Why do you need a gun safe?

August 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Carry, Equipment, Self Defense

So you’ve gone out and purchased a gun for home self-defense. 

Fantastic. Understanding that you’ll be your own first responder and doing something to protect yourself is the most adult decision you’ll make in your life. 

Having a gun in your home is great first step, but a gun isn’t a magical self-defense charm. Owning a gun doesn’t protect you: Owning a gun, knowing how to use it and having it available for use if, God forbid, you need to use it protects you and your loved once. If you keep your gun unloaded and in the box it came in, it’s going to be hard to get out and load if it’s needed. This is why quick-access gun safes have become a popular way to keep a gun safe in the home, and it’s something I use myself in my home to keep my self-defense firearm accessible and secure. 

There’s a bunch of people who don’t like this option, though, because they worry about how long it’ll take to access their gun in a safe if they need it, and prefer to keep the gun loaded in a nearby dresser or nightstand drawer. I can understand it, but such concerns leave out an important fact: Things get moved around inside your drawer. 

It’s 3:30 in the morning. You’ve heard a noise downstairs. You’re afraid. You want your gun. It’s in your nightstand drawer. 

Find it. 


Ummn, I think it’s in there somewheres. Hold on, Mr. Burglar while I find it.

Compare this to a quick-access safe. The gun and only the gun is in it and I know the gun will be there when I need it. No searching, no fumbling around and hoping I don’t grab the trigger by accident, just beepbeepbeepbeep and I’ve got my gun ready to go.

my kidsThat’s just one of the reasons why I prefer keeping my gun in a quick-access safe rather than an unlocked drawer. These are two more reasons why I use a safe: My sons. They’re great kids and they’ve been through the Eddie The Eagle gun safety program, I know they know how to be safe around guns because I’ve trained them and watched them do it for myself. 

However, the consequences of them forgetting to leave a gun alone just once are just too great for me to not lock up my guns. Yes, I trust my sons. Yes, I know they know how to stay safe around guns. No, I am not relying 100% on those two facts: I keep my guns in a locked container because I know where they are and I know they are safe, and I recommend a quick access safe to everyone who has a gun and has kids or is concerned about the safety of their guns in their home. 

Should Your Firearms Trainer Be A Combat Veteran?

August 21, 2013 by  
Filed under CCW, Mindset, Training


It’s not uncommon these days to see firearms trainers talk about their experience overseas as something that makes them a better firearms teacher.

This is probably true if I’m headed overseas to serve in Afghanistan. 

But I’m not. I’m headed out to Wal-Mart later today, not Khandahar, so the knowledge of how to lay down covering fire with an M4 or call in an airstrike is of limited use to me. Not knocking those have or who are serving: They’ve done more to defend this country than I have and they will always have my respect. It’s just that the combat skillset needed to win a firefight doesn’t translate automatically into the skillset needed to survive a mugging. 

An example: My friend Don is a crackerjack photographer and an excellent photography teacher, but his degree is in music composition. He was trained to be a jazz musician, but he’s one of the best photo teachers in the world and has authored a bunch of books on learning photography because he teaches what he knows and knows what he teaches is of use to the people who take his classes. 

The point of instruction is to have your instructor teach you something you can use, not tell you about all the things he knows. You don’t want a firearms teacher who’s seen it all and done it all if he can’t teach you something you need to know. A firearms trainer shouldn’t teach theory or have a bunch of really cool stories to tell, a firearms trainer should teach skills that you can call upon if (God forbid) you need them one day. 

Choosing your first firearms trainer

August 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Carry, Practice, Training

firearms-trainingSo you’ve purchased a firearm for self-defense, (good), and want to learn how to use it safely (better), so you start to look around online and ask people you know who’ve they’ve trained with. 

This isn’t a bad way to find a trainer, but how do you evaluate their advice? We’ve all gone the mechanic who was recommended by someone else, only to find out they were less than competent and messed up our car something fierce. Here’s a few guidelines to help locate a trainer that can help you learn to shoot better when you’ll need it the most.  

