I have a plate carrier with Level IV ceramic rifle plates inside. On the front are six AR-15 magazines and two full-size Glock magazines. On the back is a hydration pouch. It used to have a first aid pouch, but I undid the MOLLE straps and now carry it in my truck.
This carrier sits by my gun safe. I guess I feel if I have time to run to the safe and open it, then I have time to put on the carrier.
I have started wearing it a few hours per day several days a week. Not because I fear incoming rounds, but because as the country’s death spiral continues, I think the day where I need it will be coming closer. I want my body and my muscles to be used to the weight of wearing a plate carrier. I want to be able to run up and down the stairs or out into the woods and up mountain with the carrier on. Practice is the only thing that will make that happen, and it will help boost my physical fitness, too.
I’m also going to carry my rifle occasionally when I walk the dog on my property. This is the perfect time because the trees are leafed out so the neighbors won’t see me and wonder what I am up to. Again, this is not because I expect to shoot anyone or anything, but because it’s good practice.
Some time ago, I took a five-day training course where you had to carry your rifle with you everywhere. To lunch, to the range, in the classroom, even to the can. The idea was to get used to handling a live weapon 24×7 and to figure out what to do with it when you sat down and to keep from sweeping other people with the muzzle. It was good practice, but my gun has changed. I use a different sling, and I now mount optics. I need to get some practice living with my current platform.
The other day, walking the dog after some rain, my feet slipped out from under me while coming down a steep part of the mountain and I landed on my butt, slid a few feet, and scratched my arms on a blackberry bush. What would have happened if I had been carrying my rifle? Would the muzzle be crammed with dirt? Would the buttstock have hit my chin? What are the odds it would it have gotten tangled in my legs? Would I have had an accidental discharge? (I’d like to think not because the safety would be on.) Is it even practical for me to carry my rifle and hold the dog’s leash at the same time? I’d like to know. The only way to know for sure is to try.
Guns and Dogs
When I worked with law enforcement, the K9 officers were the first to be given pistol-mounted lights and special holsters. I guess the brass realized they could not hold a dog, a flashlight, and a pistol at the same time. The brass eventually gave all officers permission to use weapon-mounted lights, but it took a few years. The brass feared cops would draw their gun and wave it around when they needed a light. To me, that’s a simple training issue. To them, it was a potential liability.
I carry a pistol on every dog walk, but trying to control a lunging 85-pound dog and a firearm at the same time is unrealistic. If I needed the gun, I would let the dog go and then draw the gun. I don’t have a plan on what to do with a dog and a long gun. Nor do I know how to manage a long gun and the dog’s leash. I guess I’ll be working that out over the next few weeks.
Practice Beyond the Square Range
When I go to the range or set up targets here at home, it is usually static, even with multiple targets. I’ve shot IPSC, IDPA, and three-gun matches where there is plenty of movement, but they usually hold them on a flat grassy field or a gravel shooting bay. I have little experience navigating the woods with a gun in my arms.
Hunting usually entails carrying a weapon in the woods, but that’s all it is: carrying a weapon, often unloaded, slung on your back. You carry it to the blind or tree stand, then get set up, and wait for a duck or deer. Maybe you call in a turkey or other game. There isn’t much stalking done around here these days.
My goal is to become comfortable carrying a military-style weapon up and down steep mountains, on trail and off, before the time comes when I have to do so. I need to know if it is possible to scramble up a rocky mountain slope with the gun hanging in front of me on a two-point sling. How much does it slow me down to hold a long gun while bushwhacking in heavy terrain?
Upgrade your Practice
If most of your rifle shooting is from a bench, get some practice shooting kneeling and standing. Then get out into the field and use a branch or a rock as a support. Shoot from an uncomfortable position squeezed behind a bolder or lying sideways in a ditch. See how that affects your accuracy and your grip.
Better yet, run 100 yards up a steep hill, drop to your knee and engage three targets. Then run another 100 yards off trail, through whipping branches, over fallen logs and through an old barbwire fence, before you throw yourself to the ground and engage three more targets. That’s the kind of shooting you need to practice. Practicing on a square range is better than no practice, and it allows you to work on basic accuracy and gun handling, but it doesn’t duplicate real life. We won’t see the enemy lining up before us in neat rows like the Redcoats did.
Setting up Caches
I am also considering setting up small caches in the woods. An ammo can with six loaded AR-15 magazines and a bandolier of ammo in stripper clips would be a good start. Maybe throw in a couple of MRE cookies for some quick energy. If we are forced from our house by a superior force, it would be nice to resupply or at least re-stock ammo. Then we can take advantage of our knowledge of the terrain to cause some trouble for the invaders.
The problem with caches is I always want to make them bigger. As I was typing the above paragraph, my mind raced. I thought, “I should use a plastic bin and put more food and a bivy sack in there. And what if I’m carrying a .308? Should the cache have both calibers?” It’s easy to get carried away. Before long, I’ll need a pack horse just to carry the gear in my cache.
Hope for the Best
I hope I never have to put on camo, blacken my face, grab my rifle and head into the woods to defend our home or neighborhood from marauders. Given the way things look, it’s not inconceivable. Should that time come, I’d rather know what I am doing than have to learn on the job.
Do your guns stay in your safe, or do you get out and practice with them? Get out there and train.