I’m not a big fan of leaving loaded guns lying around the house because it’s kinda like leaving the bleach jug in the refrigerator next to the milk jug: Something bad is going to happen, it’s not a question of IF, it’s only a question of WHEN.
So we decided to test things to find out if a gun safe safe is a better alternative to leaving your gun in a nightstand drawer, and the results really surprised us.
A few notes about this test:
- Jaci and Robert are almost identically-skilled as shooters
- They used guns they were familiar with
- Robert was not familiar with how to use that gun safe because we wanted to simulate the stress of figuring out how to open it correctly under stress
- The shots were so close together, the shot timer app on my phone couldn’t tell them apart.
Earlier this month, I wrote a piece on concealed carry guns for women at Shooting Illustrated that’s proven to be quite popular with men and women alike. One of the consistent comments I’ve had about the article is that some of the guns that were a popular choice for concealed carry, like the NAA .22 Revolver and the Kel-Tec PMR30 are in “sub-optimal” calibers for personal defense.
Which begs the question, what is an “optimal caliber” for self-defense, and what happens if you go over or under it?
Well, that’s kinda like asking what is the best car: You’re going to get a lot of answers, and they all depend on the context. Most experts will tell you, though, that something in the range of 9mm-.45ACP range is where you want to be, and in that range, I personally prefer 9mm, but smart people disagree on this issue, so there is no “right choice”.
What happens when you chose a gun that’s in a smaller caliber, like .380 ACP or .22 Magnum? Well, you need to make up for the lighter, slower bullets in those guns by throwing out more of them at your target.
I carry a Kel-Tec P3AT in .380 ACP on a regular basis, and that is considered by some to be “sub-optimal” because it fires a lighter bullet at slower speeds than it’s bigger cousin, the 9mm. I make up for this fact by putting a laser sight on it to make sure my bullets go where I want them to. I don’t feel “undergunned” when I carry the P3AT, because I’ve practiced with that gun enough to know its limitations and can work around them. Is it my first choice in a defensive gun? No, if given the choice, I want to have a rifle with me if I can. Actually, I want a whole bunch of people with rifles with me (Like, say, a company of Marines) if *know* I’ll be getting into trouble on any given day.
But I don’t know that on any given day. All I know is that I can carry small, lightweight guns in small, lightweight calibers almost everywhere I go, which fulfills the first rule of a gunfight, namely, have a gun.
Having “enough gun” is something I’ll leave for another day.
Before I began my career as a photographer, I worked a few years behind the counter of local camera stores, getting to know the industry and the gear. When someone bought a camera from us, we made sure they bought an “accessory kit” to go with it to help start them off right, and the store made almost as much profit on the kit as we did on the cameras.
And it’s must the same for a self-defense firearm. I’m assuming you’ve purchased some kind of compact or full-size handgun for protecting yourself or your home, and if you’ve just bought a gun like that, there are a few things I’d highly recommend you purchase along with your new gun that will help you enjoy it to its fullest.
A gun without ammo is an expensive and rather unwieldy club. You’ll need two kinds of ammo for your gun; Defensive ammunition and practice ammunition.
Defensive ammunition is something like jacketed hollow point (JHP) ammunition that’s designed to expand and not punch through what it’s being shot into. You want this because if, God forbid, you need to defend your life, you need ammunition that stops the threat, not punches a hole in it and moves along to hurt someone else.
Practice ammunition is usually Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) ammunition that’s cheaper and easier to produce than JHP ammo. At a bare minimum, you should purchase three times as many rounds of defensive ammo as your gun holds, so you can be certain your ammo of choice works smoothly in your gun, and purchase at least 100 rounds of practice ammo so you can learn the basics of how your gun operates (and plan on spending a LOT more on ammo after that.).
- A Cleaning Kit
Guns are dirty things. Gunpowder doesn’t burn up 100%, and the oil that makes a gun operate smoothly attracts dust and grime. Get an inexpensive cleaning kit and plan on using it often.
- Some way to safely secure a loaded gun
No, NOT a trigger lock. It’s too easy to make your gun go BANG while fiddling with a trigger lock, and a gun that’s unloaded and under the bed is a pretty useless defensive weapon. Secure your gun with a good locking case, or better yet, a quick-access safe, and will be there when you need it and safely stored when you don’t.
