May 182011
A Ruger LCR revolver is hidden inside this innocuous looking book

Looks like a book on the outside, but has a surprise on the inside

A woman was having a shower, and upon stepping out of the shower – naked and defenseless – she discovered an intruder with a knife in her bathroom.

No, this story isn’t going to suggest you should keep a ‘waterproof’ gun in your shower next to your soap (although you’ll have my respect it you do!).  But it will make two very important suggestions.  First, let’s complete the story.

The man started beating the woman in a struggle, and she told him she had money in her bedroom – a place the intruder was doubtless keen to take her, anyway.  Upon getting to the bedroom, she managed to get a gun she had somewhere there and shot him.  The guy stumbled out of her house, collapsed in the yard, and subsequently died.

As for the woman, local police said she won’t be charged with any crime.  More details here.

So, the two morals of this story?

First, it isn’t paranoia.  It is good common sense to always keep your house secure, day and night.  Many times you might not hear someone at your door, and might not hear someone come in to your house; indeed, if you don’t answer their first trial knocking on the door, they might think you are out and so be encouraged to take advantage of an unlocked door.

Second, while the most common hiding place in a house for a self defense gun is the bedroom, that’s no reason not to have a gun somewhere close at hand in your bedroom.  Also, imagine what would have happened if the woman’s gun had a gun-lock on it, or if it was in a gun safe, or if it was unloaded?  You need to have a gun not only conveniently at hand, but ready to go immediately you seize it.

It isn’t just your bedroom where a hidden pistol might be a good idea.  Think through scenarios of where/when/how you might be surprised by a home intruder in your house.  Where else would it be a good idea to have a gun readily available?

A related issue is how to hide guns around the house.  Here are three ideas, I’m sure you can think of more.

(a)  In a picture frame.  This Google page links to various different picture frames which have an obscured secret compartment in the frame.  If you go this route, choose a frame that is as thin as possible so it isn’t too unusually thick and draws attention to itself in your house; and/or place it in a location so its thickness isn’t immediately obvious – ie, on a wall where you see it primarily from the front rather than from the side.

(b)  In a book.  Here’s a Google page to some ‘books’ that contain not pages but rather guns.  Note that not all the books offered for sale look 100% realistic, so consider also following the very helpful process on this page (read the comments too) and make your own books storage units, and be sure to have them located in places where books already can be found and in such a manner that casual visitors might not pick up your ‘book’ and get a surprise.

(c)  In a clock.  See this product and this related product.  This is one of my favorite strategies, because clocks are of a natural shape/size to allow a gun to be hidden, and whereas people might look at and touch your books, who ever looks too carefully at or plays with a clock?

You can also hide guns in just about any other place you choose, even under tables and in cupboards and drawers (by mounting a holster inside the hiding place and slipping the gun inside).  But the key thing is not to get carried away with ingenuity.  The key thing is to have a gun or guns in convenient locations where you can quickly reach them in an extreme situation.

Could I also suggest you consider having revolvers as your emergency guns in such places.  I say this for the simple reason that you can leave a revolver loaded and ready to fire without stressing any parts, and without needing to do anything to it, for year after year at a time.  But if you’re using a semi-auto, you’ll want to swap magazines from time to time to avoid spring fatigue, and you may or may not choose to have it already cocked and with the safety off.

Remember – if you’ve got the bad guy(s) breathing down your neck, you’ll probably only have one hand free to grab your gun, and there’s no way of telling if it will be your left or right hand, so go easy on any tricky mounting devices.  You will need it to be instantly ready to start working.  Choose your concealment system, its location, and the pistol inside it, accordingly.

And of course, if you have curious children at home, you’ll need to temper these considerations with the need to keep your guns where they won’t be chanced upon by your children.

