The SAFTD Gun Safety Rules
Guns should always be pointed in a Safe Direction
Unload all firearms when not in use
Never touch the trigger until you are on target
Store guns in a secure location
A Gun is a tool of last resort
Fire only at verified targets
Educate yourself about your firearms
Train frequently and with purpose
You own every bullet you fire
Let’s take a deeper look at these rules.
Guns should always be pointed in a safe direction. Every time you handle a gun, be aware of your surroundings, and make sure your gun is pointed in the safest possible direction at all times. This is a dynamic situation, so your surroundings could change quickly, and you must remain cognizant of the direction your muzzle is pointing. If you are on the second floor of your house is down a safe direction? If you are on the first floor of your house and there are people upstairs, is up a safe direction? These decisions need to be made prior to handling your firearm. If you are not willing to shoot it, don’t point your gun at it.
Unload all firearms when not in use. This is not that complicated. If you are done with it, unload it and put it away. If this is a target shooting gun, or a hunting gun, unload it, clean it, and lock it up. If this is a defensive firearm, and your situation allows, make sure you lock it up in your quick access safe. Make sure to check your local laws. Are you legally allowed to leave a loaded firearm locked up in your home? Some jurisdictions may not allow guns to be loaded when not attended even if they are locked up. If this is your concealed carry firearm, and you have it in your holster, it is in use. Again, make sure you are adhering to the laws of the jurisdiction you are in at the time. Any time you are going to be handling a firearm, assume it is loaded. Safely go through the steps to verify the condition of the gun prior to any handling of it.
Never touch the trigger until you are on target. Once you have made the decision to shoot and your sights are on target, then and only then you may place your finger on the trigger. Any other time your gun is in your hands, your finger should be in the register or indexed, that is your finger should be straight and along the frame of the firearm.
Store guns in a secure location. This is a rule not a suggestion. There are many out there who are willing to leave their guns lying around their house. We believe this is a bad idea. With very few exceptions, it is suggested that you have a safe to lock your guns in. Your safe should be secured to ensure it cannot easily be removed from this location. Most large, long term storage safes are designed so that they may be bolted to the floor or a wall. Many quick access safes are designed to be bolted down to a dresser or in a drawer. Yes, you can put a lock on your plastic or nylon gun case, but let’s be honest, how secure is that really?
A Gun is a tool of last resort. With rights come responsibility. Yes, in this country we have the right to defend ourselves, sometimes even with lethal force. Lethal force is our last resort, in general, using lethal force to defend ourselves must be to the preclusion of all other options. Since using a gun is always considered lethal force, a gun is a tool of last resort.
Fire only at verified targets. Suppose you wake up to a noise in the middle of the night. In your half awaken state, you point your gun in that direction, and start shooting. When the smoke clears, you walkout look on the floor and see your beloved family member laying there bleeding to death. Perhaps, a flashlight may have been the better thing to fire in this situation, verify whether the noise was in fact a threat, or just someone getting a glass of water. It is simply not ok to point your gun at someone until you have verified they are a lethal threat.
Educate yourself about your firearms. Do you know the make and model of your firearm? How about the caliber? How many rounds will it hold? Does it have a manual thumb safety or a de-cocker? Where is the magazine release or the cylinder release? Is it a revolver or a semi-automatic, a pump action or a bolt action? These are all things you need to learn and know about your firearms. If you plan to carry a handgun concealed, I would submit you should know the make, model, serial number, caliber, type of ammunition, and how many rounds you are carrying. The more you know about your firearm, the more prepared you are to use it.
Train frequently and with purpose. After completing a class, and learning new skills, you need to practice those skills. When you go to the range, what skills are you planning to work on? Keep a training log of the drills you are working on, skills that drill is intended to improve, your accuracy and time. By doing this you will be able to determine whether you are improving or not. When you are going to the range what are your goals? When you start to plateau, you need to seek out a competent SAFTD instructor to help you grow. We suggest you attend at least 24 hours of training every year, and practice the skills learned in those classes at least once a month.
You own every Bullet you fire. This rule seems to be problematic for many to comprehend. You are in fact responsible for every round you fire, who or what it hits, any person injured, any property damage caused by it. Verify what target you are going to shoot, verify what is around and beyond that target, and do not miss. 100% round accountability. If you are going to shoot it, then shoot it, don’t shoot at it and miss. Can you defend your actions in criminal court, and/or a civil court?
