12 Gauge #4 Buckshot to the FACE!

This patient is no stranger to physical violence, as evidenced by the titanium plating that repaired a mandible fracture. But now, rendered blind by the shotgun blast, life will look much different.

In my profession, I see lots of people who have been shot in the face. Rarely, do these people die immediately. They sometimes succumb to an infection, or other complication, but rarely do they die in the immediate aftermath of the gunshot wound. This mostly applies to pistol caliber rounds and I’ve seen all manner of them ranging from .22’s all the way up to the mighty .45 hit someone, somewhere in the maxilla or mandible, and the wounds, while often horrific and ultimately disfiguring, don’t always render the recipient unconscious even. In many cases though, the recipient DOES stop doing whatever they were doing BEFORE they were shot in the face.

Case in point…this person was the recipient of two blasts from a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with #4 buckshot and there are twenty five plus pieces of buckshot lodged in their face and neck, all resulting in superficial injuries, EXCEPT FOR the injuries he sustained to the eyes, which resulted in immediate blindness due to the ocular damage. Eyes are a superficial structure…it doesn’t take MUCH to render them inoperable.

But, like in so many cases I’ve seen before, the, “psychological stop,” that occurs with a significant facial injury isn’t to be overlooked. People get into a mindset of singular purpose (retreat and seek medical care) when they’ve taken a round of any kind to the face, and that is safe to say, vocationally generic! Good guy, or bad guy, when people get shot in the face, they most typically break off the attack! A rare exception to that I can think of is superhero Jared Reston. His case is rare though. I see a number of these patients come through the surgical service at my work and they most always change their tack, as soon as the round hits!

So something to consider and think about. I am not a fan of #4 buckshot for defensive purposes as I think that the pellets lack the mass to penetrate once they encounter tissue resistance. The hollow bones of the face don’t resist ballistic attack well; they most always perforate or fracture and let whatever is coming in, come in! In this case, nearly all the wounds were superficial, and except for the few that were removed with digital pressure or a small forcep (think popping a BIG zit) the rest were left in place, as many are adjacent to vital neurovascular structures that would be potentially hazardous or further debilitating to remove.

So, in summary, #4 buckshot…leave it for smaller mammals. Use time tested 00 buckshot in a shotgun that you’ve patterned with said 00 buckshot. The shot placement here was good, and in a civilian context, it was a win, because the actions of the recipient ceased immediately. Remember, we’re not trying to assassinate anyone as responsible Civilian Defenders…we’re just trying to get home. If you fire a shot and get a good hit, and the attacker breaks off, mission accomplished! Top off, check yourself for injuries, grab some cover if you haven’t already, keep your head up and get on the phone to the police. So next time someone tells you that a headshot with buckshot is invariably fatal, well, you can argue that it isn’t EVERYTIME!

Thanks for reading! -Dr. House

Don’t discount the value of a Remington 870 loaded with quality 00 buckshot. It’s my choice and many other far more learned people for good reason! You don’t need the latest AR to have an effective civilian long gun.


Taurus 856 TORO

Gotcha…I didn’t tell you WHAT KIND of pistol! A revolving pistol, and why not? Taurus 856 TORO and Holosun 407K green.

If you’ve been around for a bit here, you’ll recall that my site used to be called, “REVOLVER SCIENCE.” After awhile, the late Dr. William Aprill talked me into calling the site something else, and so I settled on CIVILIAN DEFENDER. The thought being that revolvers were past their apogee of development and that there wasn’t any sense in beating a dead horse talking about what was widely becoming historical knowledge without much utility, besides to the, “FUDD X,” gang (so eloquently coined by friend Darryl Bolke) who started using revolvers at the beginning of the semi auto era, and continued using them. Many of us during the 1994 Crime Bill used revolvers with great aplomb in service and in concealed carry applications.

Thanks to a volatile gun industry, capacity restrictions, modern/effective defensive ammunition and more states granting either Constitutional Carry, or carry permits, there has been a big uptick in revolver sales and use. Some are calling this a REVOLVER RENAISSANCE. I think the proliferation of better/improved designs, and the simple utility of revolvers has recaptured the imagination of the shooting public, and the relatively small national firearms training community (Tom Givens estimates that the national training community that progresses past a permit class is approximately 10,000 members strong) who NEVER STOPPED using revolvers can now be public about it in ways that actually encourage revolver neophytes to join the dozens of us (literally DOZENS OF US) revolver users.

As the technology in sights, trigger, holsters, ammunition and reloading devices has improved, revolvers are still going to revolve! There is lots going on in the lock work of the gun to allow the cylinder to turn and the hammer to draw back, all from the pressure on the trigger of the revolver. The relatively short sight radius of compact or snub revolvers, combined with a relatively heavy trigger pull and with a grip that can be altered relative to the shooter’s hand to change the geometry of the trigger engagement are all problems that can now be overcome with technology.

