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After You Buy A Gun For Self-Defense, Here’s What To Do With It


Not long ago, firearm instructor Karl Rehn of KR Training and I discussed why some people attend defensive firearm classes for little reason beyond recreation. In addition to having taught thousands of students, Karl’s an engineer, thus analytical by nature, and he hit the nail on the head. He said people do what they want or need to do, and while many gun owners want to shoot guns for fun, most don’t think they’ll need to defend themselves, so they don’t take defensive training seriously.

I’ve also heard conservatives say they don’t have time to train, because they have jobs and families, the kids have to be taken to baseball practice, and so on. Some, being first-time gun owners, say they don’t know where to begin.

Those things may be true. However, just as cemeteries are full of people who—thinking “it won’t happen to me”—smoked, drank alcoholic and sugary drinks, ate junk food, and never exercised or got their blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and body fat numbers under control, they’re also occupied by people who weren’t prepared when a criminal attacked. And unmarked graves around the world are full of people who thought the mass murders that always accompany leftist dictatorships wouldn’t happen to them either.

If you’re a gun owner thinking “Okay, point made. Now what?,” here are some suggestions for getting your defensive act together.

Start With Safety

Know and be able to apply the National Rifle Association’s (NRA’s), Jeff Cooper’s, and the military’s basic firearm safety rules. If you have semi-automatic rifles and pistols—the most generally useful firearms for defensive purposes—know their eight-step firing cycle (p. 4-2) and Cooper’s sequence of Weapon Conditions for loading and unloading them.

Know The Laws

Don’t assume that you know the laws on using guns for self-defense and carrying them in public. To be issued a handgun carrying license in Texas, you must take, from a Department of Public Safety-certified instructor, a class covering such laws. If you’re in Texas, even if you don’t want a license (Texas, a constitutional-carry state, doesn’t require a license to carry), take the class. If you aren’t in Texas, take a comparable class in your state.

On a related point, your clothing, vehicle, and home exterior should bear no references to guns or self-defense, and don’t carry a handgun openly. Be low profile. Don’t let criminals know you have guns and don’t give an overzealous Democrat prosecutor anything with which to portray you as an overzealous gun owner in court.

Select An Instructor Carefully

Owning a gun isn’t the same as knowing how to use it. Train with someone certified as an instructor by the NRA, Rangemaster, the military, a law enforcement agency, or another recognized authority.

For the defensive use of guns, you’ll probably have the best result with someone who, in addition to having those credentials, has a military or law enforcement background, or has trained with people who have those backgrounds, and whose intermediate and advanced classes explain how to apply firearm skills in defensive situations, rather than in shooting sports. Before attending a class, determine if your dominant eye and dominant hand are on the same side of your body. If they aren’t, tell your instructor.

Have your instructor explain, demonstrate, and coach you on safely handling, loading, and unloading a gun; assuming a proper shooting stance; shouldering and gripping a rifle; unholstering, assembling a two-handed grip with, and reholstering a handgun; and firing a handgun with one hand only. Also to be covered are sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press and reset, “calling” your shots, dry-firing safety protocols, rifle and pistol positions, and basic shooting and other gun-handling drills.

More advanced topics include “speed” (empty gun) and “tactical” (not empty gun) reloading, malfunction clearing, moving with a gun safely and tactically indoors and outdoors around objects and people, firing positions other than standing, and shooting while walking. If the instructor can’t cover everything mentioned above, find another instructor.

Don’t Think of Firearms As a Hobby

The Framers of the Constitution and Bill of Rights understood the right to arms to encompass everything within the scope of the right during the founding era. Examples included defense against violent criminals, hunting, target practice, shooting competitions, and gun collecting.

No one in those days—not even the Revolutionary War British—opposed keeping and bearing arms for those purposes, so if there had been no other purpose for the right, there would have been no need for the Second Amendment. Instead, the right to arms could have been left to the Ninth Amendment: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

Lots of gun owners invoke the Second Amendment to justify having guns for self-defense or various hobbies. A few do it even for carrying rifles and shotguns to send a message to politicians at a protest when doing so is premature. But bring up the purpose for which the amendment was adopted, and they give you a deer-in-the-headlights gaze or start squirming like a cat that doesn’t want to be picked up.

