Mar 312012

What would you do if a home invader suddenly smashed into your home? Where's your gun?

We’ve written before about the danger of opening your front door to strangers (see here and here), the dangers of selling things, and on other topics to do with protecting yourself at home.

It is a vital topic, for two reasons.  First, for most of us, it is the place we spend more time at than anywhere else.  We probably spend half our lives; maybe even more, at home.  That is one of the main reasons why ‘more accidents occur at home’ than anywhere else, and it is also one of the main reasons why you are most at risk at home – simply because you are there more than you are anywhere else.

The second reason is that our home is usually also the place we feel most relaxed in.  It is our refuge, our ‘castle’, the place where we feel we are in control of our environment, and it is the place where we can relax and – oooops – let our guard down.

Think about this.  We’re driving somewhere in our car, and while stopped at a light, someone steps off the sidewalk and walks over to our car.  We respond with caution and concern, instantly recognizing the event as a possible threat.  But if we’re at home and the front doorbell rings, we respond instead with a frisson of excitement – ‘Oh, I wonder which of my friends is visiting’ or perhaps ‘I wonder what the UPS guy is delivering for me’.  About as bad as it gets is ‘Aaagh – damn door to door salesmen calling when I’m in the middle of dinner yet again’.  Note the total lack of caution in all these responses.

Okay, so you’ve read our articles on the danger of opening your front door to strangers.  Good.  You’ve closed that point of vulnerability.  But that’s not all.  Oh yes – maybe you also have a gun by the bed, too, so you’re sort of prepared if someone breaks in late at night while you’re asleep.

But what happens if you’re seated at the dining table having dinner when suddenly CRASH!  Someone kicks in the front door and bursts into your house.  Now tell me how useful the gun in your bedroom is, while you’re at the dining table, and potentially the bad guys are standing between you and your bedroom.

Similar scenario for if you’re outside mowing the lawn.  Or in the laundry.  Or maybe relaxing on your deck on a warm sunny summer afternoon.  The gun in your bedroom is only good while you’re within arm’s reach of it, also in your bedroom.

Not all bad guys are going to politely knock and wait for you to open the door for them.  Some are less patient.

Now for the curious contradiction.  The chances are, based on the fact that you’re reading this article, that you probably will carry a concealed pistol sometimes when outside your house.  But – what do you do when you get home?  You take the gun off, put it somewhere, and go from ‘Condition Yellow’ to ‘Condition White’ (read our articles on Situational Awareness for more on these terms).

Big mistake.  We all know that concealed carry is a bit of a hassle, requiring us to accept compromises in terms of comfort, convenience, concealability, and caliber/power.  We accept such compromises in return for the massive boost in safety and security we get in turn.  Now, when we’re at home, we don’t need to worry about concealability.  We can wear a nice comfortable on-the-belt range style holster, and wear a dual magazine holder on our other side, too, and carry as big a gun as we wish to.

It should be easier for us to have a gun on our hip at home than anywhere else.

There’s another thing to consider as well, and it comes back to the condition yellow/white thing.  Not only are we (and probably unavoidably so) in more of a condition white situation at home, but a threat can suddenly appear without warning, no matter what condition we’re in.  If the first sign of a pending home invasion is someone chucking a trash can through our sliding doors and rushing in through the shattered glass immediately behind it, we’ve only got a couple of seconds to respond before the bad guys have taken over the house and are controlling us.

If you don’t have your gun on your person when something like this happens, you’re probably not going to have a chance to go and get it.  Even if you have multiple guns hidden around the house, you’ve only got a some chance of safely getting to one such location and extracting the gun from its hiding place before the bad guys are (quite literally) on top of you.  Your best preparedness, at home, is to do the same thing you do away from home.  Have a gun on your person.

Some people might think ‘Oh, this would never happen to me.  I live in a good neighborhood.’  But, from a criminal’s point of view, ‘good’ neighborhoods are the best places for them to visit.  The chances are there are more valuables inside homes in a good neighborhood, and – sad to say – the chances are also that ‘good’ people are going to be more trusting and less likely to be suspicious and ready to defend against a sudden surprise attack.

