As a firearms instructor I am amazed at the number of people I talk to who tell me they have purchased a firearm for self-defense so they are now protected. Actually, the firearm is just a tool to help us defend ourselves. The primary tool for self-defense is our brain. The best self-defense strategy is to never need to resort to force or lethal force to defend ourselves. Avoidance is always the primary goal.
In circumstances where there is no alternative, a firearm is a good defensive tool if you have training in its use, have practiced with it, have it with you when you need it and understand the potential legal and civil consequences of using it.
I talk to people every day who tell me they don’t need any training because they have been shooting all their life. I tip my hat to those people. I have been studying firearms and their use as a defensive tool for over 30 years. I learn something every day that increases my knowledge. I take at least one class per year on a subject about which I need greater knowledge or from someone from whom I can learn something. I still don’t know it all. Using a firearm for self-defense entails much more than shooting at targets on someone’s property, standing in a range shooting targets, or sighting in your deer rifle for that one shot taken during the season. Self-Defense shooting involves learning how to get the gun quickly into action, how to shoot multiple targets (bad guys rarely work alone), how to shoot, assess and shoot again if necessary, how to shoot moving targets, shoot while you are moving, and do it all under the extreme influence of adrenaline. These skills cannot be easily self-taught and most ranges won’t let you practice them. Any shooter who plans on owning a firearm to protect themselves, owes it to themselves to get some competent and relevant training that provides the knowledge and the skills necessary to use it. Selecting an instructor is an important topic that will be handled in a future article. Until then, Blackwood Shooting Academy is a good place to start.
Knowledge and basic skills are a great start for preparing to use a firearm for self-defense but the journey cannot end there. Practicing the skills until they can be accomplished at the sub-conscious level is important. If you are ever attacked, you will not have time to remember how to use your gun. When the attack comes, you will forget everything you have learned, unless you have practiced them to the point your body can accomplish them without conscious thought. I have seen people who are under the influence of adrenaline forget how to load their gun, forget where the safety is located, run out of ammunition and not understand why the gun quit working and miss targets completely that are less than 5 feet away. There are a lot of reasons for this but the bottom line is that, under stress, we don’t rise to the occasion, we default to our greatest level of practiced skill. Regular, relevant practice is critical to building and keeping defensive firearm skills.
This may sound obvious but all the training and practice in the world is useless if your firearm is not available when you need it. Inside your home, this means having it available while at the same time keeping it from anyone who should not have access to it. Outside the home, it means having it with you and feeling prepared to carry it in public. In either case, training is available to help you understand your responsibilities and provide instruction on how to effectively store or carry your firearm. The Texas License to Carry (LTC) class is a great place to start, but it is just the beginning of the journey. Training that covers the topics in greater detail is critical.
Finally, if you choose to own a firearm for self-defense you need to be aware of the potential legal and civil consequences of using a firearm for protection. This is a very detailed area and, again, the Texas LTC class is a good place to start. If you get this part wrong, you may survive the fight and still lose your freedom or suffer financial loss.
Choosing a firearm for self-defense is a good choice for most people if they are willing to gain the knowledge, skills and ability to apply them when called upon to do so. Owning a gun no more makes you a shooter than owning a piano makes you a piano player…
Steve Vandermolen is the founder and senior instructor at Blackwood Shooting Academy. Together with his wife Donna, they founded the Academy to teach people how to operate their firearms safely, efficiently and effectively. They both have a long list of credentials and are accomplished shooters with a passion for teaching. They can be reached at 832-510-4968. For more information, go to www.blackwoodshootingacademy.com.