The Cornered Cat
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Landowning Nobility & Property Rights

Historically, one of the reasons European peasants were denied the right to own or carry around firearms was because other people owned the land upon which they lived and worked. Peasants owning weapons would violate the property rights of the landowning nobility.

Seems to me that America has been headed that same direction for awhile now. People rent their dwellings from one company, ride to work on buses or trains owned by another company, and work inside office buildings owned by yet a third company.

And in many states, there are laws preventing people from carrying the tools to defend themselves in many or all of those locations — because they don’t actually own the land where they work, or live, or travel.

This means we are slowly drifting toward a situation in which we agree with the royalty and nobility of a bygone era: the lower classes should never be allowed to exercise any human rights that the people who own the land don’t want them to have.

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The perfect is the enemy of the good

“The perfect is the enemy of the good.”

It’s an old saying. And it means, sometimes we work so hard to do things perfectly that we fail to do them well. Or at all.

Case in point: it’s good to be prepared to defend yourself. Some of us want to do that by owning a reliably functional gun we can carry in a secure holster. That’s the good.

But to do that same thing perfectly would mean (among many other things) that we must first find the perfect gun. And once we start down that road, good enough is not good enough anymore.

When we chase the perfect gun with too much passion, we too often stop asking basic questions such as, “Will this gun fire when I press the trigger?” 1 and “Will it fling a bullet approximately in the same place the sights indicate it should?”

Worse, we sometimes get positive answers to these questions, and then sneer at the very simplicity of the answer we get. It’s not fancy enough. Finding that gun wasn’t hard enough. Whatever. And we lose track of how crucially important those basic questions really are.

Instead we get all wrapped up in a whole bunch of inconsequential things that just don’t matter as much. Such as a specific brand name, type of finish, expert gunsmithing, or fancy sights… because we don’t just want a good gun that will do the basic thing in a basic way. We want the best possible gun we can get that will fill that role. So we shop features and make comparison lists of relatively unimportant points, pestering our gun-buddies with ridiculous questions about arcane ballistic trivia and worrying endlessly about minor features.

After all, we reason, this is a big life change. So taking the first step into self-defense gun ownership cannot possibly be as simple as walking into a store and walking back out again with a gun that has a good reputation and reasonably fits our hand and budget. It has to be harder than that.

Eventually, our search stalls out. We’re frozen in indecision, confused by all the possible choices. We end up like the mule who laid down and starved to death halfway between two good piles of hay, because the poor thing couldn’t decide which direction to go.

The search for perfect guns sometimes takes people the opposite direction into a kind of reverse snobbery. The ones who go that route get wrapped up in finding the absolutely cheapest possible gun they can find. That becomes their definition of perfect. To be clear, this isn’t always a bad thing; sometimes it is simply necessary and there’s nothing wrong with that. Being on a limited budget is a factor for some people, and sometimes a very serious one indeed. The challenge comes when the immediate price becomes the only thing we shop for. Instead of looking for the best value within the budget, we start looking for the lowest sticker price regardless of value… and without even thinking about the long-term costs of the purchase. 2 That’s a losing game, especially when funds are tight, because a lot of apparently good deals turn out to be quite expensive if the basics are not covered first. Save money where you can, but make sure the basics are covered when you do.

So more about the ‘reverse snobbery’ thing: sometimes we meet those people on gun boards and other social media, bragging about how they put a snooty-nosed Olympic master to shame by outshooting them with their little Crapojamamatic. Don’t believe those wish fulfillment stories, most of them — but do pay attention to the quirky and perverse pride behind them. Human nature can be fascinating!

Sometimes the definition of perfect gets narrowed down to one  impossible or nearly-impossible criteria. I’m reminded of one woman who was looking for a gun that fit her hand perfectly. Unfortunately for her, her hands were very small, even smaller than an average 10-year-old child’s hands, so finding a gun that met her technical challenge was never in the cards. She’d have done okay with a gun that was just a little too large for her, and there were a few that would’ve fit well enough. But she refused to buy anything at all until she’d found that nonexistent Holy Grail — and as an unmodified, affordable, off-the-shelf gun, at that. You’ll sometimes see other people do something similar with a longing for a high-end gun even if that’s completely outside their real-world budget and even though there’s a mid-range gun that would do them just as well.

So they, and we, keep looking. And looking, and looking, and looking.

