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Datasheet - Cliffnotes for getting started with defensive handgun carry
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weambulance Offline
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Datasheet - Cliffnotes for getting started with defensive handgun carry
This is a cliffnotes post for a series on firearms and self defense I've been working on. I've been dragging my feet getting it done, but what with the last few days I wanted to put something up. I will be posting the longer articles in this thread as I finish them in order over the next little while, and collect them offsite on one of my websites. I'll link that when there's content up.

I'm American, so all the legal stuff I talk about is specific to this country.

First, I'll go over Cooper's rules of gun safety just as a refresher.

1. All guns are loaded, all the time.
Never assume a gun is empty just because you think you left it that way. If you pick up a gun, check that it's clear (or loaded, if you want it to be). If someone hands you a gun, check that it's clear even if they just cleared it right in front of you.

2. Never point a gun at something you're unwilling to destroy.
Self explanatory. Includes your own body, I'd hope, so be careful when drawing or holstering your pistol.

3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to fire.
This prevents negligent discharges. Teach yourself to index your finger against the pistol frame so that it is automatic.

4. Be sure of your target and what is behind it.
Don't shoot something if you don't know what it is, and make sure if you miss or the bullet passes through you're not going to hit something you didn't want to hit.


The way these rules work, you have to break two of them to hurt something. Breaking any one while following the others won't result in a tragedy.

Of course, the rules can be broken deliberately for things like dry fire practice. So they're more like guidelines that should only ever be broken deliberately, in special circumstances.

Moving on...


Mindset

More important than anything else is cultivating the mindset that you are capable and willing to act to defend yourself if things go sideways. It's trite, but true that the mind is the weapon, and everything else is just a tool. A weapon you have no will to use is worse than worthless, but with the right mindset you will always have at least some ability to act to protect yourself and the people you care about, gun in hand or no.

I hope this is obvious, but you should also cultivate a sense of situational awareness and use simple avoidance as your first line of defense. Stay out of bad situations and avoid conflict when you can.


Some thoughts on the legal ramifications of self defense with a firearm

Before I get into the practicalities of choosing a firearm, training with it, and carrying it every day I need to address some legal issues surrounding self defense with a firearm.

I'm not a lawyer.

First, some general points.

1. You really don't want to have to shoot someone in self defense. Not because it's morally wrong or psychologically damaging--it's not, in my experience--but because it'll probably enormously complicate your life with legal problems. Whether it was a good shoot or not, you'll need a lawyer, you may still be threatened with prosecution or actually prosecuted if the local DA is a cunt, and you may be sued by the person you shot or his family. Depending on the situation, your life might well be destroyed like Zimmerman's was. Shooting someone in self defense can be a very expensive, stressful hassle.

2. Things like warning shots or "shooting to wound" are terrible ideas that will get you in trouble. If you need to defend yourself, you shoot to stop the threat, period. If you're shooting warning shots, you obviously did not think you were in imminent danger or you wouldn't have taken the time. Same deal with shooting to wound (and besides, as a practical point that's idiotic outside spaghetti westerns). Shoot to stop, and say that's what you did.

3. If you do have to defend yourself with your weapon, even if you didn't fire a shot, do not say anything more to the police than "I feared for my life and defended myself" and ask for your lawyer. Say nothing more, unless it's in response to specifics of the situation like telling the cops you have a gun holstered so they don't shoot you in the back in surprise when they find it.

4. Every shot you fire has a potential lawsuit attached. If you shoot a bystander while trying to defend yourself, you have problems. It's entirely possible for standard handgun bullets to pass through a human and hit someone else. So be careful and mind your backstop; you don't want to hurt or kill an innocent person.

5. If you are in an armed encounter with someone but no shots are fired, it's still a good idea to call the police to make a report right away. Would you rather be the first one to call and tell them what happened, or try to explain it when you get pulled over by three patrol cars full of amped up cops responding to an anonymous tip that you were "weaving through traffic pointing your gun at other drivers"?

Food for thought.


What's legal to carry, where, in what circumstances?

