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3 Positive Points: Countering Common Self-Defense Myths

I stumbled across yet another Sheriff Jim Wilson article this morning, and it tweaked my coffee-deprived brain… his article struck a chord. Sheriff Jim chose to write about 3 commonly held bits of “wisdom” that, when examined critically, are Really Bad Ideas.  

Jim chose to write about the 3 myths, which is great for getting a lot of hits. “Myth” is a keyword for Google spiders and for social media cruisers, y’know. (That’s why I put that word in the heading for this blog article, after all!). But I want to focus on the corollaries of those myths, y’all. Because I’m just such a positive, ray-of-freakin’-sunshine kind of guy. So here goes: these are my 3 Positive Points every concealed-weapons carrier needs to look hard at. 


1) FInd a good CWW package and STICK WITH IT

This should be a no-brainer. Buy a reliable gun and a good, failsafe holster. Load it with reliable high-performance ammo. Then use that same load-out every day, practice with it every time you go to the range, and don’t “mix it up just because”. Stick with the same package. 

Why? Because you don’t want to repeat the experience of people who’ve BTDT and got burned. American Handgunner editor Roy Huntington wrote about an experience he had when he was still an on-duty plainclothes copper: he had been testing a bunch of different holsters for his column in AH, and one day in the midst of all this he found himself hunkering behind his vehicle’s engine block while Bad Guy Bullets were tinking into his POV, and he was busy slapping himself all over his body, trying to find his gun. He eventually did find it, and used it effectively in the successful termination of the subject’s felonious behavior. All’s well that ends well. 

But this is something that you NEVER want to happen to you as an armed citizen. First reason, you are far more likely to be alone when the flag goes up, not in a posse of fellow cops as Roy was. So you won’t have the luxury of time to get your hands on your piece. And all the rest of the reasons are unimportant. You just need to know where your CCW piece is, every day, same day.

For most of us who’ve carried concealed for a long time, that location is behind the strong side hip on the belt. IWB or OWB is not really an issue, it’s your call. And if you carry a BUG, do the same; again, the most common position is strongside front pocket, with support side front trouser pocket a close second. 

True story:  I was at a LE conference a few years ago, talking with friends after a session had ended. There were 5 other guys in the circle, all veteran cops, from all over America. One of the guys said, “This is a bust: what are you carrying for your primary and BUG right now?” Three of the five of them had a 1911A1 of some sort in an IWB holster, strongside hip, and the other two had Glocks; but all carried a J-frame in one of the front pockets. Me, the 6th guy, not as experienced, had a Glock 23 in my IWB strongside holster, and a Centennial Airweight J-frame in my front pocket. 

These 6 guys hadn’t come to that conclusion by reading gun magazines. There was easily 100+ years of patrol experience in that group, scores of gunfights won, and I’d venture close to a million rounds of ammunition fired downrange in training and actual combat. This was a switched-on bunch of guys… and they’d all chosen the exact same carry package. 

Think about it. 

Now, some of us have done a LOT of shooting with several different firearms, and from time to time you may want to carry a different firearm. For instance, my shooting/range records show I have fired well over 50,000 rounds of full power centerfire ammunition through my K-, L-, and N-frame Smith & Wesson revolvers. This has been primarily in competition and training for competition (IDPA and USPSA), but some has been in the hunting field as well. The bulk of that has been +P 38 Special, which is cheap to load and shoot, with 357 Magnum, 44 Magnum, and 45 Colt rounding out the rest of it. Because the manual of arms of all double-action S&W revolvers is the same, I have no qualms about carrying any of my S&W revolvers for personal defense, and I have done so many times. Most of the time my daily carry is an auto, on my belt, as above. But from time to time (such as when I’m preparing to take/teach a revolver class) I’ll carry a revolver for several days or weeks at a time. And during hunting season, especially when I’m hunting in the mountain West, I don’t travel with one handgun for town and another handgun for the field… I pack a DA revolver and that serves for both.

The key here is that I don’t just switch it up for shits & grins. I make a deliberate decision to change my mode of carry, and then I prepare for it. If I can’t make it to the range to shoot a couple hundred rounds, I make sure to put on my revolver holster and do some dry draw-and-fire drills to shake out the cobwebs; I don’t just pitch my G19 into the drawer and put on the revolver. Then I carry the revolver daily for an extended period of time… days, weeks, or even months.

For folks who don’t have thousands of rounds through each gun in their rotation, switching out can be a really bad idea. I once watched a guy at an IDPA match draw his Beretta and repeatedly mash the trigger without effect, his thumb flailing at the side of the frame searching for the manual safety of his daily -carry 1911. This is NOT something you want to happen to you in a gunfight!

If you’re going to carry different guns, make sure they have some commonality of manual of arms. I am comfortable with Glock, 1911, and one or two other auto-pistols because they all work pretty much the same, the way I shoot:  thumbs forward style lends itslef to sweeping the safety off naturally if it’s there (1911, etc), and isn’t a porblem if it’s not (Glock). But I made a conscious choice a number of years ago to not carry any pistol with a slide-mounted safety because of the different location.


2. Carry Your Concealed Firearm With a Round in the Chamber

First point on this issue: all of the old farts I just described in the above anecdote were carrying “hot”… which is to say, there was a round in the chamber of their autopistols, and all five chambers of their revolvers contained live cartridges as well. So there’s the voice of experience, if you’ve ever heard it. 

