What is a Pistol?

What is a Pistol?

Sometimes when I am teaching CCW classes, I will spring a pop quiz on my students as a means of prompting them to think about things in different ways. One of my favorite questions is: What is the first rule of a gunfight?

All the students who have been reading gun magazines and posts on social media will answer with the typically cocky and self-assured response: Have a gun!  Well, that makes for a good t-shirt or bumper sticker, but I have a different idea. I train people that the first rule of a gunfight is simple: Don’t get shot.

If you get shot, you greatly reduce your chances of winning the gunfight. So, I train my students to think and act with that in mind. Try to avoid situations that look like they might lead to a fight. If a fight is imminent, get moving. Look for and move toward cover FIRST—or at least as you draw your pistol. If you just stand still and trade shots, you run a serious risk of getting killed. Yep, you have a gun, but unless you are avoiding the incoming rounds, things will go badly for you. Even if you don’t have a gun when the shooting starts, if you are thinking about what it takes to not get shot, you are far more likely to survive the gunfight.

The next question I ask students appears to be the most confusing. I ask: What is a pistol? Then I sit back and wait to see what the students come up with. I have heard all sorts of answers — some practical, some philosophical, some whimsical. What I tell them is a combination of all three.

“A pistol is a piece of emergency life-saving equipment. Just like a fire extinguisher.”

Just like a fire extinguisher, you only use your gun in a true emergency. Just like a fire extinguisher, you need to have training and a solid understanding of how to use the gun. Just like a fire extinguisher, you should have a gun handy so it is there when you need it. And finally, just like a fire extinguisher, prevention is the best option. If you can take steps to prevent the use of either the gun or the fire extinguisher, you’ll be very far ahead of the game.

When the gun haters start the debate, we need to be more specific. We can’t just say, “The gun is a tool; an inanimate object.” We need to tell people what type of tool it is: Emergency life-saving equipment. If we define the gun as such we get to frame the debate and we get to show the world how we really feel about the guns we carry.

43 Comments (Add Yours)

  1. First rule of Gun fighting is to shoot first, without hesitation, end of conversation.

    1. I agree with you.

      I get it that the author is using the fire extinguisher analogy, and that “avoiding trouble” is the best way to “not get hurt”.

      But if all your training reinforces that “not getting shot” or even “don’t get killed” is your number one priority… well I think that leaves students without a valuable piece of the mindset they need.

      Would “not getting shot” be your priority if a guy has just shot your wife in the face and now he’s pointing in at your daughter – no, your priority is ending him regardless of your injuries at the end.

      In a confrontation measured in seconds, you might not have the luxury of seeking cover, avoiding incoming rounds and dealing with the threat. If you have time for ONE thing, is it moving to cover or shooting that guy before he murders the rest of your family?

      Avoiding getting zapped is obviously great advice. Making him more worried about not getting shot than shooting you is the way to do that that – fire superiority keeps you alive – shoot as soon as you can, as much as you can.

      My strong belief is that all your focus should be on violence of action – you sending the hate to him with as much aggression and intent as you can muster.

      I believe that as important as training to use cover is, its just as important to prepare yourself with the idea of taking hits and continuing the fight, and even dying, and understanding that this might be the required course of action to keep your family alive, protect your teammates or wreak havoc on your enemy.

      Gunfighting is an inherently risky activity. Training will put the odds in your favor, but get in enough fights and you will die in one.

      Obviously avoid trouble. But I agree with you, shooting first is often going to be the best advice :)

      1. The #1 rule for rescue workers is DON’T BECOME ANOTHER VICTIM. So YES, if your wife has just been shot, not getting shot yourself SHOULD be your top priority. You now know with 100% certainty that the killer WILL use their weapon, and getting yourself shot won’t help anyone YOU care to help.

