Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chose your weapons....

A friend of mine who has never owned a gun in his life, and has only shot one once approached me the other day about helping him decide on a weapons purchase. I'm going to take him and his wife shooting with a friend of mine and hopefully between the two of us they'll be able to shoot enough different kinds of weapons that they'll have a better feel for what they want and what to look for. The following is a slightly edit version of what I wrote to him yesterday in preparation for our trip to the range. I thought it might be of use to others as well:

Food for thought on selecting a weapon.

For a household protection weapon, I would suggest something like the Mossberg Maverick Shotgun as the ideal weapon type. It will hold 6 shells and it is mechanically simple and reliable. Shotguns will deliver devastating damage at short ranges and do not tend to "over penetrate" walls. This site shows the relative penetration distances for various weapons. A word about the proper shotgun shell to use for home defense: DON'T use bird shot for self-defense. Cheney used bird shot and the guy walked back to the truck. Use 00 buckshot, nothing less. The only real downside is you only have 6 shells to work with but that is a common problem with shotguns. A wise man once said that the purpose of a handgun is to allow you to fight your way to a long gun. The reasoning being that a long gun, be it a rifle or a shotgun, has an order of magnitude more muzzle energy than the biggest handguns available. The damage capability is not even in the same league as a handgun. The survival rate from being shot with a handgun in the center of mass is generally about 60%, but being shot with a long gun is almost always fatal (90%+) if the shot is even remotely close to the center of mass.

Now if you want something more portable and concealable you have a selection of semi-autos and a revolver to choose from. I personally would steer you away from "modern" Smith and Wesson guns. They have had problems in the past with their integrated gun locks (all manufacturers have had some issue or another, but S&W seems to have had the lion's share of problems.) causing the gun's action to lock up at inappropriate times (like when the hammer is back and the safety is off and the gun loaded!). MAYBE they have resolved those issues, maybe they haven't, but for a self-defense weapon, you want something that is going to go bang every time you pull the trigger (and not go bang when you haven't!). S&W used to be a premier brand, but ever since the sale back in the 80's (thank you very much Bill Clinton and the threat of product liability lawsuits against gunmakers that put them in the position of having to sell!) they have slipped IMHO. On the flip side, Taurus used to be a junk gun, but their quality has come way up in the last 15 years or so as evidenced in the prices being higher than S&W's. The Taurus Judge for instance is a nice revolver that can shoot both a .45 Long Colt or a .410 shotgun shell. Nowhere near as good as a 12 gauge with 00 buckshot but not THAT bad either. (I have to wonder how it gets around the ban/tax on "short barrelled shotguns" though, probably because it can shoot .45 LC as well.) but it has a decent kick too. In revolvers, light weight means more recoil (not true of semi-autos which use springs to eat up recoil.) so for a revolver a heavy gun is easier to shoot, but harder to carry and/or conceal. The mass of the weapon eats up the recoil through inertia. Choosing a gun is an exercise in trade offs. weight vs shootability vs concealability vs simplicity vs complexity. Everybody ends up with a slightly different answer. What works for me might not work for you, which is one reason why there are thousands of different gun designs available. And of course there is the fact that different guns are designed for different jobs, there is no cookie cutter, one size fits all gun for everyone.

IF you wish to get a CHL, there is an issue you need to bear in mind. In Texas, there are TWO different kinds of CHL lisences. One is for revolvers only, and the other is for both revolvers AND semi-auto's. The class is the same and the cost is the same, the only difference is to get the gen purpose CHL you have to qualify with a semi-auto. You have to qualify with a .32 cal or larger, but once you have your CHL you can carry anything you like (depending on the kind of license of course), but a .22LR or .25 is really at best a back-up gun. You won't put a man on the ground immediately with one unless you get real lucky. You might still kill him but it'll be a slow death and he would probably still have time and energy to kill you in the process. That said, many people ask "what is the best gun for self defense" and the answer is "the gun you have with you when you need it." if it is too heavy or too clunky and hard to conceal and/or carry you won't carry it consistently and that means you may not have it when you need it, so picking a gun that is comfortable to carry and shoot is EXTREMELY important. If that means only a single shot .22 derringer, it is still better than nothing. That just means you have to place your shots a HELUVA LOT BETTER.

That brings up one other point. Under duress, even trained police officers have only a 40% hit rate typically (hitting a man sized target at a typical shooting distance of 7-10 feet.). And that is just hitting the guy, not necessarily hitting him with a knockout shot. Now granted, they generally are not as well trained as your average CHL holder either believe it or not. They only have to qualify with their weapon once a year and most never go to the range or do any kind of tactical shooting practice except for their qualification shooting so they tend to be a lot less capable than people give them credit for (there are of course exceptions to this too). Not knocking cops or anything, but that is the reality of the situation. More often than not they are working two or three side jobs to keep a roof over their heads and they don't have time or the energy to go shooting as often as they ought to. CHL holders in general tend to be a bit more motivated to master their weapon so they tend to shoot a lot more than cops. It is also a case of familiarity breeding complacency. Another reason why cops tend to have more Accidental Discharges/Negligent Discharges than CHL holders too. So practicing with your weapon, and learning to use it in a tactical situation particularly (vs just standing still at a shooting bench and wailing away at a stationary paper target) is an important piece of the puzzle. This is a big reason why semi-autos are far and away preferred for CHL (but not the only reason, concealability plays a role too.). They have WAY more rounds in them than revolvers so you have a better chance of being able to put a round in the guy's wheelhouse when you have more shots to fire. Some people like revolvers and women tend to have less hand strength than men and sometimes have problems operating the slide on semi-autos (there are ways to deal with that though, it is a matter of training), and to each his own, but I would strongly suggest you think about that long and hard before you make an expensive decision you and/or your wife might not live to regret.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like both of my Tauruses - my carry is 9mm PT111 - and the price is right. Now that my wife has her license, I wish I could buy Taurus but unfortunately they are deemed dangerous or something up here and are not on the "approved" list for dealers to sell.


January 25, 2011 7:35 AM  

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