An Interview with Massad Ayoob
Interview by Gila Hayes
Violent crime increases when summer temperatures soar. With so many potential victims out and about, opportunistic criminals go to work. It is our hope that members will be ready to save their own lives, so we’re distressed when folks admit that when it’s hot, they find it too difficult to carry a concealed gun for self defense. Network advisory board member Massad Ayoob recently shared some hot weather concealed carry strategies, based on experiences gathered over about six decades, coupled with historical perspectives on holsters, guns and concealment clothing. I think Network members will enjoy the casual discussion as much as I did, so let’s switch to question and answer format so readers can enjoy learning from Mas directly.
eJournal: When it is hot, people have more trouble carrying concealed handguns but ironically, crimes against persons increase in hot weather. While carrying a gun has always required compromises, I’m in search of suggestions about how our members can maintain a high level of preparation even when it is hot.
Ayoob: I hear you! In my younger days, starting when I was 12 working part-time in my dad’s jewelry store, I carried a cocked and locked 1911 inside the waistband behind the right hip which was legal in that time and place. It was my dad’s custom and practice that when you were behind the counter, you wore a professional-looking white lab coat. We didn’t really need air conditioning there in northern New England so we didn’t have it, but it could still get pretty warm there in the summers. On the really hot days, I took off the 1911 and carried my dad’s Colt Cobra .38 in a pocket. It was a 2-inch with the hammer shroud, the first of the lightweight aluminum-framed revolvers.
I got my permit to carry out in the great big world at the age of 21. My dad gave me a nice Chief’s Special Model 36 for that birthday and I carried that in an MMGR belly holster: the first of the belly bands. In the early 1960s, John Bianchi had shown a prototype of a belly band in Gun World magazine but he did not bring it out at that time. The MMGR people in Brooklyn, NY also saw it and they did bring it out. It had the option of Velcro®, which had just come out, or hooks and eyes. Not trusting new things, I went with the hooks and eyes. Within a year I had rusted the darn hooks. I found out that one day of salt sweat going through nothing but cloth, turns a blue steel revolver red. I managed to get the rust off of it, but it kept happening. I still have the gun and it is all pitted, since you can get the rust off but you can’t grow back the steel.
As time went on, I found that it was okay to wear what today you might call an untucked sport shirt. We called them bowling shirts and they were quite a bit like the Cuban guayabera. The guayabera-style shirt came from a culture accustomed to carrying concealed weapons. The guayabera’s buttons would stop above the navel so if you need to pull a gun from underneath, it doesn’t catch and snag.
I still used the belly band at times. In my mid 20s I was an off-duty cop dropping by the department to fill out some paperwork, when I got there just seconds after they had discovered that two felons who were in for armed robbery had escaped from our jail. Everybody was mobilized! I had a stainless-steel Security Industries copy of the J-frame in .357 Magnum.
Security Industries only lasted a few years, but for the first few years they were excellent guns and literally the action was smoother than a Model 60’s. It was the first of the baby magnums, but the company was undercapitalized and within a few years they started taking all sorts of shortcuts, the quality went down and the company went under. That is the gun I had that particular day in the MMGR belly band. I grabbed a fistful of rounds out of a box I had in the glove box of my car and I jumped in one of the patrol cars. I was involved in catching the first guy. A state trooper had him but he sprained his ankle in the struggle. I was searching the guy and about to cuff and stuff him in the back of the state police car when I heard one of the other officers, a friend of mine, yell, “I think he is under the bridge.”
I remember yelling back, “Wait for us!” This took place at the Merrimack River Bridge in Hooksett, NH. It has a very steep incline down to the river. A very narrow pathway by the bridge–about 100 yards from where we were–was the only place the guy could have been. Just as I was opening the car door to put suspect number one into the car, I heard my brother officer yell, “Police! Don’t move!” I just threw that guy in back of the patrol car.
Thank God the bridge and bridge struts were there–I had to clamber down a very steep bank with one hand on a bridge strut the whole way. I came out above where Bobby had the guy at gunpoint and was still yelling “Don’t move! I mean it! Don’t move!” As I ran up, the guy reached down and grabbed a fist full of sand to throw in Bobby’s face like in a western movie.
