As instances of active shooters continue to increase both on foreign soil and here at home in the United States, an increasing number of people are understandably considering how best to defend themselves. As a gun owner, I admit to a tendency to see this as a fairly simple matter. Can you carry a Navy SEAL or SWAT officer in your pocket? No? Then you’d better be prepared to defend yourself, which means not just buying but learning to use a gun.
Most people understand there is more to firearms than just owning one. After all, these are deadly weapons, so it’s only logical they’d require training and practice. It’s important to remember that not all gun owners are experts on self-defense by any stretch of the imagination, in fact some gun owners know so little about personal defense it’s both sad and worrisome. Since it would be all too easy to go on at incredible length about this particular topic, let’s follow the KISS rule: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Here are a few basic rules to keep in mind about personal defense with firearms.
Have a Gun
“Remember the first rule of gunfighting – have a gun.” (Col. Jeff Cooper, founder of the American Pistol Institute, man behind the Bren Ten, and well-respected self-defense instructor, among other credentials)
Yes, this seems like a good place to start. Get a gun. This does not mean just walking into a random gun store and throwing yourself on the mercy of whoever happens to be behind the counter, though. Do your research. Learn about firearms, get a solid understanding of calibers and how guns work, and spend some hands-on time with various guns. Then and only then should you begin to consider which gun to buy. Which leads us to the next point…
Be Careful Who You Trust
Just because someone owns a gun, works at a gun or outdoor store, is or was a LEO or veteran, or “shot a gun a few times” does not mean they should be handing out advice. Unfortunately the world is full of such helpful people and the internet has made things even worse. Thanks to the internet and social media there is an incredible amount of misinformation out there. It may be well-intentioned, but it’s still incorrect. Be careful who you go to for advice and be even more careful who you listen to. There are a lot of people hanging out at gun and outdoor stores who love to dispense advice to the naïve as well as to seasoned gun owners. There are also employees working the counter, especially at particular big box stores but also at average gun stores, who simply do not know what they are talking about. So how do you know who to trust?
Know your source. Know their credentials or the basis for their supposed expertise. If it’s coming from a stranger, take it with a grain of salt. If it’s coming from a friend, don’t let their friend status get in the way of doing some fact-checking. Also, beware the all-knowing gun fan. As a general rule gun owners have areas they’re more knowledgeable about and areas they’re a bit less knowledgeable about if not entirely dense. Even those of us in the gun industry itself have our areas of expertise; I could easily point someone at various people who are particularly gifted with specific firearms-related topics. A responsible gun owner should be willing to refer you to someone else if the topic is not their area of experience. This is not to say there aren’t skilled, experienced gun owners out there. There absolutely are. Just be sure their giving advice is justified, and never be afraid to ask questions, do some research, and ask even more questions. We all have to start somewhere and even seasoned shooters see the value in continued training and learning.
Always be willing to ask questions. In the world of firearms, mistakes can be deadly.
With guns you don’t just train, you train as though your life depends on it – because it does. It is important to master the basics such as breath control and squeezing the trigger before moving on to accuracy and then more advanced drills, but there’s more to life – to survival – than paper targets. Train realistically. You cannot always train using target rounds, because you do not load your daily carry weapon with target rounds. Time spent training with your chosen defense rounds is incredibly important. You also cannot always train standing at the end of a lane putting holes in a paper target ten yards away. Although that’s great for the basics it will not get you where you need to go in the long run. Find a good instructor at a fantastic firearms academy and be willing to travel sometimes to supplement the training you get locally (Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Arizona is an excellent choice for self-defense training.)
A Gun Is NOT All You Need
A common mistake among people who carry guns for self-defense purposes is the belief that all they need is their gun and the holster to carry it in. You also need spare magazines or speed loaders, because you are carrying a firearm for the purpose of a potential attack and attacks rarely end neatly by the end of your gun’s capacity. But that’s not all. You need to be prepared for the aftermath of a potential attack, too. That means having a cell phone not only with you but charged. Consider carrying a flashlight or mounting one to your gun for use in low-light situations. As for that phone, it’s not just for calling 911. It’s also for calling your lawyer. If you carry a gun for self-defense, you should have a good lawyer lined up so you aren’t frantically scrolling through Google, or at the mercy of the courts, should the need arise. Check out the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network.
