Category Archives: Personal Defense

What’s In My First Aid Kit And Why

As a Corpsman, my job in the military was to put band-aids on Marines and hold them when they felt sad. I received a decent amount of medical training during that time and also had a small bit of hands-on experience (mostly treating wounded Iraqi children and inept terrorists). I was not a SARC and did not go through the 18D pipeline. Before joining the Navy, I worked in an emergency room as a physician’s scribe. These experiences have shaped my outlook on emergency medicine and the equipment I carry for first aid purposes.

Recently, I have noticed more people talking about what first aid kit or trauma kit they carry or own, which is a good thing. However, having a band-aid is only part of the equation when it comes to treating a cut. Unlike being in a gunfight, for which not bringing a gun is a cardinal sin, first aid can often be improvised with available materials while help is summoned. Some of the most serious injuries I have ever dealt with were treated with inadequate supplies. Realize that as a first responder, the best thing you can do is to get your patient to a higher level of care as soon as possible.

Vitriolic Tangent About Training

While it is popular in the gun world to “get training” (and I definitely think you should attend the ones I teach!), it does not seem as popular to get training in other areas – driving, first aid, etc. Think about it – how much time do you spend driving each day versus how much time you spend in a gunfight each day? How many people are killed by drunk drivers each year versus armed criminals or terrorists? Why would you bias all of your training towards firearms instead of spreading out your expendable income to include a high performance driving course? Similarly, why go to more than one firearm training course before you know basic first aid? Excuses for not attending Bondurant include the fact that it’s really expensive, but basic CPR and first aid courses are generally available through the Red Cross for affordable prices.

If you haven’t kept current with first aid in a while, a refresher might not be a bad idea. For example, CPR, which was once called “rescue breathing,” has now changed into “continuous chest compressions.” A few years – or maybe a decade – ago, there was a pretty wide separation between military and civilian medical training. Lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan seem to have trickled down to those in fire departments and EMS, although I can’t say that everything is now being taught the same way on both sides. However, whether you go through a Red Cross class or a Combat Aidsman course, I think you’ll be well ahead of someone who hasn’t bothered to get any first aid training. For that matter, a 12-year-old Boy Scout with his neckerchief and a stick will be light years ahead of someone with a fancy trauma kit and no idea how to use it.

Okay, back to the topic at hand.

Stuff I Generally Keep In My Car

I have a lot of medbags thanks to my time in the military – mostly Unit Ones and a big London Bridge bag. However, one of the most useful first aid kits I own was purchased after I got out: an Adventure Medical Kits Guide 1. It was discounted heavily on Steep and Cheap, so I didn’t pay $270 for it. However, I’ve gotten plenty of use out of it and try to keep it replenished. I’ll cover individual items later, but a good kit like this will cover most of your needs. Even a $20 kit at Walmart or Target has the basics.

I originally posted this photo on Instagram. You should follow me on Instagram @vuurwapenblog, or else.

Although the Guide 1 has some items for treating trauma injuries, I also carry a kit of my own assembly. This generally consists of tourniquets, pressure dressings, chest seals, 14 gauge IV catheters, SAM splints, ACE bandages, abdominal bandages, and Water-Jel. Putting together something like this from scratch with the basics (mostly just tourniquets/pressure dressings) shouldn’t be too expensive. I like using brightly colored bags or keeping the kit in a larger, easily recognizable bag so that I can tell someone to run to my car and grab “the big red bag” or something like that, rather than tell them to grab the khaki pouch in the trunk full of khaki, coyote, tan, and brown items.

I use the CAT tourniquet because I have seen it work well, but I would not be too particular about the type as long as I could apply it to myself or others without too much difficulty. Some people say that the CAT windlass breaks easily, but I haven’t seen that – it’s something to consider, but as long as you know how to apply it properly, you will be fine. I was issued Cinch-Tight pressure dressings and have not seen a need to look for anything else.