I was about 10 feet above him when I ended up pulling out the J-frame and snarling, “Do what he says!” The guy looked up–at the .357 Magnum looking down at him. I had my finger on the trigger, because I thought I was going to have to kill him. He very slowly, carefully and meticulously emptied his hands and raised them. That was the last time I considered myself well-armed with a five-shot revolver and no spare ammunition. I started putting a little more thought into carrying a full-sized gun.
eJournal: Well, that’s the end of the easy days with a five-shot in a belly band. Before moving on, I’ve got to ask–was that MMGR belly band you mentioned amongst the first inside the waistband (IWB) carry methods?
Ayoob: Inside the waistband holsters actually go back to the 19th century. Dwight Eisenhower was an early adopter appendix carry IWB. During World War II, he carried a Colt Detective Special inside the waistband under his patented Eisenhower jacket. He was president of Columbia University in New York City after he retired from being supreme commander of the Allied forces in 1945 and ascending to the presidency in the early 50s. He told one of his biographers that he carried that gun whenever he set foot on the streets of New York.
eJournal: How fascinating! I knew none of that.
Ayoob: Yes, inside the waistband holsters have been around for a while.
eJournal: I’m sorry I interrupted how you moved toward carrying full sized guns. Picking up where you’d decided you should carry more than a five-shot revolver, as your gun choices evolved, did your wardrobe change, too?
Ayoob: I found it useful to wear untucked sport shirts, one size too large in an opaque, checkered or patterned fabric. A lot of the guys like the Hawaiian shirts because the color distracts from the outline of the gun underneath. Just make sure if you don’t have the guayabera type that the bottom button has been removed or you may not have enough flex to pull it up and draw the gun from inside the waistband.
When using inside the waistband holsters, we found out the hard way that sweat can turn blued guns brown. That is the history behind the concept of the sweat guard on so many of today’s holsters. I always order mine without the sweat guard, because if the holster is made of soft leather, with a lot of wear, it tends to fold over the gun and that makes the draw difficult, but with Kydex® you can’t get the thumb in place to take a drawing grasp until the rest of the hand starts to clear the holster. I just take care to wipe the gun down. Even stainless-steel rusts under sweaty conditions but it’s a lot more forgiving and goes a lot longer between wipe downs. While nothing is impervious, modern finishes, most notably the Tenifer® on the original Glocks, are vastly more resistant.
If you want to wear a gun against bare skin, you really need to make sure that your gun doesn’t have any sharp or abrasive edges. I discovered the hard way that I am allergic to Cocobolo wood that apparently has an unusual resin in it as do other exotic woods and nobody thinks to get tested for allergies before buying grips! You can wind up with a very nasty, uncomfortable rash, in the shape of your pistol grips!
eJournal: [chuckling] Try passing that off to your physician as a simple case of shingles.
Ayoob: I think it was Otto von Bismarck who said, “Experience is the collected aggregate of all our mistakes, but wisdom is found in learning from the mistakes of others.”
eJournal: True, and the same applies to self defense. We decry restrictions when people are killed, unable to defend themselves when attacked where carrying guns is illegal, so it seems to me that where it’s legal to carry, being prepared to fight back is an obligation we owe to ourselves and those who love us. When you share what has and has not worked for carrying guns in hot weather, you are helping people who might use the “It’s too hot” excuse.
Ayoob: You need to just put a little bit of thought into it. A very common garb in the deep south where I now live is the T-shirt under a light cotton Columbia-style shirt, generally worn unbuttoned. People like having the pockets and in which to put their pens, phones, notepads and such. I’ll wear that style a lot with a T-shirt beneath to keep the sharp edges of the gun off bare skin and I blend in with everyone else. Under a Columbia shirt, an IWB or a good tight-to-the-body outside the waistband holster will conceal a full-sized gun just fine. If it is a double stack, I’ll carry just one spare magazine; two if it is a single stack. I have found no problems with that at all.
eJournal: Now, there are people who may need alternatives because of dress codes or other needs. What do you think of belly bands, kangaroo pouch/ groin holsters, bra holsters, undershirt holsters, and even holsters sewn into compression shorts and yoga pants?
Ayoob: I believe Greg Kramer (https://www.kramerleather.com) was the first when he brought out the undershirt holster he called the Confidante. It works! You have to be able to reach in and get the gun, so like I always did with the bellyband, leave a button unbuttoned, sew a button to the outside and secure the opening with a piece of Velcro. For a right-handed person, that is a very fast cross draw. Then to draw, the hand can just spear hand in and grab the gun.
