It's an internet minefield out there...

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, "never have so many had so much to say about so little."

I'm probably as guilty as most other people who use the internet to talk about guns. I was a moderator of a popular gun forum for over a year, and I still visit one or two now and then. When you moderate posts written by people who have guns, or want to have them, you read a lot of nonsense, bragging and basically stupid things. These are almost exclusively written by men. Take that for what it's worth.

Internet gun forums are bad enough but add on You Tube videos, which can be made and uploaded by practically anyone, and "self defense" and "training" outfits and you get full-on audio and video "how to" onslaught. Now, some of this – some – is good stuff, valuable information, but not most of it. The problem is, how to tell the crap from the good stuff? It's not easy.

Here is a sampling of some gun forum internet topics:

"How are you all doing shooting on the move?"
"2 am, you're asleep with your wife, you clearly hear a break-in. Do you check alone?"
"Navy SEAL vrs Israeli Commando: The Deadliest Warrior Video"
"AAR: Tactical Defense Institute Extreme Close Quarters"
"Combat Mindset: Cooper Color Code"
"Firing from inside the pocket"

There are thousands more "training" and "self defense" topics to choose from. Many of them are bad, and many are ill-informed, posted by individuals with no actual self defense training or experience.

I think there are two main camps at work here, the camp populated by people, men almost exclusively, that believe one should think about, talk about and, possibly, train for almost all scenarios of self defense. Home defense. House clearing. Constant street awareness. Knife and bare hand fighting. Guns and backup guns. Night shooting. Shooting while running, walking, standing, lying down, rolling over, ... The list goes on. I suppose if one has been trained by the Army special forces, Navy SEALS or in Marine advanced combat tactics, or wants to be, this is a good thing. For the most of us though, it's unrealistic overkill. All this material, posts, videos, courses, etc., evidently reaches an audience large enough to support forums and numerous "training" organizations offering live, video and internet-based courses for a fee.

I don't want to live my life in constant preparation for the apocalypse, zombie, religious, biker gangs or otherwise. I don't want to train constantly for a street fight with drug crazed monsters out to kill me at all costs. I strongly suspect none of that is going to happen. Not to me, or to most of us.

One online business offering internet training, video courses and "live" training at it's facility said, quite truthfully, that your gun is not the solution to your self defense problems. I agree, that by itself, the gun will sometimes not be enough. But I do not agree that the solution is constant and rigorous training in all manner of self defense tactics and equipment. For the vast majority of us civilians, having the right attitude and a few basic skills, which do need to be refreshed from time to time, is sufficient to provide a much higher level of personal security in normal life. I think these are easily summarized as follows:

Know that you may have to act to defend yourself or others. This is based on the attitude that one should be aware of one's surroundings and the people in them most of the time. You can't always tell if a person in your vicinity is meaning to do violence or not. Sometimes it is pretty easy to make the assumption that certain people may be more prone to violence and unpredictable behaviors than others. Three or for drunk young men hanging out on the street rate higher on the potential violence list than a carload of well dress people heading for the theatre.

Cultivate the attitude of awareness. Be aware of where you are and who is around, or could be around. It's not rocket science.

Be prepared to take action that will move you and those you care about to a more safe situation. This could be just turning around and walking off in a different direction from a situation you are aware of that may be unsafe. Crossing the street. Not getting out of the car. Not hassling people on the highway. Ignoring insults.

And, having the means of protection on your person if your avoidance actions don't work. If you have a carry permit, and you are basically trained and efficient with your carry weapon, carry it. Wherever you can. It will do you no good if you need it and don't have it. Having a gun does not mean you will be successful, or even that you will survive, but it certainly puts the odds much higher in your favor.

This is where the internet "experts", trainers and sellers of all kinds of protective equipment thrive. One could possibly become maximally effective in all scenarios with all manner of gear given the time and money to become superbly trained in them. Most of us won't. Most of us don't need to. But, there is a basic level of effectiveness that is required for those who choose to carry a weapon for self defense. You must know how to carry and use it safely and effectively. Most of us don't.

Many people carry a handgun in a place that is not optimal, like the font pants pocket, or behind the back, or off at the 4 o'clock position (right handers), or even ankle holsters. Getting to a handgun efficiently while sitting down, which for most of us is most of the time, is very difficult when carried in those places.

Getting to and safely pulling a handgun from a concealment holster is a difficult task and should be practiced until the muscle memory is in place. That means you have to be consistent with where it will be carried and have a good holster to keep it there and accessible. And, this is more difficult and dangerous when one has to practice pulling a loaded weapon relatively quickly and efficiently and firing it at a close in target. Hardly anyone practices this. It takes time and money. You must begin slowly in order not to shoot yourself or an innocent bystander at the range (which won't be an indoor range because most of them have insurance companies that would fall over in a dead faint if such a tactic were suggested).

You must be willing to shoot up a significant amount of ammunition in order to get this drill down efficiently and safely. You must be willing to practice shooting with one hand, keeping the other out of the way so you don't shoot it. Most close in defensive shootings happen quickly and with one hand. Most of these only score hits to the target (in real, stressful, life-and-death situations) about 20% to 30% of the time, and 30% may be too optimistic.

Then, to actually be effective, you MUST be able to hit what you shoot at the vast majority of the time. In many situations there will be innocent bystanders around, and the most effective response might be not to shoot at all rather than take the chance of hurting some innocent person. How many of us train NOT to shoot even after drawing and holding with the finger on the trigger? Hardly anyone, is my guess.

So, some basic training by knowledgeable people is a good thing. There are clubs and organizations, sometimes police or Sheriff departments that offer instruction, that can provide the basic education and training you need. You don't need to invest significant time and money to become a civilian commando in order to be prepared to defend yourself. One may not always come out on top, but one can even the odds a great deal with good knowledge and basic training.

Resorting to a legally carried handgun to protect yourself or other innocent people is a deadly serious thing and most legislation that deals with this is very clear on when you are permitted to resort to deadly force. Know it. Learn it by heart. And, although you don't need to undergo zombie apocalypse training, you do have the responsibility to be aware, prepared and effective with your self defense weapon.

Fortunately, the gun in the hands of a citizen who is set to protect herself and, perhaps, others, is often all the deterrent needed to put a stop to a potentially bad situation. I can't help thinking that if most people were armed, the bad people would think twice before attempting to prey on a seemingly innocent, unprepared person.