The author’s wife, who suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome, is more comfortable using .38 Special revolvers over semi-autos.
Model 1911-style pistols aren’t that complicated, but many novice shooters need lots of practice to master the thumb and grip safeties.
Compact semi-autos like the Kimber Solo are effective fight-stoppers, but shooters with weaker hands might have trouble retracting their slides.
No matter what firearm you end up choosing, practice is essential until using the gun is second nature.
When you are unfamiliar with the different kinds of firearms that can be used for personal protection and home defense, selecting your first weapon can be overwhelming. You want to make the right choice. More importantly, however, you need the right training to use the gun properly.
I had to go through this process when I advised my wife, my daughter-in-law, my two sons and other novices who needed different degrees of assistance when they wanted to select firearms for protection. While all of this is second nature to me, I recently got my wife to kick things up a notch and transition to a semi-automatic pistol in addition to the .38 Special revolvers that she is already comfortable using.
Because my wife now suffers from a touch of carpel tunnel syndrome, she is only barely able to retract the slides on my 9mm Sig P228 and P226 Navy, my 9mm Glock 17 and my friend Larry’s 9mm Glock 19. So far, between the Sigs and the Glocks, my wife clearly shoots a 9mm Sig P228 the best. Naturally, I hope that with continued training it will become second nature for my wife to use the decoking lever to lower the hammer and make her pistol safe if she ever has to fire a few rounds from the P228. I also plan to continue to train my wife to use my G17 in lieu of the G19, which produced too much felt recoil for her liking.
My other concern is that my wife may not be able to clear a stoppage or execute a slingshot combat reload in the event that one magazine of ammunition is not enough to take care of a serious threat. But the important thing here is that my wife wanted to become a more proficient shooter.
Even when I had my wife operate my .22-caliber Beretta Model 70S or a full-sized Springfield 9mm 1911, we still ran into problems. My wife had to deal with the thumb safety lever that needed to be lowered when it came time to discharge a single action. This is a potentially very serious problem because anyone who delays or forgets to lower the thumb safety lever on a 1911 can lose their life in a deadly-force situation.
Personally, I was hoping that my wife would find it easy to operate the slide on a soft-shooting 9mm Glock so she would not have to worry about the decocking levers on some pistols. Unfortunately, the problem with a DAO or DAK pistol is that you have to override the hammer when you rack the slide to the rear on an unloaded pistol. One trick that I showed my wife is to point a DA/SA pistol in a safe direction, then cock the hammer before racking the slide back, all while keeping her finger out of the triggerguard. I showed my wife this method because I knew she would never be able to rack the slide on a DA/SA pistol without some help.
The bottom line is that after trying every option at my disposal, I came to the conclusion that my wife is better off using a Smith & Wesson six-shot .38 Special revolver for personal protection and home defense.
My wife is not the only member of my family who I have had to help with issues regarding trying to find the right handgun. When my oldest son, a police officer, got married, I wanted my daughter-in-law to be well armed and protected when our son wasn’t home. Since her father is a retired police sergeant, my daughter-in-law is someone who has been around firearms her entire life.
One thing I taught my daughter-in-law right from the start: Using a pistol that is equipped with an accessory rail makes it possible to attach a tactical light to your sidearm so you can have one hand free to carry a child to safety or call 911 with a cell phone. It is also harder for an intruder to reach out and grab your handgun than it is to reach out and grab a rifle or shotgun barrel as you walk by a room in a dark hallway.
I initially loaned my daughter-in-law a five-shot S&W Model 60 revolver in .38 Special, but the trigger on S&W J-Frame wheelguns can be on the heavy side (except for the Centennial models). Even though the trigger on the 2-inch-barreled Model 64 that she used for a while was a dramatic improvement, the pistol my daughter-in-law ended up liking the most was a 9mm Sig P229 with a DAK trigger, night sights and an accessory rail. When she trained more and proved that she could kick things up a notch, my son gave his wife a .40- caliber version for personal and home defense.
Furthermore, as the father of two sons who are now 29 and 24 years of age, I know what it is like to train your children to safely and effectively use various kinds of firearms for personal protection, recreational shooting and home defense. I started training our sons to shoot at an early age because they grew up in a home where firearms were accessible and always present because I was a police officer who later went on to make a career as a federal agent in the U.S. Customs Service.
When my sons were old enough to comprehend the true meaning of the word “hot,” I decided it was time to let them know that the rules in our home regarding firearms were very simple. Rule #1: My sons could ask to inspect, touch and even hold any of my issued or personally owned firearms as long as they were unloaded and I was present. Rule #2: My sons would never violate rule number one until they were old enough to legally own, possess and carry firearms on their own.
Handling & Cleaning
After displaying my collection of issued and personally owned firearms, I began to teach my sons about different handguns, rifles, carbines, submachine guns and shotguns. In addition, we had these show-and-tell sessions on a regular basis. My plan was to take the mystery out of firearms by letting my sons know that my guns were the tools of my profession. Furthermore, I wanted to let them know that they required a certain level of proficiency. Consequently, after I explained how various firearms worked, I let my sons physically examine and handle every firearm in my collection. I also let them watch me clean my firearms to show them the importance of properly maintaining your equipment at all times. When the time was right—a parent will know that time—I took them shooting and trained them to become proficient marksmen.
I started training my oldest son when he was 8 years old to safely operate and shoot a .22-caliber Walther PPK. Later on, when both of my sons were old enough to train together, I issued them a pair of .22-caliber Beretta 71s with two spare magazines each. I also allowed my sons to train with a pair of rimfire Colt Peacemaker revolvers.
Next Steps for Gun Carrying
Once my two sons displayed an appropriate level of skill and they expressed the desire to kick their training tempo up a notch, I laid out a course of fire in a remote area in the high desert that could only be accessed by a 4×4 vehicle. For safety purposes, I had both of my sons walk through the course of fire with me by their side so they knew the layout of the training area. Initially, I had each of my sons run through this maze of arroyos and hilly terrain by themselves.
I stayed close by to relay commands and keep an eye on my sons as they engaged numerous targets and executed two combat reloads while taking the appropriate cover. When they were ready, I had my sons operate as a team with me close enough behind them to intervene if either of my boys forgot the safety rules. As a father, I was very impressed with the way my two sons performed individually and as a team.
In addition, once my sons got a bit older, we started training with law enforcement service handguns in various calibers, including the 9mm, .40 S&W. .357 SIG and .45 ACP. Both of my sons did well and eventually completed college and became armed professionals who carry Glock pistols on a daily basis.
In the end, train and train hard for the heavy responsibility of carrying a firearm—one you might use to protect yourself and your loved ones.
This article was originally published in “Pocket Pistols” 2017 #186. To order a copy, visit outdoorgroupstore.com.
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