I Love My Guns

By MamaLiberty

Some recent comments on various message boards frequented by shooters indicate that a few people are either changing their minds or are bowing to the politically correct pressure of the day. They have begun to assert that they do NOT “love their guns” and only view them as necessary tools.

While I couldn’t agree more that guns are simply tools, pretty much like any others, I don’t know why that would make them unlovable. Most men love their tools, all different kinds, and men have always loved their guns. I’m certainly not ashamed to join those men.

But, you might ask, just what is it that we (who still profess it anyway) actually love about guns? Aren’t they killing machines, good only for harming others? We hear that a lot.

So, why do I love my guns? Let me count the ways.

To start with, about 30 years ago I was attacked and would likely have died if I had not been armed.

At that point the man started to walk toward me, in a few words telling me just how he would hurt me. I raised the shotgun, but he just sneered and said confidently, “you won’t shoot me” and kept coming.
He was still too close to my car, so I aimed the .410 shotgun just over his head and pulled the trigger.
I saw the shocked look, just before I saw the blood on his face and chest where the tiny #6 birdshot had hit him. He turned and ran away, destroying a low ornamental fence in the process, but never even slowing to untangle it from his legs.

How would the world be better and more peaceful if I had been raped and murdered instead, simply because I had no gun?

I love to take my guns apart and clean them, usually after a satisfying day at the range or out on the wide grasslands. I love their mechanical simplicity and elegance, the engineering miracle that really has not changed much for hundreds of years. I love the smell of the cleaning products and the silky sound of the action when it is oiled properly. The crisp “snap” of the trigger release is music to my ears.

Though I protect my hearing religiously, I love the sound of gunfire on the range when I’m there, and in the distance as others shoot. I’m about a mile from the range and can hear it often. It is the sound of freedom to me – other men and women both enjoying themselves and practicing a useful skill.

I have an old M1 .30 carbine. The scratches and dents in the old wooden stock have a serious story to tell… though sadly I can’t read it and the man who could is probably long gone by now. I love to shoot that gun, and imagine the story it might tell if it could. It’s a good old gun, and would certainly help me to defend myself and my neighbors if necessary.

My old Marlin 30-30 lever gun is just about perfect for hunting, which could keep me alive if things ever got to that point. That might mean bringing down deer for food, or holding off predators who would take my food away from me.  The scarred old stock has another and just as beautiful tale to tell, of hunts and shooting matches and the companionship that both can bring to all kinds of people.

The Springfield XD 9mm I carry on my belt each day, everywhere I go, is part of the ongoing story of my life. I’m 67 years old, and not able to run or fight meaningfully with my bare hands. The tool in that holster gives me the power to overcome my physical shortcomings and equalizes my opportunity to save myself or others from aggression and great harm or death. That is a heavy responsibility and one that most armed people take very seriously.

A Ruger .357 magnum revolver is my back up and concealed carry gun. I carried it openly for years, but found I had better control of the semi-automatic. Concealed carry is good for certain situations, but I’m glad that it’s not necessary all the time.

The most important reason I love my guns is something quite different, however.

They represent self ownership, and true independence. They mark me as one who is responsible for myself and willing to risk everything to protect myself and others. It also marks me as a free human being and not a slave. Slaves are not “allowed” to own and carry guns. Free people can’t be stopped from doing so.

I love my guns, and the liberty for which they stand.

******

*NRA Certified instructor and other certification for handguns, self defense. Thirty years teaching and shooting experience.

I Am Not A Victim” is available as an e-book free. Read the story at the link and follow the directions to get your pdf copy by return email.

More Than Just Self Defense

The students in my basic pistol classes are usually too overwhelmed with new information to ask many questions, but I often get good ones from the intermediate and conceal carry students. This last week I got an exceptional one, and it caused me to consider rewriting a part of my book.

We had been going over situational awareness, and she asked if I had any suggestions, beyond the exercises in the book, to help practice for that. We discussed some, and then went on with how that could contribute a lot to other areas of our lives, giving us both the motive and opportunity to actually practice it all the time.

The implications for self defense are important, obviously, so that we may be aware of danger as early as possible and can avoid it or respond otherwise as appropriate. We agreed that it was very important to teach this to children early, since they are even more vulnerable.