Chest seals – I was taught to improvise them (using an ID card taped at three corners over the wound, allowing air to escape but sealing fairly well against the entrance of air) as well as use the Ascherman, although the HALO is supposedly better; I have not had occasion to use the HALO, but much like the CAT, the Ascherman works well if you know its failure points.

The IV catheter is for relieving tension pneumothorax. I was trained how to use it, although it’s up to you as to whether or not you carry one. If you take my advice and seek out training, this won’t be an issue.

The SAM splints and ACE bandages are for joint immobilization; this can be improvised if the patient needs to stay in place, but if you need to move to a pickup point, having good supplies for joint immobilization might be invaluable.

Finally, the Water-Jel is for treatment of burns.

I also like having an axe or large hammer in my car, and a knife in my pocket. These items can help free someone if they are trapped. Oh, and I bring nitrile gloves, too. I also have a prepaid cell phone with up to date service with a different provider than my normal smartphone just in case said normal smartphone is dead or doesn’t get service when I need help.

Stuff I Carry With Me In A Pack

It’s okay to put a big bag of stuff in the trunk of my car, but do I carry all that stuff with me on a day hike? No. I’ll generally bring a small kit with band-aids of various sizes, Neosporin, alcohol pads, ammonia poppers (to wake up dead people), gloves, ACE bandages, Kerlex, some 4×4 gauze pads, NSAIDs (generic Naproxen most of the time) as well as an Epi-Pen (I don’t have allergies, but other people do). You’ll notice that I don’t bring the majority of trauma kit items, and that’s because they’re far less likely to be needed. You don’t want to be the guy standing there saying “Sorry about the scraped knee, but I can only help people who have been shot in the chest or leg.”

Final Thought

Understand the human body, the mechanisms of injury which it is likely to encounter, how the body responds to these injuries, and how you can help the body in this fight until help arrives. Have appropriate tools if possible, but focus on understanding first.

Why I Wear Flip Flops While Shooting

I wear flip flops almost every day and have done so for nearly my entire life. Therefore, I wear flip flops while shooting. This seems to upset some people when I post photos or videos online, so I’ll take a moment to explain further.

Tactical Prancing

Train How You Fight

I have said this a few times lately, but it really is important to “train how you fight.” A long time ago, I was working on the “Lifesaving” merit badge. I had the fastest rescue time in part due to my ability to kick off flip flops much faster than the other kids could remove their shoes. Someone complained to a counselor, who said, “Andrew always wears flip flops, so he should wear them here, too.” The same principle applies to concealed carry.

When I go to the range to practice drawing from concealment, I use the exact belt, holster, pistol, and clothing setups that I use for everyday concealed carry. Most people seem to agree with this sentiment – after all, it’s pretty silly to do all of your shooting practice with a 1911 from the low ready if you carry a .38 snubnose in an ankle holster. I simply extend the concept to include my footwear.

While many people see flip flops as a detriment or drawback, I see them as comfy and easy to put on/take off. Did I mention comfy? I live in an area where triple digit temperatures are common, but even when I lived in Alaska I wore them during the summer.

There are occasions during which I wear shoes or boots: when I’m riding a motorcycle, when I’m on a long hike or walk, and some of the time when I work on cars, motorcycles, or airplanes. I will therefore sometimes wear shoes while shooting. For example, if I ride my motorcycle to the range, it would make sense that the shooting that day would include shoes.

Most of the time, however, I wear flip flops… so I wear flip flops while shooting. There are a number of reasons why people find this objectionable – here are the more common criticisms.

“But You’ll Get Hot Brass Between Your Toes And Then Shoot Someone”

There are a number of arguments against shooting while wearing flip flops, and one of the least valid (to me, at least) is the “hot brass” argument. I can simply say from experience – shooting three or four times per week, every week for years on end, wearing flip flops at least 60% of the time, that I have only had hot brass land on my feet or between my toes a few times. For me, it is a non-issue. I have no problems maintaining bearing and muzzle discipline while I make a minor movement to rid myself of the troublesome case, whether it lands inside my shirt or between my toes. However, I have a higher pain tolerance than most people seem to have, at least in this regard.

