About the Author

Woody is a 10 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Range day with the Colt .22LR Rail Gun

Colt/Walther .22LR Rail Gun

 Got a change to go to the range today (took the Sunday School class along for fun).  I actually purchased this pistol probably six months ago, I just haven't had a chance to get to the range and shoot it.  Since my primary concealed carry and full-size defensive pistol are both Colt 1911s, this was the perfect companion training pistol.  It isn't my first .22LR 1911 - I have a Kimber conversion kit - and I've had issues with cheap .22LR, including Remington and Winchester bulk boxes, so when I found some CCI Mini-Mags, I grabbed 300 rounds or so.  I'm glad I did, because it's gone now, as I'm sure everyone's noticed.  The CCI functioned perfectly, and as illustrated below, was very accurate.
10 rounds @ 7 yards, rapid fire
The pistol itself is well executed.  I prefer this particular model over some of the other .22LR 1911s out there, mostly because all of its external operational controls are exactly the same as the real Colt Rail Gun. You can accomplish all of your shooting and immediate action drills on this pistol, and they translate directly over to your .45ACP. As advertised in their literature, aftermarket parts such as thumb safeties, triggers, sears, and hammers will fit into this pistol.  You could actually do a trigger job on your .22LR just like you can on your .45ACP.  Obviously, the slide parts do not interchange with your standard .45, nor does the magazine.  Another nice feature of this firearm is that the lower seems remarkably heavy compared to a .45.  It works out, however, because the slide is aluminum and a lot lighter than a steel slide.  Overall, the total weight is pretty accurate when compared to the Rail Gun, as opposed to the slide conversion kit I have, which ends up being a hair lighter.  Also, because this gun is designed from the ground up as a .22LR, it doesn't have some of the little twitches a .45 converted to .22 might, such as failures to feed and extract.
While .22LR is currently pretty hard to find, if you happen to have a stock and don't want to shoot up your .45ACP, this gun is perfect.  I highly recommend.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Kyle Defoor class update

Thanks to people who have contributed, I am now 6% of the way to my goal.  If you can spare something small, even $1 - $5, that would be a big help.

In addition to the desire for skills, and wanting to utilize gear to review, this is a bit of an experiment in crowdfunding on the gun side.  It's been proven time and time again on the giving side, so I was curious to see if it could work for someone who wanted to try it in our realm.

If you would like to give, visit this link: http://www.gofundme.com/4bm5o8

If not, I'll still write posts, they may just be a little fewer and far between.  Hopefully you've been able to take something useful away from my ramblings.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

A word on open carry

There has been a great deal of noise made about the role of open carry in the Starbucks debacle, with many people expressing opinions that open carry is foolish, never applicable, tactically unsound, and so forth. Let me be very clear in my opinion: open carry is a valid option, and if open carry is authorized in your area, utilize it in appropriate situations.  I'll give an example: when I work in my yard, I carry a 1911 in a UM84 flap holster.  My reasoning is that my threat is mostly wildlife, I need to protect my firearm from the dust of yard work, and I need to protect my firearm from me.  If for some reason I need to go to get gas, or Wally World, or get a bite to eat from fast food, I am not going to shower, change into good concealment clothes, do my business, then  go home and get nasty again.  I will carry what I have how I have it.  With that said, at any time while open carrying, I attempt to be friendly, courteous, and not to make any moves that could be interpreted as a great. I also don't "display" my firearm, and I don't take my AR with me.  In short, I act like a normal person, not a pretentious asshole with something to prove. 
If you want to be perceived as a "good guy," actions speak louder than words...
Realize this, carry accordingly, and you shouldn't have any issues.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Some thoughts from the Starbucks debacle

I was bored at work today, and spent a significant amount of time reading about the Starbucks letter.  I read about the history, various opinions about who was exactly to blame for this turn of events, and I hope that I have some useful takeaways:

Firstly, Starbucks was never pro-gun.  They were neutral, choosing to follow local laws.  They were portrayed as pro-gun because they chose not to cave to pressure from anti-gun groups.  When those anti-gun groups threatened a boycott, pro-gun groups stepped in to show Starbucks that they supported their stance.  That initial support, I think, was a good thing.  The bad thing came next - pro-gun groups just wouldn't leave, and they staged multiple demonstrations - essentially protests - in a store that had specifically asked not to be dragged into political activities.  The fact that Starbucks regularly supports liberal causes with their money was conveniently ignored by both Starbucks and pro-gun activists initially. 

