Don’t Let Injuries Keep You from Carrying! Tips for the Wounded Carrier

Editor’s Note: The following is a syndicated article by author Bradley Lewis that first appeared in USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine Volume 15, Issue 8, November/December 2018 under the title, “Adapt to Injury: To Carry or Not to Carry?” 

I stood at my dresser, looking at my EDC gear, and asked myself, “Is it worth it?” I’d injured my leg and could not move around without assistive devices, and on this particular day, I would be on crutches.

Dealing with crutches was hard enough; did I really want to have the extra weight of a carry gun and a couple magazines? Would they get in the way of using the crutches? Would I be able to effectively draw my weapon if needed?

As these thoughts swirled through my head, I recalled the point made in Lesson 1 of the USCCA Concealed Carry and Home Defense Fundamentals course: “Don’t look like a victim.” It was with this thought in mind that I grabbed my gear and made my way out the door. However, I soon realized that carrying while temporarily disabled would mean some adjustments to the way I carry, not to mention draw, my weapon.

DOWNSIZING

My first change was to carry a smaller gun. I switched from my trusty Smith & Wesson M&P 9C to a Ruger LCP. Setting aside the “real fighting cartridge” argument (although I say a well-placed .380 trumps a .45-cal miss any day), the Ruger allowed me to carry a smaller and lighter weapon. Smaller and lighter meant it was less cumbersome.

My LCP is fitted with a Crimson Trace LG-431 Laserguard, which alone helps me get on target more quickly when having to work around crutches. It is also equipped with a Hogue 18110 grip designed to work with the Crimson Trace laser. My hands are slightly larger than most, so the extra grip and rubber texture ensures a firm grasp of the firearm while still allowing me to activate the laser.

When changing out your carry weapon, it will also likely mean switching out how you carry it. For the LCP, I chose the Mitch Rosen OWB and a Trayvax belt. The belt is light and infinitely adjustable, and the holster has a slight curve and sits tight to my body. Even better, the holster is also designed to accommodate the laser.

NO DAYS OFF

I’m in the habit of training with my carry gun more than any other, so this meant more range time with the LCP. Not only did I have to spend time on the firing line acclimating to the LCP, I needed to practice drawing while on crutches. To do this, I picked a safe place in my home — the fireplace wall, which is brick — and ensured my gun was unloaded and there was no live ammunition in the room. This should be standard protocol for all dry-fire training.

I found that the best method of drawing while on crutches was to let the crutch on my firing side fall forward while keeping the other crutch in place for support, which had the added benefit of placing an obstacle in the path of a potential attacker. Albeit a small obstacle, it still may cause an assailant to stumble and buy me a half a second or so. If an attacker is rushing you, another option is to use the firing-side crutch to push the attacker away while simultaneously dropping the crutch and drawing your weapon.

After carrying on crutches for a few weeks, I needed to travel out of town to an event that required a lot of walking. It is not uncommon to walk 10 to 12 miles a day during this three-day event, and the thought of doing so on crutches was unpalatable. Fortunately, I was able to borrow an electric scooter. You can probably see where this is headed: more changes and more practice.

HAVE A SEAT

The scooter came with armrests that made drawing from a strong-side holster difficult. Although the armrests were removable, I chose to leave them in place for comfort during the long days. During the warm summer months when I don’t have an extra layer to use for concealment, I use the Select Carry Pistol Pouch from 5.11 Tactical. I can comfortably carry my M&P 9C and an extra magazine in it, and it also has side pockets that allow me to hold a tourniquet and some QuikClot combat gauze. For my time on the electric scooter, I chose this configuration, wearing the pouch at about 10 o’clock on my waist in a crossdraw configuration.

With this change in carry method, I also changed my practice routine. In the unlikely event that I would need to draw my weapon, reaching for it from a holster on my firing side while it was in a pouch on my support side would waste precious seconds. Practicing this carry and draw method also reinforced the awareness that when crossdrawing, you risk muzzling yourself and others as you rotate the weapon into position.

RELOADING

Another area that required some practice was tactical and emergency reloads. One of the reasons I like to carry the M&P 9C is the double-stack capacity, and in my everyday carry configuration, I would have three 12-round magazines and one round in the chamber. Moving to the LCP while on crutches meant carrying three six-round magazines and one in the chamber; in other words, I was carrying half as many rounds and would more than likely need to reload were I to find myself in a shooting situation.

In a tactical reload, you’re reloading your weapon even if the magazine is not empty. You have a break in defending yourself and you elect to replace your partially depleted magazine with a fresh one. While on crutches, I practiced keeping the crutch on my support side in place while I reached through it to retrieve a fresh magazine. I then pulled the magazine through the crutch and continued with a normal reload. I then placed the partially used magazine in my pocket on my support side.

The mechanics of an emergency reload — reloading because your pistol is entirely out of ammunition — were the same in my situation. I practiced retrieving a fresh magazine in the same way as a tactical reload, while also stripping the spent magazine and letting it fall to the ground.

The challenge with an emergency reload is speed. As a result of your limited mobility, you may not be able to get to cover or concealment. I found myself often dropping my support-side crutch in practice. Realizing this is a likely scenario, I continued practicing disregarding the fallen crutch and allowing my strong leg to support my weight.

