything was going great, but there was this internal weight that just kept dragging me down. I was constantly fatigued, found myself regularly experiencing random and inexplicable feelings of dread. I wouldn’t even partake in things that I normally enjoyed. I kept trying to shake it off. Telling myself that I was somehow being weak, because I had no good reason for these feelings. Despite my efforts, I still regularly found myself just wanting to curl up on the sofa with my dog and wait for the day to be over.
I finally reached out to a friend of mine who is a mental health professional, and we talked. Our conversation resulted in him making me aware of something called dysthymia. Paraphrasing, it was suggested that the dysthymia could be environmental. He was right. Soon after I’d changed jobs and found myself in a much better headspace.
In the defensive community, you hear Gavin de Becker’s book The Gift of Fear touted quite a bit. The focal point of that work is “listen to what your brain/body/instincts are trying to tell you”. Survival instincts are hardwired for a reason. Well guess what, same applies to the mental/emotional side of things as well. Be aware of it. Control and manage it, but don’t suppress it.
The point of this post, as with most that I share, is to simply present my experiences as a learning opportunity. If it resonates with you, great. Hang in there, and take care of yourselves on all fronts.
*I feel like this goes without saying, but I’m in no way a mental health professional, and none of this should be construed as medical advice. If you feel like you have issues that require that attention, please consult a professional*
Today I talk about making sure that your wardrobe doesn’t interfere with your carry setup. Jeff Mau at Tenicor and Spencer Keepers have touched on this subject, so definitely go check them out and follow them as well. Most dudes aren’t familiar with the concept that pants have different “rise” (the distance between the waist and the crotch). This measurement can either facilitate or hinder your EDC. Also, if like me you have a bit of a “successful lifestyle body”, you might fall into the trap of wearing their pants too low on the hips instead of at your natural waist. Given that we’re all hold up and eating our anxiety, you might find this info useful over the next few weeks.
In case you’re wondering, the products featured in this video are:
There’s a lot of doom & gloom, and a lot of artificially inflated panic going around right now. It’s a prime opportunity to work on our social fluency and emotional control. Interpersonal interaction is easy when both parties are having a good day and emotionally stable. When one of them’s agitated, if you’re still able to get to the desired result, then you REALLY know your skills work. Just because the situation isn’t ideal doesn’t mean we can’t leverage it to our benefit. Here’s a few suggestions on how to make this time of social distancing a bit more palatable.
Toilet Paper Shortage? Try this and thank me later.
And each one of those could easily take a lifetime to master. We all know black belts and GMs that are still working to improve. That being said, it is very easy to get caught up in the pursuit of all of this that we manage to forget exactly what it is that we’re working so hard to protect: Our lives, livelihoods, and well-being.
It’s possible to spend so much time refining these skills that the rest of life gets neglected and falls by the wayside. There are some folks who choose to live their lives around the gun, and refuse to go anywhere they’re not allowed to carry (or risk the legal consequences of carrying where prohibited). Then there are those who go the Travis Bickle route, hardening themselves for what they are certain is an imminent battle.
For me personally, I choose to live as fulfilling a life as possible. I enjoy good food and drink, the arts, and travel. My study of predators, violent criminal actors, and defense craft are there to supplement this lifestyle, and make sure that I’m able to have the broadest and most varied range of experiences possible. It’s an easy trap to get caught in, and it’s not discussed much. I just wanted to highlight this pitfall so that more people are aware that it’s out there. Ultimately it’s your life. Live it how you choose. But I do think it’s worth asking the question whether or not you’re spending more time training than you actually do living.
If you’re still here and reading my material, I’ll assume that you share my interest finding that balance of how to effectively dress for the gun. Either that or you’re being held against your will, in which case blink twice and we’ll send help.
Now before you go out and spend a ton of money on a new wardrobe (something I would never recommend), there are a few tips, tricks, and tweaks that you can apply to your existing clothing. The thing to remember above all else is that fit is king. The properly fitting garment can fall & drape exactly the way you want it. And that is actually the focus of my first to points:
Avoid clothing that’s too tight: This one should be pretty obvious. Over the last couple years the trend seems to thankfully be moving away from overly fitted, almost painted on looking clothing. I don’t think much needs to be said on why this would be detrimental to concealment. We all like to joke about the guy in his shmedium Grunt Style t-shirt trying to hide a duty sized pistol in a hip holster. If your clothing hugs every curve and contour of your body, then any additions made to those curves & contours, be it a firearm or tacos, will be immediately apparent. That being said, I doubt this one will be a real issue for a majority of the people that read my posts.
