Saturday, October 30, 2021

Off-Body Carry, Part 4 - List of Instructors

Vicki Farnam with Drew

Click here for Part I - The Basics

Click here for Part II - Purses

Click here for Part III - Reflection

There aren't a lot of us DTI certified instructors yet, but we're working on it. There may be other off-body carry instructor certifications out there that I don't (yet) know about. Please heed my warning from Part I that this is a completely different skill than typical on-body concealed carry, and make sure your instructor is well trained in it. Not all concealed carry instructors have any experience in this area. If you are a member of TWAW or AGAG, check with your leaders to see if they are a certified instructor, or can point you in the right direction.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Off-Body Carry, Part 3 - Reflection

Click here for Part I - The Basics.

Click here for Part II - Purses

I realize I sounded a bit like a whiner in Part I when I was talking about how the different closure ripped up my cuticles or knuckles. I know, in the heat of the moment, I'm unlikely to feel any cuts to my hands, and the important thing is to get to my gun and get a good master grip. It might seem like a silly thing to take into consideration when looking at a purse, but it's worth thinking about. Let me explain: in order to draw effectively, you must practice. If practicing causes physical damage/pain, guess what you're not going to do? You got it, practice.

I've been on a weight loss journey for the past year, so I've shrunk out of my Hip Hugger and haven't wanted to spend the money to buy a new one, since it's likely I was going to have to replace it again. Being summer, I lived in workout clothes, which meant I wasn't wearing pants or shorts with belt loops for an IWB or OWB holster. Without a belly band that fit, I'm ashamed to say, my daily carry habit dwindled to zero. It was rare that I had a gun with me.

I've never been one to carry a purse (other than to the movie theater, to carry my 'illegal' candy), so it was a change. It's still a conscious effort for me to remember to grab my purse on the way out the door. However, I love that I not only have my gun, but I have my pepper spray, flashlight, knife, and IFAK. I like having "options between a harsh word and a gun".

Vicki pointed out that in the winter, when we carry on-body, sometimes the gun is harder to access because of all of our layers, but with a purse, we can just slip it on over our coat. Living in Colorado, it's not unusual to wear at least three layers: shirt, vest, coat. I'd always leave my vest unzipped and only snap my coat so I had easy access to my gun if I needed it. When the wind is blowing, that's not very comfortable. It wasn't something that I'd put much thought into, but I'm looking forward to being able to zip up my winter coat this year. 

I intended to carry the Slim purse for a month and then switch to the bigger one (the Tour bag), but I like the Slim so well I haven't made the switch yet. 

I've practiced until I'm comfortable with the Slim, but haven't spent enough time with the Tour to be entirely confident with it. It's big, but the thing that is a bit concerning to me is that the gun pocket is the middle pocket, and I've found that the zipper takes a bit more focus to find and unclasp than the Slim. If I overload the large pocket, which is closest to the body, it tends to lean outward, semi-obscuring the zipper on the gun pocket.

Part of me wants to say that I won't make the change to full-time purse carry, but a big part of me is calling myself a liar. It's just so easy, and I understand why so many women do it. I do feel more comfortable with on-body carry, but find that I am far more consistent in carrying in a purse. I don't have to dress around the gun, or make sure that I am wearing pants with a belt. Not to mention, urban camouflage is kinda awesome. No one looks twice at a woman's purse.

There are drawbacks: 

1) You must keep your purse under your control at all times. This means not leaving it on your chair, or in a shopping cart, or laying about where unauthorized people can access it (not just kids, but anyone who shouldn't have access to a gun).

2) With a lot of practice, a sub-two second draw is possible. I'm not sure, as a middle-aged, unassuming woman that I look like enough of a threat to need a sub-two second draw. Though with a purse being such good urban camouflage, it is easy enough to fake as though you're getting your money/wallet/whatever out of the purse while accessing your gun.

3) Purse snatching is a thing. Carrying cross-body makes it more difficult to snatch a purse, but it also "attaches" you to the purse snatcher if they attempt it anyway. Being willing/able to fight for control of the purse is necessary. It's not just your ID and money in there, but your gun, and you must fight as hard to keep control of your purse as you would if someone were trying to disarm you while carrying on-body.

4) Kathy Jackson of The Cornered Cat had a valid concern about the zipper "lock":

My concern with locking zippers is that they are a safety issue. Not in terms of getting to the gun in a hurry (although there certainly is that) but more in terms of human behavior: people tend to leave their purse places they should not leave the purse, because “it’s locked“.
But it might not be locked.
And there are other dangerous things inside a purse, other than the gun.
It just tends to result in people being less aware of safety than they otherwise would be.

