THE FAT BOY’S GUIDE TO CONCEALED CARRY:
By: Spats McGee
First and foremost, I’ve carried a concealed firearm in virtually every legally-permissible setting over the past nine years. I learned a lot by reading, and I learned a lot by doing. With that said, if you’ve been carrying a concealed handgun for years, I’ll tell you right now that this guide probably doesn’t cover anything you don’t already know. I wrote this guide for people who are either considering carrying a concealed handgun, or just recently started.
To give the reader a frame of reference, I’m not an operator, ex-military or certified law enforcement officer. I am an overweight, middle-aged pencil-pusher. To be more precise, I’m a lawyer. I’ve been involved in some work that made me pretty unpopular. That’s one of several reasons for which I have carried a concealed firearm almost non-stop since roughly 2008. I’ve learned a lot along the way, and I’d like to share a few things with you. I’m neither an engineer nor a gunsmith, so I’m not qualified to offer much on the best gun, or the latest whiz-bang carry load, so I’ll (mostly) avoid those topics. Besides, those are very popular subjects, and there are hundreds of writers more competent than I addressing them. I’m here to address concealed carry for those of us who either cannot (or do not want to) open carry wearing 5.11 pants and a nylon web belt on a daily basis.
First, my caveat: I’m a lawyer, but I’m not your lawyer. I’m licensed in the great state of Arkansas and the federal courts, but that’s it. Unless you’re in Arkansas or dealing in the federal system, I’m not licensed to practice there. Further, I’m employed full-time by my one and only client. If you want legal advice, you’ll need to go hire someone other than me.
Second, know your laws. I’m often puzzled by the fact that those who carry a concealed handgun spend hundreds or thousands of dollars in order to properly carry concealed, yet many of them are unwilling to pay a lawyer for advice. Oddly enough, those very same folks who won’t spend money on a lawyer often take legal advice from anonymous internet sources. That is a monumentally bad idea. There are a great number of internet “experts” who seem to think themselves well-qualified to give out legal advice. Some are correct. Some are not. Some are garden-variety morons. The reality surrounding legal information in matters involving firearms is this: If you are arrested and charged with a weapons-related offense, none of those folks who advised you over the internet will stand in front of the judge with you. Remember the old saying, “Laugh, and the world laughs with you. Cry, and you cry alone.” This could be one of those “cry alone” times.
You should no more accept legal advice from anonymous sources than you should medical advice. It’s well worth your time & hard-earned cash to hire a lawyer for thirty minutes or an hour to discuss the ins and outs of gun laws in your jurisdiction. This is one of those “ounce of prevention” scenarios. Hiring a lawyer for that one-hour consult will help you avoid breaking your local laws. If you break that law and have to hire one to defend against a criminal charge . . . well, that’s far more expensive than a one-hour consult. There are also some outstanding websites to help you keep current on gun and carry laws, like www.handgunlaw.us, www.thefiringline.com, and www.thehighroad.org.
Third, know the laws where you travel. This is a corollary to “know your laws.” If you travel to other states, bear in mind that carry laws differ quite a bit from state to state. If, for example, you live in northern Tennessee and travel to Kentucky, your rights and obligations change the instant you cross the state line. In some states, gun laws may actually vary from city to city, due to local ordinances. In many cases, the changes are minor. That said, you need to know what those changes are before you can decide if they’re minor or major. As an example, one area that varies from state to state is commonly called the “duty to inform.” This refers to whether one who carries a firearm has an affirmative duty to inform law enforcement officers that he or she is carrying a firearm. If Officer Friendly stops you for speeding in a duty-to-inform state, one of the last things that you want to have happen is for Officer Friendly to unexpectedly discover your pistol after you’ve neglected to inform him that you have one. If that happens, and you’re lucky, you’ll find out why Officer Friendly graduated at the top of his class in the Submission Holds class at the police academy. If you’re unlucky, you’ll get shot.
First, many newly-minted concealed carriers are surprised to discover that nobody notices when you carry, if everything is properly concealed. For the first few weeks that you carry concealed, you’re going to feel like everybody and their dog knows that you have a gun, and you’ll just wait for someone to start shrieking, “OHMYGODITSAMANWITHAGUN!” That’s not going to happen, and the feeling will eventually go away. After a few months, you’ll figure out that you could carry anything short of a bazooka under your coat, and nobody would ever know the difference. Most folks out in public are either on their phones or herding children. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t take measures to properly conceal your firearm, but learn not to worry too much about “being made.” If you’re constantly looking over your shoulder and hitching up your gunbelt, all you’ll do is draw attention to yourself and increase the odds that someone will notice. If you do much internet research on concealed carry, you’ll also see a lot of chatter about “printing,” which is the outline of a gun showing through your cover garment. Depending on your jurisdiction, it may or may not be a big deal. In practical terms, though, I think printing presents only a small risk of exposing one as a concealed carrier. In this day and age, everybody and their dog has some kind of odd lump poking out through a shirt. Pagers, cell phones, pistols, . . . . If anyone other than a police officer asks about the lump, you could always either: (1) ask them why they’re so interested in things on the inside of your clothing; or (2) tell them it’s your colostomy bag. I doubt the questions will go much further than that.
