Archive for the ‘Practical Shooting’ Category

The on-going caliber war in almost every gun forum on the internet will never end.  Many times the same cliched points are repeated over and over.

Handguns, even the holy 10mm , are puny compared to ANY centerfire long gun round.   Velocity or weight matter, and a .223 (fast) or 12 gauge slug (heavy) will ruin your day without fail.  Yet, despite all the hype, zombie bullets, and laser targeting systems around these days,  most people shot with handguns DO NOT die. 

Stopping an attack does not automatically require a fatal shot, which is very often overlooked when arguing ballistic gelatin tests.

Having seen more than a few gunshot wounds in my life, I must point out that it is nearly impossible to differentiate a .22, .380, 9mm, .40 or .45 wound without examining the projectile.   (Conversely, it is very easy to tell a rifle or shotgun wound from a handgun wound.)

Skin is elastic and has compensatory mechanisms to limit bleeding.  While paper targets and gelatin “stay” wounded,  actual skin does not, and this makes the size of the hole irrelevant.  Handgun velocities do not create significant wound cavities outside the path of the projectile.

Exsanguination, so called “bleeding out”, is much more rapid if something that lacks effective compensatory methods is hit. (E.G.: A hole in the heart, or a major (torso) blood vessel will probably be fatal, though not instantly.   A hole in an extremity may eventually lead to shock, but this is an easy 10 minute or more process on most cases.)

Few new issues to consider in the caliber wars:

Hollow points are much improved in recent years from those available in the past  Very often hollow points get clogged (by thick clothing for example.)  This makes them into hardball, and hence less effective than designed.  (A clogged .45 still makes a .45 hole.  While a well-designed 9mm can achieve up to .60 expansion — once clogged, it is just a .355 FMJ round that weighs about half as much as the .45 bullet)

“Hard” areas of the body (pelvis, arms bones in defensive position, sternum, skull) will resist penetration by light bullets. Even if you don’t hit a vital area that causes a bleed-out (slow process) the PAIN (or structural incapacity) of a shattered bone can cause an attacker to discontinue an attack (fast) or allow your escape, even if not fatally wounded.

(I feel this alone is the most significant element of the .45 ACP’s reputation as a “manstopper”.)

Capacity:  Not all .45s carry just 8 rounds.  For example, an XD45 carries 13+1, with a grip length less than an inch longer than the Glock 19 (which carries 15+1.) I don’t find the recoil on this particular .45 objectionable at all, being more of a “push” than a “snap” when fired (unlike a .40S&W).  The .45 is a real hoot to shoot, and is a whole different animal than .40 or recoil.

I have both of the above mentioned guns, and carry them easily in appendix position. The ammo for .45 is more expensive to buy, but reloads are not much more than 9mm reloads, so practice time doesn’t really break the bank. (Commercial JHP carry rounds are essentially the same price.)

I think “caliber wars” that ignore physiological effects of pain and structural damage, versus just the size of the hole (or wound tract), overlook an VERY important component of overall effectiveness.   For example:  .357sig has a reported “lightning bolt” effect on people, just by driving a 9mm bullet at very high velocities and having very high penetration capabilities (– this comes at the cost of added recoil and muzzle blast.)  If your plans include penetrating cover (windshield, car door, plasterboard) a higher velocity round is more desirable than a slower one.  This is not a likely requirement in civilian defense use, though police and military do have such a need. 

It seems to me that rounds that are either very fast (.357 magnum/sig) or very heavy (.45acp) do their job the best.  (Put your hands down 10mm guys — I know what you want to say.)

A 9mm (blue) versus .45 (red) round.
Who wants to get hit by an itty-bitty .223 (teal) bullet?

In summary:  The “size” of the bullet hole really doesn’t matter as much as we think it does, and expansion while helpful (more is naturally better), is not the most important factor in stopping power effectiveness, especially since it is unpredictable in anything but gelatin.  Just damaging an opponent enough to allow your escape counts as “a win” in my civilian playbook.  Their death isn’t mandatory, despite the mythological “one shot stop” hype manufacturers spew.

Everything is a compromise, and I alternate between the two rounds depending on where I am going, and what dress it requires. In the end, the gun in your pocket (when you need it) is a much more effective round than the most “awesome flying round of instant death” gun that isn’t carried.

Tell me why I’m wrong, and how my family is descended from brain-damaged monkeys below:


If you own any other type of handgun (besides a Glock), you probably get real tired of hearing the fanboys defending how “safe” a Glock is, despite the number of accidental discharges that have been documented while reholstering.  This is so common as to have spawned it’s own slang term: “Glock Leg“.

This picture below is a Springfield Armory XD45c. (“There are many like it, but this one is mine…”)

Gripping it like shown prevents accidental “snagged trigger” discharges while reholstering. Period.

The sear CAN NOT be made to drop (which releases the firing pin) if the grip safety is not depressed. Even with pressure applied (via a tool) directly to the sear.

On the flip side, I’m not able to envision a way I could grab hold of the gun to fire it in haste that I would not depress the lightly-sprung grip safety. It is an “automatic” (passive) effect of holding the gun in firing position.

It has one moving part, and one pivot point, resembling a “see-saw” whose far end fits under the sear to prevent it from moving down. I imagine it is possible that some grit could get under the “grip” end of the see-saw and jam it. However, the size of the holes leading into the mechanism seems to prevent anything large enough to jam the gun from getting in there. (But I dunno…  Could happen, I guess.)

I also carry a Kel-Tec P11, which has no safeties at all. It however, has a LOOOOOOOONG, HEAVY trigger that makes it unlikely to ever get pulled by accident. It is a pure CCW, not a range gun. It is not fun, or pleasant to shoot, because of the very trigger that makes it safe to carry as a loaded CCW.

