Carrying a concealed pistol in your purse can be either very safe or very dangerous. Please ensure you do so safely.
A woman in St Petersburg FL accidentally shot her friend in the leg with the pistol she apparently forgot she was carrying in her handbag.
She – and her friend – should both consider themselves as very lucky. The consequences could have been much more severe for both of them. The woman might have shot a lawyer’s kid instead! The friend might have been fatally wounded, even in the leg (femoral artery), and so on.
According to this report of the incident, the woman had a small-caliber semi-auto in a ‘gun bag’ that was in the bottom of her apparently large-sized purse. She dropped the purse, causing the gun to go off.
There are a couple of possible reasons for the gun going off after being dropped in the purse.
Maybe it is an old design of semi-auto pistol – almost every modern revolver and semi-auto pistol is designed to not discharge when dropped, but earlier models of both types of pistols were sometimes at risk of self-discharging in such cases.
If any of your pistols have this design oversight, you should stop using them. Murphy’s Law dictates that if you have a gun with a vulnerability, then the situation that creates that vulnerability, no matter how unlikely it may be, is sure to arise at the worst possible moment. Just ask the woman in Florida.
The other possibility is that maybe something else in the woman’s purse knocked against the trigger when the purse hit the floor, causing the gun to go off in a situation that wasn’t really the gun’s fault.
It is essential that your carry pistol be appropriately holstered. The holster should protect the entire trigger area so that nothing can get into the trigger guard and to the trigger.
In the case of purses, the holster should both protect the trigger area so nothing else in the purse can accidentally press on the trigger, but it should also locate the pistol in a specific part of the purse so you always know where it is and how to grasp it when reaching in to your purse to retrieve it.
There’s more to choosing an ideal holster, but protecting the trigger area is probably the most important.
So please make sure your carry method and your carry pistol do not have any of these vulnerabilities. An accidental discharge – some would say a better term is negligent discharge, because invariably you are to blame when the gun unexpectedly fires – can not only bring devastating consequences to you and other people around you, but it also gives more support to the anti-gunners out there, helping them to ‘prove’ that people can’t be trusted with guns in public.
We are all relying on your responsible good sense, for all reasons. Please don’t let us (and you) down.
It requires more well-placed shots than you’d expect to stop a determined attacker.
A problem with firearms and self defense topics is there’s a profusion of ‘experts’ but very little factual basis to many of their opinions.
So, wherever possible, we prefer to ‘let the facts do the talking’ rather than listen to ‘experts’.
Here’s a thought provoking story of a police sergeant in Skokie, IL. One day he unexpectedly found himself going at it, mano a mano, in a shootout with a fleeing felon. He had no backup, the encounter suddenly started, and lasted 56 seconds, all at very close range (most gunfights are of short duration and at almost ‘bad breath’ distance).
By the end of the encounter, 54 shots had been fired – 21 by the felon, 33 by the police sergeant. Probably more would have been fired by both participants, but they were each running low on ammo.
The felon missed with all 21 of his shots. The sergeant did extremely well, getting 17 of his shots on target. The officer was also a master firearms trainer and a sniper with his local SWAT team, so clearly had firearms skills and experience way above the average police officer.
There are several points that this real life story makes. See if you picked up on them.
First, note the massive expenditure of rounds by both parties (and remember they’d have shot more if they had more to shoot). The point here is that it took a highly skilled police sergeant 33 shots to stop his opponent. If he’d not had this much ammo for his duty weapon, the outcome of the encounter could have been tragically different.
So – how much ammunition do you carry with you? Are you prepared for a fire-fight where it takes you 33 or more rounds to fight off a single attacker? What if there are two guys you are defending yourself against? Do you have more than 66 rounds?
Second, note that the bad guy missed with all 21 of his shots, and the police sergeant ‘only’ got half his on target (which is at least twice as good as the average police officer, and we’ll wager, much better than the average civilian).
This points to the need to be able to shoot both accurately and repeatedly at your opponent(s). In other words, a five shot snub nosed wheelgun ain’t gonna be much good.
Third, count the number of times the bad guy was hit. After being hit 14 times, including six hits that are considered fatal, he was still pressing his attack. It was only after the sergeant got three (not one or two, but three!) head shots did the fight seep out of the bad guy; and even so, the bad guy lived for some time afterwards and only eventually died in hospital.
If you think you just need to get one or perhaps two shots on target when a bad guy is attacking you, think again. This bad guy soaked up 14 rounds and continued to fight, and only stopped after taking three more shots to the head.
When you’re defending yourself in an extreme situation like this, you don’t have time to pause and judge the effect of each shot you’ve fired. You need to just keep shooting as rapidly as you can until the other guy ceases to be a threat.
There’s a fourth point that you would be well advised to focus on as well. Nothing seems to provoke more controversy than the subject of what is the ‘best’ caliber to use with a pistol. Did you notice the caliber the police sergeant was using – the caliber so puny that it took 17 hits – nine of them ‘fatal’ hits – to get the bad guy out of the fight?
It was the hallowed sainted .45 ACP! And probably a high quality hollow point type of bullet. Yes – all you people who brashly boast about how your .45 ACP chambered pistol will solve any problem you might encounter with a single shot, need to think about the implications of this very carefully. The facts don’t lie, and the bad guy wasn’t on PCP or any other drug that can sometimes give a person more ‘stamina’ when taking fire. The first 14 hits (six of them theoretically fatal) didn’t stop the bad guy at all.
It is perhaps unsurprising to read, at the end of the story, that the sergeant no longer carries a 13 round Glock 21 in .45 ACP. Instead he carries a 17 round Glock 17, chambered in 9mm. The police sergeant now realizes that the caliber of round really doesn’t make any difference at all – surviving and winning a gun fight is all about getting as many good hits on the other guy as possible, no matter what caliber of round you are using.
