The Humble Opinel- It’s Tactical as Hell!

If you don’t know about these already you need to. This is the classic Opinel folder. It’s simple, cheap, traditional and from a certain viewpoint it’s tactical as hell.

The classic Opinel folder, a staple for sportsmen, campers and craftsmen for over a century- and it’s just as useful today as it ever was.

When you actually look up the definition ‘Tactical’ is not about black guns, rip-stop nylon and Kydex- it’s about having a plan, and these knives fit into a plan like nobody’s business.

They are cheap, they are good and they are genuinely useful. No, they don’t clip to your tacti-cool vest or pocket, they can’t be deployed at high speed, and as thin as the blades are they aren’t optimal as a pocket fighting-knife… but they do knife stuff, and for the sort of things you are REALLY going to use a knife for, they are nearly perfect.

Whatever you’re doing there is probably an Opinel for that.

How cheap? Well, they come in a variety of sizes, shapes and handle materials so it varies, but basic knives that give you what you really need? $11-$20 each. This one cost me $17 including shipping, and I carry it every day. Believe me, this is the ONLY $15 dollar knife I would carry and depend on. They come sharp and can easily be made sharper, and they hold an edge very well. They are light-weight even when compared to modern Tacti-cool knives made from modern materials. They lock securely open securely open *and* closed.

One thing you need to understand: This is a knife. It is not a screwdriver, a pry-bar or a hatchet. It does knife stuff: opening boxes, food prep, shaving wood for kindling, cutting rope or twine. As long as you use it correctly for it’s intended use it’s great. stray from that and you’l have issues.

There have been a lot of variations on these knives over the years, from filet knives to mushroom knives. they can be had in carbon-steel or stainless.

Being cheap you can have a variety for different needs and back-ups. Being light you can pack them around easily. Being simple they are reliable and easy to clean. You can have them around for your own use, to equip companions or as trade-goods without breaking the bank.

Look into them- they are available from Amazon, direct from Opinel and many other sources.

I am not associated with Opinel in any way, did not receive compensation for this article and was not solicited to write this. I just think they are fantastic.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 15 October 2020

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Situational Awareness in All Moments of an Encounter

This is usually an ‘around the campfire’ sort of story, but I am going to tell it here because there are lessons to be learned. It’s about a situation that occurred around thirty years ago in downtown Seattle.

Your EDC items are just tools, not solutions. Solutions come from your best, most import and effective tool- your brain.

The Story

My friend Kevin and I got on like a house on fire, in part because of similar past experiences. Kevin was my size, at the time about 6’4″ and 230-240 lbs. On the evening in question Kevin, my girlfriend Casey and his girlfriend were sitting in a bar in Pioneer Square sharing a pizza. Neither Kevin nor I drink, but hey, this place had excellent pizza. The front window of the bar overlooked the pay-parking lot where Casey’s car was, in fact on the edge of the lot facing us. I noticed a middle-aged man with a large utility bag stopping next to her car. He was weaping jeans, a flannel shirt with a blue down vest over it. He stood there a moment, then set the bag on the hood of Casey’s car and knelt behind it.

Kevin had also noted this and we exchanged a look. I pulled out my phone, flipped it open and dialed 911. I handed it to Casey and said, “If anything happens press ‘send'”

Kevin and I got up and exited the bar and I quietly told him to act like I was saying something funny. We crossed the street to the corner and I made a gesture for him to turn right while I went straight, exchanging parting words. At the end of the row of cars I abruptly turned towards Casey’s car and the fellow behind it, striding purposely forward. Kevin stopped by the back of the car and turned toward him.

The fellow stood and looked at me approaching (and now quite close,) then shot a glance at Kevin and a look of sick realization came over his face. Kevin and I were 90 degrees apart and he he had nowhere to go. It was obvious if we wanted him we’d have him. I stuck my right hand out as I closed the distance, gave him a big smile and said, “Hi! I’m Mike Pearce and this is my girfriend’s car.” He took my hand starting to look relieved as I continued, “We were kinda’ curious as to what you’re doing?”

The relief vanished as he suddenly realized, ‘OhMyGod I gave him my gun hand and he’s out of the line of fire…

I retained my grip as he quickly explained he was a Seattle Police Officer, off-duty and waiting for his ride when he saw he needed to change the battery on his radio. He carefully used his left-hand fingertips to move the vest enough to show me the badge on his belt. I released his hand and relaxed my posture. He looked relieved and asked where we had come from, and I explained. He said he’d wondered who had boxed him in; it was obvious we’d given him a serious fright, and no discredit to him, either; I’d have been shaken too. I apologized for startling him; I actually felt a little bad.

He said, “Yeah, I looked up and realized I was screwed. Who are you guys?”

We were, well, nobody really. I said, “just concerned citizens.” He said he guessed it was good people were paying attention, and we wished each other a good evening and went back to the bar. A few moments later a car pulled up, he got in and departed. Naturally when we left we checked Casey’s car, but everything appeared fine, and that was the end of it.

