GET YOUR PERMIT
A Concealed Carry Permit, or in my state, a License To Carry a Firearm, is required to legally carry your firearm concealed in public. Even if you are not ready to carry concealed in public, having the permit gives you extra protection when transporting the gun to and from the gun shop, home, or range. Keep in mind that the CCW permits you to carry the firearm. It does not permit you to use the firearm.
GET YOUR GUN
Your chosen self-defense tool should be a natural fit, of a caliber you can consistently manage and be willing to practice with, and manipulate without much thought.
Caliber is also a consideration. I recommend 9mm for those who are choosing a semiauto pistol. For a long time, I was one of those “.45 guys.” One day, I realized that perhaps I was shortchanging myself. Due to the advances in bonded hollow-point technologies, 9mm performs nearly as well as .45 in ballistic gelatin. With 9mm, I can get three shots off in the time it used to take me to get two shots off with .45. I now have more ammo in the gun itself than I used to in the gun and an extra magazine. Generally speaking, 9mm is cheaper, especially practice ammo, and recoil is much easier to manage.
GET YOUR HOLSTER
I do not know of one EMS service that purchases an ambulance to park it in the front yard of the station and throw a blue tarp over it when it is not in service. It is locked securely in a bay specific for that apparatus. Your tool of self-defense must be secure and the trigger must be covered at all times inside of a quality holster made specifically for that model of firearm.
I generally recommend an inside-the-waistband holster placed just behind the strong-side hip. Depending on your lifestyle, wardrobe, vocation, or mobility, you may need to choose something other than strong-side hip inside the waistband. Whatever you choose, the pistol must be secure and accessible. To test this, I suggest you safely unload your pistol, holster it, roll around on the floor, get in and out of bed, in and out of your car, up and down from the recliner in the club house at the sportsmen’s club, jog a bit, do a few jumping jacks … the pistol should remain secured. It is also important that it feels secure and comfortable. If it hurts to wear it, you won’t. If it feels like it’s going to fall out, you won’t wear it. The whole point of wearing this “tool of self defense” is to have it if you ever need it. Comfort is very important.
The holster should also remain secure while drawing your pistol. If the holster moves around during the drawstroke, you are setting yourself, or perhaps your family, up for disaster. A firefighter never runs into a burning building wearing gear that does not fit and is not secure. Remember: This pistol is life-saving equipment.
GET YOUR AMMO
We touched upon caliber choice earlier. Here I would like to discuss the specific type of ammunition. Find the best ammo for the job of defense. Ball or FMJ (Full Metal Jacket) ammo is great to practice with, and it will put a hole in the bad guy. But after it puts a hole in the bad guy, it may go through the bad guy and into an innocent citizen down the street. You want ammo that will do massive tissue damage to the attacker with as little overpenetration as possible.
Many police departments and ABC agencies (such as the FBI) use Speer Gold Dot. I like it a great deal if I can find it. Hornady Critical Duty is quite popular too. There are many excellent defensive ammo choices on the market. Do your research.
Make sure your gun likes to eat your defensive ammo. After you choose a brand, run a few boxes of your “rock star” ammo through your firearm to be sure it cycles. Check it on paper to be aware of how it groups. Know that your gun and ammo will perform when your life or your family’s lives depend on it. Bonded jacketed hollow-point ammo is generally your best bet.
Keep in mind that, even with proper defensive ammunition, if you miss, you are responsible for each round fired. Positively ID your target and be aware of what is behind it, in front of it, and around it. You still own the projectile after it leaves the muzzle.
GET YOUR SAFE
If the gun is not on your body, it needs to be somewhere. This piece of infrastructure is often overlooked or under-thought. A safe and secure storage device is a must for any responsible gun owner. A lockable device that can be accessed quickly under stress is a must for anyone using a firearm as a tool of self-defense.
RFID and Biometric units are very affordable. They will keep your kids’ friends and your chucklehead brother-in-law from gaining access to your pistol, and you will be more likely to access it in the dark, half asleep, without your glasses, and/or under stress. One thing to bear in mind: Gun safes will not keep your guns safe from legislators. Stay politically active, vote, and be a positive ambassador of the Second Amendment.
GET YOUR OTHER POCKETS FILLED
Accessories and other defensive tools are important and can really weigh down your pants and fill your pockets. A flashlight, extra magazine(s) or speed loaders, a blade, pepper spray, pen (tactical or otherwise), note pad, hanky, rape whistle, et al are important objects that can give you options when implementing a personal protection plan.
Flashlights make darkness go away. Extra magazines mean more ammo, more ammo means more time in the fight, and time equals life. An extra magazine also gives us more options if we experience a malfunction. Pepper spray may give us a defensive option if we find ourselves in a place where we are legally not allowed to have our firearm. A hanky can be used as a tourniquet or blood stopper, or even a place to blow your nose.
