Being a responsible gun owner who is an asset to society takes commitment. A commitment starts prior to the purchase of your first firearm. Here are things to consider when buying your first weapon system for self-defense.
Do Your Research
Gun owners are passionate about their second amendment rights and firearms. They take pride in sharing knowledge and welcoming others into the gun culture. However, I strongly caution against asking all but the most highly experienced and vetted individuals for advice on firearms and training. Talk to ten different gun owners and you will most likely get ten different answers on what is the best gun for self-defense and why. I have met and shot with more self-proclaimed gun experts over the last 30 years than I can remember. It has been my experience that most do not understand the fundamentals of safe gun handling and have limited knowledge at best in regard to firearms for self-defense.
I would also caution against walking into just any gun dealer and asking for advice. Think about it. You are talking to a salesperson who will recommend what is in stock, what they have been told to promote, what has the highest commission, etc. Avoid big box gun retailers when looking for advice, as you will likely run into a part-time sales associate trying to earn some walking around money. Rather, go to a locally-owned gun dealer where you will find a knowledgeable staff. They will most likely take the time to understand your needs and provide sound advice that will promote their reputation and a return clientele.
You must take a lot of what you find on the internet with a grain of salt. Although it may be tempting to turn to YouTube, you must tread with caution. Most major gun channels are paid, third-party advertisers. Manufacturers will give them guns in hopes they will do a positive review. In fact, I only know of one gun channel that does negative reviews for this very reason.
The best place to get information online is in the major gun forums, such as Glock Talk and the AR15.com. These forums are well-moderated and full of extremely knowledgeable people willing to share unbiased expertise.
You’re Buying a Weapon System, Not Just a Gun
The gun is just one piece of the equation. You need a “weapon system” consisting of the following:
- Firearm: I highly recommend you buy a reliable and proven self-defense firearm from one of the major manufactures such as Glock, Sig Sauer or Smith & Wesson. You need an extremely reliable weapon that will feed any type of ammunition and has readily available accessories such as magazines and holsters. Consider getting a gun chambered in 9mm. This is an effective round for self-defense, affordable, easy-to-shoot and readily available.
- Magazines: At a minimum you should have three magazines. A loaded, spare magazine should be carried with the gun. This is not because you are likely to need the extra ammunition in a gunfight, but rather for addressing malfunctions. The magazine is what feeds your gun. A lot of malfunctions are caused by the magazines. If you have a malfunction and have to drop your magazine to clear it, you should always put in a different magazine. Never put the same magazine back into the gun when clearing a malfunction.
- Light: You cannot shoot a lethal threat unless it has been positively identified. Get a highly quality weapon light and mount it to your gun. Again, you’re not getting a gun, you are getting a weapon system. Make sure you acquire a gun that will accept common weapon lights. Some will argue that the light should be separate from the firearm. The reason being is that if you are clearing your house and shine the light on an unidentified person, you could inadvertently muzzle flash a family member. My response is this. It’s a training issue. You can point your weapon in a low ready or off to the side and activate your light. The light will illuminate a large area in front of you without your muzzle flashing the threat. In addition, if you exercise good trigger discipline, your finger will be off the trigger. It is likely that you will need your non-gun hand to hold a cell phone to call for help, open a door, grab a family member, etc. Mount your light to your gun.
- Holster & Magazine Carrier: A holster is a vital part of your weapon system. Even if you intend to only use your gun for home defense you should consider getting a holster. When training, you will need a safe way to carry your gun and spare magazines. The fabric of society is extremely thin. Unrest and danger could present itself at any time. The need to carry a concealed weapon on your person is not something you can predict. If you wait until the need arises, you may not be able to acquire a holster and magazine carrier.
- Belt: The belt is one of the most overlooked and important parts of your weapon system. Without a purpose-built gun belt mated to your holster, you will not be able to consistently draw your weapon. The holster will move and the gun will bind, making it extremely difficult to draw.
Avoid a Flat Range Mentality
Most people have limited access to shooting ranges. Ranges open to the public are highly controlled environments in order to maintain safety for a wide range of shooters. As a result, you will most likely be shooting straight forward at a fixed target. This is good for learning weapon function, sight picture and basic marksmanship. Do not confuse being able to hit a bullseye on a fixed target with no stressors as being able to defend yourself with a gun. Avoid this “flat range” mentality.
If you are using your gun for self-defense you will be in a dynamic, 360 degree battlefield. You may be moving to gather family members, seek cover or to exit a building. You will be extremely stressed and people may be darting back and forth between you and the threat. Understand that training has limitations. Identify weaknesses in your training and find ways to improve your skills.
Get Professional Training
Seek out training from a qualified and reputable instructor. Once you are proficient in safe gun handling, consider taking additional “tactical” training that goes beyond basic marksmanship and teaches you how to “fight” with your gun.
If you are getting a concealed carry permit, the training associated with doing so is not adequate. Often times the majority of the training associated with obtaining a concealed carry permit deals with the laws and regulations of carrying a concealed weapon. Very little of the training has to do with helping you become proficient in the use of firearms.
Understand the Law
Firearm and self-defense laws are confusing and vary by state and municipality. It is your responsibility to understand and follow the laws of the places you go while armed. Even if you can legally carry a concealed weapon in your state of residence, consider getting a concealed carry permit. This will allow you to legally carry concealed firearms in other states that have reciprocity with state in which you reside.
Becoming a proficient gun handler is a process. Take your time with your research and buy a quality gun and the proper gear to complete your weapon system. Get professional training and train often. With the right mindset, weapon system and training, you will become a responsible gun owner that is an asset to society.