Central War Gaming Blog

Central War Gaming Blog


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Handguns at CWG Events

At CWG events like the upcoming Swift Fox 16, handguns are required for the handful of officers, and allowed for a number of others. However, they aren't particularly suggested. Let's talk about their value, and some tips on carrying them to improve your life,

Handguns have been quite widely issued in the past decade and a half of war. And almost everyone I know or talk to who's gone to war with a pistol has left it behind the next time they were allowed to. Handguns seem like a good idea, but are too often a burden or a hindrance.

What we've learned is that handguns have great value, but only in certain very specialized cases. We'll ignore the really specialist roles (covert uses, close protection, shield and K9 operators...)  and focus on their use in conventional armies. These tend to focus on situations where the soldier's primary task is using his hands for something else, or where his primary weapon maybe less suitable or unavailable for close range self defense.

Machine gunners and vehicle crew in theory can employ a handgun more quickly than a carbine, and while also engaging in other activities, like driving. In practice, they find that focus on driving, fixing the machine gun, or switching to a rifle is a more effective use of their time.

Combat medics have put their handguns to good use. Sometimes they are deeply involved in applying pressure or doing some other task where both hands simply are not available. A handgun to defend themselves and the patient has saved a few lives. Our Combat Medics do not have actual casualties to treat, so this is less likely to be critical.

Officers typically are more or less required to carry handguns as what can be called a badge of office, and CWG follows this as part of the third world army mentality. There are some legitimate reasons also. Officers in the field are often occupied with maps, radios, notebooks and other activities. Even if they carry a rifle, it is often slung in an inconvenient way.

The handgun is sometimes referred to as the gun you use to fight your way to the rifle you should never have put down in the first place, but a stack of rifles in the corner of the HQ is standard, and headquarters do get over-run without warning sometimes.

Wearing Your Holster Right

How to help carry a handgun is also a problem, especially for a light infantryman. We require that your holster be actually a holster, not just a magazine pouch. This assures the handgun isn't lost, and doesn't accidentally fire. This is a legitimate safety issue, as like in the real world we consider holstered handguns safe. They can be brought into safe areas (tents, closed vehicles) without being cleared. We do not want one falling out or discharging while your eyepro may be removed.

People in the real world do routinely fire an accidental shot when drawing, or re-holstering their handguns. With a normal belt holster, this shot will strike somewhere near your feet, and you should only be embarrassed. With an appendix holster it could strike you, with a horizontal-draw shoulder holster it could strike your battle buddy. This is why we require all holsters to point the muzzle at the ground (when standing at least).

Chest holsters saw a resurgence in popularity in our recent mechanized and mounted operations, but it is important to understand why, and not try to mis-apply the use case. These are useful because they keep the pistol up and away from equipment, or the turret ring for a commander or gunner. Vehicle crew often cannot wear belt mounted items. Chest and shoulder holsters are not particularly effective or comfortable otherwise, and can interfere when wearing backpacks.

Belt holsters are the best all-around option, but of course you're using your belt line for your LBE, and for the waist belt of your backpack. The thigh holster or drop-leg was popular for a bit, but has also fallen out of favor for many purposes. While still seen a lot, look close; those people are photographed because they are standing around. There, it works fine. However, it's not great for people who walk around. The holster is mounted to a part of your body that moves a great deal more than your torso, so adds to fatigue, and can more easily make noise.

Thigh holsters are also much more prone to bump into corners of walls, protruding objects, vehicle doors, your team-mates, and can even get snagged on tree branches.

Luckily, there is a solution. There are shorter drop extensions. My favorite is the Safariland UBL. A few different levels of drop are available, so make your choices.  Other makers of holsters have similar accessories.
Just dropping the holster a couple inches clears the beltline for other purposes, even just body armor, and keeps it high enough to move with your body instead of flopping around.

For an example of a cheaper alternative is the MOLLE version of the USGI drop-leg extender. These come with a strap to clip around your thigh, and are everything bad I said above, but they are festooned with MOLLE webbing. You can clip your M12 or similar old school flap holster to the first lowered position, and drop it just enough to clear the beltline. I am sure other drop leg adapters can be repurposed similarly, so see what you or your friends have laying around in your spare nylon bin.

The other way to go is to make the holster go the other way, slightly higher. Several options but again my favorite is Safariland; the M in their MLS fork is for MOLLE, so you can get an adapter plate to clip a holster to your LBE directly.

If you find even a little drop feels insecure, all these options can be configured with a retention strap still. Run it very high on the leg, as shown. Not way down on your thigh where it makes the bottom of the holster swing with each step. 

Whatever you do, figure out a way to try this out before you get to the field. A walk around the block in full LBE, ruck and pistol probably won't go well, but find some way to do it, even if just around the house for an hour while doing chores. In the field is no time to find your holster stabs you in the kidneys.

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