The short sight radius and difficult to see sights of the J frames, D-frames and Ruger products of years past proved challenging for some people. Brightly colored paint, or XS EXPRESS type sights and fiber optic tubes have been used to improve the sight picture of the small revolving guns. Adding a holographic sighting system to a compact revolver, offers a few distinct advantages that can be overlooked by people who aren’t hardcore revolver enthusiasts.

1. MATCHING GUN AND AMMO FOR POINT-OF-AIM and POINT-OF-IMPACT COINCIDENCE. If you’ve fiddled around with revolvers and defensive ammunition with any great degree of care, you’ve probably noticed that it can be either VERY easy to find a defensive loading (and a corresponding practice load) that corresponds to the point of aim. Meaning that when you press the trigger and send a shot at a given range, the hole in the target (point of impact) and the sights (point of aim) are aligned. Sometimes you get a great revolver that doesn’t have issues finding a load it likes, sometimes you can’t find anything that works for the gun. With the holographic equipped revolver, the POA/POI is easily adjustable by adjusting the elevation, windage (or both) to the loading you have available.

2. INSTEAD OF SETTLING FOR THE POA/POI OF WHAT WORKS FOR YOUR GUN, AND SETTLING FOR WHATEVER THOSE BALLISTIC QUALITIES ARE, YOU CAN SELECT FOR BALLISTIC CAPABILITIES AND ADJUST FOR BALLISTICS. I like to zero my revolver carry loads for 21 feet, and if I have to stretch out the distance, I’d rather adjust since the most common distance as Civilian Defenders we’re likely to be engaged in is within conversational distance and/or inside the length of a car. So if I have a loading, like a 110 or 130 grain loading that shoots really high, with the holographic sight, I can adjust any discrepancy away! This is also works in ammo droughts or traveling when Walmarts and truck stops will have classic loads available (like 158 grain RNL, LSWCHP, SWC or the like). Gold Dots in the 135 grain variants have been dead on in some of my J frames and awful in others. TO DATE, I haven’t had a J frame that won’t shoot 148 grain wadcutters to POA at 7 yards. YMMV.


FUDD-Xers can’t help our fascination with wanting to hand electronics on revolvers. We have a had a few notable films in the past that inspired our technical imaginations.

Who can forget XXX’s S&W 629 with a C-More sight? I thought it was super!
Kurt Russell with his Ruger GP100 and very obviously concealable laser sight in, “Tango & Cash.”

For a discreet, concealable, and versatile compact carry revolver, Taurus has really stepped up their game. In the last three S&W revolver purchases I’ve made, two of the guns had to go back to the factory for repair or correction (crane that had bad metallurgy and deformed after shooting and one M69 whose barrel sheath unclocked from the sleeve). I have FOUR Taurus revolvers, three of which are 856 and one that is an 856 Ultralight that is ported. They have all worked flawlessly though two cases of USAF ball and I’ve loaned them to several students in my classes to use. Everyone has found them to be handy, accurate and 100% reliable. Caleb Giddings has recently joined Team Taurus and his firm straddling of the competition and self defense worlds has proven to be very effective and good for business!

I ran out of 130 grain FP-FMJ so I decided to zero on another commercially ubiquitous loading, the 158 grain RNL. It took several turns on the dial to get the elevation lowered enough to get me on target. I have the 32MOA, “Donut,” setting on, and at 7 yards, the donut is about 3/8 the size of the B8 bullseye. Works well!

I have NO FINANCIAL interest in Taurus nor was I compensated anything by them. All the guns, optics and ammunition in this article were purchased by me.

These are VZ grips. I bought them off of Amazon. They’re better than the OEM grips for my hands. YMMV, as grips are highly individualized!

The Long Term Budget Shotgun: The H&R Pardner 12 gauge; the Chinese Made Remington 870 with a Humpback Receiver

Stupid simple, stupid cheap. For less than 2 bills you can get a versatile, useful, defensive grade shotgun. She won’t win any beauty titles, but you can run the heck out of it, and it’ll keep on truckin. I put this bungee breaching sling on it, I bought years ago that is light weight, and is rigid enough it stays out of the path of the pump, so there are no hang ups. Lastly, I put a two shot side saddle on it. I don’t want to make it prohibitively heavy, I like keeping the wrist of the receiver narrow for manipulation and carry, and if I can’t handle a problem with seven rounds, then please tell funny stories about me at my funeral. One last bit…the Hogue youth stock has an 11.75” length of pull. Don’t say it’s too short…I’m 6’4” tall and it works great for me, with as little as a t-shirt on, all of the way up to layers of clothes under a parka. If you bang into your nose or your teeth, keep your thumb on the other side of the receiver.

