Saturday, March 01, 2014

Michael Gets Taken to the Woodshed!

After my podcast talking about what  termed the "mythology" of the "shoot-me-first" vest and fanny pack, I got a great note from Rob Garrett, longtime writer for Harris Publications and longtime LEO and trainer, quite appropriately taking me to the woodshed over my comments:
I listened to your podcast with interest when you discussed the "shoot me first vest" and the "fanny packs." I have been one of those who preached against both in general terms to both LE and civilian students. 
I would like to make the following observations: Rule number one of concealed carry is to not do anything that would draw attention. That includes being noticed by the bad guys and, for the armed citizen, by L.E. (Even if you are legally carrying) In the great majority of urban environments, a photo/journalists vest and/or fanny pack do draw attention. (The exception is if you have several thousand dollars with of Nikon hanging around your neck). 
Other sport and hunting vests do not stand out like a Banana Republic vest. I wear a Drake vest often but it blends in with my environment. This follows along with what we teach to our officers about wearing police related clothing when they are draws attention and makes them a potential target. The next time any of us goes to a movie, out to dinner, or to a shopping mall, survey the public we come in contact with and see how many multi-pocket vest and fanny bags we see. If the answer is none or very few, I would suggest not using either.  
We study bad guys M.O. and bad guys study cops. They study how to ID the narcs, how to do a gun grab on a security holster, and to shoot us in the neck to defeat our body armor. They know what undercover cars we use and often listen to our radios via the internet. 
I agree with you that I want to maintain any advantage I can if a situation goes south. It is not a question of how many people have been "shot" because of a vest or fanny pack. It is a matter of tactics for your environment. I am glad that open carry is legal in most states. However, I do not advocate open carry in public for the same reasons as above. 
We still lock our doors even when there has never been any violent crime in our neighborhood. We all carry a reload even though we have never been in a gunfight and the statistics show reloads are few and far between. I especially liked the comments about training outside of your comfort zone...great thoughts that need to be shared more...
And a follow-up:
I neglected to mention in my email where the term "shoot me first vest" originally came from. It did not come from the IDPA community or any shooting affiliation. It was originally coined by those working protective details and wearing a photo journalist vest. While the vest was intended to concealed firearm, it resulted in those working the detail standing out and it became obvious who the protectors were. They, the agents wearing the vest, coined the term shoot me first vest. The manner in which they stood out while wearing the vest insured they were immediately identified as armed security for the protecting. 
 Just a little more history. I actually first heard the term from (a) United States Secret Service agent many, many years ago. It is has since be coined by the general shooting community without understanding for context of its origination...
Of course, Rob is right. Rule One is not to stand out. I've been very lucky to live in the Rocky Mountain West, where half the people are in costume all the times, a quarter are hippies pining for Jerry Garcia's long delayed return and the other quarter are more or less cowboys, slightly worn. It slants my view of the world. I own one suit...I haven't worn it in 3 years.

Thanks, Rob, for the course correction...


Anonymous said...


The cowboys and hippies make sense but the 'costume' needs some context. Suit and tie? Tactical drag? Shorts and t shirt (this winter NOT!)


Ron Larimer said...

Whatever my position is in the CCW community I try to model what I'd want others to do.

I shot my 1st year from an inside the waistband holster and using an untucked shirt (even had an RO seriously ask if I forgot my gun)... I always use my carry gun... and my cover garments are either a marmot vest or north face jacket depending on the weather.

I doubt most would notice an open carried gun, much less a vest... but buying a popular one can't hurt.

Anonymous said...

vests, tac pants, the merrill Delta or SEAL boots, all that stuff is for guys who WANT to be thought Tommy Tactical. It's a vanity thing, not a survival thing; basically kids pretending they're in a movie. If you dress for survival, NOTHING says "I'm cool, I'm tactical." Your first enemy is your own ego. If you can't defeat it, you'll never defeat anybody. I think MB's first instinct was correct on this issue

Trevor Shepherd said...

I don't know the man you quoted. Maybe he is a wise sage who knows all and is always right. Maybe because you know and respect him, his words mean more to you than they can to me. But with all due respect to him and to you, I think that all he did was to more eloquently and emphatically state the "don't wear shoot me first vests or carry a gun in a fanny pack" line that you so eloquently dispelled in your Podcast. In other words, to me, nothing changes with this man's words.

I am a civilian living in an East Coast state with legal open carry. I hold a license to carry firearms in my state. I agree with you that the real benefit to us of legal open carry is that we don't have to worry about the brandishing baloney. I never open carry, not even when out hiking in the woods. I do use a belt pack (replaced the "belt loops" on an Uncle Mike's pack with actual belt clips from a knife kits site, and use that on my belt when wearing shorts in the summer). I do use a Bass Pro Shops Redhead vest (recommended by Ralph Mroz ) when we have temps between about 50 and 75 degrees.

