As a professional firearms instructor, I deal with a broad spectrum of experience levels on a regular basis. From first-time gun owners, training in a brand new environment, to seasoned or “mature” gun owners who have owned guns longer than I’ve been alive, with many others in between. And while I’m referring to age, this blog entry is not merely about a number, but a comfort and experience level.
There are two points that tie together that I’ll be addressing. The first is carrying a gun with an empty chamber, and carrying a gun with a manual or mechanical safety. Due to the nature of this entry, the potential to upset people is high. However, due to the nature of how and why I train people at a very practical level, I’ll do my best to articulate how and why both of these points or habits are dangerous.
I’ve titled this blog entry “fear of the unknown” because my experience in the firearms sales and firearms training industry has revealed to me time and time again that the vast majority of gun owners who choose to carry with empty chambers, or who insist on having guns with safeties, fall into the same category. They are generally the untrained. Regardless of their age, and regardless of how long they’ve owned guns, their fear of the unknown – which indicates a lack of dedicated training – perpetuates these dangerous habits.
The “danger” of carrying a firearm without a round chambered is the same danger that mechanical safeties can present. It all comes down to speed and adrenalin. The untrained individual probably does not know the physiological and psychological effects of the adrenalin dump on the body, and how that will impact the manipulation of your firearm. The untrained individual also is unlikely to fully appreciate the speeds required to respond to your assailant’s initiations, or how close in proximity your attacker is likely to be. Anyone who has attended one of my AZ Concealed Weapons Permit courses has heard me speak about the “Rule of Threes” – 3 feet, 3 shots, 3 seconds – and how this statistic can and should impact how your carry, and how you train. However, while many have heard me say this, not all who hear me speak of this “rule” have embraced the reality of what it means. They still operate on their daily basis in the fear of the unknown. Because they do not train beyond the CCW class, they rely on a mechanical safety to “feel safer” while carrying a gun, just as they rely on an empty chamber to “feel safer” while carrying a gun. I can tell you from experience, if you are one of the untrained, that “safe feeling” you get from your safety or your empty chamber will not last long if you’re confronted with the worst day of your life.
It’s typically revealed in the Essential Defensive Carry class, when we introduce Close Quarters Battle drills. At this point in this Intermediate level handgun course, the students have already had dozens upon dozens of presentations from the holster (draws), so they’re beginning to appreciate just how long a couple seconds can feel. The students at this point have been “moving off the X” – out of the direct line of attack – countless times as well. But, it’s when they go toe-to-toe with “Buster” – our CQB target – that the light begins to come on. Buster is a mannequin that has no arms, but if he did, he’d represent the felon who is inside of three feet from the student, literally toe-to-toe. It is here, in the CQB drill where students realize two things. They won’t have time, space or even a free hand to rack the slide and chamber a round, and because they have to shoot from “close contact”, most are defeated by their mechanical safeties, rather than defeating their safety to make the gun function. The good news is that “the light comes on” in a safe and controlled training atmosphere, rather than a deadly force encounter out on the street. The better news is that the shooter is already in training, which means they’ve already committed to replace the unknown (which is, by definition, ignorance) with the known – education and training. Both of those dangerous habits can and should be “trained out of you” with safe and effective defensive handgun training. Diamondback Shooting Sports’ Training Division is here just for that purpose.
If you already own a firearm with a mechanical safety, I would like to encourage you to commit to train all the more intently, knowing you have an obstacle to speed. It takes lots of dedicated training to get to where you can defeat a safety, especially at close contact. It’s not impossible, but it does not “just happen.” You first have to recognize the need, and then commit to the level of training required to be fast and effective with your handgun. Don’t let that safety own you.
For most of us responsible, law-abiding gun owners, our firearms are intended to keep us safe from those who would mean to bring us harm. We want to be able to defend ourselves, our families and our homes. Fortunately, we still enjoy that freedom and our right to do so here in Arizona. I want to encourage you to train, and invest in even more training to ensure your skill level and your comfort level is up to the task. Simply owning a gun does not make anyone safer, just as possessing a CCW Permit doesn’t make anyone safer. Committing to regular, dedicated defensive handgun (or rifle and shotgun) training is how we develop and hone our craft. If you’re not comfortable carrying a loaded gun that has no safety, get comfortable – with training. Get fast. Become accurate, and swift. Become very confident with competence, and watch your skill set bloom through training.
I’m not a fear-based instructor, but I can tell you that I am motivated by the understanding that there are evil people in this crazy world, and some of them are dedicating to training. My goal as an instructor, as well as a responsibly armed citizen in the community, is to be even better trained. I want to be a very hard target. I want to encourage and train others to be safe, and very hard targets too. Don’t let the fear of the unknown keep you trapped in a very dangerous place.
Own your gun. Own your training. Train like you mean serious business.
Stay safe, and stay trained.