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Weapon Selection (first SL article)

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Some folks said it wouldn't open for them; so, I'll post the article here and get the technical folks on the issue.

Weapon Selection
by J. Lee Weems

One of the most commonly asked questions in gun related magazines, Internet forums, and in gun shops is “Which gun should I buy?” The many answers to this question generally lead to great debates in the gun world such as revolver versus semi-auto, big and slow bullets versus small and fast bullets, and in recent years the Glock versus 1911 blood feud just to name a few. Proponents of each view, regardless of in which camp they reside, are often very passionate. To someone new to the self-protection world and shooting scene, the groundswell of opinions and no shortage of people willing to share them can be a bit daunting and confusing. This article is intended to cut through some of that and help people interested in protecting themselves and those they care for in making the right weapon choice.

The answer to the great question of “which weapon is best?” is very simple. The best weapon is the one that the individual using the weapon can use in the most effective manner. Proficiency is a must. If you choose to carry a defensive tool, you must be a master of that tool. It is not acceptable to carry a weapon that you are neither thoroughly familiar with nor able to operate in a stressful situation.

Firearm proficiency is a learned and perishable skill. First, you must learn how to properly use and maintain your weapon. Then you must practice regularly to maintain a high level of proficiency. If you simply buy a firearm and put in a drawer with the “in case I ever need it” mentality you are not doing yourself any good at all. Remember that you must control each shot. You are responsible for every round that you fire and accuracy decreases as stress increases. Blindly firing multiple rounds at a threat is not acceptable. In a home invasion or burglary situation your family may be in the next room and contrary to what you see in the movies, bullets will go through walls. In a street confrontation situation, you must be aware of your background. Because innocent bystanders stand a chance of being injured you must be proficient under stress.

As to the particular style of handgun to purchase, some shooters prefer revolvers while others will only shoot and carry semi-automatics. Some semi-auto shooters will go with a smaller caliber round in order to have a larger ammunition capacity, less recoil, or a smaller framed pistol while others think that only the venerable .45ACP will do. In their own way, each of these points of view is correct. No matter which type is the preferred weapon of choice, the number one factor to consider when selecting a firearm is reliability. The shooter must have complete confidence that the weapon they choose will work each any every time it is deployed.

As I pointed out above, it is not just the weapon that must work. The shooter must be thoroughly proficient as well. Train under stress. Learn to shoot while moving and at moving targets. Learn how to clear malfunctions and to perform reloads quickly. Do not forget that you are betting your life and the lives of those you hold dear on that weapon. I strongly suggest that the prospective shooter handle and test as many different styles and calibers of weapon as possible before making their choice. Remember that there is no magic bullet, and each manufacturer has their respective strong and weak points.

The other major factor that is of concern when choosing a weapon is accepting the responsibility of ownership. This responsibility includes safe storage and handling of the firearm, getting proper training from qualified instructors, following all of the safety rules for proper handling, and being mentally prepared to use the weapon if needed. Despite being portrayed as such in the media, firearms in and of themselves are not any more dangerous than power tools, vehicles, or electricity. As long as each is used correctly there really is not any danger. However, even the slightest mental lapse could result in disaster.

Until this point I have focused primarily on firearms. I would like to point out that the best self-protection tool any one can use is their very own brain. A person should always be aware of their surroundings and alert for possible dangerous situations. The best way to deal with a confrontation is to avoid it. Do not place yourself in a dangerous situation if you can avoid it. If you are in a dangerous situation and can escape, escape is your best option. Force should only be used when there is no other viable option available. If you have to use force you will need to be able to articulate why you did so and that there was no other reasonable course of action for you to take.

Those interested in protecting themselves may also want to look into defensive tools other than firearms. Items such as pepper spray and batons can be good choices, and edged weapons can be very effective as well. Just as with any other defensive tool, training is required and safety is paramount. Everyday innocuous items such as keys and scarves can be used as defensive tools, and basic hand-to-hand techniques are always good to know.

This article is the first in a series that I have planned on the topic of weapon selection. I cannot stress enough that anyone choosing to carry a defensive tool should seek training from qualified instructors and practice regularly with whatever tool they select. It is up to the individual to know the legal environment concerning the possession and use of weapon where they live and travel. There is a tremendous difference between marksmanship and defensive shooting. Use standard target shooting to develop and hone your fundamental skills, but interject as much realism into your defensive shooting training as possible. Above all, use good judgment and avoid confrontations if possible. If you have an avenue of escape, use it.

The information contained in this document is copyrighted as unpublished work under sections 104 and 408 of Title 17 of the United States Code with all rights reserved and is proprietary to J. Lee Weems. It is submitted to recipient in confidence and it is not for use or disclosure, either in whole or in part, without prior written permission. The unauthorized use, copying or disclosure of this data is a criminal violation of both federal and state laws.
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