Tag Archives: Tamara Keel

SKILLS: Will You ‘Get Killed on the Streets?’ — Personal-Defense Myths Debunked

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Don’t believe everything you hear… Personal survival depends on planning and preparation, not opinion. Read more…

know it all

SOURCE: NRA Publications, by Tamara Keel

Here’s a thing that happens often enough that it’s become a meme, a trope, a truism. Walk into any gun store and listen to the conversation around the handgun counter (or, alternatively, belly up to your favorite online forum) and within a surprisingly short amount of time you will hear someone suggest something that gets belittled by the regulars. More importantly, it will be belittled in a rather specific way, like so:

“You want to do [RANDOM THING]? Don’t you know that [RANDOM THING] will get you killed on the streets?”

It’s to the point where “Killed on the streets” has become something of an inside joke. I’ve been trying to catalog these methods of self-induced demise, partly to debunk them, and partly in the hopes I can publish a phonebook-size compendium some day and profit handsomely. I’ll just go ahead and share some of these with y’all today, though, for free.

Carrying a revolver, for starters, will apparently get me killed on the street. This caught me off guard, because I’ve seen pictures of pre-1980s America, when revolvers were the predominant sidearm for law enforcement and private citizen alike. You’d think the streets in those pictures would be hip-deep in revolver carriers who had been killed in them, and yet they aren’t.

I mean, there’s a reason police have generally moved from revolvers, and yes, I think a quality semi-automatic pistol is capable of solving more defensive problems than a revolver, but that doesn’t magically render a revolver ineffective. There are reasons some prefer wheelguns, including simplicity and the fact that they depend on the trigger finger rather than the ammunition in order to function. For some, those factors outweigh the drawbacks, and some revolver enthusiasts shoot their guns remarkably well.

Similar to revolvers in their ability to apparently cause demise upon the public thoroughfares are reloads, or rather the lack thereof. I will say up front that, if carrying a semi-automatic pistol, then carrying a spare magazine is definitely Best Practice with a capital B and P.

This is not, however, in case the need should pop up for a 35-round exchange with ninjas in the middle of the Kwik-E-Mart parking lot. Instead, this is because the part most likely to go wrong with your pistol is the magazine. The number of ways it can go wrong are legion, and range from double-feed malfunctions to simply falling out of the gun. The quickest and surest way to fix this malfunction is to insert a fresh magazine and drive on.

However, modern pistols are exceedingly reliable devices and the belt and pocket space of the average American who can’t dress like a tactical hobo is finite. There are plenty of other things that you will use more often than a spare magazine, and if it comes down to choosing between a good flashlight or a tourniquet neatly folded onto a PHLster Flatpack TQ carrier and a spare magazine? Take the flashlight or the tourniquet. (And if you’re carrying two spare magazines and zero tourniquets? You’re wrong.) So, no, not carrying a spare magazine will probably not get you killed in the streets.

What about mechanical safeties on pistols? I hear that these will get me killed in the streets, too, because I won’t be able to deactivate them under stress. (In fact, I’m aware of one situation reported by a local detective where a citizen was victimized for exactly that reason.)

Thing is, not all safeties — nor all end users — are created equal. There are safeties which disengage vary nearly automatically with a final firing grip, and there are shooters who practice using those religiously in daily or near-daily dry-fire sessions. Then there are miserable little tabs that you practically need to manipulate with a thumbnail.

If you’re going to carry a pistol with a mechanical safety, make sure it’s one you can deactivate smoothly and automatically as part of the drawstroke, and not some fiddly thing that takes two hands and a jeweler’s screwdriver to manipulate. This should minimize the whole “killed on the streets” factor.

Another surefire killed-on-the-streets cause is carrying a caliber that the dispenser of wisdom feels is inadequate, which is usually any one “wimpier” than what they’re carrying. They’ve got a .44 Mag. and you have a .45 ACP? Killed in the streets. A .40 S&W versus your 9 mm? Likewise.

To hear some folk talk, carrying a certain caliber of handgun bestows bullet resistance to projectiles from lesser calibers. “Ha-ha! That goblin was carrying a .380 ACP, and I had my .44 Spl. …” I have bad news: Just because yours is bigger, dude, doesn’t mean the bad guy’s bullets are going to bounce off you like a spring shower off a freshly Rain-Xed windshield.

