Apr 242013
 
It requires more well-placed shots than you'd expect to stop a determined attacker.

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.

Apr 152012
 

The scene shortly after the fleeing car stopped. Soon to be dead guy at the top, six LAPD officers also visible in the picture.

Here’s an interesting story about a 19 year old youth in Los Angeles – Abdul Arian – who took police on a high speed chase around the city while at the same time calling 911 and uttering threats about what would happen if the police stopped him.

There are two things of interest.

The first is what happened after he eventually stopped.  He got out of the car, surrounded by growing numbers of LA police, and was moving backwards from the police while facing them, before turning towards the police in what was subsequently described as a ‘firing position’ and holding some sort of object in his hands.

No-one can argue about part of what happened next.  Unsurprisingly, the police that had him surrounded shot and killed the youth.

It was dark, the guy was clearly unstable and had threatened to pull his gun on the police if stopped, so when he stopped running away and appeared to present something at the police as if it were a pistol, the police did the sensible thing, and shot to stop the threat.

But – and here’s the but – it wasn’t just one or two police officers that fired four or five rounds each.  Eight police shot at the youth, firing, between them, more than 90 rounds.  That’s a lot of rounds being fired, particularly in a semi-residential area where who knows what was further ‘down range’.

There is video of the encounter on this web page and it appears, based on the voice over narration, that the shooting may have occurred over a surprisingly lengthy period of time (relatively speaking) – ie at least ten seconds, maybe more like fifteen.  Note also how the youth continued to act in a crazy and threatening way during this period of time, even after the police first started shooting at him, before finally collapsing.  He showed little obvious sign of impairment prior to suddenly collapsing.

The lesson here is one of our ‘favorite’ lessons – and to appreciate it, slightly change the scenario and instead of a fool being chased by many police, maybe you are being chased by a road-ranger and end up having to shoot to save your life against the incensed road-rager.

It took eight police officers more than 90 shots between them to reach a point where the guy finally collapsed, and the guy was still nimbly moving about the place prior to suddenly collapsing.  We can only guess at how many unnecessary extra shots were fired at the guy as he was collapsing, and of course, it seems pretty safe to assume that many of the shots missed.

But there’s no reason to assume the police are particularly worse at shooting than you would be; indeed, with at least seven of their friends around them for support, probably wearing bullet proof vests, the suspect generally moving away, and never shooting back at them, their own stress levels, while high, where several levels lower than yours would be when facing a deadly threat all by yourself.

So – answer the question.  How many rounds would it take you to achieve a similar outcome?  And bear in mind we have no idea how many rounds ‘more than 90′ actually is.  It might be 91.  But it could be 99 or way more, too.

Maybe you can do as well with ‘only’ more than 80 rounds, or maybe even more than 70 rounds or more than 60 rounds.  Indeed, why not consider yourself – alone – as being twice as good at eight LA policemen all together, and say that you only need ‘more than’ 45 rounds.

Do you carry more than 45 rounds with you?  If your answer is no, then in cases similar to this, you’ll run out of bullets before you’ve stopped the threat.  You’ll lose.

A related question.  The youth was never more than a second or at the most two from the police.  Once you’ve emptied your gun at the person attacking you, how long will it take you to reload and get back in the fight?  Any more than perhaps 1.5 seconds maximum, and you’re going to have the bad guy on top of you before you get your gun running again.

Remember also that this encounter required more than 90 rounds against a single adversary.  What say you find yourself confronted by two bad guys.  Or three?  Do the math.

The second thing of interest is the massive contradictions of facts as between what the now rapidly becoming sainted dead guy’s family are saying about the guy (I wonder if Muslims become saints?) and what the facts of the matter starkly reveal (better reported in the LA Times article in the first link than in the Huffington Post second linked article).

Remember that every bad guy is also probably a grieving mother’s son, maybe the father to some grieving children, the husband and breadwinner to a grieving wife, and so on and so forth.  Remember also you probably don’t have the moral support and legal resources of the LAPD to back you up and ensure you get at least your fair share of airtime to give your side of any story.

Somehow there’s much more news and emotional value to see a woman in tears while clutching an outdated carefully photographed picture of her dead husband/son/father than there is to see a woman rejoicing and happy at her husband/son/father having survived a deadly encounter by virtue of shooting a bad guy.  Life’s just not fair, is it.

Which leads to our most favorite lesson of all- any time you have a choice, don’t shoot.  Avoid the fight.  Even if you win the encounter, you might lose all the bs that goes down subsequently.

Aug 022011
 
A selection of pistol bullets

L to R = .22 LR, .32 ACP, .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, 5.7x28

(This is part two of a three part series.  Please also visit ‘Choosing a Lightweight, Small, Concealable Sub-Compact or Pocket Pistol‘ and ‘How to Best Carry Concealed a Sub-Compact Pocket Pistol‘.)

If you’re getting some type of pocket pistol, you generally have a choice between .32 ACP and .380 ACP.  But there are plenty of other options too – there are still pistols available with smaller calibers – the .25 Auto and even various types of .22 LR cartridges are sometimes featured in sub-compact pistols.

And you can get 9mm pistols that are only a little bigger than some of the .380 Auto chambered pistols.  Then you might think to yourself that if you’ve gone a little bigger, up to a 9mm caliber pistol, it is only another relatively small step to .40 S&W, and so on and so on beyond that.

Where to start and where to stop?

How Underpowered is Too Underpowered?  How Powerful is Too Powerful?

If you have to set cut-offs for too big and too small, then let’s arbitrarily set them as anything less than .32 ACP is too small and anything bigger than .380 ACP is too big.

But this is just for the sake of simplicity.  Any gun of any caliber is better than no gun at all, and bigger is usually better than smaller (assuming the gun remains controllable without too much recoil).

Here’s a heart warming story of a woman who killed an attacker with a single shot from a .22 caliber derringer she had hidden in her bra – and judging by the picture of the attacker, he was a big man.  However, being able to incapacitate an attacker with a single .22 round is extremely unusual, and you’d be very well advised not to rely on such an underpowered round for your own future safety.

Your Two Main Choices – .32 ACP and .380 ACP

The .32 ACP tends to have a round weighing 65 – 71 grains, a velocity of 925 – 900 ft/sec and 123 – 128 ft lbf of energy (the velocity and energy figures assume a 4″ barrel – your pocket pistol will have a much shorter barrel, so will develop less velocity and energy).

