Myth: You Must Be Highly Trained To Successful Defend Yourself with a Handgun

By Dean Weingarten

Tia and Freedom Arms mini Revolver
Myth: You Must Be Highly Trained To Successful Defend Yourself with a Handgun
Dean Weingarten
Dean Weingarten

Arizona – -( Gun people love training.  They revel in expertise.  They gush over the incredible feats that expert gun users, from Annie Oakley to Jerry Miculek, can accomplish.

Do not mistake me. I approve of training. Training is good.  I have trained a lot of hours… and days… and years… and decades.  I have trained military, police, and civilians.

But large numbers of people use handguns very successfully with little or no training.

A case in point occurred recently in Ohio.


“She was armed and apparently fired multiple shots at him,” said Sgt. Dave Sicilia.

The woman’s son says he bought the gun for her a week ago to keep her safe now that she is living alone, but he never thought she would actually have to use it.

Police believe the suspect also broke into neighboring homes.

Nearby residents heard the shot.

“I got up and looked into my kids’ room and made sure they were all right,” said one person.

The burglary suspect was rushed to the hospital with serious injuries. He was pronounced dead shortly before 7:00 a.m.

While we cannot be sure that the armed homeowner had no training, the article does not mention any.  It is implied that the son never expected his mother to actually fire the firearm.   I have read numerous accounts of how people have not handled a gun for decades; then pick it up and use it effectively.   Guns are designed to be easily used and to point naturally at the target.

The large group of people who use guns effectively without training are criminals.

Most criminals are not allowed to legally handle guns, so using public ranges for training is difficult and dangerous for them.  Similarly, most criminals are inner city urban dwellers who do not have a back 40 or a hunting cabin in the mountains where they can practice all day and not be considered out of place.  They do not have an Uncle Sugar who provides ammunition for free.  Criminals mostly use guns for intimidation; it does not require training to be intimidating with a gun in your hand.

The biggest reason that most people can use firearms effectively without training is simple.  In most defensive firearm uses, as in most criminal uses, the firearm is never fired.   I have seen estimates of guns used to stop crime and for self defense, without being fired, at ratios of 20 to 1 or more.  It is not an easy number to measure.   If you consider that when shots are fired, a person may be hit only one of eight times, and when someone is wounded enough to require hospitalization, they are likely to die at the rate of one out of five.   Multiply those together and we have one justified firearms death for every 800 uses to stop crime or for defense.

I recommend that people be trained, that they practice once a month, and that they take courses in self defense.  Once a basic level of firearms proficiency is met, from a purely practical standpoint, training time for self defense is better spent on situational awareness, avoidance techniques, and tactics.

If you wish to reach a high level of shooting proficiency for hunting, self defense, competition, or war, then lots of time on the range will pay off.  Time at the range is effective at helping you hit what you are aiming at.   However, most people who successfully defend themselves are not highly trained.

c2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included. Link to Gun Watch

About Dean Weingarten;

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.