Second, it’s important to know your wardrobe. This may seem like a silly statement, but what you carry and how is largely dependent on three things: (1) your daily attire; (2) your daily activities; and (3) your willingness to dress around the gun. If you’re a twenty-something barista, or if you work in an auto shop, you probably don’t wear many suits. Let your usual wardrobe guide (but not dictate) your choice of carry pistols, but be prepared to make a few alterations to accommodate the gun. There’s no sense in buying a large pistol if you’re not going to be able to conceal it, or if doing so will be monumentally uncomfortable. That’s a recipe for leaving the gun at home, which should be considered a failure. If a .380 “mouse gun” is all you can conceal, then carry a .380 mouse gun. Don’t let the internet chest-thumpers talk you into something that you will just leave at home. Me? I’m a lawyer in my late-40s. I wear a suit 3-4 days per week. Given my age, profession and demeanor, that is exactly how the general public expects me to dress. Fortunately for me, it’s also a wardrobe that lends itself well to bigger guns. With pants cut 1-2” larger in the waist and my jacket on, I can conceal and carry any damn gun I want. Even when I’m not in a suit, I can often be found in jeans or khakis and a sport coat. I have this theory: When people see what they expect to see, it often goes unnoticed. People notice things that clash with their expectations. So dressing in a manner consistent with societal expectations is my way of remaining unobtrusive, which is how I like it. For the first three years that I carried, my EDC (Every Day Carry) pistol was a Government Model 1911A1, and two spare magazines. As far as I could ever tell, nobody ever “made” me. The only downside to my wardrobe is summer. Arkansas summers can get pretty hot and humid, so keeping the jacket on gets a little uncomfortable. I usually carry in a tuckable inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster, but I rarely tuck my shirt in over the holster, because I know I’ll be wearing a jacket. In the summer, I just have to tuck the shirt in over the holster, and I’m free to take my jacket off. While my wardrobe works well for me, though, it may not work at all for you. Take some time to assess your wardrobe and figure out what you can comfortably carry. (A gun won’t necessarily be comfortable, but if it’s definitively uncomfortable, you’re more likely to leave it at home.) You may have to spend some time exploring inside-the-waistband, outside-the-waistband, pocket carry, etc.
Third, if you don’t have a proper gunbelt, get one. If you are going to carry a gun on your belt, you need a good belt on which to carry it. Virtually every person that I know who regularly carries a firearm does so by using a belt holster. I know a few who use pocket holsters or shoulder rigs, but those folks are clearly in the minority. The belt is the basis of your entire carry system. You need one that will support the weight of the gun and holster. It may need to support the weight of a spare magazine, flashlight, multi-tool, etc. My gun belt routinely has to support my pistol, a holster, and two spare magazines. Dress belts will sag under that much weight. Been there, done that. Fortunately, you can find gun belts that look like dress belts these days.
A dedicated gun belt is stiffer than your usual dress belt. In some cases, it will actually have a polymer strip sewn in between two layers of leather, or it may use some other means of stiffening the belt. That does not mean that it has to be the black basketweave pattern that the police use, or that it has to be nylon webbing tactical operator gear. Both of those are certainly available, but virtually all of the major gunleather manufacturers offer more discreet belts, and a quick internet search for “gun belt” will also turn up any number of independent leatherworkers who specialize in gun belts. A dedicated gun belt is also more expensive than a run-of-the-mill belt, but they’re not outlandishly expensive. What’s more, it’s absolutely worth it. I’ve carried with a regular belt and I’ve carried with a gun belt. The latter is far and away more comfortable. I paid something like $55 for my first gun belt, a brown Aker B21. I bought it about 10 years ago, and I think they’ve gone up to $63. My second gun belt is a black DeSantis Econobelt, bought on sale for about $20, also around 10 years ago. That was an exceptional bargain, truth be told. Do not be surprised if some of the belts that you see cost $80-100 or more, but bear in mind that you can expect years of service out of a good belt, and that it will be holding up more than your pants. Both concealed carriers and the police know that if a guy is constantly hitching up his pants, that’s a good sign that he has a gun at his waist.
Fourth, get a decent holster to go with that belt. Whether you choose to carry inside or outside the waistband, on your ankle, or in your front pocket, a holster is a handy thing to have. If you go with waist carry, it keeps the pistol secure and comfortable. If you’re going to pocket carry, it keeps lint and debris out of your gun, and more importantly, keeps things out of the trigger guard. (When I pocket carry, I never, ever, ever carry anything in the pocket with the pistol, and I would caution you in the strongest of terms to adopt the same policy.) And not to be underestimated . . . I think the police prefer folks with holsters. Why? Because felons don’t use them, and the police know this. A guy who can’t afford to be caught with a gun, who knows that he may need to separate himself from any evidence of a firearm as quickly as possible . . . . that guy doesn’t use a holster. He needs to be able to pull his gun out of his pants and ditch it. Now, if not sooner. He doesn’t have time to undo his belt and slide his holster off. You, as a lawful carrier of a concealed firearm, have no such need, right? Right?
Fifth, if you’re at least 25 years old, you should own dress clothes. You may think of yourself as a “tee shirt and jeans” kind of guy, and that’s fine, but by now there should be some things going on in your life that require dressing up, at least occasionally. You should be dressing up for things like: weddings, baptisms, funerals, nice dinners with that Special Someone, etc. If you’re wearing a tee shirt and jeans to those kinds of events, you’re doing it wrong. Go buy some khakis, button down shirts, a few ties and a blue blazer. You don’t have to buy a $1000 suit. Khakis and a blazer will be good enough for about 95% of the events like the ones I listed. I think of khakis and a sport coat as The Uniform, and it’s The Uniform for a reason. Put on The Uniform with a tie and go to the event. After the event (or if you discover that you’re the only one in a tie), you can ditch the tie and have “business casual” for the rest of the evening. Every guy over 30 should have this setup, and it’s incredibly versatile. Carry Tip: Get a jacket that’s just a little wide through the waist and it becomes a near-perfect cover garment. I’ve carried guns ranging in size from a Smith & Wesson Shield to a government profile 1911, all of them in OWB leather, under a blue blazer over the years. I’m a pudgy, middle-aged, white collar worker. Everyone expects to see me in The Uniform. Because of that, nobody is going to notice me or that odd bulge at my waist, and nobody will remember whether I wore it or not, come tomorrow. Money-saving tip: Hit the thrift stores. These kinds of clothes show up at Goodwill and the Salvation Army routinely. This may seem a little macabre, but the reality is that middle-aged men own The Uniform and when they get old and die, The Uniform gets donated. If you think you’ll only wear The Uniform once or twice a year, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on it. Just be sure to put the clothes in the freezer (well, in a plastic bag in the freezer) for a few days when you first get them. In the event that the prior owner allowed something to take up residence there, the freezer will kill it. I discovered a spider living in a tie once.
