Category Archives: Going Armed

The Three Ps

Want to get a fight started? Go to a gathering of gun nuts and shout, nine mil or forty-five? Immediately afterward, get behind cover.

When I was entering the gun nut forest for the first time, the writings of Col. Cooper showed me the way. He favored the M1911 in .45 ACP. Even though I have committed heresy at times, I still hold a fondness for single-action self-loaders that pitch a half ounce of lead at the gentle speed of 850 ft/sec.

The question remains, though: What caliber is the best in a handgun? Oy vey, here we go. It’s an old debate. Back in the early years of the twentieth century, the Army was embarrassed by the poor performance of its .38 Long Colt revolvers in the Philippines and wanted something better. Two fellows by the names of Thompson and LaGarde were commissioned to come up with the answer–in other words, were told to find that .45 was best. A careful reading of their study, however, shows that the data support no particular caliber as being any good out of a handgun. (The .30 Luger performed better than many other rounds, ironically.)

More recently, we keep hearing that the .22 Long Rifle is the round that kills the most people in a given year. Or perhaps it’s the woebegotten .25. So what’s a gun-toting person to choose?

Here, submitted for your consideration, are my three desiderata of cartridge and gun:

1. Placement

If the gun’s too heavy to manipulate or the recoil is so much that I develop a flinch, the thing’s useless to my purpose. There’s no miss that’s good enough, no matter how much noise it makes or how deep a hole it makes in the scenery. Now it’s no good saying that standard calibers are too hard to manage. I’m telling you that I don’t carry a .500 S&W.
44-500comp
Dirty Harry’s round is the one on the left.

The key here is to find something that you can put on target in a hurry. And I’m not talking ten rounds through one hole. What good does that do? You need to be able to empty a magazine or cylinder into the area covered by a sheet of typing paper or a two liter bottle in short order and at whatever distance you expect to have to defend yourself. Also, the smaller the bullet, the better your aim has to be.

2. Penetration

The FBI standard is that the bullet has to penetrate twelve inches of tissue to be good enough. That really is the minimum, since people come in all sizes and don’t always cooperate by standing at the right angle when they’re trying to kill you. These
800px-Hollow_Point
don’t penetrate as well as these
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
do. Generally speaking, for small calibers–.22 LR, .25 ACP, .32 ACP, .380 ACP, and 9mm Makarov–the bullets are too light or the powder charge is too low to get enough penetration out of hollow points, presuming they even expand at the typical velocities of those rounds. By contrast, .38 Special rounds on up are heavy enough to keep on going, so expanding bullets are better–the bullet does no good once it leaves the bad guy.

Whatever your choice of handgun, the round it spits has to get in deep enough to do what needs accomplishing.

3. Punch

As I said above, the good ole .22 LR and .25 ACP hit way above their class, but that’s probably because those are common guns. I might rely on a .22, but that’s only because I know what I can do with mine. The safer answer is to go with something that’s going to do a lot of work where it’s going. Yes, an icepick can be used as an effective weapon, but your chances of success with that are far higher if you start the fight first and have trained yourself to drive the shaft exactly where you want it every time. In other words, it’s not all that useful for us good guys who aren’t going about starting animosity. We have to react to someone else’s bad choices in life, rather than picking the time and place to act.

Here’s where the 9mm vs. .45 ACP argument really gets thick in the weeds. In days gone by when semiautomatics worked best with hardball, a 9mm wasn’t such a good choice. Just like the icepick, it was small and ran in a hurry straight on through whatever it hit. But we live in interesting times, as the Chinese would say. It’s true that while hollow points don’t always expand, there ain’t no such thing as a shrinking bullet, but expansion is highly likely with today’s ammunition. This means that .38 Special, .357 Sig, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, 10mm, .44 Special, .44 Magnum, and .45 ACP hollow points are probably going to get big enough to discourage a bad guy. Of course, little bullets also do a lot, but as I said above, the smaller the round, the smaller you’d better be able to aim.

I’ve mentioned a number of rounds in this discussion. I’m not endorsing any of them. I carry several of them and have at my disposal several others. I gravitate toward .38 Special, 9mm, and .45 ACP, but that’s just because my guns that shoot those are the easiest to carry. My Colt Pocket Hammerless is elegant, and now and then I grab my Polish copy of the PPK, but those tend to stay locked away these days.

