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.
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.
Rats hunt in packs; and so too do bad guys. Expect multiple intruders/attackers.
When someone talks to you about intruders in your house, what does your mind immediately picture? How many intruders do you automatically think of being in your house?
Some people will say one, others two. A few might say three, but how many would say four?
I ask this question having just read an article about a retired police officer who woke up after a mid-afternoon snooze to find four intruders in his house. One of the bad guys immediately came at him with a crow bar.
Fortunately, the retired police officer had a gun with him, and he shot and wounded the attacker (who died subsequently in hospital) with the other three ran off.
The article doesn’t say, but being as how the retiree was having a mid afternoon nap, my guess is that he may have not actually been tucked up in his bed. Maybe he was sleeping in his favorite reclining chair in the lounge. But – wherever he was – he had his gun with him, which was clearly essential when he woke and almost immediately was under attack. So, confirming our immediately previous article about being prepared at home, make sure you have a gun wherever you are in your home, not just in the bedroom for nighttime protection.
The second moral of this story – be prepared for more than one intruder. You need to expect any break-in or indeed any encounter of any nature at all with bad people involves more than one bad person. Think of this phrase ‘Rats hunt in packs’.
You know that if you see one rat somewhere in your house, that means you’ve probably got an entire family of who only knows how many rats living somewhere in your property.
It is the same with bad guys. They like to have a bit of mutual support, backup, encouragement, companionship, and safety while they are ‘working’ too.
So whenever you realize there is someone in your house, don’t stop upon hearing the first sound. Keep listening and looking, and see if you can hear or see other bad guys too.
Now for the key point : If you find yourself in a situation where you are forced to confront one bad guy, don’t focus only on that one person. Where are his (or her) accomplices? Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there; it just means you haven’t seen them yet.
Try and protect your rear by getting a wall close behind you, so you can’t have someone creep up behind you. Listen intently, and – as best you can – keep looking around you as well as straight ahead. And if you come across the first bad guy, you need to get them out of the fight quickly while maintaining a defensive posture in case the first guy’s buddies come to help him out.
Note that ‘getting them out of the fight’ doesn’t mean shooting them. It means proning them out – ie getting them to lie down, lying facing away from you, hands with fingers interleaved on the back of their head, legs outstretched and crossed at the ankles (or, if space allows, spreadeagled wide, arms and legs all stretched way out from the body). That way they can’t suddenly leap up and at you again without at least some advance warning.
Once you’ve done that to the first person, you can’t leave them alone, of course. You then maneuver yourself into a safe defensive position where other people can’t creep up on you and where you can still see the bad guy on the floor, and concentrate on waiting for the police to arrive.
Lastly, how do you feel now about having a five or six shot revolver for home protection? Maybe you don’t get attacked by four intruders, like this retiree was. But even if you have ‘only’ two or three, and if we allow that perhaps half your shots will miss, and if we further say you’ll need to hit each person three or four times to stop them, that means you’ll need perhaps 24 rounds to be sure of stopping a three person attack. That’s a full revolver cylinder of six rounds, plus three reloads – and you’re for sure not going to have time for any reloading at all in such a close quarters attack.
At least with a semi-auto you can have 10 – 20 rounds in the gun to start with, allowing you to send anywhere from three to six rounds to each of three attackers before needing to pause briefly for a fast under 1.5 second reload and then continue the fight. You’ve got a good chance of winning with a semi-auto, but a bad chance of losing with a revolver.
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.
The person who is most surprised in this situation is probably the person who will lose. Make sure you have the element of surprise on your side.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure your friends and family, your work colleagues and your fellow sports team or congregation members are the nicest in the world. Heck, I’m sure you could trust them with your life.
Actually, scrub that last sentence.
Which brings me to the point of this article. The future is uncertain. Today’s friend is sometimes tomorrow’s foe. Or today’s friend remains tomorrow’s friend too, but happens to share something personal about you with someone else you don’t know and might not care to tell your closest secrets to. And that person tells another person, while getting the story slightly wrong in the process. And so on and so on, and before you know it, all of Facebook believes they know something about you which is either something you for sure don’t want to share, or is something totally wrong and different from the truth.