Hobby-obsessed and other self-absorbed gun owners don’t like hearing it any more than anti-gun activists, Democrat politicians, and their allies in the mainstream media, but the Second Amendment was adopted because the keeping and bearing of arms for defense against tyranny was considered essential to a free society. In that way, it’s like the rights and freedoms protected by the first, third, and fourth amendments. If you’re serious about defending life and liberty, focus on keeping and bearing arms for its core purpose.


Ammunition wasn’t cheap before the increased prices brought on by the Chi-Com virus, Democrat calls for gun confiscation, Democrat-encouraged leftist riots, the refusal of Democrat district attorneys to prosecute rioters, and Democrat defunding of police departments. That’s one of the reasons to sometimes practice without ammunition, at home, by “dry-firing.” As noted, have your instructor explain how to do so safely.

Download a “shot timer” app to your smartphone and refer to the rifle and pistol positions link, above. Attend a dry-fire clinic, such as those conducted in Northern Virginia and South-Central Texas by Green Ops. Spend ten minutes dry-firing a couple of times per week, and you’ll probably improve quickly.

Don’t Waste Time and Ammunition

At a range, know what you’re going to practice in advance. You’ll need ballistic eye glasses (see the Army’s Authorized Protective Eyewear List) and hearing protection. Foam earplugs can work, but you’ll benefit from adding electronic muffs (e.g., Howard Leight/Impact, Peltor, Ops-Core, and MSA/Sordin) that amplify normal sounds while dampening loud ones.

Perform shooting and other gun-handling drills slowly at first. When you’re ready to gradually increase your speed, use a live-fire shot timer, such as the Competition Electronics Pocket Pro.

AR-15s and 9mm Pistols

AR-15s are the most versatile fighting rifles available. They’re relatively lightweight, ergonomic, and accurate, and don’t kick very much. The Biden administration is threatening to restrict AR pistols, which generally have barrels no longer than 11.5 inches. However, an AR rifle with a longer barrel (16-20 inches) and handguard is easier to wield, produces greater velocity (thus a flatter trajectory) and less muzzle flash, and with a mid-length gas system is more mechanically reliable.

How to outfit your AR is discussed here and, along with other useful information, in former Army Special Forces soldier Kyle Lamb’s “Green Eyes And Black Rifles.” Lastly, not all ARs are alike in terms of metallurgy and quality controls. Some of the more highly-regarded brands are Knight Armament, Bravo Company USA, Daniel Defense, Lewis Machine Tool (LMT), Midwest Industries, and Colt’s.

Compared to larger-caliber pistols, 9mms hold more rounds, recoil less, are generally more mechanically reliable, and with top-quality defensive hollowpoint ammunition (Hornady Critical Defense, Federal HST, Speer Gold Dot, etc.) perform well for defensive purposes.

While there are other pistols, more people have fired more rounds with more 9mm Glocks than with any other handgun. It’s a proven design. When the Supreme Court recognized in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) that “handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home,” it was largely because of Glocks. Glocks are also particularly easy to service without special tools, with a small number of inexpensive, widely available factory-original parts.

Whatever handgun you have, make sure its grip is thin enough that you can wield the gun efficiently with one hand, in case your other hand is injured or occupied with another task. Also note that the length of a handgun’s grip is usually what determines whether you can conceal the gun underneath clothing without its shape showing. For safety and security, have a top-quality Kydex holster (JM Custom Kydex, Blade-Tech, Priority 1, Eclipse, etc.) and belt-mounted pouches for extra magazines.

Things Besides Guns

Paper targets don’t shoot at you or move. Don’t count on that in the real world. With your doctor’s permission, get on a physical fitness program for things such as being able to quickly move away from an attacker’s “kill zone.” A certified trainer (Gold’s Gym, Crossfit, etc.) who specializes in functional fitness rather than body building can help in this regard.

Find an Army combat medic like Caleb Causey of Lone Star Medics, Navy corpsman, or civilian emergency medical technician who conducts training in applying tourniquets and packing wounds, or take a Stop The Bleed class.

Build A Team?

If a situation for which the Second Amendment was adopted comes about, some people advocate going it alone, because you’re the only one you can trust. After all, millions of Americans expose their personal details on social media platforms, and if they won’t keep their secrets, they won’t keep yours.

However, others advise having people on whom you can count. If you go that route, keep things informal and vet folks carefully. Maybe meet with friends at the shooting range once or twice a month.

Good luck, and remember the Latin adage: “Si vis pacem, para bellum.”