What Are You Preparing For?

For quite some time, I have been thinking about the way training is approached in, for lack of a better phrase, the “tactical firearm community.” In my opinion, there is an over emphasis on weapons training in the community.

You might say “Well, duh. The firearms community is going to have a heavy emphasis on firearms training over other subjects.” This is certainly true. And I’m not suggesting that people who want to own and use semi automatic rifles or pistols for various purposes should not be intimately familiar with their operation. In fact, if you haven’t received training from an objective and experienced third party, I highly recommend that you seek out at least one course.

However, pistol and carbine training courses – and shotgun courses, and precision rifle courses etc. – are all essentially based on, or grew from the concept of, providing law enforcement and military personnel with a greater ability to use their issued weapons. What we see now in the firearms community are essentially the same courses marketed to civilian shooters, perhaps with some limitations or restrictions. This is all well and good, but there is a major disconnect between the skills of a civilian shooter who has attended many carbine and pistol training courses and the skills of a Marine infantryman who has never attended training outside that which is provided by the military.

It is almost a foregone conclusion that the civilian shooter would be more proficient with the rifle/carbine and the pistol, at least within 50 to 100 yards. However, the Marine possesses skills that would make him much more valuable to an infantry unit, and, I daresay, more valuable in a firefight. Unfortunately, the skills that make him so valuable are not cool enough to draw dozens of paying clients.

Some – certainly not all – civilian training centers draw students by telling them how after only a few days of training, they will become as good a shooter as “a SWAT cop or a Navy SEAL.” Yes, Front Sight, I’m looking at you. Even when this is not stated outright, it is implied – most often not by the instructors, but by the students. For some people who have never been in the military, and are seeking a little excitement, putting on all the gear and getting on line to practice shooting drills is a really fun way to spend a weekend. I certainly don’t wish to put down what they have chosen to do too much, for as I said above, anyone who wants to own an AR-15 should know how to use it. However, while there is a massive jump in skills and proficiency after the first few training courses, the 5th, 10th, or 15th course is of relatively little value.

As I hinted previously, there are many other critical skills normally associated with people who carry guns for a living that are not taught at carbine or pistol training courses. From patrolling and room clearing for infantrymen to felony traffic stops and subduing a violent criminal resisting arrest for police officers, the number of skills required to perform these jobs simply cannot be covered in a weekend. Of course, some of these skills would be of little or no use to people who aren’t performing these jobs on a daily basis. This brings me to my next point – actually, the overarching point of the article.

Why are you (this is a metaphorical “you”) seeking out this training? Home defense? To score higher in competition shooting? Preparation for an end of the world scenario? While this type of training will prepare you for some of the possible things that might happen immediately before or during a gunfight, there are many other important things to learn. Being able to avoid the confrontation in the first place might be a better option.

For example, in the aforementioned end of world scenario, a complete lack of situational awareness, or an inability to move across terrain quietly, might funnel you into a fight you’ll have a hard time winning. Beyond that – although this is a slightly different subject – being physically prepared for the rigors of carrying a rifle, ammunition, food and water, and other essential gear for days and miles at a time in a harsh environment is a far cry from being physically prepared for a carbine course that breaks for lunch.

In my opinion, a lot of people would be much better off if they attended a few quality courses from reputable instructors, then practiced regularly to maintain the skills they acquired during the course(s). This is as opposed to continually attending similar courses over the years, especially if regular practice in between courses is neglected.

Continually attending firearms training courses is an expensive proposition. How much more prepared are you – for whatever you are preparing for – by spending this much money and time on one thing? Would you be better off branching out in the training world and learning the basics of emergency medicine, or attending a high performance driving school? What about a wilderness survival course? Of course, all of these things cost money, too. Only you know exactly why you look to take carbine courses, and only you know if that money could be more productively spent elsewhere – or if it would be better to not spend it at all.

How Flash Suppressors Work

Robert Silvers, who is head of R&D at AAC and inventor of the AAC Blackout flash suppressor, explains how flash suppressors work, and how his thorough understanding of the science involved shaped the AAC Blackout. Reprinted with his permission.

When designing (the AAC Blackout), I read a bunch of patents and did not find many instances of inventors knowing why flash formed or why their design works. Because of this, they often added in features which did more harm than good. I kept the Blackout efficient by not making those mistakes.