Avoid clothing that’s too loose: There are actually 2 major reasons for this one. Firstly, baggy clothing tends to look sloppy or careless. This can set a negative impression, and is unflattering. Aesthetics might not be the top priority, but that’s not to say it isn’t important. The second aspect is a little counter-intuitive. Baggy clothing can highlight a concealed firearm almost as easily as tight clothes can. How is that? Baggy clothing means there’s a lot of extra fabric flapping around, so your daily bending, twisting, and moving can result in that extra material settling on the shelf that’s created by the grip of your pistol. If one side of your shirt is bunching and gathering unnaturally, that’s the type of irregularity that can invite further scrutiny.
Belt selection is critical: Typically when you’re dressing up, that means a tucked in shirt, which in turn means your belt is visible. Even if you’re wearing jeans, a “tactical” belt like the Wilderness Tactical Instructor belt or the Ares Gear Ranger belt will look out of place. Even something lower profile like the Mastermind Tactics (formerly Graith) Specialist is too conspicuous in my mind. Ares Gear tried to get around this with the Aegis, but it’s still scuba webbing. Typically dress(ier) belts mean leather. Just make sure the leather you select is appropriate for the environment. If, for example, you’re in a button down shirt with jeans & boots, a beefier leather gun belt like the 1/4″ thick offerings from Mean Gene, but if you’re in chinos, slacks or suit pants, you’ll need something that doesn’t look like work wear. You may have already read my article from last month where I compared the Kore Essentials and Slidebelt, which are my previous and current go-tos.
Your pants play into the concealment of an IWB holster! Most dudes, especially dudes that have a less than athletic build like myself will be inclined to pick pants that are less constricting because that’s more comfortable. This unfortunately creates a problem. You want your waistband to help snug the gun up against the body. Additionally, I’ve found that pants that are a little more fitted in the crotch, seat, and thigh tend to keep the holster body in place and prevent shifting. I’m not suggesting that the waist of your pants needs to be so tight that it’s cutting into you and leaving marks or red spots, but there should be at least some notable level of pressure from the waistband against your body.
Pant rise is important: For those unfamiliar, “rise” is the distance from the waistband to the crotch of a pair of pants. “Wait, you mean to tell me they’re not all the same?!?!?”. Well no, in fact they’re not, nor is one type universally effective. Depending on your build and the length of your torso, standard (high) or mid-rise pants might be moppropriate for you. The most common mistake that most guys make (again, especially those with the “successful lifestyle body”) is that they wear their pants too low. This can negatively impact your concealment by causing the gun to ride too low and/or create hot spots and discomfort. Your natural waist is typically at the level of your belly button, possibly down an inch or two. Most guys wear their pants on their pelvis, which is too low. The other issue is that wearing pants with the wrong rise too low can impede movement. The crotch of the pant is now lower than it should be, which means your legs are joined further down than they are naturally.
Shoe selection matters! Dressier shoes tend to have leather soles. Leather soles tend not to have the best traction. Traction is kind of important if you’re having to physically manage another person. You’re probably thinking “Well that’s an easy fix. I’ll just wear nothing but rubber soled shoes then!”. While that will work, I’ve yet to see a rubber soled shoe that actually looked like it belongs with a suit or dress pants. Thankfully there are some hybrid options out there, where rubber studs or sections are built into a leather sole, giving you better traction without looking like you’re wearing orthotic shoes or a uniform duty oxford.
Get friendly with your tailor: Most clothing off the rack doesn’t really fit anyone all that well, it just fits a lot of people okay enough that they’ll buy it. A good tailor can help tweak and adjust any garment to serve a specific purpose for you, and make sure your clothing is working for you instead of against you. And, speaking of tailors, there are a few specialty adjustments you can have your tailor make to your wardrobe:
Reinforcing your waistbands: Most of us carry guns and other support gear on the belt line. Other than work wear and denim, most slacks and suit pants are more delicate and not well suited to supporting weight. Having your tailor reinforce the waists of your pants will help to prevent sagging, and have the added benefit of more material that will keep your holster clips and other gear from wearing holes in your pants.