All Methods of Carry Are Not Created Equal
There are many ways to carry your gun from IWB (Inside WaistBand) to SOB (Small Of Back) to OWB (Outside WaistBand) and more. Much, much more. An incredible variety of holsters are on the market, each offering different features, and they are understandably different. While it is true that your method of carry will be influenced by many things such as the gun you carry, your wardrobe and whether you’re carrying concealed or openly, something else is true, too: all methods of carry are not created equal.
Two things are key when deciding how to carry your gun: concealment and rapid presentation. The concealment factor is fairly obvious for those who carry concealed. Is the gun noticeable from various angles, can you move around and still keep it hidden, does it stay secure as you bend or twist? Rapid presentation is something a shocking number of gun owners fail to consider. Certain methods of carry, certain holsters, are next to useless for self-defense. If you cannot draw your gun and have it on target in the blink of an eye, you’re doing it wrong. Yes, that requires practice, but there are methods of carry that simply do not allow for rapid presentation. Those seconds you spend digging in your bra holster, under layers of clothing, or inside your boot for your gun are precious seconds that could make the difference between living and dying. Your main carry should be accessible with the utmost speed. If you choose to use another, slower method of carry for your backup gun (BUG), okay. But do not use a sluggish method for your main weapon.
Be Realistic About Home Defense
A large number of gun owners who claim to use their firearms for protection at home keep those guns unloaded and locked in safes. While it is certainly important to ensure safety when it comes to the storage and accessibility of firearms, it’s also important to be sure you can actually get to that home defense weapon in your time of need. Spend serious time making a plan for home defense, which may well include multiple pistol safes or storage furniture throughout your house. If you have a spouse, make a home defense plan with them. It’s vital you and your spouse have a plan of what to do in advance of the event itself. You won’t be able to hit “pause” and debate the best tactical advantage during a violent home invasion, so plan ahead. Have kids? Don’t forget to factor them into the equation, something that varies according to their ages and responsibility level.
Understand the Range is Not a Lethal Environment
There is a time and place for target practice using paper. There is also a time and place for realistic training. There is a time for incorporating muscle exhaustion and tremors into your training by including push-ups and sprints. If you intend to use your gun for self-defense, you need to learn to fight. Although that includes repetition and honing your marksmanship in general, it should – must – include self-defense training that is as realistic as possible.
Of course, even the best self-defense training is not the real thing. During an assault your body is flooded with adrenaline, which causes your muscles to shake, heart to race, breathing to accelerate, and thoughts to jumble. You’ll be in a situation where you absolutely must make a split-second decision with no opportunity for debate, and you’ll find it’s quite difficult to focus while being attacked. Even if you are attempting to stop an active shooter who is not currently focused on you, the adrenaline will be flowing and you will be fully aware you’re about to draw fire. Then their focus will be on you, with deadly intent.
It’s pretty much impossible to train for every eventuality. You do the best you can with the resources available to you. You spend time dedicated to training. And, as always, you train like you fight.
There is one part of concealed carry that can be harder to face: the reality of lethal force. You must not only admit to yourself that you’re carrying a gun for the purpose of lethal force, you must come to terms with the possibility of killing another human being. This is not something you can gloss over or shrug off, and people who do not give it any real thought but simply flippantly reply with “Oh, of course I can kill someone” may be the very ones you cannot rely on when the crap hits the fan. Spending time thinking about it for the purpose of coming to grips with it is a vital part of self-defense. If you cannot accept the idea of killing a human being, do not carry a gun. A gun is meant for lethal force and should only be carried by those who are willing to use it. And even when you do your best to prepare yourself psychologically for using lethal force, you will be at least somewhat taken by surprise by the effect it has if it does happen.
Two books to consider taking a look at to prepare yourself mentally for the possibility of lethal force are “A Time to Kill: The Myth of Christian Pacifism” by Greg Hopkins and “On Killing” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman.
There are many points to consider when it comes to personal defense with firearms; these are only a few. Take it seriously. Do your research. Train. Prepare. But above all, exercise your Second Amendment rights, and fight.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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