By Chris Wagoner:
Each year, millions of people make useless, selfish, pathetic New Year’s resolutions. Things like getting back in shape, being nicer to people, or eating less—none of which they keep for longer than it takes to get through the first day most of the time. But what if you made a promise to yourself this year to do something that could literally change and even save your life? And maybe not only your life, but the lives of your family members also, and maybe even a complete stranger?
What if I told you that going out and doing this would not only be making you safer and more aware of your surroundings, but would also make you feel better, both physically and mentally? I am talking about learning how to defend yourself by carrying a firearm. If you have never done this before, it is not as difficult as you think or have been led to believe. And the best thing about it is that you will get a feeling of self-confidence, and your family will feel safer too.
So what do you have to do to start this process? The first thing you need to do is not run out to the gun store and buy a firearm. Please don’t do that. First, you should do some reading and research. You need to learn your state’s laws on self-defense and also the firearms laws. Learn them so that you understand them well. Before you get a firearm and carry it to defend yourself, it is important to know when you can legally defend yourself. Each state is slightly different, so please learn—and more importantly, understand—your state’s specific laws.
Firearms laws vary quite a bit from state to state, and some states are more restrictive than others. You may find that you live in a state that does not want you to be able to protect yourself, like California or New York. Or you could live in the “Gunshine State” (Florida). Regardless, you have to work within the law, and once you know the laws, then you are ready to go out and learn about firearms. Take a couple of classes on firearms and how to use them. Make sure to talk to people you know who carry and ask them who they recommend as an instructor. Make sure to check out the references and research the instructor on the internet. You don’t want to take classes from someone who has a bad track record for safety or has a very poor reputation. Check out the instructor’s credentials. If they are a legitimate, high-quality instructor, they will not mind you doing this; they have nothing to hide from prospective students. Word of mouth is a strong indicator of how good an instructor is.
But once you find a good instructor, do not stop at just the basic concealed carry required class! Seek out more training. Many states have a very minimum requirement for training to qualify for your concealed carry license. Florida has no minimum length of time requirement, and some of the worst instructors teach these “gun show” classes that last 45 minutes. Please do not take those classes! I cannot emphasize enough why it is so important to get quality instruction. If your instructor does not cover the four fundamental rules of gun safety pretty close to the start of the class, you are not going to be safe.
Once you feel you are more comfortable around firearms and feel knowledgeable enough to own one and carry it, that is the time to go to the gun store and pick out what you want. We are talking about a carry gun, so I will not go into what is best for home defense (pistol, rifle, shotgun, etc.). I am talking about a concealed carry gun. You want something that fits your hand and is comfortable for you to shoot and conceal carry. If it’s not comfortable to carry, you will not carry it and will have wasted all of that hard-earned money and time.
The holster has a lot to do with the comfort level of carrying, so explore online and get the recommendation of trusted sources as far as what will work. Try some out before buying.
Once you have decided on a holster and firearm combination, you need to practice carrying it around the house to get comfortable with it. Make sure to follow the four rules of gun safety (see the end of this article), but practice wearing, drawing, and holstering your firearm in the holster you choose. There is no such thing as too much practice. Many gun ranges do not let you practice drawing and shooting from concealed holsters, so you may have to search around and find one that does.
This is where training becomes more than just going to the range and shooting holes in targets. You need to train your mind as well as your body to move, draw, and shoot like you would in a real-world situation. That way, when you are involved in that one-time life and death situation, you will act and follow your training and not have to think too much about what you are doing. Some refer to this as muscle memory. While there is no such thing as muscle memory (muscles have no memories), you are teaching your brain to do something by repetition. Repeating something over and over mentally and physically will condition you to do just that when necessary.
But this is where that sticky problem with some people comes into play. Not everyone can pull the trigger when the time comes. It is not as easy as you see in the movies or hear from the “tacticool” people on the internet. Shooting a fellow human should be the last resort in all situations. When trying to avoid the situation fails, when trying to talk your way out of it fails, when all else fails—drawing the firearm and pulling the trigger, shooting another human, is not something you should ever want to do. I have been involved in shootings, and I can tell you that the only reason I was able to come out on top was because of my training, both mentally and physically, to be ready for that moment. And I have no problems with any of the times I have used a firearm, and I would do each and every one the same way again. But I have also seen an officer or two who froze and could not pull the trigger when the chips were down. Lucky for me (and the others involved), they did not get anyone killed by their inaction, but they also decided that after that, police work was not for them. The same thing can happen to someone who is carrying for self-protection and finds they are not able to pull the trigger when the time comes. If that is you, please do not carry—for your own good and the good of those around you.
If you want to learn more about the mental preparation for life-and-death situations, try reading the book On Combat by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (Ret.). It is an excellent book on the psychological and physiological changes that take place in life-and-death situations. It should be mandatory reading for all police officers.
This year, make a New Year’s resolution that will make a difference in the next year, and one that you will keep. Why do I know you will keep it if you make it? If you say to yourself and family members that you are going to learn to protect them (and part of that is to carry a concealed firearm) and you do not do it, just think of how you will feel when you or your family are hurt or (God forbid) killed by a bad guy and you could have stopped it from happening. After you told them you would. How would you like to live with that guilt? So tell them and get to it! Are your family’s lives and your life not worth the time and investment that it takes? I think so. “Happy New Year,” and may you carry on and carry always.
Chris Wagoner is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and U.S. Army Veteran. He has been in law enforcement the last 35+ years. He specializes in LE Firearms Instruction, and is in charge of a large Police Academy in North Florida. In his spare time Chris is a freelance Military Reporter and owner/founder of the Largest Military Videos Channel on YouTube “3rdID8487”.