Grey Ghost Griff Pack Preview

Here’s a quick dirty look at the new Grey Ghost Gear Griff Pack.

The Outside:

Unassuming 'Grey Man' pack from Grey Ghost
Unassuming ‘Grey Man’ pack from Grey Ghost

The pack comes in a light grey color that almost looks like a foliage green.  It looks a lot like a civilian pack with just a pinch of tactical mixed in.  There’s a D-ring, a few loops of webbing, and a patch of loop material.  The addition of the loop material is used extensively throughout the pack, as will be seen later in the feature.  I also like the little detail of the gryphon that’s the same color as the pack just above the loop material patch. The gryphon (or griffin) is a mythical medieval beast with the forend of an eagle and the hind end of a lion. It symbolizes ‘strength and intelligence’.

Detail on the back of the pack. Can't tell if it's a gryphon, or a dragon, but I really like it just the same.
Detail on the front of the pack. Can’t tell if it’s a gryphon, or a dragon, but I really like it just the same.

The back of the bag is lined with mesh on top of foam.  There are channels along the back look to be for ventilation, but that will need to be evaluated to see if they are big enough to actually help.  The mesh and foam carries over to the straps as well.  There are also loops of webbing for a hydration tube, and easily adjustable sternum strap.

The back side of the pack
The back side of the pack


Pack side: Compression strap and pass through slot mirrored on both sides.
Pack side: Compression strap and pass through slot mirrored on both sides.

The sides of the pack feature a compression strap and a pass through slot on each side of the pack.  The pass through slots are able to be closed off, or opened to allow access to the rear most laptop pocket.

One side of the pass through slots. Inside this pocket is more loop material, a zippered pouch, and a lap top sleeve.
One side of the pass through slots. Inside this pocket is more loop material, a zippered pouch, and a lap top sleeve.

On the top of the pack is a great grab handle and a covered slot for a hydration tube or ear phones.

Large comfortable grab handle and covered slot for a hydration tube.
Large comfortable grab handle and covered slot for a hydration tube.

The Pockets:

Soft Lined Pocket
Soft Lined Pocket

Just above the loop patch on the front of the pack is a small pocket lined with soft material.  There’s a clip for keys or valuables.  The pocket seems the perfect size for a phone or glasses, though the clip might defeat the purpose of the non-scratch material.

Next is an organization pocket.  This pocket has elastic loops the perfect size for double stack Glock magazines, and a single stack magazine fit very well as well.

Front Organization
Organization Inside Front Pocket

On the opposite side of the interior are several pockets.  They are all the same width, but are of multiple depths.  Half the inside has loop material sewn into it for adding any hook backed pouches you might need.  There is also a second clip for securing valuables.

Next comes a large middle pocket.

Large Middle Pocket with Loop Material Lining
Large Middle Pocket with Loop Material Lining

The middle pocket opens almost fully and runs the length of the bag.  One side has loop material on the entire back side which allows you to attach any hook backed pouches you might want or need to organize your gear.

Behind that is another full size pocket with a laptop pocket and a zippered pouch.  Below the zippered pouch is more loop material.  This loop material is meant for positioning a pouch or holster that can be reached through the pass through slots on the sides of the pack.  Grey Ghost makes hook backed kydex holsters that can be used with the loop material on this bag.

Full size pocket with lap top sleeve, zippered pocket, and loop material.
Full size pocket with lap top sleeve, zippered pocket, and loop material.

Stay tuned for a more in depth review, and better pictures (once I dig my camera out of whichever box my wife packed it in for our recent move.)

Grey Ghost Gear

The 10 Yard Carbine Sight In

Arizona winters are some of the best in the country, but at TSG we understand that some places of the US are currently under multiple feet of snow. If you can find an indoor range that will allow rifles, you can confirm your 50 yard carbine zero at 10 yards. This will allow you to check your carbine after any changes you’ve made recently in the winter months.

carbine sight in at 10 yards or 30 ft.
carbine sight in at 10 yards or 30 ft.

Here’s the quick and dirty:

  1. Setup a target at 10 yards or 30 feet.
  2. Assume a stable position and fire 3-5 rounds on target
  3. Check your results

What you’re looking for is the rounds to be roughly 2” below the point of aim.  This should have you very close to your 50 yard zero on your carbine.  Be sure you double check your carbine at 50 yards when you are able.

