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

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

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

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

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

The Problem with Carrying a Revolver

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

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

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

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

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

How Many Adversaries to Expect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 242011
A target that has had the center of it well shot out

There's no need to riddle a bad guy with as many holes as this target

If you ever find yourself deciding to use deadly force to protect yourself or your loved ones, you have a second decision to make immediately subsequently.  How many times should you shoot the bad guy?  Once?  Twice?  Five times?  Ten times?

(Note – this is assuming you are using a handgun.  If you’re using a rifle or shotgun, one shot may be enough.)

The sad part of this question is that the right answer is not just determined by ending the deadly threat you are confronted with, but also by concerns about subsequent legal action – either brought by the police, or – and perhaps more alarmingly – by the offender or his estate.

As soon as you fire a second round, no matter what happened to the first round – whether it missed the bad guy entirely, or just caused a light graze on his arm, or if it incapacitated him instantly and completely – you open yourself up to accusations of excessive use of force.  Imagine yourself in court, with a prosecutor talking to the jury ‘Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, whether right or wrong, maybe the defendant believed he needed to shoot at the deceased, but did the defendant need to shoot at him multiple times, and change what might have been a survivable wound into a lethal hail of bullets?  This was a …..’ – insert your term of choice here :

  • Cold blooded murder, not an act of self defense
  • Crazed shooting spree beyond what any reasonable man would do
  • Rambo rage rather than rational response
  • Gangland style murder
  • Military type assassination
  • Extreme and uncalled for use of excessive force
  • Massive overreaction that resulted in the victim dying rather than just being wounded

or any other phrase that might be called upon.

The truth of the matter – a truth which may be overlooked by a district attorney trying to score political points, and/or a truth that will definitely be completely ignored by an attorney seeking civil damages on behalf of the bad guy or his estate (if you killed him) is that a single bullet from a pistol is extremely unlikely to immediately take the bad guy out of the fight.  Even if you succeed in hitting the bad guy with your shot, who knows where on his body the round will land, and who knows what the effect will be.

Well, actually, we can be pretty sure what the effect will be.  Unlike the movies, the bad guy won’t be thrown violently backward.  Neither will he sag and collapse where he stands.  In general terms, he’ll feel no more force than you felt from the gun’s recoil.  If he is all hyped up on adrenalin – or, worse, on drugs – even a hit that may kill him over time might have no immediate effect on him.

Add to this ugly equation the fact that he was, say, only 15 ft away from you when you opened fire, and is rapidly closing the distance, and so what are you going to do?  Stop and observe prior to shooting a second and subsequent time?  Of course not!

Front Sight teach their students to fire two rapid aimed shots to the center of the thoracic cavity (something very similar to the concept of ‘center of mass’ – ie, the middle of the target), then to pause and see what effect they cause.  If the bad guy doesn’t stop, they teach to fire one more carefully aimed shot to the cranial ocular cavity (a 3″ x 5″ card sized space more or less from the eyebrows to the bridge of the nose).

That makes sense on the range, when neither you nor the target is moving.  But in a dynamic fire fight inside your house, you’ve not got the time for any of this.  You need to neutralize the threat before the threat neutralizes you, and once you’re in physical contact, you risk losing control of your weapon and having it turned on you, even if the guy is gushing blood (which could well be AIDS positive) all over you as he does so.

If you’ve a modern semi-auto with a 15+ round magazine in it, should you empty the entire magazine at the guy as quickly as you can?

Tactically, yes, that makes a great deal of sense in this type of scenario, and unofficially many police may confide in you that is exactly what they would do themselves.  But in terms of your subsequent civil and criminal liability, each extra shot shifts the balance away from ‘righteous shooting’ and towards a much more ugly situation.

In terms of ‘the perfect world’ (or what passes for a perfect world when you need to start shooting at anyone) the concept is to keep firing until the attacker ceases to be a threat.  What does that mean?  It might mean that he stops advancing on you and says ‘Stop, I surrender’ – even if you haven’t hit him at all.  As soon as he says those words, he has ceased to be a lethal threat and you can no longer justify shooting him.  Let’s just hope you hear him say that clearly over the sound of the gunfire!

It might mean that he turns and runs away.  Bullets in the back look really bad in the subsequent enquiry and take a lot of explaining.  If the bad guy turns around and starts running away, then as long as that direction isn’t taking him, say, to your spouse or children, the gunfight is over.

It might mean that he collapses in a heap and stops advancing on you.  Bullets shot down into a body while standing over it on the floor also look bad in the subsequent enquiry (and, yes, the police absolutely can work out that this is what happened), so as soon as the guy is down and incapacitated, and not reaching for a hidden weapon or doing anything still threatening, again stop shooting.