Apr 262011

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Danger of Ammo in a Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Store Bulk Ammo

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

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

The Legality of Storing Bulk Ammunition

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

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

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

Valid Reasons to Have a Bulk Supply of Ammunition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Invalid Reasons to Have Lots of Ammo

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Apr 202011

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

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

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

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

Lethality Issues

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

To give some context :

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hydrostatic Shock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recoil & Flash

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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Is the 5.7×28 Round Not More Popular?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Apr 202011

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

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

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

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

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

But there are several considerations to keep in mind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Many Guns Can You/Should You Own

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom Line Action Items

1.  Always carry at least one spare magazine

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

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


Apr 142011

Jim and Charlene Sanders, a couple in their mid 40s, advertised a diamond ring for sale.  Nothing too unique about that. Among other people who called to express interest in the ring were Kiyoshi Higashi and Amanda Knight, who arranged to visit and view the ring.  Still a perfectly normal event.

But, upon being admitted to the Sanders’ home, Higashi pulled out a gun, let two more cohorts into the house, tied up the Sanders and also their two sons and proceeded to ransack the house, while beating Mr & Mrs Sanders and threatening to kill them.

Jim Sanders managed to break free, only to be shot dead when struggling with the four attackers.  The attackers then fled, sparing Mrs Sanders and their two sons.  Here is one report of the incident.

Now ask yourself – how often have you advertised something for sale?  Maybe not jewelry – maybe a car, a boat, sports equipment, even a gun.  How often have you had people come to look at whatever you were selling?  And – most of all – how prepared have you been to defend yourself if the potential buyers turn out to be bad guys?

Even if you are just having a garage sale, some people might use the garage sale as a chance to case your property and your preparedness.  And some people might visit you normally one day while pretending an interest in something you are selling, then return the next day to burgle your property.

There’s a moral in this story.  Be wary any time you allow any strangers into your home.  Don’t be paranoid, but there is just as much reason to be concealed carrying while relaxing at home as there is when out in public.  Sometimes the most threatening types of danger occur in the safest seeming situations (which is of course what makes them such major threats).

Additionally, home invasions have the benefit – to the bad guy – of being out of public view.  This empowers and enables them to do nastier things, over a longer time period, than they could in public.  Your house, rather than being your castle, could potentially become your deathtrap.

Most of all, remember the color code of situational awareness.  It applies just as much when your front door bell rings as it does when in a strange part of town.

Don’t let Jim Sanders’ death be for nothing.  Learn from it, so you don’t repeat his mistakes and suffer the same consequences.

Mar 262011

Here’s an interesting story of how a woman fell victim to a rape.

Surprisingly, I’m not citing this to you as an example of something that could have been prevented if the woman was armed; indeed it is unlikely that she could have done anything to save herself if she was armed.  Being as how this was in Britain, there’s no way she could be armed anyway.  But this was, nonetheless, a 100% avoidable rape.

The woman’s own account of how she got trapped by the rapist reveals a classic example of someone who failed to maintain even the slightest amount of situational awareness.  Furthermore, the story also shows how even safe seeming places, and one’s familiar routine, can suddenly transition to the gravest of experiences and the nastiest of outcomes.

In particular, this is what she said

“I don’t remember seeing him on the train. But he had spotted me as a lone female. I was distracted by my mobile phone, I was carrying heavy bags and because the lift was not working at the car park I would soon fall behind the other commuters who got off the same train.

“I was a middle aged woman getting off a train in a statistically safe, pleasant town.

“The offender was behind me on the stairs in the multi-storey car park. I spoke to him on the way up, saying he should have sprinted past me. But he did not pass. I got off at the wrong landing.

“I still didn’t get it. Only when he walked towards me up the exit ramp from another floor of the car park, holding a knife, did I realise I had got it terribly wrong.

Ask yourself the same question – could this happen to me, too?

And in such a situationally unaware situation, even if you were carrying a weapon, there’s no way you could have got to it in time to protect yourself.

The lesson of this story is as simple as it is tragic.  You need to always be aware of your surroundings and the people around you.  You don’t need to be paranoid, but you do need to be prudent.

Perhaps paradoxically, the need to be situationally aware is doubly pressing if you are armed for self defense, because in such a case, you need one, two, maybe even three seconds to be able to draw your weapon (depending on how you carry/conceal it).  If the bad guy gets to you before you have a chance to draw your weapon, you’ll quickly discover than a still holstered firearm is no use at all, and may well end up being taken by the bad guy and used against you.