“But You’ll Lose A Flip Flop And Then Shoot Someone”

If you take a look at the above photo, you’ll see that my right foot is curved in an odd manner and my little toe is sticking out somewhat. This is due to how I run while wearing flip flops: I curve my feet so as to keep the footwear attached. Yes, I (used to, before I hurt my knee) occasionally run while wearing flip flops. My all-time best mile run while wearing flip flops and carrying a 30lb backpack is 8:16. It is almost entirely avoidable to lose a flip flop while running, if proper methods are used.

I do sometimes have a flip flop fall off of a foot while I am moving backwards or stepping over or near obstacles – the back edge of the footwear will catch on something and be propelled off my foot. To avoid this, I keep my heels high if I am backing up or stepping over obstacles while wearing flip flops. Unlike keeping them on while running forward, this is not entirely avoidable. However, like the brass hitting my toes, it has almost no discernible effect on my shooting. I will simply finish whatever the string of fire may be and then retrieve my errant footwear.

“But You’ll Hurt Your Foot And Then Shoot Someone”

Because I wear flip flops every day, I am rather used to stubbing my toes or people stepping on my toes or getting splinters or cactus spines stuck in my feet and so on. I even had a toenail ripped out once. Therefore, it is not a big deal when these same things happen while I am shooting. As I said before, it is not a problem to maintain muzzle discipline when something unexpected happens. If it is hard for you to not dance around pointing a gun at people with your finger on the trigger when a minor problem occurs, maybe you should not own or use guns.

Valid Reasons To Not Wear Flip Flops While Shooting

I can think of two valid reasons to not wear flip flops while shooting:

– My feet get really dirty if I’m shooting all day
– It doesn’t look entirely professional

So in the future when I’m teaching a class, I might avoid wearing flip flops, simply because it might not present the professional image someone might expect when they pay good money for training. However, for day-to-day practice, I will continue to use whatever footwear I happen to be wearing when I leave for the range.

Look At Your Firearm While Reloading

There are too many people in the firearm world – especially when it comes to “real world” or “defensive” use of firearms – who hide behind the word “tactical” as an excuse for poor technique or performance.

Today I would like to discuss reloading, both of handguns and rifles. Basically, anything with a magazine. There are many things to discuss when it comes to reloads, and this is a topic I plan on covering in detail in the future. To be specific, I believe that looking at the firearm during the reload, whether I am fighting or gaming, is important and beneficial.

Some people protest that you should never take your eyes off the target during a reload – that doing so is only for competition or “gaming.” I beg to differ. If someone is trying to kill me while I reload, it isn’t going to matter if I glance down at my pistol for a fraction of a second. They are still going to be doing the most dangerous thing they could possibly do, which is…try to kill me. My steely gaze is not magically slowing down their bullets.

The most complicated portion of a reload – perhaps better termed as the easiest portion of a reload to screw up – is inserting the magazine. During the time which the magazine is approaching the magazine well, looking at my pistol will help me return it to shooting condition as fast as possible. The weapon is already in front of me, it’s not as if I need to turn my back to the threat to look at the magwell. If looking down speeds up my reloads, it follows that this will enable me to stay alive longer in a real gunfight.

It just so happens that this also makes split times faster during competition. Look, just because something is valued by a competition shooter (see the above linked photo of Bob Vogel) does not mean that it is immediately suspect for “tactical” or “gunfighting” purposes. It may or may not be useful, but it should be evaluated on its merits, not simply whether it is a “game” technique or not.


