Texas DPS publishes new CHL-16 booklet of select legal statutes

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Texas DPS has published the new 2015-2016 guide of select statutes pertaining to the License to Carry program and the Texas laws pertaining to the Use of Force.

Please see http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/InternetForms/Forms/LTC-16.pdf

Texas DPS summary for 2015 law changes

Sunday, July 5th, 2015

Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has published a summary of the law changes made by the Texas 84th legislative session (2015).  Please note the effective dates for these changes:
Licensed open carry (January 1, 2016) and Campus Carry (August 1, 2016).

Test your gun, magazines, and ammo before you need them

Monday, May 4th, 2015

I have the opportunity to see people come through CHL range qualification with a number of different handgun make and models.  I’ve seen what works well and I’ve seen some varieties that seem to consistently have issues.  Most people who have difficulty passing the range qualification don’t suffer accuracy problems.  Most problems stem from handguns which don’t operate reliably enough for the shooter to complete the course of fire within the time limits.  It’s hard to get a 5 shot string off in 10 seconds if you have 2 or 3 malfunctions in the mix.  The frustration that results from such problems during the qualification also can lead to stress, agitation, or even unsafe behavior.   So, consider these helpful tips:

1. Lubricate your gun.  Especially where the slide and frame meet.  This metal-to-metal contact point needs some manner of oil or grease for optimal performance.  You might get by with little or no lubrication with SOME guns, but even there it is going to increase wear and reduce the life of your gun. You don’t drive a car without oil.  Don’t operate your semi-auto without lubrication, either.

2. Take it to the range before your CHL qualification.  Shooting your CHL qualification as the first time you’ve shot a particular firearm can result in unexpected issues.  Murphy’s Law is often at work.

3. Use the same ammo in your testing as you use for the qualification.  By the same logic, test the hollow point ammo that you will carry before you carry it.  Not every gun reliably and consistently feeds every brand of ammo.  There are differences in projectile shapes (especially in defensive ammo). Test your gun with your ammo before you use it. This is important with the target/practice ammo for the CHL qualification, but a matter of life and death when it comes to defensive ammo.

4. Magazines are a common failure point.  Springs wear out.  While I think that leaving magazines loaded with the springs compressed causing fatigue is a myth, repeated compression and expansion of any spring reduces the spring tension over time. Sooner or later, you’ll need to replace the magazine spring.  But in the meantime, take the magazine apart periodically and clean them as part of your cleaning and maintenance to remove carbon build-up, dirt, pocket lint, or any other gunk that builds up over time.  Sometimes magazines will have manufacturing defects like burrs or snag points on the inside. Test your individual specific magazines to be sure they function reliably before you depend on them.

I can say with certainty that I see more problems with some manufacturers than others.  I don’t want to be a brand snob here, but if you’re going to protect your life with a gun, consider the reliability of what you are buying.  If cost is a key decision factor, consider a quality used firearm over a new gun of questionable quality control.  You don’t have to spend a ton of money to get something reliable, but keep in mind that new doesn’t automatically translate to reliable.

Basic Shooting Safety Rules and the Importance of Trigger Finger Discipline

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

The Texas CHL class covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Safe handing and storage is a crucial aspect of being a responsible gun owner and CHL holder. And while we could easily spend hours on that one subject, there is only a finite amount of time to hit on the necessities.

We cover the basic rules of firearm safety in every class. That is the case in every class I’ve taught (CHL or otherwise) and every class that I’ve ever taken. You simply cannot have a firearm class whether it’s intro to shooting or an advanced class without covering the safety rules.

Injuries from negligent discharges are fortunately at all time lows. However, injuries from negligence could be virtually eliminated by consistently following the most fundamental safety practices;

1) ALWAYS keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

2) Keep your finger off the trigger until you are on target and ready to fire.

3) Know your target, what is beyond your target, and between you and the target.

4) Treat every gun as if it was loaded.

There are of course many other rules that enhance safety, but these are the most basic. While these seem fairly obvious to most, breaking one or more of these rules is involved in every negligent discharge. I think this is often due to shooters becoming complacent and taking shortcuts or being distracted and not focusing completely on carrying out the task (shooting, drawing, holstering, cleaning, storing, etc.) safely.

