This is probably going to ruffle some feathers…but I’ve received emails asking questions or looking for further explanation on some things that I’ve talked about, and I want to address those. The email below sums up a good number of questions/emails I have received. If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you’ll notice that I very rarely stick to just one central topic in my articles. This is partially due to my quickly shifting attention focus, but also because I like to draw parallels between things that may, at first glance, seem relatively unrelated. So here we go…
Dear Dr. House,
I like your articles. However, I am a follower of Dave Ramsey, and I just refuse, nor do I have the money to spend, on a bunch of high tech gadgetry and gear to support my concealed carry lifestyle. I have a revolver, a pancake holster, a few speed loaders, and a very modest supply of carry ammo. I feel like the industry doesn’t support guys like me, and that everything I read makes me feel like I will probably get, “killed in da streets.” Any advice?
Thank you for the note. I too, am a follower of Dave Ramsey! And, I’m still working on my second baby step (the debt snowball…dental school cost me nearly half a mil!). So I get it. I don’t spend much money on equipment these days. That’s why you don’t see me doing too many gear reviews here. Occasionally I will purchase a new holster, or some other widget, but I almost always support that purchase through the sale of other holsters/gear that I no longer use. Of course, if all you have is one holster, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. If it works for you, there is certainly no reason to change up your game, equipment-wise. There are certainly far worse ways to be armed than with a revolver. If you are on a tight budget, I’d work on finding open source ways to increase your MENTAL AWARENESS AND PREPAREDNESS, like I describe HERE. I know that the industry tends to make the folks that don’t have the latest and greatest guns and gear feel marginalized, and inadequate, but that’s how companies sell products. It’s not just the firearms industry…it’s just marketing that works on humans. So, bottom line, worry about something else, keep your head on a swivel, maintain your physical health and fitness, identify, know and understand the criminal threats in your area of operations, be a skillful driver, learn some emergency medical skills to include CPR, the Heimlich and AED use, and get in a good dry-practice program with your revolver. Carry a tube of pepper spray on your keychain and a med kit in your vehicle, and get on with your life!
In the above link, my friend and Supercop Greg Ellifritz talks about the details of his own handgun stopping power study. In that study, Greg concluded that the .22 (yes…THAT lowly .22) actually produced an impressive record of effectiveness in a number of incidents. Think about a few things, relative to that, for just a second:
- How many police departments or military units do you know that widely issue or use .22LR’s for general issue to their troops? I’m not talking about fish or game officers that may use a .22 for special applications…I’m talking about .22’s in the duty holster of the patrolmen on the street, or the soldier in the field. I haven’t been able to find any evidence of them being used. Thus, the body of evidence relative to .22 shootings come from the civilian world. That means it is either good guys versus badguys, badguys versus good guys, or badguys versus badguys. In any of the three scenarios, police/military units are not dispatching said .22 rounds at anything…it’s a person other than the police/military.
- As Claude Werner has said in the past, a shooting involving a civilian crime victim has less at stake (for the bad guy) than a shooting involving the police. Shoot it out with the police? At best you’re going to jail, and at worst you will die. With a civilian shooting (botched robbery or carjacking, for example) that bad guy can still escape and maybe live to fight/rob another day. That means that the weapon you use to defend yourself doesn’t have to be a tremendous manstopper, it just needs to have to ability to change the direction of the bad guy’s intent, and Greg’s research (and Claude’s) shows that a .22 can make that happen.
