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Training requirement

From Georgia comes a political news story that many in the gun world find ironic: a state representative who voted against a widened concealed carry bill last year, but then applied for a carry permit this year. When his permit came in the mail, he suddenly realized that he hadn’t had any training. That’s a common process (more about that in a minute), but because this man is a political creature, it didn’t occur to him to just go learn more for himself. Instead…

ATLANTA – Rep. Dexter Sharper didn’t vote to allow guns to be carried in more places in Georgia last year. But when the so-called “guns everywhere” law took effect last summer and permitted firearms in bars, schools, churches and government offices, the legislator from Valdosta found himself applying for a license.

… he said he now realizes that his pistol is of little use without guidance as to what to do with it. He suspects other inexperienced, gun-toting Georgians know too little about the state’s gun laws, or how to safely use and store firearms, as well.

Sharper is proposing that those who get a license to carry firearms be required to take a gun safety class.

[Read the whole thing]

That’s the way it often works in states without a training requirement: people apply for the license, receive it, and then get to thinking… “Oh my gosh, they gave this thing to me and I haven’t learned a thing about carrying a gun! I’d better go get some training.” And many of them do. 1 This self-driven training process produces eager, motivated learners who often continue training to the advanced levels (where every person who carries a gun should eventually end up). Whether or not they end up at the advanced level, each student in such states does end up with a level of training that meets their own needs within their unique set of personal circumstances.

In states where training is required by law, it works differently. The person applies for a license and learns they have to take a class in order to get that license. So being human, they go looking for the cheapest, fastest way to get the paperwork completed. Online? Sure! Shortcut class that barely meets state law? Good! Whatever, just get me that paper. All too many of the applicants don’t much care what will be taught in the class; 2 they’re just looking for a signature on a certificate. They get it and they’re done. Good instructors soon become frustrated and burned out by running diploma mills for unmotivated students, 3 and as for the students? Well, the state said they have learned enough as soon as that piece of paper is in hand, so why would they ever look for more? They’re done.

I’m always impressed with instructors in training-required states who can take a constant stream of reluctant students who are just looking for a rubber stamp and turn any of them into serious learners. That’s not an easy job.

And that brings us to my bottom line here.

This sometimes surprises people who know what a big fan I am of training, but I am very much against any law that requires people to take a class before they’re allowed to carry a firearm for self defense. There are three reasons for this.

  • Self defense is the most basic of all human rights. As a matter of principle, I oppose any government action that impinges on that right.
  • Laws that make it harder for ordinary people to carry necessary tools for self defense have a disproportionate impact on the poor. As a matter of ethics, I oppose any government act that makes staying alive harder for people who already face an uphill struggle doing that.
  • Laws that require training often function paradoxically: they force people to take minimal training while making it less likely that they will pursue good training. As a practical matter, I oppose training-required laws because I’m a fan of ongoing, personally-motivated training that encourages each individual to reach the highest level they are able to achieve given their own unique set of needs and circumstances.

h/t SayUncle

[edited to fix a typo]


  1. Not all, of course. But many. The most common category of non-trained people with carry permits in these states seems to be, people who don’t carry and never intended to. That’s because in many states, there are advantages to having the permit that have nothing at all to do with carrying the gun, such as a shortened or non-existent wait time for gun purchases or an easier set of rules for transporting your guns to the range.
  2. Some do and good for them! Yay for personal motivation wherever it strikes.
  3. With an occasional, refreshing gem of an eager student who makes the grind worthwhile. Again, hooray for that person!
Teach your children well

The post was titled, “Why certain people should NOT own guns.” It caught my eye because I figured it would be a funny (or not-so-funny) story about someone doing something foolish on a public range.

It wasn’t.

It was actually the story of a man having a conversation with his own stepmother, whom he believed was anti-gun because she was always giving him grief about his hobbies. Here’s the money quote:

I told her “Look, I like to shoot. I like paintball and airsoft…” … There was a short exchange about how if you don’t like guns, don’t own one, I don’t bring mine around here because it obviously offends you, etc.

OUT OF THE BLUE she goes “I actually own a gun, I keep it loaded for home protection! I don’t know where it’s at, but I have one…”

I was appalled.

My TODDLERS play in the closets and bedrooms of their house, and you’re telling me that you don’t have a clue where your LOADED 9mm is!??!??!?!


Want some lessons from this post? Sure! Here they are.

