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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.

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  1. Then I can assume that if I can’t or won’t get proper training (especially from Nick) that I might as well save my money and not purchase a gun of any kind. If you can’t use a gun properly, don’t even own one. (I know you didn’t say that Nick, but I’m doing what you do, extrapolating).

    So granny, if you can’t leap through the air, do a perfect shoulder roll while retaining your weapon, and put a 6 shot – 1 inch cluster in the bad guy’s forehead, you should not own a firearm.

    • I think the author is saying that the tool isn’t as important as the mindset. Part of the “mindset” equation is working the handgun into an overall integrated self-defense plan, that includes at least basic precepts of weapon retention, maintaining adequate distance, etc.
      One statement I don’t necessarily subscribe to is the “we don’t rise to the occasion, we default to the level of our training.” – there are plenty of self-defense incidents in which the justified shooter performed remarkably well despite not having had much in the way of training or practice.

    • I think that Nick is also hitting on a topic that has been dealt with here before – namely that based on the number of guns sold, it should be almost impossible to get a range session booked or find a spot in a class. That’s not happening, so its fair to suggest that a lot of people are buying a gun and then simply putting on the shelf in case they need it.

      My 82 year father is a perfect case in point. He has a .357, a 12 gauge shotgun, and a 9 mm Beretta 92. Of the three, he’s only fired the .357 (using .38 special rounds), yet when I talk to him on the phone about potentially bad things, he’s pretty sure that in the event of a problem, he can just pull that 12 gauge out and deal with it. I don’t have the heart to tell him that the shotgun would likely rip his arm off.

      Fact is that in the year or so that I’ve been a gun owner, my abilities have increased dramatically, but that is because I’m at the range at least once if not more than once a week and have taken a number of shooting focused classes. While I’m far from an expert in anything related to firearms, I do believe that I would have a decent chance to perform adequately depending on the circumstances. The same cannot be said for most people who buy a gun and then never practice nor take any instruction.

      • Jim, your story about your father reminds me of my father in law. A few months ago he bought a Remington 870 for home defense. At least he took it to the range and shot it, but he has some pretty high expectations of what he and it can do in a fight, including shooting it under the bed at an attacker while leaning off the side.

    • I don’t know that I assert that you need to get any formal training. Especially from me, I teach rifle marksmanship and karate, but neither as a business.

      What I’m trying to say is that no matter who you are or what your chosen firearm is, take it to the range and shoot it. Invest a little time. Picking up a gun doesn’t automatically make you a master of self-defense any more than picking up a hammer makes you a master carpenter.

  2. I couldn’t agree more with this article. As a two tour Nam Vet, with a background in LE Mr. SAvery has just re-enforced what I have been telling people for years. You ARE the weapon. If you carry because it is cool, or you believe that your holster is the best looking one out there, then leave your weapon at home. That type of logic will get you killed. It isn’t the bullet size, it is placement that gets the job done.

    • In your opinion, do alot of folks have guns too big for them? Every time I go to the range, I see guys shooting 40 cal (or bigger) and hitting nothing… Same guys who snicker at my 9mm or my wife’s 38 (even though she hits her target)
      Yet, I also see gun shop employees encouraging folks to get the bigger gun with long lectures about stopping power.

      • Snickering is rude and the sure sign of an A-H. Shoot what you’re comfortable with. If they snicker at 9 mm? Tell them “SEALS use 9 mm.” What idiocy.

        • LOL ropingdown, that is a excellent post that i cannot reiterate any better. I see more 1911’s on ranges in the hands of people that demonstrate poor habits and do not abide by the fundamentals of shooting (proper stance, sight picture, trigger squeeze, and grip).

          I do not care if you have a glock 19 or 9mm hi point or taurus 38. if you are highly effective with it and hit the target, then it is a effective weapon system.

          I have friends that also snicker at 9mm. I tell them, “you cannot hit anything with your 45; what makes you think you can kill a trained adversary with a 9mm?”.

      • Chances are that if they missed with 40 or 45 they would miss with a 9 as well. The recoil from larger calibers, either handgun or rifile, only seems unmanageable to the last two generations of gun owners whose experience is generally limited to 9mm and 223. The same shooting mechanics apply whether you are shooting 22lr or 50 BMG. Use good mechanics and you will hit target with any caliber you pick up.

