Children, Guns, Home Invaders, and Likely Events

Recently on a Facebook discussion, a question was posed to a group of generally very well trained gun people. The original poster is a high level military guy, and a much tougher man, better shooter, etc. than I’ll ever be. He asked this question:

main post

So he’s concerned with Home Defense (HD) presumably because he wants to protect his family. So he wants to be able to get to his tools if his home is invaded. He thinks he’ll need them so fast that safes and lock boxes are out of the question. Most of you already understand the issue here, as did most of the respondees to his original post. This decision process is showing that he believes it is more likely to need a firearm than it is for the child to happen upon the firearms or gain access through toddler cleverness.

We, as gun people, need to keep in mind the relative chances of different events when we prioritize how we layer our home security. It seems that total novices as well as extremely competent gun owners can suffer the same failure in logic. I won’t bore you with numbers, but which do YOU think is more probable:

  1. A team of home invaders kicks down the door during dinner requiring a sub 10 second reaction time to start dealing justice… or…
  2. A child that lives in your house comes into contact with your weapons (in whatever condition) in the several years between birth and being old enough to fully understand the dangers of firearms and resist the temptation to play even when no adults are present?

It’s pretty obvious. Lock away any firearms you aren’t carrying.

This gentleman is banking on height over floor being a deterrent:
dude 2

I posted this video:

He then said something like, “A parent would know if his kid was spiderman and wouldn’t store guns where he could get them.” Sure, but would you want the first time you found out he/she was a climber to be when you see their lifeless body next to your carry gun under the fridge? Me neither.


dude 3

So he’s banking on height and condition 3 (mag in, empty chamber). If you give a child enough time to tinker with something, they eventually will figure it out, even if it’s by dumb luck. They are learning, problem-solving beings. They’re people and they’re watching.

The cost of a mistake is just too great.

If our ultimate goal is to protect our families from being killed, pick the low hanging fruit first. Lock them up.



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Rise and Shine!: Staging Bump In The Night Firearms


Sorry for the hiatus. I’m back.

Every nightstand pistol/shotgun/rifle should:

  1. Have a flashlight next to it (or on it) for identifying what you’re about to point (or pointing) a gun at.
  2. Be secured from access by a non-authorized person. For the sake of this article, that person is YOU until you wake up fully.

That second point is not often considered. The bump in the night is far more likely to be a person you know than a crew of home invaders. I think the best way to prevent a groggy tragedy is to force yourself to complete several fine motor movements and/or take several steps prior to having a loaded gun in your hand. You need time to shake the cobwebs out of your head and assess what’s actually happening.

Failure to do so can have tragic results:

Here’s what I’ve worked out for myself. Pick 2 or 3 items from the list of your preferred home defense weapon and layer them so you’re alert and awake before waving a gun around…

For Example: Type code, grab magazine, insert magazine, release slide, address the issue

Auto pistol:


  • Same as above but with cylinder open
  • Cylinder empty and speed loader next to pistol


  • Chamber empty
  • Safety on
  • Magazine removed and kept lashed to the hand guard or stored nearby
  • In a closet or corner several steps away


  • Chamber empty
  • Magazine tube empty
  • Safety on
  • Action open
  • “Cruiser ready” (empty chamber, action closed)

You don’t need to do every item to have success with this idea. Pick two or three that make sense for you and give it a try. I’m looking to buy about 30 seconds to fully awaken.

But it will slow down my room clearin’!

If you have less than 5 seconds to get a gun into action from a dead sleep, you screwed up a long time ago. Go read my article about layered home defense to get your house or apartment right. If you can’t get a magazine into your pistol and rack the slide, you’re not awake enough to be moving in your house with a gun.You need to protect you from yourself first.

Lets remember the firearms requirement hierarchy:

  1. Don’t Shoot Ourselves
  2. Don’t Shoot What We Don’t Want To Shoot
  3. Shoot What We Want To Shoot

And for goodness sake, start verbalizing ASAP so you don’t show the muzzle to the wrong person. “Who’s there!? I am armed!” or whatever.

The opportunity for a negative outcome is greatly increased if you are startled from a dead sleep and start making life and death decisions before you fully wake up. Give yourself some time.

Stay safe.

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Zen and the Art of Not Shooting

How often are you practicing not shooting your gun?

Before you close this article because “I practice not shooting all the time except when I’m at the range, hurr durr”, hear me out. We like to shoot. We spend lots of money and time on getting faster, competing, and shooting defense oriented drills. We want to draw fast and get that fast first hit. We practice rapid strings of fire to make sure we can rapidly stop a threat. We understand that the only time the gun should come out is when we will likely have to use it. But…

But life happens in the blink of an eye, and a situation can change in the time it takes to clear leather and drop the hammer. If all we’ve ever done in our shooting career is draw and shoot a known ‘threat’ target after a positive ID, and we realize we are creatures of habit, why should we expect to be able to halt the shot cycle before that round is fired? The VAST majority of defensive gun uses require no shooting. The introduction of a gun by the good guy and the apparent will to use it are enough to stop most criminal assaults.

