Home self-defense pistol for a newbie or the not so newbie.

Is there a risk of a newbie shooting oneself when learning to use a gun like a Glock for home self-defense?

Recently I had a student ask me how safe a Glock was for a newbie.

I will be honest. I have carried a Glock for over 15 years, but it wasn’t my first EDC.

If you Google “Glock leg” you will see even the most experienced shooters have brain farts and make mistakes. Some have worse results than others.

I had my incident. I was training a group of students at the range. I was showing them how to field strip my Glock. I thought my pistol was unloaded. I dropped the magazine and racked the slide to eject anything that was in the chamber I then visually looked to check that the chamber was empty. But there was still a round in there – it was a bit discolored and looked like a shadow in the dimming light of sunset.

I dropped the slide and pulled the trigger to release spring tension so that I could remove the slide. The firearm was discharged.

OK, I will admit to violating one of the prime rules of firearm safety. You should never rely totally on a visual check. It should be followed by a physical check.

I can say that I was distracted by the class, but that is just an excuse. Thankfully, I hadn’t totally spaced out. Those rules of firearm safety were still ticking off in my mind. Part 2 of safety protocols are they overlap. So having the pistol pointed downrange ensured no damage was done – except to my ego!

The Issue is not Unique to Glocks.

We are all human so making mistakes is part of our genome. The key is to make habits that first minimize the frequency of mistakes and secondly have other habits that reduce the bad results.

It is a reality of life that firearms will discharge unintentionally. Most, if not all, of the reasons this happens are due to user errors or a fundamental disregard for basic firearm handling safety procedures. Many of these discharges result in nasty wounds and an embarrassed ego.

Years ago, a friend was field-testing a new Magnum Research Desert Eagle in .44 Magnum. He was at a rural firing range all by himself, which was good and bad. 

This particular pistol did not have a hammer decocking device, so to lower the hammer it is necessary to depress the trigger slightly to release the hammer and lower it manually. In the process of doing this, his thumb slipped off the hammer. This allowed the hammer to go forward to discharge the firearm.

The pistol went off and the bullet missed his foot by less than an inch. I don’t have to tell you what the result would have been had that inch not been there. His face was white as a sheet. He had to sit down to recover for a minute.

I Study Triggernometry

So What Does All Of This have to Do with a Newbie and a Glock.

I have over 60 years of firearm experience and 45 years of concealed carry experience.  I still make mistakes. Can we expect the newbie to be error-free? No, so what can they do.

Practice, Practice, and Practice Some More.

First work with an unloaded gun at home. Every time you pick it up get in the habit of checking it’s unloaded. Every time. Build the habit. It could save you from putting a hole into the wrong place!!

Once you get comfortable handling an unloaded gun at home, practice loading and unloading with dummy ammo (a.k.a. Snap Caps). 

Once your are comfortable with dummy ammo it is time to head to a range and load it there. Not before. When you practice do it SLOWLY and deliberately. Slow is smooth. When you need it, smooth is fast.

Have you ever seen people practice Tai Chi? They do it very slowly and deliberately, building muscle memory and smoothness, and precision. But Tai Chi is a martial art! When they need to strike, all that slow and precise muscle memory speeds up so a slow push-in practice becomes a perfectly aimed violent strike in the real world.

Do the same with your firearm. Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast. 

Yes I Have a Beautiful Daughter. I Also Have a Gun.

Don't Forget Dry Fire!

Dry fire is a technique anyone can practice at the range or, at home! Dry firing is simply the practice of shooting a firearm without ammunition in the chamber.

This is done using dummy ammo (a.k.a. Snap Caps) to simulate live rounds.

The user pulls the trigger, the hammer drops, but nothing happens. Sounds pretty boring, right? Wrong! Once you see how well dry firing your gun can improve your accuracy, you’ll be a proponent for life!

Dry fire allow you to practice thing you cannot do at most ranges like drawing from a hostler or from concealment.

For more information on dry fire, check out this post.

How to Dry Fire a Gun and Why You Should Do It

Train in Your Home

Extend your dry fire training from getting comfortable with your firearm to getting comfortable around your home. 

If you store your firearm in a safe, practice opening it in a low-light environment.

Practice locating your firearm in the dark.

Move through your home in a simulated intruder situation.