Oh yes, and the police sergeant will not be caught out a second time with insufficient ammo. He now carries 145 rounds of 9mm with him.
He actually did two good things by trading his .45 for a 9mm. Not only can he more conveniently carry more ammo, and shoot more between mag changes, but he now has a compatible primary and backup pistol. Both are chambered for 9mm, and both can use the same magazines that he has with him.
It took a brush with death for this police sergeant to improve his game. Save yourself a similar situation, and learn from his experience.
Gun-hating Senator Schumer with a hammer. Where is his outrage over hammer murders? What hammer controls does he propose?
The sheep are predictably bleating in response to the Sandy Hook School shooting. Ban this! Restrict that! Outlaw the other thing!
The gun grabbers are leading this chorus with glee, while the sheep rush to sacrifice not just their liberty and freedom but also yours and mine too; all in the naieve ridiculous hope that the bad guys will voluntarily also sacrifice their liberty and their freedom.
Most of the focus seems to be on restoring the useless ban on ‘assault rifles’ (although Senator Feinstein’s definition of ‘assault rifle’ for her ban provision would also include any pistol capable of having a greater than 10 round magazine, which means just about every modern semi-auto pistol). There’s something about the sight of a modern sporting rifle that creates a knee jerk hate response with gun banners – it seems they wish that only guns that ‘look nice’ with gentle curves and pastel colors should be allowed.
But – let’s stop a minute and smell the roses. Just how many people are killed by rifles each year? The answer might surprise you.
As reported here, the FBI uniform crime statistics show that in a typical year, about 300 – 450 murders were committed with a rifle.
But – in the same typical year, more people are killed with hammers than with rifles. For example, in 2011 (the most recent year for statistics) there were 323 people killed by rifle, and 496 people killed by hammers and clubs.
A typical year shows half as many people again killed by a hammer or club than by a rifle. And – get this – a typical year also sees twice as many people are murdered with nothing other than the killer’s bare hands (see this table for five years of recent data).
And don’t get us started on the slaughter from knives and cutting instruments – four to five times greater than that from rifles.
So, where is the outrage against hammers and clubs? Against knives and cutting instruments? What restrictions are being mooted against a person’s bare hands and feet? Should there be a ban on hammers weighing more than 1 lb? What about people with large hands or strong legs? Should they be required to have surgical alterations?
We urge you to write your representatives and point them to these statistics and ask them to prioritize their actions to reduce violent crime. Why focus solely on rifles when they are a small part of the problem, and already subject to dozens if not hundreds of rules and restrictions? Why should honest people have their access to rifles restricted, when dishonest people will ignore any new laws and restrictions, the same as they have ignored all the previous restrictions that already exist.
By focusing on the tool – be it a rifle, knife, hammer, or even a killer’s bare hands – we are avoiding focusing on the real root cause, which is human nature and the propensity for bad people to do bad things, whatever way they can.
There’s a reason you never hear of terrorist attacks on Israeli schools.
As I write this, the country is going through a histrionic act of soul-searching after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown Connecticut last week. Gun grabbers can barely hide their glee behind a veil of crocodile tears, and the rush to enact more gun control legislation is terrifying in its irrational intensity.
The biggest problem with gun control? There’s too much of it. There’s a reason that people choose to shoot up schools – because they are ‘soft targets’. Where else can a crazed gunman be sure to find a lot of helpless defenseless people, with no danger of anyone having a gun and shooting back?
Rather than take more guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens who use their guns exclusively for good and never for bad, why not change the prohibition on guns in schools and instead mandate that teachers take small arms defensive training and be issued with firearms. We require teachers to spend many years of their lives training in how to teach – why not have them spend another week learning not just how to educate our children, but also how to protect them while they are responsible for the safety of our children.
And let’s now look at an interesting statistic that puts our so-called violent culture into a truer perspective. As we’ve written about before – see here and here, for example – our rates of violent crime are massively decreasing and now are at about half the levels of when they were at their worst. During these last twenty years or so, we’ve not seen any abatement in unemployment, gangs, drug related activity, and so on. But we have seen massive increases in gun ownership and massive improvements in the laws that formerly sought to restrict our ability to own, carry and use firearms in self defense.
The conclusion is inescapable. More guns and a more realistic approach to their use, equates to less violent crime.
Now, for the really telling comparison. Please read this article which compares rates of violent crime in various European countries. Near the bottom, it also shows the rate of violent crime in the US and Canada. Here in the US, we have a rate of about 466 violent crimes per 100,000 of population. Up in gun-hating ‘peaceful’ Canada, the rate is more than twice as high! 935 violent crimes per 100,000 of population in Canada.
Now go to Europe, and while a few countries have lower rates, look at the countries with hugely higher rates, including, worst of all, the ultra-gun grabbing country of Britain, with a rate of 2,034 violent crimes per 100,000 citizens – almost five times the rate in the US.
These are the real numbers that count. Sure, 20 dead children is an emotional event that upsets anyone with children (including me). But that is a rare occurrence, and it happened in a state that is already very restrictive in its gun laws, and in an area where people weren’t allowed guns. How many laws did that gunman already break? Enacting new laws won’t be any more effective at preventing him than all the laws already in place.
These children died because of too much gun control, not because of insufficient.
We need to empower and equip schools and teachers with the tools and skills they need to make schools ‘hard targets’ rather than soft ones. And, most of all, we need to preserve our invaluable Second Amendment rights, so we as citizens can protect ourselves wherever we are (including in school grounds) and so we as citizens can do our bit to keep the violent crime rates falling still lower and lower.
Gun stores and gun shows are all reporting massive increases in business.
Black Friday this year set a new record for gun sales nationwide, which were up 20% on Black Friday last year.