1in Grid Target
1in Grid Target

There are targets available with 1″ grid patterns specifically for sighting in rifles like the target above.  These are really helpful when trying to get that 2″ offset from the point of aim to the point of impact.

If you want to get more scientific, use JM Ballistics‘ free calculator to find out what your rifle ballistics are doing more accurately.

Found on Frank Proctor’s Youtube

Why We Need To Stop Arguing about Pistol Calibers

Nothing inspires quite so much controversy in the firearms community as handgun caliber choice. You can’t go to a shop, range, or internet forum without hearing something about caliber choice. Most of it is poking fun for some laughs, but there are a few that take it much too seriously.

The reasons why we need to stop arguing about handgun calibers are:

  • Most popular service pistol calibers all meet or exceed FBI standards,
  • There is more to defensive handgun choice than terminal ballistics
  • Pistols pale in comparison to long guns.

The FBI has established a standard for pistol terminal ballistics based on analysis of shooting incidents. The FBI determined that there are four different components in a wound channel; the permanent cavity, the temporary cavity, fragmentation, and the depth of penetration. Fragmentation is usually not seen in pistol wound channels because fragmentation doesn’t reliably occur below 2000 feet per second (fps). Since pistol rounds usually don’t exceed 1500fps, they generally don’t show traits of fragmentation. The most important factor in pistol wound characteristics as determined by the FBI is the depth of penetration. The depth of this penetration needs to be twelve inches at a minimum, with eighteen inches being favorable. When looking at wound channels of different pistol calibers, you’ll be hard pressed to visually determine the difference.

Comparison of Popular Handgun Cartridges
Comparison of Popular Handgun Cartridges

The second reason we need to stop arguing about pistol caliber choice is there is more to think about in a pistol than just what caliber it is. You need to think about things like size, capacity, recoil, weight, comfort, etc. The main reason we carry a pistol is because it is not convenient, or socially appropriate to carry a long gun with us. In the same regards, sometimes the largest, easiest to fire pistol gets left in the safe more than it’s carried, or a tiny pistol, that’s easy to carry, but too tiny to be proficient with. So, a balance needs to be determined for all areas that fit your needs.

The last reason we need to stop arguing about pistol calibers, aside from popular service calibers being mostly comparable, is pistols pale in comparison to the terminal ballistics of long guns.  They are also less accurate and require more skill to use than long guns. As the old adage goes, “Use your pistol to fight your way to your long gun”.

Long Gun Terminal Ballistics Comparison
Long Gun Terminal Ballistics Comparison



Mechanical Offset and Why You Need to Be Aware of It

The AR-15 platform is so popular these days; it is often referred to as “America’s Rifle” or the “Modern Sporting Rifle”. Its popularity is easy to understand as it is light weight, accurate, low recoil, and incredibly modular. There are a few aspects of the rifle that need to be understood when it is employed at very close ranges, shooting around barricades, and shooting from non-standard positions. One of these aspects is the mechanical offset between the rifle’s bore, and the rifle’s sights.

So what is “mechanical offset”? Mechanical offset is the height difference between the bore of the rifle, and the sights on the rifle. The difference is approximately 2.5” (2.6″), and can lead to problems in where the rifle is aimed (POA or point of aim), and where the round will impact the target (POI or point of impact).

Traditionally the rifle’s sights (or optic) are sighted in while the rifle is vertical, that is, the sights are in plane, directly above the bore. The POA and POI are matched at a determined distance where the bullet’s parabolic flight path impacts the target at a point where the sighting system is lined up. Because the bullet is affected by gravity, it does not fly in a true straight line, but rather arcs from where it leaves the barrel to where it finally reaches the deck.

POA vs POI Graphic
POA vs POI Graphic

Because the AR platform has a rather large mechanical offset, POA and POI can be significantly affected when the rifle is used in close distances. Note the POA vs. Trajectory graphic. This illustrates the differences between where the sighting system is aligned and where the round will impact while the rifle is aimed traditionally. When used in distances closer than the original zero distance, the rifle will need to be aimed higher to achieve a POI in the desired location. At a distance of zero the round will be impact low equal to the amount of offset between the muzzle and the sighting system. This distance will continue to decrease until the target is at your zero distance.