1) Don’t assume that your children will never see a loaded gun, just because you lock your guns up. Yes, if you own a gun, you should lock it up whenever it’s not under the immediate control of a responsible adult. And so should every responsible gun owner! But don’t fool yourself: not everyone has gotten that memo.

That brings us to the next point.

2) Don’t assume that people who hate guns don’t own them. Sometimes they do. Sometimes you’ve misunderstood someone’s “hatred” of guns and it’s really something else entirely — a distaste for a political position, a distrust of the people listening to the conversation, some kind of rhetorical point or just a little misdirection so they won’t have to deal with a touchy subject. Sometimes the people you least expect to own guns, do. And (see point #1) sometimes, those people store their guns in incredibly stupid ways.

Which brings us to the most important point of all:

3) Your kids need to know what to do if they find a gun. This is true even if you never intend to take your children to the range with you, even if you hate guns, even if you think that nobody in your life will ever expose your kids to guns, even if your kids are small and irresponsible little people. You might even think it’s awful that you have to teach your kids how stay safe around firearms. But that does not change the world around you even one tiny bit. It doesn’t change your neighbors, your relatives, or your friends. More than half the homes in America have guns in them and I guarantee you that the gun ownership in every single one of those homes is a surprise to somebody.

Don’t know where to start? Start here: Teach your kids what to do if they find a gun.

As I’ve said many times before, if you want to protect yourself and the people you love, you must work with the world where you actually live, not the world you wish you lived in.

If you see a gun, STOP!
Don’t touch it.
Leave the area.
Tell an adult.

Hard to watch

In the video below, you’ll see an incredible event: a machete-wielding attacker literally hacks his way through a locked apartment door. The resident does what he needs to do to protect himself and others in the home. It’s like a scene out of a horror movie — but most directors wouldn’t use the footage, because what audience would believe that a door could be so flimsy? Or that someone with a machete would hack his way through it? Nevertheless, this really happened. 1

What you’ll hear in the first few moments is the sound of the upstairs neighbor going crazy and breaking windows in his own apartment, and the residents deciding how to protect themselves from the threat of violence.

There are a lot of potential lessons here. We could talk about:

  • The smart strategic choice the residents made when they decided to stay behind that locked door until the intruder entered. Not only was it physically safer for everyone involved, it was also legally and morally safer. The authorities, the witnesses, and the shooter himself each could have no doubt that the shooter did what he had to do in order to survive. That one smart choice sidesteps some very ugly potential pitfalls a shooter might otherwise need to face after the incident.
  • The speed of the police response. On the video, you can hear one person say that the police had already been called before the attacker got through the door. Sometimes, you will hear people who don’t understand how fast criminal events can happen. They’ll say something like, “You should just call the police and let them deal with it.” The problem is, the police don’t have a teleporter and they won’t be at your door instantly! Even if you do have time to call them, you may not have time to wait for them to arrive. Being prepared to defend yourself is not at odds with calling the police to protect you. In the real world, these two ideas actually work hand in hand. They aren’t opposites.
  • After the shooting. It won’t be easy, but you’ll want to listen to the entire recording, including the conversations that happen after the shooting. It’s not graphic — the screen will black out — but the voices will send a chill up your spine. Listen anyway. This is what the aftermath of a shooting sounds like.

After the shooting, you can hear the painful sound of the intruder’s response to getting shot — loud groans and labored breathing.

You hear the stress in the shooter’s voice when he says, “I didn’t want to do that!” at 1:50-1:59.

This isn’t about an inhuman monster shooting another inhuman monster, as some political commenters might claim. It’s about an ordinary man facing an extraordinary threat against himself and his loved ones, and doing what he absolutely had to do in order to save innocent lives. After the incident, the shooter is not cheering the downfall of a “goblin.” He’s mourning the fact that he had to shoot another human being.

This is as real as it gets.

You hear the exact reason why the shooter pulled the trigger beginning around 3:55.

Intruder: Ah, you’ve killed me.

Shooter: You were going to kill me!

Intruder: Yeah, I was.

The intruder survived and is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence. The shooter faced no charges.

h/t Tim at Gun Nuts Media.


  1. “As we’ve mentioned a few times before, the real world occasionally gives rise to murderers so terrifyingly crazy that if we saw them in a horror film, we would instantly write them off as utterly ridiculous B-movie cheese.” — E. Reid Ross and Ivan Farkas in Cracked
Tab Clearing

So many things to talk about and learn! Check out some of these links for a good dose of brain food today.