So, in what other ways would the constant practice of situational awareness benefit us and those around us?

We can become much better, safer drivers. Now this might seem contradictory a little, since distraction is a major cause of accidents and we are proposing to be aware of a great deal more than we might otherwise be, but if we integrate that awareness into other safe driving habits, consciously weeding out the irrelevant things that are so often distractions, it only seems logical that we become a better driver. We train ourselves to observe what we see around us, the actions of other vehicles and pedestrians, and assess them for potential problems. We also would be thinking of simple plans to avoid problems. The key is to be aware and prepared, rather than surprised when danger strikes.

By the same token, we become much safer pedestrians.

We can become better shoppers. I had not thought about this before, but it seems clear. If we are practicing being aware of our surroundings, why would that not extend to examining, assessing and evaluating the things we propose to purchase? Did you ever get home with a rotten potato in the bottom of the bag? Did you determine to lift the bag and LOOK for one next time? Cracked eggs? Out of date milk? Dented cans? A tear in a shirt, or a missing hook on a boot after you got the items home? I’ve done them all at one time or another, but I’ve done that far less often since I began to practice awareness… and I wasn’t even thinking about it that way. It was just a part of the whole process.

Might we not become far better friends and neighbors? Before I began to carry a gun, I could not have told you much about the normal happenings in my neighborhood to save my life. I literally was not paying attention. After several years, and consciously practicing the drills, I can actually look out my windows and  spot a car, truck or person that doesn’t “belong” because I’ve invested the time and effort to know who and what does belong.  That doesn’t mean the stranger is up to no good, obviously, but they are worth a second or even a third glance. If I see a stranger hanging around, with no evident purpose, I’ll watch even more closely. And my neighbors commonly do the same now since I suggested it to them years ago. I live alone, and one neighbor has called me many times when strangers drive up here, just to be sure I’m OK.

Now, some people might not appreciate that part, and in a crowded neighborhood it would be impractical, but it works out well here. Another neighbor called once this summer to let me know my sneaky horses had gotten out on the other side of my property. I would not have known about it until I went out to feed otherwise, and they might have gotten into real trouble by then. So the exercise of awareness can help to build safer and more friendly neighborhoods.

Obviously, you don’t want to become a nosy parker, and interventions like the phone calls would be reserved for serious situations or questions, but the very practice of observing and assessing is what is most important for your own development and safety.

We came up with a good list, I think, but I would be very glad to get your feedback so I can add as many practical suggestions as possible to my teaching material. How would you go about expanding your own practice of situational awareness, and how do you think it would it affect your family, neighborhood and safety? What might be a downside or problem with those listed here?

[The book, “I Am NOT A Victim” is still available free to anyone who sends me an email and asks for it. Please let me know where you saw the offer. I am sending it only in pdf format now, so if you can’t open a pdf document for some reason, or would just rather have something else, let me know that too.]

Strengthening Exercises for Hands

A reader posted an excellent suggestion in the comments to “On The Other Hand” for strengthening hands. I thought of several others, and continued to look into it, so it seemed a good idea to write more about it. My left wrist is still very sore, and I’m being cautious about how much I use it, but I certainly don’t want the left hand to become weakened.

As always, there’s plenty of information available on the internet, and I found two sites especially with detailed instructions and photographs of hand exercises used by physical therapists. Total Orthopaedic Care hasn’t been updated since 2005, but the pictures are very clear and the directions timeless. Livestrong.com is up to date and contains much more detail, with lots of other health related things that might be interesting, so I’ve bookmarked it to look into more later.

After reading all this, I was thinking of our busy schedules and how difficult it is to work in MORE exercises, or much of anything else, and began to wonder if much of this couldn’t be integrated into our normal routine doing other things. Just as the continuous practice of situational awareness is actually part of our “dry fire” program – or should be – strengthening our hands, and keeping them strong, must be part of our everyday living.

Most women used to have hands nearly as strong as men, before the advent of dishwashers and all the other convenience appliances and services. Nobody wants to go back to the 1800s, of course, but it might be smart to take a look at our daily routine and find at least a few things we could do physically with our hands to improve their strength and flexibility.