Legally carrying a firearm in America can be pretty confusing because every state is different. The laws are often arbitrary and relying on common sense is a good way to end up catching a felony charge in some states. What's completely legal in your state might be worth 10+ years of prison in the state next door. Every few months I hear stories of people traveling from free America to places like New Jersey and NYC and getting arrested and charged because they brought a handgun with them. So, be mindful and do your research.

I'm not going to go over every state in the country, but here are some resources for looking up where you live:

handgunlaw.us
opencarry.org

Handgunlaw.us is good for up-to-date concealed carry laws and reciprocity info (if you have a concealed carry permit in your state, some but not all other states will recognize it). Opencarry.org is, as it sounds, good for learning about open carry laws in your state or states you intend to travel to.

If you have specific questions about anything on those sites I'll be happy to help. Some of the terminology might be confusing.

Also, sometimes cities have more restrictive laws. NYC is a good example; upstate NY is much more permissive, relatively speaking, than NYC. Philadelphia is another example; it's more difficult to carry legally in Philly than in the rest of PA.

If you travel a lot and the places you travel don't all recognize your home state carry permit, often you can get a non-resident permit from another state that they do recognize. Florida, for example, is a non-resident permit lots of people get for easier travel. I know some people with four permits because they spend all their time on the road and want to be able to carry the whole time.


What to buy and how to carry

Since this is a cliffnotes post, I'm not going to get into too many details on equipment other than to make some simple recommendations.

Pistol

Simply put, buy a 9mm pistol from the following list (not in order of quality, probably left some off):

HK P30
HK VP9
Smith & Wesson M&P9 or M&P9c
Glock 17, 19, or 34
Ruger SR9 or SR9c
Sig P229
Walther PPQ

The pistols on that list are all mid size ("compact") or full size pistols, for ease of use. I strongly recommend 9mm pistols because they're the best compromise of effectiveness, low recoil, and magazine capacity. Also, the ammo is cheaper than other common cartridges.

Contrary to popular belief, with high quality hollow point ammunition 9mm is not significantly less effective than 40 S&W, 10mm, 45 ACP, etc outside of edge cases few of us will have to worry about. If you find yourself having to shoot through windshields regularly, yes, you might want something else.

I do not recommend buying a pocket pistol or subcompact because they're more difficult to shoot well. Some are quite punishing, and the recoil will make it very hard to develop good habits. I don't think revolvers are a good choice either, because while a revolver is simple to use, it actually takes significantly more skill to use a revolver well than it does to use a magazine fed semiauto.

Note, you might want to look into what kinds of holsters are offered for a gun before you buy. Some less common models have severely reduced options in the holster department. Everyone and their dog makes a holster for the Glock 17, but something like an HK VP9 or Walther PPQ will not be top of the list for holstermakers to accommodate.


Magazines

Buy at least four spare magazines, and buy the real deal, not aftermarket copies. Magazines are wear items and the most likely part of the pistol to malfunction. I like to have at least six spares total.

Mark your magazines and pay attention to your malfunctions. If you keep having malfunctions and it's always with magazine #3, that's a sign the magazine is shit and you should only use it at the range, not for real life carry.

Be careful of what you buy, if you live someplace with magazine capacity limits. Match what came with your pistol: if it came with 10 round magazines because you live someplace like NY, buy 10 round mags as spares.


Ammo

You'll want ~250 rounds of self defense ammunition to start. A big chunk of that is for making sure it works well in your chosen handgun. I want to see at least 150 rounds of defensive ammo through my pistol with no malfunctions before I carry it. That would leave 100 rounds for carry.

It's good practice to replace your carry ammunition every month or three. Not that it goes bad, exactly, but it's banged around and exposed to the elements and so on so every couple months just shoot what's in your gun and carry mags and replace it with fresh ammo.

The market is full of gimmicky whiz-bang ammo that is total shit, so don't fall for marketing hype. Stick to simple, high quality loads from major manufacturers that have been around for awhile. If it's a small company with some crazy claims and a wild looking bullet design, I can almost guarantee it's shitty ammo.

