The First Steps are the Biggest: Your First Self-Defense Class

by Rob Morse

You signed up for your first self-defense class. It is easy to get overwhelmed by all the new ideas. Here is a review of what you’ll learn, and what you’ll need to unlearn.


You thought safety was for beginners. Firearms safety is a lifelong skill for both beginners and professionals. We simply hold the professionals to a higher standard of performance.


You thought a gun might keep you safe. Like a lifejacket keeps a sailor from drowning, your gun is only a tool. It works best if you don’t blindly walk into the deep end.


Your gun seemed to fit your hand perfectly when you held it in the gun store. Your all-day class will show you every place your gun rubs your hand the wrong way. Experienced gun owners bring bandages.

Physical habits

You thought that the first thing you’d learn in a defensive handgun course would be to shoot quickly. It turns out that most of your attention is focused on getting the gun out of your holster without shooting yourself. Even the simple things take practice.


There isn’t much macho about carrying a gun. Having to use your gun means you failed to avoid the problem in the first place.

Dangerous Places

Your super-ninja self-defense instructor still parks her car under a streetlight. She wants you to do that too.

Simple steps

Your instructor would rather you carry a flashlight before you carry a spare magazine for your gun.

Home safety

Motion activated lights are better than door locks. Door locks are better than alarms. Alarms are better than being an armed homeowner surprised by an intruder.

You win the fight you avoid

Your instructor would rather you run fast than shoot fast. If you can’t avoid the fight, at least you are a moving target.

First responders

A serious instructor wants you to keep your friends and family safe. You’re more likely to use your first aid training than a gun. Have both.

A costly solution

Your gun can save your life. And it can drag you into legal trouble. You realize you have to learn the moral and legal issues of self-defense.

A lot to think about

If your self-defense course lasts only a few hours, or if it is as long as a few weeks, you are sure to leave with homework. Now is the time to think about what you will do when there isn’t time to think. Your imagination today will save your life tomorrow.

Skills take time

The instructor makes everything look easy. In fact, everything you do with a gun is foreign and difficult at first. Only practice makes these new skills feel like second nature and look easy.

Self-defense is both a physical skill and a mental exercise. Your first class is usually the hardest. It sets you on a lifetime of practice and study. Bon voyage. You can go as far as you want.

Rob Morse works and writes in Southwest Louisiana. He writes at Ammoland, at his Slowfacts blog, and at Clash Daily. Rob co-hosts the Polite Society Podcast, and hosts the Self-Defense Gun Stories Podcast each week.