Don’t let your equipment defeat you!
When teaching new shooters, especially those new to concealed carry or rookie law enforcement officers, I always provide a foundation of basic marksmanship.
There is, however, another critical element of training and preparedness for those relying on a firearm for defensive purposes. When I started out many years ago in my law enforcement career, the training sergeant left us recruits with a quote I will never forget: “Don’t let your equipment defeat you.” I find myself constantly using that doctrine still today, both for myself and when teaching. It applies now more than ever due to ever-increasing choices and technology for all firearms-related gear.
So what exactly am I referring to? Simply put, do not allow your equipment to be a hurdle in successfully defending yourself. Tools must be deployed effectively when your life or the lives of others are at risk.
The following are areas where I constantly see students struggling with equipment. For the purposes of this article, I will address handguns only.
Belt and holster system:
How may your carry system defeat you? Not allowing you to access your firearm quickly, wearing your gun in a way that others can access it, having too many devices to defeat in order to get the gun into play, forcing to draw in ways you’re not accustomed to, etc. These are but a few of the issues that can occur.
No matter if you’re a fledgling shooter, new to concealed carry or beginning a law enforcement career, your holster or carry system must secure the handgun properly. That means retaining the gun in a way that prevents unintentional loss to gravity or another person, while giving you easy, rapid access. The shortest path to such a system is a sturdy belt and holster for waistline carry or a designated compartment for off-body carry (purse, pack, brief case, etc.).
How may your magazines defeat you? Not feeding ammunition properly, not allowing the slide to lock back, and possibly interfering with ejection/extraction. Again, to mention but a few!
I like to address the magazine separately because it is critical to proper functioning. My suggestion, use good factory made magazines for your defensive pistol, and test them! There are some excellent aftermarket mags for certain handgun platforms. But day in and day out, I use original factory mags for everyday carry.
After hard use in training you may want to consider having a second set of mags for EDC. Inspect your mags and never hesitate to replace if needed.
Revolver carriers must make sure that their speed loaders and/or speed strips match the revolver they carry.
How may ammunition defeat you? There are two ways–not cycling in your handgun of choice, or not firing when you pull the trigger. There are a variety of causes, most commonly old ammo, hard primers, poorly made reloads, etc.
Another cause is human-induced and may seem obvious, but I have seen it often enough to mention, including among experienced shooters. Inattention or misunderstanding of caliber designation have resulted in people loading the wrong caliber. This can of course lead to injury to both shooter and gun.
Most folks train with ball/FMJ ammo, as do I. However, I never fail to test the ammunition I carry every day in my sidearm. This is to determine if the ammo will feed and cycle without fail in my carry gun. All who have been shooting a semi-auto handgun have probably experienced some failures to feed with certain types of ammo. Some handgun platforms and models are more prone to this than others. Bottom line, shoot a magazine or cylinder full of that costly defensive ammo, just to make sure.
The handgun itself:
How may your handgun defeat you? Not a good fit for your hand. Too many added features that interfere with reliable operation. Safety and de-cocker mechanisms that the shooter cannot manipulate well, especially under stress. Sights that are barely visible. Magazines that won’t drop freely when the need for a speed or emergency load is urgent.
The choices are endless. Caliber, make and model, single or double stack magazines to name a few. Not to mention the add-ons…night sights, red dot sights, laser, extended mag or slide release, etc. To me, the simpler and more reliable the better! Don’t get me wrong, I like some added features such as night sights and others….but I can live without most.
Bottom line: Does the handgun go “bang” every time you tell it to? Does it have reasonable accuracy? Does it function well with all brands and types of ammo? Are the sights easily visible and highly functional? Is it easy to operate without lots of unnecessary manipulation? Can I shoot the gun well and do I have confidence in it and my ability?
I don’t get wrapped around the axle about caliber. Choose what you shoot well, have confidence in, and train with often. All this will add up to not letting your equipment defeat you!