Do you commute to work?  Guess what.  So too do the criminals.  It is actually considered impolite for criminals to attack each other; and they’re more fearful of recriminations if they should do so.  But they all know that if they do a reverse commute out into the better ‘burbs, they’re going to find street after street lined with tempting tasty targets.

It seems that the prevalence of violent ‘home invasion’ type burglaries might be slightly increasing.  Home invasions – when the criminals don’t care if there are people home or not (or, worse still, if they expect and are pleased to find people at home) are extremely dangerous for the home occupants, because the criminals have the privacy of the house they’ve taken over, and the luxury of uninterrupted time, during which they can do anything at all to the house, its contents, and its occupants.

Here’s an example of how home invaders suddenly swoop down on a house.  Note, in this story, that the police, while promptly called by a girl already in the house, didn’t arrive until much later.  We mean no disrespect to the police at all when we repeat the mantra that you must understand, accept, and build into your planning :  When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

Are you ready to respond, right now, if your home is invaded?

Feb 052012

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.

Jan 292012

Great shooting at the range, but the real world will be very different

We’ve written before, with our tongue partially in our cheek, about how many times you should shoot the bad guy when you’re forced to defend yourself.

Let’s revisit the subject, and this time from a more scientific attitude.  We promise not to make any more snarky comments about police officers shooting at a guy 71 times (and hitting him 60 times) and definitely we don’t suggest that should be your objective, either, even if only for the reason that very few of us carry 71 rounds with us.  I sometimes have 61 rounds with me, but never 71, and absolutely would never expect to use more than a small percentage of those rounds in an exchange with a single adversary.

Indeed, just to set the scene realistically, most gun fights occur at a range that is much to close for comfort, and with insufficient warning.  You’re starting off at a tactical disadvantage, and – perhaps because of that – are forced to desperately try and regain control of a bad situation.

The ‘rule of threes’ is sometimes quoted.  This suggests that most gun fights occur at a distance of about 3 yards (or less), last about 3 seconds (or less), and involve about three shots fired (or more).

But let’s start our analysis a bit prior to that – hopefully you’ve been sufficiently alert as to notice a deteriorating situation and have had time to prepare and plan your response.  So –

What about a Warning Shot First?

Do not fire a warning shot.  That bullet is going to go somewhere.  If you fire it down into the ground, it might ricochet off the ground and go in who knows what direction – even maybe directly back at you.  Even if you are shooting into dirt, for all you know, there’s a huge rock half an inch under the dirt.

If you fire it up into the air, well, guess what.  What goes up must come down again, and that bullet is going to plunge to earth at about 300 mph (450 ft/sec) – fast enough to do appreciable damage if it hits a person or property when finally reaching the ground.

Hopefully you have already given a verbal warning/command in a very loud voice (not only so you are sure the bad guy has heard you and realizes you are serious, but also so any other nearby people can testify they heard you warn the bad guy away) such as ‘Stop!’ or ‘Go Away!’, followed by drawing your pistol and a ‘Stop or I Shoot’, followed by sighting in on the person.

At this point, the person has been verbally warned, and also sees you have a gun pointed at them.  If that isn’t enough to make them turn away, a warning shot won’t add any more force to your request.  It might endanger you or some other person, and it pre-occupies you with something that might allow the attacker to close the distance and get into contact with you.

So, if your first shot isn’t to be a warning shot, –

Where Should You First Aim?

Assuming you have a clear view of the bad guy, your first shots should be aimed into the attacker’s chest.  It is the biggest and easiest target to hit, and also a moderately vulnerable part of the bad guy’s anatomy.

This is sometimes referred to as their ‘center (of) mass’, and because it is the biggest part of their body, you can aim into the middle of it, and still hit them even if you miss the exact center by a reasonable margin.  It goes without saying that in the stress of the moment, you’re not going to be shooting as accurately as on the range.

