Is Your Family Safe When You’re Away?

This is an image of a woman practicing shooting drills

Students perform shooting drills at bedroom-size distance.

You may be away from home set hours every day, evening or night due to your job, or you may be away for a longer time on a business trip or for some other reason. Are you confident that your loved ones can defend themselves without you?

I was away instructing after we moved to our quiet neighborhood a little over a year ago. My wife, Tracy, noticed a truck circling the block. The driver stopped in front of our house, exited the truck, and approached our gate. Our cur dog moved quickly to inform him of his unwanted presence. About 35 feet away, on the other side of the fence, Tracy opened the door to ask about his needs. The driver gave a story about delivering construction materials and did not have a street address, only a lot number. Seeing the empty truck, she knew the story was not truthful. She told him she couldn’t help, then closed and locked the door. I later found out through friends at the local police department that a house 200 yards behind mine had a break-in that same day. The suspect vehicle used in the burglary was the same one parked in front of our house.

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Protection by Education

Protecting our families means giving them the skills to avoid danger when possible, but also the knowledge to defend themselves when evasion is not an option. Tracy had the means and knowledge to defend herself had it gone differently that day. Knowing protection exists when I’m not around gives me peace of mind.

Student practices retrieving her handgun from her safe

Student practices retrieving her handgun from a safe.

One member of the household usually feels that they have the charge of protecting their family. Unfortunately, with yesterday being the only guaranteed day, our loved ones may at times be forced to take on the role of protector. I was contacted by the wife of a previous student who informed me that her husband was killed when his motorcycle was impacted by a hit-and-run driver. Her husband had a couple of handguns for personal defense and she was unsure how to operate them or even check to see if they were loaded.

It’s very important that our family members are taught defensive shooting skills and how to handle firearms. I’m guilty in my own marriage of wanting to handle everything for my bride. From accounting to protection, I do my best to take care of her. Taking her to the gun range once and loading the firearm for her does not set the direction for success. I urge you not to try to train a spouse yourself. Find a good instructor who offers defensive firearm courses. By training a loved one in defensive shooting skills, haven’t you provided them more protection than trying to be their guard?

Starting Them Off

This is an image of magazine loaders

Magazine loaders can be used to assist students with muscle fatigue or help with strength issues after they’ve learned the basics.

Sometimes spouses try to take on the role of teacher when training near their significant other. The spouse can also add to the intimidation factor. For these reasons, most instructors will try to separate couples during courses. If this describes you, it might be better to send your spouse with one of her close friends to give her a more comfortable learning environment.

For beginners, shooting can be very intimidating, and trainers should be conscious of this. It’s very difficult for someone who is intimidated by gunfire to learn and absorb new skills when they are only thinking about other shots going off. When looking for a training course for a new shooter, it’s also important to find an instructor who teaches smaller groups on a private range.

Something I usually explain to beginning students is that shooting is very easy. It’s not much different from driving a vehicle or hitting a tennis ball with a racket. Anything new is outside our comfort zone, so learning to shoot a firearm will be too. It usually takes about 50 shots for a new shooter to become comfortable with the operation of a handgun. After getting over this hill, most students find shooting very enjoyable.

Choose the Right Handgun

This is an image demonstrating recoil management

Proper stance and grip are important for recoil management.

In order for a new shooter to have a successful learning experience, it is vital to start with a proper handgun. As an instructor, I see many students become unhappy after trying out their new purchase because the advice they received from a salesman, friend, or family member might not have been right for them.

For defensive shooting, a gun that is reliable, simple, and has a consistent trigger press between shots works best for any shooter. Double-action revolvers fit the requirements, but the usual long heavy trigger press can be very taxing to shoot. This same feature makes precise shooting more difficult and requires the operator to apply more control when firing. A modern striker-fired semi-auto design is not only very reliable, but it also has a medium-range trigger that makes precise shooting more obtainable. I advise trying out different firearms during the training course prior to purchasing one if possible.

Size Matters

This is an image of full size handguns

Students practice with full-size handguns.

The context of use and size of handguns also comes into play. A general rule is, the smaller and lighter the gun, the more you will feel the recoil. More felt recoil also translates to slowing our pace of fire, which could extend the time we are facing a threat. For personal defense around the home, we have no reason to downsize to a firearm the size of a tube of travel toothpaste. Always look at what is gained or lost when deciding on handgun size. Make sure the shooter is able to reach and manipulate any controls on the firearm efficiently.

Student’s Responsibility

A good instructor will provide you with knowledge and learning opportunities, but it is the student’s responsibility to practice their new skills after leaving the course. Defensive shooting skills are perishable if not continually practiced. Check with your instructor to see if practice sessions or other options are offered.

In closing, I’ll repeat the crucial question: if you’re gone tomorrow, could your loved ones survive a home invasion or violent attack on their own?

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4 Responses to “Is Your Family Safe When You’re Away?”

  1. rich tirendi

    Good article. Especially on firearm training. I review with my wife on a monthly basis the loading, firing and unloading of all our firearms. Using snap caps gives her the confidence and dexterity to use these weapons. It has become a source of humor between us every time I bring out our firearms. Her response is something on the order of "is it that time of month again"? I pray to god we always keep it at just that.

  2. Jojo Afable

    She doesn't have desire or liking with guns at all. Absolutely nothing to do with guns or home protection. She thinks like Feinstein if you just stop resisting and be kind and nice to perpetrators they just be NICE back to you and leave you alone.

  3. Jeff

    Not meaning to be picky, but your wife did it wrong. She should have also called the cops about the suspicious vehicle, which probably would have prevented the neighbor's burglary and may have gotten the guy caught.

  4. Jerry mcdonald

    I am looking for a firearms instructor that teaches women basic handgun skills , safety and firing a handgun . I live in Mississippi