Self Defense

Should You Carry a Defensive Pistol?

Carrying a defensive pistol is a very personal choice. There are compelling reasons to do so, but also not to. There are ethical, legal, and competence considerations and implications worth contemplating from time to time.

When I initially planned to write this post, I had planned to do a can, may, should, must exploration on the topic of carrying a pistol for self defense in a manner similar to what I did on this post about shooting a pistol in self defense. As I started writing, I realized that the can, may, and must components really didn’t have much meat on them. The can component only requires one having a pistol to carry although an argument could be made with regards to clothing decisions in addition to having a quality carry system. The may component comes down to the applicable laws of the jurisdiction. The must component is nothing more than a personal choice to carry or not to unless one is compelled to do so by the requirements of their profession. The should component however, well, that is where the meat of the discussion is. 

Should one carry? That’s not a simple question to answer. There are many facets to consider. To complicate matters further, I don’t think it’s entirely possible to explore this question without interjecting my opinion on the matter. I’m definitely biased in favor of carrying a defensive pistol at all possible times, because that is my personal answer to the question. However, I’m well aware that other folks may arrive at a different conclusion for a number of reasons. 

Perhaps the best place to begin this discussion is with the reason behind carrying a pistol for self defense. What is that reason? Why carry a defensive pistol? Well, duh! For self defense. The reason is right there in the question. I’m guessing that any person currently reading this at this very moment is doing so because of interest in a pistol for self defense. Let’s go a little deeper into the obvious answer. 

When asking folks to elucidate on their interest for a defensive pistol, the most common answers are a trite euphemisms such as, but not limited to, “in case I need to defend myself”, “it’s better to have and not need than need and not have”, or “you know, for emergencies”. Okay. What does that mean? The reality is that most of us will continue to use similar answers because we are uncomfortable with the harsh blunt truth behind it. The truth is we may find ourselves in a situation where the only way to stop violence or the threat of violence is with violence of our own. That is to cause sufficient physical damage to a violent criminal actor so that they no longer continue to present a threat which may result in the actor’s death. That’s an unpleasant reality for some folks. It’s so unpleasant that some folks may not be able to come to terms with it. I would suggest that perhaps one shouldn’t carry a defensive pistol until they come to terms with that truth. 

If coming to terms with that reality is difficult, as it should be, then it is probably worth considering how prevalent violence is in this day and age. It’s not difficult to rationalize away the risk because one lives in a safe neighborhood and doesn’t take unnecessary risks. Combine that and the reporting of crime statistics that shows crime is on a downtrend like I did in this post about preparing for violence. These statistics are based on reported incidents and there are a significant number of law enforcement agencies that don’t participate in national crime statistics reporting. While the number of homicides are down, consider that many violent crimes don’t end up as homicides as a result of modern medicine, but that doesn’t mean that the victims are free from permanent disfiguration or will live their rest of their lives without a life long disability as a result of the physical or psychological injuries they sustained. Then consider the number of unsolved missing persons cases. Folks who just disappeared and were never found. Chances are you or someone you know (or knew) was a victim of violence. It doesn’t matter where we live or how we live the chances of violence happening to us are never zero. The possibility is always present.

Even if we have come to terms with why one carries a defensive pistol, one would be wise to consider if they are competent enough to fight with it. Do you possess the ability to make accurate hits on vitality significant anatomy on a human attacker at five to seven yards? What about fifteen to twenty five? Can you do the same at bad breath distance while maintaining control of the firearm? Are you aware of the potential physiological and psychological effects you will likely experience under the stress of fighting for your life or the lives of your loved ones? Do you have a plan or a script for interacting with law enforcement after an incident? What’s the plan for retaining legal counsel? What about medical and psychological care after the fact?

I’m aware I’ve bombarded you with a deluge of questions. The thing is these are important things to ponder and reevaluate from time to time. The answers to these questions, and others that didn’t come to mind as I wrote them out, help us assess our level of preparedness to use the weapon we might carry in self defense. At a minimum, that assessment will do two things. First, it will identify areas in our preparedness that need improvement which can help inform what additional training one should seek. Second, it will help us honestly answer the question of, “Should I carry a defensive pistol?” While it is up to each of us to figure out what level of competence and readiness is good enough to answer that question affirmatively, I will encourage readers who haven’t taken a class beyond the state mandated requirements to take a one or two day defensive pistol class something similar to Rangemaster’s Combative Pistol course or KR Training’s Defensive Pistol Skills 1, 2, and 3 courses as that experience will provide valuable insight to answer the aforementioned questions objectively. 

So should you carry a defensive pistol? Only you can answer that question for yourself, but it is my hope that this post has given a few things to chew on to help you answer that question.

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