I’m not sure what gun-o-phobe came up with the  cockamamie idea of carrying a fighting weapon unloaded, but I’m here to tell you today that this myth of gun safety is so far from logical I can’t find words to describe my irritation every time I hear it. I don’t know where these people got this idea, but I know how to fix their delusion. 

You fix this delusion by actually using a defensive firearm. Get some good training on use of the firearm, so you can be comfortable carrying it in “ready” condition. Millions of trained CCW Americans do it every day, and there’s a damn good reason for doing so. 

When a self-defense situation presents itself to us, we are surprised. This makes sense. If a prudent person knew someone was going to try to rob or kill him at the 7-11 this evening, that prudent man would simply not go to the 7-11, and any need for self-defending would be eliminated. But the inescapable truth is that almost every time an armed citizen legitimately defends his life with a gun, he is surprised by the attack he has to defend against… after all, if you go looking for a fight, you’re gonna be prepared for the escalation, so it ain’t a surprise.

So. You’re surprised. Guy sticks a gun in your face and demands your wallet. You freeze, you think about whether you should reach for your carry pistol, then the robber is distracted and points the gun at something else. You have a very short time-frame in which to draw and fire your pistol into the attacker before he turns the gun back on you. If your defensive handgun has an empty chamber, you just added something like 1.5 to 3.0 seconds to your action: the time it will take to draw your gun, rack the slide, and then get the sights on the target.

Don’t believe me? Then take a shot timer and go to the range and record your time to draw-and-fire with a loaded chamber, and with an empty chamber that you have to rack first. I’ve done it, and I can tell you that my average time with a loaded chamber is about 1.2 seconds. With an empty chamber, my average time is over 2.5 seconds.

Would1.3 seconds difference count in this life-and-death scenario?  Well, consider that once you go for your gun, your adversary will need about 0.25 seconds to react to your furtive movement; then he will need about 1.0 second to bring his gun back to you and another 0.25 seconds to fire. That’s 1.5 seconds, tops. Carrying a gun with a loaded chamber, my first round will be tearing through his vital anatomy about 0.3 seconds before he can bring his gun to bear on me, and then my second round will impact about 0.25 seconds after that; so in this scenario I win. I live. However, if I’m carrying a gun with an empty chamber, I will feel his first round slam into my chest before I’ve got the slide all the way back to rack a round into the chamber. I lose. I die. 

So, you make the choice. If you feel carrying with an empty chamber is “safer”, despite the risk of this scenario going against you, that’s your call. 


3:  Take A Gunfighting Class. Then Take Another. 

Many years ago I became an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor. We were told in our instructor class that this was a basic class, and we were not certified to teach personal protection. That wasn’t even the role of the NRA Personal Protection class, which is tasked with teaching folks how to defend themselves with a firearm. In other words, neither of these was a gunfighting class. 

I went on to take many other classes from great instructors, which made me a better pistol shooter. Some of those instructors were highly regarded civilians like Massad Ayoob and John Farnam, and some of them were from police instructors whose names you would never recognize, but were great teachers nonetheless. I learned to be a really good pistol shooter from these people. I went on to use those skills to win a bunch of tin at pistol matches. 

But none of those classes taught me how to win a gunfight. 

A simple self-defense shooting is not a gunfight. Bad guy points his gun at you, you fire your gun, he falls down, and then he surrenders or dies; this is not a gunfight. In a gunfight, bullets are going both ways. In a gunfight, there’s a good chance you’re going to get shot unless you’re very good and/or very lucky. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being Very Bad and 10 being Very Good, a justified defensive shooting is about a 2.5, and a gunfight is a 1. The only thing in the worldwide use of firearms worse than being in a gunfight is being killed in that gunfight (which I would call a 0 on the good-bad scale).

Fortunately, if you carry a gun for personal protection, the chances you’ll have to use it are very small, and the chances of being in a gunfight even smaller. But the possibility is still there. So the prudent self-defender will get some training in gunfighting. 

I was fortunate to be involved with a number of law enforcement training organizations right after the turn of the century, and I was trained in gunfighting using SIMUNITION, from certified instructors. Really, really good training. I also received gunfighting training from civilian trainers such as Henk Iversen, Pat Rodgers, one or two of former Gunsite instructors, and so forth. The first class I took, a carbine class from a former Gunsite guru, really opened my eyes to the size of my knowledge gap (it was a freakin’ chasm!). Shortly after that I got a shot at the SIMUNITION training, and I jumped at it. Then I had a shoot-house course at an IALEFI annual conference. 

Every gunfighting class I took taught me something new, and made me realize there was more I didn’t know. I kept taking classes until I wrapped up my active involvement in law enforcement and turned in my SWAT gear. Even after that, I’ve made a point of taking at least one fighting class every year to keep my mind sharp, and I still shoot many of the same gunfight preparation drills I learned in the classes I took. 

Do you need to take a gunfighting class? Well, yes, you do. 

You need at least 2 classes if you’re going to carry a gun for active self-protection, in my opinion. The first is an armed citizens’ self-defense class such as that taught by Marty Hayes of Seattle Firearms Academy, or by Massad Ayoob of MAG (formerly LFI). The second is a good gunfighting class such as Thunder Ranch’s Defensive Handgun, Henk Iverson’s HITS, or something similar. If you can get into a SIMs class taught by a reputable instructor, that would be an outstanding piece to add to your shooting resume. 


Well, that’s about as wordy as I can get today. I sincerely hope this will stimulate some critical thinking on the part of my readers.