Chances are, if you’re reading this, you are a gun guy or gal.  And, as such, gun people tend to want a, “gun solution,” to darn near every problem.  And while an ankle holster is an EXCELLENT way to quickly access a handgun while driving, a snub nose with 5 shots in it is hardly a match, physically, to the 4000 pounds of moving metal and plastic that is my Toyota Tacoma!  My argument is, you’re already behind the wheel of a far more efficient weapon than ANYTHING you can wear on your body or carry on a sling.  So, don’t trip over the hundred dollar bills trying to pick up pennies…use your vehicle to its full operational capacity!


I guess I need to start coming up with better clickbait titles.  I’ll probably get a bunch of, “Fantastic Four,” and CM Punk fans, and that’s totally cool.  But, not at all related to what I am going to write about here.  If I call this, “Offensive Driving for Rookies,” most people won’t read it.  Because most American males think that they can drive like Mario Andretti, shoot like John Wick and really, that’s just not factual.  If you read my article on BECOMING THE CIVILIAN DEFENDER, you will recall that I talked about the need to have enhanced driving skills.  These are driving skills that go beyond the basics of what one would learn in a high school driver’s education course.  No doubt, those basic skills are important, and should be mastered, but for the truly prepared individual, it helps to learn and master a bit beyond the basics.  Now, I’m not recommending that everyone learn how to drive like Steve McQueen, but it helps to know a few distinct skills and tactics that can help you get out of a hairy situation.

I came up with this list after years of working in the armored truck industry, and as a fireman and emergency medical technician.  In the armored truck industry, the main requirement for ultra-defensive driving was to prevent ambushes and move around city and highway traffic safely.  We used to call them, “Highwaymen,” and now we call them, “carjackers,” or simply, “robbers.”  But, as long as people have been putting valuables into armored boxes and moving them from place to place, there have been badguys who are determined to get their filthy hands on those valuables.  So you need to have some driving game to escape those situations.  Remember, AND THIS IS IMPORTANT, the mission of the armored truck industry is to deliver the goods, and go home safely, after your shift ends…you know, JUST LIKE ANY OTHER CIVILIAN.  Armored trucks have no duty to engage in a firefight with a bad guy, nor render mutual aid to law enforcement OR anyone else.  Hollywood loves armored trucks, and 99% of what you’ve seen or heard about the armored truck industry is lore, and nothing more.

In the public safety industry, whether you are driving a police cruiser, an ambulance, or a fire engine, your need for defensive driving is underlined by the fact that despite the flashing lights all over your vehicle, and the 150 decibel siren you have screaming out from under your grille, most drivers are completely oblivious to their surroundings, and what is going on outside the cab of their respective conveyance.  Whether they are tied up in a verbal domestic with another occupant, or be-bopping to their tunes, or talking on their phone or even worse, TEXTING on their phone, they simply do not see you.  So, half of the peril in being a first responder is GETTING there, in one piece, so that none of your coworkers have to be in the, “rescue the rescuers,” role.

With all of that said, here are a few points and skills that I think, are important to consider for the truly prepared CIVILIAN DEFENDER.  These are the tips I would give my rookies, in the ambulance and in the armored truck, to help them ensure success.  After all, they are driving around with me in that truck, too.  I’ll also teach my Son these tricks, in the next few years as he learns to drive.

  • KNOW, instinctively, the location of all four (or six) wheels of your vehicle, as easily as you know where your hands are in the dark.  Webster’s Dictionary defines, “proprioception,” as:  ” the reception of stimuli produced within the organism.”  By this, I mean you should know, without thinking, where the four corners of your vehicle are, when you are behind the wheel, and by knowing this, also know where your wheels are.  If you do, you can look at a space and judge whether or not you can fit there.  I know my truck is 74 inches wide…two inches narrower than I am tall.  I can look at a space and determine if I can fit there, and if I can fit, so can my truck!  Go to any parking lot and look around.  How many of those folks have done a crap job of parking their cars?  Crooked in the space, too far to either side, extended into another space.  Those folks either knowingly parked like a jerk, or they simply don’t know what they are doing.  I’d wager to say that most of them simply don’t know.  Another good example of this is when people attempt to back into a spot, or make a three point backing maneuver to get into/out of some space.  We’ve all seen that person turn a simple two point maneuver into a seven, eight, or NINE point turn.  We laugh because it’s funny, but we also laugh because it is true!  If that person had any inkling of the actual dimensions of their vehicle, they’d know that they in fact had FEET around them, and weren’t in danger of hitting any obstacle.  They simply didn’t know what they didn’t know.

This is an intersection I pass through several times a week.  It is filled with unique hazards, depending on the day.  You can’t see it, but there is a driveway from a restaurant on the left, that half-drunk drivers will tear out of, at the last minute, in an attempt to get across the left hand turn/straight lane to make a right.  You have to watch for them.  You also have to watch for the various homeless folks, vagrants, and others that tend to loiter and sometimes aggressively panhandle.  And of course you have to watch for inattentive drivers.  Whenever I approach any intersection, I look for escape routes.  I’ll think to myself, “If I need to get out of here, can I thread the needle between that Chevy Colorado pickup and that brick retaining wall?  YOU BET I CAN!”  I’ll have to pop the curb, but that’s not a problem.  I don’t have 4WD because I like spending more on gas, and because it looks cool!  Having a higher than a car ground clearance makes jockeying curbs, easy.  If needed I could also shoot to the left (permitted that there are no oncoming cars) and drive into that parking lot, too.  Anything that puts yards of distance between me and the bad guys, will work.  I can get a new truck, later today, if needed.  I can’t replace my body, and I can’t replace my child or spouse/significant other.

  • KNOW the performance capabilities of your vehicle…and DO NOT overestimate or underestimate them.  How many times have you seen an obviously off-road capable vehicle (like a Toyota FJ, or a 4Runner) slide off of the side of the road, when it is snowing (or even raining) simply because the driver didn’t know what their vehicle was (or wasn’t) capable of doing?  It happens in inclement weather states, all the time!  Years back, in Western Washington State, my roommate and I made several hundred dollars a day just driving around in the snow, looking for motorists that had drifted off the road in the snow, and needed us to pull them out (using a Jeep and a winch).  “Want to get back on the road?  $20 please!”  Furthermore, how many people think that they can, “dodge,” out into oncoming traffic, in a vehicle that does 0-60mph in MINUTES?  That doesn’t work well either, for anyone involved.  So don’t get out onto the open road until you know how much, “go,” your vehicle has, as well as how well the vehicle stops, and how tight you can turn (in the event you need to make a U turn on a street without breaking traction).

If the above meme applies to your vehicle’s braking system, your priorities are screwy and you should park that beast until it is safe to drive.  You’d think that these things go without saying, but, unfortunately, they don’t.  If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen a person layered in guns and tactical gear that must’ve cost tens of thousands of dollars, but they drive the biggest, most unsafe POS this side of Uncle Buck’s ’75 Merc Marquis, I’d have hundreds of dollars!

  • Don’t allow yourself to get, “stuck,” anywhere.  At a stoplight?  Make sure you have enough room to move.  How much is enough?  I like to be able to see the area between the tires of the vehicle in front of me, and the road underneath it.  That gives me enough space to maneuver my pickup truck or my SUV laterally, if I need to get out of that area, quickly.  It also prevents me from getting pinned between the vehicle in front of me, if there is one.  Too many road rage incidents happen these days, and usually one of the involved parties is unwilling to engage.  Hopefully, that person can simply escape the area and get mobile.  The last place you want to be in a violent scenario is trapped inside of an immobile vehicle.  Think of yourself as a shark…if you quit moving, you die!  READ THIS recent account of one of my esteemed colleagues, and an incident he got into with a road rager!
  • You are behind the wheel of an extremely effective battering ram…if an attacking vehicle attempts to block your egress, BLIND THEM WITH SCIENCE!  This thought process applied well to the armored truck, since they contained a tremendous amount of mass (20 tons) in a package just slightly larger (taller) than an extended length SUV.  If you aim the centerline of your vehicle at a car that is attempting to block your path, aim for the axle closest to you.  On impact, that vehicle will rotate about the opposite axle, and be quickly, and forcefully whipped out of your way.  You can do this driving forward, or in reverse, direction doesn’t matter.  If the vehicle is traveling head on, align the center of your vehicle with the outer edge of the attacker.  Of course, in a truck that you have to back with mirrors alone, this is more difficult, but still not impossible.  In a conventional passenger car, truck or SUV, this also works well.  Also, you don’t have to be traveling tremendously fast to get good results with this.  You’d be surprised what one 4000 vehicle traveling at 15mph can do to another vehicle trying to impede its progress…it can blow it right out of the way, with just a little direction and TWO TONS of science!