The .380 ACP tends to have a round weighing 85 – 95 grains, a velocity of 1050 – 955 ft/sec, and 193 – 220 ft lbf of energy (with a 3.75″ barrel).

As you can see from these stats, the larger .380 is almost 50% heavier, 10% faster, and has 60% more energy.  It is definitely a superior round.

But why stop there?  If you upgrade further to a 9mm chambered pistol, you will have rounds weighing 115 – 147 grains, traveling at 990 – 1430 ft/sec, and with 320 – 520 ft lbf of energy (the upper numbers being +P+ loaded cartridges).  That’s twice the weight and three times the power of the .32 ACP, and 30% or more weight compared to the .380 ACP and about twice its power.

And then, of course, there’s .40 S&W and .45 ACP and so on and so on.  Where to stop? (Answer = A .50 BMG caliber Barrett rifle, firing a 650 – 800 grain bullet out of a 35″ barrel at about 3,000 ft/sec and with up to 15,000 ft lbf of energy!)

A rifle weighing 30lbs or more and 4 ft long is clearly not concealable.  So let’s return to reality, and remember that our prime consideration here is a pistol you will always carry that is ultra-concealable.  You are sacrificing some power and magazine capacity in return for smaller size, lighter weight, and greater concealability.  The issue is simply how far you should go on this sacrificial scale.

To look at the lower end of the energy scale, a .25 Auto round weighs about 35 – 50 grains, travels at 760 – 900 fps, and generates about 63 – 66 ft lbf (these figures from a 2″ barrel).  It is massively slower, lighter, and less powerful than even the .32 ACP.

In case you wonder, a .22 LR is in some respects more powerful than the .25 Auto.  Although the bullets are smaller (30 – 40 grain), they are faster (1000 – 1400 fps) and have more energy (100 – 150 ft lbf).

For the truly small pocket pistols, you probably should limit yourself to .380 ACP.  Try and skip the .32 ACP because there’s not really any extra advantage in terms of size/weight to justify the reduction in ‘stopping power’ between the .380 and .32 rounds, and don’t get a too small and light pistol in a heavier caliber.

If you really want 9mm or bigger/better (and good for you if you do) then get a ‘proper’ sized pistol to go with it so you’ve a more stable and accurate firing platform to work with.

(This was part two of a three part series.  Please also visit ‘Choosing a Lightweight, Small, Concealable Sub-Compact or Pocket Pistol‘ and ‘How to Best Carry Concealed a Sub-Compact Pocket Pistol‘.)

Aug 022011
 
LSW Seecamp and Walther PPK

A LWS Seecamp .32 ACP and Walther PPK .380 ACP

(This is part one of a three part series.  Please also visit ‘Which Caliber to Choose for a Sub-Compact Pocket Pistol‘ and  ‘How to Best Carry Concealed a Sub-Compact Pocket Pistol‘.)

At times it seems that little has changed in the last 100 years of firearm and pistol design.  Revolvers are much as they always have been.  The Colt .45 semi-auto has celebrated its 100 year anniversary this year.  But if you find yourself agreeing with this, you’re wrong.

There have been big changes in semi-auto design, and in new lightweight small sized guns.  There have also been new calibers (most notably the .40 S&W, introduced in 1990, and the 5.7×28, introduced in 1993) but these are outside the scope of this article.

Semi-autos now can hold a great deal more than the classic 7+1 round capacity of an M1911A1, and can also be a great deal smaller.  Sure, derringers have always been around, but they’ve never been much more than ultra-desperate ‘toy’ guns, and now there are plenty of what are sometimes termed ‘sub-compact’ or sometimes ‘pocket’ pistols.  Some use new plastic materials or aluminum to replace some of the heavy steel, giving them even lighter weight, and all are designed to be as small as possible to provide the ultimate in terms of convenient carry and ultra concealment.

The Evolution of Modern Pocket Pistols

Pocket pistols can be traced back to that titan of gun design, John Browning (designer of the Colt M1911 among many other weapons) and his 1905 and 1908 model semi-auto pistols chambered for the .25 Auto cartridge.  His pistol, then known as the Colt 1908 Vest Pocket Pistol, subsequently evolved into the Baby Browning, produced from 1931 onwards, and is still (more or less) in production today.

These pistols were small – the earlier was 4.5″ long, the Baby Browning 4.1″ long, but were medium rather than light weight (13 oz and 9.7 oz respectively), and carried six round magazines.  The .25 Auto cartridge is very underpowered (see part two of this article series which discusses calibers for pocket pistols) and so these pistols represented an uneasy compromise between concealability and fire power.

Larger pistols appeared with larger calibers, and the development of high quality pistols by Seecamp – first in the same .25 Auto caliber in 1981, then subsequently in .32 ACP (from the mid 80’s to the present day) and .380 ACP (from 2000 to the present day) saw broader acceptance of the modern pocket pistol.  These Seecamp weapons, although produced in very small numbers, acted to validate the concept of ultra-compact pocket pistols as a bona fide modern day weapon variant.

Other manufacturers copied Seecamp to a greater or lesser extent, and then evolved into their own designs, and new lighter weight materials allowed for the pistols to be reduced in weight.

The next thing that massively increased the market interest and demand for ultra-concealable pistols was/is the wonderful restoration of concealed carry rights in most US states over the last couple of decades.  Nowadays the NSSF estimate there to be 6.3 million people with concealed weapon permits in the US, and that has unquestionably driven demand for small easily carried pistols.

Some Modern Sub-Compact Pistols to Consider

So, maybe you too are looking for a small ‘pocket pistol’ that you can literally carry in your pocket, or readily conceal elsewhere on your person?  Here’s a great summary of ten small pistols that might include the one that is exactly what you’re looking for.

I’m not nearly brave enough to wade into the depths of ‘which is the best gun’ because these days so many guns are so good that it boils down to a lot of personal preference.  It is analogous to arguing whether Ford or GM make the best car (or for that matter, Toyota and all the other companies too) when all you need is a car for your daily commute and local shopping runs.

But I can tell you (uh, oh, here I go….) that of the ten pistols detailed in this article, I own a .32 ACP caliber LWS/Seecamp.  However, many of the pistols in the review have come out since when I bought the Seecamp, and I can’t help but think that maybe one of the new tiny .380 (or even 9mm) pistols might give me a significant upgrade in power with only a minimal increase in size/weight.

On the other hand, I already have a couple of small .380 pistols (my favorite being a Walther PPK).

