About Me

I hold multiple NRA Instructor credentials, as well as SabreRed Pepper Spray. I have my own training company in Northern Virginia, www.FemaleandArmed.com and am focusing primarily on teaching women, especially those who are new to shooting.

I am also the author of 4 books, available on Amazon, and at many major outlets. I am a contributing writer for Combat Handgun Magazine and Women and Guns Magazine.

Thank you for following along with me as this journey continues.

Safe Shooting!


my books

my books
Thoughts, comments and insights for women who shoot and the men who love us!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

2011 was an amazing year. So many things happened. I had several FIRSTS and FAVORITES that I’m grateful for and want to share with you. I became a NRA Pistol Instructor. I had my first student on the range and she was an amazing shot! I took my first Pepper Spray class (it was so much fun, I’m getting certified to teach them in the new year). I wrote my first Blog and discovered my voice, and that I can write things other people want to read. I took my first Personal Defense lesson and found my strength. I discovered an author whose work I love; Kathy Jackson, The Cornered Cat. I got to meet a 2nd Amendment icon, Dick Heller. I met Evan Carson, who became my instructor, my boss and my friend. All in all, a good year. Now, on to see what 2012 will bring! Maybe a book of my own? A new Rifle? I want to thank my husband, family, friends and kittens for all their support. I want to thank all of you for reading, commenting and sharing. When I started this blog, just last month, I never dreamed I would reach so many people. Thank you. I wish all of you a Safe and Happy 2012. Happy Shooting! Stay Safe! Lynne

Friday, December 30, 2011

Guns in Colors

What is up with the current trend to colorize guns? It could be that the manufacturers are realizing more and more women are buying guns for self defense. When I first saw the Charter Arms pink revolvers I kind of wanted one. Then, after thinking about it…why? I don’t really like revolvers. I have one, but they aren’t very practical. I only have one to practice with for teaching. But when it comes to carry, my Glock 19 is a better bet for me than my 5 shot revolver. Plus, I’m more accurate, although, admittedly, I need more practice with the revolver. I found out that there are gun smiths that actually apply a color coating to your slide, doing solid and custom color combinations. That is kind of neat, a one of a kind creation just for me. Ok, you are reading this blog, so you already know I like pink! Some people think it is cliché, but I like pink, always have. I also like teal, blue, green and lavender. Actually, I considered matching my gun collection to my shoe collection, but I can’t afford it! Too many shoes.  Imagine, I’m confronted by an aggressor, I draw my concealed 9mm, and it has been color coated hot pink. That may be an advantage, but the time he stops laughing I might have gotten away. I admit, I was really tempted, at first. Now, I’m not so sure. I kind of like the purity of my gun, just the way it is. If I get really good, and can start customizing pistols for competition, well, sure, I’ll pick my colors. My biggest concern with the trend in smaller colorized guns is that people may forget that these are GUNS, not toys! They require the same safe handling, training, and practice as any other gun. I’m still tempted, but probably won’t try to match my gun to my outfit anytime soon. After all, it is concealed, who will know. Probably not anyone that matters. I’m not talked out of it completely, I’m still doing my homework on the bonding process. I might consider something that has special meaning for me, like the Air Force emblem, or an American Flag. Probably will skip the pink for now. It’s a personal decision, and I’d be very interested in what you think? Do you have a non-traditional color gun? Would you want a non-traditional color gun? Be safe!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How young is too young?

How old does a girl need to be before she learns that she is a valuable human being, who deserves to be respected, and doesn’t need to accept being intimidated or accept bad behavior from boys? Maybe 1, day, that is. I don’t think it is every too soon or too late to teach a girl, or a woman, that she is worthwhile, has a right to her own dreams, her own ideas, her own space and her own body. Girls need to understand that abusive behavior is not acceptable, from friends, family or strangers. Women need to understand this too. No matter what, when someone is abusive it is on them, not her! I posted this question on my FaceBook page (Women Firearms Instructors) and got some wonderful answers. One woman started her children out with air rifles at an early age. She taught them all the safe handling that we use with traditional firearms, stored them the same way, and as they grew older, they moved up to .22s and went from there. The kids can’t remember a time they didn’t shoot. I thought this was an awesome approach. Teach them right, and teach them early. Girls can learn to shoot at an early age, in a program that supports gun handling and appropriate use of firearms, or from parents sharing their love of shooting. How old depends on the girl, and the decision is really the parents, but maybe 12 is a good age. Girls, and women, need to know that they are entitled to respectful treatment from the world. If they don’t believe that it will be communicated through body language and behavior and make them more vulnerable. Learning to defend yourself is a great way to sense your own power. Being strong doesn’t mean not being feminine. The two are not mutually exclusive. I shoot, I’m taking Personal Defense training, and I will not quit in a fight for my life. But, I also love pink, high heels, perfume and makeup. I am what my Husband refers to as a Girly Girl. Women of all ages need to understand that it doesn’t matter it it is your brother picking on you, your boyfriend, your spouse or a stranger. It is our body and our right to say STOP. We can learn to use our voices, our smarts, and our strength to take care of ourselves. The teenage boy who kicks his girlfriend out of the car at night on a lonely road because of a fight and drives off and leaves her… The boy who beats up on his younger sister… The man who thinks his date “owes” him sex because he bought her dinner… The unknown predator who stalks his prey like an animal intent on injury or death. The differences here are in the level of severity. Women need to know this is not acceptable behavior, and we have a right to expect, and demand, better. We aren’t fragile dolls to be placed on a pedestal, but we deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Teach the men in your life the proper way to treat a woman. Learning to shoot goes a long way toward helping a woman understand her power, but it isn’t a requirement. However, it is fun! Remember, we deserve to be treated right. No one can take that away. Be safe!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

When should I carry?

I had an interesting discussion with my husband as we were getting ready to go to his parent’s home for Christmas dinner. He noticed my holster and asked if I was carrying a gun to Christmas dinner? (Understand that he is not a gun-toting guy, but is incredibly supportive of my choice to do so.) I had to think about how to answer, my first response was “of course, why not?” Then I realized he felt we were just going to his parent’s home, why did I need it? Well, for the same reason I carry to the grocery store, or to the park or to a restaurant…because you never know. Once I finished dressing, I let him confirm that it was well concealed, and they wouldn’t know. I even offered to leave it in the little safe in the car once we got there. Bottom line, I didn’t think we would need it at his parents’ home. However, we had a 45-minute drive each way, would be coming home after dark. What is something happened on the road? What if we decided to stop somewhere along the way? The question probably shouldn’t be when should I but when shouldn’t I carry? My response is only when I’m going someplace it is illegal for me to carry. There aren’t a lot of those in Virginia. If I was going somewhere I thought I might “need” a gun, why would I go there? I would probably pick a different place to go. My goal is not to shoot someone but to be able to defend myself and my family if necessary. The key word in concealed carry is CONCEALED. If someone can see it, it isn’t concealed. We don’t need to advertise or make ourselves a target. We do have the right to defend ourselves. I have often said I will not start a confrontation, and I will walk away if I can. But if I’m given only two choices; fight, or suffer serious injury or death, I will fight. At that point, the aggressor has made the decision that one of us is going to get hurt. I have made the decision to defend myself. There is a very important concept there. I haven’t decided to go out and hurt someone. Carrying a concealed firearm doesn’t make me aggressive. If anything, it makes me more anxious to avoid a bad situation. Having a gun also doesn’t make me complacent, just the opposite. I’m more alert to my surroundings, more aware of who is near, who could be a threat, where someone might be hiding… Be alert, be safe and don’t let them see you print.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice, Practice, Practice…but Practice Right! Common mistakes… Trigger Control: Relax, comfortable stance, good sight picture, focus on the front sight, slowly pull the trigger straight back until the gun fires. That should always be a surprise. Hold the trigger back for a fraction of a second as you are reacquiring your sight picture, then ease the trigger out just until you feel it reset, it is like a click that you can feel. Then you know your gun is ready to fire again. Try this for several shots before taking your finger off the trigger and lowering the pistol to see what you did. You will probably be surprised at how well you did. Two of the most common issues for new shooters are to take their finger off the trigger between shots and look up after each shot to see where it went. Both of these can cause you to have trouble with your aim. If you aren’t getting a nice tight grouping, try to fire several shots in a row before you look, keeping your finger in the trigger and following through to the reset. How far out should my target be? I usually start at 8 feet, then ease that target out in 2-4 foot increments, to 25 feet. The farther out, the easier it is to see the impact of anything I might be doing wrong. My 2 inch group at 8 feet might become a 9 inch group at 25 feet. How are you standing? Feet shoulder width apart, weight forward on the balls of your feet, dominant foot slightly back. Shoulders relaxed. As a student said recently, “maximum meat on the grip”, we laughed, but it was a great point. You want a secure, solid grip. Raise your pistol from a low ready straight up to eye level. Your head is up, your sights at eye level. Soft wrists are a real issue. I learned this the hard way. You need to find your right wrist control. To hard and you get sore and have control issues. Too soft and your gun will bounce on the recoil causing a mis-feed. You want to “aim” for firm, but not white knuckled. Practice often, once a week if you can, but don’t go in with the idea that you will shoot 150 rounds, or whatever your round count it. Stop if you get tired, sore, uncomfortable. Trying to push through because you drove “all the way to the range” and want to make the trip worthwhile will not end well. When you are distracted by pain, or exhaustion, your accuracy will decrease and then you will add frustration to your list. Don’t get frustrated, we all have off days, but it gets better! Shooting is fun! It can also be very empowering. Sometimes I go to the range frustrated about something in my life and shoot for an hour and leave feeling very relaxed. The focus and attention needed to shoot well can be an almost zen-like experience. It beats counting to 100, for me, anyway. Happy Shooting!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Even instructors need instructors

