In 2019, my colleague Chris Bird published this 7th edition of his classic, comprehensive but thoroughly readable discussion of (as the subtitle says) “How to choose, carry, and shoot a gun in self defense.” I trust there will be more editions to come, even while being unable to imagine anything more up-to-date than this current compendium.
Chris Bird has lived an active and wildly varied life beginning in England, immigrating to Canada with an Australian diversion before landing in the U.S., always learning and teaching about firearms. He began shooting even before joining the British Army as a Royal Military Police officer. He distinguished himself then during international postings and ever since as a competitive shooter and in weapons training. He acknowledges being a “romantic”, having worked as a cowboy in British Columbia, and later building and sailing his own boat on a 2 year sojourn from BC to Australia and back.
He’s been a newspaper journalist in Canada and Texas, mostly on the crime/police/investigative beats. Texas is now his home, where he’s led the Texas Concealed Handgun Association and continues to write for periodicals and books ( Surviving a Mass Killer Rampage and two editions of Thank God I Had a Gun). In 2014, he received the Defender of Liberty award from the Second Amendment Foundation.
Just scanning the chapter headings shows how organized Bird is in presenting topics in the best order. He begins with the need to develop situational awareness at all times and then ask “Why carry?” (Yes, it’s fine not to carry, too.) The value of learning how to resolve arguments non-violently comes far before how to use a handgun in self-defense, as well it should. Safety with handguns is emphasized always, of one’s person and others’; magazines, loading and other accessories are reviewed; learning good shooting technique and tactics; and practice, practice, practice. Understanding the burdens that arise during the aftermath of even a “good” shoot helps to grasp the moral and legal burdens of the choice itself to carry.
You won’t find any bias here. Bird discusses calibers, revolvers and semi-auto pistols, holsters, sights, accessories, supplies, training, etc., from a strictly function point of view, including insights from many other experts. His only goal is to factually inform the reader about the many options that exist in this arena so as to enable the best choices for each individual.
Bird is a very conversational writer, and every part of the book feels like a talk with a good friend who has your interests at heart. And that’s actually true, because he is and he does. Even more, the Manual is full of anecdotes and stories that make points without lecturing and make reading it as enjoyable as a good magazine’s pages.
This will become an excellent reference after reading it, as Bird includes a helpful glossary of terms, a pertinent bibliography and, lacking in too many works, a careful index that will pinpoint whatever topic you want to return to. And as mentioned, the chapter titles make it easy to turn directly to subject areas, too. Within chapters, he incorporates helpful lists of resources for accessories, parts and supplies, shooting organizations and training programs.
The book is full of excellent black and white photographs that perfectly depict the people and points being referenced. The images are well exposed and clear. Color photos make books more expensive, and for barely $20 on Amazon, these 566 pages are quite the deal. (Better for the author is to go to his website, PrivateerPublications.com, where it is $29.95 with shipping.)
Notes on the book say “If you carry a gun . . . or plan to, you should read this book.” Not just — if you have even thought about carrying a gun, you should read this book. There’s nothing more important that understanding what you’re getting into when it comes to firearms and their personal advantages and risks.
Bird records the words of Miguel de Cervantes at the beginning of the text: “Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory.” These words should also close the book.
Read The Concealed Handgun Manual, then proceed. You’ll be fully informed and will be able to choose the best path for you. You’ll be well prepared to achieve your half of the victory, if and when it matters.
[Full disclosure: I and other DRGO members are quoted in Bird’s book Surviving a Mass Killer Rampage.]
— DRGO Editor Robert B. Young, MD is a psychiatrist practicing in Pittsford, NY, an associate clinical professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, and a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.