Size/Weight Issues and Tradeoffs – Walther PPK vs Modern Designs

It is interesting to compare the PPK size/weight with that of more modern pocket pistols.  The PPK – which amazingly dates back to 1931, and with little change over the 80 years since its introduction – is 6.15″ long overall, almost exactly an inch wide, and weighs 20.8 ounces with empty magazine, or 23.1 ounces when filled with seven rounds of .380 ammo.

The various modern  .380 pistols are shorter and narrower – ranging from 4.25″ long to 5.25″ long (so between almost one and two inches shorter); from 0.75″ to 0.91″ wide (saving you up to a quarter inch in this dimension), and their unloaded weights range from 8.3 oz up to 18.5 oz.  Many of these new pocket pistols are half the weight of the PPK – a much appreciated factor if you truly are carrying them in a pocket.

But smaller and lighter is not universally good.  The shorter the barrel, the more the muzzle flash and less the accuracy.  And the lighter the pistol, the greater the recoil.  Neither factor really matters when you’re at ‘point blank’ range and rapidly firing semi-blindly into the center of mass of a way-too-close attacker, but if for any reason you find yourself needing to make an aimed shot at more than say 10 ft, your ability to do so will massively reduce in line with the smaller and lighter the gun is you’re using.

My PPK is a lovely smooth shooter and can be operated single or double action, and with a great trigger feel to it (Interarms did a lovely port/polish/tune job on the pistol for me when I first purchased it as a much appreciated courtesy).  Sure, there’s recoil, but it is no worse than firing a full size 9mm, and its low profile fixed sights and general design is acceptably accurate (ie the gun is better than me) out to at least 21 feet, and as far as I’m concerned, most of the time if a bad guy is more than 21′ away, he’s less likely to be a deadly threat.

On the other hand, my less powerful double action only LWS has a long heavy trigger pull, nasty recoil and no sights (which sort of says it all in terms of accuracy expectations, doesn’t it!).

In choosing a pocket pistol, don’t necessarily fall into the trap of thinking that the lightest weapon is the best.  A few more ounces will make an appreciable difference in soaking up some extra recoil.

However, whatever size and weight you choose, by all means get one of these new generation pocket pistols.  They are lightweight, concealable, and generally inexpensive (sometimes little more than half the price of the $629 list on my PPK), but they are also nasty to shoot, with heavy triggers (being double action only), lots of recoil and little accuracy.

(This was part one of a three part series.  Please also visit ‘Which Caliber to Choose for a Sub-Compact Pocket Pistol‘ and  ‘How to Best Carry Concealed a Sub-Compact Pocket Pistol‘.)

Aug 012011
 
Ruger LCR, Bianchi Speed Strip and 5 Star Speed Loader

15 rounds for this LCR - but with two reloads, it is too slow

(This is the second post on an important topic – please also see our earlier post here – How Much Ammo Do You Carry?)

In our earlier post on how much ammo you should carry with you (which you really should read first) we suggest you should have at least one spare magazine and at least a moderately high capacity semi-auto.  In other words, hopefully at least 10 rounds in the gun and another 10 rounds in a spare magazine.

Notice we are talking about semi-autos, not revolvers.  This was an assumption in the previous article that needs some explaining.

The Problem with Carrying a Revolver

Sure, we love revolvers as much as anyone else, and sometimes every carry one, too.  But a revolver – especially for concealed carry – probably has no more than five or six rounds in its chamber.  We say you need to plan on anywhere from maybe three or four rounds per bad guy if you are very lucky, and up to maybe eight or more rounds if you’re not so lucky.  So in your ‘worst case’ scenario planning, that means you need to plan for being able to get at least eight rounds downrange, per bad guy, in a hurry.

(A quick side-bar comment :  Recommended strategy for multiple adversaries is usually to fire one shot at each target first (more or less from greatest and most immediate threat to least – but still deadly – threat), then return back and add extra shots as needed to stop the threats.  So when we’re saying ‘eight or more rounds per bad guy’ we’re not suggesting to fix on just one bad guy and get as many rounds as needed his way before switching to the next bad guy – you’re going to want to share your favors out on a more even basis than that!)

A wheel gun has five or six rounds.  After you’ve emptied your chamber, you’re then in a world of hurt.  Sure, maybe you have a speed reloader, or a Bianchi strip reloader, but how long will it take you to reload in a high stress situation like this?  Reloading a revolver includes using micro-motor skills that are hard when you’re full of adrenalin and trembling both from the adrenalin and the animal fear that will be overwhelming you.  Reloading a semi-auto is vastly simpler in all respects and easier to do in a stress situation.

In Front Sight’s skills testing, they allow 7.0 seconds to reload a revolver, compared to 2.4 seconds for a semi-auto.  Those extra 4.5 seconds are almost literally life and death in a gun fight.  In 4.5 seconds, a bad guy can run almost 50 yards – hopefully away from you, but if he is charging towards you, then you’ve got big problems well before you’ve got your revolver running again.

Bottom line for revolvers :  They are a good, simple, and reliable weapon, but most effective against only a single adversary.  If you’re facing multiple adversaries, you need a semi-auto that both has more rounds in its magazine to start with and a faster reload time if (when) you need to reload.

How Many Adversaries to Expect

Which leads to the second part of this article.  How many bad guys do you need to plan on attacking you?  That’s a bit like asking ‘How long is a piece of string’ – the answer could vary anywhere from one to one hundred.  The earlier article linked to a story about two people being attacked by a gang of 30, and that is probably as close to a worst case scenario as you never need to consider.

At the low end, it is realistic to expect a minimum of two bad guys.  Particularly in situations where bad guys are going out with the intention of carrying out some type of violent crime, they will want the odds in their favor, and so are much more likely to bring a partner or two than if they were doing some empty house breaking and entering, or simple car prowling.  So you should plan for at least two bad guys as a minimum.

But what about the maximum number you should realistically plan for?  In partial answer, let’s look at another newspaper story, this time about how some small towns in what is (was!) otherwise peaceful idyllic rural Washington state are being terrorized by gangs.

There’s a lot to worry about how gangs are migrating out of the big cities and into smaller rural towns, where there is not the matching concentration of police to combat them, and you might wonder ‘What are gangs doing in rural Washington?’  Here’s a hint – based on the names of the gangs, they seem to be exclusively Mexican gangs (a fact which the liberal newspaper can’t quite bring itself to feature as a main story point).

The relevant part of this newspaper article is the quote ‘…these packs of eight or 10 of them’.  Apparently, at least in eastern Washington, gang members like to congregate in packs of 8 – 10.