  3. I have found this to be very true. I cannot tell you how many older women I have been around who think a Taurus Judge is this magic gun. They will tell you that the salesman told them that since it shoots shotgun shells, “you can’t miss”. Then they load the pistol up with #6 birdshot, because they just want to scare the bad guy off, they don’t want to kill anyone, and off it goes in the bottom of their purse.
    This same idea applies to the 21 year old who goes out and buys a Glock without ever firing one because the police carry them, or the guy that gets a 20ga pistol grip shotgun for his wife to use.

  4. I don’t think it’s either or. You can own a gun and not know WTF you’re doing, increasing your odds of a successful DGU (’cause you have a gun). Or you can own a gun and train to defend yourself and increase your odds even more.

    As in all things, you pays your money you takes your chances.

    Re: the video: I want to know what do you do if the gun STILL doesn’t work. If you’re close enough should you pistol whip the bad guy? What’s the preferred technique? Hmmm. I sense a post coming.

    • Well said Nick. Get all the training you think you need or want. There are many of us who are unable to do “Tactical” anything. We purchase good quality guns, proper ammo, and go to the range to become familiar with our weapons. If we get a concealed carry permit we take the courses and take that weapon to the range also. That’s about it for training. Doesn’t sound like much to a SWAT team wannabe but I think it gives a big edge over the BG’s that prowl our neighborhoods and shopping centers.

      If I expend 6 or 7 rounds of 00 buck at a home invader, I don’t think being able to reload in 10 seconds is even a consideration. At least not for the invader.

        • If you have multiple invaders who are equally armed you are dead. So far I haven’t heard of any homeowners successfully repelling a SWAT team.

        • Yes multiple invaders, around here the normal home invasion involves 2 or 3 armed men.

          “Three men – two white and one black – forced their way into the home and yelled “Police,” he said. One of them had a silver badge on his belt, and they handcuffed two people and began searching through the home, police said. One victim broke free and approached one of the suspects, and was shot in the face, police said.”

          “three men kicked in the door to a home in the Ednor Gardens Lakeside community, bound a man and his wife, and shot the man”

          “three masked men forced their way into a home and pistol whipped and bound the three occupants. A 25-year-old woman was sexually assaulted, and a 45-year-old man was shot in the stomach.”

          Three different incidents, two happened on the same night.

        • Multiple attackers is a fairly common occurrence. Bad guys tend to like the advantage, whether it is getting the jump on you, thinking they have more firepower than you, or outnumbering you.

        • Then the last two or three guys get Ginsu knives in the gut. In my home, 6 rounds of 00 buck or 13 rounds of .45ACP home defense ammo is going to be a game-changing event. Either the crew is looking to steal stuff and will not want to forfiet their lives so they run away or throw up their hands…. or the ninjas will realize immediately that they are not in a martial arts contest and will begin backflipping out of the house…. or it is a gang of meth heads and their last moments on this earth are spent in a drug-addled state bleeding out on the carpet that my wife and I were planning to change anyway and now State Farm is helping us pay for it.

          I agree with the author in that the gun selection is only part of the answer, you must be proficient with any gun you use. Once I begin to dispatch the bad guy or as you have postulated bad GUYS, I have to justify each pull of the trigger. This is not 2003 Baghdad. I don’t get to double tap a guy crawling out of the house. We live in a civil society. I have several choices of weapons in my home. But it could just as easily be a double-barrel shotgun. Once I start shooting, I am legally and morally responsible for every pull of the trigger. Shooting a gang of 14 year old kids running out my back door is stupid. Killing four home invasion drug seekers is not. I have to know what is going on with each person I shoot. Having more bullets and multiple targets does not turn my living room into a live action video game. If I run out of bullets (a scenario only in my wildest dreams) and am still in danger then the police will need to tag for evidence my wife’s prized set of kitchen knives, the dining room chairs, pens from the bin on the side of the refrigerator, frying pans, my Waterpik teeth cleaner, and anything else I can get my hands on. But the chances are extremely remote that I will need to pull the trigger more than once, maybe twice.

  5. This should be a no brainer, I own a lot of woodworking tools but I suck as a carpenter. I do not own a lot of pipe fitting or electrical tools but I am damn good at both. The gun is a tool and you are the weapon is a great way to look at it. Your eyes, ears and mind are your best tools a gun is the tool of last resort.