Ammo advice from the internet’s queen of snark: “If you are a regular shooter, you should know roughly what your monthly ammunition consumption is. If you keep that amount of ammo times six on hand, and replace it as it gets used, then ammo panics are non-events for you unless they run longer than six months.”


Valkyries and Valhalla might seem fantastic and unrelated to ordinary people living ordinary lives, but they’re not. You’ll want to read everything at the link, but it seems only right to give you a quote to get you started. Here’s what John Mosby has to say about accepting the things you can’t control — and the things you can:

When the bell tolls for you, and you are in a gunfight, you have exactly zero control of the outcome. You have zero control over who you will be fighting. You have zero control over what training he has had. You have zero control over his speed and accuracy. You have zero control over whether he moves at the moment you break your shot, causing you to miss. You are not in control over anything that you are not in control of. Accept it. Embrace it. Accept responsibility for what you are responsible for.

So, what are you responsible for, that will make a difference? Why bother training, if we don’t have control anyway?

You are responsible for you. You are responsible for your actions. You do have control over who your enemy will be fighting. You have control over the training you will have had. You have control over what speed and accuracy you will be able to achieve. You have control over whether you are fit enough to move, fast enough. You are in control of everything that you are in control of. Accept that responsibility.


What does refund fraud have to do with self defense? Quite a lot! Defensive firearms Greg Ellifritz explains: “If your grocery store has a gift card-for-cash machine, it WILL attract a criminal element that wouldn’t otherwise frequent the store. If the criminals are there while you shop, you are more likely to be victimized. These criminals are the same people who will also steal from a person like you if given the opportunity.”


Love to hear accounts of good people winning. In this case, a convicted sex offender tried to break into a home in South Texas while the female homeowner was there alone. She did what she needed to do, then called the police. The intruder was dead on the scene, and Sheriff Michael Lindsey Ray had this to say about the incident: “Presently, as the result of underfunding and inadequate staffing at the Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office, homeowners need to take appropriate precautions to protect their families. I will continue to support the law abiding citizens of our community when they are forced to take actions to protect their lives, liberty and property.”

The only thing I would add is that the need to protect yourself and your loved ones does not rely on government funding. But you knew that!


This is what determination looks like. (Please note that I have no information about this incident other than what’s in the linked report, which obviously may be incorrect and is certainly incomplete.) According to reporters from KRNV-DT, the driver of a Toyota forced an Audi off the road. Here’s what happened next:

When the victim came out of his Audi, the suspect — identified as Cesar Romero — exited his Toyota brandishing a handgun. 

Romero fired one round striking the victim in the chest area. 

Officials say the victim fought with Romero and took the gun away from him. The victim then struck Romero with his own gun about the head area. The victim’s brother then came to the victim’s aid and helped fight with Romero. Romero fled on foot to a residence in the area, according to police. 

The victim sustained a gunshot wound to his chest. The victim’s vehicle was reportedly disabled, so he took Romero’s vehicle and drove himself to the Northern Nevada Medical Center so that he could be treated. The victim was transferred to Renown for the treatment of non-life threatening wounds.

The guy got shot in the chest, wrestled the gun away from the attacker, and then took the attacker’s car so that he could drive himself to get medical care. He did not just give up when attacked — he fought and he kept going until he got the help he needed.

If you’re alive enough to know you were hit, you’re alive enough to choose survival. Don’t quit. Don’t ever quit.


Realistic scenarios make a difference. In this case, a Ferguson protester was invited to try out the training simulator used by local police. He was shocked to discover that incidents of sudden violence may force a deadly response even against unarmed suspects.

During his first scenario, Robinson was forced to shoot at a man who rushed at him with a knife.

“I tried to approach the situation very calm and he immediately got defensive and pulled his knife out,” Robinson said. “I had to respond, either respond or be killed.”

In that scenario, Robinson shooting the suspect was determined to be justified, but other scenarios were not so clear. Other scenarios led Robinson to shoot unarmed suspects, even firing the training weapon, instead of the taser, on a man running at him with what Robinson believed to be a knife — which turned out to be the suspect’s fist and not a weapon.

Ultimately, Robinson only used his taser in one out of nine scenarios, but shot unarmed suspects in at least three cases.

“It was an amazing experience, I would even say a life-changing experience,” said Robinson.

My usual readers may be thinking, “What does any of that have to do with us? We’re not cops.” And that’s true — we’re not. But many of the same issues that come into play during law enforcement shootings will very likely be present if you ever need to use your gun for self defense.

