A Second Look at Defensive Choices

by Keith Coniglio

In the not too distant past, "The Mugger" was the concealed carrier's threat model — the boogeyman we had in mind as we honed our shooting skills and researched the best defensive handgun. We envisioned a single person (perhaps two, if luck was truly against us that day) at very close range, threatening us with a bludgeon, knife, or gun. The most likely motivation was robbery, and the attacker would have a vested interest in getting away with his hide intact. The need for a defensive firearm could be mitigated to a large degree by simply avoiding bad people in bad places doing bad things, and "defensive use" would most likely require only the display of the gun.

We need to acknowledge that this threat model has evolved. In a case of quality versus quantity, the odds of facing any threat have dropped to the lowest levels in decades but danger may now come to us, in larger numbers and with quite different motivations. We now live in an era where flash mobs or rioters may assault random strangers; where the mentally deranged may go on shooting sprees at schools and theaters; where lone wolf terror attacks may take place in malls or at peaceful public gatherings. We now must contend with the possibility that our boogeyman may have the range advantage of a long gun, the intent to kill in large numbers rather than to simply rob, and a desire to die in the process.

This evolution in risk needs to be met with an evolution in defensive strategy, and that must begin with a realistic and honest assessment of our carry and training choices. We may still only need to display our armed status to end an assault, or we may need to engage at greater distances than expected, against more — and more determined — assailants. As defenders, the only aspect of the encounter under our control is how we are armed.

Should you be unfortunate enough to find yourself in such a deadly situation, reality will not care if you've armed yourself for little more than a stroll in Mayberry, or that you've "tactically trained" to retake Kandahar … with the rifle you left safely locked up at home. You will have only what you have — nothing more, nothing less. Your only choice will be to "run what ya brung."

I own both pocket pistols and AR15s, and find them vastly useful for their niches. But I cannot provide effective fire at 50 yards with the former, nor have I found a way to casually conceal the latter as I go about my daily business. My Glock 19, on the other hand, meets both of those needs. Likewise, I greatly value the rifle courses I've taken (and will take) but it's that same Glock that is the focus of my training, because it's the gun I'm almost certain to have handy on the worst day of my life.

I would never discourage someone from carrying what they feel suits them best, or from expanding their firearm-handling skills in any way. But I do encourage you to avoid mistaking motion for action. The next time you're preparing to sign up for a tactical carbine class, ask yourself if you would actually have a rifle on your person if the 'statistically unlikely' became the 'happening-right-now.' Would you be better served by seeking additional training with the handgun you carry each day instead?

The next time you're about walk out the door armed, pause for a moment and think of your chosen pistol as "the gun I'll have on me when the unthinkable happens without warning." Could you defend yourself against a stranger firing a .22 rifle from across a department store? Are the gun and caliber adequate for the task? Are you adequately skilled with that particular firearm? Is your magazine capacity large enough to defend yourself against multiple attackers?

Step One to winning a gunfight may be "have a gun," but Step Two should be "have the right gun, right there — and the training to use it effectively."

Keith Coniglio is a father, software tester, NRA-certified pistol instructor, and devoted Second Amendment advocate. He is also the editor-in-chief of Descendants of Liberty Press, a site dedicated to rekindling Americans' passion for - and defense of - their Constitutional rights and personal liberty.