I got to shoot with my instructor this morning. He really is amazing to watch, he is so good, but is very patient and explains things well. He is the one who convinced me I could become an instructor and share my passion for shooting. I have a new revolver (we teach with them and I didn't have one so I really needed to get one to practice). Harder to shoot than my Glock, I wasn't as accurate. I was on the paper, but...not quite what I'm used to. It is a Ruger SP101 .38/.357. I fired several sets of .38 then decided I needed to try the .357. Well, fired one, put it down and handed a $25 box of ammo to Evan. I'm currently icing my hand waiting for the swelling to go down. LOL But it did make me wonder...what do people do with the really light weight revolvers, like the Smith and Wesson Featherweight which is less than 1/3 the weight of the Ruger? How many times have I had a dealer tell me I wouldn't notice? I noticed!! But the main point is, it was a rare opportunity to shoot with my instructor. Yes, I work with new shooters a lot. But every time I go to the range to "punch holes in paper" with my instructor, I learn something else. No matter how long you've been shoooting, or teaching, you can learn something. Plus, it was a lot of fun to shoot with someone I respect. Thank you all for joining me on this wonderful journey called Blogging. I appreciate the comments, I appreciate you spending some of your valuable time reading, and I hope to hear more from you in the future. I hope you and yours have a very Safe and Merry Christmas! Be safe!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Open letter to Gun Store Owners and Employees

Open letter to Gun Store Owners and Employees (I know there are some women out there; I just haven’t found them yet. This is addressed more toward the men…if you recognize yourself you have something to think about. I did a little secret shopper research for this one.) Dear Gun Store Owner / Employee, I am a confident, self sufficient, intelligent woman. I would like to buy a gun for personal defense. I’m not interested in being hit on, patronized or called “Little Lady”. When I tell you I don’t know much about guns, please consider recommending some local professional instruction before I buy, explaining that it will help me understand what I’m looking for, narrow my choices, and give me some experience before I commit $400 of more dollars on something I’ll use once and put away. I’ll be more likely to come back. Take the time to ask me questions, such as, why am I interested in shooting, do I have anything particular in mind, do I have experience, do I live in a multi-unit dwelling, or do I want to carry concealed at some point. If I tell you I’m interested in Personal Defense, don’t immediately take me to a Shotgun (I had a salesman tell me not to chamber a shell because the noise of doing so would scare away most intruder, uhm, does that make a shotgun a $300+ good luck charm?). Unless I plan to swear it on a sling, they are only good in one room, and somewhat hard to take outside and conceal. In addition, please, don’t offer to teach me to shoot it on your off time. When I steer the conversation to a pistol, don’t start telling me how Revolvers have fewer moving parts, are easier to shoot and I may not have the hand strength for a Semi-Automatic, that has lots of moving parts. I may opt for a revolver, but I need to understand my options. When we do get to the Semi-Autos, don’t assume I want something small or compact. Please do not say it would be easy to carry in my purse! If I didn’t know better, which I do, I would think you just told me it was ok to carry a loaded gun in my purse! If it takes me 30 seconds to find my keys, how long will it take to find my gun? And, what will be stuck in the barrel or the trigger guard when I do? Oh, there’s that ink pen I was looking for. Ok, I did receive a couple recommendations toward a 9mm, which is what I carry. However, a compact 9mm with a 6 round magazine? Maybe in evening-wear! We can learn to carry a full size gun, concealed, just like the men. No one in any of the shops I went to ever realized I was carrying a Glock 19 and a spare magazine, on body. Take the time to explain to me that the small, easy to conceal gun is a lot harder to shoot and could cause me not to practice, which could make me a danger to myself and others, if I carry it. Don’t tell me that in a real-life situation I won’t notice the recoil, my adrenaline will be pumping. If I can’t practice with it at the range, I can’t use it effectively to defend my life. Even if I told you I don’t know much about guns, you should! Do not rack the slide without even looking down and hand me a pistol with a closed action. Just because you didn’t load a round, doesn’t mean the other guy didn’t slip one in. Use the Slide Lock and show me that it is empty, open the cylinder and show me there are no rounds in the revolver, let me verify it for myself so I can be less afraid of it. Help me out; tell me it isn’t wise to put my finger on the trigger unless I intend to fire the gun. If I really am new, I don’t know anything about safe handling, I’m looking at you as the expert. If you do it wrong, I’ll think that it is the right way. If I ask you to show me how to aim a pistol, please do not show me a modified Weaver with a teacup grip! Show me an isosceles, straight out, strong two-handed grip. Most new male shooters would have trouble with a teacup grip, and so would I, even with experience. I did confess my secret mission to most of the men I dealt with although I didn’t tell them all the errors I saw. One pointed out that he knew I had more skills than I let on when I kept my index finger on the frame instead of the trigger and didn’t muzzle him. Oops, training wins again. I just can’t bring myself to violate the basic safety rules. Encourage me to take some professional training, have a list of NRA trainers in the area, or a stack of cards from local trainers to recommend to me. If you make it a positive experience, I will come back, and probably bring a few friends. If I feel patronized or walk out with a gun I can’t shoot, I will probably tell all my friends. My apologies to the men who tried, and didn’t make a sale. I know who you are and where to send friends to when they are ready, or when I’m ready for my next purchase. Guns are like shoes, have to have more than one! Stay Safe!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Squib don’t swim in the sea!

Squib don’t swim in the sea! What is a Squib? It sounds like sushi. Actually a Squib is not found in the ocean, but more likely part way down the barrel of your gun. Signs that a squib round has occurred include: a much quieter or otherwise unusual-sounding discharge noise, lighter than usual or nonexistent recoil force, a discharge of smoke from the ejection port instead of the barrel, and a failure of the action to cycle (in semi-automatic firearms). This can come from poor quality, old or damaged ammunition or from low quality re-loads. When the primer is ignited in the cartridge, an insufficient charge is generated to propel the bullet out of the gun. However, this doesn’t mean that no charge is generated, or that it might have a delayed discharge. If you think you might have a Squib DO NOT fire a second round in an attempt to clear the barrel, this can be very dangerous. If you are not familiar with the procedure to clear it, stay in place, keep the gun in your control, pointed down range and wave for a range safety officer to come and assist you. DO NOT lay the gun down, or remove the gun from the live fire area of the range with the round still in the barrel. In rare cases this may require the services of a gunsmith but that is still better than a negligent discharge on the way to the car. How can you minimize your risk? Buy quality ammunition, store it in the original packaging, in a clean, dry environment. If the box appears to have gotten wet or greasy, or the ammunition is old, most ranges have a means to safely dispose of bad ammunition. The price may be tempting, but I don’t recommend buying re-loads at a gun show. You don’t have the same quality control that you get in a factory setting. If you do your own reloads, take your time, and focus on the task, don’t try to reload while watching a movie. Be safe!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thoughts on little guns...

