Oct 112011

Are New York's women shoppers now expected to wear burqa like clothing to reduce their chance of being raped?

So what is the best way to protect yourself against rape?  Some people might suggest learning a form of self defense.  Others may advocate pepper spray, or a shock/stun gun device.  Still other people suggest carrying a pistol and learning how to use it.  Then of course there are the delicate souls who advocate a whistle or some other nonviolent means of simply calling attention to your plight.

New York’s finest has a new suggestion to women in an area currently suffering from a spate of rape attacks.  Their advice is not to wear skirts or shorts, because those sorts of clothing are the types of clothing other rape victims had been wearing when they were attacked (see this article).

Applying the same logic, perhaps the police should also suggest the women go panty-less and bra-less too, because presumably other rape victims also had panties and bras on.  🙂

The police stopped short of recommending a full Muslim style burqa, but that was probably what they would most advocate.

Now what’s wrong with this?

Is our land of the free now reduced to a state where women are told not to ‘dress provocatively’ but rather to drape themselves in formless garb to minimize their risk of rape?

Isn’t this one step from the rapist defense of ‘Well, she was asking for it by wearing clothes like that’?

Are our police admitting they can not protect citizens from one of the most unpleasant forms of violent assault possible?

Oh – let’s not forget one more thing.  In New York, carrying a concealed handgun is almost completely impossible.  The city takes away the ability of weaker women to defend themselves against stronger men, and at the same time attempts to shift the blame/burden onto women if/when they are raped.

Handguns truly are the great equalizer, and the most democratic of devices.  They make all people equal – big or small, male or female, strong or weak, and no matter what their racial origin may be.

Democracies allow handguns.  Tyrannies seek to control and restrict them.  Which do you think New York is?

Sep 282011
Xray of drill bit through head

A drill bit suddenly plunged through your eye socket could ruin your whole day

I was watching a Sylvester Stallone movie last night – D-Tox.  I didn’t much like the movie, but there was one bit in it that struck a chord, and had me reaching for the keyboard to write this note now.

The thing that resonated was how the bad guy overpowered his victims.  He would go to their home and ring the door bell.  The victim would go to the front door and look through the peephole to see who was outside (conveniently for the movie’s plot line, all the victims had peep holes in their doors).

As soon as the bad guy saw them getting close and peering through the peep hole, then Whammo!  He had a power drill with a big long drill bit in his hand; he brought it up and plunged it through the peephole glass and into the victim’s eye.  The bad guy would then crash through the door and overpower the victim, who was disoriented and grievously incapacitated from just having had a power drill bit stuck through their eye.

Sheesh!  How do they think these things up?

Well, yes.  I’m not sure that would work in real life.  For one thing, it would be hard and time consuming for the drill bit to get a purchase on the smooth exterior glass; it would slip and slide and by the time it had drilled through and gone forward, almost certainly the victim-to-be would have had a reflex duck back/flinch response, such as any sensible person does without thinking when something sharp and pointy zooms in towards one’s eye.  But it sure made for some gruesome scenes in the movie.

On the other hand, don’t chuckle in a superior way after reading this far, and then move on to the next blog entry.  Please keep reading.

A power drill might be way too slow, and too uncertain a weapon to attack a person through a door with, but think some more about the peep hole.  You’ve almost surely looked through both sides of one at some time or another, and in particular, think about what you see from looking through it from the outside.

Yes, you don’t see much, but you can see light and darkness, and you can see movement, and you can sense when a person has approached the door, and you for sure know pretty exactly where their head is, don’t you.  To put it another way, the peep hole is like the 10 ring in a classic bulls-eye target.  Whatever you want to do, do to the peephole or just to the right of it (most people are right eye dominant) and you can be sure of causing maximum damage to the person on the other side of the door.

Furthermore, even if the door is a solid core door, the peephole is not solid anything.  So that’s another reason to shoot through the peephole – because you’re not only certain of a vulnerable part of the person being right behind it, but you’re also certain of being able to get your round through the door on on to its intended target.

Oh – my earlier description about being able to get some vague impression of what is inside the room by looking through the peephole from the outside?  Some peephole manufacturers have ‘wised up’ and so they add a little privacy flap on the inside of the peephole assembly.  For the person to look out the door, they first have to lift up the flap.  This, we are told, gives the people inside the dwelling or hotel room or whatever more privacy.