GET YOUR PLAN PLANNED
Formulate a defensive plan or strategy for every environment you find yourself in. Make a plan that is plausible, not just possible.
If you are concerned about walking in the dark parking garage at work, learn where the exits are and identify cover, concealment, and barricades. Know where the fire alarms or panic buttons are. Park as close to the entrance as possible. Stay away from the dark and shadowy areas. Travel in packs with other folks. Have security escort you. Prepare your keys before you go into the garage. Keep your strong hand empty. Have a plan for every environment. Even if you make an impromptu plan in a new environment, you are ahead of the game, because a not so well-thought-out plan is much better than no plan.
Your plan(s) should be based more on situational awareness and conflict avoidance than physical defense. When you press the trigger, your life changes. If we can avoid a confrontation, we are guaranteed to win that confrontation. When seconds count, police are minutes away. This is a hard truth, and one of the reasons we accept the responsibility of becoming our family’s first responder. But if we can buy police those minutes and let them do their job, perhaps we won’t have to press the trigger. Your defensive plans must bear this in mind.
GET YOUR SCHOOLING
People often focus on the physical, tangible hardware of their first responder infrastructure but don’t plan for a training regimen. Training, continued education, and mental preparation are musts for anyone taking on the responsibility of being their family’s first responder.
Seek out courses that emphasize conflict avoidance and situational awareness as well as defensive shooting skills. Defensive shooting skills must consider what happens to the body and mind physiologically under the stress of an ambush. Training must always be in the context of defense.
Remember that as civilians, it is above our pay grade to hunt down bad guys. Be wary of “gunfighter” classes taught by “Turbo the space shuttle door gunner” types. I certainly would not discount or disrespect anyone’s military service or downrange experience, but be sure you are not learning aggressive tactics that could land you in legal trouble or escalate a situation that you could perhaps avoid. Civilians do not have rules of engagement.
Study the physiological reactions to stress and incorporate them into your training. Why fight what the body does naturally? The physiological reactions to stress are defensive positives and are hardwired into us to help the body survive an attack. Embrace these natural reactions and train in a way that is consistent with them. The book Combat Focus Shooting by Rob Pincus explains this very well.
Adopt a training regimen that is plausible, not necessarily possible. Don’t waste your time and training resources preparing for a zombie invasion. Train for the 10-foot low-light encounter in the middle of the night as you defend your safe room or the attempted carjacking from the front seat of your car while drawing with the seatbelt on. These scenarios are much more plausible than the army of darkness invading your town with AKs.
Learn about the legalities and consequences of use of force. Become a student of your local and state laws. Read articles, attend legal seminars, and consult an attorney.
Implement a well-balanced diet of training. Live-fire training is essential, but add safe dry fire, laser training devices such as SIRT pistols, mental conditioning, a good video on PDN, and a relevant article and you can train every day! Professionals train every day — so should you. Your life or the lives of your family members may someday depend on it.
GET YOUR LEGAL TEAM IN PLACE
If you are forced to defend yourself against an attacker, you will most certainly need to defend yourself in some sort of legal aftermath. You were attacked and you are alive because you exercised your Second Amendment rights. Now you must exercise your Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. Keep your mouth shut and have your lawyer do the talking.
Consider joining one of the fine membership organizations that help you “lawyer up” after a defensive encounter. It will help you with the legal and financial aftermath by offering bail, legal, and financial support. If you choose not to join such an organization, find and contact a pro-Second Amendment criminal defense attorney. Do this now! Tape their contact information to your carry permit and program their number into your cell phone. You do not want to find yourself in a jail cell leafing through the Yellow Pages looking for legal representation.
GET YOUR FAMILY ON BOARD
Have a candid discussion with your family about your personal protection plans. Don’t let denial kill you — live in reality and help your family understand the necessity of your decision to take on the responsibility as their first responder. Make sure each family member knows what to do if there is a defensive emergency. Do they know what to do during a dynamic critical incident? Do they know where the safe room at home is? Do you have a code word that, when said in public, everyone drops what they are doing without question and leaves the area? Do they know what to do after a dynamic critical incident? Are they prepared to see you cuffed and put into a police car after you defend them? Do they know that they need to keep their mouths shut too? Are they able to help with the plan? Just like any responsible person reviews a fire prevention and escape plan, personal and home defense plans should be explained, discussed, and practiced.
Personal and home security are not convenient. Taking on the responsibility of being your family’s first responder requires dedication. You must dedicate time, money, resources, and perhaps sweat and tears. Take the job seriously and approach it as a professional, because you and your family’s lives may someday depend on it.