  1. Look for trainers who are nationally certified by a recognized training organization. 
    The NRA is the largest firearms training organization in the world and has certified thousands of people to teach others to safely use a firearm. Other programs such as the Combat Focus Shooting program are starting to go nationwide and would also be an excellent choice for a first-time gun owner.
  2. Look for trainers who teach safely. 
    There is absolutely NO reason for students, instructors or photographers to go “down range” (i.e. by the targets) at any time during live fire. 
    None. Zero. Zippo. If your prospective trainer talks about how his methods are too “hardcore” or how he plays by “big boy rules”, smile politely and walk away. Real life is scary enough, there’s no reason to make it more dangerous when you train. 
  3. Train the skills you’re most likely to need. 
    I suck at long-range shooting. Anything over 300 yards with a rifle is theoretical at best for me. I need to train that skill in order to get better at it, but it’s also not a priority for me right now because I’m not a hunter or a sniper and don’t need to make a 500 yard rifle shot on a regular basis. 
    If you’re looking at a trainer who talks about the latest “Tier One Tactical Operator” techniques and how he can teach YOU to shoot like a Navy SEAL in just two short days, smile politely and walk away. The fact is, you’re NOT a Navy SEAL, you’re a regular person who wants to stay safe in a dangerous world. Leave the SWAT tactics to the police. Your job isn’t to clear a building, your job is to keep you and those you care about safe until more help arrives.
  4. Be prepared for your class before you show up the first day. 
    If you don’t own ear protection or eye protection, buy some. A good trainer will have extra sets of safety gear for students that forget theirs, but you really should own your own. I like electronic hearing protection like these inexpensive Howard Leight earmuffs for training classes because they allow me to clearly hear the instructor’s commands, but filter out the loud noises when the bang-bang part begins. For eye protection, well, you get what you pay for, and considering how much you use them, you REALLY don’t want something cheap protecting your eyes on the firing line.
    Also, make sure you have the minimum amount of  ammo required for the class (plus 10 percent more) on-hand at least a week before the class starts, because these days, chances are there will NOT be ammo available when you need it.

A quick note about hats and firearms training: There’s a reason why you see almost everyone in a training class wearing a ball cap of some sort as they’re shooting their guns on the firing line: A spent casing can go just about anywhere when it’s ejected from a gun, and if that hot piece of brass gets lodged in-between the top of your shooting glasses and your eyebrow, it can ruin your whole day and/or eyesight as well. Wear a cap with a brim on it when you shoot to deflect brass and stop this from happening.

Train now, and train safely, because if, God forbid, you need to use your gun to defend your life, you won’t “rise to the occasion”, you’ll fall to your lowest level of skill. Learn to shoot quickly and accurately now, before you need it on the worst day of your life.

How to Survive Your First Action Pistol Match

July 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Competition, IDPA, USPSA

uspsamatch-riosaladoIf you’ve been reading our website for any amount of time, you’ve seen how much fun we all have shooting action pistol matches like IDPA or USPSA. Action pistol (also known as practical pistol) is a ridiculously fun sport, but getting started can be extremely intimidating for both men and women.  I waited almost a year after taking my first training class (that included the basics of USPSA) before shooting my first match because of the anxiety I felt about competing.  You don’t have to wait,  just remember a few basic things, and you’ll be well on your way to having a great time.

Just Do It – If you’re waiting until you’re 100 percent ready, you’ll never shoot a match.  There are a few things that are helpful to know before stepping foot onto the range.  Practice and repetition will make you a competent action pistol shooter, but for now, it’s best to stick to the basics:

  • Focus on the things you can control, like making sure your gun works and your ammo runs, malfunction drills are no fun when you’re competing.  
  • Learn the rules of the range you will be competing at  (hot or cold range, safety areas) before you go, that will save you some time and put you a little more at ease when you step on to the range.  
  • Make sure you know how to safely draw your pistol from a holster before heading to your first match.  This is easily accomplished with dry-fire practice at home (safety first – triple check to make sure your gun and magazines are unloaded first and move your ammo to a different room).
  • Add some reloading practice once you’ve got your draw down (check to make sure there is no ammo in the magazines first).  Don’t worry about your speed, take the time you need to be smooth and steady when pressing the mag button, reaching for your magazine pouch and inserting the new magazine.

Learn the Lingo – There are some basic commands that you can study before shooting your first match.  Make sure to learn the range commands of the sport you’re shooting (IDPA and USPSA commands are slightly different).  Knowing and following these commands will keep you from getting disqualified (it happens, even at big matches), which is the opposite of fun.  Here’s a comparison of the basic IDPA and USPSA range commands, you can also read the current IDPA or USPSA rulebook for definitions and an explanation of the scoring.

