So You Want To Own a Gun (Part Three)

We ended the last article in the series by recommending rimfire firearms for training, and left on the note that "merely buying a gun doesn’t make you a shooter any more than buying a car makes you a NASCAR driver.”

You would be utterly amazed by the number of people that seem to think the mere act of purchasing a firearm and a box of ammunition means they are near the end of their journey, instead of at the beginning.

I’d argue that there are at least three types of training that you need to develop competence with firearms:

  1. psychological awareness
  2. functional training
  3. tactical training

Try not to get ahead of me here.

When I refer to “psychological awareness,” I’m referring specifically to the basic level of maturity you have to embrace within the presence of firearms. Whether you are talking a single-shot .22LR rifle at the range or a concealed handgun carried in self-defense, you have to realize that you are in possession of a tool designed to launch dense projectiles at high velocities. Once launched, these projectiles will only stop when they hit something or are grounded. If you do not trust yourself or someone with that basic level of awareness on which safe gun-handling is built, then touching a firearm is completely out of the question.

When I refer to “functional training,” I’m speaking of the bare-bones instruction and practice needed to safely go through your weapon's manual of arms, which may include ammunition selection and inspection, drawing, firing, addressing malfunctions and misfires, reloading, unloading, cleaning, and storage.

When I refer to “tactical training,” I’m not referring to guys wearing camouflage uniforms and web gear, but the actual tactics and methodologies you would use in an instance where you would deploy your firearm, whether just spending a day at the range, hunting, or in self-defense. In this article, we’re going to tackle training fundamentals for self-defense.

Lets look at these three kinds of training in the context of using firearms for self-protection in the home and for self-protection outside of the home (concealed carry).

Training for self-protection in the home with firearms

Ideally, a gun owner will take an introductory and/or a basics course with their firearms to learn how to use them safely, and will spend time mastering the basic principles of marksmanship and safe weapons handling before even thinking about using a lethal weapon for defense. Shooting yourself, a family member, or a pet because you are unfamiliar with your gun is a sad possibility that can occur if you don’t know what you are doing.

Before or while you are mastering the fundamentals of learning to operate your firearms safely, you can look into getting your head “right” for defense. The NRA, traditional martial arts schools, and many community centers and civic groups offer some variant of situational awareness training, so-called “don’t be a victim” classes. While many people would be tempted to blow them off, I strongly recommend them for every member of your family, from kids to the elderly. Crimes may be plotted out in advance or be spur-of-the-moment acts of opportunity, but they are not accidental. Such classes teach you to be aware of your surroundings and potential threats so that you can avoid them.

Once you have the right frame of mind and the correct foundational weapons training, you are ready to start considering the situational, tactical use of your firearm.

An NRA “Personal Protection in the Home” class and similar courses offered by a wide multitude of instructors will teach you how to construct a layered defense of your home. They may include tips on how everything from defensive landscaping to lighting to security systems to family pets can be a significant deterrent to criminal activity. This kind of training will also show you how to use your dwelling’s architecture to your defensive advantage, and how to refine weapon-specific tactics and ammunition for rifles, pistols, and shotguns. Just as importantly, instructors can provide recommendations on how to store weapons and ammunition safely.

Ultimately, the goal of self-protection in the home course is to put as many physical and psychological barriers between you and any potential threat as is practical to make them think twice about trying to breach your home, and to make it possible to defend your family members as safely and effectively as possible if a home invasion occurs. Firearms are the last-ditch resort in any such scenario, but are an important one nonetheless.

How do you find these classes? Your local gun shops and ranges will often have information about these courses, as will some law enforcement agencies depending upon your location. You can also find out from national organizations, online searches, and firearms message boards.