I’m here to stimulate thought and get the reader interested and thinking about their own survival. And that is the bottom line, surviving. Internal motivation is something we all need. This is what motivates us to train. External motivation is events that catch our attention. Such events provoke thought concerning the right tools to prevail in an increasingly likely defensive encounter.
My goal is to provide solid information that you can use to make choices. The primary reason we own firearms is personal defense and home defense. Sure, hunting and collecting are enjoyable, but the bottom line is always personal defense.
New Gun Owners
A new gun owner — and millions have joined the ranks of gun owners over the past few years — may not have a well-defined idea of the threat he or she faces. They hope to be prepared for the great ‘what if.’ The statistics may favor peace, but the possibility of attack is endless.
Hopefully the new gun owner has proofed their firearm. Just the same, I’ve had many students who have carried a gun they have not fired, sometimes for extended periods and on occasion, ever. Before you are surprised and feel the need to belittle them, I have known cops who have who went far too long without firing their service gun.
My son is an Army Major. He often deploys rack-grade M4 rifles and Beretta or SIG pistols that he has not fired. They are service grade and proofed by someone else. When we are deploying personal firearms, no one has proofed the piece for us — it is our responsibility. Taking a self-defense course and firing 50–100 rounds with a seasoned instructor is a good start.
Don’t necessarily buy the cheapest gun but neither must you purchase the most expensive handgun. Those in the median of price are often the best choices. In terms of personal protection, the shooter is everything. Hardware comes second.
A service gun, whether it is police or military, must meet certain criteria and fit most hands reasonably well. An individual has the advantage of choice and taking the time to choose a pistol that fits their hand well. Some handguns are just a better fit for certain shooters. If the grip stretches the hand, you probably won’t control the weapon well during a gunfight.
There is a huge difference between somehow managing a large pistol on the range and controlling it in a life-or-death situation. A mid-size gun such as the SIG P365 strikes an outstanding balance. Be certain trigger reach is comfortable. The first pad of the trigger finger should easily rest on the trigger face.
Leverage to press the trigger to the rear should be good. The ability to reach the slide lock and magazine catch with the hand in a firing grip are not quite as important as some make out. It isn’t difficult to twist the hand, out of register, to operate the magazine release or slide lock.
To drop the slide on a loaded magazine, you may prefer using the weak hand to pull the slide back. Hand fit and trigger reach are much more important. Check to determine how difficult the magazines are to load. Some compact handguns have magazines that are very difficult to load to full capacity. The owner ends up loading eight rounds rather than the 10 or 11 rounds the magazine should hold.
The ability to rack the slide without a great deal of difficulty is important. Smith & Wesson’s Shield EZ Rack is among the friendliest handguns to use well — especially for those with arthritis or weak hand strength. This may be a baseline.
Check this pistol out and then look further to find your ideal pick. It doesn’t have to be an expensive pistol. Don’t purchase what people in the family or shop expect you to own. Instead, purchase the gun that fits your hand, and you can control. Buy quality and purchase a handgun that is safe and reliable. Avoid oddball types such as Derringers or trick guns that fire more than one round with the pull of a trigger. Avoid .22 rimfire handguns of any type. The cartridges are not reliable enough for defense use, even if the firearm may be.
It’s the Individual
The person behind the handgun is most important. I repeat… Make certain the handgun fits your hand well, regardless the type you choose. A self-loading handgun offers every advantage in hit probability and a fast follow-up shot, not to mention the reserve of ammunition. On the other hand, if you grew up shooting revolvers don’t give up now.
Learning the rolling action of the double-action revolver is an acquired skill that will serve you well. The revolver may be braced against a door jamb or furniture to steady the handgun during a gunfight with no little of a malfunction. The revolver may be pressed against an opponent’s body in a worst-case scenario and fired repeatedly without jamming.
Consider your shooting style and which type suits you best. At close range — all handgun fights will be close range — handling, balance, and a natural point mean the most. Medium-sized handguns seem to suit most shooters best.
You do not need an expensive handgun. I have enjoyed good service with the SAR 9 9mm, a good quality but affordable handgun. The EAA MC 28 is a clone of the Smith & Wesson Military and Police. The trigger is good, and the pistol performs well. Ruger offers rugged and reliable handguns. Taurus revolvers and self-loading pistols are an uncommon value. I have to say, the handgun should be a .38 Special revolver or 9mm semi-auto as a minimum. Avoid hard to find oddball calibers. Larger calibers will demand a significant amount of training and expense compared to the mid-size calibers.
That covers the hardware and leaves us with the question, which is really important, the shooter or the handgun? The answer is simple. The shooter is much more important.
I have trained quite a few shooters. Don’t be discouraged with your development as a shooter as you will get it soon enough if you put the time and effort into learning. A few months of training gets you to a plateau that takes a great deal of practice to rise above. You will be proficient and able to handle the handgun quickly, if you have practiced.
Preparing for a Gunfight
At the close ranges inherent to a gunfight, the average skilled shooter and the expert will not be widely separated by performance. The shooter should practice at 3–7 yards. This will cover 95% of the defensive encounters you may experience. A few shots at 10 and 15 yards are needed as you progress.
Those who pay attention in training do well. The difference between a student and an experienced shooter isn’t great at three yards. The adversary you face may be unskilled or they may not. They may simply thrust the pistol out, point it, and shoot at you. If the range is short, they may hit you.
The shooter using correct technique will not fumble the draw and will not miss during a gunfight. A fast six-inch group into the arterial region will save your life. Sometimes a handgun with a heavier trigger action is better than a more expensive handgun with a light action. You are less likely to jerk the trigger and the action will be consistent. Get on target, use the sights, and get a hit.
Hardware will never make up for determination in a gunfight. Quite a few shooters purchase a handgun and trade it when it doesn’t afford them X-ray type, superhuman accuracy. SIG, Glock, CZ, HK, SW, Canik, SAR, they try them all. None suits their style whatever it may be. A person who is legitimately limited by the handgun’s performance is a rare individual. There is little that may be achieved tactically with one handgun over the other.