Why we carry: Self defense vs the defense of others

Letter sent to Guns.com from Tyler Bailey, Chief Executive Officer and Lead Trainer of Paladin Defensive Solutions and published with his permission.

As a firearms and self-defense instructor, one of the most common questions I am asked is my view and opinion on certain firearms for personal (or concealed) carry. This question is not as easy as analyzing the comfort, performance, accuracy or dimensions of a pistol. This question requires a significant amount of self-reflection on WHY you want to carry a gun. I believe that when good citizens seek to own or carry a firearm, their intent for doing so can be boiled down to either 1. Self-Defense or 2. Defense of Others (including but not limited to yourself).

I do not judge someone’s personal reasons for identifying with either one of these two reasons. There are plenty of civilians out there willing and able to plunge themselves into the heat of battle to protect citizens around them.

Conversely, there are plenty of police officers out there who would quickly walk away from a conflict off-duty and call their buddies who are wearing the bullet proof vests to come deal with a problem. Bottom line, you be you, and I’ll be me, but we better damn well know who we are before the shots start cracking off.

So without getting into specific weapons systems or calibers, let’s analyze these reasons separately for a moment and hopefully, this will allow my readers to gain some insight into where their minds are before they make the life altering decision of carrying a gun.

1. Self Defense: This one is pretty cut and dry folks. There’s only one person involved and that’s you. To properly analyze this reasoning for carrying you have to ask yourself what the realistic concerns are that you believe would place you in a self-defense scenario. These things should be realistic to you, not generalized fears of becoming a victim (if that’s the problem, seek counseling before you seek firearms). Some examples may be robbery, rape, kidnapping, personal vendetta’s against you etc.

These concerns should be reasonable to you and your unique situation. For example, as a general rule, it is reasonable for a female to be concerned or at least cognizant of the fact that she may be a victim of rape or another type of violent assault. These concerns are based on national statistics and trends. Conversely, if you’re a 6-foot-2 musclebound, scar-faced, bearded vet, then you can probably cross things like rape or personal robbery right off your list of concerns. Those people who would seek to victimize others are, in general, complete cowards and generally pick targets based on weakness and perceived chances of success. In different geographical areas or with certain professions, the threat of kidnapping and/or a vendetta based attack may be so substantial that you not only seek a concealed firearms permit but may be forced to procure a team of security professionals to ensure your protection.

With all this in mind, you should limit your options for a daily carry firearm to something that will work for your situation. Let’s take an example from each end of the aforementioned spectrum:

A slightly built female subject who is interested in self-protection has limited options on carrying her firearm in a way which doesn’t print on her body. This female may, by necessity, be limited to a smaller framed handgun which isn’t too heavy and can be concealed on her person or in her purse (without being so cumbersome that she simply leaves it at home). With that being said, if her primary concern for self-protection is having something to defend against a violent assault, a small five- or six-shot revolver or semi-auto pistol may be completely sufficient. I don’t care what the ballistic performance on a certain caliber is—placing holes in a rapist’s body at close range is what I call a “mood killer” and changes that person’s priorities from your body to plugging up the holes in his.

On the other end of the spectrum, if your concerns for self-protection include protecting yourself from violent criminals (a prosecuting attorney, or judge, military member etc); you may quickly find that you are drastically out-gunned if you bring this type of small-framed/limited capacity pistol to a gun-fight.

2. Defense of Others: I would hope that the majority of firearm owners, if put in the place and time of a significant event would rise to the occasion and at least take some defensive action to protect innocents in harm’s way. What I am talking about in this section, however, is the firearm owner who specifically trains and carries to defend their community. These are the firearm owners who stop shootings in progress, who stop burglaries and armed robberies. These are the people who are there when the police are not (remember, when you need a police officer RIGHT NOW, they are just minutes away).

If this is you then I suggest leaving those small-framed pistols with limited magazine (or ammo) capacity home. You need to find a workable way to carry a full-size or slightly smaller “compact” pistol, possibly with a secondary magazine. These weapons systems are simply more accurate, recoil less (for accurate follow on shots) and have a much higher ammunition capacity than a subcompact pistol. They may be slightly more cumbersome but there is always a way to carry them without printing or giving away that you have a gun.

You will find that the national average “hit rate” for police officers involved in officer involved shootings is between 25 and 40 percent. This average hit rate is absolutely terrible but, remember that it’s a snap-shot of reality and it’s performed by men and women who carry a gun as a job and are required to train with it at least one to four times annually. Police Officer standards, while lacking are much better and thorough than the average concealed carry requirements. Even most military training standards (for non-combatant units) are significantly lower than Police Officer standards for handgun qualifications.

So now that we’ve established that even police miss 60 to 75 percent of the time (from their full size weapons), I would venture a guess that if they had to shoot something like a Kahr .380, in these gun battles, their hit rates would be astronomically lower.

Additionally, you will find no individual ever, who has been in a fire-fight who said the words, “I wish I had been more comfortable carrying my gun before I had to shoot it,” or something like: “The only bad part was, I had way too much ammunition and didn’t have to reload enough.” Bottom line, if you are not a professional or experienced gun-fighter you will fire much more than you think you would and your rounds will be less effective than you think they should be.

Take a few minutes and watch some gunfights on YouTube. I’m not talking about a one-sided police shoot but a gun battle where the suspect is shooting back. You will find that there is usually an initial volley of gunfire (somewhere between four and 10 rounds exchanged from each gun) and then, if anyone is left standing it turns into a hunt and peck operation between and around the available cover until someone dies or someone flees.

If I’m going to engage in a gun battle… I can’t even imagine the terror of shooting all or most of the rounds in my small-frame pistol, then discovering that the bad guy is not stopping, and is still trying to kill me. Nope…. not for me.

So I’ve just used a lot of words and probably lost most my readers to say this: If sexual assault or a stalker is your primary concern: Get yourself a little gun, train with it, pre-access it in dangerous areas and carry it everywhere.

If you want to be relevant in an active shooter situation or stopping a violent felony, then carry a larger frame gun with a reasonable amount of ammo (12+ rounds) and a magazine change. That’s the bare minimum.

If you think your Khar 380 pistol is in your waistband to “protect your family”… you may want to have 911 on speed dial, cause cops carry real guns.

If you want to turn these damn terrorists into pink mist… then lock and secure an assault rifle in your trunk.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.