The takeaway message here is get something that’s easy to carry and feels good in a common caliber, and you will have nothing to feel ashamed or apologetic about, so long as you’re good with it. The caliber wars are endless, and the only certain conclusion from the data about shootings is that it’s bad to get shot. The only real confidence comes from having close air support and a company of Marines at the ready. Short of that, the handgun you can operate well is likely to be good enough in an emergency.

(By the way, there are a pun and a piece of firearms history buried in this article.)

Heresy, Heresy!

Heresy in ancient Greek meant choice. The idea here is that a person chooses a belief or a course of action without reference to what some authority decides is correct. Readers of this weblog will know that in many senses, I’m a heretic. But many of you probably didn’t imagine that I’d stray from one true faith, namely the right and holy doctrine of St. Jeff of the Corps. (Jeff Cooper, for those of you not in the know.)

Hold on one minute, I hear some saying. Didn’t you already wander outside the pale by accepting a pocket 9mm as a worthy sidearm?

Well, yes, but, um, all right. I told you I’m a heretic.

Today’s heresy involves a handgun whose caliber, at least, would please Cooper. It’s a Sig Sauer P-250, chambered in .45 ACP. It’s also available in 9mm Luger, .357 Sig, and .40 Short & Weak, but more on that later.

If it shoots the sacred round, what’s the problem? It’s double-action only. There are no safeties, just about six long pounds of pressure to squeeze off a round. The trigger breaks right at the end of the line with no overtravel, and it goes all the way back to reset. If you imagine the smoothest double-action revolver, you’ll get the idea. The long reset does make a second shot slower than what a single-action trigger can give, but it’s fine for what I can do.

And what’s that? As I’ve said in other articles, I don’t care much for bull’s eye shooting. If pieces of paper take a notion to attacking me, I’ll use scissors. My practice enemy of preference is soda bottles, and those evil containers of death (or so says Mayor Bloomberg, but I drink diet) are in mortal danger if they’re within twenty yards of me while I’m armed. That’s true even with the long double-action of the Sig. Well, when I’m shooting using both hands. One-handed, I’d pull the muzzle off target a lot, but that’s a matter for more practice, not the gun’s fault. The sights are the three-dot variety, and since mine’s relatively new, they still glow in the dark.

The recoil is stiffer than my other .45s. That’s because the Sig has an all-polymer frame with a steel slide. The guts are just a light metal rectangle with some springs and other parts. In fact, those guts are the gun. That’s where the serial number is. Take out one set of guts (done by removing a single pin) and insert a different set with the matching magazine and slide, and you have a new pistol in whichever of the four calibers you want. One of these days, I’ll get myself the .357 Sig guts, since I’ve been itching to try that round for a while now.

The frame is also easy to change. I may do that sooner. I bought this gun in a pawn shop, so I didn’t have a choice in frames, but after wearing the beast for a litte bit, I realized that the sandpaper texture of the grip wasn’t going to cut it. (Scrape it, yes, but not cut.) I got after it with my own piece of sandpaper and smoothed down the surface, but I’ll leave abrasive grips to those who need them.

So what’s my heresy? I’ve been an M1911 man ever since I got into guns. My 1911 was my first self-loading pistol, and that design’s the gold standard for all others. But now, at times, I’m carrying a Sig Sauer DAO P-250 instead. It’s a bit fatter than Browning’s slim model, but it holds the same 8 + 1 rounds and slides nicely into an inside-the-waistband holster. As I told you, heresy is about choice, and I like choice.

I still don’t have a Glock, though.

Good Enough for Government Work, Except When It Isn’t

Writing for The Huffington Post about the recent shooting near the Empire State Building in New York, Sanjay Sanghoee says the following in his article, “Friendly Fire: What NYC Shooting tells us about Cops, Guns, and Armed Citizens”:

“Now consider what would have happened in that situation if all New Yorkers were armed. With more guns in the mix and more citizens deciding to take matters into their own hands, many more shots would have been fired, and if the professionals themselves could miss their target and shoot innocent bystanders instead, you can imagine how ordinary citizens, most of them with only amateur shooting experience, would have done a hell of a lot more damage.”

