June 24, 2017

Challenging Commonly Held Firearms Beliefs

Challenging Commonly Held Firearms Beliefs

I was looking over some of my older posts and noticed I haven’t written an article on using a firearm to CCW or for self-defense in quite some time. So I want to take the opportunity to give you information that I believe is important, and doesn’t necessarily fit into its own article.

I’ll start off by saying that when it comes to the use of firearms for self-defense, there are some people who are so married to their belief, that they’re almost offended when presented with opposing information. If you have a belief that I say something against, please let me know why you think I am wrong. Some of what I will say today is my opinion, but much of it is backed up by science.
The History of Firearms Training

Until recently, most of the information trainers passed on about the use of handguns for self-defense was gleaned second hand, or information they read from a book, which at the time was cutting edge. In the last fifteen years though there has been a wealth of data coming in from the video cameras that are everywhere. From police dash cams, CCTV, cell phone cameras and even from the wars overseas. There have also been several studies done by neuroscientists that have made it so we have a better understanding of how the brain works in training and in critical incidents.

Many people have learned from a friend who was a cop or in the military back in the day. I’ll go back to saying that their training was probably top notch when they got it, but it very well could be outdated.
You’ll Default to Your Highest Level of Training

Uh no you won’t. Let’s say you take an expensive 2-day handgun course and learn all kinds of great information. If you never practice those things, you will not do them when in a critical incident. You may have heard the term “muscle memory”, which is a little misleading. Your muscles don’t have a memory, your brain just learns to do things by repetition.

For example, do you need to look at your hands or the shoestrings when you tie your shoes? If you’re just learning how you might, but if you have done it for years it is now second nature. Now let’s say you buy a new pair of shoes and the salesperson shows you a new knot that performs better than the standard knot, and you only practiced it at the store. Now if we added some form of critical stress, such as a burning house, a home invasion or zombie attack and you had to put on your shoes and tie them, your brain is trained to tie them the standard way, so that is how it will respond under critical incident, your body defaults to what the brain has done most often. You can retrain it over time, but that requires repetition to build that “muscle memory”.
Training For the Worst of the Worst

Needing to defend yourself with a firearm is a worse case self-defense scenario. Criminals don’t let you know they’re going to attack or how they’ll attack. Because of this, you can’t know how things will unfold, so practicing for the worst of a worst case scenario is a good idea. If you only ever train to shoot one round at one attacker, what will you do when faced with multiple attackers and your first shot misses? With this in mind, here are my thoughts on a few related topics.
Revolvers for Self-Defense

I can’t even tell you how many times I have heard people recommend revolvers for self-defense, usually recommended because they don’t fail as semi-autos do. While this is true, it doesn’t take into consideration the entire picture. Police switched from revolvers to semi-autos many years ago for several reasons. Magazine capacity and ease of reloading are just two.

Since we’re talking about the worst of the worst, you don’t know how many attackers or how many rounds you’ll need to fire. A revolver holds six rounds, and it is very easy to fire six rounds in under 2 seconds. You might think that is overkill, but we’re talking about worst case, and there have been several police shootings where the officer emptied their magazine before the attacker went down. I’ll wager that this is often due to missed shots caused by physiological changes in the body.

If you only have those six rounds and are in need of more, while you can reload with a speed loader, unless you have practiced using it heavily, you might not to be able to do it quickly or at all under stress, due to the physiological changes in the body. Under critical stress, blood is taken from the extremities and pooled into the body’s core. This means fine motor function is highly reduced in the hands, limiting dexterity.

Yes, semi-autos fail, but one can quickly learn how to clear the three types of failures in seconds, and get back in the fight. These are much easier to manipulate with loss of fine motor skills and can be learned quickly. The vast majority of the three types of failures can be cleared with “tap and rack”; hitting the bottom of the magazine and racking a new round into the chamber, which can be done in 1-2 seconds.