Extra belt loops: Alongthe same line as a reinforced waist, you may find it beneficial to have extra belt loops added to your trousers. This helps more evenly distribute weight across your belt, and prevent the waistline of your pants from sagging. Very important for any tools carried along the mid-line or in the pockets.
Extra lining in your jackets: This is primarily for the hip-carry crowd. If you’re using a jacket as a cover garment, you’ll want to have an extra panel of material sewn into the coat where it rides over the gun. Doing it this way will allow you to only have to repair the panel instead of having the entire jacket re-lined after it gets shredded by the rear sights and/or cocking serrations on your carry gun.
Breakaway buttons: Generally, when a man is standing he should have his jacket buttoned. Well if he now has to access a pistol under that jacket, he has to either tear it open, unbutton it, or try to pull it high enough to clear the holster. There are some companies now that are doing breakaway buttons. Essentially, it’s a normal functioning button & buttonhole, but instead of the button being sewn directly to the jacket, it’s sewn to a snap so that it can perform normally, then in an emergency it can be pulled open without damaging the garment. I’m actually talking to my tailor now about doing this to all my suits & sport coats.
Weight in the hem of your coat: The old bodyguard trick was to keep a spare magazine in the strong side coat pocket. That way, when you went to clear the cover garment, there was enough inertia and hang-time that it would keep the jacket from floating back into the path of the draw. Personally I find a magazine in the pocket too conspicuous. I have heard of guys having weight sewn directly into the hem of the jacket under the liner to the same effect.
Beware of neckties! The fabrics that they use for ties have a pretty high tensile strength. Especially when you consider that good ties are 5 or 7 fold material. That’s a lot of fabric wrapped around your neck. If you’re not careful it can easily turn into a leash or a noose. That’s why all of the uniform neckties I’ve ever seen have been clip-on. It’s super difficult to strangle somebody with a clip-on tie…………..allegedly. I’m not suggesting you replace your Hermes ties with clip-ons, just making sure it’s something you’re aware of. Look at it critically, and ask yourself if there are any modifications you can come up with to make your neckties “safer”.
This was intended as a very high-level primer, and as something to spark more questions and dialog.
Do you feel that anything was left out? Which of these would you like me to go into more detail on? Please let me know in the comments.
The first time I heard the name Gabe White was actually at Spencer Keeper’s Essential Handgun Skills class. When a shooter as accomplished as Spencer says “check this guy out”, it’s probably a good idea to listen up. So when I had the opportunity to register for Gabe’s block at Tac-Con, I set numerous alarms to make sure I was one of the first ones signed up.
Gabe has an interesting way of approaching the technical mechanics of shooting that’s different than your traditional “fighting pistol” type of class. If you have the opportunity, it’s well worth your time. His methods and articulation really helped some concepts to fall in place and make sense for me.
Summary: I didn’t really know what to expect when I signed up for Gabe’s “Translating Technical Skills into Tactical Success”. I honestly didn’t even know the name “Gabe White” until I took Spencer Keepers’ handgun classes last January. He spoke so highly of Gabe that I figured I’d be foolish not to avail myself of this opportunity. What really struck me about the class was that there wasn’t really any new information that was presented, but the way that Gabe quantified and contextualized his material just made a lot of pre-existing pieces fall into place.
One of Gabe’s big focuses is getting better by “reaching”. The idea is that if you’re shooting at a level where you’re able to reliably and consistently perform, then you’re stagnant. His analogy was “you can’t get to a 300 lbs deadlift by repping 100 lbs over and over and over again”. Several of the drills started off with the instruction to “shoot at the level where you WANT to be, not where you are now”. Basically you were encouraged to fuck up and miss. Now that’s not to say that he advocates shooting indiscriminately, that couldn’t be further from the truth. What he DOES advocate however is pushing to a level where things start to fall apart, and consciously analyzing what felt wrong/different to better identify the areas that need improvement and gain an appreciation for what actually works for you.
Gabe stressed being PROCESS focused. The idea being that desired result is symptomatic of correct execution of the technique. Essentially, if you do XYZ, the results manifest themselves. This process focus also makes it DRAMATICALLY easier to self-diagnose errors. If you’re just gripping & ripping, without being aware of your grip, draw stroke, sight alignment, and trigger press, you’ll never be able to understand WHY your target doesn’t look like all those highspeed dudes you follow on Instagram (ask me how I know).