The Lessons

Kevin and I had proper situational awareness, noticed an unusual circumstance and responded. We had back-up in place in that our girlfriends were watching and ready to contact police in an instant if things went badly. We never crossed each other’s line of fire, never adopted a threatening posture, did not show aggression, did not display a weapon or even indicate that we were armed. We were spaced so that he could not engage either of us without leaving the other free to respond. We maintained awareness of our target and surroundings until we parted ways with the officer.

The officer made a lot of mistakes, the first of which was behaving in a manner that could be construed as suspicious. It’s likely he didn’t want to announce to the world that he had a Police radio, but it would have been better to either open the bag and replace the battery inside it or, better yet, wait until his ride arrived and do it in the car. Secondly he did not maintain situational awareness, and did not realize he was under threat until it was too late.

OK, let’s not be too harsh on this fellow. He’d worked a long day and there is a natural tendency to relax at the end of shift. He was preoccupied, perhaps focused on getting home. It’s perfectly normal, completely understandable… and if we’d been bad guys he would have been dead.

The third mistake was shaking my hand. This not only gave me his gun-hand, it put him in a position where his left hand couldn’t reach me, and he couldn’t employ his legs without significantly shifting his stance. Shaking my hand removed all his options for a rapid physical response. If he’d tried to correct this Kevin could have intervened. A more appropriate response would have been to raise his hands slightly palm out. This would have displayed that he posed no threat while keeping his options open. OK, he didn’t have any good options, but bad options are better than none at all.

What he did right was to not over-react. He realized he was not in control of the situation and responded in a way that would not make things worse. Sometimes the bad guys have you cold, and there’s nothing to do but wait for your chance. By acknowledging this and acting accordingly he kept the situation from escalating, and it all worked out in the end. I don’t know if he reasoned this out, but it was the right reaction regardless. There’s a maxim in martial arts; ‘Never pursue a failed technique.’ In other words if it’s not working don’t try to force it to work. In this case for him to try to assert control over the situation would have fallen into this category.

The Take Away

Maintain situational awareness. Do not do things that look suspicious or attract the wrong kind of attention. Do not relax too soon (shaking my hand.) Sometimes all you can do is roll with a situation and wait for your chance. Last and very much not least don’t panic! Sometimes a situation is not what it might at first seem.

If you are in the situation Kevin and I were do your best not to inspire panic. Maintain a non-threatening demeanor. Don’t play with your food; keep the pace fast and get to reassurance as quickly as possible to diffuse the situation. This isn’t about power, or ego, or being a badass; it’s about resolving the situation as quickly and painlessly as possible while everyone remains safe.

Be careful and stay safe yourself in these uncertain times.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 27 September 2020

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EDC Guns in Uneasy Times

OK, things in America are a bit off these days- pandemics, protests, riots, political unrest… I think we can all agree this is true without getting into the specifics or politics, and we won’t. Let’s just all agree these are uneasy times and keep our opinions about the reasons to ourselves.

Typically in recent years I have carried a revolver. It was consistent with the threat (extremely unlikely and limited.) I pretty much figured the most likely threats I would face could be dealt with in 5-6 shots.

My trusty (and a bit worn-looking) .38 safety hammerless was a constant companion around the home and shop for years. Pocket-carry is hard on a finish…

Small revolver in a pocket holster around the house and shop, a K-frame for general purposes. Sometimes a Detonics Mk.1 Combat Master .45, less because i felt the need of a little extra firepower than that I love it, shoot it well and the manual-of-arms is pretty much hard-wired at this point. But the K-frame was the champ, if for no other reason that it’s curves didn’t print as conspicuously as the little .45.

Rapid-fire 7-yard groups with ‘The Old Dog,’ a model 1902 .38, cut to 3″ of barrel, new front sight, custom stag grips. Updated as a practical carry gun in the modern world. Only six shots, but a superb trigger and as comfortable as an old pair of jeans… but the best choice for troubled times? Arguably not.

I love double action revolvers, and for normal circumstances their limitations, 6-shots and a relatively slow reload, seemed adequate to face probable threats. Formerly around home I’d drop my little top-break snubby in a back pocket and forget about it. In the vanishingly unlikely event that I needed a gun it would probably do, at least long enough to get me to something better. Going out and about I’d strap on the ‘Old Dog’ and grab a couple speed loaders.

Last summer I carried my custom Taurus M85 .38. About the same size as the .38 DA, but capable of using considerably more potent rounds. It also has a Cerakote finish that would tolerate being sweated on better than the old S&W. A great ‘around the house’ gun, but as times have changed I have been less comfortable with it when out and about.

The Tiny Taurus, a custom M85 .38. Punches above it’s weight, but still just a five-shooter.

Then Linda got me a very nice birthday present, a Seecmp LWS32. Ultra-small, stainless construction and at least notably more capable than a .25 auto. Not as capable as the .38 DA, but much more concealable. It’s been occupying my pocket pretty much any time between rising and going to bed ever since. Not an EDC for general carry, but the very definition of EDC. Hell, I can drop it in my pajama pocket and forget it’s there.