It is amazing to me how often I’ve had someone (usually a man) tries to tell me that a little gun, like the Ruger LCP or the Smith & Wesson feather weight revolver is a great carry gun for a woman. They say things like; “it isn’t a good range gun, you wouldn’t want to shoot it for fun, but in a dangerous situation your adrenaline will be up and you won’t hardly feel the recoil”. Ok, think about what happens when you put a lot of power, like a .38+P, through gun that weighs 15 ounces, or a .380 round through something that weighs 9.4 ounces? You are going to have control issues. Can you overcome that? Sure..WITH PRACTICE, which means taking it to the range and shooting it…a lot! I like little guns, they are cute, easy to conceal, handy…I own a Ruger LCP for that reason. The first time I took it to the range, I seriously questioned my judgment in buying it. But I stuck it out, practiced, and got proficient. I also got a very sore wrist. My instructor who has 6 inches and 70 pounds on me) shot it, he had fewer control issues, but he really didn’t like it. Will I ever get to the point where I think it is fun to shoot? Probably not. Will I trust it as a backup gun? YES! Will I carry it as a primary? Only in very rare circumstances where I really can’t conceal my Glock 19 on my body because I’m in evening wear or something special. I have a blue gun Ruger LCP to practice carry methods with. Since it doesn’t sit in my normal strong side hip position, I needed to get comfortable with other ways to carry it and a blue gun is great to practice drawing from odd places. As an example, I have a middle of the back holster, a thigh band, a pocket holder and a bra holster. It is a lot safer to practice drawing with the blue gun than the real one. Plus, I need to wear it a while to get comfortable. A concealed gun that you are fidgeting with, adjusting, checking…well, it does not stay concealed for long. I have a great holster, a DeSantis Kydex and Leather IWB, for my Glock and can carry it with almost any outfit with only some minor attention to fit and coverage. I wish I could conceal my spare magazines as easily! I try putting them next to my cell phone pouch to reduce the print, but if you have any ideas…please post them! Bottom line on the little lightweight guns. Yes, they are easy to carry and conceal. Sure, your adrenaline may kick in and you won’t feel the discomfort. However, if you haven’t practiced with it, what are the odds that you will be accurate in a high stress situation? I like having it as an option, and as a back up, but I still take it to the range on a regular basis and practice. Maybe not the 100 rounds I shoot with my Glock, but I run a couple magazines through it. If you don’t practice with it, you are better off using it as a rock to throw at someone. Stay Safe!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Overcoming Socialization…Acting like a Lady

As little girls many of us were given dolls to mother, told not to play with brother’s toy guns…Young ladies don’t yell, they don’t hit, they are quiet, demure, … I even wore white gloves and a hat to Sunday school. Ok, I may be giving away my age here, but truly, girls are generally raised differently than boys. We don’t learn to fight, we learn to keep our discomfort hidden when someone invades our personal space or gets too friendly and gives us an odd feeling. This conditioning makes us ideal victims. We can be convinced that it isn’t so bad, it is our fault for leading him on, we owe him, we are making too much of nothing, we need to keep out voices low. I lived the first 30+ years of my life like that. Shy, reserved, passive…then I woke up. It took a traumatic event for me, but hopefully not for you. I still behave like a lady, when it is appropriate. I like dresses, high heels, nice handbags…and color coordinating my gun to my outfit. LOL, have you seen Charter Arms line of colored revolvers? Turquoise, lavender, PINK! Ok, I’m exaggerating a little, all of my guns are in basic stainless steel, blued, of a combination thereof. But like the old saying, buy the shoes, the outfit will come. I have a pair of pink heels that would go perfect with the pink .38. Ok, I’m a “girly girl” as my husband likes to say. But I regularly carry, on body, a Glock 19, and pepper spray, and a small stun gun/flashlight. I’m also taking Personal Defense lessons. I have some minor physical limitations so I’m taking private coaching instead of a class, and am amazed at how powerful I can be with a little coaching. It was funny, the first time I was the hit my instructor, even knowing he was wearing protective padding, I barely tapped him, he couldn’t even feel it. Hitting didn’t come naturally to me. By the end of the lesson, I was hitting him pretty hard. It hurt a little, but I needed to know I could do it, and what it would feel like. I also had to learn to take a hit, even a soft one, to overcome the initial shock of someone’s fist making contact with my cheek. Bad guys probably aren’t going to throw a slow motion controlled punch, but at least now I’ve practiced how to deflect it and how to tell what body language leads up to it to I can anticipate and respond. Why would I do all this? Several reasons…it is a dangerous world out there, economy is tough, people are desperate, and the bad guys seemed to have had a mental shift. Years ago, you might get mugged, hand over your money, they might say thanks and leave. Now, odds are you cooperate and still get killed! Pardon the pun, but I have been asked if all these things are “overkill”. I don’t think so. I’ve written here before about proportional response. I live in a townhouse community. We are close together. A 9mm bullet can travel a mile or more, of course it will lose velocity, but it can still do a lot of damage to an innocent person or property if you miss. I carry Hornady Critical Defense ammunition, it has a good reputation for expanding on contact and minimizes the risks to innocents, but anytime you fire a gun in an uncontrolled environment, you are running a risk. It is our responsibility to minimize the risk by knowing what is in the vicinity of, and what is behind your intended target. If you can’t shoot with relative safety to innocents, you need other options. Hence, my stun gun, my pepper spray, and the personal defense classes. The one thing all of them have in common is that they may distract my attacker long enough for me to get to safety. Isn’t that the ultimate goal? What does this have to do with socialization? Ever get that uneasy feeling when someone crowds you in a checkout (no, don’t pepper spray them like the lady at Wal-Mart) but it is ok to turn an politely tell them that you would appreciate if they take a step back. This is very reasonable, they don’t need to see your pin number, or your transaction total, or anything else that is YOUR business. So, how often do we say something versus shifting uncomfortably and hoping they will get the message? What about the stranger approaching you in a dark parking garage or lot that just doesn’t feel right. Do you ignore that feeling or look at him directly and tell him politely but firmly to stay back? Some people are innocently clueless of personal space. More often they are testing you to see if you will tolerate the invasion. For some, that is a thrill, for others it is a prelude to something much worse. Don’t give them the “in”. You can be polite in an initial encounter, but also be firm. Leave no doubts that you mean what you say. These are forms of aggression, or small attacks, and can escalate. I recently had to ask someone to leave a meeting for being a disruption. I had already warned him several times, each time a little more forcefully. Finally, I stood and told him needed to leave since he was not able to control himself. He refused, I picked up my phone and dialed 911…he left, muttering profanities, but he left and did not return. I needed to escalate my warnings, and then back it up. I made eye contact, was polite but firm, and left no doubt that I meant it. Sometimes you may wander into a situation without realizing it. If you are on someone else’s territory, you may need to retreat. In those situations, an excuse me, I’m sorry for interrupting and backing away can be enough. In other cases, you can use your gender to your advantage, as in, I’m so sorry, I’m lost, can you direct me to the nearest gas station, or interstate, or whatever? Trust your gut on this. It can work in the right circumstance, such as accidently wandering into a biker bar (nothing against bikers, some of them are awesome, kind, gentle people, but some groups can be aggressive to outsiders). Bottom line, get away from an uncomfortable situation fast. You have the right to your space, your comfort and your body. No one has the right to take that away from you. You can be feminine if that is what you want. You can be tough as nails, you can be somewhere in between. But you do not have to accept intimidation or aggressive behavior. Use your voice, stand up straight, make eye contact…No one can take your power from you without you giving it to them. You may have to dig deeply to find your inner strength, but it is there. Do whatever it takes to survive an encounter, be it eye contact, physically fighting back, or if you are mentally prepared and believe yourself to be in mortal danger, shooting your attacker. Remember, when someone attacks you, they have made the decision to do so. Your decision is to accept it or fight back! Be safe!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Trigger Control…How can something so simple be so hard?