As outlined in the point above, you (the good guy) aren’t trying to destroy the bad guys and their car…you’re just trying to get them the heck out of your way.  You do this by the careful application of mass and momentum.

  • LOOK in the direction your vehicle is going.  We get too reliant on mirrors, cameras and technology, and forget that the headrest on the passenger seat is there to give you something to hold onto and bolster yourself against when backing!  I read once that, “MOST motor vehicle collisions are caused by people NOT looking in the direction that their vehicle is traveling!”  Can you believe that?  It sounds inane, but in my experience, I’ve witnessed many vehicular collisions that were realized when the person looked up from whatever they were doing, which wasn’t looking in the direction their vehicle was traveling!  So simple, and yet so common.
  • You’ve never been lost until you’ve been lost at MACH 2.  As a child of a Naval Aviator, mantras like this were common in my youth.  And having learned to drive from said aviator, I quickly learned, by the loud voice coming from the passenger seat, to keep my, “eye on the sky,” ahead of me…several vehicles ahead of me.  If you don’t, you are relying on the guy in front of you to react to whatever threats come along the road.  Broken tires, radar traps, potholes (big hazard in Tennessee…like knock your tire off the bead potholes) drunks, erratic drivers.  All of these things don’t exist in a vacuum, and the easiest way to avoid them is to simply NOT be there when they pass.  See them, identify them, take evasive action, look for the next threat.  Of course, you aren’t traveling at MACH 2, but you get the point.  Even at a modest 60 miles per hour, you are moving along at 88 feet per second!  To even react to something (human reaction time is .25 seconds average from visual stimulus) at 60 miles per hour (like a collision in front of you) you have already traveled 22 feet!  So conserve your mental focus, maintain your following distance, and keep your eyes on the road!
  • The driver DRIVES, the shotgun SHOOTS.  When I was in my law enforcement degree studies, a part of the training was relative to what was called, “Officer Survival.”  One of the tactics germaine to the topic was to not let anyone, “walk up,” on your patrol car, since they could essentially fill your car full of bullets, while you just sat there and took it.  So, to pass that grading portion, you had to be hypervigiliant about NOT getting caught in your vehicle.  And I figured out quickly that the best way to rapidly egress my vehicle on an aggressive walk up was with a pistol already in hand!  Well, fast forward to my first foray into the ghettos of South Seattle, in a fully armored truck (my door doesn’t open, mind you…it’s bolted shut, in fact).  I pull to a stop light, and notice that there are six youths posted up on the corner, and all of them are mean mugging me.  The light is still red.  They start to walk, all at once, directly for my door, and I draw my pistol, instinctively and bring it up to eye level.  The light turned green and I hit the gas, blowing past the six turds, who stood there, in a cloud of black diesel smoke.  I looked in the rear view mirror at my partner who said, “Mr. Sherman…you’ll find that our vehicle is quite resilient against anything a bunch of hoodlums in shorts and undershirts can conceal on their person.  You just worry about driving.”  I felt like a dope, holstered my pistol, and went back to worrying about driving.  The reason that you and your friends yell, “SHOTGUN,” (meaning the guy that rides in the passenger seat, up front) is because in the, “old days,” when an armored truck consisted of a stage coach with an iron and wood, “strong box,” mounted somewhere in it (usually under the butts of the crew) the guy that handled the reins of the horses was called the, “driver.”  The guy with the shotgun was called the, “shotgun messenger,” or just the, “shotgun.”  His job was to shoot any highwaymen, or interlopers that would impede the normal progress of the coach.  Same with the armored truck…same with you and your soccer Mom van…when you are moving, and still capable of moving (meaning your vehicle has not been disabled by physical damage) your best defensive and offensive weapon is your vehicle!  Someone tries to pin you but you smash them out of the way and round a corner?  KEEP DRIVING AND CALL 911!  Let the police get there and stop the bad guys.  Under most circumstances, unless your vehicle becomes irreparably immobile, does the, “driving solution,” go out the window in favor of the, “shooting solution.”

There are other skills and tactics that you can think of, and if so, share them in the comments section.  These are a few that I KNOW work, because I’ve used them myself, or seen them used in my presence, OR I’ve seen the aftermath as a first responder.


This is a news clipping from a past student of mine, local to where he lives.  In cases like this, OR ANY robbery situation, the bad guy(s) are expecting one thing…COMPLIANCE.  Don’t give it to them!  Even if you DO decide to empty the contents of your wallet, pockets, purse or even armored truck to them, would you like to wager your life against the chances that they might let you go, and not just kill you or injure you within an inch of your life?  I am not.  Every situation is different, but my default reaction in a robbery is to fight back.  I’ve done it, and it’s worked out well for me, thus far.  Hopefully, you’ll never find yourself in that situation, but if you do, remember that robberies are about someone expecting to take something from you by force.  DON’T MEET their expectations…exceed them.

Thanks for reading!

-Dr. House


Reader Mail…XS BIG DOTS


Dear Dr. House,


First, glad you are back. I dont know what you were dealing with but hope its settled and you are able to get back to doing what you enjoy.

Second, I am still anxiously awaiting the sequel to the Is the 19 the new K frame which is the is the 26 the new J frame.

Third and my actual question. As someone who has shot revolvers a lot. What are your thoughts on a front site such as an XS? I have thought of installing one on my 60 just havent gotten around to it. I am sure it will make fast up close but wonder how it will effect my 25 yards shots.

Thank You,


Dear Alex,

1. Thanks man. I was recovering from heart surgery.

2. It’s in the works. The conclusion might surprise you though.  There are things a J frame CAN do that a Glock 26, can’t.  The same can’t be said for the G19/K frame…

3. I LIKE the XS front, the problem is that the rear notch (on the stock revolver) isn’t regulated to the front. Some folks get lucky and get a good POA/POI intersection, and others end up shooting FEET high at relatively close distances (<15 yards). It really depends on the gun.  It also depends on the shooter, and which, “part,” of the dot you are using (meaning, “dot,” centered in the notch, the center of the, “dot,” or tritium vial bottomed out in the notch, etc).  I know a gent that had Jim Fuller at Rifle Dynamics run a ball-end mill through the sight trough of his revolver, opening it up into a semi-lunar shape, which was regulated properly, and served him well.  That was on an all stainless gun, and I don’t know if that same thing would work on an Airweight frame though, as I imagine all of that extra aluminum is necessary for safety and wear resistance.

I thought that the Smith Nightguard series was great, but, they calibrated the C&S rear to fit the height and shape of the front (XS) sight. Why they can’t make an analog of that in J frame format, is beyond me. Silly, really.  I don’t think it would take a tremendous effort to figure out the dimensions on the Novak type rear sight that comes on the Smith 640 Pro, and offer it in other J frames.  I’m sure it would sell among the training community…which means that Smith might sell 1000 of them.  Maybe a few more.  That’s just the brakes of business.

Thank you for the questions!


XS Big Dots are kind of like Donald Trump…either you love him or you hate him!  There are very few fence sitters when it comes to the Big Dots.  As far as my views on them, I think that they are just fine for defensive purposes.  When I was a younger man, and my vision hadn’t yet been significantly affected by staring into people’s mouths for several years, I would’ve said that the Big Dots were fine, but that there were other sighting options out there that might be better for some people.  However, now that I am dealing with, “approaching middle age vision,” I don’t mind Big Dots at all.  Really, the issues that I have had with them are less about the sights and the sight picture itself, than the construction of the sights.  I’ve had the, “dot,” itself eject from the sight set of a S&W Shields (twice) and I’ve lost the front dot on a Glock before.  Of course, the gents at XS handled that perfectly, and sent me replacements, but it does create a concern for me.  All three, “loss events,” occurred in practice, while I was shooting 5-8 shot strings, in between reholstering.  I drew the pistol, and realized that the dot was gone, or the dot ejected early on in the string of fire.  Bummer either way.  I’ve met people who shoot exceedingly well with Big Dots, both young and experienced, and I’ve seen complete novice’s do really well with Big Dots in both live fire and FOF scenarios.

Sights are like shoes, underwear and yes, even politicians…what I like and prefer, might not be your cup of tea at all.  In the gun industry, there is a big push to say, “THIS,” is what you need.  Whether it’s sights, a holster, belts, shooting glasses, ear protection, or any myriad of other equipment pieces.  But everyone is a different size and shape, and has different abilities.  So no, “one thing,” is going to work for everyone, all the time.  I’m not sure what drives people to want to seek that level of organization.  Perhaps it is the thinking that people use similar to how they think about M4 usage for civilian home/business defense…”It is good enough for the military and my local police, so I NEED that level of equipment, too.”  I get it, it’s proven (maybe) and mil-spec, but don’t forget the context; unless you ARE the military or the police, your mission is significantly different.  So pick what works for you.  Get sights that you can see, and shoot to the point of aim and point of impact of your chosen practice and carry loading.  Then worry about something else!  It’s really easy to get wrapped up and concerned about the gear, but the gear is actually the LAST thing you need to worry about (SEE HERE FOR MORE DETAILS).  In 99% of cases, most gear will do, if YOU will do.