In the real world, you’re going to be squeezing off rounds fairly fast.  You’ll have shot five or more times before you even notice any impact on the bad guy – assuming you’re hitting the guy most of the time, and that’s a dubious assumption to make.

In the real world, don’t count your shots, and don’t look for where they are going.  Just get some lead downrange and observe the bad guy and the effect your rounds are having on him.  If at some stage, you’re fairly sure you’re getting good hits and nothing much is happening, then you have to wonder if he has body armor on, and change strategies to either ‘run away’ or start shooting at his head.

Head shots, while harder to make, are more likely to have immediate effect if you manage to get some rounds on target.  The only exception to this would be if you truly do have a zombie coming towards you.

One more thing about head shots – they are less politically correct.  Yes, there are good and bad ways to shoot someone, alas.  Don’t start shooting for the head until after you’ve sent some into the center of mass.

There is another source of valuable information about the ‘ideal’ – no, make that ‘acceptable’ – number of times to shoot an attacker.  And that is looking at what the police do when they engage someone and shoot him.

Start clipping newspaper reports of how many rounds your local police shoot at people, and see if the police officer(s) suffer any consequences or accusations of having shot too many times.  Generally you might find they sometimes have questions raised about the need to shoot at all, but seldom are questions raised about the number of rounds they shoot – assuming the number to be not outlandish.

The average police officer doesn’t actually get to shoot at people very much, and so they are almost as likely to panic as you are.  They probably get an hour or two of range time a couple of times a year, and maybe shot 500 rounds as part of their basic training, perhaps decades ago.

But SWAT officers – well, they are the creme de la creme, aren’t they.  They are the very best officers, and get massive amounts of training, and have greater experience at armed confrontations.  You’d expect them to set a ‘high water mark’ for what is acceptable, because when they are shooting, they can be much more certain they are hitting their target, they are not nearly as panicked, and they are doing something they have trained repeatedly to do.

In other words, if a SWAT officer fires four times, he will probably hit his target at least three of those times, and will do so in a calm calculated manner, knowing exactly when to stop.  On the other hand, a regular police officer may panic some, and fire more rounds in a less well controlled manner.  Let’s say a two to one discrepancy – if a SWAT officer shoots five rounds in a confrontation, we’d probably allow a regular police officer to fire ten, right?

You might want to next say ‘if a regular police officer fires ten rounds, I should be allowed to shoot twenty rounds’ but you’d be wrong for two reasons.  The first reason is that almost certainly, somewhere in those 20 rounds there’s going to be a ‘time out’ during which you have to change over magazines, giving you also a forced break from shooting and a chance to see what is happening around you.  You may be able to come up with an explanation for why/how you emptied all 17 rounds from your magazine into the bad guy, but it will be much harder to then go on and explain how you swapped over magazines and emptied a second magazine as well.

The second reason is that life isn’t fair.  To play it safe, if a regular police officer typically fires, say, six shots, you’d better stop at five unless there’s a hugely compelling reason to keep your gun running further.

Okay, now with all that as background, here’s an interesting story for you to keep in your file.  In a recent case in Pima County, AZ (a little north of Tucson) a team of five SWAT officers ended up choosing to shoot a person in a house they were raiding, in circumstances that have yet to be fully explained.

Now remember these are highly trained SWAT officers, not ordinary beat officers.

So how many times did they shoot the suspect?

Between the five of them, they shot at the man 71 times, hitting him 60 times.  That is 14 shots – and 12 hits – per officer; but most of all, it is 71 shots in total and 60 hits.

Print out this article and keep it somewhere safe and discreet.  If anyone should ever accuse you of using excessive force, show them this article.  71 shots and 60 hits?  Sheesh.

My guess is that every one of those five officers emptied his entire magazine into the victim.  Fourteen shots at – and twelve hits – would normally be getting close to the high end of what you could readily explain away, but 71 and 60???  From a SWAT team!!!

Don’t even get me started on the tactics that have all five officers fixated on one single target, and all emptying their magazines into one guy, in a scenario where, as they subsequently said when explaining why they let the guy bleed to death on the floor and didn’t allow paramedics into the house for an entire hour, they didn’t know who else was in the house or with what weapons (answer – apart from the guy’s wife and children hiding in the closet, in fear of their lives, no-one else at all).

