Part of being a responsible gun owner is learning to avoid defensive situations at all costs as well as preparing for those encounters if they can’t be avoided. While many responsible self-defenders purchase a quality firearm suited for the job and seek out training from competent instructors, many don’t prepare for what happens after a shooting.

Using a firearm (or any weapon for that matter) to defend you or your family’s life will likely be one of the most traumatic and stressful experiences you could ever encounter. Many different emotional and physical factors can alter your perception of the events that transpired, even immediately after the shooting. It’s important to think about what actions you should and shouldn’t take beforehand.

I’ve prepared a 5 point list of what to do…

1) Make Sure You Are Safe!!!

Though the shooting may have stopped at that moment in time, that doesn’t mean that additional threats aren’t still there. Many times attackers work in groups, some of which you may or may not know were around in the first place. Friends or relatives of the person you shot may be there at the scene, and they aren’t going to be happy with what has transpired no matter how in the wrong their loved one may have been. Be vigilant in assessing the situation immediately after the shooting. Try your very best to stay on the scene, but if you need to flee in order to be safe then DO SO!!! This can lead to a sticky situation legally in some cases. When it comes to the law you always want to be right, but you don’t want to be dead right!

If you absolutely positively have to secure or move the attacker’s weapon then do so, but exercise extreme caution! Avoid coming in close proximity to the attacker. If you can, use your feet to move the weapon rather than placing your hand (and thus, your fingerprints) on it.

Once you are 100% certain that you are safe, HOLSTER YOUR WEAPON!!! There is a good chance that other people have already called 911 and the police are on the way. You DO NOT want them to show up while you still have a firearm in your hand. Remember, they are responding to a “person with a gun” or a “shots fired” call. They don’t know who the good guys and bad guys are when they show up.

2) Call 911

Even if you know that someone else has called 911, you still want to make the call yourself. This aids in you being thought of as the complainant (victim) from the beginning. Inform them that you were required to use a firearm to defend yourself, whether or not someone is hurt and needs medical attention, and give a detailed description of yourself so that the police know what you look like when they arrive.

Again, when the police arrive on the scene you SHOULD NOT have a firearm in your hand! Place your hands in the air and follow any and all instructions that are required in order to detain you (which they will definitely do).

3) Mentally Collect Evidence

Once you are safe and the police have been called, start making mental notes of the evidence around you. Where is the attacker’s weapon (if they had one)? Are there witnesses around who can inform the police of exactly what happened? Evidence that works in your favor can quite literally walk away!!!

Don’t assume that your situation will be a clear cut case of self-defense! There are MANY people serving time in jail after being violently attacked simply because they weren’t able to “prove” that they justifiably used a weapon to defend themselves.

4) SHUT UP & Call Your Attorney!!!

Once the police have arrived and detained you, you will be questioned about the shooting. There is a good chance you will also be taken to the police station and you may even be read your rights. No matter what happens, be polite!!! Inform the officer that you were required to use your firearm in self-defense and that you want to fully cooperate with their investigation, but that you need to consult legal representation before giving a full statement. At that point, stop talking! I CAN NOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH!!! Seemingly benign statements can be the fuel that a prosecutor needs to turn what otherwise would have been a self-defense case into a criminal charge against you.

Call an attorney as soon as they allow you to. Don’t wait until you are in the moment to try and find representation! This is something that you should have already secured. Be sure to select someone who specializes in self-defense cases. Also, know what their retainer fee is before hand as they won’t represent you until that retainer has been paid.

Self-defense insurance is an excellent idea, as you will be provided with an attorney who specializes in self-defense shootings (on call 24 hours a day depending on the insurance), includes funds for bail, covers judgements for civil suits, and is relatively inexpensive. There are a handful of companies that provide self-defense insurance. I’ve reviewed all of them (a post of the results is in the works) and can only recommend two companies…US Concealed Carry Association and US Law Shield.