Thanks for reading!



A Brief Conversation with Chris Fry of MDTS Training…how many rounds are enough?

The following is a brief exchange I recently had with Chris Fry of MDTS Training (Modern Defensive Training Systems).  Chris is an excellent practitioner and instructor of the multidisciplinary curriculum I talked about HERE.  He is also one of the plank holders of the Paul-E-Palooza Memorial Training Conference, and a regular presenter at the RANGEMASTER Polite Society Conference.  

REVOLVER SCIENCE: Do the magazine restrictions in NY affect your student’s choices in the handguns that they use for personal protection? i.e. are students more likely to choose a, “size efficient,” handgun, versus a large pistol with a neutered magazine?

MDTS:  The magazine restrictions in NY are 10 round mags. The NYSafe Act passed by Cuomo in 2012 attempted to limit the mags to 7 rounds however a Western NY judge threw that part out and it went to an appellate circuit and was withheld. So, we can own and carry 10 round mags. Even during the “7 round scare” people still bought full size, compact and subcompact pistols and I saw/see a mixture of all three. Maybe 1-2 subcompact in each class but most just go about things the way they have always done.

REVOLVER SCIENCE: Do you see 5, 6, 7 or 8 shot revolvers in your classes? If yes, how do the students fair, compared to the semi-auto pistol students?

MDTS:  Occasionally I see 5 shot snubs but not often. They are pretty rare. When I do see them it’s usually a women or a guy with a BUG. They do OK compared to others with a little guidance on efficient loading but are usually slower. Shooting ability varies from student to student. Some have done as well as others with full size pistols and some needed more work than what they received in a one day class.

REVOLVER SCIENCE: Do you design your pistol drills to cater to the reduced capacity magazines?

MDTS:  No. I emphasize the fact that we are allowed to carry a limited amount of ammunition, that we don’t get to decide how many aggressors we may need to engage and that ammunition management should be done when we want, not when we need. Meaning they should continually manage their ammunition via deliberate reloading when time and opportunity provides. This is also emphasized during malfunction drills specific to the “double feed” or failure to extract in that a lot of places I’ve gone to emphasized dumping/throwing the offending mag away because, well, you’re in a pistol class and have 13 spare mags on your belt. I do my best to add a little practically to it reminding people that 1) if it’s in the home MOST are likely to have gun with one mag in it. 2) how many spare mags do you carry? Maybe one. So, clearing that failure to extract while retaining that mag is something I try to get people to consider.


Interesting thoughts!  I agree with Chris’ views, having lived through that wondrous time known infamously as the, “Crime Bill of 1994,” and I did live and learn with a Glock 19 and an HK USP .45, both with 10 round magazines.

I get, “fan mail,” (I’ll call it that instead of HATE mail) where people ask me why I own a site called, “REVOLVER SCIENCE,” but often talk about how and why the semi-automatic pistol is superior to the revolver.  I wonder if the first automobile manufacturers got mail asking, “WHAT WAS WRONG WITH MY HORSE DRAWN CARRIAGE?  KEEP YOUR NEW FANGLED MACHINES TO YOURSELF!”  Who knows?  People are odd, in general, and, “gun,” people can be strange, and often oddly sentimental.  I try to embrace technology, and use it to better my life.  Isn’t that the point, after all?

I asked Chris at MDTS the questions you just read because I was curious, in the training communities he works in that can be considered, “behind enemy lines,” due to their persistent set of gun control laws and magazine restrictions, because if ANYWHERE an 8 shot .357 revolver would be welcomed, it would be in a place that had a magazine capacity restriction, right?  But the majority of revolvers that Chris sees are the J frames (5 shots).  Makes sense…since carrying an 8 shot N frame, while it may deliver the, “horsepower,” of a 10 +1 Glock 19, it requires more square footage to carry, and conceal.  For home defense, the argument could be made to have one staged in a quick access safe, but in a home defense situation, what can a large frame revolver do that a shotgun cannot?  ALLOW YOU TO SEARCH EFFECTIVELY AND RETRIEVE CHILDREN/THE PHYSICALLY INFIRM.  Understood, but what’s easier to shoot one handed…a large frame revolver or a Glock 19?  I have pretty big hands, and I’m much better with a Glock 19 one handed, than I am a large frame revolver.  Most of this is rhetorical, and I say it to inspire thinking, not to quash whatever home defense system you have in place, or are thinking about putting in place.

Revolvers are SIMPLE in operation, but DIFFICULT in utilization.  The long, DA trigger pull takes work to perfect.  Sending that shot straight, takes precision and care.  Of course, any of this can be addressed through practice, but I absolutely believe that it is easier to train a novice on a compact framed or full sized semi-automatic pistol, than it is to train the same person on a revolver.  As much as I love K frame revolvers for all around use, the learning curve is steeper with the revolver, versus the semi-auto.

Some folks have hypothesized that in the immediate future, we might see more gun control efforts and even an eventual abolishment of semi-automatic weapons, full stop, by the government.  In that case, regular folks like you and I would be saddled with using manually operated weapons (revolvers, lever action/bolt action rifles, and single, double and pump action shotguns) for self-defense.  Nobody is really doing that right now…NOT EVEN NY!  Thus, it would be a culture change, no doubt.  If that DOES happen, how would it change your day to day life?  Would you carry two guns (if you don’t already)?  How much more time would you devote to practice to get your revolver game on-point?  Again, just some things to consider.  I think both you and I can deduce from the excellent points given by Chris Fry above that the capacity limitations of the machine you carry (whether pistol or revolving pistol) matter not…how YOU utilize the equipment that you have, DOES matter.  For more about that, read here.

If you are in the market for superb multi-disciplinary training, give Chris Fry and MDTS a look, and tell him the Doctor sent you!  You can find Chris, here:

Safety Solutions Academy Podcast with Paul Carlson

This is a podcast interview I did recently with Paul Carlson.  It’s a long interview, but I think we covered some interesting material that podcast fans will get a kick out of.  Paul is a great interviewer, and he asked me a bunch of really thought provoking questions.  I misspoke at one point when I referred to myocarditis…I should have said, “infective endocarditis.”  Nit picky detail, and there is a good deal of overlap between the two conditions, but I’ve had myocarditis on-the-brain lately, since I’m dealing with the sequalae of myocarditis, myself.  So forgive my lapse.

We cover a bunch of topics, including my life before dentistry, the need for pre planning, “defensive driving plus,” foiling carjackings, gang violence, “defining the threat,” The Tactical Professor, the OODA loop and Glycolysis, Dr. William Aprill and lion chasing, and a bunch of armored truck material.  I hope you have as much enjoyment listening to it, as Paul and I had making it.

Check out Paul and Safety Solutions Academy if you live in, or travel to, Northern Ohio.  Paul has a great civilian-centric curriculum, and he also features a number of traveling trainers, including  my Paul-E-Palooza co-founder, Dr. William Aprill!

Safety Solutions Academy Podcast

Or, if you already have a podcast player, go to, “Safety Solutions Academy,” and I am show #62.

OR, the direct link is:

Gym Guns…”CHANCHO…I need to borrow some SWEATS!”

You can call them, “Gym guns,” or, “Gi Guns,” or, “Sweatpants guns,” or, “Board shorts guns,” but we are all talking about the same thing…an abbreviated version of a full size pistol, or a purpose built compact or subcompact gun, made for ease of carry, and less for ease of use.  MANY folks are relying on these guns in the limited or specialized role of low profile carry to the gym/yoga studio (although how in the hell someone does yoga with a gun on, without everyone seeing said gun, is beyond me) or running in the park or the track.  Along those same lines, many members of the Civilian Defender crowd rely on an abbreviated weapon, for everyday carry, either out of convenience (hey, smaller guns ARE easier to carry!) or because they don’t want to get made by their peers, or their employer, either out of embarrassment, or because they might lose their job.  We’ve all got to put food on the table, and the best way to do that is through gainful employment!  Luckily, I’m self employed.

Rio Bravo4

I could walk into work with a lever action rifle in hand, like old John T Chance here, and really (you’d have to see the neighborhood I work in) and really not look THAT out of place.  Other folks are not so lucky, and they don’t have the benefit of lugging around a full size service pistol, spare mags, Clinch Pick, OC spray, and a Spyderco Endura.  An additional note, film director Quentin Tarantino once said that he has found that if people do not like the film, “Rio Bravo,” he generally doesn’t get along with them.  Of all the litmus tests for human compatibility, I think that this is probably the best one!