Sixth, for less formal (or completely informal) events where even a blue blazer would be out of place, get some cover garments. Long, untucked shirts are very popular with concealed carriers, and for good reason. The rules of thumb are: (a) dark colors conceal better than light colors; and (b) patterns conceal better than plain fabrics. This is another item that can be picked up fairly inexpensively at your local thrift shop. When I make my Saturday morning grocery run, I’ll often wear a gray or black t-shirt, with one of my cover garments, unbuttoned, on top of that. One caution that I’ll give you here is that breeze can open that garment plenty wide enough for an onlooker to spot your gun. I have one friend that has sewn small weights (maybe the size of quarters) into the hems of his cover garments. I’m not much of a tailor, so I just tuck a corner of my shirt up under my belt. It’s a little more unkempt than I like to be, but it does prevent my shirt from blowing open.
Finally, learn how to inform police that you have a gun. Whether you live in a “must inform” jurisdiction or not, you should give this some thought. You may one day have to inform whether it’s your first choice or not. You may live in a state where you’re not required to inform an officer that you’re carrying. You may not think it’s a good idea to inform an officer that you’re carrying. You should still consider how you will do so, if you have to. If the officer asks if you’re carrying a gun, you really only have four options: (1) yes; (2) no; (3) I don’t know; and (4) none of your business. Neither #3 nor #4 are going to play very well with any officer I have ever met.
Remember that you carry a gun for the same reason an officer does: To defend him- or herself or others. At first contact, the officer may or may not know anything about you, whether you have a concealed handgun license, or whether you have a violent felony record. Yes, I know that in some states it’s linked to your driver license number, and the officer may be able to run your tags to find out who the car is registered to, but that’s not the case everywhere. Also bear in mind that until the officer actually lays eyes on you and your DL, he does not know whether the driver is the actual owner of the car, so the fact that a car is registered to you is irrelevant until then.
From an officer’s perspective, there’s a gargantuan difference between:
[calm & steady voice] Good evening, Officer Friendly. My name is Spats McGee. Here’s my concealed handgun carry license and yes, I am carrying a firearm; it’s on my right hip.
[shrieking] I have a gun!
Officers, if they’re being honest, will tell you that their first priority is just like everyone else’s: survival. (That’s why they carry guns, right?) The last thing they really want on any given day is a gunfight. The next-to-last thing they want is a bad surprise. Informing them in the calm and steady manner listed at #1, above, tells the officer a couple of things: (1) you’re being up front and honest with him or her; and (2) you at least appear mentally stable. Those two things go a long way towards avoiding conflict with the officer.
And that’s that. Those tips are this Fat Boy’s Guide for the beginning concealed carrier.
 I am neither employed by, nor affiliated with, www.handgunlaw.us. I do occasionally contact the administrators there to provide information on Arkansas law, though. I also use the site myself.
 I am a moderator at www.thefiringline.com and www.thehighroad.org.
The Ultimate Cliploader: A Review
For years and years, I owned a Ruger .22 pistol. You know the one, looks a bit like a Luger, long, thin, 10-round magazine? Actually, now that I think about it, mine was a 9-round magazine, but that's neither here nor there. I got it before they started calling them “Mark” whatever. It was a good little pistol, and I enjoyed shooting it. Right, wrong, or indifferent, though, so did Mrs. McGee. (As an aside, if you’re taking a wife or girlfriend to the range, she just might be a keeper. After almost 25 years of marriage, I can safely say Mrs. McGee is, in fact, a keeper.) Anyway, I’m a plinker at heart. Shooting for the bullseye is fine, but give me a .22 and some soup cans, and I’m a really happy guy. Mrs. McGee, on the other hand, prefers paper. She likes trying to make itty-bitty groups. So around Christmas 2017, I did a little horse-trading. In fact, this was the trade that I talked about in A Postcard from the Doghouse a while back. To avoid boring you with the details all over again, I’ll make it short: I traded around for a Ruger 22/45 Lite for myself and a 22/45 Target for Mrs. McGee. I knew that this meant that range days would involve lots of shooting for her and lots of mag-loading for me, so I went into it looking for two guns that share magazines, and I’m partial to Rugers.
I also started looking for a mag loader, in the hopes that I could squeeze in a little more shooting time when Mrs. McGee accompanied me to the range. I ordered a couple of little slip-on gizmos, which I’m sure will work fine if I ever use them. However, I ran across one item that caught my eye: The Ultimate Cliploader from McFadden Machine. It runs ~$22-25 dollars, depending on where you order, and the videos looked AMAZING. If you watch the promo videos, you’d think that a round will do anything but sit up and beg to get into that magazine. I knew those were the promo videos, but I figured for $25, I couldn’t go too far wrong.
As I recall, there were some instructions that came with the UCL. I think I skimmed them once and then set them off to the side. I promptly lost them, naturally. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that it didn’t work as well as the promo video showed. As it turns out, however, that was really my fault.
I watched a few YouTube videos about the UCL and gathered that the instructions said a few important things. One is that there’s a line on the “handle” of the UCL that will help you figure out the angle at which you should hold it. The other is that you should use a little lubricant in the chamber. Finally, that there’s a set screw in the handle that may need some adjustment. A few words about each of these:
First, the line on handle. There’s a small line on the handle that says “hold at horizontal” or some such. The idea is that if the little line is horizontal, then the body of the UCL should be at the ideal angle for feeding your mags. Maybe it’s my mags, maybe it’s the lubricant I used, but I have found that, for ideal performance, I need to hold the UCL at a slightly steeper angle than indicated by that line. The line is pretty darn close to right, so use it as a guide, but fiddle with holding the UCL at varying angles. When you hit it just right, you’ll know.