But – hello!  For the bad guy, it tells him exactly when to unload into the target.  Wait until you see the flap lift up – an unmistakable sign that someone has just positioned themselves behind the peephole.

Okay, enough of thinking like a bad guy!  Now think like the good guy again, please.  🙂

Knowing what you now know, do you really want to put a peep hole in your front door?

What’s that?  Someone is still undecided?  Okay, enough of movie make-believe.  How about this story then, from the real world, of a person being deliberately shot through their peephole.  Now are you convinced?

So what to do instead of having a peephole in your door – and what to do if you already have one?

Let’s answer the questions in reverse order.  If you already have a peephole, cement some blocking material over the inside end of it so that it is completely inoperable and that no light or anything else passes from inside to outside the door.

So how to communicate with the person at your door before opening it?

In an earlier article, we recommended a Logitech (or any other) video surveillance system – ideally with infra-red assist for night vision.  Supplement that with a low tech intercom, with your control unit being away from the door, and you have all you need to speak to and see the person calling on you.

Remember – do not open your door unless you know who is outside the door and who else is in the general vicinity, and you are satisfied there is no way they can be a threat to you.

And now that you’ve read this, please do two more things.  First, act on it.  Put in place a system that allows you to safely monitor your entranceway area.  Second, impress upon everyone else in your household that they must follow the same steps you do.

Sep 092011

It may not be who you see, it may who you don't see that poses the bigger threat

We’ve written before about home invasions – click the link to go to our earlier article on the same topic.  It is a topic that needs to be repeated and reinforced in your awareness, because most of us are instinctively friendly, welcoming and trusting.

Here’s a story of how a 17 year old boy had two women knock on his door and ask if they could go in to retrieve a cell phone they’d allegedly left there during a party the previous night.  As soon as he assented, three masked and armed men appeared and forced their way into the house.

The learning point on this occasion is that the threat was not visible.  The two girls probably looked harmless, and what 17 yr old boy wouldn’t be charmed by a couple of girls wanting to come into his house!  But the distraction of the two girls allowed three men, previously obscured from view, to overpower him, to strike him over the head with a pistol, and to rob his house.

Even if the boy had been armed and had his firearm in his hand, the sudden appearance of three masked men probably would have resulted in them overpowering him before he had a chance to react, respond, and decide on a course of action.

Vital learning point – just because you have a gun on your belt or even in your hand, you are not invulnerable to threats.  You need to retain a defensive mindset, no matter what type of weapons you have on you or close to you.

If your front door area is designed so that there are corners or other things that would allow for someone to hide, unseen, very close to the front door, you will need to have some type of security so that you are not risking yourself to these potentially unseen dangers every time you open your door.

Either do not open your door until you’ve established the bona fides of the person outside, and/or have security cameras that allow you to see, from inside, everything and everyone in the proximity of your front door.

One more thing.  What happens if, as in this situation, you are suddenly forced to defend yourself against three attackers?  Tell me again how you’re going to do that with a five or six shot revolver?  Like it or not, the higher magazine capacity of a semi-auto pistol makes it almost mandatory that you choose a semi-auto, not a revolver.  Because bad guys, just like rats and wolves, hunt in packs.

You need to prepare to defend yourself not against a single attacker, but against multiple attackers, and five or six rounds is barely enough to hopefully take care of one bad guy, a struggle with two, and definitely insufficient for three or more.

Sep 052011
Fire Dept of New York Ambulance

The chances are you'll survive a bullet wound

The bad news is that if you get in a gun fight, you’ve got about a 50% chance of being hit by the other guy’s shooting (okay, there are so many variables at work as to make that a more or less meaningless statistic, but the bottom line is that you’re as likely to cop a round of incoming as not if you start shooting at someone who is shooting back at you).

The good news is that you’re not likely to die, at least if you get hit only once, assuming it not to be a ‘lucky’ shot (or should that be ‘unlucky’ shot?) and further assuming that you get competent medical treatment not long after.