Glocks are still great guns, and there are many positive reasons to own one.  However, the way the fan boys attack everything “non-Glock”, including a feature that makes a lot of sense, is appalling.

If I was going to carry a Glock as a CCW sidearm, I would probably want a heavier trigger bar installed. That would detract from it’s use as a range gun, but would enhance it’s CCW safety.

I pay for car insurance, even though I’ve never had an accident. I have fire extinguishers, even though I’ve never had a fire. I chose the XD over the Glock for CCW use due to the “just in case” factor.

All the gun forum cliches about “finger off the trigger” and “your brain is the safety” disregard the reality of human frailty.

No one plans to have a brain fart, but just in case, the grip safety prevents it from becoming a tragedy.  The XD has an added automatic layer of CCW safety, without diminishing it’s trigger feel one bit.

That’s my comfort level when carrying a CCW gun “+1”.  YMMV.


The craftsmanship is noticeably better than the Cross-Breed Supertuck or Kholster. However, looks alone are not that important for a CCW holster for obvious reasons. The adjustable retention is a plus for me and the plastic clips do not scratch furniture like metal clips.

I use this holster to CCW an XD45c wearing summer clothes (shorts and t-shirt) most of the time. I forget I’m wearing it, even when driving. I highly recommend it, but if you sweat a lot, I would sew a terry cloth liner (like a woman’s showercap made from a washcloth) as leather can be kind of sticky against bare skin. (All IWB holsters can benefit from this IMO.)

There are many myths that are common in the gun world.  One of the more pervasive is that “revolvers are more reliable than automatics”.  While this may appear superficially true, it is very misleading to assume that a revolver is, well, “bullet-proof”.

A revolver isn't the best gun for all situations.

Revolvers WILL fail. When they do, they are nearly impossible to return to service without tools.  While they will tolerate neglect, they have almost no tolerance for abuse, and limited ability to handle mud or dirt.

A revolver’s weak point is the cylinder. If it won’t turn, open, or close, you have a fancy paper weight.

Drop your revolver and let it land hard on the cylinder on a concrete sidewalk and see if it still works with a bent ejector rod. Toss it in the dirt and see if the cylinder will turn with mud caked between the cylinder and the frame. With only .002 to .010 inch between the cylinder and the frame it won’t take much mud or grit to keep the cylinder from moving. (Just a small bit of mud or sand and the cylinder might not even close.)  Grab the cylinder with just two fingers (much less a “deathgrip” like you would anticipate in a struggle over the gun) and see if it will cycle or fire.

Why would someone abuse their gun and get it dirty?  As a defensive weapon, it is reasonable to assume the potential for hand-to-hand combat if the weapon is used as a carry piece. Revolvers are just fine for home defense (though a shotgun is better), or as a “glove box” gun, but have serious practical limitations (beyond just ammo capacity) for carry duty.

Semi-autos tolerate abuse better than they tolerate neglect. “Working” guns (like the crop of Tactical Tupperware guns we now see) tolerate more abuse and neglect than “competition” guns (that have tightened tolerances to increase accuracy) or have been modified by (alleged) gunsmiths of dubious skill.

A Ferrari is always more trouble than a Toyota, but try getting hot chicks with a Corolla.  Yes, you will need to perform some maintenance on your gun for it to function reliably.  (If you plan on defending your life with it, a quick weekly field strip should not seem too onerous.)  Using a fussy, high-cost gun for self-defense work is as sensible as using the Ferrari to tow a boat.

A modern auto holds MULTIPLES of the quantity of ammo a revolver does and reloads can be completed in seconds.    (The ever-popular YouTube torture tests demonstrate the amount of abuse a good “working” gun can take and still function.)

The auto’s parts are enclosed inside the gun where it is much harder for mud and other junk into get into the mechanism.  Yet if they do, an auto can be field stripped without tools, cleaned and be back in action fairly quickly. (The revolver is more likely to need the services of a gunsmith.)

If you want a gun to be reliable in down and dirty conditions where you may not have the ability to keep the gun perfectly clean, or it is likely to be abused and it still needs to work, the “working” autoloader is a much better choice than a revolver.

While otherwise an excellent review, once he starts reading the models it fits, I would jump to the 6:00 mark.

Here is a longer-term review:

How not to shoot yourself.

Posted: September 3, 2010 in Practical Shooting

I was recently reading yet another story of a gun owner shooting themselves while field stripping their firearm.  This particular incident involved a police officer performing routine cleaning of his Glock 22 duty weapon.

Many semi-automatic handguns require you to pull the trigger to disassemble the weapon.  Some weapon designs also encourage you to place your hand in a vulnerable position during slide removal.

While strict adherence to safety rules would suggest a visual check of the chamber, human nature sometimes makes us careless.   It is easy to view victims of these type of injuries as “idiots”, until it happens to you.

Getting shot in the hand is not a trivial matter.  (As an emergency room RN, I can attest that while not common, these types of injuries are not rare either.)  They are incredibly painful because you have more nerve endings in your hands than in your genitalia. These wounds are very slow to heal and often have residual loss of function, and sometimes permanent disability.

Having a 5 gallon bucket full of sand near your workbench is a great way to inexpensively avoid this scenario.  Make it a habit to dry fire your weapon into the pail every time you disassemble your weapon, and you will lessen the chance of having the unthinkable happen to you.

Every person I’ve treated thought they were “too smart” and “too safe” to let this happen to them.

Until it did.

12 Gauge Shell Comparison

Posted: August 30, 2010 in Practical Shooting