10 Commandments of off-duty carry
Being armed can make the difference in dangerous situations, as I learned on spring break.
Editor's Note: This week’s PoliceOne First Person essay is from PoliceOne Member Heath Jepson, who offers his 10 commandments of off-duty carry. In PoliceOne "First Person" essays, our Members and Columnists candidly share their own unique view of the world. This is a platform from which individual officers can share their own personal insights on issues confronting cops today, as well as opinions, observations, and advice on living life behind the thin blue line. If you want to share your own perspective with other P1 Members, simply send us an e-mail with your story.
By Heath Jepson
In April 1989, I was a junior in college and had returned home to my parents’ house for the second part of my spring break. I had spent the first part working in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro area as a security officer. I had a valid CCW permit and always took my duty and off-duty weapons with me upon returning home.
My parents had a livestock and dog breeding operation near the Minnesota/Iowa border, and they had been the victims of several brazen burglaries.
The first night I was home, my younger brothers and I were having supper when we were disturbed by the sound of our dogs barking loudly.
I armed myself with my off-duty weapon (a Colt 1911 .45 ACP) and a spare magazine, grabbed a flashlight, and went to investigate.
Even though I knew about the burglaries, I walked out the door expecting to find an animal messing with our dogs.
What I found was a pair of men, one of whom was armed with a shotgun.
We exchanged fire at a range of about 30 yards and they ran off into the night.
I was uninjured and the burglars never showed up at any of the area hospitals, so we can assume that I either missed or they self-treated.
Ever since this incident, I have been a big proponent of off-duty/concealed carry.
Here are some of the points that I came away from this incident with.
I call them my “10 Commandments of off-duty carry.”
1.) Buy and carry a quality off-duty handgun
2.) Have night sights on your off-duty handgun
3.) Carry spare ammunition off-duty
4.) A flashlight should be part of your off-duty rig
5.) Carry a handgun of sufficient caliber
6.) Thin is in when it comes to concealed handguns
7.) Match the carry rig to your attire and body type
8.) Train diligently with your off-duty weapon
9.) Maintain a vigilant off-duty mindset
10.) Have a gun in the first place!
Being armed off-duty is an important choice, and it is not one to be taken lightly. Weigh your options when it comes to equipment and training. Being armed off-duty is a choice that should be discussed with spouses, significant others, and even children. This will help to ensure that you have an off-duty family plan for any hostile encounter that you may face.
I hope that you decide to carry off-duty — in my opinion, not enough officers do. All too often we hear about off-duty officers getting hurt or worse, and I believe that in many of these cases being armed might have made a difference.
Please stay safe and vigilant, my brothers and sisters.
About the Author
Heath Jepson started his law enforcement career while attending Hamline University in St. Paul (Minn.), where he received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and philosophy. For all four years during his time as an undergraduate, Jepson worked in private security. He was certified by the Minnesota Campus Law Enforcement Association. Jepson spent his last year in the Twin Cities area working for a Housing Police unit in some of the high-crime, low-income housing sections of the Minneapolis / St. Paul metro area. Jepson now has 22 years as a police officer in Iowa. He served for 11 years as a tactical team operator, tactical team leader, and sniper on a local multi-jurisdictional joint response task force. He is currently serving as a firearms instructor, defensive tactics instructor, and active shooter response instructor for his PD. Jepson also serves on the Emergency Response Committee at Grinnell College and is the School Violence Liaison for the Grinnell/Newburg School District. His instructor credentials include multiple certifications from the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy, the National Rifle Association, Glock, ASP, and Strategos International.