Being a responsible gun owner can go beyond safe storage and use. How you maintain your firearms and your overall familiarity with them are also big parts of the equation.
For the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on handguns, personal defense and an experience that I had recently that highlighted a few issues with the responsibility of owning and operating a firearm.
We all know that the correct storage and securing of your guns is a given. This isn’t up for debate. Neglect with firearm care and knowledgeable handling is a different matter altogether. I had a few chats recently with friends who aren’t in any way diligent with the cleaning and maintenance of their hunting rifles. The subject just kind of came up. The guns in question do get used enough and their condition isn’t bad enough to likely cause any kind of a catastrophic operational issue – but why take the chance? If you’re going to make the investment and expect the weapon to perform at its best, you could at least make a minimal effort. If the worst thing that happens is a missed opportunity while hunting because your action failed – well that’s on you. Live and learn.
If you’re expecting your firearm to help protect you as part of a home defense scenario, then that’s a whole other ballgame. Which brings us to our story.
A friend, let’s call him Bob, and I were talking handguns a few weeks ago and he let me know that he was the proud owner of a nice, shiny 9mm. I had no idea. Turns out, he’s had this bad boy for two years. The problem is that he hasn’t handled it in all that time. This became quite apparent when he took it out of the portable gun safe to show me. He began wagging it around in front of me as he was talking and he had his finger on the trigger. I’m like ‘DUDE!’ and his response was that it was OK because it wasn’t loaded. As it turns out there was no magazine in-place, but the way he was handling this thing, there could easily have been one in the chamber. He had no idea.
So after my heart rate settled, we had a beer and a chat as I was curious as to why he had the gun in the first place and what the deal was with not cleaning it or using it in all that time. He actually wasn’t even 100% sure as to why he wanted a home defense weapon. He just thought it was the right idea. He lives in a very safe area in a gated community, with plenty of security personnel and a robust home security system as well. I get that it was giving him some peace-of-mind, but his complete lack of knowledge was a little alarming.
As it turns out, his only real experience with the gun was when he took a handgun safety course when he first bought it (he was clearly not paying close attention). He had the gun hidden in his garage in the original manufacturer’s box for the first year before his wife insisted on the safe. They live in an area of high humidity by the way. He simply made the switch and hadn’t touched it since.
In a classic case of ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’, there was no effort made to clean or lubricate the gun, and he was quite shocked when I told him that he should be doing it at least twice per year (perhaps more often given the moisture in the air). Honestly, some contend that you should be checking your weapon once per month. You don’t have to be an expert by any means and there are plenty of online resources available to help folks through the process. If you really did have intentions of using the gun for the purposes of home defense, you’d want it in tip-top shape.
The kicker came when I asked about how he thought an actual real-life defense situation might play out. It was funny, but (despite his lack of knowledge or practice) he kind of thought that it would all just work out somehow. That he’d be able to calmly and efficiently retrieve the weapon, acquire the target, raise, aim and fire effectively. The thinking is clearly naïve and misguided and I’m sure fueled by having seen so many Hollywood depictions of gunplay over time. I mean he has literally NEVER practiced with this gun. Never had any real instruction on stances, grip, aiming or dealing with recoil. I mean nothing. I’m not sure what the thinking was, but I just kept my mouth shut.
The other thing that wasn’t being considered was the inherent stress and panic that typically sets in when confronted with a potentially life-&-death situation. Even seasoned shooters may fumble when there’s so much on the line.
I guess the point is that if you’re going to own a firearm, you really should make an effort to educate yourself and be as responsible as possible. From storage, to maintenance and to safe and effective operation, it’s just the right thing to do. Especially if personal defense is your primary concern. Some may say that ‘Bob’ is a bit of a dope (and his neglect was somewhat extreme), but the elements of this experience may be more common than you think. Clean, lubricate and hit the range at least once in a while to make sure that you’re all good.
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