Recently I asked a few friends and fellow instructors what they thought were the five most important things someone who keeps or carries a firearm should know. These guys are older than me, and have spent a lifetime in the gun business. Each of them have put in long hours on the range - training and teaching - and just as much time in the world, both professionally and as armed civilians. The fact that they are still around and sharing their knowledge is testimony to their skills. What's interesting, but after thinking about it not really surprising, is that everyone's list contained pretty much the same things.
- Know the law. As a gun owner it's your responsibility to know the laws - local, state, and federal - as to carrying and the use of your weapon. This is a serious matter, and as they say, "Ignorance is no excuse," especially in some of the more restrictive areas of the country. You have to know where you can and can't carry; understanding when you're justified in using your weapon is mandatory.
- Have a competent attorney on hand. Someone you can contact at any hour in case you end up in a confrontation and using your weapon. Meet them and learn what to expect if you are involved in a lethal confrontation. The aftermath of using lethal force can consume a lot of time, money, physical and emotional stress - and this is when you do everything right.
- Develop and exercise situational awareness. Everyone I surveyed stated that spotting a potential problem before it turns into real trouble is the key to winning the confrontation. The sooner you start solving the problem the more options are available. Your options are kind of limited if the threat is already on top of you applying serious hurt.
- Attend training, and practice regularly. There is a lot more to self-defense than shooting. You have to understand the basics of self-defense, which are moving, communicating, the use of cover, shooting if necessary - combative shooting, not target shooting - and the tactics necessary to defend yourself or family against a violent attack. At the top of your tactics list are avoidance and escape.
- Last, but certainly not least, you must have reliable gear. Your weapon must function all the time, every time. You have to figure out what carry method works best for you as an individual. Once you discover your "way" stick to it, and practice to fine tune the small details. Remember, this is a martial art, not a science.
Owning, carrying, and if necessary using a firearm for self-defense is a serious matter, and should be approached accordingly. If you're not going to commit the time and resources to know and learn the fundamentals you're better off not carrying a weapon. Firearms are great tools, if used correctly. Make a mistake, and you can lose everything. Being ready is an individual responsibility. This means it's up to you, and you alone.
(Thanks to Ray C., Bill Mc, Steve C. and you other guys for your input on this column.)
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of "The Book of Two Guns," writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk's DVD, "Fighting With The 1911 - http://shootrite.org/dvd/dvd.html Website: www.shootrite.org