Beware the Magic Gun!

When perusing the internet, reading forum threads and blog comments around the subject of firearms for self-defense, there is a common theme. It appears that on any given day you could find approximately 30 to 50 percent of gun owners believe they either own or could buy a magic gun that will protect them from anything. A firearm that fulfills their self-defense needs that’s so awesome that the user doesn’t even need to train with it at the range. The magic gun almost always comes in the form of . . .

A revolver or shotgun, most often in .357 Magnum or 12 gauge respectively. The magic gun has incredible stopping power. Proponents brag that it will always put down the bad guy with a single round and, conveniently, stop before it penetrates the walls of their house (meaning little Suzy in the next room is safe).

These gun owners (shooters probably isn’t the right term to use for these guys) are faithful adherents to the belief that the magic gun will stop crimes from happening just because it’s there. Cocking a hammer or pumping a shotgun is enough to make all bad guys everywhere stop what they are doing and find a new hobby.

Reality Check

Here in the real world, the magic gun is no more real than Harry Potter’s wand. While the .357 is an extremely impressive cartridge—in terms of the bullet’s penetration, cavitation and ability to make large holes in bad people—controlling the round’s recoil is an extremely difficult proposition. And yes, you can miss with a shotgun.

Despite what Hollywood might have you believe, guns are not magic talismans. The sound of a shotgun racking (in Dolby stereo) may be sexy, but it’s no guarantee that the bad guy will even pause to reconsider his assault. Nor is the simple appearance of a handgun like a cross to a vampire.

To defend yourself against lethal threats with a firearm quickly, efficiently and effectively you need practice in its mechanical operation, stress-tested shooting skills and strategic excellence.

You also need to realize that a firearm does not come with a magical force field that holds all attackers at just the right distance – close enough that you can hit them without practicing, but not so close that they could grab or hit you.

People commonly believe that a pistol is the great equalizer: “God made man, but Samuel Colt made them equal.” This is only true in a small set of circumstances. If your gun could hold the meth-loaded junkie who broke into your house at arms length, maybe that statement would have some merit. Until then it mostly only serves to make weak people feel better.

Since I don’t presume to know the circumstances under which I may need to defend myself one day, I try to consider training skills for any scenario. Train for firearm retention. Train for the fight where you can’t get to your gun or get it out. Train to reload your gun of choice because it might just run out of ammo.

The reason revolvers and shotguns aren’t magic is because they need to be reloaded just like every other gun. But they can’t be reloaded like any other gun. If you’ve never practiced it, try and reload your pump action shotgun in 10 seconds. Yeah, I thought so.

Your weapon just might malfunction, so learn to deal with it. Unless you can guarantee you won’t be the source of a malfunction yourself, accept that “malfs” are a part of life. And death. Make sure you know which side of the line between life and death you want to end up on.

Many people carry because they think it’s a good idea. But they never expect to actually use their weapon. A pistol or other firearm may make you feel invincible by its mere presence alone. It frees you from fear because it will be the magic answer to all of your problems. Here in the real world, it won’t.

Learn to defend yourself systematically instead of being a member of the magic gun cult. Because in the real world, really bad things happen. Even when you’re armed.

Nick Savery is the author of, a blog discussing integrating training across a variety of systems and platforms for the purposes of self-defense.