One of the reasons we choose to carry concealed, even in states that allow open carry, is so we have the benefit of surprise. Think in particular of Nevada – anyone, from any state, can open carry in NV, but if you want to have not just a firearm but also the benefit of surprise, and so you want to conceal your firearm, then you need a permit, and NV is a bit tough at issuing permits (you even need to pass a range test as well as sit an exam on knowledge too) and doesn’t recognize a lot of permits from other states (tip – get an easier to obtain AZ permit which NV does recognize).
I’m as big a supporter of the Second Amendment as there is, but I almost never open carry. Open carry gives the bad guy a head’s up and an advantage. You don’t know who in the crowd might be a bad guy, but all of a sudden, all the bad guys around you know who you are. And your gun may focus their attention on you rather than make them pass you by.
Or, even worse, some drunken jerk decides to pick a fight with you, based on seeing you having a gun, and ends up backing you into a corner, both figuratively and perhaps literally too, daring you to shoot him, and threatening you with negative consequences if you don’t. Sounds ridiculous, right? But it does happen.
Visible handguns are magnets that irresistibly draw bad guys and idiots to you. To say nothing of ill-informed police officers who might not fully appreciate your right to open carry, and exposing you to claims of being threatened by other citizens – ‘Officer, the man looked at me threateningly and then moved his hand to his gun suggestively, and I was in fear of my life’.
Don’t open carry, okay?
But, back to the topic of the moment. There’s one thing even worse than open carry. That is concealed carry where you think other people around you don’t know you have a firearm, but in actuality, they do know. At least, when open carrying, you know the other guy knows and you plan your behavior from that understanding. But if you are carrying concealed, you base your actions on the assumption that people around you don’t know you’re carrying concealed. If that assumption is incorrect, all sorts of unexpected (and bad) consequences may occur.
How to prevent this? Easy. Don’t tell anyone you ever carry a concealed weapon. Don’t even tell your spouse, your siblings, your children or your parents. And don’t ever tell anyone how you carry it concealed, either.
If people know you support concealed carry rights, and if they know you have a concealed weapons permit, they’ll probably wonder, and might even outright ask you questions on the topic. Don’t tell them if/when you are carrying, and don’t also tell people if you are not carrying. Be like the US Navy was, back in the ‘good old days’ when our ships may or may not have been carrying nuclear weapons – refuse to confirm or deny the presence of a pistol on your person.
If the topic comes up, you should go vague and say something like ‘Yes, I like to keep a gun reasonably accessible to where I am on occasions when it is convenient or appropriate to do so’.
I know some people who occasionally carry concealed places where they shouldn’t. If no-one else knows, that’s usually not a problem. Maybe they are just rushing into the post office to drop a letter in the mailbox, or maybe they are briefly in a bar, or school zone, or in a mall with ‘No Firearms’ signs posted, or whatever/wherever.
But if you sometimes do this, and all your friends know you are carrying, then you can guess what happens. Maybe you go to the Post Office with a friend, and when you get there and are waiting in line, your friend sees a sign advising that all weapons are forbidden inside (and outside too) the federal building. He turns to you and in a big loud voice says ‘Hey, Bill – see that sign? Does that apply to your .44 Magnum revolver you’ve got under your jacket?’ What happens after that doesn’t bear thinking about.
Or word gets out uncontrollably to other people, with who knows what consequence. You’d told a friend, and then one day you meet him somewhere socially, and after you part, he turns to the people he is with and says ‘See that guy I was just talking to? He’s got a Glock pistol under his shirt – if you look carefully, you can see the clips of his inside-the-waistband holster on his belt – see’. He points at you, and half a dozen people all turn and stare at your belt. Then one of them comes up to you, while you’re talking to someone else, and says ‘I’ve just gotta ask, is that really a Glock you’ve got under your shirt? Joe said those clips on your belt are from its holster.’
What happens next depends on the function you’re at and the other people in the room. Let’s hope the people around you when the unwelcome other guy comes up and blurts out his nonsense aren’t gun hating people you were trying to impress! Even gun neutral people will start to look at you a bit strangely, and wonder what color of paranoid to ascribe to you.
And that’s not all. Maybe one of the temporary staff hired to cater the event overhears the discussion, and tells his not so nice friends to watch out for you as you leave the function. They jump you, take your gun, your wallet, and hopefully leave you unharmed in the process (but maybe not). Your gun has made you a target and a victim, rather than what it was intended to do – protect you.
Maybe you work in a slightly risky environment, and maybe some bad guys are researching your place of work with a view to doing something bad to it. If their research causes them to learn that you’re probably armed, you’ve suddenly gone to the top of their target list when they invade the building.