Of course, if the person is obscured by something, you’ll have to redefine the appropriate ‘center of mass’ based on what you can and can’t see/shoot at.

Better shooting schools teach you not just to shoot into the center of the person’s torso, but instead into the center of their thoracic cavity, which can be considered as the center of their upper chest – where the lungs and heart are.  Shots into this area may have a more rapidly disabling effect.

Which brings up the essential issue of what to expect when you get rounds on target – ie, when you are hitting the bad guy with your shots – and how many times you’ll need to shoot him to get him out of the fight.

How Many Shots Does it Take?

As (nearly) always, the movies get it wrong.  Forget everything you’ve ever seen in the movies, and on television.  When you shoot a bad guy with a pistol, almost certainly, there are three things which you might expect to happen (based on the movies) but which will not happen.

  • The first thing is the person isn’t going to immediately collapse, all movement stopped, instantly dead.  Quite the opposite.  The probabilities suggest that he may likely not react at all to the first shot hitting him.  Indeed, some people go all the way through a gun fight and only subsequently discover they’ve been shot.  Good trainers teach their students at the end of an encounter to check themselves all over for wounds, because in the heat of the moment, they might not even realize they’ve been shot.
  • The second thing is the person isn’t going to fly through the air ten feet backwards.  He probably won’t be knocked about much at all – the ‘best case’ scenario is that the bullet is hitting him with no more momentum than the recoil you experienced when you fired your pistol milliseconds before.  The recoil didn’t force you off your feet, and it will have the same or less effect on the person the bullet hits.
  • The third thing is that blood isn’t going to suddenly and dramatically start spurting out of the person every which way.  Indeed, assuming the person is wearing a couple of layers of clothing, you might not notice any evidence of the bullet having hit them at all – no blood, no big hole, nothing.

So put these three things together.  The person doesn’t collapse or move at all, and you don’t even notice a bullet hole or blood after firing your bullet.  Goodbye, Hollywood.  And welcome to the real world!  In other words, you probably can’t tell if you hit the person or not – and even at very short ranges, you’re as likely to miss as hit (there’s a classic situation of a gun fight in an elevator between a law enforcement officer and a bad guy, with over ten rounds fired and neither person being hit by any of the rounds).

Even in the very unlikely event that all your rounds are landing on target, the sad truth is that pistol rounds, no matter what their caliber, or what the bullet type, are woefully inadequate and are most unlikely to solve your problem with a single generic hit to the center of the thoracic cavity.

So it is recommended practice that you shoot at least twice at/into the center of the thoracic cavity.  Maybe one of the two shots missed entirely.  Maybe one was a ‘lucky’ shot (depending on if you are the attacker or defender) and one was not.  Indeed, while you don’t want to consciously shift your point of aim, it is a good thing if the two rounds land into different parts of this zone, so as to spread the disruptive effects over a broader range of body parts.

But what next?  That depends on the bad guy.  Is he still posing a threat – is he still coming towards you?  Or did he collapse, perhaps even out of panic and fear and surprise?  Did he surrender to you?  Did he turn tail and run away?

If the immediate threat has stopped, you must stop shooting.  You no longer have any legal justification to shoot at the person now they are no longer an immediate imminent threat.

But if the person is still coming at you, then you need to keep on solving the problem.

Continued Shooting at the Thoracic Cavity?

If the bad guy is still some distance from you (but not too far, of course, or else they may not be sufficiently a threat to justify shooting in the first place unless they have a weapon) then you probably have time to fire a few more shots into their thoracic cavity.

Maybe either or both of your first shots failed to hit him entirely, in which case maybe some additional shots will actually land on target.

Why Thoracic Cavity Hits May Not Immediately Stop an Attack

Unless your pistol bullet travels through the thoracic cavity and severs the bad guy’s spine, it will not immediately incapacitate your attacker (note that high velocity rifle rounds more commonly have a very much greater immediate effect).