Conversely, just because you have a 9 mm or a .327 Fed. Mag. instead of some big-bore wondermagnum, it doesn’t mean that yours will bounce off him. Shot placement works, and there’s no magic chambering that will cause or prevent your getting killed in the streets.

The list goes on and on: Flashlights or lasers giving away your position? Killed in the streets. Retention devices on your holster? Killed in the streets. I could go on, but I only have so much space here. Plus, I need to save some for that big, thick book.

4 (More!) Weird Questions People Ask Women Who Carry Guns

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If you enjoyed Tamara’s last article, you’ll love this one! Get ready for a chuckle! (But one with an important message.) Read on…

stupid questions

It’s just after Thanksgiving as I type this, and as the turkey dinner’s tryptophan haze wears off, one of the things I’m thankful for is all the friends I’ve made working in and around the gun industry. The reason I’m thankful for them is they don’t ask all kinds of weird questions about the hows and whys of me carrying a gun.

When I get away from my circle of gunnie friends, though, oh how do I get those questions, and they really put my ability to bite down on snarky answers to the test. Reading an earlier column put me right into story-time mode, because let me tell you, I have fielded some of those same kinds of questions myself. Let me share some with y’all…

Weird Question #1:
“Wow, do you carry your gun to the grocery store?
Snarky response I want to use: “Only on days I’m planning to be robbed in the produce aisle.”

Actually, you can substitute “mall” or “doctor’s office” or “church” or pretty much any other commonly visited location for “grocery store.” It never fails to amaze me that people think that I would only carry a gun to places where I “expect trouble.” If I expect trouble someplace, I generally solve that problem by not going there at all.

Part of carrying a gun, at least for me, is carrying it every day, and everywhere I legally can. It’s not like I drive my car with the seat belt off on Central Avenue because they don’t have many wrecks there, but plan to put it on when I turn on to 54th Street, because jeez have you seen those wreck statistics?

Weird Question #2:
“So, you carry a gun because you think you’re a vigilante? Like Batman?”
Snarky response I want to use: “Yup. You want to see my vigilante badge? I got it in a box of Frosted Flakes.”

First off, let’s address the Batman angle: If Martha Wayne had a CCW permit and a gun, there wouldn’t be a Batman and Heath Ledger never would have won a posthumous Oscar.

Secondly, no, I don’t think carrying a gun makes me any kind of freelance junior cop. I carry a gun for the immediate protection of me and mine. I don’t carry it to go looking for trouble, but rather just in case trouble finds me despite my best attempts to avoid it.

Weird Question #3:
“But…what do you do with it when you have to go to the bathroom?”
Snarky response I want to use: “Oh, I just hand it to someone trustworthy-looking standing by the sinks and ask them if they’ll hold on to it until I’m done.”

A friend recently quipped in an online discussion group that CCW training courses should be a seven-hour block of instruction on legalities and safety and a one-hour block on what to do with your gun in the bathroom. (Note: That thing on the back of the stall door is NOT a triggerguard hook!)

While some styles of carry, such as belly-bands or purse carry, avoid this problem, if you carry a gun in a belt holster, the question of what to do with it in the bathroom will arise. And the answer should be “Nothing.” If you are wearing a quality holster, the gun is not going to fall out even if the holster should inadvertently flop upside down, and the possibilities of the latter even happening are reduced by wearing a belt that is intended to support the weight of a holstered pistol in the first place.

Weird Question #4:
“Is it…loaded?”
Snarky response I want to give: A long hard stare, followed with, “Well bless your heart.”

While I’ve no doubt an unloaded gun has been used to successfully bluff a bad guy before, that’s a thin thread on which to bet one’s life. Of course my CCW pistol is loaded, else it wouldn’t be very useful!

Further, the mere act of pointing a handgun at someone in my state, absent the reasonable fear of an immediate threat to life and limb, is a crime, so it’s not something done lightly. If the gun is coming out, it’s coming out under circumstances that justify its use, and that’s no time to have to say “Oh, hang on, let me load this thing.”