I stick to Hornady XTP bullets in my reloads, and thus if I needed to buy factory self defense ammo I would just buy the Hornady Custom 124gr XTP loads, SKU #90242. They're relatively inexpensive but good quality. I see them for $0.66 a round online, for a point of reference. You can easily spend over $1 a round on defensive ammo. There's a reason I have $1500 in reloading gear that has paid for itself several times over in ammo savings. But I'll talk about that some other time.

Other good loads are the Speer Gold Dots, Remington Premier Golden Sabers, and Federal Premium HST. Bullet weight is not that important in self defense against people; I generally go for 124 grain bullets myself. I suppose I'd say don't go under 115 grains, or over 147 grains.

If you can find two loads that are exactly the same, but one is nickel cased and the other is brass, buy the brass cased ammo. Nickel case ammo offers no relevant benefit over brass cased ammo in this context, it's just cool looking and significantly more expensive.

IMO, don't bother with +P or +P+ ammo (+P = higher pressure than standard, and +P+ = higher pressure still, so, somewhat more powerful). A few dozen extra feet per second won't mean shit if you put your shot on target; it's just extra recoil and blast to deal with, and probably costs more.

A word of warning: some hollowpoint ammo from major manufacturers is complete shit. If it's not the premium line from a manufacturer, the bullets are probably not designed for defensive use, and will not reliably expand. If the price seems too good to be true, it is.

Defensive ammo is expensive as fuck, so you should also find some cheap practice ammo unless you have a silo full of gold coins to swim around in. Remington UMC 115 grain is fine; when I buy ammo (rarely, usually because I bought a pistol in a new chambering and I want the brass) I just buy 250 round boxes of that. Winchester white box (WWB) ammo tends to be underpowered, and it's good to avoid the WWB ammo from Walmart specifically because I've found it to be pretty unreliable. There's a ton of good cheap practice ammo out there. Buy a bunch of 50 round boxes from different manufacturers, figure out which kind feels the most like your defensive ammo and hits in the same spot, and just buy that.


Holster

It's hard to recommend something specific because what kind of holster you like is very personal. Whatever you choose, you must buy a good holster, not a $15 nylon piece of shit. Plan on spending at least $50, and $75 is what I usually figure on spending for a good holster.

For in-the-waistband (IWB) carry I usually use the Comp-tac MTAC holster. It's extremely comfortable and keeps the pistol tight to my side, which minimizes printing (printing = the outline of your gun showing through your shirt). The Comp-tac CTAC is a similar but less comfortable holster, and what I use when I am carrying a pistol with a weaponlight.

The MTAC is great because you can buy a whole holster, then extra kydex "bodies" to use different pistols with the same leather backing. That saves a lot of money in the long run if you have different guns you carry.

For on-the-waistband (OWB) carry I almost always use a Simply Rugged Cuda pancake holster. It pulls the pistol tight to my side and is very comfortable for all-day carry.

I wish I could give better advice here but it's just very subjective. If you're carrying concealed, IWB is your best bet but if you want to carry OWB, you really need a holster that will pull the gun tight to your side, which almost always means some kind of pancake holster, not a duty style holster like a cop would use.

A word on carry position: just carry on your strong side hip (I'm right handed, so my strong side = right side). I carry at about 4 o'clock, if my belt buckle is 12 o'clock. Don't carry at the small of your back, don't carry crossdraw, don't carry in the front of your waistband. I'm not saying it's always wrong to do those things, but they're choices you should make as an experienced carrier, not a neophyte.


Belt

A good gun belt is critical as well. It should be 1.5 or 1.75 inches wide and fairly stiff. Leather belts are fine but they stretch over time. Nylon belts can be cheap and do fine, but they're less comfortable in my opinion.

Hybrid belts exist as well: they're leather belts with a nylon webbing core to stop the belts stretching. I've been using one for the past six years and it's still in great functional shape.

If you're carrying IWB, add two inches to the length of your normal belt to accomodate the gun and holster in your waistband.

If you wear dress clothes a lot, dress gun belts are available. Galco USA is a good place to start for those.

A good belt and holster can make a world of difference in comfort. Don't cheap out and use a $5 K-mart special.

A good basic choice is a 1.75" leather belt from Bianchi. I used them for years, and they take quite awhile to start stretching. Make sure you match your belt width to your holster slots or clips. 1.75" clips work fine with a 1.5" belt but not the other way around.


