When I first started carrying a gun I found it an incredibly stressful experience. I constantly wondered when, where and how I might use my firearm for self-defense. Like . . .

I’m waiting in line in a convenience store (a.k.a., a Stop ‘N Rob). A bad guy bursts in, points a gun at the man behind the counter and demands the cash. Shoot or don’t shoot? The bad guy pistol-whips the cashier. Shoot or don’t shoot? My daughter gloms on to me. If I take return fire, she’ll be in the line of fire. Shoot or don’t shoot?

After endlessly gaming out various scenarios in various places, I came to a basic conclusion: focus on the legal standard and relax.

In general, you may legally brandish (i.e., remove your gun from your holster and point it at another human being) or fire your weapon at a human being when that person puts you or other innocent life in imminent, credible danger of death or grievous bodily harm. [NB: State statutes vary. Google your state’s name plus the words “legal use of lethal force law” and read the actual law.]

There is one important caveat: in all cases, be very careful about drawing your gun if you don’t know the whole story. For example, if you come in on a robbery – rather than see if from the beginning. Who’s pistol-whipping whom? Did the robber and bad guy trade places? It has happened.

OK, that’s about it. Seriously. You’re good to stow. Well, one more thing. A gentle reminder . . .

MOVE! In the video above, notice that the reporter doesn’t move and gets stabbed. This despite PLENTY of warning that she was facing a lethal threat. She also holds the gun too low and crosses her thumbs on the pistol; learn how to properly grip your gun. But above all, get off the X (as trainers are won’t to say).

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not arguing against armed self-defense training. I can’t recommend force-on-force training highly enough. It’s more important than thousands of hours at the gun range. The more you practice armed self-defense in a high-stress simulation, the better an armed self-defender you’ll be. But it’s also true that you can round down to zero the percentage of successful defensive gun uses where the armed innocent had force-on-force training.

In other words, firearms training is great but the lack of training doesn’t leave you defenseless. The most important factor in a successful defensive gun use: having a gun. Well, right after avoiding a gunfight in the first place (by being aware of your surroundings and avoiding stupid people in stupid places doing stupid things). If you’re carrying a weapon – home carry, people! – your natural survival instincts will kick-in and you’ll be able to do something useful with your firearm. Maybe.

Yes, there is that. There are no guarantees in life. There are no guarantees in life-or-death situations. None. You can train like a pro, carry the best possible gun, do everything “right” and still die or suffer horrific injuries. If you can accept that fact – and it is a fact – and vow to defend yourself and (perhaps) other innocent life no matter what, you will have the mindset you need to have a fighting chance. Truth be told, that’s as good as it gets. Accept it and enjoy life, because life is precious. And short.

23 Responses to Guns for Beginners: Don’t Worry, Be Wary

  1. “MOVE! In the video above, notice that the reporter doesn’t move and gets stabbed. This despite PLENTY of warning that she was facing a lethal threat.”

    My thoughts exactly. A good contrast is the actions of Mr. Williams in the Fla. Waffle Shop versus the TV news reporter. Facing multiple potential assailants, Williams backed into the only available space, giving himself just enough time to prepare to face the subsequent attack. So, did Mr. Williams have some formal force-on-force training? Probably not, but there was also probably something in his background that allowed him to correctly understand his situation. And that’s what counts when the chips are down. I’ll give the TV reporter a pass. This was her first time and, like many women, faced with a entirely strange fight-flight response, she froze. Williams saved his life by not freezing.

    • I thought she did pretty darn well in this. Yeah she didn’t move out of the attacker’s way but she pulled her pistol and shot him with good focus, and it looked like he would not have cut her badly. Also her thumbs didn’t seem to be in the way of the slide so no real problem there. Good for her.

    • I was actually shocked that her instinct wouldn’t be to move in such a way as to keep the table between herself and the attacker. If she hadn’t been armed, she likely would have done just that but being so focused on the shooting (which is the new unknown part for her, I suppose) that probably explains it.

