Last time, in “How Do You Practice for Self Defense,” I outlined the first of the “dry fire” exercises I recommend to all my students. When you are happy with your progress there, you will be ready to work on the next one. Remember that these exercises are cumulative, not consecutive. Continue to be aware of and practice previously honed skills as you advance to new things. Never forget that in an emergency, filled with fear and adrenalin, you will respond as you have trained.
So, what’s next? Have you decided how you want to carry your gun? Have you spent some real time looking into the various options and gear you’ll need to do so? What? You decided not to carry? Content to stay home the rest of your life? (Subject for another time, of course.) OK, but if you won’t carry it, have you spent any time really planning how you might get hold of that gun in an emergency?
Either way, you need to practice seriously in order to have any chance to use that gun effectively. Safe access to the gun is also a big plus at the range, and if you plan to go on to any sort of competition or group shooting. Someone fumbling around with a holster or in their clothing for a loaded gun (and they are all “loaded,” right?) quite naturally makes other people nervous and apprehensive.
A comprehensive self defense and/or concealed carry class can help you answer a lot of questions and solve some problems with what gear you choose and where you wind up carrying (or storing) your gun, and you might want to keep your instructor on speed dial for a little while until you make up your mind, but nothing will replace conscientious and regular individual practice with whatever you actually choose. And more practice will be necessary if (probably when) you learn more and change your mind about some or all of it.
Those of you who will carry the gun, after you’ve gotten at least your first holster, etc. and decided where on your body you’ll carry it (or at worst, a purse or fanny pack), are ready to practice the draw – preferably in your dry fire area. Make SURE your gun is unloaded or use a plastic simulator, and start to experiment with drawing that gun as smoothly as possible. Make changes to your clothing if necessary to prevent the gun from hanging up in a tangle of fabric and straps. Be open to adapt both wardrobe and method as you discover problems and find solutions.
Please note: Learn the right motions first, making your draw clean and smooth. You will acquire SPEED as you improve the technique. If you press for speed first, proficiency will take you much, much longer and you will seriously risk developing some bad habits you might not even notice until crunch time.
You also need to have plans for when you are not carrying your gun. Where will you put it? Will it be loaded and ready to use, or not? (Why not?) And how would you get hold of it in an emergency? Would you have to manipulate a lock or dash up to your bedroom closet? There are a lot of things to consider here, and they should never be simply left up to chance.
Your self defense class should have given you lots of information to work with, including an understanding of “cover” and what to do while you wait for the police to come, but only you can put it all together into a plan that will work best for you and your environment.
Start with a notebook and a pen. Draw a diagram of your house and mark the places you think an intruder might try to enter. Indicate the location of lights, alarms, barriers. Do you have more than one level in your home? How many staircases? Do you have a “safe room?” These can be minimal or quite elaborate. Especially if you have children or other dependents in the home, a safe room should definitely be considered.
Now start to think about how you might best respond to a threat, considering the set up of your house and the available options. Since there are probably many possibilities, you need a plan for each one. And alternate plans for those, since most emergencies don’t follow a script.
Start with some of the most obvious.
What would you do if you heard the glass breaking downstairs in the middle of the night?
If you found your front (or back) door partly open when you came home, what would be the first important response? How would that change if you knew someone had been home while you were gone, such as an elder parent or child?
The possibilities are pretty endless, of course, and you can’t prepare for everything… but if you have not even thought about it, and made some sort of plan, you may make serious mistakes that will cost you or your loved ones dearly.
Plan your responses, and then practice them. Be prepared to be flexible, and to take advantage of everything possible in your favor. Set up drills for yourself and your family, if appropriate, and go through the motions seriously. Please remember to use only gun simulations for this sort of exercise. A squirt gun will do as well as anything. It is the motions and responses that you are practicing here, and handling a real gun in such exercises would only be safe after much practice without one.
LOOK for ways to increase your advantage. Locks, gates, fences, barriers and other things will deter almost anyone from attempting to invade your home. Think about where the light fixtures are, for instance, and use motion detector lights at potential access points. A sudden bright light might deter the invader right there, making defensive action on your part unnecessary.
This is obviously a big, big subject, and I can’t begin to cover it all here, but I hope you have some new things to consider, and will seek further information and training to fill in the gaps. Next time we’ll explore another personal exercise that I’ve found extremely valuable through my life, and not only in preparation for self defense.
As always, your observations, comments and criticisms are welcome.