Even if the bullet goes through the bad guy’s heart, it will take some measurable time for the guy to lose sufficient blood pressure and bleed sufficiently out to cease to be ‘in the fight’.  How long?  Best case scenario – perhaps 30 seconds.  Worst case scenario – many minutes (assuming that he doesn’t survive the encounter completely, even after taking multiple hits).

Some people will collapse in a type of faint from the shock and surprise of being hit.  This is a ‘false’ collapse – it is mental rather than physical, and when they come to, they might re-enter the fight.  That’s not to say you should shoot someone when they’re on the ground and not moving!  But you need to watch a person very carefully after they go to the ground.  They might be just pretending to be incapacitated, and might surprise you as soon as they feel it tactically advantageous.

Other people – especially if on drugs – will not be slowed at all, even by hits that will cause their certain death in only a few minutes.  The drugs have in essence disconnected their brain from their body, and their brain doesn’t even realize they’ve been hit, so their body keeps responding to the brain commands as best it can.

Lastly, and probably the least likely scenario, maybe the bad guy is wearing some type of body armor.  Bullet proof vests can be legally purchased by civilians, and do a very good job of preventing pistol bullets from penetrating through the vest and into the person wearing them.

Don’t forget, of course, that all these reasons why your shots aren’t stopping the bad guy from continuing with his attack are also assuming that your rounds are landing on target.  Chances are some/many/most of them are misses – even trained police typically miss more often than they hit when in a gunfight.  That’s why you shoot at least twice into the center of mass.

A Front Sight target made into a yard sign, showing the zones they define as the thoracic and cranial ocular cavities

Plan B :  Failure to Stop Shooting

So, you’ve fired your gun you’re not quite certain how many times at the bad guy, but he continues to press his attack and is getting very close to you.

This is where you have to switch targets.  For whatever reason – and it is irrelevant why – your center of the thoracic cavity shots aren’t stopping the attack.  Time for your ‘Plan B’.

You need to now switch to head shots.  A bullet in the brain is the most certain way of quickly stopping any attacker – big or small, on drugs or not, and with or without a torso protecting bullet proof vest.

We don’t recommend your first shot(s) should be to the head for the simple and obvious fact that the head is a smaller target than the chest, and is likely to be moving rather than standing conveniently still.  It is also less ‘politically correct’, and as unfortunate as this is, you need to be sensitive to how the police and potentially a jury (as well as friends, neighbors, and reporters) will respond to the circumstances of your use of deadly force.

But if the body shots didn’t work, and particularly if the person is getting closer, thereby also making their head a larger target, you have no choice but to switch to head shots in what is sometimes referred to as a ‘failure to stop’ drill.

Don’t just shoot anywhere on their head.  Much of the head has its own armor plating – the skull and jawbone in particular.  So you want to aim from sort of the eye brows down to the bottom of the nose, and from side to side in line with the outer sides of the eyes – about a 3″ x 5″ card sized target.

Sure, it seems even more distasteful to shoot at a person’s head, but – hey!  You didn’t start this fight, the other guy did, and he refused every possible opportunity to end the confrontation; indeed, by the time you switch to head shots, the guy has even continued his attack notwithstanding you shooting into his chest multiple times.  There’s no time to be squeamish or hesitant, you need to be at least as determined and certain as your attacker is proving to be.

How Many Head Shots

How high is up?  How long is a piece of string?  And – oh yes, another question with no certain answer – ‘how many times should I shoot him in the head?’.

The answer should be obvious – until he stops.  Until he ceases to be a threat to you.

The good news is that this is probably going to require only a single shot, but the downside to a head shot is that it is a smaller target, and you might miss, so don’t fire a single shot, then relax and assume the game is over.  Fire a single shot, bring your pistol immediately back on target, and shoot a second time, unless the guy is collapsing in front of you.

Continue repeating until your gun runs dry or the bad guy stops.

How About A Kinder and Gentler Approach?  Shooting to Incapacitate?