Maybe a former girlfriend invents an untrue allegation about you threatening her with your pistol, and describes to the police both where/how you carry the gun and what it looks like. That’s a lot more credible than an empty claim ‘well, yes, he threatened me with his gun, but I’m not sure where it came from, where he put it afterwards, and I don’t remember even if it was shiny mirror finish, pink, or dull black.
Not to boast, but I’ve dated women and bedded them regularly while always carrying, and they never knew I had a gun. It is possible, if you’re careful and discreet, to prevent even people who know you extremely intimately in other respects from knowing if/when/where you have a gun.
I’ve regularly carried in every sort of business and personal situation, and no-one has ever known. I don’t even talk about it with my wife – she knows not to ask or enquire. And my children don’t know about it either.
That’s the way it should be for you, too. If you’re the sort of person who feels the need to boast about carrying concealed, then you know what – you’re not really the sort of person who should be carrying concealed in the first place. Feeling the need to boast is only one small step removed from then ‘brandishing’ the gun in public to ‘solve’ an argument.
The only person who should ever know about your concealed firearm is the bad guy, fractions of a second before he either has a sudden and profound change of plan, or, if he continues with his evil plan, fractions of a second before he gets a series of very nasty surprises in the center of his chest.
You never know when a safe environment won't turn lethally dangerous
Here’s an appalling story of a 70 year old man who was abducted and gang-raped by four other men.
When you’re 70 years old, and when four younger men come up to you and accost you, you don’t have a lot of options, do you. But that is where a handgun could make all the difference. A handgun truly is ‘the great equalizer’, and in the hands of a 70 yr old gives him as much say in the outcome as the four younger, stronger, men seeking to attack him.
The key thing here is that this was not a surprise ambush. The 70 yr old would have had time to react and turn the tables on his attackers. They apparently drove up to him in a van while he was out walking. They had to stop the van close to him, all four get out, group together, and then approach him en masse.
If the 70 yr old was following through the color code of mental awareness, he would have been on a regular yellow level of low alert to start with. This yellow level means he would have noticed a van pulling up to stop alongside him on his early morning walk, and the unexpected action should have pushed him up to orange. At that point he should have started to initiate an avoidance reaction – maybe cross the road or turn around and start walking back.
This avoidance action does four things. First, it helps you to avoid the possible threat. Second, it forces the people who may be about to threaten you to more clearly telegraph their actions. A van stopping beside you might be a harmless coincidence. But if you cross the road and the people in the van get out and walk towards you, that changes the odds from harmless coincidence to something possibly more sinister.
Thirdly, it helps maintain or increase distance between you and your potential attackers, buying you more time to decide on a response as the situation evolves.
And fourthly, by making it harder for the bad guys to catch you unawares, they might simply give up and go find an easier target.
When the four men started to approach this man, he should have gone to condition red, and taken control of the situation. At this point, he would have been less than a second away from possible attack, and needed to urgently do something to change the dynamics of what was about to occur. Presenting a gun and calling out to the four men to ‘Stop Right There!’ would have done that.
If he had earlier taken passive evasive action but the four men had countered that action and still approached him, and if he then took active measures to turn them away and they did not comply, clearly he was in grave danger and (depending on the state he lives in) would probably be justified in shooting them.
Generally, it is likely that an authoritative presentation of a ‘serious’ pistol may be enough to defuse a situation. Most (but not all!!!) would-be attackers are not wanting to get into a gun fight. They are wanting to ‘skim the cream’, to ‘pick the low hanging fruit’, and to take ‘the easy pickings’. It isn’t as though they are contract professional hitmen who have been paid to specifically attack you, or people with a specific grudge against you and wanting to get even.
They are simply cruising looking for some ‘fun’ and some easy money from some easy targets. If you show yourself not to be an easy target, they will give up and go attack someone else. Sure, they’ll mouth off at you, and make all sorts of threats to preserve their ‘honor’ but they’ll leave as quickly as they can.
Of course, the group dynamic with four is a bit different to being confronted by a single individual. Assuming a single individual is not drug crazed (or crazy for any other reason) he is already at somewhat of a disadvantage (ie one on one) and he doesn’t have to worry about embarrassing himself in front of his buddies.
