I started carrying a self-defense handgun as soon as it was legal to do so. Living in four-season New England my choice of carry gun changed along with the available cover garment. Under my winter weather jacket I carried either a large-frame pistol or revolver as the inclination struck me. I would switch to a medium-frame handgun during the warmer spring and autumn months. For the summer and for various social events I would carry a small or midsized two inch snub revolver.
Over the years though various shooting and near shooting incidents involving both friends and colleagues gave me cause to reevaluate my rotating handgun choices. Two cases in particular struck me as instructive.
The first involved a group of officers with a local Housing Police department. They were relaxing after hours in a Boston diner-nightclub. They were in the process of getting acquainted with several of the college ladies when another group of men took exception to their presence. While the good guys were trying to defuse the situation one of the bad guys, a fellow only eleven days out of prison earlier and already illegally re-armed, drew his .45 pistol handgun and threatened to kill several of the off-duty officers. Those off-duty officers who were armed drew their weapons and quickly took control of the situation.
What struck me was the rather large percentage of these police professionals who were out-and-about unarmed. Every one of them was well aware of the dangerous nature of urban life yet thought that being armed on their own time was of no great importance. Everyone unarmed that night had an excuse. Either the gun was too big or it was too much trouble or it was too hard to conceal. Even finding themselves on the wrong end of an illegally armed criminal’s handgun didn’t change their thinking.
The second involved a good friend who though he was committed to carrying a self-defense handgun wasn’t committed to carrying it in a dedicated location. When the day came that he needed it he couldn’t remember which of his many pockets he had slipped it into. He spent the whole of an unpleasant Mexican stand-off trying to locate his handgun. Fortunately an armed co-worker traveling with him was able to take control of the situation with the swift presentation of a gun he did keep in one location.
Reflecting on both these and several equally unpleasant events at least two important learning points seemed to be clear:
First, that all gun owners (and an off-duty policemen is just a gun owner with an interesting job title) are creatures of comfort. A gun that is not comfortable enough to carry isn’t going to get carried. Preach all that you want that a gun isn’t suppose to be comfortable, the fact is that the small gun that’s comfortable enough to be consistently carried is a lot more comforting than a large pistol sitting in a safe in your home. The first rule of a gunfight may be “Have a gun” but the first rule of realistic gun ownership is “Own a comfortable carry gun.”
Second, when that invariability assault occurs and you actually need your handgun you are going to be in a rush to get it. If you expect it to be available to you, you have best be long committed to a dedicated carry location, a holster style and an arduously practiced draw stroke.
The number of gun carry locations, practical holsters and necessary accessories are I believe rather limited. With a little effort you can quickly nail down a single, workable combination that will serve you for the remainder of your life. Once you have settled on the hardware (gear) you are free to master the software (skills and tactics.) You may also find that the most rewarding aspect of gun handling competence will come after the hardware excuses have been removed. But be fair warned, you have to be serious about training and you have to practice some component of your gun fighting skills every day. Every morning when you put on that gun and gear remind yourself, you have the rest of your life to get the tools and training you need. It just might not be as much time as you think.