Why a brace of snubbys beat a pistol for concealed carry

I recently asked Marcus Wynne about the advantages of a two-snub revolver carry vs. a standard-cap pistol.  Marcus has lived and worked in high threat environments, and taught in places like South Africa which was then, as now, a land where violence touches everyone.  I thought I’d post his answer to preserve the insights.

I should add that Marcus – hardly a slouch when it comes to the things –  regards his sunbby gurus as Ed Lovette, Claude Werner, and Michael deBethencourt.  This post should be read in light of their writings on the subject, as well as the article I wrote detailing Michael’s 25 reasons that a revolver beats a pistol here.


1) First, we are assuming pocket carry for two 5-shot snubs, or belt carry + pocket carry, or pocket carry + ankle carry, and at least one speed loader and at least a speed strip.  Advantages are:

2) 10 rounds readily available, with a 5 round reload fairly quickly if practiced.  Meets the ten round minimum recommended by all the tactical gurus because people often need to be shot a lot if they need to be shot, and they often have friends.

3) Access to either hand with each gun, i.e. right hand can get to gun on the left as well as on the right, and vice versa.

4) With ONE gun, if tied up with an attack directed at the gun (like a smothered presentation) your firepower is out of the fight till you get it clear.  You could carry a knife to protect your gun but with TWO guns, if somebody goes for one of them, you can get the other out and shoot them, instead of stab them or wrestle for control of the sole firearm.

5) With two guns you are covered for the (albeit unlikely) event of a failure or fouling or cylinder lock up on one revolver.

6) With two guns, you can arm somebody with you who is capable.  (I have had occasion to do this.)   [I’d add Mas Ayoob’s insight that everyone can handle a revolver: just point and pull trigger, while not everyone may be familiar with the manual of arms of a pistol, or more likely, the particular pistol you’d like to hand them.]

7) With two revolvers and a fixed blade knife, you have flexibility in terms of striking with one hand (while maintaining lethal force potential in that same hand), and still being able to access a firearm with the other.

8) You can also utilize an expended revolver as an impact tool or facial rake while deploying another (loaded) revolver to continue the fight.

9) You have an immediate back up if you are disarmed of your primary.

10) For the “average” taxpayer street context (which does not include the vastly larger criminal use of guns in drug and gun culture in the U.S…) of 3 shots/3 seconds/3 yards, two revolvers is overkill.  However, if you have a drug amped bad guy at snubby range, or more, who are not dissuaded by the initial shots, ten fast rounds keeps you relevant in a fight.

11) If you include the criminal paradigm of shooting incidents, you see multiple armed attackers, high volume of fire at close range, complete disregard for discrimination, and even reloading.  So if you happen to be caught up in this sort of thing, having two guns with ten rounds readily available gives you the means to credibly break contact and get away (though you might be in a hurt bag if they pursued you, which happens often in gang/drug shoot outs.)

12) I’d consider the two snubs and two reloads a minimum, and only for a specific context:  civilian defense against a lethal force at ten yards or less.  That of course doesn’t help you across a parking lot, or a food court, or a Wal-Mart, or the mall, if somebody is either shooting at you from a distance or posing a threat from a moving car.

13) If I lived…I’d be happy with a two revolver carry.  In higher threat environments, more makes sense.



Why your U.S.-based training is probably sucky

Two things related to Marcus Wynne.  First, as I mentioned in the previous post, he’s a novelist now (among a couple other things), but he wasn’t always.  If you like realistic adventure novels, check out his latest here.  I don’t read much fiction, but his are page turners.  The realism is thorough, and the inventive ways he describes to mess up really well trained bad (and good) guys is indicative of why he used to run in the big leagues.

Second.  The contacts that Marcus developed back when in the global CT community are the kinds of friendships that never die.  Although I never came remotely close to anything like that, occasionally Marcus will send me a (encrypted) video clip from a training that one of his former students in the bad places is conducting.  Most recent one:

  • Instructor tells the student to run this live-fire drill one handed.
  • Student asks, “Why?”
  • Instructor uses his staple gun to put a staple in the student’s arm and says, “Because you’re injured.”
  • Student immediately runs the drill. No questions, no shock that the instructor would do such a thing.

Think you could get away with that in the U.S.?  If you answer, “Well no, not in civilian training, but in law enforcement training”, then you are very wrong.  Many cops so wussified these days that it would be IMPOSSIBLE, and the instructor would be fired AND sued.