Even regular citizens may need to shoot an unarmed attacker, or may fire a shot that hits the assailant in the back, or may find themselves embroiled in a politically volatile crisis after defending themselves from an attacker. The better that we (and our friends and neighbors) understand the practical realities of using force, the better prepared we will be to act quickly and appropriately during the criminal encounter. The goal is to survive the event and then weather its aftermath in good legal, practical, emotional, and financial shape. Having a clear picture of what criminal violence looks like can help.


Heartbreaking mug shot. That’s the grieving face of a 20-year veteran officer who killed one of his own students during a training session.

Schroeter-mug-shotThe presentment states on Oct. 20 Schroeter, with an attorney present, gave a statement to law enforcement investigators. Schroeter told investigators that before the training session he removed the magazine of the department issued Sig Sauer while it was still holstered. He then said he emptied all of the bullets from the magazine.

He allegedly told investigators he did not perform a safety check of the firearm during the training session.

Thinking the weapon was not loaded, Schroeter said he squeezed the trigger and heard a bang. He reportedly saw the action slide on the firearm and saw Kedra grab onto his side after he heard the noise.

Schroeter told investigators he was “one hundred percent certain” his firearm was empty and there was not a round in the chamber.

Ballistics later confirmed the bullet that killed Kedra came from Schroeter’s gun.

People, no matter how unloaded you think your gun is, no matter how certain you are that it’s really unloaded — please do not break the other three rules. Even in a classroom, even with all ammunition removed from the area, even with an unloaded gun, even if you are a really experienced shooter.

You never want that face to be your own.

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How gauche

Injuries from loaded guns usually arise from longstanding bad habits with unloaded ones.

Here’s a case in point, a severe hand injury posted by user hunterrwill on Instagram. 1 (Link possibly NSFW for gory pictures. You can see the same pictures in the screenshot below the jump at the bottom of this post.)

Before digging into the meat of what we need to talk about here, let me first take care of an important human issue. I’ve never met the person who posted these pictures, and know absolutely nothing about him other than what he says about himself in this one post. But even though that’s all I know about him, there’s one thing I can say about him, personally: he’s brave. He did something foolish and painful, and then instead of hiding it or not telling anyone about it, he put his story out there so that the rest of us could learn from what he did. That takes guts. Full kudos to him for that.

Since this ugly event cost him so much and since he put it out there so that others can learn, the least we can do is learn from it. So let’s get started.

What happened?

Here’s how the shooter describes the painful incident:

I had just made it home from work and was gonna oil my gun and put my new grip pin and trigger pins in the gun. It was loaded with gold dot +Ps and I dropped the mag racked the slide and was pulling the trigger to take the slide off and had my palm in front of the muzzle to pull the tabs down like I would with any unloaded glock. I shot through my hand and out my wrist.

I did everything correctly as far as mechanically unloading the gun but the bullet didn’t eject. It’s been a good learning experience for me, even though it sucks to have to learn the hard way to triple check, it’s worth it in the end. 2

When the gun fired, this shooter won his Bullet Surprise, finding a round (the hard way) inside a gun after he had unloaded it. Most noisy mistakes of this nature happen when someone does things in the wrong order or when they skip a step entirely as they’re unloading the gun — that is, they rack the slide and then drop the magazine, or they forget to drop the magazine at all. But in this case, the shooter did go through the motions in the right order: mag first, then slide. 3

To understand how the round could have stayed in the chamber even though the shooter removed the magazine and racked the slide, please read the Bullet Surprise article. But to understand what happened in the human behavior sense, we need to dig a little deeper.

When we jump into human behavior questions, it’s easy to think that we’re making things too personal — like we’re just bashing or hating on this poor guy who was brave enough to share his story. That’s not the point. What happened to him could happen to any one of us, if the same factors come together for us. The point here is to stop those factors from coming together for anyone else. That’s it and that’s all.

In the comments section of this and similar stories from others, people often point out the one, big, obvious lesson: when you unload a gun, you should always check to see that the gun is really unloaded before you do anything else with it. And that’s important, as we’ll see below.

But it’s not the only lesson we can take away from this one. And it’s far from the most important.

Why did this happen?

Look again at the shooter’s description of what happened. He reported that he:

  • Dropped the magazine,
  • racked the slide,
  • put his left hand in front of the muzzle, and
  • pulled the trigger.

Wait, what? He put his left hand in front of the muzzle? Why in the world would he do that?

The answer boils down to one word: habit. In the shooter’s own words, he put his palm in front of the muzzle “like I would with any unloaded Glock.” Pointing the gun at himself during the disassembly process was a longstanding, built-in habit. It was something this shooter did all the time, every time he disassembled his Glock.

