Wheelchair Concealed Carry Part 2: the benefits of a chair
In my last tirade I explained the fact that concealed carry of a handgun is a viable option for people in wheelchairs. People in wheelchairs need to take certain steps toward realizing their defensive independence. As I continue this article and this series I will be divulging the various fundamentals and tidbits I have discovered to be uniquely important to the armed but mobility hindered citizen. One particular thing to remember from the previous article are the variations in physical dispositions for the wheelchair bound, which are extensive; factors include types of chairs, body types, differences in injuries, natural medical conditions, temporary or recurring wounds, size and strength, etc. Such varieties naturally make it impossible to suggest a universal way of doing anything. We have to start somewhere though, so today we’ll begin with how I personally carry most days , what works for me and progress from there.
Before I go any further, let me say that I do not personally prefer the open carry of firearms for most people day to day. As you will read however, “open carry” is for the mobility hindered much different than that of other people. This should not be construed as an interpretation that I think open carry should be illegal and obviously there are places where that is the only option. It is my opinion that the tactical benefits are dwarfed by the potential hazards and bad social situations. If nothing else, the element of surprise is a wonderful if not indispensable thing to have in a fight.
That said, the wheelchair by the nature of its geometry offers ways to enjoy the benefits of both concealed and open carry. For those of you reading this who are yourselves in a chair day to day, hopefully you’ll be happy to read that there are benefits to being in a wheelchair. There are many to be certain, but the options for carrying a self defense weapon are the first we will address.
I carry my primary handgun in the 8 o’clock position, outside the waistband as a left hand draw. I usually do not wear an over-shirt when I am out. Essentially this would be considered open carry for most armed citizens. However the fact that my clothing does not conceal the firearm does not mean it can be seen. This is the benefit of the wheelchair; the backrest and side guards of the chair completely hide the pistol from view. To draw, I lean forward slightly and reach straight down into a nice hand-sized “pocket” to draw my handgun from its holster.
This allows someone in a wheelchair to utilize one of the frequently professed benefits of open carry: easier access to the firearm. The gun cannot be seen unless I am leaning forward and somebody is standing directly over me, yet there is no cover garment to be cleared before dragging iron. Traditional concealed carry can easily add a full second to the average person’s draw stroke. When you need a gun, time typically means life, meaning you need that gun presented as soon as humanly possible. Would it not be great to instantly shave a second off of your life-saving draw stroke?
With regards to this faster draw stroke wheelchair users are potentially in luck. I say potentially because this method of carry might not work for many individuals. That is alright; we will explore many methods of utilizing the wheelchair to conceal firearms and movement as we go along. Before we proceed though, let’s consider another key aspect of this carry method, one that actually applies to many forms of from-the-chair carry. That is visual and cognitive deception.
It is a simple enough concept; what is not looked for cannot be seen. In other words, what is not expected cannot be easily or quickly processed. It is hard enough for a predator that has chosen what he perceives to be a victim to be confronted with the bang side of a handgun and continue to process his changing environment. This effect is greatly amplified when the situation involves a potential victim (in this case the chair bound individual) who is initially seen as basically a free meal, an easy payday. The last thing a predator expects out of an injured gazelle is fangs, claws, and deadly intent.
By the way, America, this is something we can change; let us start changing the view of the less capable as helpless potential victims, shall we?
Thus there is great potential to capitalize on a predator’s psychological freeze response, getting inside the attacker’s OODA loop, but there are other factors that work to our advantage here too. For example, with a little practice the draw stroke via the aforementioned method can be made very difficult to see. The average draw stroke on a man of average training is a whole body affair; the weight drops preparing for trained firing position, shoulders tense as the arm draws upward to contact the grip of the pistol (tension that can be seen all the way into the forehead), and clothing starts flying as hands drastically claw trying to find the gun amid rolls of fabric. It is a collection of movement that draws immediate attention.
From the wheelchair perspective, much of this is not the case. In fact, for many individuals such movement is not even physically possible. Chair users have the benefit of already being in their firing stance without shift of weight. Also, I train my students whenever possible to relax their shoulders on the draw; this turns a draw stroke into what looks like a reach for a wallet –very handy if it can be accomplished through training. Lastly, people (including the proverbial bad guy) do not look down. They just don’t. By keeping the focus up high in the face as we draw, keeping the shoulders relaxed, we buy even more time and potential surprise in presentation. Whatever it is, it can only be considered an advantage if it is actually utilized, so please take all of these things into consideration when determining what works best for you as an individual.
This brief over describes only how I personally carry most of the time. Read: this is only one option. It works for me because of the nature of my injuries and the extent of my abilities and body type. There are many, many variables that play into a style of concealed carry; that statement goes for anybody, but it is even more prevalent with wheelchair users. In future installments we will talk about the fundamentals of different carry methods and what general wheelchair confining dispositions might benefit from each of those methods.
Note: the “Project Wheelchair Gunfighter” patches you see as the featured image here are from Romo’s ‘Project Wheelchair Gunfighter’. You have to take one of his basic classes, be accepted for a Level 2 class and be recognized as a contributor to the project to earn one. They are not for sale. Find out more on the White Rabbit Protection Strategies page or follow Romo on YouTube.
About the Author: Jacob Romo is a Marine Corps combat veteran who instructs methods of self-defense to students with physical constraints such as those who are wheelchair bound. Mr. Romo has an extensive background in combatives, including two black belts and 4.5 years of service in the USMC. He is as keen a student as he is an instructor, a passion he leverages along with his fighting background to the benefit of his students. In addition to his own company, White Rabbit Protection Strategies, Mr. Romo has joined other SMEs such as Lee Vernon, Marty Hayes, Kelly Muir and RECOIL contributor Mike Seeklander as part of the Personal Defense Network staff. Classes instructed by White Rabbit Protection Strategies will run the gamut of hand-to-hand, knife, and firearm methodologies.