I am not making this up.  I could not even get some of the guys I trained to carry a TASER to be tased themselves (to be fair, most did).  That cowardly cop at the Broward County (Florida) shooting that HID OUTSIDE rather than go in AS HE WAS TRAINED TO DO is not atypical. (But again to be fair, I do know LOT’S of cops that wished they were there so they could have gone in.)

But I rant.  Instead, let Marcus rant:

Want to learn how to patrol in the Apocalypse? Run through a shoot house hosing down “terrorist targets”? Etc.?  Got you covered. Want to attend training that actually works in the real world, as taught by guys who’ve used it in the real world, that gives you the whole spectrum of the violent event on the street? Only a handful of people teach that, and then quite often watered down. The type of training I used to do overseas (and now train instructors to do instead) was physical and vetted, and often the guys left the range and came back with after action street reports…the next day. Seriously. I had students leave, get in a gun fight (one EPIC knife fight in an elevator too, LOL) or a street fight and come back the next day and report how the training worked for them.

So sure, you can get excellent shooting instruction state-side, but actual fighting training – you know, the kind that might actually save your life?  Not so much.

P.S. I need to add that many good instructors would like to teach beyond “how to shoot fast and accurately” but the market isn’t there.  And neither is the liability insurance.

Stop practicing shooting!

I’ve often written that instead of buying a new gun you should spend the money on few cases of ammo and practice.  But let me go one further and suggest that you not spend any money at all on more guns or ammo; put the money instead in your retirement account and focus on what I suggest below, because you are much more likely to want more money in retirement than you are to need a slight incremental improvement in your shooting.  Plus what I suggest working on will actually dramatically improve your chances of surviving the bad thing.

This of course assumes that you can already shoot reasonably well.  And by “reasonably well” I don’t mean being able to put a full magazine into a half-dollar at ten yards at .20 splits.  I mean reasonably well.

This post was inspired by this very sad article.  Give it a quick scan.  Basically, a 73 year old Vietnam vet who appropriately shot a very bad man who had broken into his home and was trying to drown his grandson was himself shot by responding police who mistook him for the BG when he didn’t drop his gun when ordered to do so.  This is not a tragedy – not in the classical literary meaning of the word – it is the opposite of that.  But it is very, very sad.

In discussing this story with Marcus Wynne* he said (among other things): Some of my previous students in South Africa observed that American tactical training is for the most part not taken seriously in South Africa because we [Americans] focus too much on one tiny piece of the total problem.  I should note here that they have real crime in SA: real, violent, regular crime.

So, instead of doing the easy thing and buying another gun, or doing the fun thing and blasting away to shave a tenth off your splits, lets see what falls out from considering the (chronological) elements involved in surviving a violent attack:

  1. You have to be focused enough to avoid potentially bad places, events, etc.
  2. You have to have a gun with you.
  3. You have to be aware enough of your surroundings to notice that something isn’t right.
  4. You have to assess what’s not right to determine if it’s a threat.
  5. You have to – in real time – decide if it’s a deadly force threat.
  6. You have to act on the threat.  Most people freeze or don’t believe what’s actually happening.  You have to employ appropriate tactics such as moving, sheltering a loved one, etc.  Of course you have to be aware of your environment to make the best  choice here (see 1. above).
  7. You have to give appropriate instructions to anyone with you.
  8. You have to access your weapon in time.
  9. You have to employ effective challenging techniques, if appropriate.
  10. You have to track the BG’s movements in real time – we’re talking fractions of a second here – to understand what he’s really doing at that exact fraction of a second.
  11. You have to track what’s behind the BG so you don’t potentially hit an innocent.
  12. You have to be aware of anyone else in the area with a gun who might mistake you for a BG with a gun.
  13. If you have to shoot, you have to hit the BG, preferably COM.
  14. You have to track the just-shot BG to make sure his weapon is out of reach and prevent same weapon from falling into the hands of his buddies or a bystander.
  15. You have to communicate effectively with the now-shocked/hysterical bystanders to keep them safe, let them know what just happened, and make it clear that you – the guy that just shot someone – is in fact a good guy.
  16. You have to get yourself and loved ones to safety.
  17. You have to get your gun out of sight.
  18. You have to call 911 while making it clear that you are the good guy.  Included in  that call, among other things, has to be a description of you so that responding cops know who you are.  You want to do this yourself for what I hope are obvious reasons.  Also of course, you have to know everything else to say and what to include in this critical call.
  19. You have to initiate first aid to any innocent injured.
  20. You have to make sure you’re not shot by responding police.
  21. You have to know how to interact with responding police: how to act, what to say, what not to say, etc.
  22. You have to call your lawyer.  Do you know who’ll you’ll call?  Bail will come later.
  23. You have to call your spouse, partner, parents, whomever, if they aren’t with you to let them know you’re OK and won’t be home for dinner.  Or maybe for a few days.  And to let them know that the press will soon be pounding on their door.  And how to handle that, if you haven’t already discussed it.
  24. You have to call some trusted, competent third party to go and be with your spouse, partner, whomever to help them through this stressful time and to deal with the jackals in the press.
  25. You have to be able to articulate a clear self-defense case to your attorney.  This assumes that you know what those elements are, and what things (witnesses, etc.) need to be tracked down pronto because they will disappear in short order.