One of the biggest reasons to keep mechanical offset in mind is when shooting around barricades. Most times when you are using a barricade, you are trying to minimize the amount of your body that is visible to the target. This leads to just barely seeing over/around/under a barricade to get your sight alignment. Without being aware of the mechanical offset of your sighting system, this can lead to your rounds impacting the barricade between you and the target. At best, this can lead to inaccurate shots on target, and at worse it can lead to debris or ricochets coming back at the shooter from the barricade. This is also where a proper standoff between the barricade and the shooter is important. This will minimize debris and ricochets from harming the shooter from both outgoing and incoming rounds.

Oops – Unnamed shooter.

Mechanical offset will also affect your POA and POI when shooting from less traditional shooting positions. As soon as the rifle is canted, the original zero changes.

Training for all ranges of combat: Firefight in an Afghan house

In future posts you’ll hear references about different ranges of combat.

For hand-to-hand encounters, we are normally talking about striking distance, clinching distance and grappling distance. You need to experience all three of these ranges so you are not overwhelmed by the adversary who changes the distance on you and takes you out of your element. For example, we seen many examples of pure strikers who rendered helpless after being “bum rushed” by the trained grappler or the untrained drunk. Or conversely, we’ve seen the pure grappler frustrated by the striker who could maintain an effective distance.

This same concept should hold true for fighting with firearms as well. For firearms, you usually expect long distances for rifles and carbines, medium distances for shotguns and subguns and close distances for handguns.

Just like our hand-to-hand scenarios, what are you going to do if you’ve only trained in the “expected” range of combat with your firearm and the distance is changed on you by circumstances beyond your control?

Case in point, take a look at the video below. You’ll see a firefight in a small structure in Afghanistan. What you are going to witness is a three-man team consisting of two Afghan Army members and a U.S. Special Forces operator (the one wearing the helmet cam). They are looking for bad guys in this small house and make an entry. The first Afghan Army member makes an entry and verbally challenges a person at the end of the hallway. The SF operator quickly moves into a small room on the left to clear it. When he does, gunfire erupts in the hallway.

Take a look:

Wow, nothing like having a rifle fight in a phone booth. One thing to note is that the operator clears the rooms from the hallway (we are reminded that “your brass should fall in the hall”).

What I’m trying to illustrate is the use of what most people would consider normally a medium- to longer-range weapon (the carbine) in an environment which would favor a close-range weapon.

This video illustrates the effectiveness of this operator in a short-range situation with his carbine because he has extensive training in CQB scenarios. I’ve participated in qualification courses with some of these operators who are dramatically more skilled with their carbines than their handguns. In their case, the carbine is their sword and they are deadly competent with them.

That’s using the carbine in extreme close quarters.  Conversely, I had a training partner relate to me a story from the sandbox regarding another training partner who made a ridiculously long shot (way, way over 500+ yards) with a 5.56. With an EOTech sight. The range was confirmed with a laser range finder, but I’m not sure I can divulge the actual distance of the shot.

True, most of us will never be in a self-defense situation that resembles combat in Afghanistan. However, it’s conceivable you could be faced with multiple adversaries in your own home.  You might respond with your carbine or your shotgun. You might find yourself in a firefight across a parking lot or from the top row in a crowded movie theater armed with only your handgun.

Use your training and qualifications to flex and stretch your comfort levels.  Practice at the extremes and everything in between.  Practice with all of your firearms platforms. Find out what the capabilities of your weapons system now versus during an emergency.

This post has been revised from an original version posted on the old Defend University site.

Awareness for Self-Defense: It’s the People You Need to Watch

Most of the “common-sense” sort of self-defense includes some variation of the theme, “be aware of your surroundings and look for something out of place”.

We like to recommend something more specific and recommend that you watch the people in your surroundings.

Case in point: a weekend at one of the big box retailers.  Lots of people coming and going through the doors of the business with the corresponding volume of traffic in the parking lot.   About midday, tons of happy people walking.  Sunny and warm.