I don’t have a dishwasher, and wash mine by hand each day. Lots of opportunity to do flexing and grasping exercises, and it is clearly even better to do those exercises in warm water! Folks with arthritis or old scar tissue would find this especially beneficial.

Many ordinary household chores offer similar opportunities if you think about it. The trick is to be aware of what you are doing with your hands, and incorporate some of the necessary exercises into the action required to do the jobs. Sweeping, mopping, shoveling snow, and many others come to mind.

Gardening is a wonderful way to exercise your whole body, and pulling weeds is certainly a process that can contribute to stronger hands. Careful attention to body alignment, posture and reach will improve the effect and reduce the fatigue or potential for injury. As with anything, stay aware of your goal and the steps needed to reach it.

Knitting, crochet, sewing and other crafts also present us with good exercise for our hands. These things are of more use for retaining flexibility, of course, since most do not involve muscle resistance to weight, but there are likely many hobbies and crafts that would include those things as well.

The trick is not to zero in on one thing, requiring only one or a few motions. That would tend to strengthen only SOME muscles, but not give the balanced results of a more rounded program.

Luckily, just regular shooting (both hands, of course) and dry fire gives our hands a great work out. And with the ammunition situation increasingly optimistic, there’s no reason not to keep this one at the top of the list.

Preparing for Self Defense – The Next Steps

We’ve talked about why a person needs to defend themselves, and more recently we’ve covered quite a bit about gear and dry fire exercises. But there is so much more.

Those who own a gun, and especially those who carry it for self defense, need to do at least the minimum necessary to develop and keep skills relevant. A comprehensive class and no less than one range session a month is seriously minimal, but I doubt many even go that far.

Owning a gun makes you ready for self defense about as much as owning a horse makes you a cowboy.

First, have you made up your mind that you WILL survive, that you WILL fight as long as you can breathe, and that you can and WILL do whatever is necessary to the criminal in order to stop the attack. Have you decided that you are NOT a victim?

No matter how well (or how often) you shoot at targets, your gun will be of little or no use to you if you don’t develop the other skills needed for self defense. If the bad guy gets his hands on you, gets close with a gun or other weapon, or grabs your children… you have lost any advantage the hardware might have given you.

Tactical training is another step in learning gun handling. You get a physical work out, and a much better idea what it is like to be in a shooting situation. The ideal tactical training would include possible situations in your home, office, shopping and other aspects of daily life. I’ve only been to one such session and, I’m afraid it was more geared to things MEN and cops might encounter and wasn’t too helpful to me. So I had to come up with my own. In any case, few of us could afford either the time or money to attend one of these expanded classes very often, yet the skills are no less perishable than shooting accuracy. They need to be practiced at least some every day or as often as possible. So, even if you enjoy such classes and participate often, you might want to consider this practice on your own.

Are you ready?

Situational awareness

Are you aware of your surroundings every day, every time you hear a knock on the door, and especially every time you leave the house? Have you taught your children and others about this vital skill? Or is it simply an intellectual acceptance of an idea, but not something you practice seriously? I’ve covered the subject in detail at the link. Take some time to read it and come back.

First do the drills outlined in the Situational Awareness instructions above for a while. This will give you the basic idea and some experience doing this kind of drill as you go through your ordinary daily activities. As good as a “tactical class” might be, and as terrific as it is to go to the range, real life attacks will be very, very different… they will come out of the blue, when you least expect it, and while you are doing other things. So, it makes sense to prepare, to practice your responses WHILE you are going about your everyday life. And, since you are not apt to get much warning under the best of circumstances, you need to be prepared with as many options as possible.

Possible home invasion is probably a good place to start. You are familiar with your home, its strengths and weaknesses. You are comfortable there, and the actions of an intruder and others who might be involved are easier to imagine than they would be most anywhere else. It’s a learning process, so take it slow and build as you go along.

Think about the power of visualization.

Can you remember the dress you wore to your first Prom, your wedding, or other memorable occasion? Can you remember what you did or didn’t do? If you made a major goof or were embarrassed, I suspect you remember it and all the moves you made very well. And, if you think about it, your mind uses those memories to help you avoid similar negative experiences later.

You can use the power of your mind, the very real benefits of your imagination and memory, to prepare yourself for self defense situations. It is important to plan this some, to avoid becoming obsessed or paranoid about it, of course, but it can be used as a very effective training aid.