One of the great things about the internet is that we now get a chance to see how many people react and respond to news of a shooting.  Many newspaper websites have the ability for readers to post comments alongside the news stories they publish, and for sure, whenever there’s a story of a shooting (usually the police shooting a bad guy) you’ll see plenty of comments (most commonly from ‘armchair experts’ who have never held a gun in their lives) suggesting that the police should have shot to ‘shoot the gun out of his hand’ or in the foot, ankle, or knee, so as to cause the guy to collapse and no longer be able to move towards the policeman.

Slightly more knowledgeable people will suggest shooting at the person’s pelvic girdle, causing them to fall over.

These are well intentioned people (who may well become jurors, so it is relevant to understand how uninvolved people react to shooting situations) but their suggestions are dangerously naïve and impractical.

Your desperate struggle will be at a too close range, in a position where you probably do not have any sort of strategic advantage or time buffer up your sleeve, and you are confronting the imminent probability of the bad guy attacking you, grievously wounding you, and possibly killing you.

You don’t have the time to try for some trick circus style feats of marksmanship – target shooting of a level you probably could not achieve on a calm day with no time or situational stress acting on you at a range with a static target, let alone in a dark alley late at night with the bad guy rushing towards you.

If the situation has got to the point where you need to use lethal force to stop a threat, and that is a lawful act on your part, then you need to do exactly that.  Your prime concern is stopping the threat and saving yourself.  The only effective way of doing that is shots to the center of mass, possibly followed by shots to the head.

Anything else is giving the bad guy a ‘bonus’ card in the match.  And there’s no law or moral justification for making it easier for him to win and you to lose.

Kinder and Gentler Part 2 :  Shooting to Wound?

A close cousin of the ‘shoot to incapacitate’ theory is the ‘shoot to wound’ theory.  But follow the ‘logic’ of this thought process through carefully :  ‘The bad guy was frightening me, threatening me, in some way harming me, but he didn’t really deserve to be killed; so I just shot him in the leg/arm/whatever’.

If you say this to the police, you’ll not be hailed as a hero.  You’ll be locked up and charged with unlawful use of deadly force, and your own statement in the preceding paragraph will be the statement that guarantees your conviction and the extended jail term that follows.

Think through what you just said.  To paraphrase, you said ‘The situation did not justify using deadly force, but I used deadly force anyway, albeit in the hope that the deadly force wouldn’t be fatal’.

Guns don’t have dials on them that you can set to ‘mild’, ‘medium’, or ‘full’.  While we were talking before about how the chances are that a single shot won’t kill a person, there is also a chance that a single shot might.  A bullet could hit an artery, sever a nerve cluster, or whatever else.

Even if a single shot doesn’t kill the person, it might grievously incapacitate them for years or the rest of their life, and it might cost millions of dollars in hospital care and ongoing at home care for the rest of their lives (costs that you might end up being liable for).

You never shoot to wound a person – but you also never shoot to kill them.  All you do is you shoot to stop the threat they pose.  Never say ‘I realized I had to kill the guy’, because that’s a faulty realization.  The only thing you realize is that your life is being directly and credibly threatened, and that you have no other way to protect yourself than to use your firearm to stop the threat being presented at you.  The threat will end when the bad guy surrenders, runs away, or falls to the ground.  Living or dying (or wounding or incapacitating) has nothing to do with it.

So – the Bottom Line?

If and/or when you end up in an extreme situation with no alternative but the lawful use of deadly force, first shoot at least twice into the attacker’s central thoracic cavity.  If this does not end their attack, transition to head shots into the center of their cranial ocular cavity.  Only stop shooting when they’ve ceased to be a deadly threat to you.

Dec 062011

More guns were sold the day after Thanksgiving this year than on any previous day, ever

Here’s something to delight all of us who equate more guns with more freedom and more safety.

The FBI has just released figures which show that calls to their ‘instant check’ NICS background checking service (necessary as part of buying a gun from a dealer) were higher on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) this year than on any other day, ever, since they first started their NICS service back in 1998.

This new record was a very decisive one, too.  The total calls – 129,166 – were 32% higher than the previous highest number (Black Friday of 2008).