I work out, five to six days per week, in a style of workout called, “High Intensity Interval Training.”  I’ll make the caveat that HIIT workouts aren’t for everyone; either you love it or you hate it.  I find that it works well for both my fitness goals, AND since I’m recovering (3 months now) from heart surgery, it allows me to give my recently remodeled and rebooted heart a good amount of stimuli, to encourage healing.  On Mondays, the workout consists of a 60 minute interval of jogging/running and sprinting on a treadmill, and lifting weights, specifically focusing on the arms.  There are a number of different trainers, who do a number of different workouts.  It is really hard to get the same workout twice, even from the same trainer.  So, I went to a trainer that has a VERY difficult arm day, in hopes that I would not be able to lift my arms afterward, and be really shaky.  Of course, this feeling is transient, and is gone within a few hours.  But, I thought it might be interesting to shoot a series of abbreviated guns, using the TACTICAL PROFESSOR’S BASELINE PERFORMANCE DRILL, and see how I faired, with noodle arms.

I shot the drills faster than I normally do.  Normally, I really stress accuracy, and that is the point of the drill, but with my arms smoked, I didn’t really feel like holding them out in front of me, as long as I normally would in a non-tensed state!  Not spraying and praying, by any means, but definitely faster than laying bullets on top of other bullets.  On the 3 shot and 4 shot strings, I was going for .5 splits or better, regardless of range.  The other complicating factor is that all of these guns have short sight radii, meaning that the distance from the front sight to the rear sight is abbreviated, and thus a bit of a wobble that might be barely perceivable on a 4″ barreled service pistol, is QUITE apparent on the shorter barreled guns…and even worse with the shakes.

I’m sure that there will be people who will disagree with me on this, but I find that in the majority of situations that a CIVILIAN DEFENDER will find themselves in, the choice of the pistol matters not.  My personal caveats are that it is chambered in a round that is effective (READ:  .38 Special is my minimum) and that it is controllable (READ:  I don’t like Scandium/Titanium frame J frames…partially because they are brutal to shoot, which inhibits regular practice, and also because they are ammo sensitive; you cannot use certain bullets since they will pull, with inertia, from the cases).  I don’t care if you use a revolver (duh) or a pistol for personal self-defense.  Nobody is raiding a fortified Nazi castle here…we are just regular Joes and JoeAnne’s trying to get back to our car with a load of groceries.  Tom Givens from RANGEMASTER keeps a database of all of his students that have been involved in self-defense shootings.  Of all of his students, he has had 65, to date, that have been involved in armed self-defense situations.  Of those 65, three of those students were murdered, for the contents of their pockets, because they were unarmed.  The other 62 were armed, and were victorious.  Of those 62, whether they had a pistol or a revolver, they made it through their nightmare.  So, while it would be GREAT for everyone to pack a Glock 19 or a Smith M&P, I know that isn’t a possibility for everyone due to stature, or finances, or simply aesthetics.  So whatever you use, make sure you can get it out of the holster and onto the bad guy quickly, hit exactly what you are aiming at, reload it if it runs empty, and fix it if it stops running.  Make it a point to achieve a high level of mastery in all of those skills, and you’ll be well prepared for the majority of situations you’ll encounter.  The choice of pistol is really not as important as most people consider it to be.  Don’t buy or carry crap, but think of it analogously to a car, that you may have to drive across the country.  Would you buy an uncomfortable, poorly functioning, piece of crap, made of pot metal and held together with wood screws?  Guns in the same vein exist, and some foolish boobs use them for self-defense.  Don’t be that guy or gal.


Gen 4 Glock 26 with Ameriglo CAP sights, in the EXCELLENT JM Custom Kydex, “IWB Universal,” kydex holster.  It features a user-adjustable, metal clip, that allows the wearer to alter the cant to their preference.  The clip will hold onto a belt like it was welded to it, AND it will hold onto the elastic and drawstring waistband of gym shorts, just as securely.  Also pictured are two, currently popular after-market GLOCK magazines…the Magpul GL19 and the ETS (translucent) versions.  In the limited use (fifty rounds) of the test, they worked fine.  I’ll run them more in the coming months.  I’ve found that G26’s don’t always run well with full length magazines from G19’s and G17’s, as well as the 33 round magazines.  Also, as much as I love Sgt. Dave Spaulding’s writing, I really have come to love higher mounted sights.  These sights are great for carry, and for the user looking for a 1:1 steel replacement for the factory OEM Glock sights (er, I mean, “dovetail protectors,” these would fit the bill nicely), but I’ve become so accustomed to the Warren height uppers on Glocks and M&P’s.  In recoil, with the shorter sights, I have a tendency to dip the muzzle looking for the front sight on the follow through.  Seems to be exacerbated shooting these smaller guns.  Hrmph…must investigate further.


Old Faithful…the Smith and Wesson J-frame.  This is an all stainless, Model 640.  There are probably a good number of readers that use a J frame of some iteration, as a self-defense piece, and I salute you!  Like I’ve said in past articles, there are days when revolvers can be finicky.  This particular day was one of the finicky ones.  Although the revolver worked correctly in the firing phase, the cylinder release took an inordinate amount of pressure to open!  I think that may have had something to do with the hotter-than-regular-Air Force-ball-Federal ammo that I was using.  I didn’t chronograph it, but it seemed to be moving, and the muzzle blast was impressive, even under the lights of the range.  The gun probably heated up quickly, and that led to problems with the cylinder opening.  Not a big deal in practice, but in a confrontation, I’d rather just pull another gun.  Of course who wears 2 guns to the gym?  Put your hand down, you wild man!  So, you can see why it could be important to be able to open the gun, and then reload it, under the pressure of someone trying to kill you.  Anyway, I counted this as 49/50, although you could make the argument that the upper hit was within the bounds of the clavicle, that is, inferior (below) the clavicle.  There is still  number of good targets in that area, but, since I wanted to make this hard on myself, and since I wasn’t aiming at the clavicle, I counted it as a miss.  In all of the tests, I am aiming for the (somewhat ambiguous on this target, and that’s by design…pay no attention to the poorly scaled and somewhat ectopic organ systems depicted) is the imaginary zone defined at the lateral borders by the nipples, and at the upper border of the manubrium (the top of the sternum) and the diaphragm at the lower border (bottom of the sternum).  Anything outside of that imaginary zone, is a, “miss.”


The Smith and Wesson Model 12.  This is a 2″ barrelled, aluminum K frame revolver.  This was, “THE GUN,” to have back in the police wheelgun days, if you were a plainclothes investigator.  The gun is stock, except for red nail polish on the front sight ramp, the hammer is bobbed, and the stocks are made by Ahrends grips, in the version they call their, “Tactical Model.”  Airweights like this carry great, because they are a full size grip gun, but they are very light.  Airweights like this are a handful to shoot, because although there is plenty of gun to hold onto, they don’t weigh much, and they have some recoil to them!  Recoil is subjective, and I think it is fun, but when you’re arms are shaky, the long (albeit smooth) DA pull of a revolver like this makes your arms feel the burn, which equates to some not-so-straight shooting at 15 yards.  I dumped two rounds here, below the level of the diaphragm, which I’ll count as misses here.  Sure, the guy might die days later of a septic infection, or bleed to death in an alleyway hours after the confrontation, but that’s not what we are trying to achieve.  We are trying to make the badguy STOP whatever thing he is doing that makes him a badguy.  We can only get badguys to stop what they are doing by delivering accurate hits to vital targets.


The Gen 4 Glock 26.  As weird as the Glock mini-guns feel in the hand, they shoot well!  I enjoy them, and I think they just may well, “be,” the 21st Century J-frame.  Many armed citizens and police officers use the subcompact iterations of the Glock as primary or secondary weapons.  As with the revolver, those 10 and 15 yard strings require a good deal of focus and stability.


The Smith and Wesson Shield 9mm.  This is a great gun too, and what I feel is the best of the breed, when it comes to single stack 9mm carry pistols.  I have tried other, “small,” single stack 9’s and the Shield is the only one that I really felt confident with.  With that said, I have yet to try out the Glock 43 (stay tuned) but I have used the Walther PPS, and the Kahr PM9.  I liked the Walther, but it wasn’t, “that,” compact (although it is FLAT) and the Kahr was just too small for me to get a good thumbs towards the badguy grip without burning the end of my thumb, because it extended past the muzzle.  I know that some folks have had bad luck with their S&W Shields, but I’ve been happy with mine.  And really, I feel about the same, shooting-wise, with the Shield as I do with the 9C.  I think with work, I could produce the same kind of accuracy I get with my J frame, and (dare I say) retire the J frame for only super-discreet carry roles.