Carrying a spare magazine

You should always carry a spare magazine. The magazine is the part of your gun most likely to fail, so you should be ready to replace it. The extra ammo is nice too.

The market is full of magazine carrying options, and what you choose really depends on how you dress, what's comfortable, how important concealment is, etc. I'll get more into the options later but however you do it, you need to train that way and practice reloading regularly. Train like you fight.

I usually just carry my spare in a pocket. That doesn't make for super fast reloads, but it's comfortable and convenient. If I'm going to be out all day and don't have to worry about taking my gear off to go someplace like a state building or a school, I usually use a simple Blade-Tech single mag carrier, vertically oriented on my left hip at ~8 o'clock, with the bullets facing forward.


It's a system

Just buying a pistol and some ammo isn't enough. You really need to consider the whole system of pistol, mags, holster, belt, and ammo. Estimated budget for a decent setup:

Pistol - $450-550
Spare mags - $120-150
Holster - $75
Belt - $50
Ammo - $225-250 (including some practice ammo)

So, that's $920-1075. If you really need to go cheap, skimp on the extra mags and buy less premium defensive ammo, and use a cheaper belt I guess (a $25 rigger belt is okay). Don't compromise on your pistol or holster.


Training

Formal training

Besides basic firearm safety training, the most important training you need is some kind of class on the legality of armed self defense where you live. It's normal for concealed carry classes to spend most of their time talking about when self defense is justified, what your duty is under state law, etc. Even if you live someplace where constitutional carry is recognized (so you don't need a permit, and thus don't have to take a class) there are usually concealed carry classes available.

After that, I suggest taking a defensive handgun course if you can afford it. A two day course can run from $300-1000 not including the cost of ammo, travel, lodgings, etc. Unfortunately other than pointing to the big schools like Gunsite and Thunder Ranch that have been around forever, I can't recommend anyone specifically. The trainer I would've recommended died recently.

There are plenty of good solo trainers and small companies around the country, and there is probably a decent trainer near you, wherever you are. But do a lot of research on them before you shell out money because there are a hell of a lot of charlatans and downright dangerous trainers out there too.

Getting formal training beyond the basics isn't absolutely necessary, it's just very helpful in establishing good habits. You'll get good much faster if you spend a weekend with a good trainer and apply what you learn in regular practice, and you'll gain the good habits easier if you don't already have bad habits going in.


Practice

Practice is where you apply what you learned in training. This is actually an enormously complicated subject so I don't want to delve too deeply into it here. I'll just say skill with a pistol blunts fast, so you want to do some dry fire practice a few times a week (10-15 minutes at a time is fine) and live fire once a week ideally, or at least a couple times a month.

Dry fire practice is practice with an empty gun. It's very important that you make sure the gun is empty. Clear the gun, move all ammo to another room. Clear the gun again. If you put the gun down at any time, as soon as you pick it up, clear it again. All it takes is a moment of inattention and you can end up scaring the shit out of yourself by firing a round when you didn't mean to. BTDT. That is why you should use a safe backstop even for things like dry fire (rule 2, rule 4!)

In dry fire practice, it's best to work on fundamentals. Practice your draw, practice reloads, practice your trigger press. Break things down into small pieces and train them until you can do them in your sleep. Most importantly, get comfortable with the gun in your hand. Practice until it's second nature to adopt a good pistol grip the second you pick up your pistol. I'll have a lot more to say about this later.

In live fire you can put the pieces together into more complicated sequences that aren't possible in dry fire, and see concretely what kind of marksmanship you're capable of. As a simple standard, if you can't put five shots into a 3x5" index card at 7 yards, you should work solely on your marksmanship until you can. Once you can do that every single time, you can start working on more complicated stuff.

Again, I don't want to get too far into drills and whatnot for live fire right now, but I want to make it clear that dry fire and live fire are complementary. If you don't dry fire, you'll be unable to see problems like flinching that are masked by recoil. If you hardly ever live fire, you'll be shit at dealing with recoil, blast, and noise. So do both.


Range gear

At minimum, you need good hearing protection and eye protection, and something to shoot. Everything else is nice to have.

