Should You Modify Your Carry Gun?

If you frequent the internet gun forums, you’ll undoubtedly see this question being hotly debated: Should you modify your carry gun? If so, what kinds of modifications are “okay” and what kinds should be avoided?

The Interwebs offer vehement arguments on both sides of the issue. “Leave your carry gun bone stock,” some people will argue. “Make any modifications and you open yourself up for a world of legal hurt if you ever have to shoot someone.” Other people will argue just as stridently that any modification which improves the gun is fair game and the legal system be damned. “It’s obvious,” they cry. “I’m going to do what makes my gun work for me, and if a jury’s too stupid to understand why I did it, that’s their problem!”

Unfortunately, if you land in court following a deadly force encounter, that’s going to become your problem. And you can safely bet that the sort of people who read blogs like this one and know something about guns probably won’t be on your jury.

So where’s the happy medium? What modifications can you make to your carry gun? Which ones should you stay away from?

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Single Points of Failure

Kathy Jackson over at Cornered Cat had a reminder today about firearms safety and the consequences of complacency. She shared the tragic story of a small child seriously injured when he was able to get his hands on his father’s Glock.

Kathy writes:

It’s tempting to think that simply keeping the guns locked up will always be enough. But even responsible adults make mistakes sometimes. When there’s an unplanned failure in your lock-it-up system, the lessons you’ve taught your children can help avoid a tragedy.

I wanted to share Kathy’s post, both as a reminder that we can NEVER take safety for granted, and to talk about the larger issue of “single points of failure” and how that concept applies to our personal safety.

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Choosing a Firearm You Can Control

I was at the range yesterday, and I noticed something which puzzled me. There were only a handful of women actually on the (crowded) firing line, and I was the only one of them not shooting a short-barrelled revolver.

One lady was shooting a Ruger LCR, and the other two were shooting guns that looked like S&W Airweights (though I wasn’t close enough to tell for sure). These other women had something else in common, too: Every single one of them was struggling mightily to control the recoil of their little guns, and their shots were landing all over the place as a result.

I’m not intending to start a holy war about gun selection, but it seems to me there’s a problem with that.

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Criminals Don’t Think Like You

I was listening to the latest of Ben Branam’s Modern Self-Protection podcast today, and wanted to underline something Ben talks about that’s important to understanding how to respond to a violent attack: The criminals don’t think the way you do.

When we try to imagine what a criminal will do, and how we can respond to it, it’s only natural to think about what we would do in a similar situation. People tell us “talk about yourself to make the criminal empathize with you”, or “give him what we wants and he won’t hurt you.” I’ve heard some people tell rape victims to urinate or vomit on their attackers. These seem like natural suggestions on the surface. After all, we don’t deliberately hurt people we care about. We don’t deliberately hurt people who give us what we want. We find throwing up a turn-off. If that’s how we would feel, that’s how the criminal would feel too. Right?

Wrong. What would work on us if we were criminals doesn’t work on actual criminals, because actual criminals don’t think the way we do. This is the gap between “the reality of violence” and “the fantasy of violence” that Rory Miller talks about, and wrapping our heads around it is hugely important if we want to stay safe.

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Embrace What You Don’t Know

20121010-175025.jpg“Know your limits.” It’s a phrase people say a lot, so much so that it’s become almost a cliché in our society. In many areas of human endeavor, ignorance of our limits can propel us far outside them. Deliberately pushing our limits, with training and preparation, is a powerful and hugely important thing. Tripping, skidding past the limit without awareness that we’ve done it, veering off the road and crashing into the ditch? Not so much.

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Instructors: Check Your Ego at the Door

I thought about titling this post, “It’s Not All About You”, but decided that would be too inflammatory. But I want to talk about something that’s been on my mind lately.

Over at the Cornered Cat blog, Kathy Jackson had a post today about the fact that instructors are, by the nature of what they do, in a position of authority over their students, and she talked about the limits of that authority. One piece in particular jumped out at me:

[T]hat authority is voluntary, limited, and temporary.

It is voluntary because your students choose to enroll in your classes. The students who end up in your classes get there because they have made a choice to do that. They have lots of other things they could have done this weekend, but they chose to rearrange their time to spend it with you. They have lots of other things they could do with their money, but they chose to buy a class from you. You have to treat them with the same respect a shopkeeper would give a customer, because that’s what they are—customers.

I wanted to highlight this part of Kathy’s post because I think there’s another important aspect to the voluntary nature of this authority we have as teachers: The student who comes to us is choosing to do that because of what THEY want to learn. Your job as an instructor is to meet that need, to help them learn the skills they seek, or to tell them that those skills are outside your area of expertise and suggest the look elsewhere (if that’s true). Although you have the position of authority in the relationship, the relationship is about them, not about you.

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IANAL: Talking to Law Enforcement After a Shooting

The conventional wisdom on the Internet says that, if you ever have to use lethal force to defend yourself, the best response to the police is to say nothing. “Tell them, ‘I refuse to answer any questions without my lawyer present’ and then shut up,” the Internet tells us. Or, sometimes people advise us to say “I was in fear for my life” and then shut up. But is this really the best course of action after a shooting?

The “shut your mouth and say nothing” advice is driven primarily by the belief that (a) you might say something in the heat of emotion that could later be misconstrued as incriminating, and (b) that the police are looking for a reason to arrest you. The first is very likely true; the second not necessarily so.

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Teaching Shooting, and “Necessary” vs. “Sufficient”

The inimitable Kathy Jackson of Cornered Cat has a blog, and she had an excellent post today about good teachers. I left a comment on her post, but wanted to reiterate and expand on something here.

Kathy wrote:

There’s a huge number of women out there right now who have a desire to reach out and to work with other women, but too many of these women have not yet developed the skillset to do that well.


I’m always impressed when I talk to women who have a heart to help other women get into the firearms world, and especially into the self-defense corners of that world. I love that! I love it so much that it thrills me to see it being done well. I love to watch competent women at work and I love to meet women who work hard to learn what they need to know in order to reach others even more effectively.

Personally, I think this is hugely important, and I want to expand on it a bit here. In particular, I’d like to talk about what makes a qualified firearms instructor, and what makes a good one. I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there, and (as I said in my comment on Kathy’s post) self-defense and shooting skills are just too important to be held hostage to an instructor’s ego trip or, worse, to his or her ignorance.

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Take a Friend to the Range

20121001-213423.jpgMassad Ayoob had a lovely blog post today about a GSSF match he and Gail shot in Salt Lake City over the weekend. Mas talked about the joy of taking someone shooting and seeing them do well and have a great time. He ends his post by encouraging us to “take someone shooting. On the practice range if they’re new, and to a match if they’re ready. You’ll feel as good about it as I do, today…”

Mas’s post was very timely for me, because I had a similar experience over the weekend. Having just written about the empowerment that comes from spreading our wings and trying new things and pushing our internal mental boundaries, Sunday was a great opportunity to reflect on that in action.

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Practice Not Shooting


Robert over at The Truth About Guns has a good reminder today: One thing we should include in our training is practice not shooting.

Robert discusses the tragic case of Jeffrey Giuliano, a Connecticut man who recently shot and killed a masked intruder in his home, only to discover the hooded figure was his own fifteen year old son. And he points out something interesting and, I think, important.

Robert writes:

One thing is for sure, if you shoot every time you clear leather or aim a gun at a gun range—which people do tens of thousands of times over decades— you’re most likely to shoot when you clear leather in a defensive gun use (DGU). Regardless of whether or not you should.

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