Apparently I’ve taken on a task that it simply not possible without violating several laws of our physical universe – picking only 10 of the worst pieces of shooting advice from across the vast and vacuous expanse known as the internet.
P.S. I stopped counting at 32,987,412,318. But no worries, I’ll persevere.
Here we go, drum roll please…
1. A firearm light or laser will just give away your position!
If the self-defense scenarios swirling around your brain involve moving ninja fights in the dark that emulate Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon moves, you’re absolutely right! A weapon light will give away your position, and your tactical pose hanging from the chandelier will be compromised. In real life, the benefits of seeing where and/or what you’re shooting at far outweigh any realistic disadvantages of “giving away your position.” One more thing, make it a point to tell the hundreds of thousands of military and law enforcement personnel who mount lights and lasers on their guns specifically for the purpose of fighting in the dark that this is a tactical blunder. What do they know anyway?
2. To defend your home, blast your shotgun through the front door!
We all know that politicians are (self-defined) experts in all things. Some of the best (worst!) gun advice in recent history comes from our very own vice president: “[if] you want to keep someone away from your house, just fire the shotgun through the door.” While blasting your shotgun through the door may help you drill a hole for one of those handy peep holes, it won’t help your legal cause in any way, shape, or form. Most likely, this strategy will send you straight to jail. Just ask the Virginia Beach man who actually did this when confronted with two armed and masked home invaders. The bad guys escaped, but the Biden disciple was charged with a crime. The “Biden Defense” is just not likely to yield a positive outcome. Come on, we all know politicians are immune to repercussions from bad behavior. It’s an expected part of the job.
3. Don’t use an AR-15 for home defense!
You might have heard from internet commandos that a “high-powered” .223 round will go clear through your interior and exterior walls, Margaritaville machine, and most of Montana—or maybe that if you torch off a .223 round indoors, the building will explode. Actually, most standard AR-15 ammunition will only go through a few pieces of interior drywall with any significant energy. The projectiles are light and traveling extremely fast. This combination results in rapid tumbling and fragmentation when barriers are hit. While there may be other factors in the debate on using AR-15s for home defense, over-penetration is not one of them—especially when compared to pistol ammunition and buckshot. Of course, exceptions apply if you choose to use ammunition designed to penetrate.
4. You should carry your self-defense gun with the chamber empty.
Unless your self-defense gun is a single-action revolver with a hammer-mounted firing pin, that’s almost always bad advice. If you think you can simply keep an eye on things around you so you have plenty of time to draw your gun, and rack the slide, in the event of an attack, try a Tueller drill sometime. It’s enlightening and will quickly relieve you of any security gained by carrying with an empty chamber. Also, please write Hollywood and tell them to stop racking the slide every time someone is about to fire a gun. It’s a waste of perfectly good pretend ammunition.
5. I only train for head shots.
Some of the couch commandos elite-speak of training for head shots to defeat body armor and perhaps save ammunition during these tough economic times. On the range, a cardboard target is pretty darn easy to hit anywhere you like. Now try that while running full speed. Then try that while you and the target are running full speed. Then try it when everyone is running full speed, shouting, and the target is trying to kill you. Enough said.
6. You don’t have to aim a shotgun!
The tireless persistence of this one is incredible. At any reasonable self-defense distance, a shotgun pattern is measured in inches, and when indoors, usually less. Compared to firing a shotgun, you need to aim it less if you were to swing it like a club.
7. Any advice that includes the words “knockdown power.”
Remember Wayne’s brother Isaac? As in Newton? According to him, and word is that he was really, really good at science, if your gun could knock someone down, you would also be knocked down in the process of firing it. In fairness, some people who use this term really mean “stopping power.” Even still, guns, and especially pistols, just make little holes. Rifles make bigger holes, and therefore are more likely to have “stopping power” as big holes in our bodies tend to make us stop and evaluate things. I’m thinking that cannons and howitzers do have “knockdown power,” as the last time I held one and fired it, I was, in fact, knocked down.
8. Standing downrange during training is the best to prepare for a real gunfight!
Unless you’re a special forces operator and need to train with a half-dozen of your buddies who will all be shooting in the same room, you don’t need to be downrange during training. Some schools insist on posting videos of “operators” being as “operate-y” as they possibly can by sending students and instructors downrange so they can hear they bullets fly by. If you want to learn self- and home-defense skills, avoid these schools like you would avoid Justin Bieber’s Tupperware Party.
9. You don’t need an AR-15!
If you’re ever the victim of a home invasion, you “need” about 14 miniguns, a howitzer or two, and a MK-19 Automatic Grenade launcher. Those tools are just not very practical, so you get by with what you have. Allowing people to define “need” is a slippery downhill slope that never ends well. Next time someone tells you that you don’t “need” an AR-15, ask them if they “need” a car that goes faster than 60 miles per hour, bacon or periodic bathing. We don’t “need” anything beyond air, water, shelter and calories.
10. It’s OK, you can ________, because this gun is unloaded!
There’s no scenario where playing with, or pointing, guns is “OK” because a gun is unloaded. Rule one: a gun is always loaded.
These are some of my pet peeves. What say you?
Editor’s note added March 18: This topic sure has generated a lot of discussion! Check out Tom’s follow-up article regarding “knockdown power” and continue the discussion here.
Images by Tom McHale