If you are thinking about buying a gun for self defense and you are overwhelmed by all of your choices, find out what you need to know before you buy.
First and foremost, you have to decide that you can take a human life if necessary. No, it is not like television or the movies, you cannot count on shooting them in the leg to stop the threat. When a person applies for a law enforcement job, they will almost always be asked if they can take a human life if necessary. If the person answers, “No,” then that applicant will be passed by.
All law enforcement officers are taught to shoot for the center mass of the chest and all civilians should be taught the same thing by any competent firearms instructor. In the state of Indiana citizens are guaranteed by law that they can protect their person, their family, their home or an occupied vehicle against attack. Indiana is a “Castle Doctrine” state and it is also a “Stand Your Ground” state. The stand your ground doctrine says that you do not have to flee an attacker, you can stand your ground and stop your attacker by whatever means is reasonable, up to and including deadly force under certain conditions of the law.
As a civilian, when you buy a gun for self defense, you may find yourself in a situation whereby you have to defend yourself, your family, your home, or your occupied car against a deadly threat. In this case you will have to react quickly, most likely in a fraction of second you will make your decision and fire your gun to defend yourself. Again, any firearms instructor worth his salt will teach you to fire as many rounds as it takes to “STOP” the threat.
People are influenced by what they see on TV or in the movies. They think that one shot from a handgun will stop anyone. You could not be more wrong if you tried. Yes, one well placed shot can stop the threat, but you cannot count on that. For example, did you know that you can shoot someone in the heart and they can still kill you before they die. You can shoot someone in the head and in some cases they can still continue to fight.
At HARD TARGET Firearms Training in Evansville, Indiana, we teach our students to fire mutiple rounds to the center of the chest (two to three rounds) and then we tell them that if the threat is still a threat, immediately go to head and do your best to deliver a well aimed shot to the eye or nose area. If someone is trying to kill you, the fastest way to stop them from accomplishing their mission is to kill them. Yes, I said the nasty word “kill.” If they are dead, they can no longer injure or kill you.
As a former police officer (33 years of service), I was always taught to say in court and in my paperwork, “I shot to stop the threat,” not that I was “trying to kill the SOB!” But we all know that when you shoot to the center of the chest that death is a likely result, so let’s call a spade a spade and call it what is. You are doing your level best to “kill” the person that is trying to kill you. Sounds fair to me.
Okay, I went the long way around the barn, but I wanted to make sure you understand that shooting someone in a self defense situation may very well result in the death of that person. Can you handle that? If you cannot, do not buy a gun, it will be worthless to you. Actually, it will become a liability for you.
Once you have decided you can take a human life if necessary, then you will have decide what you want to do with that gun. Do you want to carry it on your person for self defense? Do you just want to keep it in your car (not recommended)? Do you want to just keep it in your home or business?
Let’s take on the last question first. If you just want a gun for home defense, I do not recommend a handgun, I recommend a Remington 870 pump, 12 gauge shotgun. I can teach most anyone, no matter what size you are, to shoot a shotgun accurately and without pain. A well trained person with a shotgun is scary as hell. A 12 gauge shotgun is about as close as you can come to a “one shot” weapon. By “one shot,” I mean that it only takes one shot to stop the threat. No weapon guarantees this, but a 12 gauge will come as close as any weapon system.
If you are going to carry the gun on your person for protection, you will want a gun that is small enough and light enough that it is easy to conceal and carry all day long. You will not see too many people that actually carrry a full size 1911 type pistol all day, every day, because it is big and heavy and it gets real old, real fast carrying a gun like that.
I have guns that I recommend to my customers, but I will not go into my list in this article. You just want a gun that is a 9 mm or larger caliber. That is not to say that .22 cannot work, it can and will work, but I do not want my life to depend on a .22 caliber pistol, so I cannot in good conscience recommend it for you.
No matter what caliber of handgun you choose, choose a good quality gun, do not skimp here, you may regret your decision later when your life is depending on that bargain basement gun you bought. The other thing you need to know about handguns regardless of the caliber is, “Handguns are notoriously bad fight stoppers.” I have said this a thousand times.
Here is what I mean by this statement. When our military personnel go into combat they carry a high power rifle, not a handgun. If they carry a handgun, they carry it as a backup to their long gun. As an old detective, I have seen a lot of shootings over the years in Evansville and I can tell you that most people shot with a handgun do not die. As a matter of fact, national statistics show that 80% of all people shot with a handgun survive their wounds.
If the bad guy can survive his wounds, he can still kill you. So why on earth do we want a handgun for personal protection? This is an easy one to answer, it is easily portable and concealable. You must understand this so that you do not get it in your head that the .44 magnum revolver you carry will not always stop the threat like you witnessed in the “Dirty Harry” movies. The best advice I can give is, forget what you have seen in the movies. For the most part, what you have seen in the movies is completely unrealistic.
Okay, you have decide that you can kill someone if necessary, and you have decided on a gun, so what is next.
Next will be covered in the next article. You will have to decide on your carry ammo, you will need to know and understand the law, you must get professional training, and you must practice and practice often. I hope to hear from you.
Guy Minnis, Director of Training
HARD TARGET Firearms Training
Photo Credit: Mr.357Sig