Like most shooting enthusiasts, my personal firearms interests evolve regularly. Variety keeps the shooting sports fun and fresh. However, self-defense is not a sport. When it comes to the guns I rely on to protect my life and the lives of the ones I love, I’ve found myself increasingly resistant to change as years go by and new and noteworthy advances in firearms design emerge. The new-and-improved fascinates the consumer, often quite justifiably, and I am no exception. But when I’m deciding what gun to use for personal defense, the major factor that tilts the scales away from the new-and-improved is the answer to this question: “How much practice will it take to develop confidence and proficiency with the new-and-improved?” The answer for me is usually, “More than I have to devote to it.” That’s why I decided I’m better off sticking with the guns that, through long use, I’ve become familiar and comfortable with.
An old New York City police detective friend of mine once told me, “There’s only one time someone should know you have a gun, Frankie, and that’s when you’re shooting them.” He’s right.
I’m not going to be taking any multi-day personal defense handgun training courses, like NRA Carry Guard, that feature combat seasoned tactical gurus were I shoot a thousand rounds in a dozen different drills. I don’t have the time or the money for that sort of sophisticated training. But over the years, I’ve shot the guns I carry, with one exception, a lot more than that. The payoff of that long term investment is all the muscle memory and familiarity I’ll have working for me in the terrible event of an actual, adrenaline pumping, life or death, confrontation.
I have four guns that I carry for self-defense, three of them I’ve been shooting for more than 30 years and two of those are revolvers. To younger shooters, my choices will seem very anachronistic. (If you are under 25, I assure you before the advent of polymer framed, ultra-light, high magazine capacity autoloaders, double action revolvers were actually employed with great effectiveness in a self-defense role and to this day retain a reputation for virtually unfailing reliability and instantaneous deployment. The challenge is you have to learn to shoot them properly.)
A little background on my circumstances and objectives are in order to put my choices in their proper perspective. I live in a semi-rural area but my work, which doesn’t require that I wear a suit, takes me into and through cities. I am not in the law enforcement or security business and I’m not in the military, so I have no requirement to use a handgun offensively. I have no intention of becoming involved in a protracted gunfight. I expect that in the event I ever have to use it, my pistol will be employed to effect my exit strategy to some place where a gunfight is not going on. I avoid bad neighborhoods, people and bad situations when possible. I’ve known concealed-carry permit holders who regard their gun as some sort of magic armor against trouble and get rather cavalier about risk, imagining they’ll be OK because they have a gun. I think that attitude is bad for your health. I never advertise the fact that I am armed. In fact, I won’t bring it up in conversation and won’t discuss the subject unless I am asked by someone who is genuinely curious for the right reasons. An old New York City police detective friend of mine once told me, “There’s only one time someone should know you have a gun, Frankie, and that’s when you’re shooting them.” He’s right. It’s a terrible and discomfiting surprise (at the very least) for the bad guy in those circumstances.
To summarize, my selection of self defense weapons is most highly influenced by my ability to effectively use, carry and conceal them. I’ve done a good job of keeping myself out of direct confrontations with criminals. It’s happened only once in the last 30 years. The surprise appearance of my concealed gun was the key factor in a favorable outcome for me. I didn’t have to fire a shot. A speedy draw, caliber, ammunition capacity, and speed of reloading played no factor in this encounter. Even if I’d had to shoot, I don’t believe those factors would have mattered because I’d be rapidly leaving the scene. To reiterate, I’m a civilian. I have no interest in protracted gun battles. Fortunately, most criminals don’t either. Here’s what I carry: