Saturday, March 19, 2011

In Defense of SERPA

I'm going to just come right out and say it... BLACKHAWK! has the dumbest name in the gun marketing universe. Yes, worse than "Judge" and "Hi Point." It breaks all normal conventions of polite conversation by forcing us to scream its name instead of speaking it in a reasonable tone.

warning, I'm going to use a little foul language here... but it's cool, because we're all OPERATORS! right?

To those of us who don't play in sandboxes, kick down doors, or have a little SWAT pin above our nameplates, the logo screams I'M TACTICOOL!, I'M AN INTERNET TRAINED DOUCHE! - even when the equipment works as advertised and holds up to the worst daily punishment any of us are likely to dish out. That being said, I know countless LE folks and training professionals who swear by the brand, if for one item alone - the SERPA retention holster. Thank God their logo isn't splashed across the equipment.

So... why all this rampaging hate against their effective, simple, and intuitive locking mechanism? Well, if you have ever read a gun blog, you'll have invariably run across the "expert" who hates SERPAs because you have to risk jamming your finger into the trigger just to get the gun out of the holster. To which, I decry in my most Penn and Teller voice...

(see what I did there?)

The SERPA holster is designed to provide automatic release with pressure from a properly-indexed trigger finger. Just about every instructor on planet earth will teach you to index your trigger finger along the side of the holster in exactly the same position it would ride the side of the frame if you were pressed out. HOLY CRAP! (I did it again!) That just happens to be exactly where they place the "button" which disengages the internal locking bits and releases the handgun.

Now... I understand why people are upset, but it has nothing to do with the hardware on the belt and everything to do with the squishware between the ears. We see a button and we want to stab it. Push it. Head straight for it with reckless abandon and keep on driving forward until we've killed it, ran it onto a stick, and held it over a fire until golden brown an delicious. This, friends, is not the SERPA way. It's meant to be intuitive and work with "muscle memory" (which has nothing to do with muscles) in conjunction with proper training.

A HA! That's the crux - Proper Training. If you've learned to draw a gun from a holster on YouTube and somehow fail to grasp the value in dry-fire practice, the SERPA is not for you. In fact, REAL GUNS aren't for you. I'm sorry... yes, it's a right, it's a freedom, but until you get over the fact that you don't know everything about guns and there is a right and a wrong way to handle them you should either seek professional training from a qualified instructor (shameful plug for ME!) or find a less dangerous hobby, like skydiving without a parachute.

I think back to one student who kept complaining about her SERPA and how she kept going into the trigger with it. No amount of "just index your trigger finger, don't think about "pushing" anything" would help. The problem was the gear... had to be the gear. Couldn't have possibly been the shooter. Nope. I advised her to buy a different holster and, sadly, there appear to be thousands of Internet Gun Experts out there who feel exactly the same way.

While conversing with another industry pro with decades of experience, we got onto the subject of SERPAs and how a couple big schools have run into that perfect storm of untrainable new shooter spending big bucks for the high-speed guys to teach them how to become gun ninja and the SERPA holster leading to a perforated student. Again... the cause is NOT the holster but the operator (small "o").

We preach gross motor skills (it's a slide "stop," not a slide "release, damnit!) in training, and the SERPA is designed with that in mind. If you train to index your trigger finger to the frame, you will almost always get a solid release and speedy presentation from a SERPA. Fail to apply pressure against the frame (and, by extension, the holster), and the gun simply won't come out.

Punch it straight in - a fine motor skill and a stupid extra step you don't need - and you will almost certainly aim your booger hook directly at the bang switch on your draw. However, I have to say it again - that's not a problem with the HARDWARE! It's a result of poor training and, as any of us who've taught or carried (or both) guns for a living have experienced, lack of training, poor training, or shitty information (worst of all) will eventually get you hurt.

So... to recap... there's nothing wrong with the SERPA system if it's used properly. If you insist on using it in a manner completely opposite from how it's designed, you put yourself in very serious risk and would likely be best served by a lifestyle fraught with the perils of TV dinners and Jeopardy re-runs. I'm sorry to come off harsh, but the same mindset that finds SERPA holsters inherently dangerous is the same mindset that insists Glocks have no safety, paddle holsters are the shit, and carrying a 1911 with one in the pipe will get you killed.

