I Bought a Gun to Defend Myself. Now What?

As one may imagine we never have a dull moment here at the range. Yet, just when I believe I have seen it all, something new walks through the front door.

I have had the opportunity to shoot everything from the Blunderbuss of the 18th century, to 1873 lever action Winchesters (one of the first repeating rifles) to Barrett’s .50 BMG long range rifle (has an effective range of over a mile), to some of the most modern fully automatic assault rifles one can think of.

guns_275x208I find the evolution of weapons over time to be absolutely fascinating, but some things will never change. Regardless of the technology implemented these weapons will never be more than tools. A hammer is to a carpenter as a firearm is to a gunfighter.

If you give a young boy a hammer and a bucket of nails he is more likely to hurt himself then build a solid structure. Give an untrained adult a weapon in a combat situation and he/she is, like the child, more likely to get hurt then emerge successful.

Some may make the argument that with our military’s latest “smart bombs” and such that some weapons can operate themselves, but I assure you that behind every “smart bomb” is a smarter technician, just as behind every weapon that has ever been deployed in combat successfully, from the days of the sword to modern weaponry, has always stood an operator that was properly trained for the job.

I bought myself a gun…Now, what?

So, you bought a gun. Now what? Is it enough just to practice shooting at a paper target once a month or so? What skill sets does one need to acquire to be able to defend themselves and their family?

To answer these questions we must first understand how a gunfight works: Time, distance, rounds fired etc. Take a moment and visualize an event during which you may need this weapon. We have all done this, likely before we ever even purchased the gun. Are you thinking of an attack by a rapist in a dark parking lot, a bank robbery, or a carjacking? Perhaps, you are envisioning a nice lunch at a Luby’s Café in Killeen Texas when a 1987 Ford Ranger drives through the front window, a distraught man with a gun jumps out and opens fire killing 23 people and wounding 20+ others. (This event, known as the Luby’s Massacre, occurred in 1991 and sparked the movement for the Texas Concealed Handgun License. Suzanna Hupp was there that day and lost both of her parents; here is her explanation of the second amendment:

Suzanna Gratia Hupp explains meaning of 2nd Amendment!

No matter what situation you imagined the chance of foreseeing the actual event (which hopefully never happens) is very slim, but we can lean on statistics. Statistics say the average civilian gunfight will take place at a distance shorter than 9 feet, exchange 8-10 shots per person, and last 3-5 seconds.

If you think about these they all make perfect sense:

    • Distance: a rape occurs at contact distance (they can touch you), an armed robber doesn’t attack from beyond 9 feet, and even in your home it is unlikely that you will ever have a clear, safe shot beyond 15 feet.


    • Round Count: Why 8-10 rounds? There are two primary types of pistols carried in the civilian world. One of which is the 5 shot, small framed revolver, and the other is the modern semiautomatic pistol which often hold 12 to 15 rounds. Average it out and you will discover that the reason for the 8-10 round statistic is because you are going to fire every round your weapon has the capacity to hold.


  • Time: With the average person being capable of firing at a rate or 2-3 round per second it takes 3-5 seconds for them to empty their gun.

For me, this is really all quite mind boggling. I pray that I am never faced with this situation, but I carry a gun because I think, like many of you, that in today’s society there is a real possibility that I may need it. And in those 3-5 seconds my life or the life of a loved one may depend on my ability to manipulate a tool.

What skill sets do I need?

  • Proficiency in drawing from concealment
    • From a holster, center console, etc.
  • Subconscious manipulation of safety features
    • If I can’t disengage the safety my weapon is nothing more than a brick. This is one argument for the “Glock Style” safety found on many modern handguns.
  • Speed
    • Not how fast I can press the trigger, but how quickly I can return the weapon back to my threat for the next shot.
  • Accuracy
    • One slow good shot is always better than ten fast misses.
  • Moving and shooting
    • No one stand still in a gunfight, our subconscious will tell us to move to a point of cover.
  • Use of cover to your advantage
    • How can I hide the majority of my body and still actively engage the threat?
  • Clearing malfunctions
    • Unfortunately this is a real possibility and we must be prepared to fix it.

The above is just a short list of the potential necessary skills, but unfortunately most of them are taken for granted by the average Concealed Handgun Licensee.

So, my suggestion is to get training! None of us even those of us born and raised in the great state of Texas were born with a gun in our hands. The manipulation of firearms is simply not natural. In the words of Donovan Lamar, Head Firearms Instructor here at Hot Wells Shooting Range, “there is nothing natural about an explosion coming out of the palm of your hand.”


There are two types of firearm manipulation; conscious and subconscious. Think for a second about signing your name with a pen. As a young child learning to write you operated on a conscious level putting thought into the etching of each letter, but regardless of how much thought you invested the result was sloppy and inconsistent. Today, you write on a subconscious level; making your mark with more consistency and in a fraction of the time, never having to think for a second about how to manipulate the pen or spell your name. You must learn to operate you pistol with the proficiency of your pen. Two things will lead to this conclusion: Proper training to start, and regular practice to maintain the perishable skill set.

Defense Oriented Firearm Training

Here at Hot Wells we offer a variety of defense oriented firearm training. Our head instructor, Donovan Lamar, approaches each student without an ego typical to many of the “Rambo-Like” instructors you will find in the industry. One series of courses I would highly recommend is his Tactical Series; comprised of three, 2 hour courses this series will improve all of the skill sets I named above.

Phase I is all about building a solid foundation, and by the end of your first 2 hours Donovan will take his business card and attach it on edge to a target where you will split it in half! Phase II introduces mobility, speed, multiple targets, and drawing from a holster. By the end of Phase II you will drawing from a holster, and engaging multiple threats while on the move. Then there is my personal favorite, Phase III. This is a scenario based course where participants will be introduced to using cover and concealment, distinguishing targets, clearing malfunctions, and shooting with the added pressure of a timer, all the while incorporating skills from the previous two phases.

Please understand that these courses are not a boot camp, and Donovan is no drill instructor. I have never seen someone too old or too slow to participate, and I assure you, there will be no running, push-ups, or summersaults while operating your weapon. This series is merely an opportunity to learn, practice, and master real world skill sets that could possibly safe your life.

So, you have a gun now get training, practice regularly, and be prepared mentally and physically to use it in the event that you have no other choice. Also keep in mind it doesn’t matter how well trained you are if you aren’t aware of what going on around you. Just look at James Butler Hickok, but that’s a topic for another day.

See you on the range,

Josh Vacek

General Manager

Hot Wells Shooting Range