Gun sales can be loosely tracked to the number of calls to the FBI’s NICS background check service. Any time a person buys a firearm from a registered gun dealer, the dealer needs to call the NICS service for an instant background check and obtain an approval code for the transaction. Of course, not all sales are from registered dealers (private party sales are excluded) but probably all new gun sales necessarily go through dealers, and so the NICS call volume gives us a way of understanding the number of new guns being purchased and added to the country’s overall supply of guns in private hands.
One call to NICS can sometimes be for multiple guns being sold at the one time, so from that perspective, sometimes the count of guns sold could actually be higher than the NICS call number. On the other hand, some states also call NICS to validate CCW licenses, and so these other calls to NICS, for purposes other than people buying new/additional guns, tends to mean that the total guns sold are less than the number of NICS calls.
However you adjust the raw NICS numbers, there remains the simple fact that, in general terms, the higher the number of calls to NICS, the greater the number of new guns sales that are being conducted, and this is particularly true on days when state and local authorities are probably closed and not calling NICS for other purposes (ie, Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays, such as probably is the case in most areas for Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving).
In 2012, Black Friday saw 154,873 calls in to NICS, a 20% increase on the 129,166 calls for last year’s Black Friday. Call volumes were so high that the FBI computer system overloaded and crashed on two separate occasions.
Every month for the last year has seen more NICS calls than for the same month the previous year, and every year for the last ten years has seen more NICS calls for the full year than the previous year. Here’s the FBI official statistics on a monthly basis for every month since the NICS system started in November 1998.
Now that President Obama has gone on record, in the Presidential debates, as saying he advocates a re-introduction of an assault weapons ban, and with the renewed threat of a UN weapons treaty abridging our second amendment rights as well, we agree with the flood of people racing to buy firearms that there is good reason to be concerned with the status of our second amendment rights.
As some people have wryly pointed out, Obama has been the ‘best friend’ the gun industry has ever had. His presidency has seen an unparalleled growth in new gun sales, which seems destined to continue into the future.
Oh – don’t forget stocking up on ammo, too. Continued attempts to tax every bullet sold, and/or to outlaw lead in bullets, show that the gun-banners are exploring every possible way of diminishing your rights to affordably own and use firearms.
An innocent stranded motorist is suddenly attacked and beaten up by four assailants.
It is always massively preferable to learn lessons from other people’s misfortunes rather than to be doomed to repeat their experiences ourselves.
One of the great ways to learn about street survival skills is to see real world examples of what can happen to people who aren’t prepared for the events that evolve.
Here’s one such a dismaying scenario, a story full of lessons for us, and happily able to be experienced and enjoyed in the safety and comfort of our living rooms. We suggest you view the video to see what happened, and then read on for our analysis of the salient facts and our recommendations for how to avoid becoming a similar victim, yourself.
So, this young man (24) had his car break down when driving home late one night. He left his car, and decided to walk the short distance the rest of the way home. It was an upmarket residential neighborhood in Tampa, and so he probably felt there to be little threat to his safety in doing so. And as an army soldier, he doubtless felt reasonably well prepared to handle any low level of casual threat.
It seems there were three people ahead of him walking in the same direction. One of them turned and walked back, and asked if the soldier could spare him a dollar. Rather than refusing, the soldier agreed, and reached for his wallet.
While distracted by the task of getting his wallet, the person who had approached him immediately attacked him, joined within a second by one of the other two people.
As you can see on the video, the third person comes back to the soldier as well, but hesitates before joining in, then starts to kick and punch the soldier with every bit as much effort and enjoyment as the other two.
But wait, there’s more. A fourth guy comes running up from behind – but is he there as an avenging angel to save the soldier? No! It seems he has seen the potential opportunity to anonymously join in the beating up of a white guy, and joins in for the sheer devilry of it.
Maybe he was a member of an organized gang of four patrolling for victims, but we kinda doubt that, because it seems from the timing that he was too far away to be actively aggressively circling in from behind.
So that’s what happened. Now for the lessons.
1. ‘Good’ and ‘Safe’ Neighborhoods Are Sometimes Neither
Bad guys commute to work, just the same as we good guys do. While some neighborhoods are clearly unsafe and high risk, there’s no such thing as a 100% safe area.
Don’t let your guard down just because you feel that you are in a ‘good’ neighborhood.
The victim probably thought ‘I’m in a good neighborhood, and I’ve agreed to give this guy the dollar he asked for, so I have nothing to worry about’. How wrong was that!
2. Keep Bad Guys A Long Way Away
The next lesson is not to let strangers get close to you, especially on an otherwise empty street late at night. Bad guys tend to be nocturnal, and also prefer empty deserted areas where they can carry out their activities free of interference from others.
If you don’t have your gun in your hand when someone approaches within 21′ of you, the person coming towards you can get to you and start attacking you before you can react and respond and draw your pistol. Indeed, even 21′ is probably too dangerously close, depending on how alert you are (ie how long from when you finally recognize a threat to when you then respond to it) and how quickly you can access your pistol and present it.
That fancy ultra-concealable holster? The one that takes you two seconds to access and get your gun from and pointed in? Add another half second or more for reaction time, and in 2.5 – 3 seconds, a bad guy can cover more like 21 yards than 21 feet. That’s a huge danger/vulnerability radius.
One more thing about the danger radius. If it is something more than 21′ for one person, it becomes appreciably more for two people. Maybe it takes you half a second after shooting at a first aggressor to recover your sight picture and switch to lining up on a second aggressor. In that same half second, the second aggressor can get 10 or more feet closer to you. If there are three aggressors, then the third one has another 10 ft while you are dealing to the first two. If there are four, not only does the fourth have another 10 ft (we are now at 50 ft out, by the way) but almost certainly, one of the first three was not stopped by your first shot and is now approaching you
3. Identify Potential Threats
Another lesson is to identify potential threats. On the face of it, a low-profile slouched over beggar type person asking for a bit of spare change doesn’t seem like the sort of person about to viciously beat you up. But attackers are masters of the art of disguise – of disguising their true intentions. Asking for some change or asking for the time or asking for directions are all great ways of misdirecting their target individual. The perceived normalcy of such requests obscures the threat behind them.
