RVer Safety: When it comes to owning a gun, it’s complicated


By Mike Sherman
As previously stated, we are all the product of our environment and life experiences. It has influenced our opinion of weapons, self-defense, crime trends and general attitudes on the subject of our personal safety and security. There have been some very good questions put forth and a lot of personal opinions, legal and otherwise. The broad-based dialog is healthy and informative. The conversation has also reflected well on the RV Travel Newsletter readership. How refreshing to read all the civility involved in the postings on this controversial subject.

Several folks wanted to talk about the type of weapon to have and the type of ammunition. Shotguns, handguns, automatic, single shot … there are a lot of options. Then you have the option of “none” … Who needs a gun? A large variety of options – a large variety of opinions. The information can be educational, as it should be. No one knows it all, and no one has the correct answer for everyone, but most have an opinion.

After studying others’ opinions and examining one’s own, we reach conclusions for ourselves. Which brings me back to my original posting: You are the captain of your ship. You are responsible for making the final decision.

Once you figure out what you want and you reach a comfort level with your decision, you should set out on the task of determining what is legal for your chosen direction. If your choices conform to the law (depending on what state you live in and/or will travel through) then you are moving closer to accepting your choice. Therein lies the complicatedness of making a final decision. It’s not a simple task.

The Choice of Weapon – Semi-automatics are prone to performance problems to a greater or lesser degree (depending on the make/model). Wheel guns are extremely dependable. Mace is nonlethal. A baseball bat, with some luck, can be lethal. The goal is to protect yourself … to stop an assault. Note I said stop … not kill. That will be discussed at a later date. Long rifles can’t be concealed easily on your person. Got both? Then when you drive into town, packing your pistol, you worry about someone breaking into your rig and stealing your rifle perhaps.

The Choice of Ammunition – Light buckshot, “snake loads,” .357/.45 hollow point, BB’s … you have options. Many commenters expressed concerns about a powerful bullet passing through the exterior of one’s RV. There is little doubt a .45 could easily pass through 4-5 rigs sitting next to you. You can have a “light” load for just about any weapon … rifle, shotgun, pistol. They would put a hurt on a bad guy but keep extensive damage (and travel distance) to a minimum.

Bottom Line – Only you can make the final decision of what works best for your comfort level. Retired cops/military types are more familiar with weapons. There are avid hunters out there that know far more than I. Then there are those who are not sure – they feel like they want something but they are having trouble figuring out what is the best route to go. It’s best to confide in and consult with someone you trust. You can also check with a local certified rangemaster for advice. They can be found through your local hunting clubs, gun store outlets and local law enforcement offices.

I suppose if I were not a gun owner and had no experience with guns, I would consider a wheel gun (.38 cal six shooter) with “snake load” ammo (think mini-shotgun shell with pellets) along with a box of regular ammo. I would get some training, and practice every month or two so I am familiar with its operation. I would never store it within arm’s reach of my pillow. One should be required to get out of bed to get to it – that way you are fully awake and not responding through a mental fog. If someone were beating on my door, I would never open it – I would use a powerful flashlight through a window and ask questions. Hopefully other experienced gun owners out there can offer up their suggestions. The more input, the better.

In the end, needing a gun to fend off an attack while camping is extremely rare but it does happen. We all want to feel comfortable, confident and secure with our rigs, and that has been the case for the majority of us who have been fortunate to camp in some very beautiful areas of rural America. Relax, enjoy and don’t worry too much about it – the odds are definitely in your favor that you’ll never experience a problem.

Note: We know what we discuss in this column may be controversial. While we invite your polite, constructive comments, inflammatory remarks will be immediately deleted.

Mike Sherman is a retired street cop and investigator with 30+ years of RV experience as a traveler, camp host and all-around advocate for the joys of living on the road. His articles are for general discussion purposes only – you should always consult your local authorities or legal counsel for specific answers if necessary. Write him at MikeShermanPI@gmail.com if you have questions or comments.


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Phil Smith

You know, In reading your article (which I appreciate,Mike), I realized I always carried one item that can also be used for non-lethal protection – bear spray! With its long range standoff capability, it is an extra level of comfort to know it is available.