Secondly, pro-gun groups staged their demonstrations in ways that would attract attention, which is good.  Unfortunately, they also did it in ways that attracted a lot of negative attention.  Let's face it, I've gotten weird looks walking from my car to the exhibition hall with my rifle slung, even when a gigantic GUN SHOW sign was clearly flashing in the window of the hall.  Did they really think the reaction from Starbucks was going to be different?

The lesson to be learned from this?  If your goal is to support an organization that either supports you, or at least doesn't oppose you, you may want to do it in a way that doesn't draw lots of negative attention that interferes with the conduct of their business.  No one likes to be featured on the news with a police car in the front parking lot (unless the cop is buying donuts).  The idea is to support the organization, not turn it away from you.  I have opened carry in Starbucks many times, but not as part of a large agenda-driven group, and have never received any complaints (although I did get thanks for my tip).

Thirdly, I think Howard Schultz made a big error.  He has the right to make decisions in the conduct of his business, but I also have the right to choose another store if I disagree with those decision.  While I have seen many posts that he asked people not to open carry, while leaving concealed carry open, his letter specifically states that he requests people not to bring firearms into his stores.  He doesn't say that he requests that people not open carry in his store, which actually could have been a good middle ground considering the tone of the rest of his letter.  He says he doesn't want people bringing any firearms into his stores.  Even thought he waffles in his letter about remaining neutral in the debate, the simple fact is that by asking for no firearms, he has taken a side.  This is not a "for us or against us" argument.  He leaves no room for debate in his letter.  His words: For these reasons, today we are respectfully requesting that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas -- even in states where "open carry" is permitted -- unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel. While he references open carry, he clearly states no firearms in general.  I therefore choose not to do business at Starbucks anymore.

Fourthly, I have heard many people say that they will continue to carry concealed in Starbucks until he puts up signs.  To them I say:  Schultz requested that people not make his stores a political arena.  Neither side listened, open carry advocates got a little carried away (but broke no laws), and here we are with him "requesting...no firearms."  So to those who will still carry despite his request, how are you any different from the open carry guys?  Are you morally superior to the open carry advocates because you hide the fact that you are disregarding his request?  In other words, you are saying one thing with your appearance, while actually doing another.  In most places, a person who does that is considered "two-faced."  You are breaking no laws, but if CC advocates get outed to the corporate office, and it is established that guns are still coming in to stores and disrupting his "third place," I can assure you, the signs will go up just as fast as with the OC guys.

Fifthly, and probably most galling to me, are the people who state that they will carry even in places where it is legally posted they cannot, and seem to have no concept of the maelstrom that they are risking.  Which do you think will look worse in the news - three guys who broke no laws, but caused a few ruffled feathers, or a legal concealed carry permit holder who willfully disregards the law and carries where he is not allowed?  I know the arguments for carrying even where it is not permitted (Buffalo Wild Wings, Costco, etc), and I will not take a side on that.  My only caution is that if you choose to break the law, understand the consequences of your action.  You will be a Hero, or you will be a Zero, depending on how things play out.  There will be no middle ground, and chances are better on you being a Zero than a Hero.

Anyway, my rant is over.  I will not be doing business with Starbucks anymore, as stated in my letter.  Hopefully, my thoughts will be useful talking points for you to consider as you go about exercising your Constitutional right legally.  And yes, I include open carry.  Exercise your rights responsibly, and your chances of ending up on the front page of the newspapers are much reduced.


