Using a Gun

As I come into the discussion of the ‘use’ of a firearm, I realize this may have been where I should have started this series. I say that because, if you do not ever see yourself using a firearm for any reason, ownership or carrying of a firearm becomes a moot point. And by ‘use’ I specifically mean the firing of your weapon in defense of yourself or others.

For some people, pulling the trigger on any firearm is so far outside their comfort zone that they cannot imagine ever using one. And that is perfectly acceptable. The use of deadly force on another person is a very individual concept. I know people who enjoy going to the shooting range and shooting paper targets with all the ease in the world, who admittedly would never be able to fire a weapon at another person. And there are those that just fear guns and would never want to handle one, much less fire it. And for good reason. Guns are deadly by definition. Using deadly force on another human being is an intricate and convoluted web of decisions, personal beliefs, and legal liabilities. It is writing in pen, as you get no ‘do overs’ once that trigger is pulled. Add to that the fact that any single bullet can end the life of another human being, and you can see that this is a daunting and haunting decision.

Owning a gun or carrying a firearm offers no protection if you are not willing to learn how to safely operate, disassemble, and clean your firearm. Having one in the house to ‘protect’ your family is not a reasonable consideration if you are unfamiliar with its safe handling, storage, and operation. Outside of ownership for hunting, sport, or recreational shooting, there is no need to own a gun if you have no intention on ever using it. And in the middle of a life or death situation is not the time to be answering that question.

But in the trying times we live in, should you decide to own and/or carry a handgun for self-defense there is a lot more that goes with it. Yes, you can own one with little or no knowledge about its safe handling, storage, or use. You can even get your permit to carry your weapon concealed with this same lack of knowledge. But if you ever think you will draw your weapon and fire it at another person in self-defense, you cannot afford to be so uneducated. There is a lot of work that goes into being able to use a handgun safely and effectively.

First, you should know how to safely store your weapon and the steps in doing so change greatly when children live in your home. There are many devices and safes that allow you to store your weapon with confidence about its security and access by others. Secondly, you need to know how to disassemble, clean, and reassemble your weapon correctly. The necessity of this will be highlighted later in this post. Third, you must know how to load and unload your weapon. You must know how to safely clear misfires or hung cartridges. And you must know how to render the weapon safe for handling and storage. There are several classes available through local gun shops or shooting clubs that provide these basic safety and operational skills. Seems like a lot and we haven’t even gotten to pulling the trigger yet.

Lastly, you must know how to fire your weapon accurately and effectively. This means time on the shooting range practicing everything from drawing your weapon, chambering a round, gaining a good sight picture, good trigger control, handling recoil, to re-holstering your weapon safely. I could write an entire week’s worth of posts on the skills needed to safely and effectively use a firearm. But suffice it to say, you will need to invest some time and money to gain and keep these skills. These are perishable skills and need to be practiced occasionally to maintain good muscle memory and marksmanship. That is why you will need to clean your weapon from time to time.

This is the part that keeps most people from owning a gun. You can buy one and stick it in the drawer, making you feel somehow safer. But without practice and training, when the time comes that you need to use it, you would be safer not to have one. In a crisis, with adrenaline pumping, if you have not practiced these skills, you will find that you are unable to use your weapon with any effectivity. Worse, you could end up hurting yourself in the process or escalate a situation by pulling a weapon you have no skills to use.

If you are going to carry your weapon concealed, this comes with additional consideration as to what skills you need. You will need a concealment method and the ability to quickly and safely draw your weapon when concealed. This only comes with practice. I consistently practice drawing my weapon and returning it to my holster without looking down at it. Again, if you wait till an emergency arises, your hands will fumble and the time you lose can be all the difference.

You will also need to shoot many rounds at the shooting range, learning and increasing your marksmanship and accuracy. Owning a gun, carrying a gun, drawing a gun, and firing it means nothing if you cannot be absolutely sure that you can hit what you are aiming at. If you do not want to invest the time to learn this most vital of skills, don’t own a gun.

But even if you are willing to go through all that is needed to get this far, there is one last thing you need to be concerned with. You must fully understand your legal liabilities should you ever fire your weapon as a private citizen. You must know when you are legally allowed to use deadly force, and importantly, what to do immediately afterwards should it ever happen. I keep a lawyer who specializes in gun law on retainer for just this purpose. He provides accurate interpretation of constitutional, federal, state, and local laws, as well as representing my interests in any legal proceedings stemming from the use of my firearm in defense.

There are many gun owners who do not practice and train to keep these skills sharp. They put themselves and others at risk in doing so. They may be only slightly less dangerous than the active shooters we hear about in the news. Maybe more so, as I promise you that these violent mass shooting perpetrators have practiced these skills.

So, I support the rights of gun ownership, but I do not abide those who are not willing to put in the time and effort to be good stewards of that deadly power.

9 Responses to “Using a Gun”
  1. I didn’t realize the commitment of time, money and practice that owning a gun would entail! Wow!

    • Brad Osborne says:

      Doesn’t take much commitment to own a gun, but if it is supposed to be anything more than decorative it will require much more. Thanks for your continued readership and support!

  2. jomz says:

    This is a great post, and I appreciate the detail written in it. I specially like the idea of a person keeping a gun for peace of mind, yet not having the skills to actually use it is as dangerous as a stray bullet. I now get the joke of why the bad guy in movies surrender when the heroine gets a gun and screams “I don’t know how to use this” hehehe…

    This series is very informative and interesting. Keep it coming!

    Have a nice day.

    • Brad Osborne says:


      Thanks again for your readership and support. My only intention is to provide good information and make for more informed discussion of the problem of gun violence. I always appreciate your comments as I am sure my readers do too. Thanks again!

      • jomz says:

        Can you really own a gun without any training, though? That is a scary thought.

        Or are there laws or regulations that require some sort of qualification?

      • Brad Osborne says:

        Ownership of a gun requires nothing more than a clean criminal record and the money needed to purchase it. I agree this is a scary proposition, but it does not make it any less factual. The only time any sort of operational or safety qualifications come into play is if you are seeking to carry a weapon in the line of duty as a duly sworn law enforcement officer (Act 120 in PA) or as a private security officer (Act 235 in PA). Great question Jomz!

  3. Jim Borden says:

    Once again, thank you for another thoughtful post. Would you be in favor of a federal law that requires gun owners to have some sort of marksmanship and gun handling qualifications that would need to be renewed each year?

    • Brad Osborne says:

      I would be open to any requirements that are neither time or cost prohibitive. I pay the state $31 per year for my permit to use the shooting ranges on State Game Lands. I have never consider that a huge inconvenience. Something with a moderate cost, great accessibility, and reasonable amount of time required is fine with me. OF course, I am used to taking extra steps to gain the privileges I have regarding gun ownership. Others may be less receptive. Great questions Jim! Thanks for asking!

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