  6. “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…”

    Don’t forget that it’s also extremely well made and inexpensive.

    Focusing on the gear and ignoring skill is common among many different trades. I first noticed it among photographers. They’re called shutterbugs, and they will spend thousands upon thousands on fancy cameras and other gizmos, all the while taking rather mundane photographs.
    Good tools are important (and talent helps), but in any discipline its the diligent that eventually succeed.

  7. All things being equal, a shotgun is a “magic gun” more often than not. They’re universally simple to operate, and one can be effective with one with absolutely no training short of “point at bad guy, press bang switch”.

    Of course, one should train with any weapon, though the recent years have been full of DGUs involving someone otherwise unable to protect themselves, a shotgun, and a dead or leaking bad guy. I’m willing to bet very few of them trained with the weapon that saved their lives.

    • IMO, a pump shotgun is the *worst* gun for self defense. Well, except bolt guns and guns in ineffective calibers. I know, you didn’t mention a pump gun specifically, but it’s the shotgun most people think of.

      You can short-stroke a pump gun, or forget to cycle the action between shots. (happens to beginners on the range all the time. Just about all of us are beginners when it comes to shooting at human beings).
      You can forget to hit the slide release (how many beginners have you seen do this?)
      Even worse, you can hit the slide release at the wrong time, and the gun won’t fire.
      You are likely to fumble reloading.
      You may well fumble loading in the first place, as well– I’ve never come across a rapid access long-gun safe, and keeping it loaded may not be an option for those with kids, unless…
      You fumble with a trigger lock.

      I can’t think of a pistol or automatic rifle that isn’t a lot simpler to operate than a pump gun (ok, excluding guns that use stripper clips).

      Very often, a pump gun *is* the best gun, if only because it’s the one that available- because they’re cheap and require minimal maintenance.

      A shotgun is also great for people who have their wits about them- meaning aggressors who have the initiative, like SWAT teams and criminals– but I repeat myself.

      I’m not saying you *will* mess it up- but it seems to me that there are just more things that can go wrong with a shotgun.

        • Dude, muzzleloaders are *awesome* for self defense. Picture it. You break into this house and find this (obviously crazy) guy in his bathrobe, with an 1805 Sea Service Pistol in each hand. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

      • Points that favor a gas action auto loader over the pump action shotgun:

        Simpler to operate with one hand if needed, and
        gas action precludes ‘limp wrist’ jamming. That one hand shot may have to be with your weak hand.

        Fewer manual actions to fumble when under stress. Basically just switch off the safety and pull the trigger one to N times.

        E.g. the Mossberg 930 “Special Purpose: Home Security.”

  8. I have heard too many people worshiping the magical potential of the 12g shotgun blast and spread, and the sound it makes when racked alone to scare away bad guys. I have heard some claims by some 357 magnum revolver owners putting too much reliance on the round in their gun as if its existence is enough to win the confrontation. I have also heard way too much magical worship reliance on tactical semi-auto handguns that come with 15-20-32 round magazines, lasers, etc.

    Years ago, when I bought my first handgun a Glock .40 caliber (since sold off), a 1911 owner teased me about how superior his .45 is to mine and because of the round I would stand no chance against him in a fight. It was joking yet underneath it was an arrogance about his 1911 model .45 caliber being so wonderful and magical.

    A half-inch marble from my slingshot shot into anyone’s eye or throat will put any person down. If I miss and that person can easily shoot me back then I’m down.

    • A half-inch marble from my slingshot

      I build the best slingshots ever made. I’ve been doing so for over 50 years. When I was a kid, there wasn’t a window in my neighborhood that was safe. My ammo choice — marbles.

    • yeah 1911 guys seem to be the ones that have their egos invested in their firearms.

      what is even funnier is SHTF guys. They think their 1911’s and obscure semi-automatic rifles (like Galils) will magically save their hide and allow them to take on hordes of evil doers around the world. When their 1911 is fed picked up ammunition, experiences less than ideal operating conditions/lack of cleaning, or, god forbid, breaks a part, they will be using as a throwing stick when my glock and AR15 continues throwing lead down range. If I need to, i can easily find ammunition, magazines, or spare parts because there is a plethora of those items available for those weapon systems.

      when it comes to carrying a weapon for self defense, throw your damn ego away. stick to what is effective.