Handguns are poor people killers (regardless of what you hear on the news). On average, only 1 out of every 7 people die from a single handgun shot. Take Chicago for example…last year there were 762 murders here. However, 4,331 people were shot! As disproportionate as that ratio is, many of those murders were not committed with a firearm so the ratio is even smaller.

More importantly, from a self-defense aspect, handguns are poor people STOPPERS. It really doesn’t matter if a person dies as a result of you defending yourself. A mortally wounded person can still kill you before they themselves die!!! No, you want to stop the individual from attacking you, not kill!

All that said, some handgun calibers have proven themselves to be better or worse choices than others. I was asked what my stance is on the .380 ACP, and what .380 round to recommend to those who choose to carry it. I’ll start by answering the first question right away…

I don’t recommend .380 ACP as a defensive round! There are a number of reasons why, but below are the primary ones:

  1. It has less mass than a 9mm but moves at slower velocities like a .45 ACP. This equates to much lower levels of energy available to it. Energy allows the bullet to do two things…penetrate and expand. Penetration is the more important of the two, but both are desirable. The .380 is right on the cusp of being able to both expand greatly in order to dump all of it’s energy into an attacker AND get the penetration required to be effective.
  2. It’s marginally OK in the summer, but a poor choice in the winter. People wear light clothing in the summer time. There is less chance of the bullet having to go through multiple layers of clothing, which in turn, means less chance of the hollow point becoming clogged to the point where it doesn’t expand (not to mention loose energy passing through the clothes). All this equates the the .380 ACP being able to reach it’s maximum potential more often…which, due to #1 above, is just marginally OK. Winter time is a different story. Add a coat, sweater, and additional shirt, and now the bullet has a greater chance of dropping below that threshold of having the required energy for expansion & penetration.
  3. You can’t hide a firearm chambered in .380 ACP anywhere that you can’t hide a similarly sized 9mm. The 9mm is a significantly greater performer (as far as expansion and penetration) because it has significantly more energy to play around with.
  4. The recoil of the .380 ACP is not that much less than a 9mm, especially out of a small pistol. The recoil of a 9mm, even in small pistols, is still well within the realm of manageable for the average shooter.
  5. .380 ACP is more expensive to shoot than 9mm. That translates to less time live fire training!!!

I can’t imagine too many experienced shooters, even those that love the .380 ACP, denying that any of the above is true. That being the case, why purposely select a round that barely meets the cusp (and costs more to train with)? Instead, step up to a caliber that gives you the maximum chance of stopping an attacker with the fewest number of shots to do so. 9mm, .40 S&W, .357 Magnum, .45 ACP, ect. all have more than enough energy to perform under any of the mentioned conditions and are all available options. Do you want the cheaper, less durable seat belts in your car? How about a smoke detector that’s only sensitive enough to only give you a 1 minute advanced warning rather than 5 minutes??? When it comes to things that you may need to save your live, make the smartest decision possible.

…but it’s better than nothing, right?

Yes, it’s better than nothing. So is a BB gun. That doesn’t mean a BB gun is a good choice! Again, we are talking about something that you may use to save your life one day. Choose wisely!

What if I want to carry it anyway?

Now, for those who are going to carry it anyway, and there are plenty of you, below are the top three choices I’d go with. There were selected purely based on my own opinion. Let me know in the comments if you have other rounds you’d recommend…

  1. Lehigh Defense 65gr Xtreme Defense – You will get penetration, don’t have to worry about having a hollow point clog (there isn’t one), and has the possibility to dump enough energy and damage tissue at a rate similar to a traditional hollow point.
  1. Sig Sauer 90gr V-Crown JHP – This is one of the few .380 ACP hollow point rounds that I’ve seen give consistent expansion and OK penetration in gel tests. Those tests are more for comparison with other bullets than to demonstrate actual results though.
  1. Plain Ball Rounds – You will get zero expansion but you’ll have plenty of penetration. The bad part is that there is a high likelihood that it will over penetrate and pass through the attacker with more than enough energy to still be lethal.