If you use a revolver for strength issue, by all means use it. But get proficient at changing speed loaders just in case.
Double Tap

Double Tapping has been a standard in self-defense for decades. Often, practice is to draw from the holster, fire two rounds into center mass and holster. Since we’re talking about the worst of the worst case scenarios and we know that people fall back to their most frequent level of practice, what do you think will happen when rounds miss or don’t bring the attacker down? There have been reported cases where an officer fired his two shots and holstered his firearm, only to have the attacker continue the attack.

Studies have also been done on the accuracy under critical incidents, which show that as many as 70% of rounds fired are misses. Now, I graduated before common core math, but I am still pretty sure 70% of 2 means either one or both rounds missed.

Instead, I recommend that you practice firing varied rounds each time when training, sometimes firing twice and other times three, five or six rounds. If you are ever involved in a critical incident and must shoot, continue to fire until forward movement of the attacker has stopped.
Does Size Matter?

This is one of the oldest arguments in the realm of firearms for self-defense; does the caliber of the round matter (I can feel the heated comments already lol)? I think that before modern self-defense ammunition, designed to expand upon contact, the size of the round may have been important. However, with the advances of modern ammo, I am of the belief that 9mm is a better choice than .45 for a few reasons.

One shot stop (or two shot) is often recited, but the stopping power of one round does not take into account the physiological changes involved in a critical incident and is irrelevant if it is missed or does not hit a vital organ.

Modern day self defense ammo expands upon contact dumping its kinetic energy into the flesh. As it expands it leave a much bigger hole then the ammo of the past.

The recoil with 9mm is significantly less than .45, making recoil management much easier so you can get back on target faster to fire again and again. It is also less expensive, and if your training budget is an area of concern, you will be able to practice more.

I don’t recommend anything smaller than a .32 or .380 for self-defense, but the bottom line is: carry what you have and are proficient with. If you like a .45, practice and carry one. I personally carry and practice with a 9mm.
Distance of Attack

Tom Givens is a self-defense trainer out of Memphis Tennessee. He collected information from over 60 self-defense shootings and found that 86.2% of these shootings occurred at the ranges of 9 to 15 feet. If you are practicing for self-defense, it is great if you can hit a bulls-eye at 50 feet, but being able to hit it multiple times in rapid succession at 9 to 15 feet is better.
I Won’t Hesitate to Pull the Trigger

It is a common belief for people to think that if they are in a life and death critical incident, they will not hesitate to stop the threat with lethal force. However, statistics show that throughout history, people who have been trained to kill often hesitate.

The book “On Killing” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman helped firm up my understanding of humans and their capacity and willingness to use violence. In short, the vast majority of human beings are not wired to use violence on one another.

Lt. Col. Grossman goes into great detail to explain how, through the earliest of American wars; the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and the World Wars, the majority of the men fighting would purposely miss what they were shooting at. He explained how the aversion to killing another human was so strong that a trained soldier often times would not shoot another, even if it meant losing his own life.

I have also heard that there is a large percentage of police killed that either never fire their weapon, or made no attempt to. I did a little digging and found this according to the FBI in the 2013 Law Officers Killed and Assaulted Report.

Leading up to the Vietnam War, great effort went into figuring out how to train men, not only to kill but to do so without hesitation. Today’s military are some of the most efficient warriors in the world’s history. In 2013 there were 27 officers killed in the line of duty which, on a side note, was a far lower number than previous years. Of those 27, 18 either did not use or attempt to use their sidearm. You may think that they must have been jumped, but the report shows that only 5 were ambushed.

I am not criticizing these officers or the veterans that chose not to fire either. I am simply asking if these people, who’s job it was to step into danger every day, knowing there was a chance they may need to use deadly force in the course of their career, failed to respond with deadly force, how can you be so sure you will?

