The questions many people ask: “Should you rotate among more than one self-defense concealed carry gun?” Before we get into this article, I ask you to be open-minded about considerations for the rotation decision.
All deadly force self-defense situations are extremely stressful and challenging for all involved. We know that the instantaneous and intuitive drawing, manipulation, presentation, and operation of your pistol are very important factors in surviving defensive encounters when carrying concealed. And the practice of fundamental skills is very much related to that success. But that practice must be based on the correct ways to perform the actions, so you do not ingrain the incorrect skills which are to be repeated. Sadly, sometimes we do not have the depth and breadth of knowledge and experiences of a particular skill for it to be the best model for our practices and the rotation decision. Making the decision to rotate your concealed carry gun is a very important personal decision and your existing skill knowledge is just one factor to consider. Some have already decided for everyone of all skill levels, training, and experiences that all should not OR should rotate carry guns. I want to offer my thoughts, considerations, and opinions about this very personal decision.
Muscle Memory and How Many Repetitions?
There is inexact science and conclusions about “muscle memory.” Sensory and physical distortions, tunnel vision, and reflexive mental, physical, and behavioral responses usually occur, especially in a deadly-force encounter. Muscle memory or a type of motor learning happens in the brain usually based on previous repetitive actions and behaviors in handgun training, repeated practice, and actual experiences. Movement becomes second nature based on many identical actions and/or behaviors for skill development over a given time period.
Some say that those repetitive actions for muscle memory should take place over a shorter but continuous time period to yield the best results. Estimates span from about 5,000 to 10,000 repetitions of the exact same action are usually necessary for the muscle to grow and exhibit helpful results. So, carriers and shooters have a big challenge over some time to continuously repeat actions they want to be developed. And some scientists say that those repeated actions and/or behaviors must be continuously practiced over any given time period to be successful, not stopping for a while then resuming practice. But, sadly, individuals may not have had adequate training and in-depth experiences (or even recent reinforcing experiences) to prepare them for a full range of different skills, fundamentals, scenarios, situations, and possible responses. This compounds the stress in an attack situation, as well as for the decision.
What is the Frequency of Repetitions for Optimal Muscle Memory?
So, do you repeat one action for 500 times in 1 week or 1 month or over 20 years for it to be an effective ingrained movement? What is the desired frequency for the best muscle memory results? And do those repetitions have to be continuously performed, not intermittently, to be effective and for at least 5 consecutive years… or over 15 years? What is “continuous?” Or can you take a few months off from performing the repeated actions and they will still be ingrained? Well, this is where the complexity occurs.
A Complex Process and Some Scientific Research Conclusions
We all learn at different rates and have different skill levels to start with, so this is a complex, longitudinal, continuous, uncertain process and not as simple as some believe, especially those that say NEVER rotate your guns or ALWAYS rotate your guns. Say, how many times have you signed your name one specific way and how long did it take you to learn that? The same about learning other skills, like riding a bike, playing a musical instrument, or dancing the Rhumba. How long did it take you to pick up calculating the square root of something without a calculator? And once you have the repetitive skill down, do you stop practicing it or practice less, maybe only 4 or 5 times a year? Do you lose it if you don’t practice it “regularly?”
Dr. Krakauer in his 2006 Columbia University research studies concludes that some have different brain temporal and frontal lobes and hippocampi, so muscle memory development may be impaired for some and take a longer time period… or maybe a skill may sometimes never be mastered. Can you develop muscle memory through action observation ONLY and not by physically performing it, as Celnik and Classen believe from their 2005 research conclusions as detailed in the Journal of Neuroscience? See what I mean… a lot of factors involved and it depends.
POINT: Building an intuitive muscle memory response, through regular practicing and training, will help most individuals to quickly respond, apply shooting fundamentals, and shoot accurately by enhancing their confidence in operating and using their defensive handgun. But, it is a complex, very personal process with many individual variables to consider.
Here are just a few of the stressful and influencing factors defenders have to think about and consider in a self-defense attack.
- Deadly force encounters have many changing, unique, and different variables defenders may not have anticipated. These uncertainties inherently induce stress for those involved.
- Instantaneous observations by defenders are very necessary and important, like:
- how many attackers are there;
- what weapons are they using;
- at what distance are they away;
- is an attack imminent; and
- what is the best tactic to use in this specific situation.
- Increased heart rate, more adrenaline, and several physiological and physical changes cause a loss of fine motor control, auditory exclusion, and many other side effects.
Naturally, all of these uncertainties, quickly-occurring events, and mandatory key observations in changing life-and-death situations further increase the stress for those involved. But the one constant that exists is the importance of your own concealed carry gun in relating to different situations and their many variables, your familiarity with operating the gun, accuracy, and reliability, and how well you can apply the necessary skills to resolve the deadly-force encounter under stress. Consider that you may need more than one type of gun to carry, given the many variables and uncertainties.
Well, suppose you have four quality handguns that you can shoot and handle equally very well. You have practiced regularly with all four of them, can draw them all from concealment very well, and are equally very accurate with them, as demonstrated by several of your successful competitive shooting matches, much regular practice with standard drills, military experiences, and advanced training classes using each of them often. Of the many handguns you have, these are some that you really enjoy shooting and carrying. You do not have a favorite among the four pistols, enjoy shooting and practicing with all of them, want to maintain proficiency with all of them, and you carry a concealed pistol often.
High-Quality Concealed Carry Pistol Options
The four pistols have proven to you that each are very reliable, very accurate, fit your hand just right with great ergonomics, have very similar features, options, manual of arms, and controls (including a manual safety for all and grip safety for three), all are single action only (SAO) pistols, which you prefer, and are affordable for your price range. The barrel lengths, weights, widths, and capacities vary considerably, but the heights are pretty close. All are made by excellent manufacturers and have outstanding form, fit, and function for you.