The ‘surroundings’ and the general environment were totally normal.  Almost festive.  If you simply vibed your surroundings, it all seemed normal and totally harmless.

Except for one car.

A car that blended well into the kind of crowd coming and going.  Nothing remarkable about it at all, except that it passed by the front of the store three times which is not normal.  Unless it’s someone waiting and trying to pick up a shopper coming out the front door.  But this car was stopping and talking with random people in the parking lot.  Wait — not just random people — only women.  And the women’s reactions seemed to be less than cordial to the driver.

What could possibly be going on?  Whatever it was, I’m not taking changes.  I wrote down the license plate number and the description of the vehicle.  Then I asked an employee to call the store manager.  I explained the situation quickly and pointed out the car.

The store manager walked out into the parking lot to investigate which prompted the car to speed away.  Probably a good indication that the driver’s motives were not entirely innocent.

Because parking lots are high-risk, transitory areas, it is particularly important to be aware of who is moving through them and who seems to be ‘hunting’ for prey (and not just hunting for a parking spot).

It’s the people you need to watch — not the environment.

This a revised post which originally appeared on the Defend University website which now does not feature articles. 


Successful Self-Defense Strategies for Multiple Attackers?

It’s the nightmare self-defense scenario – facing multiple attackers.

Sure, it’s entertaining to see movies and television shows where the hero defeats multiple attackers, often with entertaining moves and running comedic dialog.

However, this is no joking matter when you are faced with multiple opponents. Studies show that assaults are more likely to escalate into homicides when there are multiple attackers, particularly when the attackers are juveniles.

Whether this is because the victim is absorbing multiple trauma or because the wolf pack mentality of the group causes the fight to go far beyond the limits that a single attacker would go, I cannot say.

But if you are faced with multiple attackers you are in deep, deep, trouble.

Multiple attackers mean angles, weapons and levels of attack increase exponentially, not just by the sum of the number of attackers. Four attackers don’t just mean you have to worry about four times the trouble, now you have 16 times as many weapons to contend with.

Yet, it is possible for a single person to defeat multiple attackers.

I have seen a video of Royler Gracie avoiding and evading two of the largest L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputies present in a seminar. These two officers could not control Gracie and it was obvious that they would not have been able to keep him in one place long enough to assault him.

Conversely, I have a video tape of a single suspect virtually destroying two Texas State Troopers. To make matters worse, the two officers are both hitting the suspect with expandable batons and the suspect ends up flooring both officers with punches.

Evidently, in these situations, the two combatants were not equal in the skill or strength of the single combatant.

So how do you train to become so skillful that you can reasonably expect to defeat multiple opponents? Is there a style that most advantageous to study? What are the best strategies and techniques?

“A mass attack can happen in a variety of situations and so quickly and unexpectedly that you have little or no time to think about it,” says Loren Christensen, a former police officer, defensive tactics instructor and now author on self-defense. “It’s important to think about it now and experiment with it in your training.”

He gives these tips:

1. You must think quickly and anticipate the attackers’ moves.
2. Think in terms of striking targets that either stun or are potentially lethal. Consider striking the temple, throat, mastoid, spine, solar plexus, kidneys, groin, and knees. These targets maximize the effectiveness of your blows, thus conserving your strength and energy.
3. You must control your breathing to keep your anxiety in check and your energy level high.
4. Move fluidly with grace and balance.
5. Power can be increased by adding leverage, speed of delivery, and mass.
6. If you are fighting with your hands, be careful not to injure them.

Christensen has a substantial background in karate with seven black belts. He also has two black belts in jujitsu and one in arnis.

Marc MacYoung, an ex-bouncer and a prolific self-defense writer, goes for the “single out the mouth” concept. He confronts the leader of the group and tells him, basically, that no matter what happens; Mr. Mouth is going to pay severely for the fight.

MacYoung advocates maneuvering opponents into a single line so they cannot all reach you at the same time. “Triangles are bad” he says. “Stay moving” and try to breech their line so you can get to a more advantageous position.

But however you do it; MacYoung says keep it simple and get it over with quickly.

