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Coursework Appendix Carry

This past weekend, I attended Kyle Defoor’s 2-Day Concealed Pistol Class held at the Blue Trail Range in Wallingford, CT. As with most of Defoor’s open enrollment classes, this one sold out within a day or so of being posted. This was the third time that I have trained with Defoor, and again I left impressed with the depth and breadth of his knowledge and his ability to impart that knowledge to students from varying backgrounds. I’ll go ahead and offer the standard disclaimer found on this blog, that I have no affiliation with Defoor Proformance Shooting other than being a paying customer.

I’ve long thought that it was a good idea to repeat classes with instructors that you’ve learned a lot from, simply because you can usually learn something new each time. This class was no different, although I would hardly call it a repeat. Indeed, “Concealed Pistol” is a bit of a misnomer, as the curriculum involved far more than work with a pistol. Further, Defoor flat out said at one point early on that no two of his classes are ever the same. He meets the class where they are, and teaches what needs to be taught. Indeed, he doesn’t even necessarily teach the fundamentals in the same order each time, instead identifying the common problem areas in any given group of students and addressing those first.

Defoor began the day with a comprehensive safety brief and medical plan in the event of a medical emergency. His safety brief is somewhat unique in that he stressed real world application of the safety rules and forces the students to understand that tactics and absolute adherence to established rules are incompatible. He stressed muzzle awareness in conjunction with trigger finger discipline and essentially said that if one of the two was going to be violated, that it was better to muzzle a non-threat with finger off the trigger. After all, guns don’t go off by themselves! Obviously, he discussed how to actually treat all guns as if they are loaded, and stressed awareness of foreground and background in relation to muzzle orientation outside of established shooting ranges. One thing that I have found to be unique to his classes was the discussion of how to correctly and safely pass live weapons and live blades between each other. He also established a protocol for leaving weapons downrange if they were out of the holster. Short version, muzzle downrange, and ejection port up.

We then moved down to the firing line. Before actually shooting, he took a look at what each of us was carrying, as well as how we were carrying. Appendix carry was prevalent, and there was quite a variety of pistols on the line including Glocks, a Sig P938, a CZ or two, and a few 1911s. For my part, I used my typical G19 Gen4 in a RCS Eidolon, with an ARES Gear Aegis Belt. Concealment garments were a minor issue for a few, as most of us were wearing multiple layers due to the cold morning. Defoor stressed the importance of having only one layer concealing the pistol, with everything else tucked in, and he pointed out considerations such as cord toggles found on the hems of many garments. We started slowly, actually not incorporating the draw until a little later in the day.

Defoor prefaced everything we would be doing over the course of the weekend by drawing a triangle on a cardboard backer with “Force,” “Time,” and “Space” making up the three corners. We would be learning the dynamics of that triangle in the next two days. Defoor stressed that we would need to “own” 2 out of 3 of the above points to win a confrontation.

Defoor first demonstrated his Pistol Test 1, then had us run (literally) through the test on the timer as a group. I think only one or two students actually passed the test. I certainly did not, due to both accuracy and time. Defoor then spent the remainder of our time before lunch addressing the fundamentals of marksmanship in his own unique style. I won’t claim that my shooting got any better throughout the morning, but this discussion made more sense to me than it did last class, and I took away a few new points that I missed last time around. Some big takeaways for me were related to the semantics and my understanding of parallel and angular deviation, the nuances of the grip, and weighting the back leg when shooting. This last one may seem counter-intuitive, but it works. Although stance is the last thing Defoor addressed, he favors a wide athletic fighting stance with the hips squared to the target. He prioritized grip as the most important fundamental and spent a lot of time on it. All of this material can be found on YouTube in various Trigger Time TV episodes that he’s done, but there’s nothing like hearing it in person with real time feedback. We started at the 25 yard line, where proper fundamentals are mandatory. We generally moved closer to the backstop throughout the morning, working on the draw, speed, and shot tempo. Defoor spent a good amount of time discussing pistol placement and drawing from concealment, both from appendix as well as from three o’clock. This work with the pistol took us through the morning, and into the afternoon after lunch.

