A Half-Hearted Defense

Some habits and attitudes can hamper the development of a successful self-defense plan. If your defense plan includes firearms, then don't be half-hearted about it. Don't just possess a gunóown it! By B. Gil Horman

By NRA Staff (RSS)
May 4, 2013




With the rapid acceptance and adoption of legal concealed carry in the United States, it seems that some folks are jumping on the bandwagon without a complete understanding of defensive handguns and how they work. Others firmly grasp the logic of defensive handguns, but they are not emotionally committed to the practice. An under-informed or half-hearted defensive decision making process can lead to personal protection practices that are not only less effective, but even dangerous to the self defender. Here are a few points to consider:
Apathetic Resistance
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Some gun owners comfort themselves with the idea that self-defense situations happen to other people, and not to them. So itís a good idea to have a gun, but itís no big deal. Itís just another accessory thatís along for the ride in a pocket or purse somewhere. But an attitude thatís too casual is incompatible with a defensive mindset.
Hereís the good news about concealed carry: Civilian gun fights are relatively rare. A majority of us will make it from cradle to grave without ever having to draw a gun in defense of our lives. For those who do, the greater portion of defensive events will be resolved without any shots fired because the presence of the gun will defuse the situation. So, most of us could get away with just a little bit of gun protection, you know, just in case, right?
Hereís the rub. Nurturing the belief that you donít really need to carry a gun has a negative trickle-down effect. If you donít really need to carry, then you donít really need to practice. And if you donít practice, then thereís really no need to clean and maintain the gun. In fact, this whole carry thing is kind of a pain, so youíll just leave it at home in the lock box rather than bother with it. Congratulations, youíve just successfully disarmed yourself without the anti-gun groups having to spend a single dime.
Thinking Small
Some gun owners choose to follow a ďless is moreĒ philosophy when selecting a concealed carry pistol, but not for the right reasons. Whatís wrong with selecting a handgun because itís the very smallest, lightest, and easiest one to carry? Thereís nothing inherently ďbadĒ about owning and carrying reliable versions of the so-called pocket pistols. They fill the important role of being concealable at times when larger guns have to be left at home. So the problem is not small guns per se, but the disenchantment that occurs when an under-informed gun buyer suddenly discovers the gun they have is not the gun they want.
Itís helpful to compare the pistol classes to clarify the pocket-pistol issues. A medium-sized defensive handgun offers a balance of features to aid in proper shot placement. The grip is just long enough to support the middle, ring, and little finger of the shooting hand, the sights are visible with a sufficient sight radius, felt recoil is manageable, and the ammunition capacity is usually at or above 10-rounds. As pistols get larger, shooters can enjoy a nice roomy grip frame, an increased barrel length for better ammunition performance, large easy-to-see sights and an increased ammunition capacity. Generally speaking, full-size pistols are easier to shoot accurately and much more comfortable to practice with for extended periods of time. The trade off for this comfort level are guns that are harder to conceal and less comfortable to wear for daily carry.
And so, down at the other end of the size spectrum, are the pocket pistols. In order to make a gun small and light, there literally has to be less of a gun to carry. Grips shrink in length and thickness, supporting only one or two fingers of the shooting hand. Shortened barrels reduce bullet velocity and long-range accuracy. The sights shrink down, becoming purely decorative in some cases. Reduced gun weight leads to an increased level of felt recoil, ranging from hard-to-manage to hand-numbingly stout. In short, pocket pistols can be some of the toughest defensive handguns to shoot accurately. This can be a real problem since proper shot placement is the key to a successful self-defense.
Therefore, if you select a pocket pistol to serve as a primary or secondary defensive handgun, do so after careful consideration of all your options. Be prepared to commit yourself to the training and hard work it takes to master a little gun. Be sure you understand its stopping power and accuracy limitations and adjust your defense plan accordingly. If you discover that itís just not possible to generate an acceptable level of defensive accuracy with the pocket gun you have, then youíll know itís time to try something else.
Occasional Carry
Obviously there are times when it is neither practical (swimming at a public pool) nor legal (entering restricted security zones in airports or federal buildings) to be in possession of a loaded firearm. This is when the gun is safely stored and the self defender engages his or her non-gun Plan B. Obeying legal and practical restrictions to legal concealed carry is not whatís meant by ďoccasional carry.Ē Instead, occasional carry is the misguided practice of only carrying when you think there is a need to have a gun. Of the half-hearted carry practices gun owners could engage in, this is one of the most dangerous for a variety of reasons. Letís start with the legal issues that arise with occasional carry and then look at the practical problems.


If youíre only going to carry when you supposedly need to, exactly which criteria do you use to separate the carry/no-carry situations? Does it depend on the day of the week, the time of day, or the relative safety of the places you are going to visit? The reasoning involved in going armed at one time and not another is going to be dissected in court when you have to explain your use of lethal force. Whatís that you say? You were on your way to visit Mr. Xís establishment when you suddenly decided that, even though it was Wednesday instead of Thursday, you should load your gun, and take it with you? If, on the other hand, arming yourself is a part of your daily routine, itís going to be much more difficult to be painted as someone acting with murderous intent.
From a practical stand point, occasional carry defeats the whole purpose of concealed carry, which is to be prepared to stop an unexpected assault. Criminals rarely schedule their social encounters with their intended victims. We are creatures of habit, and our habits can save us or hang us depending on the choices we make. What if you waste precious moments reaching for a gun that isnít there? What if you walk through a metal detector thinking your gun is at home, but itís not? The solution is simple: Either whole-heartedly integrate your defensive handgun into your daily routine, or relegate it to the home defense plan and find another system of self-protection to use when going about your business.
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Handle with Care
So why do you choose to carry a gun? What is your motive for going armed? Certain political talking heads and anti-gun groups are always happy to flood the airwaves with their beliefs about legally owned firearms: Gun owners are paranoid! Their hearts are filled with fear and loathing! Some go so far as to insinuate that the desire to own a gun is itself a symptom of mental illness, namely, a cold-blooded desire to kill.
An appropriate response to this political rhetoric can be summed up best this way: ďWhat a load of horse hockey!Ē Does anyone really believe we deserve to be lumped in with the likes of rapists, thieves, and murderers because we choose to defend ourselves from being attacked by rapists, thieves, and murderers? The thought is simply unconscionable!
Hereís the truth: You are a wholly unique individual, an irreplaceable gift to your family and friends. This means that no one has the right to deprive them of your presence in their lives, or, to take them away from you. If you choose to carry a defensive firearm, then do so because of a deep seated love for life, your life, and the lives of those you love.
The question is not if we will stand up and fight to defend what we love, but if we will be properly prepared to do so when the need arises. If your defense plan includes firearms, then donít be half-hearted about it. Donít just possess a gun, own it! Understand how it works and master its operations. Take the time to properly clean and care for it. Go shooting regularly, and do the research to identify the best method of concealed carry to fit your particular needs. Itís a real sacrifice of time and money to obtain the information, training, and practice needed to develop a safe and effective defense plan. But if it saves just one life, your life, isnít it worth it?
A Half-Hearted Defense | NRA Women