What do you do when there’s a bump in the night?

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Most people who buy a firearm for home defense excitedly go to the range shortly after to try it out, sight it in, and become comfortable with its function.  Unfortunately, the next thing most do is put their gun away for safekeeping instead of the most important part of home defense, even more important than the type of firearm you buy: practicing.

There are two parts to practicing.  The first part occurs at the range, and the second part occurs at home.  Here’s what you need to practice at the range:

  1. Trigger control.  Keep your finger off of the trigger until you identify your target.  Never put your finger on the trigger until you’ve identified a threat.  DO NOT practice at the range by loading a magazine, putting your finger on the trigger, and emptying the magazine at a fixed target.  This is as far away from real as it gets!  Practice trigger control every time you hold a firearm by pointing your index finger parallel to the barrel above the trigger.
  2. Quick, two-shot bursts with a pistol.  The average Joe can’t perform a tight double-tap, but with a little practice, you can position two quick shots relatively close together at 7 yards without using your pistol sights.  If you are practicing proper trigger control, your trigger finger can be used to point at your target without using sights and transitioned to the trigger for two quick shots.
  3. Clearing malfunctions.  If you follow my advice for the proper home defense pistol, malfunctions will be minimized.  However, all pistols malfunction given enough time.  How do you handle a misfeed or misfire?  Don’t wait to learn when your life is on the line.
  4. Loading and reloading.  If you don’t keep your firearm in a safe, you should not keep it loaded if there are children who can access it.  Don’t count on hiding it.  How good were you at finding things your parents hid?  You should be able to load a magazine and chamber a round in less than 15-seconds once ammo is in-hand.  It’s probably best to get a biometric safe.
  5. Practice shooting with your off-hand.  This is imperative!  There are many reasons why shooting with your off-hand may be required.  You could get injured or you may need to enter a room with an off-handed hold to avoid exposing yourself.  I am right-handed, and when I initially practiced shooting my shotgun left-handed, I learned that I can’t shoot with both eyes open due to my right eye dominance.  I couldn’t hit a target at 7 yards shooting left-handed with both eyes open!

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Here’s what to practice at home:

  1. When will you dial 911?  One of the best reasons to charge your cell phone next to your bed at night is that you have immediate access to dialing 911, and a cut phone line will not affect your ability to dial for help.  Always dial 911 at the first opportunity.
  2. Pre-plan how you will clear the house.  Assuming you awakened in bed from sleeping, determine ahead of time how you will clear the house room by room.  Many believe getting to a child’s bedroom and holing up there is the best bet.  No kids?  If you’ve dialed 911, you’re probably better off remaining in your room with the door shut in a location that is advantageous to you should an intruder try entering.  Having a gun doesn’t justify leaving a room to play Rambo in hopes of shooting an intruder.  What if there are multiple intruders?  Don’t take unneccesary risks!
  3. Determine which zones are off-limits for shooting.  If you open your bedroom door and the kids’ bedroom is straight ahead down the hall, you probably don’t want to shoot down the hallway.  Many think this is why a shotgun is best for a house with children as shotgun pellets are less likely to penetrate layers of drywall.  Remember, it’s important to know your target as well as what is in front of and beyond your target at all times.
  4. Know where intruders can hide.  Think in terms of hide-and-seek when clearing your home.  Just because you don’t see someone in a room doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  Check in closets and behind furniture.
  5. Move like it’s the real deal.  Practicing like it’s the real thing will improve your odds of survival.  When you practice, make sure your firearm is unloaded and in a safe condition!  If you casually walk around and pre-plan without going through the motions of clearing a room, you will never know if your plan is doable.  For example, if you use a shotgun, you may learn that you have to switch shoulders to clear some rooms.  Can you accurately shoot your shotgun left-handed if you are right-handed?

This video by Larry Vickers of TacTV is a good example of how to practice at home.