This also assumes you’re both firing ordinary pistol bullets at each other.  If the other guy has a high powered rifle, then all bets are off.  Rifle wounds are massively more lethal than pistol wounds, and with a rifle being inherently more accurate to start with, if the other guy has a rifle and looks like he knows what to do with it, then you should think hard and long about your options before starting a firefight.

This immediately past weekend, from Saturday morning through Monday evening, has seen 42 gun shot victims in New York City – an amazing statistic when you consider it has pretty much the strictest gun control laws of the entire country.  What are people doing with guns in NYC?  Don’t they know it is illegal?

Mayor Bloomberg’s response is totally predictable.  The solution to 42 shootings in a single weekend is, he says, more gun control.  Yup.  He’s already made owning guns close to illegal and carrying guns totally illegal, and shooting people is illegal too.  So when these laws prove to be totally useless and completely ignored by criminals, his solution is to make them double illegal.

That will change nothing.  Indeed, it would be interesting to know how many lives New York’s current gun laws have saved – my guess is that the laws have cost lives rather than saved them, based on what has happened in almost the entire rest of the country, where there is an inarguable correlation between more permissive gun laws and fewer gun crimes and indeed, fewer crimes of violence in general – see our earlier discussion on this point.

Oh – be very afraid.  Not only does Mayor Bloomberg want to throw more stupidity at the hapless citizens of NYC, but he is calling for more federal restrictions on gun ownership too.  Yup.  NYC has a gun crime problem that is pretty much unique to NYC, so the mayor’s solution is to ask for gun restrictions in other states thousands of miles away; to make them more like NYC.  Here’s some news, Mayor Mike – if we wanted to live in a NYC type environment, we’d already be there.

It is hard to know which is the more breathtaking – his arrogance or his stupidity.  Both are regrettable.

But, ooops, getting sidetracked there.  The main topic of this post is not New York’s crazy dysfunctional gun laws, or the venally stupid politicians who create them, and neither is it to ponder on what strange chemical there must be in the city’s drinking water that causes NY’s citizens to vote for such politicians and to support such clearly wrong-headed policies.

Nope, we’re here to talk about gunshot wound survivability.

So, of these 42 people shot, including some people shot more than once, guess how many people were killed?  It will have to be a bit of a WAG (wild a**ed guess) because we don’t know how many were shot by pistols and how many by rifles or shotguns (it seems that most if not all were from pistols), but go ahead and have a guess.

What do you think?  30?  20?  10?  How many were killed?

The real answer is one.  Yes, 42 people shot, and only one killed.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Getting shot is no laughing matter, and even if you’re not killed, you might spend extended time in hospital, followed by months or years in physical therapy, and possibly lose the use of a limb or a sense permanently.  You definitely don’t want to get shot, and it is no laughing matter if you are shot.  Furthermore, the best sense I can get is that normally you’re looking at closer to a 20% mortality rate from pistol wounds – the 2.5% mortality rate in NYC this past weekend is much lower than normal.

However, whatever the mortality risk actually is – 2% or 20%, there are two very important lessons from this.

First, if you do get shot, don’t give up.  You’re not yet dead; you’ll probably live, and you’ve not yet lost the fight.  Keep your gun running, and stay in the fight.  Willpower, the drive to survive, and the essential need to triumph can keep you going; whereas a lack of willpower that causes you to give up as soon as you’ve been slightly wounded will definitely see you lose.

Expect to be wounded.  Mentally prepare yourself for it, and accept it when it happens, and stay in the fight.

Second, flip the scenario around.  Your opponent can also stay in the fight, even after soaking up one, two, three, four or more rounds (there have been cases of bad guys taking over ten rounds and staying active for some minutes).  Especially if the bad guy is high on some sort of drugs that alter his body chemistry and pain/injury response, he might not even notice the impact of the bullets and may keep on at you until he bleeds out or you land a kill shot that severs a vital artery or nerve.

Don’t stop to see what happens after firing one or two shots.  As long as the bad guy is on his feet and closing the distance on you, keep sending rounds at him.  Shoot him until the deadly threat he poses to you has ended.  This might be when he drops his gun and sinks to his knees, ten feet away, with his hands clearly visible and empty.  It might be when he turns and runs away.  But as long as he is advancing on you, and as long as the circumstances that caused you to need to use deadly force remain present, then he is still just as much a threat as before you hit him the first, second, and subsequent times.