I could go on and on in this vein, but I see the bottom of the page getting closer. How about you? What weird questions do you get? Share them in the comments!

SKILLS: Top 3 Terrible Pieces of Advice Women Get in Gun Stores

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With an increasing number of women purchasing firearms, Tamara Keel advises that’s it’s about time the counter staff wises up… Read the story!

Girl gun

SOURCE: NRA Publications, Shooting Illustrated, by Tamara Keel

Every now and again, I get a writing assignment that’s not even work. This is one of those. “Hey, Tamara, would you like to do a piece on some of the worst advice women get in gun stores?”

Oh, honey. Pull up a chair…

I wouldn’t have worked in the gun sales business as long as I did if I didn’t enjoy it, but like all career fields, you get a wide range of quality in employees. You know that one guy in your office who means well but still hasn’t figured out which part of the envelope he’s supposed to lick? Well, his cousin sells guns, and for some reason I have interacted with him from the customer side of the counter a bunch of times over the years. Let me tell you, he has some downright awful ideas about women and guns. Let me share a few of them with you.

ONE: The worst piece of advice I’ve gotten in a gun store…
…is hopefully an artifact of the past. I haven’t heard it in many years, but who knows? Maybe some dude working in a place out back of beyond is still handing it out. Basically, it’s the, “What do you want a gun for? Let your man defend you…” The first time I heard this in a gun store I was dumbstruck. I am standing here trying to give a dude money for merchandise and he’s trying to talk me out of it. That was a unique retail experience.

It didn’t happen often and, like I said, it hasn’t happened for years, but I swear it happened. There was this occasional guy behind the counter who thought I was intruding in his clubhouse, and told me that I didn’t have the defensive mindset or mechanical aptitude or whatever for a gun, because, well, icky gurrrrl.

Closely related to this is the next piece of bad advice, usually delivered by a guy who is affecting the “veteran persona,” which is this: “Oh, what you need to do is load the first chamber with [a blank/snakeshot] because you don’t want to kill anyone. You don’t know how horrible it is…” At which point they gaze off at a far corner of the shop with a 10-yard version of a 1000-yard stare.

I mean, he’s sort of right, in that I don’t particularly want to kill anybody. But another thing I don’t want to be doing is explaining to a judge and jury why I blinded or maimed a person for life when I didn’t think they rated the use of deadly force. Because make no mistake about it, pointing a firearm at someone and pulling the trigger is deadly force, and “snake shot” or “rat shot” is not some kind of harmless stun ray. It’s perfectly capable of blinding and maiming at defensive distances.

TWO: The second-worst piece of advice I’ve gotten in a gun store…
The second most common piece of bad advice I’ve gotten in gun stores is the “cute gun.” This is where the clerk, apparently operating on autopilot, steers you to the tiniest little nickel-plated, pearl-handled .25 or .32 in the case. Apparently he has decided that those are girl guns, and you’re a girl, and so… Obviously a match made in heaven, right? It sometimes doesn’t even matter if you’re in there to get a trap shotgun or a long-range precision rifle, it can take a crowbar to pry the clerk off trying to sell you that little .25, because you’re fighting (or frightening) his automatic programming.

THREE: The most common piece of advice women get in gun stores…
And this brings us to the most common piece of bad advice given to women in gun stores, and it’s one often given with the best of intentions: The lightweight .38 Special or .357 Magnum revolver. If there is a single firearm configuration that has put more novice women shooters off the idea of shooting as a hobby than the lightweight 5-shot .38, I don’t know what else it is.

Don’t get me wrong, the lightweight .38 snubbie has settled a lot of bad guys’ hash over the years, but it’s not really a beginner’s gun. The light weight amplifies recoil and also hurts accuracy, in that a 12-pound trigger pull on a 1-pound gun will really test the shooter’s abilities to keep the sights aligned through the whole trigger press. The sight radius is short, the sights are minimalistic and low-contrast, and the grip is tiny.

In short, the little snub is an expert’s gun that gets foisted on novice women shooters because it’s small and light and has a reputation for being effective. I think there’s also this idea that because it’s a revolver that it’s “simpler” and therefore easier for our lady-brains to understand or something. Nothing is more discouraging than being handed a gun that’s unpleasant to shoot and challenging to fire accurately when you’re a novice, especially when you’ve been told it’s the perfect gun for you.

