Buying a Gun Does Not Make You a “Responsible Gun Owner”…

 

…training, practice, and following the rules of gun safety make you a responsible gun owner.

Whether it was driven by a fear of a gun-grabbing Chief Executive or the fear of more crime in their communities, Americans bought guns in record numbers. As a result, 2016, like 2015 before it, was a banner year for gun sales in the United States.

As I’ve said before, buying a gun to protect yourself and your loved ones is one of the most grown-up decisions you can make your life because by buying a gun, learning how to use it, and keeping it handy, you are acknowledging that it is you yourself who will be the “first responder” to a crime, rather than a law enforcement officer.

Of those three steps (buying a gun, learning how to use it, and keeping it handy), the easiest one by far is buying a gun. Learning how to use it and keeping it ready for use in an emergency are, by far, the harder tasks, and performing those tasks are what changes someone who buys a gun into a responsible gun owner.

Guns by themselves are not a defensive tool, anymore than a car that doesn’t get driven is a means of transportation or a piano that never gets played is musical instrument. Cars and pianos required a skilled, trained operator to do what they’re supposed to do, and so it is with guns as well: A gun, in and of itself, provides no means of protection to its owner. It is only through skill and practice that a gun becomes an effective defensive tool.

As with everything in life, there are some caveats to what I just wrote. There are many occurrences when just announcing that fact that the bad guy was facing someone who was armed was enough to stop the threat, and that in context is a very good thing because it solved the problem of facing the threat of deadly force without having to use deadly force.*

We can’t count on the threat of lethal force to be enough to keep ourselves safe, though, which is why learning how to use your newly-acquired firearm is so important. You will not rise to the occasion if you need to defend your life, you will fall back to what you can perform without conscious thought.

That is why regular, consistent practice with your gun is so important. If you’ve been driving a car for any length of time, you don’t think about how we drive a car, you just do it, and attaining a similar level of unconscious ability is our goal with our firearm. For the purposes of rest of this article, I’m going to assume you own a defensive pistol like a Glock 17, 1911, service revolver, or similar and want to use that as your primary defensive firearm. Here are three simple commitments to make this the year that will have a dramatic effect on your ability to hit the target on-demand with your pistol of choice.

Commit to Dry Fire

My friend Claude Werner has a program called “1000 Days of Dry-Fire,” and it is exactly that: Dry-fire practice, in one form or another, for 1,000 straight days. That is a little hardcore for even me, but I have found that just a few short minutes of dry-fire practice a few times a week can have a dramatic effect on your accuracy. There are many, many videos and blog articles out there on how to safely conduct dry-fire practice in your own home, but one of the best and most concise guides I’ve found is this short video from Doug Koenig, a top-level competitive shooter.

The only thing I’d add to this excellent video is to remind you to make sure you are gripping your gun as hard as you can throughout your practice time. A good, solid grip does wonders for controlling recoil and taming the tendency to jerk the trigger and pull the sights off-target.

Commit to Range Time

It’s important to remember that dry-fire is the means to an end, not the end itself. As an example, during a recent training session with a friend of mine, I found out somewhat to my surprise that I had developed a bad habit of trying to anticipate and correct for recoil when I was shooting, which was resulting in a number of my shots missing over the top of the target.

Whoops.

I had been dry-firing quite a lot prior to that training session, and while that was doing wonders for my trigger press and sight alignment (two cornerstones of accurate pistol shooting) it wasn’t getting me used to the physical sensation of pulling the trigger and having my gun go “bang!” in my hands. The lesson I learned from this is that dry-fire is the beginning, not the end, of an effective practice routine.

Commit to Training

That problem I had with anticipating recoil? I was able to diagnose what was going on because I had someone nearby who knew something was going wrong, knew how to diagnose the problem, and knew how to correct it, which is what a good firearms trainer can do for you. Even though I’ve had hundreds of hours of firearms training at this point, I have made the commitment to attend at least one training class a year. Last year, it was a competition-oriented class with top-level shooter Bob Vogel, and this year, I’ll be attending a class on the legalities of self-defense taught by noted expert Andrew Branca and taking a four-day MAG 40 class taught by the one and only Massad Ayoob.

One of the reasons gun ownership is growing across this country is because guns are fun to shoot. It’s fun to spend an afternoon on the range punching holes in things, but punching holes in things better and faster than the other people around you? That’s even more fun. Whether you chose to improve your marksmanship to protect your family or improve yourself to out-shoot your friends, you’ll find that the skill that comes with increased marksmanship is worth the time and effort put into a regular, structured practice regimen.


* This is where a lawyer would be a better resource to help you learn more about the legalities of how and when to use lethal force than someone like me, so go do that, ok?

Published in Guns
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Members have made 13 comments.

  1. Profile photo of NigelT Member

    Thanks so much for this post. I’d always been hesitant to dry-fire any firearms due to myths about the potential for causing them damage. “Dry-fire=BAD” was drilled into my head from a young age, but I’ve heard conflicting opinions over the years – reading your post prompted me to finally do more research. It seems that, other than some rimfire revolvers and perhaps older rimfire (like 30+ yrs old) stuff, dry-firing is not the disaster my grandad warned of.