“I always planned my violence for both the shortest time possible as well as the simplest, most bulletproof moves I could find, “he says. “When I streamlined it down to the bare basics, all I was doing was keeping it so simple that things were less likely to go wrong.”

To world-famous bouncer Geoff Thompson, it’s all about offense.

“I have probably been involved in more than 100 fights where the numbers were against me,” he says. “I won because I was first to initiate the physical attack.”

Thompson also fears getting flanked by opponents. “Part of the attacker’s ritual is the pincer movement. One attacker, usually the one facing and threatening you, will deploy your attention while the others attack from your blind side.”

Thompson’s training is traditional karate, boxing and judo. He usually advocates knock out blows.

“If you feel an attack is imminent, attack first. This is the most critical factor in such a scenario,” he says.

“My own preemptive strike would be a right cross/hook to the jaw preceded by some kind of mentally disarming verbal communication, hopefully neutralizing the first person,” says Thompson. “Then I would attack with headbutts, punches, or kicks to the remaining antagonists, depending upon my distance from them.”

Thompson’s tactics would be supported by the writings of the ancient Japanese swordmaster Miyomoto Musashi, who said, “When facing multiple opponents, you must attack first and keep attacking until the danger subsides.”

The keys for victory from these professionals and others who have successfully defeated multiple opponents could tend to be generalized as:

1. Constant and effective movement;
2. Aggressive attitude;
3. Superior striking skills;
4. Use of weapons.

Style or Fighter?

But is it the style you train in or you as the fighter that makes or breaks your self-defense ability?

I think the answer is it’s the fighter. Evidence to support this can found in mixed martial arts tournaments and reality fighting matches where fighters of every conceivable style of martial art have won and lost. There have been dominant fighters, but there are no longer dominant styles.

I know of, and have seen, people of vastly different martial arts backgrounds who have successfully defeated multiple opponents.

I witnessed a highly-proficient Tae Kwon Do stylist  knock down five opponents in a parking lot using classical TKD techniques. Three of the five opponents were dropped with head kicks! Many would say that these are impractical for self-defense, but they obviously worked well for this guy in this situation!

I also know of a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu student who successfully defended himself against two larger opponents in L.A. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is not usually held up as an example of a style made for fighting multiple opponents because practitioners usually take their opponents down to the ground to wear them out before punishing them with a submission hold.  In this case, the BJJ stylist broke one attacker’s arm then put the other in a rear naked neck choke. Our good guy finally stopped and let go of the neck restraint after his wife was screaming “YOU’RE KILLING HIM!”

Obviously, there are a huge number of variables that come into play here like your skill vs. their skill and your physical attributes vs. their physical attributes.

You will need to have superior:

• Movement and evasion skills;
• Striking or kicking skills;
• Knockout skill or ability to render opponents unable to continue in the fight.

You’ll also need superior verbal judo or “woofing” skills.

Woofing is what Payton Quinn calls the smack talking that precedes a fight as the opponents “interview” each other. Quinn says instilling fear and doubt into an opponent through verbal means has allowed him to avoid a number of messy fights, potentially saving him from numerous nights spent in jail.

Royce Gracie of the famous Gracie family advocates a strategy similar to MacYoung. He told me that you can make the group choose a leader to fight. Tell the guy, “You want to fight? You and me one-on-one. You don’t need anyone to help you right? as you point to the crowd. Now his honor is at stake. He can’t very well admit that he needs help.” Royce explained, “If a guy came in here and said he wanted to fight me, do you think my brother Rickson would step in front of me and say, ‘‘Oh, Royce, I will fight him.’ Of course, not! Same with this guy, his friends will urge him to fight you.”

If there isn’t a leader, Royce says you can punch the first guy, turn to the second and say, “you want some?”, punch him and advance on the third. So even the world-famous Royce Gracie doesn’t advocate taking someone into your guard when faced with multiple opponents.

For public safety personnel it is often effective to ask, “You want to go to jail?”

Otherwise, don’t threaten. This only serves to give away your element of surprise. Don’t put your MagLight on your shoulder and strike a pose; you’ve given the group time to think about what their response will be and to fuel their group rage.

