Guns for Self-Defense?

North American Arms .22 LR revolver

As the global coronavirus pandemic staggers the financial system, millions are losing their jobs and they suddenly have no means by which to feed their families or put a roof over their heads. Police departments are announcing reduced service for “minor” incidents while at the same time cancelling leave for officers as if trouble is anticipated. Lines of people blocks long form to get into grocery stores. Lines are forming at gun stores too and firearms and ammunition fly off the shelves faster than they can be stocked.

This is not a “guns bad/good” article. There are plenty of those. Civilian firearms ownership is legal in the United States and millions avail themselves of that right. My concern for this article is for the new or potential gun owners who never had one before and are considering the purchase of a firearm out of fear of a zombie apocalypse. What is the scenario driving the gun newbies to rush out and equip themselves with deadly weapons? It goes like this: in the relentless onslaught of the coronavirus, civilization has collapsed. Distribution of food has ceased and there is no money to buy food even if some was available. Transportation is disrupted. Police departments are overwhelmed by large scale civil disturbances where large groups of desperate people riot because they can no longer meet their daily needs. Roaming gangs loot homes and businesses. The law of the jungle reigns.

If you have just bought a gun or are considering getting one, here are few things to consider:

If you’re just buying a gun now, and you have no prior experience with firearms, you’re too late. The time to buy the gun was years ago so that you would have had time to train on safety and proficiency. Guns are difficult to use effectively, especially pistols. What good is a gun if you can’t hit anything with it, or worse shoot yourself in the foot in a situation in which medical attention is not available? (Remember, the zombies have already looted the hospital.) Do you know what S.W.A.T. officers, Delta Force operators and other real gunfighters do with their free time? They train obsessively. They fire hundreds of rounds a month and run tactical drills like house clearing (“looking for someone to shoot me”). If you are not trained on your gun, you’re just dangerous to yourself and those around you.

Guns are not magic talismans. Could you pull the trigger? Shooting holes in a paper target is very different from firing at a human being who is moving aggressively in your direction. There was a mass shooting at a mall in Tacoma a few years back. A shooter was roaming the mall with an AK-47. A licensed citizen went toward the gunfire and drew his pistol. At the critical moment, the citizen froze and could not fire. The shooter put six rounds into his midsection. Everyone is different, but if a person has doubts about if they could shoot or not, it is better not to have the gun. Just run like hell.

Where is the safest place to store my gun? If you failed to answer “my holster” you don’t have the mindset to survive a gunfight. A gun that is unloaded in a safe is useless. A gun that is unloaded in a drawer is useless. A loaded gun sitting around someplace is a tragedy waiting to happen. Violent confrontations generally unfold very quickly and the real world does not have a “Pause” button. Whatever the crisis is, it will likely be over by the time a person can fetch a gun from a safe and load it. A lot of thought must be given to how the gun is stored, especially if there are children around. If there are children around, you have only two options: lock it up or wear it on your person. If you think you may need it, it should be loaded and in your holster. Do not handle or show the gun to people. Most accidents happen when people are handling or playing with a firearm.

Do you know the basics? Do you know how to disassemble and clean your gun? Dirty guns, especially semi-autos become unreliable when they get dirty. Do you know how to draw from concealment, emergency reload and clear a malfunction rapidly? The following is an incomplete list of basic skills and mental tools for using a firearm defensively:

  • Gun selection
  • Full disassembly and cleaning (detail strip)
  • Reliability testing for pistol, ammunition and magazines
  • Safe storage
  • Discrete concealed carry
  • Drawing from concealment
  • Grip and stance
  • Rapid sight picture acquisition
  • Non-dominant hand firing
  • Firing from retention
  • Movement
  • Use of cover
  • Emergency reload
  • Emergency malfunction clearance
  • De-escalation and control
  • First aid

You can learn these things if you are serious about what you are doing or you can do what most people do: buy the gun, take it home, throw it in a drawer and forget about it. If you do, you would be better off throwing rocks.


Abraham Maslow once said, “When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” In the vast universe of problems that we humans face, guns solve very few of them. We have all heard the anecdotes about the elderly ladies who defended themselves from home invaders with a five-shot revolver. Those incidences do happen, but so far, they are so rare as to be statistically insignificant. Of course, if you’re the one in a million, then the gun is solid gold. These are hard choices.

When you arm yourself with a gun, there is a change in your psychology. If you adopt the “tactical mindset” you will find yourself walking around all day anticipating a gun fight. It’s a dark place to live, and it’s a legitimate question to ask if you want to live that way. The paradox is that if you get the gun and don’t adopt the tactical mindset, you’re just another fool upon whom Mr. Darwin is about to do his thing. I guess we all have to choose our own poison, but you have to decide if you want to live your life in that space.

I can hear some of you reading this and thinking, “Wow, Syd, your head is in a really dark place.” Not really, although I do read the news and global pandemics do tend to get me down. As I said in “Shooting Things (Not with a Camera),” I am a life-long gun owner. In 1997 when Kentucky passed its concealed carry law, I decided that I wanted the license. I took the course, found a gun that I liked and got my license. I joined a club that held tactical pistol matches each week. I hooked up with some people who were training serious people like Army Rangers and Air Force “A-Team” operators. I studied and learned everything I could. If some of my knowledge can keep someone from making a bad mistake, then it is worth the price of admission.