An open letter to Howard Schultz

Dear Mr. Schultz,

     I read with great disappointment your open letter of 17 September 2013.  As a current Gold level Rewards member, and someone who's history with Starbucks spans nine years, I had previously supported Starbucks for their stance on Second Amendment rights.  Your previous decision to abide by local laws and not to cave in to those who demanded you ban legally carried firearms in your stores earned you the respect of gun owners across America.  When anti-Second Amendment organizations called for a boycott of your stores, gun owners rallied to your defense, encouraging fellow gun owners to patronize Starbucks, in an attempt to demonstrate to you that when you follow the law, your fellow Americans will support you.
     Sadly, yesterday's letter shows that despite gun owners' best efforts, their patronage is not wanted.  Therefore, as of today, I will no longer shop at Starbucks Coffee.  I do not make this decision lightly.  I have a strong emotional connection to Starbucks.  When my wife and I were dating nine years ago, she was working her way through college as a Starbucks barista.  Between work and school, she didn't have much free time, so I would sit in Starbucks for hours, drinking coffee until she went on break so that we could talk, then drinking more coffee until she got off work so that I could walk her home and tell her goodnight.  That was the beginning of years of delicious coffee, snacks, and desserts that I still enjoy.  However, your letter yesterday put me and my fellow gun owners on notice - we can either choose our rights or your coffee.
     You put me in a difficult position, Mr. Schultz.  Even though recent financial difficulties have curtailed my spending somewhat, Starbucks had remained a place where I would take my son for some special time.  Now I have to explain to him why we cannot go anymore.  I have to explain to him that he cannot have the cake pops he so loves because the owner of Starbucks doesn't want his Daddy there anymore. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights is a difficult concept to explain to a four-year-old.  He doesn't understand that a right not exercised is soon lost.  I knew someday I would need to have a conversation with him about the Second Amendment and what it means to us, and how standing up for the rights spelled out in the Constitution, however unpopular, is the highest calling of an American, especially those like me who have taken an oath to defend them.  I just never thought something as silly as coffee would spur that conversation.
     You state that you wish to remain neutral in the national debate about the Second Amendment.  Your letter clearly belies that neutrality. By asking Starbucks customers to choose between their rights or your coffee, you have taken sides.  You have chosen to side with those that seek to remove what many consider to be a sacred right, second only to freedom of speech in our Bill of Rights.  I will not threaten you with massive boycotts or financial retribution - I am only one man.  I can only say that you have lost at least one customer, if that even matters to you.


- Woody

* I apologize for formatting issues, this was posted with Blogger Mobile *

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

SOD Gear Operative Field Parka Review

 Initial Review
                I’ve been looking recently for a good jacket/concealment garment to wear year round in Virginia.  The un-tactical tactical vest is a bit passé to me (not quite so much as the fanny pack, but I digress), so I tried to look other directions.  My criteria were simple:

  • Wearable in a variety of weather conditions, from summer heat to winter cold.
  • Suitable for service as a windbreaker, with water-resistant properties.
  • Capable of concealing my firearm (Glock 19 at the time).
  • Capable of carrying a load, ie, blowout kit, small survival kit, magazines, cell phones, or water.

Most civilian jackets that I researched seemed sole-purpose, designed solely for warmth or keeping the wearer dry.  Pockets seemed to be ancillary, designed to warm hands or hold keys.   I’ve always been a fan of smocks, probably for nostalgic reasons, but as I researched their history and intent, I realized that they have uses in civilian life as well as their original military purposes (covered here).

                This is actually the third smock I’ve owned.  I previously had a SORD USA smock, which I sold due to some disappointments with quality and the country of origin.  I currently own a DropZone Tactical in Multicam, which I utilize as part of my cold weather layering system at work.  I had considered a DropZone smock for my civilian wear as well, but was not a huge fan of the twill they use for their non-camouflage colors, believing it too heavy for year-round wear.  After much research, I found the Italian company SOD Gear, the only manufacturer I could find that advertises non-camouflage jackets in the same 50/50 NYCO ripstop that they make their camouflage patterns in.  Knowing that smocks typically fit a little larger, I communicated with them through their Facebook account.  Despite a little bit of a language barrier, they were very glad to talk me through selecting a jacket.  I ordered online, and received the jacket within a week via DHL.