So, think about the way your house is laid out, access points, physical barriers and any cameras, alarms or other security measures you have. Oh, you were not thinking that they could do the job alone, were you? Time to rethink all of those things if you’ve been counting on them to keep you safe without having to be a vital part of the whole. These things can be very good, but are no earthly use without serious human involvement. And, as with all tools, they may fail. It’s important to have a backup plan, and a backup plan for that one.

Start with an easy one. Just imagine that you hear glass breaking in the back of your house. You are home alone, it is night, and you don’t expect anyone to come until morning.

What now?

Do you have a “safe room?” (Send for my book if you don’t know what that means.)

Briefly, a “safe room” is one with a reinforced door and deadbolt locks that would resist an intruder.There should be something solid and heavy you would stay behind, in case the intruder fired a gun into the door or the lock.

In that room, quite possibly your bedroom, you would have a gun (if you don’t carry it), ammunition, a cell phone, some water and other things that might be needed if you had to stay there a while. You might want to have a spare gun and ammunition in that room, even if you carry all the time.

If you don’t have a safe room, and can’t think of any way to create one, what would you do if you saw or heard signs of an intruder?

Either way, imagine what an intruder might do. You also need to think of what you might do in each case, his possible reaction, and what you might do next. What might he do that would cause you to shoot? Why wouldn’t you shoot? What would make the difference? You absolutely must have thought about this and practiced it. A mistake in the midst of an emergency could be costly, or fatal.

What would you do next? Imagine it going many different ways, concentrating on what you think might happen and how you might respond. And don’t neglect to imagine that you had to shoot someone! How would it look? How would you feel? It’s a shock and horror to any normal person, but you can’t let it destroy your awareness or your caution. The person you shot might be “playing possum” and overwhelm you if you got too close. He/she might have an accomplice or four, just waiting for you to be distracted and overcome with emotion.

And don’t lose sight of the fact that your attacker could be either a man or a woman, a teen or any other age. Imagine having to confront and defend yourself against even the nice seeming neighbor down the street, the little group of teens with their baggy pants and snotty attitudes, the lady who says she just needs to use the telephone, or almost anyone else.

Do you have a cell phone? Where is it right now? Do you carry it in your purse? Is the purse in the kitchen now? Where might an intruder gain entrance? The kitchen? That plan needs some work, doesn’t it? When would you call 911? Most areas are set up for 911, but some still are not. Do you know for sure about your location?

I don’t have a cell phone (too deaf to use one), and an intruder might cut the land line telephone first thing. I have specific plans made for that possibility. I don’t rely on getting help from outside anyway, and calling 911 FIRST is not something expected here, but it may be very different where you live.

Then, if it was possible, when would you call? What would you say to the dispatcher? Should you tell them you have a gun? The answer to all of those might be very different in various places. You need to know what is best to do long before you need to do it. And you need to practice doing it so you won’t miss things, do things to increase the risk, or say things that would hang you later.

Think about why TV and movie plots are a very poor thing to base this practice on.

Next time we’ll take to the streets and parking garages with our imaginations. But you don’t have to wait for me. Tell me about the imaging you do to prepare for self defense.

Changing how you carry

No matter how or where you carry a gun, I’m sure you know how important it is to train with it and be comfortable with it there. I carried several different guns openly, in a belt holster, for many years, but after I started teaching concealed carry, I knew I needed to carry that way myself enough to work out the kinks and understand completely how it worked and become comfortable with it myself. You can’t really teach what you don’t know.

I’ve gone through the CC training myself several times over the years, trying out many different holsters and carry locations, and discovered that I just couldn’t get comfortable with anything under my clothing, or having to partially undress to draw a gun. None of that was going to work for me.

So, about a year ago, I bought my first nylon “fanny pack,” made especially to carry a gun. The semi-automatic wouldn’t fit into it, so the Ruger Sp101 revolver wound up as my carry gun. I wore it, trained with it, and worked hard to get good with it, but the five round limitation of the revolver always bothered me. I carried two “speed loaders,” but reloading a revolver is anything but speedy, and I couldn’t imagine being happy with it in an emergency.