It doesn’t matter what the purpose or reason – you must keep strangers safely away from you, and if they approach you, you need to be able to react.
We of course don’t know, but we’ll guess that in a fair fight, where the soldier and first attacker were both told to go at it, then the soldier may or may not have prevailed, but probably he’d not have immediately been cold-cocked and knocked to the ground. But because the aggressor had the benefit of total surprise, his first blow set the scene and took out the soldier immediately, and from that point forward, it was really just a question of how much beating the aggressor and his one, two, three friends would give to the soldier.
This encounter was lost in a fraction of a second, because the soldier allowed his attacker in close where he could surprise him.
4. Take Control
This guy ended up being beaten by four people, but note the social dynamics of how it played out. There were only two primary aggressors, and only one of the two primary aggressors approached the victim. If the victim had assertively taken control of the situation at an early point, the first aggressor almost certainly would have backed off, the second aggressor would have stayed back, and the other two participants would have done nothing at all.
As you see on the video, the third person only joins in when he is certain there is no danger to himself. The fourth person’s motivations are unclear – we earlier guessed he might be just a casual passer-by who saw a safe opportunity to strike some blows for ‘racial freedom’ or whatever.
In any group, there are only a very few people who will aggressively lead and initiate a violent action. Most of the group members will hang back and only take part when they are no longer needed – when it is safe for them to do so. If you can confront the leaders up front, the others will pose less threat to you.
If you’re facing down a group of ten people, you can say ‘Okay, so maybe I can and maybe I can’t kill you all. But I for sure can get some of you, and I’m going to shoot you and you first’, pointing at the people closest to you and the ringleaders. ‘So all of you, back off, right now!’ This might take the fight out of the ringleaders, when they realize that there is not safety in numbers.
The other thing you can do is, after making that statement, is get one of the weaker wavering group members to comply. ‘You, start moving back right now!’ As soon as one person starts to back off, the fight goes out of the group as a whole.
5. Beware of the People You Don’t See
In this case, the victim was probably focused on the person who came and asked him for a dollar. But there was another guy close by as another immediate potential threat, another not far away, and a fourth guy behind him.
If you are aware of your surroundings, the fact that there were three people close to you, none of whom looked like people you’d invite home to spend time with your family, and a fourth person behind you, and all of them looked like they might be acting together (same general demographics) you should be on a high level of alertness prior to any of them approaching you.
If one person is a threat, two people together are not twice the threat, they are four times the threat. Three people become nine times the threat, meaning, yes, four people are a sixteen fold increase in threat.
What to Do to Avoid Such Encounters
You can’t afford to get behind the curve on such things. You need to keep distance between you and the potential aggressors, and you need to draw them out and establish a clear signaling of their intentions.
Clearly, you can’t just shoot every group of people you happen to meet on the street just because they’re there – you need to cause them to display bad intent, and you need to give yourself a chance to warn them off and/or completely confirm the threat they pose. This can only be done with time and distance, it can’t be done at a six foot arm’s length sort of encounter.
If someone is traveling in a direction that will cause them to naturally intersect with your own direction of travel, that might be a coincidence. So you change your direction of travel. If the other guy then changes his direction of travel and comes towards you, then your alert level shoots up. He has signaled that he is a potential threat.
Note a key thing here is that the other person comes to you. That is essential. Your ability to claim that someone was an overt threat to you is massively weakened if you approach them.
So, you’ve altered your path of travel, and they’ve altered their path of travel to again intersect with yours. You now need to warn him off and command him to stop, to go away, or whatever. You need plenty of space between the two of you to allow yourself time to determine if your instructions have been complied with or not.
Hopefully, if the potential attacker ignores your request, you still have time to present your weapon and point in, with enough time and distance to warn the bad guy off, rather than needing to immediately shoot.
It goes without saying that if a person altered course to come after you when you altered course to avoid them, if they then failed to stop approaching after you called out to them and asked them to stop and go away, and if they still continued to close the distance when you pointed a gun at them, there is no conceivable way this person is an innocent stranger who just happens to be passing by.
The fact that they are willing to continue the confrontation in the face of your pointed in pistol shows them to be absolutely intent and determined to press the fight to you. You don’t need to know who, what or why, you just know that this person is willing to risk his own life to get to you, and it certainly isn’t so he can simply shake your hand and wish you well.
One Last Lesson
We’ve written 2000 words in this article so far. But every one of those words is useless and meaningless if you don’t have a gun with you and aren’t prepared and able to use it. Your pistol. Don’t leave home without it.
The Beretta Bobcat (Model 21) is available in .22LR and .25ACP calibers. It surely is a tiny pistol, but would you bet your life on it stopping a vicious attacker?
It is strange how things occur in cycles. We talk with gun owners and intending gun owners pretty much every day, and from time to time we get a run of people all saying the same thing.
This week it has been people with or wanting to buy teeny tiny pistols. Revolvers and semi-autos chambered for .22 LR or .25 ACP or .32 ACP – rounds which we seldom see in a self defense gun these days.
Their comments have all been very similar. They say something like :
Well, yes, I know it isn’t a very powerful caliber, but it is convenient and small, and I figure it is better than nothing. Surely the size of the gun doesn’t matter as much as simply having any gun at all – just having a gun of any size will save you from an attack. After all, what kind of crazy person wants to be shot by anything? It would surely hurt like hell!
They then look at us, complacent and content, seeking our affirmation, but all they get is a look of ‘intelligent uncertainty’ in return. If they’re buying our training services, then we’ll try and correct their misapprehension.