So for both your own safety, and to prevent firearms falling into the hands of bad guys; if you’re willing to carry, you must accept the responsibility to be aware of your surroundings, and to be appropriately anticipating, rather than inappropriately reacting, to situations as they unfold.

Back to the specific example of the woman referred to here.  She had so many chances to change her behavior, starting from noticing the guy on the train before it stopped, continuing on to allowing herself not to be part of the group of commuters all leaving the train and going to the car park at the same time, extending on to being friendly and exchanging words with her soon to be assailant and not noticing his unusual response, and concluding with getting onto the wrong level in the car park.

The good news is that these are all very simple behaviors to modify, but only if you’re aware of your situation and yourself.

If you Google the phrase ‘color code of situational awareness’ you’ll find a lot of excellent articles about how to have a sliding scale of alertness in your life all the time, easing up and down the scale depending on what is going on around you.  This is one of the better articles – it is lengthy and not very approachable, but force yourself to read it.  My only beef is that it has only four colors – white/yellow/orange/red.  It leaves out the most important level and the biggest decision you have to make – the ultimate condition ‘black’ where you must use possibly deadly force to defend yourself and/or your loved ones.

Then think about the lady who was raped.  She was in condition white, all the time, wasn’t she.  She should have been in condition yellow on the train and once she got off and then the strange behavior of the guy on the car park stairs should have pushed her up to condition orange.

A little situational awareness would have made all the difference, and would have saved her.  It can save you too.

Mar 132011

There’s more to do than merely adjusting your clocks

Some people advocate making the switch to/from daylight savings a trigger event for checking the batteries in your smoke detectors.  That’s a good idea, even though probably all smoke detectors these days have low battery alarms that make annoying chirping sounds when the batteries get low.

It is barely conceivable that the low battery alarm might have failed, or that the battery died while you were out of town, so a formal test every six months is a good routine to get into.

But I’m not writing today about smoke alarms, as important as they are.  Let’s think about some other things you should do maybe every six months, maybe every year.  And if you’ve additional items to add to this list, share your thoughts with us in the comments, below.

1.  Check, Clean and Oil all Guns

This isn’t essential, but it is a good thing to do – to renew your familiarity with your weapons, to give them a bit of tender loving care, and to check, clean and oil them.

Depending on how and where you store them, maybe they’ve got some dust on them, maybe even mildew/mold (I find that even with a heater bar ‘dehumidifier’ in my gun safe, I still have problems), and maybe you might have forgotten to clean them after the last time you used them, or maybe someone else has touched/tampered with them, or who knows what else.

I’d put this on a six monthly cycle.

2.  Replace Critical Ammo

By ‘critical’ ammo I mean the ammo you keep loaded in your self defense and carry guns, and potentially in the spare magazines you keep loaded with them.

Sure, ammunition can last decades if stored properly, but the ammunition in a carry gun is stored anything but properly.  It is is a warm humid environment, and when there isn’t sweat seeping in through the seals and into the propellant, there’s gun oil or who knows what else.

Plus, if you ever find yourself needing to pull the trigger ‘for real’ on a carry gun, you’re in a critical situation where you have to be 110% guaranteed that you’ll hear a ‘bang’ rather than a ‘click’.

So – and I put this on the six monthly cycle too – go to the range once every six months, and shoot off the ammo in the guns that you keep loaded 24/7 and replace it with fresh out of the box ammo.  This also gives you ongoing feedback that your ammo is good and feeding reliably.  Which leads to my next point.

3.  Range Time

No matter how much you have practiced in the past, the skills you’ve mastered at handling your weapons erode quickly, and need to be freshened up from time to time.  The good news is that if you’ve been formally trained to a high level, you’ll find it easier to quickly do a self-administered refresher course.

So once every six months, do some dry firing practice at home (rapid presentation from concealment using the actual holsters you carry in, trigger control, and malfunction clearances), and then go to your local range and shoot some rounds through each of your primary self defense guns (yes, I am using the plural, because you do have multiple self defense guns, don’t you?).