We’ve all done it. Slapping, jerking, flinching, anticipating…What do these things have in common? You don’t hit what you are aiming at! Maybe by a little, maybe by a lot, but if you aren’t going down the rabbit hole (or making Mickey Mouses) you aren’t quite there. (I know, most of us mere mortals can’t do that every time, but isn’t it a goal to get a good grouping?) What is the ideal trigger pull? Using the front pad of your index finger, between the tip and the first joint, resting comfortably on the trigger, and smoothly pulling straight back until the gun fires, slightly surprising you. Then, you continue to hold the trigger back for a fraction of a second while you reacquire your site picture and gently ease the trigger out until you feel the “click” which is the reset. That is as far as it needs to go. Stop there and you are ready to pull straight back, smoothly, until the gun fires. Is this easy? No. Does it take practice? YES! I didn’t even know about the reset (after shooting for over 10 years) until I spent time with an instructor. He spotted me slapping the trigger in the first minute, explained the reset and helped me to feel it. This was a great drill, side by side in the booth, his finger over mine in the trigger guard, I was pulling the trigger but he was following my finger and then held my finger after the fire and eased it out so I could feel it. Well, I went from a respectable grouping to a great grouping in less than 10 minutes! Until you understand what you are doing, you can’t fix it. If, like me, you didn’t know about the reset…slapping made sense. What about anticipation and flinch? If you dry fire, you can rest a coin or an empty cartridge on the barrel, you will know right away if you are moving the gun at the last instant before firing. If you can’t dry fire, for whatever reason, you can get plastic dummy rounds, sized for your caliber and mix them in with your practice ammo. Better yet, have someone load for you so you have no idea where the dummy round is. What will happen when you get to the dummy round is you will pull the trigger and nothing happens. You should be able to see if you are dropping, or raising the muzzle in anticipation of the “bang”. The morale of the story could be that even people who have been shooting for a while can learn something from a good instructor. The finger over finger is a technique I’ve used with a lot of students and the response has been universally positive. It works! Stay Safe!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A handgun is not a Rabbit's Foot

“A very large percentage of people who carry a concealed handgun do not carry it as a weapon. They think of it as a magic talisman that wards off evil, or as a rabbit’s foot. But the mere presence of a gun is no magic bullet. Without the mental willingness to use the gun in the final extreme, its usefulness is strictly limited.” _ Firearms Instructor Tom Givens, quoted in Lessons from Armed America. If you carry a gun without the mental preparation to prepare you to use it to defend your life, you would be safer carrying a rock. It could still be used against you, but at least you aren’t putting a gun in the hands of a bad guy to use against another innocent person. Only you can make the decision, but you must decide before you are faced with an attacker intent on doing you serious harm. You will not have time to decide when you are confronted, and you may not be prepared to live with the outcome of a decision made without serious consideration. Why is it such a hard decision? The possibility of taking a life, even of someone who is threatening yours, is an awesome responsibility. You are also risking the possible aftermath, legal, social, moral repercussions. You may accidently injure an innocent person. Given all of this why would I ever use a gun to defend myself? Because my life, and the lives of my loved ones, are more important to me than the life of a person who made the decision to attack me and hurt or kill me. They made the choice to start something, I’m making the choice to end it, or at least go down fighting for my life. “When an assailant raises a deadly weapon toward an innocent person, the assailant has already made the most important choice of the day, he has decided that someone is going to die. The only decision left for anyone else to make is whether the person who dies that day will be an innocent victim, or one of societies predators.” _ Kathy Jackson, from in Lessons from Armed America

Saturday, December 17, 2011

When Seconds Count …

When seconds count the police are only minutes away. This is not a slam on Law Enforcement, I appreciate them and what they do, you couldn’t pay me enough to put myself in their shoes. But their role is primarily reactive, vice proactive. I had a recent event where I needed to call 911. The operator stayed on the phone with me for maybe 10 minutes, until I was comfortable that the immediate threat had passed, but I still wanted to make a report. This was after having told her there were two armed people on site, and the person we had just ejected from a meeting had a history of erratic behavior and threats. A couple key points. I told her who I was and that we had armed security and that I was also carrying. I described myself and our security guard, including what we were wearing. I also gave them a physical description of our “problem”, his vehicle make, model and plate, as well as his history. When you are calling the police, they need to know what they are walking into. When officers arrived, someone else intercepted them and started to complain about an unrelated aspect of the meeting. As I approached, I simply said; “I’m the one who called” and stated my name. That was all it took, I had both of their full attention. The responding officers knew I was carrying concealed, but I kept eye contact, and kept my hands in front of me and away from my body when I approached them. They never asked me about my gun. It wasn’t an issue for them. I made no quick moves, no threat and gave them no reason to ask. Always let them know who you are and what you look like so the first responders have an idea who the players are and what the situation is. Remember that the entire conversation with the operator is recorded and may help you to clarify the situation if needed later. Let them know if you are carrying. Describe the other people involved. The more information you can provide, the less likely there will be a misunderstanding. In this case, calling 911 had the desired effect, and the individual who had resisted leaving, left without additional intervention, but I didn’t trust him not to return so I continued my call. It took the officers approximately 20 minutes to respond. That is not unusual in my area. I’m in a densely populated area, serviced by the county, which is spread over 348 square miles. The odds that they will be where I need them when I need them are not great. That, coupled with traffic…our response times aren’t measured in seconds. I try to avoid situations that may pose a threat. If that isn’t possible, I try to arrange for professional security in advance. Sometimes this is enough of a deterrent. Sometimes not. But we had discussed everything in advance, from the layout of the room, to who was responsible for what, to what to tell the police if they needed to be called to the height and weight of the security person (I’m not great at judging those things). I even had a small piece of paper with the street address where we were under my phone so I wouldn’t forget. Be prepared. Run “what if…” scenarios. Think about what could happen and how you would respond. The more of that you are able to do, the calmer you will be if you need to act. Plan Ahead and Stay Safe! When help is minutes away the seconds count.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Learning to Shoot is a Lot Like Learning to Walk

When we are very young, we have to learn to hold up our heads, building muscles, then rocking up on to our hands and knees, crawling, then pulling ourselves up and taking those first few teetering steps…all the while getting stronger, building muscle memory, and taking a few bumps along the way.

That is a lot like shooting. That first tentative touch when you handle a gun, learning how to hold it, getting used to the weight in your hand, learning what a proper shooting stance is, building the muscle memory, getting stronger. Then holding the gun out and taking the first shot. I remember my arms and shoulders ached for days when I was first learning, then I got used to it. I got stronger, and my muscles know what is expected of them.

I was reacting to a threat and my first session on the range was almost three hours. Not a great way to start, and it explains why I was sore! Now that I teach, I encourage people to take their time, stop when they get tired, and come back often. If can only shoot for 30 minutes comfortably. Shoot for 30 minutes and then go treat yourself to a coffee. Next time, maybe you can shoot a little longer. It is normal for the wrists, shoulders, back and arms to get a little sore. You are training them to hold a weighty object out away from your body and fire projectiles from it. Eventually, your hand strength gets better, your arms become steadier, you get used to standing slightly forward on your feet, relaxing your shoulders…

I’ve heard new shooters say they think they need to come to the range and shoot 200 rounds each time. Well, that can be a lot if you aren’t used to it. Worry less about round count and more about fundamentals. Are you standing correctly? Do you have good trigger control? Are you hitting the target? Start slow, build your skills and muscle memory, then you can gradually build up time and round count and speed as your skills improve.

Remember, we all had to crawl before we could walk, and walk before we could run.

Practice safely and sanely.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why do I carry Pepper Spray when I carry a Gun?

On word…safety. Another reason, Proportional Response.
Let’s address safety. Can I always use my gun in a defensive situation? What about in a crowded parking lot? What about at a park with lots of children around, or in any other environment where I cannot fire without the risk of seriously injuring or killing an innocent person? What is behind my target, or attacker? What if my attacker has intent and opportunity but not the means to seriously injure or kill me?