The Smith and Wesson M&P Compact 9mm.  Similar in size envelope to the Glock 26 (sorta halfway in size between a Glock 26 and a Glock 19) is this handy little machine.  My significant other has one of these as her carry piece, and although I’ve had this pistol for several years, I bought it, got distracted by something, and it just sat in my safe.  I changed the sights from the factory Novak with 3 painted white dots (which I have found have a tremendous propensity to fly out of the sockets of the sights, while shooting) to the Dawson Precision, “Charger,” fiber optic sights.  Partially because like I said, I don’t like the ejecting dots on the Novaks, and also because I wanted to test the utility of fiber optics on a carry gun.  I REALLY like the rear sight on this.  If the front sight takes a dump on me, I’ll just replace it with something that is the same height and width, but made of steel.  


I know that someone with a science background is going to read this and flip their wig at all the variables that I threw in here.  So, in that vein, no…it is not, “rigorous scientific testing.”  However, it is reproducible to you, the reader.  Go beat your arms to a pulp, in whatever form of exercise you prefer.  Then take any accuracy intensive drill (preferably one you know how you shoot, “cold,” in a non-tensed state) and shoot it when your arms feel like limp spaghetti noodles.  Compare your scores.  MY TAKEAWAY from this is that sights and trigger manipulation will get you through, even if you’re not using a gun you’ve completely, “bonded,” to.  Also, the acceptable, “wobble zone,” when you are in a post-exercise state, “moves,” quicker.  The involuntary rattle in the limbs and hands does a pretty good job, I think, of simulating peri-incident stress.  That makes the wobble zone, especially on the distant shooting strings, more difficult to manage, and really requires a sure grip, and careful manipulation of the trigger.  A few readers have asked how I manipulate the trigger, and I use the, “flip and press,” method taught by Bill Rogers of the Rogers shooting school.  I find that I don’t have the, “trigger freeze,” issue that some folks experience when switching from pistol to revolver and vice versa.  I can also switch from DAO autos to DA/SA without a drastic transition.

But that wobble zone…shooting at distance, even only 45 feet, when your arms are burning and weak feeling, is difficult!  Give it a try and post your thoughts in the comments section.  Thanks for reading!

-Dr. House


It has been nearly four years since Paul Everett Gomez died, in Seattle WA.  Paul was on his way to British Columbia, to deliver his unique brand of training.  Paul had two flagship courses, 1.  RPM…”Robust Pistol Manipulation” that was Paul’s unique spin on ambidextrous gun handling, both shooting, loading, and fixing malfunctions, with EACH hand and one-hand-only, and 2.  “Urban AK,” which was essentially, utilization of the AK at distances normally reserved for pistol and shotgun work, that is, inside of 25 yards.  Paul slept on my sofa bed, the night before he departed Nashville for Seattle, and he left his carry pistol, a Glock 17, and his, “bag gun,” an underfolding AKM, in my possession.  Paul stayed at my house regularly, every couple of days, and this was the custom when he flew to places he couldn’t carry at.  I still have Paul’s guns, and they will be given to his children once they are old enough to have them.

One of the many t-shirts inspired by Paul.

I first met Paul at a Tactical Response, “Fighting Rifle,” course in about the Fall of 2006.  Paul and I were the only students in a class of ten, that were using AK variants.  At the time, the carbine itself cost less than $350, and a case of Wolf ammunition was $99, and sometimes you could find it for $79!  Very inexpensive by today’s standards.  Magazines were plentiful, and could be had for $8 to $10 each.  Well, Paul and I were, at first, the odd men out, as everyone else in the class had an M4 of some sort, along with the flashlights, and red dot optics that work so well with the Stoner family of carbines and rifles.  Paul and I had simple, wood stocked rifles, with simple nylon slings, and iron sights.  They were about as, “stock,” as an AK could get.  The weather was cold, and there was even some snow on the ground, but despite the precipitation, neither of our rifles had any malfunctions, and we both finished the class admirably.  Our friendship was forged from there on out.

These were the gents from one of the first instructor development classes at Tactical Response.  Circa 2007 (approx).  We all bought Gomez shirts and hats to wear for our final exercise, as an homage to Gomez.  

Over the next several years, I trained with Paul extensively.  Sometimes we went to conferences, and would be in the same instruction blocks, and other times, we would just beat the stuffing out of each other in my living room, garage, or backyard.  We also worked and taught together, both at the home range in Tennessee, and on the road.  We formed a local training group, which used a rural range to test out various experimental training blocks, that would eventually become Paul’s flagship course, (RPM) as well as his Urban AK class.  Paul and I devised an, “AK battlefield pickup,” drill that we ran students of varying skill levels through, at a tactical conference.  Paul favored the AK, and I was a fan of the shotgun.

Before Paul’s death, he had been working on a book covering his method of AK utilization, for the civilian user.  It was never published.  Excerpts of it are here, and will illustrate what Paul thought that the AK could do for the self-defense user.

Understanding the Role of the Carbine in Self Defense
It’s been said that defensive gun training should begin with the handgun and after sufficient skill has been gained with it, training with carbines, rifles and shotguns is appropriate. The same people who make that statement generally go on to explain how poor the pistol is at stopping fights and that the only reason to carry a pistol is because it is not socially acceptable to walk around town with a rifle slung on your shoulder. I maintain that if you are not going to carry a pistol with you at all times and have it immediately available for use, if you are going to have to go and fetch a gun in times of duress, then you would be vastly better served by fetching a shoulder fired, magazine fed, semiautomatic carbine. Everything that the pistol can do the carbine can do better, except remain unseen. Even if you do carry a pistol with you at all times and you are aware of a problem brewing which you cannot avoid, you would be better served fetching that same carbine to the fight.
There exists a misconception that shoulder fired weapons are for use at great distances and, somehow, they are inappropriate for use in close range affairs. This is nonsense. Starting in the early 1980s, some trainers in the private sector began offering training in the short-range use of the rifle. Unfortunately it took events such as the so-called “Miami Massacre” on 11 April 1986 and the “North Hollywood Shootout” on 28 February 1997 and many less tragic events, to gain wide spread acceptance within the general law enforcement and training communities.
Comparing the shoulder fired, magazine fed, semiautomatic AK directly to the handheld, magazine fed, semiautomatic pistol should clarify the issues involved.
• The carbine fires a cartridge that strikes with appreciably greater authority than any defensive handgun cartridge. There is simply no comparison between the damage done by handguns cartridges and that done by, even relatively puny, rifle cartridges like the 7.62×39.
• The greater sight radius available on long arms aids in practical, real world accuracy. “Sight radius” is the distance between the front and rear sights. On pistols it is minimal. For instance, on a Glock M19 the distance between the front and rear sight is a paltry 5.75 inches. On a standard AK, the sight radius is 14.25 inches. The closer the sights are the greater the error as range increases. This means that I could have a sighting error approximately 2.5 times worse when using an AK and still hit as well as I could with a Glock at the same distance. In other words, due to the greater sight radius, we have more room for error with less disastrous effects in close range engagements with the carbine than we do with the pistol.
• Due to the greater number of interface points, or physical reference points, between shooter and gun with the carbine you can utilize your whole body to mitigate recoil and control and move the gun. When this is coupled with the longer sight radius, the ability to get hits under stress is vastly superior to the pistol.
• Standard magazine capacity for the AK is 30 rounds. Standard magazine capacity for most pistols is rarely greater than fifteen rounds and the availability of standard capacity magazines for pistols is problematic and, in some cases cost prohibitive. Thirty round magazines for most AK carbines are readily available for less than $10 apiece at the time of this writing. Having a large on-board ammunition capacity allows the operator to expend less time and energy manipulating his equipment and spend more time involved in solving and/or extracting himself from the problem.
• Lastly, the use of the carbine is largely range independent. With an appropriately zeroed weapon, you merely put your sights on what you intend to hit and work the trigger without disturbing the alignment, regardless of distance from two feet out to beyond 200 meters. You cannot do this with any other platform. Not with pistols, not with long guns chambered for pistol calibers and not with shotguns.
Understand that the defensive fight does not magically transform into something other than what it is based on how you have chosen to arm yourself (the number of bad guys doesn’t change, their intentions don’t change, whether they are wearing body armor isn’t affected by the presence of a rifle, etc.) but, also understand, you may effect great changes upon the participants based on how you have chosen to arm yourself.
Paul was literally a walking, talking database of names, dates, factoids, and seemingly miniscule details on the most arcane, odd, and strange things of anyone I have every known.  Most folks remember Paul being an amazing historian and expert in just the firearms and training fields, however, he was also AS knowledgeable in general!  So, in the spirit of Paul Everett Gomez, I sought out one of Century Arms’ latest creations, an American MADE Kalashnik0v variant (the Hungarian AK63D), and ran it through a series of drills, instruction blocks and bumping around on my travels, to see how it held up, and if it would function in the capacity of a self-defense weapon, or, THE URBAN AK!
AM63D side

With the stock in the, “folded,” position, the AK63D fits into the cargo compartments of many pickup trucks, and boats.  It is far more portable than a full size carbine, in this configuration.  Notice I didn’t say that it should be USED in this configuation, merely stowed, stored or transported.  For business operators (like myself) that rely on firearms for self-protection, and have businesses that are targeted frequently, being able to discreetly transport a carbine like this in a low profile bag, is a wise option.  I have installed a, “retro,” Vickers sling on the carbine, that works simply, and attaches easily to the factory supplied front and rear sling loops.