I've been careful to put the work "lock" into quotations to imply that it's not really a lock and does not magically turn your purse into a gun safe, but Kathy's absolutely right about using the term "lock". The two zippers that hook together should probably be called a zipper clasp. (Clasp: (noun) a device with interlocking parts used for fastening things together.)

Despite the drawbacks (there is a give-and-take with any type of carry), I'm two months in to carrying my gun in a purse, and I have to tell you, I love it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Off-Body Carry, Part 2 - Purses

Click here for Part I - The Basics

I left the course in the spring intending to find a good purse and give off-body carry a try, but never quite found the right purse. Gun Tote'n Mommas purses are probably the best-known, and are really the standard among concealed carry purses.  Their purses are gorgeous, but they're far more fashionable than I. I had a hard time dropping the money for a GTM if I wasn't 100% sure I was going to use it.

In the most recent class, I had the opportunity to use a few bags I'd missed the first time through. I tore up my hands during the spring class on the zipper access pockets, but didn't have the chance to try a magnet-closed pocket, so I jumped at the first chance I had. Turns out, I hated it. While it was easy to access, reholstering was a problem. I managed, but didn't like it.

I also had the opportunity to try a ukoala bag, which I've seen good things about, but it tore me up and had no place to store a readily accessible extra magazine. It was okay to draw from, but it felt like drawing from a thigh rig, which is essentially what it is.

One of the best things to come out of sitting through the class the second time was finding the Travelon Concealed Carry bags. I immediately fell in love, not only with them being pretty utilitarian (which fits my 'style'), but also with their access.

Travelon, being a luggage company, has put a lot of thought into the security of all of their bags, not just their concealed carry ones. The material is slash-resistant, the zippers have an anti-theft device, and they're sturdy as all get out. I don't know who they tasked to help design their concealed carry purses, but the gun compartment is excellent. The compartment is large with a good hook and loop backing to secure the included holster (not a great one, but we'll get to that in a minute) and mag carrier. The 'locking' zipper is actually pretty easy for the carrier to defeat with minimal practice.

I loved the bag so much that the day following the end of the class, I ordered two: the Slim Bag and the Tour Bag. I've linked directly to Travelon above, but I found my purses on Amazon for a fraction of the price, and I'm reasonably certain they're not knock-offs. 

Since I don't usually carry a purse, I didn't have to worry about finding a purse that would carry all my daily crap and a gun and trauma kit. As I'm trying out this form of carrying, I find comfort in having an IFAK with me, as I've never been able to carry one in the past. 

Travelon Slim Bag

"Locking" zipper

Knife or flashlight pocket

Easily fits a Glock 43x and spare magazine with included holster/mag carrier.

Room for pepper spray, flashlight, and IFAK

The Tour Bag is bigger than the Slim

The gun compartment is the middle compartment in the Tour Bag

It holds the M&P 2.0 nicely. The mag carrier, though, is a bit tight for a double stack.

The included holster and mag carrier are okay, in fact, I like them better than the GTM ones because the mouth of the holster stays open, which allows safer reholstering. It's sufficient, but I decided to order holsters from CROSSBREED that would hold my guns more securely. The beauty of their modular system is that I can move my holster from purse to purse, or from purse to get-home bag, or to one of their belly bands.

I ordered a holster for the Glock 43X and my M&P 2.0

The CrossBreed modular system is a perfect replacement for the Travelon holster

I fully intend to utilize my Instructor's Certificate and teach off-body carry, but felt like I needed to have some more experience with actually carrying in this manner, so I've spent the last couple of months carrying in a purse. Part III of this series will be a reflection on my change to purse carry.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Off-Body Carry, Part 1 - The Basics

DTI's spring Off-Body Carry Instructors' Course

Last spring, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and attended DTI's Off-Body Concealed Carry Instructor's course. While I have never been one to tell students to never carry off-body, I knew there was more to it than "just throwing it in your purse".  I learned a lot and had my eyes opened during the first class; I became much more comfortable with the practice of off-body carry. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit through the course again and learned even more. With the huge increase in new gun ownership, and a great number of those new gun owners being female, I feel it's important to share.

If I had to distill down everything I learned in class it's this: off-body carry is a far more complex and advanced skill than most people believe. 

Please, if you are going to off-body carry, take a course from someone certified to teach it. It is a skill that not many concealed carry instructors have. I believe there are (currently) approximately 20 of us certified by DTI (a list will be provided in Part 4).

