By Doug Gilmer

While you can buy a handgun, all the necessary gear, and even pay for excellent training, what is most overlooked, and cannot be purchased, is the mental preparation required of anyone who chooses to carry a firearm. You can be well armed, well trained, and even shoot well but not have the necessary mindset or mental focus to carry a firearm. It is deeply personal and something each person must develop and determine for themselves. This has nothing to do with gender. It has nothing do with occupation. Over the years I have met a number of people, both male and female, who have entered careers in law enforcement and the military who are not mentally equipped for the job and the requirement to be armed.


Armed self defense is more mental than physical and requires you to accept four realities. First, when you choose to own and or carry a firearm for self protection you are accepting the reality one day you may be in a position where you will have to deploy their firearm, whether at home or in public. Second, you may one day be required to fire your weapon in the face of a threat. Third, you must come to terms with the fact, morally and otherwise, you may take another person’s life: kill them, make them dead. That’s right!  The actions of an armed individual may result in the death of the person who poses the threat justifying the deadly force response.  I emphasize this because I don’t believe many people understand the finality of their actions. Death is what it is, dead. Fourth, you must have a plan to deal with the aftermath of an armed encounter.


Do you carry a handgun for self protection? Are you considering it? What does all of this mean for you?


First, if you are properly licensed or are otherwise legally allowed to carry a concealed firearm then carry everywhere you can. To carry only when convenient or when you feel like it means you can somehow predict when you will need your firearm and you are in denial of the first previously mentioned reality. The news is full of stories of people who fall victim to violent crime and who never thought it would happen to them, when it happened. You cannot predict when bad things happen, you can only plan and prepare for them. As the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” In matters of personal defense, failure is not an option as there may not be a second chance.


Secondly, firearms training is an essential aspect of mental preparation. Learning how to carry and properly deploy a handgun effectively, hitting what you aim at, and doing so under stress, will help build confidence and improve your comfort level carrying a firearm as well as with the idea you might have to use your handgun at home or in public to stop a threat. Carrying a firearm does not make you invincible or a super-hero. It is not an ego builder. It’s serious business. Should you face a dangerous situation and deploy your handgun you should know the one creating the threat is not going to necessarily stop and run at the mere presence of your firearm. After considering your surroundings and the totality of the situation (done within a split second) you may have to pull the trigger. Of course once you do, you own the rounds you fire down range. Ensuring you hit your target is critical.


Third, the idea of taking another life does not come naturally to us. We cherish life. We celebrate births, birthdays, and mourn death. I have heard a number of people who carry a firearm claim they don’t want to have to shoot anyone. Good! No one does. But then some go on to say things such as, “Hopefully seeing my gun will be enough to scare them,” or “If I have to fire my gun I am just going to try and wound the person, not kill them.”  This is the wrong perspective to have. Again, while we don’t want to ever have to use deadly force, much less kill anyone, if you carry this apprehension along with your firearm, chances are if faced with a deadly force situation you will hesitate under  stress or fail in your attempt to only wound the subject by missing your target. Either way, the outcome is not good and leaves you at a tactical disadvantage. You could end up dead yourself or with your rounds hitting unintended targets.


Finally, you need to have a plan to deal with the aftermath of an armed encounter. Do you know a criminal defense attorney you can call? Do you have concealed carry insurance such as a policy offered by CCW Safe ( or the U.S. Concealed Carry Association ( Do you know what to do and say, or not to do and say, when responding police officers and detectives arrive? Is there a clergy member or mental health professional you can talk to following an event to help you deal with the post traumatic stress? Do you have another firearm? The one you used in the shooting will be taken as evidence.


The choice of which firearm to carry and how you carry is a personal decision. There are pros and cons for revolvers, semi-autos, different ammo choices, and carry methods. No doubt,  some will offer you an advantage in a life threatening situation but ultimately, you have to carry what you feel most comfortable with and are able to shoot best.


Don’t forget however, your best preparation for a life threatening encounter is mental preparation. You can’t buy it, but before you carry a firearm, you best have it. It is your responsibility. You owe it to yourself and others. Nothing is more important.


Used by permission of Blaze Magazine, the official publication of Outdoor Women Unlimited – Accept No Limits. Copyright 2016