One issue that many American shooters gripe about with Kalashnikov pattern rifles is the safety (AKA selector) lever.  On some weapons, the safety lever will flop about, willy-nilly, and on other samples, it will be tight and nearly immovable.  The AK63D’s selector lever was moved easily, and clicked into place with a very positive and palpable fee.  Paul’s thoughts on safety lever manipulation were as follows:
Manipulating the Safety
The two biggest complaints with the AK platform have always been the sights and the location of the selector lever. Thankfully, we have sighting options now that we didn’t have just a short while ago, but we are stuck with the clackety-clack selector lever. The selector lever is placed in a completely inappropriate location which prohibits the user from maintaining a firing grip on the gun while being in a position to disengage the safety in a timely manner. There are several different methods of actuating the safety, as well as simply carrying the gun with the chamber empty and the safety off and racking the action prior to engagement. I would no more advocate carrying a carbine with the chamber empty than I would for carrying a pistol in that condition. If you store your AK with the chamber clear that’s well and good, but when it is put into defensive service, it needs to have a round in the chamber and the safety engaged. The method that I advocate maintains a physical reference point on the pistol grip, keeps excess movement to a minimum, and allows positive control over the weapon should that become an issue in close quarters.
As the weapon is depressed into the ready position, the gun-side hand loosens its grip allowing the fingers and wrist to rotate to make contact with then selector lever. The thumb of the gun-side hand stays around the pistol grip as much as possible. For me this means that the tip of my right thumb back to the first joint stays around the pistol grip and my second (social) finger contacts the shelf on the selector lever, with my index finger resting above and my ring finger resting below. Once contact has been made, upward pressure moves the selector lever to safe and the hand maintains its position with the fingers staged on the selector lever and the thumb hooked around the pistol grip. The gun-side hand maintains this position at all times unless it must perform a task which requires it to move elsewhere. To disengage the safety and establish a firing grip, the fingers initially move as a unit dragging downward in a tight arc. Once the safety has been disengaged, the fingers continue moving towards the pistol grip, with the exception of the trigger finger which immediately locates the trigger and begins the firing stroke. This action sequence is known as “Click-Touch”. As the selector lever disengages the safety (click) the trigger finger locates the trigger (touch) and begins to remove the slack (if you intend to fire immediately).
Due to the positioning of the gun-hand thumb, it is very intuitive to help secure the gun by grasping the pistol grip tightly to aid in retention. With many of the other methods taught for actuating the safety, the gun-side hand is merely resting on the selector without assisting in controlling the gun at all. Should a disarm attempt be made against someone holding an AK in that fashion, the gun literally peels away from them. Maintaining a firm grasp of the magazine and having the gun-side thumb indexed to grasp the pistol grip goes a long way toward insuring your control of the gun.
AM63D pistol grip

One thing I didn’t like about the carbine (and this is no fault of Century Arms) is that the interesting shape of the pistol grip, gets to be rather abusive with continued firing.  That sharp, 90 degree angle on the back of the receiver really digs into the proximal joint of the thumb with heavy use.  That camming motion of the bolt pushing back into the receiver cover really gets to the thumb.  Gomez used to say, “Water is wet, fire is hot, gravity is cruel and AK’s are sharp…wear gloves.”  I would agree.  Fortunately, a large market of AK accessories exists, and a more ergonomic pistol grip from Magpul or Tango Down would give the user a more comfortable hold on the gun.  The Hungarians, no doubt, had some rationale for the shape of the grip when they first designed the rifle, but I can’t imagine what it was!  The wood sure is pretty though!

In keeping with the Gomez Doctrine, I decided to put the carbine to paper, in a test that would demonstrate many of the operating characteristics that Paul believed make the AK a superior weapon for the civilian defender to use, in lieu of a pistol, at, “probable,” engagement distances.  That is, particularly 5-10 yards (household distances) and a maximum of 25 yards (upper limits of the majority of civilian self-defense shootings).  To do this, I used one of my (NOW) favorite benchmark tests, THE TACTICAL PROFESSOR’S, “BASELINE PERFORMANCE,” drill.  I slightly modified it for the rifle, starting at the Gomez, “Low Ready,” and shooting the drills at 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 yards.  I used a 30 round Bulgarian Waffle Magazine, and a 20 round Hungarian magazine for the drill.  As I said, I started from the, “Low Ready Position,” that Gomez talked about, here:

Deployment from Ready Positions
Low Ready
The default ready position for use with the Kalashnikov, or any other carbine, is known as the Low Ready Position. It is important to understand that low ready is a flexible position. It is not a fixed point, such as “the support side arm must rest against the ribcage and the muzzle must be held at a 45-degree angle” but rather any point along a given arc that accomplishes the necessary goal at that time. Low ready can be with the gun muzzle depressed just below the eye-target line and it can also be with the muzzle pointing six inches forward of your toes. I feel quite strongly that good guys don’t point guns at other good guys, so for me, my default low ready position directs the muzzle at such an angle that it is pointing towards the ground in front of whomever I am interacting with. The exact angle changes based on distance and environmental factors, but this position allows me to observe the scene while obstructing as little of it as possible, not violate any of the universal gunhandling rules and still present and aggressive image.
To familiarize yourself with the low ready position, begin with the gun on point, in the offhand position. From the offhand position, depress the muzzle. Realize that only the shoulders and the upper portion of the stock are moving. As the muzzle moves downward, the butt stock will begin to move away from your chest. As long as the lower portion of the stock, called the toe, remains in place and both hands maintain their original positions on the gun, you are in an acceptable low ready. The toe of the stock maintaining contact with your chest serves as a physical reference point which, along with the cheekbone, allows you to rapidly return the gun to the offhand position and engage the threats as need be.
Anytime that the weapon is not on point, aimed in on a target, or malfunctioning, it should be on safe. Practicing moving the selector lever from safe to fire as the AK is brought from ready to point and as it is brought from point to ready you should practice the reverse. It does absolutely no good to quickly get your gun on target only to discover that it won’t go bang and it’s rather embarrassing.
For additional study, I’ve included Paul’s thoughts on the, “extreme low ready.”
Muzzle Depressed Centerline Ready
Muzzle depressed centerline ready can be thought of as an extreme low ready. However, it possesses some unique attributes which must be addressed separately. The purpose of the muzzle depressed centerline position is to allow unrestricted movement in 360 degrees. If you were to attempt to turn completely around with your carbine in a more traditional low ready position, the cone that would be swept by the muzzle would be unacceptable in many situations. It would also require an inordinate amount of attention to continuously adjust the muzzle to avoid non-threats in the environment. With the muzzle depressed centerline ready, the gun can be “parked” with the muzzle straight down between your feet. To place the AK into muzzle depressed centerline ready, dismount the gun from the offhand position into low ready. As the edge of the magazine contacts your centerline around waist level, rotate the gun towards your non-gun side so that the ejection port is facing forward and your grip is maintained on the magazine which is now facing towards your gun-side. The gun-side hand releases from the pistol grip, except for the thumb and stages on the selector lever, as described previously. To return to the offhand position from here, simply rotate the gun inboard which returns it to low ready and continue back to the offhand position.
AK63D Performance Standards

This carbine is capable of GREAT accuracy at the distances I prescribed in the drill.  NOTE:  I mismarked the target…I did drop one shot out of the, “8,” ring at 25 yards, that I didn’t note on the target!  I did shoot the carbine outdoors, on steel, and it was easy to do a walkback on a 12″x12″ steel, out to nearly 200 yards, without any holdover required.  Recoil is manageable, and not brutal, even though the cheekweld is strictly supported by the metal arms of the underfolding stock.  There was only one limiting factor in the user-friendliness of the sighting system:

The stock sights are made to please the collector and military purist crowd, and they simply are tough to use!  There is almost no light visible on either side of the front sight, in the stock configuration.  I did paint the front sight with red nail polish, after shooting outdoors in the bright sun, to help pick it up, quickly.  I will also take a dental diamond bur to the rear sight and hog it out into a, “U-notch,” not unlike the Warren Tactical Sights on my pistol.  If you don’t have access to dental rotary tools, you could use a dremel, and I know other folks that have done the same thing manually, with a chainsaw file.  This seemingly simple and basic modification makes a simple rifle even better.  Hit it with a Q tip full of cold blue to cut down on the glare, and you are ready.