I recently returned to teaching for Tactical Response in Camden TN. My dear friend, James Yeager, the founder and MFCEO of Tactical Response passed away in September of 2022, and a huge absence was left by him, not just in the company but in the training community. I have felt a huge hole in my being since he died, and along with all of my life’s other issues, it just seemed like it was the right time to return to teaching at Tactical Response. James can’t be replaced, but I feel that since I was one of his closest compatriots and he was my mentor, it would be fitting to his legacy and his family to return to teach for his company and continue to blaze a trail through educating others. In the spirit of true martial artists, when your Master dies, you continue his lineage of teaching. I don’t know how genuine of a martial artist I actually am, but I’m on the path. And I deem this to be a worthwhile effort.

As an instructor, you are expected to be able to demonstrate, on demand, anything you ask of your students. Seems simple enough. I like to demonstrate for students, not to show off, but to illustrate what we are looking for, and also what you want to see your students do. With that, I only expect to fire about 1/10 of what a student does in a class. Maybe even less than that. So I like to have a dedicated training gun, that mimics the features and feel of my duty guns. With my pistols, I use an identical mechanically (but marked with a FDE back strap) 9mm M&P pistol and with my rifle, I use two identical copies. Same with this shotgun. It is functionally identical to my duty shotgun, the only difference being the Pardner has a, “hump,” a la the Browning Auto-5. Otherwise, it’s an 870. I’ve heard rumors that these are actually made in China by Norinco, and imported to America by H&R 1871. Either way, for $175 NEW, this gun can be yours. Interestingly, the price has stayed pretty low. I bought this model back in 2007, and it has about 10K through it at this point. I’ve cleaned it exactly twice. I have changed the magazine spring twice as well. Not because it was having issues, just prophylactically.

It’ll all fit in a hockey gear bag. Another benefit of the 18.5” barrel and the 11.75” LOP. It’s short enough to fit into this hockey gear bag. Along with my trusty pillow (if you can’t sleep in your own bed and have to sleep on the road, the pillow helps as does the woobie) clothes, shaving kit, and weather gear.
Brown Coat Tactical two shot sidesaddle, attached with Velcro. It’s not for storming the castle…it’s for repelling unlawful boarders. I have a theory leaning hypothesis about these nylon loop type of carriers. We used them in the armored truck business and they were good for about a year, before the UV rays focused through the lexan glass wore them out. They’d ditch all their shells on the first shot of the qualification if they weren’t brass up. So I carry these brass up, with slugs, for port loading. Because if I go through five rounds of buckshot, and that doesn’t help, the slugs might, and if not, well, ain’t nobody can say I didn’t give it my best shot. And, I keep it out of direct UV as much as possible. Not much of an issue since it doesn’t ride in a rack like the armored trucks had.
Big Brass Bead. This is actually the ONLY thing I ever had go wrong with this gun. You can see the JB weld scar from where the XS Big Dot was glued to the barrel. Well, interestingly, at a shotgun class one day, the bead sheered right off, and the XS Big Dot did too. It was lost. I never replaced the Big Dot and went to the gunsmith to have the dot backed out, and replaced with this guy, then burnished and locked in place. It’s been fine so far. Crude, yeah, but good enough to see in poor light, and also good enough to steer buckshot and slugs with.
At 7 yards, Federal Flight Control 9 pellet 00 buckshot drills a .75 caliber hole. I’m happy with that. The LONGEST shot in my utilitarian hovel is about 40 feet, so let’s keep on marching…
At 25 yards, I can cover the pattern of nine holes with my hand. There was a bit of a POI versus my POA, but not prohibitively so. Still quite usable.
Headshots at 3 and 5 yards. The hole appears right where the bead is when the trigger is pressed.

And there you have it. Little different this time…more pics and less yakking. You could do a lot worse for a training gun for under two bills. And if you’re wondering, would I take THIS GUN over a Remington 870 EXPRESS, the answer is YES. The internals in this gun are made of metal. They may be made from melted down leaf springs, or Soviet T-72’s, but they are metal. The extended magazine holds five rounds and is very well balanced. The magazine extension/barrel retention nut stays snug after hundreds of rounds of full power rounds. It’s not glamorous, the finish is modest but does repel rust and corrosion even in Tennessee’s impressive humidity, and it just plain works. I’ve lent it out to students several times, and people always offer to buy it from me because they fall in love with it. I’m telling you…try a 11.75” LOP stock and tell me it doesn’t make an 870 feel like an M-1 carbine! It really does!

So if you’re in the market for a low budget 12 gauge, or something to stow in your boat or RV, or you’re a training junkie or an instructor who needs something that won’t break the bank but will serve you with minimal issues, look into the H&R 1871 Pardner in 12 gauge. Especially if you are an 870 person and want to have an understudy, you could do much worse than the Pardner!

