Hello, my name is Stone, and I’m a gun owner. I’ve fired just about every type of gun you can think of, and I’m a strong advocate for responsible gun ownership.
The most important word in that last sentence was, “responsible.” Many gun owners I have encountered in my life were not responsible gun owners and, in fact, were endangering themselves and others.
Because I believe in gun ownership, and because I want everyone who carries to do so safely, here are five things you should know about owning a gun, using it for home defense, and using it for self defense. And then one bonus round!
1. Owning a Gun is a Commitment
If you are not willing to dedicate time weekly to range shooting, gun maintenance, and core learning, do not purchase a gun for self-defense. A lot of people purchase a gun thinking it’s just point and shoot. Guns require cleaning and regular maintenance, failure to do these things makes your gun unreliable and in some cases actually unsafe to use. Shooting a gun even somewhat decently requires practice. Think of it like an instrument – you may have natural talent, but nobody performing a symphony is going on stage to cold read the sheet music. It’s best to have both indoor and outdoor range experience, in different locations and at different times of day. If you’re in a self-defense situation, you’re not going to be in your comfort zone, so don’t practice only in the same environment.
2. Holding a Gun Means Do or Die
Do not draw a gun without being fully prepared to fire it. Learn how to hold it firmly and properly. Once the gun is visible, your attacker is going to have two options: disarm you or flee. If you show hesitation or unwillingness to fire, they may chance disarming you. Many gun owners are shot with their own gun. You have the element of surprise once; do not waste it. Your finger does not go on the trigger until you are pulling it.
3. Know Your Limits
When purchasing a gun for the first time, have a frank discussion with the gun shop owner about your physical strength and what your gun needs are. The kick on a .45 sig is going to be too much for some women. Gun weight is an issue for some people; trigger pressure is an issue for some people. There are a lot of factors going into a good gun fit. Know exactly what maintenance is needed for the gun and exactly how to fully disassemble it and clean it. Do not, under any circumstances, pick a gun out strictly on cosmetics or price. A cheap handgun will misfire, jam, and break. Not ideal for self defense.
4. Have an Emergency Plan (Get the Kids Out of the Way!)
If you’re buying a gun for home defense, make sure all adults in the home know how to maintain and fire the gun. Shotguns are sometimes a better option for home defense because aim is less important (though they can be difficult to shoot when untrained. See point 1). The entire household needs to be informed and have an emergency plan in place to avoid tragedy. If there is an attacker in your home, for most people it is not advisable to confront the attacker but to wait at the top of the stairs, in a closet, or under the covers ready to fire. Element of surprise, make your enemy come to you.
It is absolutely imperative that if you have roommates or children, they know to stay in their room with the door locked if they hear an intruder to remain clear from the line of fire.
Oh, did you miss that? Let me say it again:
It is ABSOLUTELY IMPERATIVE that if you have roommates or children, they know to stay in their room with the door locked if they hear an intruder to remain clear from the line of fire.
5. Get Trained to Protect Yourself
If you are carrying a handgun on your person for self-defense, seriously consider attending a high-stress training course like Front Sight. They will teach you how to respond in attack scenarios, how to mentally and physically prepare yourself to fire while being attacked, and how to clear a misfire and reload under stress. You cannot get this experience another way outside of actually being attacked.
And the bonus round:
6. If You Can’t Handle a Gun, Don’t Get one!
If you do not feel you can dedicate the time to practicing everything above, or just don’t feel comfortable owning a gun, my friend Joe has some great tips on self-defense that don’t involve urinating on yourself (which is a tactic responsible self-defense advocates only recommend as a very, very last resort because if it doesn’t work, it’s likely to infuriate your attacker or increase their drive due to being pleased that they’ve caused their victim distress).
The right to own a gun is important in our society for many reasons, but gun advocacy shouldn’t be blind. Not everyone can or should own a gun, and if we seek to have a well-armed populace—both for self defense and defense against tyranny—it is in everyone’s best interest to know how to use the tools they purchase.
It is, literally, a matter of life or death. Yours, your attacker’s, and anyone you happen to be around. This stuff ain’t no game.