Remember here, running away is a very, very good option for the civilian.  The LAPD has found that officers in foot pursuits were usually only successful in capturing the suspect in the first 200 yards of the chase. After 200 yards, the odds of catching the bad guy diminished rapidly. The same experience should also apply to you. If you can string the group out over a couple of hundred yards, then you can engage each opponent separately.

But for all this talk of verbal or physical responses to multiple opponents, the general rule for handling multiple opponents is to use a weapon.

Even a famous Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stylist who is noteworthy for his many  victories concedes the tremendous disadvantages of facing multiple opponents. After a workout, we were in the locker room when I saw him putting a folding fighting knife in the waistband of his jeans, he said, “This is for two on ones.”

The disadvantages of facing multiple opponents are staggering. When we’ve run training drills with two, three and four opponents against one, it is literally a few seconds before the one defender is swamped by the group.

Sometimes you just have think pragmatically and heed the advice, “More than one, use a gun.”

This article has been revised from the original which appeared on the old Defend University self-defense blog.

Self-Defense Handgun: Sacrificing Security over Speed

There seems to be the prevailing attitude that when you need your handgun, you really, really need it right now!

But there is another attitude that is usually espoused by members of the brotherhood in arms which routinely carry their firearms daily and face the rigors of performing a variety of tasks while armed. They say you need to look at keeping your tools (your weapons) secure enough that you can count on them to be with you when you need them.

Take a look at this post from a veteran SWAT officer I know:

“One day, while working with a veteran officer, we received a “Code 3″ call (light and sirens authorized).  I blew past him like he was driving in reverse.  We both made it to the call within short moments of each other.  I think I was getting out of my car when he pulled up. After we cleared the call, he pulled me aside and (without screaming at me) told me something I have never forgotten:  ‘You have to get there to do any good.’ 

Fast forward a couple of years.  I began my search to become proficient in the SWAT realm.  I once had an instructor from a very proficient Southern California training organization tell me that security straps on handgun holsters are a good idea, but should come off once you get ready to go through the door.  The reasoning was that if you need to transition during a firefight, you don’t need the hassle of fooling with the thumbreak of drop holster.  Hey, it made sense to me at the time, as he was Yoda.  I practiced this and practiced this.  And, on the range, it made sense.  I was able to make wickedly fast transition drills. 

Then it happened.

On one of my first SWAT calls.  Dope warrant.  We were riding in the back of our transport van to the location.  As we were approx. 30 seconds out, I readied myself.  I tripped the thumb break on my drop holster.  As soon as we got on scene, the van door flew open, and everyone hauled ass out.  We served the warrant, and life seemed good.  Prior to leaving, we all checked ourselves for extra holes we did come in with, cuts, glass……….make sure you have all your gear…….

I looked down and my hadgun was missing from it’s holster.  Things got really warm and humid really quickly.  No one had called out finding a pistol in the house.  Prior to the team leaving the scene, I volunteered to “help” load the breaching tools.  There in the van, on the floor near where I was sitting, was my handgun.  Luckily, I did not need it.

I have used my thumbreaks and retention devices ever since that time.

You gear has to make it to the fight, in order to do any good.  That requires straps, snaps, retention devices, etc. being engaged. 

The same mindset infects my patrol equipment also.  I put my kit in near identical locations.  Holsters have the same draw.  Edged weapons in similar located pockets, radio on same side, etc.  Repeatability and redundancy.

One thing that has always irked me as an instructor is the lazy mindset some have when it comes to this.  I cannot tell you the amount of times I have seen officers with Level 3 retention holsters not secure all levels of their holsters.  Excuses range from the need to speed up their draw, inability to draw with all three levels engaged, or my favorite, “I can’t get it to snap.”  That’s fine, don’t worry about engaging it.  I’ll come save your butt when you are rolling around in the mud/blood/beer and the bad guy is prying your handgun out.  I betcha you want a level 17 retention holster at that point.

This also goes for magazine pouches, kit pouches, radio pouches, etc., but I focused my reply towards a firearms based response.  I’ve seen a lot of guys who remove the kydex liner from their open top mag pouches in the quest for ever faster reload times.

You have to get there to do any good.”