Now – don’t get me wrong. Kinda, sorta, it might be true that any gun is better than no gun at all, and again, kinda sorta, even a .22 or .25 round might hurt like hell. Indeed, Front Sight has a slogan ‘Any gun will do, if you will do’. And you’ve probably also heard the saying ‘It isn’t the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog’.
Both these statements are anchored in truth. If you can maintain a confident non-victim posture, and if you can present your tiny gun authoritatively and assertively, your demeanor and bearing will magnify the perceived threat of the pistol. But if your body language betrays fear and incipient submission, even the biggest gun will struggle to compensate for the non-verbal messages of failure and defeat you are broadcasting to the other guy(s).
So, for sure, a small pistol, well managed, is definitely a good thing.
But. And hear me out on this, please – particularly if you are thinking the same way these others have been thinking.
If having one of those tiny little pea shooters gives you a false sense of confidence and security, then it is more dangerous to have it than to not have it. Even those of us with really big guns understand that any caliber of round fired through a pistol is inadequate and unlikely to guarantee an immediate end to an attack – see our recent article about how often and where to shoot an attacker.
Your safety is best protected by adopting an alert, aware, and defensive posture in your daily life. You don’t want to develop an over-confident swagger (unless you have a Barrett slung over your shoulder and a squad of Seal Team 6 members backing you up).
So, the first concern about people armed with a tiny pistol is that they may become over-confident and over-reliant on the ‘protection’ that their pistol offers them.
Let’s now consider exactly the nature of the protection they are relying on.
These tiny pistols have two things in common, no matter the make, model, or caliber. First, they have very few rounds in their magazine or cylinder – typically five or six. Second, changing magazines or reloading a revolver is often less quick and convenient than for a larger size pistol. In other words, you’re unlikely to have a chance to reload in the middle of a situation – you’re going to have to prevail with what is in your gun to start with – a very small number of very small rounds.
Which brings us to the really big question. Will you need to start shooting or not? There you are, confronted by an attacker intent on doing you harm, and you pull out your tiny little pistol and say ‘Stop or I Shoot!’. Does he stop?
I’ll guess that probably three quarters or more of the time, with a regular sized pistol, the bad guy will give up or run away at this point.
But with a smaller pistol? For sure, you better hope he does, because if he doesn’t, you’ve very little chance of taking him down with whatever it is you’re clutching in your hand.
True, any gun is still a gun and potentially lethal. But put yourself in the bad guy’s shoes. He is probably somewhat familiar with pistols, and in general will have been around medium or full frame semi-autos, or revolvers in .38 SPL caliber or larger, be they snub-nose or longer barreled.
So he looks at you in what may be dim light, and what does he see? Maybe he sees the glint of metal in your hand (this is one time when you want your gun to be highly visible – normally we like our guns to be matt black), but maybe he doesn’t even see it, due to it being so small, the light being poor, and your hand being relatively so large.
What does he think if he does see it? He sees something maybe one quarter the size of guns he is familiar with. What would you think if someone pointed a gun at you that was one quarter the size of a ‘normal’ gun?
Chances are, your first reaction would be ‘Is that real, or is it a child’s toy gun?’.
Now imagine that you’re a big burly bad guy, and your victim is a frail elderly gent or perhaps a slim woman weighing no more than 100 lbs. You both know that you have total physical dominance as a given. Chances are the bad guy will find it hard to switch mindsets from being maybe two or three times the weight/body mass of your victim-to-be and completely confident in being able to do whatever you choose to that person; to now backing down in abject fear due to some tiny little thing that could even be a toy gun in their hand.
Some bad guys will sneer and laugh at you with your tiny gun. For sure, a regular size gun held in a confident and competent manner, and by a middle aged average sized averagely fit male is a threat that many (but not all!) bad guys will think twice about. But a teeny tiny little thing in the hand of a massively weaker opponent? Think also about what if there are two guys confronting you (maybe one lurking behind you, currently unseen)? This means also the guy facing you down will face an embarrassing amount of ‘loss of face’ from his peers subsequently – ‘Did you hear that Tommy ran away from a little old lady with a tiny .22?’ sort of thing.
This is all guesswork, but my guess is there is a significant risk that a bad guy will call your bluff in such a situation, and you’ll be forced to use your little pistol. What do you think? A large risk, a small risk, or an absolute ironclad certainty that of course the bad guy will back down at the slightest sight of your gun, no matter how small it is?
Now, you need to understand something very important. The best possible outcome in any case like this is for the bad guy to back down and run away, without you needing to fire a shot at all. Which gun is more likely to scare a would-be attacker and get him to leave you well alone? A tiny one, or a normal sized one?
So people with tiny guns are more likely to need to use them than people with bigger guns, and please please appreciate – no matter how justifiable any shooting may be, the personal, professional, legal and emotional consequences of shooting anyone, in any situation at all, will be close to overpowering. Your life will change profoundly, and not for the better, if you ever need to shoot someone.
For this reason alone, I’d argue for getting a bigger gun. The bigger the better (just so long as you can conveniently keep it with you, everywhere, all the time).
Please keep reading – there’s still more (if you’re convinced, you may stop reading, but only if you promise to rush to the gun store right now and get a bigger gun).
Let’s next consider what happens if you have to use your teeny tiny gun. Hopefully it will make a fairly loud noise when it is fired, which might persuade the attacker that it is a real gun and to be taken seriously. But will it stop the attack? Go back and read again our article about how many times to shoot an attacker – an article written from the assumption that you are defending yourself with a 9mm or larger handgun. If it takes four rounds of 9mm to stop an attack, how many rounds of .32 or of .22 ammo will be required?
The next thing to worry about is how many of your shots will actually hit the attacker (remember you only have five or six in total to see you through the fight, so you’ll be beating the odds if you hit the attacker twice – more probably, you might hit him once or possibly even not at all!).
