‘Bring enough gun to the fight.’ You’ll hear this a lot in self-defense circles. The question is what is ‘enough’ gun? Here’s the rub- nobody knows. Every instance of self-defense is unique. A tiny .22 Derringer might be enough, or a Glock 17 with three spare mags might not be enough. The only thing we can know in for certain in advance is that no gun will never be enough gun.
A gun you don’t have with you when you need it is useless. A small, easy to conceal gun is more likely to be with you. The problem is that small guns, while more concealable, can be harder to deploy and shoot accurately. Small guns are often chosen by people getting their first gun for self-defense because they are easier to hide and less intimidating to them- but they may be exactly the opposite of what they need.
Practice is essential, and small guns are often not much fun to practice with, especially for a novice. They are harder to shoot accurately, which can make them frustrating and less satisfying to shoot. Depending on the type and caliber the recoil can be punishing as well, which can teach the new shooter to flinch. It’s easy to give up. Despite being harder to conceal a new shooter might be better served by a medium-frame gun, such as a Glock 19 or a K-Frame revolver. Something with mild recoil and decent sights. After they become proficient with that they can move to a more compact gun with a similar or the same mechanism.
More advanced shooters will have less problem with small guns, and some (like me) will relish the challenge of shooting them quickly and accurately. Even a very small gun can surprise you- there’s nothing inherently less accurate about a gun with a short barrel. The short sight radius can make it hard to wring ultimate accuracy from them, but if you learn the fundamentals well enough- sight picture and trigger control- they can be very accurate indeed, and at much longer distances than most people suspect. At any rate a small gun may be better suited to more experienced shooters, a medium or even full-sized gun better for a novice.
Some people feel quite adequately armed with a snub-nosed .38. Some feel better with a high-capacity 9mm. Neither one is necessarily wrong. Given the chaotic and unpredictable nature of an armed self-defense incident either or both could be right or wrong. So how can you have the best odds of having enough gun when you need it?
Bring enough brain to the fight.
People think of Situational Awareness in terms of being observant of the world around them, and while that’s part of it there’s more to consider.
*Be aware of your limitations. You need to have a realistic appraisal of your gun-handling and shooting skills. If you can’t reliably put hits on the target at fifteen yards then you probably shouldn’t try in a shooting incident if you have any choice. Better to put your energy into avoiding being shot and wait for your chance. Likewise if you know you cannot deploy your weapon quickly, if at all possible you should wait for- or engineer- an opportunity where you will have enough time. The point is to have a realistic appreciation of what you can and cannot do, and include those limitations in your planning or response to a lethal confrontation.
Of course it would be helpful to do a lot of practice so you know what those limitations are- and can start to improve on them.
*Be aware of the limitations of your weapon. You need to have a realistic appreciation of the capabilities of your weapon. If you are packing a short-barrel .32 you probably shouldn’t be trying to shoot through windshields or barricades. If you are packing a .22 your are going to need to make those hits count, and realize it may take multiple hits; even a head-shot with a tiny caliber is not a guaranteed stop. If you are carrying a gun with slow follow-up shots engaging multiple targets could be problematic. Take these things into account and plan to act around them as needed.
*Be aware of your purpose. If you carry a firearm for self-defense be aware of the ultimate goal, which is to go home to the people that love you when it’s over. Everything else is a bonus or a distraction. You are not the police; it is not your job to apprehend the bad guy. You are not Batman; it is not your job to punish the bad guy. It is not even your job to protect innocent lives if you cannot do so without an unreasonable risk to your own. It’s called self defense for a reason. Yes, circumstances may arise where you feel it is worth risking your life to save an innocent or innocents; I’m going to give us all the benefit of the doubt and assume we are all decent human beings here. Just bear in mind there are people you love and who love you, people that depend on you. That needs to be balanced against the risks of intervening.
In addition you need to be mentally prepared. To some people this means having a plan for any possible contingency up to and including encountering multiple trained assailants with automatic weapons and body armor. (This plan at least ought to be simple- if you can’t run away you’re going to die. This ain’t a tv show.) You should give some thought to the sorts of encounters you are most likely to have based on where you live, what you do and where you go during the course of the day, and plan how to respond to or even avoid those. This is not fantasizing (or shouldn’t be!) When thinking about these instances you’re not planning for glorious victory; you’re planning how best to insure you go home to your loved ones. With that goal in mind shooting is not the first or necessarily the only option. It is the last resort; be aware, be mindful and maybe things will never get to that point.
No firearm fits every need or every situation. there is no ‘one-size-fits-all.’ People have different levels of skill, different physiques and have to deal with different climates, which can constrain the ability to conceal a full-size weapon. Conditions and circumstances may mean we need to carry different guns at different times or in different venues. But no matter what gun you are carrying you always have the ability to observe and think, to plan and react.
A gun is not a solution; it is simply a tool that increases your options. You need to use your most effective asset- your brain- to chose the correct options and make the most of them.
Michael Tinker Pearce, 5 October 2018