4 key considerations for off-duty carry
The topic of off-duty carry is too big an issue to ignore,
especially when it is so starkly presented in the news headlines of the
An off-duty Philadelphia Police Officer was shot Friday while he shielded his son from gunfire.
Angelo Romero and his two-year-old son were caught in the crossfire of a
gunfight between a two rival groups of suspects aged between 15- and
18-years-old. Romero was shot in the hand. His son was not injured.
Romero is recovering and is expected to be OK.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross later said, “He was just so, so lucky.”
At the time of the incident, Romero was unarmed. This fact raises
once again the never-ending discussion about off-duty carry. What
follows is in no way a criticism of Romero, whose actions that afternoon
were truly heroic. But the topic of off-duty carry is too big an issue
to ignore, especially when it is so starkly presented in the news
headlines of the day. News like Officer Romero’s bravery last week
creates an opportunity to revisit training and other consideration for
off-duty carry. Here are four things to think about.
1. Choosing your equipment
An off-duty gun is like a parachute. When you need it, you really,
really need it, and nothing else will do. Like a parachute, you want to
be sure that you’re packing the best possible equipment.
In an ideal world, you will be permitted to carry your duty weapon
while off-duty, but we do not live in an ideal world. For many officers,
their off-duty gun ends up being a different model, if not even a
wholly different manufacturer than their on-duty rig.
The good news is that smaller and more-concealable versions of existing duty guns have recently come to the market. The Glock 43 and the Smith and Wesson M&P Shield
are both excellent single-stack 9mm auto pistols with mechanics that
mirror their bigger brothers which sit on the hips of hundreds of
thousands of American police officers.
Make a very deliberate decision about location of carry (appendix,
hip, ankle) and be sure you select the best possible holster for you.
There are countless good options in both leather and Kydex. I’m not a
fan of pocket carry (for a host of reasons), but if that’s your
selection, an absolute must is getting a pocket holster from Sticky.
You can elect to add a laser-grip from Crimson Trace, or upgrade your sights to a high-visibility option such as is available from HIVIZ Shooting Systems. Both options can lead to better performance.
Be sure to spend top-dollar for the best possible ammo — cheap ammo
is for plinking — and purchase a couple of spare magazines and mag
Remember that the easiest element in off-duty carry is the shopping trip to your local firearms dealer.
Things only get much, much more difficult from there — starting with training.
2. Committing to training
Simply carrying a gun off-duty is not enough — one must vigorously train
to use it safely and effectively. This means putting hundreds — perhaps
thousands — of rounds downrange, and doing so on regular and ongoing
Bring your new off-duty set-up to the company range — assuming that’s
within policy, of course — and get busy. Your marksmanship training may
begin with the “dot-torture” drill or some other high-intensity
accuracy drill. Move on to the “who’s your buddy” drill or some other
Practice drawing and moving to cover simultaneously. Practice drawing
and shooting from a seated position — as if at a restaurant. Practice
your verbalization skills.
Whenever possible, train with a buddy — so much the better if your
buddy is a firearms instructor — because having someone present to
observe and critique your work is very valuable. You may even elect to
attend private training from a certified instructor who specializes in
CCW tactics. Be sure to do your homework on the school and the
instructor — there are some snake oil salesmen out there.
When you are at home, practice dry-fire manipulations and everything
else that goes into running your gun at the highest possible level. Do
your mental preparation with scenario visualizations and when/then
Remember to include your family in your training. They don’t
necessarily have to go to the range with you — although that is also an
option to consider in the event that you go down in the fight and they
have to defend themselves. Develop a language between you and your
spouse and you and your kids so when you suddenly yell ‘Get behind me!’
or ‘Get away from me!’ they instantly know what to do.
Train your family to immediately call 911 in the event of an off-duty
shooting. They should be able to calmly but quickly describe your
appearance, your location and your firearm.
Remember, when the time to preform arrives, the time to prepare has passed.
3. Picking your battles
Sometimes, the battle picks you, and armed response is the only way to
reasonably believe that survival of yourself or an innocent victim is
possible. Recall that when 43-year-old Traci Johnson was about to be
beheaded at a Vaughan Foods processing plant in 2014, the company’s
chief operating officer — an off-duty Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Deputy
named Mark Vaughan — shot and killed the attacker, saving Johnson’s life.
However, there are cases in which you are at such a tactical
disadvantage that an armed response actually puts you in more danger
than other options — most notably, seeking cover.
Remember that in Philadelphia on Friday, Romero was not the intended
target — he and his son simply were caught in a lousy place at a lousy
time. Had he been packing, and had he started uncorking rounds at the
two warring groups, he and his son could well have become bullet magnets
— not a good situation when you’re outnumbered and carrying little more
than a single-stack 9mm or a six-shot .38 revolver.
Moving away from the fray and seeking solid cover is a viable option
that simply must not be forgotten when you find yourself heavily
outnumbered or outgunned.
Further, consider the fact that there are instances when an off-duty
officer’s best course of action is to make the best possible witness for
investigators. For a sheepdog, this can be a very difficult thing to
do, because sheepdogs are creatures of action, not passivity. But
getting into an off-duty beef can be a one-way ticket to another career,
or a civil lawsuit, or both.
This reminds me, one of the most important things to have in your
pocket in the event of an off-duty shooting is the name and telephone
number of a good attorney. This is a relationship that has to be
established when you first make the decision to carry off duty. Have
this programed into your contacts list on your phone.
4. Welcoming the cavalry
If you’re off-duty and you get into a shooting, as soon as the gunfire
ends, you should prepare to immediately comply with commands of arriving
uniformed officers. When the threat has been neutralized, reholstering
the gun or even setting it on the ground is a good way to prevent a
tragic blue-on-blue situation when the good guys get to the scene.
Once the uniforms get there, they run the show and you do your best
imitation of a compliant citizen. Put yourself in the shoes of those
arriving uniforms. Would you want a guy in plain clothes waving a badge
and a gun around at a “shots fired” scene?
Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Stay safe out there my friends.
About the author
Doug Wyllie is Editor at Large for PoliceOne, responsible
for providing police training content and expert analysis on a wide
range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community. An
award-winning columnist — he is the 2014 Western Publishing Association
"Maggie Award" winner in the category of Best Regularly Featured
Digital Edition Column — Doug has authored more than 900 feature
articles and tactical tips. Doug is also responsible for planning and
recording the PoliceOne Podcast, Policing Matters, as well as being the
on-air host for PoliceOne Video interviews. Doug also works closely with
the PoliceOne Academy to develop training designed to prepare cops for
the fight they face every day on the street.
Doug regularly represents PoliceOne as a public speaker in a variety
of forums and is available for media interviews — he has appeared on
numerous local and national radio and television news programs, and has
been quoted in a host of print publications.
Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and
Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California
Peace Officers' Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety
Writers Association (PSWA).