Here’s what Mike Pannone had to say on the topic:

You look at it with a quick glance. Anyone who says “no” isn’t realistic. I was taught in every shooting package I ever did by every unit I was in or contracted shooter I shot with that if you can see, you should glance down quickly (maybe .20 sec) to ensure proper orientation and insertion of magazine. If you do this properly you are creating the proper procedural memory. This will allow you to perform the act even when you can’t see because you orient the pistol to your body and oncoming magazine the same way every time. You lose nothing in quantifiable situational awareness that you wouldn’t lose by blinking 2 times in rapid succession but you are affording yourself the highest likelihood for success.  If it is at night and you have NVG’s you may still glance down because that is part of the action but with time your situational awareness of limited vision will remove that. With any useful vision available I will look, without I won’t.

Summary- Looking for a split second when vision is available is the way every great shooter (military, L/E and sport) I know does it. They do this for a specific reason and that is to have the best likelihood of success without loss of situational awareness.

If you get the chance to take any courses taught by Mike, I would highly recommend doing so.


Gun Owners Need To Police Themselves

I think gun owners can and should play a role in identifying potential mass killers. We’re the people who will in some way encounter a lot of murderers before they act, and we know what stands out. When it’s appropriate, we need to discuss relevant facts with the proper authorities. That’s not to say we should report anyone and everyone for anything that looks mildly odd, but if you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, you should act on that feeling.

Three Critical Post-Apocalyptic Skills You May Not Have

In some circles, attention is focused on a few skills (shooting, primarily, but emergency/trauma medicine also) which are indeed crucial – at times – but are also among the sexier of the skills which might come in handy in some sort of crisis. In fact, if you have some of the below skills, you might not have to use the ones named above.

Side note – I have used “post-apocalyptic” in the title because it will attract attention. These things also come in handy in today’s world.


If you ever leave the pavement – and sometimes even if you don’t – you’re going to leave tracks that can be followed. Being followed might be a problem. You might also need to follow tracks for a variety of reasons – finding a lost family member, for example, or tracking a wounded animal. I have only the most rudimentary of tracking skills. I can tell a deer print from a human, most of the time.

While tracking skills can certainly be developed, the tracking abilities of some people, in my opinion, border on the supernatural. A friend of mine is a member of BORSTAR (Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue) agent, and we recently discussed tracking. I learned a lot, but he’s had years of practice, and there’s really no substitute for that.

In addition to the ability to follow someone, an astonishing amount of intelligence can be gathered from prints – not only basic things like the number of people in a group, but how tired they are, how much weight they’re carrying, if they’re a pregnant woman, etc. If you have the chance to learn about tracking, I would not pass it up.

“That one’s a Sagittarius.”


Sanitary Food Preparation

Puking post-partaking in poorly prepared pho is pathetic.

I know because I’ve done it.

But a bad case of salmonella when you don’t have access to medical care? Potentially fatal. And everyone who’s played Oregon Trail knows how deadly dysentery is.

I first learned about sanitary procedures for food preparation and medical care from my mother, an ER nurse and gourmet chef, and later learned more from the military. If you didn’t have these advantages, don’t fret. Learning how to prepare food and water is fairly straightforward. The CDC has information on this exact topic.

Situational Awareness

When I was getting ready to deploy with 5th Marines, I was told how critical it was that I do a “5 and 25” whenever our vehicles stopped. Unfortunately, no one ever told me what a “5 and 25” actually was. I eventually Googled it and found that I was supposed to look for danger within 5 meters of the vehicle immediately, and within 25 meters if we stopped for a longer period of time. This was my first exposure to situational awareness in terms of armed combat.

Although scanning for IEDs isn’t the same exact thing as scanning for speed traps, situational awareness is something that can be applied across a variety of tasks. It is not as simple as constantly scanning for threats, but more of a nuanced and intuitive, and sometimes passive, observation of one’s surrounding area and in part looking for things that don’t belong.

It can also be important to know the placement of objects when stationary – for example the layout of a room and the location of the exits before it is plunged into darkness. But it’s equally important when moving, such as knowing the location of vehicles around your own as you travel down the highway, which gives you the ability to make an emergency lane change with the least possible delay when necessary.

Sometimes, simply being aware of a threat and letting he/she/it know that you are aware of his/her/its presence is enough to avoid trouble.
This snake was aware of my presence.