For the entire month of November, NICS calls were 16.5% up on November last year, and already in the first 11 months of this year, there have been more NICS calls than in all of 2010.  Total NICS calls for 2011 will be nearly twice as many as was the case not even ten years ago.

At the risk of getting boring and technical, I should explain that a call to NICS is not the same as a new gun being sold.  One single call and request for NICS approval can sometimes be for a person buying multiple guns in a single transaction.  So that would suggest that more guns are sold than the count of NICS calls.

But not all NICS calls are for gun sales.  For example, many states will also get a NICS clearance before issuing a concealed weapons permit.  So that requires a negative adjustment down from the NICS total.

The National Sports Shooting Association estimates that overall many fewer guns are sold than NICS calls are made, so perhaps the 129,166 calls represents ‘only’ 100,000 new guns sold on Black Friday.

But whatever you do with the numbers, the unavoidable twin truths (unavoidable unless you’re a gun-hater, of course) are that gun sales continue to steadily trend upward, while violent crime figures continue to drop, continuing the trend we analyzed in our article back in May – Gun Sales Continue to Increase, Crime Rates Continue to Decrease.

No wonder that there is a general increase in people supporting gun ownership.

Nov 302011


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.

Nov 182011

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.

Nov 072011

Use each Daylight Savings switch as a trigger to check through your general emergency preparedness.

Hi, folks

Just a quick reminder – check out our article that gives a list of five different things you should do each time that daylight saving switches over.

Actually, many of these things should be done more often than every six months, but the chances are they tend to be overlooked and forgotten, so each daylight savings switch is a good time to review through this list.

Our list is of course far from complete.  There’s a lot more to do with not just weapons based defense, but more general defense and emergency planning, too.

For example, we talk about checking batteries, but if you have an emergency generator, you should be giving that a test run at least every six months too (and replacing its fuel too).  And checking the pressure/level in your fire extinguishers (and your vehicle spare tires).  And so on and so on.

Use our list as the start of your own six monthly checklist of things.  And feel free to recommend items we should add to our own list.

Nov 022011

This chart from the Gallup survey clearly shows the drop in numbers supporting handgun bans and the rise in numbers of people opposed

The Gallup organization holds an annual ‘crime poll’ every October, and this year’s results have now been released.  And while one does not normally associate Gallup with pro-gun attitudes, the results of their survey this year were so strongly skewed that they couldn’t find any way to try and disguise the sentiments expressed.

A record low of only 26% of Americans now favor an outright handgun ban, with an all-time high of 73% of Americans opposed.

In answer to the more generic question about if gun laws should be made more strict, less strict, or kept the same, an all time low of 43% of the population favored making laws more strict.  44% wanted to keep laws as they are, and 11% wanted to make laws less strict.

Even the guns that the media most love to hate – so called ‘assault rifles’ were not so vilified this year.  An all time low (gosh, I like typing those words) of only 43% supported a ban on assault rifles.

But unable to suppress all snide comments, Gallup closes its report by saying

Diminished support for gun-control laws may also be tied to the lack of major gun-control legislation efforts in Congress in recent years.

The moral of this story is that although the general population is becoming more gun-friendly, we’re still very vulnerable to the efforts of gun haters in Congress and the media to spin things against us.  And with the sampling error being at least +/- 4%, these numbers are not as significant as we might hope them to be.

In another section of Gallup’s Crime Poll, the survey found that 47% of adults admitted to having a gun somewhere in their house or on their property.  This is the highest number since 1993 and steeply up on last year’s 41%.

Some of the data in this part of the poll seems inconsistent.  For example, women (who unsurprisingly report themselves as being less likely to own a gun themselves) also report a much lower likelihood for a gun being in their household (43%) than do men (52%).  If we accept that the largest majority of households have both a man and a woman in them, while there could be understandable differences between personal ownership of men and women, the household ownership numbers should be more closely matching.