I’ve probably missed a few things, but 25 is enough.  Of course at this point the fun’s just beginning; you still have an investigation, court appearances, and possibly a trial to go through.  As well as other things that are even less fun.

And yet, almost all American training focuses only only on element 13.  That is, one out of 25+ things you need to be competent at to truly survive a violent encounter.  This out-of-whackedness has only gotten worse over the last 20 years.  One of the pioneers of civilian deadly-force encounter training, Massad Ayoob, did (and still does) teach almost all of these elements in his flagship course.  But almost no one else does, certainly not the plethora of young “trainers” these days with no real-world experience at all.  They can shoot (in some cases), but they aren’t teaching you how to survive: they don’t know how to; they don’t even realize that they aren’t.

Ditto most competitively-focused instructors.  Whenever I point out the limitations of competitively-focused training, I invariably get someone whose only significant experience is in elements 8 and 13 lecturing me about how those elements are critically necessary.  No shit.  As much as I admire (indeed, covet) the skill of competitors, it’s not enough.

So why do we (Americans) focus almost exclusively on just shooting?  I submit it’s because, unlike our South African friends, the high level of safety in most of our country allows us to get away with it.

 *If you follow the link to Marcus’ blog, you’ll notice that he’s a novelist. He wasn’t always.

But, capacity!!!

Whenever someone (or I) say that quite often you are perfectly well armed with a snubby or a S&W Shield I hear – and I mean literally I hear, “Ah jes ain’t safe without ma Glock 17 and two 33 round sticks.  An ma back up knife, of course.  There’s whole gangs of evil fellas out there jes a’ preying on the likes of maself.”  (OK – I don’t usually hear the hillbilly accent here in New England – but the rest, absolutely.  (And apologies to actual hillbillies, who are usually pretty street-smart.))

Two words: Bell Curve.  Google it.  Yes, there are bad things that happen to good people at the extreme boundaries of probability.  These are the gunfights that make for entertaining, and often insightful, reading in the gun rags (including the largest of them all, the Net).  But they are, in stat-speak, several sigma out from the mean (they are wicked unlikely).

What’s far-and-away the likely bad event?  A car’s length and a couple shots.  Again, Google is your friend: look up the latest numbers about Tom Givens’ students.  (I lost track the last couple years after his students had been in over 60 gunfights – and won them all except for the couple who forfeited by not having a gun with them).

So yeah – a Shield or a snub, assuming you can get to it quickly and have a little skill.  Caveat: I’m talking United States, here-and-now, and civilians.

So what about the outliers – the extremely rare events in which you’d need that G17 and two 33-round back-up mags?    Yes, you could be the unfortunate victim of a whole hit squad from the Russian Mob – in which case you’ve probably made some bad choices.  Or you could be present at the next coordinated ISIS attack – but you’d be MUCH more likely to save you life by installing a 5-point seat belt in your car than gearing up daily for it*.  Really: you are thousands of times more likely to be average.  Also, just sayin’, no matter what gear you have you can’t win either of the two above events.  As John Farnam so insightfully  puts it, “You are far more likely to run out of time than rounds”.

There’s nothing wrong with being prepared, of course.  My carry gun is often one of the full-size models that I shoot the most.  But a lot of people take it to the extreme without any rational thought.  I mean, why not four 33-round sticks?  There is in fact a finite probability that you may need them.

