A firearm is a force equalizer. A frail old man with a gun can defend himself against a large, strong assailant with the simple squeeze of a trigger. Provided the elderly gentleman has a gun to hand, brings it to bear in time, shoots his attacker in the right place and doesn’t get assaulted while the bad guy is experiencing neurological failure, cardiac arrest, suffocation, exsanguination or some other form of lead poisoning. Yes, there is that. A gun is no guarantee that you will prevail in an attack. But it’s better to have one than not, right? Well . . .
First, let me say this: I completely reject the antis’ assertion that Americans are safer going through life unarmed than tooled-up. This incessant anti-gun agitprop relies heavily on studies that incorporate firearms-related suicide and domestic abuse homicides. The former is only tangentially related to firearms ownership (“gun free” Japan has a higher suicide rate) and the latter is misleading (domestic abuse homicide victims are not usually killed with their own gun).
What’s more, the studies invariably discount or ignore tens of thousands of successful defensive gun uses, a significant percentage of which go unreported. When seen in its proper perspective, when you balance life ending with life saving, gun ownership is not only safe, it’s effective.
But you knew that. And you don’t really care about the stats. When you’re facing the prospect of death or grievous bodily harm – as we all might given the nature of man – you want to have a gun with which to defend yourself, thank you very much. The right to keep and bear arms for personal defense is a natural and civil right. No moral person can deny it.
That said, it’s certainly true that having a gun can enable strategic failures. If you draw, stand and deliver when you should be escaping or evading you might be making the wrong choice – and pay the ultimate price for your mistake. By the same token, the bad guy may take your firearm away and use it against you, as above.
To avoid engaging in a gunfight when you can escape, avoid or evade an attack, make sure it’s Job One. As much as possible, take firearms training that offers a “no shoot” response to a life-or-death scenario. Force-on-force training with Simunitions or Airsoft is often excellent in that regard. Many live-fire instructors include it as well. Ask for it.
Meanwhile and in any case, weapons retention should be a strategic priority. Here are common sense steps to make it so:
– Maintain situational awareness. The sooner you recognize a threat the easier it is to avoid it entirely. The bad guys can’t take your gun away from you if you’re not there.
– Distance is your friend. If you sense a threat put as much distance between it (the potential bad guy or guys) and yourself as you can as soon as you can. If you’re in doubt, if you’re not sure if the person approaching you is friend or foe, do it anyway.
– Don’t draw your gun if you don’t have enough time/distance to use it effectively (e.g. if you have children in tow preventing a quick draw). In many cases, it’s better to strike the bad guy first (any way you can) then draw your weapon. Take some kind of martial arts class to learn how to hurt an attacker (Krav Maga is my fave).
– Blade your stance as soon as possible. Put the gun further away from the potential perp’s reach
– If you’re open carrying, use a retention holster.
– Block! If you sense a threat, try to put something between you and the potential bad guy or guys. Cars and trees are awesome blockers. You’d be amazed how easy it is to run around a solid object to avoid physical contact when your adrenalin’s flowing. (If it worked for The Three Stooges, it’ll work for you.)
– Move and shoot! Distance doesn’t stop being your friend when you draw your gun. As Rob Pincus will tell you, learning how to run while shooting backwards accurately is a priority one skill.
You may have noticed that all of the above advice (cribbed mercilessly from various gun gurus) relates more to a handgun defense than a scattergun. In the video above, the perp took control of the homeowner’s shotgun. Long guns create specific challenges for weapons retention because . . . wait for it . . . they’re longer. It’s easier for a bad guy to grab the barrel, take control of the gun and kill you with it. A few thoughts:
Don’t move towards an unseen bad guy if you can help it. Assume a defensive position and wait for them to come to you. In case you don’t have a choice, learn how to bring a long gun around a corner (“pie” the room and/or lower the gun when you go through the door). Don’t forget you can shoot the bad guy off the end of your gun.
In short, don’t get caught up in the idea that a gun gives you an advantage in a self-defense scenario. It might, it probably will, but thinking so could get you killed. Especially if you make it easy for your attacker to take your gun away from you.