Don’t discount the belly bands–they still work. I thought the best one ever was the Bianchi Ranger, because it had a pocket that doubled as a money belt, which was very handy, but they stopped making it. What used to be Mail Order Video, now Magill’s Glockstore, (https://www.glockstore.com/The-Original-Belly-Band) has a good one and Gould & Goodrich (https://gouldusa.com/products/products-type/?type=The+Body+Guard&line=other) makes a good belly band, too.
eJournal: What about holstering in one of these alternative devices? Is needing to be able to holster after a critical incident a real concern?
Ayoob: Definitely! When police are coming, because there has been a shooting or someone has reported there is a person here now with a gun, you are the person there with the gun. You do not want to set it down where some kids could grab it, or where the suspect could grab it, especially not when you might need it again in a heartbeat. I would say, plan on putting it into the waistband or into the pocket.
I think the return of pocket carry is great and we now have lots of little guns that fit in pockets. If you don’t feel the need to be a hipster with skinny jeans, we have the very common cargo shorts that are popular with all age groups. Those are baggy enough and generally have pleated side pockets. I carry a 2-inch J-frame in one of the side pockets and clip a flashlight in the cell phone pocket in front of it. If anyone sees the bulge, they think it’s just the flashlight.
The gun is right there, and if there’s a problem you can have your hand on the gun as you say, “Excuse me sir, is there problem? You have come close enough.” No one but you knows, but the gun is already in your hand. You can literally draw and get a shot off from the hip in half a second. That is one more option that we have today.
If you carry in a pocket, you have got to have a pocket holster and, folks, you have got to have nothing else in the pocket but the gun in the holster! I tend to use the Safariland pocket holster, but there are a lot of good ones out there.
eJournal: Gun students are frequently told, “Don’t get an itty-bitty gun. Carry a full size, fighting handgun,” but here we sit talking about five-shot revolvers. Where’s the middle path?
Ayoob: Today, it is not much over 80 degrees here at the Firearms Academy of Seattle so the Beretta I’m carrying is a Model 92 compact. The butt is short with a 13 round magazine and it conceals extremely well. In the summer, I’ll wear an oversized opaque or patterned shirt over a T-shirt and carry a 1911 Government Model and in an Ayoob Rear Guard holster made by Mitch Rosen (American Rear Guard at https://mitchrosen.com/products/holsters/inside-waistband-holsters/) or the LFI rig from Ted Blocker (https://www.tedblockerholsters.com/LFI-RIG-IWB-Concealment-Holster_p_36.html), both inside the waistband designs, and to my knowledge, I have never been “made.” You really want to make sure you have a forward, FBI tilt to the holster, so if you lean forward a little bit the butt is not going to protrude.
eJournal: When we talk about carrying in hot weather, one of the challenges is the very great variety of summer recreation–like watersports.
Ayoob: Well, when I go to the beach, I have a Magna-Trigger revolver. That is the modification by Rick Devoid of Tarnhelm Supply (http://www.tarnhelm.com/magna-trigger/gun/safety/magna1.html) He typically takes a K-frame or larger Smith & Wesson and modifies it so it can only fire when held in the hand of one wearing a magnetic ring on the middle finger.
If I go to the beach with the kids, I’ll put the Magna-Trigger revolver in a fanny pack or attaché case that I will keep right with me. If I go in the water, the other adults will take turns shepherding the bag. If a stranger should grab the bag, without the magnetic ring on their finger, there’s not a damn thing they can do with the gun. It costs a few hundred bucks for the modification, but I see people paying thousands of dollars for a custom 1911 that will shoot a 1-inch group instead of two at 25 yards. Why not pay a few hundred bucks for a gun no one but you can make go off? By the way, if you do that modification on a K-frame Smith & Wesson it will shoot under two inches at 25 yards. All things considered, I think the Magna-Trigger is very useful for a special-purpose handgun.
eJournal: Before we wandered into bigger guns and options to make off-body carry safer, we started to talk about carrying very small guns. When we start shrinking guns, at what point is it too small, and the caliber too large for such small guns?