There are three main types of muzzle flash: Primary, intermediate, and secondary. Additionally, there may be an “afterburner” effect. Mechanical flash suppressors, such as the AAC Blackout, have little opportunity to control the part called primary flash (the sparks you sometimes see) because that is powder burning within the barrel. But we can prevent the external flare up which we most associate with muzzle flash – that is the secondary and afterburner effect flash.

In order for flash to occur, fuel, oxidizer, and a source of ignition must be present. The fuel is contained in the smokeless propellant. Ignition comes from heat – but only if an oxidizer is available from either the propellant itself or the surrounding atmosphere.

Typical smokeless propellants contain more fuel than needed to balance with the oxidizer. The mixture is run ‘rich’ to keep flame temperatures lower so as to reduce barrel throat erosion. This imbalance, while reducing the temperature of the mixture, has a side effect of expelling excess unburned fuel from the barrel. This particulate is what makes secondary flash possible. And as said, if you reduce it – the barrel will burn out sooner.

What is the source of heat for the ignition? Surprisingly, not the burning of the powder – but rather it has to do with the nature of supersonic gas flow. When the bullet exits the muzzle, the discharge of expanding gas is moving at supersonic speeds. The speed of the gas is faster than the bullet itself so it will be supersonic even if the bullet is moving slower than the speed of sound. Because the gas is under such high pressure, it is ‘under expanded’ when it is released to the environment. This pocket of particles and gas is contained within the shell of the external blast wave and as it expands, it cools. The external environment is pushing back, and the shock wave that forms will reflect this discharge back onto itself into a reverse shock wave known as a Mach disk.

These formations occur any time a flow exists a nozzle at supersonic speeds and at a pressure that is higher than that of the external atmosphere and are sometimes visible behind certain high performance aircraft. It is at this location that the supersonic flow changes to subsonic. When the shock wave passes through the Mach disk, the sudden deceleration and resulting compression greatly raises temperatures and can ignite the remaining fuel, provided there is oxidizer available.

If the oxidizer used during ignition is provided by the propellant, the result is a combustion known as secondary muzzle flash. If the oxidizer is provided by the surrounding atmosphere, it is more precisely described as an afterburning effect. In either case, the result is what we think of as muzzle flash.

The two main ways to suppress flash are by chemical or mechanical means. Flash retardants may be mixed into smokeless propellant to reduce the potential for flash. Generally alkali salts, 0.5 to 5.0 % by weight are used. Flash suppressants are usually not in propellants because they degrade the performance and increase smoke. Military customers often request the chemical additives, but the amount used, in consideration for the negative effects, is likely chosen to be effective only for typical barrel lengths and only most of the time. This means that shorter than normal barrels may find that typical mechanical flash suppressors (such as the A2) – even when combined with chemical flash retardants – are not sufficient to eliminate visible flash.

The AAC Blackout works to reduce pressures and temperatures in the gun muzzle flow field and hence there is also a reduction of strength of the resulting Mach disk. It does this by dividing the expanding flow into several weaker streams. Because of the weaker Mach disk, there is less sudden compression in a concentrated area of the gases as they go from supersonic to subsonic, and so the gas and particulate temperature will stay below the level required to initiate secondary combustion or afterburning.

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

Since starting this blog, I’ve listed a few different email addresses for contact purposes. Also, there’s the YouTube channel, where posters can send me messages and comment on the channel or on individual videos. Finally, there’s the Facebook page. I’m sorry to say that I quite often fall behind in terms of responding to all of the various methods by which people can ask questions. I’m especially sorry that I haven’t responded as soon as possible to some technical or purchasing questions. This occurs most often with comments on the YouTube channel or videos, but I think it has happened with emails through the blog, as well, and even comments on individual posts here on the blog.

In the future, I’ll try to be more on top of this. The correct email is andrew@vuurwapenconcepts.com, and that is the best way to receive a quick response if you have a specific question. Thanks.

Merry Christmas, Let’s Talk About Hazing

This will be a slight departure from my normal posts.

As some of my readers might know, I was in the military (Technically, I still am). I progressed from a naïve Seaman Recruit to a tired-of-all-the-BS Hospital Corpsman Second Class in a relatively short period of time. I did not always know the right thing to do, and I often made mistakes – especially in the beginning stages of my enlistment. I do not believe that I was ever hazed as a result of those mistakes, or for any other reason. I went through several rites of passage and I was sometimes corrected by my seniors in creative fashion. Outsiders might consider these things hazing. I don’t, and here’s why.