I cringe when I see fingers inside of trigger guards. Especially when I see it happen when the user is manipulating the slide such as when chambering a round. Depressing the trigger and then sending the slide forward can lead to a discharge. I’ve seen it happen and seen the shocked look on the shooter’s face. Good thing their muzzle was pointed in a safe direction at the time.

Good trigger finger discipline is crucial. That trigger guard is NOT the finger protector. It is there to prevent “stuff” from touching the trigger. That “stuff” includes the index finger.

Trigger finger discipline is also vitally important when drawing from a holster. The pistol must come out of the holster in a manner that does not result in your finger on the trigger.

Keep that trigger finger parallel to the barrel, along the side of the frame. Your finger should be pointed at the target and not move towards the trigger until you are on target and ready to fire.

Texas DPS Publishes 2013-2014 Concealed Handgun License Laws booklet

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Texas DPS has just released the 2013-2014 update of the Concealed Handgun License Laws booklet.  Since there were numerous law changes that went into effect September 1, 2013, it is well worth your time to review the updates to these laws.


Legal Services or Insurance Programs for the Lawfully Armed Citizen

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

One thing I stress to students in CHL class is that a person who uses a firearm in an act of self defense is still going to encounter the legal system. That might be a criminal trial where one would have to explain their actions as reasonable, immediately necessary, and justifiable under the laws of the jurisdiction in which the event occurred. Whether there are or aren’t criminal charges against a person who defended themselves, there is almost always a civil suit filed by the attacker or their surviving family members.

While the best course of action is to do everything within your power to avoid the use of deadly force, there are situations where there may be no other choice. And as the old saying goes, better to be tried by twelve than carried by six. However, that trial can cost people in many ways. Other than the emotional toll of coming to terms with the unnatural act of using deadly force against another human being, people often lose their job and spend their life savings on their legal defense. Even a person who isn’t convicted at criminal trial or ordered to pay a huge settlement in a civil suit can end up unemployed, homeless, and penniless.

This harsh reality has given rise to a number of services which offer some degree of protection to those who have used deadly force in defense of themselves or others. They tend not to be extremely expensive because few who pay for the service thankfully ever need to use that service. On the other hand, this also means these services are quite profitable for the providers. So, should you pay for such a service? And if so, what should you consider when selecting from the available programs? That isn’t easy and it is dependent on your personal situation.

There are two types of programs. The first type of program is a prepaid legal service. A network of attorneys that provide you legal defense through grand jury, criminal, and civil trials for justified acts of self defense. The second type of program is an insurance policy. In the event of an act of self defense, the policy pays you some dollar amount which can be used for legal defense or perhaps cover other expenses such as bail or perhaps even medical or household expenses.

Prepaid legal services provide an attorney who is [hopefully] experienced representing clients in self defense shooting cases. If you don’t have your own attorney in mind, that may be appealing. Keep in mind that your cousin the corporate counselor probably doesn’t have the expertise in the area of self defense. On the other hand, these networks are generally not nationwide so consider that you would only receive legal representation for acts of self defense which occur in a state where your particular network operates. If you travel to states where the network has no coverage, you would of course be responsible for your own legal defense. Prepaid legal services may provide you with an attorney, but consider that you’d need to have financial resources to cover your other household expenses if you are sitting in a jail cell awaiting trial. Carefully read the terms of these programs to be sure what circumstances they might exclude from coverage. For example, if you are in a state that doesn’t honor your permit, your policy may not cover your actions.

Insurance policies on the other hand pay out a fixed dollar amount in the event of an act of self defense. That money may or may not be enough to cover your legal expenses through a grand jury, criminal, and civil trial. It may or may not be enough money to cover your other expenses. And of course the monthly premium you pay affects the amount of money paid out. How long will it take for the policy to get the money in hand for you to hire an attorney, make bail, etc.? The insurance policy paying out means you need to know which attorney you would hire to represent you. You need legal counsel that is experienced in self defense cases. Ask your local police department who they would hire if one of their officers was on trial for shooting in the line of duty. Your freedom is on the line, so the quality and experience or your legal representation is critical.

There are more of these programs popping up and I have no experience nor affiliation with any of the programs. Here are the program of which I am aware.  There are undoubtedly countless more:

Prepaid legal services:
Texas Law Shield
Patriot Legal Protection

Insurance programs:
NRA Second Call Defense

Armed Citizen Legal Defense Network

Please evaluate each of these options carefully.  Read the terms and conditions.  Be aware of states or localities of coverage and limitations of the coverage.  I am not an attorney.  I do not represent or endorse any of these programs.