Ayoob: Many of the small guns “hit above their weight class” in terms of shootability. That applies to the Sig Sauer P938, the Springfield EMP, and certainly applies to the baby Glocks. If you are comfortable with the thickness, the Glock Models 26 and 27 introduced in 1996 are amazingly shootable. For about five years now the only 9 mm that I take to a Glock match is my Model 26. I shoot about the same scores with my Model 26 that I do with a 17 or a 19 and have won guns shooting it against Glock 17s in the stock events. That is one or two fewer guns that I have to take to the match, and by the time I get to the subcompact match, I am really warmed up.
I like how the Model 26’s backstrap–with that sharp curve at the bottom–is shaped differently than any other Glock. In my hand, it seems to lock it into my palm. I love that gun! Now, the other thing I’ve found is that the baby Glocks in 9, .40 and .45 group better than their full-sized counterparts off the bench in slow fire. I think there are several reasons: the shorter barrel is relatively thicker, and the double recoil spring tends to guarantee that the gun stays in battery until the bullet has left the muzzle when it unlocks, so you do not get that small element of deviation.
eJournal: What’s the practical limit on how large of a caliber for a super-compact?
Ayoob: I draw the line at the really small .45s. The Glock 30 is an excellent pistol, but although it’s called a subcompact, it is really the same size as compacts from other brands and has a virtually identical footprint to a Glock 19.
eJournal: Absent in all of this discussion has been any mention of derringers [Ayoob makes a cross of his fingers and hisses] so while that is not a compromise either you or I would believe necessary, it raises concern about what is an acceptable ammunition capacity? I couldn’t begin to estimate how many people carry five-shot revolvers. Does that market dominance speak to the sufficiency of the five shot?
Ayoob: Ed Lovette in his classic book on snubbies said the five shot snub-nosed .38 is the derringer of our time. The snubby is a good example of what Bill Aguiar–an outlaw martial artist of the 70s–meant when he coined the phrase, “the gun you carry when you are not carrying a gun” although, he carried a Colt or a Browning .25 auto.
eJournal: With extremely small hideout-style guns generally chambered in .22 or .25, we have to ask sincerely if that caliber is sufficient to stop a dedicated attacker?
Ayoob: I draw the line at .38 Special. The .380’s are coming out with better loads every year, But frankly when I am testing the carry qualities of a .380 ACP for an article, I carry it as another backup to my .38 back up. That’s where I have drawn my personal line, but a lot of people carry a .380, particularly very recoil-sensitive people, like we old farts with really bad arthritis. The Glock 42 .380 is as close to recoilless as you are going to get and still have a round that is going to do something. It is not what I would want, but it still beats a .45 left at home in the night table drawer.
I have seen so many cases and studies showing that the majority of defensive gun uses end when the good guy pulls a gun on the bad guy. When someone tells me, “Well, they won’t be scared of a .25, but they will be scared of a 12 gauge,” I have to say that the single most terrified response I ever saw from anybody I pointed a gun at was when I only had a 2-inch .38. He believed I was about to kill him, and he started bleating like a sheep.
In contrast, there was a guy I thought I was about to have to kill who stared down the barrel of a 12 gauge because with his two-digit IQ, he thought that since he had hidden his gun in his car, police couldn’t shoot him. Right at the end, he realized that was a terrible mistake and I let the pressure off of the trigger of the Ithaca Model 37 on which I was taking up the slack.
Understand that they are not scared of the gun, they are scared of the resolutely armed man or woman pointing a gun at them. So, first, have a gun. Have a gun you know is reliable and will work. Have a gun with which you are confident you can hit what you are aiming at. That does not mean hit a six-foot tall man; it means hit a fist sized heart. Have a gun you can keep hitting with from when the stimulus starts until it’s over. Only after that, will it matter whether it was a .45 or a 9 mm.
eJournal: Let’s switch topics, if I may, and talk about carrying a reload. With all the discussions we’ve had about five shot revolvers, ammunition capacity is the elephant in the room. Even with a semi-automatic like a Glock 30, should I try to find a spot for that fat double stack magazine?
Ayoob: I always carry at least one spare magazine because the concerns are not just firepower. The gun is emergency lifesaving equipment, so I have to be able to keep it up and running. Most of the malfunctions that occur with an auto pistol are ammo or magazine related. If I need a fresh battery to make a device work, it would really help if I have a new battery to put in it.
