My guess is that if  you heard someone hum the first few lines of The Navy Anthem “Anchors Aweigh” you’d recognize it immediately.  The same for the Marine’s Hymn and the Air Force song about the Wild Blue Yonder.  Likely you’d get the Army song too.  But there is likely one you would not get, and that is particularly sad, because its words speak volumes about what they do.  You can listen to it here.

The song is entitled Semper Paratus, Latin, which means “always prepared.”  In my view it is the perfect motto for the concealed carrier.  At every moment of every day, we should be semper paratus.

I don’t know what your experience as a concealed carrier has been (I hope you’ll share it in comments), but I have noticed I am seeing a lot more things than I used to.  I find myself looking at men’s waistbands for telltale bulges, and at how close to a person’s midsection their hands tend to stay.  I’ve found myself looking at anyone who adjusts their shirt or clothing, because as a new carrier, I found myself doing that constantly (a habit I had to force myself to break).  I no longer park close to vans, and even if it is the only slot left in the parking lot, I won’t park between two vans or trucks.  It simply limits visibility way too much.  At night, I park under the street light in the parking lot, even if means I am parking further from the door.  Even if the door is closer, if there is limited light, or I cannot clearly see people around the door, I won’t park close.  I also look around 360 degrees.  When you are engaged in mechanical tasks (like opening or locking your car door) your mind is engaged in something, and you’re vulnerable.

I carry a flashlight at dusk or thereafter, everywhere.  So that when I return to my car from the store or mall, I can check around the car.  At night, I walk with my wife to the car door and I put her in.  I do not let her get in by herself.  No, it’s not chivalry so much as making sure she can’t be harmed by someone looking to steal the car, or her purse, etc.  Light not only causes vampires to withdraw, it usually sends criminals scurrying back like the cockroaches they are.

In order to do these things, and make them work for you, these things have to become a habit.  If they do not become a habit, if you do not pick up that flashlight and put it in your pocket before you leave the house, then you are left with good luck determining your fate.  Luck is a finicky mistress, and she’s just as likely to shiv you as kiss you.

Because I do forget sometimes, I have flashlights in the car.  I rarely use them now, but they are there specifically for the times I do forget.  And I try to remember to change the batteries every six months.  I actually put it on my calendar for work.  Reminders are very good things!

I have also been bad about forgetting my cell phone, an absolute no-no for concealed carriers.  You want to be the one who calls 911 (because you become the victim); you do not want a bystander to describe a crazy man with a gun.  And, even when they recognize you’re the victim, people say and do really stupid things.  I do not believe in trusting my fate to others. So I now store my phone with my car keys so that I can’t get one without getting the others.

Habits are important things. Not only can they help insure your safety, when all else fails, they can insure you survive.

Recently I read an article where someone recommended doing a “press check” before holstering the weapon and going about your business.  I wondered “what the hell is a press check?”  Turns out that it is the act of pushing your pistol out of battery to see if you have a round chambered (apparently necessary in Glocks because they do not have a chamber-loaded indicator).  Most people advise against this tactic because taking your gun out of battery is never a good idea, and it may not go back fully into battery without some force.  I have never done a press check.  The reason I have never done it is because I know, at all times, whether a round is chambered.  Additionally, I treat every gun as if it were always chambered with a live round, even if I have just finished cleaning it and it has no magazine, and even if it can’t fire without a magazine, because that’s how I trained.  So the idea that I would need to “check and see” that the gun is loaded is just crazy.  The gun on my hip is loaded, even if it isn’t loaded, because all guns are loaded.  If you carry a weapon and do not know whether there is a round in the chamber, you should not be carrying a weapon.  You should be in a nice quiet environment with helpful nurses and that lovely juice that makes you sing happy songs.

Pasteur is rumored to have said that “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”  I think a better way to say that is the bad luck is what happens when lack of preparation meets calamity.  In almost every instance where someone gets hurt, “bad luck” can be traced back to a failure to prepare or plan.  Exhibit A: Nicholas Cruz, anyone?

Situational awareness is important, but good habits and good preparation on a daily basis are also very important.

Do you have a habit of cleaning and oiling your weapons every week to two weeks even if you haven’t fired them?  Do  you inspect your holster every week for signs of wear, weak connections, or weak clips?  Do you periodically switch magazines so that you’re carrying a magazine with a strong spring rather than one that’s been weakened by remaining loaded since Queen Elizabeth was coronated? Do you fire your personal protection loads at least once a year and replace them?  These are things you should put on your calendar.

Early on in combat medic training in the Army we were told to always inventory our medical bags every day to make sure that (a) everything we needed was there; and (b)  that some other schmuck hadn’t taken something out, when we were not looking, that we might need later.

About 12 weeks into my first deployment we got a call for a company first sergeant who was having trouble breathing.  We went to the unit, walked in, and found that he was no longer having trouble breathing: he had quit.  We started CPR, and my partner realized, much to his annoyance, that he had forgotten to get his ambu bag (the device we use to breathe for people).  He had to do mouth-to-mouth on the guy until I could get mine assembled and over to him.  To this day the guy can’t eat creamed corn!  It was only like 30 seconds, but he said it was the worst 30 seconds of his life.  It taught me a valuable lesson.  After that, I never borrowed his ambu bag again, and I returned the one I had borrowed the day before but did so after he went to brush his teeth.  I do not believe he ever was any the wiser.  But I was.  I learned a valuable lesson.

If you want to be successful as a concealed carrier, identify the habits that you need to be successful.  Incorporate those habits into your daily life.  And train as often as you can.  Life is short.  Don’t make it shorter by being a putz.

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