Keep up the conversation Mike!


If you are really interested on informing everyone on guns and ammo and not trying to promote your own knowledge, it would be extremely helpful if you would refrain from using ‘gun club’ terminology such as you did with this installment when you used the term “Wheel guns” as your term for a revolver.
Acronyms are also a pet peeve of mine as both styles tend to only confuse the uninitiated and intimidate them to not ask for an explanation and maybe suffer some sort of mockery when they get it.

John Whitney

After reading your first article I did what I had been putting off-I got the book “gun laws of the 50 states”. After reading it, I applied for a concealed weapons license. I mostly RV in the southeast, and have no intent on carrying a weapon on my person. However after reading the various laws I realized that the permit was almost required when carrying a loaded weapon anywhere in my coach. In addition we had been planning a trip to New York State last year. Had we made that trip and been stopped in New York or New Jersey, we would have had serious legal problems. Now when we make that trip, sadly it will be w/o that protection.
I spent years in the Marine Corps and have extensive weapons training. But now I’m a senior and physically defending my wife and myself is pretty much out of question.
Thanks for your insights.


Most importantly is to hit what you intend to stop. I, therefore, could not recommend any shotshell in an RV due to the spread of pellets. Your thoughts, otherwise, are constructive. I would add that anyone not familiar & comfortable with any firearm should not keep one in an RV for any reason. My suggestion is to arm yourself with a non-lethal defense, i.e. pepper spray, mace or taser.

William Henry Johnson

I don’t worry about the gun laws in the various states that I travel thru and in because if I ever need to use my handgun it will be for self defense I will and be alive to deal with the issues later. But at least I will be alive.


FIrst Mike, thanks for tackling this topic. I’ve wanted RVT to address it for a while, and you’re doing a great job. It’s not easy to break down this topic into article-size bites when it should be a full-day class minimum when you get into CCW discussions.

I personally disagree with the wheelgun (revolver) recommendation. I have several for students to try, and yes, they are more reliable for novices. Semiautos have potential feed and ejection complications (“stovepiping”, “double-stuffing”, etc) and are slightly harder to handle a misfire. Revolvers are much harder to conceal, and much harder to reload if you need more than 6 shots. My sidearm comes from the factory (illegal here in NY) with a 15-shot capacity (now 8), and allows a sub-1-second reload. So, it’s easy to see the advantage follows familiarity with handling your sidearm — if you’re willing to get training, semi-auto seems to “win” in my mind. And you had BETTER get trained, “kiddos” because bringing potentially lethal force is not something to only give trivial thought to. Carrying that force requires monthly practice to make it instinctive and effective — as mentioned elsewhere, you’re not likely to be your best under pressure, so your non-ideal still has to be darn good.

My ammo caliber advice follows the same track — I advise carrying the largest caliber you’re willing to practice with regularly. A 380 or below is going to require using most/all of the magazine to stop a bipedal threat and won’t stop a bear or similar. Emptying your magazine is bad on MANY levels, from practical defense to legal appearances. A 45ACP may be too large for some to practice with regularly, although I’ve seen TINY women with palm-cannons. This leads to 9mm/40SW being the most popular “reasonably effective” round.

Pistol vs. Longarm — much depends on what you’re protecting. If you’re only defending yourself when you’re in the RV, a longarm is easier to cross state lines with. However in the tight confines of an RV, maybe not a great maneuvering choice. But, it’s a smaller space to defend, so… back and forth! I don’t ONLY defend myself in the RV, so already armed in public, there’s less reason to carry a longarm as well. *shrug*.

A strobe can be a good distraction, but as a former LEO, I’m sure you realize it’s also an aimpoint for your attacker. The best usage is a very strange “arms length” aiming most wouldn’t do, and I myself wouldn’t remotely count on a strobe as anything more than a distraction while I covered the threat with a muzzle.

