Appendix Carry

Recently there has been some concern about appendix carry in training classes. Some claim these concerns are knee jerk reactions, take a moment to look at from a different perspective.

The powder keg

Fellow Alias Trainer, Larry Vickers announced he was banning all appendix style holsters in his open enrollment classes. While I’m not Larry it was pretty easy to see his rationale, more importantly neither he nor I are saying it’s a bad technique. We’re just saying the juice is not worth the squeeze in a training class. I have a similar policy in our marksmanship classes, but there’s more to my decision than meets the eye. As I see it subjects such as personal safety, risk mitigation and proficiency demonstration are the key points a lot of folks fail to realize.

Stop the whining

Something many folks exhibit on this topic is a large scale case of medical butt hurt. On the one hand some were quick to criticize the decision even to the point of saying “if you’re scared or don’t know what you’re doing”. Really? That was particularly douche to say given the instructor. I read several comments on a few friend’s posts and I couldn’t help but see something familiar, something I’d see regarding another subject. I saw complaints regarding appendix carry which sounded like the “open carry” group whining for not being able to carry openly. Folks are more upset someone is saying they can’t do something than really understanding the root problem.

Asking the wrong question

As instructors we have an obligation to ensure we run the safest range evolutions possible. That we take safety seriously and students know their safety is a primary concern. We work to identify risks then mitigate them through various methods. Sometimes those methods include the removal of said technique or equipment. In this case removing appendix carry from the table does what exactly? Does it remove the possibility of someone shooting themselves during the drawstroke or holstering? No, it does not. The better question to ask is what exactly it removes?

A boatload of cogs

Then you get the crowd of folks who say “I’ve been doing this since the Paleolithic Age and nothing bad has happened to me.” Great, congratulations. Realize you are but a single cog in a wheel with a ridiculous amount of cogs. As instructors conducting dozens of classes a year we see thousands of students. I think it’s safe to say our student pool is a little more diverse. When you put that many students (or cogs) through live fire training you see all types of things, sometimes not always good things. That is why we have safety rules and protocols in the first place, to mitigate risks.

 Don’t be that guy

Another issue are those who come to class and question safety protocol or best practices. You most certainly don’t have to agree with them, but if you want to participate you will have to follow them. I look to the student body to help establish a safe experience for everyone. Those students with good skills I will lean on to set an example for the rest of the class. They serve an important purpose that many overlook. Now, when you have students who deviate from protocol whether intentionally or accidentally it creates an unsafe environment not just by the act or omission, but by setting the bad example others may follow.

Let the pettiness flow

When you step onto the firing line you have an obligation to set the example and not be the example. And here’s another thing to consider, you want the worldwide instructor cadre to take you seriously. That you are competent and safe, yet we ask you to do something petty in the grand scheme of things. Rather than making it happen you protest, rather than setting the example demonstrating your capacity to perform you throw a tantrum. Rather than following the rules you play by your own. In a sense you have become the safety concern first for failing to follow instructions and second I have to ask what other safety protocols you are not following? I generally give folks the benefit of the doubt. I trust, but verify through safety rules and protocols that I ask you to follow. Trust is something that is earned, it is not given.

Frequency combined with opportunity

Larry is not alone, even in our Concealed Carry Tactics class we want all students to demonstrate competency and safety before progressing to the next mode of carry. From a frequency point of view in just about any pistol class their is a high number of drawstroke repetitions performed. Calculate the risk versus reward and it’s easy to make what I believe is the right decision, not necessarily the popular one. I use some simple critical thinking here, the fact a discharge whether negligent or accidental to the front of the body has a higher risk of severe injury and or death needs to be addressed. Liability will be assigned and the fact of the matter is it could have been avoided. Some will comment they have seen plenty of injuries caused to the side of the body or even rear. Yes, I’m sure you have and even a quick internet search will pull up plenty of videos. Now, how many deaths as a result?

What’s the point

Some will be quick to comment many of those were criminals or lacked training or had gear issues. I can remember hearing the argument for appendix not so long ago to the effect “1,000 criminals shoving it in their pants can’t be wrong”, but when they shoot themselves those same people are quick to say they don’t know what they’re doing and are untrained. The point to this whole blog is the critical nature of the injury and the fact it’s avoidable.

Not everyone will agree and that’s fine, but the real issue is did you take a moment to think about it from a different perspective. Did you bother to think of anyone else other than yourself.

6 thoughts on “Appendix Carry

  1. tsmidura says:

    Safety in class reminds me of group vacation motorcycling where there is one a hotdog who thinks … “I can ride the way I want so long as I do not endanger anyone else.”
    So we were in Colorado at Independence Pass. “Hotdog,” who hadn’t ridden in about 10 years but had his 10 year old crotch rocket, along with 10 year old tires, broken from the group and blasted down the twisties on the blue sky warm clear-road day.
    A mile from the pass the group caught up with him … his bike in dozens of pieces as he had lost control on a straight away and crashed into the side of the mountain (luckily not over the edge). His 10 year old tires and rusty skills could not handle his exuberance.
    No big deal because he only wrecked his bike and injured himself?
    Well the group ON OUR VACATIONS took the next couple of days (totally messing our touring agenda) getting he and his bike pieces off the mountain, into a hospital, and shepherding his broken body back home.
    Hotdog screwed up everyone else’s vacation.
    So true for a shooting class when the instructor and range staff now has to drop the class and attend to a wounded.

  2. HTEngineer says:

    Jeff,

    I’ve enjoyed this blog tremendously. I got hooked on your writing after reading your guest posts on ITS and then about your insightful comments on your injury and recovery, which I unfortunately can relate to having pulled off a similar injury. I’m looking forward to hopefully taking your classes when all the damage finally heals.

    In my vaunted internet opinion I would say you’re spot on as usual. I wouldn’t take my appendix holster to an open enrollment pistol course just because of the sheer amounts of weapon draws and re-holsters when fatigued. It makes sense why an instructor wouldn’t want people in an open enrollment class, who they don’t know, re-holstering in appendix. Especially, considering the stuff I’ve seen in open enrollment classes as a student, I’m sure as instructors you have seen even more.

    Appendix is fast, conceals well (at least for me) and relatively comfortable, but it requires thought and awareness in re-holstering, and there’s always the risk you could AD into your junk. That means, as a mere mortal, that I have to slow down down, and WAY down if fatigued. I think you covered the bulk of why appendix holsters are a terrible idea for an open enrollment class in the “no prize for the fastest reholster” article on ITS. Generally, you’re pushing yourself to the edge of your ability, and that is when mistakes happen.

    I am curious as to your thoughts on appendix holsters in a “concealed carry tactics/combatives” type class along the lines of the “train like you fight mentality”. The concealed carry tactics/combatives course are on my list of must take courses, and an area where I’m lacking, so forgive the lack of knowledge. I’m curious as to your thoughts on appendix carry in those situations. Is appendix viable in the combatives portion (obviously unloaded/blue gun), and does the risk mitigation vs. potential gain justify the use in the range portion of those types of classes?

    Thanks,

    John

    • Jeff Gonzales says:

      Hi John,

      I cannot speak for other instructors, but in our Concealed Carry Tactics class, that is kind of the point. However, it is about progression and demonstration of proficiency/safety along with introducing it to those who want to try or use it at the appropriate time. We do the same thing in our combatives class, but most of them have very little live fire and the ones that do are an advance level so the issue is somewhat address by the student’s skill level. I hope this answers your questions.

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