Let’s face it, we live in a scary world these days. With all the random shootings of innocent victims and the recent string of law enforcement officers being executed, gun sales have gone berserk. And I don’t blame people for wanting to feel more secure, but most people are simply not trained properly to defend themselves with a firearm.

Since 2000, approximately 57 police officers were murdered with their own firearm. It’s not clear as to how many other officers had their duty weapon taken away from them but I bet it’s a staggering number. These are highly trained individuals who have practiced scenarios like having their gun grabbed, taken away and even pointed at their heads. I spent five months at the police academy and I can assure you that you practice it so much that you can do it with your eyes closed—but it still happens.

As well trained as you think you are, remember that there are desperate people out there that can and will take your gun away from you before you have a chance to shoot. Once they have it, you could be another statistic.

But there’s a lot more to the deal than that. Legally, you can use deadly force if you can prove that the perpetrator had the intent to kill or severely injure you, the ability to carry out that act (having a weapon or being physically able),  and had the opportunity to kill or injure you (meaning that he was not across the street with a knife when you shot him).

You could be in a world of trouble if you can’t prove all these elements and there are lots of folks sitting in prison who simply reacted improperly. Unless you have been trained in life or death scenarios, you really don’t know how you’ll react at a serious threat (or perceived threat) on your life or the lives of your loved ones.

Many times, verbal threats have saved lives. If you have the opportunity to announce that you are armed, you will shoot them, or just telling the person to “Hold it!” is enough. Would be robbers are often bullying you, thinking you will give up. But this is a scenario that is not usually predictable and very difficult to determine when you are running on adrenaline and fear.

Home invasion type assaults are completely different and in the case of someone breaking into your house, you better be prepared to make a split second decision. This is where people fail again and again. Usually, the victim is just not familiar enough with his weapon to react properly.

Also, many people keep their firearms locked and unloaded. Good luck with that one.

Although I won’t go into the political or moral issues regarding firearms and their “safe-keeping,” I will point out one thing that is crucial if you have a firearm for self-defense: Know that weapon like the back of your hand and practice, practice, practice. Next time you decide to go out “plinking,” consider of making your own scenario. Practice drawing and shooting from the hip. We shot thousands of rounds from the hip in the academy. Most confrontations happen in very close quarters. Shoot from close ranges without aiming. You will develop an instinct for hitting the target. Practice loading and unloading your weapon, racking the slide quickly and shooting off stance (one knee, prone, seated etc.). Learn your weapon well and make sure you can shoot it quickly in many different positions.

Lastly, the very best advise I can give you is to practice awareness. No matter where you go and what you do, be aware of your surroundings. Criminals prey on folks who look vulnerable. Walk purposeful, look around and never put yourself in a situation where you feel uneasy. Awareness, more than anything else, will keep you alive. If you do get in a situation where deadly force is absolutely necessary, shoot for the body mass and don’t stop shooting until the assailant is down. There is no such thing as “shooting to wound” in a self-defense scenario. It’s their life or yours.

Photo credit: Dreamstime