Thanks for reading! -Dr. House

POCKET ROCKETS with the Legendary Lawman, Marshal Chuck Haggard

I’ve known Chuck Haggard for years. First as an online buddy on the old GOTX and TPI forums of the early 00’s. Then in person through the Paulepalooza Memorial training events that began in 2012. Chuck is a unique guy in the training industry…he’s literally done it all. He’s one of the few guys around that can chew up a problem from the perspective of a military serviceman, a police officer or an armed civilian. I’ve trained with Chuck in the past and we’ve both audited each other’s classes. Chuck was recently in Nashville teaching for two days, and I had a break in my schedule, which allowed me to attend.

Chuck calls the class I attended, “Pocket Rockets,” but it’s really just a catchy name. What’s a pocket gun for one person, might be a full-size gun to a smaller human. The chief difference between a full size or compact sized pistol and a pocket rocket could be defined as the size the pistol relative to the size of the user. I’ve known people who have pocket carried Glock 19’s and done it well, and I’ve seen people who couldn’t pocket carry a J frame in normal clothes, because that would be too big for them, and it would defeat the purpose of carrying a concealed gun that is obviously NOT concealed.

The point of the class is to be able to achieve precision hits on target, with speed but more importantly, adapt the user’s normal manual of arms to smaller sized guns. I used a SIG P365, as did many others. Several people used Glock 43, 43X and 48’s. One man had a Beretta 21 in .22LR and a few others had weirdos like the Shadow Systems guns, which I know almost nothing about. As anyone who goes from using a full size pistol to a smaller pistol knows, malfunction clearance can prove challenging. The TAP portion of the TAP-RACK-BANG (or TAP-RACK-REASSESS) is difficult to pull off with a small gun because if you’ve got a solid grip, and the gun only has room for one or two of your fingers at the bottom of it, you end up smacking your own hand. Conversely, ejecting a mag with the gun in your grip can also be delayed because your hand prevent the mag from falling free. Chuck has come up with a few solid operation algorithms that overcome that hang up, without drastically changing the way that you might have already programmed yourself to do them. I won’t give away Chuck’s secret sauce, and you’ll still have to take the class to learn them, but they work! Chuck is a master instructor so he understands that there isn’t a one shot solution for every person, and he teaches several different manipulations and one of them is bound to work for you, even if you lack significant hand strength, or coordination. Chuck has tricks! He’ll get you through it!

I can barely get two finger on this P365. But I don’t carry this gun for it’s comfortable grip…I carry it because it’s as small a gun as I can carry in 9mm and still hit what I’m aiming at with it.

The course took place at the GLOCK STORE in Nashville on their 270 degree shooting range. The range has movable backstops that allow 270 degrees of fire. The range was lit but had very subdued lighting. And it was variable from the middle of the range to the edges of it. It was the first time in maybe forever that I was glad I had tritium sights on my gun, as it was difficult to see the sights on my Smith M15 when we shot the evening section with our revolvers! I had to dip/duck the front sight to pick up the edge. At 3 yards it wasn’t a big deal, but out at 10 and 15 and further, that obviously makes a difference. Even though I had painted the front blade with orange model paint, there wasn’t enough contrast to see. If you’ve shot Smith OEM adjustable sights (not the recent iterations) you know there isn’t a lot of space around that front blade…there is even less in low light!

You can just make out the red/orange model paint on the front sight. It didn’t help in the dim light of the range much. The front sight is just as wide as the rear notch, so not much light bar to work with. My eyes are getting old…

We concluded the Pocket Rocket class with a qualification course with Chuck demonstrating each phase of the course. The range for each phase started at 3 yards and progressed to 25 yards. Getting solid hits, at 25 yards, with a 3” barrel gun, in poor light, with a time crunch, was challenging but also rewarding!


I think people often take classes like Chuck’s thinking that their performance with a smaller gun will be comparable to their capabilities with a full size (full size gun FOR THEM). But the truth is, little guns are harder to shoot. You have less sight radius, smaller guts inside the guns and thus operational idiosyncrasies, and truncated barrels that sacrifice ballistic performance in already marginally effective pistol ballistics. Small guns are lighter, there’s more recoil and less barrel so more unburnt powder and muzzle blast. So it’s a wake up call for many students! I’ve been using a J frame Smith of some kind for my entire adult life, so I wasn’t unaware of the hazards of downsizing to a smaller gun. But under pressure, when you really need it, you can’t expect the skills of the full size gun to translate to the smaller one…it’s a different animal entirely.