Second, lubricant. I searched the internet for a copy of the instructions that I mislaid, but could not find one. Still, the YouTube videos that I watched said that the instructions stated a preference for Rem Oil with Teflon. That’s all well and good, except that I could not find that around here. Rem Oil abounds, but I couldn’t find any with Teflon. In any event, I’ve been experimenting with Hornady One Shot, so I used that.
Third, the set screw. There’s a small screw in the handle of the UCL that may need some adjustment. I’m guessing that’s to account for small variations in the magazines for the various Marks, the 22/45, etc. I’m certainly not an expert on variations between the models and their magazines, so take that information for what it is: a best guess. In any event, after my first disappointing day with the UCL, I sat down with my mags, my UCL and some supplies, YouTube, and started my fiddling.
I spritzed some Hornady One Shot in the chamber, and began adjusting the set screw about one quarter of a turn at a time, and then trying to load mags. Eventually, SUCCESS! Rounds were, quite literally, falling into the magazine from the UCL. Then I switched ammo . . . . LESS SUCCESS! Quite simply, some ammo fed better than others. Maybe some rounds were longer than others? To be honest, I really didn’t think about cartridge length during my experimentation, but that may have played a role. I tried it with a variety of ammo, including Federal Game Kings, Remington Thunderbolts, Winchester Xpert (from about 1985), and a handful of others. Some were better than others, but I don’t recall any that just flat would not feed.
Here’s the bottom line:
· The set screw has to be adjusted, but that’s really, really easy to do. Be patient, make small adjustments, and keep testing it until you have it right.
· You’ll need to spray lube in the chamber about every 50-100 rounds. Or at least you do with Hornady One Shot. Maybe Rem Oil with Teflon lasts longer.
· It will load some ammo better than others.
· Was it worth my $25? ABSOLUTELY! Once I made the initial adjustments (all of which I think were actually covered in the instructions, to be fair), the McFadden Ultimate Clip Loader is pretty danged nifty. I consistently get 8+ rounds to load in a 10-round mag, with almost zero effort, and regardless of ammo brand or type. Perhaps more importantly, I can load magazines ridiculously fast. Regardless of whether I go alone or with Mrs. McGee, that means more time shooting and less time loading.
A Postcard from The Doghouse
As any married gun owner knows, there are more ways to anger a wife than there are wives in this world. What follows is a tale of a married man, bad timing, and five thousand rounds of ammunition.
Many gun owners will remember the .22 Drought of 2008-16, which began with the election of Barack Obama. After his election, .22 Long Rifle ammunition disappeared from shelves across the country. Every morning, the ammo flippers descended on their local Walmarts and bought every .22 bullet in sight. They brought friends and family, and each bought a 3-box limit. Then they changed their shirts and circled back through for another limit. They sold their ill-gotten wares on the net and at gun shows, charging fifteen cents a round or more. Monsters. For eight long years, I watched friends and family suffer from ammonemia, which is the technical term for a lack of bullets. I gave away more .22 than I shot during those years, hoping to save some poor wretch from having to pay scalper’s prices or worse, give up plinking altogether. I picked up ammo in a catch as catch can manner, buying a box here and a bulk pack there, but without shooting any. The ammo cabinet at the local Walmart was ordinarily empty of .22, but about every month or six weeks, I’d spy some and I’d grab it. There was a little sign on the locked cabinet that said, “Limit 3 Boxes of .22 Per Customer.” Fortunately for me, some of the younger folks who work at Walmart have never been taught the distinction between “box” and “bulk pack.”
By late 2017, .22LR was showing up on local shelves again, and at more reasonable prices. I’d grown up with prices around three and a half cents per round, and they’d naturally gone up since then. The Drought of 2008 was more than just normal inflation, though. Prices had peaked somewhere north of seventeen cents per round, so three and a half just wasn’t going to happen. When they dropped back past about twelve cents per round, I began to watch, hoping to score a lot of ammo at a good price. As I sat at my computer one December day, there it was. It reached out and grabbed me as surely as a twister grabs a trailer. Glorious, copper-plated, 40 grain Federal .22LR for five and a half cents per round, shipped. Compared to the last almost-decade, that was a steal. And I figured that the more I bought, the more I saved. Wasn’t that what Mrs. McGee kept telling me about sales? If it’s on sale, you gotta buy a lot of it? Why else would one whole shelf in the pantry be stocked with Mac & Cheese? Why else would we own 113 cans of condensed tomato soup? So I bought the ammo, but just one case. I figured that five thousand rounds would set me for a while.
There’s another thing that every married gun owner knows. He knows how to sneak things into the house. Unfortunately, I was out of practice in this most sacred art. I tried to convince the ammo company that an adult signature really was not required, and that the FedEx driver really could go out behind the house and stash the ammo under the blue tarp behind the shed, preferably while nobody was home. I was unsuccessful. Barring that, I tried to time the shipment so that I’d be home when it arrived, and hoped that I could get the package out to the garage without catching Mrs. McGee’s attention.
Unfortunately, I ordered in late December. Anybody who shops online should be able to tell you that Christmas screws up delivery times. Still, I persevered in tracking the order so as not to alarm Mrs. McGee with its arrival. The key to my ultimate downfall came when I saw a sign that read “Gun Show.” I figured I could go to the show in the morning, and be home before my ammo arrived. I began moving my chess pieces some time around Wednesday.