He uses two words there that require analysis:

First, what is a professional? The word comes from a Latin verb meaning to declare. Thus, professors in college declare their knowledge and wisdom to students (or so we’re supposed to do…). Someone who converts to a particular religion or joins a monastic order makes a profession of faith. That latter sense led to occupations being called professions–occupations that involve specialized skills, in constrast to general labor. Today, the word includes that notion of skill, but it also brings in the fact of being paid for the work.

Let’s consider the New York Police Department. Are they professionals in the skilled sense of the word? The RAND Corporation was commissioned to examine NYPD use of force after the Sean Bell shooting. Look here to read the whole study. What interests me is that in a gunfight, a New York police officer on average has an accuracy rate of eighteen percent. When shooting at someone who isn’t shooting back, said officer scores somewhat better–about thirty percent. That rate improves to thirty-seven percent when the range is less than seven yards (pages 44 and 45). Are we talking about batting percentages for the New York Yankees here? No, these are situations when a police officer sends rounds outward, ostensibly with the purpose of stopping a dangerous person from causing harm.

We find the explanation on page 50 of the report. To qualify for carrying a handgun, a police academy recruit must hit stationary targets from fixed firing positions at least seventy-eight percent of the time. Other sources indicate that the targets are set at seven, fifteen, and twenty-five yards. Serving officers are tested semiannually with the same examination. This strikes me as an easygoing evaluation of firearms skill, so much so that I’d have doubted it had I not seen the RAND report.

By contrast, consider the word, amateur. An amateur, in today’s sloppy use of language, is someone who lacks skill in a particular field. This is far from the proper meaning of the word, though. Amateur, used correctly, means someone who loves (Latin: amare) a subject. This includes the tinkerer or the do-it-yourselfer that I wrote about here. Amateurs spend their free time enjoying their hobbies. They study the subject in detail–and often are willing to share volumes of information, even when the listener isn’t interested. They keep themselves informed about the latest developments in the field. With regard to firearms enthusiasts, we would find the proficiency test of the NYPD to be boringly easy.

So Sanjay Sanghoee, between the two groups, the NYPD and gun enthusiasts, which one do you honestly believe is more skilled with firearms? Actually, I withdraw the question. In the recent shooting, the two officers fired sixteen rounds, of which, at best, only nine hit their target who was standing a few feet away. There’s no need for Sanghoee to answer. Gun control advocates have been saying for years that the police are the only ones who are skilled enough to use firearms responsibly and safely. We know the answers that we’ve been offered in the past. Good sense says that we should come to a different conclusion.

Still have your doubts? Watch this video.

Any questions?

Gun Control Beliefs

1. The same government that can’t keep illegal immigrants and drugs from crossing our borders could stop firearms from doing the same.

2. The 300,000,000 + guns in America will either disappear or be turned in if the dreams of gun banners become reality.

3. The 100,000,000 gun owners will quietly accept their guns becoming illegal or will acquiesce to licensing and registration.

4. The same government that can’t make the Department of Motor Vehicles operate efficiently could make the Department of Firearms Control do so.

5. The rights of the individual are only what the government grants.

6. People who can be trusted to choose their leaders can’t be trusted to own firearms.

7. The actions of a few veto the rights of the many.

8. Signs that ban guns from the premises will stop someone from committing a Class A felony.

9. Mechanical devices have wills of their own and exercise powers over human beings.

10. Safety is more important than freedom, even when the former is illusory.

I could go on, but do we notice a pattern here?

With Friends Like These. . .

I’ve had occasion to mention Joan Peterson’s weblog, Common Gunsense, before, but today, it’s time to have some fun at her expense. Her article of 2 November 2011 is in praise of Plaxico Burress’s joining the Brady Bunch (Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence). Have a look at the video that she includes in the post.