                My initial impression is that this is a very well-made jacket, with enough pockets to fulfill my every need.  There are 14 external pockets and two internal pockets.  By location, the jacket has:
·         Two zipper pockets on the upper arms,
·         Two zipper pockets on the lower arms,
·         Two button pockets on the chest, with
·         Two zipper pockets behind the button chest pockets,
·         Two button pockets on the lower front,
·         Two button pockets on the sides,
·         One large button pocket on the lower back, with additional zipper access, and
·         Two internal zipper pockets on the upper chest.
The hood has two drawstring adjustments, and the waist and hem have drawstrings as well.  The cuffs are   Buttons are NATO style, with fabric strips securing them to the jacket.  Fabric is 50/50 NYCO, with a tight enough weave to block the wind and provide light water resistance.  The jacket is cut roomy, allowing for another layer for warmth underneath (I’ve fit both the Army’s new Gen III Layer III and a Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man jacket underneath).

Velcro adjusted, and the front is zipper closed with a button wind fly.
I’ve carried a lot of stuff in it (probably too much at times).  I’ve carried blow-out kit (my full size one, not the one from the EDC pics), my S&W 442, survival kit, keys, phone, and wallet.  Oh, and I concealed my Glock underneath.  Overall, I’m very pleased with the jacket, and as the weather gets colder, I’ll probably go back to wearing it daily.  It makes a great windbreaker during the fall, and with the Mountain Hardwear underneath, it’ll keep even a biting wind in the 40 degree range off your core.


Chest pocket showing taped button and fold over pocket

Rear pocket showing top and left side access

Chest pocket showing zipper pocket behind button pocket

Arm pocket with hook and loop patch

Lower sleeve pocket

Elbow reinforcement and pad pocket

Mesh underarm vent

Upcoming posts...

Right now I have scheduled for posting:

A review of the SOD Gear smock
A review of the DropZone Tactical smock
A review of the High Speed Gear Armordilla, Upstate Tactical/G-Code Modular Velcro Panel, and G-Code OSH holster as a system
A review of the Old Faithful IWB holster
A review of the American Kami/Boker Colubris knife
My opinions on firearms training in America (sure to stir some controversy)

Anything you guys would like to see?  Please keep in mind, I only review things I have actually used, and no one sends me free stuff, unlike the other blogs (hence my GoFundMe account), so if possible, keep your suggestions practical (inexpensive helps).

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Help me build my blog

Help me build my blog (and my skills) by sending me to a Kyle Defoor class!  I will purchase any required gear in the PenCott family of patterns and from US manufacturers as much as possible.  The course, and all gear utilized, will be reviewed on this blog.  If you enjoy my posts and find them useful, this is a way to get more!  If for some reason, I can't attend the Kyle Defoor class (gear doesn't arrive, class gets full, etc), I will attend a similar class with the same conditions.

If you want to see this happen, click here to send me to the class.

Class link http://aliastraining.com/kyledefoor2-daypistolandcarbine-nov9-102013virginiabeachva.aspx
- Woody

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Lessons learned from a natural disaster

The desk I was at when it hit, and the door I spent the quake in

In January of 2010, I was sitting in my room in the Hotel Caribe, Port-Au-Prince, Haiti sipping on a Coke.  Haiti hadn’t experienced an earthquake in over 50 years, and all the risk assessments my team had done prior to our arrival had indicated that the greatest danger to us was from street crime or riots.  My team had personal cell phones, and an Embassy-issued radio on the net operated by Post One.  I won’t go into details concerning the quake, as a Google search can provide you with that information, but I would like to share several things I learned:
The rest of my room and the door to the bathroom

Lesson 1.  Have a plan, practice it as much as you can, and don’t count on someone coming to save you.  Emergency services in a catastrophic event (those that aren’t affected by the event) will be focused on the most severe injuries or most severely damaged areas.  My team was required to submit a mission plan that included procedures for what to do in an emergency.  To be honest, I didn’t do the best job of sitting down and thinking about what could happen.  I blame it on personal complacency.  By this point, I had completed 2.5 years of mobile training teams on 5 continents.  Nothing had ever happened, and I was in the mindset that nothing ever would.  My plan for everything was the same: call the Embassy.  When the earthquake hit, the initial panic and injuries among personnel resulted in Post One having to assume control of the net and regulating traffic.  If you weren’t severely injured, you weren’t getting through.  We had a vehicle, but didn’t know how to get to the Embassy, and we didn’t have a map.  We also had no weapons.  If you read the news, you know that you don’t necessarily wander around certain parts of Haiti during normal daylight hours, much less when all security and social services just disappeared.