For you to justify lethal force there must be Means, Opportunity, AND Intent. The key word is “and”. All three must be present for you to have a chance to justify using lethal force. Yes, this is a judgment you may have to make in an instant. But, you will probably have to explain it later.
Let’s break it down;
• Means, does the attacker(s) have the means to do you serious injury or kill you? Does he (or she) have a gun, a knife, another weapon of some kind, a significant size and / or weight advantage? Are they aiming for you with their car? They have the means.
• Opportunity, does the attacker(s) have the opportunity to get to you without you being able to elude them quickly? Are you out in the open? Can you get into a secure location, or behind a barrier? Are you in your car and able to drive away? Are they far enough away that you can run to safety? They must have the opportunity to get to you without your being able to escape.
• Intent, this is a big one. Did they say they were coming for you, or going to kill you? Was there a threatening gesture as they approached you? What did he or she or they do that made you believe you were in mortal danger?
I can’t shoot someone who is yelling in my face, but not posing a serious physical threat. Similarly I cannot justify lethal force against someone today who left a threat on my voice mail saying they are coming after me tomorrow.

I once found myself in a situation where I had asked a contractor to move their truck and trailer that were blocking about six parking spaces. I was in my car, the crew were all on foot. One of them was cussing at me while another reached into a bag and pulled out a tool that looked like a screwdriver or a narrow trowel. I drove off quickly and called the police (who arrived about 70 minutes later and didn’t even write down the license plate numbers I tried to give them). Yes, when seconds count…but in their thought process I had escaped the immediate threat and they were free to work me in as their time permitted. That was right, but it didn’t feel very good. Was there means? Yes! Was there Intent? I thought so. Was there opportunity? No, I was able to get away quickly without injury and call the police from a safe distance.

Now, what about the risk to innocents? What if you have Means, Opportunity, and Intent bearing down on you but innocent people surround you? Bullets can, and do go through a human being and into other things behind them, like other people. In stress, that tight grouping you have on the range may fail you and you might miss.

According to a 1992 article on the Police Policy Studies Council website regarding number of shots fired compared to missed, the numbers are sobering. “In nine of 21 solo shootings the officer missed the target entirely.” “… police fired a total of 186 shots and scored 112 hits - missing 40 percent of their shots.” These are people who carry a gun as part of their job, and they missed nearly half the time. What will you or I do under stress?

Does this mean I won’t shoot? No! But I am considering all the factors, and running “what if” scenarios in my head. What will I do if that person comes toward me, how will I respond if this convenience store is robbed? What will I do while standing at the ATM if someone approaches?

In some cases, I might believe the intent it to hurt me but not kill me. Or the intent is to rob but not injure. Would I pepper spray someone? No doubts! I have taken the SabreRed Pepper Spray (you can find classes in your area on their website) class and have a reasonable understanding of how to use it, what the affects are, and that some people are immune. I also carry it in my hand in parking lots or in transit between my car and a “safe” location. Pepper spray doesn’t help you in the bottom of your purse. No mugger is going to wait patiently while you dig for it.

It all comes down to the level of the threat and your response. If the threat is there but not lethal, you can’t justify a lethal response. You probably can justify a non-lethal response.

Remember, once they are down, try to get to a safe area as fast as possible, and CALL THE POLICE! You need to be the one to report the incident first. If the bad guy calls in an assault by you, the police may look at you differently than if you call in an attack and that you defended yourself.

Stay Safe!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why do I need to take a class before I shop?

Why do I need to take a class before I shop? Simply stated, do you know anything about guns? Have you thought about what you want it for? Have your shot a variety of guns to see how they feel or if they are comfortable? If you answered yes, too all of these, you can probably walk into a shop and come out with something appropriate for you. If not…you are taking your chances that the person at the counter is a shooter and can ask the right questions instead of selling you what is overstocked. That can be a big “IF”. Ladies, if you walk into a gun store, and the guy behind the counter (yes there are women who work in gun stores, but they are not as common) looks you up and down and steers you to the revolvers with the “women’s aren’t strong enough to rack the slide on a semi-automatic, you need a revolver, very simple to operate, not a lot of parts…” speech, thank him and leave. Women can, and DO, shoot semi-automatics. If you want a revolver, fine. If you don’t, don’t let some gender bias jerk force you into one. You are, or can be with a little effort, strong enough to rack the slide and do everything you need to do. Some men had difficulty racking the slide. It is a hand strength question, NOT a gender question.

Taking a class, like the NRA First Steps, allows you to learn about revolvers and semi-automatics. It gives you access if guns to hold and feel in your hand, You can talk with the more experienced students, talk to the instructors, get advice, sources of information, and hopefully a chance to shoot in a safe, supervised environment.

Once you have bought your gun, take a class with your gun. Spend time with a qualified instructor. Emphasis on Qualified. This may not be your S/O, brother, cousin…you need someone to teach you the correct posture, grip, controls in the beginning. Then, practice what you have learned, and take more classes! I’m a huge believer in NRA courses, not just because I’m a NRA instructor, but because they emphasis fundamentals, consistency throughout the training, and above all…SAFETY! Learn safe, practice safe, be safe.

For more on shopping for a gun, read Blog post Shopping for a Gun – The Goldilocks Approach.

Happy Shooting!

Monday, December 12, 2011

How should I practice?

Often and Safely! Seriously, the theory is that it takes 1000 repetitions to make a habit. That is a lot! But, it can take 2-3 times that to change a habit. So, practice, practice, practice, but do it right! If in doubt, consult a qualified instructor, to ensure that you are not locking in any bad habits.

Many instructors recommend dry firing. Dry Fire is firing your gun without a round in the chamber, or with a dummy (non-firing round, usually plastic) round. You need to be VERY careful. First, consult your owner’s manual to ensure that Dry Fire isn’t discouraged for your pistol. Then you need to ensure you have a safe direction for aiming. There are several websites that offer suggestions for how to set up a safe dry fire area. One of the most important steps, before ever pulling the trigger, is to ensure, visually and physically, that your gun is not loaded. Then, check it again! Do not have live ammunition anywhere near where you practice your dry fire area to avoid an accident.

So, why dry fire? It is good practice. It doesn’t cost anything. You can practice your stance, grip, drawing, aiming…build your muscle memory and the skills you develop at home translate when you are at a range and able to live fire.

New shooters should try to shoot at least once a week. Start your target at about eight feet, gain confidence, then gradually move it further out, in increments of a few feet, to 15 or 20 feet. Then, bring it back in. The closer target builds confidence, the distance helps you to see what mistakes you might be making. If you are shooting high, you might be heeling, or gripping too hard forcing the front of the gun to rise. If you are shooting low, you might be anticipating the recoil. Right handers who shoot to the left, may need to work on their trigger control. Left handers, just the opposite.

When you are building your strength you may only shoot for 30 or 40 minutes, or 50 rounds. That’s ok! This is fun, it shouldn’t be painful. As you get stronger, you can shoot longer, or more rounds.

Be Safe!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dressing to conceal - Yes you can be stylish and armed.

Dresses are tough, but for a special occasion, you can consider a thigh band for a small pistol (it will not work well with a full sized pistol as that is too much weight). However, if you hated thigh high hosiery, you will hate the thigh band. And, if you plan to wear pantyhose, the thigh band will create some logistical issues in the Ladies room as it is anchored to a band that goes around your waist to avoid it sliding down.

I like two-piece anything. Suits, slack and a blazer, jeans and a sweater, even a belted dress with a jacket can work if you use a holster that fits your belt (but keep in mind a belt substantial enough to hold your gun is not going to be one of the 1/2” sparkly ones that you find in the Department Store. Several manufactures make a contoured and tapered gun belt. When you lay it flat it is slightly curved instead of a straight line, and the front tapers slightly for a dressier appearance. However, expect to spend $100 or more on a good leather gun belt. (Type Contoured Gun Belt into your search engine and you will find many options.)

What are the secrets to effective concealed carry? First, get used to it! If you are fidgeting, adjusting your pistol, others will notice. If you seem unaware of it, most people, if they see a bump at all will assume it is a cell phone.
• Prints hide better than solid colors.
• Dark colors hide better than light colors.
• Layers, especially is they are a little loose or flowing, hide better.
• A jacket, an open shirt over a t-shirt, a cardigan, a vest…all are effective camouflage.
• Nothing too tight so that is outlines the pistol, unless you have a looser cover garment over the top. Then you can have the illusion of a snug fit from the front, but a boxy jacket still covers the pistol.
When you are putting outfits together, think of loose over snug or form fitting. That can still show off your shape (if you are so inclined) and allow you to conceal a gun.

