Countless times, other gun owners have shared their lessons learned with concealed carry while recuperating from various illnesses, injuries, and surgeries. The common advice is to have alternate holsters and the skills to use them already hardwired in place. That’s good advice, and below, I’m going to share my take on the subject. What follows is essentially a thought exercise. Indeed, “The body cannot go where the mind hasn’t gone first.”
Early in July 2022, I had surgery to repair a right inguinal hernia. I had an open procedure, rather than a laparoscopic one. As you may infer, my preferred AIWB is going to be a no go for awhile. And while I have lately become quite fond of strong side pocket carry, again, a temporary no go. I carried strong side for years, but honestly, have no desire to revert to that. Every day is a little bit better in terms of moving around, but it still aches and I’m going to have a lifting restriction for longer than I care to deal with. I’m not on crutches or anything, but I’m not running sprints either. For those unfamiliar with the medical terminology, the surgeon basically cut through my abdominal muscles in my right groin. Have I mentioned that you use your abdominal muscles for virtually everything you do that involves movement?
My hardware solution has been a gun that I purchased last year. The lightest gun I own. For most of my convalescence, a S&W 43c has been a constant companion that I’ve dropped into the support side of whatever pants I’ve been wearing, whether shorts, exercise pants, or sweat pants. Has this involved some significant compromises? You better believe it!
Why the 43c? Fundamentally, as I pointed out above, it’s the lightest gun I own. While it is only a .22 (Rhett Neumayer has some commentary on that…), it boasts eight rounds as opposed to the five that you normally get with a J-frame. Plus, it has good sights for a J-frame. There are some distinct limitations in terms of terminal ballistics, but with the benefit of little to no recoil. To paraphrase an old quote from Gabe Suarez, “If you shoot most things on earth in the face five times with anything, they will leave you alone.” I’m certainly not going to be confronting an active killer, but for the typical mission of the armed citizen, it will do.
This brings us to the software side of the discussion. With the weapon of choice settled, tactics needed to be addressed. Those of you familiar with Claude Werner (The Tactical Professor) have no doubt read some of his breakdowns of various defensive encounters. He will frequently parse them out into discrete actions. In my instance, I need to worry about retrieving the gun first. This is relevant by virtue of it being carried in a relatively unfamiliar position and in the context of limited mobility. Given my limited and slow mobility, on body carry is non-negotiable, assuming I’m awake and dressed.
If I’m able to get the gun out of the pocket, I reach a decision point. Do I need to fire with my support hand, or do I have time to transfer the gun to my strong hand? To my mind, if I can get a two handed grip on the gun, then I have time to transfer it to the strong hand.
Let’s return briefly to the mobility issue. Our younger and fitter readers that have never had a debilitating injury or illness may not fully comprehend this, but “getting off the X” takes on new implications when you can’t move fast. In the parlance of my profession, this is a “stay and play” game. To put it in more cliche vernacular, this is a time when “standing your ground” is an eminently valid choice. I can very clearly articulate why I can’t retreat. At least not with any alacrity. In short, if I need my gun in a hurry, I’m pretty much stuck where I stand. I might accomplish a side step now, but I suspect my balance would have been in question for the first few days post-op. I welcome use of force SMEs to comment on this next point, but I would wager I could even have articulated disparity of force in the first few days post-op.
The good news is that the vast majority of my recent dry fire has been with a very similar revolver, and it has incorporated support hand work. Perhaps not as much as it should have, but I’m not completely deficient. Had I given the subject more forethought, I would have practiced drawing from the support side pocket. Lesson learned.
Actually leaving my home and going out in public has made things a bit more complex. Here, returning to limited and slow mobility, situational awareness is paramount. Surreptitious draw, anyone? While the goal of the armed citizen should nearly always be disengagement, I can’t exactly pop pepper spray and leave. At least not quickly. And, given an initial driving restriction, I had innocents with me for the first few days that I was responsible for. That left me with a potential best option of having those under my care escape to a safer environment while I “stood my ground.” I’m comfortable with violence. They are not. Far from ideal, but perhaps the best of a worst case scenario if avoidance and deterrence were not successful strategies.
As with almost everything, context is key. The reality is I’m probably not going to need to defend myself in the next few weeks. But, if I do, I’m still faced with limited mobility and impaired agility. I’m going to very likely be fighting from a relatively fixed position with a weapon that is best described as a compromise. I can’t carry in the manner that I normally do, and that is what it is. Everything involves a certain amount of risk. Hell, deciding to have surgery involved risk. Driving to work involves risk. What is critical is understanding the risks.
In my current professional capacity, among other things, I teach a lot about mitigating risk. This is just one such exercise. Think long and hard about what you habituate and which decisions and actions involve the least amount of risk, regardless of whether you are injured or healthy. Surgery is just one variable that temporarily changes the equation. Do the math. Think of it as doing homework to prepare for an exam. Hopefully, you never have to take that exam. Hopefully, I won’t have to take that exam. But at least I’ve been studying.
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