Doing this helps you combine the preceding point about replacing critical ammo, and then encourages you to do the first point, about checking and cleaning your weapons, too.

4.  Springs

I don’t know about you, but I never keep any magazine fully loaded to its capacity with ammo, except when I’m on the range and about to use it, or temporarily in an ultimately hostile environment.

All my carry weapons have at least one (single stack magazines) or two (double stack magazines) unfilled position, so the springs are never compressed to their maximum.

I also rotate magazines on a regular basis so that some are always kept empty and some are kept nearly full, to further reduce spring fatigue.

This is important.  Make no mistake – good men have lost their lives because they’ve been relying on a magazine that has sat, passively, with the spring fully compressed, perhaps for a year or more at a time.

I swap full and empty magazines over much more often than once every six months, but if you only do it twice a year, you’re still much better off than never doing it.

Now, let me tell you what I do do every six months.  I disassemble my magazines and check the springs to see if they still have enough tension in them.  This is easily done by simply seeing how far the spring extends out of the magazine once you remove its end cap.

Most gun manufacturers will tell you their specification for the minimum amount of additional spring extension outside of the magazine (usually expressed in so many zigs and zags of spring, or perhaps more simply in how many inches stick out).  If you can’t get this information, buy a new magazine and immediately disassemble it.  Take a picture of the spring sticking out the end of the magazine with a ruler alongside so you can see how many inches out it sticks.  Print out a copy and keep it in your gun safe with your spare magazines, and use that as a reference point.

You can allow springs to lose a small amount of tension compared to a new magazine’s spring, but if you see any magazine spring losing more tension than the others, you know it is time to replace the spring, and when they all have significantly deviated from the new magazine spring, it is again time to replace their springs.

5.  Batteries

What do you have in your ‘kit’ that uses batteries?  Several tactical flashlights, for sure.  Maybe a laser sight.  Goodness only knows what else.

Make the daylight saving switches a time to check batteries, and also to inventory your reserve of spare batteries.

Open up the battery compartment of everything that has batteries, and make sure the batteries haven’t swollen or started to leak.

If you have devices that use non-standard sized batteries, make sure you have spares, and make sure they are where you expect them to be.

And for all the things you have that use AA and AAA batteries, consider replacing the batteries ‘whether they need replacing or not’ in items that you occasionally use, and give a good test of the batteries in items you seldom or never use.

For batteries you’ve left in devices for some time, check their expiry dates.  If you’re within a year of the expiry date, why not replace them anyway.

Mar 082011

So, what do most burglars do when breaking into a house?  Yes, they start stealing things, right?

And if they become aware of the home owner returning home, what do they do?  Hopefully, they leave quickly!

But that’s not what happened when a man in Portland, OR, broke into a home there.  Instead of going for the family silver, he went for – the shower!  And in the process of showering, he somehow became aware of the woman who lived there returning home.  So, what did he do next?

Well, you’ve probably already figured out this guy is not your normal type of home invader.  Instead of hiding, or running away, he – yes, he dialled 911 and asked the police to help, for fear of what the woman might do if she discovered him, dripping wet and buck naked, in her shower.  For whatever reason (and hopefully correctly) he feared she might have a gun, and apparently, whether armed or not, she had one or possibly two angry German Shepherds with her.

For full details of this puzzling crime, read this report.  You might want to listen to the audio transcript of the various 911 calls placed by both the burglar and the home owner, too, for extra laughs.

But if you do listen to the audio – and you should – you’ll notice one other thing.  Here’s the scene :  Inside the house is the burglar, perhaps still in the shower.  Outside the house, on the porch by the front door, is the woman, her youngish daughter, and a growing number of neighbors.

The woman wants to go in the house to get a coat, because she is cold standing outside on her porch.  The 911 operator sensibly manages to persuade her not to go back inside.

And then the first police car arrives.  But what does the policeman do?  Get this :  He waits in his car for backup to arrive, waiting until it is ‘safe’ for him to go up to the porch.  The 911 operator is quite happy to have the woman, her daughter, and various neighbors standing on the porch, but the police officer will not approach them or the house until he has backup.

Does that sound right to you?