Having said that, it's doable. Just like any other form of concealed carry, it takes education and practice. I found that there were more things to take into consideration with off-body carry than with on-body. 

Here is a list of 10 things you must take into consideration prior to making the decision to carry in a bag:
  1. You must be aware of your bag at all times. When your bag is on your body, it is a holster. When you remove it from your body, it is a storage device, and a terrible one at that. If you must take your bag off and leave it somewhere, lock it up! Having a mental lapse can have catastrophic consequences - do not leave it at your chair in a restaurant when you run to the bathroom, don't plop it down in the shopping cart and step away from it, don't allow children to rummage through it. It seems that every year we hear of children who either shoot themselves or someone else while digging in mommy's purse.
  2. The gun compartment must only contain your gun and an extra magazine. Nothing else. A holster is still required - the compartment does not count as a holster. Remember that a holster must meet the following criteria:
    1. It must protect the trigger and prevent it from being pressed inadvertently;
    2. It must securely hold the firearm;
    3. It must provide a secure and consistent draw.
  3. The gun compartment location and access in each bag is slightly different. When inspecting the gun compartment, make sure that there is room for both the holstered gun and for you to obtain a master grip.
  4. Take into account how the compartment is held closed. Zippers, magnets, snaps, or the quick-release loops (designed to yank open a zipper pocket). I found that some zippers tore up my cuticles, the magnets closures ripped up my knuckles, and the quick-release loops often were more trouble than they were worth.
  5. Additionally, the gun compartment should have a sheet of hook and loop (Velcro) to hold the holster in place. Make note of where the hook and loop is, you'll want it to be on the side closest to you to ensure a good master grip.
  6. "Sticky" holsters are not adequate, your holster needs to be held securely in your bag.
  7. Cross-body carry, with the bag hanging on your strong side, is the safest and most effective. Cross-body, with the bag hanging on your support side is the least safe (hello, muzzling everyone around you) and should be avoided.
  8. While inspecting the bag, prior to buying it, make sure there's a place for a spare magazine that you can reach with your non-dominant hand.
  9. Find and take a class from a qualified instructor. This is an entirely different skill than on-body concealed carry, so make sure your instructor has taken a good, quality instructor's course. Safely drawing from a bag can be quite complicated - but doable - it takes training and practice to master it, just like learning to draw from concealment.
  10. Use a blue gun or a triple-checked unloaded gun and practice, practice, practice. Be aware of your muzzle at all times - it's much easier to muzzle yourself when drawing from a bag than from an on-body holster.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

GunDude Robbie: Hunting with My Little Buddy


In November of last year I had a hunting license for an buck deer in unit 9 in Colorado. I was a bit hesitant to go because of a recent knee surgery, but my son had been asking me if I would take him out for his first hunting trip. Of course I couldn’t say no to him; he was so excited that he was big enough to go with me.

For the first couple of days, he and I would just glass around not far from the parking area, as I wasn’t able to do a lot of walking. After a little while looking through the binoculars, he would inevitably say there was nothing there and promptly fall asleep. After he slept for a couple of hours he would wake up and we would head home.

On the third day, after he said there was nothing out there I spotted a nice three point buck and he perked right up. After not seeing it at first, he finally followed my directions and was able to see what we had come to find. We slowly made our way to a good shooting location (me hobbling and him doing his best to mimic my movements) just under 300 yards from the deer.

As I lay down and got myself in a good shooting position, my son, Mikey, sat down against my left leg and was telling me exactly what the deer was doing. I asked him if he was ready for me to shoot, but he didn’t answer ( he was wearing ear plugs and ear muffs). I looked back and asked him again if he was ready, this time I got a big smile and a thumbs up. Now the pressure was on to shoot properly, ie a good heart and lung shot to make sure that the deer didn’t suffer.

I took the shot and heard him shout that the gun was so loud! I asked him if he saw the deer go down, and he replied that the shot had startled him and couldn’t say. I could plainly see the deer but Mikey was unable to find it. I told him that was ok because we would go to where we last saw it and look for signs of a hit or miss. I can honestly say that I don’t think I have seen that boy move faster in my life!

As I very slowly made my way up the hill side I was cheered on by my son a few yards away. After about 45 minutes of climbing I stopped and asked him if we were near where the deer was before the shot. To my surprise and delight he pointed to the rock that was behind where the deer had stood, and said it should be over there. 20 more yards of walking and my son started yelling that he found our deer.