Lesson 2. Know your equipment and how to use it.  My team was issued a medical kit from Adventure Medical Kits, designed to treat everything from a hot spot to a gunshot wound.  Nobody on my team, myself included, had ever opened the kit to actually see what was in it, or read the field medicine guide that it contained.  My team also had Ultimate Survival Kits in a bottle.  Like the medical kit, we had never opened those kits, and we found ourselves digging through them in the dark trying to find the batteries to put in our flashlights.  Our satellite phone required a password to use, and we had rarely used it outside of checking to see if the battery was charged.  Under stress, the password was forgotten, and we ended up locking the phone out.

Lesson 3. Be prepared for a total communications failure.  Due to the massive damage to the infrastructure, all cell phone service was lost.  We locked out our satellite phone in the chaos, and the radio network was jammed with people needing assistance.  The military teaches you to plan for a primary, secondary, and tertiary method of communications.  We lost all three in a matter of minutes.  During another natural disaster, Hurricane Rita, I was in Houston for the evacuation.  As over 3 million people attempted to leave the city, all cell phone communication went down.  The only comms that would go through were burst comms such as text or the old Sprint push-to-talk phones.  And this happened before the hurricane even came ashore.

The hallway outside my room
Lesson 4. Stay calm.  I know this sounds a little ridiculous, because you’ve been told this a thousand times.  I can tell you that it is imperative, and a lot harder than it sounds.  Once the world stopped shaking, the only thing I could think about was getting us out of the hotel.  There were two exits from the hallway, one into the lobby, and one into a stairwell.  The exit into the lobby was partially blocked by fallen debris, including what appeared to be electrical wiring.  The exit toward the stairs was only slightly better.  I was preparing to head down the hall toward the stairs when one of my guys pointed out that we were only on the second floor, each room had a balcony, and there was a landscaping feature that reduced our drop from the balcony to less than 5 feet.  That little fact made our exit significantly safer, not to mention easier.  After we realized that we weren’t trapped, it made it a little easier to calm down, which allowed us to prioritize the equipment we needed to take with us.  We initially escaped with our med kit, survival kits, water, some snacks, and our sat phone.  As the evening wore on, we eventually had to go back to get some clothing to share with other hotel guests, but our initial evacuation left the three of us pretty equipped to make it through at least the night.

Looking back, there were many things I could have done differently, and even though my event occurred hundreds of miles from home, it has application here as well.  First, know the threats – be they hurricane, tornado, earthquake, etc.  Make a disaster plan.  Make your disaster preps.  FEMA has several resources at www.ready.gov.  Get together with your neighbors and incorporate them into your disaster plan.  One of my biggest pet peeves is watching Doomsday Preppers and listening to them talk about how they have prepared and they’re going to watch as everyone else who didn’t prep suffers.   Golden Rule aside, that’s not a good plan.  Almost no single person, or even single family, is going to survive very long in a disaster by themselves.  Make sure you include trustworthy people with needed skills (Ham radio, medical, security) in your planning, and practice operational security with people outside your circle.

Hopefully this has been useful to you, and my mistakes can help you be more prepared.

Friday, September 13, 2013

New VZ grips

Aliens in Hyena Brown.  VZs are my favorite grips by far.  I have them on several guns, I've used them for carry, and I really think they offer the best purchase on the firearm without jacking up my hands or my side while I carry.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

12 years ago today...