Finally, you brushed on something I repeat 20 times during a day of training — “Your intent isn’t to kill or even harm the threat, but to stop it with certainty.” I lean heavily on the psychology of defense when teaching because the mechanics are largely a matter of practice. Self-defense is based on “if forced into a me-or-the-bear, that bear isn’t going to win.” If harm is directed at us, we’re not just allowing it. So, you use the minimum necessary force, but that might still mean a high degree of force. One thing few trainers outside law enforcement seem to mention is that “potentially lethal force” doesn’t mean guaranteed-lethal. In reality, deterence operates far more often than the hammer because predators always prefer easier prey. Even “worst case,” surprisingly few gunshots will be lethal — if you give the threat a bindi those odds go up substantially, but most attackers stand trial. Resistance pretty universally lessens injuries to the defender, so it’s always the right choice.

With more realistic expectations, defense becomes “Really don’t wanna, but will if must.”


I worked five years in law enforcement and 22 years in the Army. Professionally, I trained and coached – there is a difference – men and women who had to be armed – they had no choice. Recreationally, I’ve competed and won – and lost – with pistol, rifle, and shotgun at ranges from a few yards to a thousand yards. I’ve been shot at – and they missed.

There are three major considerations to having a firearm: the right firearm for the job, the skill to use it, and the willingness to kill. Lacking any one of these, if the time comes, you’re dead.

A handgun of any sort is my last choice for self defence. They are ineffective in most situations, require significant skill through regular practice to be reliable, and come with a paperwork burden.

My first choice would be a 12-gauge, over/under, standard recreational shotgun. Fewer legal issues. Effective. Reliable. Easy to use. One can hunt, shoot trap & skeet – good fun, good practice – and defend. That satisfies two out of three of the major considerations.

You likely won’t find out if you have the willingness to kill until the time comes.

If you won’t use it don’t have it. If you can’t use it don’t have it. If it won’t do the job don’t have it.

Anthony Joel Vinson

We use situational awareness and we train for “what to do” in our RV since it’s a very tight space. We check gun laws and bring our armaments according. We vote with our dollars and if your area/city isn’t safe, or we’re not “allowed” to protect ourselves, we stay away. We also set different levels of noise traps around the outside or our RV that only humans can “trip” and if someone has made a huge noise, 9x’s outta 10 they’re outta there. Thankfully, we’ve never encountered a situation, but we are ever vigilant nonetheless.


Mike I think we all wish there were no criminals in the world but that is not so. You have to be ready at any given time to protect yourself and family. I pray that I never have to make that choice of using my weapon but will not hesitate if needed. As the saying goes, (I’d rather be judged by twelve then carried by six.) Keep up the great articles. And thank you for your service to your fellow man.

Craig Seitz

Im glad this topic is being discussed. I am a 25 year veteran police officer and appreciate all points of views. I personally dont leave my home without my off duty gun. There have been so many instances in our country in which one person, properly trained and well practiced, could have ended mass shootings with so many less deaths or injuries. The words of my firearms instructor in the academy still ring in my ears, “No one will ever put me or my family on their knees and execute us!” He wasnt a gun nut and neither am I, but I don’t ever want to be in a situation where i feel helpless because I am unarmed.

James Wiles

I am glad that this subject has finally made it into a national forum as I have been trying to educate people on this for awhile. I am a Certified Texas Conceal Instructor who concentrates on Winter Texans and the disabled. Both are very vulnerable to attacks and violence that I try to help them. I strongly teach situational awareness and avoidance if possible. It is hard at times convincing some of the old veterans that this is the best way to go but I try. A Texas Highway Patrol officer who I discuss options with strongly pushes the advice to remember to breath — a very good suggestion if you think about it. Situational Awareness may be one topic you would like to explore. Keep up the informative articles.


One option available that works very well if a person does not want to have a gun with them is a good handheld strobe light. The good ones are extremely bright and very dis-orientating when aimed at the other person. I prefer the kind that does not require multiple clicks of the on-off button that cycles through regular flashlight modes and then finally to strobe. My preference is a light that has a button on the endcap that when pushed “Immediately” activates the strobe. Stay away from the cheaper models that you would typically find in discount stores, etc. The nice thing about a strobe is that it gives you a lot of time to run or defend yourself and it is not illegal to shine a flashlight at someone. I always have one when I travel or am out at night; some of the pocket sized lights are very powerful.