I announced my intention to go to the gun show in my usual manner: “Honey, can I go to the gun show?” The missus responded in her own sweet way: “You’re not going to buy another gun are you?” In truth, I did not intend to buy another gun. “Of course not.” I intended to trade for another gun. “Then why do you need to go to the gun show?” I was prepared to announce to her that, as a real man, I didn’t need a reason or permission from my wife. Then I remembered how little I like sleeping in the garage. I said, “I have a couple of guns I want to sell.” She responded, “You hit your head again, didn’tcha?” Her concern for my well-being was touching. “No. I’ve just got a couple I’m probably not going to shoot again,” I replied. She quipped, “Are we broke again?” I do so love Mrs. McGee’s sense of humor. “No, we’re not broke this time.”
By Friday, I had gotten permission to go to the gun show. I packed up a rifle and a semiautomatic pistol, each with a handful of magazines, and off I went. I wanted to do my horse-trading and be back by lunch to get my ammo. I had told Mrs. McGee that I had ordered some ammo, but gently glossed over the issue of how much. She need never be the wiser. I loaded my guns into the car, and off I went. I knew that I wanted a new plinker, but I also knew I had more than enough trade bait to get more than just that. I wasn’t sure what else I wanted. Maybe a couple of cases of 9mm, a bolt action rifle, or even a suppressor.
As soon as I hit the entryway to the show, I was hit with the usual “Whatcha got?” I proudly showed off my guns, certain that they would net a king’s ransom. As it turns out, I was mistaken. I roamed the floor, testing the fit and finish of new pistols and snacking on deer jerky. (For the record, though, gun dealers get a little testy when deer jerky grease gets on a brand new gun.)
I made a lap around the hall and got a nibble here and there. I got a few low-ball offers, but I knew the value of the treasures I held in my hands. One particular dealer asked me what I wanted for the pistol and I gave him a fair asking price. In the usual good-natured ribbing that happens during negotiations, he came back with a counter-offer: “You’re out of your %$#&% mind.” I knew better, though. I could see the gleam of desire in his eyes every time he looked at that pistol. I circled the show a couple more times, stopping at his table now and again to resume negotiations.
By the time I’d made my third or fourth round, I’d come down a little on my price, and the dealer had backed off on his assessment of my psychological condition. We were getting close to a deal. Then came The Text. FedEx had delivered my ammo! Mrs. McGee had uncovered my plan, and she had a question. “HOW MUCH FREAKIN’ AMMO DID YOU BUY?!? I HAD TO GET THE DOLLY TO MOVE IT!” This was followed by a picture of a scowling Kermit the Frog. My cover was blown, and it was time to implement Operation Pacification.
Mrs. McGee has always been supportive of my shooting, as long as I didn’t risk losing the house, having utilities shut off, or such things. In fact, she has always enjoyed target shooting. I remembered this little fact, and in a moment of blinding brilliance, I had my answer. For years, I’d wanted to buy Mrs. McGee her own target pistol, and now was the perfect opportunity. I had two guns for trade, and 5,000 rounds of ammo sitting at home.
I returned to the dealer’s table. “Can we cut to the chase?,” I asked. “Depends. You gotten over your delusions?” he cheerily replied. I looked over two almost-matching Ruger Mark IV 22/45s, one with a threaded barrel, and one standard model. “If I could trade you straight across the board, my two guns for these two, I’d walk away happy.” The dealer was undoubtedly a seasoned haggler, and I could see him doing calculations in his head. I could also see him doing them on his calculator. “Yeah, we’ll do that.” He said. Ten minutes and a 4473 later, I was headed home, already rehearsing my story for the missus.
Twenty minutes later, I marched through my door, barely bothered by the cactus that whistled past my head. My wife’s timing has always been impeccable, but her understanding of succulent aerodynamics is less finely honed. “Honey, I’m ho-ome!” I sang. My wife warbled back, “Spats McGee, what in the hell have you done this time?!? We need five thousand rounds about as much as we need extra holes drilled in our heads!” I pulled out the Mark IV 22/45 that I’d bought for her. I carefully shielded from her view the Mark IV 22/45 Lite that I’d bought for myself. As it turns out, it’s a little difficult to use your body to shield things from view when you’re afraid to turn your back on someone. “Honey, I’ve wanted to get you your own .22 for a long time. I finally did that today. I got us matching .22s.” I then showed her the 22/45 Lite I’d bought for myself. As I held her pistol out to her, I could tell that she was overwhelmed by my generosity. Her face flushed, and tears welled up in her eyes. “Christ on a crutch, Spats! Don’t tell me you actually spent money on that damn thing!” I beamed proudly. “No, ma’am. I did a little horse trading. I spent the princely sum of ten dollars to get in the door, and I traded the two guns I left the house with this morning.” Something changed in her face at that point. At first, I thought it might be just a change in the light, a reflection from a passing Peterbilt. Then I realized that her expression had actually softened a little. She closed her eyes. “Spats, you moron. I didn’t need a gun! I guess that’s your love language, though . . . .” She has not shot her new 22/45 yet, either with me or at me. We’ll head the range soon, though, and maybe then she’ll let me come in from the garage.
Hot-rodded them up!
So... I don't know what I was googling when I found (really. someone really needs to keep a closer watch on me) platinum-catalyst impregnated cotton. Remembering reading up on the handwarmers, that's kind of what they use in those. I bought a baggie-full, (which seems to be many lifetime's supply worth) for $5.
It's a bag of fluffy gray cotton. It's probably not dangerous. I didn't wear latex gloves. Didn't hurt.
The heads of the zippo warmers are little cotton-ish pads (the jon-e-warmers have a woven metal-thread head). So, because science, I stuffed the heads full of platinum cotton.
I filled them up with fluid, and took the lighter to them. This stuff GLOWED! I put them in my pockets and went to work...
It seemed like they didn't work near as good as normal. huh.
That night I pulled the cotton out. I took the springs from some clicky ballpoint pens, and, with a toothpick, stuffed them full of the cotton. As much as I could pack in there.