When all else fails, you may have occasion to use a purse, but please use a purse designed specifically for Concealed Carry and NEVER put anything in the gun compartment except your gun! This isn’t the preferred method as you must maintain control of your purse at all times to protect against the innocent, the dumb or the criminal. If you are a victim of a purse snatching, you run the risk of losing your gun, and inadvertently arming a criminal. Don’t think that carrying the gun will help you in a purse snatching, as they tend to be quick and unexpected. However, many concealed carry purses have straps long enough for cross body carry, and have a wire cable running through the strap that will minimize the risk of having the strap cut in a crowd. They make great commuter bags, even when you can’t carry (I cross state lines on a subway into a state where I cannot carry a gun, but often use one of my carry purses to minimize the risk of losing my purse).

With a little creativity, and a good look in the mirror, you can be stylish, and armed. Don’t rely on asking your significant other if they can see it. They know it is there and will be looking for it. Also, men, is she happens to ask “Does this gun make my butt look big?”, the correct, and only response, if “Of Course Not, Dear!”.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Learning to wear a gun is like learning to wear a bra…

Remember when you were first learning to wear a bra? It was uncomfortable, constricting, the straps kept slipping, the band irritated…I remember thinking I was never going to get used to this thing! Well, I did, and now feel strange without one (of course that could be aggravated by ample proportions and the effects of gravity). 

Learning to be comfortable with your carry gun is the same way. At first, it digs in, you bump into it, you feel like it is sticking out at least a foot and that everyone is staring at the lump under your clothes wondering if you have some kind of growth. Then, one day, you are wearing your carry gun and…you barely notice it! It have become, maybe not comfortable, but you have become used to it. Just like a bra, you barely notice it is there and find you miss it when it isn’t there. You come to realize that if people are staring it is because you are fabulous, not because you are armed. The lump, if noted at all, is assumed to be a cell phone or keys.

Like everything else, it takes time to become comfortable, so be patient. Of course, you have shopped carefully for a holster designed to fit your gun, and know that you have a secure fit and easy access. So, relax, and wear your gun in safety and ease.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Do I know who is around me?

Situational Awareness…knowing what is around you. How often do you see someone wandering through a parking lot, texting frantically and staring down at their phone? One of them walked into the side of my car the other day. Hard to imagine? Next time you are at the mall or even the grocery store, look around! They are everywhere, another word for them is ‘Victim”. As we are coming into prime shopping season more of us are walking through the parking lot focused on either getting into the store to find the perfect gift, or getting to the car with our hands full of bags. Don’t forget to keep your head up, your keys out, be aware of who and what is around you. Don’t become an easy target. Remember you are your own best defense and projecting confidence and attention in your walk and posture can cause the bad guy to look for an easier target.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

More on Concealed Carry…

If you are planning to carry a gun, you have, I hope, asked yourself the hard questions. Can I use this to defend myself? Can I shoot another person? Am I prepared to accept that there may be consequences of my actions, and it could impact my life for a long time? If you can not answer all of these question with a firm and determined YES, you aren’t ready and need to think about it some more.

Would you use lethal force to defend your own life? Ask yourself what is important to you? Then ask what would I be willing to risk my life to defend? It may be easy to say you would risk your life to defend your children or your spouse. What would be the impact to them if you were gone? Isn’t your life important to them? The option to use lethal force is limited to a situation where you are at risk of immediate and serious bodily harm or death. Simply stated, if you do not defend yourself with all means available to you at that moment, you risk serious injury or death.

Once you have made the decision, and done your holster shopping, and testing, how to hide it? For me, I prefer In the Waistband (IWB), that means the gun (and holster) are inside my slacks of skirt and there is a clip or hook that extends over the waistband to hold it in place. Now, this means, I cannot carry that way in super tight anything. But I can carry in moderately snug jeans, slacks, a pencil skirt…Ladies, if you find the jeans a problem, leaving enough room in the waist makes them baggy in the hips, consider men’s jeans, they are cut for a different shape and allow a little extra room in the waist while still fitting snug over the hip.

According to my tape measure, I’m a classic hourglass shape. But I’m also plus sized. It may be counter-intuitive, but my curves actually make carrying on my strong side (the hand I generally use for writing, picking up my gun, etc.) easier. I carry on the hip, almost in line with the natural drop of my arm. The barrel aligns to my arms, and the grip is felt under my elbow when I bend my arm at a 90-degree angle. I carry a mid- sized 9mm semi-automatic. It tucks in nicely to my curves and all but disappears under most clothing. Some authors recommend appendix carry for women. This is slightly forward of the hip, aligned between the arm and the breast (vertically speaking). I tried that. It may work for some, but I found it uncomfortable, digging into my ribs. I also found that an ample chest got in the way of drawing from that position. You need to experiment with what works for you. For personal defense carry, you need fast, smooth access. That requires not only a good position, but lots of practice.

There are many other options such as on the belt, shoulder, cross-draw (worn opposite the strong side), middle of the back, ankle, thigh, off body…All of these might work for your back up gun, if you carry a second gun, but I wouldn’t encourage you to rely on any of these for your primary. When fractions of a second can make the difference between being a victim and being a survivor, you need to be able to get to your gun, draw and acquire your target safely and quickly.

Guys, while you don’t have the curves to worry about, strong side carry is the recommended position for you as well, and for the same reasons. You need to be able to draw your gun quickly and safely. You can pull away whatever garment you are using to conceal your gun with your weak hand while drawing and come into your defensive shooting stance.

Practice, practice, practice (always with an unloaded gun) and be safe!

Note: This is not intended to provide legal advice, if you have any questions, please contact an attorney in your area.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I’ve been practicing ... I can't hit anything!

I’ve been practicing with my pistol at the range every week and I still can’t hit the center of the target. What am I doing wrong?

That can be a frustrating experience. If you can, hire an experienced instructor for an hour to work with you. You may be surprised how quickly they can identify the issue or habit, show you the correction, and have you shredding the bull’s-eye. If that isn’t an option, try starting with your target at eight feet. Relax, get a comfortable and strong stance, get your sight picture, focus on the front sight so that you don’t really see the target clearly, you see your sight covering the target. Slowly pull the trigger straight back until the gun fires. That should always be a surprise. Hold the trigger back for a fraction of a second as you are reacquiring your sight picture, then ease the trigger out just until you feel it reset, it is like a click that you can feel. Then you know your gun is ready to fire again. Try this for several shots before taking your finger off the trigger and lowering the pistol to see what you did. You will probably be surprised at how well you did. One of the most common issues for new shooters is to take their finger off the trigger between shots and to want to look up after each shot to see where it went. Both of these can cause you to have trouble with your aim. Once you have practiced this and are getting a good grouping, ease that target out in small, maybe 4 foot increments, until you can accurately shoot at 25 feet. My teacher taught me to always start close, move out, and then back in. It helps me to feel good about what I’m shooting and the farther out you go the more you can see if there is an issue such as consistently high, low, to the left, etc. A good instructor can diagnose your target and tell you what you are doing to make that happen. Plus, you will know that if you can hit the target at 25 feet, you have much better odds at closer range.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Firearms are like Potato Chips (or Shoes)

Truer words were never written, at least for me. For those who know me well, I am a shoe-addict! My husband keep threatening to build a wing just for my shoes! Now, we are looking at maybe need a new safe for the guns because I'm looking at my first rifle.

Once you start, you need more! Buying your first firearm can be a stressful and exhilarating experience. Then you start to practice, get comfortable with it. Then the brain kicks in, Gee if one is good, two is better! And, we are off and running. As of this writing I have a modest collection of pistols with two more on my radar. I’m also starting to look at rifles. Why? They’re fun!

