Common Sense
Personal Defense

Home-Defense, Guns, Ammo, Training, Tactics, Mindset
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This Voltaire quote is such a cliché: “Common sense is not so common.” I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the phrase used. However, when it comes to your personal safety, damn if it’s not true. Do you need six weeks of intensive gun-ninja-demons-of-darkness-almost-a-SWAT-dude training? Not really. How about the need for a rifle-caliber handgun because the pistol calibers are not powerful enough to be effective in a real gunfight? Again, not so much.

When it comes to personal defense equipment, folks like me, who write for gun magazines, need to shoulder some of the blame. We bring up the worst case scenarios to illustrate “it could happen to you” in order to introduce you to the newest and best self-defense widget ever devised. “This new widget will revolutionize the way you think about personal defense.” Or, “Deployed properly and with adequate training, the new Fratazabit from Acme Tactical Fratazabit Inc. will ensure you win every gunfight.”

Oh, please — let’s get a grip here, folks. If you really and truly need to kit-up like a First Marine Expeditionary Force infantryman heading into the Battle of Fallujah in order to go to the store to buy a half-gallon of milk, I think you should consider moving to a different neighborhood. Do you really need a full-sized service pistol with a 7,000 lumen weapon-mounted light, eight spare mags, a ballistic carrier with Level IV armor plates, two back up guns and 200 rounds of ammo just for a routine trip to the 7/11? While overkill almost always works, it’s a bit hard to justify for every venture from the house. The more stuff you need to take on a quick run to the store, the less likely you’ll be to take it — every time.


Smith & Wesson’s Bodyguard, matched up with good personal protection ammunition,
is a truly good choice as an everyday carry gun. It’s small, ergonomically designed,
powerful and has a built-in laser system.


Be dedicated to the proposition your best defense against those who would do you harm is reliance on yourself. Foremost, you need the proper mindset to assure personal safety. The saying “When you walk into a room be nice, courteous, smile at everyone, but have a plan to kill all of them” has some validity. Maybe killing all of them is an over-reach, but cutting through the hyperbole, the saying really means always be aware of your surroundings, think about the “what-ifs” and consider plans to extricate yourself from a bad situation — not necessarily engage in a gunfight.

Running and screaming like a cheerleader might work, too. There’s not going to be a cop on every corner to save your butt. Besides, who really wants a cop on every corner? It would be way too costly, and you don’t really need a ticket every time you slowly roll through a stop sign.

Defense pistol pioneer Jeff Cooper believed the most important survival tool was the mind, and to help prepare the mind for danger he created the “Cooper Color Code.” He popularized many self-defense techniques with the modern pistol; he was a legend in the shooting and self-defense world and a strong advocate of a prepared armed citizenry. The “Cooper Color Code” still stands up today. It’s a basic situational awareness tool.

White: Unaware and unprepared. If attacked in Condition White, the only thing that may save you is the stupidly or ineptness of your attacker. When confronted by something nasty, your reaction will probably be “Oh my God!” or “OMG!!!! emoji emoji emoji” — depending on your age.

Yellow: Relaxed alert. No specific threat situation. Your mindset is that “Today could be the day I may have to defend myself.” You are aware of the world and prepared to defend yourself. Be in condition Yellow whenever you’re in unfamiliar surroundings or among people you don’t know. You can remain in this for long periods — it’s not terribly taxing. In Yellow, you are “taking in” surrounding information in a relaxed but alert manner.

Orange: Specific alert. Something is not right. You’ve recognized something specific and determined there may be a threat. Your mindset should shift to, “I may have to shoot someone today.” Quickly recognize this is Condition Orange. Set a mental trigger — it’s an “if this, then that” exercise. If someone does “this,” “then” I will need to do “that.” “That” could mean move to the other side of the street, leave the room or even that whole cheerleader thing I mentioned. Long periods in Orange create mental strain. If the threat proves to be nothing, you shift back to Condition Yellow. Troops in combat are in Orange a lot and they get burned out.

Red: Condition Red is fight. Your mental trigger has been tripped. The fight is on. “This” happened and now it’s time for “that.”


The Smith & Wesson Model 329 Night Guard is an extremely lightweight gun chambered
in .44 Magnum. Construction materials are Scandium alloy and 
stainless steel. It’s great for
backpacking and will definitely slow down a bear attack. However, it can really be uncomfortable
to shoot with full-house magnum ammo.

Concealed Carry

You’ve decided to join the millions of concealed carry holders. Now you need to choose what to carry. Caliber is a huge decision in making your firearm decision. Your objective in carrying concealed is to stop an attack. You don’t care if they are killed or not, you just need them to stop what they are doing.

You’ve got a bunch of choices: S&W .500 Magnum .50 AE, .44 Mag, .41 Mag, .45 ACP, .357 Mag, .357 SIG, .38 Special, 9mm, .380 ACP, .22, .17, with variations of each of those. Many make no sense at all. Let’s get rid of the ones which make no sense for self-defense on both the really small side and the really big side.