This could also be the counterpoint to having to practice this. Since we are hesitant to actually shoot when it might be justified, maybe the problem will just take care of itself. I personally think practice is warranted, even if it is a very small portion of your practice.

If I’m ever asked in court, “Well, Mr. Mark, in all your years of gun training, have you ever practiced NOT shooting when gun comes out?” I’d like to be able to answer yes.

There are enough situations and real world examples that require the ability to be able to short-circuit the shooting cycle, either before the shooting starts, or after several shots.

When might we need to abort the shot, or shooting?

  • A sudden change of intent/ability/opportunity(jeopardy) by the bad guy upon seeing the gun presented. Verbalization and a show of force will probably solve most issues. But we shouldn’t assume this is the case. If we present the gun, we should only do so if we are certain we will need it. We have to consider several kinds of draws, too. A preemptive draw where you hear a bump in the night, or you draw to a low ready with a vehicle between you and the possible-shoot as you issue a verbal challenge. Or an emergency draw stroke, where there is an immediate need to shoot. All could require halting the shoot cycle or not shooting at different times, and for various reasons.
  • The foreground or background suddenly changes. If you realize your backstop is a playground, it would make sense to not shoot and change your orientation before shooting.
  • You have a righteous shoot, but then follow the injured bad guy and put one in his head for good measure. Then a good shoot becomes murder.


Pharmacist Convicted of first degree murder. This was a good shoot, until it was time to stop shooting. Ersland took it from defense to murder, and now pays the price.

The pharmacist, 59-year-old Jerome Ersland, fired a weapon after two young men entered his pharmacy, one of them waving a gun, in May 2009. Mr. Ersland’s bullet hit 16-year-old Antwun Parker in the head, Oklahoma County prosecutors alleged.

Moments later, Mr. Ersland shot Mr. Parker five more times as he lay unconscious on the ground, say prosecutors who had a security surveillance video to bolster their case.

I’ve found several anecdotes from Police officers and private Citizens who were able to abort their shot in light of a changing situation, and seemed quite relieved that they didn’t have to take a life, though they were fully prepared to. Here’s one.

98Z28 says:

I will also say that you might be surprised how quickly things can change and what you are capable doing in a short amount of time in a dynamic, dangerous situation. I have made the decision to shoot someone, started pressing the trigger, and wound up not firing a single round. This happened not once, but twice in my short seven years in LE. From talking to other officers, my experience is not unique

What are other trainers and practitioners saying?

Renowned trainer Grant Cunningham wrote a post about this topic as well:

There’s still, however, the need to train in how you actually decide not to shoot and how to use your gun when shooting isn’t (yet) a justified act. That’s what my students were doing: they were learning what to do with their guns when they didn’t need to shoot — and a little about why not shooting but still having their defensive firearm at the ready might be necessary. The stimuli were intentionally confusing, forcing them to think and requiring them to process the information I was giving them and making decisions about what to do based on their interpretation of that information.

Here’s a snip from a great interview of Marc MacYoung:

Then you come to skills. This is assessing the given circumstances. How do you mix steering, accelerating and braking, given the circumstances you are in, whether you are coming around a corner or whether someone is merging into your lane. What is the appropriate response? What is the combo? Those are the skills.

Take that into a shooting situation. As I said, you are not even thinking about pulling the gun. Once you’re there, you’re going, “Do I have to shoot?” So all your brain cells are in “shoot or don’t shoot,” assessing the circumstances.

What is really important about this model is that we think this way all the time. As a situation changes, our reactions change. Let’s go back to driving: You’re processing how to get through the curve as you’re driving, but once you get out of that curve, you have to change your behaviors. You are constantly doing these calculations. So there, you’re pulling your gun, you’re getting ready, and all of a sudden the guy turns around and runs away. What’s the important thing to do right now?

SouthNarc (Craig Douglas of Shivworks) had this to say about pointing guns at people before we are sure we will shoot them:

It’s debatable about whether one should or should not point a gun at someone before they initiate the shooting cycle. In a perfect world the muzzle stays off someone literally until a pistol is driving up or to the target and the round breaks. Real life is not that clean and motor skills are driven by decision making that may be changing quarter second by quarter second.

GJM to answer your specific question ideally we don’t point guns at people before we shoot them and our ready positions support not muzzling people AND give us the ability to see and discriminate information about the person we might be shooting in a split second. Also whatever “ready” positon we use allows us to break a fast and accurate shot on a low probability target. So there are three things that a ready position should accomplish.

