I often times find myself discussing equipment selection or training programs and shaking my head. There seems to be a pretty common disconnect in new gun owners that occurs and I would like to take a moment or two of your time to address what I see as a pretty severe issue that needs to be addressed. This is going to sound counter to what you would expect out of me, but before you navigate away from the page please read the entire article. OK, deep breath, the mere possession of a firearm does not make you any safer.
Before you tar and feather me please let me elaborate. The firearm is an extremely important part of the self defense equation, but I don’t think it should be the first step for anyone. “Safety is something that happens between your ears, not something you hold in your hands.” – Jeff Cooper
So here are a couple things to think about before you choose to incorporate firearms into your life, or maybe something you should think about if you’ve already made the decision to do so. And since I love bullet point (pun intended) lists, here’s another one.
- Are You A Killer? – When everything is said and done all the firearm is, is an extension of our will. The reason why that’s something important to think about is because there are people that simply lack the will to harm another human being. I know that sounds all sorts of silly to some people but it is a documented psychological phenomenon. It has nothing to do with cowardice, or fear, but boils down to the fact that some people are literally incapable of purposefully harming another individual. Before you carry a firearm you need to come to grips with the fact that you may end up having to severely injure, if not kill someone, on purpose. Obviously we are going to try and avoid any situation where we may be forced to use our weapon. If we can’t avoid the situation we are going to be shooting to stop, not kill, but let’s call a spade a spade. A lot of the places I’d shoot to stop would have a relatively high likelihood of death attached to them. Let me be clear, I’m not saying that you need to be looking forward to, or be eager for a possible lethal encounter. I’m saying you need to accept it as a possible reality and prepare accordingly. In the middle of a violent encounter is not the time to be having an existential crisis.
- Train for a Very Bad Day – So the target above is a reduced size steel silhouette, and the shots above were taken somewhere between 30-35 yards from the holster. What I mean by that is that at the sound of the buzzer on my handy little shot timer app on my iPhone, I was drawing from concealment and putting solid hits on target somewhere in the 1.2-1.7 second range, depending on how everything came together for that particular draw. Now, will I ever be presented with a situation where I need to draw from the holster and make a head shot at that range? Well probably not, though if we are playing the probably not game we could make all sorts of assumptions that may effect our behavior one way or another. The point is that I’ve envisioned scenarios where it may be handy to be able to make a long shot at speed, as evidenced by some of the mall and theater shootings that have occurred in the past. Please make your training something that prepares you for a catastrophic incident, not some sort of unicorn fart Rambo fantasy where slaying the hoards of Nazi-zombies is something that happens with ease. You never know, the first indication you have that you may even need to go to guns might happen after you’re already on the ground bleeding.
- Just Train Period- Please don’t be one of those people that goes out and buys their new heater, only to stick it in their holster/night stand/sock drawer/whatever without even bothering to go out and test fire the gun first. Not only that, but don’t make it a one and done sort of occurrence. Shooting is a perishable skill, that requires pretty consistent work to get any sort of proficiency going. To quote the great Jeff Cooper one more time”Owning a handgun doesn’t make you armed anymore than owning a guitar makes you a musician.” If you can’t afford or find ammo then at least dry fire practice (WITH AN EMPTY GUN!!), work on presentations from the holster (WITH AN EMPTY GUN!!), just do something to keep your mind in the habit of handling the firearm. If you can’t do any of those things then think about scenarios in your head and visualize your response to them. Start building those neural pathways so that if you ever have a very bad day you’ve already played through it a couple of times in your head instead of winging it as you go.
So I’ll sum up, in case you’re tired of reading my lists and just skipped to the bottom. Make a training regime that fits your time and budget. There are things outside of the range that you can be doing that will increase the likelihood of your survival better than turning money into smoke and noise twice a month ever will. Make training something that challenges you, whether physically or mentally, so that you’re actually getting something out of the investment of your time and money. If you can shoot the center out of the 10 ring at 7 yards bump it back to 10, or 15, or whatever. My final point, when you envision whichever scenario it is you have in your head that may require you to use a firearm, stack the deck against yourself. Do not fall into the “Most shootings occur…” trap. While there are certainly statistics that give us an indicator as to what happens in a large number of gunfights, there are always exceptions and outliers, and you never know when one of them is going to jump up and say hello. If you’re already taking out a little personal insurance policy in the form of carrying a gun, take out just a tiny bit more and spend some time getting good with it.
As always, thanks for reading, be safe, and Train!