In the June column we talked about getting your rifle ready for hunting season. While I admit to spending more time with rifles nowadays, handguns have always been a part of my day-to-day routine. During my career it was as much a part of the uniform as pants and shirt, and while off-duty I was still either carrying one or had quick access to it. 

Like many other people today, I conceal carry at times and always have a firearm handy in the vehicle and around the house. Old habits are hard to break, especially when they are regularly reinforced by things we see on the news. 

While a handgun is not necessarily the best choice of weapons in a self-defense situation, it is the most practical for carry, concealment and vehicle storage. During this installment we will take a look at a few things you need to know in order to safely and properly store, use and care for your handgun of choice. 

Speaking of choice, it is a matter of personal preference and no one revolver, pistol or caliber is better or worse than another. In making a selection, choose a good quality handgun that functions reliably and fits your needs. I will say that with the rise in numbers of people obtaining conceal carry permits, a lot more top quality compact and sub-compact models are on the market. 

Safety must be the number one priority with all firearms and certainly so in households where children are present. Ideally in family homes firearms and ammunition should be stored separately under lock and key. That’s not really practical with a personal protection handgun, but one of the small portable locking handgun storage boxes is an option. I also think it is better for children to be unaware of the presence of a handgun until they are old enough to understand and obey rules for safe gun handling. So keep handguns out of sight and don’t discuss them in the presence of kids. 

Personal protection handguns are commonly transported and stored in vehicles. Make sure they are not visible from the outside and always lock an unattended vehicle. Glove compartments and the storage box between the driver and passenger seats are good hiding spots with reasonably quick access. My personal favorite is in a holster mounted under the steering wheel; it’s out of sight and close at hand. Don’t store a handgun under the seat. It will slide around when the vehicle is in motion and becomes hard to reach. Moisture, dirt and dust accumulate under car seats and I have seen more than one nice handgun turned into a rusted mess because of it. 

Spend as much time selecting the holster as you do choosing the handgun. The holster is important for three reasons. First, it must properly fit the handgun and hold it secure while at the same time allowing a quick, smooth draw. Next, it must be compatible with the user’s preference on how it will be worn. High-rise front-tilts holding the gun high on the waist or pancake types worn in the small of the back are two popular conceal carry configurations. Finally, the holster should protect the gun from marring and excessive wear. Molded polymer or plastic models are good choices. 

Practice with a handgun cannot be over stressed. A good marksman can shoot a very well placed, tight group on the target and make it look easy. IT IS NOT! Proficiency with a handgun takes training and practice. Don’t be shy about asking for help in learning to use a handgun. Get some training at your local shooting range and make sure practice includes reloading during a course of fire. The only tips I will offer here are the three essentials: 1. Good grip. Hold the gun in a two-handed grip properly and the same way every time. 2. Trigger pull. Straight and smooth pressure until the trigger breaks. 3. Front sight. Focus on the front sight. It should be clear, sharp and centered in the rear sight. The target should be a blur beyond the front sight. If you can get those things right, you are half way there. A good instructor can help with the finer points.

Practice is a big part of caring for the weapon as well. The handgun should be fired on a regular basis, followed by a good cleaning done in accordance with maintenance instructions. Reload with fresh ammunition. 

I encourage anyone who owns a handgun for personal protection to sign up for a concealed carry class. Topics include the differences between revolvers and pistols and their advantages and disadvantages, safe gun handling, when and where concealed firearms may be carried and what to expect should we ever have to use a gun to defend ourselves or someone else. 

Be vigilant. Be safe.