After lunch, we again went down range and Defoor used drawings on a cardboard backer to discuss what he calls “switches and timers.” Namely, what areas on the human body are switches, and which ones are timers. By way of example, a brain shot would be considered a switch, and a heart shot is a timer. Throughout the morning, and especially in this segment, Defoor used a SIRT pistol that he had brought. I like the SIRT as an individual training tool, but it is also exceptional as a demonstration tool for instructors.

For the final block of instruction on day one, Defoor introduced the class to combatives, teaching us four specific techniques designed to gain space and time. All of them were simple and easily remembered, and devastatingly effective when performed properly. Before beginning, we all cleared and stowed any live weapons we had on us, replacing them with training knives and training guns.

Defoor started the block of instruction by asking what our plan was with an attacker within two yards, where a drawn pistol would be vulnerable to a weapon grab or displacement. And truthfully, this was an area where I really didn’t have a good plan. I’ve taken retention shooting classes, and I’ve taken a whole bunch of other shooting classes, but the circle of space around me within arm’s reach was an area that made me uncomfortable. Getting more comfortable in this space has been a priority for me lately, as evidenced by a lot of the coursework that I’ve attended or will attend this year.

With several students contributing personally owned gear, there were enough Thai pads for us to buddy up and have one for each pair of students. We learned and practiced elbow strikes, open hand strikes, elbow spear thrusts, and a similar open hand version based off the same footwork. The footwork is something that I need to practice more, as I don’t have a lot of body mass to throw into strikes. Defoor constantly stressed that we should be a good training partner in receiving the strikes, and paid close attention to the energy level of the students in gauging when to move on to new material. There was also a brief discussion of choke holds. All of these combative maneuvers have the potential to seriously harm an opponent, and all of them are designed to gain time and space to employ other tactics, whether that is accessing a weapon or simply running away.

Day two of class began with Defoor’s mindset lecture. Truly, it is the foundation to everything, and defines how to approach a problem, and indeed, even how to approach life and death.

After a brief Q&A session, we moved downrange to about the 7 yard line. Defoor essentially divided the range into two sides, with different shooting stations on each side. We spent the morning learning about retention and close range shooting (with our ready position being obviously dependent on distance to a target), multiple targets, target discrimination and shooting decisions, one handed shooting, and shooting from behind cover or concealment in the context of negotiating through or around structures. Defoor generally ran one side of the range with drills that required either a timer or commands, and the students rotated through the drills on both sides of the range as much as time allowed. One multiple target discrimination and decision drill that Defoor set up was particularly challenging, as well as enlightening in terms of realistic split times in real shooting situations. I found this material to be very much in line with material presented by Darryl Bolke and Wayne Dobbs at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference. We also practiced shooting on the move, left to right, right to left, and linearly toward a target. The keys here are keeping the hips and toes pointed in the direction you want to go, a two-handed grip on the pistol, and understanding maximum angle to targets. Defoor also explained in concrete terms why most “shooting on the move” is taught incorrectly or out of context and why more than 3-4 yards of movement is rarely needed. Those that go to a Defoor Proformance class with sacred cows enshrined in preconceived notions are in for a rude awakening. Good stuff with lots of practical information presented.

At Defoor’s request, we took a working lunch during which he presented his medical block of instruction. Having been involved in EMS for the past 16 years and having recently been through a trauma medicine class, I stayed on the periphery of the group for this discussion. I did still pick up a thing or two during the presentation I am glad that Defoor includes it in all of his classes now. Defoor attends TCCC training annually, so the information he provides is up to date and based on current evolution of battlefield care. For armed civilians and police officers, the information can literally save a life.

