frequent question posed by motorcycle
travelers is whether or not they should carry a firearm on
their road trip for personal protection, and if so, what kind. It is a
question that does not have one answer that fits every situation.
There are too many variables.
a long time gun owner, shooter, and advocate of personal protection, I
have always said that every American who can legally own a firearm
should have the right to do so. But I always qualify that statement
with the addendum that just because we should all have that right, it
does not mean that all of us should exercise it. A firearm is a
dangerous weapon, and in the wrong or untrained hands, it can cause
far more harm than it ever can good.
ownership carries with it a terrible responsibility. Only you can
decide if you are willing and able to accept that responsibility.
Before you make the decision to carry a gun, you must understand the
legal ramifications that come with gun ownership and use. Understand
that the possibility of ever having to use a firearm for self-defense
is very remote, and that if you ever do, you will probably find
yourself facing criminal prosecution to prove you were justified in
your actions, as well as civil litigation from whoever you used the
weapon against, or their heirs. You can be completely in the right and
still face a prison sentence and years of legal battles and
mountainous legal fees.
Be aware also that the emotional impact of using deadly force will stay with you the rest of your life. Are you willing to shoulder that responsibility? Only if you are completely aware of the consequences using, or even possessing a firearm can bring, and are completely willing to deal with those consequences, should you carry a gun in your travels.
should own a firearm unless they are well trained in its safe
handling, as well as the circumstances where it can be legally used
for defense. The laws vary from state to state, and you must comply
with the rules where you happen to be at the time. Some states,
some states, firearms laws are fairly easy to understand, and many
states will issue concealed carry permits to residents who meet the
legal criteria, pass a background check and training class. In other
states, the mere possession of any firearm, even unloaded and carried
in a case in your saddlebags, can lead to stiff penalties. Know before
over eight years on the road, and many nights spent camping in out of
the way places, we have never felt threatened enough to feel the
need to put a gun in our hands. That said, we also have a firearm or
two within reach, and that has probably added to our sense of
security. But long before I would ever consider using a gun against a
threat, I would ride away from the situation if at all possible.
a firearm carries serious responsibilities. Make sure that it is
unloaded and locked away out of sight when not carried on your person.
If you stop at a shop for service, do not leave the gun in your
backpack or saddlebags, where it is accessible to mechanics or service
The first rule of firearms ownership is safety, while the second is discretion. Nobody has to know you have a gun, and the fewer who do, the better. Never display your weapon except when you feel a real threat to your life or safety. The rider who brandishes a gun to “scare away” suspicious characters is looking for trouble and will more than likely find it. That person you find suspicious may well be a fellow biker or local citizen out for an evening stroll to work the day’s kinks out of his back, or possibly even a police officer checking on the welfare of people parked in a roadside rest area.
if someone is busily engaged in taking the luggage off your
motorcycle, they are not a threat to your life. Move away, call the
police on your cell phone, yell for help, do whatever you need to get
assistance. Or, if you are outnumbered, fade into the background.
Being a hero looks good on the movie screen, but getting stomped, or
worse, is no fun in real life. Whatever you do, do not get into an
armed confrontation. There is not a material thing in this world worth
a human life. The only time I would consider using deadly force is
when somebody is actually attacking me or directly threatening the
lives of myself or someone else.
type of firearms best suited for motorcycle travel are varied. Unlike
in a house or apartment, where you can keep a shot barreled shotgun
handy, your choices while traveling on a motorcycle are pretty much
limited to handguns. Unfortunately, handguns carry the most severe
penalties if discovered in states with strict gun laws. While you may
be able to convince a policeman or judge that you have a shotgun for
sport hunting in a motorhome, it’s hard to explain that you go after
squirrels or ducks with a short barreled .38 revolver.
type of handgun also varies with the user. What works for me may well
not work for you. For a relatively inexperienced gun owner, my first
recommendation would be a .38 revolver with a two to four inch barrel.
It makes a combination that is relatively easy to carry concealed,
easy to point, and accurate at close range. The four inch model would
be the one I would suggest, since the shorter barrel revolvers lose
some accuracy and bullet velocity.
feel that any handgun less than .38 caliber is too small for defense,
while most heavier caliber handguns are either too hard to control in
inexperienced hands, or have the risk of over penetration that can
harm innocent people nearby. Magnum calibers run too much risk of
over-penetration to be considered in most situations.
handguns are the favorite of the military and most modern police
agencies, and the high capacity models are the current rage in all of
recommend the use of Glaser Safety Slugs in handguns. They are
designed to provide maximum stopping power while not penetrating
bodies or walls to endanger people in neighboring motel rooms or
vehicles. If Glasers are not available, my next recommendation would
be hollow point or round nose bullets. Some people have told me they
carry snake shot in their handguns for defense. Their feeling is that
the small BB sized shot will ward off an intruder while not being
lethal. To me, this is foolish thinking. If things get so bad that I
have to use a firearm, I want it to stop the threat, not make somebody
mad enough to do me even more harm.
Whatever you decide, if you do feel the need for a weapon, do your homework first. Go to a good gun shop and look over the selection. If possible, find a shooting range where you can try and compare several different firearms before you make your purchase. Then enroll not just yourself, but anyone you travel with, in a firearms safety course to become comfortable with your weapon.
And if worst comes
to absolute worst, and you find yourself reaching for your firearm,
first ask yourself if there is any way to avoid its use. If there is,
choose the alternative.