Even seriously wounded people can still pull the trigger of the gun in their hand.  Even seriously wounded people can throw themselves on top of you and plunge a knife through your throat, your eyes, or your ribcage and heart.

There’s a reason the police don’t just shoot once at a bad guy.  Don’t go berserk and pepper him with 50 rounds, but don’t stint on the firepower either until he ceases to be a credible deadly threat.

Here’s a link to the article that counted 42 gun shot injuries.  Here’s a link to an article giving more details about eight of the casualties.

Update : The count is now up to 46 shootings, with two more hours of the day still to go before the end of the holiday weekend.  But still only one death.  Way to go, Mayor Mike.  Good job on that gun control thing you’ve got going there.

Aug 312011

The scene of the fatal shooting in CO, from gazette.com

We can learn from other people’s experiences.  Hopefully if we take such lessons to heart, we won’t be as unfortunate as to repeat their mistakes.

So whenever you come across an account of any situation where deadly force was used, don’t merely skim through it, but read it carefully and ask yourself “What is the ‘takeaway’ item I can learn from this”.

Sometimes the takeaway item – the bullet point or elevator summary – of what occurred is subtle and hard to find.  And then, sometimes, it hits you between the eyes, and there’s not just one or two but plenty of learning experiences to embrace.

Here’s a useful example from Colorado.  This story tells how the daughter of a shot (and killed) burglar was awarded $300,000 in a civil suit against the business owner who shot him.  An earlier story provides more background into the incident.

Civil lawsuits are sometimes the second part of the many downsides you should be aware of which follow from the use of deadly force.  And whereas a criminal prosecution requires proof ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ for the prosecution to succeed, a civil suit only needs ‘a preponderance of evidence’ to prevail.  In other words, think of a 99% or higher requirement for criminal convictions, but merely a 51% requirement for a civil suit to succeed.

And just because either the police decline to prosecute, or even if they do and you’re found not guilty, that doesn’t mean you’re safe from a civil lawsuit – think back to the OJ Simpson case where he was found not guilty in the criminal court but guilty in a civil trial that followed.

In the Colorado example above, and to my amazement when looking at the apparent facts as reported in the two articles, it seems the local district attorney declined to prosecute, and a Grand Jury also declined to return an indictment.  I’ll guess their thinking was along the lines of ‘It wasn’t really a 100% justifiable shooting, but the guy who was shot was definitely a low-life bad guy, and on balance we don’t think we should send the shooter to prison for killing a low-life, and we can understand how he felt, even if it was probably not the best decision he made’.

But in the civil trial, the jury there probably thought in different terms, perhaps more like ‘Okay, so the dead man was a criminal, but he didn’t really deserve to be shot and killed while hiding in a shed, and for sure, his 3 year old daughter now needs some help’, and because it was a civil trial, the jury could find for the dead man’s daughter and the ‘worst’ that happened to the shooters was that they had to pay damages to the daughter, with the jury probably reasoning ‘They can better afford to give some money to the girl, who needs it more than they do; it is the least they can do after killing her father unnecessarily’.

You can’t always rely on prosecutors and grand juries being so lenient, but you can pretty much always anticipate reasoning such as guessed at above in a civil case, any time that the shooting circumstances are less than very clearly 100% justifiable and unavoidable.

Now for the takeaway items in this case.  Here are four obvious ones.  First, Colorado doesn’t have a ‘castle doctrine’ type law that applies to people protecting their businesses, only to people protecting their homes.  The shooter and his two associates/relatives did not have the force of the law backing up their actions.  Second, the facts of the encounter were such to make it very difficult for the shooters to claim they were in imminent and certain fear of their lives, and were shooting in self defense.  Third, they had told various people they would shoot trespassers in the future.  Fourth, the shooter hid the gun he had used to shoot the burglar.

The moral of the story, quite apart from the obvious one of only using deadly force when you’re in deadly danger yourself, is not to go around boasting about your intention to kill burglars in the future, whether they pose deadly threats to you or not.  Clearly, those stories will come back to haunt you if you subsequently use deadly force, no matter whether it was or was not justified at the time – in this case, even an employee of the shooter voluntarily approached the police to report the shooter’s earlier claims about shooting trespassers.  This person probably risked his future employment with the shooter by doing this, but did so anyway.  Your own friends and associates might do the same.