Paul and I used to argue at length, over sasparillas (me) and Shock Tops (him) about the viability of the AK as a home/shop defense weapon for the (what I am now calling) CIVILIAN DEFENDER.  I was a dogged fan of the shotgun for home defense, and he was an AK proponent, although we both practiced with each weapon type.  At the time, the Corbon DPX for the 7.62×39 had been widely released, and Paul was a fan of it for anti-personnel use.  We talked about the danger of pellet accountability, but I think a great deal of that would have been remedied by the Federal Flite Control buckshot loading.  One thing I learned from Paul (of many) was to thoroughly think through a problem…no matter how small, and study the component parts, to figure out what the best direction to find the answer was.  I think that Paul would LOVE the Century Arms American Made AK’s.  Even though he would probably prefer a stamped receiver, instead of the milled, due to the weight savings, he would agree that the AK63D is a rugged, accurate, well-handling machine, with just a couple of tweaks (to the grip and the sights), would serve well in the role of the, “Urban AK.”

The world lost a Great Father, a Good Friend, a Wise Instructor, and a Brilliant Polymath in May 2012.  Paul lived to seek out knowledge, and he was very much a believer in the idea that if you wanted to master a subject, you should teach it!  Paul loved attending multidisciplinary tactical conferences, like the RANGEMASTER Polite Society Conference, as well as other regional and topical conferences.  In that vein, in the day following the discovery of Paul’s death, I began a monetary trust to support Paul’s three children, so that they would always be able to educationally prosper, and not go without the things that their Dad would have provided for them.  With HUGE support from Craig Douglas, Paul Sharp, Chris Fry, Cecil Burch, Tom and Lynne Givens, Claude Werner, Rob Pincus, Larry Lindenman, Chuck Haggard, Caleb Causey and the entire TPI (Total Protection Interactive) community, Dr. William Aprill and I organized the first PAUL-E-PALOOZA MEMORIAL TRAINING CONFERENCE in 2012.  It was a huge educational and philanthropical success.  We had the second PEP in 2014, and the third in 2015.  Every year, we gather more interesting instructors AND great corporate sponsors (in keeping with the mood of the conference, our only educational requirement of the instructors is that the material has to be part of the multidisciplinary spectrum, and the weirder, or more arcane, the better.  KEEP PEP WEIRD).  The NEXT PAUL-E-PALOOZA MEMORIAL TRAINING CONFERENCE will be in August of 2017.  I will post details as soon as they become available.  ALL of the funds that are generated by the tuition fees go into the Paul E. Gomez Children’s Trust, and so far, we have raised over $100,000 for Paul’s kids.  We have paid for Paul’s eldest daughter, Gabriella, to attend LSU, and we have paid for the other kids’ Boy Scout Camps, medical expenses, and so many other things that their Dad would’ve handled, if he was still alive.  It’s something that I plan on continuing as long as I am able to!  If you have attended the past PEP’s, THANK YOU for doing so, and if you want to attend the PEP’s of the future, stay tuned here, for updates on the specifics of the next conference.

Thanks again for reading!

Dr. House

Gomez, me, and a giant on the BAT BRIDGE in Austin, TX, circa May 2010.  Paul and I had just taught the largest Immediate Action Medical class we’d ever done.  Everyone in attendance had a great time and learned things that have served them well in their lives.


The Remedial Action Revolver Kit

Smith M66

This is a Smith Model 66, that has been rendered DAO, had the hammer bobbed, and it has C&S fixed sights.  The strain screw on this lady is highly mobile…I have to keep an eye on it, otherwise it’ll drift right out.

If you spend any amount of time shooting revolvers you’ve no doubt discovered that revolvers can be , uh, fickle.  Some days, they work with the perfection and regularity of a Swiss watch, and other days, they are like the Fiat of guns.  This can be really frustrating!  There are times where I want to throw the offending wheelgun into the nearest body of water, and simply press-on with life, using a semi-automatic pistol.

In my estimation, a revolver is very similar to the car you had in high school.  It was your, “first,” love.  You either bought or were given that car and you were responsible for its care.  When you think back, you kind of miss that car.  Even though it probably wasn’t the most state-of-the-art vehicle on the road, or didn’t have the most comfortable seats or the greatest sound system, you loved it anyway, despite its flaws.  And you look back at it, wistfully.  Revolvers, for many people, hold the same amount of nostalgia.

I’m talking about people like me here, but my first handgun was a revolver.  My first formal instruction was with a revolver, and my first several years as a professional armored truck crewman found me armed with a revolver.  So I know the beast well.  Times have changed, and although I still carry a wheelgun as a back up gun on my ankle, I still put in more time on other revolvers, aside from the BUG.  With weekly practice and training, I find myself sometimes thinking, “There has got to be a better way.”  Unfortunately, I haven’t found an ankle rig that conceals a pistol, as well as a revolver, so until that happens, my 640 is glued to me.

To combat the issues I experience regularly shooting revolvers, I’ve become accustomed to carrying several tools that make them, “run,” more efficiently, and allow me to clear common stoppages that inhibit proper functioning.  To think about this fundamentally, remember that to load and unload a revolver, you essentially have to disassemble it partway, swing the guts out one side, eject the spent cases, and then recharge the chambers, put the gun back together, and get back to it shooting.  Seems simple enough!  But, as with anything mechanical, the parts don’t always line up straight.  Literally.

Here are a few things that will help you keep your revolver running,  in optimal shape.  Since you are probably relying on a revolver for self-defense (maybe only in a back up gun role) then you understand why it’s important that it works, correctly.  These are a few issues I have encountered that can ruin your day, and how you can better prevent them.

  1. CHECK YOUR SIDEPLATE SCREWS.  It isn’t often that the side plate comes loose, however the screw that is farthest forward on your side plate (crane screw) CAN work its way loose with normal use.  If it unscrews itself completely, the next time you open the revolver, the cylinder will fall out onto the ground!  That’s not a good thing, so make sure that the screws on your side plate are snug.
  2. CHECK UNDER AND IN FRONT OF THE EJECTOR STAR.  Unburnt powder getting stuck in the ejection machinery of your revolver is a show stopper.  It can prevent the cylinder from opening, or even lock the ejector rod in place.  Either of these stoppages can be prevented by thoroughly keeping that space and those parts free of unburnt powder.  A note on that…I LOVE shooting wadcutters.  Depending on the brand, you may have a good deal of unburnt powder that literally falls out of the fired cases, sometimes in what seems like ridiculous amounts.  Be mindful of that, and keep that star spotless!  (The MASS of unburnt powder can also happen with ammo other than wadcutters, too.  It really varies with the brand, and even the lot of the specific ammunition.
  3. CHECK THE CHAMBERS OF THE CYLINDER FOR UNBURNT POWDER OR A DEBRIS RING.  If you have a .357 Magnum revolver (or a .44 Magnum, .454 or any other revolver caliber that is capable of firing cartridges of the same diameter, but have shorter case lengths) then a ring of debris can form around the inside of the chamber, preventing insertion of the longer (Magnum) round(s).  Also, unburnt powder (as mentioned in #2 above) can simply get caught in the chamber, preventing easy insertion and extraction of other ammunition.  In dental school, we were always taught, “Don’t blow on it, Doc,” meaning that we should try and break the natural human habit to want to blow air onto something we are trying to take dust off of (and yes…there are dentists who blow on someone’s denture, then hand it back to the patient, for their approval.  GROSS.) but in this case, I’d say blowing out the chambers is a good thing!  You may or may not have a brush with you that can do the same thing.  Hence, the purpose of this article in the first place.
  4. BUILD UP ON THE FORCING CONE THE FRONT OF THE CYLINDER AND THE TOP STRAP.  Your revolver is a precision instrument.  It was designed to operate in a certain set of parameters.  However, with use, that window of operable parameters widens.  Not to the point that the gun will no longer function, but it can stop functioning as well.  When you shoot lead bullets, the soft lead, and the lube that often accompanies lead projectiles, can become very hot, and shear off of the main projectile in small, molten fragments, and those fragments can fuse to the forcing cone.  If this build-up of crud gets thick enough, it will inhibit the free rotation of the cylinder face, which makes your double action trigger pull increase significantly.  If the buildup gets to be enough, it will gum up the rotation of the cylinder and make the gun inoperable.
  5. HEAT.  As metal heats up, it expands.  Heat a revolver up enough, and it will expand significantly.  When I shoot revolvers in classes, especially in classes that are designed around semi-automatic pistols, they can get hot fast.  So, I like to bring a pair of revolvers, so that when one gets really hot, I can let it cool down, while the other one gets hot.  And correspondingly, the hotter the ammo (meaning rounds loaded to higher velocities) the hotter the gun will get quicker.  Again, like in #3 above, the trigger pull will start to drag, due to the impedance of the cylinder face on the forcing cone.
  6. AMMO ISSUES.  One of the often quoted, “advantages,” of revolvers over semi-automatic pistols is the point of, “less ammunition sensitive,” which is, in my opinion, a misnomer and not quite accurate.  For example, while a semi-automatic pistol may not eject a round completely, due to a light powder load, a revolver may not chamber a round completely, due to a manufacturing defect like a bur on the case mouth, OR allow the cylinder to close due to a high primer.  So, it’s important to inspect your ammo, to make sure that it will actually work, when you need it to.  In this same category, I would include the use of moonclips as a possible hindrance to good function in your wheelgun.  If the clips are slightly bent or deformed, they can prevent proper seating of the round in the chamber, and tie up the revolver.
  7. STRAIN SCREW COMING LOOSE.  Some S&W revolvers have a screw at the front strap of the grip frame, that place tension on the revolver’s mainspring.  That screw is a certain length for a reason, and needs to be screwed into the grip frame to its depth limit.  These screws CAN back out, and lessen the tension on the mainspring, compromising the ignition reliability of your revolver.  Some grips cover the strain screw enough to prevent it from backing out, but in the, “stock,” configuration, that screw is open to the elements, and free to do as it pleases.  Be mindful of that screw, and if you see it marching out, put it back to its fully seated depth.
Smith 640 star

