Layers of Protection

More people than ever before-Hunters included-are shopping for home and personal defense gear. But where do you start?

Debbie is a hard-working mom. She gets up early and takes her kids to school and then heads to the office, where she answers the phone, types and contemplates what she’ll fix for supper. Sometimes Debbie has to work late, and today is one of those days.

As she exits the office building and heads to her car, Debbie notices two shady-looking characters standing in the shadows just beyond the glow of the dusk-to-dawn light. They start heading her way and she realizes she’s closer to her car than the secure building she just left. Debbie feels in danger.

Most Americans have grown complacent with regard to the safety of themselves and their families. Sure, we make our kids buckle up in the car, and we make them eat right and exercise. Good for us. But are we prepared to deal with dangers of a different kind? Are we ready to respond to that bump in the night? That stranger who approaches us at the ATM? Are we prepared to take action when a crazed and dangerously armed loon jeopardizes us and our loved ones?

We should be. We should integrate common sense security and safety practices into our everyday lives as seamlessly as we manage to lock the doors at night. We need a plan, and a handgun can be a big part of that plan. However, simply owning a gun—while that might make you feel safer—is no different than buying a treadmill you don’t use.

With the decision made that you need a firearm, things get complicated and suggestions and advice will come from every corner. Here are the facts: For a handgun to be a practical addition to a security plan, it has to be one that you can shoot comfortably. If you plan to carry that handgun, then it needs to be sized so that carrying it is not a burden. If it’s too heavy or too large, it will end up somewhere other than where you are when you need it.

Sure, listen to advice, but let your experience be the final determining factor. Try several handguns; shoot them and consider how you might carry them and store them when you’re not carrying them. You don’t have to start out with a handgun like your local police carry. You don’t even have to purchase a handgun to carry on day No. 1. Find a handgun you can shoot comfortably and don’t carry it until you are comfortable with the concept of using it to defend your life.

You find that comfort comes with practice and training. Look at it like learning to drive a car. Initially you were apprehensive about pressing that gas pedal. Then, you were concerned about hitting the highway and driving around others. It’s no different with a handgun; learn to use it, learn to carry it and learn its limits. Then and only then should you carry it for the purpose for which it was intended. Obviously, if you’re going to own or carry a handgun for protection, make sure you comply with all local, state and federal laws.

There are several training options available to you. In order of their effectiveness, your best bet is hands-on practical instruction. Then there are videos and books. All require judicious practice, but the further you distance yourself from a reputable—in the flesh—trainer, the less faith you can have in the results, and the longer it will take for that comfort level to arrive.

There are lots of them, but only a few you really need. You need to be able to secure the handgun when you’re not using it. You need it to fit you, which might mean different grips. You also need to see the sights, which could necessitate a change from those that came on the handgun or even the addition of a laser. And, if you’re going to carry, you’ll need a holster or a handbag, and finding the right one can take some experimentation.

You’ll also need ammunition; ammo to practice with and ammo designed for defensive purposes. If a year after buying your handgun you’ve not spent at least as much money on ammunition, you’re not with the program. Shooting a defensive handgun is a perishable skill, and the only way to keep from losing what you’ve learned is to practice. Having two handguns, one being a .22 rim fire and similar to your defensive handgun, is one way to combat the expense of ammunition. For many defensive handguns you can even purchase a .22 LR conversion kit.

You can make this handgun-for-personal- protection problem as complex as you want, but in the end it all comes down to common sense. Choose a handgun you can shoot with ease and accuracy. Seek out all the training you have time for and can afford. Find practical ways to secure and carry that handgun, then build a layer of protection around you so that hopefully you’ll never have to use it.

These layers of protection are just common sense as well. Lock your doors at home. Have good outside lighting. Carry a flashlight and maybe even pepper spray. Avoid bad neighborhoods. And, just like you told your kids, don’t talk to strangers—well, at least the suspicious kind.

But what about Debbie? We left her in a parking lot with some questionable characters?

Debbie was prepared. She reached into her pocket with her left hand and pulled out the high-intensity flashlight she placed there before leaving the building. While using it to illuminate the potential threat, she pressed her key fob to unlock her car door and then slipped her right hand into her purse. Her fingers wrap around the grip of a pistol—a tool she’s fired thousands of times.

The two potential muggers shield their eyes, make a few snide remarks and fade deeper into the darkness. Debbie gets into her car, pulls onto the highway and calls 911 to report the suspiciousness. In 20 minutes Debbie is at home, her pistol is placed in the gun safe beside her bed, and she’s jockeying between preparing dinner and helping with kids’ homework.

Debbie is “just a mom,” and part of a mom’s job is looking out for herself when she’s alone and for her family when she’s with them. Debbie is prepared. Are you?

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