If the SWAT team aren’t arrested, locked up, charged and convicted of excessive force and a whole bunch of other crimes, then any time you’re in Pima County with four of your friends, I guess you know that – at least there – it is acceptable to shoot at a guy with an unloaded gun 71 times.  Don’t forget, subsequently – like the SWAT team did – to claim that he shot at you first; and be no more embarrassed than the SWAT team was when it was subsequently discovered the weapon was unloaded, unfired, and with the safety on.

But don’t count on a similar standard applying in the rest of the United States.  And thank goodness for that.

So, how many rounds should you shoot at the bad guy when he is coming at you?  As many as it takes.  Better to be tried by twelve than carried by six.

Lastly, this is an interesting and unexpected reason to be sure you have the most powerful/lethal gun and ammo combination you can handle.  Assuming it isn’t something ridiculous, if you can use a commonly accepted but heavier caliber pistol, and with a more powerful ammo, you will probably end up needing to fire less rounds.

In other words, if you use a 38 special revolver, consider upgrading to a 357 magnum.  If you use a 9mm semi-auto, consider a .40 S&W instead.

And for your ammo, make sure you’re firing a +P grade (and make sure your pistol is rated for +P, too!) and that it is some sort of effective hollow point round.

But don’t end up with something too powerful for you to comfortably control.  Better to be landing rounds on target with a less powerful weapon than to be missing consistently with a heavier pistol.

May 182011

The Logitech surveillance system secures your house

I keep seeing accounts in the news about people who answer a knock on the door only to have an intruder (or possibly multiple intruders) use surprise and violent force to immediately rush through the door and overwhelm the person who innocently and unpreparedly opened the door.  Here’s a very typical story here.

This is a risk that is both surprisingly commonplace and hard to defend against.  Say you have a concealed weapon somewhere on your person when you answer the door.  Now think through what happens.  You go to the door, unlock it (you do keep it locked, don’t you!) and open it.  Maybe you get as far as to half open the door before – Wham!  The person on the other side kicks into the door with all their force, pushing it hard into you and knocking you off balance.  Before you’ve even caught your breath, they are through the door, and on top of you (quite literally, by this stage, you’ve been pushed backward onto the floor and may be mildly concussed) and have a knife at your throat.

What use is your concealed weapon in its holster now?

Now, so let’s notch the preparedness (or is it paranoia) up a further degree.  You go to answer the door and you have a pistol in your hand, held inconspicuously behind your back.  Only think about this if this is something you can promise yourself you’ll always do – and think it through.  If you’ll always have a gun in your hand when you open the door, which hand will it be in?  Which hand will open the door?  What happens if you then need to accept a package from a delivery man?  What happens if you then need to shake someone’s hand?  Or hold a clip-board and sign a petition?  Or maybe it is a friend who you invite in.  And where will the gun live when it is not in your hand at the door?

Okay, so you have answers for all these questions.  You open the door, weapon in a hand behind your back, and all of a sudden, the men outside grab you and pin your arms to your sides.  What good is the gun in your hand now?

The sad reality is that we’re usually in Condition White or at the most, Condition Yellow when we’re in the deceptive seeming safety of our own home, in our familiar neighborhood, with no threats perceived nearby.  We are not prepared for sudden and very violent attacks.  But – just as you may commute some distance to work each day, so too do the bad guys commute to their ‘work’ – which in this case might mean to your house.  When answering a knock on our front door, the physical proximity of us to an unknown person or persons (remember the 21 foot rule), and our natural politeness, optimism and hospitality, all work against us and for the other guy.

So what is to be done?

My suggestion is simple and affordable.  Forget about the peephole in the door.  It doesn’t show you enough.  Doubly forget about a ‘safety’ chain which is seldom sufficiently securely mounted to prevent a forcible entry.

Instead, get a camera system.  I’ve got a system that has two exterior cameras.  One is some distance away from my entry area, and shows me the entire entry area, including around the corners that I can’t see from inside the doorway, and the driveway.  So I can see who is at the door, if there are other people anywhere nearby, and if there are any vehicles on my property.

The other is close in to the door, giving me a closeup of whoever is out there, so I can see and hear them.  I know all about the person or persons outside my door before I even get close to the door.

I can monitor the system realtime from a phone or computer, and when I’m not at home, it – together with other cameras inside the house – do double duty as an intruder detection system.  It is a Logitech Alert system, and is affordable, excellent, and easy to install.  Here’s a good review of it.

I’m considering also adding an intercom to allow me to communicate with the person on the other side in what is comparatively normal a manner (through an intercom) rather than by calling out through the locked door, which seems much less normal.  But generally the advantage of knowing who is out there and how many people there are is all the edge I need.

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 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.