So what would you do if you found yourself confronted by a murderous gang of 8 – 10 gang members?  Other than run away as fast as you can, of course!  Do you have enough ammo for a shoot-out with 8 – 10 gang members?  That could see you needing 100 rounds or more, in a situation where your prime objective would be to find cover, call for help, and then wait up to an hour for some deputies to get to you, firing only when necessary to keep the bad guys from rushing you.

Say you have a pistol with a 16 round magazine.  That would mean carrying five loaded spare magazines in addition to the one in your pistol.  It probably isn’t realistic to carry this much spare ammo.  But while 100 rounds is more than most people could conveniently keep on their person, the chances are you can probably carry one more magazine than you currently do.  And you probably should, too.

Realistically, your odds of surviving a gunfight against ten adversaries are very low, so perhaps it is unrealistic to prepare for something you’re unlikely to survive.  On a happier note, not every gang member is always armed, and when rounds start coming inbound, not all gang members will adopt an aggressive posture and fight back.

But it is also quite probably true that your adversaries have been under fire before, and may have also not only been receiving incoming but been shooting back in turn.  They might be more experienced in fire fights than you, and most of all, you’re fighting a battle on their terms.  They rather than you have decided if, when, and how to initiate the conflict, while you’re compelled to be reactive rather than pro-active, because with that many potential adversaries, you need to have a defensive posture that reduces the chance of any escalation of conflict.

Here’s another measure.  Have you ever seen a group of motorcycle gang members drive down the highway?  There’s usually more than two of them driving together, isn’t there.  Maybe four, maybe more.  And sometimes with passengers on the back of each bike, too.  Get into a ‘road rage’ incident with them and you could again find yourself with half a dozen adversaries, all eager to do extreme harm to you.

My point is simple.  An encounter – outside your home – where you end up needing to resort to deadly force is more likely to involve multiple adversaries than just a single assailant.  Stopping the first guy will just enrage the second, third, and other guys all the more, and your ability to ‘project power’ and control a situation is massively reduced with a small little gun that everyone knows holds only a few rounds, especially if it is a revolver which everyone also knows will take a long time to reload.

While of course any gun is better than no gun, and a concealable pistol is a necessary compromise between effectiveness and convenience, try to select a pistol that has hopefully at least a ten round capacity (if it is .45 caliber, then fewer rounds are okay) and try to carry two (or more) spare magazines with you.

Jul 192011
 
Otis Rolley, a gun hater and Baltimore mayoral candidate

Mayoral candidate Otis Rolley wants to tax your ammo

There are few creatures more venal than politicians running for office.  They’ll say or do just about anything in the desperate hope of winning the election.  Normal people find this impossible to understand, because most of the time, normal people also can’t understand who in their right mind would run for most public offices.  But no-one has ever accused politicians of being normal.

An egregious example of idiocy is on display in Baltimore where mayoral candidate Otis Rolley has proposed a new way of reducing crime – by imposing a $1 tax on every bullet bought.  Baltimore is one of the most violent cities in the nation – I wonder if there is any relation between its appalling crime record and Rolley’s past position as the city’s planning director between 2003 – 2007?

In Rolley’s alternative universe, adding a $1 tax to every bullet would make it too expensive for criminals to use guns when committing crimes and so would result in less crime being committed, with or without guns.

Let’s think about this (distasteful but necessary).  Most criminals never fire a gun in any crime.  Indeed, probably most of the time, criminals don’t even carry a gun.  These criminals will be unaffected by Rolley’s bullet tax.

But what about the criminals who do carry a gun?  Adding a $1/bullet tax would mean that instead of spending $500 – $1000 on a gun and then $10 on a box of bullets, they now need to spend an extra $20 or so to get enough bullets to load their gun.  Wow – that will sure make a difference, won’t it.

And what about the criminals who actually fire their gun?  Maybe they fire their gun half a dozen times in the course of a crime that nets them some thousands of dollars.  Will an extra cost of $5 – $10 really make that much of a difference to them?

Rolley of course deliberately chooses not to think about the other people impacted by his plan – honest ordinary law abiding citizens who shoot guns for recreation or for training.  People like you (I hope!) and me.

We fire hundreds, possibly even thousands of rounds a year so as to ensure we can safely and competently use a gun.  The cost to us would be hundreds or even thousands of dollars.  That would sure impact on us.

There’s a bit of good news, though.  Baltimore is just one single city, and in a very small state.  So it isn’t too far to drive out of Baltimore to find a gun shop in a city not suffering from a crazy mayor, and to buy your ammunition there.  Or to get it online.  Hmmmm – maybe even the criminals will do that, too?  Do you reckon?

Otis is a Democrat.  But you probably guessed that, already.

Apr 262011
 

Ammo - you can never have too much of it - or can you?

I recently asked the question, How much ammo do you carry (ie on your person).  What about a similar question – how much ammunition do you keep for your various firearms?

 

I’ve asked that question of friends, and have received answers back ranging from ‘a few boxes (of 50)’ to one person who proudly declared he had 26,000 rounds – 11,000 rounds of his preferred pistol caliber and 15,000 rounds of his preferred rifle caliber, plus assorted boxes of other calibers as well.

And you probably know of people rumored to have over 100,000 rounds of ammo.  That’s actually getting close to the point where you have to wonder exactly why they have so much.

This website has a survey showing how much ammunition its readers have.  The result suggests an average gun owner may have between 1,000 and 5,000 rounds of ammunition, and 20% have more than 5,000 rounds of ammunition (you might want to save this in case you’re ever accused of being un-normal and unreasonable, assuming you have less than say 10,000 rounds).

Every time I read about someone being arrested and described as having ‘an arsenal of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition’ I cringe, because that can describe many of us.  How big is an ‘arsenal’ of weapons, anyway?  And who cares – there’s nothing that says you can’t legally own 100 guns as legitimately as you can own one gun.

The references to ‘arsenals’ of guns, usually followed by horrified references to ‘assault weapons’ and ‘multiple hand guns’ have nothing to do with a person’s innocence or guilt of anything, any more than may a reference to a person owning hundreds or thousands of movies or books or anything else.

As for ammunition, in some ways this can be even more sensitive a subject for the media.  Whereas a person with many firearms might conceivably be a bona fide collector, a person with many thousands of rounds of ammunition can surely only be – as may be suggested by thinly veiled hints – not just an extremist and paranoid, but one of those crazy ‘white supremacist survivalists’ as well (why do we hear so little of black supremacists and hispanic supremacists – both of which are present in at least equal numbers?).