This discrepancy reminds me a bit of polls about sexuality.  Heterosexual men generally claim to have twice as much sexual experience as do heterosexual women – a clearly impossible result because each sexual experience by a heterosexual male clearly involves a heterosexual female too.  The numbers should be close to identical.  The huge difference suggests either than men exaggerate or women diminish their sexual experiences – and quite possibly, both men and women are simultaneously lying.  So it is possible that there is some ‘inaccurate answering’ in the gun survey, too.

Gallup themselves postulate that the increased results for gun ownership might not be accurate, based on whether or not people are willing to admit to a stranger on the phone that they own guns or not.  This is an understandable issue, so one should view the numbers Gallup reports as being the absolute lowest levels of gun ownership, rather than the likely exact numbers.

Our guess is there are elements of both real increases in ownership and also a greater willingness to admit to gun ownership.  The other relevant data point is the number of guns being sold every month/year – this being a number that has been steadily and consistently rising over the last some years.  With guns having a very long life before being eventually scrapped/discarded, most of the new guns being purchased are adding to the total inventory of guns in the country, rather than simply replacing existing guns.

As we calculate in our article about increasing gun sales, over the last decade it seems likely than an average of more than one new gun per US household has been sold.  Add that to the inventory of guns already out there, and this poll’s suggestion that 47% of households have a gun in them – while the highest number in 18 years – is probably still very understated.

Here are links to the two sets of Gallup results – on attitudes towards guns and on gun ownership.

Oct 172011

Not all dogs will or can attack all burglars

Conventional wisdom says that if you want an easy way to protect your property against burglars, you should get a dog.  The reasoning goes that even the smallest dog will deter many burglars, and larger more fearsome dogs will be even more effective against more motivated burglars.

Well, yes, that’s right, as far as it goes.  If a burglar has a choice between breaking into a house with nothing more fearsome can a pet hampster in a cage, or breaking into a house with any sort of dog inside, of course he’ll risk being attacked by the hampster rather than the dog!

A dog helps protect your property two ways.  First, it will bark at burglars, possibly drawing someone’s attention to the burglar’s presence.  Second, it may attack the burglar.  You’ll be unsurprised to learn that burglars don’t like drawing attention to themselves, and they doubly don’t like being bitten by a dog.

So your ordinary burglar, just prowling up and down the street, looking for the easiest house on the block to break into, will not select any houses with dogs inside – there are plenty more without dogs to choose from.

Unfortunately, this same logic doesn’t apply to a burglar who has specifically targeted your property, due to something that attracts him to your property.  Maybe he somehow knows that you have something valuable in the property, or maybe the property is very vulnerable in other respects and there is only the dog preventing the burglar from being able to go through your house from one end to the other at his leisure.

What will the burglar do then?  How can the burglar protect himself against the dog and keep the dog quiet?

If you’re a dog lover, you may be genuinely puzzled by this question, or you might think ‘Oh, I’ll feed the dog treats and get him to like me and be friendly’.  Well, for sure, that’s one possible approach, but if you’re a dog owner, you’ll know that even the finest 22 ounce steak will only keep your dog quiet for a minute or two before he’s finished eating it and then resumes normal duties.

On the other hand, if you’re a dog hater, you’ve probably already thought of a more effective solution to a guard dog.  Poison it.

Yes, this seems heartless, cruel, even unthinkable.  But that’s when approached from the perspective of an average ordinary and honest person (such as you) – someone who isn’t planning a burglary to start with.

Burglars can, will, and indeed do poison dogs if they have specifically targeted a particularly property they wish to break into.  Now some dogs can be trained only to eat food from their master, but this is a difficult thing to train.  Most dogs will respond to an offered slab of fresh raw meat the way you’d expect them to – they’ll eat it up with gusto.

Here’s a recent story of burglars who poisoned four Boxer dogs so as to get into the property’s back yard and steal some marijuana plants growing there.

We’re not saying you have marijuana plants.  But we are saying that if for any reason you think your property might be at risk not just of semi-random burglaries but also of specific motivated burglary by villains who believe there may be something in particular of value in your property, then you need to realize that they won’t think twice before poisoning or in any other way putting your dogs out of action.

Dogs are good.  But they’re only one part of a home defense/hardening solution.