Ammunition

40 Years’ Worth of Personal Defense Tips – Part 2

9mm female shooter in action

Hopefully, you had a chance to read the first part of this blog series, where I covered some personal defense tips related to training that I’ve learned over the past 40 years using firearms.

This time, I’ll be covering other areas of personal defense, such as alarm systems, choosing a handgun, aiming and holsters. Read on to learn some of my personal defense tips in these areas.

Personal Defense Tips: Alarms

Burglar alarms are all the rage. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a good system. I have both a fire and a CO alarm. A system tied to the local police department is an excellent watch guard while you are away from home.

Coupled with my roving four-footed 55-pound aboriginal canine (canine lupus dingo) on the spot, I feel pretty safe. Only when I am home is there anything worth dying for.

An alarm that wakes you when the homestead is breached is excellent preparation, giving you time to shake the cobwebs from your head and arm yourself. However, I have seen a number of absurd representations in advertisements that frankly anger me.

They are so absurd, they could get good people hurt or killed. In the commercial—you have all seen it—the young woman returns home from a date with a new nice guy. A former boyfriend kicks the door in. The alarm is set off and he runs.

This goes against everything I have learned in my life and police service!

Ruger Security 9
An inexpensive but reliable handgun, the Ruger Security 9 is a rule beater in many ways.

A burglar bent on profit who is not known to the homeowner would probably run, but then he won’t kick the door down. The sociopathic abuser is bent on mayhem. He is known to the victim and will be arrested. His motivation is not profit, but violence.

In the time it takes for the police to arrive—which could be 30 minutes in some areas, or five minutes in others—he can do a lot of damage.

He could kill or cripple you. A person mean enough to come to your home and kick the door open in a rage is not going to be deterred by an alarm. Take appropriate measures. A .38 under the pillow is one such measure.

A Note About Criminals

Another fact: the protein-fed ex-con criminal class isn’t someone like you and me, who have had a bad day from time to time.  Among the prison population, the number of psychopaths is far higher than the general population.

Those bent on profit are often pretty dumb and cannot imagine a level of intelligence above their own. They get caught. The ones that enjoy rape, assault and torture live for human misery and suffering. They have given me scars I will always bear.

They are not easily dealt with and you must understand their motivation and how they go about victim selection. The inexperienced choose the young and elderly. Experienced “old heads” choose a mark they may overpower. That is a broad choice.

Personal Defense Tips: Handguns

When you choose a handgun system with which to defend your life, it doesn’t matter if the system is fashionable. What works for you is what counts. Given that the piece is of high quality and reliable, there are variations to be considered.

Single-action, double-action and double-action-only self loaders are among the choices. Some folks simply cannot acclimate to the GLOCK or the 1911 and are best served with the double-action revolver.

1911 .45 with backup .38
For many years the author’s standard has been a 1911 .45 with a backup .38. Of course, there are many choices.

While the decocker-equipped double-action first shot self-loader strikes many of us as a triumph of the technical over the tactical, there are shooters who are very comfortable with this type of handling and those who favor the long double-action trigger press.

Whichever type you prefer, be certain you deploy a good example.

  • If you prefer a double-action first-shot autoloader, then the SIG is among the better choices.
  • In safe-action or double-action-only pistols, the CZ P-10 is a first-class handgun in every way.
  • In single-action 1911-type pistols, the Springfield Mil-Spec is a good choice.

Be prepared to invest greater time in training and greater expense in adopting the 1911. You are better served with a good GLOCK, CZ, SIG or Ruger than a cheap or poor-quality 1911.

The selective double-action CZ P-07 and CZ 75s are underestimated handguns with excellent quality. In revolvers, Smith & Wesson produces excellent quality revolvers.

Ruger double-action revolvers are vault tough. (Though there is some compromise between smoothness, accuracy and ruggedness.)

Colt, Ruger and Smith and Wesson revolvers
Colt, Ruger and Smith and Wesson revolvers for different uses. They are far from outdated for personal defense.

Whichever handgun you choose—and this may seem strange coming from a professional and instructor—combat performance on the range isn’t the whole story. Within certain baselines and parameters, handling and heft and balance are just as important.

When the gun is designed for concealed carry, certain compromises are inherent. There are few small guns that shoot like big guns, but there are some.

Personal Defense Tips: Aiming

The point of aim is the point that will do the most good for you in stopping the threat. This is the arterial region. The center of mass is the center of the target you see.

Having been in the wrong place at the wrong time more than once, I assure you the threat will not be standing still nicely squared to you. The center of mass may be the center of a leg or shoulder, whatever is exposed.