I LOVE! Glocks and wouldn't hesitate to carry another, I DESPISE! the combination of paddle holster + active retention device in any form, and am patiently SAVING! pennies for my next 1911, which will almost surely live in Condition 1 when it goes on my belt. But that's just ME!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Wish List

We all have one.

That list of guns we not only want, but that we somehow MUST bring home. Morally imperative acquisitions, critically important purchases, the guns we cannot live without and continue to function as sane human beings.

For me... that list is relatively short, and necessarily so. Even though Mrs. Normal is a hell of a shooter and enjoys the sport, I do want to continue to remain happily married and continue to expand our collection. Today, I think I've whittled my wish (more like need) list down to the following:

1. Glock 34
2. Remington 870
3. Colt Combat Elite

Why? In case it's not obvious...

Glock 34 - Competition Run & Gun Perfection

Simply put, I miss my G34 almost as much as I miss the temperamental 1911 that got me into handgun shooting and sent me face first down the firearms rabbit hole. It's simple, fast, accurate and rock-solid reliable. It's the standard for USPSA Production and IDPA SSP for a damn good reason - in the words of a former instructor, it's "the box that rocks." I've owned the 26, 19, 17, and 34 at one point or another and cannot wait to strap my 34 holster on again and step into the start box. I have a feeling I'm going to have one of those evil-grin "oh yeah" moments...

Remington 870 - Fun, Home Protection, and "Hell Yeah!"

There are a few firearms I think everyone should own - hell, the government should simply ISSUE to us... The Ruger 10/22, the Glock 17, and a Remington 870. For about $300, it's nearly fallen into the realm of "I don't need to ask for permission..." spending more than once and I can't believe I don't have one living under the bed already. There's just something heartwarming about running the action of an 870 - instantly familiar, insanely simple, and utterly reliable in the hands of any mortal. And, once you have the base gun at home, simple to build into exactly the shotty you want. The first time I ran a handful of slugs through an 870, my mind had been made up -- I simply HAVE to get me one of those.

Colt XSE Combat Elite
This one's a little less obvious... sorta.

My first steps into the universe of serious handgun shooting didn't come through buying a Glock, Springfield, Ruger, or Taurus but a bare-bones 1911 from the folks at Kimber and those who know me well know the love-hate-love relationship I had with that pistol.

While Kimber produces thousands of perfectly functional guns for every unit that simply refuses to run, I was one of the "lucky" few to have bought a factory-fresh lemon. After its first 10-week spa vacation in Yonkers, the gun came home WORSE than when it went out and the internals look like they'd been polished by a stoned vo-tech freshman. After its second trip back - this time directly to the Custom Shop - the weirdest thing happened... the damn gun actually ran. Over 99% reliable... right up to the day I had to sell it. She'd gone from my daily-carry weapon as a range officer and instructor to 2/3 of a mortgage payment and, while I can't believe I ever would have felt this way, I miss it more than anything else I had to sell. Glocks have come and gone, but I actually regret selling my first pistol - my first 1911.

I don't just want another... I NEED another 1911, and I've been trying to find a way to bring one home at some point this year. Given the dozens of manufacturers producing hundreds of variations on the 1911 platform, I find myself drawn to what I think typifies the heart and soul of the modern 1911 -- the Combat Elite from Colt.

I'm no purist and have no problem with integrated light rails on 1911s but something about the Combat Elite just looks and feels right. With its reputation for running with near-flawless reliability out of the box, 100-year pedigree, and integration of features which define the modern 1911, the XSE Combat Elite puts everything I want in a production gun within reach... all I need to do now is save every spare penny, quarter, and $20 I can hide from my prettier half until I've got enough to bring home what I've been missing most of all. It's one thing to own a collection of Glocks, XDs, or M&Ps - and I have. What I'm missing, really missing, is that one handgun that bears the weight of heritage and history. That gun I'll own as an old man; that one gun my son or daughter one day will ask for and I'll be able to say, with a grin, "the day you can have it, you won't want it."