Texas CHL Holders and Penal Code 30.06

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

Texas Penal Code 30.06 is the section of Texas law which describes a valid notice to a Concealed Handgun License holder that the owner of the property prohibits license holders from legally carrying a concealed handgun into the premises.  The legislators who drafted 30.06 obviously had a sense of humor because the statute number matches one of America’s most famous rifle calibers, the .30 caliber Springfield of 1906  (hence .30-06).

Few other sections of the penal code stir quite as much confusion, emotion, misunderstanding, or debate as 30.06.  There are assumptions made about 30.06 and it is my opinion that some of these assumptions could potentially wind up getting a LTC holder into a legal bind.  So, I’d like to offer a bit of perspective for you to consider.  You are adults and can make your own judgement call on whether to believe or agree with my views.  I am not an attorney.  The views expressed are my own.  Should you have specific questions, please consult your legal counsel.   The information I provide should not be considered legal advice.

PC 30.06 describes the characteristics of a valid legal notice to license holders that they cannot carry into the premises.  It describes the placement of the sign, the size of the lettering, requirement for contrasting colors, that the notice be given in both English and Spanish, and so on.   The first assumption people make is that other signs that do not meet the criteria described in 30.06 or other types of “no gun” signs aren’t valid notice and can be readily ignored.    That is a legal gray area.   PC 30.06 tells you what IS a valid legal notice.  It never says that other signs are or are not valid notice.   That may be subject to the interpretation of a district attorney.  I am not aware of this ever coming up in a court case to set a legal precedent.  So, if you ASSUME that the other types of “no gun” signs aren’t valid notice, you are in fact just making an assumption.  You may or may not be right.

The assumption that many property owners who post these signs make is that the sign serves as a valid legal notice for patrons to keep firearms out of the store.  However, note that 30.06 specifies handguns.  So again, a legal gray area.  Does a business posting a compliant 30.06 sign preclude you from carrying a long gun since 30.06 specifically references handguns?    While PC 30.06 applies to handguns, it is quite possible for a LTC holder leaving their handgun behind and carrying a long gun into an establishment could face some other type of charge.   So, think carefully before you respond to a 30.06 sign by carrying in your long gun instead of your handgun.

Now, lets say a local retailer in your area puts up a 30.06 sign.   To the LTC holder, this is quite offensive.  Perhaps it is a store that you’ve been shopping at for years and you suddenly find yourself unwelcome unless you enter defenseless and have no way to protect yourself or your family while inside or going to/from your car.   How do you react?  What can you do?

The first thing to realize is that it’s the store owner’s property.  They can decide the rules for their establishment, no matter how foolish.   We realize that signs don’t stop criminals or madmen.  They only stop law abiding license holders who are the segment of society with arguably the cleanest records and who have been background checked, finger printed, trained and tested.   As we’ve seen time and time again, anyone who intends to commit a violent crime in an establishment surely isn’t stopped by a sign.  In fact,  the sign lets a criminal know that they have a defenseless victim zone  and may actually embolden a criminal or affect their target selection.  How ironic it is that a store becomes more likely to be the scene of a violent crime AFTER they put up the 30.06 sign.

All of that being said,  what do you do?   I encourage you to very politely ask the manager or property owner what they hope to accomplish with the sign.    Perhaps they didn’t realize that the sign only applies to licensed carry holders or that criminals aren’t inclined to comply with signs.   Ask them how are they going to enforce compliance. After all, the only way that speed limit signs work is that there are patrol officers with radar guns enforcing compliance.  Without enforcement, a sign is nothing more than a suggestion.  It’s worth the effort to ask why they don’t want the business from law abiding license holder (700,000 of them in Texas as of November 2013).   Perhaps ask them what they know about their other patrons that haven’t been background checked, finger printed, photographed, trained, and tested.   Are those other folks going to be swayed by a sign?  Again, how is the store going to enforce the sign?  Without enforcement, any sign becomes merely a suggestion.  Ask them if they accept full responsibility should you be a victim of crime in their store or parking lot.   If they deny your ability to self defense, are they willing to commit to that responsibility on your behalf?