Nice to have in your range bag:

- Staple gun for attaching targets to the target backing
- Spare staples, you'll always run out in the middle of a session otherwise
- Sharpies - for marking hits and making dots on targets and things like that
- Paper plates (10") and index cards (3x5") - cheap target material
- Target pasties or masking tape - for covering holes in targets
- Baby wipes - for wiping your hands before driving home, eating anything, etc
- Bottled water
- A blowout kit - In case you or someone else gets shot
- Magazine loaders - In case you're a wimp and your thumbs hurt from loading mags (ex. MagLULA for AR-15 or other mag fed rifles, UpLULA for pistols)
- Shot timer - There are phone apps for that, but a dedicated unit is much better
- Extra earplugs

If you can't shoot right by your car, you'll want that stuff in a sturdy bag so it's not a pain in the ass to carry to the shooting lanes.


Dressing around your gun

This mostly applies to concealed carry. If you intend to carry IWB (in the waistband), you'll probably need to get pants with a larger waistband. The easiest way to figure out what size to buy is just carry your gun to the shop (discretely) and try on pants with your holster/gun in the store. Otherwise, going up a size is usually reliable.

If you wear tailored pants, plenty of tailors are used to people having guns and don't mind if you wear your holstered gun while they size your waistband.

Most of the concealment will be done by your top garment. I can't give much advice here; it's too dependent on individual style. It will probably take some experimentation to find a reliable concealment method that suits your style. For some quick ideas, dark shirts work better than light, and more chaotic shirt patterns are better than something like straight vertical lines that would accentuate a bulge. The typical flannel type pattern is pretty good for concealment.




Alright, I'm running out of steam here. This barely scratches the surface, but should be useful to anyone new to the idea of carrying a firearm for defense. I will go over the basics of long guns and home defense next, tomorrow or Sunday maybe.

Hopefully I didn't leave anything important out this time, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask.
07-08-2016 03:15 PM
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jamaicabound Offline
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RE: Datasheet - Cliffnotes for getting started with defensive handgun carry
Another good thing to point out is depending upon where you live be aware of local city and county laws as well. I live in the terrible state of Illinois, we were the last state in the country to get conceal carry. There's also different cities and municipalities who have their own rules ie one city bans handguns, nto sure how thats allowed but regardless a gentleemnt shot an intruder in his home and was prosecuted for owning a handgun. Also sometimes your gun may be legal in your city but a town over may have a 10 round limit on magazines so my Beretta PX4 which holds 15 and one in the changer may not be allowed a town over or in the city of Chicago.

Kind of an interesting thing, before we had conceal carry there was something here called container carry or fanny pack carry. Technically legal though if caught you may be arrested and have to win in court. Basically the idea being our law said firearm had to be in a container which is defined as anything with a zipper, velcro, etc closure but not locked. The magazine also had to be out of the gun but not empty. Essentially you coudl carry a gun in a fanny pack or a dayplanner holster with magazine out. They referred to it as like 6 seconds to safety. Not as good as conceal carry but essentially you could open your bag, pop in a magazine and you still were protected. SOme would argue its a terrible idea not having your gun on your person and in a bag which could potentially be snatched away but it's something many people did prior to conceal carry.
07-08-2016 03:26 PM
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vinman Offline
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RE: Datasheet - Cliffnotes for getting started with defensive handgun carry
Great data sheet. Don't forget to have a small light on your person.
http://tacticalgear.com/streamlight-micr...761/1?dl=b

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07-10-2016 12:07 AM
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RE: Datasheet - Cliffnotes for getting started with defensive handgun carry
Never understood why the concealed requirement. Why not just carry it on your belt in the open like armed security people do? Would be a deterrent for sure.
07-10-2016 10:16 AM
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Deepdiver Offline
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RE: Datasheet - Cliffnotes for getting started with defensive handgun carry
(07-10-2016 10:16 AM)almast Wrote:  Never understood why the concealed requirement. Why not just carry it on your belt in the open like armed security people do? Would be a deterrent for sure.

