When Michael Griffeath served in the Marines as an anti-tank missile gunner, he gave little thought to the civilian way of life.
He certainly had not considered that regular Americans might go about their lives with side arms. He first considered the utility of such practice when traveling with his then-girlfriend Laurel and coming upon a deer hit by a vehicle. Having neither a gun nor a knife to put the deer out of its misery, he decided to acquire a pistol.
To Michael’s surprise, Laurel already owned a gun of her own, a 12-gauge Remington Wingmaster pump shotgun, which she had purchased at age 18 for wing shooting and to celebrate the ability to legally purchase long guns. She was quite supportive of the plan to buy a Beretta 96, a .40 S&W variant of the Beretta 92 (M9 in military nomenclature) with which Mike trained in the service. Laurel obtained her own carry pistol shortly thereafter.
“I felt safe as a child because I was confident my father could handle any situation. I felt an incredible responsibility knowing that is now my job and I want my family to feel equally safe.”
Influenced by Boston T. Party’s Gun Bible, Mike obtained a .308 Saiga clone before going for the more mainstream–and more accurate–M1A and AR-15 rifles. Laurel, having tried his AR-15, immediately obtained one of her own. With Laurel’s sister Corina moving in next door, the Griffeaths were able to influence the baby sister and her husband. Both obtained side arms and AR-15s, along with training in their use. The common manual of arms (Laurel, Corina and Michael all prefer M1911 pistols and AR-15 rifles) makes for much simplified logistics and training regimens. Mike and Laurel also carry identical knives, the Ken Onion Tanto Blur.
Their carry practices haven’t changed much since the birth of their daughter, Abigail Wyoming (named after the character from Robert Heinlein’s Moon is a Harsh Mistress), though their safety diligence has increased. An inquisitive infant in the house definitely requires an adjustment. For example, carrying the .45s at all times, instead of setting them down at home, helps to keep them out of reach of little hands. If Abigail sees one of the firearms, she already knows to point at it and say, “Don’t touch!” Of course, it will be many years before she’s allowed to be with firearms unsupervised. Mike and Laurel intend to raise her with a healthy respect and awareness for firearms, as they both had in their own childhoods. They believe it’s important for all children, even those raised in homes without guns, to at least learn the Eddie Eagle rules about finding a gun, which are: “STOP! Don’t touch. Leave the area. Tell an adult.”
Fortunately for them, they live in a part of the country where acting American is encouraged by the local culture.
Laurel had not developed a particularly large belly until rather late in the pregnancy, so she was able to maintain normal carry of the M1911 for quite some time. Even in the final months, she was able to carry a Kel-Tec P3AT inside the waistband with a belt clip. She was also fortunate to work for an employer who encouraged her to bring a gun to work, so she could stow a larger firearm in her desk drawer.
For the Griffeaths, gun ownership and carry are political statements as well as a safety expedient. Fortunately for them, they live in a part of the country where acting American is encouraged by the local culture. By their wholesome example, they have influenced numerous converts to the armed lifestyle. While Michael’s carry is completely unremarkable, the example of Laurel going armed with an adorable baby in her arms makes those who never considered any self-defense options think again. She has been a very effective ambassador for gun rights.
Was there a specific incident that caused you to carry a gun?
Mike: Driving back from a fishing trip several years ago, a guy in front of us hit a deer with his truck. Neither of us had a gun to put it out of its misery and we ended up dragging it off to the side of the road to expire painfully on its own. I vowed to buy a pistol in case the same thing happened again. But it was the birth of my daughter that caused me to carry a gun everywhere I go. I remember knowing how safe I felt as a child because I was confident my father could handle any situation. I feel an incredible responsibility knowing that is now my job and I want my family to feel equally safe.
Laurel: From that moment [the encounter with the deer], we began increasing our knowledge of firearms and carry practices. Our initial carry experiences were all open carry, largely because I was under 21 at the time and couldn’t obtain an Idaho concealed carry permit. There were other out-of-state permits available to me, but I decided to open carry partially as a vehicle for raising awareness about the discrepancy between Idaho’s laws regarding legal age of possession and legal age of concealed carry. I soon found, however, that so few people noticed my sidearm that it wasn’t a particularly notable way of raising awareness after all!
While firearms ownership and carry is a constant evolution of knowledge and preferences, our current state involves regular training and daily carry. We do still support and engage in open carry when the occasion warrants it, but have both obtained concealed carry permits and usually now carry concealed as a matter of convenience.
