Over the last several months a lot of folks have become an owner of a new self-defense handgun. And, a lot of folks who already own a defensive handgun are looking at it a bit differently; looking at it like they may very well have to use it to save their life. For those who are, shall we say, less than proficient with employing a handgun for self-defense or even carrying one, it can all seem a bit overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be.
With regard to carrying a concealed handgun and being able to effectively use it, there is one hurdle that must first be overcome. That is the realization that you alone are responsible for your own safety and that you are willing to take that responsibility. You don’t have to turn into a Navy SEAL in order to protect yourself with a handgun. Most importantly, you have to be willing. Here’s a look at what matters most with regard to arming yourself for self-defense.
The handgun you carry or keep in your nightstand is just a tool. You fight with your mind. The first step to fighting back is developing the mindset that you are going to do whatever it takes to protect yourself and your loved ones. You must fully commit to this notion; you must be willing to use deadly force to stop a violent attack. Jeff Cooper’s book, Principles of Personal Defense, should be considered a mandatory start to this process. It’s not about shooting, it’s about staying alive.
A handgun is no more dangerous than an automobile; less actually. But, a handgun — just like an automobile — can be used in a dangerous manner. You need to learn the Four Rules of firearm safety, but more importantly, you need to practice them. Knowing how to safely drive a car is of no benefit if you do not drive the car carefully. The Four Rules are simple, but even simpler is rule No. 2: If you only obey one rule, it must be this one.
Firearms Safety Rules:
All guns are always loaded.
Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
Always be sure of your target [editor's note: and what is beyond it].
Some states allow for permit-less/Constitutional carry. Others require authorization. Make sure you abide by the laws of your state and any state you travel to as well. Also, even with Constitutional carry and/or a permit, there are places you cannot carry a handgun. Know them. You should also research and seek guidance with regard to when you can legally exercise your right to self-defense. Being attacked by a person in a wheelchair who’s armed with a soda straw is not the same as being attacked by a meth-crazed man armed with a machete.
Fundamentals of Marksmanship
Shooting a firearm with enough precision to deliver bullets center mass to an attacker is not a complicated skill. It’s much easier than shooting free-throws or chipping a ball near the cup. Unlike with basketballs and golf clubs, handguns are equipped with sights. If you align them properly and press the trigger smoothly, the bullets will go where you want them to.
You cannot engage a threat with a handgun if that handgun is in your holster. Granted, this is not the Hollywood Old West where adversaries square off for the quick draw. However, you need to be able to get your handgun into the fight swiftly and on a moment’s notice. This requires just as much practice as does shooting and hitting targets. Do not take it for granted that you will be able to efficiently get your handgun between you and the threat without practice.
Running Your Gun
A handgun is a machine; it is a functioning tool. It needs to be fed the proper ammunition, it needs to be properly clean and lubricated and it needs to be held and manipulated in a certain way. You need to know how to make it work if it stops working and care for it on a periodical basis.
The right mindset and some training and practice, are all things or tasks that the average human can learn to accomplish without undue expense, strain, or pain. But, what happens after you’ve used a handgun to scare off an attacker, or worse, to shoot an attacker? You’re going to have to deal with law enforcement inquiries and the related press coverage associated with the incident. Do your research and talk with a gun-friendly attorney familiar with these kinds of incidents. When the criminal who tried to kill you is lying on the ground bleeding out, it’s too late to worry about those things.
Don’t assume you can scour the Internet or read a book, and glean all the wisdom you need to carry a handgun and effectively employ it. My book, Handgun Training for Personal Protection, covers most all of these topics and many more. However, it is best paired with instruction from a reliable source; someone who can hands-on coach you. Many local courses can be had for as little as $50 per day. Prices can range from there up to $355 a day, like with my alma mater Gunsite Academy’s flagship 250 Pistol Course. It may seem difficult to spend that much money, but in the end it’s a lot cheaper than life insurance you won’t be around to spend.
How do you know if you are good enough? You will never know if you are good enough and you cannot be too good. But you can strive to meet a standard. A good one that replicates real-world self-defense situations is made up of four elements of five, and I call it the Forty-Five Drill. To pass, you must be able to draw from concealment and put five shots, into a five-inch circle, at five yards, in less than five seconds. Anyone who can do this on demand demonstrates a solid foundation of the basic principles of self-defense with a handgun.