By: William A Martin
SAFTD Regional Master Instructor
Women make up half the population of the world and a great deal of criminal violence is directed toward them. Every day in the US women are subjected to rapes and other sexual assaults, carjackings, robberies, abductions, and other crimes. In recent years, more and more women have been buying guns for personal protection and more are entering the training field than ever. As a result, there is a huge need for qualified, competent training for these new female gun owners.
For over 15 years we have been conducting the annual Tactical Conference, usually held in Memphis, and it has become the premier training event of the year. This year we had 200 participants from literally all over the United States, and 35 nationally known trainers presented classroom, live fire, and hands on blocks of instruction over three full days of training.
There have always been women in attendance at the conference, but we are seeing a sharp increase over the past few years. In 2013, I believe we had 14 female participants; in 2014 that number was up to about 20; this year, there were over 30 out of a total of about 200 participants. We had a number of female trainers who presented blocks of instruction this year, including Tiffany Johnson, Lori Bigley, Eve Kulscar, Julie Thomas, and Linda Hoopes. Other female trainers in attendance included Vicki Farnam, Robyn Street, and Gail Pepin.
There were several topics presented this year of special interest to ladies. Lori Bigley put on a detailed presentation on holsters and other carry options for women. Claude Werner and Linda Hoopes gave a presentation on tactical communication for couples. Craig Douglas, and together Karl Rehn and Caleb Causey, put on live force on force scenario-based training that applied to either gender. The 2016 event will feature a number of female trainers and new blocks of instruction. Let’s encourage more women to attend and take part in this unique training and networking opportunity.
For more information on the Tactical Conference, see http://www.rangemaster.com
To register for the conference, go to http://www.eventbrite.com/e/tactical-conference-2017-tickets-24173704200?aff=es2
I’ve seen this discussion pop up for years and years and . . . well, you get the idea – for as long as there have been handguns for personal defense – the argument over what’s the ‘Best” caliber and what’s the “Best” gun has been on the lips of many an expert.
Let’s set the context of the argument first. As a defensive firearms trainer, folks that come to me for training come for that specific focus – defensive shooting. They are asking me (and all defensive fire arms trainers as well) a profoundly important question.
“What is the best handgun I can use to defend my life?” That’s a pretty weighty question. There are a lot of people who have gotten some truly poor advice – typically given through laziness, ignorance or simply the desire to “make the sale”. Let’s spend some time on this topic.
Use of your defensive handgun.
First, let’s look at why, exactly, you carry a defensive handgun. Its purpose is to defend your life, the lives of your family or folks in your charge . . . TO. DEFEND.THEIR.LIVES. ponder that thought just a bit. It’s not to make holes in paper, for entertainment on a range, for the enjoyment you get from taking challenging training, for hunting. At the instant you draw your handgun from its concealed location it is life and death. Take some time to chew on that just a bit because the intensity, the “stakes” of that moment is seldom part of the overall discussion.
Control of your defensive handgun.
In order to be effective in your defense – you must be able to control and manipulate your handgun. If you are unable to get “combat effective hits” (each “hit” does real damage to the threat’s ability to continue their attack) – your handgun is of little value. If you are unfamiliar with how your handgun works – it is of little value. If you can only control you handgun through the first round – and are then unable to manage its recoil and rapidly get back on the threat – it is of little value. If you experience a misfire, a failure to feed, a failure to eject, a double feed – and you are unable to clear these issues quickly – your handgun is of little value to you.
Bottom line – if you cannot use the tool you carry with you each and every day that you depend on defend your life, it is of little value to you. So let’s start there – with YOU – as we begin the examination of which is the BEST handgun for you to use for your personal defense and which is the BEST caliber to use.
You need to choose a handgun that “fits” you – with all your kinks, quirks, disabilities and physical characteristics – paying no attention to the caliber to begin with.