      • Umm, the 1911 has been around for over 100 years and is very prevalent. Why do you think I won’t be able to find parts for it in a situation where you can for your Glock? Since most 1911s are 45cal, parts and magazines interchangeability is a lot higher then Glocks which come in multiple calibers, grip lengths and sizes.

      • A man who knows how to stay in the shadows and go to ground avoiding trouble can possibly survive a long term SHTF scenario. Guns are good tools to have yet too many people rely on them too much.

    • When you guys are out of parts and ammo, I’ll still be able to use a slingshot with an overall end range of 225 yards. When the bands breaks I’ll use a traditional sling like King David did. OK, joking aside, I am a wheel gun 357/38 man and I am always hearing the magical talk by those who have semis and tactical long and short guns. A bow and arrow can do a nice ambush of a dude walking by with an AK/AR and his 1911/Glock. This article could have been better if it focused on a bigger picture attitude issue.

      • A .357 revolver is the total anarchy/zombie apocalypse/world wide SHTF gun I always recommend. If you can find 357 magnums great, if not load up some 38 specials. If you can’t find .38 special rounds you are not looking hard enough. 357 snubbies also make great concealed carry guns IMHO.

    • I agree, people worship just about anything (and will take any excuse instead of practicing and covering the bases). Personally I’ve noticed a trend where a higher percentage of those who rely on shotguns or revolvers are in this category, but it could apply to anything.

  9. I tell my kids the very same thing my father told me. With practice and time anything can be used as a weapon but without practice your more dangerous to yourself. Perfect is a word that I try to avoid using because nothing is perfect. As with all things in life what’s close to being perfect for one is not for all. My cz fits me real nice, my friend has a 1911 that fits him, when we tried each others neither of us could hit the side of a barn at 2 yards. After many rounds of practice we’ve gotten a lot better (about 7 yards).
    That’s the tool part now you have to take into account that not every, or for that matter, any situation will be exactly the same every time. Variables in light, which door or window, did my kid forget to pick up their back pack today from the middle of the room, (were I will invariably trip on it). Kids add an incredible dynamic to any situation will my son not argue with me at the moment I need (the little know it all) to duck and cover. Paintball is a fantastic training tool.

    • Paintball is a fantastic training tool.

      Well, in paintball you attack. In RL we defend. But the main thing about paintball is that it teaches humility. Everyone who plays gets paint splatter somewhere. Imagine if they were bullet holes.

      • Yes, But scenario depends on you. Defend the flag or all out free for all. And as for imagining that is the point. Plus, I don’t have to pay for the doctor or explain to the wife.

  10. I’ll take the contrary view. From the young recently-widowed mother in Oklahoma to the innumerable reports of elder defense, a working gun and some courage suffices most of the time. No jujitsu. No 19-round clips. No high-end German or Swiss gun needed. As for the “feeling of invincibility,” that’s a mental defect to which young men are prone, which makes them good soldier material. It is foolish, but has little to do with DGU. They also think every chick is hot for them. Doesn’t have anything to do with their actual sex life. As for the caliber question: I shoot .45ACP, and usually carry 165 grain +P copper Cor-Bon. I like the velocity and pleasant muzzle flash. I find the retort of the 9mm too loud, sharp, and the muzzle flash of a typical .357 magnum horrendous. I shoot those at the range only to indulge my brother. 9 mm or 357 or 40 or 45 is a non-issue as to lethality. As a combat vet, reasonably experienced hunter, and 3 x DGU person, I conclude that basic gun skills suffice. Regular function check. Effective carry method. Safe storage habits. Fitness and mental health add a lot to the equation. If you go to bed ‘tipsy’ good luck with those home-invaders at 1 a.m.! On the street the rule seems simple. “Be alert. He who hesitates is lost. Be the first with your hand on your gun.” The ‘selling’ of one handed shooting (except as practice in case you are wounded) seems bizarre to me (except for Ralph’s snubby…). What serious trainer possessed of actual extensive combat or street-shootings experience advocates one-hand pistol craft beyond a shot by a wounded victim, or a shot at point-blank range while grappling? This is an amateur-hour concept aside from bulls-eye competition. The time it takes to become a Bill Jordan or Jelly Bryce simply isn’t available to adult learners. Yes, practice is a good thing, but you don’t have to become a warrior to arrange effective DGU ability.