So there are a few of the worst pieces of advice I’ve been given in gun stores, but there’s plenty more where that came from. Hopefully this will become a quaint relic of the past as more and more women get involved in shooting.

REVIEW: FN 509 Pistol

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Here’s a close look at FN’s entrant in the Army’s XM17 trials. It turns out there weren’t really any losers, and the big winner was the American pistol shooter. Read all about it…

FN 509

SOURCE: NRA Staff, by Tamara Keel

The Army’s XM17 Modular Handgun System (MHS) competition ended up delivering an embarrassment of riches to the American pistol shooter. The Sig Sauer P320 MHS won, but several of the runners-up have found their way to gun dealers’ shelves in the months since the competition ended. This is the offering from Fabrique Nationale, which has trickled to the commercial market as the FN 509.

While not the exact gun used in the trials, it is, I want to say, “close enough for government work,” but that would be a lame joke. It would be somewhat true, though, since between the MHS contest and the release of the 509 to the market, FN met with representatives from law enforcement agencies to solicit input on various changes that would make its XM17 entrant more marketable to the domestic-law-enforcement market.

Basically, the FN 509 is an improved version of its existing striker-fired, polymer duty gun, the FNS, which has seen some success in both law enforcement and in the action-pistol world. The new version features a plethora of modifications from the familiar FNS, some to fit specific requirements of the MHS contract and others to make it an even more attractive choice as a fighting pistol than its predecessor.

Gone is the slight beavertail on the back of the full-size FNS frame; the FN 509 has the more rounded contour of the FNS Compact. I’m assuming this has something to do with the maximum overall length specified by the MHS program. The gun measures overall at just under 7.5 inches.

The slide on the FN 509 is similar to that of its progenitor, but the grasping grooves fore and aft are more aggressive, and worked well even with hands that were slippery with sweat and sunscreen. The slide boasts a satin-textured, rust-resistant finish.

The sight dovetails are dimensionally identical to those of Springfield Armory XD and Sig Sauer. This means there are a variety of aftermarket sighing options. Unlike the factory sights on the FNS, the 509’s rear-sight body features a bluff front rather than a Novak-style slope, the better to perform one-handed malfunction clearances by running the slide off a boot heel, belt, or holster mouth.

FN 509 details
Takedown is accomplished in a familiar manner, and the pistol breaks down into the expected component pieces.
(left) More-aggressive front serrations aid in press-checks and slide manipulation. (center) Want to change the white dot up front? Numerous options exist. (right) The rear sight’s front face is a ledge for one-handed racking of the slide.

The grip on the FN 509 is full-size, as it must be to accommodate the 17-round magazines specified by the program. The gripping surface textures are a quilt-like combination pattern of pyramid-shaped raised points of varying sizes as well as “skateboard tape” style accents. It looks odd, but it works fine. One of my last days with the gun was spent at a very hot and humid indoor range. Even dripping with sweat, the FN 509 had enough texture in the right places to allow me to shoot 4- and 5-round strings rapid fire without feeling like I was trying to hold onto a bar of soap.

FN 509 grips
(left) A variety of textures and patterns help to anchor the FN 509 in the shooter’s hand. An interchangeable backstrap contains a lanyard loop. (center) Two backstrap offerings allow the 509 to be fitted to the shooter’s hand. (right) Magazine capacity, as established under the MHS program guidelines, is 17 rounds.

The bottom of the grip on the FN 509 is heavily scalloped on the sides to permit a good grip if one needs to rip a magazine out to clear a malfunction. When I unpacked the gun, I field-stripped it and lubricated it with a few drops of Lucas Extreme Duty Gun Oil in the usual places, and then commenced to shooting. Over the course of the next 784 rounds without any further lubrication or cleaning, the gun suffered one user-induced failure-to-feed, on the last magazine, trying to provoke a “limp-wrist” malfunction with some Speer 147-grain TMJ Lawman ammo.

