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.