    My take, after copious googling and youtubing, is that, if you’re using modern centerfire hardware, you may dry-fire away without remorse (but don’t take my word for it – read the manual. I’m not paying your gunsmithing bill 😉 ). This is a bit of a revelation for me, as I don’t get to the range as often as I’d like these days and having that connection, especially with a primary defensive firearm, is so important. This will really help me out – thanks again!!!

    • #1
    • January 16, 2017 at 6:03 am
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  2. Profile photo of Goldwater's Revenge Member

    First let me say that I strongly support the right to gun ownership. Your advice on handgun technique is sound but let me make a few observations in this regard using actual local events in my community.

    A restaurant closed for the night. Two armed robbers enter through the kitchen door and demand money. The restaurant owner hearing the commotion picks up his shotgun and accosts the perps. Seeing he is armed the men immediately open fire and kill the restaurant owner. The lesson here for gun owners is that you must be willing to make a split second decision to take a life and shoot first.

    In another case a mentally unstable woman upset over her pastors statements walks into his study and kills him with a handgun. In a third case two female hospital employees get into an argument. Their supervisor calls them into his office for a sit down. One woman becomes outraged during the discussion, pulls a gun from her purse and kills the supervisor. I am sure both of these women purchased these handguns for their protection but ended up being the attacker, not the victim.

    I fear that we conservatives have a knee jerk objection to any steps to restrict who owns firearms. There are many persons who because of their mental status or history of violence should not be trusted with a firearm. I do not see stronger background checks as a denial of my liberties, only a responsible requirement for gun ownership.

    • #2
    • January 16, 2017 at 7:19 am
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  3. Profile photo of Quinn the Eskimo Member

    One of the reasons I have put off buying a firearm is because I need the time to learn to use it responsibly. If I can’t commit to the time, I would rather not own it than be irresponsible and possibly put myself and others in harm’s way.

    • #3
    • January 16, 2017 at 7:35 am
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  4. Profile photo of Quietpi Member

    NigelT (View Comment):
    It seems that, other than some rimfire revolvers and perhaps older rimfire (like 30+ yrs old) stuff, dry-firing is not the disaster my grandad warned of.

    All correct. Your granddad’s firearms didn’t have the vastly improved metals that our modern firearms do. Still, I don’t like the idea of hard steel being hammered against hard steel even now – to the extent that we all should be practicing dry firing. But there’s a great solution: Snap caps, sometimes called dummy rounds. They cycle like the real thing, but where the primer goes, there’s some type of cushioning material for the firing pin to hit. Granted, I’ve never seen a rimfire snap cap, but come to think of it, I’ve never looked. Snap away! But wait! There’s more!

    Sometimes have a friend load a magazine (or cylinder if you’re a wheelgunner), and occasionally slip in a snap cap. Presto – malfunction drills!

    By all means, put some snap caps in your range bag.

    • #4
    • January 16, 2017 at 7:48 am
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  5. Profile photo of Quietpi Member

    Goldwater’s Revenge (View Comment):
    I do not see stronger background checks as a denial of my liberties, only a responsible requirement for gun ownership.

    … And that would make it the only right guaranteed (not granted, but guaranteed) that requires a background check in order to exercise it. And the basic right is not to own firearms, but the right to self – defense. If there’s a background check, then there has to be a governmental body approving your background check, and that instantly places the government in the position of deciding just who should be allowed to exercise this particular right – except then it isn’t a right anymore. It’s a privilege, granted by the government. And that’s exactly the situation that the framers of the Bill of Rights, in this case, were set to prevent.

    You’re right, not everybody should own a firearm. If a person doesn’t believe that s/he is capable of applying deadly force, in any form, for any reason, then any weapon – even a knife – is no more than a prop, and that’s very dangerous. Also, it’s customary for a court to determine when any person’s Constitutional rights are to be abridged – not for some agency to grant.

    (More)

    • #5
    • January 16, 2017 at 8:28 am
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  6. Profile photo of Quietpi Member

    I’ve learned that the media can never be fully trusted, let alone your two or three line descriptions of some incidents – that’s not a personal slam. Unless you’re an attorney or investigator intimately involved in the cases, you’ll never have a more complete view. Still, laws passed based on one or two things that sound bad on their face, without considering the larger picture, are always bad laws. Witness Rahm Emmanuel’s epic statement, “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” or something like that. The actual statistics are overwhelming – increases in firearm ownership, and also reduced restrictions on the possession of firearms, are directly linked to a reduction in firearm violence.

    There was a great article posted somewhere here I think last summer. I highly recommend you read it:

    http://monsterhunternation.com/2015/06/23/an-opinion-on-gun-control-repost/

    • #6
    • January 16, 2017 at 8:43 am
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  7. Profile photo of Douglas Pratt Member

    Thanks for this. I’m going to use your posts as a resource for the handouts I’m developing. Cabela’s has asked me to teach a New Shooters class at an NRA Weekend event in February and I’m trying to freshen up my materials.