Don’t do it this way

To show how this bad habit happens — and how to prevent it happening to you — I talked a friend of mine into modeling some unsafe behavior in front of the camera.

The gun is a Glock 19. To make the gun safe for these pictures, we took it apart and removed its barrel. Then we replaced the real barrel with a bright yellow Training Barrel from Blade Tech. This simple piece of plastic makes it impossible to load or fire any type of ammunition from the gun.

In order to safely show some unsafe behavior, we're using a Training Barrel from Blade Tech to disable the gun. With this piece of yellow plastic replacing the gun's barrel, the gun could never hold (let alone launch) a live round.

To safely show unsafe behavior, we used a Training Barrel to disable a Glock 19. With this bright yellow piece of solid plastic replacing the original barrel, the gun cannot hold or fire a live round.

Many people apparently believe that the correct way to disassemble a Glock for cleaning looks something like this:

"Push the unloaded gun into the palm of your left hand while you press the trigger."

“Push the gun into the palm of your left hand while you press the trigger.”

Uh, no.

The rest of that incorrect process looks something like this:

"Wrap your left hand around the muzzle while you pull down on the takedown levers with your finger on the trigger."

“Wrap your left hand around the muzzle while you pull down on the takedown levers with your finger on the trigger.”

And then this:

"Smother the muzzle with your left hand, being sure that your pinkie and ring finger will be in the line of fire, as you remove the slide."

“Smother the front end of the gun with your left hand, being sure that your pinkie and ring finger will be in the line of fire, as you remove the slide.”

Again, no. That’s not safe behavior — and yet it is behavior that we see, over and over again, from people who really should know better. (Links NSFW because they all have gory pictures.)

Cue the line of cranky old guys saying that this pattern of injury is the Glock’s fault, because “you have to press the trigger in order to disassemble the gun.” It’s true that you do have to press the trigger in order to take this brand of gun apart for cleaning. But there is nothing, in any manual of arms for this gun or any other gun anywhere, that forces you to put your hand in front of the muzzle.

Putting one hand in front of the muzzle every time you disassemble the gun is not the result of a moment’s inattention. It’s a longstanding, dangerous habit. That habit is not the gun’s fault. It’s just what naturally happens when someone doesn’t know a better way to get the gun apart.

But there is a better way.

Better way

Here’s how to take the Glock down without building a bad habit of pointing the gun at yourself during the process.

First, choose a safe direction. Because the light was beautiful outside and because green grass makes a nice picture, we chose to use the yard (which has a safe backstop) for our demonstration. Inside, your safe direction could be a box full of old phone books,  or a bucket full of sand, or a fully packed bookcase, or a solid brick fireplace with something in front of it to discourage bouncebacks. You could even purchase a purpose-made Safe Direction pad. If you are on the ground level of your home, you might choose to use the floor as your safe direction. Just be sure to angle the gun away from you, at about a 45-degree angle, rather than pointing straight down where a bullet could bounce back up at you.

With the gun pointed in your safe direction, unload the gun:

With the gun pointed in a safe direction, remove the magazine.

Remove the magazine.

Rack the slide, hard. Then lock it open.

Lock the slide open.

Lock the slide open.

With the action locked open, double-check that the gun is really empty. First look into the chamber, then feel the chamber. (To answer a common question: when you stick a finger into the chamber, you’re feeling for the hole. If you can’t feel the hole, there may be something important blocking it, such as a round of ammunition.)

Check the chamber by sight, then by feel.

Check the chamber by sight, then by feel.

Now double-check that the magazine really did leave the gun. Again, first look at the magazine well, then feel it to be sure it’s really empty.

Check the magazine well first by sight, then by feel.

Check the magazine well first by sight, then by feel.


Now we’re certain the gun is unloaded, but we will still continue to treat it with the same cautious respect we’d give it if we knew for sure that it was loaded.

With the gun pointed at your safe backstop, press the trigger.


Point the gun in a safe direction and press the trigger.

Here’s the tricky part. I suspect a lot of people push at the slide from the front end because they don’t know this marvelous little trick called a “gunsmith’s hold.” It’s really easy. You only have to budge the slide a smidgen anyway, so:

Wrap your hand over the top rear of the gun.

Wrap your hand over the top rear of the gun.

Basically, all you do is hold the gun from the back, with your fingers wrapped over the top of the gun, then squeeze your hand together until the slide moves. As I said, it doesn’t take much.

