Sunday, January 17, 2016
Self-defense: fancy hardware is NOT the solution
I've had occasion in recent weeks to correspond with several former students of mine, disabled individuals whom I taught to handle a firearm for their own security. Such people are often targeted by predators because they appear almost defenseless. After all, if one dumps someone out of their wheelchair, and they aren't capable of getting up unaided, they're at one's mercy . . . right? That's where situational awareness and concealed firearms come in very handy. If you can see the attack coming, you can prepare for it; and as long as your handgun is positioned where you can get at it in a hurry, even when rolling on the ground, you can do something about the attack.
My correspondents have been upset by the number of individuals trying to sell them "gizmos" to hang on their defensive handguns. They rightly point out that technological aids are just that - aids; they're meant to help you solve the problem, but in and of themselves they can't do it. They can only enhance basic skills that you already have. If you don't have those skills, there's nothing for them to enhance!
The problem is, too many people rely on "gizmos" for their defense (and gunshops and suppliers make a lot of money selling them). People hang lights and lasers on their handgun; they carry it in a "racegun" style holster, designed for competition rather than to keep the firearm safe and secure and available at all times; they insist on loading it with the latest, most-hyped super-duper felon-stopper magnum-blaster ammunition (see my comments in this article about that nonsense!); yet they almost never actually practice with it, and when they do, it's typically in a non-defensive environment where they just fire a few rounds into a stationary paper target at a known distance.
To take just one example of how such ignorance affects them: they have little or no idea how a firearm's noise and blast will affect them in the real world if they ever have to use it the hard way. You like carrying a .357 Magnum revolver or a .40 Smith & Wesson pistol for defensive use, or you plan to use a shotgun for home defense? Great . . . but if you fire any of those firearms with full-house ammunition inside the hallway of your home, without any hearing protection, you're going to be very deaf for a long time thereafter. You'll almost certainly suffer some degree of permanent hearing damage. You certainly won't be able to hear what the intruder's doing after you fire your first shot. (Of course, any handgun - any firearm of any type, for that matter - will deafen you when fired indoors, but some will deafen you a lot more than others.) This is why I keep a set of electronic hearing protectors next to my firearm on the nightstand next to my bed. It's a matter of a moment's work to put them on before I investigate "things that go bump in the night". Not only will they protect my hearing from gunfire, they'll actually amplify ambient sounds to help me hear and identify them more easily.
I have no problem at all with using appropriate technological aids. I have Crimson Trace lasers on several of my handguns, and expect to fit them to others as and when I can afford them. I have lights on some of the handguns I use for home defense. I'll take any help I can get, thank you very much! Nevertheless, the brutal reality of self-defense is that unless you're capable of putting the bullets where they need to go, it doesn't much matter what round you use, or whether you use the gun's sights or an aftermarket laser sight to put them there. The basics come first. All the technological whiz-bangs in the world can't help you if you don't have the basics down pat.
I discussed how to train oneself or others so that even the lowly .22LR round is a viable defensive cartridge. Take a look at the training program I outlined there (which can be accomplished using BB or airsoft handguns, at minimal cost). Over the course of a few months to a year, at an expenditure of at most $100-$150, you can develop your shooting skills - without using a single technological aid of any description - to the point where you can put 7 out of 10 rounds, rapid fire, into the target area of an attacker, at five to ten yards' range, every single time. You'll spend less to master that skill than you will to buy a laser sight for your handgun; and after you master it, any ammunition you use for defense is likely to prove effective, because shot placement is the primary determinant of bullet effectiveness. A .44 Magnum hollowpoint in the lower leg or foot will make some (not all) attackers limp, and make them angry. It won't necessarily stop the threat they pose. A simple .22LR round in the cerebellum or brain stem will shut down any attacker, every time. No doubt about it.
Learn the basics and master them before worrying about new tools for your self-defense toolbox.