You’ve chosen a new gun but are you ready to use it?
We have talked about the things you need to consider when buying a firearm and choosing the gun that will be right for you, but there are other decisions once you’ve made your purchase.
If this is your first firearm, chances are, you’re NOT ready yet. There is a lot more to protecting yourself with a gun than simply getting one and figuring out how to load it. Today, Steve Candidus and I will talk about getting ready to use your gun.
There are several things to think about – everything from storing it safely to having it with you when you need it to training and practice.
Storing Your Firearm Safely – Daisy
The way you choose to store your gun depends a lot on your personal situation.
For example, if you live alone and never have children visiting, you may want to tuck the firearm in a nightstand drawer. Be careful though – you want it to be stored in a way that you can easily get to it without potentially discharging it accidentally.
If you have children in the house, you will want to be more careful about how you store your gun. There are all sorts of safes that you can access fairly quickly if necessary. One parent I know locks her gun up during the day and pulls it out each night to keep it at her bedside.
Some people really like biometric safes that use your fingerprint to allow you to access the contents. Others point out significant downsides to the reliability of a biometric safe. The more high-end you go with a biometric safe, the less likely you are to have issues. I have a safe like this and it totally lost its programming after a year. Fortunately, I only had ammo in it at the time, but I was no longer able to open it with the touch of a finger, something that would be disastrous in an emergency.
Keeping your gun on your person during the day is probably the very safest way to store a firearm. Someone else accidentally getting their hands on it is nearly impossible this way. (We’ll discuss holsters in a moment.) Only you can figure out the method of storing your gun that is safest for your family. Here are 6 tips from NRA Family for safely storing your gun.
Having your gun with you when you need it
Your gun won’t do you any good if you don’t have it with you when you need it. Following are some tips for concealed carry.
What kind of holster should you get? – Steve
Side holsters are available in both an outside of the pants and an inside the pants configuration. They are secured to your belt either by loops that your belt goes through or by clamps that can be quickly attached to your belt.
One consideration is whether or not you want what’s called a back tab on them. The tab is an extension of the holster that keeps the gun from digging into you. The drawback is that it makes the holster and gun a little bulkier. It’s up to each person what you prefer.
Side holsters come in a high configuration and low. High is easier to conceal, but might dig into your sides a bit more and be a little more awkward to draw from the holster. The high holster is also more comfortable when sitting. Inside-the-pants holsters are the easiest to conceal but can be uncomfortable for some.
You might also see a reference to a side holsters rake. That’s the angle that the gun takes in the holster. A lower rake is more horizontal and makes for a faster draw. Again, the drawback is that it is less secure.
Small Of Back (SOB) holsters are another outside of the pants option. As its name suggests these holsters are attached to your belt and rest in the natural hollow that nature has provided us in the small of our backs.
Criticisms of SOB holsters are usually that weapon access is difficult. That is a very overblown criticism in my opinion. The gun is only slightly further back than the side holster and the typically lower rake makes the difference in draw insignificant.
It does make it more difficult for an adversary to take your gun away from you before you can even draw it though because it’s behind you.
The SOB is a very poor choice if you intend to be seated a lot while wearing it. It’s not only uncomfortable, it makes access difficult – especially seated in a car.
SOB holsters are very popular with females because nature has blessed us with thin waists and flaring hips so side holsters sometimes dig into our sides while the barrel gets pushed outwards. Use an SOB only when and where appropriate.
Shoulder holsters are another option. They are very comfortable and can usually accommodate even the largest guns. They are also the most difficult to conceal and would necessitate some sort of cover like a jacket.
With a shoulder holster, the gun is under the opposite side that you hold the gun with. Most often extra magazines (autos) or speed loaders (revolvers) are carried on the opposite side of the gun.
Some holsters have what are called “tie-downs.” Those are extra straps that can be attached to the belt. They are most useful for the magazine side, but not necessary on the gun side. When drawing the gun you simply hold the holster close to your body with your arm.
I have a friend that uses a shoulder holster most of the time because he suffers from arthritis in his right hip and he tries to minimize the weight that he puts on that side. They take more getting used to than hip holsters or SOB’s, but they work for some.
Note from Daisy: Holsters for women can be very tricky. I strongly recommend you stay away from the “cute” lacy thigh holsters, bra holsters, and the like unless you are able to try before you buy with a LOADED gun. The weight of the gun will make many of those holsters marketed to women very uncomfortable or render them useless. A female firearms instructor may have better suggestions for carrying the gun on your person.
Purse Carry – Daisy
Some women prefer not to carry their firearm on their person. but instead, put it in a handbag. For me, it depends what I’m wearing how I carry. Many people strongly object to purse carry and with very good reason.
