Saturday, June 6, 2009

Your First Handgun: Three More Things To Buy

As a firearms trainer and a state of Michigan concealed pistol licensee (CPL), I sometimes take for granted the lifestyle changes I had to make and the small kernels of knowledge that I had to pick up when I first started carrying a gun. One such "Oh yeah" moment occurred a few months ago when I was assisting one of my students with her selection of a defensive handgun.

For a while, I had extended many free courtesies to students who took and completed my CCW/CPL Training Class. For example, I would freely (i.e. without cost) make my time available for students who wanted to recreationally shoot at a local target range and help them to pick out for purchase the best handgun that fit their unique needs. Unfortunately, I had to discontinue the practice as quite a few students started to "no-show" without calling. So now, I still "coach and shop" for a nominal fee to get them to actually show up to the meeting.

In any case, I had this one particular student who had to budget her finances for a while until she could raise the funds necessary to purchase her first handgun. As a rule, I tell my students to expect to pay "in the neighborhood of" about $400 - $600 for a quality defensive handgun to reliably protect themselves.

I do understand that for many people that this amount of money is a huge sum. Many times it takes moving some expenses around for a period of time to acquire the necessary amount. On the other hand, some people take the viewpoint and position I took after I was robbed several years ago before I started carrying a gun.

My mindset, at that juncture, was all about getting armed as quickly as possible. I didn't have any extra money. However, I was willing to pay some bills late and worry about getting them caught up later. Protecting myself was my highest priority. Everything else was secondary.

In her case, she had accumulated $500 to buy her handgun. So, we made an appointment to meet up at the gun shop. When we finally got together at the range, we looked at a variety of different pistols while considering different variables: form factor, caliber, brand, and etc.

In the end, we found what we believed to be the best fit for her among the models available for sale. Sometimes, you can't get everything you want in a handgun when the political climate has handguns in short supply with escalating prices. Coincidentally, her purchase - with sales tax - matched the amount of money she had budgeted.

My student "thought" that her shopping was now done. I had to then "remind her" with info that I had previously shared in my class. Specifically, she needed to buy three more items: a holster, defensive ammunition, and a small car safe. My student then told me that I should have told her about the additional requirements again before she arrived.

A holster is need to securely "carry" the handgun. Only criminals carry guns without a holster; they don't want to arouse suspicions from law enforcement that they may be in possession of a handgun. Licensed carriers, however, want to be able to securely tote their firearms without losing control of them, such as would the case if they dropped it in a supermarket check-out lane.

We had to discuss how she wanted to carry her gun. Did she want to carry her handgun with a waistband holster? If so, inside the waistband (IWB) or outside the waistband (OWB)? Did she want a shoulder rig? Would an ankle holster work? Would a pocket holster or a concealed carry purse make sense. She hadn't considered all of the options and asked me to make the call. I went to the shelf and grabbed a quality leather IWB holster that matched her gun and tossed it onto the counter.

Defensive ammunition was the next item on the shopping list. As I also earlier taught in my class some time ago, jacketed hollow points (JHPs) should be carried in a defensive handgun. This ammo is specifically designed to stop in the first target that it hits. In so doing, it significantly reduces the chances of "over-penetration."

If a CPL made the decision to not carry JHPs and to instead use regular practice ammunition - full metal jackets (FMJs) - it is possible that a bullet could hit its primary target and over-penetrate completely through and strike another unintended target. The gun owner, in that scenario, would be held liable for that errant bullet and could face criminal prosecution and/or a civil action via an aggrieved party to a lawsuit.

So, my student "had" to buy at least one box of defensive ammo. There is absolutely no sense in having a gun if you can't load it and ultimately use it if a threat materializes without jeopardizing the safety of the neighborhood.

Finally, the last item to be picked up was a car safe. It is needed because there are places - Pistol Free Zones - where CPLs can't legally carry their concealed firearms. In those areas, the exempt parking lots can serve as a holding area. So, the safe is needed to securely lock away and store her gun when visiting those forbidden carry areas.

In all, she spent close to $200 more than she had originally planned. So, if finances are tight, handgun buyers should make sure that they have enough money to buy "must-have" accessories to accompany a concealed firearm. Before we parted ways, I also suggested that she buy some shooting glasses, hearing protection, and a cleaning kit. Those items can wait - for now.

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