Handgun Self-Defense

Handgun self defense is a controversial subject for many Americans. As a matter of fact, just ask a handful of people what they think about guns for self defense and you are bound to get an earful of dissonance. Handguns are among the deadliest of self defense weapons because they are effective and widely available. Consequently, they are also the weapons of popular choice by violent street criminals. By the same token, a handgun is a great self defense equalizer because it offers any person, regardless of age, sex, and strength, the ability to deliver deadly force. As a result, handgun self defense has saved countless lives across our country.

Important Considerations

If you are considering a handgun for self defense beware of common mistakes associated with your reliance on this weapon. It’s alarming how many people become frightened or angry about violence and crime in our society and rush right out to buy a firearm. In some cases, this emotional reaction can he fatal.

Too many people assume that mere possession of a handgun will guarantee their personal safety. This assumption forms the popular fallacy of dependency – the sole reliance on a particular weapon for self defense. While a handgun will augment your personal protection, no single weapon, street fighting technique, or security alarm system is the definitive answer by itself.

“The firearm offers any person, regardless of age, sex, strength the ability to deliver deadly force.”

The Limitations of Guns

Handgun self defense does have its limitations. Consider, for example, the limitations of a pistol. You cannot take a handgun everywhere. Now I know what some of you are thinking: “I can strap it on my ankle or hide it in my purse.” But that’s not what I mean.

picture of 9mm self defense handgun

Legal restrictions and disregard of the law aside, you still can’t carry a handgun everywhere you go. If you don’t take my word for it, try slipping one past airport security or into a courthouse. But these aren’t the only types of limitations. Criminal predators are smart. They rely on the element of surprise. They get the drop on you before you can get to your gun. It happens all the time, even to law enforcement officers. Handguns also jam, run out of ammunition and misfire.

Moreover, not all violent situations justify the use of a handgun. For example, a hostile confrontation with an enraged but unarmed motorist won’t justify self defense with a handgun. The bottom line is that only you can accept the full responsibility for your self defense, and you must have a variety of self protection measures to meet the myriad of potential conflicts. You must be equipped and prepared to rely on all available means, but, most importantly, you must also rely on your own common sense and intelligence.

“A firearm places you in the position of judge, jury, and executioner.”

Handgun Statistics

At last estimate, the United States Department of Justice indicated about 35% of American households own 192 million firearms. American citizens own firearms for a variety of reasons: personal protection, recreation, hunting, collecting, and competition. Interestingly enough, the number of women owning firearms has increased 53 percent in the past three years to more than 12 million. This is not a surprising figure since rape is one of the fastest growing crimes in America.

It’s Your Right!

Overall, we know that firearm ownership is a controversial issue that has generated tremendous national concern. Some pro gun activists believe that law abiding citizens have an absolute Constitutional right to bear arms with restrictions. Their opponents, on the other hand, believe that guns are the root of all evil and must be eliminated to address criminal violence in our society effectively.

My opinion on firearms ownership is simple. I think handguns have a very real place in self defense and personal protection. So long as there are deadly and vicious criminals in the world, there is a need for firearms. Yet I do not believe that everyone should own a handgun for self defense. It’s pretty hard to disagree with the position that handgun ownership should be restricted to law abiding citizens who are willing to make the time and commitment to safe, responsible ownership.

“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” – Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

The decision to own a firearm for self defense warrants considerable thought and honest reflection. Here are some important questions to ask yourself:

Do you abuse alcohol or use drugs? Are you hot tempered? Could you take the life of another human being? Are you subject to long periods of depression? Do you live alone? Are there children in your household? Why do you want a handgun for self defense? Have you ever shot a handgun? Are you a disorganized person? Are you accident prone? Are you willing to take the time to obtain the knowledge and learn the skills needed to handle a handgun safely?

I hope you get my point. You had better sit down and have a serious face-to-face talk with yourself before you even visit the gun shop. In addition, remember these scary truths about firearms: many handgun owners are killed accidentally by their own weapons, and handguns and shotguns contribute significantly to the death of friends and family members.

“It’s your responsibility to understand and obey the various laws governing its use, possession and transportation.”

The Pros and Cons

handgun for home invasion

In the hands of a trained citizen, a handgun is the ultimate weapon in most self defense circumstances. If you are technically skilled in its use and psychologically prepared to use deadly force, the handgun has a real place in your world of self defense and personal protection. For example, imagine waking up in the middle of the night to a home invasion. Having a handgun in your bedroom might save your life.

Firearms do have a significant deterrent effect on crime. According to the United States Justice Department, an armed citizen is more likely to escape rape, robbery, and assault than an unarmed citizen. The Justice Department also found that a citizen who is armed with a handgun is twice as likely to avoid injury during a robbery than his or her unarmed counterpart.