Rites of Passage

When I was frocked to (given the rank, but not the pay of) HM3, I became a noncommissioned officer. At the time, I was in the headquarters company of the Fifth Marine Regiment. Those Marine and Navy noncommissioned officers – those of equal or higher rank – in my unit who wished to do so walked past me and pounded their fists against my new rank insignia, which did not yet have the frogs, or pin backers, attached. In other words, two small metal pins were repeatedly pounded into my chest approximately 3/8 of an inch. When this was done, blood flowed through my undershirt and my uniform blouse.

I did not feel that I had been hazed – I felt that I had been welcomed. I saw this as a rite of passage, of being accepted by my new equals and my superiors. When a staff NCO (E-6 and above) saw my blouse, he was nothing short of horrified, for he had taken part. I have no doubt that if I had complained, heads would’ve rolled – and I would have no longer been welcomed as an equal. Since I was happier and felt more accomplished on that day than the day I graduated from a university, I was not about to complain.

Creative Corrective Actions

Although I do not have any spectacular examples of corrective actions that were taken because of mistakes made on my part, I sometimes witnessed other junior enlisted being forced to perform repetitive or seemingly mindless tasks due to mistakes they had made. I certainly made many mistakes, but my seniors apparently felt that verbal counseling – with level or raised voices – was enough to correct my behavior. In most cases, I was quietly pulled aside by a Sergeant or Corporal and explained the facts of life. In a few cases, Gunny verbally tore me to little pieces.

In the case of some of my fellow juniors, this was apparently not enough. Being forced to do the same thing over and over, being forced to recite phrases over and over, being forced to exercise to the point of extreme exhaustion – I was aware of these things from time to time. When I felt that these actions were being taken improperly – which was rare – I spoke my mind. This occurred most often when a junior enlisted member was being unfairly blamed for a medical issue that was not their fault (My voice never made a difference, for what it’s worth).

Other than that, these corrective actions were not taken lightly. They were not the result of honest mistakes or miscalculations, of misunderstandings or minor behavioral quirks. They were the result of serious and repeated failures that endangered the lives of other service members. Often, they were welcomed by other junior enlisted members, for their lives were the ones hanging in the balance. I do not make these statements lightly – nearly every single day, we were walking or driving the streets of what was at the time the most violent and dangerous city in Iraq, the publicly stated focal point of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

The violence did not reach the levels seen in November of 2004, but we were still losing a Marine every day for too long a period of time in and around Fallujah. As heavily as this fact weighed on me – as a Navy Corpsman – I saw its effect on the senior officers and enlisted members in the Regiment, and I cannot overstate how heavy that burden is. In this light, actions take on different meanings.


Both rites of passage and corrective actions can quickly become hazing. Surely, some readers are wondering how I make this statement after spending quite a bit of time justifying the existence of both in the modern military. When the intent of a rite of passage is not to welcome, but to harm or demean, it becomes hazing. When corrective actions are carried past the time when their point has been made perfectly clear to the recipient, they become hazing. I realize that these are terribly imprecise definitions. The world is an imprecise place – great trust is placed in the judgment of young noncommissioned officers to make the right decisions about countless other things, and they can also make the right decisions here.

Unfortunately, errors in judgment are too often made. Marines are forced to perform physical exercise until they collapse and die of exhaustion, for example. In other cases, Marines commit suicide after extreme “corrective actions” were taken following their failure to stay awake on watch. While the first example showed extremely poor judgment on the part of the seniors involved, the Marines involved in the second case have been all but convicted in the court of public opinion, while their actions may have been entirely reasonable.

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, “watch” or “post” is incredibly important in the military. Every service has a variation of the 11 General Orders of a Sentry, and every service member has to memorize every single general order in basic training. Falling asleep on watch is an egregious violation that places the lives of other men and women in jeopardy – even in peacetime – but in a combat zone, this is an absolutely unforgivable offense.