128_0187It’s Ok That You’re A Little Freaked Out – Just roll with it.  You’re going to be running around with a gun shooting things that you’ve probably never shot before under the pressure of time,  it’s pretty normal to be uncomfortable with that idea if you’ve never done it before.

You Will Have Bandwidth Issues – There’s only so much space in your brain, and with action pistol shooting, you will quickly fill it up with all the things you need to remember. Despite your best efforts, much of that information will leave your brain as soon as the buzzer goes off (we call it the Red Mist).  The most important thing to remember above all else is to be safe.  Watch your muzzle direction at all times (keep it pointed downrange at all times) and keep your finger off the trigger when you’re not shooting at a target.  Speed and accuracy will come with practice, right now is the time to concentrate on safe gun handling.  You’re going to mess up, don’t stress about it.  I still have my share (and sometimes more) of missed targets and penalties at pretty much every match.

You Will Not Embarrass Yourself – I hear this concern a lot from people thinking about getting started in action shooting sports.  First of all, check your ego at the door, you won’t need it on the range (it’s much more of a hindrance than a help).  Also, hardly anyone is watching you, and if they are, they’re either making sure you’re safe, or they’re looking at the course of fire, trying to figure out their plan of attack.   There’s always a few ways to shoot a stage, and many of us watch to see if we can pick up some clues that we hadn’t thought of.  We were all new to the sport once, and we are very aware of the mental energy it takes to shoot action pistol.  Follow the safety rules and be safe with your gun, and I promise that the other shooters will encourage you and help you out where needed. 

BE SAFE, don’t try to shoot too fast and have fun!



Why did you decide to buy a gun?

July 23, 2013 by  
Filed under Carry, CCW, Mindset, Self Defense

Simple question, isn’t it? Why did you decide to join thousands and thousands of other people like yourself and purchase a firearm for self-defense? 

If you’re like me (and I know I am), it was because of a real threat (a psychotic relative) and a perceived threat (a rise in violent crime in the Phoenix area). Either threat is a very valid reason to arm yourself and your family against the threat of grievous bodily harm, and if you’ve done so already, congratulations, you’ve made the most adult decision you’ll ever make in your life. 

But what are you willing to defend with your gun? Your life? You family’s lives? Your co-worker’s lives? The life of a random stranger on the street? Your car? Your stuff? Someone else’s stuff? These are all questions you need to answer before your gun is in your hand, because there will NOT be time to answer them when the shooting starts. 

Let’s look at a recent VERY high profile court case, the trial of George Zimmerman. I’m not going to try to break down what happened that night and how it might apply to you: Massad Ayoob (who literally wrote the book on armed personal defense) already has done that for us. Instead, let’s look at the decisions made by Mr. Zimmerman before that fateful night. By volunteering to be a Neighbor Watch patrolman, Mr. Zimmerman made the decision that he was willing to intervene in the affairs of others (his neighbors), and by carrying a pistol while doing so, he decided he was willing to use lethal force to defend his life if needed. 

Were those the right decisions? Not for me to say: I wasn’t in his position, and a jury of his peers has exonerated him of any wrongdoing that night. I do know that I decided what is and is not worth my involvement when I started down the journey of concealed carry, and I heartily suggest everyone else do that as well. 

Get a book on the firearms laws of your area and read it cover to cover. Consult with a lawyer. Get training. Consider buying self-defense insurance. Talk with your spouse or significant other about what they consider is worth defending with your lives. Ultimately, you should consider what is important and irreplaceable in your life and what is not. For me, I can always by another TV set or car, but I can’t replace my wife and children.

Your gun is not a talisman of self-protection and the more you know now about when and if you’ll need to use it, the quicker and more effective you’ll be, if, God forbid, you need it to save your life or the life of someone else. 

Choosing a second gun

July 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Carry, Equipment, Self Defense

If you’re one of the thousands and thousands of new gun owners who have purchased a firearm for home and personal defense, chances are, you’ve purchased some form of small, concealable pistol that’s easy to carry and conceal on your person. 

This a good choice, because a firearm that’s ready and safely close by is more  much more likely to help defend your life than a gun that’s unloaded under your bed. And make sure you get training above and beyond what’s required to own and/or a carry a firearm in your state. A CCW permit is just that: A permit, it is NOT a training program. There are many, many, good firearms training programs out there to choose from. Personally, I’m a fan of the NRA Personal Protection classes and Combat Focus Shooting instruction, but if you look around and ask around, I’m sure you’ll find a good instructor who’s near where you live.