Clearly, public speaking isn’t his strength. That being said, note that he lets us know that he no longer owns a firearm. Was that a message to his parole officer? As a convicted felon, Burress is no longer allowed to own guns. I’m no fan of the gun laws in New York City, but they aren’t hard to understand. To summarize, NYC gun law is, “You have Second Amendment rights only if you can afford to bribe a politician.” I do have to wonder why Burress didn’t play the game, since he does have the money. Perhaps his riche is too nouveau to have learned how to act. Burress illegally carried a handgun into the city, and he suffered the penalty of an unjust law.

He did act stupidly with his handgun, so it may be a good thing that he no longer owns firearms. From the news accounts (which are generally woefully lacking in details on these matters), I understand that he carried a .40 Glock in his pants without a holster. Had his aim been a little better, either to the left or to the right, he would have earned himself a Darwin award or would at least have removed his material from the gene pool.

The lesson that he learned is that firearms don’t provide security. I’d say that he’s a bad student. The lessons that Jeff Cooper tried to teach us for years is keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot and don’t let the muzzle cover anything that you’re unwilling to destroy. Those aren’t so hard.

In the future, if Burress feels his own life or that of his family to be in jeopardy, he’ll be able to hire a security company to provide him bodyguards. Those guards will carry firearms. But that’s the lesson that the wealthy have to learn: Do nothing for yourself that you can pay someone else to do.

Peterson finishes her article with this tissue of foolishness:

“People just don’t like to see others carrying loaded guns around in public places. Plaxico Burress now understands how badly that can work out. His message is important to young people who look up to sports figures. Role models like Burress can better deliver the message that guns don’t make you safer. . . .”

I find the whole idea of role models to be wrongheaded to begin with. I don’t have to be told by some famous person what I’m capable of doing. But if we must have role models, surely we can pick better ones than this idiot.

And surely we can understand that our rights aren’t determined by what some people like to see.

Keep trying, Joan Peterson. Your message is an encouragement to those of us who support gun rights. If you and Burress are the best that the Brady Bunch can offer, the future looks bright for us.

And Joan, if you want to get depressed, look at this page. Hint: Blue and green are good colors.

Happy Days in Wisconsin

As of today, Wisconsin joins the list of states that shall issue a handgun carry license. Any resident of Wisconsin who passes the background check and demonstrates training will receive. For the rest of us, many states have reciprocity, meaning that if you have a license from such a state, you get to carry in Wisconsin. Arkansas is on the list. To check whether your license is recognized, look here

Let the celebration begin..

The Facts Matter!

This image comes from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Handgun Violence, located here. On the map, red represents states that do not require a permit to carry a concealed handgun (the free states, in other words). Pink states issue permits to anyone who passes a background check. Pale green states have discretion in issuance (if you donate to a politician’s campaign, you get a permit). The dark green state of Illinois refuses to allow good citizens to carry.

Now the free states in this country are Alaska, Arizona, Wyoming, and Vermont.

Wait for it…

Do you see the problem?

The map shows Colorado and New Hampshire as states that require no permit. I do realize that we all make errors from time to time, but the Brady Bunch make factual claims in an effort to take away our gun rights. We can demand that they, at least, give genuine facts.

A Debate on the Second Amendment

Last Saturday (2 April 2011), I attended a debate held at Temple Shalom in Fayetteville, AR on the subject of employees of colleges who hold licenses carrying concealed handguns on campus, moderated by Doug Thompson, editorial page editor for Northwest Arkansas Newspapers. Supporting this proposition were Charlie Collins, Representative for the 89th District of the Arkansas House and Wesley Stites, professor of chemistry at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Collins originally advocated the proposal during his campaign for office in 2010. In opposition were Thomas Kennedy, emeritus professor of history at the U of A, and Stephen Sheppard, professor of law at the same. Kennedy had written a letter to a local newspaper that criticized Collins’s call for concealed carry on campus, and the exchange between the two led to this debate.

Kennedy and Collins presented the usual arguments against and for carrying concealed handguns. Kennedy named automatic weapons and cop-killer bullets and observed that the recent rulings of the Supreme Court allow for limitations on gun ownership and use. He said that he has no objection to sport shooting and hunting, but does not include self defense as a reasonable cause for owning a gun. Collins, by contrast, stated that calling a campus a “gun-free zone” in no way restrains someone who has made the decision to commit mass murder. The bill that he introduced in the Arkansas House of Representatives would have allowed full-time employees of colleges who also have concealed carry licenses to carry their handguns on campus. He saw this as an incremental approach to expanding gun rights.

