Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dangerous Misinformation

As a shooter, a hunter, and an instructor, I have heard many crazy statements concerning the use of firearms. Any of you reading this could say the same, I'm sure. Everything from "all you have to do is rack the shotgun to scare bad guys away" to "I carry .22LR because when I shoot the bad guy in the head the round will bounce around his skull and destroy his brain." Somethings you hear are just crazy nonsense, while others are based on something that really happened at some point but have since been diluted and are now passed around as fact.

As an example, here's a few things that we've heard from our students, which have been relayed to them by any combination of the above mentioned sources:

- You should load the first two rounds of your revolver with blanks, so that in case your kid or someone else startles you at night and you draw down on them, the first two rounds won't do anything, and you'll notice it before you fire the third round, which is live. If, by chance, it is actually a bad guy, then those first two blank rounds will probably scare him off.

- If you don't have an Arizona Concealed Carry Permit (CCW), you cannot carry a handgun with a round in the chamber.

- A shotgun will spread shot patterns so big that you just have to aim anywhere in the area of a bad guy to take him down.

We are not saying that people who help to spread these misconceptions are stupid, they are simply victims of dangerous misinformation, and it's important that we all understand how this can affect us.

Let's take a look at the casual shooter. Without much or even any formal training, it is quite possible that there are things this person "knows" that are not true. Perhaps advice from a gun counter, a trusted friend, or even an old retired police acquaintance. It all sounds reasonable enough, and so they pass it on to their friends, over their email, etc. The problem with misinformation given about firearms and lethal force is that is not the same as misinformation given about an iPod or a car paint job, though it is often treated with the same casual attitude. Such misinformation can cause the loss of life or freedom of law-abiding citizens and cause the continued breathing of bad guys, two things we want to avoid.
Consider this: your friend tells you that you should put birdshot in your shotgun to prevent penetration to your walls, keeping your kids safe. And you don't have nothin' for a handgun if you don't have a .357 Magnum, but you can just practice with .38 Specials so that it's cheaper and only load .357 Magnum when you carry it. And you should definitely get that little pink .22LR for your wife, because just having a gun scares bad guys away. Until bad guys show up. Because that birdshot that won't penetrate walls? Turns out it doesn't penetrate bad guys either. And that .357 Magnum that you never fired? It's got quite a bit more recoil and muzzle flash than those .38 Special target loads, and making a follow-up shot in the dark (something your friend said you'd never have to do with a .357 Magnum) turns out to be next to impossible for you. And that .22LR? Yeah, it's laying on the ground several feet from your wife as she gets assaulted, because she never trained with it and loaded it up with Federal Bulk Pack ammo from Wal-Mart. The two poorly placed shots she did manage to get off were barely felt by her attackers.

And how about this: You want to save a few bucks to get some training, and that guy who fixed your water heater or coached your kid's soccer team also teaches CCW courses on the weekends to make some extra money. He charges less than everyone else, and his course seems easy enough. So you attend, and he's a good teacher and you enjoy the class, plus you get your CCW. And this guy tells you some interesting tactics, things like you should drag a body back into your house after you shoot a bad guy breaking in, because you don't want the body outside when the cops show up. And if he doesn't have a knife in his hand, you should put one there. Sounds reasonable enough, or so you think. Now you find yourself in a lethal force situation, and there on the stand at your trial sits your weekend instructor. He's being questioned about you, your performance, and his material. Oops - he didn't really inform you about those new laws that got passed, because he didn't have time between working 40 hours a week and hanging out with his buddies to update his course information. And he's not even teaching anymore, once he discovered how much work it really was. And there you sit, your freedom on the line, having saved a few bucks years ago and spending thousands more now trying to make up for it. And unfortunately for you, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

And lastly, consider this: your friend deployed overseas 4 times in defense of freedom, and he's a seasoned combat veteran. He even spent the last deployment attached to some high-speed low-drag Special Ops unit. This guy knows tactics, and he knows how to shoot. So you go out and train with him, and he teaches you to be a man-killer. Along the way, he imparts some of the great wisdom he learned while in uniform, such as how to close-with and destroy, and how to lay down suppressive fire while moving to a position of advantage. You feel awesome - you can reload in 2 seconds and put rounds downrange almost as fast. Then you get involved in a real force-on-force incident, and you realize that this ain't Fallujah, and you operate under a whole other set of Rules of Engagement than your buddy did overseas.

These are just a few examples of the things I come in contact with every single day, and I'm sure several of you have had similar experiences. The point I want to make here is to be careful of who you take advice from and the information that you pass on to others. Your life, the life of your family, your financial future, and the lives of innocent bystanders may be on the line. Misinformation can be very dangerous - question everything. How does it apply to you, or does it apply to you? What are you trying to learn, and who can teach you? And not just show you, but teach you. Believe it or not, everything you read on the internet is not true (gasp!) so the best thing to do is to learn for yourself, through research, study, and training with those who have a like-minded approach. Only then can you be sure that the techniques you plan to use and the laws you plan to abide by are correct and the most effective and up-to-date.

UPDATE 03/28/2012: I found a story today that gives a great example of what I am talking about. This kind of advice could potentially get a good person killed:

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, and Train Hard.

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