Let’s think in general terms about this as well.  What would you do if you returned home to encounter a burglary in process?

The correct thing to do is – assuming no-one else near or dear to you is inside the house – to immediately leave your premises, and retreat to a safe location where you can observe, and call the police.  But if you have loved ones inside and at risk, you’ve got some hard decisions to make; hard decisions we’ll talk about another time.

If the burglar leaves, don’t intercept him, and have no contact with him.  Keep your distance and allow him to safely depart the scene.

Still stay out of your property though – no so much because the police don’t want you disturbing ‘the evidence’ (sadly, and depending on where you live and what happened, the police may not do much at all in terms of fingerprinting or in any other way doing ‘detective’ stuff) but rather for fear that there may still be other burglars inside.  Have the police check out your property for you before going back inside yourself.

Remember – you don’t want to corner a wild animal, and neither do you want to corner a criminal.  You’re not paid to do these things.  Leave such dangerous actions to those who are.  And even they won’t do it without backup.

Feb 152011

These houses at the foot of the Swiss Matterhorn probably have full auto guns in them

I bet you didn’t see a headline in your local newspaper, or a lead story on television news this week about the Swiss rejecting a plan to restrict the ability of their citizens to lawfully own and keep fully automatic weapons in their homes.

Amazingly, a French website tells us what our local gun hating media prefer to pretend did not happen, in an article headlined ‘Swiss overwhelmingly reject plan to tighten gun control in referendum‘.

The profusion of guns in Switzerland (it is estimated there are between two and three million guns in 3.4 million households) has been blamed for a ‘high’ suicide rate.  But let’s look at the numbers.  According to this table, the suicide rate in Switzerland is 15.1 deaths per 100,000 people per year.  But this is not a high suicide rate – it is actually less than neighboring France (17) and adjacent Belgium (17.6).  Sure, it is more than Germany (9.5) but really, what these numbers show is that suicide rates vary widely, even among similar seeming countries.

The wide variation in suicide numbers may be a transient thing (ie one year rates are higher than the next year for whatever reason) or it may be a cultural thing (Japan has a suicide rate of 24.4) or it may be an economic thing (poorer countries have higher suicide rates) or it may even be partly dependent on the data collection methodology and how readily deaths are categorized as suicides (ie a very low suicide rate is shown in Italy – 5.2, a strongly Roman Catholic country where suicide is considered a mortal sin).

All we can say about the suicide numbers is that Switzerland scores lower than some comparable countries and higher than others, but is in no measurable amount unusually different to other countries around it.

Another thing the profusion of guns can not be blamed for is a high murder rate.  Quite the opposite – perhaps it could be credited for a very low murder rate, because there are very few murders in Switzerland.

Here’s a table of intentional homicide rates by country.  You’ll have to scroll almost to the bottom to find Switzerland, with a rate of 0.7 homicides per 100,000 people per year.  In comparison, France has a rate of 1.4, Germany 0.86 and Italy 1.2.

Of course, the anti-gunners want to ‘have their cake and eat it too’ – they’ll blame guns for what in truth turns out to be a normal, average suicide rate, but they go completely silent when trying to link the much broader variations in murder rates to gun ownership.

Even rabidly anti-gun Britain has a significantly higher homicide rate – 1.28 – than does Switzerland.

Of course, the same factors that apply to how you assess suicide rates also must apply to murder rates.  Murder rates vary for social reasons, for economic reasons, and many other things, quite unrelated to the presence or absence of guns.

It is always a grave mistake to try and take only one factor or variable and link it solely and exclusively to another factor or variable, when in truth there are many reasons why the measured variable changes.

But there is one situation where murders and other violent crimes can be weakly but somewhat correlated to the presence or absence of guns in the population as a whole, and that is in the US (due to it being a somewhat more homogenous society with fewer other variables).  Study after study in the US shows that the freer the access to guns, the lower the rates of violent and gun-related crime.

And that’s another story you probably don’t see in the media, either.

The Swiss have also recently passed referendums to ban the building of minarets on mosques and to automatically deport foreigners found guilty of committing serious crimes or benefit fraud.  Two more stories that may not have made the media.