And in the meantime, the gun goes unpurchased and our great plan to learn how to protect ourselves … just drifts away.

****

Looking for a decent, functional gun to learn to shoot with?

My recommendations:

Glock 19
M&P Compact 9mm
Sig P320 Compact 9mm

If you need to learn to shoot, any one of the above guns will be a good and reliable choice. Which one should you get? Whichever one floats your boat. Or whichever the sales guy offers you a good deal on.  Later you can — if needed — buy a smaller gun in the same line (Glock 43, M&P Shield, P320 Sub-Compact) for carrying, and it will feel familiar with similar controls and that’ll be good too. But a word of caution: don’t try to learn to shoot with the smallest little gun you can find, because that’s uncomfortable and will likely create some bad habits. Choose a reliable, mid-size gun to begin with. Any gun from this list will be just fine, and so will you.

***

Notes:

  1. “Will it fire when I press the trigger?” is the without-which-not of a personal defense gun. In real estate, the three most important factors are location, location, location. In defensive weapons, it’s reliability, reliability, reliability.
  2. This would be a gun that was cheap in the store, but that fires an odd type of ammunition that’s hard to find and expensive. Or a gun that’s an unusual size or shape, so there aren’t a lot of affordable holsters for it. Sometimes the long term costs will outweigh the immediate benefit of “a good deal,” especially if the gun also does not function reliably.
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Observation

While common wisdom says we can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, practical experience has shown that flies are most strongly attracted to bullshit.

Choose your instructors wisely.

 

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Realism in Training

Many firearms instructors make a big deal out of realism in the training environment. That’s good, and more do-able than most people realize. Although each crime is unique and its details therefore unpredictable, we can see patterns in how crime generally develops and plays out. We can see patterns in how criminals approach their intended victims for various types of crimes, and we can see patterns in how the intended victims usually respond. We can also look at effective and less-effective responses to criminal predation. All of those things play into building a solid teaching program.

When we talk about reality in training, there’s one critical reality that’s all-too-easily dismissed: what our students will realistically do after class.

The best teaching program in the world has exactly zero effect if our students don’t take it home with them and make it a part of how they live. Students come to class looking for ways to protect the lives they already live. They aren’t usually looking for a transformative experience or a way to turn their entire living structure upside-down. They don’t even necessarily want a new time-consuming hobby. Many of them simply want ways to protect themselves from the painful consequences of criminal violence, and they are hoping that the cost of learning how to do that won’t be more than they are willing to pay.

Many of them are willing to carry a pistol – if they can do so comfortably and discreetly without breaking the bank.

They will carry defensive tools in daily life – if  they can do it without risking their jobs or their marriages.

They will learn how to fight – if someone convinces them that the reward is worth the effort, and if the risk of injury does not outweigh their need to be at work tomorrow morning.

An instructor who does not take time to address the students’ real concerns about living with the gun is not conducting realistic training — no matter how many cuss words they might let fly during the scenarios.

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Wrong Question

It’s nearly impossible to get a right answer when the question itself is wrong.

“Which self defense gun would the best choice for someone who dislikes guns, does not want to practice with it or learn anything, and does not believe in violence?” is one example of such a question.

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Paranoid

It’s a common accusation — “you must be paranoid” — when someone finds out you own guns and carry one for personal protection.

Happened to me a few months after I first began carrying. Came from a friend of mine and took this form: “Wow, Kathy, that’s kind of … uh… you know. Paranoid. You sure have a lot of fears.”

We talked about it. She wasn’t upset, just worried, the way friends who care sometimes are. So we talked about it. And even though we didn’t see eye to eye about it, it was okay. We got past it.

Maybe a year or two after that conversation, that same friend and I took a road trip together. On our way into the hotel room on the first night, she commented, “You know what? I feel safe when you’re around.”

One of these days, she’s going to figure out that I feel safe when I’m around, too.

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Dirty Little Secrets

The dirty little secret about women’s self defense is that women will more often need to defend themselves from people they’ve met – skeevy neighbors, violent exes, nasty stalkers who happen to be formerly sane roommates – than they will from people they’ve never seen before. Somehow, some people with an agenda have often twisted this statistic to imply that an otherwise-justifiable use of force cannot possibly be justified against someone you know… and that’s flat-out not true.