The .500 S&W Magnum, .50 AE, .45-70 and other cartridges should be left to rifle or handgun hunting choices. They’re just too big for self-defense. Even if the gun manufacturers build smaller, concealable-sized guns in those calibers, the recoil alone will make follow-up shots difficult at best. Try to concentrate on fending off an attack while your teeth are rattling, ears ringing, retinas detaching, your beard, mustache, both in some cases, are on fire, your firearm has recoiled and hit you on the back of your shoulder or right in the nose. There are some pretty darn funny examples of this on YouTube.

The smaller calibers such as .17, .22, .25 and .32 are a lot more controllable, with little if any knockdown power. You’ve probably heard the first rule of gun fighting is “Have a Gun.” Subsection “A” reads: “Win as fast as you can.” Okay, I just made the subsection stuff up, but that’s what it should be. You want to stop the threat as quickly as possible and you need a round powerful enough to do just that, quickly and efficiently.

The .380 ACP is sometimes referred to as the 9mm Kurz, especially in European guns, and it’s about as small as you should get. There are as many opinions about the stopping power of the .380 as there are fleas on a junkyard dog, but it’s better than throwing rocks. (I used to think maybe it’s not much better than rocks.) However, the way the .380 ACP bullets are engineered today is a far cry from yesterday. Federal, Winchester, Remington and Hornady make some excellent personal defense choices in .380 ACP.

The greatest caliber I’d go with is .45 ACP. Usually guns made for it are a bit larger and less concealable than the 9mm and .380 choices, but with a little research and a good holster they’re readily hidden away.


Many say the downside to carrying a revolver is the reduced ammo load.
If you feel more comfortable with the highly reliable revolver, some models
carry almost as many rounds as a good autoloader.


There are a lot of really great concealable handguns on the market, there’s also a bunch of junk — don’t settle for a piece of junk. Do some research and make an informed selection. Don’t let the guy behind the counter dictate the guns at which you look. Go to two, three or four different shops and look at a good cross-section of guns. This may sound elitist but stick to the top brands — Springfield Armory, Kimber, Smith & Wesson, GLOCK, Colt, SIG-SAUER, Kel-Tec, CZ-USA, Ruger, Taurus, Walther and maybe a couple of others. If you can’t find a quality, concealable and affordable handgun among that group, you must not be trying. There’s some great information on concealable handguns in the back of this magazine in the Buyer’s Guide.

When it comes to carrying a concealed handgun, size really does matter, and you need to decide what’s best for you based on a number of variables. What kind of clothes do you wear? Where on your body will you wear the gun? Sometimes a large gun can be easily concealed if you are wearing a jacket or an un-tucked shirt.

What kind of holster do you want? A shoulder holster can conceal a fairly large frame autoloader or revolver. But wearing most shoulder holsters for long periods of time is uncomfortable as all get out. If it’s hot and humid and you wear a jacket or coat to cover up your firearm, you could look like a shoplifter or pervert. Maybe a small pocket pistol is the answer.

The size or length of the butt, grip, handle, whatever you want to call it, controls concealability of a handgun worn on the belt. We are shaped elliptically, so if the butt is too long it will print under a jacket or shirt. You may as well wear a sign that reads, “Shoot me first.”


You may be competent with firearms, but combat shooting isn’t anything like
target shooting. You should get some training from a competent and reliable source.
Here, shooters train at Gunsite in Arizona, one of the premier schools. Proper training
can help provide the knowledge base and practical application you’ll need to prevail.


Get some training, then get some more. There are a lot of states going to concealed carry without a permit. First, I think that’s great. Some folks with long-standing knowledge of the legalities surrounding use of force and firearm handling should avail themselves of the opportunity. But, here’s something to think about: If you have little to no knowledge of the legal and moral use of deadly force, you need to get some training. If you are not familiar with firearms, get training. If you want to carry concealed when travelling out of state, get some training and a state issued permit.

Many states have reciprocity for concealed carry if you have a CCW permit from the state in which you reside. Not knowing the law and thus being put in handcuffs for a firearm violation is not a lot of fun. Being convicted of the violation might make purchasing and possessing a firearm illegal for you for the rest of your life.

You will have fun at pretty much any CCW class or shooting class you attend. Most cities of any decent size usually have somebody who teaches some sort of concealed carry class. Cost is minimal and the knowledge base you’ll possess afterward is invaluable.


Ruger’s LCR with Crimson Trace LaserGrips is a great tool for personal
protection and concealed carry.

Viridian makes a weapon-mounted light and laser not only powerful but highly compact.
They even have a holster which will turn the laser and light to the “on” position when the
gun is drawn and then off again when re-holstered.

