We’ve all seen it said countless times: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Taken at its face value it seems true, but there’s more to this than a blanket statement.
Like anything in the world, there’s some nuance to unpack here. Just having a gun doesn’t automatically mean you level up to superhero status.
So, to that end, let’s take a look at some statistics regarding the good guy/bad guy phenomenon.
And, most importantly, we’ll give you some tips on how to be a good guy with a gun — the right way.
Let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
Good Guy with a Gun: Myth or Reality?
When it comes to catching bad guys, law enforcement is typically who we turn to. But, surprisingly, only a tiny fraction of police work actually involves stopping crimes in the process.
According to a study by Eastern Kentucky University’s Police Studies Online, officers spend only about 17% of their patrol time handling crime-related situations.
And a study by Harvard University investigated policing habits of officers in Syracuse, New York, and concluded that only a small percentage of law enforcement’s daily activities involve actual crime-fighting.
Law enforcement officers are an important part of our lives and structure but their existence does not revolve around stopping crimes in progress.
Police cannot be everywhere at all times or travel at the speed of light, so the job is often more about cleaning up the aftermath of crime…not preventing it.
But what about civilian gun use?
Well, things are about to get a little muddy.
Statistics do heavily support the idea that good guys stop more crime than law enforcement does. BUT there are enough variables to make it difficult to quantify.
In a 1995 study, researchers found guns were used for self-defense purposes at a rate of 2.1 to 2.5 million times annually.
While these numbers seem impressive, it’s worth noting this particular study not link stats to hospital records, so though this study is oft-quoted, it’s findings have been questioned by others in the scientific community.
In fact, a Harvard researcher a few years later concluded the 1995 study was an “overestimate.”
His findings suggested law-abiding gun owners only used their guns for self-defense on average 55,000 to 80,000 times a year.
Regardless of the disparity, the stats do suggest that a certain number of gun owners per year use their firearms in a self-defense capacity against so-called “bad guys.”
Tips for Being a Good Guy
Just possessing a legally-owned firearm does not automatically make you a true good guy with a gun.
Your intentions may be on point.
But the results will be less than stellar without proper training or understanding of self-defense and the related laws.
Being a good guy with a gun is about more than just having a gun.
“Never assume that simply having a gun makes you a marksman. You are no more armed because you are wearing a pistol than you are a musician because you own a guitar,” Gunsite founder Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper famously said.
1. Mentally Prepare
In reality, self-defense starts in your brain, not your holster. A gun is not a lucky talisman that wards off evil.
The mental side of self-defense is a vital component — one that is often overlooked.
Decide if you are capable of defending your life with a gun before you begin carrying. Be realistic about it.
There’s no shame in admitting you aren’t ready to pull that trigger.
Most importantly, don’t glamorize or glorify what happens in a self-defense shooting. It won’t be pretty and you may be arrested.
This is not Hollywood.
On that note, if you’re going to carry, invest in a good carry assistance program through an organization like USCCA or US Law Shield.
2. Train, Train, Train
Training is another important aspect of being a “good guy with a gun.”
Proper training, like well-taught defensive shooting courses, teach participants how to properly use their firearm in a self-defense situation. These courses will often even show students how to practice effectively.
While a concealed carry course will yield a CCW permit, it doesn’t arm you with the knowledge you need in a gunfight.
And burning through ammo at the range with buddies is tons of fun — but it’s not the same as regular dry fire practice.
Defensive firearms shooting is a perishable skill, so you must keep up with it.
3. Use Good Gear
Your gear matters as well.
We’re not here to brand-shame anyone. That said, certain styles of holsters and belts aren’t the best for responsible carry.
Floppy nylon holsters may feel comfortable, but they aren’t the safest when it comes to reholstering your firearm.
Opt for a high-quality leather or Kydex holster with sufficient retention that also provides good concealment.
Your holster also won’t last forever and you won’t find the right one immediately. You might end up with a discard box full of them before you land on the right one.
Pair your holster with a sturdy gun belt, too. Avoid flimsy belts as they struggle to support the weight of your firearm. We have some recommendations for good gun belts here.
Finally, take your time choosing ammunition. Do your research.
Check out studies on how defense loads penetrate, expand, and retain weight. And be sure those studies refer to the specific caliber you need.
Also, practice with your defense loads.
It costs more but it’s extremely important to familiarize yourself with how ammunition cycles in your firearm, how your gun recoils, and shot placement.
Being an effective good guy is more than just owning or carrying a gun. It takes training, dry fire and live-fire practice, good gear, and the right mindset to become a responsible good guy.
Invest in training, be patient, and put the work in.
What training have you done and what do you recommend? Tell us all about your gun guy experiences in the comments! For those looking to get started, check out the Best Handgun for Beginners & Home Defense.