The springs fit right into the zippo head. So, it wasn't packed tight, but it was in there. I took the lighter to it. GLOWAGE X3!
These things got twice as hot as normal. Which is good. I think.
That might be how Chernobyl started.
Don't touch them when they are just bare metal, too hot! I found some baby socks, I put them in, in my pockets.
Platinum, burning unspent fuel, in your pockets, is probably ok. The package didn't tell me to not do that.
A bigger spring will fit in there, as soon as I find some. I've got enough of this stuff to go around. Fukushima.
Somewhere, there's a baby with cold feet.
Holster Review: StealthGear Revolution IWB:
Many concealed carriers have a “box of holsters” that we rarely if ever use. The holsters that occupy these boxes are the result of trial and error in figuring out what we like in holsters. I’m no different. My first holster was an OWB leather, but I’ve tried just about every design out there: IWB, OWB, Kydex, leather and hybrid. OWB Kydex is fine if I’m out in the wilds, but not so well if I’m in town running errands. For that, I greatly prefer the IWB hybrids. By necessity rather than choice, I’m a city dweller, so I use the hybrids far more than anything else. They spread the weight of a gun out well, provide excellent concealment with my usual wardrobe, which consists of a suit, or maybe khakis and a sportcoat. I wear a jacket at least 4 days per week. The IWBs also hold my gun securely enough for my usual activities. No combat rolls into my office for me.
As of this writing, I’ve had four of them. My first was a Theis hybrid in horsehide, which I used to carry a Government model 1911 for about 3 years. I later picked up a slightly used Crossbreed Supertuck in horsehide for a song. I carried a G19 in it for about the next 4 years. This year, I decided that I wanted something smaller & lighter for carry, so I bought a Smith & Wesson Shield in 9mm. Naturally, that meant that I needed to buy another holster.
I looked at all of my usual suspects in holster gear, but I kept coming back to StealthGear. I’ve had my eye on them for quite some time, but never bought one of their holsters. My Crossbreed Supertuck was working just fine with my G19. Now that I have my Shield, it’s time to check them out.
Let’s start with the description provided by the manufacturer itself. From StealthGear’s website:
“Proprietary ACX-57 Polymer Platform With Venting Ports
Pebbled Outer Surface for Enhanced Draw and Reholstering
4.30 oz: Lightest IWB Holster Among Leading Brands
Ships in 72 hours
Full Trigger & Muzzle Protection
No Break-in Time Required
Despite what you may have heard, lawyers do not earn more money than the Lord God Almighty. I earn a modest salary. My budget is limited like everyone else’s. As of this writing, StealthGear’s Revolution IWB-Mini can be bought for $49. I got mine through Amazon, so I got free shipping. Other hybrid IWB holsters run from about $44 for the Alien Gear Cloak Tuck and up. The Crossbreed Supertuck Deluxe runs about $70, and we all know that the sky’s the limit if you go looking for a custom holster. The IWB-Mini may not be the cheapest holster out there, but the price is certainly reasonable.
On arrival, the first thing that I noticed was this thing is very, very light. I don’t have a scale that measures in ounces, but I have no reason to doubt the claim on StealthGear’s website that it weighs in at 4.3 ounces. For comparison’s sake and according to the Crossbreed website, a Supertuck Deluxe tips the scales at 0.85 lbs (13.6 oz.). I’m not trying to single Crossbreed out, but it’s one of the few manufacturers that actually publishes the weight of its holsters on the web. Perhaps comparing the CBST to the Revolution Standard would be fairer, as they’re a little closer in size, but even the Standard only weights 6.3 oz., according to what I read on the internet. Even that’s a 7 oz. difference. Since the main goal of buying the Shield was to move to something lighter, well, mission accomplished!
I’m not a chemist, so I have no idea what this ACX-57 polymer is all about, at a molecular level. With that said, it’s flexible but stiffer than neoprene, and somewhat slicker. The upside of this is that it’s pretty easy to slide the holster along the beltline after putting it on to make small adjustments, without having to start all over by completely removing the holster. StealthGear says that no break-in time is needed for this holster. I believe them. I carried my Shield in it the day after it arrived. After about a month of carry, I do note that it’s begun to take on a slight curve, so it will mold to your body. The best option, though, may well be those vent holes in the backing. They allow that area covered by the holster to breathe and for sweat to evaporate and I want to hug the designer that came up with this idea.
The belt clips are polymer, which I like, because metal clips scratch up my belts. Having splurged on a Beltman belt, I’d really like to keep it looking nice. The backing has 3 adjustment holes and each belt clip has 2 holes for adjusting ride height and cant. I’m no mathematician (which is why I went to law school), but that seems like it would provide plenty of flexibility in ride and cant options.
After just a few weeks of carrying the Shield in the IWB-Mini, I decided that I needed a second one for my G19, so I sold my CBST and bought a StealthGear Revolution IWB Standard. The Kydex shells are nice and thick (.093”, according to StealthGear) and fit my pistols (a G19 and a Shield) exactly. My CBST has an open bottom, so that the muzzle sticks out, but the IWB-Mini does not. This might be an issue if I carried something with a threaded barrel, but I don’t, so it’s fine. The shell is screwed to the backing, so it would (at least theoretically) be possible to simply replace the shell if one wanted to change carry guns. I do not see an option to buy other shells on SG’s website at this time, though.
Overall, I’m very impressed with this holster, particularly at this price ($49 as of this writing). It’s easier to adjust after putting it on than my CBST, is far more comfortable (which may also be a byproduct of carrying a different gun), and it does not squeak like my CBST did. I’ve often said that my CBST was exceptionally comfortable, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the Revolution. The Revolution is easier to adjust, just as secure, and about 7 ounces lighter. After about 7 years of carry, I’m done shopping for hybrid IWBs.