I was both shocked and amused by the number of students who had used guns that they actually carried but hadn’t tested. Meaning, they had a Glock 43X, that they added an optic, sights, a magwell and extended mag release to, but hadn’t tested it to see if they all worked together. One person’s gun wouldn’t fire more than one round without a malfunction because theit mags weren’t compatible with the magwell, and or the release. Luckily they figured that out in the class instead of in a parking lot somewhere! Testing your equipment, under the eye of a master instructor like Chuck, is important especially if you don’t necessarily know what you need to be looking out for. Very few machines in existence IMPROVE their performance with added complexity. The design requires miniaturization already, and stacking more parts on it for a negligible increase in performance can be a dubious foray into absurdity. Unless you can shoot to the mechanical accuracy of the gun, most people would benefit from the minimalist approach. I’m still undecided on the SHIELD magazines for the Glock 43X and 48. I know people that have success with them, but I’ve also seen a number of them fail. I chose to go with, “eleven for sure,” in my 43X, but you’re welcome to use what you like. I enjoy having the availability of a nearly 50 state legal pistol in stock configuration, but that’s my view.

At the end of the training day for POCKET ROCKETS, we had a ballistic gel lab where Chuck shot a number of rounds into a block of CLEAR GEL ballistic gelatin out of short barrels to see if the performance, penetration wise, was still within the bounds of effectiveness. As you no doubt recall, the FBI specifies 12-18” of penetration after passing through 4 layers of denim. Chuck fired a number of rounds, including my carry round, the SuperVel 115 grain solid copper projectile. The round went about 16” with great expansion and 100% weight retention. The SuperVel 115 grain is a round that shoots well in both my full size M&P as well as my P365 and Shield/Shield Plus. It’s widely available by mail-order on SuperVel’s website, and was one of the few defensive loadings that didn’t dry up during the pandemic. Chuck told us that many of the mono-metal projectiles like the SuperVel and DPX type rounds perform well in gelatin and have similarly good performance in actual shootings as well. I’ve heard similar intel from Professor John Farnam, another trusted source. I shot two mags (I rotate carry ammo on daylight savings time…change the clock, change the carry ammo), and it was THE most accurate ammo I shot all day. I used TULA 9mm steel case and aside from the impressive flash and fire tornado it launched at the target, it was boringly reliable and shot to the sights.

SuperVel 115 grain 9mm

Wrapping up the long day, Chuck ended with a three hour session for wheelguns. I brought two…my Smith M15 2” and a Smith 66 2.5”. I shot a variety of 158 grain lead and LSWC as well as 130 grain flat nose FMJ. They all shot to a different yet acceptable POI. Chuck demonstrated and we used a method of punching out the empties from the cylinder using a hammer fist method. Just like it sounds, you hammerfist the ejector rod vigorously, and it launches the empties with gusto and considerable inertia, even in guns with short ejector rods (like the Model 15). I used the Zeta-6 rubber speed loaders and was satisfied with their performance (more on those down the road). Like I mentioned earlier, I had trouble seeing the sights, due to the subdued lighting on the range. But that’s probably more of a ME problem than it was the fault of the gun. I get spoiled seeing the high visibility dots on XS, Warren or Sevigny sights with lots of light around that front, which just isn’t a feature on the older Smiths. And even without a grip adapter, my accuracy and performance didn’t suffer. It’s only six rounds…I’d rather have better concealability and more of a hook shaped grip than have really comfortable grips, even when shooting stout .38’s. It’s not a .454 where grip shape and beating up the middle finger really comes into play. But I’ve got big hands too…

The JM Custom Kydex holster I used for the class. I’ve since replaced the belt clip with a ULTICLIP which connect much more positively to my belt. I’ve had this holster for years Ana while it’s a bit clunky, it works well.
Now take your hammerfist or your knife hand and smartly whack that ejector rod. All the weight of your hand and the force of the blow will unseat and eject that fireformed brass right out of the cylinder. Easy!

If you haven’t trained with Chuck, you should! He’s one of the few trainers on the road these days who really has many pieces of the pie to offer you. He’s seen it all…and done it all. If you fancy yourself a gunman, you’d be wise to seek him out and learn from him. His website is https://agiletactical.com/ . Tell him the Doctor sent you!

Speaking As A Child of the Crime Bill of 1994

What a buzz kill…it was 1993, I had just turned 18, had a job working as a full-service gas station attendant and as a police explorer cadet, and I had JUST enough money to scrape together to be able to start buying guns. And then all of the desirable semiautomatic long guns that any young person would be enamored with, were gone. Literally made unobtainable by some weak legislation in hopes it would curb violent crime (SPOILER ALERT…it didn’t). So what to do? I did what I could with manual action long guns (an 870 and a lever action/bolt action combo). But I was bummed.