I’ll leave you with this: You know you’re in for a confrontation tomorrow.  You don’t know how bad it’ll be – nothing indicates if it’ll be average (which is of course likely) or not (which of course isn’t).  You can send in a proxy in your place – but if he wins you live, if he loses you die.  Your choices: your strange ranger friend with that G17 and two 33-round mags, Wyatt Earp with his single-action S&W Model 3 revolver, or Jim Cirillo with a single snubby.


* But I know some civilian professionals who may well be there because of the responsibility they’ve taken on them selves – they are few in number.

When to walk out of a class

When I got into firearms training back in the mid-80s there weren’t a lot of choices in terms of trainers…but most of those out there were top notch: Mas Ayoob, Jeff Cooper, Ray Chapman, Tom Givens, John Shaw, Bill Rogers, and a handful more.  All had some background and experience that made their teaching legitimate and made them worth the money you spent to train with them.  (Not all of what every one of them taught then is still considered completely street-worthy, but an awful lot – the vast majority of it – still is.)

Today, all you need is an Instagram account and a foul mouth and you’re in business!  Tats seem to help, too.  Which is a shame because there are today an awful lot of great instructors in the market, many with extremely valuable mil and LE experience.  Nonetheless, if you don’t know how to choose, if you don’t know what you don’t know about choosing, or you just plain made a mistake a chose a bad instructor, once there you may be tempted to just walk out of their class.  That might be smart (especially if they have a money back policy) or it might not.  Or of course, like all things, it might depend.

When to Walk Out

  • When the instructor is unsafe or allows students to be.  In these circumstances sooner or later someone will get shot.  The four rules of firearms safety are well known and easy to understand; if they are violated, vamoose!
  • If the instructor eats up all the time with meaningless talk.  Now, different courses require (sometimes vastly differing) ratios of talking to shooting time, but if the instructor drones on and on about things not related to the subject at hand, you’re wasting your time and money.
  • If the instructor clearly doesn’t know what they are talking about, and what they are ignorant about is important to the material.  This doesn’t necessarily mean you simply disagree with them, but if they are clearly spouting nonsense or ridiculous facts – that are germane – then getouttathere.  But I’ve been in classes where the shooting and tactics taught were good things to learn even though the instructor was mangling, or just plain wrong, about the science supposedly behind them.  I still learned some valuable material.
  • If the instructor continually makes inappropriate contact with students (usually men making inappropriate contact with women).  If you’re a woman, you draw the line where you want to.  If you’re a man, ask yourself if you’d want your daughter treated that way.
  • Finally, when the instructor is just plain a bad teacher.  Anyone that takes money for teaching has a responsibility – a duty – to be a good teacher, regardless of their skill level.  If you are paying money, you deserve fair value.

When to possibly not walk out…or maybe to walk out

  • When the instructor is a racist/sexist/homophobe/whatever.  I have gritted my teeth and stayed in classes where these kinds of comments occurred…but not when a member of the offended class was present.  I had paid my money, I wasn’t the intended victim, and no harm was done to anyone in the class.  So long as I was learning, I stayed (but I sure didn’t recommend the instructor to others).  I have to say that none of these comments have occurred in any class I’ve been in when a member of the offended class was present, and I hope that if I ever am I will indeed walk out.  There’s too many good teachers out there to put up with this, if you need a purely practical reason.
  • When you disagree with the material.  Usually you can learn something in most classes.  Give the material a try (so long as it’s safe to do so).  I’ve been in some pretty bad classes with guys who were “in the Navy”, and they  were always polite and did everything the teacher asked of them, no matter how silly it seemed.  If these professionals can try and learn something at every class, we all can.
  • When the instructor is demeaning.  Yes, this is a bad instructor, but I’m a big boy, not part of the snowflake generation.  The test for me was, “Am I learning something?”, not if my little feelings got hurt.  Not that I ever went back.

Revolver – not pistol – for home defense

OK, here’s the caveat: I can make the case that .001% of the gun carriers out there are exceptions to the statement in the title.  Got it.  I’ll also argue that the there’s a 99.99% chance you’re not in that .01%; I’m certainly not.  Moving on…

Train as you fight is one of the pithy cliches that you hear in this business. It’s one of the pithy cliches that are true and valuable to heed.  Yet I’d make the case that almost no one does.  Let’s arbitrarily define a reasonably serious shooter as one that shoots – again  arbitrarily – 1000 rounds a year.  Right off the bat that eliminates 98% of gun owners.  Of the remaining 2% of “serious” shooters, I’d bet that no more than 2% of that 2% actually engage in realistic scenario training, and even less on a regular basis.  The shame is that we can so easily now what with airsoft, blueguns, video simulators, and so on.