Mr_White from Pistol Forum discusses how the legalities in your state might change how you think about this:

This gives rise to an approximation of the old and oversimplified adage ‘don’t draw the gun until you are going to fire immediately.’ There are situations where I might draw the gun and point it toward someone but not yet fire it, however, that span of situations is narrowed compared to what it might be in another state with a different legal situation.

When ready positions are legally weakened, the importance of a fast draw increases, but active awareness, and manipulation of environmental and interactive factors to allow us more time to evaluate the potential threat or give us additional or clearer information with which to evaluate the potential threat, or might even allow the luxury of disengagement, are still the most important (creating distance, using obstacles, adding artificial light, verbal interactive skills, recognition of threat cues, etc.)

It seems the majority of these incidents (either bad shoots or narrowly avoided shoots) are a matter of emotional control and data processing bandwidth (seeing more, and thinking faster) in the brain.

So how can we practice “not shooting”? Here’s a few ideas.

  1. Train Force on Force. This is difficult to arrange, and usually only gets the average guy a few exposures to testing these decision making skills in a given course. The scenarios need to be well thought out, with possible ambiguous outcomes, and experienced role players. This is not easy to find. The more of this we do, the less brain-lock we’ll experience the next time (in training or for real).
  2. Get a partner with a whistle, or a random par timer, and begin shooting a drill of your choice. When the random par timer beeps, halt shooting immediately. You are ceasing the firing sequence in light of new information. This can be done with courses of fire, or simple static range drills (Mr_White on PF described this)
  3. Target Discrimination drills which will allow you to practice taking in auditory and visual information and processing it before shooting.
  4. Threat management drills. These will engage your mind so you have to talk and coordinate the gun and possibly a flashlight, etc.
  5. Incorporate it into dry-fire. It doesn’t have to be any significant portion of your time, but consider getting a full firing grip, issuing a challenge, and aborting. Or presenting the gun, touching the trigger, and then not pressing the trigger. Or present the gun, and depress the muzzle to a low ready. You get the idea.

This post sort of got out of hand in length. I don’t honestly know how much worth this has, but it feels important to me. There are legal and moral repercussions that have to be considered. Sometimes it’s hard being the good guy and having to care about the ramifications of our actions. It’s our burden. I hope I got someone thinking.

Protect the Brood and don’t shoot unless you have to.

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What Does Average Joe Need In A Trigger?

Have you ever had a Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon moment? It’s a type of cognitive bias where you could swear that the frequency of mentioning a topic has seemingly increased to impossible numbers for no apparent reason. I feel like I’m experiencing one with Double Action/Single Action (or DA/SA) and Double Action Only (DAO) pistols as of late.  It seems like all the people I respect and listen to are talking about the merits of DA/SA guns for a host of reasons. It has caused me to give DA/SA more than a passing consideration.

Beretta M9

Striker fired guns are easier to shoot well

I began carrying a gun every day nearly 10 years ago (time flies). The Glock 19/26/42 primarily, but also the S&W shield, and even an X D45 for a short time. I carry in the appendix position (1 o’clock) exclusively. I also carry a few double action only guns when I have to be very discreet, but I bought them for their size, with no real consideration for their mode of operation. I bought and carried the striker guns because of their reliability, capacity, and consistent trigger pull. It’s what my first instructor told me to buy and I have been pleased with my purchase. When you’re just learning to shoot, having one repeatable trigger press makes things easy, and a novice shooter can get up to speed quickly with a relatively short, light, and consistent trigger. Until relatively recently, I didn’t understand why someone would want a DA/SA pistol like a Beretta 92 or Sig P series pistol for concealed carry or a home defense gun.  Striker fired guns are easy to shoot, after all. I was ignorant of the benefits and I now realize the appeal, let me try to hash it out…

G19 w/ TTI +4 basepads
My Current Carry

It’s Not Just About Shooting

Based on training I had done with Claude Werner, The Tactical Professor, and with Craig Douglas of Shivworks in his A.M.I.S. coursework, it becomes clear that not everyone needs shooting. As Craig says, there are shoots, no-shoots, and don’t-shoot-yets. The seed was planted that learning to think and talk with a gun in your hand under stress was a skill worth developing. So is learning to hold someone at gunpoint safely. Up until these things became clear to me, I thought the most important thing was being fast. Competing in IDPA and working with a timer, while critical for improving pure shooting,  neglects the soft skills of people management. The ‘hardware’ (AKA stuff you can buy) component of this wasn’t clear at the time, but started to come together for me recently. I have been lurking at and found a nugget of wisdom worth sharing from respected member GJM:

For a game gun, my priorities are how easy it is to shoot other stuff. For a defensive gun, my priorities are not shooting myself, not shooting something I don’t intend to, and then how easy is it to shoot something you do intend to shoot.
. . .
I think short, light striker triggers are overrated on a carry gun, regardless of how they perform on pure shooting tests. I do love pistols with short, light triggers to game…

There is a lot of discussion of the ‘street trigger’ over at Pistol Forum. This thread is worth your time.