Practice with your family so they know what to do.

The list goes on. 

If you ever have to defend your home, your focus should be on the even, not the action you need to complete. 

Firearm Safety Rules

Always and forever practice the 4 rules of gun safety.

  1. Treat every gun as always loaded until you completely verify it isn’t.
  2. Never point it at anything you don’t want to destroy. This means even if unloaded you never point it at anyone you don’t want to kill. Remember these rules overlap!! What if you screwed up rule 1 as I did? Rule 2 will keep you from a catastrophic accident.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are imminently ready to pull it. One time I was at a range and hot brass from my neighbor went down the back of my shirt. I could hear my skin frying. Jumping around trying to get the brass out, I was told later that the barrel of my gun stayed pointed downrange, and my finger had come off the trigger. The rules were so ingrained, even when I was in substantial pain, I still observed them.
  4. Always know your target and what is behind it. You are responsible for whatever any bullet coming out of your gun does. It doesn’t matter if you’re killing the guy trying to kill you if you miss and your bullet hits an innocent. It is your fault.

Make these rules part of your DNA. Be sure you follow them without thinking about it.

4 Rules of Firearm Safety

Training - Don't Try to Do It all Yourself!

Books, videos, Internet posts like this one are great sources of information. However, the best source is formal training. 

The biggest mistake we make is to jump into the wrong level of training.

We here at Freedom First Self Defense offer a series of excellent introduction to intermittent training courses.

They cover everything from basic shooting skills up to concealed carry shooting skills.

So What is the Best firearm for the Newbie?

If you lock 100 gun experts into a tool and asked them to come up with one answer to this question, I am not sure they could. 

Here are some of the things I would put out for you to consider:

  • Are you going to carry your firearm with a round in the chamber? Many will say that a firearm without a round in the chamber is useless.  I would say that a firearm without a round in the chamber is better than no firearm at all. As a newbie, you may want to consider carrying without a round in the chamber until you feel comfortable carrying with a round in the chamber. 
  • How hard is it to rack the slide? If you are going to carry without a round in the chamber, the first thing you are going need to do after drawing your firearm is to chamber a round by racking the slide. This action should be smooth and almost second nature. 
  • Do you need an external safety? There are many pistols that have an external thumb safety that can be used to make the firearm safe. If you are going to carry without a round in the chamber, a thumb safety is of little use. As your confidence build and you carry with a round in the chamber, a thumb safety can be used to reduce the chance of unintentional discharge during holstering and drawing your firearm. Of course, you have remember to engage and disengage when needed. 
  • Do you need a grip safety? Several firearm designs have a grip safety that keeps the firearm from discharging unless the firearm is gripped firmly. The most notable is the Colt 1911, but there are newer designs available.
  • What is the best caliber? This is one of the biggest areas of dispute.  On one end you have the .22 with its light recoil and small stopping power. At the other end, you have the .45 caliber with its heave recoil and high stopping power. Bullet weight and design also have a large effect on stopping power. So what is the best caliber? It depends where you are on your learning and confidence curve. 

My Choice

Before I start, I know my selection will upset many.

As I indicated before, my EDC is a Glock. However, that was where I started. My first EDC was a 1911 style pistole chambered in .380 Auto. I carried it without a round in the chamber. 

I selected this style because it has a thumb safety and a grip safety. Looking back, it was extremely hard to rack the slide. 

Today there are better designs available. If I was a newbie today I would select an S&W M&P 380 Shield EZ. 

This is the Smith & Wesson M&P 380 Shield EZ. As the marketing materials declare, it’s a gun that was created to be easy to shoot, easy to rack, with easy to load magazines. Since its release in early 2018, the 380 Shield has been praised as an excellent self-defense and concealed carry pistol for new shooters, small-statured females, and anyone with below-average grip strength.

I happen to agree with all of those points, but even if you don’t belong to one of those aforementioned categories of shooters, I think it would be a mistake to dismiss the 380 Shield as a gun that’s just for ladies and old men. But before I get into that, let’s take a closer look at what makes this gun so user-friendly.

For a full review, check out:

Smith & Wesson M&P 380 Shield EZ Review

I hope you found this post informative. Please feel free to let me know your feeling on the best pistol for a newbie. 

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