I’ve seen these statements many times before. Those who oppose gun ownership raise the terror of bullets that will penetrate the vests of police officers and of automatic weapons without being clear about what they’re talking about. The fact is that any centerfire rifle round will punch through the standard ballistic vest that the police wear, but those same vests usually block handgun bullets. The definition of automatic depends on the context. Historically, automatic was used to mean self-loading. In other words, an automatic pistol was the kind that loaded a new round after the last one fired. We’re not talking about machine guns that fire until the shooter releases the trigger.

Collins’s statement about a campus as a gun-free zone was challeneged by the President of the Temple, Joel Freund, professor of psychology at the U of A and a member of the audience. Freund said that the atmosphere of a campus would change if handguns were allowed. As a college instructor and a supporter of gun rights, I do find this to be the challenging part of the discussion. Just as gentlemen in days gone by removed their hats indoors as a sign that they were not going to do battle in that space, it would be best if college campuses were areas in which the only fighting that takes place is on the intellectual level. That sounds lovely, and I’m not being sarcastic here. Since the middle ages, the university in its ideal was a place of freedom from the church and the state. Unfortunately, reality does insist on intruding. The academic world depends on rational behavior, and by definition, the insane and the evil are not rational. In addition, as easy as handguns are to conceal, we in colleges have no guarantee that everyone is unarmed, and I’d prefer that at least some of the weapons be in the possession of those whose backgrounds have been checked.

The most interesting part of the discussion for me was what Sheppard had to say. He went through the history of the writing and interpretation of the Second Amendment, observing that of all the Bill of Rights, that one amendment has almost nothing said about it in its early days. He suggested that anyone on either side who claims to know what Madison originally meant in the Second Amendment is simply wrong. This was something of a challenge to the claims of Stites that our Founders were radicals in their thinking and saw the Second Amendment as defending a right of the people to overthrow an oppressive government.

More can be learned from court cases that came later. Sheppard told us about a ruling in Kentucky in the 1820s that took an individualist interpretation of the Second Amendment and one in Arkansas in the 1840s that favored a collectivist model. The general pattern of court rulings throughout much of American history has been that the amendment limits the power of the Federal government, but leaves the states free to regulate firearms as they see fit. The question that the Supreme Court addressed in the Heller and MacDonald decisions was whether the Second Amendment was incorporated under the Fourteenth Amendment, just as was done with the First Amendment in years gone by.

What is important here is to see how our understanding of rights have evolved in the years since the founding of America. Sheppard pointed out that our modern notions of the natural rights of the individual are a recent idea and that the Founders of our country were not nearly as radical as we like to believe. Perhaps I’m revealing my sympathies as a teacher of literature, but a well-chosen mythology is good for our national culture. I’m willing to acknowledge that I’m reading my modern ideas into writers like Jefferson and Madison, but just as we have come to understand that blacks and whites and all other races are included under the beautiful ideas of legal equality, I think that we can find a belief in free citizens as members of the general nobility of America in their words without doing too much violence to the texts.

What I am referring to here is the idea that in Northern European societies, free persons possessed the right to arms by virtue of their status. (This includes having a coat of arms for the family.) Now who was a free person differed from one tribe or kingdom to another, to be sure, but whoever was meant had a right to personal weapons, and the society expected such a person to be armed.

The mythology of America, something that I believe we can read in the works of our Founders, is that each one of us is a free person. It has taken us a long time to work out what we mean by that. We now include those of African descent. We include women and those whose ancestors lived here when Europeans arrived. We no longer require a person to own land to participate in government and rights.

My argument here is that we are more secure and freer when we look for as many individual rights in our Constitution as we can possibly find. The fact that the First Amendment originally only limited the U. S. Congress shows the danger that arises from only finding a state’s right or a corporate right. Stites reminded us that Mao Tse-tung once wrote that all political power flows from the barrel of a gun. I hope that we don’t have to accept that thinking. The American myth is that political power flows from the individuals who make up the population of the nation.