Let’s consider GJM’s three points for a defensive gun in his order of importance, since I totally agree with him.

Not Shooting Ourselves:

Just recently, a young man accidentally shot himself in his thigh and bled out after taking a selfie with his gun. Whether it was an XD45 (a striker fired gun) or 1911 with safety disengaged, it’s unimportant. It highlights a likely lack of training, possibly poor equipment,  and/or a gross lapse in concentration and judgement. Would a DA/SA gun with a long trigger pull and exposed hammer for thumbing while holstering have saved him in lieu of proper training and gun handling? We won’t know. But it’s worth consideration with the amount of folks with either no or only state mandated safety courses under their belt. It’s also worth considering that everyone can make mistakes and no one is infallible.

The exposed hammer is something I hadn’t considered as important. As I said, I’ve always been a Glock guy and I’m always careful when I holster and always look the gun into the holster. But I remember a few years ago I read about Todd Green of developing The Gadget, which replaces the standard Glock Slide Cover Plate and rides the striker so that you can feel the striker moving as the trigger is pulled. Todd sent me an advanced copy to play around with while I wait for the one I paid for to ship. I’ve had it on my G19 for a few weeks now and I have to tell you, it’s something I didn’t know I would want until I had it. I like the idea of knowing if the trigger is moving when I’m putting the gun away. This has me considering DA/SA and DAO guns with exposed hammers.

The Gadget on my G19.

Not Shooting What We Don’t Intend To:

This section will be short because all I have to go on is anecdotal evidence about long trigger pulls allowing more time for thinking during an adrenalized encounter. I’ve never shot anyone, nor have I had to hold anyone at gunpoint. But guess who has? The Police! They regularly point their guns at people and usually don’t have to shoot them. Several instances I’ve read about have credited a long double action trigger pull with not having to take a life because there was enough time for either recognition that there was no weapon present, or the situation was changing during the trigger press and there was time to let off before the bang. Just because I’m justified in taking a life, doesn’t mean I want to if I can help it.

So how does this apply to regular Joe Homeowner? Very often, when we pull a pistol on someone who needs a pistol pointed at them and show clear intent to use it, we don’t have to shoot. This is threat management. When we hear a bump in the night, 999 times out of 1000 it will be someone we don’t want to shoot in the house.

So imagine waking up from a dead sleep from the house alarm blaring, feeling the adrenaline coursing through your veins, grabbing your pistol, and going hunting where you heard the noise… you see a figure in your garage, you level your gun, and in the time it takes you to begin to press through the double action shot… you realize it’s your daughter sneaking in at night. You yell at her and ground her and nearly have a stroke thinking you might have shot your daughter. That’s exactly what didn’t happen here. The deputy made several mistakes, two glaring ones are not having a light and not issuing a verbal challenge to the ‘figure’ in the garage. So would a long DA trigger pull helped here in lieu of white light and verbalization? Who knows. But it certainly has me considering  DA/SA and DAO guns very seriously for the long first trigger pull.

Shooting something we intend to shoot:

This is the category that I only have experience with double action only J-frames and tiny .380’s. I extensively dry fired my J frame for a year and it made me a better shooter on all of my guns. I’m not a great revolver shooter, but I can tell you that with dedicated practice, it’s not only an arm’s reach gun. The same is obviously true with DA/SA guns. People have difficulty with the changing weight and length of the trigger between the first and subsequent shots, but this is a practice and training issue.

Watch Ernest Langdon of Langdon Tactical run the F.A.S.T. with a Beretta PX4 compact
Sure they are ‘harder’ to shoot well. I likely won’t be as fast as I am with my Glocks. But I like a challenge. I like new stuff. I like change. A few tenths of a second might be worth the safety margin in every other facet of handling. Watching people like Mr. Langdon shoot a DA/SA like that makes me want to try a DA/SA gun and see how I do against the clock.

So is it worth the switch?

I don’t know if it is. I’m intrigued by the prospect. I definitely think it’s at least worth considering. There’s lots of options. Here’s a thread from P-F to give you some ideas.  Sorry I’m late to the party DA/SA and DAO guys and gals. Mock me if you must.

Protect the Brood and don’t accidentally shoot yourself or your daughter,

Defensive Daddy