In all likelihood though,  the plea to listen to logic and reason is going to fall on deaf ears.   So, what do you do now?  Well, you only have a short list of options at your disposal:

  1. The best option:  Shop somewhere else.  Why spend your money with a retailer that makes it clear they don’t believe you are a responsible, law abiding patron?  I’m sure their competitors would welcome you.  Let the business know you won’t be back and politely inform them why.  Maybe if logic and reason don’t convince them,  their loss of revenue might.
  2. Comply with the request and leave yourself defenseless in the business and to/from your car in the parking lot.  Leave your gun inside of your unoccupied car while you are inside the store.   Hope no one sees you taking that pistol out of your holster or decides they’ll break into your car while inside to get a shiny new pistol.  Be careful fumbling around with that loaded gun in your car, too.
  3. Ignore the sign and carry anyway.  This turns you into the very criminal that the sign doesn’t affect.  And while the sign is ineffective unless the business has a security screening checkpoint at all entrances to enforce the policy, why on earth would you want to give a business your hard earned dollar and encourage the next business to put up the same sign?  I don’t encourage anyone to break the law in order to give your money to a business that doesn’t trust you.
  4. Make an ill advised political point and go in with a long gun.  After all, 30.06 is about handguns.   You’ll in all likelihood end up in jail.  And there’s a reasonable chance you’ll spend a lot of money on lawyers and in the end, might not have to worry about a concealed handgun license as you’d be ineligible to have one if convicted.

Obviously, my advice is to simply shop elsewhere.  Let the business know your opinion as a consumer.  Make it clear that you’ll shop elsewhere because of their policy.  Again, that’s my conclusion.  Read the statutes and draw your own conclusion on what you think is the right thing to do.

Pistol buying when cost is a key consideration

Monday, December 16th, 2013

As a CHL instructor, I get to see a number of shooters qualify at the range with a variety of handguns.  First off, any gun can malfunction or even have a “lemon” come off the assembly line.  Most pistol malfunctions come from preventable causes such as lack of cleaning/lubrication, poor quality ammunition, or poor quality after-market magazines.  However, I will say that I do see trends emerge as far as which guns are more likely to experience reliability issues for people  at the range qualification.  Observe a line of shooters for a while and you’ll come to anticipate who is going to experience problems with their pistol.

I won’t name any product names here because no matter what I’d put out there, some one will have had a positive experience with that particular make and model and think I’m just a fan of some other specific brand.  The truth of the matter is that there are many manufacturers of quality firearms and perhaps as many manufacturers of poor quality guns as well.  When a firearm is so much less expensive than the others, consider the possibility that quality control and materials were sacrificed to achieve a desired price point in the marketplace.  Some guns out there have been tested and have parts with mean time between failures that are measured only in the hundreds of rounds. That’s unacceptable in my book.

I realize that times are tough and not everyone can go out and sink $500 or $1000 or more into a pistol.  But deciding that you want to protect your life and family with a gun and then picking one based primarily on price may be a costly mistake.  If price range is a key factor in your decision making, consider purchasing a used gun made by a well known manufacture.  We all know that buying a one or two year old car from a reputable manufacturer can be a great deal when compared to a new model.  The same can certainly be true with firearms.

Often times police departments will change over to a new make and model and trade in all of their old inventory.   Most departments test pistols before issuing them to officers so the reliability and safety were most likely factors in a department picking a particular make and model in the first place.  These trade-ins can often be obtained for a fraction of the retail price of the same model bought new.  A scratch or two and some holster wear are common but those things are cosmetic and aren’t going to adversely affect function.   And if you carry your pistol with you and take it in and out of a holster daily, you’re going to end up with some wear and tear on that new pistol, too.

Just some food for thought that a used gun can be a bargain and a brand new gun that is inexpensive isn’t always a good value.  It has to be safe and utterly reliable.

Should you have a laser on your concealed carry pistol?

Friday, December 13th, 2013

I am asked from time to time what I think about having a laser on a concealed carry pistol.  I have given this matter considerable thought and tried to come up with an objective answer.   First,  you cannot use a laser or other optical enhancer during your CHL range qualification.   The reason is simple.   Lasers might be a great and wonderful tool, but they are an electronic device and have a battery.  That can fail and Murphy’s law tells us that things that can fail will do so at the worst possible time.   Even if you choose to have and use a laser, that isn’t a substitute for being able to operate without one.

