Thursday, March 22, 2012

Carrying with kids

This video is the first I've ever seen on the subject of carrying a firearm while out and about with kids, which is something I deal with almost every day. I'm not about to make a video, but I'll take a minute or two to pour out my thoughts.

When most folks consider being armed in public and mentally rehearse how they would act if a squad of jihadi-joes in full shemagh attacked the Piggly Wiggly they're shopping in, they no doubt think their reaction is going to be all VTAC and highspeed. That's all fine and great, and practicing the tactical reload stuff with that drop leg rig while maintaining cover and full magazine retention is awesome, but the reality is that a great deal of folks are not in the realm of any of that. I'm a full on walking arsenal when I go out for the day with my family, and train fairly often, and I can say with absolute certainty that I have zero use for the Jack Bauer stuff. But I live in a different world.

First thing to point out about being out with kids, especially little children or toddlers, is that your sidearm may not (probably won't be) accessible at all times. You can have the finest and fastest kydex that money can buy concealed with an awesome Arc'teryx jacket, and you won't be able to get to it when the arm you typically draw with is holding a 20 lb bag of drool. You can carry your kid on the opposite hip from your weapon, but sooner or later you're going to switch arms for some reason, probably when you're fishing for your keys three steps from your car (when you're potentially the most vulnerable to predatory scumbags), and there you are basically unarmed. Practicing drawing with your support hand is good to go, and I would encourage learning to do that, but having a separate small auto or revolver available for your support hand would be even better. It's almost as if J-frames and Kel-Tecs were designed to ride comfortably in a pocket for this specific reason; I don't know and I can't say for sure.

To complicate things: you're holding your kid with your support arm so that your shooting arm is free to access your heater in case the Hostiles decide to make your day, but didn't you walk into that store to buy something? Which hand were you planning on carrying that case of Keystone Light in? Where are your car keys? Are you alone, or do you have a spouse or family member with you? Do you only have one kid?

That last point is crucial for folks like me; I have three toddlers and a baby, and when I'm alone with them it can be really tough. When I go to the store, I have one shopping cart completely dedicated to kid transport, and I still have one on the ground holding my hand. If I need to pick up lots of stuff, I'll have two carts. Two or three kids is basically just as hard because you have to look after them first and foremost. And to further muddy the water, all that "grabbing cover" and "limiting your exposure" that you learned about during that weekend gunfighting academy -- are you really going to break from your stroller to find cover, leaving your heathen spawn crying in the middle of the parking lot or medicine aisle? Oh yeah, we can't do that, huh? Now think about this hard: if you are unfortunate enough to end up in a gunfight with some banger while you're near your kids, are you going to cover them with your body or move away to try and draw fire away from them (assuming that in the moment you have mental ability to calculate the choice)? I've thought about it, and in the end I find the answer to be in what bodyguards do in a protective detail. They put their body in between who they're protecting and whatever the biggest threat is. I was watching a show on the Secret Service on NatGeo or something the other day, and one agent explained how they were trained to "get big" when taking fire in order to catch more incoming rounds with their body; and sure enough, while showing the video playback from when Hinkley tried to shoot Reagan, one agent did just that at the first crack of the assassin's gun, making himself a larger target. Amazing. That agent absorbed a round that could very well have ended Reagan's life. I note too that "getting big" is the opposite of military and other doctrine on surviving a gunfight, which teaches you to "get small." So there's that to think about.

Next up to talk about is awareness. This is even more important when you have distractions, like the screaming thing in the stroller you're pushing. I always always always have a plan when I leave a store, and the car keys are already out and in my hand before crossing the parking lot or wherever. Standing there in the dark next to your car is not the time to be fumbling with anything, so be ready before you walk out. The kids are the very first priority; get them in the car first, and then load your stuff. If there's some sort of danger, you can drive off without your stuff. It's just stuff and can be replaced. Pay attention to your surroundings. One good thing about having kids is that no yayhoos approach me anymore to ask for smokes or money; I guess they assume I have none because I just spent all mine on the visible boxes of diapers.

When I go out with the kids without my wife to say a mall or large store, I park right next to a shopping cart return with at least one cart, and I typically park way out in the middle of the parking lot where there's no other cars around. Scumbags use cover and concealment, and I'd rather see them coming from far off. Being next to a cart return means I don't have to wander away from the car to return it when I'm done. If I'm carrying a kid in one arm and stuff in the other, the kid goes on the support arm side because I'll drop whatever is in my strong side hand if I need to. When getting gas, or at any time when the kids are in the vehicle and I'm not, all the doors are unlocked, that way I can get in from any part of the vehicle if I need to. I will not get into an argument or pissing match with anyone when out with my family (or by myself; it's good policy). I don't need to prove that I'm a man, so I'm not going to risk getting into a fistfight where I can potentially be knocked out, allowing the dude who hit me to ride off in my car with my kids. This is doubly true if you have a kid in one of the slings the lady in the linked video has. I know there are some who have their heart set on knife fighting their way through the Tangos because they ran their FDE pistol dry stacking bodies, but try that with your son in an ERGO and you'll be sorry. The fist fight scenario is a heavy argument to throw at naysayers who tell you you don't need a gun because a real man only needs his hands. A real man would see clearly that fighting while holding a child is a no-go. On top of that, I know highly trained, physically fit, bona fide badass and very large men that have been maimed by one lucky punch that got through and connected, and that ain't gonna be me.

Violent flash mobs: I haven't heard about any of these in awhile, but they present a challenge if you have kids. With one kid, you can probably pick them up and run off -- hopefully. If you're alone with two or more kids, that's not going to be an option, so I'm of the opinion that my kids are going to get stuffed in a closet or car or off the beaten path somewhere while I try to fend off any savages. If it comes down to it, I hope one shot would be all it takes to disperse the crowd, but I think being prepared for the worst is important. That definitely wouldn't be the time I'd want to be standing there with a J-frame and five extra rounds on a stripper clip. A good fighting auto is a must, with at least one spare reload; two if I'm going out for the day and I have adequate time to prepare.

Lastly, unless I'm in the store, you won't finding me dickering around with my cellphone. I'm paying attention to everything, and I don't tarry in parking lots to browse facebook on my phone or call my mom about the burn on my finger. I can do that at home. I think when my kids are a little older, we'll discuss how to work as a team when out and about, with a "code word" or other indicator that there's danger or to leave the area. By then at least some of my kids will be a bit more useful. Right now, my oldest is the only one who can get the seatbelt clicked on her own, while everyone else needs help for everything.

(H/T The Firearm Blog)


Broken Andy said...

Excellent post. I see you and I have done a lot of the same thinking.

Just one thing. If I have the choice to move away from my kids or get in front of them in a gun fight, its gonna be very situational. Depending on the circumstances, ifI can see that I can move significantly away from them before drawing my gun, I will do that. But the key is to draw the gun after the distance has been placed so that you are not perceived as a counter-threat while the children are in the background. Again, very situational.

Drew said...

i'm saving this as reading material for all the people who have children who intend to have me give them a basic ccw course at our local range. with your permission of course sir.

Unknown said...

Drew - absolutely!

Andy - good point about drawing after movement.

As more and more people get comfortable with carrying a weapon to protect their own, hopefully more ideas for those with kids come out. It goes withoug saying that it's not something you can really practice on the range.

David said...

We have code words for all family members. If it's used, it's time to react. Now. When we're at the range we often practice verbalization, and protecting kids as we move and shoot. Needs to be second nature.

Pakkinpoppa said...

Holey schneikes...awesome post!

Sent by way of Bayou Renaissance Man.