A few years later, I got a job working full time at an armored truck company. I carried a pair of revolvers (one in my duty holster and another on my ankle). And when I was off-duty/street clothes I would sometimes carry 3 guns, working side gigs where I could mostly in the field of valuable/cash transport. It wasn’t optimal. It wasn’t ideal. But I pivoted to adapt to the market, the world and what I could afford at the time (a used K or L frame was in the $275 range, a J or N frame was closer to $400 at the LGS). And the x-factor here (that many overlook) is I used what I could afford AND still train with. I could get all of the .357 Magnum and .38 Special I could shoot, as long as I turned in the empties (on a 1:1 trade). Many of my coworkers gave me their ammo, and a few of them did that in return for me riding shotgun for them. Because why practice yourself when someone else can do the hard work for you???

This was the trio I carried in the 90’s. When I carried all 3, I wore a hoodie, and had a shoulder holster with the 681 under it, and I carried the 28 AIWB, and the Bodyguard on the ankle. Yes…it gave me the payload of a Glock 17, but those were hard to find. And, if you could find one, it had a 10 round mag. Again, it’s a multi factorial argument…and this does/did have its shortcomings. But if you free your ego from the equation, you can make most anything work. That is, if YOU are willing to do the work. I carried full house 125 grain semi-jacketed hollow points in all three, qualified with that load, and won the company, “Top Gun,” award every year I worked there.

I think that in the next couple years, due to the weirdness of the world, people’s relative apathy to said weirdness and government legislation, we will have an entire new batch of, “Crime Bill Kids,” who will also have limited defensive options. They’ll have to get what they can from the secondary market, feed it with ammunition they can reliably (and affordably) source, and still have the resources necessary to practice or train. The elders of the community can be self-righteous jerks and say, “Well you should’ve been stacking it up!” or, “I prepared for this? Why haven’t YOU?” But that’s not a solution…and the older I get the bigger my Dad her gets and the more I value people that are part of the solution, not accessories to the problem.

So no surprise from me, but the, “most useful,” gun for strange times can be wheelgun. Here’s a few reasons why: 1. Dry-practice with a trigger pull that EXACTLY replicates live fire. “First round hits,” are all the rage currently, but they’ve always been amongst those that know best. How do you get that skill? Dry practice helps TREMENDOUSLY. 2. Ammunition versatility…a .357 Magnum revolver can also fire .38 Special and some can even fire 9mm with a conversion cylinder. Also, you can fire whatever you can source. Light/fast ammunition that may not cycle the action on a semiautomatic pistol reliably, will work fine in a revolver. I’ve noticed a ton of weird, foreign, lightweight/high velocity Ammo in the store when everything else is gone. 3. Ammunition durability. All ammo is relatively fragile. Continually reloading the same cartridge into a self loader can and will decrease the ignition capability of that specific cartridge, or set the bullet back and create pressure issues. So not a big deal to build a zip-lock bag of, “discard,” carry ammo to shoot at the next qualification, or practice session, but in the middle of an ammo shortage, that one round is a valuable commodity. THAT could be the round you need to save your life. With a revolver, the trauma to the individual cartridges is minor or a complete non-issue. And since the state of readiness of a revolver can be ascertained by looking in the cylinder, there’s no need to remove the cartridges from the individual chambers or, “press check,” like many folks do with semi autos. You can open the cylinder, see the primers and close the cylinder. You’re ready. 4. Revolvers are adaptable. You can find OR MAKE (3D printing nerds…looking at you here) revolver grips that will fit any hand or esthetic. Finger grooves are optional, and in many cases, can be removed with patient, cautious abrasive application. And places like VZ grips can make stocks for revolvers that make the BIGGEST revolvers around feel and actually be, volumetrically smaller without compromising comfort or function. 5. Sights. You can DIY many revolver sight options. Some of the greatest revolver pistoleros did this, and with a little hobby paint from Michael’s Treasure House, you can too. Even blacking out the rear notch on a fixed sight stainless revolver can make your sight picture cleaner.

DIY is probably one of the revolver’s greatest adaptability strengths. The guts of the gun largely inhabit the middle of the revolver…the sights and the grips lay at either end. And you can manipulate the ends without affecting the function of the middle. Something to consider.