A couple of things he covers that stand out to me:

  • Security of your firearm and gear is a top concern, it is of no value to you when missing;
  • The value of repetition is so important for optimal performance under stress that you should go to great lengths to make sure all of your equipment and kit has “repeatability and redundancy”.

My own experience will back up our SWAT officer’s narrative. I’ve qualified and patrolled wearing a duty rig that had enclosed magazine pouches positioned horizontally and a Bianchi duty holster with a thumbbreak retention device. I would routinely qualify with 245s and 250s, yet would be lectured by the instructors/range officers who said I would have faster times if I would reconfigure my rig to have exposed vertical magazine pouches and a holster with an internal retention indent. This kind of advice mainly came from officers who clearly did not have to jump fences or wrestle with suspects in the back of a patrol car anymore.  I stuck with my lower profile and more secure rig.

I also personally know at least two individuals who have almost lost their pistols because they were carrying a “speed” rig.  One was a guy who dropped his 1911 in a movie theater. He was wearing a popular rig sometimes known as a “yaqui slide”. It is essentially a scabbard that allows the barrel and the grip to be mostly exposed. When he sat down in the theater seat, the muzzle of his pistol rested on the arm of the chair and pushed the 1911 up and out of the scabbard. Thunk!

The other guy was hiking and carrying his Glock 19 in the same kydex holster he uses for competition. When he sat down on a bolder next to a stream, part of the rock pushed up on the muzzle and, again, pushed the handgun up and out of the holster. This guy saved his pistol from being lost in the stream by quickly trapping the handgun to his side with his elbow.

While some manufacturers ascribe to the security over speed school of thought, the marketplace seemingly overrides the design’s intent. Case in point, the original Glock magazines do not drop free from the pistol. When making the pistols for the Austrian Army, Glock did not want soldiers to lose their magazines if the mag release was inadvertantly pushed.  Yet, American shooters griped about this feature and now you can purchase “drop-free” magazines for your Glock.

At the extreme end of the speed-over-security issue are many competition shooters. I’ve seen extended magazine releases that are so sensitive that a shooter lost his magazine when the stage started with the unholstered pistol placed on a table. Just of the weight of the pistol on the magazine release button released the magazine which fell free when the shooter picked up the pistol to start.  I’ve seen full magazines flop out onto the ground during running stages.

Granted, these are competitions, so the only penalty is either not having your reload available or just the embarassment of having the course looking like a yard sale after you finish your stage.

But, if you are serious student of armed self-defense, give considerable thought to the security vs. speed issue.  It is going to be a bit of a balancing act to be comfortable with the choice you’ve made.

This revised article originally appeared on the old Defend University self-defense blog. 

Self-Defense Shooting Techniques for Low Light or No Light Scenarios

Chances are, your self-defense shooting will take place in an area where there is either low light or no light.

The estimates of shootings that happen in the dark range from 60% to an incredible 90%. I’m always leery of statistics because slight changes in methodology can have huge effects on the final results and the results are often skewed by what the party might be selling.
But, there is a preponderance of weight to the evidence suggesting that your self-defense shooting will most likely NOT be on the range during bright daylight hours (where we always practice). It will most likely be in your home at night, on the street when the vampires are out, in a parking garage or other dimly lit and dark areas frequented by predatory criminals.

Here’s a quick video with some of the highlights of self-defense shooting techniques in low light scenarios or in the total darkness:

There are numerous issues to deal with when engaging in this very neglected area of training:

  • First and foremost, we almost never train in the dark. That’s a bit of a problem — we rarely practice the very scenario we are most likely to face.
  • We gather 80% of our information visually. Anything that interferes with our sight has a huge impact on our performance.
  • Most of us are not used to manipulating our firearms in the dark or without looking at them.
  • Perceptions of time and space are affected by the lack of light or different kinds of lighting.
  • There is a natural fear of the dark that can distort your perception of the threat and play tricks on what you think you see and hear.
  • Perhaps most importantly, low light often makes target identification difficult or impossible.

Your Obligation to Identify Targets in the Dark

You have a legal and moral obligation to positively identify your target before you shoot. Shooting at sounds and fleeting shadows without knowing exactly who or what you are shooting is a disaster waiting to happen. This is where you hear the stories of the homeowners accidentally killing the drunk brother-in-law or the teenager trying to sneak in after curfew.

