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Self-Defense Next Steps


New to Handguns?

Amidst the chaos of the last few months, gun sales — particularly of handguns — have jumped up considerably. There are several reasons for this, including fears of social unrest and concerns about potential new firearms restrictions brought on by governmental reactions to the COVID-19 virus.

Not surprisingly, many of these sales are to existing gun owners who are simply adding another firearm to their collections. However, an increasing number of these buyers are hunters who’ve long owned rifles and shotguns but now want a pistol or revolver for the purpose of carrying it legally.

Most interesting are the men and women who have never owned any firearms at all. The majority of those in this group are also choosing handguns rather than rifles or shotguns. Gun dealers I speak with tell me that self-defense is the most common reason. The coincidental uptick in new gun owners asking for concealed carry classes would seem to support this.

Try Before You Buy

OK, you’ve decided to buy a gun. With so many manufacturers offering a bewildering array of types, models and calibers, choosing the right handgun can be a chore, even for an experienced shooter.

Be warned: A well-meaning friend or relative may eagerly try to persuade you that his or her favorite handgun is the one for you. You can be polite, but do your own research before you plunk down your hard-earned cash.

Ideally, find a firearms professional, such as an instructor or a savvy gun store owner. Make sure it’s someone you can trust, as some salespeople at gun stores are more interested in upselling you to a much more expensive gun than you need than helping you find the best gun for you.

If possible, you should live-fire the same type of gun you intend to purchase. Some ranges rent guns just for this purpose. This can be quite enlightening. For example, everyone’s tolerance for recoil is different. The same gun that is pleasant to shoot in 9mm may be way too snappy for you in .40 S&W.

I often bring a broad selection of pistols and revolvers to my classes for new gun shoppers to see what guns fit their hand sizes. This also allows them to shoot the options for real on the range.

Train and Practice With Your Handgun

We at the USCCA understand that defensive shooting is different from target or recreational shooting. So even if you are experienced with firearms and especially if your goal is to carry a gun in public, training is a must. Just be sure you find a man or woman who specializes in concealed carry and/or defensive firearms training.

Remember, we all need recurrent training. No matter how good we think we are, we can still benefit from a second set of eyes. Practice is what you do between training sessions. Drawing from concealment and shooting rapidly and accurately are perishable skills. They require regular and consistent repetitions to maintain your abilities at a high level.

Practice like your life depends on it. After all, one day it might.

About John Caile

John Caile, contributing writer for USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine, has more than 35 years of experience in concealed carry training and practical handgun shooting skills. As communications director for the Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee, John was instrumental in passing Minnesota’s landmark concealed carry permit law. Certified through the NRA as an instructor of Pistol, Rifle, Shotgun, Home Firearm Safety and Personal Protection in the Home, John continues his lifelong activism for gun owners and their rights in Palm Coast, Florida. He has appeared on national talk radio and network and public television and is frequently published in the press.

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