Squeeze your fingers together until the slide moves just slightly to the rear.

Squeeze your fingers together until the slide moves just slightly to the rear.

Note that the gun is still pointed in its safe direction.

While you’re holding the slide back slightly with your gunsmith’s hold, bring your left hand up from underneath the gun so that you can reach the takedown levers. Pull down on those levers until you feel the slide release.

With the gun still pointed in a safe direction, pull down on the takedown levers until you feel the slide release.

With the gun still pointed in a safe direction, pull down on the takedown levers until you feel the slide release.

The biggest cause of failure at this point would be pulling the slide too far back, so that the trigger resets before you’ve depressed the levers. If that happens, don’t despair. Just rack the slide and start the process over with a fresh trigger press.


Remove the slide from the frame. Ready to clean!


This post has already gotten far too long, but I wanted to leave you with one last thought. Bad habits kill people. They really do. When I see injuries like these, it really hurts my heart because we know they happen to real people every day. They cost thousands of dollars in medical bills, thousands of hours of lost wages and (sometimes) lost jobs. They lead to permanent disfigurement, ugly scars and lost function. The pain and stress that accompany them result in broken relationships, broken marriages, broken people.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Build good habits. Then — even with unloaded guns! — protect your good habits, so that your good habits can protect you.


Below the jump: graphic pictures of what a longstanding bad habit did to one man’s hand.

 Continue reading 


  1. Definitely owe a “thanks” to someone for this link. But I’m not sure who I need to thank because I truly can’t figure out how I ended up seeing it. It just showed up in my active tabs one afternoon apparently out of the clear blue sky. If you know whom I might thank for it, please drop me a note in the comments.
  2. I added paragraphing to make his post easier to read, but did not otherwise alter his words.
  3. This does not mean that he “did everything correctly” when he unloaded the gun. It just means he went through those particular steps in the correct order.
“Don’t talk to the police” — good advice?

Nope. Or rather, not entirely. Even though the “say nothing” strategy works as a good general rule of thumb in most interactions with police, immediately after a shooting the good person who engaged in legitimate self defense should take a slightly more nuanced approach to the responding officers.

Here’s an excellent, excellent video on that subject from attorney Andrew Branca. Branca is the author of The Law of Self-Defense, a reference book I can strongly recommend. In this video, Branca tackles that popular lecture we’ve all seen telling people to say nothing to the cops, and he explains how and why such advice does not apply to people who use guns in true self defense.

Branca advocates a “say little” strategy when interacting with police immediately after a self-defense incident, a strategy he refers to as a judicious use of the 5th Amendment. “If we’re attacked by someone on the street, we don’t simply shoot everybody on the street,” Branca says. “We use defensive force judiciously, only against the person who is the aggressor attacking us, even under the threat of life threatening attack… In the same way, we can talk to police judiciously, using informed judgment even in the aftermath of a life threatening attack.”

If you’ve ever wondered how to call 9-1-1 without messing up your legal defense after a shooting, this is the video for you.

The video runs for about an hour, so I suggest sitting down tonight to watch it with your significant other. (Yes, even if your significant other is not a gun person.) Why? Because if you ever need to use the gun in self defense, you’ll really want to have people supporting you who understand what you need to do and what you need to happen right after the shooting. Talking these things over with your loved ones in advance can help prevent some very uncomfortable relationship issues from popping up during the critical hours immediately after a violent encounter.

Stay safe.

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Why going to the range isn’t enough

Bumped into an old friend the other day, someone I hadn’t seen in awhile. She asked me about my life now, and I told her I’d been teaching firearms classes all over the country for the past few years. She raised a skeptical eyebrow and said, “People do that? Take classes just for shooting? I wouldn’t think there was that much to learn. You point at the target and you pull the trigger. That’s like, two minutes. So what else is there to teach?”

Funny thing is, she’s right in one sense. There’s really not that much to shooting a gun. It’s kind of like driving a car that way. You learn where the steering wheel is, maybe you learn how to put gas in the tank, 1 then you start the car, push the gas pedal and off you go. Right?

Have to laugh. That’s pretty much what my pre-teen boys thought. But it’s not quite like that. New drivers must learn at least two different categories of things in order to be safe when they drive on the road in public.

First, they must learn the physical actions that will make the car do the things they want it to do – how to start the car, how to get it into gear, how to get it moving, how to steer it, how to slow it down, and how to stop it. (Just for the record, after teaching all five of our sons to drive, I can say this from harrowing personal experience: young men seem to have a particular difficulty learning those last two points.)

