Archive for August, 2010

Get a grip?

The problem with this never-ending debate is that the terminology creates a false mental impression.

There is no such thing as a real “safety” on a gun. As soon as you put a bullet into the chamber, the gun is not safe. A certain chain of unpredicted malfunctions and errors, however unlikely, (see Space Shuttle) can cause the gun to fire at an unintended time if a bullet is present.

I prefer to think of safeties as “fire prevention mechanisms”, which is what they actually are.

Layers of them make it more and more unlikely the gun will not fire (maybe even when I want it to fire.)

The safest gun is unloaded and disassembled, but is useless for it’s intended purpose in that condition. (Just like Space shuttles won’t blow up if we don’t put fuel in them and shoot them into space.) We have to, in effect, trade “safety” for “risk” if we want the benefits the device is designed to offer.

My car has multiple systems designed to prevent injury during a crash.

The seat belt is the primary injury prevention system (“finger off the trigger”). The airbag (“grip safety”) adds additional injury protection, and works in concordance with the seatbelt. It might still save my bacon if the seatbelt fails due to engineering or operator error.

Other passive features like the laminated windshield (“trigger lever”), collapsible steering column (“firing pin block”), and built-in crumple zones (“magazine disconnect”) create yet more survivability.

All of them also add cost, complexity, are possible operation annoyances, and potential points of device failure UNTIL I CRASH, then they are ultra-vital.  Then, the more I have, the better off I am.

I prefer the balance of crisis functionality, trigger feel, mechanical complexity, and “idiot proof” operation found in my stock XD45. I “thumb” the firing pin indicator when reholstering, and it gives me piece of mind with minor added complexity and minimal added cost.

Other people might value the even lower complexity of not having a grip safety (Glock), or trade crisp trigger feel for a long, heavy DAO trigger (S&W Sigma) to gain ease of use, do away with all the fire prevention devices except stout springs (Kel Tec) to save cost – the engineering choices are endless.

Each must choose their comfort level, while respecting why others may choose different.  (This will allow more time for caliber wars!)

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12 Gauge Shell Comparison

Posted: August 30, 2010 in Practical Shooting

I have read conjecture, opinion and mall-ninja tactical plans about how and when others plan to use their handguns in various self defense scenarios.

Some of it seems well-reasoned. Some seem like Rambo fantasies. Almost all of it is hypothetical, as 99.99% of the authors (who are not LEOs) have never drawn their weapons in a real situation.

I have.

This is my story, and the insights I gained from it.

In the Summer of 1999, I received my first concealed carry permit. I owned a Kel Tec P11 (9mm Luger), and began carrying it everywhere, as new permit holders are prone to do.

On one particular day I was at the county dump disposing of a utility trailer full of various junk. The dump required you to take irregular refuse out into the landfill area as the convenience bins up front were only for bagged trash.

The area in use was about 1/2 a mile from the front entrance. There were trash collection trucks discharging their contents via a long winding path through the various piles of stuff that the landfill operation segregated before burial.

I arrived at the current area just as a city truck was pushing it’s load out and preparing to leave. A bulldozer operator pushing the trash from where the trucks dumped it, on a flat part of the mound, up into an even larger mound.

Pulling next to the pile just dumped from the last garbage truck, I started unloading some old furniture when I heard the bulldozer’s horn blow. The operator yelled I needed to drive up closer to the huge mound to unload, not where I was.

I looked at the area he indicated (perhaps 20 feet from where I was) and determined that my Dodge Caravan was too low to the ground, and the tires were too easy to puncture for me to go 4-wheeling across the foothills of Trash Mountain, and yelled my concerns back to him over the roar of the equipment.

He seemed to understand, so I returned to my unloading. The bulldozer moved around, and I assumed he was lining up to push my old furniture (and the garbage truck’s load) up onto the monster pile once I moved out.

Suddenly the horn blows again (hard)! I swing around to see him yelling, screaming, and gesturing wildly at me, the car and towards the trash mountain. I put my palms up in a “What?” type of gesture and this seemed to enrage him even further!