Lays ® potato chips popularized the expression; “I bet you can’t eat just one.” Well, I know a lot of people who shoot. Of them, the only ones I know who have one gun are those who have been shooting less than six months. Don’t be surprised. You wander through your first gun show and suddenly…there is it. A rainbow wood stock on a rifle, a pink finish on a revolver, a beautiful carved wood stock, or a hot AR-15! Whatever it is that figuratively trips your trigger, you will find it nearly impossible to resist. You might resist this time, but the image will stay in your mind. Actually gun shows are a great place to see lots of different makes, models and styles in one place. You might not buy it there, this time, but don’t be surprised if you are checking the calendar to see when the next one is!

I’m still dreaming of the Charter Arms Pink Lady .38 revolver. What can I say, it would perfectly match a pair of shoes I already have! 

Monday, December 5, 2011

What is the best part about being an instructor?

Watching someone go from never having picked up a gun, to being comfortable with the safety rules and basic gun handling and then taking them to the range and watching the first tentative shots. Seeing them get more confident, watching the grouping get smaller and the excitement when they realize they are mastering a new skill…and I helped! I really get a lot of joy out of that and I feel very proud, not of me but of them, as they get better and the smiles get bigger. You never forget your first, and she was awesome! In 20 minutes she went from never having fired a gun to knocking a quarter sized target sticker off the paper at 15 feet. Few things compare to that feeling. I like helping someone feel empowered and secure with something new, watching them realize they can protect themselves and their families. I particularly enjoy working with women, but the guys can be fun, too. They don’t always listen as well, but hey, we love ‘em.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Why should I look for a NRA certified trainer?

Why should I look for NRA Certified Instructors and Training Counselors? Anyone can call themselves a trainer, but with NRA credentials backing them up, you know that they have received specific training in safety and proper techniques. The NRA takes great pride in their training programs, and it is well deserved.

“From beginner to developing competitor, the NRA Training Department develops safe, ethical, responsible shooters through a network of more than 65,000 instructors, more than 3,800 coaches, and more than 1,700 training counselors. NRA Training Counselors recruit and train instructors to teach NRA’s basic firearm courses. NRA Coaches, in turn, develop competitors at the club, high school, collegiate and national levels.” From the NRA Training Department website.

The NRA provides its trainers with a specific curriculum to follow, and student packets that support that curriculum. You know that the information you are receiving has been tested, researched and vetted before ever being put before a student.

When you are learning to skills to use a tool that is potentially dangerous, safety and consistency count!

For those in the Virginia, Metro DC area, check out www.innovativedefensivesolutions.com for a list of available courses.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Shopping for a gun - the Goldilocks Approach

When shopping for a gun, you need to use the Goldilocks approach. This one is too big, this one is too small…until…ahh, this one is JUST RIGHT! If you have friends who shoot, ask if you can try out their guns to get a feel for different types and calibers. If you take a Basic Pistol class, ask before you sign up is there is range time included and are guns made available if you don’t have one. This is a great opportunity to learn more about guns, safe gun handling, and some of the “gun-speak” so when you go shopping you can ask for what you want to see. What is “just right” for me may not be “just right” for you. We have different sized hands, different hand and arm strength. You may want something for home defense or to go “play” at the range. You may prefer something you can carry comfortably.

Be leery of the cute little pocket pistols, such as the Kel-Tec or Ruger .380s. They are easy to conceal but deceptively difficult to shoot without a lot of practice. They can also be tough on the wrist. Similarly, a 44 magnum may seem like a cannon in the female hand. Watch out for the recoil. Some men enjoy putting something like that in a woman’s hands and assuring her “it doesn’t have much recoil”. Well…they lie. These jokers think they are funny, I think of them as ex-friends. On average, a 9mm semi-automatic or a .38 revolver are pretty good starter guns for most people. Big enough to have stopping power, not so big as to knock you off your feet.
Yes, ladies, manufacturers are coming around to the fact that women shoot. And, they are smart, feminine, independent women. At a recent gun show I was fascinated to find so many pistols in various shades of pink! I don’t own one…yet. But, it was fun to look. Even rifle stocks coming in lovely exotic rainbow woods with pinks and blues and purples…oh my!

Happy Shopping.
Note to husband if you are reading this, my Santa list includes a Glock 19, and I’ve been very good! 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Concealed Carry for Women...how to hide that thing!

Yes, Virginia, it is possible to dress stylishly and conceal a gun at the same time. Kathy Jackson goes into a lot of detail on her website, www.corneredcat.com. Basically, there are a multitude of holster options and you can carry a mid-sized semi-automatic without printing (printing is where the outline of the gun shows through your clothes). Patterns break up the lines better than solid colors. Vests and jackets over the top hide the bulge. In the summer, a blousy baby-doll top can be very forgiving, in winter a bulky sweater can be your best friend. You may also want to go up one size in your top to give you some extra room around the middle.

How to you choose a holster? Unfortunately, trial and error seems to be the most common. Once you’ve been doing this a while, you will find you have a tote bag full of holsters! I’ve tried a lot of different types; Inside the Waistband, on the Belt, Shoulder, Small of the Back, Ankle, Belly Band, Thigh Band… They come in leather, Kydex (which is a custom molded thermoplastic acrylic), a ballistic nylon fabric, other fabric (as in the belly band and thigh band, usually an elastic based material with Velcro attachments) or some combination of the above.

My preferred carry gun is a Ruger P95 9mm, which is a mid-size semi-auto. Ruger’s current equivalent is the SR9. I have found that a leather, inside the waistband, holster tucked in almost directly under my elbow works well for me. My gun sits well in the natural curve there, doesn’t dig into my ribs, and I can bring my arm down and mask it just a little more if I feel I might be showing something I don’t want to. That is what I like, you may find you like to carry a little farther forward, or farther back, or on a belt (that is a little harder to conceal). Holsters are made to fit specific models, so look for one that is designed for YOUR gun!

First, and probably the most critical, is what is the purpose of a holster? To hold your gun! If it can’t do that, it really isn’t any good to you. Try this experiment with any holster you want to use. Unload your gun. If it a semi-automatic, remove the magazine and lock the slide back, look inside, check with your finger, nothing? Check again! If it is a revolver, open the cylinder, remove any cartridges, rotate the cylinder and count the holes. Nothing? Look again! Hey, redundancy helps keep us from making a mistake! Now, release the slide, or close the cylinder, and place the gun into the holster. Over a soft place, like a bed or sofa, turn the holster upside down. What happened? If nothing, give it a little shake. Did the gun fall out? Not a good holster for you. If the gun falls out (aren’t you glad you made sure it wasn’t loaded?) with a little shake in a controlled environment, what will happen when you bend over to pick up something you dropped or if you have a run away, or stoop down to pick up a child? A well made holster that is designed for YOUR gun will hold it securely and safely and still allow you to draw easily when you need to.

What about when you just can’t carry on your body. Not idea, but there are occasions when only a purse will do. If you carry in a purse, you must remember that your gun is in there, don’t lay your bag down on a table and walk away. You are responsible for your gun and must keep control of it at all times. Manufacturers have gotten smart and designed many fashionable carry bags for the ladies. They come in leather and synthetics, large, small, evening, business…and they all have one thing in common. They have a compartment dedicated to holding your gun. Usually a holster that attaches to a Velcro panel. Why not use my evening bag, it will hold my little .380? Yes it will, and your lipstick, pen, keys…what happens when your lipstick floats into the trigger guard, or your pen ends up in the barrel? You cannot safely carry your gun in a regular purse with other objects. Plus, the gun tends to be the heaviest thing in there, which means it will settle to the bottom. Then, when you need it…you have to dig through everything else to get to it. The only time I would even consider using a regular bag would be with compact .380, in a pocket holster, inside a compartment in my handbag where it was the only thing in that compartment. For example, I have a lovely evening bag that is divided into two sections. I would only do this if I used a pocket holster to help secure my pistol AND I resisted the temptation to put ANYTHING ELSE in that compartment. Again, this is not the ideal situation.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Walking with a purpose...

I’ve been told I project a “Don’t mess with me!” attitude when I’m walking. Some women are afraid that they appear less feminine that way, but I don’t agree. I can project the same attitude in a skirt and 4 inch heels as I can in my Tactical 511 pants and instructor shirt. My husband actually finds it attractive. He knows I can take care of myself and that makes him more comfortable, but he also enjoys seeing me move with a sense of purpose and awareness. So, yes, I can be feminine and purposeful, even when I have to take smaller steps and my feet are killing me (but the shoes are so cute!). The attitude starts in your head, you decide that you are not going to volunteer for the role of victim. From there, you become more aware of how you stand, you automatically scan and become more aware of who is around you, and learn to make quick judgments of who might be a threat.

