It’s always amazing to me just how many individuals purchase a handgun and automatically feel they have what is needed to protect themselves and their loved ones, during an attack. I’m not sure where this sense of confidence comes from, but a gun doesn’t get drawn, aim, and shoot by itself. It takes practice to present your firearm in a timely manner and then continuous practice shooting to be accurate and actually hit your target. After you have made the decision and purchased a firearm for protection, you feel proud and happy. It is common to spend some time shooting at the range to satisfy your excitement. Once the excitement wears off and its months or years later, you realize that you haven’t practiced since. How accurate do you think you’ll be if you become threatened in some way? Are you confident about your abilities to hit your target, if it comes to that? If you’re being honest with yourself, I would imagine the answer is no. Maybe you have your CCW/LTC license, so you had to shoot to pass the target testing. However, that is not a real-life high-stress situation. In the testing environment, you were likely somewhat relaxed and prepared for what you knew you had to accomplish. Of course, when you become the object of an attacker, it immediately becomes chaotic and anxiety kicks in. During times such as this, it becomes very difficult to just think clearly and make decisions as quickly as you might need to in order to stay alive. The last issue you want to feel stress about is the clumsiness of presenting your handgun, an unfortunate jam without quickly knowing how to fix it, lint built up inside the action causing malfunction, or simply not being able to hit your target at a reasonable distance. All these scenarios are very possible if you don’t practice. (I’m assuming you regularly clean your firearm to keep it free from debris and allow proper functioning. If not, you need to, but I’ll save that topic for another day.) If you continuously practice shooting, it starts to become second nature to handle your firearm, deal with any issues that arise, and be able to hit your target. In turn, you will feel as confident as you can, if you are presented with an unfortunate situation. Consider this – you’re at home one evening dozing off watching a re-run of ‘Friends’ and suddenly you hear glass break in a back bedroom. Immediately your heart is racing, you jump out of the recliner and head to one of your 9mm pistols in another bedroom. You have it, but you hear the attackers making their way to your location and doing so rather quickly. You hear gunfire. Now you can visibly see the attacker’s silhouette and because you are scared for your life, you pull the trigger. But wait, nothing happens. You panic – more than you already were! In the seconds it has taken you to determine the problem, you would’ve likely been harmed. What happened? In the heat of the moment, you failed to remember the safety was on which prevented you from firing. Now, let’s review. Sure, this instance can still happen just due to the stress that a person is under. But chances are, if you regularly practice, you’ve experienced this a number of times during your practice sessions and became thoroughly aware of your safety and how to quickly release it. Otherwise, you’ve practiced with your safety so many times that it has become an inherent part of the process. You no longer even need to think about it. You simply keep practicing with it. There are so many different safety options on firearms. You need to become very familiar with yours. When you take time to practice, make sure you are fine-tuning the skills necessary to protect yourself in real life. If you have your CCW/LTC license, you do need to bring your holster(s) and exercise presenting it quickly and securely – and maybe even from different positions, such as sitting and standing positions. It is a good practice to shoot the same grain weight of target ammunition that you’ll be using for self-defense ammunition. What I mean by that is if you plan to use 115 grain 9mm hollow points for your self-defense ammo then you should be practicing with 115 grain 9mm target ammo. This is a good practice because the weight of your gun will feel the same along with the recoil you’ll feel when firing. Another good practice method is to handle your firearm one-handed and with each hand. In an instance that you become injured or restricted, and only have use of one hand, it will be important to be able to make effective use of your other hand for protection. For those that keep an extra magazine loaded, continually eject and reload a new magazine to become efficient and familiar. Ask your handgun representative about the best ways to handle a jam with your particular firearm. You can also use dummy rounds or Snap Caps to exercise dry firing and become more acquainted with the ejection of a round due to a possible malfunction. The only time you should eject a real chambered round is to clean the gun or store it. Do this with extreme caution. If you keep your firearm(s) at home, run through the actions of getting to your gun(s) discreetly and consider the safest places in your home. No matter the case, CCW or not, hitting your target is key. By practicing this one simple task, it could keep you and your loved ones alive! Take a moment to consider how you are prepared to protect yourself. Do you have the right tools available and in place to quickly take action? If not, what is it that you need to change? Are you aware of safe places in your home or common environments, such as a workplace? Are there classes near you to practice being in a threatening situation to determine how you would react? Although it may sound uncomfortable, they can be a great way to identify areas that you need more practice doing and help you develop some better survival skills. Your firearm is completely useless unless you can use it effectively. Your last option should be drawing your gun. However, if you are scared for your life, we want you to have the knowledge and skills to present it and use it to your advantage. While it is a very basic concept, practice is essential and will provide you a much better chance to save a life. MINDSET WILL KEEP YOU ALIVE. TRAIN LIKE YOU FIGHT, BECAUSE... YOU WILL FIGHT LIKE YOU TRAIN.