Concealability, adaptability and availability are just a few of the revolver’s strengths. Is it weird that someone would chose technology from the 19th century to defend themselves in the 21st century? No, but also yes! It isn’t going to be easy, but I don’t think the choice of weapon is the weakest link, nor the most significant in what the cognoscenti like Massad Ayoob, outlined in his, “Survival Priorities,” so many years ago. Utilization requires thought, but any cop who grew up and worked in the, “bridge generation,” between the nationwide switch from revolvers to semiautomatic pistols will tell you, they’d still hit the streets with a revolver and feel fine about it. But all the same, they’d also tell you to bring a spare or two. 😉

This might be the ideal carry piece for the next Generation. Light enough to carry in even gym shorts (an overlooked fact of living with guns) but carrying 8 rounds, it’s nothing to disregard. And the short tube? Roughly the same runway as a Shield or Glock 43 (Add the barrel to the cylinder length). And versatile grip options to fit every hand. But OOF…there’s the elephant in the room that many don’t like to mention; that is, the TRAINING part is the hard part. The gun part isn’t an afterthought but the training part takes preference, at least for me and my small tribe. The hard work is also the most fun (and most rewarding) than just ogling over hardware and rubbing it with a cloth diaper.

But has anything really changed?

During my last practice session on the range, I was quietly (gunfire excepted) thinking about the spate of Instagram and online articles relative to the Indianapolis Mall Active Shooter who was rapidly interdicted by a man called Eli Dickens. Eli reportedly made 8/10 hits on the shooter from a distance as far as forty yards. Quite the feat!

As I moved through my practice routine of various drills, I thought about something that a few of my mentors have said over the years. First, James Yeager taught me years ago, “You should be able to shoot fist-sized groups, as fast as you can shoot them, at any range.” And Tom Givens who says, “The majority of your practice should take place within ten yards, or the length of a couple cars. You should also work in strong-hand-only, weak-hand only, and distance shots, all with precision. Get your gun out quickly, and get to work.”

This makes sense, and when you really think about it, most civilian defensive gun uses are a simple shooting problem. The Indianapolis incident was a statistical outlier, but still within the realm of possibility. Can engagements lawfully occur from a distance greater than 25 yards? Quite possibly! Is it common? No it isn’t. However, with that said, maintaining proficiency requires work. How much work? Depends on where your starting point is. If you can shoot at 100/10X at 25 yards with time pressure, then you are probably going to do just fine at 40 yards. Do you have 40 yards to work with at the range? Some people might not! So use a smaller target, like a target paster or a post-it note, and set it to the extreme end of your range. If that’s only ten yards (a range I use frequently only has 10 yards) then that will have to suffice. The trick, with any engagement range is to program that response beforehand. Pre-engagement planning has been shown to be a decisive way to give the defender the upper hand in armed conflict.

You can’t expect to realistically step up and perform with an iron-sighted concealment sized pistol, if you only practice on the range with a full-sized, 20 shot 9mm with an optic that weighs 3 pounds loaded. If you are blessed with the lifestyle that allows for full-sized carry guns during 99% of your waking life, have at it man, but the rest of us who live where concealment is the first priority, would be better off training with what we actually carry. And yes…smaller guns are harder to shoot. They’re lighter so they recoil more. You can have hands of steel and wire and the smaller sized guns (smaller than a G19) will still generally beat the crap out of you and be more fatiguing than their larger counterparts. But if you CAN practice regularly, and maintain proficiency with smaller guns, when you put a full-sized pistol in your hand, the ease of use is immediate and profound. Revolver guys have known this for decades…if you can make a J frame work, a K, L or N frame is like a vacation. Same logic applies for self-loaders.

So get out there, and don’t be a part-time PRACTICIONER. Sharpen all the knives, at least regularly. You never know what kinds of problems the world will present for you to solve. Don’t get ready…stay ready.

Thanks for reading! Sorry for the hiatus…but uh, uh, life, uh, finds a way. Stay tuned for more. House, from Nashville HQ, OUT.


Come out and train! With the rise of wild violence on American streets these days, it behooves you to know at least the bare minimum skills necessary to treat penetrating trauma and blood loss. I will be teaching two, 4-hour classes in the Middle Tennessee area in August and September. Spots are limited, so sign up today. Please tell your friends and training pals. I know that medical training is the least glamorous facet of the tactical training world, but I can promise you it is one of the most commonly used!



I hope to see you there!


If you spend any time shooting a great deal, or especially using guns in an official capacity, you’re going to have guns break, or need modification work done on them. And like I said, if you carry a gun in an official capacity, you want to be able to assert positively, under oath that your gun was not modified by anyone who wasn’t a professional armorer or gunsmith.

Gunsmiths, like many tradesmen, are becoming more and more rare. The legendary gunsmiths that we all read about growing up have passed away. Some taught their secrets to apprentices, but a good deal of that knowledge is gone. It’s really quite sad. As the popularity of modular guns that require only armorer level maintenance to mobilize become more popular, some people and many gun shops, where gunsmiths used to abound, are now replaced by kids who watch YouTube videos but don’t have the capabilities or artistry of a true gunsmith.