- It’s much easier for someone to steal your gun if it’s in your purse
- It takes longer to access your weapon in an emergency
- You will have to take your purse with you everywhere if you have a gun in it – no leaving it on the back of the chair or in your cart at the store.
- Your purse will weigh a ton
- In one heartbreaking recent story, a 4-year old girl got into her grandmother’s purse and shot herself with the gun within.
If you decide that purse carry is the best option for you, choose wisely and secure your firearm well. You don’t just want to pitch it in there loose. Look for a purse specifically designed for concealed carry. I prefer cross-body bags and there is a company called Warrior Creek that makes the most gorgeous and practical bags I have ever seen. They can either be worn around your hips or cross body, and there’s an optional band that goes around your thigh for more security.
The Importance of Training – Steve
Training is very important. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you will be able to figure out how to use the gun when the need arises. If such a situation, you will need to be able to react quickly and instinctively. Plan to spend some time at a gun range to familiarize yourself with your weapon.
One method introduced to me recently for someone that is completely new or even a bit timid about shooting a handgun the first thing to do is to sit down with the gun that you are going to shoot and break the gun down to its major components and clean it – even if it’s already clean.
Surprisingly, you will likely go from trembling hands (oh my gosh, it’s a gun), to comfortable with it, to almost disgusted with it. The gun transforms from something dreaded and feared to (dare I say it?) ‘Just another damned thing that you have to clean!’
When you get right down to it, that’s all it really is – just a collection of parts that when assembled can enable someone of lesser strength to be equal to someone of greater strength.
Try this method. You will be surprised how well it works.
One very often-overlooked consideration is that it is important to train yourself to be able to shoot with either hand. If you hurt your strong hand, you need to be able to at least be familiar with shooting from the other hand.
Imagine that you are right-handed and you get boxed in by carjackers. They approach you on the driver’s side of your car. It is very difficult to be able to defend yourself crossing over your own body. By being at least familiar shooting with your left hand it is much easier to defend yourself in such a situation.
Choosing a Firearms Instructor – Daisy
One of the most important parts of training is finding the right instructor. As with anything, there is a lot of good advice as well as bad advice out there. A few tips for finding the right instructor:
- Find an instructor with a good attitude. If someone has a negative attitude, is condescending, or reckless, this isn’t a person from whom you will learn well. An instructor should be positive, encouraging, and professional.
- Word of mouth is the best advertising. Ask other firearms owners that you know who their favorite instructor is. You’ll start to see patterns, good and bad. Your local gun clubs, shooting ranges, and gun stores may also have some instructors they recommend.
- Check their qualifications. I prefer instructors with NRA certification because of the NRA’s focus on safety first.
- Look for an instructor with real-world experience. Like anything else, a person who has been-there-done-that will bring something to the table that a person who has only studied the subject theoretically may not. People with military or police experience may provide some additional insight for you. This should NOT rule out teachers without this type of background completely. The best instructor I ever worked with was amazing because she spent years traveling to learn from some of the most elite instructors in the nation. The hours she spent learning at the hands of these experts gave her the perspective of both a student AND a teacher.
- Most importantly, find an instructor with whom you feel comfortable. You’re going to need more than one lesson to get good at shooting. Group classes are a good way to go over laws and techniques but when it comes to actually shooting, one-on-one training can’t be topped. If someone makes you cringe, the time spent with them is going to be sullied by that.
Although I shoot regularly, I still try to take several classes per year to improve my skills and to make sure I’m not slipping into bad habits.
Spending Time at the Range – Daisy
Finally, practice, practice, PRACTICE.
Shooting is a perishable skill for most of us. Of course, if you spent decades in the military shooting frequently, you’ll have the muscle memory necessary to pick up a gun and shoot accurately at a moment’s notice. But for most of us, this is something we need to practice on a regular basis, no less than monthly. I have a membership at a local range and blow through a box of ammo weekly to keep my skills sharp.
The more often you shoot, the more comfortable you will become holding and using your gun. If you are ever faced with an attacker, I assure you they will be able to see your level of confidence – or lack thereof – and that can be a deciding factor in whether they are deterred or whether they decide that you aren’t a threat. You will develop muscle memory that allows you to shoot accurately under pressure (and in a panic situation you will DEFINITELY be under pressure.)
If it’s available in your area, consider a virtual range for additional practice time. While it sounds like a silly video game, it can really help you learn to make judgment calls in a crisis. (Here’s an article I wrote previously about the benefits of virtual training scenarios.)
Questions? Other advice for new gun owners?
Do you have any questions that we haven’t addressed in this series? Please ask in the comments below. And if you have advice for people who are new to using handguns, please share it here.