To avoid this legal and moral problem you need to know the difference between “sighted fire” and “lighted fire”:

  1. Sighted fire is what you normally use when you get a sight picture and align the sights on the target.  It can also include sighting with lit optical scopes, night sights (sights that glow-in-the-dark) or with lasers that project a dot.
  2. Lighted fire is what you need in a low-light or no-light situations where you must use an ancillary light source or a light source you’ve brought.  These can be weapon-mounted white lights or, more commonly, a flashlight (a ‘torch’ for our UK cousins) .

The sighting devices in #1 can all make it easier to deliver more accurate shots in the dark. But none of them address the problem of positively identifying your target. Even though EOTechs, Aimpoints and other lit-reticle optical sights, night sights and lasers are great at lining up your sights at night, they do not light up the target so you can tell who you are training your firearm on.

This is where you need to have a light. Seriously, if you have a firearm for self-defense you need to have a way to project a light onto your target to make a positive identification. The flashlight/torch or weapon light is a must:

  • It provides target I.D.;
  • It provides the light needed to line up your sights;
  • It can be used to startle and temporarily “blind” an adversary (by affecting their night vision);
  • It can be used to deceive an adversary of your location or movement by flashing or ‘wanding’ the light;
  • It solves the front/back lighting problems described below when using ambient light.

The flashlight also has utility as a tool:

  • It can be used as an impact weapon (providing you with a less than lethal force option).
  • It can be used as an attention-getting or signaling tool.
  • It can be used for way-finding or guiding others.

The Two Sides of Ambient Light

When you take a look at the video above, you’ll see a number of scenarios which rely on using ambient light.  One is using the illumination of car headlights and another which uses just the light from vehicle emergency flashers.  In these scenarios, you are using the lights from behind you to front light the target. Unfortunately, when your adversary is front lit like this you are back lit. Ambient light is like a coin with two sides — when you have one side your adversary has the other side. What you don’t see in the video is a scenario in which the targets are back lit, meaning you are front lit. Your training needs to address both sides of this ambient light coin so you can use the light — whether it be from the front or the back — to your advantage. This is crucial since it is often impossible to see your dark sights against the dark silhouette of your back lit target.

As I mentioned, the use of your flashlight can overpower either of these two types of ambient light giving you the advantage regardless of which position you are in. If he is front lit and you are back lit (the source of light is at your back like the headlight scenario in the video) your flashlight can now be used to provide a “wall of light” that originates in front of your body which masks your silhouette created by light at your back. Of course your flashlight also provides a bright front light on your target making I.D. possible and allows you to line up your sights.

 Weapon-Mounted Lights vs. Hand-Held Lights

You can either use a flashlight or a light already attached to your firearm to illuminate your target. There are pros and cons for both.

When you use a flashlight:

  • They are more readily available;
  • They are less expensive than a weapon-mounted light;
  • You have a impact weapon that you can use as an intermediate level of force tool;
  • You don’t have to point your weapon to search;
  • You can use different holds and methods for illuminating targets, rooms and pathways.
  • Any hold you make on your firearm with a flashlight is less stable than a two-hand hold;
  • They make weapon manipulation (administrative loading, reloading, malfunction remediation) more difficult since both hands are now occupied;
  • You are limited in ways to do things like open doors or use your cell phone;
  • It is very difficult to use one with a long gun.

When you use a weapon-mounted light:

  • They are always with your firearm;
  • You can manipulate the light with either your dominant hand or your support hand;
  • You can use your standard two-handed grip on the firearm;
  • You can still have your light on the target and keep your support arm free for defending against strikes, manipulating objects, opening doors, using your cell phone, etc.
  • Reloads and other weapon manipulations are “normal”;
  • You are muzzling everything at which you point your light;
  • Any intermediate force strikes will need to be done with your firearm and not just your light.

As you can tell from this post, this is an area which demands much attention, yet we almost always neglect it by virtue of training in the light.

Bottom line: you must become familiar with this subject for your self-defense. You must train in the environments you are likely to encounter.

Train like your life depends on it.

This post has been revised and updated since if first appeared on the Defend University website.