So what’s a good gun to buy after you’ve purchased and familiarized yourself with your defensive firearm? What gun should you buy next? We’ll, that depends on a number of factors. If you’ve bought a rifle, shotgun or larger pistol for home defense, you may want to consider buying a smaller pistol for concealed carry so you can stay safe outside of the home as inside of it. 

If you have a pistol that works for concealed carry and home defense, consider purchasing a rifle that shoots .22 Long Rifle ammunition. .22 rifles are lightweight, VERY easy to shoot and the ammo is cheap to buy. .22 rifles are very common guns and will help teach trigger control and sight picture: There’s a reason why the Boy Scouts use them to teach marksmanship to young kids, and they’ll help shooters of any skill level get better. 


Something like the Ruger 10/22 is perfect for this job. It’s inexpensive, easy to find and can be endlessly accessorized and customized so you end up with a gun that’s right for your needs. Buy one today, and you’ll have a gun you can keep as an heirloom for future generations, 

Thinking About Getting A Concealed Carry Permit?

July 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Carry, CCW, Self Defense


You’re not alone if you are. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that concealed carry and personal defense is what’s driving the recent uptick in gun sales

Applications for “concealed-carry” permits are soaring in many states, some of which recently eased permit requirements. The numbers are driven in part by concern that renewed gun-control efforts soon could constrain access to weapons, along with heightened interest in self-defense in the wake of mass killings in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo. 

People are beginning to realize they are and always will be their own first responder and are getting a permit to carry a concealed firearm with them because a cop is too big to carry in a holster. 

Ladies, It’s Time to Stop Expecting Someone Else to Protect You

July 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Mindset, Self Defense

“I don’t know what I would do if I was alone and something happened.”

Sound familiar?  Unfortunately, it probably does.  Whether it’s nature or nurture, most women have an expectation that someone else will step in to protect them in a life-threatening situation.

gun-owner-victim-select-one-TGBI’m not going to get into any feminist arguments about this subject, but the truth of the matter is, many of us women expect others (our men, neighbors or even strangers) to protect us from bodily harm.  It’s reasonable for us to expect that our parental figures would protect us from the boogie man and bumps in the night when we were younger, but all too often, this mindset often carries over to adulthood for many women.  

I will admit that I lived most of my life with a victim mentality and I never thought about changing my dangerous and possibly fatal mindset.  It was only after I became proficient with a firearm and started competing that I realized I was no longer dependent on anyone else to protect me. Looking back, I realize how unfair this mentality and expectation was to my loved ones and myself.  I also feel quite fortunate that I’ve made it this far, considering I had no skills or plan to protect myself and unfairly relied on others to do something extraordinary on my behalf.

308965_2195581329190_2039142029_nThe good news on this subject is that there has never been a better time for women to learn to protect and defend themselves, and you don’t have to relegate yourself to Tactical Elite Operator Combat Courses or any other type of training that may seem intimidating or uncomfortable.  There are several great options out there for women who would like to learn to use a firearm in a non-intimidating environment with other like-minded women.  I chose the women-only route when I got my start with shooting, and I’m glad I did.  The women I received my training from are some of the best competitive shooters in the world, and we are very lucky to have the opportunity to learn from them. 

If you are a woman that would like to learn independence, I encourage you to contact one of the following groups:  

Babes with Bullets – These wonderful ladies hold a series of camps held across the US, offering a three day firearms training program for novice women who have little or no handgun experience.  This is where I learned to use a firearm and as a bonus, learned the basics of practical pistol competition. 

A Girl and A Gun Shooting League – A ladies only organization established by women shooters for women shooters for pistol, rifle and shotgun sports.  The league is designed to take beginners to whatever skill level they wish to achieve, and provide experienced shooters with more opportunities.  They have chapters across several states, click the link to find a chapter in your area.

The Well Armed Woman – Local groups of women around the country that meet monthly to practice, learn and grow as shooters. Creating opportunities for women to be introduced to issues important to women shooters, learn safe gun handling skills and train together.  TWAW also has chapters across several states, click the link to find a chapter in your area.

The Cornered Cat – Defensive handgun classes for women with compassionate instruction, and usable shooting techniques that work well with female body types.  Click the link to find a class in your area.

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