Here’s the TLDR: Holy crap, that’s comfortable! I sold my CBST and I’m not sorry. The StealthGear Revolution holsters are just ridiculously, amazingly comfortable.
The Test of Time, Part II: The DeSantis Econobelt
If you read last review, you know a little bit of my history. My first actual gun belt was an Aker B21. Several months after I bought my Aker B21 that I mentioned in that post, I decided that I couldn’t wear the same belt every day. A lot of guys can, because they work in jobs where matching your belt to your shoes really isn’t an issue. By contrast, I wear a suit to work. I wear a suit about 4 days a week, and while it’s unlikely that I would be ostracized for ill-matching belts and shoes, those items really should match.
In any event, since I had a brown belt, I went on the hunt for a black one, still severely constrained by finances. I discovered the DeSantis Econobelt while researching. DeSantis describes it as “. . . . a combination bonded leather and other synthetic materials . . . . designed as an under-belt for the NYPD officers[.] It is available in black only with a black powder coated buckle.” In other words, it’s meant to be sturdy, not pretty. It’s meant to be hidden under another belt. As of this writing, an Econobelt is priced at $28.99. It was about $25 when I bought mine, and I found it on sale even cheaper than that. As I recall, I paid around $15 plus shipping.
There’s an old saying in retail: “You can have it good, fast, or cheap. Pick any two.” My DeSantis Econobelt apparently has a problem living up to that. I’ve been wearing this belt for ~5 years. I wear it as my black dress belt, and I CC under my jacket. I carried a 1911 when I first got the belt, then switched to a G19 about 4 years ago, and have now switched to a S&W Shield. The Econobelt will hold up a full-sized pistol, and it has worn exceptionally well for such an inexpensive belt. Black belts, like black cattle, are pretty hard to photograph, but I can tell you that after ~5 years, it shows very little wear. It shows only minor cracking and warping. The buckle shows no wear whatsoever. And not one soul has ever commented on whether it's a "real" dress belt.
The Test of Time, Part I: The Aker B21
If you carry a gun on your hip, then your gun belt is the whole foundation of your carry system. Years ago, I discovered the value of having a good gun belt. It turns carrying a pistol from “always hitching up my pants” into “comfortable stroll.” Unfortunately, I figured this out at a time when money was in exceptionally short supply for me and my family. That meant that $100 for a belt was out of the question. Every purchase had to be very carefully examined. I read reviews and return policies, to a ridiculous degree, because we just couldn’t risk wasting money. During this process, the Aker B21 gunbelt was recommended by a friend of mine. It cost $55 in 2009 or so, but that was considerably less expensive than its competitors.
I had only been carrying a pistol for a couple of months at that point, but I was carrying a government profile 1911 and two spare mags. I wear a suit and tie to work, and as you might imagine, that load placed quite a bit of strain on my Cheapo brand dress belt. My first holster was a DeSantis Speed Scabbard, and I later added a Theis hybrid inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster. Eventually, I moved to a lighter pistol – a Glock 19 to be precise. I carried that 1911 for 3 years and have carried the Glock for the remaining 4. I give you all of this history just so that you have an idea of what kind of wear and tear I put on my B21.
The B21 is described on Aker’s website as having “all the features of a premium dress belt, and includes a reinforcing strip of polymer to prevent weapon rollover or sagging.” Aker claims that the B21 is “a concealment belt that doesn't look like a gun belt.” Aker is right. The B21 doesn’t look like a gun belt. That’s one of the reasons that I chose the B21. (A black basketweave belt just does not go with a suit.) The B21 is available in black or brown, with chrome or brass for the buckle and keeper.
I got mine in brown with chrome. I loaded it down with the 1911, a couple of magazines and the occasional multi-tool and it served me well. As you can see in the photo below, the chrome buckle has held up well. There is some minor scuffing, but no flaking or peeling, and this is after 7 years on the Spats McGee Zero Maintenance Program. The buckle is affixed to the belt using snaps, so I could easily slide the buckle and keeper off for use on another belt, should I so desire. I’ve recently retired my B21 to yard work duty, but I will one day do just that.
Despite the belt’s enrollment on the SMZMP, the leather has fared well, in my opinion. In the picture below, you can see the condition of the leather. My Theis IWB holster came with metal belt clips, and the scuffing that you see is the result of sliding those clips off of the belt a couple of times per day. The lighter half of the belt is the upper side, where the clips scraped the leather during holster removal. I suspect that other wearers could reduce the amount of scuffing by using a little more care than I did, or perhaps the occasional application of shoe polish.
As an Original Fat Boy, I have a tendency to cinch my belts down pretty tight. This was especially true when I was carrying the 1911 inside my waistband. That makes me hard on belts. You can easily identify the holes that I used most often, where the leather has darkened and cracked from my folding the belt back to buckle it. You may also note that the holes are somewhat elongated, as the leather stretched over time.
As I write this, the B21 is listed with a price of $61.50 directly from Aker. It does a perfectly acceptable job of holding up both pants and gun, without having that undeniable gunbelt look. The finish is not as nice as some of the higher-dollar options, but the B21 does its job and has survived my benign neglect. For anyone in need of a less-expensive alternative to the $100 gunbelts, take a look at the B21. It’s worth your time.
I used the battery ones, which I've had for a while but didn't use much. They are two 18650 rechargeable batteries with an on/off button.
They work good. Get 2.5+ hours out of them and they get nice and warm. Not hot. Not like the fuel ones.
Some places I go to forbid even a lighter in their complex, so these work.
Now... the fluid type...
Coleman white gas. I've googled it, but it all seems pretty generalized. (many say it's the same thing. With tweaks.) I tested it this week.
I think it stinks less. I think they don't get as hot as zippo lighter fluid. But it seems to burn just as long. The Coleman fuel is $14/gal at walfart. The zippo fuel works out to $64/gal.
