A big mantra in the gun world is “stick with what you know.” That doesn’t mean keep doing the wrong thing over and over. It means once you find what works, stick with it so you know it will work when you need it. We hear stories over and over from people involved in real world defensive shootings where the good guy is asked how he (or she) got shots on target and won the fight. The typical answer is “I fell back on my training.” While this is certainly true and a good lesson for all of us, winning or losing can be more than just training. Hardware can play a part.
Do you carry the same gun every day? For a lot of folks, the answer is yes. But sometimes it’s tempting to change it up a
bit. Maybe the season changes and you need to adjust for the new wardrobe. For example, going from summer to fall and into winter, the extra layers might allow you to carry a bigger gun. (Don’t tell me I’m the only one who immediately thought of “Jaws” here.) Heading into summer, you might want to carry something smaller because you’re wearing less. While this might sound like a good idea, be careful because it could backfire on you, pun fully intended.
Before we get into the gun issue itself, let’s look first at why you should always carry in the same position. If you keep moving the gun around – one day appendix, the next strongside hip, and then off body – you might not reach in the right place for your gun at the one moment when it matters the most. The bad guy is shooting, you reach for your gun, and…it’s not there! Where did you put it? In the time it takes to remember how you’re carrying today you could be dead. That’s not a small consideration. But if you carry in the same place every time, this becomes a non-issue. When you reach for your gun, it will be there. Same with spare mags. I carry my spare mag on the left side, which is my support side, because that is the hand I will use to change magazines if I run dry. I practice reloads on the range to commit the motion to muscle memory. When I reach to the left side of my belt, my spare is always there, ready to be put into service.
What about changing guns? Just like with all other training, repetition and consistency are critical. Sure, in a non-stressed situation such as the range you can probably shoot any gun out there. Most semiauto pistols, for example, work 99% the same way. If I hand you a Glock, Springfield, or SIG, you’ll probably be good to go with any of them with minimal adjustment. However, in a stressful defensive situation, you don’t have the luxury of taking a few practice shots and playing with the controls to get comfortable with a new platform. You need to already be confident with the gun in your hand, so you put shots on target immediately. Trigger pull, reset, grip size and angle, sights, all need to be consistent for the best chance of winning the fight.
Changing platforms, even platforms you are familiar with, can cause problems under stress. For example, Glock has a unique grip angle. If you’re accustomed to shooting something else, the Glock angle takes some getting used to. If you’re not used to shooting a Glock, you will likely fire high under stress. In the words of Chris Cereno, “The street is a terrible place to have to improvise.”
Even changing guns within the same brand can make difference. For example, if you move from a point-and-shoot, striker-fired Springfield XD-M Elite to a more complicated Ronin 1911, with its locked-and-loaded configuration and manual thumb safety that must be disengaged before firing, will you have the mental wherewithal to remember to click it off before pulling the trigger if it’s not a habit? Probably not, if you’re not used to it. And it could cost you your life.
So does that mean you can never change guns? No, but it does mean you need to develop consistency. If you carry one gun in the winter and a different gun in the summer, carry each one all season long. Don’t switch it up mid-season or whenever you feel like it.
Here’s another consideration: legal implications. Even if your defensive shooting is technically legal, a prosecuting attorney might try to say you are inexperienced with the gun you used if it’s not your everyday carry. Remember, all the prosecution must do is convince the jury that you’re incompetent or inexperienced and your chances of some sort of conviction or other litigation go up. Is this fair? It’s not about fairness. It’s about prosecutorial tactics.
Cover yourself from all sorts of bad tactical and legal consequences by carrying the same gun every day. ~ David
David is an avid gun guy and a contributing writer to several major gun publications. In addition to being an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor and RSO, David trains new shooters on basic handgun skills and CCW requirements and is a strong advocate for training as much as you possibly can. "Real life shootouts don't happen at a box range."