Facts and Examples of Handgun Self Defense

For example, in Anniston, Alabama, Ben Taylor and his wife had been terrorized for years by a man who regularly stole their Social Security money. When the man’s attacks became increasingly violent, Mr. Taylor armed himself with his friend’s .38 caliber handgun. When the assailant showed up at the house again and kicked through the door, Mr. Taylor fired twice, killing the criminal intruder.

Criminologist James Wright of the University of Massachusetts conducted a study of 1,800 convicted felons. His study revealed the following: 57 percent of the felons interviewed said they were frightened by an armed citizen; 53 percent said they would not commit a crime if they believed a citizen was armed; and 60 percent indicated they were more concerned about being shot by an armed citizen than by the police. The bottom line is, bad guys are afraid of handguns in the hands of a trained citizen. Handgun self defense works!

“Using a firearm must be a last resort, when you have absolutely no other options left.”

The Ultimate Equalizer

gun safety handbook

Against overpowering deadly force, a handgun is a self defense equalizer because it converts the neutral zone to a range of deadly engagement beyond the criminal’s reach. A handgun gives you the psychological and physical force to protect yourself and your family from criminal violence. A firearm also provides protection to people who are physically handicapped or too weak to protect themselves against a violent criminal. For example, a gun in the hands of a trained paraplegic will instantly give him the power and strength of a small army. A firearm can also make a small female far more powerful than a stronger male aggressor. For example, a semiautomatic handgun provided protection for a woman in New Orleans. After calling the police to report a prowler outside her home, the woman got her handgun, and when the large intruder entered through her front door, she shot him in the neck, putting him into flight. Minutes later, the wounded suspect was apprehended by the police.

In some circumstances, the mere presence of a firearm may allow you to gain control and command over a criminal without firing the weapon. Consider the story of a Yonkers, New York, woman who was making a call at a public phone when a strong-armed robber demanded her purse. Instead, she reached into her purse and came out with her licensed .38 revolver. The criminal fled empty handed. A handgun can tilt the balance of power significantly in your favor. However, you must be trained and prepared to use it for self defense purposes.

<h4 class="head">"Never pull out a gun unless you are legally and morally justified to use it."</h4>
<h2 class="head">Ownership Requires Responsibility</h2>

On the other hand, handgun self defense is a full time responsibility. A gun is inherently dangerous to you and everyone around you. If you are an untrained or irresponsible gun owner, you maybe more dangerous to yourself than a potential criminal. The fact is guns kill innocent people if they arc not properly stored and handled. Most firearm accidents are attributed to ignorance and carelessness. Safe gun handling is your responsibility, and safety must always be your concern. To ensure the safe use of any firearm, always follow these four general safety rules;

1. Always assume a handgun is loaded.
2. Always point a handgun in a safe direction.
3. Never point a handgun at anything you don’t intend to destroy.
4. Never put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

Obviously, firearms carry tremendous social responsibilities. You must be knowledgeable of the circumstances that could justify the use of a firearm in self defense. The laws concerning handgun self defense are not something you’re going to learn overnight. Using a handgun for self defense is legally complex. Consider, for example, the scary fact that it is not always justified to use a handgun against an intruder in your home. This fact is hard to believe or accept, but it’s true. A handgun places you in the position of judge, jury, and executioner – all in a matter of seconds.

I am not a lawyer but I can tell you that several factors must exist in order for you to legally use a handgun for self defense. Essentially, your criminal attacker must have the intent, ability and opportunity to kill or severely cripple or injure you in order for you to apply deadly force. Most importantly, you or a loved one must be in jeopardy of serious or life threatening harm. Keep in mind that you are not permitted to shoot someone for stealing your property!

<h4 class="head">"The most important aspect of gun ownership is safety."</h4>

Rules and Qualifications

While all Americans have a Constitutional right to own firearms, there are federal laws that must be met in order for you to purchase one.

  • To buy a handgun you must be 21 years of age.
  • If you are a convicted felon you are not permitted to own a firearm.
  • If you have a history of mental instability, suicide, or you are taking drugs for any mental illness you will have a difficult time passing a background check.
  • While there are some exceptions, generally you must be an American citizen to purchase a firearm.

Get Qualified Training

You are no more qualified to use a handgun for self defense because you’ve purchased one than you are to conduct a Beethoven symphony because you own the sheet music. If you are going to own a firearm for self defense, learn to use it properly. Get qualified training in safe handling, basic operation and maintenance, marksmanship and self defense applications. Ideally, children and other family members should be trained as well.