    • You must be a young lad. Back in my day you did your 1911 qual one handed. The military didn’t started using the Weaver stance until the mid 70s.

      • Laugh. I like to think 60 is young. Fairbairn was teaching the Isosceles stance in the 30’s. Most of the best action shooters today use the Isosceles. The Weaver was a sort of intermediate period, based mostly on the preferences of the South West Shooter’s League, Cooper, et al, filtering into the gun press. In the old days the Colonels and Generals (George Patton, for example) were devoted one-handers. Fairbairn had LOTS of combat-shooting experience. Cooper had none. That’s right, none. I never did a qual with a 1911, btw. Someone just handed me one and said “OK, we’re having lunch in Saigon. You’re my bodyguard.” Jeez. I bought one on the black market two months later, for the Laos bit. Tin can practice, mostly. But it was a backup to my M60 (choppers) and M16….

  11. So true. No magic guns. No magic cameras. And for sure, there is no magic guitar either.

    If you think custom 1911’s are expensive, check out the prices on high-end guitars and related gear. I was in band with a guy who spent thousands, and thousands, and thousands, and thousands, on gear. Substantial down-payment on a house money. We would play a gig at some dive bar populated with homeless drunks and chicks doing blow in the bathroom, and he would bring 7 guitars. It was a miracle none ever got stolen. Now, I would like to say he sucked, but he didn’t. But for all money spent at Guitar Center, he didn’t sound like Clapton, and I was able to hold my own with a made in Mexico HSS Fender Strat (although I switched out stock pick-ups for some Fender custom wound ones).

    It’s like anything else. You get a diminishing return at a certain point. You need to be a fairly high skill level to squeeze out whatever advantage those extra thousands of dollars give you. At the end of the day, you still have to practice. And Eddie Van Halen will still be able to play like Eddie Van Halen on a cheap guitar and sound better than the average wanna be guitar hero. I imagine Rob Leathem, whilst wielding a $150 Hi-point, could probably beat an average Ed Brown owner at an IPSC match.

    The most expensive guitar or gun cannot grant skill and/or ability that you do not possess, and, that being true, it is certain that cheap guitar or gun will not either.

    But with a little (OK, a lot) of correct practice, you can make some beautiful music and maybe save your life.

    And, true story, that band mate of mine – eventually sold most of his gear. Last time I saw him play out, he was playing a PRS through an mic’d 15Watt amp. He sounded great.

      • And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives.

        Don’t stop now, Sid. That was the greatest soliloquy since “to be or not to be.”

  12. What, actually, was the message of this long post?

    “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.” -Effective is enough. Strategic excellence? What?

    “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.” -If they’re close enough to grab or hit me, they’re close enough to shoot without much shooting practice. Better to add some judo or kick-boxing practice.

    “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.” -What does this paragraph even mean? Why hold the junkie at arms length? Shoot him at 5 meters. Shoot him at 3 meters. Shoot him at 1 meter. What’s the issue? The gun lets you shoot the b’t’d. What alternatives are suggested. Why is the pistol not the great equalizer? Should I buy one of Ralph’s slingshots for backup? A spear?

    • Should I buy one of Ralph’s slingshots for backup?

      Sorry, but I can’t sell you one without the required Federal Slingshot Dealer’s License. I let mine lapse in 1968.

  13. I used to play a lot of golf. I’d watch it on TV and read all the magazines. I would frequently see BS articles or tv spots that sounded a lot like this post: “You shouldn’t even bother playing if you don’t get professional instruction and practice every day!”. These tips invariably came from….. professional instructors.

    I know, golf is not about protecting your life. It’s obvious that the more tactical training the better. But realistically, there is an entire class of people who are not going to get much training but are still better off being armed than not. We should not be discouraging them through a self-serving post such as this.

  14. I think the author and some commenters feel the need to justify this sort of training with ridiculous scenarios, because odds are very slim that anyone will ever have to justify it with action.