As to the present hour, I cannot offer advice beyond what I already have. If the experts are right, we are facing significant economic disruption from the coronavirus. With economic disruption comes civil disturbance. Life could get really hairy soon. In the final analysis, the question of guns for self-defense comes down to a set of moral choices, “Could I shoot another human being?” “If I choose non-violence, am I prepared to die or be abused for that conviction?” It also comes down to the question of our faith in our fellow human beings. Will we descend into an animalistic apocalypse or will we pull together and get each other through this? I’ll put my bet on us pulling together, but I still have a gun. God have mercy on us all.

“Momma, takes these guns off of me…” Bob Dylan, Knocking on Heaven’s Door


  1. Still I get no notice of your posts, Syd. My ‘clicking’ of the ‘notification by email’ has failed. Hardly surprising with WP. Whatever, this post of yours is sublimely alien to me. I say that ‘in a good way’, I stress. The concept of owning a gun in a land where only occasional anti-terrorist cops and a few top end robbers know of such things is a foreign to yours truly. That is no doubt why I found this post of life abroad so fascinating. The picture you paint is as a Hollywood fictional movie’s metamorphosed into fact. I believe we are sufficiently locked-in here in England to pass comment on how it pans out. At first moronic hard cash carrying selfish bastards bought up everything they could get their hands on leaving the poor and the vital to the NHS souls to effectively starve. The days of locusts at work. However, it seems a change of tack is on the way. Bereft of provisions after 5 full days at home I ventured out. Barely a soul to be seen. A hint of togetherness from the few out there at last? I think that that was so. The mood has changed for the better. For how long, debatable. Should starvation take hold it might not be guns on British streets, more likely the commonplace knives will be out. These extreme days finds me longing for a dose of old fashioned socialism for our capitalist government doesn’t seem to get its head around that people devoid of said hard cash tend the die of hunger unless they fight back. We are living a war without bombs methinks. A very fine post, Syd and my apologies at the length of this comment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Mike. I went all through my settings and couldn’t find anything except a page that says I don’t have any e-mail subscribers. I’m going to get some help from the WP support. There may be something I’m missing. BTW, I like long. Thanks for your thoughts.

      As to the article, Hollywood is a big part of the problem. They show people doing amazing things with guns and the bad guy dies and drops like a rock and our hero rides away into the sunset. It’s really a bad myth. There are more guns in the US than there are people. That tells you something, and they’re flying out of the gun stores right now. Most people who get guns don’t train on them and they’re just dangers to themselves and the people around them.

      With that said, I like my guns. I’ve had a lot of fun with them. There is something strangely relaxing to me about blazing away with a .45 automatic. There have been times that their presence has been comforting to me. I am infuriated by the abuse of guns that goes on in this country. So I am deeply conflicted about the whole thing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry for taking an age to get back to you, Syd. Covert missions to find the source of all toilet rolls took pride of place over all other matters. It seems the bulk buyers of this rotten land have stockpiled the fucking lot! The loo paper rainbow has no end. Such is life.
        Guns. Over the years, from the Vietnam draft dodgers seeking safe haven in England…a bloody fine bunce of lads I can confirm…up to the present day, when chatting to American chums on WP the matter of guns and discussing their merits has been a taboo subject. As such, my view and the view of others over here is that the US populous are mad. We see what happens when a nutter turns up and wipes out school kids etc. and wonder why the Second Amendment has never been revoked as from this side of the pond it seems ‘not fit for purpose’.
        However, here you have provided a different slant on what, arguably, is none of my business in the first place. I’ve never been privy to an alternative view previous. A different slant such as this gives insight as to how honourable Americans (i.e. like your good self) view the subject, both personally and generally. In truth, your reply is a thing I need to think about some more, yet a chunk of my brain is agreeing with your take and concerns on the matter. You’ll understand that, to a pacifist atheist like me, my brain accepting an alien concept is a rare and difficult thing to deal with.
        The key thing is Syd. I can see the point you have made and cannot argue with it. Therein lies my problem, therein lies information new to me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you. We are not the way we are because of the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment is the way it is because of the way we want to be. Most of us grew up with the myth of rag-tag citizen militias evicting the crown (it was really Washington’s regulars). There are large areas in the states that are still very remote and law enforcement is hours away if they come at all. The people who live in those areas are all armed and get very testy whey you speak of taking their guns away. In the urban areas we have the psychos and the gangs. Even many churches have armed up to protect themselves from mass shooters. It is absolutely dystopian, but virtually insoluble.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Insoluble, yes. I can now see and understand that, Syd. In my ignorance America and guns have been on the back burner…things it never occured to me to investigate and have a specfic, well-informed view on. If I wasn’t so bloody ancient I’d take a few years researching this topic. Even as I write this the spine of a tale…from the outside looking in…evovles. ‘Tis a bloody shame that US news and UK news from the US on the TV we, over here, never get the take on the subject your comments here provide. All get is the death toll, never the wide lens picture. Best of good fortune, Sir

        Liked by 1 person

      • Cheers, Syd. There’s an old song…I cannot recall the artist’s name…’Both Sides of the Story’. So many of us ignore that at their peril.


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