This can even be used against one in a law suit to do with your use of your firearm(s) in some situation or another.  Owning an unusual number of guns, and a distinctively massive amount of ammunition, puts you on the defensive right from the start, and will be used to brand you as someone who is obsessed with guns and shooting.

And then there is also the concern about the ‘danger’ of storing thousands of rounds of ammunition.  What say there’s a fire and you’ve got bullets going off all around the place?  Might the exploding bullets accidentally kill some innocent neighbors or firemen?

Okay, so let’s look at these various issues.

The Danger of Ammo in a Fire

Let’s take the easiest issue first – the danger of ammunition in a fire.  Have a look at this Youtube video which shows what happens when bullets explode from heat.

Mythbusters tested a .22 round, a .44 round and a .50 round in the video.  All bullets exploded when they got sufficiently hot (about 500 F), and no-one denies that bullets will explode in a house fire.

But neither the .22 nor the .44 exploded with sufficient force to even shatter the glass in the front of the oven.  The .50 cal round shattered one of the two layers of oven glass, but not the other layer.

The reason that exploding bullets are relatively safe is because the bullets explode in an unconstrained unfocused manner.  The energy from the explosion spreads close to evenly in all directions.  A cartridge fired in a gun has basically only one direction to focus its energy – down the barrel and out.  A bullet being fired in/from a gun is dangerous of course; but loose bullets in a fire generally go ‘pop’ and neither the case nor the bullet are sent at high speed in any direction.

First, the casing tends to burst, and then the casing (because it is lighter) flies out faster than the bullet itself.  Much of the energy is expended in bursting the casing.

Here is a second video where the same researchers tip a bucket of bullets into a campfire.  Their conclusion – this is not an advised thing to do, but it is not lethally dangerous; indeed, one of the researchers thought that the flying casings and bullets might not even break your skin at close range.

This is perhaps why, although there are limits on the amount of gasoline you can store in your house/garage, there are typically no limits on the amount of ammunition you can store.  Furthermore, if you are storing the ammo in a safe, while the safe may or may not sufficiently keep the temperature down, even if the bullets all detonate, their explosions will be contained within the safe.

(Note – an alternate point of view is that it is better to keep ammunition in an open space so that if a few rounds go off, the pressure waves from those rounds don’t make all the other rounds go off in a single big bang.  That truly could become dangerous.)

So, in terms of safety issues, there is no reason, either in law or common sense, to limit the ammunition you store at home.

How to Store Bulk Ammo

Bulk ammunition should be stored in its original boxes or in plastic boxes that hold each round in its own space.  The boxes should then ideally be kept inside ammo tins and if you want extreme longevity, toss in a bag or two of de-humidifier desiccant into each tin.

If the tins have good seals, and if you store them somewhere cool and reasonably dry, the ammo will probably last as long as you will, and maybe longer.

The Legality of Storing Bulk Ammunition

I’m unaware of any federal or state restrictions on how much ammunition you can own – except for Massachusetts which limits you to 10,000 rounds of rimfire, 10,000 rounds of center fire and 5,000 shotgun shells (if you want to go up to 3,000 rounds of rimfire, 50,000 rounds of center fire and 50,000 rounds of shotgun shells, you can get a permit from the local fire department – see here).

If you think there might be a state or local ordinance restricting how much ammunition you can own, you should check with your local police and fire departments (without necessarily blurting out ‘I’ve got tens of thousands of rounds of ammo at home’ as your first words!).

Another unlikely but possible constraint might be if you belong to a Home Owner’s or Condo Association or rental agreement.  Any of these might have some ridiculous restrictions.

Valid Reasons to Have a Bulk Supply of Ammunition

Here are a list of reasons to keep in mind in support of owning substantial quantities of ammunition, and reasons why doing so is prudent rather than strange and suspicious.

1.  Ammunition is cheaper when purchased in bulk.  Case-lot prices (typically somewhere from 500 – 1200 rounds per case) is usually at least 10% cheaper than box-lot (typically 50 round boxes) quantities, and sometimes a lot cheaper – and if mail ordering (which is perfectly legal) you can not only get a better cost per hundred/thousand rounds, but might get a break on the freight costs too.

2.  Ammunition is sometimes in short supply, and has been for most of the last four or more years.  What with runs on ammo due to people stockpiling it (you’re not the only person to own a good quantity of ammo!) and the demands on ammunition manufacture placed by our military, there have been regular periods of shortage where you just can’t get any ammo, or where you are rationed to a box or two at a time.  It makes sense to carry a decent quantity in case of future shortages.

3.  If you have multiple calibers of pistols, rifles and shotguns, then even if you only keep 1,000 rounds for each caliber, you still could end up with 5,000 or more rounds just due to the number of different types of ammunition you require.  Then if you also allow for different types of ammo – different loads and different bullet shapes – for each caliber, you’ve increased still further the total quantity of ammo you need.

4.  A long weekend shooting, eg in a firearms training course, could see you go through 500 – 1000 rounds; if you and a second family member are both participating, that could be as many as 2000 rounds.  When measured by this type of usage, owning thousands of rounds of ammunition does not seem excessive.

5.  Ammo is easy and suitable to store.  It takes up little space, and lasts a very long time (decades) when stored in a cool dry place.  A thousand rounds of most calibers of ammunition take up no more space than a dozen cans of soda or beer.

6.  Occasional legislative threats to ammunition purchase, either in the form of ridiculously punitive taxes, or new onerous controls on its purchase, or outright outlawing of ammunition, encourage a prudent person to stock up on ammunition while it remains affordable and freely available.  In other words, the gun grabbers’ own actions encourage us to take prudent steps to ensure we have plenty of ammunition.

I write these comments having just read this article about a renewed attempt to pressure the EPA into declaring lead based ammunition illegal on environmental grounds.  It seems, to me, like a valid reason to go out and buy another couple of thousand rounds, just for the happiness of having them.

7.  Ammunition has gone up substantially in price in the past decade or so.  Buying ammunition might be a good investment – it will probably never go down in price again and quite likely might continue to increase at a rate greater than that of regular inflation.

8.  I generally buy my ammo at a gun show in case lots.  The gun show only operates every month or two, and as likely as not, I can’t make it when it is being held, so if I get to visit three times a year, I’m doing well.  Quite apart from anything else, that means I need to plan for four months of consumption, plus whatever I want to have as a minimum left over at the end of the four months.