After our “lunch break,” Defoor gathered us around a table and had us lay out any knives or training blades that we had brought to class. He gave a very detailed interactive presentation on knife design and identified four specific attributes to look for when evaluating a knife for combative purposes. I must confess, I have a little less regard for my Clinch Pick now and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the RAT blade that I have on order. One of the students in class had actually been invited to attend class by Defoor and as an acknowledged expert in blades, combatives, and survival skills, was able to contribute greatly to the class. I won’t name him here, but if you read RECOIL publications, or other gun and survival lifestyle magazines, you’ve read his writing.

For the final block of instruction, Defoor showed us how to integrate a blade into the combative techniques taught the day before, and showed us a targeting template to use with the blade. We again partnered up with training blades and practiced the skills taught. I have some minor concerns about how legally defensible these techniques might be, but if someone is trying to kill me, then that is my least concern.

The class wrapped up with a brief informal Q&A session and Defoor handed out certificates. Although I came nowhere near earning a hat (that will have to remain a goal for a future class), I did buy a t-shirt.

My round count for the class was 427, all Freedom Munitions 124 gr. FMJ. This number is variable, as the number of runs through various drills and the number of rounds shot is somewhat left up to the discretion of each individual student.

When you do the math of how many open enrollment classes Defoor offers per year and the limited number of students in each, it works out to around 200 students every year. I’m pleased to count myself among that minority. You can follow Defoor on social media, which is the best way to learn about his class availability.

I learned a lot over the weekend, both refreshing previous learning as well as being exposed to new techniques and ideas. My hope is that my experience in class will be a good preparation for the upcoming American Tactical Shooting Integrated Combatives course that Robert and I are enrolled in next month.

As always, thank you for visiting and reading our blog, and feel free to post comments or questions below or on our Facebook page.

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Appendix Inside the Waistband (AIWB) carry has been a steadily growing trend in the concealed carry world for several years now. It’s been derided by some as a fad, but it doesn’t look like we can expect appendix carry to go anywhere for a long time. The biggest problem with AIWB right now is the staggering amount of misinformation being spread about the topic, even from some respected industry experts who normally give reliable advice. I’m personally a big fan of AIWB, and even though I don’t think it’s for everybody, if you’re serious about concealed carry, you should take a few minutes to understand the pros and cons, and how appendix carry can be done safely. I’ve done my best to condense the basics of AIWB into one quick video…

The Basics of Appendix Carry

Full transcript below:

Pretty much every day for about the last six years, I’ve carried a handgun on my belt right here at the 1 o’clock position, also called Appendix Inside the Waistband carry or AIWB. There’s been a lot of controversy about this method of concealed carry, and that’s because it’s been really misunderstood both by its critics and by a lot of the people who choose to carry this way.

Appendix carry is nothing new. It’s actually been around for centuries, but it’s gained popularity in recent years which I believe has a lot to do with the influence of the firearms instructor Todd Green. Todd actually passed away last month after a long fight with cancer. And unfortunately, I never actually to meet Todd in person or take any of his classes before stopped teaching, but even so, he’s the one guy who probably more than anybody else has had the most influence on my development as a shooter. And not just the way I carry a gun, but my whole approach to thinking about self-defense general. And that’s because Todd shared a lot of his thoughts on his blog at pistol-training.com and the forum he started, pistol-forum.com.

So I first gave appendix carry a serious try after reading about it on Todd’s blog several years ago and since then I’ve had a lot of opportunity to experiment with different techniques and gear and I’ve also been able to pick up some tips here and there from other instructors who carry appendix. So there’s a lot more to this than I can share in one video, but I want to give you a quick overview of appendix carry, and maybe confront some of the more common criticisms.

But first I want to talk about why anyone would want to carry a gun this way. There are a lot of advantages to appendix carry. The one you hear most often is that it has the potential to allow for a very quick draw stroke from concealment. This is especially true if you’re sitting down or in an awkward position or in very tight quarters where you can’t move around much. The gun is just easier and quicker to access than a gun behind your hip. It’s also easier to protect the gun if someone were to try to make a grab for it, and it’s easier to surreptitiously access the gun without drawing a lot of attention to yourself if you need to do that.

