While a shotgun may be the preferred weapon for defending one’s home, a pistol or handgun is made for self defense when you’re on the go. The following insights on how to choose an everyday carry pistol or handgun come from Alan Schwartz, owner and operator of Alan’s Firearms and a certified NRA Instructor. You can find the full interview with Alan, plus additional expert insights and workbook materials, in Science of Skill’s Firearms Home Defense 101.
The type and purpose of pistol has changed somewhat over the past 20 years too; whereas it used to be all “about capacity, how many rounds can I carry”, says Alan Schwartz, comfort has become king when it comes to carrying a pistol for self defense all day (and sometimes all night). Something that’s small and lightweight – Alan likes the Ruger 380, among a few others – is necessary when functioning within what he calls the “3-3-3” rule of most self defense situations i.e. less than 3 shots, within 3 feet, in less than 3 seconds.
As far as best guns for home defense, a handgun can be an okay choice for short distances (though you run the risk of ammunition going through multiple walls and potentially hitting an innocent person, animal, or object), but a shotgun is better, especially if you have children or more space within which to maneuver. Forget about a rifle (Schwartz is not the first expert on Science of Skill to eschew this choice) for the home; he believes they’re far too powerful for a home defense scenario. At the end of the day, an 18-inch barrel shotgun or a 6-inch barrel handgun are Schwartz’s choices for best home defense weapons.
Back to choosing pistols for your everyday carry needs – what are the most important features to look for when choosing a handgun? Schwartz is quick to say that a comfortable grip is not the most important aspect of choosing a handgun, though this is one of the most common complaints that he hears. Rather, the most important feature is the comfortability for carrying it around on your body.
Your everyday carry firearm shouldn’t be bulky or heavy, it should be light and small enough and easy to retrieve quickly when the unexpected happens. As Schwartz explained it, the individual has to find his/her comfort zone of, “Okay, I can carry this, and it’s not the most comfortable in my hand, but I can deal with it.” The other two most important features are the pistol slide and trigger; both should be relatively easy to release and pull, respectively.
Last but not least, developing mindset for “street” self defense and choosing the right instructor is key to optimal handling of any firearm. Training for self defense, in addition to learning to use a weapon, requires cultivating an “awareness” of what is going on around you at all times, says Schwartz. When looking for a good instructor, he advises literally interviewing potential coaches (as many as it takes) and even watching them in action before making a commitment.
Asking for recommendations from local experts, like a reputable gun shop owner, can also help point people in the right direction. When it comes time to choose an instructor, Schwartz advises against looking to police officers for self-defense handgun training. Police officers are trained very differently from civilians; they face different scenarios and are often pulled into “trouble” and standoff-type situations that call for a much different approach to defense. Civilians are, for the most part, are minding their own business when they find themselves confronted with a surreal and unfortunate situation in which they have very little time to think and react.
When training, Alan also advises learning to shoot at the range with a .22. Not only is a .22 relatively affordable, but Alan believes it’s the best tool for developing an ability to be a ‘good shot.’ Use your own everyday carry firearm a few times, he says, but focus on training mostly with the .22. “Don’t try to fight the recoil,” he says. In the end, the recoil won’t be a problem when you later go to pick up a bigger gun.
In addition to learning how to use a weapon, Alan is a proponent of training in the martial arts, a sport that he considers an essential tool in the self defense toolkit, so to speak.
Training in martial arts provides a ream of benefits – it instills a sense of confidence in your ability to defend yourself, your loved ones, even a stranger, and it’s important for developing and training muscle memory. “What if someone grabs you? How are you going to dislodge yourself in order to get your gun? Martial arts is such a key component in good self defense,” says Alan.
About Alan Schwartz: Alan Schwartz is Owner/Operator of Alan’s Firearms and a certified NRA Instructor. Alan grew up on Long Island, NY, and at the age of 12 and spent every summer at shooting camp. He competed in local competitions with gun and bow clubs. Alan became accomplished in tactical shooting disciplines and is a no-nonsense teacher of the same.
Alan got involved with law enforcement back in the 1980’s. He was managing a national sales company that sold computer systems, high-end video, and computers. That’s when the F.B.I. asked Alan to keep an eye open for technology being exported to China. Alan then got involved with the U.S. Secret Service in a few major cases on interstate credit card fraud and was responsible for helping them bust four major rings. After careers with managing by Blockbuster Video and then Modells Sporting Goods, Alan took a position with Mars Music and relocated to Florida. He eventually got his real estate license and was the District Manager for a local real estate company until 2007. At that time, Alan started Alan’s Firearms and doing gun shows on weekends. He built up a business that called for him to open a brick and mortar store in 2008.
Image credit: Regular Guy Guns/Dan Vidal
A post from the founder and head publisher at Science of Skill, LLC. A martial arts black belt and self defense instructor, Dan has spent years training with and interviewing some of the world's best self protection experts. His passion lies in encouraging others to train smart and to improve the skills that make them safer and stronger.
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