9.  Because you can.  You don’t need a reason to own multiple DVDs or multiple books, and no-one is going to criticize you if you buy toilet paper rolls in bulk at Costco either.  So why should you need a reason for choosing to own a bulk lot of ammunition?  Shame on your questioner for asking you a question which is based around an assumption of evil intent.

Invalid Reasons to Have Lots of Ammo

Although there are no specific laws against owning ammunition in any quantity, there are plenty of other laws that can be ‘re-purposed’ to constrain your ability to own ammunition.

In particular, your actions can be deemed a public danger if you give any indication of being a ‘survivalist’ type.  Yes, I know this is unfair, unjust, and all those other things, but it is what you risk in the imperfect real world, full of suspicious gun haters.

There was a case in South Bend, IN, in September 2007 where a person had his multiple guns and 79,010 rounds of ammunition confiscated after he told an ATF agent that he was worried about ‘imminent social collapse’ and said ‘You just have to protect yourself sometimes’.

So if asked why you have lots of guns and ammo, stick to the nine points above.  🙂

Here’s another case of a person with 30,000 rounds of pistol ammunition.  But in this case, the man also was charged with the illegal possession of a high-capacity firearm, and if you read between the lines of the report, you’ll probably work out what the police were alleging.

Moral of the story :  If you’re going to own large quantities of ammunition, make sure the rest of your firearms related matters are all totally legal.

Conclusion

You can probably store up to 10,000 rounds of ammunition at home without seeming like a total raving loon, assuming no legal prohibitions, and assuming you are able to cogently and clearly express ‘good’ and politically correct (!) reasons why you do so if questioned.  Of course, you’ll find it even less controversial if you have only 100 rounds, and you’ll be utterly free of complications with zero rounds, but that’s not why you’re reading this, is it.

Keep our list of nine reasons to store bulk ammunition at hand in case of problems.

Apr 202011
 

L to R = 9mm  .40″  .45″  5.7x28mm  5.56mm  7.62mm

I was doing some training recently with people who’ve ‘been there and done that’ and invariably the subject of the ‘best’ pistol round came up.  Usually these endless discussions revolve around .45 ACP vs .40 S&W with various other calibers added to confuse the discussion still further, but this time one of our group said he thought the 5.7x28mm round was the best.

I’d never really considered this round in the past because it isn’t a mainstream round – very few weapons out there fire it.  But I respected the guy who advocated it and so kept my silence and listened rather than spoke, and did some research subsequently.

I’ve got to tell you I’m hooked.  The 5.7×28 round has several significant advantages over all other pistol rounds – its speed and its dimensions, and to a lesser extent its weight.  It is reasonably priced, with its greatest weakness being lack of pistols that will accept this caliber.

Lethality Issues

Let’s consider speed first.  Most pistol rounds exit the muzzle at anywhere from somewhat below 900 feet per second up to about 1400 fps.  The speed of a bullet depends on its caliber, its weight, the powder load, and the barrel length.

To give some context :

Round Bullet (grains) MV (fps) ME (ft lbs)
.22 LR 37 LHP 975 78
.25 ACP 50 FMJ 760 64
.32 ACP 60 STHP 970 125
.380 ACP 90 JHP 1005 200
9×19 115 JHP 1175 341
9×19 +P 115 JHP 1300 425
.40 S&W 165 JHP 1150 485
.45 ACP 230 FMJ 839 360
.45 ACP +P 185 JHP 1140 530
5.7×28 40 V-Max 1750 320

 

Note – all measurements can vary +/- 10% depending on the cartridge manufacturer and barrel length.  In the case of the 5.7 round, speed is from an FN 5-7; add 200 fps if fired from a P90 and another 20 ft lbs; add an additional 150 fps (ie 350 fps total) if fired from a PS90.  (MV = Muzzle velocity; ME = Muzzle energy)

As for the round’s dimensions, it has a smaller diameter than any of the other bullets except for the .22 round.  5.7mm is .224″ – a single thousandth of an inch larger in diameter than a 5.56mm/.223″ rifle round.  A narrow diameter for any round is not normally considered a good thing – in simplistic terms, the larger the diameter, the larger the wound cavity created.

(But, on the other hand, does it really make that much difference whether the wound cavity is created by a bullet measuring 0.4″ in diameter or one measuring 0.45″ in diameter?  Both are tiny compared to the size of a person’s torso.)

The notable thing about this round is that it is narrow but long – it measures 21.6mm (0.85″) in length (the 28mm measurement relates to the length of the cartridge case, not to the length of the bullet).  In round figures, it is almost four times longer than its diameter.  This compares to standard 9mm rounds which are about 1.5 times as long as they are wide, sometimes less.

The 5.7×28 round also has its center of mass further back towards the rear of the bullet than is the case with most other pistol bullets, due to its long gracefully pointing nose.

Accordingly, when a 5.7×28 round hits a target, the bullet tends to tumble (the same as the .223 round).  This does two things.  It makes for a much larger wound cavity than it would if drilling a tidy hole as would otherwise be the case, and it ensures that all the bullet’s energy is transferred to the target, with less danger of the bullet zipping out the back side of the target and on to whatever other things are behind it.

Now let’s return to the bullet’s speed to consider another measure of bullet lethality.  As a disclaimer up front, I should acknowledge that all studies of all types of bullet lethality can be considered as incomplete and inconclusive, and as such there are no exact factors to optimize in designing the ultimate self-defense round.  That is why there is so much (and such repetitive) discussion over the relative effective stopping power of different bullets.

Hydrostatic Shock

With that disclaimer out of the way, the phenomenon of hydrostatic shock is a somewhat controversial factor which some authorities believe to be a significant contributor to a bullet’s ability to rapidly incapacitate an aggressor (ie faster than the time it takes for the aggressor to simply bleed out).  Some proponents of hydrostatic shock even claim that a bullet hit in the torso will transfer energy through the body’s non-compressible fluids to the brain.

Hydrostatic shock effects are not only somewhat controversial, but also somewhat secondary for most pistol rounds, because the pistol rounds do not travel fast enough to have an appreciable hydrostatic shock effect.  The FBI recommends that pistol rounds be chosen primarily on the basis of their ability to penetrate 12″ of ballistic gelatin.

However, the 5.7x28mm round is considered to provide a greater hydrostatic shock effect than most other pistol calibers and bullets (and seems to penetrate about 12″ into ballistic gelatin as well).

