Story by Frank Jardim
Consider this. Sales clerk Christina Alcala was spending her lunch break looking over sunglasses at one of the vendor kiosks that dotted the wide-open floor-space between stores in the mall. It was a witheringly hot July 4th weekend. Where she stood 60 feet from the mall’s glass entrance doors, she could actually feel the hot outside air let in by the continuous stream of people pouring through to catch the first matinee at the multi-plex. Most of them wore only shorts and t-shirts, and it was so hot they were sweating through them on the walk from the parking lot to the mall doors.
Sales were slow despite the mall being full of people and she figured more were there for the air conditioning than the shopping. The combination of their many private conversations, the shrill voices of happy kids in the play area, and the piped-in music created the low din that clerks on commission love to hear and hourly employees dread. Christina was the latter and she couldn’t wait for her shift to end.
Then the glass at the kiosk exploded in front of her and the retail din was instantly replaced with screams and gunshots and pounding feet. Frozen from shock, in the first instant she could only move her eyes as events unfolded in apparent slow motion. Not 50 feet from her, a bulky figure clad in long pants and sleeves with a slung gym bag lumbered left and right with a pistol in each hand, calmly firing at fleeing and hiding people. A space opened around the attacker as the rapidly thinning crowd raced wildly past her. Shopping bags, flip-flops, drink cups, purses and four crumpled bodies now littered the newly vacated area of polished mall floor.
The lumbering killer, who she could now see was a middle-aged man, seemed to pick his targets at random. Before her eyes, he unhesitatingly shot a woman and two children hiding behind a trash can, ignored some teenagers diving for cover in a planter, and then began firing at the targets behind her. At that point, he was 25 feet away. When he looked directly at her, Christina’s survival instinct finally kicked in.
She ducked behind the kiosk, falling directly on top of a middle-aged woman in yellow pants, who was sitting on the floor with her knees drawn up and arms tight against her sides, madly texting on a smartphone. Christina didn’t notice her until she piled on top of the woman, knocking her into the open from her covered position. As the woman tipped over onto her left side, the phone she’d been texting on skittered across the floor and a second one she must have had under her arm dropped heavily right next to her. The woman grabbed it and disappeared on her hands and knees around the right side of the kiosk. At the same time, a shadow fell over Christina from behind.
From the corner of her eye, Christina saw the lumbering man aiming his pistol at her and she knew she was about to die. She didn’t close her eyes. When the shot came a moment later, the blast was deafening. She was surprised she didn’t feel anything. It wasn’t until the fifth blast that she became aware the shadow of the lumbering figure was gone and she heard what she thought to be the weak tinkling of small bells. Tiny bright objects began to dance on the polished granite floor in front of her…fired shell casings. Someone screamed “RUN!” By the seventh blast she was on her feet sprinting for her storefront, which she remembered had a rear exit.
The blasts continued as fast as a jackhammer and Christina chanced a glance over her shoulder as she ran to safety. To the left of the sunglasses kiosk, its merchandise scattered thickly on the surrounding floor, she saw the lumbering man had fallen to his knees and now had only one of his pistols. The middle-aged woman with the yellow pants was on the other side of the kiosk. She looked like she’d jumped into it, almost lying across the middle with her arms and torso hidden and only her tiptoes on the floor. There was one more blast and the lumbering man fell instantly, like a marionette whose strings were all simultaneously cut.
CHRISTINA RAN A few more strides before stopping. The immediate area was now completely silent except for the low background muzak. People were poking out of their hiding places, crying and calling out for each other. Looking up at the mall clock, Christina saw she still had 10 minutes of break time left. The whole murderous horror, which seemed like an eternity, had lasted less than three minutes. Suddenly people were running back toward the door. Some ran straight out. Others ran to aid the victims. Some men grabbed up the motionless gunman’s gym bag and pistols and started pulling open his clothes. “He’s got a bulletproof vest on!” she heard one of the men say. “No wonder she had to shoot him 20 times to stop him.”
The woman in the yellow pants was there too. She’d recovered her phone and was talking on it. Her second phone was tucked under her arm again. She was crying and talking loudly. Christina recognized the voice and rushed over to her as the woman finished her call.
“You were the one that told me to run,” Christina said. “You saved my life.”
“You had that deer-in-the-headlights look,” the woman said, wiping her eyes.
“You killed him! How did you get his gun from him?” Christina asked.
