Category Archives: Personal Defense

If you have 10 minutes to spare, watch this video.

Every month, MDTS puts out a short video. They’ve had good things to say in the other videos I’ve watched, but this month’s video will help just about anyone.

I’ve tried to get across similar points in my blog posts – mainly, avoid confrontation whenever possible, and pay attention to your surroundings – but this is an excellent description of a thought process that might one day save your life.

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Addressing Gun Store Myths

If you’ve been in a gun store at least once, you’ve probably heard an opinion about a firearm, good or bad. You’ve probably also heard some outlandish stories, too. I tried working in a gun store, and I could only take it for about six months. There’s an incredible amount of misinformation out there, and if you’re new to the world of shooting, it’s going to be next to impossible for you to sort through the bad and find the good.

I wouldn’t dream of trying to put every bit of information I could think of in one article, mainly because I don’t have all the answers, and I’m not intending this to be some sort of reference for any particular firearm. I might mention brand or model names as being a good choice for one particular situation, but please, do more research before making a purchase.

Whether I’m in a gun store, at the range, or browsing forums online, I invariably find someone who’s willing to explain to me how I’ve made the wrong choice in firearms, for a variety of reasons. I’ll hear things such as, “Oh, that rifle isn’t reliable,” or “This is what (insert name of special operations unit here) uses, so I bought it.” I’ll also hear interesting observations on tactics from people who’ve never heard a shot fired in anger, such as “If you use a light at night, you’ll get shot,” or “You can just rack the action of the shotgun, and the bad guys will run away.” We also hear that “All you need is one round of .40”.

Well, reality begs to differ. For the most part, any quality name brand weapon is going to be reliable. This includes, but is not limited to, Beretta, Colt, Glock, Heckler & Koch, Remington, Sig Sauer, Springfield, etc. That doesn’t mean you should blindly trust something out of the box – fire it thoroughly to ensure proper function. However, if a gun store employee tries to tell you that a Beretta 92FS is unreliable and will get you killed, or that AR-15s don’t work unless they’re clean enough to eat off of, just smile and nod.

With good magazines, the Beretta 92FS is a very reliable handgun, and is also one of the most accurate service pistols available today.
The Beretta 92FS is one of the most accurate service pistols available today. Its undeservedly negative reputation comes from poor maintenance and bad magazines supplied to the US Military. Out of the box, it’s an exceptionally reliable firearm.

We also hear about who uses what, but generally without the why, where, and when. Yes, US Navy SEALs use M4s with 10.3″ barrels, among other rifles. They have the HK Mk 23 handgun, which doubles as a boat anchor. They use a lot of different weapons systems, but they have specific needs for those weapons. SEALs have many missions, one of which is called VBSS, Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure. This relates to merchant ships, warships, pirate vessels, etc. These are very confined spaces, requiring short rifles for maneuverability. In other words, unless you live on an oil tanker, maybe having the same rifle that the SEALs do isn’t going to do you much good.

As for weapon mounted lights, that’s a topic for another day, but suffice it to say that I know of no one who kills bad guys for a living that doesn’t use a white light when appropriate. I know I just contradicted myself, with the discussion of “don’t pay attention to what the cool guys use”, but when everyone who does it agrees on one point…the importance of a light becomes obvious. It’s as important for you as it is for them, or you’ll end up like this guy and kill your fiancée because you didn’t identify your target. Learn from this man’s tragic mistake – don’t shoot at dark shapes.

Shotguns can be very effective weapons, but with the increasing prevalence of home invaders wearing body armor, the shotgun has to take a backseat to the rifle or carbine. Many people fall into the trap of the shotgun being an easy to use, easy to hit with weapon that requires no training. You just pick up a shotgun and rack the action, causing the bad guys to poop themselves, then you fire in their general direction and a 12″ hole appears in their chest, causing them to fly backwards through the nearest window, right? Unfortunately, this is just one of many cases where the movie industry has not done folks in the firearms training world any favors. In the right hands, a shotgun is a very effective weapon, with certain limitations. In the wrong hands, it’s far from effective, as this wonderful video from the good folks at Adco Firearms shows. Just ignore the comments below the video – those people have spent too much time at gun stores.

Your first priority in the defensive use of a firearm has to be ensuring that you are justified in using deadly force against a potential threat. Next, you need to put rounds in the right place on that threat until it stops being a threat. Everything else is secondary. As Officer Soulis and Officer Borders discovered, having a .40 or .45 caliber handgun is by itself not sufficient to stop a threat. 9mm, despite being vilified mostly by folks who have little knowledge of terminal ballistics, is very effective when the proper load is selected. I was once informed by a gun store employee that 9mm was a bad choice for self defense because it would over penetrate the target. 10 minutes later, he was telling me how a Carhartt jacket “stopped a 9mm bullet fired at point blank range.” If that was true, I’d buy more Carhartt jackets. As it was, I simply smiled and nodded.

The discussions between handgun, carbine and shotgun have been going on for a while, and will probably continue to go on for decades, or until the introduction of the phased plasma rifle in the 40 watt range. While handguns are easily concealed or, more importantly, kept out of reach of children, shotguns are more effective from a terminal ballistics standpoint. Handguns are more easily fired with one hand than a rifle, which might be important if one was trying to keep a panicked child out of the line of fire, but rifles and carbines are faster and more accurate at close range.