    Practically every attacker, will choose self-preservation over their theft/robbery/rape motive*. There are far too many real-life situations where the attacker(s) leaves once he is shot at or even realizes his intended victim is armed. The idea that if you only have 6 shots, you’re dead if 3 or 4 people break in, comes from movies and the land of ninjas. Look at the majority of DGU reports. Attackers turn and run when shot at, never mind one of them is hit or killed. The ones that actually return fire are still doing so while they are running away. Sure it’s anecdotal and every situation is different but there is far more of this evidence than reports that multiple attackers overpowered their victim because he was only armed with a 6 shot revolver.

    Everyone should arm themselves and know how to properly and safely operate their weapon of choice. Beyond that, do what you are interested in, feel comfortable with, and have time for.

    *The major exception to an attacker choosing self preservation over motive is when the murder of the victim is the attacker’s motive, e.g. disgruntled spouse. In that case, arm, stash, and train; all as much as possible.

    • I agree completely with your point of view. People don’t need extensive training to defend. They need the right attitude. Heck, cops got almost no training for decades. And as you point out, if someone actually plans to murder you, good luck. That’s a different thing entirely. I don’t think CCW people should feel compelled to make shooting their hobby. Defensive shootings beyond 5 yards are almost unheard of. People are busy, have work and family lives.

      • Yeah, my ninja days are behind me, too. Today, guns are my hobby and shooting is an important part of my life. I may decide to take a “tactical” course just for the experience, but it’s not a big priority. My main objection to civilian combat training is that all it can do is simulated the real deal, and not too well at that. Sending bullets downrange is one thing; having them sent back at you at 2500 fps is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.

        • Yep. Someone shooting back is a permanent mindset changer. Speed, simplicity, and a very reliable gun, those matter, and luck. I agree about the dangers of ‘tactical’ courses, that they spawn illusions in the mind of the trainees. Sending SWAT guys to them definitely ups the risk of ‘too much shooting, too soon.” For everyday people I think gaining high skill at close ranges with one model of gun is the thing. DGU isn’t a game. There won’t be a Bianchi Cup’s worth of targets. There will be one, two, maybe three, and only a few seconds start to finish. But you have all that down. I do hope you’re allowed to carry a New York Reload in your jurisdiction…. I was a serious skeet shooter for years, so my first wish is always “I hope I have a shotgun.” But CCW doesn’t allow for that. Just as well, I suppose. laugh.

      • There is a difference between making shooting a hobby and reaching an acceptable minimum level of competency. The majority of untrained gun owners all believe that they shoot “good enough” and “fast enough” to win an armed confrontation. That definition of what is good enough comes not from analysis of real incidents, but from simply deciding that whatever level they are at is “good enough”, because to do otherwise would require them to improve and lower their level of confidence.

        People set expectations for performance under extreme stress based on their performance under NO stress on a sunny day at the range. That’s unrealistic: even top performers in any activity understand that it’s their worst day of training, not their best, that defines how they will perform under stress. Read any book on sports performance, particularly those written for Olympic and professional athletes, and that fact jumps out, as it does in any book written about survival or combat.

        Law enforcement academies and private sector schools have spent the past 100 years analyzing gunfights and setting minimum acceptable requirements for those that are armed going into harm’s way. To dismiss the standards that come from that community as unimportant, simply because it’s “inconvenient” to put in the time to get to that level, is short sighted.

        At most schools the baseline program takes 2-5 days of initial training. Then most recommend monthly or more frequent dry fire practice (which is free and takes 10-15 minutes), and quarterly or more frequent realistic live fire practice (not “target shooting”) thereafter.