Another major focus of this class in particular was serial and/or non-shooting tasking. That’s Gabe’s fancy way of saying that you need to be focused on more than just shooting, because if you’re just pressing “play” on a pre-programmed subroutine, but for whatever reason at some point during that shooting process something happens that changes the circumstances and the target no longer needs to be shot (or something has interrupted or is about to interrupt your need/ability to shoot), you need to be in constant, conscious control. Going back to weight-lifting analogies, it’s like the old adage of “being able to stop the weight at any point during the lift”
There was a lot of dry work during the class, which I personally appreciated. Mostly because it allowed me to get a better idea of what my own dry practice regimen should consist of moving forward. There were several “Ready Up” drills where the focus was moving your finger from register to breaking the shot as quickly as possible, allowing you to understand the sensation of developing speed, and also an appreciation for the impact that movement could have on your sight picture. Gabe briefly addressed ready positions, and expressed his preferences. The short version of this is the primary goal is to allow for the most unobstructed view of the [potential] target, while minimizing the time/distance the pistol would have to cover to get on sights/trigger. He prefers low ready (gun extended, muzzle at the ground by target’s feet) instead of compressed high ready (i.e. Count 3 of draw stroke) for those reasons. (Context dictates)
“A deep confidence in your technical abilities helps to prevent over/premature reactions”
When it comes to drawing the gun, Gabe’s main focus in on hand speed. He teaches you to snap your hands into action “like you touched a hot stove”. Getting to the gun faster is where a lot of people can improve their time. As the gun presents to the target, he also teaches seeing the sights and working the trigger AS the gun is stopping, as opposed to reaching full extension before you initiate the firing process, and that the sights tell you when to shoot.
Transitioning from the Technical to the Tactical, Gabe quantifies Defensive Shooting as “the correct and responsible application of your existing skill level”. I’m not going to go into too much depth here because I don’t want to give away any of his secrets, but suffice it to say that he has a FANTASTIC series of exercises that allow you to practice modulating your level(s) of force and rescinding your decision to shoot, even on a square range that may not allow work from the holster.
Shamelessly stealing the Short Barreled Shepherd’s 3×3 Model for AARs, here’s the breakdown:
The top 3 things covered in the class:
Ready–>Up Drills, focusing on acceptable sight picture (and maintaining that throughout the manipulation of the trigger)
Incorporating No-Shoot/Stop-Shooting drills into live fire practice
Segmented practice of different attributes (micro vs. macro)
The top 3 things I learned from the class:
My default “compressed high ready” is costing me time
You get better by “reaching”. I.E. shooting at the level/speed that you want to be instead of staying at the level at which you know you can comfortably perform.
Focusing on the process will yield the desired results (instead of focusing on trying to actively create the results)
Top 3 things I’ll do differently:
Stop “throwing down” my cover garment, instead letting it drop and keeping both hands at the same height.
More sectioned practice instead of trying to do everything at once (I.E. practice just establishing grip, just the draw stroke, just first shot on target, then join them all together)
We’ve all heard it. Whether at our first concealed carry class, or at the gun store when shopping for our first pistol and/or holster. In order to effectively conceal a firearm one must “dress around the “. The intent of this mantra is to suggest that carrying a firearm does require adjustments to one’s normal routine. True practice of self defense is after all a lifestyle unto itself. However, this credo has become the battle cry of the intellectually and socially lazy. Any time someone encounters a challenge with justifying their newfound lifestyle with their day to day routine, these words will be parroted, as if to suggest that the person in question just isn’t trying hard enough.
I say this is a tactic of the intellectually and socially lazy because it requires no thought or analysis. It automatically assumes that the gear selection is infallible, and that the subject is somehow failing in the execution. This could very well be a possibility, especially for someone in the early stages of their EDC evolution. There is, however, another alternative to consider: It is indeed possible that the protagonist is simply trying to press equipment into service in an application that is inappropriate for their “operational environment” to use popular buzzwords.