“I had my own gun,” the woman said, taking the rectangular object Christina had thought to be a second phone from under her arm and amazingly unfolding it into a full-sized handgun. “I would have used it sooner but I had to get a message to my kids to get out of the mall first. Then you knocked me over and I almost lost it. The crazy thing is I didn’t carry a gun before this one because I was always afraid it would go off in my purse. My husband got me this fold-up gun and it doesn’t take up much space and it can’t accidentally go off while it’s folded. The darn thing has 21 shots plus one loaded in the chamber too, which I thought was crazy, but, wouldn’t you know it, I needed every one because that wacko had some kind of body armor.” The woman refolded the pistol and put it in the front pocket of her yellow pants. “By the way, my name’s Michelle; Michelle Walterham.”
A young bearded man in shorts and sandals carrying a little girl no more than three was walking briskly toward the exit but stopped abruptly in front of them. “I saw what you did, ma’am,” he said. “I’ve been leaving my pistol at home a lot lately because it’s been so damn hot I thought I couldn’t stand any more discomfort.” Then his voice choked up and he added, “I thank God that you didn’t do the same.” After offering her a sincere “thanks,” he resumed his brisk pace toward the exit, leaving Christina and Michelle alone again. Christina leaned in and hugged her and began to sob, as the sounds of sirens filled the air.
THE PISTOL THAT ended the rampage in this story was a Full Conceal M3D Folding Pistol (a Glock 19 modified to fold) loaded with 22 rounds of 9mm. Michelle Walterham, our yellow-pants, soccer-mom, afraid-she-might-shoot-herself-accidentally, unexpected heroine was hardly what anyone would call an “Operator,” but she was armed like one during a life-or-death situation, when it was critical to have enough gun. In fact, she had a little bit more gun than most policemen have, but it took up a lot less space and nobody ever noticed it, despite it being in her pants pocket until the madman made his entrance.
No one noticed because it didn’t look like a gun in her pocket. Its rectangular footprint, 3.9 inches by 6.5 inches, looked more like a cell phone than a typical “L”-shaped handgun. Michelle’s Full Conceal M3D folding Glock 19 held 21 rounds in the magazine and one more loaded in the chamber ready to go as soon as the pistol was deployed (unfolded), but was totally safe in the transport mode (folded), whether she put it in her mini-van center console, purse, pocket, under her arm, or dropped it on the floor. A Full Conceal pistol cannot fire until it is nearly fully unfolded and the trigger is fully depressed. Since you don’t unfold it until you need it, it’s as close to “adult-proof” as a handgun can be.
Accidental discharges while drawing and re-holstering a conventional handgun are a constant danger that only training can diminish. How many people have actually devoted the time to achieve the level of firearms training needed to prevent accidents while under the tremendous, adrenaline-pumping stress of a deadly encounter? Michelle, like most, knew she did not. On top of that, she found wearing holsters uncomfortable, was terrified of catching the trigger on something and setting the gun off while re-holstering, and hated having to dress around her concealed gun. In short, she was unwilling, if not really unable, to deal with the added complexities of making the carrying of a concealed handgun a core element of her daily life. She, like a lot of people, needed self-defense simplicity in order to even consider carrying a concealed firearm.
That self-defense simplicity might have taken the form of a tiny six- or seven-shot .32 or .380 ACP Kel-Tec “mouse-gun,” double-action, semiauto pocket pistol, with an empty chamber, slipped in her purse or pants pocket. Expert shot placement with guns of this general type has left many a villain stone-dead, but expert shot placement with them is difficult for experts. How much more so for the average self-defense shooter under tremendous stress?
The Full Conceal M3D is a better solution for self-defense simplicity. In Michelle’s case, the ease of carry and concealment freed her to make unfettered wardrobe decisions and its foolproof safety gave her the confidence to take it with her to the mall that fateful afternoon. Untrained and terrified in a violent encounter, she, like a lot of self-defense gun owners, should be expected to miss the target more than hit it. The 9mm M3D’s 22-shot capacity gave her more chances to hit the bad guy and make those hits count.
THOUGH THE INTRODUCTORY scenario I presented in this article is fictional, there’s enough real-life precedent for similar attacks that we should take pause to look at our personal defense strategies as concealed carry permit holders. An easy-to-tote five-shot .38 snubnose or six-shot micro-9mm pistol in your pocket is a good way to derail a mugging, robbery or attack where the assailant isn’t looking to get in a gunfight with his victim. But what about the mentally deranged or terrorist attacker motivated by a desire to kill? These mass-killers, bent on murder and mayhem, frequently plan and equip themselves for a protracted engagement. They are usually heavily-armed and sometimes even armored. A Glock 43 probably wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice to fight off a madman in a bulletproof vest with a semi-automatic rifle.
