Reflexively safe firearms handling is a martial skill unto itself. It speaks volumes about the depth of your competence as a modern self-defense practitioner. The following safety rules are offered as a guideline, and are a fusion of the work of Jeff Cooper and Andy Stanford:
1. Always handle every firearm with the same care you would exhibit if you knew the weapon was loaded and ready to fire.
This rule is never suspended, including when the revolver’s cylinder is empty and swung out of the frame. I hate to have to spell that out, but I have seen too many revolver shooters hauling around their handgun with their fingers through the window of the frame and carrying it by the top strap, lasering everyone and all the while thinking that they are carrying the gun safely.
2. Always control your muzzle. Never let it cross anything you are not prepared to kill, destroy or buy.
3. Always keep you finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target and you have made the conscious decision to fire.
I get some resistance from this, but I believe there are times where you will have your sights on the target but it would be unreasonable at best and unsafe at worst to have your finger on the trigger. Consider a compliant home intruder laid-out and face-down on the floor at gun point. You may well keep him under your sights while you are waiting for the police to arrive, but if he is compliant, is keeping you finger on the trigger the safest location? Only when the sights are on the target and you have made the decision to fire should your finger be on the trigger.
4. Always be sure of your target and all things around it.
First, you have to assume that there will be innocent people to the right, left, and rear of your attacker. Second, your own experience tells you that no one (even you) shoots 100% perfect on the range where you have complete control over distance, time, lighting, ground conditions and movement, to name only a few, and you must know you will have control over almost none of these things in a real assault.
So why are you shooting at an attacker you have to assume is surrounded by innocent men, women and children to his right, left and rear and under conditions where you had no control over the distance, time, lighting, ground conditions and movement? Will you tell the jury that their lives meant nothing compared to yours?
I would rather say that I accept the presumption that there will be innocents to the right, left and rear of my attacker. I also accept that there have to be innocent men, women and children to my right, left and rear. Further, I will argue that unlike my attacker’s undisciplined, unpracticed and illegal gunfire, my disciplined, practiced and legal gunfire will come to an immediate halt once the threat is stopped. Unlike a criminal attacker, there is no risk of my “finishing him off,” or trying to murder the witnesses. I, in fact, will be contacting the police and medical services for all the victims, including the attacker. Consequently, that makes my gunfire less likely to cause unavoidable physical or moral harm to everyone, including to my attacker.
5. Whenever around any firearms, you always have both the authority and the responsibility of a safety officer.
Anytime you see careless gun handling, say something. If a gentle word doesn’t work, leave the area and notify the range staff, the local police or both. Not all poor gun handling should be dismissed as the mark of a shooting neophyte with poor gun safety fundamentals. History is replete with stories of violent individuals flashing firearms prior to tragic events.
The great ones include the multimedia works of Massad Ayoob and the texts and lectures of either Massachusetts attorney Andrew Branca or New York attorney Manny Kapelsohn to name only three.
These experts conduct regular self-defense and the law programs that are both timely and State specific. Additionally you can check with your states’ NRA affiliate organization. Many of these affiliates have in-house gun-law savvy attorneys who conduct regular self-defense and the law style programs. Remember though that all law resources have their limitations. All “this is the state of the law” material is by its nature subject to alteration by both new case law and by legislation that changes at an amazing pace. For that reason the professionals offering judicious use of deadly force training should be contacted and their programs attended on a regular basis. Their seminar fees will be much less costly than their legal fees.
Last and least is equipment. Weapon choices are only important after the issues of mindset, tactics and skills have been thoroughly inculcated. Only when that is accomplished should any attention be paid to the choice of snub or custom features to be applied to the snub. I have my own ideas about the optimum snub and personalized snub features and I will introduce and explain each of them at different points within this monograph. Keep in mind though that these snub choices and after market options are not recommendations. My snub set up fulfills my own unique personal and professional needs. Your personal, social and professional needs may require and entirely different solution. That said there are few items beyond the snub and spare ammunition that I habitually carry and that might be worth noting. These include a Sure Fire flashlight and a Spyderco Delica folding knife. Not everyone else would choose the same basic non-firearm accessories. Well known attorney and self-defense author Andy Branca lectures about the need to carry a less-then-lethal weapon whenever you are carrying a handgun. Andy’s recommendation is for a small can of pepper-spray. After experimenting with various second-level self-defense tools I settled on the high-intensity pocket flashlight in lieu of the pepper spray. The light is a valuable tool for both mundane tasks as well as for self-defense. It can light up dark holes where trouble can hide and it lets you confirm or identify both objects and people from a greater distance. It can be a very effective improvised Kubotan or Yawara for those trained in either of these weapons and is a vitally important companion to the self-defense handgun. The small folding knife can also answer for a large number of non-self-defense situations. When in some other color that black, it is often overlooked as a self-defense tool and can often pass undetected into an otherwise weapon free environment. Lastly there are a large number of expert knife and counter-knife instructors who offer exceptionally valuable one- and two-day small knife (2-1/2 to 4-inch blade) weapon skills programs. In combination, the snub, the knife and the flashlight give the legally armed and properly trained citizen a remarkably valuable personal defense took kit, the whole of which would fit in the palm of one hand.
