CONCEALMENT 27 Don’t Become a Fudd: A How-To Guide Tamara Keel 9 Comments, Join the Conversation [This article originally appeared in CONCEALMENT #27] Fudd [\’f∂d\] (noun): A term that was originally a derogatory word for gun owners who hunted but were dismissive of modern semi-auto “tactical” type firearms. It has evolved to refer to a shooter who is mired in the past and scornful of any technological innovation that occurred much after they learned how to shoot. When confronted with any development newer than that, they retreat behind a stream of cliches such as “I don’t want my life to depend on batteries” or “It’ll give away your position,” like a squid behind a cloud of ink. In the ’80s, there was a great popular science series produced by the BBC and hosted by James Burke, titled The Day the Universe Changed. It traced the effects of various scientific and technological leaps that altered our understanding of the world. One quote from it really stood out: Somebody once observed to the eminent philosopher Wittgenstein how stupid medieval Europeans living before the time of Copernicus must have been that they could have looked at the sky and thought that the sun was circling the earth. Surely a modicum of astronomical good sense would have told them that the reverse was true. Wittgenstein is said to have replied: “I agree. But I wonder what it would have looked like if the sun had been circling the earth.” While we haven’t seen any developments in the world of firearms and their tactical application recently that are as big a deal as the adoption of the heliocentric model of the solar system or the discovery of DNA, the last few decades have still seen some really big changes nonetheless. For example, there are law enforcement officers who recently retired after 30-plus years who were issued revolvers as their duty sidearm out of the academy, and a Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant right now was probably already a junior NCO when he saw his first issued optical sight. It can be bewildering to keep up with these changes when experiencing them firsthand, and even harder when you get your information secondhand, filtered through your guru of choice — your uncle Randy the Ranger, or grouchy ol’ Bob the part-time counter help down at the neighborhood gun store, or … cough … some rando writing in a gun magazine. One of the main attributes of the modern Fudd is that at some point, they might actually have been right — and then they simply stopped learning. A variation of the Fudd is the “good enough for me” crowd. EXAMPLE: WEAPON-MOUNTED LIGHTS The idea of putting a light on a firearm isn’t new, and we’re not talking about the memes you see with a brass lantern hanging off a flintlock pistol (though those were actually used for hunting). As far back as the interwar years in the first half of the previous century, there were attempts to put an illumination tool on a pistol. Smith & Wesson service revolvers in the U.S. and P08 Lugers in Germany were the recipients of early WML experiments. However, flashlights back then were pretty weaksauce, especially those small enough to squeeze onto a pistol. The average flashlight wasn’t all that great well into fairly recent times; Gen X’ers and older Millennials can probably remember camping trips with cheap plastic or sheet metal flashlights that held a couple of C- or D-cell batteries, were about half as bright as a dead firefly, and didn’t have enough battery life for a night of sneaking out of the tent and exploring the woods looking for a good place to tell ghost stories. While the ’70s and ’80s saw some SWAT and SOF use of Kel-Lite or Maglite flashlights attached to shotguns or SMGs, it was SureFire’s introduction of compact flashlights with xenon bulbs combined with lithium batteries that really started the WML revolution (see our interview with SureFire founder John Mathews in RECOIL Issue 35). Still, though, the lights were bulky and expensive, and battery life was spotty. Sixty-something lumens didn’t give a lot of bounce or spill to work with, and while the SureFire 6P and its clones and copycats revolutionized the handheld light business, the incandescent WML remained a very niche tool used for the most part by high-speed go-fast dudes. It wasn’t until the LED revolution in the middle part of the first decade of this millennium that weapon-mounted lights began to shrink in physical size, while output and battery life ballooned to levels that would’ve been unimaginable to the kids who’d been playing flashlight tag at camp with those 2-cell Evereadys back in the ’80s. Nowadays, quality WMLs, with plenty of output to allow searching with bounce and spill, and enough battery life to make it worthwhile to have one on a pistol, are common and relatively inexpensive. Holsters for the best ones are easy to find, doctrine for using them is well-developed and field-proven, and their use has trickled down to the common end user, now frequently seen in the holsters of private citizen CCW carriers and LEOs alike. EXAMPLE: OPTICAL SIGHTS ON COMBAT RIFLES Sticking optical sights atop military-issue rifles has been a thing for almost as long as rifling the barrels of military long-guns, but for the longest time, it was limited to extremely niche applications. Snipers were guys who were issued specialty weapons and expected to care for them like specialist troops. This was the way well into the ’70s. But optics manufacturers were constantly trying to