But with four, there is a danger they might feel they have the numbers on their side. This means they can tell a different story to the police – ‘We just wanted to ask this guy for directions, and when we approached him he pulled a gun and started acting all crazy’, and it means they have a more socially and strategically dominant position to start with (four against one). One or more of them might even have a gun, and if all four of them were to respond to your pulling a gun by reaching for their own guns, one, two, or possibly even three of them are going to be able to get shots off in your direction, no matter how quickly you start shooting first.
Depending also on their group dynamic, they may be unwilling to back down and shame themselves in front of each other.
In such a case, you need to be as assertive as you can be, because if you can’t control the situation with a credible threat of lethal force, you will be left with only two options – either to surrender to the bad guys (who will now be seriously pissed at you after your pulling a gun on them) or shoot them, and you don’t really want either of those two outcomes. You need to be as much like Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry, and as little like Peewee Herman as you can manage in this terrible situation. Maybe hold your gun closer to your chest, with your shooting arm elbow wedged into the side of your body, so as to reduce the visible amount of trembling.
One more lesson from this real life tragedy. There were four bad guys. If the man had to shoot, a five shot revolver would not be enough (some of your shots are going to miss, no matter how big and close the targets, and one shot per attacker is seldom enough at the best of times). A six or seven shot compact semi-auto would probably also not be enough, and you’d have no time to reload either the revolver or the small semi-auto in the middle of the encounter.
So what would you do, if it were you, and you had to pull a gun on these four people?
First, call out, as loud and forcefully as you can, ‘Stop Right There!’ The louder you say that, the better – not only will this help establish your dominance, but it also increases the chances of someone else, somewhere nearby, hearing you say it, too. This will help you enormously if you have to proceed to use your weapon and then claim self defense. The bad guys can’t say ‘he started shooting at us with no warning and for no reason’ if a passerby can say ‘I heard someone call out ‘Stop’ in a loud voice, then a second later, I heard shots fired’.
If they don’t stop, depending on their distance, their posture, and what they are doing in response to you – particularly with their hands – you might have a chance for a second warning – ‘Stop or I Shoot!’ or ‘Stop Right Now!’; and this time have your gun pointed in at the most dangerous of the four people.
If you don’t have time for a second warning, and/or if they still don’t comply, assuming they are now in the ‘danger zone’ where they can reach you sooner than you can defend yourself, you have no alternative but to start shooting.
Think about it. You crossed the road or turned around to avoid them. They came after you. This is not an innocent coincidence by four harmless strangers. You warned them off and they ignored your warning, and they are continuing to approach you, even though you’ve pointed a gun at them and ordered them to stop. These people are not your friends. You’ve done all you can in the circumstances to avoid a confrontation, and to avoid needing to save yourself via deadly force, but they are forcing the confrontation on you.
If, however, they do stop, what next? That’s a subject for another discussion, another time. Suffice it to say, for now, that you need to keep their hands in plain view, you need to get them turned around so they can’t see you, and you need to call the police. You must be the one to get your version of what happened told first.
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.
There’s one main reason to choose a sub-compact small caliber pistol instead of a full size larger caliber pistol. The ability to comfortably carry it in an ultra-concealed manner. (A second possibility is using it as your backup gun if you are carrying two pistols with you. And for a third reason, read on down to the section on the time/surprise advantage you can get with a pocket pistol.)
The rationale for the sub-compact is that it is better to have a less than ideal weapon conveniently on your person when you unexpectedly need it, than to have a full size optimized weapon – but not with you. So in such cases, the ability to carry the sub-compact is of over-riding importance.
You can use all the regular methods of carry with a small pistol, of course. Inside the waistband, ankle, shoulder, whatever. But there’s one additional carry option that is probably your best choice, especially for men. Where better to carry a ‘pocket pistol’ than in your pocket!
Yes, you should consider carrying a pocket pistol in your pocket. You want to get a pocket ‘holster’ – this mainly acts to disguise the outline of the pistol, so that instead of looking like a pistol in your pocket, it looks like something flat and rectangular.
It also provides a bit of protection around the trigger, and by flattening out the barrel, lessens the stress on the bottom of your pocket. You’ll still wear through pockets at an accelerated rate, but if you’re like me, and buy trousers at Walmart for $15 – $20 a pair, that’s no big deal, and it is probably cheaper/easier to simply buy more pairs of trousers than to repair pockets that you’ve worn through.