I do not wish for any Marine to die, but the tragedy of a suicide does not even begin to match the tragedy of Marines dying because the man they trusted to keep them safe while they slept thought his own rest was more important than their lives. Falling asleep on watch four times in ten days is simply astounding. For the actions taken by his seniors to have reached the level that they did, they most certainly had attempted other, less serious actions previously. While it probably should have moved to Captain’s Mast, also known as NJP or an article 15, for the Marine who fell asleep on watch, I do not fault the other Marines involved in the least.

I feel sad that Lance Cpl. Harry Lew’s family will never see him again. I am sorry that his mother will never see him marry, and I’m sorry that his father will never bond with him again. I am, however, not sorry that his fellow Marines did what they could to preserve their own lives, as well as Harry’s – and it is not their fault that Harry felt the only way out was to take his own life. The only responsible party in his death is no longer among us. The actions of his senior Marines did not constitute hazing. That their actions are being twisted as racist or discriminatory is the real crime here.

Muzzle Device Flash Comparison – Brakes, Comps & Flash Hiders

Work ran late recently, so I was able to photograph a fairly consistent comparison of the muzzle flash resulting from the use of Federal .223 Rem 55gr FMJBT – also known as AE223 – and a 16″ AR-15. Actually, there were two AR-15s used for this photo. The PWS TTO requires a thin wrench for removal and installation, and all I had at the range was a standard AR-15 armorer’s wrench. All of the other devices were used on a Spike’s Tactical 16″ carbine length AR-15. Other than the bare muzzle and the PWS TTO, I also used a Spike’s Tactical Dynacomp, Vltor VC-1, standard A2, YHM Phantom 5C2, Smith Vortex, and AAC Blackout.

I do own a Rainier Arms XTC, but it was on a 5.45 rifle that I wasn’t shooting that day. Some might notice the absence of a BattleComp – I don’t own one (no, this is not a plea for a BattleComp, I just don’t own one).

I would like to reiterate that, in my opinion, any device which allows more flash than the A2 is not suitable for combat use. This does not mean that it is not suitable – or even ideal – for use outside of armed confrontation.

GearScout Reviews Crimson Trace Lightguard

Rob Curtis at GearScout has reviewed the Crimson Trace Lightguard pistol light for Glock 19s. It looks pretty neat, and seems like a decent workaround for keeping the width of the light no larger than the pistol itself. Attaching a light to the rail is the obvious solution that everyone else has gone with, but requires some added width, which makes IWB carry a little uncomfortable. This would also be a good solution for those with non-rail pistols – if Crimson Trace introduces such models.

Centurion Arms C4 Rail Review

I have a good number of rails to review at the moment, some of which I’ve had longer than the Centurion Arms C4 rail. To say that I have a slight product review backup at the moment would be…stating that fact mildly. However, I have spent the most range time with and have the most photos of the Centurion, so without further ado, here is the video.

Like a number of things reviewed here in the past, this rail was provided for review by Rainier Arms. The Centurion Arms C4 midlength cutout rail as seen here is available from Rainier Arms for $314. The standard midlength C4 rail is $246.

Oh, What a Difference a Muzzle Device Makes

While at the range doing other stuff, I noticed that I was seeing a lot more muzzle flash because of the overcast conditions. Using the same ammunition (Prvi Partizan M855) in two different 16″ barreled AR-15s, I was able to compare the performance of the Spike’s Tactical Dynacomp and the Primary Weapons Systems TTO. The image below is representative of the amount of flash seen both with the naked eye and on video, though these are still photographs.

Although there is a large difference, the amount of flash seen in front of the Dynacomp is still what I would consider unacceptable for nighttime two-way range use. Brakes and comps are fun, but true flash hiders, like the Smith Vortex and the AAC Blackout, exist for a very specific reason. I have yet to encounter a muzzle device intended primarily to reduce recoil that provides acceptable levels of nighttime flash – that is, equal to or less than the A2 flash hider – and yes, I’ve used various examples of the BattleComp. For “fun purposes,” I really like the TTO – the muzzle doesn’t move, and it throws huge fireballs. New shooters love it.

Praetor Defense Kydex Glock 19 Holster

I could have called this article “Praetor Defense Holster is the Greatest Thing Since Prehistoric Man Created Tools from Rocks and Sticks,” and I would not have been far off the mark.

praetor defense glock 19 holster
Praetor Defense Holster - Greatest Thing Since Powered Flight

My Holster Background

I have owned dozens of holsters. They run the gamut from leather to kydex to fabric. Some are made from a combination of materials. Some have active retention systems, and some do not. Some are intended for concealed carry, and some are intended for open carry or duty use. I have holsters that are meant to be attached to or hung from practically every part of my body, whether I’m wearing clothes or not.