In dim light, placing the front sight on the belt buckle works well. Never aim at the whole target, but at a finite point on the target.

Tru Glo combat light
Good ammunition and a good handgun with a TRUGLO combat light have much appeal. But do not neglect the open hand.

Personal Defense Tips: Calibers

I think that a certain class of gun writers has added to the “any caliber is fine if properly delivered” mentality. Nothing could be further from the truth. The FBI’s development of calibrated gelatin for testing wound potential was a great step forward.

Various so-called “stopping power” studies relying on secret sources and hoaxes such as goat shooting are not credible; they are the cheap tabloid of gun writing. (Although, I insult the tabloids with this one.)

A man is about the size of an average deer and about as hard to put down. A .32 Magnum or .380 ACP simply isn’t adequate. The 9mm and .38 Special are baselines. They will do the job most of the time when properly delivered.

I have seen many students show up with a .357 SIG or .40 caliber compact that scared them to death and they did very poorly—sometimes failing the class. The same goes for the snubnose .38 Special (and the Magnum snubby is worse).

Then again, I’ve also seen a young law student leed the class with a snubnose .38. Some with the 1911 have done very well, also. But if you can handle a larger caliber, do so.

If not, the 9mm is a baseline and a good one. But don’t read magical properties into any handgun caliber.

Personal defense ammo
Quality ammunition must be selected for personal defense.

Personal Defense Tips: Holsters

I am continually amazed by those that carry their $500 handgun in hopelessly floppy and unsafe holsters. Very few bad guys, in my experience, used holsters. They either stuffed the gun in the belt or sometimes used a paper bag!

Most are pretty dumb and quite often had accidents, sometimes injuring (or killing) themselves or others. Today, there are excellent-quality leather and Kydex holsters. Most cost less than a good pair of hiking boots.

A holster is a renewable resource and should be replaced when retention and safety are compromised. BLACKHAWK! and Galco are among the off-the-shelf holsters that give excellent service.

Galco V Hawk - Personal Defense Tips
The Galco V-Hawk is a favorite for concealed carry.

My grandmother once commented she was glad fashion changed every six months because some of it was so ugly. Today, much of what seems fashionable in training is not time-proven.

I see much more reliance upon cameras and security systems than on defending your own hide. I also see a reliance on inadequate calibers. For some, this false sense of security will bite them and for some, sooner, not later.

There you have it! Hopefully, you were enlightened by one or two of these personal defense tips I’ve learned over the years.

Do you have any personal defense tips to share? Let us know in the comments below.

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 (4)

  1. I’m not a large guy, and my hands are small. As I shot 9mil from my sa/da Sig, the gun felt wrong and I was developing a flinch. Mind you, most of my shooting was with .22s

    My Sig is now my grandson-by-marriage’s wife’s favorite pistol. As I sit here, I’ve got a .380 Kahr in the pocket of my cargo pants. It doesn’t like some defense ammo; when the conical tip hits the feed ramp it doesn’t feed because the flat part of the cone is at the same angle as the feed ramp. (reminds me of stories of early french autoloading jam-a-matics). Mind you, I’ve worn out pistols: after zillions of rounds, my Walther P22 (target length) handed me the back half of the slide when the slide broke, but Walther mounted a new slide for free. (Apparently it was heading forward when it broke, not the usual backwards motion break.) And my Walther PK380 was perfectly reliable for several years before it decided not to extract any more (I’m going to get that fixed, one of these days). Looking back at my ammo bills, I think I put something like 100,000 rounds through it before the P22 broke, so it wasn’t exactly new. In my hands, a .380 makes nice, small groups. I’ve added a green daylight laser to up my hit probability should bad things happen.

    But even a 9mm is to large a round for me. So while you’re demanding people launch big bad rounds downrange, and I’d be unhappy if my police department standardized on .32 ACP the way some European police departments used to do long ago, you should respect that some of us aren’t going to carry a bazooka into a gunfight. Most of us aren’t serving police officers with our duty pistols on our hips. We’ve got to conceal these things, and some of us have size issues concealing what you think of as a concealable weapon in what we wear every day.

  2. MJ

    The .40 kicked too much for the shooter to handle

    Must the same for .357 SIG and short barrel Magnums.

    I am certain someone might handle them well but most do not.

  3. Yeah, alarm is for me first…take care of business, then have cops show up…
    What did you mean by the 40 compact scared them, they failed? Couldn’t handle it or wasn’t adequate caliber?

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