Revolver or Semi-Automatic
Running a semi-automatic handgun requires the ability to rack a slide, manipulate safeties, change magazines and clear cartridge failures “automatically”. This takes a couple of things – practice (lots of practice) and physical ability – especially hand strength and the ability to grip the handgun. Yes, there are special “techniques” a person can learn to help the processes – but under stress, with a bad guy/gal bearing down – is it wise to rely on special “techniques” to save your life? I would argue it is not. This is my decision point when recommending a semi-automatic (my preferred handgun) over a revolver – can the shooter physically manipulate the handgun easily? If they lack the physical strength and dexterity to do so – a revolver gets the call for me.
On the revolver side – a whole new array of challenges comes when a shooter is required to reload quickly. Still, for those without the strength to manipulate a semi-automatic pistol, I find they typically can utilize the cylinder release and use a speed loader. Granted – fewer rounds, it can take longer to reload – yep, I get it. But, at least they CAN reload. As for clearing malfunctions, a simple press of the trigger advances the cylinder past the failed round – much easier that a “tap, rack” drill.
When making recommendations for which handgun a person should look at – please, take time to evaluate their physical abilities first. If they can’t run the gun physically, they have a real problem should the need arise.
As in anything from jeans to a ball cap – fit is important. Handguns are no different. Long ago and far away during the qualification round for my first carry permit the fellow in the lane next to me brought a Colt .357 6” Python as his qualifying handgun. I had a Colt Woodsman .22. He was tall and slender, took his stance, pressed the trigger for his first round . . . let’s be kind and say his qualification round did not go well. The qualification officer finally gave him a .22 Mark II and the fellow qualified just fine. My point? The Python was anything but a fit for the fellow as a defensive handgun.
A firearm should fit the shooter’s hand such that they can firmly and fully grasp the grip of the gun. The full 360-degrees of the grip should be enclosed by their hands without stress or strain. Next, it should direct the recoil straight back into the arm of the shooter. This means their grip should be high on the back strap and as close to being in line with the barrel as possible. Finally, they should be able to touch the trigger with the end 1/3 of their trigger finger without stress or strain and they must be able to press the trigger straight to the rear without the first segment of the trigger finger moving left or right.
Put these things together, and you have a firearm that physically fits the shooter.
Simplicity of Use
A firefight is chaotic, terrifying and mind numbing – at least first seconds . . . and all too often that is the deciding time between life and death. I am going to assume that the typical individual that carries a handgun for personal defense DOES NOT train regularly, DOES NOT get more advanced training and does little more than hit the range a couple of times a year with a box of ammo and makes holes in paper . . . and that is all they do. For those shooters – simpler is better which leads me to handguns with safe action triggers or long trigger pulls or a revolver as opposed to those with manual safeties. Fewer things to remember equates to a better first shot response time for those folks who simply do not spend time on the range.
Once a round is fired, how quickly can the shooter get his handgun back on target to send a second round down range? That depends on their ability to manage the recoil of the handgun. If they have followed my suggestions about “fit”, the vast majority of the recoil is sent straight into their body. Add to that a proper grip and training on sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press and follow through – and an accurate first shot and a follow on second shot can be happen very quickly.
For me – caliber selection pretty much comes last. First you need to find a handgun that fits the shooter, one they can manipulate quickly and easily. Can they get combat effective hits (read a center mass pie plate sized group) on a threat? And finally, can they control the recoil well enough to insure accurate follow-up shots with multiple rounds. It is at this point that caliber begins to make an entrance for me.
The typical rule of thumb is that a shooter typically chooses a defensive round that is in a family of cartridges containing a .380, .38, .357, 9mm, .40 or .45 caliber bullet. The lowly .22 seldom makes the list and I typically would agree. However, if I have a shooter who can only manipulate and shoot a .22 cal revolver due to physical issues – I would never withhold that as a viable choice over nothing at all.
And, on the other end of the spectrum – I wouldn’t recommend a very large caliber round to a shooter who has a small frame and small hands. My typical recommendation is the largest caliber that they can manage the recoil on and get combat effective hits when stressed. That will tell the tale to me and help me make a solid recommendation to a new shooter as to what style and caliber of handgun they should purchase for their personal defense.
For a handgun to be of value for personal defense – the shooter must be able to “run the gun” and manage it when it’s fired. ALL of that goes into the mix when both selecting the gun and selecting the caliber of the gun.
It isn’t just about the caliber of the ammunition . . . it’s about the marriage of the shooter, the handgun and the ammunition that will make it a true tool for the shooter’s personal defense.