Ammunition|Firearms|General|Safety and Training

40 Years’ Worth of Personal Defense Tips – Part 1

personal defense facts

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. My friends—Darrel, Elgin, Jeff and Jon, to be specific—and I have different opinions and carry different handguns on a daily basis.

But when we turn to the other for facts, then we know the difference. Each of my friends is knowledgeable in one area or the other—sometimes many. So we turn to each other for advice.

I’ve definitely picked up my share of knowledge over the past 40 years using firearms. Let’s look at some of the things I have learned through a combination of study and hard experience.

Always Learning

I hope I am a competent trainer, and as an NRA-certified instructor, I did my best to prepare my students for a safe and happy shooting life. I have been blessed with many excellent students.

Those who pay and shoot on their own time and their own dime tend to achieve more than those commanded to appear that way by administrative fiat. Today, fewer of my students are agency-generated, but quite a few are military students.

There are enough graduates out there that the stories roll in as to the time a bad guy staged an assault on the wrong person. An error in victim selection has unforeseen consequences for members of our protein fed ex-con criminal class.

While there are students I learn from and I respect all of my students, there are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to training.

9mm female shooter in action - personal defense tips
This young woman handles the 9mm well. So can you! Take these personal defense tips to heart and you’ll do the same in no time.

Personal Defense Tips: Training

As I have often stated, get training. There are thousands of NRA certified trainers doing a great job across the country. The one closest to your own home has been to the same school I have (figuratively speaking), as the material is carefully researched and developed.

Some have not had the “hard knocks” I have, and then there are those with more experience than I. My skills were gained through experience as a peace officer and instructor, and, at one time, a university instructor.

I have never served in the military and those that have are often impressive instructors. What works, works and what is, is. When you attend a class, be a blank slate. You may have picked up bad habits that are counteractive for your development.

Cover target shooting - long range
The author is practicing firing from cover at a target at longer range.

That being said, here are some of my personal defense tips when it comes to training:

  • Come prepared: If this is an advanced class, meet the instructor halfway with skills in place. If you are attending a tactical class, then you should have had the basic pistol classes behind you. Show up with gear that has been proofed.
  • Stay focused: Do not show up at an advanced class and force the instructor to take time to show you how to load your handgun and make it safe. Do not be the odd one out that talks about the last class and how much you learned from the marvelous instructor.
  • Keep it humble: Don’t babble on or you may be asked to pack your bags and go back to that class. Those who brag most often have nothing to brag about and it shows. Competency is also evident without self-promotion.
  • Be open: Ask questions. Do not remain silent. Be a participant. Do not take questions to an absurd level, though.
  • Keep it appropriate: I do not discuss secret goat shooting and gun flashes in the night. We will discuss what is repeatable and verifiable. “What if three terrorists burst into McDonald’s?” is not appropriate for an entry-level class. Do rely only upon skills you are unable to demonstrate. You will not rise to the occasion in class.
  • Bring extra supplies: Bring an extra firearm and good, factory-fresh ammunition. I have actually seen students try to use a range bag of cheap ammo that has been stored so long that the ammunition was rusty and sometimes failed to fire. I did not have to eject them from the class—my students did so by unanimous vote. They had to leave the firing line and stop holding everyone else up! You cannot hold up a class in that manner.
  • Bring a quality firearm: When a firearm malfunctions, some will cry out it has not done it before. It is choking now and you need to perform clearance drills, lubricate it, get good ammo or give up. If you have electronic muffs or fancy lights, bring batteries. Do not bring junk to the class.

I will expound on the last point.

If I see a single great failing (other than a lack of complete familiarity with the firearm) among students, it is a lack of ability to judge quality. A cheap pistol cannot be as good as a SIG, HK or Beretta. A GLOCK will always work, however.

While not my favorite pistol, it is reliable in trained hands. It is practically unheard of for a GLOCK to malfunction. If the gun is cheaper than a GLOCK, possibly corners have been cut.

If you purchase a handgun more expensive than the GLOCK, then be certain the money is well spent.

Retention position - personal defense facts
Firing from the retention position is a part of training that cannot be neglected.

More Personal Defense Tips

While the above personal defense tips are mostly common sense and focused on your approach, I have some practical advice as well. Here are some additional personal defense tips related to training:

  • Buy quality or you will buy twice. Do not purchase cheap magazines. Do not bring new unopened magazines to the training class. They may not function.
  • Bring quality magazines you have proofed. I repeat, you are not coming to the class to proof the gun, but the shooter. Bring enough ammunition. Do not be cheap. No one is going to give you ammunition. Bring at least 50 extra rounds for a 100-round course and 100 extra for a 500-round course.
  • Take your meds. If you take any type of medication, be certain you are on time with it and have it with you.
  • Stay hydrated! The range gets warm during the summer.
  • Dress appropriately and watch your physical health. If you are physically unable to participate in range work, let the instructor know before you come to the class.
  • Bring the firearm you will use in the real world. It is one thing to run a class with a .22 target pistol if the class is about target shooting. If you are a self-defense shooter, however, bring your personal defense pistol.
  • Wear the appropriate gear. Please, do not show up in camo and tactical gear and a thigh holster unless your ID reads SWAT. Wear street clothes and appropriate leather.
Magazine checks - personal defense
Be certain to proof your magazines and be certain each is reliable.

Be sure to check out Part 2 of this blog series, where we cover additional personal defense tips—this time related to fashion, aiming, holsters and more.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (3)

  1. As I roll up on 50 this year, I like to think that I have an increasingly acute ability to recognize wisdom forged by decades of life experience. You, sir, seem to have it. Great article.

  2. Nice article, but judging a hand gun by price is probably not the best way to decide on a carry gun. Yes, Sigs, HK’, and Glocks are very nice and dependable firearms, but so are Springfield Armory, Rock River, Kimber, and many others. Talk to other gun enthusiasts, friends, and trainers. Rent the firearms that you may decide on, and pick the one that fits you the best.

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