Physical condition is the most often deliberately ignored aspect of self-defense shooting preparation. Nationally known trainers Clint Smith and Ralph Mroz have written about the importance of physical conditioning and firearm training. I often ask students if they would be willing to give up 1% of their day for physical training in order to live an extra ten years and all enthusiastically respond yes! Well then why do so few every follow through? 24-hours in a day times 60 minutes in an hour gives you 1440 minutes in a day. 1% of 1440 minutes give us 14 minutes and 40 seconds. Why is it then that so few self-defense shooters can find less than a quarter of an hour per day for physical conditioning?
To quote Clint Smith: “Physical conditioning, appropriate to your age and health … contributes to your survivability.” Almost any exercise would offer both short and long term benefits. My strongest recommendation is to finds some reasonable and enjoyable physical training activate and begin.
The more skills you posses the more options you have available in a crisis and the better you will look to the court following any action you take. If your sole self-defense option is a snub revolver you can expect the state’s criminal prosecutor, your attacker’s civil attorney and the local media to portray you as the proverbial “hammer that went in search of a nail.” A mix of alternative force options helps you to avoid being that hammer. Some of the better second tier alternative force options include: pepper spray, a personal tactical flashlight and empty hands martial art fundamentals. Third tier alternative force options include: folding knife skills, various Kubotan-style micro batons training, weapon retention skills and first-aid skills. Any skills that employ tools like the folding knife, pepper spray, or micro baton can be applied to a near limitless supply of improvised objects. A personal tactical flashlight is so innocuous it can often be carried into the most restrictive anti-weapon environments. Skills like weapon retention, martial arts and first-aid require no additional space on your belt and can be “carried” anywhere.
Training in all these skills is available to the legally armed citizen throughout the country and available through many experienced and qualified defense tactics (DT) trainers. The advantage DT programs have over traditional martial arts programs is the learning curve. A DT course is designed from the ground up to give an “average” policeman (older than the typical bad guy) or the “average” police woman (smaller than the typical bad guy) proven self-defense skills after only a few days of training while an equivalent martial arts programs require years. DT skills translate readily to the lawfully armed citizen.
1) Swift decisive exit.
2) Wait, then exit.
3) Wait and watch.
4) Swift decisive action.
If you are alone your obligation to your family is to leave at once. (Tactic 1: Swift decisive exit.) If you are with your family maybe your best tactic would be to first send them to safety while you cover their exit, then leave. (Tactic 2: Wait, then exit.) If after you have gotten your family out safely the situation changes and getting up would draw a dangerous level of attention to yourself maybe your best (temporary) tactic would be stay and remain an invisible face in the crowd. (Tactic 3: Wait and watch.) Finally, if despite all your efforts the problem is about to erupt and engulf you, then it may be time to act. (Tactic 4: Swift decisive action.)
Goal – The goal is to be safe in a dangerous world.
Strategy – To paraphrase John C. Maxwell: “Plans prior to battle are strategies, tactics are actions taken in battle.” My plan is to practice relaxed alertness. Similar to Col. Jeff Cooper’s color code yellow as well as the “x” and “o” training game found in his Principles of Personal Defense, you can practice relaxed alertness by observing people and looking for WPNS. WPNS is a mnemonic device developed by firearms trainer Eric Edgecomb and is derived from the word “weapons” with the vowels removed. WPNS stand for: Weapons, Physical size, force of Numbers, and Special knowledge or skill.
Everyone you see or meet possesses some, most, or all of these WPNS capability. Pick a man at random and try to identify as many of the WPNS he possesses. How many weapons, or objects convertible to weapons does he have access to? How physically fit is he? How many of his friends are close at hand that he can call to for help? Is there anything on his person that offers a clue to his martial skills? Is he wearing a hat, jacket or shirt with the name or logo of his firearms, martial art or military interests? How many did you find? Now whatever that number is, add one more. This “Plus One Rule” accounts for that extra item that you didn’t spot. However many WPNS items you can identify, always factor in that one additional item you miss. Now, check yourself in the mirror. How many of these target indicators are you sporting?