satisfy commercial customers who were dragging scopes into the outbacks of Alaska and Africa, and scopes were getting more durable. With battery-powered optics, the same revolution that took over flashlights was occurring. Lithium batteries offered more power and longer lives, and LEDs required less of a power draw. By the turn of the millennium, optical sights, whether zero-magnification electronic sights or magnified optics, were pretty much ubiquitous on the long guns of high-speed, low-drag types. But even then, you had a large chunk of well-known civilian firearms trainers railing against this development. Clint Smith was known for saying that five minutes after the lights went out, men with iron sights would rule the world. Meanwhile, the military was gearing up to issue optical sights — whether the magnifying ACOG or the red-dot Aimpoint — to pretty much everyone. Sight durability and battery life had advanced to the point that optical sights were no longer the province of specially trained snipers and could be handed to every enlistee with the expectation that they’d be as durable as the rest of his or her kit. We’ve reached the point that pretty much every junior enlisted deployed to some of the most climatically hellish corners of the globe has done so with some sort of scope mounted on their service rifle — and has done so for a decade. This is no longer a niche or edge technology. If you’re still raving at optics on long guns at this stage, you’re a Fudd. With that battle fought and largely won, where’s the front line of Fudd-ism right now? FRONTLINE OF FUDDISM: DOTS ON HANDGUNS Pistol red dots go back way farther than most partisans on either side of rabid gun forum fights realize it does. There were guys machining C-More sights into pistol slides back in the ’90s. Was the C-More “duty rated?” Certainly not, but they weren’t using them to drive nails or pass ice-and-mud tests just to dome bad guys. Yet again, we see the Impractical > Specialized > General Use pipeline in effect. Competitive shooters used cumbersome frame-mounted red dots, but electro-optical sights were too big or fragile to mount on a pistol slide. At some point the technology advanced to the point that these sights were small enough to attach to a pistol slide, and a visionary dude or two realized, “Hey, red-dot optics work great on carbines, so what if we stuck them on pistols?” The first instructor to make a serious argument for the practical/tactical use of pistol dots was Kelly McCann back in the late ’90s, and a lot of people dismissed it as a silly idea — but not everyone. This started the development feedback loop for both sights and mounting systems. Ironically, development was turbocharged by the Trijicon RMR, whose ruggedness and small size came from the fact that it was originally designed to be tough enough to mount atop a magnified optic on a JSOC carbine. Where are we now with slide-mounted optics? Well, they’re well past the experimental stage and even beyond the point where only supersecret tactical units use them. Regular private citizens are carrying them every day, and if you’re worried about being an early adopter, don’t worry, as big city police departments are starting to make them general-issue too. We’re not far from the point where opposing the slide-mounted MRDS in 2022 will seem as Fudd-like as decrying the transition away from revolvers in 1992 or jacketed hollow points in 1982. TRICKLE-DOWN TACTICAL ECONOMICS Here’s a good approximation for the acceptance arc of anything technical or tactical in this industry: It starts out as a pie-in-the-sky, not-ready-for-prime-time idea, and that’s where most of it stays. There’s a much higher risk of failure for innovators or early adopters. Sometimes, though, it offers enough of a theoretical advantage that forward-thinking competitors or special operations-type units mess with it and work out the best ways to make use of it. That feedback gets back to manufacturers, the hardware gets better, and the end users then further refine the techniques and tactics … lather, rinse, repeat. Eventually, if it proves a success, it spreads out into the wider shooting world. Surfing this curve for any given development can be hard for the end user who isn’t spending sponsorship money or government budget on their gear and training. The line between avoiding the disappointment of an early adopter and being a retrograde Fudd who avoids modernity by reflex can be quite fine. Imagine a line extending from a point at the left-hand side that’s labeled “this is dumb and won’t work” to a point on the right-hand side reading “everybody does this; it’s commonly accepted wisdom.” Just left of the middle would be “smart people using other people’s money.” If you want to safely be on the cutting edge without going broke or looking like a Luddite, riding slightly to the right of that middle point is the place to be. It pays dividends to regularly examine your biases about guns, accessories, and training then compare them to what people at the top of their game are doing. There’s absolutely nothing shameful about changing your mind when presented with new evidence or information — quite the contrary, even if you’ve yet to plunk down the time or money yourself. In other words, just because something used to be true doesn’t mean it’s still true. Or you can just bury your head and become a Fudd — it’s a lot easier than using your brain. 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