The other moral is not to lie to the police and act in a guilty manner.  Hiding the gun that was used to fire the fatal shot was not the act of an innocent person.  It shows the shooter to have been feeling guilty about his actions, and if you’re feeling guilty about your actions, it is difficult to simultaneously take the moral high ground, as you must, and say ‘I’m very sorry, I didn’t want to shoot him or anyone else, but I had no choice but to do so because I was in fear of my life’.  How can you simultaneously be saying you reluctantly but properly had to use deadly force to protect yourself, but at the same time, you are hiding the gun you used in self defense?

If you have more time, you might want to read through the pages and pages of police reports on the incident (linked from the original article).  If you do, you’ll get more of a feeling for police procedures, and you’ll also realize one more important thing.  Everything you say or do, and how you act and behave, is going into the police reports, and will subsequently be read by prosecutors, grand juries, and possibly regular juries too, and when these other people are reading these reports, they will be reading them out of context.

You want the reports to say that you were cooperative and helpful.  They can certainly say that you seemed distressed and upset – because you will be, indeed it is probably better to be recorded as being distressed/upset rather than jubilant, relaxed and happy!  But you don’t want them to say you were uncooperative, cagey, changing your story, argumentative, belligerent, and so on.

That is not to say you need to ‘cooperate’ with the police beyond a point of prudence, and it is also not to say you need to volunteer additional testimony at the scene beyond the obvious essentials, particularly if it might be rushed out before you’ve had a chance to calm down and understand, yourself, as best you can what happened.  Remember – when the police attend a shooting, they are looking to charge someone with a serious felony offense – you need to make sure that they don’t mistakenly fixate on you as the person to be charging.

Aug 172011


Testing a shotgun's penetration into drywall (from boxotruth.com)

It is the easiest thing in the world to open a gun store.  All it takes is money.  Sure, you have to fill out some BATF forms, and all that sort of stuff too, but there’s no exam you need to pass, there’s no formal ‘gun expert’ qualification you need to obtain before you start influencing people and helping them to make decisions that literally may make the difference between life and death – for them, for attackers, and for innocent other people in the general vicinity.

And if there is no qualification required to become a gun shop owner, there is also, of course, no qualification required to become a gun shop employee.

Depending on your perspective, this may or may not be a good thing.  While the right to sell arms is closely related to the right to bear arms, I’ve heard more nonsense spoken in gun shops – and on both sides of the counter – than just about anywhere else, other than at a Presidential press conference.  Here’s a case in point.

Are Shotguns Better than Pistols for Home Defense

Here’s an interesting article that reports on a rush of shotgun sales after a terrible home invasion in the exclusive upscale area of North Branford, CT.  Apparently – and unsurprisingly – neighbors in the vicinity rushed to buy a self/home defense weapon after learning of the home invasion.  Surprisingly though, most of these people bought shotguns, for two reasons.

The first reason is that to buy a pistol in Connecticut, you first need to attend 8 hours of classes and then wait anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks for your pistol permit to be approved.  Buying a shotgun has a mere 2 week waiting period, or – if you buy a hunting license at the same time – you can walk out the store with your shotgun with no delay at all (just the standard phone check with NICS).

My guess is that all of a sudden, North Branford had a surge of interest in, ahem, ‘hunting’.

But, now for the second reason.  They were badly advised.  Read what gun store owner Andy Piscitelle says in the article :

The former English teacher says that when it comes to home defense, “We recommend shotguns.”  This because the shot isn’t likely to go through walls and with the shorter (18.5-inch) barrel, the home defense shotgun “allows you to maneuver quickly and through doorways.”

Is any part of this true?  Are shotguns a good choice for home defense?  Does shot from a shotgun penetrate walls or not?  And with an 18.5″ barrel, can you maneuver quickly and through doorways?

Let’s answer these questions in reverse order.

First, by law, a shotgun must have a minimum barrel length of 18″, and – for the purpose of maneuverability, perhaps more important is the related law that the overall length of the shotgun must be at least 26″.  Now compare that with a pistol, which can have as little as a 2″ barrel, and an overall length of perhaps 4″.