Suddenly a huge black cloud of smoke erupted from the stack and the bulldozer starts moving, blade up, towards the side of my car. (We’re talking huge, 20 foot wide by 6 foot high bulldozer blade here, not some little Rent-All unit.)

Inside the car, strapped in his car seat, was my toddler son.

He was excitedly waving his binky at the really cool bulldozer, oblivious to the threat this machine represented.

They say that in times of great stress, time seems to slow down. They are wrong. Time stops.

Before I knew it, and before I had made the conscious decision, the gun was in my hand and aimed directly at the operator of the bulldozer. I remember thinking, “When the blade touches the car, I will open fire”.

The world was eerily silent and my vision narrowed to the blade of the dozer as my quaking arm wobbled the front site all over the place. The distance was probably 25 feet or so, and it dawned on me I would probably have to jump up on the bulldozer if I was to have any chance of stopping him before he destroyed my car and killed my child.

In what seemed like an hour later, the guy finally saw my gun. His eyes went wide, and he immediately reversed the beast and zoomed back over the edge of the mountain out of my view.

Still in time delay mode, I jumped into the car, slammed it into gear and blasted off at full speed (leaving my cargo straps behind) thinking I was IN BIG TROUBLE and not sure how I was going to get out of this one. It was probably 20 minutes, 10 miles, and almost half a pack of smokes later before lucid thought returned and I was able to think clearly again.

I never reported the incident to the cops, and I never went to that dump again. Nothing ever happened, though for quite a few weeks I assumed SWAT would kick in my door some night.

So… I didn’t drop 15 zombies with my .44 Mag, I didn’t crash my Ferrari through a flaming roadblock of ninjas, and I didn’t get the blonde in the end.

In fact, some of you might be thinking “what a wuss”. All I can say is: (1) I had just as many heroic fantasies as the next guy, (2) I fondled my gun and practiced my draw as much as the next guy, and (3) driving a minivan has nothing to do with sexual preference.

What I learned:

(1) Though his behavior was erratic and unanticipated, I now take special (sometimes even unreasonable) efforts not to provoke people when I’m carrying, because I do not want to accidently escalate stupidity into having to draw down on someone again.

(2) Even if you can put magazine after magazine into a hole the size of a dime at 50 yards, once your adrenaline kicks in, good luck hitting anything. I know the mantra of “shot placement” some quote with religious fervor, but if I had actually started shooting, I’m sure I would have missed. Having a higher capacity gun in the battle trumps superhero shooting skills at the range.

(3) The best gun for self-defense is the one you will carry regularly. I’m not sure any firearm would have accomplished much in this situation, but my $200 9mm Kel Tec took the will to fight out of someone who was probably impervious to my attack — whatever gets the job done is “best”, as long as you have it when you need it. “Tacticool”, expensive, or trendy guns aren’t any more intimidating than “Plain Jane” guns if they’re locked in the safe.

(4) It is very important to consider AND PLAN FOR the “after” portion of any potential shooting event, even more than the “before” tactics we all run through our heads. If I had it to do over, I would not have fled the scene, and called the cops even though I did not fire the weapon. If the jerk in the bulldozer had called the cops, you can bet my side if the story would have meant a lot less if they had to hunt me down. The anxiety afterwards was excruciating.

(5) Crazy stuff can happen in an instant, without warning. I now am much more vigilant and conscious of my surroundings than I was in years past. (My wife thinks I’m paranoid, but I even carry around the house do to recent home invasions) I really don’t want to have to pull the gun again, and avoiding these situations before they happen makes more sense now than the macho confrontation fantasies I harbored in the past.

(6) Not to sound like some Jedi master, but there was no conscious thought in the weapon presentation. It was just “there” via muscle memory. I attribute this to practice, and only consider weapons that will operate with “one in the pipe” (without any mental gymnastics) as worthy of self-defense carry. (In addition to the same Kel Tec, I also carry a Springfield XD45 now.) I know there are proponents of “Israeli Carry” and/or non-passive safeties, but practicing to develop muscle memory for these methods seems trouble-prone to me for various reasons. (more…)

Department of Homeland Security

Posted: August 25, 2010 in Uncategorized

Al-Qaeda doesn’t stand a chance…