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Firearms, together with edged or bladed tools, explosives and even vehicles, are considered to be instruments of deadly force.  If used with lethal intent, they are capable of causing death or inflicting serious injury.  Items not normally regarded to be weapons, such as a baseball bat or Grandma's petrified fruit cake from last Christmas, will be legally construed to be instruments of deadly force if they are used in a combative manner for the purpose of killing and maiming.  The methods and means by which people are capable of destroying one another are nearly innumerable, and range from primitive rocks and clubs to technologically sophisticated munitions.  If employed improperly for grievous harm, even innocent devices or objects become instruments of deadly force.  

A handgun represents the "great equalizer".  It essentially gives any person, regardless of age, sex, stature or strength, access to deadly force.  A firearm in skilled hands provides the intended victim with the means of resisting aggression.  Its purpose is to conclusively stop an attack through the perceived threat or actual application of deadly force on your part. 

Justifiable use of a firearm as a means of stopping an assault requires that a person be in imminent danger of death or substantial injury.  You do not have to tolerate a criminal threat to your life.  You do not have to submit to a severe beating or bludgeoning.  You do not have to acquiesce to rape.  It is lawful to repel violence with violence in a self defense situation of extreme necessity.  The level of force you use must be commensurate with the force used against you.  

Mere defense of property is not an acceptable reason to shoot someone.

Laws vary among states, so it is important for a person to ascertain  what constitutes legal use of deadly force in their particular jurisdiction.  This should be one of the initial activities conducted by a person who elects to purchase a firearm for personal protection.  As a start, you may wish to peruse Self Defense.

As a quick summation, remember that your attacker must have the intent, the ability and the opportunity to kill or severely injure you in order for you to resist by delivering deadly force.  You must be in jeopardy of serious or life threatening physical harm.  These four highlighted terms have specific legal interpretations.

A court of law will investigate and determine if your use of force was logical (involved sound judgment), was reasonable (sane, lucid, rational) and was necessary (unavoidable).              

Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have upheld the right of  law abiding American citizens to use a handgun for self defense in the home.  Somewhat surprisingly, these decisions were the first in history of the Republic in which the Supreme Court ruled that firearm ownership is indeed an individual right and not a collective militia right.  It was always regarded to be so, but increasingly onerous gun control laws prompted a pro-gun challenge for the high court to address.  Refer to Second Amendment for further information regarding these decisions.

These rulings solidify the Constitutional right to "Keep and Bear Arms" and apply to all states and public federal enclaves within the states, such as national forests, monuments and parks as well as the District of Columbia.  State and local laws still govern firearm possession outside the home.

Some states expand the right of personal defense to include one's family, and other states include strangers in danger as well.  Some states may regard your car, truck, RV, travel trailer or campsite to be a legal extension of your home.

In matters of self defense, be prudent.  Remember, your objective is to cause the assailant to desist in their aggressive behavior.  To do so may require the effective use of superior force on your part.  You are not intent on killing anyone.  Rather, you are determined to keep them from killing you and yours.  Should you be required to shoot an attacker, there is no legal justification for a "coup de grace".  Likewise, a shot into the back of a fleeing attacker will be frowned upon in a court of law.  Don't get into needless trouble.  Do your legal and statutory research.  Many on-line resources are available to help you in this regard.

Access to a firearm does not make you a policeman.  Leave enforcement of the law to law enforcement.  For crimes in progress that have not escalated to violence, it is best to be an observant, reliable witness who calls 911.  Disputes where you don't know the cast of characters should be avoided, because it is often impossible to tell the good guys from the bad guys.  Quite often, there may be no good guys.  It's best to restrict your use of deadly force to the protection of you and yours.

In cases where the bullets are flying and innocent people are being gunned down, most firearm owners would like to think that we would have the fortitude to do our best to terminate the slaughter.

A September 6, 2011 shooting in Carson City, Nevada, is a classic example of sudden, horrific violence.  After wounding a bystander in the parking lot, a disgruntled former employee walked into the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) restaurant with an AK-47 and proceeded to shoot patrons.  Of the 4 killed, 3 were uniformed Nevada National Guardsmen.  The fourth was an elderly woman enjoying breakfast with her husband.  Eleven others were wounded.  The gunman took his own life.  

Upon hearing the first shot in the parking lot, a nearby bar and grill owner in the same shopping center pulled his handgun and took aim on the gunman.  At that point, the gunman entered the IHOP, precluding the shot.  Carnage followed.  The armed bar and grill owner made no further attempt to intervene.  Why not?  Should he have?  What would you do? 


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