Unless you’re Rob Leatham and were born with a .45 in your hand, shooting a gun accurately is not something we know how to innately accomplish. Getting training as you start your journey with firearms ownership will help eliminate or reduce bad habits done the line.
I’m always amazed when I walk into local gun stores and I don’t see them putting together package deals that offer new gun owners a starter kit that give them everything they need to enjoy their new guns right from the start.
Okay, gun stores: Add-on accessory kits have worked for camera stores for decades. Get on it.
Look around the room you’re in right now: Chances are, if you’re in a building that’s been built in the last 30 years, there’s either a smoke detector, fire alarm or a fire extinguisher within a few feet of where you are. This is a good thing, because losing everything in a fire just sucks. Our society recognizes this, and mandates the installation of such things to protect our health and safety. (As an aside, if you have a gun in your home, you probably should have a fire extinguisher as well, because the fire department takes just as long (or longer) to get to your home as the police department does).
But what are the odds of a fire happening in your home compared to the odds of you being a victim of a violent crime in your home?
The answers may surprise you.
According to the CDC, in 2009, someone died in a fire every 175 minutes, and someone was injured in a fire every 31 minutes. A scary thought indeed, which is why all those smoke detectors make sense. But if those odds makes you nervous, the chances of you being a victim of a violent crime should freak you right out.
- A burglary is committed once every 10 seconds
- Violent crimes happen once every 20 seconds
- One of out five homes will experience a break-in
So why is protecting one’s family and property with a smoke detector something that the government encourages (and even mandates) yet protecting one’s family and property by means of a firearm something that the government discourages (and even bans)?
You’re not paranoid for wanting to own and carry a gun. You’re just better at math than most people.
If you’ve never owned a gun, the thought of carrying one on your person for self-defense can seem a bit intimidating, because after all, you’re carrying something that can potentially kill other people.
But driving a car also means you’re using a machine that can potentially kill other people, yet we do that all the time without much concern. The good news is, the same concepts that keep us safe while driving a lethal instrument like a car can also keep us safe when carrying a gun.
Defensive driving is about trying to minimize the odds of hazards happening by anticipating the other drivers’ moves. It’s not about being paranoid or stocking up for the zombie apocalypse, it’s about being aware of what’s happening on the road around you.
We do this on the road without thinking about it because we’ve practiced it for years. We’re not nervous about driving, we’re alert. We keep the music loud enough to enjoy, but quiet enough to hear an oncoming emergency vehicle. We keep our anger in check because we know that causes accidents, and we keep an eye out for people who aren’t as careful.
We are safer in our cars because we are situationally aware, and we are safer outside of our cars if we take that awareness with us when we leave our vehicles.
“You have the rest of your life to solve your problems. How long you live depends on how well you do it.”
– Clint Smith
Continuing on from my earlier post, one of the pitfalls of competitive practical shooting is that it’s, well a competition, and not the real world. To quote from the article I linked previously,
“Many of these issues can be brought together under the single heading of stage strategy. To be good at the games, you need to understand their scoring systems and their rules. Sometimes things that make perfectly good sense ‘” like dropping an empty magazine on the ground ‘” could be illegal. Some things that make no sense whatsoever ‘” like exposing yourself to half a dozen targets at once instead of using available cover ‘” might be key to getting the best score. Most stages at most matches actually give you a chance to walk through and possibly even pantomime your plan in advance. Taking those opportunities and using them properly is important for the game, but obviously antithetical to preparing to respond to a sudden attack.”
If you’re going to need to defend your life with a firearm, the chances are pretty good you won’t have a chance to map out where you’re going to reload your gun and where’s the best spot to shoot three targets without moving. Chances are it’ll be dark, chaotic and over quickly.
How do you train for that? How do you train to expect the unexpected and then react quickly enough to save your life?
“Blind” stages in competition are one way. Those are portions of a match where you aren’t allowed to walk through a stage, where you can’t figure out ahead of time where you’ll move and what you’ll be shooting when you get there. It’s just “Make ready, are you ready, standby, BEEEP!” and away you go.
This is a gamer’s worst nightmare, because all the little tweaks that you can do like figuring out angles of attack and optimal reloads don’t matter. What matters in a stage like this are the observation and orientation parts of the OODA loop, something that is off-loaded into “stage strategy” in a match but will be right up front in our face in the real world.