(WMC TV) - Once you've decided a gun is your choice of personal protection, training comes first: how to shoot a firearm, how to secure a firearm and the rules of engagement.
Your carry permit should come second. All the guns and training in the world can't help you if you're not properly licensed to carry and don't know when and where you can carry.
Once you've achieved the basic training and your permit, it's time to shop a weapon. To keep training.
If protection is your primary goal, your best choice is a handgun.
"A handgun is the best all-around defensive weapon," said Tom Givens of Rangemaster. "It's something you can use at home. It's something you can use away from home."
A common myth has been that a shotgun is the best all-around defensive weapon. Nurtured by how shotguns are portrayed in the movies, the myth has made people think you don't have to aim a shotgun in order to defend yourself.
Givens debunked that myth very quickly.
He set a range target 12 feet away, what he described as the "typical across-the-bedroom distance." He fired one shotgun blast.
The target simply had a larger hole. No massive blast spread like in the movies.
"The point is you have to be as proficient with a shotgun as you would have to be with any firearm," Givens said.
A shotgun is also more cumbersome for home protection. It extends your size as a target. It's harder to negotiate around corners. Because of its size, it's easier for the bad guy to grab from you.
"The other main drawback to (a shotgun) is you can't wander around modern society with a shotgun over your arm," Givens added.
So a handgun is best for both home and mobile protection.
Buying one is a lot like buying running shoes. You don't buy what looks good -- and there is no such thing as a "male" gun or a "female" gun.
When shopping a handgun, you should be fitted by a reputable dealer, like Julie Hill of Arms-Fair in Cordova, TN.
Hill said a reputable dealer will explain the differences between revolvers and semi-automatics, full, compact and sub-compact models.
A good dealer will also discourage consumers from focusing too much on caliber or ballistics.
"Most of your encounters, unfortunately, in a situation are going to be as close as you and I are," she said. "A lot of the stopping power that you get with a smaller caliber is really all you're going to need."
If the handgun is too small, it's more difficult to control. If the handgun's too big, it's more difficult to carry.
"If they're not comfortable with it, they're not going to carry it, and it's not going to do them any good if it's at home and they're out and about, and they need to use it," said Hill.
An attempted car-jacking sparked Germantown's Kathryn Sparks' interest in a handgun for protection. She didn't have a clue what to shop -- until she consulted Hill and settled on a compact handgun.
"After you talk to someone who knows what they are talking about, it's really easy to find the right choice," Sparks said.
It's also imperative that you buy a key or combination-locking safe, case or "life-jacket" for your handgun.
Only the right people should have access to your handgun.
"Those need to be people that are trained, educated and responsible," said Givens. "It's not just children. Your brother-in-law may be 37 years old. That doesn't mean he needs to have access to your gun."
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