There’s no comparison in terms of which is the more easily carried weapon in corridors and through doorways.  Plus the pistol is lighter and easier to move around – if you go through a doorway or around a corner with a shotgun you can’t have it held out ‘ready to fire’ (for fear of someone hiding on the other side of the doorway/corner grabbing it from you) whereas you can have a pistol much more ‘ready to fire’ and able to be protected as you go through the ‘fatal funnel’ of the doorway/corner and more quickly brought on target as/after you pass through it.

Oh – one more comment about this claim.  The last thing you ever want to do when there are intruders in your house is go looking for them.  The only time you’d leave your bedroom would be if you needed to go fetch other people (such as children) so that you’re all huddled together in a defensive location, awaiting the police.  So, hopefully, most of the time you won’t even need to think about how easy it is to maneuver around the house with any sort of weapon.

Second, shot penetration.  It was unclear if Mr Piscitelle actually said that shot will not penetrate walls – his comments aren’t in quotes, so I contacted the reporter who wrote the article and asked for clarification.  He confirmed this was indeed Mr Piscitelle’s claim.  Piscitelle’s assertion is total nonsense.  Indeed, you only have to think about this for the briefest of seconds to realize the nonsense of the claim.  Let’s do both a ‘thought experiment’ and a real life experiment.

Thought experiment.  Would an 00 buckshot ball, about the same size as a 9mm bullet, and traveling at the same speed, penetrate more, less, or about the same through walls as a 9mm bullet?  Obvious guess – kinda, sorta, the same.  Two rounds, of similar size, weight, speed and reasonably similar shape, will probably have similar penetrative powers.

Actual experiment.  Please visit this extremely good website’s page that shows real world testing of shot penetration into dry wall (the image with this article is taken from their testing).  The results of their testing – expect the shot to go through not just one or two, but half a dozen walls!

So – are shotguns a good choice for home defense?  They’re bulkier and heavier and harder to maneuver than a pistol, and can shoot through as many as six walls.

There are two additional considerations – unstated in this article – to also consider.

The first is that firing a single shotgun round is like firing a machine gun – you get multiple ‘bullets’ all leaving the shotgun at the same time.  This adds greatly to the stopping power of the shotgun (if they all land effectively on the attacker).  But – don’t be caught out here.

At typical home defense ranges – 10 ft to 20 ft – the shot will not spread out much.  Maybe you’ll have, at the most, the shot within a tight 4″ or so circle at the end of about 20 feet (depending on the barrel length and choke – shorter barrels with a cylinder bore are best).  This really doesn’t make much difference in terms of accuracy requirements than firing a single round at a time from a pistol.  It doesn’t make you invincible and doesn’t mean you don’t have to aim.

The second is that there is, however, one unique feature of a pump action shotgun that no pistol can ever match.  There’s no more intimidating sound, in the quiet of the middle of the night, or at any other time, than suddenly hearing a shotgun being racked and made ready to do some business.  The ability of a shotgun to intimidate is a major plus factor, and may prevent you from ever needing to actually use it.

So, back on topic.  Don’t believe everything a gun store employee or owner tells you; and if he tells you a shotgun is safe to fire indoors without worrying about over-penetration and rounds going through walls and into other rooms (or even other houses) then you know that he’s full of, ummm, shot.

Lastly, I’m appalled to see that Mr Piscitelle is an NRA certified training counselor (this is a senior level certification – a person who is rated to train trainers in how to teach NRA courses).  How is it possible that a training counselor can be so ignorant?  I’m writing to ask the NRA about this and will let you know.

Aug 112011

A clip from the video linked below showing a mugger at work. He surprises an unaware woman and steals her phone.

We regularly come back to the need for situational awareness.  You want to live most of your life in ‘Condition Yellow’ and try not to be caught out in ‘Condition White’.

Which brings us to the video you can see in this article, showing a woman walking down a surprisingly empty street in San Francisco, talking on her phone.  As she walks into the camera’s field of view, we then see that she is oblivious about being stalked by a ne’er-do-well behind her – we can only guess as to how long he has been back there, checking out the area and getting a feeling for how vulnerable she is.

Even though there are only the two of them on an otherwise empty street, she is completely unaware of his presence and so gets a nasty surprise when he suddenly leaps at her and wrestles her phone away, then runs off with it.

