In college, I majored in anthropology. Now, people laugh and ask how the ants are doing; others simply scratch their heads: “Why? Were there lots of jobs in anthropology?” Of course there weren’t a lot of jobs in anthro in the ‘70s, although, paradoxically, there are more jobs in that field today, as its scope has expanded deeply into the forensic sciences.

This is relevant because we spent semesters studying world kinship systems. How societies define and then organize around basic relational bonds differs, sometimes quite dramatically. Even ours, which seems so natural (to us), so easy to understand, can be complicated: Do you, for example, know any of your 2nd cousins twice removed? It’s official; they’re out there. My professors got so wrapped in this subject, writing book after book after book, that one grumpy old prof threw his hands in the air and said it was like a herd of guppies licking tiny pieces of s*#*t off the bottom of a goldfish bowl. In other words, too much worry, study, and concern about too small a subject.

We can easily fall into the same mindset when we’re discussing issues of concealed carry. I’ve read many a story and listened to many an argument about guns and cartridges, revolvers versus semi-autos, double-stacks, bullets, and ballistics. I imagine you also have. These subjects are interesting, but—at the risk of standing outside the box, here—I’m not certain that much of it really matters.

Most attackers are opportunists, people who want something for nothing—a benefit with no risk. What they do not want is to be caught in a gunfight. Of course, neither do we, but sometimes that’s what self-defense requires when an assailant is hopped up on crack or new drugs like “flakka” in South Florida (check for some stunning videos) or “cheese,” a relatively new mix of heroin and Tylenol PM, in Indianapolis.

I’m of the opinion that we get a little too wrapped up in our discussions of stopping power, for instance. Whether it would be best to load my Walther .40 with 185-grain JHPs or 140-grain FMJs is irrelevant. One bullet may exit the muzzle a few fps faster and carry a bit more kinetic energy (as measured in a laboratory), but I don’t think this matters at the distance we will be firing. At a critical instant, you will not be adjusting your stance on a firing line at the range while wearing eye and ear protection. You will be reaching out awkwardly from behind an overturned café table or crammed against the wall to fire down a darkened stairwell or even on your back shooting at a punk hovering over you. The distance will be very close. Uncomfortably close. I don’t even particularly believe that it matters—and there are exceptions to every rule, and reasonable arguments otherwise—what caliber you fire: .40 or .45 or .38 Spec. will all do the job. And a Glock or Kimber or S&W will all be a fine weapon when you need one. (Choose and pay for a quality gun and ammo, and you can practically eliminate concerns about mechanical failures.)

I believe the critical ingredient in any truly dangerous self-defense situation is a mental attitude that refuses to be victimized. If threatened, you will pick up a fork or a pencil and fight back. I believe that coupling such a determination with a bit of training and preparation, some thoughtfulness about our individual situation, can do far more for us average, responsible gun owners than worrying about penetration or size of a mushrooming bullet when shot into ballistic gel.

To me, the key is to find a gun and bullet that work for you—although probably any bullet from a reputable manufacturer placed center mass or anywhere in the torso of an assailant will stop him—and leave the worry about minutiae to cops and robbers and professors. Unless there’s a long-lost uncle out there waiting to bequeath you a fortune—Do you really think so?—leave the arguing about nuts and bolts to the nuts and bolts, get comfortable with your set-up, and sign up for a little training. Cruise your goldfish bowl with well-earned confidence and the odds will favor you.


  1. If you carry a gun or have ever considered carrying a gun, the USCCA Concealed Carry Expo is where you need to be. Set for April 29 to May 1, 2016 at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta, the Concealed Carry Expo offers a consumer show, a living classroom, and a full celebration of the concealed carry lifestyle.
  2. A second cousin twice removed is a member of your family who has the same great-grandparents as yourself, but not the same grandparents. The word “removed” indicates that you will be from different generations; twice removed simply means there is a difference of two generations. Hence, your great-grandmother’s first cousin would be your first cousin twice removed.
  3. Learning about ballistics and such technicalities of shooting and gun owning is a good, though not a necessary, thing, as it involves you in a wider self-defense community. It gives you resources, additional knowledge, and especially the confidence that you are not alone in the fight.