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.
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.