Jeff Walle is a gunsmith that is local to me, and operates out of the fantastic gun shop, “Guns and Leather,” in Greenbrier TN. It’s a short drive to the shop from Nashville, and worth the trek. Jeff hails from the great state of Colorado, where he graduated from Gunsmithing school back in the late 1970’s. His shop is something out every gun guy’s dream and he offers the full scope of Gunsmithing and repair capabilities. He also works on Smith revolvers and Marlin lever guns, and I’m particularly hard on those, so I’m glad he is there and accepting work. He repaired my S&W pistol while I waited, and I was back southbound in no time flat!

If you are in need of an ACTUAL gunsmith in the Nashville area, and not just someone with an AR bushing wrench and a sight pusher, go see Jeff Walle and tell him the Doctor sent you!


The stainless 6 shooter versus the magic framed 8 shooter…

One of the fun things about weapons craft and martial arts is that since you’re constantly testing yourself under realistic conditions, you continuously refine your methods. It is really a beautiful direct application of the scientific method because constantly testing, analyzing results, and refinement of the experiment gives more and more usable results. Occasionally (and ideally) this would lead to mastery or perfection. But rarely does that happen…but constant experimentation CAN get you closer to the PATH of mastery.

The late, great firearms trainer Todd Louis Green used to say, “You can’t buy skill.” Meaning that there’s no piece of equipment you can buy that will instantly improve your skill at arms. Skill improvement will always require work on behalf of the user to get to a measurable increase in performance of said skill.

So if we accept the premise that we cannot buy skill, it goes without saying that we CAN buy improvements in ergonomics that allow us to improve our interface to the weapon’s grip. Especially with firearms, the grip on the gun plays a large role in determining the quality of trigger control. The best trigger management occurs when the trigger can be manipulated straight to the rear, without any upward (or downward) deflection of the trigger finger.

For years, decades in fact, one of the negative qualities of N-frame S&W revolvers have been the size of the revolvers grip. Conversely, the K frame grip has always been known as the, “every person’s grip,” since it can be adapted to fit nearly anyone. As modern combat revolver shooting techniques changed to be primarily/all double-action based, revolver grips that fill in the sinus behind the trigger guard were created to allow the index finger to depress the trigger straight to the rear. The problem arises when the rest of the grip grows…material is added to the sides of the grip as palm swells, or by adding material to the backstrap. This greatly increases the trigger reach…and that makes the gun feel bigger. So shortening this distance between the backstrap of the revolver to the trigger face is akin to shortening the length of pull on a shotgun. If you’ve ever used a shotgun that has too long of a stock, you know how uncomfortable a long length of pull is! You can’t really get comfortable behind the gun and the recoil forces aren’t directed straight perpendicular to the user’s body. A similar application of recoil force occurs when the grips are too big in girth or in the distance between the backstrap and the trigger face. It makes shooting uncomfortable and you lose control of the weapon. You become a passenger and are no longer a driver…you’re simply along for the ride.

Enter VZ Boot Grips. I have a set for both my N-frame round butt S&W 327PC and my K-frame round butt K-frame S&W 66. I took some measurements after an acquaintance on Instagram asked me some questions about the dimensions of the different guns with the grips attached.

He was curious if the round butt dimensions of the K frame could be replicated on the N frame. And with cursory measurements, the differences are slight! LOOK!

Trigger face to backstrap on the 327PC
Trigger face to backstrap on the 66
Grip girth on 327. Approximately 4 5/8”. Measured right above grip screw socket.
Grip girth on 66. Approximately 4 5/8”. Measured right above grip screw socket.

The VZ grips have the best fit of nearly any production grip I’ve ever seen. There is no space on the front strap and the rear of the grip from the bottom end up to the frame horns are tightly adapted with no space. They are held in place by either a black or stainless T15 Torx head screw. And since they’re made of synthetic materials, they’re moisture resistant which is vital for a concealed carry revolver. In my subjective opinion the grips transfer the recoil energy of the gun like synthetic grips do, which is to say it seems like the dense material absorbs some of the recoil. I mostly use wadcutters so the recoil with those out of a compact carry revolver is minimal anyway. They also allow a full firing grip for every finger…and most, “boot grips,” do not allow space for the pinkie finger. The shape of this grip is more reminiscent of the old OEM, “banana grips,” of yesteryear. I have a pair of Beez speedloaders for the 327 inbound so I can’t say if they will clear it, but I CAN say that Safariland Comp 1’s and HKS do clear the grips on the 66. I mostly use a speed strip for my revolver reloads though, which of course work great!

I’m really glad that forward thinking companies like VZ are making modern products for us old folks that like wheelguns. The melding of modern materials and design with 19th century based technology is an interesting juxtaposition, but it works. I bought these grips myself…I have no business relationship with VZ. But if you buy a set to try out, tell them you read about them here on CIVILIAN DEFENDER and that the Doctor sent you! Thanks for reading!