Concealed Carry & Home Defense

5 Critical Mistakes Made By Defensive Gun Owners

(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

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By Sheriff Jim Wilson, Shooting Illustrated

Working in the field of personal defense, I make an effort to keep informed about defensive techniques, equipment and training. The most-obvious thing I see is that there is a lot of good gear and ideas out there. However, it is also obvious that there are some folks who, though they seem well-meaning, come up with some faulty information and ideas. It is important for us not to be too critical of this sort of thing. After all, we went through the learning process to develop our defensive skills and training, too. With that in mind, here are a few defensive mistakes that occur from time to time.

Mistake No. 1: Not Learning Your Defensive Handgun

We seem to live in a world of instant gratification. Some folks decide that they need to do something about their own personal protection, so they buy a gun, some ammo, shoot it a bit and think they are good to go. Rushing things, they might end up having a negligent discharge that surprises, scares and sometimes hurts them. The frequent response to this, especially on social media, is that this particular kind of gun is just not safe.

In the vast majority of these cases, it is the shooter who was not safe. Numerous types of firearms are suitable for personal defense if the shooter will take the time to learn how to handle them safely. Each type of firearm has its own manual-of-arms. The double-action revolver works differently from the double-action semi-auto; the striker-fired semi-auto works differently from the single-action semi-auto and so on. Learning the proper manual-of-arms for a particular pistol not only dictates the shooting technique, it may also dictate what kind of holster is most suitable and what kind of ammo should be used. Col. Jeff Cooper suggested that a person should “live with” his defensive handgun in order to learn its intricacies and proper, efficient handling.

Mistake No. 2: Rotating Your Daily Concealed-Carry Gun

Another mistake that some defensive shooters make is this business of having several types of defensive handguns in their “rotation” for everyday carry. Upon questioning, I’ve found that some of these folks will be carrying a double-action/single-action pistol one day, a single-action 1911 the next and a striker-fired pistol the day after that.

Let me let you in on a little secret: when faced with a violent attack, you will be so focused on the threat that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to devote time to trying to remember how to operate the defensive handgun. The focus should be on the threat and how to deal with it. The management of the handgun must be almost subconscious. Carrying different types of guns on a regular basis may very well lead to confusion and may result in valuable time being lost trying to remember how that particular gun operates. It’s a good way to come in second place in that fight.

Mistake No. 3: Not Carrying With A Round In The Chamber

Speaking of coming second in a fight, another easy way to give a bad guy the jump on you is carrying a semi-automatic pistol with an empty chamber. In those crazy milliseconds in which your life hinges on your ability to respond quickly and accurately, having to use both hands to chamber a round could be the last mistake you ever make. Not only are you wasting precious time, you are counting on having both hands available for this task, which may not be the case. If, for whatever reason, you just don’t feel comfortable with a round chambered in your semi-automatic pistol, the smart thing would be to switch to a double-action revolver.

Mistake No. 4: Not Having A Light For Nighttime Use

We occasionally hear of a person being awakened by a noise at night and mistaking a family member or house guest for a threat. There have even been cases of people, gun in hand, confronting police officers in their yard after dark when the police are trying to locate a prowler or burglar in the neighborhood. It is important to remember that we can only use deadly force—even  in the dark—when the person in question represents an actual threat and we have a reason to believe that our lives are in immediate danger.

When dealing with suspicious things at night, our greatest friend is light. Light them up. There are so many tactical lights on the market today that I can’t begin to keep up with them. The smart move is to buy several lights and stash them all around the house, being sure to have one, or more, on the nightstand. The safety rule, “Be sure of your target and what is behind it,” is critically important in the dark. Think before you act and light them up before you shoot.

Mistake No. 5: Not Seeking Out Quality Firearm Training

Possibly the biggest mistake that defensive shooters make is the failure to get proper training. All of the above mistakes can be corrected with good training. What compounds this major mistake is the fact that we live in a time when good training is available as never before. Numerous life-saving schools around the country teach the skills needed. In addition, quite a number of qualified instructors are available to come to your local gun club and teach (not to mention the thousands of NRA-certified instructors around the country). Today, there is simply no excuse for not getting professional training. You owe it to yourself and those around you.

Getting your concealed-carry license is like graduating from kindergarten. I’m not trying to put anyone down with that statement. It is only meant to point out that your education is ahead of you. Good training will help a person avoid these mistakes and many others that can cost your life or the lives of folks around you. In the end, mistakes are what bad guys need to make.

Thanks to Shooting Illustrated for this post. Click here to visit

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