As your speed increases, your ability to be aware of your surroundings generally decreases. If you are running across rocky ground while tracking criminal elements, you may need to focus on where to place your feet so as to avoid falls or injury. You may also need to focus on checking the bushes and trees ahead for signs of an ambush – but you may not be able to do both of these things at once while running.

Knowledge and experience both play a role when it comes to situational awareness, as does mindset. From an academic standpoint, Gavin de Becker’s book “The Gift of Fear” is an excellent primer. But experience must be gained in the real world.


Fat Is Not Tactical

I’m sure I have managed to anger a few people with the title of this article alone. That’s not my intention. As the saying goes, you get more flies with honey than with vinegar – although in this case, putting out carb-rich food wouldn’t be the best course of action.

I don’t know you and can’t say what, if anything, you are preparing for. What I can say is that almost anything you might be preparing for by going to carbine/pistol training courses or taking an active interest in blogs like this one will be made substantially easier if you are in good shape.

Part of being prepared for adverse situations is knowing what you are capable of. Knowing how far you can run at certain altitudes, how effectively you can physically fight after moving for six, twelve, twenty-four continuous hours, how clearly you think through problems that present themselves during that same time, and so on.

I know a lot about my capabilities because I’ve gone outside and proved them to myself. As I’ve done so, I have not only improved my mental well-being, but I’ve become more fit. I’ve gone from being fat and out of shape to being proud of myself, not only the way I look, but what I can do.

Andrew-Fifty-Pounds-Ago would not have made it to this point of the 24 Hour Sniper Adventure Challenge. He would have collapsed, sobbing, about a quarter of the way up the first mountain, begging for a cheeseburger.

Now, there are some guys who are really capable even though they’re packing an extra ten or fifty pounds. I’m not saying that they aren’t capable or that they’re bad people or whatever. Some of them might be better than I am at some things. I am saying that they would be more capable if they shed a little weight.

On the other end of the scale are people who are skinny but weak or incapable of physical exertion. If they don’t need to exercise to maintain a certain look, they choose to skip it. This is not good. A lot of the time, this applies to females – something I’ve learned is that if a girl does not have a butt, she probably won’t be able to keep up with me on a hike. I’ve also learned that “LOVE PINK” is shorthand for “I’m a white girl who thinks she has a butt.” But I digress…

If a capable but fat person gets injured…well, it will be easier for their friends or teammates to evacuate them if they weigh less. Because carrying fat people is hard.

In FMSS (Field Medical Service School), one of our final challenges was a dummy drag through an obstacle course. It was done in teams of three, but my two teammates were wimps, so I dragged and carried the ~180lb dummy through the whole course, and did it so fast that my teammates complained that they couldn’t keep up. Naturally, this was a big ego boost to me.

Fast forward to Iraq, where I was practicing emergency procedures with guys from my platoon. One of my Marines was…well, fat. And when he was in full gear, I simply couldn’t pull him out of a “disabled” truck. This was quite a change from my 180lb dummy drag champion days. After this, he lost a significant amount of weight; I don’t know if the two were connected, but it was certainly eye-opening for me.

If you lead an active lifestyle – or maybe if you drew the short straw in the womb – staying fit might be difficult. Injuries and genetics play a role, to be sure. However, willpower is huge. I used lung problems resulting from my Iraq vacation as an excuse to not exercise for a long time.

Then I realized that I had gotten fat. Soon after, I decided to stop being fat. I still have lung problems (if I run too hard, I start coughing up blood), and sometimes severe knee and ankle issues. I can’t do certain exercises because they cause too much pain in my chest and abdomen. I’ve learned to work around these problems – to minimize their impact on my life and the way I exercise.

Your issues might be more or less severe, but there is almost certainly a way for you to become at least somewhat fit. It starts with your personal decision to walk down that path.