I haunted the gun shows and tried out any number of “gun purses” and fanny packs, but they all had more problems or limits than what I already had, not to mention the fact that most were seriously expensive. And then I found the ONE I’d been looking for. My Springfield XD compact 9mm fits in it like a hand in a custom made glove, and the spare magazine fits into a front pouch perfectly – leaving plenty of room for wallet, lip balm and a pack of tissues. I have not carried a purse for many years, and I discovered it was nice to get all that stuff out of my pockets.

DTOM Concealed Carry Fanny Pack BUFFALO / BISON LEATHER-Tan
by DON’T TREAD ON ME CONCEAL AND CARRY HOLSTERS

Training with it came next, and it took me a little while to change a few things I’d been doing with the previous fanny pack. Then it was ready to take out into public. So far so good. The concealment is far superior to any holster under clothing, as far as I’m concerned. There is no possibility of “printing” or accidental exposure. If I avoid the “tell” of patting or adjusting it constantly, nobody will know the gun is there. And, unlike a purse, I likely won’t ever walk off and leave it.

I much prefer to carry openly, and my belt holster hasn’t changed in seven years, but I’m still interested in looking at and talking about the different ways people find to carry concealed, especially other women.

How do you carry? If you’ve tried using a “fanny pack” or purse for CC and didn’t like it, or still have problems with it, why not drop a line here and tell us about it? If we put our heads together, we can probably come up with something.

Children and Safety

This is apt to be a “hot button” topic because people have such a wide variety of opinions, experiences and ideas about it, but that’s pretty much exactly why few “top down” regulations or “laws” will ever be relevant for everyone. Just too many variables.

By what process do “children” become adults? How do people become responsible for themselves, rather than dependent on others for their lives and safety? What part does chronological age have to do with it?

We would all likely say that a two or three year old is incapable of exercising sufficient judgment to be trusted to hold or use a sharp object, let alone a gun – no matter how much one might attempt to teach them. To start with, most don’t have enough control of their muscles, but then there are the three year olds who play classical piano… Of course, that is the exception. I never met a prodigy like that myself, but my experience with three year olds tells me no. Can I then assume that this is true for everyone, everywhere?

How about a five year old? Ten? Seventeen and a half?

Again, it depends on the child. My two boys were taught to shoot when they were six or so. They were allowed to shoot pretty much whenever they wanted, as long as they had supervision. The older boy demonstrated good understanding and compliance with safety rules, along with general reliability taking responsibility for himself, and was given a .22 bolt action rifle for his 12th birthday. He’d had several BB and pellet guns before that, and did well with them. The younger brother, however, didn’t do so well in either the following rules or accountability departments, and he didn’t get his first .22 until he was nearly 14 – despite the expected moans about how it “wasn’t fair.”

Our job, as parents, is to demonstrate both adherence to the safety rules (integrity), and comprehensive personal responsibility for our choices and actions. Without that consistent example, it’s very difficult for children to understand the concepts or develop the necessary self discipline. That it actually happens sometimes anyway is a wonderful mystery.

But more than just a good example is required. The child must be given the opportunity… the necessity, to make age/cognition appropriate choices AND to live with the real consequences of those choices. We would, of course, prevent them from actually harming themselves if possible, but the consequences must be very real and very immediate – both for good AND bad choices. Just telling them about it, or “warning” or yelling our heads off when they’ve messed up won’t do the job, though praise for good choices is important too. Giving them all kinds of choices, but then immediately rescuing them from the bad ones is a terribly destructive thing – even something like cleaning up after children who are perfectly able to take care of that themselves.

For example, I think I was probably four years old when I found a pot handle sticking out over the edge of the stove. I was able to reach it, and pulled on it enough to tip it. I was drenched in ice cold water!! And then, to add insult to injury, I was given a cloth and expected to wipe up the water! Mean old mommy.

My mother told me, years later, that she did that on purpose after seeing me attempt to reach for things on the counter above my head. She figured that an ice cold shower would cure me of the tendency and didn’t want to wait for me to learn the hard way with something hot.  She was right! I never tried it again. And my own children learned about pot handles (and lots of other things) in much the same way.