Have you ever had to use your firearm in a defensive situation?
Mike: Outside of Iraq I have not had to pull my firearm in a defensive situation—although while walking with my wife and pushing my daughter in a stroller across a fairgrounds one night I saw someone about 30 yards away stabbing at a tree with a large knife before hiding it under his trenchcoat after seeing us. I did not draw on him but rested my hand on my pistol in order to be ready.
Laurel: No, I have never had to use my firearm in a defensive situation. I am prepared to do so, if necessary, but hope to never need that preparedness.
What training methods do you employ?
Mike: I try to live fire about twice a month covering both pistols and rifles. I do this whether it’s 110 degrees outside or under several feet of snow in the winter. Sometimes I go by myself, but most often I train with my wife or with friends working primarily on static marksmanship. Not wanting only to work on static marksmanship, I try to come up with creative new ways to practice shooting at moving targets as well as target identification, stress drills, and multiple targets from the draw. I conduct dry fire training several times a week in the home.
Laurel: In addition to regular basic target practice, Mike draws on his training as an infantry Marine to help us both with fire and movement drills, changing positions, firing from cover, etc. We’ve also received education from NRA instructors. I hope to advance my training even further in the next few years, and am particularly interested in attending a Magpul handgun course.
Do you have any recommendations?
Mike: Yes! Don’t be shy with your training partners. Train under stress! Try to take them out of their comfort zone. Exercise! Your body is the weapon, not the gun, and it’s only a healthy body that can handle the stresses of combat, even if that combat is five seconds of your life against an attacker or home invader. If you become strong in body, you will become strong in mind.
Also, if you can’t afford professional training, watch the dynamic handgun DVDs by Magpul. The Marine Corps trained me to shoot a Weaver stance, but once I changed over to the modified isosceles (known as the Turret stance by Massad Ayoob) my accuracy, speed, and repeatability increased dramatically.
Laurel: We recently viewed the Magpul Art of the Dynamic Handgun DVDs, which I highly recommend. Employing some of the Magpul techniques, especially on stance, has noticeably improved my shooting.
How long have you carried a concealed weapon?
Mike: I alternate between open and concealed carry, depending on the situation. I’ve carried concealed for about three years and I have open carried for two years longer than that.
Laurel: I’ve been carrying either openly or concealed for about five years now.
What weapons do you carry?
Mike: My primary carry weapon is a Remington Rand 1911, manufactured in 1945. I’ve done a lot of work on it to make it concealed carry friendly. When I cannot carry something that large I generally carry a Kel-Tec P3AT.
Laurel: When we first started looking to buy a handgun, Mike wanted a Beretta 92FS, due to his familiarity with the platform from his time in the Marine Corps. By the time we made our first purchase a couple of months later, we had settled on the .40 S&W round and thus bought a Beretta 96. Not long afterward, we purchased a Springfield XD Sub-Compact, also chambered in .40 S&W. We carried both for a couple of years before being exposed to 1911s through a few friends. We both quickly developed a preference for .45 ACP and the 1911 platform specifically, so our primary sidearms are now both 1911s. Mine is a Springfield Armory Lightweight Loaded Champion and I also have a Sig Sauer P238 in .380 ACP for backup or wardrobe restrictions.
What type of ammunition do you carry?
Both: Speer Gold Dots.
What concealment holsters do you use?
Mike: I carry the Kel-Tec in condition 3 (no round in chamber) on a belt clip. I carry the Remington Rand in a Minotaur MTAC by Comp-Tac.
Laurel: I have several holsters by Galco, including a concealable belt holster and Stow-N-Go for my 1911, and ankle band and pocket holster for the P238.
What do you do for a living?
Mike: I am a former infantry Marine who is currently a second-year law student.
Laurel: I am primarily a stay-at-home mother to our year-and-a-half old daughter. I’m also a student birth doula and am pursuing my undergraduate degree part-time.
Do you have any advice for our readers?
Mike: Yes! Make certain you are emotionally prepared to use your firearm. If you are not, then you should not carry. Also, play situations out in your head beforehand. Just as a base runner in a ball game knows exactly what he’s going to do prior to a pitch, make sure you know beforehand how you will react when people behave in certain ways. Be aware of your environment and plan accordingly. Finally, exercise. Being an armed American is a serious responsibility, and it carries with it a duty to be prepared mentally and physically.
Laurel: Carry all the time, no matter what. There is no trip to the store short enough to warrant leaving your tools of self-defense at home.