And the ultimate issue – what effect will your hits have on the bad guy. Here’s one scenario : You shoot at the bad guy and he thinks ‘That fool is shooting at me and – owwww! – oh, actually, that didn’t hurt much at all, it truly is a child’s toy gun, but now I’m going to have to teach him a real lesson for shooting at me’.
Let me put it another way. I’d not bet my life on the hope that even if all five or six or seven shots landed on the bad guy, this would be sufficient to take him out of the fight prior to him getting in physical contact with me and doing whatever he chose with a knife, his bare hands, or whatever else.
Remember also that as likely as not, you might be confronted with two bad guys. There’s no way that five or six or so rounds of under-powered ammo is going to help you prevail in that situation.
One more thought. What say the bad guy pulls out his own gun? If you’re both staring at similar sized guns, you’ve a bit of a stalemate and either you start shooting or else neither of you shoot and you both back off. But if he has a 9mm or .40S&W with maybe 15 or more rounds in his magazine, and you have a .32ACP with six rounds in your magazine, who do you think is going to prevail in that encounter? In other words, when he draws his gun, many people will then surrender (this is probably a mistake, but they’ll do it all the same). All you’ve done is make the situation worse.
I’ve been asking you quite a few questions in this article. Let me close with one final question : Are you willing to bet your life that your teeny tiny little popgun will guarantee your winning a deadly encounter with one or multiple attackers? Because, after all, that truly is what you’re doing, isn’t it.
I’ll give the situation my best effort if I’m armed with my trusty 1911, or even with a modern double stacked 9mm or .40 pistol. But press a little .25 pistol in my hand and the only person who’ll be upset by that would be a security screener at the airport.
We’ll talk more about the minimum caliber/capacity handgun you should equip yourself with another time, but the short answer is to go for a .38 SPL or .357 Magnum in a revolver, or a .380 or (much better) 9mm as the minimum caliber in a semi-auto.
Let’s revisit the subject, and this time from a more scientific attitude. We promise not to make any more snarky comments about police officers shooting at a guy 71 times (and hitting him 60 times) and definitely we don’t suggest that should be your objective, either, even if only for the reason that very few of us carry 71 rounds with us. I sometimes have 61 rounds with me, but never 71, and absolutely would never expect to use more than a small percentage of those rounds in an exchange with a single adversary.
Indeed, just to set the scene realistically, most gun fights occur at a range that is much to close for comfort, and with insufficient warning. You’re starting off at a tactical disadvantage, and – perhaps because of that – are forced to desperately try and regain control of a bad situation.
The ‘rule of threes’ is sometimes quoted. This suggests that most gun fights occur at a distance of about 3 yards (or less), last about 3 seconds (or less), and involve about three shots fired (or more).
But let’s start our analysis a bit prior to that – hopefully you’ve been sufficiently alert as to notice a deteriorating situation and have had time to prepare and plan your response. So –
What about a Warning Shot First?
Do not fire a warning shot. That bullet is going to go somewhere. If you fire it down into the ground, it might ricochet off the ground and go in who knows what direction – even maybe directly back at you. Even if you are shooting into dirt, for all you know, there’s a huge rock half an inch under the dirt.
If you fire it up into the air, well, guess what. What goes up must come down again, and that bullet is going to plunge to earth at about 300 mph (450 ft/sec) – fast enough to do appreciable damage if it hits a person or property when finally reaching the ground.
Hopefully you have already given a verbal warning/command in a very loud voice (not only so you are sure the bad guy has heard you and realizes you are serious, but also so any other nearby people can testify they heard you warn the bad guy away) such as ‘Stop!’ or ‘Go Away!’, followed by drawing your pistol and a ‘Stop or I Shoot’, followed by sighting in on the person.
At this point, the person has been verbally warned, and also sees you have a gun pointed at them. If that isn’t enough to make them turn away, a warning shot won’t add any more force to your request. It might endanger you or some other person, and it pre-occupies you with something that might allow the attacker to close the distance and get into contact with you.
So, if your first shot isn’t to be a warning shot, –
Where Should You First Aim?
Assuming you have a clear view of the bad guy, your first shots should be aimed into the attacker’s chest. It is the biggest and easiest target to hit, and also a moderately vulnerable part of the bad guy’s anatomy.
This is sometimes referred to as their ‘center (of) mass’, and because it is the biggest part of their body, you can aim into the middle of it, and still hit them even if you miss the exact center by a reasonable margin. It goes without saying that in the stress of the moment, you’re not going to be shooting as accurately as on the range.
Of course, if the person is obscured by something, you’ll have to redefine the appropriate ‘center of mass’ based on what you can and can’t see/shoot at.
Better shooting schools teach you not just to shoot into the center of the person’s torso, but instead into the center of their thoracic cavity, which can be considered as the center of their upper chest – where the lungs and heart are. Shots into this area may have a more rapidly disabling effect.
Which brings up the essential issue of what to expect when you get rounds on target – ie, when you are hitting the bad guy with your shots – and how many times you’ll need to shoot him to get him out of the fight.
How Many Shots Does it Take?
As (nearly) always, the movies get it wrong. Forget everything you’ve ever seen in the movies, and on television. When you shoot a bad guy with a pistol, almost certainly, there are three things which you might expect to happen (based on the movies) but which will not happen.
The first thing is the person isn’t going to immediately collapse, all movement stopped, instantly dead. Quite the opposite. The probabilities suggest that he may likely not react at all to the first shot hitting him. Indeed, some people go all the way through a gun fight and only subsequently discover they’ve been shot. Good trainers teach their students at the end of an encounter to check themselves all over for wounds, because in the heat of the moment, they might not even realize they’ve been shot.