So, the age of the child, and the amount of protection they need is relative – whether we’re talking about sharp objects, guns or stoves. How terribly sad to see children increasingly isolated from every conceivable risk and experience, given all “choice” and no responsibility, only to be told at the ripe age of 18 that they are suddenly “adults!” How many of those newly minted adults are truly ready to be responsible for themselves and whatever children they produce? How many of them can honestly teach what they have never learned?

What is your experience, and what are your strategies?

MamaLiberty – An Introduction

If you’ve been reading Mom With A Gun long, you probably already have a fair idea who I am, but just in case… it seemed like a good idea to write some sort of bio so you’d know better where I’m coming from.

For thirty years I worked in So. Calif. as an RN, the last 14 years in hospice as an advanced practice nurse. I drove and walked the mean streets of San Bernardino, Riverside, and large parts of Los Angeles counties visiting patients in their homes, as well as in skilled nursing facilities. All those years I had nothing to defend myself with except situational awareness and whatever good will my profession generated among the residents of those areas. I got into more than a few really scary situations, but good luck and the good Lord managed to keep me alive all through it.

Would I have been better off if I had been able to carry a gun? What might have happened to me and my career if I’d carried one without “permission” and had needed to use it? Who knows? I couldn’t and I didn’t then. If I’d known then what I know now… I might well do things differently, of course, but even the way it was I learned many very valuable lessons that I’ve put to good use. And I’d like to share them.

Those who have not yet seen it might like to read the story of the man I had to shoot to save my life. That is the dedication, first part of the booklet I wrote to supplement my NRA handgun and self defense classes. If you read the story, you’ll see how to write to me to request the book. I hope everyone, and especially every woman, will take the time to read and learn about how I came to understand self defense and the things I do to develop my skills and maintain my survivor’s mindset.

I’d love to explore that with you, and hope you will leave your questions, suggestions or critique in the comments here. What shall we talk about?

Excitement, Delight, Total and Complete Exhaustion

I’d meant to write this post yesterday, but just didn’t quite have the energy left.

You see, we had another women’s shooting clinic Saturday at my local range, and (like last time) I was helping to instruct. This time, I was teaching basics (grip, stance, sight picture) with a blue gun as well as a .22 pistol, and also helping run some students on a .22 double-action revolver stage.

After the clinic wrapped up, we had just enough time to grab some lunch, and then we were back at the range for a Ladies Night shoot. The combination of the two events on the same day meant I was out of bed at 4:30am, and it was close to 11:00pm by the time I rolled out of the shower and into bed.

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Book Review: “The Cornered Cat: A Woman’s Guide to Concealed Carry”

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To say that Kathy Jackson knows her stuff when it comes to firearms and shooting is sort of like allowing thst Tiger Woods knows a thing or two about golf. Kathy is an instructor at the Firearms Academy of Seattle, teaches workshops for women through her Cornered Cat Training Company, and is the editor of US Concealed Carry magazine. She’s also the maintainer of Cornered Cat, which is perhaps the firearms and concealed carry resource going for women. (The site is a great resource for men who would like to help the women in their lives who want to shoot, too.)

I imagine Kathy probably wrote “The Cornered Cat: Concealed Carry for Women” at least in part because she got tired of people asking her when she’d make a book out of her Web site. The truth is, there are precious few resources out there specifically tailored toward women, and although I’ve been lucky enough to experience fairly little in the way of overt sexism in the gun community, there’s no question that the lion’s share of the material out there is geared toward men. Many gun books and magazines, and no small number of equipment manufacturers, seem to cater to the “tacti-cool” guys who want to play the “bigger, better, latest, greatest” game with their guns and gear. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, of course, but for a woman new to shooting, it can be a bit intimidating.

That’s where Kathy’s book comes in.

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Choosing Not to Be a Victim

Lynne over at Female and Armed had a terrific post today titled “A Woman’s Right to Choose“. I’ll let you read it, but she makes some very good points:

It is your right to tell a stranger to take a step back, to meet the eyes of those around you, to stand tall, be strong and alert, to protect yourself and your family, to walk with a presence.

Only you can choose to be a victim. Stand tall, do everything to reduce the odds that you will be selected.

I wholeheartedly agree with Lynne’s post, and decided to comment on it because I want to underline two realizations I had on my own journey toward being aware, safe, self-sufficient and armed:

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