The Comfort of Skill at Arms (or "Why to Carry your Firearm Daily")
By Jeff Knox
Dr. Ignatius Piazza, founder of Front Sight Firearms Training Institute, is fond of talking about "the comfort of skill at arms." It's not only a part of his sales pitch, it's also an integral part of the overall philosophy taught at the school. It is an important concept because having full confidence in your own ability to handle almost any serious encounter that might arise is a very comfortable feeling.
Of course that comfort must never be allowed to slip into complacency or cockiness and that too is emphasized in Front Sight training. The comfort of skill at arms removes anxiety and makes the world a much more inviting, less threatening place. There is a downside to the comfort of skill at arms though and that is the intensified discomfort of being disarmed.
I have carried a gun on an irregular basis over the past 25 years, I think I was like most concealed carry permit holders in that I didn't carry all of the time, just those times when I was stretching my comfort zone a little: Road trips, visits to unfamiliar areas, walks in the wilderness or the wilds of an urban setting. It wasn't so much that I was carrying only when I expected I might need it, but more that I didn't carry in situations where I was comfortably confident that I would not need it. It has only been in the past few years that I began carrying virtually all of the time. Again, this was not due to a fear that something might happen, but rather as a way to increase my comfort and familiarity with the gun on my hip. I realized that if I was carrying only when I was "uncomfortable," that meant that in that uncomfortable situation I had the added discomfort of a gun behind my belt that was not as comfortable as it should be.
Widely accepted training doctrine holds that in a serious, life-threatening encounter you can expect to function at about 50% of the skill level you demonstrated in your most recent practice session (assuming frequent practice sessions.) Think about how that 50% skill degradation is impacted by different clothing, different physical positions, and not having the luxury of adjusting your holster position right before the draw. You need to know exactly where your gun is riding so you can get a good grip leading into a smooth draw from any position. The gun on your belt should be as normal to you as the billfold or keys in your pocket and the only way to achieve that level of comfort is to make carry your regular routine – a habit.
Once I began carrying all of the time, I discovered a number of things I had not realized before. I became much more familiar with ways that my gun tends to shift and ride differently with different belts and different pants. I developed subtle ways of checking and adjusting the position of the gun with my elbow and realized that I needed more practice with a wider variety of concealment garments. I also became much more aware of the many roadblocks thrown up by hoplophobic politicians to discourage citizen carry. I found that, even in gun-friendly Virginia, it is impossible to obey the law all of the time and still retain a reasonable level of basic safety, not to mention security.
It's outrageous that politicians who have never handled guns dictate where I may and where I must not carry a gun and that they do so with no consideration of what happens to the gun while I am not carrying it, much less the inherent dangers of handling a loaded gun in public and in some cases having to unload it in order to remain in compliance with their ignorant rules.
After all of the work and concentration developing the comfort of skill at arms, it is decidedly uncomfortable to be disarmed. I don't carry a gun because I'm looking for trouble. Because I carry a gun I keep a more wary eye out for trouble so I can better avoid it. I don't carry a gun because I am fearful. What do I have to be afraid of, I've got a gun. I don't carry a gun as my first response to trouble. I carry it as a last resort. The real discomfort is knowing that in a worst-case situation when lives are in danger, if I have been disarmed, it is more likely that whatever remains as my last resort might not be good enough to effectively protect my family. That is a very discomforting feeling.
Permission to reprint or post this article in its entirety is hereby granted provided this credit is included. Text is available at www.FirearmsCoalition.org.