After taking the required pictures of him and “his first deer” he grabbed the antlers and started to drag the deer down the hill. He tried his best but the brush was extremely thick and so I put two lengths of rope on it and helped him drag it the rest of the way down. Once down, I asked him if he wanted to help me field dress it. And of course he said yes. I told him to grab one front leg and one back leg and hold them up. As I was gutting it he was asking a lot of questions; what’s that, and what about that? And of course the inevitable what’s that smell? After it was properly dressed , he picked up a stick and started poking around the gut pile and going “oh that’s gross”, and I couldn’t help but laugh. After telling him what organs were each was, he pointed at the stomach which had blown up like a balloon and asked what it was and if he could pop it. I warned him that popping it would stink and it probably wasn’t a good idea, but he insisted so I let him pop it. He just looked at me and turned green. I’ll give him credit, he didn’t loose his lunch but the look told me that he understood why I told him that it wasn’t a good idea to do that.

On our way home he asked me if he could put the rack up in his room and when I said yes you would have thought I had given him the moon.

I must say, if you are ever given the chance to take a kid out hunting, DO IT!! There is no better satisfaction than to take a kid out into nature and show them the beauty of the outdoors while making memories that will last a lifetime for everyone.

Monday, May 10, 2021

DTI's Off-body Carry Instructor's Class

Due to the 'Rona, I got moved from DTI's February Instructor Development course to their Off-body Carry Instructor's Course. While I was disappointed to miss the chance to learn under both John and Vicki Farnam, I jumped at the chance to take Vicki's Off-body Instructor's course.

I don't think I've ever been the instructor who says, "NEVER carry off-body". I've always tried to be aware that there is a time and place for it, and that additional thought and training needs to occur. I'd been meaning to sign up for Vicki's straight off-body carry course, but hadn't gotten around to it. Getting moved in to the instructor's course was a happy side effect of catching Covid from Jay and having to miss the February class.

It was immediately apparent that this was going to be a completely different class than anything I'd ever taken before. Vicki runs her classroom range with a compassionate, but firm, hand. I've only previously trained under men before, and it was striking to see the difference between her teaching style and others. There was no hand-holding, or patting on the head. She set standards and held us to them. It was refreshing. If she had to lay the smack down on someone, she did, but it was never personal.

Don't hate me too much for this analogy, but the way she corrected people was very similar to the way a good horse trainer corrects a horse. The correction is concise and immediate, then it's back to business as usual. No personal judgements or feelings involved, just a mild correction (or not so mild, if the initial correction didn't take). Incidentally, Vicki's daughter is a horse trainer, and if she learned this correction technique from her mother, she's probably a very good horse trainer.

But I digress ...

While I learned about drawing from purses, my biggest take-aways were in how to teach. In my past life, I was Associate Dean of a career college, and spent fifteen years teaching professionally. The skills I learned teaching adults in a career college have crossed over nicely to teaching adults in the firearms industry. I'm a good teacher.

However, watching and learning from a great teacher was a gift. I've always been a believer in teaching "baby steps", but Vicki breaks it down a bit more. We started learning the skills with blue guns, then practiced with dry (unloaded and verified) guns, before transitioning to live guns. We took copious breaks that allowed us to decompress and discuss what we were learning.

Her co-instructor, Gloria, was a wealth of information regarding the Gun Tote'n Momas (GTM) bags, and which accessories worked best with them. Rather than telling us which bag was best and why, Vicki and Gloria gave us some things to think about, and then allowed us to come to our own conclusions about whether or not a bag was going to work for us and why. 

Research shows that we learn more from failing than succeeding the first time out the gate (or even the second or third time), so by letting us fail using the blue guns, and then trusting us to figure it out with some gentle guidance went a long way. Often, instructors (myself included) tend to jump in and "help" someone who is struggling instead of just letting them work through the problem. When I jump in, it's not because I don't think they can do it, but rather to keep the class on track. However, in doing so, I'm robbing the student of the opportunity to gain confidence in their problem solving abilities. And, as we know, being able to confidently handle a gun is one of the keys to using one successfully in a defensive encounter.

For years, I would have never considered carrying off-body. Yes, it was a choice, but it wasn't the right choice for me. However, after spending three days learning the ins and outs, I can now honestly say, it's an option I wouldn't have considered for myself previously. There are pros and cons to each method of carry, but I'm now confident that I can present a gun safely from a purse. Can I do it as fast as from midline IWB? Not yet, maybe not ever. But, there is an advantage to the urban camouflage of a purse. Also, there are a lot of things I just flat-out don't carry as part of my EDC load-out, because it's cumbersome. I usually have my gun and a knife with me. Should I have a spare mag, pepper spray, trauma kit, etc.? Yes, but I don't. There's just not enough real estate to store all of that, and girl jeans are stupid with stupid pockets. Most days, the gun and a folding knife are all I have with me.