There is no single holster that could perform all of the duties that the variety of holsters I own perform. However, there are holsters that cover the most common situations in which one would need to carry a duty size handgun. These situations might include general concealed carry, range use/training, or open carry in the field.

In the past, I have evaluated kydex holsters manufactured by Raven Concealment, NTAC, and Cane & Derby. These were all fine holsters, and still are. Each manufacturer has a significant lead time on production, which, at the time, was well deserved. They make a quality product which they back up with efficient customer service.

However, I still found the leadtimes required for these holsters discouraging. I don’t generally plan my handgun purchases for months in advance, and I like to be able to carry newly purchased handguns within a reasonable period of time after I have purchased them – after I have ensured that they work.

Praetor Defense and Weapon Outfitters

Enter Praetor Defense and Weapon Outfitters. They first contacted me about a holster review at the beginning of this year, but my schedule prevented a timely reply. When I finally got back to them, they offered me a choice between Glock and Smith & Wesson M&P holsters, with 1911 and Sig holsters being in the pipeline. I requested a Glock 19 holster, and found it on my doorstep about two weeks later. Two weeks is still a little while to wait, but it appeared that my holster shipment was delayed because the “order” was not really an order. If I had actually paid for it, it would have shown up sooner. Still, this was the shortest period of time I had ever had to wait for a kydex holster.

I have been carrying with the holster every day in the four months since. I was cautioned prior to using it that I should use Loctite on the hardware (screws), and did not heed this advice. After about a week, one of the screws worked out of the “nut” to which it was attached, causing the holster to be a little loose on the belt. This did not affect my ability to carry it for the rest of the day, or my ability to conceal or draw the weapon. Had I followed the instructions I had been given, I would not have encountered this. Still, I mention it in the interests of full disclosure. This was the only issue I have had with this holster. I used another screw and nut, Loctited all of the hardware, and carried on.


The Praetor Defense holsters are made by Blade-Tech. I had used Blade-Tech holsters before, and found their manufacturing quality to be excellent, but the designs were not ideal for concealed carry. They either stuck out too far from the belt, had inferior attachment methods, or too much of a “footprint” – they were just too big. All of these issues – and some I had not even thought about – were solved with the Praetor design.

Praetor Defense holster
The Praetor Defense holster has been found to cure cancer in lab rats


Like every other kydex  holster I have used, retention is based on the holster gripping the trigger guard. Unlike some of the others, this one has adjustable retention – although this should not be compared to the active retention offered by a larger holster intended for duty use, such as a Safariland SLS or ALS. While the level of retention offered by the Praetor Defense holster is more than adequate for anything short of falling off a cliff, it will not stop someone from grabbing your weapon and pulling it out of the holster without having to defeat some type of retention system that they may not be familiar with. While this is most obviously important for police officers in uniform, anyone who open carries should also use an active retention holster – no exceptions.

Design & Manufacturing

The thickness of the kydex used for the holster is very important. While thinner kydex offers a marginal improvement in concealment, especially within an inside the waistband holster, it also results in drastically reduced durability. Most of the kydex holster manufacturers have abandoned the thinner layers and moved to slightly thicker ones. Praetor Defense and Blade-Tech have struck a good balance here, opting for what seems to me like a slightly thicker holster. Since it is designed for outside the waistband use, this is of special importance. If you fall on a hard surface, and I have done so several times while wearing kydex holsters, you do not want the holster to break and allow your pistol to skitter across the pavement or down a rocky hill. I have no issues with the design or materials used as far as durability goes. This is a solid holster.

Praetor Defense holster
Praetor Defense products can be safely used while operating machinery

Beyond that, the methods and tools used to make this holster are obviously different than those used to make competing holsters. While the other holsters all appear to be made by roughly the same methods, it is pretty clear that the Praetor Defense holster was made with industrial tools or equipment that offer a much better molded or pressed holster. There’s not much more I can say on this other than both appearance and quality, or perhaps the appearance of quality, is higher with this holster than others.

