Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Situational Awareness: Personal Security

When deployed we say “complacency kills”, while that may be a little extreme of a statement for our civilian lives it can still apply.  What I mean is, never lose sight that there are creeps and bad guys out there willing to do you and/or your family harm. 

Even on deployment, depending on where you are, there’s the simple criminal threat and not just the terrorist threat.  You must stay cognizant of what’s going on around you and how you’re conducting your business.  This is just one facet of the much broader topic that is “Situational Awareness”.

Since I recently just saw the picture above posted about stickers on vehicles, I’ll start there.  As you can see in the picture, every little detail you give out can be exploited.  I’ll take it further than that, even supporting your favorite team can be exploited.  I’ve done exercises where I was able to get information out of people easily just by doing a little research and pretending to be a big fan of their favorite team they proudly display on their vehicle.  This doesn’t mean go rip your stickers off, it just means you need to be aware.  Magnets fall under the same rules.  If you’ve been around a military post very long you’ve probably seen a “half my heart is in ….” magnet or sticker.  So it would be too easy for you to be followed home and know where there’s a house that’s possibly vulnerable. 

What do you gain from advertising this?

Facebook is another great tool for criminals.  If you don’t have your page protected I can see where you “check in” and that way I know you’re not home, therefore it’s free game on your stuff.  Even worse are some of the exercising apps that will track you as you run and let others see where you’re running live.  You’re basically laying out a road map for a criminal to come nab you. 

Remember, I’m writing the “worst-case” scenarios here.  It doesn’t mean you need to change your entire lifestyle, but just be aware.  What’s the risk versus reward of your actions?  If you check in at your favorite steak house on Facebook, who really cares and why does it really matter?  What does it matter that you have little stick figures of your family stuck to your back glass?  What’s the point?  Is it worth someone now knowing how many kids you have?

Below are some pictures I've taken around the base I'm stationed at and present when I teach a class on Force Protection.  I've blacked out pertinent information to protect these individuals even though they didn't protect themselves.  In each of these I talked to these people or their Chain of Command since I had plenty of info to easily find them to ask that they think about better safeguarding their information.  

Here are some medical documents left in plain view in a vehicle.  
Plenty here to exploit.

ID card left right on the dash as if displayed on purpose.  Not only do I have his full name and rank, 
but I know what team he likes and where he's from.  Easy in to exploit him.  

What's shown here is a unit's (unnecessary) form to fill out in addition to a 
leave form.  Now I know this guy's home address, the address he's going on leave
and when he'll be there.  Left displayed right on his car seat.  Oh yea...and his full social. 
I could have loans and credit cards in a heartbeat, not to mention the knowledge of 
when would be best to rob his house.  

I could go on and on and write a book on this topic, but I'll keep this short for the sake of the blog.  Just be aware of what you're leaving laying around.  Don't take for granted that you're on a military base or wherever it may be and you think it should be "safe" there.  Trust no one.  Especially with identity theft being so popular, you need to safeguard your information.  Identity theft could be your best case scenario if you compromise yourself.  Worst case could be death.  

Concealed Carry: Belts

I was compelled to write this post after working a gun show in Charlotte a couple weeks ago.  What I noticed were several folks open carrying and their handguns were bouncing around with what I can only call "belt flop".  Now we all know that the majority of the gun show crowd is a "special breed", but I'm sure this is going on more often than I see.  You can't expect to have a good, clean draw stroke if you have a holster that flops due to insufficient support from your belt.

The bottom line is that if you're going to carry a handgun in a holster you need an appropriate belt for carrying.  An appropriate belt is one that is stiff enough and wide enough to support the holster  you're using.  There are belts out there in the "normal" marketplace that will work, but I would suggest going with a purpose built one.  There are several manufacturers out there of belts that will do the trick, but I will share with you a couple that I like.

First off, you're going to need at least a couple of belts that will fit what you're wearing.  Make sure you take a look at all the different styles out there before you choose.  I'm not fashion expert as my wife would tell you, so I won't be giving any advice on that.  What I'll tell you is that I keep a black one and a brown one handy.  Choose wisely as most belts are build robust enough that buckle change outs won't be an option.