- The Ruger LCP, the Beretta Jetfire, or the Ruger LCR .22 Magnum you have on your person is better than the Glock 17 you have back in your safe at home, when life goes sideways. Now, this will probably peeve a bunch of my friends in the training community off, and I fully expect that Tom Givens will kick me in the pants next time he sees me. However, statistics relative to civilian gunfights show, that in a life threatening, lethal force situation, nearly any gun will do, if you will do! Regardless of caliber. Tom Givens maintains a database of 6o PLUS civilian shootings involving his students, and within that database, not all of those shootings occurred with handguns chambered in the minimum 9mm/.38 Special that most (including Tom) instructors recommend for self defense. However, Tom’s students that were armed, WITH ANY GUN, emerged victorious from their respective scenarios. Unfortunately, Claude Werner, THE TACTICAL PROFESSOR will soon retire from livefire training. This is really unfortunate, because Claude was one of the few trainers (the only other guy I know of is Erik Utrecht from MDFI) with a curriculum specifically aimed towards the civilian user of the infamous, “Mouse Gun.” For some folks, who may be restricted by budget, limited dexterity, hand strength, or concealment issues, “less than recommended,” caliber weapons can still be a viable option!
- One of the few variables you can control in a fight is what you bring with you to that fight. For me, I personally bring a full size pistol (S&W M&P 9mm/Glock 19 or 34) or at the very least a J frame (if I’m at the beach) with me wherever I go, every-darn-day. However, I am also blessed with a profession that pays well, and my services are in high-demand, so the financial end of it isn’t a concern for me. I also work for myself and have no employment regulations to abide by. I’m also healthy and I have no issue wielding a full size, full caliber pistol. However, if I didn’t have the capacity to carry a service sized 9mm, I wouldn’t feel horribly undergunned for civilian self defense and home defense with a S&W M&P .22 Compact, or Ruger/Walther analog of said pistol, and a Ruger 10/22 at home for defense of my home. Ammunition choice is important with .22’s, not so much for terminal ballistics (you can only put so much lipstick on a pig) but moreso for ignition reliability, and Claude recommends that rimfire users load match-grade .22’s for self-defense purposes. The big issue with .22’s for self defense, is that many of the pistols are of poor manufacturing quality, and don’t tend to run well. If you must rely on a small caliber pistol for self-defense, use a quality brand.
- The only variables you can control relative to the projectiles you launch at your opposition are the projectile’s weight, it’s diameter, and the type of projectile (e.g. full metal jacket, hollow point, soft point, etc.). THAT’S IT. Everything else is left to chance, since bullets do weird things when they hit people. Now, that saying gets thrown around quite frequently, but those bullets still can’t defy the laws of thermodynamics, physics or science, in general. They will still behave relative to the physical constraints of our universe. Some people get their logic twisted and think that there is either a direct correlation between scientific fact, and anecdotal experience…in general the only correlation is that rarely do scientific fact and anecdotal experience collide! To expound, we all know people that will demonstrate to you, that they carry a Detonics Combat Master, 24 hours a day, INCLUDING the shower, loaded with .45 ACP hardball, since, “They all fall to hardball.” Well, .45 ACP hardball does have a record of performance worldwide, in many incursions, battles and fights, over the past century, but it also has had a fair number of failures. And, scientifically, in laboratory testing in ballistic gelatin, hardball is a consistent over penetrator (meaning it will penetrate PAST the 12-18″ that are considered ideal for human deterrence). We all ALSO know the guy that will tell you, “I carry a .22 for self defense because the mafia uses it for assassinations, and the bullets just do nasty things when they get inside of you. Like you can hit someone in the arm and the bullet will end up ricocheting all of the way into their brain! I know, my Uncle was a cop in St. Louis!” Again, projectiles can do weird things, but one thing that they cannot do is outstrip the constraints of science and grow new properties, like hyper penetration (in a lightweight/low weight projectile). It just doesn’t work like that. And, we have the laboratory, gelatin results for .22’s, and they are typically underwhelming in terms of penetration, often failing to meet the ideal penetration depth, of 12″ in tissue analog testing (ballistic gelatin). Unfortunately, these same people are often immune to logical proof, so debate with them is pointless. Thus, the seemingly perpetual motion machine of the great, “caliber debate,” that has occurred since people began launching projectiles of any kind at one another. I am a believer and practitioner of scientific skepticism, and I’ve spoken with people that claim they were abducted by aliens, and had various experiments performed on them. When you ask these people for proof, aside from their subjective, first person account, they have no proof. When you tell them that science as a whole doesn’t have definitive proof that ANY extraterrestrial life exists, they usually get angry and tell you that you simply refuse to believe, or that you work for the government. Sound familiar? This same type of, “cognitive dissonance,” (which is a psychological term to describe the feeling that a person suffers from when they attempt to simultaneously grasp two contradictory ideas) occurs in gunshops and discussion forums, daily. Too many of these folks walk around blissfully unaware of the wrong data that they spew from their mouths. And that’s a shame. Seeing aliens in the sky, Bigfoot in the woods, or bullets do magical things is a cultural phenomena…not a scientific one. Science doesn’t exist without physical evidence.
