Get Smart, Get Practiced, Get Ready

Tips for choosing a gun, holster, bullets and training



A firearm for personal defense, not for sport or hunting, should be simple, reliable and easy to use. Unless you are an expert with firearms, do not keep multiple handguns for self-defense. Should the moment come, you might forget how to operate the gun in your hand. Or worse, you might load it with the wrong caliber ammunition and blow yourself up.

So, buy a single handgun, preferably a revolver. Here’s why: Revolvers are simple devices. Even if rusty, even if wet, they will fire. Revolvers are small and easy to conceal. They’re quick to shoot. There’s no need to fiddle with a safety or to jack a round into the chamber. Just pull and bang. Choose black rather than silver: If you draw in error, onlookers will be less likely to see the weapon, call the police, and get you busted for brandishing.

Here’s another unwritten rule: It matters to cops, judges, juries and news editors which handgun you use for self-defense. When you buy a handgun, always imagine how it will appear when passed around in a baggie to his or her honor, to the middle-class ladies and gentlemen of the jury, and to the ink-stained (or flat-screen-fried) wretches of the media.

A revolver will suggest that your weapon was intended purely for self-defense. It’s exactly the weapon a thoughtful citizen — hopefully that’s you — would buy.

What would the courtroom players think, however, if the weapon you used for self-defense were a 50-caliber, semi-automatic, hand cannon powerful enough to penetrate bullet-resistant glass, police body armor and possibly the turret of the sheriff’s armored personnel carrier? This will raise doubt about your self-defense story. You do not — repeat not — want to appear badass in a courtroom where your life and freedom are at stake.


Use a pocket holster. If you’re robbed at gunpoint, the bad guys will ask you to reach into your pocket. If you reach for your jacket or your waist, they’ll blast you. Women should carry revolvers in a belly band. The first thing bad guys grab is your purse. If your gun is there, you’re toast.


There are three problems in firing handguns in self-defense. The first is accidental misfire, which occurs when you or others are fooling around with a weapon or get nervous.

The second is the tendency, when things go pear-shaped in the dark, to shoot not only the bad guys, but to zap your spouse and kids, kill the cat, do the dog, and put a hole through the goldfish bowl. 

The third problem is killing and wounding neighbors, passersby, or the police officers who are coming to rescue you, with stray bullets, ricochets and spall (ballistic flaking of metals when hit by bullets). 

The solution is Dale Carson’s “Save Your Life Load,” which comprises two types of ammunition loaded into your revolver at the same time. The bullet in the first chamber, under the hammer, should be a solid — not a hollow-point — round. In case of accidental misfire, a solid will pass through you without exploding, and you’re more likely to survive.

So when you’re loading, note whether your cylinder revolves clockwise or counter-clockwise. Put the solid round in the chamber immediately to the right or left of the hammer, depending on the revoluition. This will be the first round to revolve under the hammer and fire.

The remainder of the cylinder should be loaded with Glaser Safety Slugs. Glasers are, essentially, miniature shotgun shells. When they hit an attacker, Glasers deliver 100 percent of their ballistic energy to the target. They tear up bad guys, but don’t pass through to kill innocents. Ricochets are minimal. The individual shots are too small to cause spall or even to pass through sheetrock.


In training for self-defense, marksmanship is secondary. Remember, you generally will be firing from 10 feet or closer. Aim for center mass. Forget trying to make head shots. Don’t even consider shooting “just to wound” in the arms and legs. This might not work. An attacker will keep coming — and shooting — until seriously wounded or dead. Don’t imagine that shooting people in the arms and legs merely wounds. If you hit a brachial or femoral artery, your assailants will bleed out and croak soon enough.

The primary purpose of training for self-defense is decision-making. Is that figure looming in the dark an attacker or someone asking for spare change? Are those threats you hear, or the ramblings of a florid psychotic who’s off the meds and chatting with God? Are attackers far enough away for you to flee, or are they so close you have to open fire?

To train for decision-making, go to the larger gun shops that raise and lower the lighting, noise levels and visibility to simulate the bad shooting conditions of real life. They have pop-up targets that make you ponder whether the figure you’re shooting is a thug or harmless old lady. Most important, training for decision-making will remind you always how deadly firearms are. a few years, you can become used to them. They can seem ordinary, a household device, like a pepper grinder.

They’re not.

Always buy handguns from reputable dealers with informed staff. Avoid used, pawnshop guns, which may be defective. Never buy street guns. These may have been used in a crime, and police can match ballistics and bring criminal charges against you years later. Street guns are not a bargain, they’re an excrement sandwich.

Guns, ammo and self-defense training cost a lot of time and more money. But no one ever said staying alive and out of prison is cheap, or easy, in the Bold New City of the South. 

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