Those who argue against hydrostatic shock say that accurate bullet placement into vital organs and areas of the body is the most certain approach to ensuring capacitation.  A possible response to that statement is to accept it, but to point out that few of us can guarantee such accuracy under stress in a volatile situation, and so any added factors that can help us win the fight are to be embraced enthusiastically.  It would seem the 5.7 round offers the best of both worlds – sufficient penetrative ability to be reasonably likely to reach vital organs if hitting the target in an optimum zone, and the added bonus of hydrostatic shock, ‘whether it is needed or not’.

This has certainly been accepted by Navy Seals, Secret Service, and the Federal Protective Service, all of whom have chosen 5.7mm rounds and weapons for their operatives.

The 5.7 round is rated as having an effective range of 55 yards when fired from a FN Five-seveN pistol, or 220 yards when fired from a P90.

The very high velocity of the round also gives it a very flat trajectory, and allows for optimum accuracy.

Recoil & Flash

The 5.7x28mm round gives you something for nothing – it leaves the gun with a goodly amount of energy, in high speed search of something to transfer its energy into for maximum effect, but does so without the expected amount of recoil.

The recoil experienced when firing a 5.7×28 round through a FN Five-seveN pistol is appreciably less than the recoil experienced firing a 9mm round through a Glock 17.  This is all the more surprising because the Glock is a slightly heavier weapon (both weigh about 22 oz unloaded but 17 rounds of 9mm ammo in a Glock magazine weigh considerably more than 20 rounds of 5.7mm in a FN magazine).  It has been cited as having 30% less recoil than a regular 9mm round.

Although recoil is low, muzzle blast and flash is appreciably higher – I’ve not fired the cartridge at night, but based on the visible flash from daytime shooting, I’d imagine it to have appreciable impact on your night vision acuity if you had to use it in a dark environment.

Weight

The cartridges weigh about half the weight of typical 9mm cartridges.  This, plus their small size, makes it very convenient to carry plenty of spare ammunition.

Cost

Regular civilian grade ammunition can be purchased at around $20 per 50 round box of the SS197SR cartridges and $25 per 50 round box of the SS195LF cartridges.  This makes it priced closely comparable to regular grade .45 ACP and only a little more than .40 S&W ammo.  The same source sells standard 9mm ammo for around $12/50 rounds.

When you keep in mind you don’t need to buy outrageously expensive self defense rounds in addition to the ammo you buy for practice and plinking, it seems clear that from an affordability point of view, the 5.7 round is no worse than most other standard caliber rounds.

Cop-Killer?

The anti-gun nuts – and I use the word ‘nuts’ advisedly because they seldom allow common sense to interfere with their hysterical dislike of anything that goes ‘bang’ have denounced the 5.7×28 round as being a ‘cop killer’ round with alleged magic properties to penetrate through bullet proof vests.

These are probably the same people who described the Glock 17 pistol, for the first few years after its introduction, as a ‘plastic gun’ which they claimed would be undetectable when going through airport security, due to ‘having no metal’ in it.  Of course, this is an utterly nonsensical statement – the entire barrel, slide, and assorted other pieces of the action are all made of good solid steel, and with airport metal detectors capable of detecting a single penny in your pocket, they’d never have any problem with over a pound of solid steel in the so-called ‘plastic’ gun.

The claims about the 5.7×28 round are similarly specious.  It is true that one of the original development goals was to create a bullet with better penetrating power to get through battlefield flak jackets, and for sure, an armor-piercing version of the round is available, although only to the military and law enforcement, and this round is definitely capable of penetrating some kevlar vests.

But most pistol and rifle rounds are offered in armor-piercing variations, so the fact there’s an a/p version of the 5.7×28 round is not unusual.

Most importantly, however, civilians can only buy two versions of the 5.7×28 round – the SS195LF (lead free) and the SS197SR (sporting round).  Neither are armor-piercing.  Only the SS190 is classified by ATF as AP and sale is restricted to law enforcement and military only.

Unfortunately it isn’t only the rabid anti-gunners who ascribe magical powers to this round.  At the local gun range, the generally knowledgeable range master claimed that the 5.7×28 round traveled at 3300 fps (almost exactly twice the actual speed of 1750 fps) and could penetrate ‘both sides of a kevlar helmet’.

Here’s an interesting critique of the round which compares it to some high powered .22 cartridges, and as this comparison would indicate, it is absolutely not a cop-killer with any magical penetration powers at all.  Unstated in the article is the fact that these bullets (like 5.56mm/.223″ rifle rounds) tend to tumble when striking a target – this is a great way to transfer the bullet’s energy to the target, to create a wider wound channel, and to avoid over-penetration, but it is absolutely useless in terms of penetrating a bullet proof vest (or much else for that matter, either).

Why Is the 5.7×28 Round Not More Popular?

So, if you’ve read all this way, you’ll be seeing this as an excellent round with a lots of pluses and no minuses.  Why hasn’t there been a rush to adopt it by handgun manufacturers and military/law enforcement institutions?  In contrast, the .40 S&W, first introduced in 1990, has quickly won widespread acclaim and adoption, whereas the 5.7mm round languishes with little marketplace awareness and even less acceptance.

It is hard to have an answer to this relevant question.  My own best guess is that most shooters are hung up on the size issue.  A bigger bullet is intuitively better than a smaller bullet, and when you think back to the introduction of the .40 S&W round, it was not so much displacing/replacing the even larger .45 ACP round as it was substituting for smaller rounds such as 9mm.  The ‘bigger is better’ crowd were able to welcome the .40 S&W without having to change their paradigm.

On the other hand, the 5.7mm round is tiny.  It is long and narrow and ‘delicate’ in appearance.  It weighs only 40 grains, compared to 115 or more for a 9mm round, 155 or more for a .40 S&W and as much as 230 grains for a .45 ACP round.

This makes it difficult to accept the 5.7mm round as being better than the larger heavier rounds it competes with.  Add to that the successful scare-mongering and hate-mongering by the anti-gun forces so as to make it a controversial round that politically correct shooters may choose to avoid, and this excellent round has found little acceptance.

Another reason is the difficulty in adapting existing designs of pistols to chamber the 5.7mm round.  It is, for example, relatively simple to convert a pistol between 9mm and .40 S&W (look at the Glock family for an obvious example).  But due to the relatively long length of the 5.7mm round, it needs major alterations to the design of the grip (to hold the much longer magazine) and to the slide and receiver (allowing the slide to go back much further to eject spent cases and feed new rounds into the chamber.  It is fair to say that the 5.7x28mm cartridge is pushing the outer limits of cartridge dimensions that can be used in an ergonomic pistol design.