This is the ejector star of the Smith 640, and I keep it meticulously clean with a toothbrush.  I’m a dentist…toothbrushes aren’t hard to come by in my life.

There are other issues that can happen with a revolver, but these are the common ones that I encounter in my own practice and life with revolvers.  Of course, some of these are S&W specific, but I honestly don’t have enough time with malfunctions in the Ruger and Colt guns to complain much about them.  The GP100’s and Service Sixes I own have literally been utterly reliable (but that’s another article entirely).  However, they don’t have the feel of a good Smith K frame.  Not knocking them, but there is just a palpable difference in the feel and handiness of the two makes of revolvers.


If you rely on a revolver for defense, you need to have a plan for what you are going to do once you run that cylinder through.  Statistically, you should have enough ammunition in the gun to handle what you will be faced with, but statistics don’t always adhere to reality.  If you do run the gun empty, OR have a showstopping malfunction, you will need a plan.  The best plan, if the fight is still on, is to go to a second gun.  If possible, it’s always good to have the capacity to escape from the immediate area.  Run through these scenarios in your mind’s eye, so that when you need them, you won’t have to spend valuable time trying to come up with an option…have the option ready.  As much as I love my revolvers, I really don’t want to have to stick somebody, eyeball to eyeball, with a Spyderco, because my revolver is empty or because the mechanism took a huge dump on me.  I DO carry speed strips or speedloaders to reload with, but the chances of actually getting to reload, in the civilian context, are slim.  However again, the statistics can only grant so much predictive power…nobody has a crystal ball and can tell the future.  So have a plan, and have an alternate plan, in case your primary plan fails, but also have a contingency plan, in case your alternate plan fails, and lastly, have an emergency plan in case ALL of the other plans fail.  A revolver as a primary (or even BUG) doesn’t require MORE planning to use than a semiauto, it just takes SOME planning.

Eaten up wadcutter

This a a 148 grain wadcutter made by FIOCCHI.  It had a case bur that prevented it from fitting into the cylinder of the Model 66 in the background.

Ayoob Dejammer

Here it is…the REVOLVER REMEDIAL ACTION KIT.  It consists of a toothbrush (soft bristles all you macho guys…hard bristled brushes aren’t good for your guns OR your teeth and gums!) a .356 caliber cleaning brush, and an Ayoob DeJammer.  The Ayoob DeJammer was designed by Massad Ayoob, years back when Kubotans were commonly used as defensive tools by police officers.  His variant included an open threaded socket at the distal end, that allows the user to screw a cleaning brush or jag into it.  It’s also really helpful for punching out cases that are stuck.  You can find them on Ebay, and I believe that Monadnock is still making them.


ETA:  One of my mentors, the great Tom Givens, posted this on and it is too good not to share:

The old crap about revolvers being more reliable than autos arises from the ammunition that was available when autos first appeared in military and police service, circa 1900. Ammunition of that day had unstable primers that deteriorated quickly when exposed to gun oils, solvent vapors, and just ordinary exposure to weather while carrying the loaded gun and ammo on the belt. The primers of that day contained mercuric salts, which gather moisture from the air and cause corrosion. These “corrosive primers” made cleaning the gun the same day it was fired an absolute necessity. If the gun was not cleaned immediately the mercuric salt deposits in the barrel would gather moisture and cause rust overnight. Unfortunately, these mercuric salts in the primer gather moisture when ammunition is worn on the belt and often failed fire when needed. This is no longer an issue as these mercuric primers have not been used in the US since World War II. Modern primers contain lead styphnate, not mercuric compounds. Modern primers are far less susceptible to oils, solvents, and the weather. However, when auto pistols first became common the mercuric ammunition was all it was available and misfires were common. If a revolver misfires the user simply pulls the trigger again and a fresh round comes up for another try. If a cartridge in a semiautomatic pistol misfires the user must perform an immediate action drill to get the gun back in operation. With modern ammunition a properly maintained semiautomatic pistol is about as reliable as machine can be.

The revolver’s basic design makes it far more fragile, and far more susceptible to serious malfunctions that take too long to fix in a fight. If you will think about it, a revolver has five or six individual chambers, each of which has to line up precisely with the pistol barrel upon firing. A misalignment by just a few thousandths of an inch results in bullet shaving off the forcing cone, or the primer misaligned with the firing pin causing misfires. In order to time the action so that each chamber locks in place exactly in alignment with the barrel each time the trigger is pulled the action of the revolver has to be precisely timed and balanced. The inside of a double action revolver somewhat resembles the workings of a wind-up watch. Small delicate parts, small springs, and so forth require perfect fitting and no wear in order to maintain these extremely tight tolerances. Here are some of the basic malfunctions that occur with the double action revolver and what you might be able to do to fix in the field.
Failure to fire – you pull the trigger, nothing. With support hand palm, strike cylinder on left side to be sure it is closed fully. Pull trigger again. If no bang, transition to back up gun. This can because by a high primer jammed against the recoil shield, or a jumped bullet lodged against the forcing cone. In in either of these cases, your only viable option is a backup gun.
Failure to fire – you pull the trigger, get “click”. Immediately pull the trigger again. If it clicks twice it is empty, the ammo is dead, or the firing pin is broken. Speed load or transition to a backup gun. If you reload and it goes click, the firing pin is probably broken. If you’re still alive transition to your back up gun.
Cylinder won’t open – ejector rod may be backed out; high primer may be stuck; bullet may have jumped, ejector rod may be bent. Primer metal may have flowed into the firing pin hole in the frame, locking everything up. This is most common with Magnum ammunition. Transition to your backup gun.
Cylinder won’t turn – you pull the trigger but it won’t move and cylinder won’t turn. Crap under the extractor star has bound up the action. See first entry. Or, ejector rod is bent, or eject rod has come unscrewed. Transition to your backup gun. Titanium guns and lead bullets don’t mix – they recoil so sharply that bullets tend to jump forward under recoil and tie up the action. Transition to your backup gun.
Cylinder will not accept new ammo on reload – Dumb ass! You failed to eject the spent cases vigorously with the gun vertical and the spent case(s) got under the extractor rod. Transition to your backup gun. Later, if you survive, hold the extractor open and pry out the case.
Failure to fire – the Taurus or Smith & Wesson goofy internal lock has engaged spontaneously. Transition to your backup gun!
Failure to fire – the strain screw in the front strap of the grip has backed out due to the vibrations of recoil. If this screw backs up a couple of turns the firing pin strike will be too light to ignite cartridges. Periodically check this screw and make sure it is tight. Also, check your firing pin frequently if you have a hammer mounted firing pin as opposed to a frame mounted firing pin. The firing pins mounted on the hammer are subject to breakage.
As you can see, there are a number of mechanical reasons why your revolver may fail, and unfortunately, most of them require time and tools to fix. In a fight you will have neither.