Society must balance the rights of the individual against the stability of the whole and must depend on the responsibility of the actors within. That having been said, the prerequisite is a recognition of the rights that each of us has because we are alive. I prefer groups–businesses, states, the Federal government, and so on–to have to beg permission from individuals. I want all of us to stand up for ourselves, even as we gather together. A personal right to own, carry, and use firearms is one example of this.

One Hundred Years and Still Shooting

Today (29 march 2011), I celebrate a piece of technology.  Those who know me well may find this to be a surprise, but I have a good reason for it.  I respect designs that do a job well in an elegent manner.  Gadgets that help us to be stupid or that are needlessly complicated fail to meet that standard.

With that caveat in mind, consider the following piece of technology:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M1911_pistol

http://www.m1911.org/

One hundred years ago today, the United States Army adopted the pistol designed by John Moses Browning (blessings be upon him) as its general issue sidearm, the M1911.  While our military has largely surrendered to the Beretta M9 these days, special forces units still use the good old Colt .45, and the Pentagon is rethinking its grotesque error.

To put this into perspective, think about the level of technology that existed at that time.  The Wright brothers were still experimenting with versions of their Flyer.  The Model T was only three years into production.  Radio transmissions were still sporatic and entirely sent in Morse code.

The idea of a self-loading handgun was only a few years old in 1911.  There were competing designs–the Luger P08, the Mauser C96, among others.  Colonel Fosbery created a self-cocking revolver that fascinates gun nuts.  Browning himself had created several designs that led up to the 1911.  As an example of this, I have a Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless that turns a hundred this year–one of his earlier works.  What is extraordinary about the 1911 is that its design is used in most pistols that have been made since.

A full-power cartridge such as the .45 ACP requires a means of locking the barrel to the slide during part of the recoil.  Browning invented a short recoil mechanism that tilts the barrel downward after it moves back a fraction of an inch, allowing the slide to continue.  You can see an animation of the process here:

http://www.m1911.org/STI1911animation2.htm

Watching that happen is a particular pleasure.  It’s simple and clever, and it works.  It controls an explosion, putting it to double useful work, sending a bullet down range and loading a new cartridge soon after.  Browning made a small change for his High Power, and in sincere flattery, most pistols today use his tilting barrel design.

So here we are, one hundred years later, with a handgun that got it right that long ago.  I have read comments about the 1911 as the last of the old cowboy guns.  It’s a .45, single-action, hammer-fired pistol, usually made of steel–in other words, it’s out of style, according to a modern view.  Some 1911s are finicky about the ammunition that they will cycle, and many of them rattle and clank.  What’s to love?

Lay hands on yours right now (and you do have one, don’t you?).  Compared to many more recent designs, it’s slim.  In an inside-the-waistband holster, it is easy to carry concealed.  It fits the hand and points nicely, just the way that the Peacemaker does, and its GI sights are easy to use for defensive (as opposed to target) shooting.  While it has been produced in other calibers, its typical load is the .45 ACP, one of the two exemplars of handgun cartridges (the other being the .357 Magnum).  Just like an old car or a radio with vacuum tubes, the 1911 is a tinkerer’s dream toy.

Yes, my reasons for loving the 1911 are mainly grounded in aesthetics.  These days, you can get a pistol with many variations in grip and frame materials, firing mechanisms, trigger function, and on and on.  But gun nuts, the people who get to know their pistols inside and out, still find their way to the 1911 eventually.

The 1911 is a work of genius.  It demonstrates that one person with talent can make a lasting mark.

Is That a Gun in Your Pocket, or Oops–It Is!

I must confess to breaking the laws of Jeff Cooper.  As you know if you’re well-versed in the Colonel’s writings (and you are, aren’t you?), the standard for judging handguns is the 1911 in .45 ACP.  (Look for a celebration of the same on the 29th of this month.)  He consistently referred to the 9mm cartridge as a minor caliber and had no use for double-action pistols.  As someone who has learned much from what Cooper taught, what am I doing with a double action nine?

Have a look at what I’m talking about:

http://www.mouseguns.com/ideal.htm

The weapon featured is the Kel-Tec P-11.  Its trigger requires a long and somewhat heavy pull for each shot (double action only), and it spits out a bullet of .36 of an inch in diameter.