Setting my machismo aside, I hope I respond without hesitation. I have done everything I can reasonably do to make sure I act, but I haven’t been tested, so I don’t know. I hope I never have to find out, I do not relish the idea of taking another’s life, not because I don’t want to hurt someone, no, I believe if someone threatens deadly force, they have written you an invitation to use it against them. There is still a lot of legal, personal, spiritual, mental and emotional baggage that goes with it.

If you’re interested, I list a few ways to raise the odds you’ll be able to pull the trigger in Are You Prepared To Use Violence to Stop Violence?

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  1. No arguments from me about anything you said. Shoot what you can accurately handle and feel comfortable with. We also use 9mm for CCW so of course I’m gonna agree. LOL For years I used a 1911 both in the military and afterwards. After my wife got her Sig P290 and I read up on the ammo I switched. At my age it’s much easier on the hands and wrists.

    • Chris Ray says:

      A couple years ago I took a three day advanced pistol class. One of the other students was using a 1911. On day two about 200 rounds into the day something with the trigger assembly broke. I mean broke as in going to need to send it in for repairs broke.

      I had read a lot of bad things about them in the past, but seeing is believing.

  2. I’m one of those who carries a revolver for its reliability. I understand your argument and respect your view, but I’ve just had too many semi-auto handguns misfire on me–I mean a LOT of misfires–to entrust my life to one. If I was in a situation where I had to use my gun and I pulled the trigger and heard, “click,” that could well be the last sound I ever heard. Just not a chance I’m willing to take. Thus for me, .357 Magnum all the way.

    I also feel comfortable with this decision because, in a scenario where my only available firearm is my EDC, it is extremely likely that I will only be facing one, or maybe two attackers. (Robbery gone bad, violent mugger, etc.) If my enemy is an entire mob, (a) I’d probably have advance notice, (b) in which case I’d rather evade than fight, (c) but if I had no choice but to fight, I wouldn’t be using a handgun at all–AR15 or shotgun would be the go-to weapon. (Preferably both.)

    Really though, as far as CCW goes, I think as long as you have some kind of handgun and you’re proficient in its use, you’re over the preparedness threshold. The difference between carrying or not carrying is huge, but the difference between what kind of gun you’re carrying–probably pretty minimal by comparison.

    • Chris Ray says:

      The way that I train is that if you hear click, you move and tap and rack as you do, never taking your eyes off the threat. If you don’t move, or loose track of the target, than yes, it could be the last sound you hear.

      I agree with you on carrying being the most important thing, well and training to go with it.

  3. HappyClinger says:

    I heard somewhere that the hesitancy to shoot a person in either the military or law enforcement was addressed and improved by using human silhouette targets instead of targets with bulls-eyes on them. Food for thought.

    • Chris Ray says:

      that is part of what they did. Believe it or nor they’ve also got them playing various video games. From modified duck hunter back in the day, to specialized programs for military use only now. There are other things like stress inoculation and others as well.

    • Jon Books says:

      As a soldier in the U.S. Army back in the 90’s…we would shoot at the little Russian silhouette targets at the range…they had real look appearance from afar. The problem was, it was plastic, so some of the rounds would go through a hole already in the target and not fall, for scoring. I’ve been told the Russian targets are longer used…something to do with political correctness (PC) tell me it isn’t so!

  4. I’m still fairly new to firearms. Had shot a 22 & shotgun as a teen in the 70s. Then moved away from home & didn’t shoot until 2 yrs ago, when as a new prepper, I bought 4 guns (22, .40 S &W, .09 glock 17, & 20 gauge). Go to the practice range once a month or 2. Took a CCW class, & learned to practice more at shorter ranges (10-15 ft), & to grip my pistol a bit better. My son just showed me a better grip w/ placing my opposite/left hand better & suggested (rightly) that I was jerking the trigger too fast).

    Next step: take a pistol shooting class sponsored by the NRA. Living in a very rural area & limited budget, hands-on training classes are very limited.