The internet says I can burn kerosene it these things. I might try some day. I don't think I'm in that big of a hurry to get asphyxiated.
I'll be burning the hell out of the gas ones at work for the next several weeks.
Could be pretty bad. I didn't give it any acknowledgement or concern when it happened and just took some old pain-pills when I got home.
That was bad because I couldn't feel it hurt and I'm sure I made it much worse.
I am scheduled off this week and have just been sleeping and doing nothing. It seems to be improving.
I am trying to not go to the doctor. I hates them. It might be something I just live with.
I ate sausage-weenies today. 'Cause I didn't travel.
I got hurt at work. But I didn't know it. On this 'vertical conveyance'.
(My work has totally forbidden me from doing some vertical conveyances.
This one... is a rubber belt that runs up-n-down from the ground floor, to the roof. So, us workmen just grab this rubber belt, an just go up! It has no brakes. Or stop. or cage. Just the next floor. Coming. Fast.)
But this wasn't one of those. It was a cable. A motor-driven cable. It was instantly a good idea. Work never told me not to do one of those.
Actually, not all that woo-y.
The are exactly like the other ones, but smaller[/b]!!!
Zippo now makes the fluid-type warmer less than half the size of the other ones. About 1 1/2 of the regular zippo lighter sized.
They say they are good for six hours and I played with one last night, and it did over six hours. Easy. If I fill it double-full, I'm sure I can get 10 or more hours out of it.
Like the others, these get HOT. If you leave them out of the pouch, sitting on a table, they will burn you good. In the pouch, or in your pocket, you can regulate how much air it gets, and therefore how hot it gets.
These are a great size. I need more.
I've always grown catnip, for the FatCat and friend's cats. They say my homegrown stuff makes their cats go much much crazier than the lame store-bought dirt-weed.
I eventually graduated to a, like, 20 or 30 gallon ceramic pot. I haven't had to reseed or replant for years, because the roots (?) live through the winter and it just comes back on its own. It's technically a mint. You can't kill it.
I was making The Big Harvest, which I dry each year , so kitty can get stoned in the winter too.
My wife came to take a look at the harvest.... when she noticed....
the hundred catnip plants growing in her garden and flowerbeds! She knows it grows and spreads like a weed and can't be killed and now it's loose on our property, to attract all the feral and barn cats for miles around.
It can't be killed.
It's not like I did it on purpose.
He fell, and his fall-arrest safety equipment failed.
I'm a contractor (non-union) and so was he (union).
The last I heard, the company, of course, AND the union threw him under the bus. They are claiming that if he had thoroughly inspected his equipment before using it (which is a mandatory rule), he would have known it was defective. I'm very surprised the union bailed on him, and I'm not sure what's up with that. The official statements have been vague to none, they tend to keep these things very close to the vest.
I'm sure that I'll be under much scrutiny, as the OSHA and MSHA crews will be hanging around for quite some time.
My company instantly said they would update my equipment with brand new stuff ($$$). The other company instantly came out with new requirements that I'm not sure my company has any interest in complying with. I reminded them of the new requirements, which have been reviewed, acknowledged and signed off by my company, but I haven't had a reply yet.
I hope the other guy's wife / family end up very wealthy. I suspect they will.
I've been frostbitten many times, (thanks hockey! thanks motorcycles!) starting when I was pretty young. It doesn't take long for my fingers to become completely unusable in cold weather. I've got every pair of cool gloves ever made. I got mil-spec "mutant-mitts" last year, which are pretty much the definitive glove. They are much too large for doing any work, but great for climbing.
The little powder-pack shake handwarmers kind of work, but not really. When it's very very cold, and they are in my pant's pockets they don't do much at all. And here's a hint: they have a short shelf-life. If you buy them, dig around and check the dates. All of the ones for sale early in the fall are probably expired. I'll use them if they are free.
I got these weird liquid-chemical ones that have a little metal 'snap disk' in them. You bend the disk and they turn solid and get warm. I bought a bunch for very cheap last year, but haven't really tried them at work yet. They get hot at first, but don't seem to last very long. But, I've got, like, a dozen of them
The zippo handwarmer is pretty good and can stay hot for hours.
My Jon-E-Warmers (where zippo stole their idea) are much better. They can stay HOT for ten hours. But, depending on what kind of explosive products might be around, some jobsites won't let you use them. When I found out that Jon-E went out of business, I searched online and bought, like, ten of them. They are my go-to lifesavers. They say that the catalyst filaments wear out over time, but I've had some for years that still work good. And I bought all the replacement packs of filaments that could be found. Hoarding.
I got some rechargeable battery-pack warmers that fit in your pocket and they work pretty well, but not near as hot and long as the lighter-fluid kinds.
I never got any battery-powered gloves, because the first thing I have to do at work is take my gloves off. Trying to work while wearing gloves, or trying to jam gloved hands into your pockets never works.
I don't know why, but I'm really glad that the cold is here this year.
I like winter. It has more pockets.
In preparation, I just ordered $200 of mil surplus stuff. Cheap insulated bibs, I plan on wearing as a layer, expensive insulated pants, because the Army says so, that are supposed to be outerwear, but I plan on them being a layer. New Mickey boots. And these metallic-looking felt boot liners.
A suck-day working, in January, at 300', is suckey, but when it's over, I get a huge delicious dinner and at the hotel, I just crank the heat up to maximum.
Last winter was, relatively, not that bad.
Except for that one week where it stayed at 0° all week. But I got lucky because the customer wasn't quite ready for me to do all the climbing work.
I'm not sure that "blog" is even a real word.
I'll take a new approach, and post my drunken ramblings here. No one may ever see them, but I guess that's ok. Right now, I don't have much to say, but I'll think of something.
My ear hurts. Part of it might come off.