When it comes down to those rare instances for which we carry a concealed handgun or keep that 12 gauge by the bed, there are some urban legends about personal defense with a firearm that persist. Many of these erroneous beliefs thrive both within and outside the gun-carrying populace. Let’s get to myth-bustin’.
Myth #1: Aim for extremities
Any experienced hunter recognizes the unrealistic expectation here. Encounters with living beings, like a violent criminal actor, are dynamic. Purposely aiming for an extremity is a good recipe for a miss that would not only be ineffective at stopping the attack, it could easily impact any number of unintended people or things. Each of us is responsible for every round we fire!
The underlying belief here is a well-intentioned desire to stop the attack but not to kill. Yet it only takes a hit to a major blood vessel in a limb to do just that. From a medical perspective as well as a marksmanship one, it makes no sense.
Solution: understand that killing is not the aim of a justified act of protection of a life or lives. Stopping the attack is the aim. If death is the result, that is within the spectrum of outcomes the violent criminal chose when they posed or employed an imminent or immediate threat of death or grievous bodily harm.
In terms of justified shootings, death is rarely the outcome, but it does receive the lion’s share of attention, thanks in part to the penalties that can result if the use of deadly force is found by the courts as having been necessary. This should be motivation for us to settle differences peacefully and not go looking for fights!
Myth #2: If I draw my gun, I’m going to shoot
It’s true that the firearm should not be used in a manner that implies braggadocio or an invitation to a fight. That’s “brandishing” under the law, and could land you in jail. But waiting too long to draw in the face of a threat could bring an even more grave (pun intended) situation.
If you’ve done or at least studied the work of Sgt. Dennis Tueller, you know that a determined attack with a contact weapon can occur in 1.5 seconds in about 21 feet.
While there are of course many variables that can influence this formula, drawing from concealment and landing shots on a moving target in less than 1.5 seconds is an unfillable order for the vast majority of concealed carriers.
While the firearm may be more or less visible to uninvolved people in the ready position, the purpose of drawing when an attack is probable or imminent is twofold:
- It allows you time to make hits on target if necessary, and
- It telegraphs your willingness to defend yourself and gives the potential threat one last chance to change his or her mind.
If the attack proceeds in the presence of a gun that was visible to the aggressor, their intent to do harm is thus made clear, substantiating your position legally. Ponder the legal and postural distinctions between a justified show of deadly force versus needless brandishing.
Back in the mid-90s, your tax dollars were spent proving an important point. The vast majority of approximately two million instances of criminal encounters involving the retrieval or show of a firearm by the intended victim resulted in peace.
Criminals often, but not always, change their minds and flee or made amends when a would-be victim makes it clear they’re armed. The sight of a gun can be and often is effective, without a shot fired. This is a sure indication of the wisdom to avail yourself of decisional shooting scenario training.
Myth #3: Full metal jacket ammunition is more ethical than hollow points
First let’s be sure to define the ammunition discussed here. Full metal jacket (FMJ), or full synthetic jacket (FSJ), ammo has a layer of some substance, usually copper or polymer, entirely encasing the bullet. In flight, FMJ/FSJ tends to penetrate well into or through whatever it hits; its energy directed in a forward direction.
By contrast, pistol-caliber hollow point (HP) ammunition and its many modern variants are designed to expand, displace material, and in some cases fragment, usually stopping after 11-15 inches of penetration into a semi-solid object like a clothing-clad body.
Many laws, including some states and the standards observed by NATO forces, place misguided bans on HP use. The erroneous assumption is that HP is “made to kill,” while FMJ/FSJ is somehow kinder. Yet FMJ/FSJ is as deadly as any other ammunition.
In the dynamic circumstances of violent crime, there is no assurance that a round will strike, and remain inside, the intended target. HP ammunition makes it less likely that a round that goes through its initial target will then strike something unintended.
Solution: Use HP in your carry gun whenever possible—but make sure you’ve tested your ammunition choice with your own firearm first.
A combination of factual understanding and common sense
While I’ve not had space to share stories here, you may know of some examples of these myths from your own life. These fallacies are based, for the most part, either in honest but poorly researched intent, or plain ignorance.
If you’ve gone with the flow in believing one or more of them, maybe it’s time to challenge those beliefs and empower yourself with true knowledge that will make it less likely you’ll become a crime report statistic.