Personally, I sometimes find that little bouncing red or green dot distracting when I see just how much movement I make when I think I’m holding still.  Keep in mind that moving your muzzle 1/16 of an inch translates to about 4.5 inches at just 10 yards.  Just like with the projectile, the greater the target distance, the more that laser dot is going to move with just the slightest movement of your hand.   It distracts me and causes me to focus on the dot instead of the target.  But, that’s just me and my opinion.  Your mileage may vary.

If you determine that you want a laser, you’ll need to decide more specifically what you want.  Do you prefer a red or green laser?   Red lasers consume less power (longer battery life) and they are less expensive.  The green tend to be easier to see in brighter conditions and therefore can be seen in some cases where it just isn’t dark enough to see the red laser.   However, they either have less battery life or are somewhat larger to accommodate a larger battery.  Also, different models offer constant-on, pulse mode, and auto shut-off timers to conserve battery life.   A blinking laser is easier to locate than a constant on laser so the pulse mode may be a very desirable feature.  Evaluate the importance of these features in the models of laser you are considering.

The most common set-up is a rail mounted laser.  These can be moved from one pistol to another with ease.  However, the addition of a rail mounted laser might mean your carry holster no longer fits the pistol when the laser is attached.  It may also mean that you have to adjust your grip if you are used to putting your hands in the space now occupied by the laser.

Some pistols, such as Glocks for example, offer you an additional choice.  There are drop-in replacement guide rods with integrated lasers.  These are specific to certain pistol models.  So, they aren’t readily moved between different pistols but they also don’t change the exterior shape of your pistol so that you can keep your favorite holster and use the grip you prefer.   Because of their small size, battery life might be shorter in a guide rod laser.

Laser Grips are a third option available for pistols that have interchangeable grips such as a 1911.  The pistol grips are replaced with a grip that has an integrated laser and battery.  I am not personally a big fan of these because my grip often covers the laser and I end up with a red or green dot on my hand and nothing projected down range.   You may have to adjust how you grip if you go the laser grip route.

Finally, keep in mind that the laser isn’t a perfect solution.   The barrel and your laser are not perfectly aligned to begin with.  That is especially true with off-center laser grips that are located to one side of your barrel.   The laser beam travels in a straight line but your bullet never will.  Gravity, spiral rotation, and even wind are going to affect the bullet but not the laser.   So your laser is aligned to intersect the bullet path at some specific distance.  At distances that are much closer or much farther than what you use to calibrate, you’ll have variation between the laser and the bullet point of impact.  Even variation in the ammo used is going to affect that point of impact so align the laser with the ammo you intend to carry and sight in at the representative distance you want to shoot.

Lasers aren’t a perfect tool but then again, nothing really is.  If it helps you feel more confident that you can hit the target quickly, then that’s a good thing.   Keep in mind that the laser dot is not a guarantee that you’re illuminating the point of impact.   Distance and other environmental factors are going to affect the point where the bullet and the laser path intersect.  Practice with and without the laser and don’t rely solely on electronics that can fail.

Don’t forget the carry part of concealed carry

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

I seem to have this conversation from time to time. I highly recommend that people with a CHL carry as often as they possibly can. I know there may be places you need to go that prohibit carry, but I think that in general, there is also a fatigue factor involved. People fall out of the habit of carrying when they head out their door.

The response I sometimes hear is “I only carry it when I’m going somewhere I think I’m going to need it.”

My first response is always:
1) Bad things can happen any time or any place. How do you know when you are going to need it? And
2) If you know you’re going to need it, why on earth would you still go there?

But in all seriousness, a gun that isn’t with you isn’t going to be of any use to you. Are there other factors that keep you from carrying?

– Is your gun an appropriate size and weight for your tolerance to these factors? Small guns may result in more felt recoil when fired but big and heavy guns are big and heavy all of the time.

– How are you carrying (IWB, OWB, shoulder holster, ankle holster, bra holster, etc.)? Would another option work better for you?

– Do you have a quality holster and belt that protect your skin from sharp edges and distribute the weight of your setup without discomfort or fatigue?

– Would a change to your wardrobe be an option to get a more comfortable setup?

The only gun that can help you is the one that is with you when you need it. If it is at home or left in the car, it isn’t likely to be available should you ever need it.