With the basics of making the car go understood, the new driver isn’t done learning. That’s because she still has to learn the traffic rules, which include everything from “Which part of the road can I drive on?” to “How do I know whose turn it is to go next at a four-way stop sign?” and “Is it okay to turn right on red?”  There are questions that address expected courtesies and rights-of-way, which direction you can lawfully drive on a given street, and how to keep both the car and themselves properly licensed to be on the road at all. The new driver must also learn to decode traffic signs that look simple at a glance but convey surprisingly detailed information to the experienced driver.

So. Two categories: physical skills and legal stuff. By now you’ve undoubtedly figured out the analogy to our usual subject: defensive handgun use and all it entails.

A surprising number of people who intend to (or do!) carry guns in public have never even tried to understand the “rules of the road.” These folks are the equivalent of the high school sophomore who gets all his understanding about speed limits and traffic laws from listening to his buddies. That’s … a mistake.

On the other hand, an equally surprising number of folks spend a lot of time on theory. They  may look up the carry laws and use of force laws, and they may even join an organization like ACLDN to be sure their legal and financial ducks are all in a neat little row. But these people aren’t as willing to study the physical skills and practical dynamics of facing violence.  They make me remember my grandpa, a grand old man with a lead foot and an acid tongue. When another driver would cut him off in traffic, grandpa would slap the dashboard and say bitterly, “Where’d that guy learn to drive? Correspondence school!!?” It takes a certain amount of physical doing – ideally under the eyes of a well-trained, experienced other – before young drivers and new shooters develop a good baseline of physical skills and reactions they can trust in a crisis.

That’s not all. Come to think of it, there’s a third category of things a new driver needs to learn, too. This isn’t either law or physical skills, but a blend of both: mental and social skills with a physical component. Smart drivers learn how to protect themselves when other drivers don’t follow the rules or the courtesies. They learn how to see potential trouble coming, how to leave themselves both a cushion and an escape route in heavy traffic, how to spot the hole and steer for it in a quickly-developing crisis, how to assess the condition of the road, how to safely adjust their speed and direction when things begin to spin out of control. These skills come only to drivers who have already spent some time behind the wheel. They don’t develop in a vacuum and they don’t often appear spontaneously in drivers who aren’t consciously working to improve their abilities.

Back to firearms. A lot of people think they’ve learned how to protect themselves with a gun once they’ve learned how to yank the trigger on a calm day at the range. Being able to hit the target is a critical skill for self defense. But in exactly the same way that learning to adjust the mirrors might begin a young driver’s process of learning to drive, learning to shoot simply begins the lifelong process of learning how to protect yourself and the people you love.


  1. Unless you live in Oregon or New Jersey.
Living with the gun

Both online and in classes, a lot of what I teach is simply how to live with the gun. Keeping yourself and your family safe isn’t just about shooting bad guys, after all. Of course, it is about knowing how to handle the gun efficiently and shoot it well. But it’s also about addressing your choice to own a gun in ways that won’t cause social or practical problems for you. It’s about storing the gun so that the three C’s (children, criminals, clueless people) can’t get to it, but you can. It’s about being as psychologically prepared as you can be — not only to face violence, but also to face the aftermath of a violent encounter and the reasonable choices you might make in some very unreasonable circumstances. Keeping yourself and your family safe requires all these things and more.

Toward that end, I probably talk more about mistakes people make when living with the gun than many other firearms trainers really do. It’s a tough and touchy subject. None of us want to discourage our students or potential students. All of us know people who are alive only because they had a gun with them when they needed it, and people who are alive only because they knew how to use it. That’s why many excellent trainers strongly encourage their people to keep the gun with them all the time, wherever they do — because we all know that guns save lives.

So it’s a tough and touchy subject, when we talk about mistakes people make carrying the gun. Still, every honest trainer knows it’s a subject we have to address.

Here’s one from the news this weekend: Toddler Wounds Both Parents with One Shot from Handgun. You can watch an interview with the father [here].

According to the news reports, this happened at a motel in New Mexico. A family staying at the motel was in their room when their three-year-old boy reached into his mom’s purse looking for an iPod. Instead of an iPod, he found his mom’s new handgun. The reports do not say which brand of handgun, just that it was new to her and that it was a 9mm. He pulled the gun out of her purse, pulled the trigger, and


The shot went through his dad’s buttocks and lodged in his pregnant mom’s shoulder. It also narrowly missed the boy’s 2-year-old sister as she was sitting right next to the mom when it happened.