Fortunately, all the woman lost was her cell phone, and she even ended up getting that back, thanks to the volunteered help of the taxi driver who was filming the incident from his dash cam.  But it could have been worse, and – most of all – it could have been prevented, if she’d turned around and briefly looked directly at the bad guy, then put her cell phone away, crossed the road, and continued where she was going.

Learn from this incident, and make sure it isn’t you being featured next time.  You want to live most of your life in ‘Condition Yellow’ and try never to be caught out in ‘Condition White’.

Aug 072011

Mayhem and potentially murder when riots rage around you

The good news is this appalling incident is less likely to happen much more in the future, because it occurred in Wisconsin, which last month passed a law allowing its citizens to get concealed weapon permits.

But the bad news is that it happened at all.  I don’t know if it is a passing craze, or a new media focus, or whatever, but my sense is there are a growing number of ‘flash mob’ type mini-riots occurring in the country these days, situations where a group of people suddenly congregate and go wild for no apparent reason, attacking ordinary peaceful other citizens in a location that you’d not normally consider an at-risk location.

Here is a report of this particular flash-mob that formed at the exit to the Wisconsin state fairgrounds.  You’ll note that the police were less than effective, and some police, a mere block or two away, busied themselves with directing traffic rather than going to assist at all!  Although some police did get into the middle of things, and were even injured, they were woefully outnumbered and unable to protect and prevent lawful citizens leaving the fairgrounds from being victimized, terrified, and assaulted.

Once again, we’re reminded that the only people we can count on to defend us in an emergency is our own selves – us personally and hopefully the loved ones and close friends with us.

Note also the muted reporting on the subject of whether it was black people selectively attacking white people only.  On the other hand, this report quotes people with obviously vested interests as saying it was only black people fighting other black people.  Ordinary citizens saw black people selectively attacking white people, but public officials did not.  Hmmmm……

What Would You Do?

This sort of situation raises a very difficult question.  What would you do if you found yourself in the middle of such a mob, and a group of youths attacked you?  (Assume, for the sake of this discussion, that you were carrying a pistol with you, as hopefully you always do.)

The significant outcome of most of these flash mob attacks is that no-one has been killed, or even gravely/critically wounded.  Sure, people have been punched up, kicked down, and generally injured, but is it really a situation where you can truly say you feared for your life; is it truly a situation that warrants the use of deadly force?

On the other hand, it may well be that you had no ability to retreat.  If your state has a ‘stand your ground’ law, why should you either try ineffectively to run away, or passively accept a beating?  And just because few people have been critically injured or killed, that’s no guarantee that you might not be less fortunate.

Let’s think what would happen if you did resort to your gun.  When you pull it out, if you don’t start shooting immediately, one of three things will happen.  Either the flash mob will run away screaming, or it will taunt you and get closer to you (and they may already be way too close for comfort), forcing you to either use your gun or lose it, or, option three, someone in the flash mob also has a gun, and he (or they if more than one) will draw it and shoot you first.

If the flash mob runs away screaming without you needing to fire a single shot, then good job, well done.  But how likely is that?

Let’s think about scenario #2.  They crush in towards you, leaving you no choice but either to surrender your gun (and risk having it used against you) or to start shooting.  Even if you managed to disable the weapon before it was taken from you (at the very least, releasing the magazine and kicking it away) you’ve raised the odds and probably increased the severity of the beating you’ll get.

Maybe you fire a warning shot in the air (not really advised by most experts).  Perhaps they’ll now turn around and run away screaming, but even if they wanted to, maybe – if there is a crush of others behind them, they can’t.  Do you then start shooting for real, or do you surrender your weapon and hope for the best?

And what if you start shooting?  You’ll have half a dozen people all crowding in on you, and more behind them.  How to fight them all off with only one gun and however many rounds in its magazine?

The answers to these questions fall into two parts – legal issues to do with the justifiability of you shooting at these attackers, and the tactical issues of how best to get a positive outcome from your situation.

Legal Issues

I asked a respected attorney who specializes in gun law issues for his opinion on the situation.  Unfortunately, his opinion is only valid in the one state he practices law in, and each state has different legislation (and customary practice) in terms of what is acceptable use of deadly force and what is not.