THE PARTICULARS

I also practiced reloads from a seated position in the scooter while wearing the Pistol Pouch. Being in a seated position provided a firmer foundation for the tactical and emergency reloads, but if you choose to use the Pistol Pouch, please be aware that there is a pull-tab that allows quick access to the weapon and that the pouch then remains open while you shoot. This is important to remember because your extra magazine is secured in the open flap and, if inserted incorrectly, could fall out. If inserted correctly, the floorplate or finger guard will catch and keep the magazine in place.

With a couple of different ways to carry and some practice under my belt, I began to consider cover and concealment. Being disabled makes getting to cover and concealment more difficult, and I had to change my mindset a bit. While I’ve always scanned my surroundings for cover and concealment, my limited mobility made it more important that I proactively consider my options. I found myself balancing staying far enough away from an object that could conceal me from an attacker and being close enough that I could use that same object to my advantage if needed.

BACK IN THE GAME

I’m happy to say that the crutches have been put away, the scooter has been returned to its owner, and I’m back to my original everyday gear and habits. I share my journey with you not because my specific choices would necessarily be the perfect fit for you but because I hope doing so presents an example of how one man adapted to his circumstances. My choices made sense for my leg injury, but what will you do if your strong-side arm is in a sling? How will you lift your concealment garment if your support-side hand is bandaged closed? How will you get a sight picture if your dominant eye is covered in a patch?

Don’t become a victim by setting aside your everyday carry gear until you heal.

Discover how you can join nearly 300,000 responsibly armed Americans who already rely on the USCCA to protect their families, futures and freedoms: USCCA.com/gunsamerica.

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Jay May 1, 2019, 3:49 am

    Being alternately on 2 canes or a scooter I’ve had to think about such things myself. When I am on my canes, the bottom line is, I cannot continue to stand and draw my weapon. I would have to manage a controlled fall and a draw. Wish me luck. It’s also something that’s not real advisable to practice either!
    I don’t know if it would do me any good, but, one thing I have considered is the olde “I’m having a heart attack!” scenario then going for my gun when I fall.
    Another thing I have worked on is having my 20 year old son train at drawing and using my gun though he will soon be 21 and can get his own license.
    No matter how you look at things, it definitely presents a challenge!

  • Jeff Karn April 26, 2019, 1:32 pm

    Excellent article. I faced the same issue back in 2015 when I needed a hip replacement due to a line-of-duty injury. In the period leading up to the replacement, I needed a cane to walk, and even to stand for extended periods. Unfortunately, I needed to use the cane in my right hand, and I shoot right handed. This necessitated me needing to get a pistol that I could operate left-handed, and train how to use it. I chose a Springfield XDM compact in 9mm, due to the fully ambidextrous controls. I got so used to carrying and shooting the XDM left-handed, that I find it hard to shoot from the right, even after I no longer need the cane. The plus side is that the experience did make me a much better shooter with my weak hand.

  • Daniel Braatz April 26, 2019, 12:43 pm

    Great article! I don’t think this is something everyone thinks about -until now. It reminded me that I believe even a ‘smaller’ firearm is better than no firearm. You have also reminded me that I want more practice drawing while seated in a vehicle; something else that I think is often neglected. Let’s all stay safe out there!

  • Dennis April 26, 2019, 10:05 am

    Having gone thru 19 knee and back surgeries (thanks to the inept care from VA!) I can no longer carry anything at my waist. I have taken to wearing Ridge V-Neck Packin’ Tee Shirts that allow my to carry what basically is a shoulder holster carry. It is not particularly fast on the draw but I wear 5.11 snap down shirts that allow my to make the draw as quick as possible. It is not perfect but it allows my to carry when no other method would work.

  • Francisco Rodriguez April 26, 2019, 9:31 am

    Wonderful and truly useful article. I myself am disabled and am forced to walk with a cane in my everyday activities. I carry daily, but after reading this, I have to get in the mindset to work with my disability to be successful in protecting myself and most importantly my family. Thank you so much and God bless!

  • Gerald Robinson April 26, 2019, 4:06 am

    I use a power chair, and I need or want a vertical shoulder holster, instead of the horizontal draw type. I don’t know that a person could could grab my pistol from the horizontal holster, but it is a concern. I have written Galco several time asking for a 1911 type vertical holster for a pistol with a 3 inch barrel. They don’t make a vertical holster for the compact pistols because they say there is not enough demand. Any recommendations for a good VSH?

    • Daniel Braatz April 26, 2019, 12:33 pm

      You may be able to find some type of universal holster that you could configure to a VSH. I have used one, from Uncle Mike’s, for many years*: It can be swiched around to any carry position (except IWB) & also accomodates everything from my .32 up to my 6″ .44!

      Good luck & stay safe!
      *I hope such a think still availible

  • Steve April 25, 2019, 6:22 am

    With birth defects, one and two canes, one hand and part of a hand plus a muscular neurological disease I always carry although I always have Sabre 3 in 1 defensive sprays and more items including special knives. All concealed. Even a street gang targeting me knocking me on the ground would be in for surprises. I wouldn’t survive a uncontested street gang attack so my attitude is “it’s on”! I’m bringing it and only I know where everything is hidden on me.

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