Guns for self-defense. This is one of the major reasons why some people own and carry guns. I've heard the saying, "I'd rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it." When you're picking a gun for self-defense, you have to ask yourself a couple of questions. Where am I going to keep the gun? Is it something I'm going to pack with me on a daily basis? If so, do I want a semi-auto or a revolver? What caliber do I want? Or is it something that's just going to stay in the house? If you are going to keep it in the house, how are you going to store it? Locked up, by the bed, in a safe? Loaded or unloaded? Shotgun, pistol or rifle? As you can see, it's not as simple as saying, "I want a gun for self-defense." So let's delve into this a little.
First, we'll start with a self-defense weapon for carrying. Before you start packing a weapon, know the laws of your state. Some states are very restrictive with the owning of firearms, while others basically want you to have a fully stocked arsenal at your fingertips. There are plenty of resources out there online, just look up the law and know before you tote. When you decide you want to pack a weapon on your person for self-defense, you will more than likely need to obtain a conceal carry permit. Not all states allow it, and as mentioned before, some states will make it such a pain in the ass that most people will just forego the trouble. Certain states allow what's called an open carry, which means the weapon must be exposed. This presents its own freedoms and troubles. While open carry is legal in some places, it can cause a disturbance. Remember, if you are in a place of business and they ask you to leave because you are carrying a weapon, you have to leave. It's the law.
After you decide how you want to carry, it's time to decide what you want to carry. Revolver, or semi-auto. Revolvers are great because they are uber-reliable. They have less moving parts than a semi-auto, so there is less of a chance that they will jam. The drawback of this choice, is that they generally only hold five or six rounds where a semi-auto, depending on the caliber, may hold as many as 19. Speaking of caliber, I would suggest if you want to carry a weapon, you go to a gun range and test out different types to see what works best for you. You might want to carry a hand-sized cannon that shoots a .50 caliber bullet, only to find that it's too unwieldy to shoot, or even too heavy to comfortably carry for extended periods of time.
Once you decide on your weapon and caliber of choice, practice with it. Practice, practice, practice. If you can't shoot the weapon accurately, and operate all of its parts with confidence, then you have no business taking that gun into public. This practice doesn't just mean shooting practice, you need to train at drawing the weapon from its carry position. All the shooting in the world won't mean diddly if you can't draw it and use it. For this type of training, I suggest you purchase what's called a snap cap dummy round in the same caliber as the weapon. The dummy is generally made of plastic, and has a soft section where the primer would be. That way you can train with trigger pull and not wear out the internal parts of the gun. Put the snap cap in the gun, holster it, and practice drawing and firing in this manner. Get to where the action is smooth and natural.
Second, let's talk about guns for the home. Your choice of weapons just expanded. Now we can put rifles and shotguns into the mix if we want. Shotguns are great, they are the point-and-click weapon. With the right shell and load set-up, in the tighter confines of a house, it's hard to miss what you're shooting at. Plus, if you have a pump-action shotgun, the sound alone can be a deterrent to any would-be attacker. Rifles are neat because they can pack a lot of punch. However, that same punch can put a whole through your house and into your neighbor's house if you aren't careful. Keep these things in mind when choosing what kind of bullets to shoot for a home defense weapon. Drywall isn't good at stopping bullets. It would be a sad day if you shot at an attacker, missed, and ended up killing or wounding a loved one in the next room (always know what's behind your target before pulling the trigger).
The next thing you want to consider, is how you are going to store that weapon in the house. If you have children, it's a no-brainer. Lock it up. There are so many options these days to store your weapons securely that there is no excuse for this. Even if you don't have children, it's a good idea to lock a weapon up. I read an article that stated keeping a loaded weapon within easy reach of the bed was a bad idea. If you get woken up and are still sleepy or groggy, perhaps it isn't the best thing to go grabbing for a gun. If it's locked up or away from the bed, that gives your body the chance to wake up a little, giving you better judgment before using the weapon. If you do leave it out, unsecured, remember to put it away if you have a party, or people over. And please, for the love of all that's grand, teach your children about gun safety.
Now, how does all this translate into writing? All the questions and scenarios above, are something your character is going to have to decide. Also, when I'm carrying a gun, it's always on my mind. I'm self-conscious as to whether or not the gun is showing, or printing (able to see the shape through clothing). I can feel the weight at all times. My situational awareness increases. When I carry, I know that I am mentally prepared to use the weapon if need be. That's another aspect your character is going to have to deal with. I was taught that I never pull that weapon out unless it's time to use it. It's not meant to threaten or bully, but it's meant to protect my loved ones and me from someone who's intent on hurting or killing us (which means you're probably hurting or killing them, are you prepared?). Is your character ready for that? Are they comfortable around guns? Have they ever shot the gun? All these things will weigh down on your character's thoughts.