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Practicing for Pregnancy

If you and your partner intend to start a family or to expand your family within the next few years, now is the time for you to develop your shooting skills to a comfortably high level. Why?

First of all, because you will want the ability to defend your child when he or she arrives. When you need to protect someone else’s life, you may need higher skills than you would if you were just protecting yourself.

You may need strong confidence that you can shoot accurately at longer distances, as one woman found when an attacker shot her husband as he got out of his car in their driveway at home. She saw the encounter from an upstairs window and used her handgun, at a distance of over 15 yards, to stop the attacker before he was able to kill her husband. (Listen to the full story on Tom Givens’ excellent DVD, Lessons from the Street.)

When you need to protect someone else, you may need to fire very accurately at a small target that moves rapidly and erratically, as one woman found when an assailant tried to kidnap her baby. As the attacker ran out the door with her baby, that mom fired from a distance of over 10 yards. She successfully stopped the running kidnapper who was taking her child. (Read the details of this 2011  incident in the news article. Also, here’s my take about shooting a fleeing kidnapper: Personal Boundaries.)

As stories like these show us, protecting another person may require much higher skills than simply protecting yourself. And as every good mom knows, protecting your child’s precious life is the greatest privilege and responsibility of parenthood.

Although you will need strong skills by the time your pregnancy is over, during pregnancy and for some time immediately after, you will probably find it tough to get to the range for live practice. No worries! As long as you start from a good solid baseline, it is relatively easy to keep your strong skills in tune using dry fire alone. That makes dry practice ideal during pregnancy. The downside? It is not easy to learn things for the first time using only dry fire. For this reason, you’ll want to develop the strongest shooting skills you can before you get pregnant, because your doctor may want you to stay away from the noise and lead exposure of the range while the baby remains inside your womb. (For more about shooting while pregnant, see Julie Golob’s excellent short e-book, Shooting While Pregnant.)

Not only is it difficult to learn something for the first time using only dry fire, it’s also much more difficult to maintain weak skills than strong ones. Weak skills tend to vanish over time, no matter what you do. They also tend to be associated with poor visualizations, making it much harder to get good value from dry practice. But strong skills provide more wiggle room from the start and also help you create better visualizations to avoid losing ground.

Again: to develop a strong baseline of good shooting and gunhandling skills, you need to shoot real ammunition on a live range. From a comfortably strong starting place, during pregnancy you can keep your core abilities sharp with a disciplined routine of regular dry practice that includes good visualizations. Then you can return to the range after pregnancy to add live fire back into your routine whenever opportunity presents.

To prepare for one of the most basic responsibilities of parenthood – protecting your child – the best time to build strong shooting skills is before you get pregnant.

Sweetheart Deal!

THIS WEEKEND ONLY (Feb 14, 15, 16) I have a sweetheart deal for you. When you buy one spot in a Cornered Cat class, you get a second seat FREE! Bring a friend and make the weekend twice as fun…


Why am I doing this? Because I love my students.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.

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Purse Carry — Reality Check!

Here’s what a purse snatching looks like. It is a violent crime. A certain number of women are killed every year by criminals who have targeted their purses.

To be clear, as far as we know, the woman had no gun in her purse at the time. If she had…

Would she have been able to get that gun out in time to save herself from injury, as soon as she realized she was being attacked? What do you think?

Sometimes, I meet women who tell me that they carry a gun inside a regular, non-concealed-carry purse — they just keep the gun in its own compartment. Or they put it inside the purse inside a pretty little pouch. Or in a retrofitted holster-type device attached to an inside wall of the purse. My recommendation: if you are going to carry a gun in your purse, make sure you’re using a purse designed to help you get the gun out when you need it!

Having handled many concealed carry purses, and also having handled a whole bunch of “just adapt your regular purse to carry a gun in it” oddities, I have to say that if this woman did have a gun inside her purse, her odds would definitely have been less bad if she were using a purse specifically designed for concealed carry. Drawing from a purse specifically designed for concealed carry works a whole lot better than drawing from one that isn’t. It’s faster, more certain, and much easier.

Even so – on body carry is better. And from this video, you can see why.

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Kids and Guns

A few days ago on Facebook, I wrote this:

“Loving parents teach their children how to deal with the dangers in the world. This includes firearms just as much as it does matchbooks and steak knives and vitamins and power tools. Shelter them, yes, but teach them too – because someday, you won’t be there to shelter them anymore. Never forget that your basic job as a parent is to work yourself out of a job!

Wanted to expand on that a little, here. Lately we’ve been hearing a lot about kids and guns. If you know me, you know I have five not-so-little credentials in this area. My five sons are all young adults now, but it wasn’t that long ago that we had a houseful of closely-spaced, very curious, very active, very normal young children. And, of course, we have owned guns for most of their lives.

Five of my credentials.

Would you trust these faces?

