This is Not a Test: When Your Life Depends on Your Defensive Training

When a car follows you into your driveway at 3 a.m., you can be pretty sure it’s not a girl selling Thin Mints and Do-Si-Dos. See how this NRA Women contributor’s years of firearm training prepared her for this heart-pounding real-life scenario.

by posted on November 14, 2022
Mann Car Headlights

My history with guns is a long one, with hunting in my blood since before birth, and serious defensive training starting about 10 years ago at Gunsite Academy. I am also an NRA Certified Instructor and I love shooting guns, but I usually only like talking about the use of them, not the guns themselves. Maybe that’s weird for a gunwriter.  

My confession is that I have been writing about all I have learned about using guns, self-defense and hunting. All the while, I have had this gnawing doubt that everything I have written about was untested. I’ve never had to use a gun to defend myself other than in training simulations. So does this mean that I even know what I’m writing about or that it is truly useful to anyone—or even to myself? 

Logically it makes sense that knowledge and training are very important, and I can talk from experience about those. But since I have never had to prove those skills in a real situation, am I really qualified? Would my knowledge and experience really be helpful to me in a “for reallies” situation?  I always told myself that there would be very few gunwriters or trainers at all if they all had to prove themselves in that way, and that I am qualified and competent without that having experienced a real-life defensive scenario. I also always silently hoped I would never have to gain that kind of qualification.

I am writing this at 4 a.m. on a Saturday morning after an incident that tested my skills “for reallies.” It happened only one hour ago and I still feel the rapid heart rate, prickles under my arms from stress sweating, and shivering from the drop in body temperature after burning off adrenalin. I am too ramped up for sleep, so I will write about it.

I had an exceptional night playing music with my band. We were all so pumped from the show that we stayed late to sing karaoke and tell stories. After 2 a.m. I started home with the difficulty of being four hours past my bedtime, coupled with a dark and rainy road. I got behind a little white car with out-of-state license plates, which seemed to be flirting a lot with the yellow line and changing speed from 20 to 50 mph every quarter mile. I assumed they were impaired in some way, so I kept some distance between us. They pulled into the left turn lane and came to a full stop at a green light. I was relieved to be getting around them and drove on by.

But they didn’t turn, and instead were now following me. I started to worry until they took one of their 20 mph turns and I lost them. I was close to my stop but wouldn’t you know, I had to wait on traffic before I could turn left into my driveway. “Since when is there this much traffic at 3 a.m?” I wondered. As I neared the end of my driveway, the little white car pulled in to my driveway and the headlights caught my rearview mirror.

My mind went instantly to panic. There was a mantra repeating (not sure if it was out loud or just in my head) that said, “Oh sh..! Oh sh..! Oh sh..!” like a stuck record. After just a second, the mantra changed to, “What do I do?” As soon as that question hit my brain, I knew. I retrieved my gun from the holster and asked Siri to call my husband, who was asleep in bed just inside the house. Luckily, he answered quickly and I told him the situation.

As soon as my hand gripped the pistol, I was able to think again. I realized that inside my truck, even though it’s a super-size Nissan Titan, was not the best place to remain for the unfolding situation. As I was exiting the truck with pistol in hand, I was reaching into my coat pocket for my flashlight. I knew my husband was on his way to the door, but I was taking a few steps toward the car while putting the flashlight to use. When the flashlight came on, the car and passengers started a hasty retreat. My mind was working out strategies even in their retreat such as, if they continue to retreat, I will continue to maintain my current posture. If they come forward, I will veer to the left in search of concealment and maybe cover while communicating to my husband (who should be at the door at any minute). If they exit the vehicle, I will move toward the entrance to my home to get distance while ordering them to leave me alone.

While still on high alert, I felt more confident and capable with each decision and preparation that I made. Lucky for them, they did not test my resolve to survive. My husband arrived at the door and from his vantage point, missed the hasty retreat of the 3 a.m. stalker/trespassers. He did not appear to be any less resolved than I. Again, lucky for them. Thanks, hubby, for having my back.

I am forever grateful to the group of women that I train with at Gunsite every year. These ladies and I have grown and bonded through our experiences and I have been thinking on those bonds with great fondness since becoming safe at home again. We are the SIRENS (She Is Ready and Engaged), and after today, I have learned that we have forged ourselves into warriors, not just trainees.

I am also forever grateful to Gunsite Academy. Their training is spot on. There is no doubt in my mind that minus that training, I would have been crying in my car asking for someone to come save me instead of taking action to save myself. I was ready and I was prepared only because I had training from such a fine institution. Without that training, I may have had a gun with me, but I would not have been in the right mindset to effectively defend myself. Gunsite has given me the advantage.

So I confessed that I doubted my qualifications and that I didn’t like talking about guns. Well, that changes today. I have qualifications of 10 years of now tried-and-true defensive training and a lifetime of gun use. No more doubts. Now that my gun was my tool in defense “for reallies,” I am now ready and excited to talk about guns. My defensive choice for this incident (kept in the console of the truck) was a Mossberg Mc1sc. It is a lightweight (22 ozs.), 9 mm, striker-fired, single-stack magazine, sub-compact, beauty. I like this gun because it is small enough for daily carry, is easy to manipulate, is reliable and accurate, and has a very good balance and fit to my hand. I haven’t counted the number of rounds I have fired through it (but I think my checkbook has.) The felt recoil is very manageable and I have fired it hours a day for several days without cleaning and without malfunctions. Because it fits me well and it is so easy to manipulate, I am more accurate and efficient in using it. I keep it in a IWB holster with a pocket for an extra magazine. I also favor the Mc1sc because of its safe and simple breakdown, easily accomplished by removing the striker assembly before moving the slide.

I liked the Mc1sc so much that I made sure to purchase the Mc2c. The Mc2c is more fun to take to the range because it is not much bigger but it offers a double-stack magazine. A small but favorite feature is the texturing spot on the frame that welcomes your trigger finger home like a grandma baking cookies. It is a good fit for me—both for my hand and my wallet. However, now that the Mc1sc and I have been through the thick of it, I think it will be my first choice for a while.

Maybe after some sleep, my tendency to question and a post-mortem of my actions will bring me down from my adrenalin high. For now, I will bask in my confidence, qualification and gratefulness to all those who helped me develop them.

Samantha Mann is an MA, WV Licensed Psychologist, Licensed Professional Counselor WV, Nationally Certified Counselor, NRA Instructor, Outdoor Writer


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