But ... man, the advantage of being able to carry a full EDC load-out in a purse? Now that's worth thinking about. Since I don't carry a purse, I'm not in the habit of living out of one. It wouldn't be a huge stretch to just fill my purse with the trauma kit and pepper spray, and just leave enough room to throw my phone and car keys in. It might even make it more likely for me to have my gun with me for quick trips to the gas station or grocery store without having to put on my belt and holster and make a big production out of getting ready.

The beauty is that Vicki and Gloria allowed me to come to that conclusion all on my own. They didn't tell me I had to carry in a purse, they didn't tell me to never carry in a purse. They said, "it's an option, you need to know how to do it safely, and you need to make up your own mind about it" (obviously paraphrased).

By the end of the weekend, my head was swimming with new content and teaching tips, but my biggest take-away from the entire class was Vicki telling us:

Claim Your Own Magnificence!

I'm not a motto-type girl, I'm not one who needs daily mantras or any of that touchy-feely stuff, but I left feeling prepared and eager to claim my own magnificence.

 Thank you to Suzanne Freehauf of Ladyfire, LLC for the pictures.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Dave Spaulding's Kinetic Combat Pistol Class

In January, 2021, GunDude Mez and I packed up and headed down to Arizona to take Dave's Kinetic Combatives course. We met up with GunDude Drew, who flew in, and spent the weekend in absolute crap Arizona weather. I wish I was kidding about that.

Unlike my classes in 2020, which Drew kindly gifted to me, I actually paid for this class. In fact, I loved the Adaptive Pistol class so much, that as soon as I finished up, I started looking for open slots in Dave's 2021 schedule. I tried for the Kinetic class in Laramie, WY, but that already had a waiting list (and it's not even scheduled to run until September of this year), then I found a class in Arizona that still had space. My plan was to drive down and stay at my brother's place. Mez missed out on the Adaptive Pistol class, but I managed to talk him into joining me for Kinetic Pistol.

I was excited for January in Arizona; I thought I'd get out of the Colorado cold and enjoy a few days' worth of shooting. Winter chose to visit Arizona that week, and we were cold and wet for the entire class. Luckily, I am a Colorado girl, and while I bitched about shooting in shitty weather, I've done it plenty of times in the past.

The skills learned in this class were different from the Adaptive class, which makes sense, since Kinetic means movement. We did a lot of learning to move with and around our guns, how to divert our muzzles as we moved, actual pivots to check our 360. 

We started with dry runs of the drills, so that corrections could be made by the instructors, before we went live.

Draw, move, shoot. (Dry running it)

Dave broke everything down into bite-size pieces, so that we'd get a handle on one skill before we moved onto the next. I love learning in "baby steps" like that, and often teach my classes the same way. From moving and shooting, we started in with explosive movements. This is where I am lacking. Between the Adaptive course and the Kinetics course, I'd lost about 20# and was in much better shape. However, I'm still not fast. Some people are high speed, low drag. Me? I'm more no speed, all drag.

In fact, the feedback I got from Dave was that I could shoot okay, but man was I slow. Yep. Gotta work on that speed thing. The good news is, that I am getting better, more explosive off the line in any direction.

Despite the small setback I had in the Adaptive course with my holster breaking and having to change to an entirely different set up, I found the Kinetic course much more challenging. Certainly the caliber of student was much higher in the Kinetic course than in the Adaptive course, so I had to work harder to hold my own. I mean, when the class is headed up by Dave Spaulding, and assisted by Rich Nance, you're gonna attract a different caliber of student than a regular class. It was like the who's who of the shooting world for the weekend and I was just honored not to be run off the range.

With Dave retiring next year, I'm glad to have been able to take at least two of his courses. He's doing only two classes in 2022: one at his home range, and one in Colorado. I've got my money set aside ready to enroll the second that class opens up in June. It'll be worth every dime (and with the cost of ammo, it's really a big investment).

Gratuitous class photo dump:

The biggest surprise of the week came on the trip home. As we were headed up through Payson, Arizona we got snowed in!! 22" of heavy wet snow delayed our trip home by three days.

Our three day delay wasn't quite long enough. While I was in Arizona with Mez, Jay was at home suffering from Covid. His symptoms came on after we left for Arizona, and peaked the day I got home. If we'd been delayed just one more day, I would have missed his infectious period and been able to attend the class I had scheduled two weeks later.