Each weapon has benefits and drawbacks, but the most important aspect of a weapon, in my opinion, is your willingness to practice with it. If you have an 8 gauge shotgun by your bed that you’ve only fired once because it dislocated your shoulder, you probably won’t stand a chance against three or four determined home invaders who, despite popular belief,regularly train with their weapons. You need to be proficient with your firearm, or you might be found liable in either criminal or civil court should you miss your target – and that’s if you survive the armed encounter. As many folks like to say, there’s a lawyer attached to every round you fire.

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Firearms Training for New Female Shooters

I enjoy teaching folks how to shoot, but in my experience, women make the best students. Besides being a welcome change from the grumpy old men I normally encounter at the range, women approach firearms differently than men. Even though a guy may have no hands-on firearms experience, he’s probably seen action movies or gangster TV shows, and has incorrect ideas about weapons safety and handling. A lot of guys are out to show how cool they are at the range. Conversely, women don’t have anything to prove. They know their limitations – that is, women are likely seek out advice and instruction without being told or asked to do so. They are excellent listeners. If I do my part and start them off with weapons that don’t have a massive amount of recoil, they respond very well to basic instruction and are often shooting very accurate groups within an hour of first picking up a firearm.

If you’re a woman and you want to learn how to shoot, there are several ways to do it. One way is to find a local firing range that rents handguns. Almost all such ranges offer instruction, or, at the very least, a safety briefing – and many offer reduced range fees for women. But take a look at the employees first – if you’re not comfortable with them, or the weapons they recommend for a first time shooter include the word “Magnum”, find another shop. If you are uncomfortable when you are being instructed or when you’re shooting, you’ll probably walk away from the store and never want to fire a gun again.

There are several women-oriented training courses available, such as the excellent Babes with Bullets. However, their courses are often booked for a year in advance. Don’t get discouraged. Once you’ve had that initial safety training, check online for courses offered by shooting schools or traveling instructors. Do some research and see what others, especially women, have said about the course. Although such courses are often populated by military and law enforcement personnel, most instructors I have dealt with welcome women in their classes, because as I said before, women pay attention to important things like safety rules. Be sure to look for courses that offer loaner firearms.

As for handgun choices, that’s another topic entirely, and one that I could go on forever about – so I’ll try to keep it brief. Some women gravitate towards smaller guns, believing that they will kick less. This may not be true. A comparably larger weapon of the same caliber may be easier to hold and, due to increased weight, have less perceived recoil. I am a firm believer in the effectiveness of the 9mm round, and most 9mm semi auto pistols are relatively easy to shoot. A lot of folks recommend revolvers, and I think they have their merits. However, a small, lightweight revolver in 357 Magnum is a handful for the beefiest of men to control, and I seriously doubt that the majority of first-time shooters – male and female – would want fire more than one round from such a weapon. If you think a revolver is best for your needs, get one in .38 Special.

Shooting can be a fun and safe sport, and the confidence you gain from being proficient with a weapon that could be useful for self defense is invaluable. Whatever else you might have going on in your life, there’s only one thing holding you back, and that’s you. If you’ve thought about learning how to safely use a firearm, don’t put it off any longer.

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Personal Defense – More Than Just a Firearm

I’m a big proponent of concealed carry. I carry everywhere that I legally can.

However, I’m not of the opinion that simply carrying a gun means that I’m “covered”, that I’m “safe”. Yes, Rule 1 of a gunfight is “Bring a gun”. However, my personal defense philosophy is based on the concept of avoiding, or reducing, confrontation. If you haven’t heard the phrase “the mind is the final weapon”, you need to start wrapping your head around it. Your mindset will mean the difference between success and failure in a crisis, and in some cases, it will mean the ability to avoid a crisis.

If you have a job that takes you in harm’s way, you won’t have the options that “regular” people have – for example, if you’re a police officer, you won’t be able to avoid confronting a dangerous person.

However, for the rest of us, the concealed carry Jack and Jills, we need to realize that carrying a gun doesn’t turn us into invincible superheroes. Carrying a handgun does not make us police officers, bodyguards, or the solution to an active shooter at a mall. As tragic as such a situation can be, your first responsibility is to defend yourself and your family or anyone who might be traveling with you. Running to the sound of gunfire sounds romantic, but it rarely ever turns out that way.

If you knowingly put yourself in a dangerous situation – this could be anything from visiting a bad part of town to choosing to escalate a confrontation when you have the option to de-escalate – you’re not doing yourself any favors. Obvious situations like not walking down a dark alley can be avoided by most, but do you pay attention to the mannerisms of people you see or encounter in your daily life? Do you evaluate someone as a possible threat, or does the thought never cross your mind?

I highly recommend the book The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker, who runs a very successful executive security company. While I disagree with his stance on firearms – and find it ironic that he abhors personal firearm ownership while paying his employees a bonus if they have concealed carry permits – he is one of the world’s foremost experts on personal security. Whether you’re a single female living and working in a big city, or a Soldier about to deploy to Afghanistan, you’ll learn a lot from this book.

The tools of personal defense and safety are vital – the flashlight to identify friend from foe, the knife to cut a seatbelt that may trap you in a burning vehicle, the handgun to neutralize a violent attacker, and other items which you may be limited to due to legal constraints, such as pepper spray or a Taser. Being cognizant of threats, however, and of your own limitations, is even more vital.

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