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The Unpracticed Home Defense Gun

Far be it from me to tell any American how to protect the lives of his or her family. Be it high-tech alarm systems or the lowest tech Louisville Slugger in hand, we prepare ourselves for the primal need of defense when we or our loved ones are in danger. There is, however, a caveat to this position and when it comes to firearms for home defense, the use of such a tool can be just as dangerous to the untrained user as it can be to the would-be attacker.

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As an instructor of all things firearm, it’s my job to not only teach fundamentals, operations, maintenance and shooting techniques to students—but to also present them with the realities of their defensive use.

One such reality is the simple statement that; If you are going to use a gun for home defense that you have not taken to the range for six months-grab a bat instead.

In most cases this statement is received with blank stares. Shortly, a student will inquire; “Then why am I taking this class if you are going to encourage me to not use my gun?”

The discussion that ensues brings about some often misunderstood truths of firearms ownership. If you can ask the question of; “how long does it take to become a good shooter?” then can you accept the answer; “define what’s a good shooter?”

The simple fact is that the ownership of a firearm does not make you proficient with it.

Sure, it’s possible to scare off an attacker by presenting a firearm in a defensive situation, but without the ability to follow through on it’s use in a safe, confident and controlled manner, you instead create the possibility of a terrifying situation becoming a tragic one.

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So where am I going with all this? Am I suggesting you take a course in armed home defense? Get one on one training with an experienced shooter? Go to the range at least once per month?

Well... yeah.

You wanted a firearm for home defense. You got it. Now you have the responsibility of knowing how to use it.

How to not kill a family member with it. How to not accidentally kill a neighbor. How to secure it properly in your home, eliminating access to it by adolescents, yet still keeping it instantly accessible for use when needed.

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The right weapon choice for home defense

Did you buy a handgun? What caliber? Will a fired round stop an attacker? Can you handle the recoil? The weight?

Maybe you bought a shotgun? What gauge? What kind of shot? Have you patterned it?

Did you know that within 15 feet (the average distance of any home encounter) the shot remains so tightly grouped that it’s like firing one giant bullet?

Perhaps you were convinced to buy an AR-15 for your defensive needs? Did you know that a single round of .223 can pass into the next house when fired?

And these are just the questions to consider when making your purchase.

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Practice with your firearm

As a rule, I like to instruct students to shoot as often as they can. If I have to put it into a timeframe then I will recommend once a month to once every two months in the home for at least half an hour of loading and unloading with dummy rounds (also called “snap caps”) with your eyes open and your eyes closed.

Eyes closed will simulate a 2am just-out-of-sleep condition in which you will obtain and load your firearm without shooting yourself.

This is not to be practiced with live ammunition. Equal time should be taken at your local range, shooting at paper silhouette targets roughly the size and shape of a human being. Start slow, get comfortable, know the gun by feel and not by sight. Be safe, learn consistency.

Range conditions are going to be ideal-safe and organized with clear rules and limits on what is allowed to happen. Your home is the complete opposite. Children and pets can be present and are unpredictable. The sounds of your home are different late at night than in the day.

The sounds of footsteps on the stairs could just as easily be the police as they could be an attacker-conversely, home invaders have announced themselves as the police.

Practice with your firearm. Control your firearm. Call 911 in an emergency. The last thing you want to have to do is shoot.

The handling, presenting and discharging of a home defense gun should be part of your muscle memory and barely require conscious thought.

The rules of safety apply here as always: Only point the gun at something you are willing to destroy, unloaded until ready to shoot, finger off the trigger until ready to fire. This is what practice and training will bring.

Hopefully you will never ever have to use your firearms for the defense of your home, but as the old saying goes;

“better to have it and never need it, than need it and not have it.“ Yes, but at the same time, better to control it and not use it, rather than accidentally use it and regret it.

About The Author

Richard Bogath is an NRA certified firearms instructor, certified hunter instructor, youth league pistol coach, professional hunting guide, published author, writer for several online publications about firearms, blogger, lecturer and proud dad. When not performing any of these fun activities, he is a successful e-commerce business consultant.