One of the stated goals of the MHS program was to get a gun that was as adaptable to the gamut of end users as possible, regardless of hand size or hand preference. Implementation of this ranged from the completely swappable frame shells of the SIG Sauer P320, to the wraparound backstraps of the Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0, to the Glock entry’s add-on backstraps carried over from the company’s Gen4 offering. The FN 509, by way of contrast, ships with two interchangeable inserts that take up the lower three quarters of the backstrap. There is a choice between either arched or flat, and neither really alters the reach to the trigger. No worries about it being too large for any end user, though, since the circumference around the trigger is, at just less than 7 inches, less than an eighth of an inch more than an M&P with the small backstrap and barely a quarter-inch greater than even a diminutive single-stack 9 mm like the Walther CCP.

Trigger pull weighed in at a consistent 6 pounds on my scale, with a light takeup that met an abrupt wall, and then broke cleanly. Before I actually put it on the scale, I would have bet money that the trigger broke at 5 pounds — it feels lighter than it is.

 

Trigger reset was distinct and short. It was easy to shoot this gun well. My very first day at the range, I pulled it out of its box, lubed it to spec, and used the first 50 rounds from the gun to shoot a clean Dot Torture drill, cold. This impressed me even more, since the last three days had seen me consistently dropping a shot for a 49/50 with my Glock G19 carry gun.

FN 509 details
(left) External extractor, enlarged ejection port, and protected levers all lead to improved reliability. (right) A four-slot accessory rail allows attachment of lights, lasers, or combination accessory items.

The barrel of the FN 509 features a thicker bearing area around the muzzle, with a smaller contour along the remaining barrel length, which shaves ounces compared to a full-thickness barrel for the entire length. This likely contributes to my postal-scale measured empty weight of 26.5 ounces. Even with 17+1 rounds of 124-grain Federal Premium HST in the gun, it still weighed only 34.3 ounces, which is well less than an empty M1911 Government model.

The muzzle’s crown is countersunk to enhance accuracy and protect it from damage. Grabbing three different factory loads at random from my ammo stash, accuracy testing was performed at 15 yards shooting off sandbags. Two of the loads, Winchester NATO 124-grain FMJ and Federal 147-grain +P HST Tactical, turned in best five-shot groups smaller than 2 inches. Even steel-cased Russian TulAmmo 115-grain FMJ turned in a couple groups right about 2 inches. (The TulAmmo, or at least this lot, was also amazingly consistent, velocity-wise, from the FN 509, with a standard deviation for the 10-round string of only 10.77 fps.)

 

The FN 509’s Spartan origins are reflected in its packaging, at least with the test gun. It arrived in a brown cardboard box with a hinged lid, and inside the box was a zippered black nylon pouch with a tastefully embroidered FN logo in gray thread on the outside. The inside is lined with fuzzy soft cloth and has a pocket to hold the spare mag and whichever of the two backstraps isn’t in the gun.

There is the mandatory cable lock and an instruction manual in the box as well. There is no pin or punch provided to drive the roll pin out that secures the backstrap in place. The first time this is done will probably require a bench block and maybe a second set of hands. I’m not saying it’s depot-level maintenance, but nobody’s going to be doing it at the range.

One other praiseworthy change from the FNS is that the controls are better “fenced off” with raised areas around them. It’s a lot harder to inadvertently eject a magazine or ride the slide stop and prevent the slide from locking back (or to accidentally bump it up and lock the slide back on a full magazine) on the FN 509 than it was with the FNS.

The magazine release is noteworthy, in that it’s not just reversible, but actually ambidextrous. There’s no need to pull the button out and flip it around, and that’s what caused problems for large-handed shooters in the FNS — the flesh at the base of the shooter’s trigger finger could activate the right-side button. Not so with the new FN 509, or at least not that I could make happen.

The only real issue I found with the test sample was that the rear sight was just enough off-center to the right that it was throwing groups off slightly in that direction. A bit of attention with a sight pusher or a whack with a dowel would fix that in short order, but I just held an inch or so of Kentucky windage at 10 yards and everything was cool.

All in all, this is a mature pistol from FN. The time the company took to solicit opinions from potential end users shows in the finished product. It runs reliably, shoots accurately, and has a very usable trigger right out of the box. If these are things that are important to you, the FN 509 is definitely still in the running for Your Handgun System competition.

FN 509 specifications

Check it out HERE