Self-defense against “someone you know” is still self-defense. And a use of force in response to an attack by someone you know is every bit as justifiable (or not, depending on the specific circumstances) as any other act of self-defense.

When you hear someoe try to talk women out of firearms ownership because the gun a woman purchases might be “more likely to be used against someone you know”, remember that [number] many women are killed every year by someone they know.

Self-defense isn’t just about protecting yourself from random strangers who jump out of the bushes to grab you off the sidewalk in the middle of the night. It’s about protecting your life from a violent attacker, no matter who that attacker might be or where that attack might happen. Someone you know can kill you just as stone cold dead as someone you don’t.

That’s the harsh reality we need to face whenever we talk or think about self defense.

If you’ve decided to carry a gun to deal with a known threat, my heart goes out to you. It’s not fair, but here’s the truth: In addition to your heightened risk of attack, you’re also in a much tougher emotional spot than the woman who arms herself just in case random crime strikes her on the street or just in case she runs into unexpected trouble. Although every woman who carries a gun must work through her own moral, ethical, and religious priorities, you have the added burden of thinking specifically about what it would mean to use lethal force against someone you once loved, or someone you used to be friends with, or someone who might even be the father of your own child. Maybe even someone you still love. That’s not an easy thing to think about. Yet think about it you must.

As tough as it is, this means that you must count the cost of defending yourself much more thoroughly and much more painfully than other people might do. And you have to do it right away. You can’t put it off or pretend it isn’t a factor for you. It is a factor, and you know that. And that’s heartbreaking.

This also means that if you know you have a known threat in your life right now, you may have to spend some time sitting alone and examining your own heart, some time talking with a counselor or trusted friend, some time praying or meditating with a clergy member. It means you may need to seek out resources from others. And ultimately it means that you must figure out for yourself what lines you are (and are not) willing to cross in order to protect yourself and the people you love. Again, not an easy job — but certainly a necessary one, as you prepare to defend yourself from a known danger.

If your known threat is someone you currently live with, it gets even tougher. Here’s the awful truth about that: there is no way — literally no way — to make yourself safer by bringing a gun into a home environment that includes another person who is violent and/or abusive. Don’t kid yourself into believing that you can keep a gun around to defend yourself against a violent stranger without your abuser ever getting hands on it. That’s not the way it works. This is why the first step is to make a safety plan that includes finding a safer place to live.

For those who aren’t in that spot, who don’t face a current and known threat, here’s a small dose of depressing reality: nobody plans to move next door to a crazy guy, or purposefully asks a former employee to stalk them, or sets out to have an evicted roommate go violently bonkers. Nobody intends for their own family members to face serious mental health issues, or knowingly marries someone who will later develop a substance abuse problem.

Nobody ever expects it — whatever the situation is, in the beginning — to get as bad as it later does.

That means that every one of us should be willing to do the hard work of thinking these things through. No matter how settled and placid our current circumstances might be. In addition to the (already hard enough) question of whether we are willing to use deadly force to protect our own lives and the lives of people we love, we also need to think about whether we’re willing to use deadly force to protect ourselves against a violent attack from someone we know.

“Them or me is them or me, regardless of how we feel about them when it’s happening,” says my friend and colleague Nick Grossman of Bolt Defense. He’s right. The most important question is not how we might feel about the person who violently attacks us, or what our relationship with them might be. The really important question is, are we willing to do whatever it takes to stay alive and save an innocent life. And that’s a question each of us must ask, and answer, for ourselves.

These things happen across all demographics, regardless of who you are or where you live. Even those who feel no immediate risk can help make themselves safer by learning the warning signs of danger – and by making a commitment now to get out of any relationship that takes a turn towards violence.

Stay safe.

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Emotional Self Care

Excellent, reality-based firearms training — taken before you need it, in hopes you never do — can prepare you to take care of yourself emotionally after a deadly force encounter.

How’s that?

1 – Good training helps you make smart choices. Smart choices mean better outcomes and fewer regrets.

2 – Good training helps you know what’s possible and (perhaps more important) what’s not possible with the gun you actually carry, given the skills you actually have. This leads to less self-blame when the ending isn’t as ideal as you’d like.

3 – Good training helps you understand, in advance, what types of emotional and psychological responses are “normal” after a rare and abnormal event… thus neatly dodging the “Am I going crazy?” complication.

It’s really a form of self care.

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