    I like my various Berettas too much not to play with them, even if I don’t have time to go to the range, and you can only re-clean them so many times. I really like the little laser inserts. They function like a snap cap, protecting the firing pin during dry fire practice. I’ve got a couple of the LaserLyte targets as well as some other brands, so you can tell if you’ve got a good sight picture. And have you seen those little plinking cans that pop out a spring loaded pin and fall over as if you hit them? They are a total gas.

    I envy your chance to take the Massad Ayoob class; that’s on my bucket list. I appreciate him from two directions: as a firearms mentor, and as a damn fine writer. Back when I was a magazine editor, I would have loved to have him writing for me.

    • #7
    • January 16, 2017 at 9:07 am
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  8. Profile photo of Douglas Pratt Member

    Quietpi (View Comment):
    There was a great article posted somewhere here I think last summer. I highly recommend you read it:

    http://monsterhunternation.com/2015/06/23/an-opinion-on-gun-control-repost/

    Or anything else written by Larry Correia. The man can write. And the audiobooks of his novels are just awesome.

    • #8
    • January 16, 2017 at 10:53 am
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  9. Profile photo of justabill Member

    A great post. I agree 100%.

    I want to comment on your training plan for this year. You are in for a treat! I’ve taken both of the courses you mention, Andrew Branca’s The Law of Self Defense, and MAG-40.

    Andrew Branca is an excellent instructor; knowledgeable, personable, and funny. Mas is, quite simply, the best instructor I’ve ever experienced, for any class, on any subject. His breadth of knowledge, personal experience, and passion for the subject drive the course.

    I attended MAG-40 two years ago and your post has me thinking I need to go back and re-take it. It is like drinking from a fire hose for 40 hours so I should go back and refresh.

    • #9
    • January 17, 2017 at 6:43 am
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  10. Profile photo of Matt White Member

    Goldwater's Revenge (View Comment):
    I fear that we conservatives have a knee jerk objection to any steps to restrict who owns firearms. There are many persons who because of their mental status or history of violence should not be trusted with a firearm. I do not see stronger background checks as a denial of my liberties, only a responsible requirement for gun ownership.

    You’re hopping on a liberal straw man there.

    We have nationwide background checks. Do you want to eliminate due process so the government can throw anyone on the list? That’s usually where there is an objection.

    • #10
    • January 17, 2017 at 8:01 am
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  11. Profile photo of jmelvin Member

    Thank you for the excellent reminder Kevin. Even if I spend a little bit of time down in my basement using an unloaded sidearm with empty spare magazines (except perhaps for a snap cap in them) a few minutes of practice a few times a week can at least aid in practicing the draw, the presentation, the shot and follow ups, magazine changing, and re-holstering, I can benefit even without constant live fire. These are all skills that are good to have down pat such that the brain can focus primarily on a threat should the day come that I need to use them.

    • #11
    • January 17, 2017 at 8:11 am
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  12. Profile photo of Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton Post author

    justabill (View Comment):
    A great post. I agree 100%.

    I want to comment on your training plan for this year. You are in for a treat! I’ve taken both of the courses you mention, Andrew Branca’s The Law of Self Defense, and MAG-40.

    Andrew Branca is an excellent instructor; knowledgeable, personable, and funny. Mas is, quite simply, the best instructor I’ve ever experienced, for any class, on any subject. His breadth of knowledge, personal experience, and passion for the subject drive the course.

    I attended MAG-40 two years ago and your post has me thinking I need to go back and re-take it. It is like drinking from a fire hose for 40 hours so I should go back and refresh.

    Thanks. It gets even better: I’m doing a John Farnam class as well. 😀

    Next year, I hope to do a Rangemaster conference and an ECQC class with SouthNarc. My goal over these next few years is to train with the guys who have laid the foundations of modern firearms training. Gunsite will always be there, but I never got a chance to train with Pat Rogers or Walt Rauch or Paul Gomez, and I want to learn from the experts we have today before they pass on.

    • #12
    • January 17, 2017 at 8:34 am
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  13. Profile photo of 30 mike mike Member

    @Goldwater’s Revenge

    “The lesson here for gun owners is that you must be willing to make a split second decision to take a life and shoot first.”

    The decision to take a life can’t be a consideration in these types of scenarios. That decision MUST be made when you first come into possession of a firearm for self protection or the protection of others. The decision to pull the trigger is a split second decision based on your perception of the situation at hand. Hesitate to decide whether to take a life will result in you losing yours, as in , “Seeing he is armed the men immediately open fire and kill the restaurant owner.”

    I’d bet one of my Sig 1911’s they didn’t take time to consider taking a human life!

    Re: reactions to, “… to any steps to restrict who owns firearms….” my only reaction is side splitting laughter when legislators (usually Dems) propose more gun control after an individual (usually a Dem) commits a heinous atrocity with a (usually illegally owned/possessed) firearm.

    • #13
    • January 19, 2017 at 7:31 am
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