It all boils down to the most abhorent and offensive C-word imaginable within this community…
If you’re an investment banker, business consultant, contract attorney, or medical professional, your daily risk profile probably differs greatly from a cop serving felony warrants or an operator in a Tier 1 military unit. So why then would you insist on trying to use and carry the same handguns that they do? Their daily uniform is primarily built around carrying the gear that they need, and concealment is rarely a concern for them (unless you’re talking about hyper specialized units, and those guys generally don’t put out a bunch of information for public consumption).
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s still worth at least trying to carry a “full sized” handgun (Glock 19 or similar) when and wherever possible, but we have to accept that for us regular dudes leading regular lives and not engaging in high risk behavior, we are more likely to encounter scenarios where our loadout is be more reminiscent of a boy scout than your favorite character in Call of Duty. Like Pat Rogers is famous for saying: “Mission drives the gear train”. For those of us for whom the pistol is not part of the job, there is only so much compromise that we can make within our wardrobe before it starts to deviate outside the norm of our environment, thus drawing unwanted attention and possibly resulting in undesirable outcomes.
It’s important to remember that the aforementioned “gear train” consists not only of our everyday carry tools, but the clothing with which those tools are covered. Clothing selection should be purposeful, depending on what it is the wearer is trying to accomplish. Those goals can be anything as functional as protecting against inclement weather to something more social like trying to communicate authority and dominance in a board meeting. You wouldn’t wear a 3-piece suit to the beach, and you (hopefully) wouldn’t wear board shorts to a staff meeting. In between those polar extremes is a wide swath of grey area, and we want to go armed in as much of it as possible.
For that reason, I feel strongly that the phrase “Dress around the gun” really should be replaced with the more appropriate “Dress for the gun”. A subtle change to be sure but, as Aaron Cowan is fond of saying, “words mean things”. The phrase “dress around the gun” has been perverted into this incantation that, if not properly explained or understood sounds like a direct order. If it comes from someone with more experience or authority, it runs the risk of being taken at face value, with no understanding of the underlying message.
Suggesting that someone “dress for the gun” seems like a logical statement, but it doesn’t stand on its own; it inspires further questions and discussion. Plus, telling someone to “dress around the gun” is arrogant, and assumes that you know the most appropriate way for the other person to live their life. It’s a very personal decision. The analogy I like to use is picking out someone’s carry gear is like picking out their underwear. You need to be very familiar with them for your recommendations to be of any real use.
At the end of the day what’s more important than anything is that the carrier is aware of not only the realistic performance capabilities of the tools they’ve selected, but of themselves as well. Once you have a good grasp of those two factors, you can work a firearm into your lifestyle accordingly. It will require some adjustment, but it shouldn’t require you to completely reinvent yourself.
So let’s see if we can get this to catch on. “Dress around the gun” is dead. Long live “dress for the gun”!
I’ve come to a conclusion that is likely going to get a lot of flak from various different corners of the internet:
The “Tactical”/”Defensive” “Community” needs to give a shit about men’s style. I’m not the only one that shares this opinion. Various instructors who’ve been gracious enough to share some of their time an expertise with me share this sentiment, yet it seems to go relatively unaddressed. Why is that? My best guess is that there’s enough more widely needed/consumed content out there that the dudes that are REALLY good are better served focusing on that material.
In the realm of applied violence, I’m a relative novice. I’ve been to a few classes, trained with a few well known names, and am able to not embarrass myself on some of the generally accepted diagnostic shooting drills. Fortunately, I’m very well equipped to comment on the social nuances of effectively carrying a concealed firearm in areas where it may not be the norm.
Tanner Guzy of Masculine style (who is one of the inspirations for this…..I guess I can call it an article instead of a rant) sent me an email wherein he’s quoted as saying “As I’m sure you can imagine, there are a lot of men who don’t like that I talk about style. They think it’s effeminate, gay, vain, shallow, frivolous, wimpy, stupid, materialistic, and a dozen other things I’ve heard over the years”.
In the gun-carrying world, the cringe-worthy eraser phrase is that you need to [all together now!] “dress around the gun!” This is doubly amusing, because of the cognitive dissonance with two other ultra-popular tropes:
Nobody pays attention anyways, so it doesn’t matter if I’m printing
Be the grey man.
…So which one is it? You either need to put forth some effort to blend into your surroundings, and not draw undue attention to yourself, or people are so oblivious that unless I’m wearing a clown suit and carrying an RPG, I’m good to go!