      • Biologically, for a hunter gather in the face of a superior predator, the best reaction is to freeze, and hopefully disappear into the environment. Let some other tool become the food.

        Freezing is everyone’s first natural instinct.

  2. She needs to work on her grip, of course, but not bad for a beginner.

    Shoot-no-shoot courses are incredibly valuable. I highly recommend every gun owner take one. I will take another one any chance I get. You think you know how you will react, and sometimes you’re right about that, but sometimes you’re wrong. I did really well on some difficult scenarios, then I dorked up some really simple ones. It was an eye-opener. This, and low-light shooting, are the best training courses I’ve taken.

  3. Great vid and article. For me the top takeaway is what the instructor said at 2:35.

    “If you are gonna have a gun, its a huge responsibility, take the time and train”

    I thought the journolista did well. Agree with your assessment- get off the X. Thats a lot to ask of a person in first demo, under pressure. Like many martial arts, gunfu is also about footwork.

    PS: you will shoot where you look. This attacker got it in the crotch half the time. Action News Network indeed.

    • As the saying goes, “Kill the brain and you kill the ghoul.” Some women think that’s where guys’ brains are!

      • +1. My gun coach, USMC ret and record holder, and 30 years of LEO firearms instructing-
        says many are now advocating two to the chest, next two to the pelvis (assuming body armor),
        rather than the old Mozambique drill.

  4. That sure is a cool looking glock “paintball gun” gotta love that media terminology. This makes me want to do some more force on force.

  5. Typos?

    ” Did the robber and bad guy trade places?” ( “bad guy” should be “good guy”? )

    ” But above all, get off the X (as trainers are won’t to say).” ( “won’t” should be “wont”? )

  6. Concealed carry classes are a good start but i think to many people think that once they take that class, they are good to go. Training, training, training. There is never enough, in the 82nd we all got sick of training all the time but it makes the difference between being victorious and being the French.

  7. Wow! What an awesome news team!
    No “guns are scary” theme to it. Even if anyone on the news team is not a firearms advocate, they stayed with their objective. If you are going to own/carry a firearm, then do yourself and us all a favor and learn how to use it properly.

  8. I watched this the other night, was very surprised at the story not being anti. I guess since Chief James Craig said get a gun, they are telling people to train with said gun.

  9. Train under stress. Use Air Soft guns to train your family in your home (wear eye protection).

    Drill. Practice. Shoot live fire at the range and take some more realistic training.

    Train CQB with your family. Make it non-lethal (obviously), but it’s okay if it hurts a little. Those are the lessons that stick with you. My sensei used to use a pair of blunt nose pliers for full speed defense against a knife training. They wouldn’t cut you, but get a pair of pliers slammed into your ribs enough times, and you take it seriously. He put me through a wall once, and when i gave him a black eye all he said was “Good!”

    The military and the really good private security training makes it so that it is muscle memory. As John Mason says in the film, The Rock; “You must never hesitate.” Hesitation in a life and death scenario equals death . . . for you and possibly for your loved ones. Yes, hone your senses to recognize a friendly from a hostile, but be on the edge at all times to act.

    My wife always has her Beretta with her cocked and locked when I’m not home. No question in my mind that if someone breaks in, they are going to have a very bad day.

    • It is nice that there are so many airsoft copies of the real thing, I really want that m&p9c green gas blow back, bonus it has a giggle switch!

      • Agreed. We try to get Airsofts to match what we EDC and have for in-home defense so we at least have something that feels close to the same.

  10. Well, I thought she did pretty good for a first time. It just shows that you cannot train too much. Yeah she may have needed a few stitches when it was over, but she didn’t freeze. Point for her.

    You have to train through a wide variety of scenarios, and even at that, when the real thing hits it will be a struggle to keep your focus. Until you’ve actually had stuff going off around you and people trying to kill you, you can only train and do the best you can with simulations. but, as simulations go, this was a good exercise.

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