While "do not stand out" makes sense on the surface, one needs to be careful not to take it so far that it starts to become Moses' Law unto itself and complicates needlessly one's method of concealed carry to the point that one decides to just leave the gun at home. I for one do not give a rat's ass if another concealed carry permit holder "knows" that I am concealed carrying too since I've got a vest or a fanny pack. Who cares? And in terms of the cops knowing, again, who really cares what the cops know if I am following the law and within my rights? I have been around cops at accident scenes near my house while wearing my belt pack, and they've never said a word about it (my intersection has a lot of accidents -- I'm not in EMS). I've even worn the belt pack while spending the day in gun-paranoid NJ, (I used it to carry a pocket camera and pens, paper, etc -- no guns) and not a single time did a cop come over and try to investigate my "gun pack". As for criminals seeing the vest or the belt pack and "knowing", again, so what? Either that deters them, and if so that is great, or it emboldens them or factors into their planning in terms of needing to shoot me first during their crime, but as you said, where are all the news stories and criminal confessions in interviews about how they saw the guy with the vest and knew they had to shoot him first??? There is a big difference between standing just inside a bank wearing a security guard's "shoot me first" uniform and me walking around town in a vest or with a belt pack.

So, as I said, you might feel like you've been taken to the woodshed, but I sure don't feel that way. Nothing's changed by this man's email to you.

nj larry said...

The reverse is also true. Last year I walked into a gunshow with a 3k Nikon camera over my shoulder. I got grilled by the cop at the door LOL. This moron didn't ask if I was carrying a gun. Nor did he realize everyone with a cell phone has a camera on them. But I guess this is what our tax dollars trained this knuckle dragger to do.

Moosejaw said...

living here in the wilds of Long Island NY, I have worn a tac type vest for quite a few years.
As the county that issued my limited carry permit only allows me to carry to the range and to, from and while hunting, I rarely do, here on the Island.
due to the way the law is written when I am upstate at and around the vicinity of my hunting camp I can carry all the time so going to the stores or for breakfast at a diner up there I am perfectly legal to carry (as the home base for my handgun(s) is 300 miles away I must be able to prevent a licensed weapon from being stolen so carry is not only recommended it is pretty much required)

back to the vest...anyone who ever watched the big bang theory might remember a character called Captain Sweatpants. Well that could be me. due to back problems, a lack of a substantial Gluteus Maximus to hold my pants up and comfort I wear sweats more than not(tight belts hurt). One cannot keep wallets, keys, iPhones etc in these sweatpants.

I own both summer and winter tac vests and keep all my 'stuff' in them. the only time I was 'profiled' was 2 years ago when at Yankee Stadium, an obviously plain clothes cop or guard followed me around and sat next to me and kept trying to get information from me. He finally figured out that I was either unarmed or harmless and disappeared by the 5 inning or so.

my wife thought it strange this guy, following me around. I explained it was because of the vest, but she didn't understand.

anyway I am not going to stop wearing my tac vest. and when I am up around my hunting lands, I might have my Colt Mustang or Ruger LCP in it, in a pocket holster....

Anonymous said...

Great discussion! I had to chuckle about the critic who didn't like Michael's vest. If I saw Michael wearing a vest in public, along with his tattoo and ear ring, I wouldn't think CCW, I'd think "old hippie"!. A perfect cover image!

Living in Southern California, I get to wear cargo shorts and a Hawaiian shirt while not at work; perfectly benign concealed wear. But if I travel as little as 30 miles inland to horse country, I'd stand out.

So those of us who do carry have a duty to "fit in" wherever we go.

I love my 5.11 trousers for comfort and all those pockets, but I don't wear them in OD green or ninja black when I'm not working. But khaki colored 5.11s fit in just about everywhere.

I don't wear a tactical belt with my 5.11s outside of work, either. A nice worn leather belt sends a practicle message to bad guys, not a tactical message.

And finally, I have to chuckle when I see guys carrying a molle equipped day pack and wearing a baseball hat with some sort of gun patch on front. Really, what message are you sending Mr. Tough Guy?

Shoot me first?

So my advice as a certified old fart copper who has carried off duty for a long time? "Match the hatch" as they say in the fly fishing biz. Look around, what are others wearing? Try to tone it down and fit in. Tactical belts and mole gear are OK for the range or "working", but they telegraph a message to bad guys and to TSA. :-)

And speaking of the air travel, once upon a time attended an IACP convention and there was an alphabet agency who offered to laminate your business card back to back with their logo, making a very cool luggage ID tag. Oh lord I was so proud of that luggage tag until it started attracting the attention of airline check in clerks and TSA agents. I started to get the "Are you sure you don't have any undeclared weapons?" treatment which slowed down my boarding process and attracted unwanted attention. For a couple of years I had the dreaded checkerboard pattern printed on my boarding pass, guaranteeing me the extra love of secondary inspection.

Those sexy luggage tags now sit in my junk drawer at home, banished because they made me stand out.

So my advice for those of you who legally CCW? Look around. Fit in. Don't wear stuff that IDs you as a conceled carry geek. Lose the Ruger baseball hat. Be cool.

Brigid said...

Off topic - but just a note to say thanks Michael, for dropping me a line about the loss of the best retriever ever, Barkley, last Monday. It meant a lot to me. Best to you always,

DamDoc said...

