Tag Archives: personal defense

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.


A Thought On Personal Safety And Security

I am encouraged by the fact that more and more people are seeking to take responsibility for their own safety and security. Many do this through concealed carry, which is absolutely a major (and good) step. However, simply having a firearm and not taking any other actions or precautions will not lead to the most ideal security situation, and I will not focus on firearms in this article.

Instead, I want to discuss how to balance safety and reality. More precisely, I want to put some things in perspective.

What Is The Threat?

Many people are alarmed by mass killings such as those perpetrated in movie theaters and elementary schools. However, the odds of encountering such a situation are infinitesimally low. Furthermore, if you live and work outside certain high-crime areas, you are not extremely likely to be the victim of a violent crime, especially one involving a firearm (if you do live or work in such an area, you should probably leave).

There is probably a higher chance of zebras forming a drill team than of you being murdered by a crazy person. But since they’ve obviously started on the drill team thing…

As a result, you are far more likely to face death from a vehicle accident or medical condition than at the hands of a crazy person. But we are inundated with media reports of crazy people killing people, while we are not often told in prime time about the dangers of colon barnacles or diabetes of the heart or other such dangerous conditions. Furthermore, despite similar nationwide numbers, homicides are often highly concentrated in certain areas, but same does not go for drunk driving fatalities, for instance. Someone living in New Hampshire is not very likely to be murdered compared to someone in DC, but the statistics flip the other way for drunk driving.

So we prepare for mass killings instead of cutting back on Big Macs or paying extra attention to that girl who just traded her MG for a white Chrysler LeBaron and is now driving 5 under the speed limit and weaving in her lane.

While this does not mean that people in New Hampshire should never concern themselves with being attacked by another person, it does mean that they should not spend all of their mental energy – and money – preparing for a violent attack. Why not divert some of your self defense training or gear money to taking a high performance driving course, or putting better tires on your car? Both might give you an edge when fractions of a second matter while trying to avoid an accident.

If you text or do other things which distract you while you drive, you are similarly at risk, because you are denying yourself the ability to detect potential threats outside your vehicle. So…pay attention.

Would the rhinoceros intentionally harm the ducks? Probably not. But are the ducks wise to get out of the way of the rhinoceros? Yes.

What I’m saying is, look at where you live and the things you do. Identify the things which are most likely to kill you, and work to isolate yourself from those threats. By all means, prepare to defend yourself against a violent attack, but do not do so at the expense of all other preparations.

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.