This little mini-series will serve to address the balance that should exist, but for the most part is so woefully skewed either one way or the other in terms of dressing well and living with regular carry of a firearm.
There is a HUGE difference between “Dressing Up” and “Dressing Well”. I’ll differentiate between them during the course of these articles, and if you want to delve deeper into that topic, I’d strongly encourage you to check out Tanner Guzy’s material from Masculine Style. I think he’s done the best job by far quantifying this stuff. Click the links for his website and YouTube channel.
This one is a combination passion and pet peeve of mine.
Firstly, I just love watches. It seems to be common among people in the firearm space; they’re almost guaranteed to also be geeks about either watches, photography, and/or cars/motorcycles.
That being said, it’s certainly not a universal interest. There are those people for whom a watch is purely a tool, and really only exists as a convenience to keep from fishing a phone out of their pocket. And that’s perfectly fine. I’m certainly not going to sit here and insist that everybody needs to share this interest. The challenge is that this lack of interest and understanding can cause some folks to make some avoidable errors.
We’ve all seen it. The guy that’s dressed up to a level past where he’s normally familiar or comfortable still rocking his G-Shock or Suunto, even worse if worn on the inside of the wrist. Is it offensive? Not at all. It does however communicate a lack of social literacy. It broadcasts that you “don’t belong” there. It’s like wearing Salomon’s with a suit.
If you’re the kind of guy that just likes the functionality of those wrist computers, that’s cool. Rock on with it. But if you find yourself in a situation that requires a collared shirt and tie, I’d just leave it at home at that point. Especially since they’re wholly unnecessary these days, no watch is definitely more appropriate than the wrong watch.
If you want to delve down this rabbit hole, here are some pointers to help start your journey:
The Sports Watch:
If you’re only going to own one, a Sports Watch will give you some good versatility.
I prefer bracelets because A) they hold up better in hot weather and B) they’re a better general purpose option. Straps can work, but you’ll need to swap them out for various casual/formal situations. This can be fun, but if you’re only owning one watch, accessorizing probably isn’t your thing.
Minimal complications. Usually just Time, Date, maybe Day
Avoid Chronograph (stop watch) for a 1-watch collection
A bracelet vs. a strap (leather, rubber, NATO, etc)
I always prefer to get a watch on a bracelet, because they hold up longer than straps. You can always swap them out.
This is a pretty open category. These are your utility watches. The name is really the job description: a watch that you’re going to beat on. So it either needs to be rugged, replaceable, or both. There’s no real rules here, so buy what you like. Just don’t try and shoehorn your Beater into an inappropriate role like a Dress Watch.
I get a lot of feedback from folks because nobody’s wearing a suit & tie anymore. Not only is it no longer required dress code in most professions, but lots of folks won’t wear them voluntarily at all.
So I decided to put together some visual examples to highlight how dressing intentionally and putting care into your wardrobe applies across the board, from the most casual outfit to the most formal.
On weekends when I’m running errands or meeting friends at a bar you’re likely to see me in something like this. The major things to pay attention to are:
Henley instead of a t-shirt: Visually a little more interesting, and also more flattering if you’ve got rounder features like I do
Jeans that fit properly! There’s not too much material bunching at the ankles, and no “relaxed fit” baggy bullshit around the legs.
Chukka boots: I love these things. Partially because I’m a huge Steve McQueen fanboy. That being said they’re an amazingly practical shoe, and an easy way to bump up from the beat up pair of sneakers you’re probably wearing right now.
Lightweight Field jacket: For the 2 1/2 weeks that it’s cold enough in Texas to warrant a jacket, this is a great one. Pick something that’s not too heavy, and jives with your style.
Depending on where you work, you could probably get away with wearing this to the office. If I want to dress “nice” without being overly fancy or risk being overdressed I’ll go to something like this:
Chambray shirt: Originally workwear, so much more casual than a crisp dress shirt.
Dark denim: A good bridge between casual pants and dress slacks.
Derbys: A leather lace-up that’s more casual than the traditional Oxford. You could easily do this with the chukkas or other polished leather shoe/boot.