The Seecamp LWS32- not extremely accurate, not impressively powerful, but so small it can always be handy. A great gun to carry when you aren’t carrying a gun.

I’ve not been a ‘two-gun guy’ since I quit being a cop, but nowadays I often am because of the little Seecamp. Whatever else if going on it’s always there, even when I strap on a more suitable EDC gun.

Current events have altered my opinion about EDC guns, however. Fortunately as much as I love revolvers I also love semi-autos. I also find them better suited to a ‘heightened threat’ environment, as the police and military have acknowledged for decades. More shots, faster reloads, and reloads that are easier to conceal. Yes, conceal. Not big on open-carry; it alarms the general public where I live, enhances the opportunity to disarm me and announces to the baddies that they need to shoot me first. You may feel differently, and that’s fine, but I’m talking about my preferences because they affect my choices.

The Detonics Mk1 Combat Master .45. The first commercially produced sub-compact 1911. a lot of punch in a small package. Heavy, but a good gun belt and holster counter this adequately.

The Detonics .45 offers many of the advantages in terms of reloads etc., but after years of carrying revolvers I am less comfortable with a ‘cocked-and-locked’ single action that I once was. I’m surprised by this, but these days i prefer a double-action auto.

Then, for largely sentimental reasons, Linda got me another present, a Sig Sauer P6. This is a single-stock, compact 9mm that takes an 8-round magazine. The 8+1 capacity is a definite step up from the Old Dog’s six shots, or even the 6+1 capacity of the Detonics. More care needs to be taken with concealment, but with cooler weather arriving this isn’t a big deal. Yes,a more modern gun would offer significantly more shots and/or better concealability, but i have this one and I am extremely comfortable with it’s ergonomics and operation.

The Sig-Sauer P6. Compact rather than sub-compact and with a single-stack magazine. On the other hand it suits my large hands, I am very comfortable with it and, very importantly, operation is pretty hard-wired and I shoot it well. Being a big guy and since we’re coming into ‘Coat Season’ it’s extra size isn’t much an issue for me.

I’m very comfortable with this gun, and it’s ergonomics work exceptionally well for me. Unlike many guns my trigger finger slides naturally from the frame above the trigger guard to the trigger. The relatively heavy weight (compared to modern sub-compacts) is mitigated by the use of a proper gun-belt and a good holster. Low capacity is less an issue because I can reload quite fast. I’m old and fat, and frankly if I need more than two reloads I’m unlikely to live long enough to use them.

I made this high-ride holster for the P-6. It’s secure and holds the gun tight against my body. Under even a light jacket it hides very well at the four-o’clock position, and the draw is quick and easy. The trigger is covered just enough, and the heavy wax-finished 8-9oz. leather is unlikely to deform and make re-holstering an issue.

So, EDC these days is the Seecamp in a pocket, and the P6 in it’s holster with a reload on the off-side (i haven’t quite gotten around to making a two-mag carried for it yet, but I will.) Am I safer? Perhaps. Do I feel a wee bit more secure? Definitely.

Enhanced Threat Environment

So how big is the anticipated threat level? Do I really think it’s more likely that I’ll need to resort to armed self defense?

In a word- no. Or not significantly more likely, anyway. In the U.S. about three hundred people kill another person with a gun in self defense each year. Given estimates of the number of people in the country that legally have firearms this means your odds of winning the lottery are roughly comparable to the chance that you’ll kill someone defending a life, either yours or someone else’s. Mind you, that’s the odds that you’ll kill someone; most self-defense shootings involve a handgun, and most people shot with handguns don’t die. It is also widely believed that in the vast majority of incidents where a firearm is deployed for the purpose of self-defense no shots are fired. Exact data on this is not available, so we have no good handle on exactly how often this happens. It is believed that the large majority of such incidents are not reported.

In a nutshell my odds of needing to shoot in self-defense could double and they would still be vanishingly small. I don’t think the odds have doubled. I expect it’s still extremely unlikely that I will need to fire in self-defense. But the nature of the threat can change without a significant change in probability of such an event occurring.

In the current climate I think that if I am involved in a lethal force encounter it is significantly more likely I’ll face multiple opponents, in which case more shots and frankly a more visually threatening firearm, will be an asset. It’s also not a ‘happy coincidence’ that I put together a 9mm AR this year.

Whichever side of the political divide you fall on it seems likely that we’re in for a rough ride the next few months. Exercise good sense, be prepared and don’t psyche yourself into over-reacting. Keep your wits about you, keep one eye open and, for the love of God don’t look for trouble.

The Point

I had to get to it eventually, and it’s this- situational awareness is not part time, and includes more than your immediate surroundings in the moment. Be aware of the larger picture too; your neighborhood, county, state and country. Gather enough information to have a realistic assessment of the threat level and parameters, and adjust accordingly.

*Please refrain from political commentary in the comments. I’ve tried to keep this a place where we can come together over our common interest, not be divided by our differences, and I implore you to respect that.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 20 September 2020

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