The second thing is the person isn’t going to fly through the air ten feet backwards. He probably won’t be knocked about much at all – the ‘best case’ scenario is that the bullet is hitting him with no more momentum than the recoil you experienced when you fired your pistol milliseconds before. The recoil didn’t force you off your feet, and it will have the same or less effect on the person the bullet hits.
The third thing is that blood isn’t going to suddenly and dramatically start spurting out of the person every which way. Indeed, assuming the person is wearing a couple of layers of clothing, you might not notice any evidence of the bullet having hit them at all – no blood, no big hole, nothing.
So put these three things together. The person doesn’t collapse or move at all, and you don’t even notice a bullet hole or blood after firing your bullet. Goodbye, Hollywood. And welcome to the real world! In other words, you probably can’t tell if you hit the person or not – and even at very short ranges, you’re as likely to miss as hit (there’s a classic situation of a gun fight in an elevator between a law enforcement officer and a bad guy, with over ten rounds fired and neither person being hit by any of the rounds).
Even in the very unlikely event that all your rounds are landing on target, the sad truth is that pistol rounds, no matter what their caliber, or what the bullet type, are woefully inadequate and are most unlikely to solve your problem with a single generic hit to the center of the thoracic cavity.
So it is recommended practice that you shoot at least twice at/into the center of the thoracic cavity. Maybe one of the two shots missed entirely. Maybe one was a ‘lucky’ shot (depending on if you are the attacker or defender) and one was not. Indeed, while you don’t want to consciously shift your point of aim, it is a good thing if the two rounds land into different parts of this zone, so as to spread the disruptive effects over a broader range of body parts.
But what next? That depends on the bad guy. Is he still posing a threat – is he still coming towards you? Or did he collapse, perhaps even out of panic and fear and surprise? Did he surrender to you? Did he turn tail and run away?
If the immediate threat has stopped, you must stop shooting. You no longer have any legal justification to shoot at the person now they are no longer an immediate imminent threat.
But if the person is still coming at you, then you need to keep on solving the problem.
Continued Shooting at the Thoracic Cavity?
If the bad guy is still some distance from you (but not too far, of course, or else they may not be sufficiently a threat to justify shooting in the first place unless they have a weapon) then you probably have time to fire a few more shots into their thoracic cavity.
Maybe either or both of your first shots failed to hit him entirely, in which case maybe some additional shots will actually land on target.
Why Thoracic Cavity Hits May Not Immediately Stop an Attack
Unless your pistol bullet travels through the thoracic cavity and severs the bad guy’s spine, it will not immediately incapacitate your attacker (note that high velocity rifle rounds more commonly have a very much greater immediate effect).
Even if the bullet goes through the bad guy’s heart, it will take some measurable time for the guy to lose sufficient blood pressure and bleed sufficiently out to cease to be ‘in the fight’. How long? Best case scenario – perhaps 30 seconds. Worst case scenario – many minutes (assuming that he doesn’t survive the encounter completely, even after taking multiple hits).
Some people will collapse in a type of faint from the shock and surprise of being hit. This is a ‘false’ collapse – it is mental rather than physical, and when they come to, they might re-enter the fight. That’s not to say you should shoot someone when they’re on the ground and not moving! But you need to watch a person very carefully after they go to the ground. They might be just pretending to be incapacitated, and might surprise you as soon as they feel it tactically advantageous.
Other people – especially if on drugs – will not be slowed at all, even by hits that will cause their certain death in only a few minutes. The drugs have in essence disconnected their brain from their body, and their brain doesn’t even realize they’ve been hit, so their body keeps responding to the brain commands as best it can.
Lastly, and probably the least likely scenario, maybe the bad guy is wearing some type of body armor. Bullet proof vests can be legally purchased by civilians, and do a very good job of preventing pistol bullets from penetrating through the vest and into the person wearing them.
Don’t forget, of course, that all these reasons why your shots aren’t stopping the bad guy from continuing with his attack are also assuming that your rounds are landing on target. Chances are some/many/most of them are misses – even trained police typically miss more often than they hit when in a gunfight. That’s why you shoot at least twice into the center of mass.
A Front Sight target made into a yard sign, showing the zones they define as the thoracic and cranial ocular cavities
Plan B : Failure to Stop Shooting
So, you’ve fired your gun you’re not quite certain how many times at the bad guy, but he continues to press his attack and is getting very close to you.
This is where you have to switch targets. For whatever reason – and it is irrelevant why – your center of the thoracic cavity shots aren’t stopping the attack. Time for your ‘Plan B’.
You need to now switch to head shots. A bullet in the brain is the most certain way of quickly stopping any attacker – big or small, on drugs or not, and with or without a torso protecting bullet proof vest.
We don’t recommend your first shot(s) should be to the head for the simple and obvious fact that the head is a smaller target than the chest, and is likely to be moving rather than standing conveniently still. It is also less ‘politically correct’, and as unfortunate as this is, you need to be sensitive to how the police and potentially a jury (as well as friends, neighbors, and reporters) will respond to the circumstances of your use of deadly force.
But if the body shots didn’t work, and particularly if the person is getting closer, thereby also making their head a larger target, you have no choice but to switch to head shots in what is sometimes referred to as a ‘failure to stop’ drill.
Don’t just shoot anywhere on their head. Much of the head has its own armor plating – the skull and jawbone in particular. So you want to aim from sort of the eye brows down to the bottom of the nose, and from side to side in line with the outer sides of the eyes – about a 3″ x 5″ card sized target.
Sure, it seems even more distasteful to shoot at a person’s head, but – hey! You didn’t start this fight, the other guy did, and he refused every possible opportunity to end the confrontation; indeed, by the time you switch to head shots, the guy has even continued his attack notwithstanding you shooting into his chest multiple times. There’s no time to be squeamish or hesitant, you need to be at least as determined and certain as your attacker is proving to be.