Studies in the USA show that if you Open Carry with the firearm visible then potential attackers are much more likely to shoot you or immediately use surprise deadly force against you ... when you carry concealed with a belt holster, shoulder holster or high powered pocket firearm in a pocket holster that looks like a large wallet, you actually keep the element of surprise in YOUR favor.

I like the compact Springfield Arms XD-S 9MM pocket piece with a trigger laser site for added effect - most people when painted with a laser Red Dot on their chest or between the eyes tend to freak out and run away to cover so you do not have to shoot. Only truly deranged or complete violent drugs addicts will ignore a laser which is why a full clip of 9MM rounds is a solid backup plan.
07-10-2016 11:09 AM
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weambulance Offline
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RE: Datasheet - Cliffnotes for getting started with defensive handgun carry
(07-10-2016 10:16 AM)almast Wrote:  Never understood why the concealed requirement. Why not just carry it on your belt in the open like armed security people do? Would be a deterrent for sure.

I open carried for a few years in Alaska. Mostly people didn't even notice; otherwise, when they did, I got mainly good comments and some people being dicks (people from the pacific northwest, mainly). Ultimately I decided not to open carry as a general rule because I simply did not want the attention, and I was sick of always having to pay extra attention to what was going on behind me if I was in a line or similar. I saw about three other people open carrying the whole time I lived there.

Now I open carry only when I can't legally carry concealed, when I'm out in the country (hiking, for example), or if I end up needing to take off my cover garment for some reason (like I just loaded a bunch of lumber on a cart and I'm way too hot to keep a sweatshirt or coat on).

I think legal open carry is great, because it opens up options and it means it isn't a big deal if your cover garment rides up to expose your gun. But from a practical standpoint, I don't want to advertise that I'm carrying.

Anyone who does open carry regularly should use a quality retention holster. At least a thumb break is good. I use a Safariland ALS belt slide retention holster for deliberate open carry if I expect to be active at all. Three gun matches, riding a motorcycle/ATV, doing physical labor outside like cutting wood or working in the shop, etc. It keeps my pistol from getting knocked out of the holster and it's quite unlikely anyone will be able to grab it and properly release the retention lock before I can take action.
07-10-2016 01:24 PM
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RE: Datasheet - Cliffnotes for getting started with defensive handgun carry
(07-10-2016 10:16 AM)almast Wrote:  Never understood why the concealed requirement. Why not just carry it on your belt in the open like armed security people do? Would be a deterrent for sure.

Open carry is for cops, security, ranchers, and attention seeking assholes. Having an exposed gun is a good way to get hurt or killed by someone that needs it to commit a crime.

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07-11-2016 07:32 AM
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RE: Datasheet - Cliffnotes for getting started with defensive handgun carry
(07-10-2016 10:16 AM)almast Wrote:  Never understood why the concealed requirement. Why not just carry it on your belt in the open like armed security people do? Would be a deterrent for sure.

Many states don't allow open carry. Arizona and Texas do for sure but not that many other states I don't think. I know in my state printing is not allowed and if your shirt comes untucked technically you are in violation of the law.

The same way it could be a deterant it also could be attractive someone trying to swipe your gun from you.

Also, personally speaking I'd rather nobody know. If someone is thinking about holding up a store and they see a gun on your waist they could be deterred or they could make sure you are the first one they disarm, if nobody knows you have a gun your just a regular civilian being ordered around, wait for your moment when they are distracted and take action.
07-11-2016 12:42 PM
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kaotic Offline
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RE: Datasheet - Cliffnotes for getting started with defensive handgun carry
Great data sheet !

I would never open carry, handgun or long gun. Everyone above is right, it's extra attention you don't need.

Get to the range as much as you can !

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07-11-2016 01:28 PM
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Leonard D Neubache Offline
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RE: Datasheet - Cliffnotes for getting started with defensive handgun carry
FWIW from a foreigner, open carry is more Constitutionally legitimate than concealed carry but tactically a bad idea.

I suppose the founders would have laughed at the idea that so few people would carry guns that "open carry" would draw attention. In Leonardtopia open carry would be mandatory. Going unarmed would be a felony for anyone under the age of consent. Laugh
10-14-2016 07:14 AM
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