Let me start with Ares Gear.  Ares Gear gained popularity with their Ranger Belt.  It and all their belts are made with scuba webbing sewn together to provide an extreme stiffness.  The Ranger Belt has a cobra buckle that needs to be taken off for the belt to get through most belt loops.  It's a quick and easy process.  It doesn't get much stiffer than these belts and they are top notch when it comes to quality.  While the Range Belt is great, the cobra buckle is somewhat of a giveaway if you're trying to remain low-vis and if you're tucked in.  Enter the Aegis Belt.  This belt is built basically the same as the Ranger Belt, but has a "normal" looking buckle.  Either belt will serve you well and each come in a few different color options.  The only issue I have with these belts is the extreme stiffness.  As a slim guy with bony hips, these can be a bit rough when you first get them.  There is a definite break in period that can be sped up by working the belt nightly by hand.  I usually take mine and work it into a circle both directions back and forth to make it more pliable.  Now, this isn't taking the stiffness you'll need to support the holster out, just making it easier to wear.  Unless you're specifically after leather, an Ares belt would be my choice.

Ares Gear Aegis Belt (bottom) and Ranger Belt (top)

Now onto leather.  If you're after something that has a formal appearance, I would suggest a leather belt from Mean Gene Leather (his website just went live, so give it a click).  Gene Higdon is turning out some real quality handmade belts that are my current favorite.  Gene, formerly of High Speed Gear Inc. fame, has been making innovative products for awhile.  He's the first and only person I know of to take a cobra buckle and put in on a leather belt.  The cobra buckle model is called the "Barbarian Belt", I got it and two of the normal buckle models (Shooter's Belt) through the good folks at War Sport Industries.  The Shooter's belts I got for my father and father-in-law as Christmas gifts, and they both love them.  Gene now has another model out he's calling the "Victory Aegis" belt that has the Ares Gear Aegis buckle that you see on my Aegis belt.

My "Barbarian Belt"

Mean Gene's new model with stitching is a great looking belt.
(pic from www.meangeneleather.com)  

I also like Crossbreed Holsters or Gould and Goodrich for leather belts.....in that order.  They offer different styles of belts and buckle choices.  They're all extremely comfortable for every day wear.  The stiffness of any of them is more than adequate to support any holster.  These belts don't have any feature that would present them as "tactical" or give away that you're carrying.  If you're going for leather, this is a great option.  The added bonus for me is that they are made in the U.S.A.

Gould and Goodrich Shooter Belt

These aren't the only options out there by far, just the ones I'm familiar with and choose.  If you're carrying and care that your life may depend on your equipment, then don't forget about having a good belt.  If you're after a good carry belt just take a look at your wardrobe and purpose, then develop your own list of considerations.  Once you've done that, go shopping.  Hopefully this will help get you started.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Plano LE/GOV Cases

Recently at a Darley Defense expo I was able to talk to the fellas from Plano.  Plano has a fairly extensive line of weapons and ammo cases.  Who knew.  They've been around for a bit, but I wasn't tracking them.  If you haven't heard of Plano you've probably never owned or shopped for a tackle box.  If you don't know what a tackle box is, please stop reading and seek other means of entertainment.

Just having gotten a new shotgun, the Plano 108190 All Weather Case was just what I needed and just what I ended up with.  Most of you are probably familiar with Pelican or Storm cases and these are pretty much the same.  There are some small differences, but the most beneficial difference being the price point.  You can pick this case up from Walmart for around $115.  A Pelican case of this size will cost you around $300.  

As you can see in the picture above it has the pluck style foam which enables you to pluck out a specific shape to better secure your firearms and equipment.  I just haven't plucked it yet, so the shotgun is setting on top.  Below you'll see that the case has wheels and locking latches.  The latch locks aren't up to TSA specs, but there are lock holes so that you can also lock it with a TSA approved lock.  

Plano also produces ammunition boxes.  They are much like the military style ammo cans most of us are familiar with, except much lighter.  Great for throwing loose ammo or boxes of ammo in.  They have several shapes and sizes to choose from.  They are very durable and very handy for whatever other else you can use them for.  These are one of those things you can never have too much of.  

So if you're looking for a great gun case or some convenient, durable storage cases go check out the Plano website and then go shopping.  Check the tag below and see one of the best reasons to shop Plano....Made in the USA!