So when I talk about working yourself out of a job as a parent, protecting your kids by preventing unsupervised access and also by educating them about how to be safe in a dangerous world, you know it’s something I really believe. Guess I can blame my own parents for some of that. For example, my siblings and I grew up in a house that had a backyard swimming pool. My parents would never have moved into that house, or allowed their children to live in a house with a pool, unless they’d first taught us how to swim. But we all knew how to swim from the time we were very small, because the world is full of lakes and rivers, beaches and streams and ponds and yes, pools. Even before we moved into that house, my parents put a high priority on making sure all of us kids were safe around deep water, because they knew deep water could be deadly. They did teach us never to go near water without permission, and they did keep the pool gate locked—but they also taught us how to swim.

Not that my parents were always on top of the safety-education thing. Here’s another event I remember from childhood: When I was five or six years old, I set a friend’s bedroom on fire by throwing a blanket over a lamp to make a “spook house.” Nobody had ever taught me that putting a blanket on a lamp was a dangerous thing to do. If they had, I sure wouldn’t have done that! The fire, and how it started, really scared the snot out of me. No, I mean, it literally did – I sobbed for days, and if you’ve ever seen a six-year-old girl sobbing, you know that’s going to involve a whole lot of snot. Even now, I still remember the horrible knot that I had in my stomach afterward, because I didn’t know how to not start that fire. And I hadn’t known what to do about it when it did start.

That experience, and others like it, really stayed with me when I had kids of my own. As a mom, I’ve always believed that kids aren’t stupid and they aren’t evil. They’re simply ignorant. The longer we let them remain ignorant, and the bigger they get before we educate them, the more trouble (and the more serious the trouble) they can get into. When we start their education early, we can save ourselves and them a lot of potential grief.

As the world’s clumsiest child, I learned early that water can suffocate you, sharp things can cut you, solid things leave bruises, and hot things can burn. My parents did their very best to make sure I learned those things without drowning, and without needing stitches, casts, or burn ointment. And for the most part, they succeeded. Mom taught me how to use a kitchen knife and Dad taught me how to whittle the end of a stick for roasting marshmallows when we went camping. They didn’t teach me how to do those things because they thought knives aren’t dangerous; they taught me how to do them because they knew sharp knives are dangerous. Even though it meant I would be handling a dangerous object, my parents believed that even for a child, ignorance is far more dangerous than knowledge. I carried that idea over into my own child raising experiences.

So I was the kind of mom who went outside and actively taught my kids how to use a magnifying glass to set a dry leaf on fire. Why? Because if there’s a magnifying glass in the house, the kids are going to learn how to do that little trick anyway. But when I taught them how to do it, I also taught them to always keep a bucket of water next to them just in case they needed it. Because I knew I wouldn’t always be there to keep them safe, I worked hard to teach them how to keep themselves safe. That’s a very basic job for any parent.

Firearms are no different than swimming pools, electricity, sharp kitchen knives, and magnifying glasses. Children live in a world where these things exist. Someday, sooner than you think, they will visit friends’ houses where guns (and everything else you hope they’ll never get into) might be easily available when you’re not around. When that day comes, if you have taught them well, they will know how to keep themselves safe.

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Treachery of “No Guns” signs

Wandering around the web this week, I came across this weird little news story: School Officials Are No Fans of Gun Ban Signs.

It’s the tale of a school district in Illinois, where there’s apparently much lamenting and weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth over the state suddenly being required to follow the federal law that allows the peasants to keep and bear arms. Apparently, the mere sight of a “no guns allowed” sticker will cause panic and alarm among the uninformed. Or so theorizes the reporter, who  apparently worked hard to get some wonderfully tasty quotes for the story, including this one:

Supt. John Byrne agreed the sticker is “abrupt” when you first see it. “But I think it is probably less glaring to kids than to parents,” he said. “Kids are more aware of symbols and what they mean than older people might be.” 

That got me thinking, but I ran out of words before I figured out how to say exactly what I wanted to say about this. Fortunately, a picture is worth a thousand …


The map is not the territory. 1


  1. Thanks to friend and colleague Don Stahlnecker, who took my basic idea and made it beautiful!
I Don’t Know

For my instructor friends…

Training people how to protect their lives from violent crime is a specialty. It requires ongoing study. It requires a commitment to learn. It also requires a ruthless self-assessment process: what do I know? What do I not know? Am I really qualified to teach the things I want to teach? If not, what can I do to reach that level?

You owe it to yourself and you owe it to your students to be fearlessly honest with yourself about what you know and what you don’t know. Sometimes that’s hard work, sometimes it’s humbling, sometimes it’s confusing. But having an honest understanding of your own limits is always valuable.

Never be afraid of saying, “I don’t know.” Never be afraid of the reality behind it, either. When you say it yourself, “I don’t know” is one of the most powerful phrases in the English language! It tells us where we have room to grow, how we can improve, where we can become more than we are right now.

Treated right, “I don’t know” helps us reach our goals and helps us meet the needs of others. It’s tremendously empowering!

Just in Case

Several years ago, my friends and I went through a season that I privately thought of as “the summer of the broken bones.”

