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!

Carry what you practice with, part whatever

Did my LEOSA qual the other day.  Since I’ve been shooting my SIG 320 most of the summer, I grabbed my M&P to get some trigger time with it.  The course is really easy so I was shooting faster than I needed to because, well, because I could.  In 50 rounds I short stroked the M&P trigger twice!  No surprise: the 320 trigger is slightly shorter.

Beware the man personage with one gun!


Career fitness standards for police

This blog doesn’t get a lot of traffic; I use it mostly to keep in one place the articles I’ve written and the thoughts I’ve had over the years that I think may be relevant for a while.  I keep discovering stuff I’d written so many years ago that I’d forgotten about them, scattered all over the net.  The link below opens a Word document on the subject of career fitness standards for cops. There is relevance in it for private citizens, too, and I trust those implications can be easily drawn.

FWIW: at 65 (as of this writing), with a replaced knee and a bone-on-bone shoulder, plus arthritis in other places, and despite being in good shape at a lean 175 pounds, I don’t believe I should do the job any more (and I haven’t since 2010 – more than eight years ago).

Career Physical Fitness Standards

Five habits of responsible gun owners

They get training.  A gun is a lethal weapon, for cryin’ out loud!  That’s a hell of a responsibility in your hands.  You need training to be even a responsible hairdresser – so yeah, you need training to know what you’re doing with a gun.  Yes, I know that many people manage to defend themselves without any training, but we shouldn’t confuse good luck with good practice.  We also don’t know how many untrained people would have been better off in a bad situation – or after it – with training.  I’m also keenly aware of the difference between those things that we should do, and those that we should make people do.  But just ’cause it’s a right to own a gun don’t mean you’re not an irresponsible turd for not getting training with it.

They know the law.  My jar just drops every time I meet an otherwise responsible gun owner who has not had any training in the law surrounding the use of lethal force.  The ability to employ lethal force it what gun ownership is all about!  At least read Massad Ayoob’s or Andrew Branca’s books…and then spend some quality time ingraining and visualizing their lessons.  Without this ingrained knowledge otherwise very good, very responsible people regularly get badly jammed up by making the wrong decision when they use their gun.  Seen it first hand.

They are unconsciously obsessive about safety.  Unconsciously!  A responsible person doesn’t have to think about which way the muzzle is pointed; they don’t have to make an effort to keep their finger off the trigger – these things just happen automatically because they have been practiced so much.  And of course, they don’t do any of the more inane things that stupid gun handlers do all too often.  I don’t care how skilled someone is at arms – if they aren’t safe all the time, they’re just another goober.

They don’t mix alcohol and guns.  You don’t mix alcohol and driving for a reason.  Ditto guns and booze.  Legal, appropriate, tactically correct gun use is something that depends on fine reflexes and 100% sound judgement.  Alcohol – biologically, medically – diminishes both.  And God forbid you use your gun defensively when there’s even a little of the stuff in your blood; your local DA will have a field day, and you will not come out intact.

They are discreet.  I have written about the jackassery of open carry here and here.  But beyond that, responsible gun owners are low key about their gun.  They don’t have AR-15 stickers on their vehicles, they don’t parade about in obviously tactical clothing, they don’t wear t-shirts that advertise a gun business, and so on.  Now, I have no problem with testosterone – we could use more of it.  I am dismayed by the emasculation of our culture and the effeminacy* of our male youth.   But actual men and competent women are low key: they are inconspicuous in their appearance**, quiet in their demeanor, and polite in their interactions.


* Not out of political correctness, but from not wanting to be misconstrued, this has nothing to do with sexual orientation, which I see as an orthogonal axis from the masculine-feminine axis.

** As a straight male, I guess I’d relax the prohibition on conspicuous dress for some women.  🙂


Double taps: please, no!

In the old days, and still somewhat true today, several instructors taught the “double tap”.  This is more than simply two shots fired quickly together, a technique known as the “controlled pair”.  An actual double tap requires that you fire two rounds as fast as you can pull the trigger.  At typical engagement distances and with a competent shooter, this results in the two rounds impacting maybe a couple or few vertical inches from each other, something that’s usually perfectly acceptable in  real encounter.  The theory is that handgun rounds suck — all of them, even .45s, which is true — that a two shot burst will be twice as effective as a single shot, and you need all the stopping power advantages you can get with a handgun.

Good theory.  But a bad solution to the problem.

An alternate solution to the anemic power of hand gun rounds is the “shoot the bad guy until he drops from your sights” technique.

Again, good theory, bad solution.

Here’s why to both:

  1. True double taps are extremely difficult with anything but a single-action pistol.  The whole point is that the second shot is fired while the gun is still in recoil.  With a striker-fired pistol like a Glock, SIG 320, or M&P – which is what almost everyone carries, getting two rounds only a few inches apart while pulling the trigger as fast as you can requires an extremely high level of skill.  As a result, wild shots are likely to be the result of an attempted double-tap for most people.
  2. You are responsible for every round you fire.  Period.  Just ask your local district attorney.  You want to, and to truthfully be able to say you, aimed every shot that you fired at another human being.  (While “aimed” fire isn’t the same as “sighted” fire, it’s hard to argue that the second round of a double-tap is aimed in any way.)  And un-aimed fire is the very definition of irresponsible fire in a court room.
  3. You are shooting faster than you can assess the need for shooting….in a legal context that says every shot has to be individually justified. Remember that the need for a follow up shot can change in a tiny fraction of a second.
  4. I defer to Paul Howe, retired from the finest unit of combat shooters in the world, and a man who as seen the real deal more than a bunch of times.  MSGT Howe’s position is that you get a sight picture for every shot.  If this is true for overseas combat missions conducted by the best-trained shooters in the world, then it’s true in spades for state-side defensive shootings performed by less well-trained persons.

Remember that every round you place on a person will have an effect.  It may not stop them, but it will all but certainly slow them down for a little bit.  I usually express this as “every hit buys you a good half-second to assess the situation and place another shot on target if necessary.”  Even a peripheral hit in the biceps (what would normally be called a “miss” in training) will likely buy you a half-second — maybe more — to assess the need for a follow-up shot.

Now I certainly appreciate the logic of a fast two-shot controlled pair; to me it’s like a fast 1-2 jab-cross combination in boxing.  These two-impact techniques are said to be executed “as a single stroke”; that is, as a single committed technique.  However, I submit that there’s a tactical, moral, and legal difference between a 1-2 technique with a lethal weapon versus a non-lethal one.