Mike Full is a father and husband, and the CEO of Full Conceal. He spent a lot of time thinking about worst-case defense scenarios and how to give the typical “non-tactical” defenders a fighting chance. The challenge was how to get them to carry a serious fighting-handgun for self-defense, when many had already compromised on caliber effectiveness, accuracy, shootability and ammunition capacity for the sake of convenience. To this end, he invented and patented a means to convert popular conventional Glock handguns into compact, inconspicuous and ultra-safe folding guns that people can use without the safety worries and lifestyle changes that come with carrying conventional handguns. The folded guns can be dropped in the pocket and are no more dangerous to you than your keys, wallet or phone.
Though the Full Conceal folding pistols look odd, they are not a novelty. They are the beginning of a paradigm shift in the world of self-defense handguns. People who buy self-defense guns do it to make themselves safer. But the irony is, without adequate training, carrying a loaded conventional firearm can result in some profoundly unsafe and even fatal accidental consequences for the user and bystanders. Full Conceal has addressed the single greatest, and most likely, danger facing concealed carry gun owners, and it’s not a madman shooting people in the mall. It’s accidental discharge.
The Full Conceal pistols retain all the functional characteristics of the parent Glock pistol (accuracy, reliability, controls, weight, etc.), which includes all three safe-action features on a factory Glock, plus a fourth folding mechanical trigger safety of Full’s own design.
CURRENTLY, FULL CONCEAL Inc. offers consumers three ways to own their folding pistols. They offer finished folding pistols made from the standard polymer Glock frame. The M3D model is based on the Glock 19 frame with a folded dimension of 6.5 inches long, 3.9 inches tall and 1.26 inches thick with its 21-round Magpul PMAG magazine. For those wanting a thinner, smaller pistol, the Full Conceal M3S is based on the Glock 43 and measures 6 inches long, 3.9 inches tall and .86 inches thick with their new Full Conceal 10-round magazine. Despite being easier to conceal than a standard Glock 43, the Full Conceal M3S’s magazine holds four more rounds and gives the shooter’s hand full support that goes below the pinky for even the biggest hands. Its bigger grip surface allows for better control and shootability than the standard Glock 43.
Either pistol costs $999 for the base model, or $1,100 when you include the Full Conceal Light mounted in the guide spring housing. This 90 lumen light is activated by pressing the take-down latch from either side with your finger tip. They sell their integrated guide-rod light by itself too for $150. All new M3D and M3S pistols come with the same Glock warranty honored by Full Conceal Inc. and a lifetime manufacturer defect warranty. New Full Conceal pistols can be bought directly from their website and shipped to your local gun shop.
Full Conceal will also convert a Glock 19, 23, 25, 32, 38 or 43 you already own to their patented folding frame for only $499. This is full-service that includes three-way shipping (they mail you a prepaid shipping box) and covers round-trip costs of UPS Next Day Air Shipping. Once they get your gun, it’s a 10-business-day turnaround time to do the conversion. If you must have a pistol in .380 ACP, .40 S&W, .357 SIG or .45 GAP, a conversion is how you’ll get it.
Finally, Full Conceal offers a complete aluminum lower pistol frame called the M3D-AL that is compatible with Glock 19 (Gen 3/4/5) upper assemblies (slide, barrel and recoil spring). If you already own a Glock 19, you can remove the upper assembly and attach it to the M3D-AL for a metal version of the M3D. There is a special recoil adapter that must be put in front of the recoil spring for Gen 3 upper assemblies and the spring diameter is smaller than a Gen 4 or 5. The M3D-AL frame includes everything you need to make a folding pistol except the upper assembly and the magazine.
All Full Conceal pistols will accept standard Glock magazines of any capacity. The M3D and M3S are optimized for 21- and 10-round magazines, respectively. Longer than optimum magazines will still fit, but they will create a larger folded footprint that will extend beyond an inconspicuous rectangle, though not by much. An M3D pistol with a factory 33-round magazine extends 1.5 inches beyond the rectangle.
In terms of your shooting grip, the bottom of the shooting hand actually grips the protruding magazine and your off hand finger can get a good bite on the front of the triggerguard since it’s a pair of steel bars. There’s a slight amount of wiggle between the top and bottom section of the frame, but not so much that you could flex it significantly when locked closed. The Full Conceal pistols have an added undercut where your middle finger touches the trigger guard. This is to reduce the spread between your middle and trigger finger and create a more natural trigger pull motion.
On the M3D, the grip is reduced to two finger grooves, but the extended magazine creates the necessary gripping surface for your pinky and supporting hand to get a solid hold on the firearm. On the M3S, the grip is not reduced (it’s already equivalent to two finger grooves), but the extended 10-round magazine gives you the same benefits as on the M3D.