A lot of people find appendix carry to be uncomfortable, and I can’t really argue with that, but that’s by no means a universal experience. I actually think it’s more comfortable because I don’t have a gun pressing against my hip bone all day — I can tolerate for a lot longer compared to any other kind of belt carry.

But for me, the most compelling reason to switch to appendix carry was just ease of concealment. With behind the hip carry, I just could not find a way to conceal a gun unless it was very small or I was wearing a jacket or really baggy clothing. But with appendix carry, if I’ve got the right holster, I can carry a gun of just about any size and I don’t have to wear a XXL poncho to cover it up. That’s not to say I always want to deal with the weight of a full size pistol but with appendix carry, I can be a lot more flexible with the size of gun that I’m carrying.

Usually, when somebody says they’ve tried appendix carry and then they  immediately decide they don’t like it, it’s because they’re using the wrong kind of holster. That’s almost guaranteed to not work. You have to use a holster that is specifically designed for appendix carry. And I don’t mean just an inside the waistband holster with a neutral cant. You’ve got to get a holster with some really specific design features like pushing the muzzle away from the body and getting the grip tucked in toward the body. Those features are really important for comfort and concealment.

If you’re looking for some specific suggestions, I would say skip all the cheap stuff and go straight for the really good custom holster makers. It’ll actually end up being cheaper in the long run. So tryKeepers Concealment or JM Custom Kydex. They both make some excellent appendix carry holsters. You could also try Custom Carry Concepts or Dark Star Gear or Raven Concealment — there really are a lot of good options these days. Just make sure you do your homework first and whatever holster you try comes from a holster maker who understands what has to go into a good appendix carry design.

The other big criticism of appendix carry is that it’s inherently unsafe because there’s no way to re-holster the gun without pointing it at yourself. Well, that’s only true if you do it wrong. Concealed carry in general — no matter how you’re carrying — is inherently dangerous if its done incorrectly. For instance, I know we’ve all seen this guy before: somebody pointing a gun right at his side while he’s trying to get the muzzle to go  into his behind the hip holster. I see that at the range all the time, but I never hear anybody say that we gotta get rid of this behind the hip carry because it’s inherently dangerous. No, what we say instead is, “that guy is doing it wrong, somebody needs to show him how to re-holster properly so he doesn’t hurt himself.”

Well, it’s the same thing with appendix carry. There are a few things we can do to make sure we re-holster the gun safely.

So what I like to do when I’m done shooting is first, I bring the gun back to a high ready I then I just pause for just a split second. Sometimes this is called a “hard break”. I’m going to make sure my finger is off the trigger. I’m going to make sure, if I’ve got a double action gun, that I’m decocked and I’ll put my thumb on the hammer. And if I’ve got a safety, I’ll make sure that’s flipped on at this point also.

And now I’m going to move my cover garment and then I’m going to lean back just a little bit and tilt my hips forward a little bit. And I’m going to slowly and very intentionally look the gun into the holster, making sure there are no obstructions in the way. And as soon as the muzzle clears the mouth of the holster, I’ll tilt it outward just a little bit and… slowly into the holster. All of that takes about two seconds and at no point was the muzzle ever covering any part of my body.

I don’t think you’re any more likely to shoot yourself with appendix carry than any other kind of holster. But it’s got the perception of being less safe because, if you do make a mistake it’s going to involve your… gentleman area or maybe your femoral artery, and be fatal really quickly. And that’s why having a very intentional reholstering technique is so important.

If the idea of appendix carry makes you nervous, then don’t do it. I have never tried to convince anybody to carry appendix and I never will. It’s not for everybody and it’s definitely not for more casual gun owners. But if you do want to give it a try, just make sure you use a good holster and don’t get in a hurry when you’re reholstering.  

Spencer Keepers of Keepers Concealment is now teaching an excellent one-day class on AIWB Skills. Be sure to check out the training calendar on his website to find out if there’s one near you!

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