- Effective shot placement is similar to real estate…it’s all about LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! What the modern scientific literature shows, is that a projectile delivered to the central nervous system, or the great blood vessels in the upper chest, OR the heart itself, usually are the most effective on a living, determined attacker, REGARDLESS of species. We tend to over-generalize this, and say things like, “aim for the center of mass, or the head.” I would slightly amend that and say, “From the front or rear of the attacker, or from the side of the attacker, aim for the central midline structures!” The entire, “center of mass,” concept goes out the window when someone turns sideways. We’ve all seen people whose center of mass might be two inches above their 52″ belt line. And turning sideways doesn’t mean that someone is running away from you, or turning away from you. They could simply be bladed away from you, beyond what we normally consider, unlike an aggressive paper target would be on the range. Even non-lethal hits, when delivered to the midline of a living beast, have the capability of producing a psychological stop. Plenty of people get shot in the gut or the groin, and while they may not die immediately, they will often lose interest in their present plans. Of course, we should always strive to deliver hits to the areas of the body that we KNOW are most effective, however, that isn’t always possible.
I know that there exists a certain degree of equipment snobbery in the self defense industry. Those with less than state of the art equipment CAN feel underprepared, but it is usually hollow thinking, if that person has the requisite skills required to defend themselves. I think you’ll find little overlap between the guns and gear recommendations of those that train with firearms frequently, and those that are casual shooters. The training fraternity tends to shoot their guns, thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands of rounds a year. Thus, they tend to pick guns that work well in that high round count role. Can other guns serve for self-defense? SURE! Will those other guns last, if you were to subject them to a heavy practice regimen? They MIGHT. This is exactly why many students and instructors don’t recommend, “bargain,” brand pistols for serious purposes. You’d be better off to buy a used model of a known brand pistol or revolver. Same goes for long guns. COULD I rely on a Rossi Puma .357 lever gun for home defense? YES. But would I be able to practice with that carbine the way I want to, to gain the confidence necessary to have to shoot that weapon with great skill, against possibly multiple attackers, in close proximity to my loved ones? Possibly, but I don’t consider that gun to be tremendously rugged, and why push my luck if a 10/22, AR-15 or AKM will work effectively AND allow rigorous practice?
It all boils down to the user…If they have the mindset, tactics and skills in order, then the equipment is really a small, minor piece of the puzzle. Unfortunately, much of this, “equipment envy,” gets carried over from the competition, military, and law enforcement worlds. In the competition world, practitioners of high skill levels CAN experience a benefit in their performance, with careful equipment selection. In fact, some types of gear are required to make that person even competitive at all. And in military and law enforcement operations, where the good guys are actively HUNTING down badguys, of course you want to have the absolute best, most state of the art gear to do that. But in civilian self-defense, the gear isn’t the limiting reagent in that reaction. It will always boil down to the superior mental awareness/mental preparedness, tactics, and skills. And unlike the military and the LEO, the civilian has the ability (and some states even require the DUTY) to avoid confrontation and escape from the clutches of human violence, whenever possible. Thus, if you ARE the CIVILIAN DEFENDER, it is to your benefit to be the best at sneaking your way OUT of any situation you may find yourself in. I don’t know about you, but I worry far more about my stealth, sneaking abilities, and not being selected as a victim, than I do about anything having to do with the fully functioning gun and ammunition in my holster and magazine carriers.