Op-Ed, Saturday Screeds

Saturday Screeds: Personal Equipment as a Total System

We want to discuss this. There are those who say competition shooting has no place in preparation for a real world gunfight, for a number of reasons (including the assertion that competition teaches bad habits). Most of us think that’s silly – competition is a great way to work on your skills, and as (sometimes more) importantly, it gives you the chance to field-test your gear. In today’s Saturday Screed we have shamelessly plundered a recent missive to that effect by that most phlegmatic of Arizonans, the “Sinistral Rifleman” Russell Phagan. Read on, and see what you think – focus on the context on what he says, the specific gear he mentions is less important than the point he’s making. Then let’s have some intelligent discourse in the comments section. We might just help somebody out.  Mad Duo

Grunts: phlegmatic.

Saturday Screeds: Personal Equipment as a Total System
Russell Phagan

Whether it be for competition or defense, the equipment you use must function together as a total system. Some of these things may seem like common sense, but I consistently see people make the same errors and fail to correct them until (or unless) someone points them out.

This starts at the most basic level with clothing. The clothing you wear should allow for flexibility and a complete range of movement. It should also protect you against the elements and other environmental conditions. I wear long sleeves shooting year round to protect myself from the sun and my arms from hot spent casings and debris on the ground going prone.

Lightweight Arc’teryx knee caps allow me to move more aggressively without injuring myself dropping into positions quickly.

Fingerless gloves allow for dexterity shooting, but also provide protection when navigating obstacles or pushing off the ground.

Boots with ankle support to avoid injury are extremely important.

A rigid pants belt is important to support the weight of your gear and keep it secure without movement. I wear an overbelt system for extra rigidity. Everything stays exactly where I need it. Location of equipment on the belt should not interfere with movement.

The holster should protect the handgun against all conditions you might realistically encounter. It should also secure the handgun during vigorous movement and obstacle traversal.

Buy some gear – we get a commission. It’ll help us buy beer.

If you choose to wear a vest it should not interfere with any items in your belt. Everything on it should be easy to reach or it’s not the right place to carry it. It should fit snugly but allow you to breathe and move freely.

I learned these things the hard way over an extended period of time. Sometimes others suggested fixes, but more often than not I had to draw my own conclusions based on firsthand experience. I would then try something else.

I’ve been shooting since 2001, but it’s only in the past 6 years or so that the over all system of equipment I use has remained relatively the same.


Though is his demeanor usually ranges somewhere between taciturn and staid, Phagan is nonetheless a good man to know and listen to. Sometimes he even smiles, or so we hear. Find the Sinistral Rifleman online here or follow him on the Instergramz (@sinistralrifleman). He’s on the Book of Face at /SinistralRifleman/.

We’re pretty sure that’s Russell on the right after a recent competition (1st/8 Armored Division, 2nd/43 Over All at 2 Gun Action Challenge in Tucson). Rifle: KE Arms KE-15 Scout with Aimpoint, Inc. Micro.Pistol: KE19 Charlie Stealth Special with Leupold Optics Deltapoint Pro. Holster and frame work by We Plead The 2nd. Armor: Ferro Concepts Slickster with United Armory steel plates.



Mad Duo, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!

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  1. OK I am the world’s biggest gear queer. I have made this stuff for myself and my buds for up-teen years. So no one is more guilty of running around in the woods or the range with all the cool-guy ninja shit. It’s fun. I admit it. And make no excuses for it. Kinda like fucking the fat chick.

    Phagan brings up some good points. And he can shoot. Granted. But saying you can kick ass as a fat-boy is a bit too far. He, or anyone else, needs to lose 30+ lbs and be as fit as possible. Not huff about how good you are in spite of it. I’d imagine he’d be even better if he wuz lean and mean.

    I say this in the context of surviving a real gunfight. Being in the best shape possible should be a gimmie.

    And if you are gonna write about something like this, you need to walk the talk.

    And finally, no I am not a bad-ass gunslinger, but neither am I pontificating (grunts: talking shit) about it either.

  2. That’s harsh. Did you not get the bit at the begining about ‘focus on the context of what he is saying’? What you say about fumbling for your CCW inside the waist band and under clothing goes right to his point. What you wear and what you are doing at the time should work together. If you are wearing a bulky coat but are in full CCW mode and the coat does not work, change the coat for something that does.

  3. While I am generally wary of taking such advice from someone who can, at a glace, stand to lose at least 30 pounds (no offense but first impressions are… well first impressions) he is absolutely right.

    You want to know that your stuff works and how the various bits interact with each other in real world usage before you actually need them. I can’t see anyone arguing against that point. Doing otherwise is like buying a high end car and taking it to the track for a serious race when you haven’t driven the vehicle more than around your block; it makes no sense.

    IMHO, though gear is secondary in most cases. Yes, it helps and it can help immensely but only if you have the underlying skill set to use that gear in a way that takes advantage of the gear and what it offers.

    However there’s also the question of what you’re going to use in reality. Look I don’t want to rip on anyone here but as a community we, the iron toting folks in society, have become gear-centric to a large degree and it’s kind of annoying. If you want to run competitions in a plate carrier for exercise or safety reasons (some idiot has an ND and hits you for example) during the match, cool go for it. Ditto a chest rig or whatever else.

    That said, you should probably spend longer than however long typing in your credit card information on the internet takes actually thinking about real world uses for what you’re buying. The cold hard truth for 99.9% of civilians is this: You’re never going to actually use that shit other than in competition. The mugger in the Wal-Mart parking lot isn’t going to let you run off to your car, grab your battle belt, toss on your chest rig and unlock load and chamber your rifle before he puts two in your chest for not handing over your wallet. The same thing is true of a mass shooting event. The stuff in your car is pretty much useless to you when the shit hits the fan.

    So if you want to get all decked out for a competition great, like I said, go for it. Yes, competition is great to test gear and perfect certain skills. However don’t get used to the idea that you have all that stuff because when John Q Masshooter McFuckface hits your local mall you’re not going to have any of cool gear that’s sitting in the trunk of your car in the parking lot. On top of that just because you’re Jerry Miculek fast with your race gun and OWB holster doesn’t mean a damn thing when you’re going for your CCW piece that’s under clothing in a configuration you haven’t practiced 1/10th as much as you’ve practiced your competition skills. That doesn’t mean the competition skills won’t serve you well but if you’re relying on them exclusively I’d say there’s a hole in your training.

    1. I compete in Armored division because it is harder and presents more of a challenge. I also sometimes compete with concealed carry gear. My holster is in the same location in either case; the only difference is sweeping the shirt clear on the draw. Either way; the way I configured my clothing and equipment it works together as a total system. Because I work in the industry, using tactical gear is intellectually interesting. I want to know how all these things work together and how they can be better myself so I can help produce better products, and not rely only indirect opinions to do the same.

      As for fitness; it may come naturally to some people, for me it never has and I’ve gone through cycles of motivation and decline throughout my adult life. Going through Having harder competitions to participate in like 2 gun in Armored division gives me motivation to work on it that I otherwise would not have; the effect on my match results of losing weight and exercising regularly is an immediately tangible benefit. I consistently beat smaller, fitter people, and that isn’t on shooting skill alone. Here’s the video from the match these photos were taken at: https://youtu.be/n-7f9ZtCvA8