Let’s deal with the 9mm bullet first.  On a discussion board, I read that Cooper opposed the 9mm because he only dealt with the full metal jacket rounds that the military is required to use.  (The United States isn’t a signatory to the Hague Convention, but we abide by it.)  A 9mm bullet that doesn’t expand tends to zip through the target without doing much.  A hollowpoint round, on the other hand, is generally much more effective.  I don’t know what the Colonel knew about expanding bullets, having not seen him discuss the subject in his writings, but he did say that a .22 revolver could be a good self-defense handgun if shooters can put their rounds into the tear ducts of their attackers.  The conclusion that I’ve reached about caliber effectiveness is that bullets have to be placed where they will do something useful and have to be heavy enough to get in deep enough to do good work.  Expansion keeps a higher velocity or greater mass bullet from punching through.  The power of the cartridge affects how well a given shooter can control the weapon.  But the bullet has to go in deep enough where it needs to go, and if it does, it likely will do the job.  (Remember that for self defense, we’re talking about stopping an attacker, not killing someone.)

So I’ve accepted a 9mm pistol as a carry weapon.  What about its double-action trigger?  The P-11 is a pocket gun with no safety.  That being the case, it needs a trigger that is like a double-action revolver–long, weighty, but smooth–and that’s what the P-11 has.  It won’t fire when I put it in my pocket.  My complaint against Glocks is that they have a light trigger with no safety (Plaxico Burress, anyone?).  The Kel-Tec doesn’t have that problem.

Despite its weight, I can control the trigger well enough to hit targets in rapid fire within self-defense distances.  While dry-firing, I was concerned about the trigger reset–the trigger moves a long way back and has to go all the way forward again–but that wasn’t a problem at the range.  I did have one or two cases when my finger didn’t let it reset, but most of the time, the recoil is enough to take care of that.  My question with any self-defense handgun is whether I can use it to place multiple hits into a soda bottle at ten yards, and the answer for me is yes with the P-11.

So how does it shoot?  I put about two hundred rounds through it–hollowpoints, hardball rounds, American-made quality, and cheap Russian steelcased cartridges–and nothing made it stop.  The manufacturer recommends against using +P ammunition too often (higher pressure cartridges), so I haven’t those yet, but my P-11 wasn’t picky about regular rounds.  I could hit bottles rapidly, and even scored on a clay bird that Sharie, the love of my life, tossed across my field of fire for me.  (I missed two other clays, so I need to practice more.)  The sights are good, especially for a pocket gun, three white dots that are easy to pick up.

The recoil was interesting, and I say that as someone who shoots a Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 Magnum with one hand for fun.  The P-11 kicks hard.  It weighs under a pound unloaded, and even with eleven rounds on board, it’s about as light as a cellphone.  After emptying a magazine, my left hand was sore for a bit.  The temperature was in the thirties, but I’ve shot many times in that kind of weather without a similar feeling.  The closest that any other gun has come to this is my Radom P-64, about which I’ve written in the past (see the Categories column to the right).

The P-64 is a good weapon to compare to the P-11.  The Kel-Tec holds eleven rounds of 9mm Parabellum, while the Polish gun has only seven rounds of 9mm Makarov.  The P-11 is much lighter, but nearly the same size–slightly shorter (front to back), slightly fatter.  The American gun’s trigger weight is 8.5 pounds as opposed to the P-64′s factory twenty-seven pounds (seventeen, now that I put a new spring in it), and its better sights make aiming much easier.  It’s also cheap, under $300, tax included.  The one advantage that the P-64 has is a loaded chamber indicator.  It’s hard to do a brass check with the P-11, and I like being able to see that there’s a round ready to fire.

The P-11 isn’t a target gun, and it’s not nearly as easy to shoot as a service-size, single-action pistol, but it’s ideal as a pocket rocket.  I can conceal a full-sized .45 when I can wear a shirt outside my pants, but when wearing business casual, I needed something smaller, without giving up rounds or power.  (My .38 snubby is a five-shot, after all.)

Now I have to restrain myself, or I may run out an buy a PF-9. . .