Yet even that 2% of 2% I bet doesn’t train realistically for home defense…and in fact they really can’t.  That’s because the home defense scenario that is probably most likely, or at least is the one we all imagine, is a home invasion or violent break-in at night.  You know, when you have to access your bedside gun as you’re suddenly woken up by the fracas.  If you were to train this scenario realistically, you’d have to recruit buddies to break into your house during some number of random and unknown nights over the next year or so, and you’d have to have all your guns out of the house or locked up out of the bedroom so you didn’t accidentally shoot one of them.  This is impossible to do.

So what we all do – at least the 2% of the 2% that cares about such things – is to mimic this situation as best we can in a controlled environment now and then, store a loaded gun somewhere that we can access in the bedroom…and, really, hope for the best.

Now recall that when violently awakened out of a sound sleep, you are a stumbling, bumbling, vision-impaired, judgement-impaired, jittery bundle of jacked-up nerves.  Do you really want to be responsible for a short, light pistol trigger under those circumstances…circumstances that you can’t train under and haven’t?

Isn’t a 10-pound long DA revolver trigger soooo much safer?

I can hear the testosterone-addled whining now:

  • I shoot so much better with my pistol!   No doubt, but we’re talking room length engagements here, and you have no business having a gun by your bed if you can’t shoot well at those distances with, yes, a revolver. Actually, you have no business having a gun, period.
  • But capacity!  Well, if you have to worry about a whole gang of BGs well enough trained not to skedaddle after they start getting shot, I suppose you have a point.  But if you really have to worry about a team of BGs who are figurin’ on a gunfight from the get go, then you have a problem that you can’t solve alone with any firearm.  I’d also have to point out that you’ve probably made some pretty poor life choices to get into that spot (with some exceptions).*
  • Ah always ma rifle handy in ma bedroom to shoot them bad fellers!  Ahhh…I think you’re making my point for me.

Remember: the safety of you, your family, and even your neighbor’s kid coming into the wrong house late, tired, and possibly drunk — but not intending you harm, is paramount.  (If you doubt that last – and if you have a gun you really should be better educated – then consult your lawyer.)

*Someone is going to raise the example of the late-night restaurant owner who brings home cash from the day’s sales because the banks are closed at that hour.  But really: there are better ways to deal with that cash.

The risk equation

I’m so tired of the strange rangers in our midst who bristle with weapons (plural) all the time and give us a bad name.  I even knew someone who insisted on slipping a gun into his belt to walk down to the end of his (short) driveway to meet his kids’ school bus — this in a very, very safe, rural neighborhood.

Off course, I likewise wish more people would get properly trained and carry when appropriate.

But…when’s appropriate?

Well, the three factors involved with any risk mitigation tactic are 1) the risk you reasonably face (reasonably!), 2) the severity of the injury you’d sustain if the bad thing happened, and 3) the cost of such mitigation (time, money, and effort).  This is probably a well-known equation among risk management professionals, but it came to me in a flash today:

(risk)(severity)/cost  ==> how armed we are

We can all reasonably assess our risk profile.  Key word is reasonably!  Not all of us are being targeted by nationally-organized criminal organizations (though I know people who are), but too many of us act as if we are.  And of course your baseline risk (the risk of just living where you do) will differ between inner Chicago and rural New England.

The severity of our injury in a situation where we’d be legally justified in deploying our gun is, of course, high.

The cost of going armed — and how armed we go — is the rub for most of us.  It requires significant thought and it’s a real pain in the ass for me to gun up when it’s 95 degrees here and humid.  But in the Fall, wearing a jacket…not so much.  You get the idea.  And of course, if you don’t want to dress but one notch up from a homeless addict (“like a hobo” as Tamara Keel puts it), the cost of going armed increases.  There’s better restaurants than Applebees, ya know.  Not that it can’t be done…


Fasten seat belt:  (risk=lo)(severity=hi)/cost=lo ==> buckle up

Violent actors targeting you:  (risk=med to hi)(severity=hi)/cost=medium ==> gun up

Walking to the end of your short driveway in a safe, rural neighborhood: Don’t even go there!