Lastly, the chicken and egg effect is definitely in play.  If you want to use the 5.7mm round, you have effectively only one handgun choice – the FN Herstal Five-seveN; an ugly, expensive and bulky weapon with nothing to recommend it other than being chambered for the 5.7mm round.  This further discourages shooters from seeking out 5.7mm based pistols, which discourages the pistol manufacturers from developing new pistols.

Summary

The 5.7x28mm round is an impressive round in every respect, and offers greater stopping power combined with greater controllability (as compared to most other mainstream pistol rounds), all in a tiny sized package, and at an affordable cost per round.

With so much going for it, and very little if any downside, it deserves a more prominent role in our awareness than it currently has.

Apr 202011
 

You don't need six spare magazines, but you do need at least one

Here’s a question for all of us who choose to carry a concealed weapon :  How many rounds do you have with you, both in the pistol and in spare magazines?

Many people carry a small (and therefore convenient, lightweight and easily concealed) pistol that might have perhaps a six round magazine, and if they are prudent, they’ll not load the magazine to full capacity so as to preserve the life of the magazine spring.  Perhaps they’ll have four or five rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber.

And how about a spare magazine?  With how many rounds loaded in it?  Another four or five rounds?

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking that if the (say) five – ten rounds in your gun aren’t enough to solve a situation, nothing much else would be of use either, and you should be running away rather than standing your ground.

But there are several considerations to keep in mind.

First and most importantly, we – all of us – would always prefer to be a ‘brave coward’ and run away.  For all reasons, we must always do all we can to avoid any sort of conflict that could escalate up to requiring deadly force.  That goes without saying.  But so too does it go without saying that sometimes there is no alternative open to us.  We are forced to defend ourselves and our loved ones.

Remember – the whole purpose of carrying any concealed weapon is to plan and prepare for the worst case scenarios, not the best case scenarios.  So, when planning for moderately worst case scenarios, the first part of your planning has to be an allowance for there being no way to avoid the need to use deadly force.

Now, next thought.  What happens if you have a ‘Type 3’ malfunction – a ‘failure to feed’, with the requirement to strip out your magazine and replace it with a spare magazine?  This lengthy process assumes you have a spare magazine readily to hand, and even in the most optimum of situations can take five or six precious seconds to complete.  What if you don’t have a spare magazine?

Sure, there is an alternate drill for reusing your current magazine, but it adds further time and requires additional dexterity at a time when the adrenalin rushing through your system is making you massively clumsy, and in a situation where the bad guys are almost literally on top of you and you don’t have the time to quietly and calmly work your way through the clearance drill.

There are other situations where you may need a second magazine (other than running out of ammo).  Maybe in your stressed condition, you accidentally hit the magazine release button – I’ve seen this happen more times than I care to count.  All of a sudden, your gun is empty and your magazine has fallen somewhere away from you on the ground.  Stopping the fight to crawl around, perhaps in the dark, looking for your dropped magazine is not an option.

So, lesson learned – if you’re carrying a concealed semi-auto, be sure to carry at least one spare magazine too, in a location easily reached by your support hand (the one that doesn’t have your pistol in it).

Next, how many bad guys do you expect to have attacking you?   As a former instructor of mine always insisted, ‘rats travel in packs’.  If you’re being mugged on the street, there’s every chance there are two or more bad guys – and always remember that just because you only see one, that does not mean there isn’t one or two more lurking in the background, waiting to surprise you if you resist the attack from the first guy.  If you surprise a burglar in your kitchen, there’s a good chance his partner is in your living room or bedroom.  And so on.

Worst case scenario, let’s say you’re confronted with a group of four or five bad guys – maybe gang members, out for some mischief, murder and mayhem.

How many rounds do you need to have per bad guy?  Allow for misses, and particularly if you’re using a smaller caliber weapon, allow for multiple hits to stop each threat, and perhaps you should plan for as many as 4 – 8 rounds per bad guy, ‘worst case scenario’.  Five bad guys and eight rounds per bad guy – that is 40 rounds.

Do you still feel good carrying your pistol with five or six rounds in it and no spare ammo?

Lastly, and the reason for sharing these thoughts today, consider the situation described here – two people were attacked by a group of 30 youths on a MARTA train in the Atlanta area.

Think about that situation and use it to redefine your concept of ‘worst case scenario’ :  You can’t run away, and, for that matter, neither can the 30 bad guys either.  If they set upon you, as they did these two innocent riders, with the conflict occurring suddenly and from short range, and in a subway car full of ordinary innocent citizens as well as bad guys, what are you going to do?

One thing is for sure – you’re going to need to project a massively powerful force at the group of bad guys if you wish to take control of the situation.  I’m not even sure you could triumph, but wouldn’t you much rather fail having taken a sizeable number of the bad guys with you, than passively submit to whatever they chose to dish out.

And a closing thought :  Your chances of surviving such a scenario would be much better if the person you were traveling with also has a concealed weapon and knows how to use it.  Of course you don’t want to alienate the gun-haters among your friends and family; but for your safety as well as theirs, any time you have a chance to encourage a person to join you as a gun carrying non-victim, you increase the odds not only of their future survival, but of yours too, if/when something bad goes down.

How Many Guns Can You/Should You Own

Here’s a related question – how many guns should you own?  The same breathless newspaper articles that express shock and horror at discovering some ‘survivalist’ had thousands of rounds of ammo stored also refer to his ‘arsenal’ of guns.

How many guns are fair, and how many become excessive and too many?

Most states have no limit on the number of guns you can own, so that removes that constraint.  As for an actual number, here is an interesting article where a person lists the 16 guns he owns and why he needs each one of them. We’re not going to say that 16 is the exact number to aim for, but clearly this person can easily explain each of them and why he has them all (not that he should need to).

Lastly on this point, if you’re being given grief on this point by someone (often a woman) ask her how many pairs of shoes she owns?  After all, you can only wear one pair at a time, right (chances are she has just been saying ‘you can only shoot one gun at a time, why do you need more)?

Make her a deal – you’ll limit both the number of guns you own and your ongoing purchase of more guns to the same quantities as the shoes she owns and continues to buy!

Bottom Line Action Items

1.  Always carry at least one spare magazine

2.  Consider choosing a self-defense pistol with a higher round capacity

Please also see a second related article ‘How Many Rounds to Carry with Your Concealed Weapon‘.