A word of caution if you currently study the martial arts. Unless your current instructor is nationally certified firearms teacher, avoid the tendency to seek firearms training from him or her. Firearms training is a dangerous business and you must seek qualified people who are specifically certified in firearms training. One of the best resources for firearm training is the National Rifle Association.

Finally, don’t forget the fallacy of handgun dependency. A handgun may not always be there when you need it most, so don’t be solely reliant upon one for you or your family’s safety. You have to figure out a way to make it readily accessible to you in a self defense situation but safely away from the hands of unauthorized people.

<h2 class="head">Handguns and Children</h2>
<p align="justify">If you  decide to own a firearm for self defense and have children living with you, you have a responsibility to talk openly about guns with your children. Under no circumstances should you make handguns a taboo subject with your children. Doing so can elicit curiosity and possibly lead them to investigate guns on their own. Besides, even if you are not a handgun owner, your son or daughter may one day come in contact with a firearm at a relative or friend's house. To learn more about children and firearms, please see my book <a href="http://www.sammyfranco.com/p/WHEN-BK.html" title="handgun self defense book" target="_parent">When Seconds Count: Everyone's Guide to Self Defense.</a>    
<h2 class="head">THE BEST HANDGUN FOR SELF DEFENSE?</h2>

One of the most common questions I get is “what is the best handgun for self defense?” Well, in order to answer this question I have to explain the importance of handgun caliber. Essentially, the term “Caliber” refers to the size designations for bullets and the inside diameters of the gun barrels. Also keep in mind that “Caliber” is expressed in units of either inches or millimeters (mm). For example, a designation like .22, .308, .32, .357, .44, .45, etc refers the approximate outside diameter, in inches, of the bullet and the inside diameter of the barrel. Its also worth mentioning that “Gauge” is a term for size designations of shot shells (for shotguns). Here are a few self defense handgun calibers for review:

.38 The .38 caliber measure thirty-eight hundredths of an inch in diameter. This was a standard round for most law enforcement agencies in the 30, 40, 50, 60s. As a matter of fact, the .38 caliber revolvers have been in service since World War II. Because of its limited round capacity and poor stopping power, the .38 round is not recommended for self defense and personal protection.
9 mm This popular cartridge was designed to operate in semi automatic and full auto firearms, and is used worldwide by elite military units. The 9mm is the current NATO standard caliber for handgun cartridges. The 9mm is a great round because of its large shot capacity, low recoil and sufficient stopping power. This cartridge is still one of my personal favorites for self defense. For some of you skeptics who think the 9mm does not have sufficient stopping power – think again. Its merely an issue of using the right cartridge. For example, did you know there is 9mm ammunition that will give you the stopping power of a .45 handgun.
.357 Magnum The .357 Magnum cartridge was developed by Elmer Keith and Smith & Wesson in 1934. While the .357 Magnum was primarily created for hunting, it was quickly adopted by law enforcement, who needed a round with increased effectiveness against criminals in automobiles. Because of its impressive stopping power, the .357 Magnum is an excellent self defense round.
.45 ACP This is a “work horse” round that has been around since World War I. The .45 round is well known for its accuracy and stopping power and is considered to be one of the world’s more effective self defense handgun cartridges. It has been said that getting shot by a .45 is likened to someone throwing a manhole cover into your chest! This is another excellent round for self defense.

What About the .22 pistol?

When it comes to handguns for self defense, the .22 caliber pistol is not a desirable weapon. While this popular caliber might be great for target practice, it simply doesn’t have the knock down power necessary to stop a crazed attacker in his tracks. While it’s true that people have died from a .22 caliber gunshot, the round will not reliably stop the immediate threat and in most cases you can get hurt or killed during the altercation.

Reliable stopping power is one of the most important prerequisites of handgun self defense. Essentially, “stopping power” describes a firearms ability to penetrate and immediately incapacitate or “stop” a human target. Keep in mind that stopping power is different from killing power.

“One of the most important prerequisites for self defense is reliable stopping power.”

Please remember that no matter what kind of handgun you purchase, it isn’t going to help you in a self defense situation unless you know what you are doing. Get trained by a qualified instructor in handgun self defense and learn the fundamentals of firearm safety. To learn more detailed information about handgun self defense, please see my book, Gun Safety: For Home Defense and Concealed Carry

Maryland Handgun Self Defense Training

If you are interested in professional handgun self defense training and you live in the Maryland, Washington, DC or Virginia area, expert instruction is available at an affordable price. For more information call our office at: 1-301-279-2244.

Sammy Franco
Founder & President
Contemporary Fighting Arts

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