As I mentioned previously, this holster was meant for outside the waistband use. I’m told that they’re working on inside the waistband belt loops, but these are tricky to design and manufacture. The ones I have experience with are easily broken, especially if they snag on something, and this leaves you with an unusable holster. The outside the waistband belt loops used for this holster are rather interesting. They are solid loop of material, appearing to be molded as one piece. This is an example of how I feel that Praetor Defense took the right route with this holster. While other manufacturers can turn out a quality product, the industrial capacity, capability, and knowledge that Blade-Tech brings to the table cannot be ignored. This feature is simply out of the realm of possibility for most small holster manufacturers.

Praetor Defense magazine pouch
The Praetor Defense magazine pouch goes both ways

I should also discuss the magazine pouch. It’s manufactured using the same methods and materials. It is reversible, meaning that you can carry bullets forward or backward, on your left or right side. There’s not much to say about it, other than the fact that it is the best example of a kydex magazine pouch I have seen. Anything I say about the holster can also be said about the magazine pouch.

Praetor Defense magazine pouch
Israelis and Palestinians have temporarily stopped fighting to agree on one thing: Praetor Defense holsters and mag pouches are awesome


In addition, the footprint, or size, of this holster is improved over competing designs. Holsters that are longer – that is, from front to back – are simply not as comfortable, especially if you are sitting for long periods of time in a confined space such as a vehicle. One might think that the wider holsters would be more stable on the body, but I have not found this to be the case. This holster feels rock solid when I’m drawing or holstering the weapon, even though it is the smallest I have used of this type.

Pistol Position

Since there are no provisions for adjusting the height of the belt loops, I was initially concerned that I would find the position of the pistol in relation to my belt too high. Instead, I quickly grew to appreciate this location. Being slightly higher than where other holsters placed the pistol gives me a little more leeway in terms of dealing with items of clothing that cover the pistol. This might seem backwards at first – the farther up inside a shirt or jacket the holster might be, you would think, the harder it would be to access – but the extra room between the forward edge of the grip and my beltline allows me to get a more solid and consistent grip on the weapon before I start to draw it.

There is a bit of forward cant to this holster, which I find beneficial when drawing with the strong hand – but it is not so much as to preclude me from coming behind my back with my left hand and drawing the pistol from the holster if I am unable to do so with my right hand.

Something I actually had to think about in the course of writing this review was whether the holster had ever moved in the time that I had been using it. This is almost funny – when I was using hybrid leather/kydex holsters, I was always having to shift their position, because they were always shifting their position. This holster has not budged a fraction of an inch in the entire time I have been using it. The one drawback to this is that with the kydex reinforced belt that I wear, it is slightly difficult to get the holster on and off the belt. However, I do not find this to be a problem at all. I much preferred this to having a holster that shifts around and doesn’t leave the pistol in the position I expect to find it when I need it.

Pistol Compatibility

While this holster was designed for use with the Glock 19, it could also be used for a Glock 26. A Smith & Wesson M&P 45 Compact fits Glock 19 holsters quite well. The Ruger SR9 fits into this holster with a more than acceptable level of retention, and the Kahr P45/CW45 fits with an adequate level of retention. Kahr CW9/CW40/P9/P40 pistols do not have an adequate level of retention with this holster. Other pistols may fit this holster as well, but I cannot state firsthand which models would fit with acceptable levels of retention.

In the video below, the first pistol I draw – a Kahr CW45 – is from the Praetor Defense Glock 19 holster.


Put simply, outside the waistband holsters do not offer the same level of concealment that inside the waistband holsters offer. However, outside the waistband holsters are more comfortable, and this leads to me not having to adopt body positions that might highlight the fact that I am carrying from time to time. In turn, this leads to easier concealment. I have never been “made” while carrying with this holster, and I am often in situations or places where concealment is essential.

Wait Time and Cost

I’ve saved the best for last. You can order this holster for $57 from Weapon Outfitters right now, and it will ship within a reasonable period of time – say, a business day or two. Wow.


The biggest and most obvious difference between this Praetor Defense holster and the competition is the appearance and evidence of different manufacturing methods, but what makes it excel is the attention to detail that was paid during the design phase. While I would put the other holsters on a roughly even level with one another in terms of quality and value, the Praetor Defense holster is simply without peer.