Harrison Ford’s Blaster would be a tremendous choice for in-home self-defense.
It could blast an intruder into the next room. Unfortunately, there’s only one in the
world and it would run you into at least six figures to buy it. By the way, it’s not a real
gun, only an inoperable Hollywood conglomeration of a couple guns welded together.

A Taser is another alternative. Just remember, depending on your target’s clothing
and your proximity, sometimes they can be less than effective. That’s why law
enforcement always has a lethal option available.

Home Defense

You don’t need a permit to possess a firearm in your own home, but you still need common sense and some training. I keep a pistol with a weapon-mounted light and laser and a set of electronic hearing protection muffs on the nightstand next to the bed. I can do this because I don’t have kids at home anymore. Little ones would make me put a stop to the practice. I might have the equipment within easy reach, but it would need to be in an area the little hands could not reach.

Why do I have that particular equipment set? The gun? Well, that’s kinda’ self-evident. Why the weapon mounted light and laser? When you wake up in the middle of the night and need to take action, your eyes will have to adjust to the darkness. You can — to a certain extent — see shadows and figures but not detail. You really want to be certain of the details before launching bullets. What if it’s the neighbor telling you the roof is on fire, or your daughter coming home to surprise you for your birthday or your spouse coming back from the bathroom?

The weapon-mounted light gives you detail. It can also act as a startling device. The bad guy’s eyes are probably adjusted to the low light and shining your light in his or her eyes will cause a rapid and, in some cases, painful loss of night vision — an advantage to you. Also, if you must fire after that first round goes off, your night vision is gone. The muzzle flash will often cause everything to be pitch black afterward.

Why a weapon-mounted and not just a flashlight? Any of the flashlight shooting techniques you might use are one-handed techniques. When using a weapon-mounted light you have both hands on the gun and you’ll be more accurate when firing. Trusting one-handed shooting when adrenalin is dumped into your system by the bucket loads just doesn’t make sense when there’s an easy alternative of a weapon-light. The simpler you keep things the better the outcome will be.

Using a laser makes sense on two levels. First, you improve your ability to hit whatever you’re aiming to hit. Way back in the lizard part of your brain where fight or flight lives, so lives the “look at the threat” compulsion. At the range, you’re taught to use your sights and concentrate on the front sight. In a real gunfight even those folks who have received extensive training, like cops, tell us they never saw their sights. A laser projecting a dot on the subject you may intend to shoot is easily seen, even with tunnel vision.

Secondly, a laser scares the stuffings (wanted to write something else, but it’s a family publication) out of your intended target. Even if they’re high on dope, drunk or just stupid that little red or green dot on their chest is a reminder of their mortality and impending death. It’s one of the only good things Hollywood has ever done. Bad guys think if they see a laser dot on them they’re as good as dead. Let them think just that. The deterrent effect of the laser may have them running out of the room screaming like that cheerleader — who’s probably getting pretty tired and losing her voice by now.

Lastly, the question is why electronic earmuffs? Earmuffs are easier to don versus putting plugs in your ears when you’re startled in the middle of the night. Electronic earmuffs amplify noise and make it much easier to identify sound location and what caused the noise. Is it glass breaking, a door being kicked or the cat knocking over a vase? They will also protect your hearing.

Even if you experience auditory exclusion, damage will still be done to the fragile ear components. And make sure your spouse or significant other in bed next to you has electronic earmuffs, too. It’s hard to explain to you just how loud the report from a gun actually is in a confined space like a bedroom, kitchen or hallway.


“Yikes, I had a little too much to drink, thought this was my house, and some breakfast
would be nice.” That little red dot has a tremendous deterrent effect. If it’s not enough
of a deterrent, the laser is a great tool, enabling a well-placed shot.

Federal HST ammo is a highly reliable self-defense round and has been for years.
This FBI protocol gelatin test shows a significant wound channel and more than
adequate penetration from this .380 ACP projectile.

Federal HST Micro is available just about everywhere where quality
self-protection and defense ammunition is sold.

The engineered expansion of the Federal HST bullet in .380 ACP is designed to
facilitate a rapid put-down of the suspect. HST in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP is
used by many law enforcement agencies throughout the USA.

Hornady’s Flex Lock bullets meets and exceeds standards for a personal protection round.


Finally, your safety and that of your family is primarily your responsibility. As a cop for 30 years, I unfortunately know when seconds count law enforcement is minutes away. Response times are getting greater and greater every year and those minutes between calling 911 and the arrival of the first units on the scene seem like hours. Go find a clock and stand still next to it, wait for 5 minutes to go by and see how long that seems.

The US Department of Justice/Bureau of Statistics shows response time by law enforcement to aggravated assault crimes runs between six minutes to an hour, and in over 48 percent of those crimes, it was over 11 minutes.
It’s up to you now. Please use common sense.

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