THE FOLDING MECHANISM Full designed uses a rugged steel hinge and triggerguard, and an aluminum trigger that collapses into slots milled in the polymer frame to accomplish a solid lockup of all parts during folded transport mode. The parts are pinned solidly in place with close tolerances. The grip is locked and released via a spring latch on its spine that engages a steel pin in the upper frame. The latch snaps over the pin and locks the grip together automatically when you unfold it. There’s no way you could accidentally unlatch it while shooting. The 5/64-inch gap at the juncture between frame and grip permits a little flex between the two, and the magazine can wiggle in the shortened well a bit, but apparently not enough to effect reliability or accuracy in any way I could notice. As you would expect from a Glock, function is flawless.
The Magpul PMAG 21-shot magazine the M3D comes with is just the right length to give the folded pistol a rectangular form. Magazines up to 21 rounds are self-indexing, which means they slide right into the upper portion of the magazine well during the unfolding motion. Longer magazines (that extend past the point of self-indexing) will need to be pulled down to within 1.5 inches of the magazine catch to index (basically anywhere the first round can enter the upper portion of the magazine well). If you pull any magazine down further, it’s no problem, as the magazine catch will lock it into place and the magazine will still index perfectly. Under stress, you can be confident that the magazine will engage and feed reliably.
Obviously, a folding pistol is going to require a little familiarization. Both the M3D and M3S are now equipped with grip-retention devices (GRD), which use simple friction to hold the pistol in its rectangular folded shape. Earlier models without the GRD could unfold slightly in the pocket, making them harder to draw. The GRD eliminates that problem and can be retrofitted to older models by the user. On the M3D, the GRD friction is adjustable. On the M3S, it is not adjustable. The Full Conceal deploys quickly with a little practice. Once you have it down, it’s a lot safer than drawing a conventional handgun.
I found the pistol rode comfortably in my front pants pocket, muzzle down, with the slide towards the front. To draw, I pull the pistol out of my pocket with my shooting hand and grab the top rear of the slide with my offhand. As I move the folded pistol toward the front of my body, I shift my firing hand to the grip, and with my offhand, push down the top rear of the slide to connect with the grip and lock it against the spring latch. The general flow of motion is similar to racking the slide but easier because the Full Conceal only requires a light tap to latch and be ready to fire. Once latched, I move into a firing stance, pushing my firing hand up and into the correct spot and then rolling my offhand down into the recommended firing grip for a semiauto. Mike Full calls this maneuver the “push-tap-roll.”
MIKE FULL CONFIDENTLY carries the M3D and M3S pistols muzzle up, knowing there is no way they can discharge while folded. He can draw and deploy from that position in less than two seconds. Having said that, Full acknowledges it takes less time to draw a conventional pistol from an appendix holster, but what is unique about the Full Conceal is that you can discreetly start drawing without anyone knowing. For example, you can pull your Full Conceal pistol out from your pocket and transition it under your arm (crossing your arms) without anyone taking notice because it looks like you are holding a cell phone. You can walk to your car with the Full Conceal hidden under your arm, already cleared of all clothing and at chest level. From there, the push-tap-roll deployment is faster than drawing a traditional pistol from a conventional concealed holster.
If someone noticed you pre-deploying a conventional handgun, you might end up getting the cops called on you and having to explain why you were brandishing a firearm in public. Even worse, someone may think you are about to commit a crime and attempt to stop you.
The Full Conceal folding Glocks have gone from the stuff of imagination to highly-refined consumer products in a remarkably short period of time. You would expect Mike Full to be a defense industry engineer, but he’ll readily tell you he never formally studied engineering and doesn’t have any college degree. Having the heart and mind of an engineer, coupled with a good imagination and a solid work ethic, has obviously worked pretty well for him. He is a big Disney fan and travels with his wife and kids to Disney World every year. If you think the Full Conceal has a science fiction quality to it, you won’t be surprised to learn that Full loves the genre and especially Star Wars and Star Trek. He also enjoys playing ragtime piano (“Maple Leaf” is his favorite song). It helps him relax and with a commute like his, I suspect he needs to more than most. Full lives in California, where they have some of the strictest anti-gun laws in the nation, yet every week for the past two years he flies to the Full Conceal headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada, so he can continue to innovate life-changing products and better serve his customers.
Full summed up the intent of his folding designs in this way: “I’m not trying to fit you into a box when it comes to concealed carry. I’m giving you an option that fits into your lifestyle and your comfort zone right now. Not everyone has a tactical mindset and wants to shop through tactical holsters, belts and pants. It’s not about the gun; it’s about the lifestyle you live and if the gun will fit into that lifestyle.”