Certain topics, seemingly old and worn out, do not always get across to people using a firearm for personal defense. This week I was shooting at my local gun club in an evening pistol league with about fifteen other shooters. The league has been established to help people work through any number of issues when practicing personal defense skills with a firearm. The course of fire adds stress to the lives of some and gives others a chance to practice defensive fundamentals. A few people didn’t get too far and, in fact; shot no more than one magazine of six rounds before having equipment failures. This is what I would like to discuss (again) in this article – equipment & mindset choices for personal defense.
I am not sure why people make the choices they do regarding their selection of a tool that they will use to possibly save their lives or the lives of those in their mantle of protection. Perhaps someone sees a slick magazine article or glossy color advertisement about a certain gun and they buy it with the intention of making it their primary every-day carry (EDC). Perhaps people purchase primary guns because someone else has one or they had a chance to shoot a certain size, brand, caliber, make, model of gun but didn’t really have a chance to try it in any self-defense training scenario.
During our league shoot, I saw several shooter violations (my term for wrong or incompetent use) of basic personal defense use of their gun. One prime example is bringing a brand new gun to the league without a proper break-in period. This shooter, who we will call ‘Shooter A,’ was attempting to learn and practice defensive shooting techniques with gun that jammed every few rounds because he didn’t choose an ammunition that was the proper grain for this tight tolerance ‘solo carry’ pocket gun. Granted it is a very valid skill to know how to handle a malfunction in your EDC, Shooter A did not know how to respond to the gun jamming every few rounds.
Another shooter, ‘Shooter B,” had issues with an improperly fitting, off-brand magazine in his 1911-style pistol. This caused every second or third round to jam and create a feed malfunction. As with Shooter A, this shooter did not know the proper procedure for clearing the gun and getting back into operation.
Several shooters lost valuable time, and therefore shots on target, because of the gun’s safety or de-cocker needing to be manipulated. I am against carrying any EDC with a manual safety (except in rare cases) because it slows the process of threat neutralization. Additionally, when cognitive ability diminishes in a dynamic critical incident, shooters often forget the safety is on and they fumble trying to get the gun in action. This can certainly cost lives.
And there were others. To be fair, a few of the shooters never had any formal training. However, most were concealed pistol licensees who have the state-required minimum training to carry a concealed firearm. I’m not sure if this is a stain on the firearm instructors and the quality of teaching or a reflection on skill and knowledge retention of the student. Perhaps it is both.
As I have written many times before and mentioned in a few of my podcasts, if you are going to carry a loaded gun, in public, round chambered, concealed for your personal protection, you must know the operation and function of every button, knob, slide, and sight of that gun BEFORE you use it as one of your EDC guns.
If you can’t clear a malfunction on the range in a low stress environment, how can you expect to do it when you experience adrenaline dump, tunnel vision, loss of fine motor skill, and other physiological factors? Anyone who chooses to carry a gun for protection must have the skill to operate that gun, clear that gun, and shoot that gun in mere seconds. And, it must be done quickly, safely, effectively, and efficiently. There can be no other option!
Do not think for a single minute you will gain sudden super hero powers and you’ll be able to mitigate a deadly force situation simply because you have a gun. This would be similar to someone entering an Olympic skiing event simply because they own the right equipment. The late Col. Jeff Cooper, a noted personal defense instructor and mentor of many, once stated, “Owning a handgun doesn’t make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician.” You must practice weekly (sometimes daily) for weeks and months to become proficient at functionally operating your gun. Once or twice a month will not suffice. Shooting holes in paper, although fun and a great stress reliever, will not develop the proper skill set for a deadly force situation.
Personal defense skills are diminishing skills. Shortly after learning them, they begin to leave our short and long-term memories. This is why it is important to train regularly and train the skills that diminish most rapidly.
Taking a serious approach to personal defense training must be a top priority when allocating resources of time, equipment and finances. If we are truly serious about our safety and the safety of those in our mantle of protection, then we are obligated to train to the highest degree available and to train at that high level as often as possible.
As I have stated before, “Obtaining a license to carry a loaded, concealed firearm in public is a huge responsibility and is over a few hours. Training to use that firearm to save your life, or that of another, is developed over a lifetime.”