        • KR: I would agree with this, that every person who carries should get some one-on-one guidance, read a selection of good books on the subject, choose an appropriate gun carefully after trying a variety at a rental range, and spend the equivalent of 2-5 days training. They should settle on a particular holster and method of carry (location). They should practice the presentation from that carry arrangement, and practice dry-firing, at least once a week, forever. They would do well to have a laser or red dot sight… mainly to improve dry fire results: the laser, especially, lets one see (or better, a friend see and report) where they go wrong during the trigger pull sequence. They should master their chosen gun, its function check and maintenance needs. They should stick to one carry model unless a very strong reason motivates change. All of this can be done at home and at a local range, if there are skilled and helpful people at the range. It cannot generally be done all at once, because most people have neither the time nor money to binge on their defenses. My view is just that the process has to start somewhere, and people should not be intimidated by the time or expense. I think reading a variety of material, some of it conflicting, is a very good idea, so that they think through the options. Certainly reading “In the Gravest Extreme,” and then getting briefed on their actual state and local laws, is key. I do not agree that in combat one performs as they do on their worst training days. I’ve seen people with little training perform like John Wayne when they suddenly find themselves taking RPG’s from the treeline when their chopper has an engine failure in enemy-controlled territory. I also actually watched two very highly trained people shoot our company A&D clerk thinking (amid tear gas and a trip flare at 2 a.m.) that he was a sapper. While training is good, so much of it is doctrinaire that caution is necessary. Law Enforcement Academies, in particular, have not set a very good standard and for decades taught suboptimal technique. Many still do. Take a slow read covering the famed Miami FBI Shootout for an example of how very highly trained people can make very strange choices in preparing for a hot stop, and in the heat of the moment once the shooting begins. The “hottest shot”, SWAT qualified, knowing what he was about to do…lost his glasses in the first collision, and had his .357 magnum loaded with .38. Etc. In short, I agree with your POV, that training is good. I also think, though, that a slower part-time process is inevitable for most people, and that practicing at ranges greater than 7 yards with a handgun is, for most people, pointless. Better to increase speed than range, at a given accuracy level. Most 5-day courses spend a lot of time at ranges of 10 and 15 yards…or more. They train techniques the housewife or accountant will not have a chance to refresh. Having followed the accumulation of data for years on DGU, I see very few failures resulting from inability to hit the target. The problems arise elsewhere: Failure to move away from the assailant, failure to seek readily available concealment or cover, failure to get their hand on their gun in time, etc. Still, training is good. Practice is good. A realistic set of achievable goals is good. Thanks for replying.

  15. This is one rule I would like to see printed in red ink on every CCW Permit and firearms related ID card in the country: “YOU CANNOT BUY YOUR WAY TO MARKSMANSHIP”

    There is only one proven method of being good at shooting. Its not buying a match grade gun. Its not shooting Caliber X. Its not even buying a 1911. Its going to the range and practicing with what you own. The guy with the used Glock who spends $2000 on range time and ammo will be much deadlier than a guy with a Kimber 1911 who goes to the range once a month.

    Match grade barrels won’t do it.
    Laser sights won’t do it.
    Fancy scopes won’t do it.
    Milled receivers won’t do it.
    Pistol scopes won’t do it.
    Advanced instruction won’t do it either.

    On that last one, instruction is always a good thing in that it teaches you how to be proficient and safe with your firearm of choice , but that knowledge is useless if its never practiced after its acquired.

  16. I have seen people screw up shooting and miss with the following:
    People miss with DA revolvers due to heavy trigger pulls.
    Same with DA/SA pistols.
    People miss with high capacity semi-auto guns due to reliance on high capacity magazines and high rate of fire.
    Applies to semi-auto shotguns as well.
    Pump shotgun, I have never actually seen anyone short shuck a pump. I have seen people flinch and miss with all shotguns and high power rifles.
    People over lubricate semi-autos and gum them up so they jam.
    People use ammo that the gun really does not function well with.
    People use gun of which they are unfamiliar with or not sighted in.
    I recommend defending yourself with a gun you shoot and comfortable with.

  17. I have often wondered why people are so apt to believe any stupid thing they hear about guns or defending yourself and spout it about as truth. I mean, you don’t see people acting like they are engineers after seeing a movie that had a train in it, or spouting nonsense about the load rating of a 747 after they saw airplane. You don’t see people who will, with utter conviction, try to convince you of the exact right amount of plutonium to steal from libean terrorists to power your delorean, just because they’ve seen back to the future one time.

    But the moment one idiot tells another that bullets from an AR-15,(you know, the one with the high capacity CLIPS) will go straight through walls and houses, or that you should totally drag the intruders body INTO the house after shooting him(with no word on what to do about the large blood streak you now have), or about how the .50 cal can rip you apart just by the bullet passing near you, or about how the racking sound of a shotgun scares all bad guys away and how shotguns magically clear entire rooms of bad guys with one shot(why didn’t the room just clear out when you racked it?) and how ARs constantly malfunction and how AKs can’t hit the broad side of a barn…the moment any of that is spoken it instantly becomes truth and is spread about like a disease.


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