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Global Skywatch

coaching, empowering self-defense


I once was an active NRA-certified junior rifle coach. More relevant, I am a very good teacher. Yesterday my three charges voiced and agreed that “He is a very good coach” – which is just about the finest compliment one can lay on me. Thank you for that one.

That came up because a couple from the west coast passed through our neighborhood, and I gave them the opportunity to burn some ammunition on our short range (10-30 meters). I laid out a table of .22 semi-auto pistols, a 9mm Glock, 38 Special revolvers, .22 rifles and a 20-gauge shotgun, then helped them through familiarization, safety, handling, loading and shooting whatever captured their interests.

We had FUN

My standard recommendation for a first defensive firearm is a .357 magnum revolver shooting 38 Special ammunition. Once comfortable firing standard 38 Special ammunition, then the more powerful 38 Special +P should be tried. From there the firearm is capable of the even stronger .357 Magnum. Normal handguns do not get more effective than 357 (discounting modern Hand Cannons which are specialized tools for experienced handgunners).

My primary alternate route for self-defense is to go with a youth-stocked 20-gauge pump-action shotgun – ideally with a magazine tube as long as the 18″-20″ barrel (relatively short by shotgun standards). The long gun is obviously less portable, but also a whole lot more powerful and effective for deterring those intending you harm.

My least experienced student yesterday was motivated by recent events and the cultural shift currently underway to get her first self-defense firearm. Thus the table and experience was highly relevant and desirable. Her fiancee is a fan of Glock 9mm semi-autos and had in mind to set her up with one in the near future.

The manual of arms for a semi-auto is far more complicated than that of a revolver. KNOWING if it is or isn’t loaded is not as straightforward, and way-too-often results in a “Negligent Discharge” where a potentially lethal shot is fired accidentally. I did a quick review, then handed a revolver to my newbie and had her tell me if it was loaded or not. With a couple of hints, she was easily able to give the correct answer, and was clearly capable of that on her own forevermore.

Release the latch – swing the cylinder out – look at empty chambers, empty barrel – there is no ammunition anywhere – only empty chambers. “It is not loaded”. CORRECT. Now remember Rule #1: TREAT EVERY GUN AS IF IT IS LOADED AT ALL TIMES. However, you can see how straightforward it is to understand this gun’s operation, and to use it safely.

Even pump-actions are not as easy to manage safely, though a bit easier than semi-autos. Revolvers are NUMBER ONE in that category when it comes to multi-shot firearms. Speaking of safety, we should always stress that, and the four rules of firearm safety should be familiar and well understood by anyone handling them. The chart below adds a fifth one that is excellent advice. Test yourself and others regularly. KNOW THEM.

While I am passing out safety advice, DO NOT try to teach yourself, learn from this article, or from videos.

Have a competent coach with you – someone who knows safe firearm use, who can teach, and who is paying attention to your gun handling. All of these are important. You cannot watch yourself. With something as potentially dangerous as guns you do not want to take risks.

When the trainer does his job and the shooters follow safe shooting rules, everyone can have a good time and learn useful, potentially life-saving skills.

My newbie is in the market for a .357 revolver and a decent supply of 38 Special ammunition.

That could be a bit of a challenge on the left coast with the current awakening and run on the market it is creating.