Bears, Handguns and Practice

Confidence. What's the value? How do you get it?

Confidence comes from competence. Competence comes from training and practice. That was certainly the case for my two friends who found themselves in the middle of a group of bears -- two sows and three youngsters. Not a good situation.

When I was in Idaho two weeks ago, our neighbors asked if we could go shooting. Sure! This couple hike in the hills, and both of them carry guns. At the range, we worked to find a way for Andrea to carry her S&W M&P Shield while wearing a backpack. This particular pack has small pockets on the sides of the waist strap, and by working with it a bit, we could get the Shield into the pocket on the left side. She shoots right handed. We worked out a system for her to grab the cord on the zipper with her left hand, pull it back (opening the pocket), and get a grip on the pistol with her right hand while keeping her left hand high and away -- not allowing it to get in front of the muzzle. It's a bit of a cross draw, which is not my favorite, but it works. Every method of carrying a handgun is a compromise.

That was two weeks ago. Last week Mike and Andrea went on a hike on the mountain behind our cabin. Near the top, in a meadow, they saw a bear. Then another bear. Then it was five bears. Mommas and babies. Not optimal, to be sure. Now, they love seeing wildlife, but they are also realistic. There was no good way around the bears, so they just waited. Eventually, they had to go down the trail. They did that with handguns in their hands. That's the fastest draw, of course. ;) They made a lot of noise going down the trail, and did not have a bear encounter.

"It was really helpful to have just been shooting," said Andrea. "It gave me confidence in what to do, and I knew I could shoot well, if needed."

No, we're not going to have the "Is the 9mm enough for bears?" debate. It's a whole lot better than nothing, and (check YouTube) it can be enough.

Don't confuse fake confidence for competence. Be realistic about how long it's been since you received any instruction as well as how long since you have been to the range. Get yourself to someone who can give you the INTOT moments. "I Never Thought Of That." It's a great way to recalibrate your thinking.

As with all safety practices, it's not important ... until it is. ~ Tom

Tom Gresham
Author, outdoorsman, gun rights activist, and firearms enthusiast for more than five decades, Tom Gresham hosts Tom Gresham's Gun Talk, the first nationally-syndicated radio show about guns and the shooting sports, and is also the producer and co-host of the Guns & Gear, GunVenture and First Person Defender television series.

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