Both injuries were relatively minor. The dad was treated and released, while the mom’s shoulder injury required her to stay in the hospital overnight. 1

It could have been so, so much worse. As it is, the kids are in custody with the child welfare authorities and the parents may face felony charges. Yikes.

As I’ve said before, the only thing worse than a horrible event is a horrible event nobody learns something from. So … let’s learn.

The obvious

Purse guns don’t mix with kids. Period, full stop. If you have small children or regularly spend time around small children, think twice and then think again before you ever put a gun in your purse.

Also? If you’re the kind of mom who sometimes lets your kids dig through your purse (for a stick of gum, a piece of candy, your cell phone, the keys that they like to jangle…) — Well, we can all see where that’s going so I won’t belabor the obvious.

If you do decide to carry a gun in your purse, follow these guidelines:

  • Never leave the purse unattended. Not across the room from you, not in the car while you run into the house for something you forgot, not sitting in the shopping cart while you turn to grab something off the shelf. That purse needs to stay attached to your body and under your conscious control at all times.
  • Always use a separate compartment to hold the gun and nothing else. Not so much as a kleenex should be in the same compartment as the gun. Nothing!
  • Always use a holster that covers the trigger and holds the gun securely. Yes, there should be a holster inside your carry purse. This device doesn’t have to look like a traditional holster, but it must cover the trigger in a way that prevents anything else from touching that trigger or moving it, and it must stay in place so well that the gun can’t worm its way out of the device no matter how much you move your purse around. Never just throw the gun into its empty compartment without that trigger-covering device.

You can find more information about purse carry [here], [here], [here], [here] and [here].

The not-so-obvious (travel tips)

Suitcase locks aren't only for suitcases! Try one on your makeup and pill case, gun rug or range bag.

Suitcase locks aren’t only for suitcases! Try one on your makeup and pill case, gun rug or range bag.

When you own and carry a gun, you have complete responsibility for where the gun is at all times. That’s a lot easier at home than it is on the road. At home, you have a dedicated safe or locking storage device (you do, don’t you?) and you have a gun handling routine that you probably follow at the beginning and end of the day. But travel has a way of erasing all our usual routines.

Travel with kids can be tough. Really tough. When you’re sharing a hotel room with an inquisitive toddler, everything is up for grabs. And just like everywhere else including at home, you’ll need to find for yourself that perfect balance between how fast you can get the gun compared to how secure it is from your child.

So here are a few ideas.

Suitcase lock. I love suitcase locks. They’re annoying sometimes, sure. But they’re also handy for keeping kids out of your makeup case, your vitamin and other pill bottles, and yes, your purse. Plunk all that stuff into the suitcase, lock the suitcase. Problem solved. Incidentally, suitcase locks aren’t only for suitcases. They work well on other types of zippers, too. That would include the aforementioned makeup case as well as your range bag or gun rug.

Hotel safe. Many hotel rooms feature small safes for your valuables. Never trust them to actually store your valuables when you’re not in the room. 2 But they work well for keeping your handgun out of reach, out of sight, and out of access of the kids sharing the room with you.

Lock box. This one’s my fave for airline travel, but it’s also become my go-to overnight solution any time I’m on the road. You can find lock boxes similar to mine on Amazon for less than $40. Most of them come with security cables, but you can also purchase a security cable separately. I’m a big fan of GunVault’s products, especially the NanoVault series.

The pictures below show one way to secure the cable inside your suitcase. The same trick works if you want to attach your lockbox securely to the bed leg or any other heavy, permanent fixture inside a hotel room.

Unzip the lining to expose the suitcase rib.

Unzip the lining to expose the suitcase rib.

Wrap cable around the suitcase rib and pass the small end through the larger one.

Wrap cable around the suitcase rib and pass the small end through the larger one.

Zip up the lining.

Zip up the lining.

Place the end of the cable inside the lockbox, with the loop right up against the hole where it's designed to ride.

Place the end of the cable inside the lockbox, with the loop right up against the hole where it’s designed to ride.

Close and lock the lockbox.

Close and lock the lockbox.



  1. As always, like Will Rogers, all I know is what I read in the papers. More information may come out as the investigation goes forward. My blog post is based on the news articles linked above which reflects information available to me on 2/2/2015, not on anything that may come to light in the future.
  2. … because of course someone on the hotel staff can easily get into that safe, and sometimes “someone” means “everyone.”
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