The Case For Mike Pannone

I have met a number of instructors in the, for lack of a better term, “tactical” world. I have the benefits of being a constant shooter and several years’ experience teaching in classroom settings to form opinions of instruction and training for real-world firearms use. And I have had the opportunity to discuss the effectiveness of various instructional techniques with professional military and law enforcement individuals who were willing to speak frankly and did not hold anything back in their assessments.

All of this has led me to the conclusion that Mike Pannone is one of the most effective and well-rounded firearm instructors in the world. Why?

– He has an extremely impressive military background, one which has given him a level of experience found in only a few modern instructors;

– He has studied kinesiology (the scientific study of human movement) at the collegiate level;

– He has experience as an instructor for federal law enforcement, namely being the head range instructor at the Federal Air Marshals Service school;

– He is very low key – mostly because he does not feel the need to impress anyone;

– He is not a “stick-in-the-mud” – he is always looking to develop new and more effective shooting techniques.

So he knows what is and is not relevant to real-world applications, he can explain in a scientific manner why a certain technique is effective or ineffective, he has the ability to impart this experience and knowledge to students, he does not showboat during classes, and he keeps an open mind about how he does all of this.

Mike Pannone with a fancy handgun

When I have occasion to discuss the merits of Mike’s instruction with individuals who shoot guns for a living, they express universal praise and admiration. They have no time for BS and while they often receive training from Mike as well as other instructors through work, they also pay for Mike’s classes out of their own pockets.

His training is in constant demand from actual military and law enforcement units. We hear this so often from various instructors that it becomes background noise – Mike actually tries to make this part of his life background noise. He teaches high-speed military and law enforcement units but never, ever talks about it publicly.

It’s almost weird – it would be easy for him to cultivate a following based on personality, but he doesn’t bother with such things. He’s so self-effacing that I feel a constant need to write about him. Part of it is that I consider him to be a friend, sure. The other part is that he is an intellectual and a true badass. That is a rare combination indeed.

Why a Reliable Phone is More Important Than a Reliable Gun

It’s really popular for gun people to talk about needing a reliable gun for every day carry or duty use, but I don’t hear many gun people talking about having a reliable phone. So that’s what I’ll talk about today.

No matter where I am in the world, the likelihood that I will need to use a “communication device” of some sort to summon help from others is greater than the likelihood that I will need my “three pound” to bust a cap in someone’s rear end. Car accidents and heart attacks and so on occur with greater frequency than encounters requiring lethal force.

While I have medical/first aid knowledge, experience, and training, I do not carry an ambulance around with me. I’ll be able to help a stranger – or myself – much more effectively if I can provide some level of care while also calling for EMS with a phone that works.

In addition, I can’t always have a gun, but I can almost always have a phone. The phone is not capable of spewing fiery death at those who would dare challenge me, but then again, the gun can’t summon a pizza. Both have their uses, is what I’m getting at.

This is a radio, but you get the idea.

Why do I say “a phone that works?” Because I’ve had unreliable phones, or phones that didn’t get very good service. I used to use cheap Android phones on a prepaid plan. Yeah, it didn’t cost much – but the service was weak out in the wilderness and the phones would constantly need to have their batteries pulled in order to fix some sort of problem or another.

I now have an iPhone 4S. Not only does it work all the time, but the coverage area (Verizon) is great. Battery life is just okay, but I have vehicle chargers and external battery packs/charging devices with USB cables for the times when I venture off the beaten path.

A camouflaged iPhone 4S operating with dissimilar units in a dynamic environment.

When I leave the country, I use either a satphone or a “world” cell phone from Mobal. No, they didn’t give me anything or pay me or ask me to write this, and I doubt they know I exist as anything other than an occasional customer. The service is very expensive, but it has worked absolutely everywhere I’ve traveled with it – from Baja to the Dolomites to the Maghreb. A gun might have come in handy had I stuck around the latter for a while longer, but the phone was absolutely crucial to getting home.

So if your “carry” phone – no matter who made it or what provider you have – sucks, but your carry gun is super reliable, think about which one you’re more likely to use. Ask yourself if paying a little more for a phone that will work when you need it is worth the added cost. I certainly think so.