Along with your posture is “situational awareness”, knowing what and who is around you. How do you know? Look around! Scan the area, are there tall shrubs that could hide an attacker? Is there a group of young men, or young women (girls can be just as dangerous, especially in groups)? Are they directly in your path? Maybe you should change direction. Do you walk through a parking lot with your head down, texting frantically like so many we see these days? I actually had a young woman walk into the side of my car because she was texting and paying no attention to her surroundings. Are your arms full of packages and you purse dangling as you make your way to your car, only to realize your keys are in the bottom of your bag? You can’t stop every attack, but don’t make yourself an easy target. Most stranger attackers will move on to someone who appears compliant and clueless if presented with someone who looks like they would resist, are aware of their surroundings and will not be a compliant east victim.

Remember it isn’t just men, or people dressed “thuggishly” who can be a threat. Women and well dressed men can also be a threat. Ted Bundy found great success by pretending to be injured and in need of assistance to lure his victims. It is never “Rude” to protect yourself.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What is Proportional Response?

Basically, it is the reasonable response to a threat, without over responding. Only you can judge the level of threat, but there is a risk you will have to defend your choice if you opt for a lethal response. That doesn’t mean a lethal response shouldn’t be used, if you believe you or your family are in mortal danger, a lethal response is the right choice. In some situations, not all, you may have to start small and ramp up. You can start with eye contact, let them know you are aware of them. Posture is strong, alert, head up, scanning the immediate area around you, avoidance if possible.

There are many tiers between being a clueless victim and using lethal force. Trust your instincts, if you believe yourself to be in mortal danger, you probably are. If not, you can try walking away, using pepper spray, stating in a forceful voice “Stay Back” or “No, don’t come any closer”. Remember, you may have to explain your actions at a later time. In a pepper spray class the words that popped out of my mouth, unplanned, were “Back off Dirt Bag”. The “Dirt Bag” might be considered a little inflammatory. 

Can you shoot someone for asking you what time it is? No. Can a woman shoot a large man who is running at her screaming “I’m going to kill you!”, probably.

It is important to consider three things;
Means – does the other person(s) have a weapon of physical size to cause you serious injury or death?
Opportunity – can the other person(s) get to you without you having a reasonable opportunity to avoid or escape them?
Intent – has the person(s) indicated they wish to injure or kill you?

In many cases you need all three to justify the use of lethal force. If you haven’t thought about this before, during an attack you will not have time to consider these options. Your brain is your first line of defense. Think about what could happen as you are walking through a parking lot, do you see someone who doesn’t look or feel “right”. Can you avoid them? Can you go back into the store and ask security to walk you to your car? Where are you keys? Is your pepper spray in the bottom of your purse? Imagine a mugging and asking the assailant to wait while you did for your pepper spray? When he finishes laughing, you will be lucky if all you lose is your purse.

Disclaimer: the above post is intended to provide you something to think about, it is not intended to be legal advice.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Adventures with Pepper Spray

Great Stuff, legal in most areas (don’t try to take it on an airplane). If possible, take a formal class. I thought there was nothing to it, just point in the general direction and spray. Close, but not quite. There are different types of spray (stream, cone, foam) and you deploy them in slightly different ways. Also, each canister has a different mechanism to activate the spray. I didn’t know that, either. You need to understand how yours works, and keep it available. You don’t really have the option of asking an attacker to wait patiently while you dig in your purse for you pepper spray. Another important aspect, keep it in YOUR hand! When I took the class, I drew the canister from my pocket, brought it forward to spray my “attacker” and…it kept on going, landed right at his feet, where he promptly picked it up and pointed it at me. Well, aside from being embarrassing in the classroom, in life it could have made the difference between escaping and becoming a victim. If you are in the Northern Virginia/DC area, IDS (www.innovativedefensivesolutions.com) holds pepper spray classes on a regular basis. If you are elsewhere, look up SabreRed www.sabrered.com/servlet/the-template/Pepper-Spray-Training-Class/Page) on the web, they not only manufacture pepper spray and other defensive devices, they certify instructors and can refer you to a class in your area.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I carry a gun and I can use it to intimidate an attacker.

Think so? If you are going to carry a gun, you need to be prepared to use it if the situation warrants. Otherwise, you are putting yourself at greater risk. Imagine being approached by someone intent on doing you harm, you pull your gun and point it at him with a trembling hand. You avoid eye contact and in a soft voice say “stop, please don’t come any closer”. What do you think will happen? Counter that with a determined stance, direct eye contact, a loud firm voice saying “Stop, Get Back, Do Not Come Any Closer” while you are pointing your gun directly at his chest. Remove the gun from the two scenarios. Standing with shoulders down, eyes averted saying “leave me alone” or standing tall, feet shoulder width apart, one hand out in the universal signal for Stop, using a loud firm tone of voice to say “Stop, Leave me Alone, Get Back!”. Practice with a friend, get used to the idea that social conditioning can leave you vulnerable and it is OK to tell someone he is Too Close, Back Away, Don’t Touch Me…You have the right to protect yourself. If the person didn’t mean any harm and is a good guy, he will apologize for making you uncomfortable and back away, or he will run away in fear for his safety. If he is a Bad Guy, you may very well have interrupted his victim fantasy and he may mutter something like “bitch” as he moves on. Or, he will challenge your resolve and keep coming. Then, you fight. Kathy Jackson titled her book The Cornered Cat, for good reason. Have you ever seen a cat when it is frightened? They run away as fast as they can, if that isn’t an option, they fight with everything they have, teeth, claws, growling and hissing, hair standing on end to appear larger…and they do not stop until the confrontation is over.

Remember, being called a “bitch” is the least of your concerns. I take it as a compliment. Think of it as an acronym. Being In Total Control of Herself! (I wish I could take credit for that but I first heard it at a Saffire, the Uppity Blues Women concert. Unfortunately, they are no longer touring, but their CDs are still available and some of the songs are very funny.)

Channel your inner cat and be prepared to fight like your life depends on it. Stay safe!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Day one - Welcome to my Blog! A little bit about me...

A little about me; I am a NRA Certified Pistol Instructor and am working toward additional qualifications. I teach with a great company in Northern Virginia called Innovative Defensive Solutions, LLC., (www.innovativedefensivesolutions.com) which is run by two wonderful, patient and caring guys, Evan and Dave. I have been shooting for about 15 years. Yes, I name my pistols…LOL. I’ve been studying women’s issues related to shooting, concealed carry challenges and personal defense. I hope to share some of what I’ve learned here and hopefully learn from you!

One comment I have heard a lot when I go in to the Sporting Goods store to buy ammo is “you don’t look like the type”. What is the type? I’m educated, smart, feminine, I like to have fun and I don’t deliberately put myself in dangerous situations. I’m exactly the type! I always laugh. I could be that I’ve left my 40’s behind and I remind them of their Mom.

I bought my first pistol in response to a threat from an ex “boyfriend”. I filed charges against him but it didn’t take me very long to figure out that “catch and release” wasn’t going to help me if he decided to follow through. The only one responsible for my immediate safety was me! That leap, which is actually huge, took me a surprisingly short time. I went to a local gun store and threw myself on the mercy of the man behind the counter. Not my recommended way to shop for a gun, btw. But it worked and I still have “Rachael”, my first and favorite. My next stop was the range where I literally wore a hole in my thumb reloading the magazines while I practiced for several hours. Also not something I recommend, but I was stressed. After that, a basic NRA course so I could file for a Concealed Carry Permit. I got lucky. He went to court, the charge was reduced and he got community service, but he also got a stern warning from the judge, which he opted to heed. I have not seen or heard a word from him since. In some ways I owe him a gratitude. Without that life altering incident I might not have discovered my passion for shooting.

So join me as we wander this path together. My target (no pun intended) audience is women who do, or want to, shoot; and those who love them. As my husband likes to say; “If you can’t be a gun nut, be a gun nut supporter!”