I was walking to Macroeconomics class.  When I arrived, someone said they had heard a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  I remember thinking "What kind of lousy pilot can't see a skyscraper in the middle of Manhattan?"  Other cadets wanted to turn on the TV in the classroom to watch the news, but the instructor wouldn't let us because he wanted to get on with the class.  After I returned to my company area, I saw messages written on our company whiteboard - "Bomb explodes outside State Department," "Pentagon attacked," "All airplanes grounded."  The news in those first chaotic hours was filled with rumors, many of which later proved false.  My fellow cadets, all 100 of us, crammed into a room designed for  1/5 of that capacity, glued to the TV as we watched the tragedy unfold.  Several of the cadets had family in Manhattan, one had a father stationed at the Pentagon.  As news slowly trickled in, they began to get word that their families were safe.  Services and moments of silence were held that night.  Taps played every night at the Academy at 2200, but it had a special meaning that night.  Tradition held that anyone in the passageway froze during Taps, so many cadets would normally rush to be in their rooms before it began playing.  That night, I watched as every cadet in the company stepped into the passageway at the first note.  We all knew that fundamentally, something had changed. 

Belts - the foundation of EDC

As I'm sure you've heard in many blog articles/websites/books, you really do have to dress for concealed carry.  Massad Ayoob has an excellent section on this in his book "The Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry," and one of the articles of clothing he mentions is a belt.  The reason for this should be fairly obvious.  Aside from your holster, the single most important piece of gear for keeping your firearm properly secured on your person is your belt.  I would personally consider it every bit as important as the holster.  Think of them as a complimentary system.  Spending a lot of money on one while neglecting the other can easily lead to a failure of the system to perform as required, IE., a $100+ holster hanging from a cheap Wally World belt is going to sag and shift, at the very least becoming annoying, and at the worst allowing your firearm to move out of position (or fail), causing your firearm not be where it needs to be when you need it.  Don't even get me started on the guy I saw carrying a $1k pistol in a Wally World holster hanging from a cheap cotton belt that probably came with the shorts he was wearing. 

For my needs, I utilize two different belts: the Line One Belt from First Spear, and a Bianchi Fancy Stitched Leather Belt.  I purchased the Line One Belt after seeing it online, and utilized it to carry my Raven Concealment holster and mag pouch for a Glock 19/TLR-1 combo.  The Bianchi normally supports my Colt Lightweight Commander in a Fobus (I'm still waiting on my G-Code).

A little about the belts:

The First Spear belt is urethane coated nylon, and is 1.5 inches wide.  You get your choice of black or tan (and everyone knows everything is cooler in tan).  A major advantage of this particular belt is that because of the urethane, it is virtually impervious to the elements and the age old issue of leather stretch.  It also requires very little upkeep.  It looks good, and from a normal contact distance, looks like a standard pants belt.  The price is also slightly cheaper than most quality leather belts.  The downside is that this belt is normal belt thickness (approx 1/8").  It hasn't been an issue for me so far, but with a higher ride holster or a heavier gun, it could be prone to cant.

As the name implies, the Bianchi is brown leather with a stitched pattern, and is 1.75 inches wide.  This has become my go-to belt.  When paired with my Lightweight Commander, I never have to worry about my firearm moving or sagging.  I actually bought the belt on the recommendation of a prior-service SEAL who had done PSD work and told me that his unit had issued the belts to them, and had never had an issue supporting their Sigs.  The Bianchi is a little thicker than the First Spear (approx 3/16"), and between the extra thickness and width, provides a very stable platform for mounting a holster.  On the downside, it is leather, it will require minor upkeep, and it will eventually stretch and need to be replaced.  I don't consider this a major disadvantage, as nothing lasts forever, and just like you will eventually probably have to replace your holster (if you use leather), you will eventually have to replace this belt.  It is a bit pricier than the First Spear, but after wearing it for the last few months, I consider the extra money worth it.  The only annoying item I have found is that not all my pants have belt loops that are friendly to this width belt.  It's something I will have to watch for as I buy new pants.

Overall, I prefer the Bianchi for its stability, and let's be honest, in a world of constant tactical nylon bombardment, there is still something enduring about good old fashioned leather.