Why I Avoid Modifying My Carry Pistols

Whenever I mention that I carry Glock pistols, I am asked what sort of modifications I have done to them – sights, trigger, grip reductions, and so on. When I say that my Glocks are entirely stock, more questions follow – most relating to the word “why.”

Glocks are similar to AR-15s in terms of popularity, and the number of companies offering every part imaginable for both platforms are too numerous to count. Many of these parts are intended to make the firearm more practical for real-world use, or so say the advertising claims. This practical parts plethora puts plenty of pressure on pistol people. It’s not quite at the level of “I don’t have the new flux capacitor assembly from 3rd Millennium Blasterwielder, this means I’ll get killed in a gunfight,” but the atmosphere in the firearm community often overemphasizes the importance of minutiae gear considerations.

Boring photograph of boring pistols

The primary reason why I leave my Glocks alone is that they are functional and reliable as-is. Not all Glocks are, and I am rapidly losing faith in Glock’s ability to do the right thing, but vintage Glock 19 Gen 3s and newer production Glock 22 Gen 4s are generally reliable pistols. In the absence of a clearly identifiable need for modifications, I do not wake up every morning trying to think of new ways to spend money.

Furthermore, I have respect for the engineering expertise of firearm designers at major manufacturers. No, they don’t always get it right, and yes, they often have to design firearms with illogical legal or liability concerns in mind. However, they have the resources to thoroughly test designs before releasing them to market, and recognize the concept of manufacturing the pistol as a system better than smaller companies which seek to modify specific portions of the firearm.

Those who take a myopic view of trigger modifications, for example, often render firearms unreliable (light strikes, failure or inability to reset) or dangerous (disabling or reducing the effectiveness of internal safety mechanisms). This is not to say that all trigger-related modifications are bad – magazine disconnects, for example, are dumb. However, if something sounds too good to be true, such as a 1911-like trigger in a Glock, then it most likely is (I have two requirements for a carry firearm – that it work when I want it to, and that it not randomly shoot my balls off when I’m running, jumping, and climbing trees).

To help you get that image out of your head, here is a photo of some homeless kittens in Africa. I tried to build a little shelter for them, but some kids kicked it over. Fairly representative of what eventually happens to all African relief work, I guess.

As with any industry, a number of companies seek the endorsement of celebrities in order to sell their products. In some cases, the celebrity or personality recognizes the responsibility of this and tests, examines, or evaluates the product in a proper manner – or seeks input from others who may have engineering expertise – on the product before endorsing it. In other cases, names have been attached to products that should not have been released to the general public as-is. I am no celebrity, but at this point I can tell the difference between a genuine T&E offer from a manufacturer and someone that just wants to give me free stuff in exchange for pimping it on my blog.

Before anyone asks about other pistols that I carry from time to time – my Kimbers are far from stock. This is because Kimber didn’t design the 1911 – they just found ways to screw it up. My J-frame has a Crimson Trace lasergrip. The Kel-Tec P3AT is stock with the exception of a…”custom finish.” The Sigs and Berettas are stock. Kahrs are stock. Oh - I used to replace Glock sights before they switched to using a screw to attach the front sight.

Now, if you want to modify your carry guns, feel free to do so. Whatever works for you should work for you. What works for me might not work for you. And as a final note, I do not put much stock in the idea that modifications to carry weapons might be used against a concealed carrier in court. If the shooting is justified, little else should matter.

Why I Avoid Shooting Animals & Reptiles

Whenever the possible uses for a firearm are discussed, defense against wild creatures is mentioned seemingly without fail. Indeed, I have carried firearms in wilderness areas ever since I was old enough to handle and control them. I continue to do so. However, I do not relish the thought of shooting animals unnecessarily, and I take many steps to avoid confrontations with wild animals and reptiles. Here’s why.