With the backup J-frame, I always carry a five-shot Speed Strip in the cargo pocket and Speed Strips also slide very well into the watch pocket of a pair of jeans. Most men’s sportscoats and suitcoats will have a little business card pocket sewn inside another pocket, usually on the right side, that’s just the right size for a Speed Strip.
The cell phone pocket on cargo shorts and pants is exactly the right size for the Comp 3 sized speed loader and using it is faster than hell. The finger tips grasp the top of that tall loader, and it comes right out into the hand very quickly, and anybody who sees a lump in that pocket assumes it is a cell phone.
eJournal: There’s another trend when the weather gets really hot and sticky–at least in climates with four distinct seasons. We carry full-sized guns from about October through April and then we switch out for hot weather and now someone who may have been carrying a 5-inch cocked and locked .45 switches to a small revolver or other gun with an entirely different manual of arms. Does this raise any serious concerns?
Ayoob: The analogy I give is this: if your family had several cars and one had the stick shift on the floor, one had the new Chrysler dial on the dashboard and one had the gear shift on the steering column, you could drive any of them. You do not panic and stay trapped in the driveway. You figure out which one you’re sitting in. It is kind of the same with the guns. The more you shoot with both, I think the more you will be competent with both. Obviously, make sure if you own any semi-autos at all that you do not get into the habit of the thumb cross over grip with your revolver, because on the first shot with your auto, not only will you cut your thumb, you will jam your pistol, too. Because of that, I use a thumb down grip on every gun.
Think about this, too: you have a wardrobe of clothes for different seasons. You can also have a wardrobe of guns. When the police department I served with went to the Gen 3 Smith & Wesson auto in 1988, I committed whole hog. As soon as they came out, I got a Model 3913 9 mm that I carried in the real hot summer, and then I got a model 4013 light weight that I carried spring and fall, and I carried the full-size, boat anchor 4506 in the winter. The different sizes adapted to my clothing, and the manual of arms and the round count was exactly the same between the three pistols.
eJournal: We could certainly do that today, although the decocker Smith & Wesson autos are not as prominent as they were in ’88, so we are probably looking at different models.
Ayoob: Exactly. With the 1911s and with most of the striker fired pistols there is a wardrobe of different sized guns available now.
eJournal: Although many of us have more guns than we can realistically carry regularly, how important do you think it is that we carry only similarly-operating guns?
Ayoob: There are two ends to the bell curve. If you hardly ever practice, every gun you have should probably work the same because you will not have built up enough reps to have automaticity for more than one. If you are absolutely dedicated to maximum performance with, say, your department-issued gun–the one you are most likely to need 40 hours a week–make sure the other guns work the same way. The same would be true if you are gunning for the national championships with your 1911 pistol. If you’re doing that, every pistol you carry should be the 1911 type, because all those reps work and 1911s are available in any size and caliber range and that will suit a four-season wardrobe.
eJournal: You’ve given us a lot of good ideas in this conversation and quite a variety of options to fit in various budgets, various lifestyles, and various skill levels. This has gone in some directions I didn’t expect, and that was fun, too. I wonder, as we wrap up this topic, what questions did I fail to ask you?
Ayoob: The key thing, as expressed in the classic statement by Mark Moritz, is, “The first rule of gunfighting is to always have a gun.” Good choices exist. The wardrobe is not that difficult to adapt. If looking like you just stepped off the cover of this months’ Gentleman’s Quarterly magazine or your physical comfort is more important to you than being able to save your family’s life or preserve your own life so you can return to your family, that is your decision. You make your decision. I have made mine.
Network Advisory Board member Massad Ayoob is author of Deadly Force: Understanding Your Right to Self Defense which is distributed in the member education package for all Network members. He has additionally authored several dozen books and hundreds of articles on firearms, self defense and related topics. Of these, Massad has authored multiple editions of Gun Digest’s Book of Concealed Carry.
Since 1979, he has received judicial recognition as an expert witness for the courts in weapons and shooting cases, and was a fully sworn and empowered, part time police officer for over forty years at ranks from patrolman through captain. Ayoob founded the Lethal Force Institute in 1981 and served as its director until 2009, and now trains through Massad Ayoob Group. Learn more at https://massadayoobgroup.com or read his blog at https://backwoodshome.com/blogs/MassadAyoob/.
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