      2. Bro, As I understand, by what you say you are not in a gunfight. You describe a hostage (execution) type situation. The gun is not aimed at you. This is a shoot and move type response. Training teaches you how to respond to many different attacks. The point here is “get off the X”. If you are wounded or dead you are no good to anyone. You must train hard and practice harder. Don’t ever stand and shoot. Always incorporate movement in your response to a shooter. The “when to move” depends on the situation you are in at the time. Peace all, Gunnr

      3. I believe he was referring to a Gunfight not a situation where your family is in danger.

    2. No, it is not to shoot first, but to shoot TRUE. Shooting first, you look like the aggressor. Sure, getting the first shot off may be great, as you may end the threat instantly. But, taking cover, and defensive shooting will be more practical. If you can avoid shooting, you should.

  2. Awesome analagy.

  3. Fantastic advice, I would add to that constant and continuous training, never let yourself believe that you can take a class, get your license and you are now prepared. unless you keep tuning your skills and continuously build the good habits and muscle memory you are in trouble. The reason good golfers win tournaments is they practice every minute they can. you can not practice your gun skills enough.

  4. Love your common sense approach to the answers. They tend to override the stereotypical view of “Red Neck” gun lovers. No malice intended.. I love my southern folks.

  5. Great article and a good way to think of it. Too many “macho men (and women) out there”. Best way to win a fight is avoid it if possible. Then, if you have to fight, do all you can to win.

  6. I sold life insurance for many years under the concept of a “spare tire”. Never really thought about the connection before reading this but I carry for the same reason. I hope I never need it but I’m comforted that its there. People use this tool that I find comfort in for evil acts daily. It is up to us to change the debate and focus on the real issues.

    Stay safe

  7. You’re right, Tim; having a mindset that goes beyond description (“a gun is a tool”) to benefit (a handgun is “emergency life-saving equipment”) is clearly the way to think.

  8. Good stuff, my answer to the first rule was avoid if possible the situation. Those’s who carry must always be in yellow alert mode to prevent things from getting out of hand.

  9. Very good article. My answer to your first question was don’t be in a gun fight and the second rule is, if you are in a gun fight, WIN IT. I was glad to see your article brought out both ideas.

    The tool idea is great too. How many people have a spare tire in the trunk of their car but don’t expect to have a flat tire when they get in their car to go somewhere?

  10. Excellent advise. More politicians should read this!

    1. Politicians don’t read most of the bills they vote on, so I assume they CAN’T read.

      1. Oh, they can read but politicians only care about politicians!

  11. Perfect comparison. And, just like a fire extinguisher, having a gun that is empty is useless. No fire was ever put out by an empty fire extinguisher, and no one carries an empty fire extinguisher. Great example for explaining why we responsibly carry with 1 in the chamber.

  12. I agree with all of ya, especially Kevin.

  13. The Fire Extinguisher is also safety equipment, a preventative to disaster. Same can be said of a firearm.

  14. avoidance is the first rule and what i share are the stupid rules; Don’t go to stupid places, with stupid people, do stupid things at stupid times

  15. I do like the rational opinions here, it is refreshing! I am a new gun owner and will be CCing and the thing I took away here is you do carry to avoid becoming a victim. And just because you carry you are more likely NOT looking for a fight.

  16. As an old combat vet, my first rule is to avoid any confrontation. This include planning ahead, evaluating potential threats, escape if possible, take cover and fire for effect. Grandpa wore both a belt and suspenders, he did not expect his pants to fall off, but prepared to insure it.

  17. First rule of gunfighting is to WIN!

  18. Thank you, Kevin, for the thought-provoking article.
    Moving when under attack is the last thing a lot of people probably weren’t doing when the moment of truth arrived.
    The fire extinguisher analogy is a useful one for situations where prevention or avoidance haven’t worked, but preparation and consistent practice are absolutely needed.
    A host of issues must be examined and resolved in advance if a law-abiding citizen is to survive this type of encounter: legality of use in the circumstances, responsibility for consequences, accountability for use of deadly force, environment (inside or outside a building, presence of others, lighting etc.). It is too late to try to figure this all out if the moment we all dread actually arrives. Thank you again, and
    may we all stay safe and proud to be Americans.