How Many Head Shots
How high is up? How long is a piece of string? And – oh yes, another question with no certain answer – ‘how many times should I shoot him in the head?’.
The answer should be obvious – until he stops. Until he ceases to be a threat to you.
The good news is that this is probably going to require only a single shot, but the downside to a head shot is that it is a smaller target, and you might miss, so don’t fire a single shot, then relax and assume the game is over. Fire a single shot, bring your pistol immediately back on target, and shoot a second time, unless the guy is collapsing in front of you.
Continue repeating until your gun runs dry or the bad guy stops.
How About A Kinder and Gentler Approach? Shooting to Incapacitate?
One of the great things about the internet is that we now get a chance to see how many people react and respond to news of a shooting. Many newspaper websites have the ability for readers to post comments alongside the news stories they publish, and for sure, whenever there’s a story of a shooting (usually the police shooting a bad guy) you’ll see plenty of comments (most commonly from ‘armchair experts’ who have never held a gun in their lives) suggesting that the police should have shot to ‘shoot the gun out of his hand’ or in the foot, ankle, or knee, so as to cause the guy to collapse and no longer be able to move towards the policeman.
Slightly more knowledgeable people will suggest shooting at the person’s pelvic girdle, causing them to fall over.
These are well intentioned people (who may well become jurors, so it is relevant to understand how uninvolved people react to shooting situations) but their suggestions are dangerously naïve and impractical.
Your desperate struggle will be at a too close range, in a position where you probably do not have any sort of strategic advantage or time buffer up your sleeve, and you are confronting the imminent probability of the bad guy attacking you, grievously wounding you, and possibly killing you.
You don’t have the time to try for some trick circus style feats of marksmanship – target shooting of a level you probably could not achieve on a calm day with no time or situational stress acting on you at a range with a static target, let alone in a dark alley late at night with the bad guy rushing towards you.
If the situation has got to the point where you need to use lethal force to stop a threat, and that is a lawful act on your part, then you need to do exactly that. Your prime concern is stopping the threat and saving yourself. The only effective way of doing that is shots to the center of mass, possibly followed by shots to the head.
Anything else is giving the bad guy a ‘bonus’ card in the match. And there’s no law or moral justification for making it easier for him to win and you to lose.
Kinder and Gentler Part 2 : Shooting to Wound?
A close cousin of the ‘shoot to incapacitate’ theory is the ‘shoot to wound’ theory. But follow the ‘logic’ of this thought process through carefully : ‘The bad guy was frightening me, threatening me, in some way harming me, but he didn’t really deserve to be killed; so I just shot him in the leg/arm/whatever’.
If you say this to the police, you’ll not be hailed as a hero. You’ll be locked up and charged with unlawful use of deadly force, and your own statement in the preceding paragraph will be the statement that guarantees your conviction and the extended jail term that follows.
Think through what you just said. To paraphrase, you said ‘The situation did not justify using deadly force, but I used deadly force anyway, albeit in the hope that the deadly force wouldn’t be fatal’.
Guns don’t have dials on them that you can set to ‘mild’, ‘medium’, or ‘full’. While we were talking before about how the chances are that a single shot won’t kill a person, there is also a chance that a single shot might. A bullet could hit an artery, sever a nerve cluster, or whatever else.
Even if a single shot doesn’t kill the person, it might grievously incapacitate them for years or the rest of their life, and it might cost millions of dollars in hospital care and ongoing at home care for the rest of their lives (costs that you might end up being liable for).
You never shoot to wound a person – but you also never shoot to kill them. All you do is you shoot to stop the threat they pose. Never say ‘I realized I had to kill the guy’, because that’s a faulty realization. The only thing you realize is that your life is being directly and credibly threatened, and that you have no other way to protect yourself than to use your firearm to stop the threat being presented at you. The threat will end when the bad guy surrenders, runs away, or falls to the ground. Living or dying (or wounding or incapacitating) has nothing to do with it.
So – the Bottom Line?
If and/or when you end up in an extreme situation with no alternative but the lawful use of deadly force, first shoot at least twice into the attacker’s central thoracic cavity. If this does not end their attack, transition to head shots into the center of their cranial ocular cavity. Only stop shooting when they’ve ceased to be a deadly threat to you.
More guns were sold the day after Thanksgiving this year than on any previous day, ever
Here’s something to delight all of us who equate more guns with more freedom and more safety.
The FBI has just released figures which show that calls to their ‘instant check’ NICS background checking service (necessary as part of buying a gun from a dealer) were higher on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) this year than on any other day, ever, since they first started their NICS service back in 1998.
This new record was a very decisive one, too. The total calls – 129,166 – were 32% higher than the previous highest number (Black Friday of 2008).
For the entire month of November, NICS calls were 16.5% up on November last year, and already in the first 11 months of this year, there have been more NICS calls than in all of 2010. Total NICS calls for 2011 will be nearly twice as many as was the case not even ten years ago.
At the risk of getting boring and technical, I should explain that a call to NICS is not the same as a new gun being sold. One single call and request for NICS approval can sometimes be for a person buying multiple guns in a single transaction. So that would suggest that more guns are sold than the count of NICS calls.
But not all NICS calls are for gun sales. For example, many states will also get a NICS clearance before issuing a concealed weapons permit. So that requires a negative adjustment down from the NICS total.
The National Sports Shooting Association estimates that overall many fewer guns are sold than NICS calls are made, so perhaps the 129,166 calls represents ‘only’ 100,000 new guns sold on Black Friday.
But whatever you do with the numbers, the unavoidable twin truths (unavoidable unless you’re a gun-hater, of course) are that gun sales continue to steadily trend upward, while violent crime figures continue to drop, continuing the trend we analyzed in our article back in May – Gun Sales Continue to Increase, Crime Rates Continue to Decrease.