Pocket holsters usually have some sort of grip or anti-slip on them so that when you grab your pistol and pull it from your pocket, the holster (at least in theory, although not always in practice) stays behind. But don’t worry about it; if the holster stays with the gun, you can shoot your first shot through it and it won’t make any difference at all.
Pocket holsters are not only very concealable, they are also better than any other type of holster for unobstrusively preparing to draw. With most types of holsters, if a person reaches to put their hand on their weapon, it is 99% obvious – especially to a bad guy who is trying to decide if the person is a vulnerable target – what they are doing. But what is suspicious or unusual about a person who has his hands in his pockets? Nothing at all.
Indeed, you could even manage a draw in an extreme case if a mugger surprises you on the street and demands your wallet. Hand over your wallet and drop it, then say ‘Oh, I’ve got a bill fold too’ or something like that, reach in your pocket while the bad guy is distracted, and either take out (or shoot through the pocket) your pistol. (Note – it is seldom appropriate to shoot a mugger unless you’re convinced he/they are not going to simply let you go after taking your money.) (Second note – this may work if the guy has a knife, I’m not sure I’d want to try it if he had a gun pointed directly at me!)
The Time and Tactical (Surprise) Advantage of a Pocket Pistol
Which leads to an unexpected benefit of pocket pistols that you can uniquely experience with them and no other type of carry weapon.
This is the ability to have your hand already wrapped around your pistol and ready to take it out of your pocket, a capability that gives you an extra margin of perhaps 0.5 – 1 second over the time it would take you to suddenly reach for your pistol, get a good firing grip, and then remove it from wherever it is being carried. If you’ve a clutzy shoulder holster, or something with a retention/snap, or (perhaps worst of all) an ankle holster, your time advantage lengthens even more.
What can you do with even as small as ‘only’ 0.5 seconds of advantage? Well, put it this way – in that same 0.5 seconds, the bad guy can get maybe 10 ft – 15 ft closer to you. In that same 0.5 seconds, you can possibly fire two more rounds at him, and stop him sooner and further away. In that same 0.5 seconds, you’ve seized the initiative and the other guy is now having to react to you and your control of the situation, rather than you having to react to him.
More likely, your time advantage is even more than 0.5 seconds – more like 1 second, giving you even more of an edge.
But be careful – ‘Wild West’ rules sort of apply even in this modern age – the other guy has to draw first, or, in modern parlance, has to become a real lethal threat. You can’t shoot someone because you think they’re going to become a threat; you can only do so when they have become a real threat and when you have no other alternative (such as running away).
This time and surprise advantage is so great that it can win a battle for you. When I’m carrying both a regular pistol in a regular rig and a pocket pistol in my pocket, if I feel threatened, I stick my hands in my pockets and look casual, calm, and unaware (hoping to de-escalate the situation rather than prematurely responding to what might not be a threat), while actually being the total opposite. If it becomes necessary, I’ll use the time/surprise advantage of my pocket pistol to triage any threat that may eventuate, then switch to my main gun for the real work to finish the job.
This switching of pistols might be in the form of a ‘New York reload’ – ie, empty the pocket pistol’s magazine at the threat(s) then rather than reload it, draw the main gun for the rest of the job. Or it could be, if attempting to control a situation that might not call for lethal force, rapidly presenting the pocket pistol, swapping it to my support hand, then presenting the main pistol with my firing hand and pocketing the smaller pistol at that point. If a bad guy is surprised to see someone he thought to be a helpless victim suddenly present one pistol from nowhere, imagine his laundry bill when you then pull a second bigger pistol and point that at him authoritatively too!
So, here’s a key factor in choosing your pocket pistol. You want it to be small enough to truly fit in your pocket. You’ll discover that not all pockets are the same size – some trousers have deeper pockets than others, so choose an appropriate pair of trousers then test out guns complete with their appropriate pocket holsters before selecting the pistol you buy.
Worst case scenario, you might have to buy two or three pocket holsters if the gun store doesn’t have holsters available for you to try with their pistols. But the pocket holsters are generally ambidextrous, and there are only a few sizes that between them fit almost all pocket pistols, and they’re not tremendously expensive, so it is a small and necessary investment in researching a pocket pistol.
In my case, my Seecamp fits in every pocket I have, even tailored suit trousers. I consider my PPK too heavy, so rarely put it in a pocket, but will carry my Ruger LCR .38 SPL revolver (just under 16 ounces loaded with five rounds) and find it fits in many but not all casual trouser pockets but not in dress type trousers.