This month I want to share with you the importance of off-duty readiness and a trio of products from a company that delivers a lot of bang for the buck. At the 2010 NRA Show, I ran into my friend Tim Wegner, founder of Blade-Tech Industries and the guy who revolutionized the Kydex holster. Wegner showed me a new line that’s just right for the off-duty cop because it’s efficient, effective and reasonably priced for the officer on a budget. I’ll cover that gear at the end of the column, but first let’s address the reality of off-duty readiness.
When you’re off-duty, you’re truly the lone scout, on your own with no uniform, ready back-up or a heavily armed partner. Worse yet, it’s likely you’ll be accompanied by people you care deeply about—your wife and kids. They won’t be of assistance. More than likely, they’ll be of concern, dividing your attention between their well-being and the threat you face. Off-duty confrontations are to be avoided at all cost, but that isn’t always possible.
Keep Your Gear Under Wraps
How many people have you arrested during your career? Were all of them without conflict? How many of these people do you remember? How many of them remember you? The off-duty confrontation may come your way whether you want it or not. However, there are ways to minimize the likelihood of such situations.
Don’t wear obvious cop clothes (e.g., logos, FOP, “Be secure all night, take a cop to bed” type of stuff). Keep your credentials separate from such wallet items as cash and credit cards. Don’t unnecessarily flash gear, such as badges and holsters, and don’t talk about cop stuff so loud that others can hear. Much of it is common sense, but there may still be times when the confrontation comes your way, and you can’t avoid or evade it. Will you be ready?
The off-duty gun is a bit of a conundrum. How do you arrive at a gun that’s big enough to handle the situations you potentially face vs. the “pain” that’s associated with carrying a gun around all of the time? After all, carrying a duty gun is easy—you don’t have to hide it—which can be problematic as it relates to one’s lifestyle. Keep in mind: The reason you’re carrying an off-duty gun is to protect yourself and the ones you love from harm that would be related to your employment (again, who have you arrested?) or those unexpected things that just happen.
In past columns about active shooters, I discussed how much the San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre affected me at the time. Think about being in such a situation and having a small six-shot auto pistol in your pocket. Would you feel confident that such a gun could handle the problem? To me, a proper off-duty gun should resemble your service pistol: It should be of substantial caliber, have enough grip and have a set of sights that could actually be useful in a fight. A back-up gun and an off-duty gun aren’t necessarily the same thing. The gun you might use in a plainclothes/off-duty confrontation might not be the same as used in a last-ditch situation when all else has failed. It’s wise to not confuse the two situations.
Make a plan now and include in that plan to be armed with a gun that’s capable, not just a gun that’s easy to carry. Although I admit to occasionally carrying a Ruger LCP, I don’t feel comfortable doing so. I carry this gun when circumstances are such that I normally wouldn’t have one at all. Because I’m too old to go hands-on with some young thug, I prefer to have a stand-off weapon if at all possible. My Glock 19 is just right for year-round carry, as it’s both small enough and large enough for most everything I want from a carry gun. One of the challenges in off-duty carry is finding a holster that is capable of carrying and concealing a gun that is able to get the job done.
The Right Kind of Holster
Not all holsters are alike. Some just conceal better than others, particularly under the light clothing worn when the weather is warm. The new Blade-Tech Eclipse holster is perfect for any type of weather: It’s flat enough to conceal even under the lightest clothing. This pancake-style holster offers a positive-lock trigger guard that solidly anchors the gun in place. I fully loaded my Glock 19, and then held it over my bed and shook it vigorously (you never know until you try!), and the gun remained in the pouch. But a smooth and quick draw is still the norm while worn concealed.
The contoured profile fits snuggly to body, dramatically reducing any firearm printing through concealing garments. However, due to superior construction and increased stability on the belt, the gun stays in place and draws cleanly.
There are some concealment holsters that ride so tight to the torso that they can actually inhibit the draw. However, the Eclipse has the right combination of concealment and rapid access. Due to the rigid material and precision molding, the U.S.-made Eclipse stays open after the gun is withdrawn, allowing for easy reholstering. Some don’t understand the importance of this, but think about having a pistol in your hand when it’s no longer appropriate (e.g., struggling with an unarmed suspect), and it’s not hard to see why being able to reholster with the same ease as drawing is important.
Carry a Knife
I carry a knife as a cutting tool, especially for emergency situations, such as vehicle extraction. It may even be used for something as mundane as opening a case of ammunition. However, I appreciate a knife as a last-ditch weapon of opportunity. Although a number of officers prefer large tactical folders, others (especially those assigned to plainclothes) like something a bit smaller and sleeker. This is where the Blade Tech Katana Lite folder fits in.
Many may not realize that Wegner is also a very talented knife designer, having designed a number of successful blades for companies such as Spyderco. Wegner told me his knives are intended to be as cost effective as possible and offer the level of performance needed by people who might find themselves in a crisis situation.
The Katana Lite, which has an MSRP of $29.95, is just such a knife. With an overall length of 6¾ inches and weight of 2.6 ounces, the Katana Lite can be carried just about anywhere, even in the thinnest of dress slacks. The Blade-Tech V-Hole allows for easy, one-hand opening in the event the other hand is occupied, a feature that’s darn near essential. The precision D-Nut Torx-head blade pivot is strong and long lasting, and the liner-lock construction will keep the blade locked open under any reasonable level of force. The Katana Lite isn’t designed to pry open objects, but it’s solid. An ambidextrous tip-up-only pocket clip is attached with Phillips screws that will hold it in place most anywhere and the fiberglass-reinforced nylon handle-slabs (black only) are molded with the same texture as Blade Tech’s G-10 model to offer an enhanced grip surface—even when wearing gloves.
The Katana Lite comes with a small LED flashlight that’s light and easy to carry on a key chain. No, it won’t blind an opponent like a Surefire Backup light, but for those who refuse to carry any white light because they don’t like the added bulk, this light can easily be added to your key ring and will offer some degree of light when ordinarily there would be none. With an MSRP of around $100, Blade Tech offers an off-duty triad that will last a lifetime, allow you to carry a handful of gun, a small light and a light, easy-to-carry cutting tool that won’t add much to your daily load.
For more information about Blade Tech, call 877/331-5793 or visit www.blade-tech.com.
Off-duty Carry Checklist
1. Be ready—at all times.
2. Keep your “cop gear” discreet. Don’t talk shop too loud.
3. Ensure your off-duty gun is of a substantial caliber.
4. Ensure your concealment holster allows you to draw and reholster with the same ease.
5. Carry a knife and a small flashlight.
Jeff Chudwin is the Law Officer Tactical Ops columnist. He’s also the 2009 Law Officer Trainer of the Year. He retired as chief of police after 38 years of service for the Village of Olympia Fields, Ill. A founding member and current president of the Illinois Tactical Officers Association, Chudwin is a former assistant state’s attorney and has been a firearms, use-of-force and emergency response trainer for more than 25 years.