Jacket/Vest: Either one works, and you can see how it elevates the look just slightly, but without being stuffy and formal. The vest offers the advantage of not having to tuck your shirt in over the holster
Something like this would be equally appropriate at a business meeting or an anniversary dinner. I call this one “modular” because as long as you keep the basic tenants, you can kinda plug & play different things to your tastes:
Dress shirt: Your standard button-up shirt. If you want to play it safe, stick with light blue, lavender, or pink. White can be a little too formal, plus they’re just a pain in the ass to keep clean. If you want to, you can toy with different fabric textures & patterns.
Trousers: Actual slacks. Same kind of fabric they make suits out of. Lighter weight, so they’re super comfortable. Blues and greys will give you the most mileage.
Sport coat: Firstly, make sure it fits right! (Those sleeves are just a smidge too long). Also make sure it’s not close in color/shade to the pants. It’s supposed to complement and contrast, not match.
Shoes: Leather. Polished. Either brown or oxblood. Black shoes are reserved for formal occasions.
So this might seem like a bit of a departure. I mean side from the silly “ATF should be a convenience store” bumper sticker, we constantly hear “guns and alcohol don’t mix!”
There are those people that are so dedicated to their personal protection that they flat out refuse to consume anything that would negatively impact their awareness, or set foot in an establishment that legally prohibits carrying a firearm. That’s their call to make. However, to steal a line from William Aprill’sUnthinkable class, “there’s a lot of fun stuff that happens with stupid people in stupid places”. Admittedly he’s being a little facetious, but the point was that living a purely risk averse lifestyle can be limiting.
On top of that, it’s just good to have hobbies that aren’t violence related. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I have several, one being cocktails. I’ve never been visually artistic; I never really took to drawing, painting, sculpting, etc. Food and drink have always been my creative outlet. You can’t tell me that on some level this isn’t a work of art.
Another advantage of this hobby is that it helps me understand exactly what I can handle. We’ve all had that one friend who’s not a big drinker out with a bunch of friends go completely off the rails, and end up either as a hilarious story or potential 6 o’clock news story because they didn’t know their limits and overindulged.
In the video I go over 3 basic drinks that are a good place to start. They only have a few ingredients, nothing is super hard to find, and you can play with the ratios to dial in to whatever suits your taste.
Even if you’re not a big drinker or you don’t like the way liquor tastes, this is a very accessible drink. Even my wife (whose drink prior to us meeting was *shudder*…..Malibu & Pineapple aka Liquid Diabetes) enjoys these when they’re made properly. The standard ratio is:
Based on the name you’d think “OK, so it’s a Martini, but with tequila, right?” Nope! This is a classic gin drink. Lots of people have had bad experiences with gin, and so they shy away from any recipe where it’s mentioned. That’s unfortunate, because there’s such a breadth of options out there that there’s a gin for every palate. It’s especially great when the weather starts to heat up, when brown liquors can be a little heavy. I picked this because the gin is balanced out with the sweetness of the vermouth. It’s a gateway gin cocktail:
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1/4 oz. Luxardo Marashino Liqueur
1 1/2 oz. Sweet (red) vermouth.
1 1/2 oz. Gin
Measure all ingredients into a mixing glass, and stir until the mixing class is cold to the touch. If you’re mixing in something conductive like a shaker tin, stir for ~ 30 seconds or so.
Queen’s Park Swizzle
Everyone’s familiar with the Mojito. What I like about this one is that the use of dark rum and Ango (again) makes the drink a little more interesting, at least to me. Plus it’s prettier. This is a great summer drink, just be careful because they barely taste like alcohol.
5-10 mint leaves (depending on size)
1 oz. lime juice
1 oz. simple syrup
2-3 oz. dark rum
Angostura bitters to garnish
Muddle mint, lime & simple in the bottom of a collins glass. Add the rum, and fill halfway with crushed ice. Swizzle with a barspoon, then fill with more crushed ice and top with 5-6 dashes of Ango.
Give them a try and let me know what you think!
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Incorporating Defensive Tools & Mindset into a Carry-Restricted Office Environment.
If carrying a gun to work means a risk of losing your job, or, if your work attire makes it difficult or impossible to carry at work, then this presentation is for you.
We cover personal safety for people who have to dress in a ‘business casual’ manner for their jobs, as well as anyone working in an office or carry-restricted setting (the non-permissive environment).
We’ll discuss different means of carrying at work and the risks/benefits associated with them, managing concealed carry at work, defensive options other than firearms and types of gear that are best suited for business people, office workers and other professionals.