Vest or fanny pack? I have to say, when i see a slightly puggy, middle aged man (i fit that bill too) with an untucked hawaiian shirt, i think ccw... I think there are all kinds of potential "give aways"... if you wear a vest, hook a couple dry flies on the pocket, and use a fanny pack with some bicycle insignia patch on it, and no one will be the wiser.. I think this is one of those issues we overthink sometiimes... i have yet to be shot at or even looked at funny (except by teen aged girls when i have the fanny pack on)...

Michael Bane said...

My fanny pack has a Grateful Dead patch on it...


Flash Powder Hal said...

As a photographer of 30+ years, who always wears "vest", the only notice I get is folks asking me, "How's the fishing?" Even when the cameras are put away. I've been CCW'ing that same time frame, never been questioned by LE or SHOT by any BG's.
I wear what's comfortable/conceals well and don't listen to False Prophets.

Awtha said...

good podcast again mb - vests, fanny packs etc seems to me all to be worn in the context of where & what you are doing, no? When at a touristy place the "shoot me 1st" vest fits right in. not so much a church house. . . break out a jacket. grocery store? who cares, just another weird old guy! regarding the comments on not needing to know HOW to fight \ defend yourself - there are PLENTY of place we go where we cant be armed with anything. my "plans" are not to use any of the things you show me but yes, I want to know. I dont need a cane but if I'm going to go to DC or the northeast it's coming with me!

clark myers said...

As mentioned several times - context matters as much as anything.

I can button a piece of hide-on fleece to a vest with flies for conversation starter - more visible than just the flies mentioned - and hang anything from a first aid patch to a bicycle patch kit on a belted carrier. I wear a shoot me first vest most of the time because I like the pockets - including a Mini-Maglite in each breast pocket for easy access to either hand - I prefer Surefire for light but Mag-lites for Kubotans.

The point of carrying is not to let the pistol take me someplace I wouldn't go without it. The point is to be prepared including escalation of force so less lethal supplies including sprays and impact tools as well as some handy first aid supplies go with the gun(s) - the belt pack with a red cross on it just might have clotting factor and CAT in it after all.

I'd love an alternative to a vest for carry - suggestions?

George said...

I would like to see the evidence from a credible source I can independently verify that bad guys know if you are wearing a vest you are their first target.

Too many of these type of discussion start with a false or questionable assumption that the bad guys know what you know to be true.

And the other question I would like to posit is this: If you knew I was armed, and you were intent on doing bad things, why would you want to take your chances against me? There is a very significant chance your first shot will miss and then your element of surprise is gone. Then what? You very well might be the one being carried out in a body bag.

And my answer to the number of chimps that can dance on the head of a pin is 42... LOL!

Michael Bane said...

"42" answers so many fact, the ultimate question!



Anonymous said...

I've thought about and heard this often enough - but I always wear a vest when I'm traveling - and carrying.

A vest is just too handy to keep those reading glasses in, keys, wallet sometimes, phone, digital camera, and other odds and ends. Mine happens to be a photography vest - and even has the website logo on it. I get asked a lot about photography (I sometimes even carry my thousands of dollars of Canon equipment around my neck - and that special something else...)

Around home, untucked shirt and IWB. But on vacation - l use the vest, and will probably continue to do so. With or without the camera. But it usually has so much other crap in pockets and hanging out - no one ever asks, and I've been by lots of LE - and no one asked or cared.

Ron Larimer said...

Lol so everyone thinks its your stash... after all you are from Colorado.

Sigivald said...

NJ LArry Said: The reverse is also true. Last year I walked into a gunshow with a 3k Nikon camera over my shoulder. I got grilled by the cop at the door LOL. This moron didn't ask if I was carrying a gun. Nor did he realize everyone with a cell phone has a camera on them. But I guess this is what our tax dollars trained this knuckle dragger to do.

More likely that's what your gun show ticket paid him to do, because "no photography without permission" is standard policy at gun shows*, ain't it?

That cop was most likely off duty and getting paid to be a security guard - and his employer calls the shots on policy.

Private property, private event, private rules.

(* From the website of the group running the big show out here in Portland: No audio/visual equipment allowed without permission of show management. Collectors West reserves the right to all audio/visual reproductive equipment used in or around its show property.

"$3K Nikon" says "possibly annoying journalist" or "guy who wants to make a photo book, who we should negotiate rights with" more than "cell phone that happens to have a camera".)

Zendo Deb said...

I started wearing a fanny pack long before I had a CCW license. I lived on a boat, and after I dropped the 2nd purse overboard - even though it was in only 10 feet or so water next to the dock - I had enough. (2 phones, 1 camera, photos, all needed replacing.)

After 10 years, I hate to give them up. I never leave it hanging on the back of a chair at a restaurant or coffee shop or wherever. And I haven't dropped them in the water at nearly the same rate. (One did go into the drink and took my then-carry gun with it. Salt water and steel don't mix.) Still, I upgraded to a better fanny pack - and a better carry gun - and have been happy ever since.