  19. Avoid, evade, escape, defend. That was what I was taught
    by a qualifying instructor for the State Police.

  20. Protection is the end result, knowledge, tools and equipment are the ways to achieve this.

  21. I like the analogy, I have used a seat belt analogy. I prefer yours and will start using it, Credit to you, of course.

  22. All good stuff, the bottom line is avoid, survive and WIN!!!

  23. Another great article from Kevin! Thanks.
    The fire extinguisher analogy is right on. Think for a moment what your action would be in case of a fire . . . would you have time to read the activation instructions on the extinguisher or have you prepped for that??? Just knowing where it is is not enough. Same idea with a weapon . . . practice . . . so you automatically know where it is, how it functions and how to most effectively make it work!

  24. Avoid, evade, escape, defend are all common sense.
    However, when it is impossible to avoid, evade or escape and one is forced to defend I believe the mindset should be to “attack”, not merely defend. I prefer the initial attacker to go on the defense while I become the aggressor and hopefully end the conflict as he soils his pants.

  25. These are all good advice ideas , all we can do is to prepare for the situation the best we can and be ready to make that split second choice .. It is better to be ready to do what is needed with hesitation than to waste time guessing . No reasonable person wants to take a life but we must be willing to do what is asked of us to protect our family and community against those who don’t care .. Our armed forces and police do this everyday , we all need to pick up the tourch to defend what we cherish . Get educated and practice a lot …

  26. The problem with equating a pistol to a fire extinguisher in a debate with anti-gunners is that you are doing exactly what they are doing: relying on a particular use of the pistol to define its existence. By doing so, you devolve the conversation into an emotional match of opinions. The correct answer is that it is an inanimate tool used to send a projectile at a target. Nothing more and nothing less.

  27. Love it! Emergency Life-saving Equipment. I’m going to use that. Thanks.

    I had the honor or hearing Colonel Jeff Cooper speak years ago. His quote about a pistol is perfect. ‘A pistol is for fighting your way back to your rifle which you shouldn’t have put down in the first place!’

  28. The Army Rangers also have a couple of snappy aphorisms that deal with this:
    1) Incoming rounds have the right of way.
    2) If he’s in range, so are you.
    3) The maximum effective range of begging is 0 meters.

  29. I have have used this analogy for years and in my classes I take it a step further.

    The average response time for police is 13 minutes. That average response time for a fire truck is 3 minutes. Yet the law states that I MUST have fire extinguishers in my place of business.

    Think about that for a minute!

  30. Many years ago, my Karate instructor told the class that no matter how good you are, or what degree your black belt is, there is no defense against the bullet. Avoidance is the best option, and you have just re-inforced what I was told way back when.

  31. My instructed gave us some good advice. if your carying in a place that you think your going to need your weapon you shouldn’t be there ti begin with. but its nice to be prepaired ti handle an u.expected emergency . live the input and advice of everyone . this is how you learn through debating and conversation .

  32. My instructer gave us some good advice. if your carying in a place that you think your going to need your weapon you shouldn’t be there to begin with. but its nice to be prepaired to handle an unexpected emergency . love the input and advice of everyone . this is how you learn through debating and conversation

  33. Thanks’ again Kevin for this great Blog , I have never look at a pistol; like that but you are so right that “A pistol is a piece of emergency life-saving equipment. Just like a fire extinguisher.”and trust me after becoming a member of the USCCA I now know to really be aware what is going on around me and Train for different situations and I try my hardest to avoid all dangerous situations , but I will STAND MY GROUND thanks’ again–Jeff Hayden

Add Your Comment (Get a Gravatar)

Get a Gravatar! Your Name


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

All comments will be reviewed by the Delta Defense team before posting. If your comment is in poor taste, or contains profanity or racial slurs, it will not be posted.