Comparison of Specs for Your 4 Pistols
|Pistol #1||SAO||3"||5"||1.06"||27 oz.||9 rounds|
|Pistol #2||SAO||3.5"||5"||1.45"||25 oz.||8 rounds|
|Pistol #3||SAO||4.4"||5.5"||1.60"||34.4 oz.||15 rounds|
|Pistol #4||SAO||5"||4.7"||1.05"||41 oz.||10 rounds|
Your Concealed Carry Routines and Activities
You want to carry your concealed carry pistol close to 100 percent of the time, in many different types of activities and in the same two holsters. And you always carry about 60 percent of the time on your strongside and in one outside-the-waistband holster. And always about 40 percent of the time in an inside-the-waistband holster on the strongside. Both at the same 4:00 o’clock position.
POINT: You frequently practice drawing from and presenting your pistols from only these two carry positions and holsters.
Most of the time you wear casual clothes to work, for recreational activities, for fun events, and most activities. This involves almost always cargo shorts and untucked Hawaiian or casual camp shirts in the summer and medium-weight coats with large pockets extending below waist level in the winter. You go to the beach often and wear a regular-sized (not over-sized large) bathing suit with a loose-fitting t-shirt.
You participate regularly in outdoor sports, like tennis and jogging, and indoor sports, like racquetball and pickleball, and regularly attend formal ballroom and informal dances with your spouse, and give presentations requiring you to wear a suit. You must go to rough, high-crime neighborhoods and the local federal prison to counsel and interact with criminals.
The Complex Decision
So given the above background, the various possible carry situations, different activities, routines, different risk levels, and the specifications of the four pistols, do you rotate among your few excellent pistols when you conceal carry? Recognize that this rotation is not done automatically daily or weekly, but rather dependent upon the situational factors, temperature, dress, and involved activities. You do not subjectively and irrationally, quickly make an emotional decision to change your carry pistol. And dress does not solely or in a major way determine what to carry. Rather the decision is based on several influencing variables and considerations for the situation, gun, and yourself. For example, if you prefer an external manual safety, it is important to practice and develop muscle memory for automatically sweeping off the safety, as well as proper draw.
Even though you cannot specifically estimate the factors of various situations, you can have a pretty good idea of your activities, what to expect from certain areas of town, general risk level, and what the general requirements are for a certain activity, sporting event, type of dress, weather temperature, etc. Attending a formal ballroom dance involving active dancing in warmer temperatures and wearing a tuxedo may call for a short-barreled, lightweight, inside-the-waistband, and minimal width smaller pistol for better concealability and comfort. PISTOL #1 works for me.
Wearing a heavy outer coat extending below the waist in cold weather may allow the carrier to be comfortable and conceal a longer 5″ barrel, wider, and heavier 41 ounce pistol in winter outside-the-waistband. PISTOL #4 works for me.
Of course, it’s hard to conceal a tall heavy, 5-inch pistol in your swimming suit when walking around on the beach in hot weather most of the day. Or adding a large gun to your already heavy beach bag or purse. But there is a trade-off in lower capacity with a smaller, lighter weight, more concealable gun. PISTOL #2 (or #1) works for me.
And if I may potentially have to confront more attackers while mandatorily having to visit a rough, high-risk neighborhood for business or the prison community, I may want to have a pistol with a higher capacity of 15 rounds, more height, and a longer barrel and heavier weight to help my accuracy. I trade-off these for less concealability. PISTOL #3 may work for me.
What seemingly on the surface are simple carry and rotation decisions are not. There is usually a trade-off among concealability and height of the mainspring housing or gun butt (a key factor for concealability), weight, and width of the pistol. And, of course, an individual’s body frame size and physical stature, hand size and finger length, ability to carry extra weight, medical limitations, and personal preferences are factors. And one’s daily lifestyle and regular activities are also important.
Deciding to rotate among concealed carry pistols is very dependent on the individual and his/her activities, sporting and recreational activities and their frequency, dress requirement for the event or activity, the frequency of practicing with the pistols, individual preferences, the shooter’s skill level with the pistols, encounter risk factors, the frequency of rotation, the individual commitment and dedication to the challenging familiarity and operations of the pistol options, the temperature, and several other considerations. This rotation decision should not be an impulsive, snap judgment, should not be taken lightly, and you should consider the whole, big picture, and its many variables.
Deciding to rotate among 2 or even 4 or more carry pistols for self-defense and carry is a very personal decision based on the individual’s unique set of factors, activities, skills, physical stature, and preferences. So, consider the above several variables and decide for yourself, no matter what anyone else tells you. There is not a universal right or wrong answer.
Frankly, in my opinion, there are just too many variables and differences in physical frame sizes, medical conditions, physical abilities, possible activities, sporting events, risk factors, formal and informal dress requirements, and situations to carry only one pistol for all carry situations. I do understand the influence and importance of repetitive actions and muscle memory. But this can be accomplished by a committed and dedicated defender who can learn to multi-task and meet the challenges through proper training. Frequent practicing with the carry guns which are rotated is extremely important and this must be done to meet the challenge. Capitalizing on a specific gun’s features and advantages for the unique requirements of any given encounter could be a life-saving matter. It can happen.
If you decide to rotate carry guns, do not hesitate to get formal training from an experienced and qualified handgun trainer to perfect your defensive proficiencies for any self-defense gun you use. Safety is always the most important aspect of shooting and carrying a gun.
Continued Success my friends and Be Safe!
Photo by Author.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2020 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].