Steve Henigson

This is a story of man who had a deal to make holsters and all the leather and fabric gun gizmos in exchange of teaching him pistol techniques and coaching him in a competition shooting.

From soon after the SCTC’s inception until 2004, I edited and published COMBAT!, its monthly journal.

I was born in New York City, spent my working years in Los Angeles, and have now retired to a small island in the state of Washington. I have a high quality, but incomplete, liberal arts education, which includes majors in English and art. Through the 1960s and 1970s, I made a very good living as a “hippie” sandal, purse, and belt maker. I also dabbled in holsters and other firearms related leather goods. Later, I designed, helped build and helped sell electronics equipment enclosures for the aerospace industry.

I’ve been a hunter since I turned 16, usually using a muzzle-loading rifle, but I’d never had any success using handguns. Then one day in 1977, Michael Harries walked into my leather shop and asked me if I could make holsters. For the next 20 years, Michael taught me pistol technique and coached my competition shooting efforts, and in exchange, I designed and built all the leather and fabric gun gizmos he could think up.

CCW Info: His wife, rabidly anti-gun while in Los Angeles, has “seen the light” now that she lives in a much safer place.

More to the point, my wife, rabidly anti-gun while in Los Angeles, has “seen the light” now that she lives in a much safer place.

Michael introduced me to IPSC competition, and I joined the Equalizers shooting team in the Southwest Pistol League (SWPL). I was modestly successful at “practical shooting,” but it never seemed very practical to me. The rest of the Equalizers felt the same way, and in 1981, we and a club from Bakersfield seceded from both SWPL and IPSC. We formed a new, truly practical, experimental shooting discipline that we called Southern California Tactical Combat program (SCTC). This program is still training participating rifle and pistol shooters in real life street, wilderness, and combat survival techniques.

From soon after the SCTC’s inception until 2004, I edited and published COMBAT!, its monthly journal. COMBAT! grew in my hands from a two page pamphlet into a 20 to 30 page magazine. It featured event write-ups, critiques, tips on shooting techniques, new product reviews, opinion columns by respected gun writers and lawyers, and even book and movie reviews.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Los Angeles changed from being a somewhat provincial, backwater city into a more vibrant, more cosmopolitan, more densely populated metropolis. Personal physical danger became a new feature of Southern California life. My leather shop was burglarized, and later, one of my employees was severely beaten on his way to work. I began to keep a pistol under my shop counter once I knew how to use it effectively.

He still practice draws and presentations, and he dry-fire daily.

I still practice draws and presentations, and I dry-fire daily.

I find it hugely ironic that here in relatively peaceful Washington, a “shall issue” state, it was extremely easy to get my permit to carry a concealed weapon, while in much more dangerous Los Angeles, a concealed carry permit was absolutely unavailable to me. More to the point, my wife, rabidly anti-gun while in Los Angeles, has “seen the light” now that she lives in a much safer place. She has decided that she wants to learn to shoot. It is her (independently arrived at) opinion that Washington is safer because, “A potential attacker can’t tell who is armed and who is not.” Far be it from me to tell her that many other people have come to the same conclusion ahead of her.

Although arthritis now keeps me from doing as much pistol shooting as I’d like, and our island’s lack of an adequate range facility denies me the practical use of a rifle, I maintain my skills with dry-fire practice. I believe that the SCTC program, which includes quite a bit of shoot/no-shoot decision making, did an excellent job of preparing me for the responsibilities of armed self-defense. I recommend ongoing participation in such a truly practical program, as well as endless live- and dry-fire practice to anyone who carries a concealed weapon.

CCM: Was there a specific incident that caused you to carry a gun?

STEVE: There were several. The most remarkable of these was being shot at while driving down a forest service road on my way home from my club’s shooting range. The most frightening one was being held up at gunpoint by a 16-year-old child who merely wanted cash to spend in the neighborhood video game arcade.

CCM: Have you ever had to use your firearm in a defensive situation?

STEVE: Well, sort of. In forest service territory, when a complete fool purposely fired rifle bullets at my car as I was slowly passing, I remembered what another gun club member told me that he had done in a similar situation. I exited the car on the side away from the shooter, and bringing my still loaded pistol along, I took cover and circled back, around, and above his position. I’m sorry to say that by the time I had arrived at my selected “commanding” overlook, the fool had become wise enough to have departed. When the teenager put his .25 auto to my head, I did not have a pistol because concealed carry is illegal in that area, and I was trying to be law-abiding. Instead, my wife blew our car’s horn to distract the kid and to attract attention, while I pushed his gun away. He was frightened and ran away, but only after viciously whacking the side of my head with the muzzle of his pistol.

CCM: What training methods do you employ? Do you have any recommendations?

STEVE: I’ve had years of informal training during participation in the Southern California Tactical Combat (SCTC) program. I still practice draws and presentations, and I dry-fire daily. My wife and I do live-fire practice once a week on a friend’s private property, including from-the-holster presentations, “double-tap” discharges, and multiple target drills. Michael Harries taught me years and years ago that in from-the-holster shooting, “smooth is faster than fast.” I strongly recommend that every person who carries a gun practice dry presentations and discharges for a few minutes every day, striving for smoothness and disregarding speed. Fast, effective shooting comes from slow, smooth practice.

CCM: How long have you carried a concealed weapon?

STEVE: This is my sixth year of legal concealed carry.

CCM: What weapons do you carry?

STEVE: Thanks to a close mutual friend, I recently inherited Mike Harries’ own Semmerling LM-4, a miniature .45 ACP hideout gun. I carry it in my pants pocket each and every day. I also frequently hide a custom made, 1911-style, .45 ACP “shortie,” built by Master Gunsmith Chuck Ries, behind my hip. I have a few other M1911 .45s on hand, both full-size and miniaturized.

CCM: What type of ammunition do you carry?

STEVE: I carry Federal Premium Personal Defense .45 ACP rounds with 230-grain Hydra-Shok jacketed hollow-point bullets. They work reliably and accurately in every concealment pistol I use.

CCM: What concealment holsters do you use?

STEVE: Robert Mika made a superbly functional pocket holster out of almost indestructible artificial leather for my Semmerling LM–4. The .45 “shortie” rides in either of two Bob Mernickle paddle holsters. Bob is a better leather-crafter than I am, and a far superior holster designer. His work is to the point, as if (in a friend’s words) “he has removed everything that isn’t a holster.”

CCM: What do you do for a living?

STEVE: I am now retired, and glad for it. I read a lot, I maintain my leather-working skills, and like all homeowners, I putter at amateur house repair. I do community volunteer work, I’m an amateur actor, and I am about to direct a major amateur theatrical production for the very first time.

CCM: Do you have any advice for our readers?

STEVE: I find it better to be very proficient with one pistol than to be merely pretty good with a lot of different ones. Remember: “Beware of the man with only one gun. He may know how to use it.” Further, there are no shortcuts or miracle gadgets on the road to skillful marksmanship. There is only one route to competent gun handling and effective self-defense: practice, practice, and more practice.