Monday, August 18, 2014

Concealed Carry: Choosing A Gun

Whatever you may think about weapons, a gun is usually somewhere in the mix of weapons, especially for self or home defense. Self defense is similar to but not exactly like, home defense. Both are to defend yourself and others against a threat. The biggest difference is conceal-ability and safety. When I think about self defense I think about concealed carry. In certain states, that would include a weapon in your vehicle. Some people may carry a gun on their person, but switch to a system that would keep their gun secure and available in their vehicle. It’s desirable to talk about these options.
I grew up working my Uncle’s ranch and farm most Summers from when I was 12 until I was 17. During that time, I had access to a rifle every day I was working. Snake’s were common and every pick up and vehicle had a .22 rifle in a rack for safety. I had been exposed to hunting at 10 so I was a little experienced with a gun. Up until I joined the military, I had only shot a pistol whenever we target practiced or were just plinking. Most of the time it was a .22 pistol or a .38. In the military I was exposed to all kinds of weapons including grenade launchers and mortar. But I never really had a side arm. My first pistol that I actually owned was a .22. I have always felt that concealed carry is an important responsibility and one that no one should take lightly. Self defense to me has a few considerations.
1. Caliber. What is the highest caliber you can conceal and comfortably carry. I’d love to carry a 1911 .45. But I don’t think that is for me because of bulk and weight. To carry a weapon 24/7 I would have to down size a little. I would not want to go much under a 9mm. Some might say .380 is something they could consider. I feel that I can go for less stopping power and more trigger time (training).
2. Size. Full size, compact, or sub compact. Each has its positive and negative features. Mostly size equals weight and bulk, but also capacity. How many rounds are you comfortable with? The larger the gun, usually the higher the capacity. I like compacts and subcompacts. If I can’t take care of myself with 10 or less rounds, I probably won’t be able to do it with 15. Training is key. Shot placement, the stopping power of the caliber, and how many accurate shots you can put down range are a big consideration.
3. With the above information, you can also find a mode of carry that can suit you and your clothing. There are many holsters from full size to minimal ones that will hide even a large gun.
4. I am a real proponent of semi autos, but a revolver is a good choice also. Some people would only carry a revolver because they feel a revolver is the most reliable. I think revolvers are very reliable but you are always limited to 5 or 6 rounds. Modern semi automatic handguns are more than reliable enough if you know what to look for. Military and law enforcement abandoned revolvers in the 70’s. Look for well known brands. Some are built better than others. Some brands have better customer service than others too. For instance, I bought a low end Smith and Wesson that had an issue I was willing to pay for to be fixed. I sent it to them and they promptly fixed the problem at no cost to me. This gun was no longer under warranty. I was impressed with their integrity and how they put the customer first.
I would also do some research on whatever weapon I was leaning toward. There are enough forums and reviews out there to give you enough information to make an informed choice. Many gun ranges will let you rent weapons. This is a great test drive for your gun of choice. Or you could ask someone who knows, and owns the weapon you are interested in. They may be willing to let you test drive the gun. Look at parts and accessories too. Are they readily available? Are there after market accessories such as grips and sights or with rifles, stocks and magazines?
If you choose only home defense then not only will handguns be a viable choice, but rifles and shotguns have their place. It has been said and I agree that your handgun is something you use to fight your way to your battle rifle. But, it has also been said that if you go to a gunfight it’s important to have a gun! So remember these things when thinking about home defense. Safety is a very big consideration and when it comes to guns and kids, it should be the top consideration. Some people are too afraid to own a gun with a child in the house. (See blog Kids and Guns: A good combo?, 4/1/2014) I think that is a fear coming from ignorance of weapons. Millions of law enforcement officers have children and must have a weapon in the house. There are locks, vaults, and just as important, training and education for children. My children were taught at a young age to handle a firearm safely and my wife and I even felt that we did not want toy guns in the house to confuse our kids into what is dangerous and what is not. You and your spouse must decide what you will and will not do in this area. But also consider the laws in your state. Some states have laws that say guns will be locked up or have a gun lock on them. (See blog Gun Storage, 8/15/2014) So be aware of the laws governing guns in your area.
I would strongly suggest a good tactical light on or with your home defense weapon. Target identification is extremely important. Know this and train appropriately.
Cost is always an issue. I’ve bought and shot high end weapons and low end and everything in between. I firmly believe that only in extreme cases is the gun an issue in shooting well. Mostly it is training. Yes high end weapons are very nice, but many makes that are considered low end can get the job done. If you want to compete then you would probably invest well in your gun especially concerning accuracy. Precision shooting usually takes a particular kind of weapon. But if you’ve ever watched “Top shots” on TV you will know that if someone is trained and experienced (that means practice), a shooter can do well with just about anything.
The guns safety is also a consideration. (See blog When is a safety, not?, 6/20/2014) I have several guns without safeties. “Why would you have a gun like that?” you may ask. They actually do have a safety. They are double action semi automatics with long and heavy trigger pulls. Some people will insist on an external safety. ( That is, a mechanism that you must actually work that keeps the weapon from firing.) If you follow the rules of safe shooting then you know the most effective safety and the only one you can rely on all the time is the one between your ears. I encourage people to remember this even if they insist on a gun with an external safety. I have known many people who are experienced with weapons who have had an accidental discharge. They should certainly know better, and so should you. Always follow the safety rules, always.
And finally, is the gun easy to clean? Easy to dissemble? Easy to reassemble? Can it be serviced in the field? These too might change your mind about a weapon. I love the 9mm rifle from High Point. It’s fun, accurate, and functional. But when it comes to taking it apart to clean it? It’s crazy!
Once you find a gun that fits your hand and you can handle the weight and recoil, it really becomes a cosmetic and fiscal choice. Some weapons are easier to work than others such as magazine releases and slide mechanisms. My Father in law likes a gun with a hammer. Something he can pull back and cock. On the other hand I feel a hammer is something to get caught on clothing when seconds count in drawing your weapon. Be aware of all these things and find what you can live with and are comfortable with. I have bought a gun, thought I was happy with it until I actually used it for what I bought it for. Then I realized it was not best suited for me and my needs. Also, I think every gun has its own “personality”. Like a vehicle you will get to know your individual weapon and system. I say system because that is what you will develop. What kind of sights do you need? What kind of holsters? Do you need a sleeve for your grip to fit your hand just right? What accessories fit your needs? Does your weapon choice fit several needs such as personal security to vehicle to home defense? Only you can determine how and why you will develop your system. I call this POU or philosophy of use. Your POU may evolve and change as circumstances change and evolve.
No weapon or accessory can replace trigger time. Time on the range is better than any system or weapon you can imagine. It’s been said that we fight like we train. If that is true then do you want to fight as an after thought? Or do you want to go into a fight with the best possible experience and training you can find? Many people take one class, buy a gun and put it in a drawer. That is the extent of their preparation. Some people can step up when called upon to defend whatever it is they want to defend. Most people do not even know how they will react to real violence. I want as many tools in my tool box as I can get.
Church leaders have told us that casual prayer or scripture study is no longer going to pull us through these challenging times. I feel the same goes for our physical preparation. This of course includes personal and home security. Casual acquaintance with a weapon will only bring a false sense of security. When called upon to defend you and yours, don’t be found lacking. Most of my children have had some training in their chosen work. Formal or informal training is needed to make a living. This is true in defense also. I like this quote from Mark Twain that applies in many areas, but very much so in defense.
“It’s ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that ain’t so.”
Picking a gun is not that difficult. Knowing how to defend with that gun is the real challenge. Train, train, train.

Semper Paratus
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