Based on the laws of his state, he believes that shooting at your attackers would probably be justified in his state – a state that says there is no obligation to retreat, and which allows you to shoot in self defense if you have a reasonable fear of imminent danger to yourself or loved ones and if such an action is what a reasonable person could be expected to do.

But your state laws may be very different, and no matter what your laws are, there is also this very vague standard of what a ‘reasonable’ person would do.  Maybe your state law allows for use of deadly force in terms of the theory of the legislation, but maybe the practice of how the case law has modified and interpreted the words of the law is such that what you think is a permissive empowerment to defend yourself is actually no such thing.

Maybe a ‘reasonable’ person in your state might think it more reasonable to submit to a beating than to kill one or many attackers?  Surely you’ve heard people say ‘nothing ever justifies taking a human life’ – maybe they say this in opposition to capital punishment, even for the most depraved mass murderers, and often they say it when explaining why they think no-one should be allowed to own guns.  Normally you might just roll your eyes when hearing this and move on, recognizing a viewpoint that you have nothing in common with and are unlikely to change.  But what would you do if you were faced with a jury of people who all subscribed to that point of view – all viewing your actions as ‘unreasonable’ by their fervently held viewpoints?

So the legal issues are murky.  Let’s all pray you don’t find yourself becoming a test case in your state.  If you have a genuine concern, you should consult a good attorney in your state who specializes in firearms and self defense law, and if you get a written opinion with him, please share it with us so we can share it with everyone else.

Tactical Issues

Okay, so if you find yourself where you are forced to shoot, what is the best way to solve the problem you are confronted with, causing minimum loss of life and ensuring your own safety?

I asked two people, both with a huge amount of real world experience, what they would recommend.  One is a former Marine, and a former LAPD officer in some of the worst neighborhoods of Los Angeles, and is a massively credentialed firearms trainer.  The other is a former Navy officer and sworn member of one of the Justice Department’s many branches, and again a well credentialed firearms trainer.

They both agreed that the thing to do is to assertively point your weapon at the person who seems to be ringleader, simultaneously look him straight in the eye, and tell him ‘Back Off!  Or you’ll be the first person I shoot!’  Then point it at a second person and say ‘You’ll be second!  Back Off!’  and perhaps give the same warning to a third person.

Then, if they continue to advance, and particularly if they are getting to ten feet or so of you, and they have ignored your warnings, you’re going to need to start shooting.  One of these two people said ‘If there are other people behind them (and there probably will be) consider dropping down on one knee and then shooting up at the person’s head so that the round doesn’t pass through their body and into additional people behind them’.

I understand the good sense of that advice, but you’re sacrificing dexterity and maneuverability in doing so, and head shots are more difficult to take at the best of times.  Do you really want to put yourself at much greater risk so as to make it safer for the person behind the first bad guy – a person who is far from being labeled as an ‘innocent bystander’?  Furthermore, by dropping down to this position, you’re less authoritative – although it could be argued that the gun in your hand that starts shooting compensates for that!

If you’re comfortable with your ability to drop to a one knee position and still command the situation, shoot accurately, and fight effectively, by all means do so.  But right now, your highest priority is your personal survival, not protecting the people who you may well be forced to shoot in a few seconds time.

A Force Multiplier

Lastly, a thought that you need to get front and center into your mind, always.  Try and encourage the people who go places and do things with you to also be armed.  This will not only enhance their own personal safety, but yours too.

Which would you rather experience?  A deadly threat from multiple attackers where you have to simultaneously protect you and a second, defenseless person; or a deadly threat where you have a partner alongside you, also armed and skilled at the use of their firearm?

Friends don’t let friends be unarmed.

One last thought.  You are less likely to need to use your guns if there are two of you and both armed, because you’re a much stronger adversary and you can probably defuse the situation without needing to resort to lethal force.  Which is an interesting concept to tell a friend who is not sure about carrying – ‘If you have a gun, too; then we’re less likely to need to use them than if I am the only one armed’.

We’ll return to the topic of encouraging your friends to become armed citizens in a subsequent post.  It is a very important topic, deserving of its own standalone post.

Aug 022011
A selection of pistol bullets

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

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

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

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

Where to start and where to stop?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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