During that summer, two of my friends had shoulder surgery. Another friend had carpal tunnel syndrome. Surgeons operated first on one wrist and then on the other, putting her in wrist casts and braces for the better part of six months. Yet another friend rolled an ATV and shattered his forearm bones. That same person had broken his opposite elbow by falling off a bicycle the summer before. Add in a surprisingly large collection of people who suddenly developed tennis elbow, bursitis, stretched ligaments or torn muscles, broken fingers and sprained wrists… we were quite a mess!

Fortunately, for the most part, my injured friends were experienced shooters who were already up to speed on their one-handed shooting skills. In one case, the afternoon after my friend broke his arm, he asked me to go to the range with him. We quickly ran through all of the one-handed manipulations he already knew, while I watched to make sure he was able to do everything safely and efficiently despite his injuries. After that quick refresher, he was good to go. If my friend had needed to learn all of those manipulations for the first time under those conditions, it would have been much a much harder job for him – and quite possibly more unpleasant, as trial and error showed several incorrect ways to run the gun also resulted in painful bumps to his freshly injured arm. But since he had learned the basic skills already, the quick refresher was all he needed.

He wasn’t so fortunate with his holster, however. He wanted to go on with his normal concealed carry life without interruption, but – you guessed it! – he did not have a left-handed holster or any ambidextrous carry device. When he went online that night to order a holster, he was upset at the long waiting times from his favorite brand. He called and vented to me about it: “Good grief! By the time that holster arrives, I’ll be out of a cast and won’t need it anymore anyway!” Of course, I loaned him one of mine. And when his own arrived, he used it for at least several weeks longer than he’d anticipated. It turns out that removing a cast doesn’t immediately remove all traces of the injury that made the doctors decide to put the cast on in the first place.

(Undoubtedly, some folks are wondering why you’d want to continue to carry a gun while recovering from an injury. Here’s one compelling reason.)

My friend with carpal tunnel syndrome faced a bigger challenge. She was a new shooter, and hadn’t yet mastered one-handed shooting. She had no idea how to load the gun one-handed, or how to safely get it unloaded if she needed to do that. She had to learn those skills for the first time with her dominant hand already disabled. That wasn’t easy, but she was determined to do it – and she did. Then a few months later, she needed to do the same thing again with her other hand. Again, determination and raw grit saw her through (good for her!), but it was rough. She would have had a much easier time if she could have gone into her recouperation time already knowing those skills.

As I often tell my classes, many people have a gun they keep around for “just in case” they ever need it. It’s just as important to build some skills and gun handling habits we can keep on hand “just in case” we ever need them.

The traditional pep talk about one-handed gun manipulations or shooting one-handed usually mentions the risk of getting shot or injured during a criminal attack. And yes, that does happen. But you know what happens more often than that? Life does. People break bones, develop arthritis, tear a rotator cuff, sprain a finger. These annoying, simple challenges happen far more often than specific injuries happen in the midst of a violent crime. But regardless of how a hand or arm injury might happen, a little attention to one-handed gun manipulation skills ahead of time can put you ahead of the game.

The summer of the broken bones was a few years ago now, and I hope it never comes back. But if it does – we’re prepared. To avoid gear challenges, almost everyone in that circle of friends now owns holsters or carry devices that would work with their opposite hand. And all of us developed a new motivation for keeping our one-handed skills up to date.

Because life does happen.

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“Am I good enough to take a class?”

When I was a kid, my mom would sign us up for swimming lessons every year right after school got out for summer vacation. For a couple of weeks every summer, if you went down to our town’s public swimming pool in the morning, you would see clumps of maybe six or seven squealing little kids all over the place. They’d all be bobbing up and down and splashing the patient teenagers were were trying to show them how to swim.

If you took swim lessons when you were little, do you remember what the first day was like? It seemed like there was always that one kid who had both his arms and legs firmly wrapped around his mom’s leg, holding on for dear life and shrieking, “But Mommy! I can’t get in the water with the teacher! I don’t know how to swim!!!

Poor little guy.

What does childhood swim lessons have t do with taking a defensive handgun class as an adult? Plenty! It happens often that people will ask me, “Am I good enough to take a class?” Sometimes the person asking the question is truly a beginning shooter. Other times they’ve been shooting for awhile. In either case, they’re concerned because they think they have to reach a certain level of skill before they will benefit from professional firearms instruction.

Like swim lessons for little kids, the purpose of a defensive handgun class for adults is to teach you how to do some things you do not already know how to do. It’s designed to stretch your limits and give you new horizons. The class description is supposed to sound like a challenge! The class should introduce you to new skills and develop your ability to perform skills you have not yet mastered. We don’t hold a class to validate what  you already know, or just to let you show off your shooting for everyone. If you want to do that, you can open your own YouTube channel and have thousands of adoring fans within a week (at least if you dress interestingly enough). We hold a class to teach you how to do things you do not yet know how to do.

Yes, it’s scary to get into the water with the teacher on the first day of swim lessons. But it’s also the only way that frightened little kid will ever learn how to keep his head above water on his own.