Most of the time, wild animals will leave you alone if you leave them alone. I have encountered bears, big cats, wolves, coyotes, rattlesnakes, gila monsters, and other creatures which may be feared by some people. With very few exceptions, they have shown little interest in doing anything other than moving away from me – or at the very least staying where they are and mostly ignoring me. I did run into an aggressive rattlesnake that showed a remarkable interest in chasing me once, but once I moved about fifty feet away, it left me alone.

Gila monsters just want to enjoy life. Which, in this case, involved making little gila monsters.
Gila monsters just want to enjoy life. Which, in this case, involved making little gila monsters.

Many animals, including large predators, play a very important role in the ecosystem. Some of these roles are beneficial to humans. For example, rats eat the wiring in my cars. Rattlesnakes eat rats. Therefore, by chasing rattlesnakes off the road in the middle of the night, I may be saving myself from having to deal with major damage to one of my vehicles.

Killing non-aggressive animals serves no purpose, and may not be legally justified. I may be getting a little too patchouli here for some people, but I’m pretty big on the principle of “live and let live.” Yes, a large bear is a dangerous creature. Yes, it is intimidating to be near a large bear. No, it is not legal to shoot a bear just because you came across one while you were hiking and it didn’t immediately run away from you. While I do not equate human life with animal life, I see no need for the unnecessary elimination of animal life (as an aside, I have no issue with hunters or managed hunting and see it as an essential part of managing the ecosystem).

I grew up in Alaska and carried a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with slugs. Had I needed to shoot a bear, it would have been justified only if I didn’t provoke the bear’s attack and I had no alternatives. In other words, if the bear isn’t about to attack you, you can’t shoot it. Oh, and you also have to pack out many of the “bear parts” such as the skull and hide.

In Arizona, there is no open season on gila monsters, for example. Not that they’re especially dangerous to humans, as they move at about half a mile per hour on a good day.

I can’t cover all of the possible encounters, but you should understand the laws regarding use of force and wild animals before you set off into the woods – or move to a place where development is replacing the habitat of wild animals.

Being a stupid hippie, or a clueless city slicker, and getting killed by wildlife is worse than just shooting it. When a bear kills a human in Alaska, not only is the human quite obviously dead, but state wildlife officials have to track down and kill the bear. Same goes for other forms of wildlife in other states. This latest “bear attack” resulted after an outsider took photos from as close as 50 yards of a bear that was “grazing and not acting aggressively.” The man pushed his luck and ended up getting eaten. The bear is now dead too. Hooray- not.

When I saw Timothy Treadwell’s interview with David Letterman in 2001, I knew Treadwell would die at the claws and teeth of a bear. Sure enough, he and his girlfriend were killed and eaten by a bear in 2003. Park rangers killed both the “killer” bear and a second bear which showed aggression towards them as they approached the campsite.

Who cares for bears and wildlife more – someone who respects bears but is willing to kill an aggressive one, or someone who forces others to kill multiple bears after voluntarily putting themselves and others in a situation which resulted in their being eaten by a single bear?

It is sometimes necessary to kill wild animals, and I recognize this. There are truly aggressive wild animals out there. They do not form a majority of any one population, in my opinion, but they do exist. Killing them in self defense is perfectly reasonable.

For those with pets or small children, killing a wild animal may be necessary. The actions of pets and young children may not be as rational and logical as those of adults (this depends on the adult), which might result in a choice between killing a wild animal or watching a child or treasured family pet die. In these examples, there is really only one logical choice.

I would advise taking precautions, however. Simply having a gun does not guarantee the safety of everyone in your party. There are “snake avoidance” classes for dogs, for example. Also, you should tell your kids what to do if they encounter wildlife – if they aren’t old enough or smart enough to understand and follow directions, you might not want to let them out of your sight too often. I don’t know, I don’t have kids, but this seems like a good idea.

The bottom line is that if you understand the wildlife in your area and are not a total idiot, you should be able to avoid the unnecessary killing of wild animals or reptiles. You should also be capable and ready to kill aggressive wildlife when necessary.