    Warm wishes for a joyous & blessed New Year to Chris & everyone here.

    • Chris Ray says:

      I wish I was closer, I would give you some one on one for free.

      I’m an NRA instructor in most of the handgun classes. The info is decent, but a little outdated; though not so much as to be dangerous or anything.

  5. porkybeans says:

    Yep, revolvers only hold six, that’s why I carry two revolvers. To be honest my revolvers only hold five each, but the JUDGE, with 410 self defense rounds, three mini slugs with 12 BBs behind them, never misses. Each time the trigger is pulled there are 15 projectiles going down range. That’s a lot of stopping power. The 410 pistol shotgun, which is exactly what it is regardless of what anyone says, is the best self defense hand gun in the business. I shoot only shotguns regardless of rather the barrel is 42″ or 3″. Without sounding like a lunatic please allow these words about soldiers, of which I used to be one. Sometimes we did miss on purpose, killing is never nice, and it causes me enough lost sleep even 44 years later. But after teotwawki when I’m protecting my family, hesitating or missing on purpose are not options. After teotwawki we are all soldiers!

  6. I found this article to be a good read and it gave me some food for thought as I tend to be guilty of drawing, shooting and re holstering. I hope that other aspects of my shooting will help fill in the gaps so I don’t have a situation where I draw, shoot and re holster with the bad guy still coming. I do want to point out that when it came to the part of the Military Officers who were killed you have to understand that an officers job is different then his mens. He is busy controlling the fight and communicating with higher for air support, medivac, etc and will not always be actively shooting even though under fire. For example our local national guard unit lost their company commander in Iraq because he unbuttoned from his bradly to get a better look at the fight and took a round to the head. So in my opinion its probably not the best example using military officers due the differences in their jobs verses and NCOs or the soldiers they lead.

    • Chris Ray says:

      I’m glad you found it interesting. One tip that might help break the habit of re-holstering it to practice bringing the firearm back to high ready, scanning left right, and then holstering.

      “I do want to point out that when it came to the part of the Military Officers”

      Sorry, I listed them as two separate groups. The military (infantry) and police officers (patrolmen), not those in command over them.

  7. Snake Plisken says:

    I’ve never practiced reholstering my handguns. The weapon stays drawn and in front of me or by my side until I’m done shooting or the threat is neutralized. Then I holster the weapon.

    Has anyone here every been in a full blown firefight ( other than our men and women in combat?).

    Yep, been there done that and have the scar on my left fore arm to prove it ( step dad and I fought it out in 1976 in the back yard). Thankfully the cops arrived before someone got killed.

    A gunfight is kinda like a personal one on one fist fight. It’s up close and personal. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone. Pretty much sucks.

    The main issue is: are you willing? Are you willing to protect the innocent, your family or yourself? Are you?

    Owning a weapon of any sort is a huge responsibility. I don’t take that lightly.


    Snake Plisken

    BTW, I have a love for both heavy caliber wheel guns and 1911’s!!!!!!

  8. One of the things that I have noticed when everyone is talking about weapons is that no one recommends that you learn to shoot with your “off” hand and practice so you can shoot accurately with either hand. What if your normal dominant hand gets injured? What are you going to do then? I think it should be an important part of anyone willing to have a CCW along with home defense whether you are in a “TEOTWAWKI” situation, or a breaking and entering or home invasion type situation. You need to know as much as possible and be able to defend as much as you care deeply about.

    • Chris Ray says:

      I do recommend people know how to shoot and reload with their off hand. I think 5-10% of rounds should be shot off handed as well.

  9. Yes, muscle-memory is a bit of a misconception, but it does hold true. Once you learn something, muscularly speaking, your body does and will repeat the action. It really is like riding a bike or even walking. Riding a bike can go undusted for years, yet you pick up a bike and you know what to do. Your muscle associations become very closely knit together. But, in like manner, becoming stronger on a bike requires practice. You certainly won’t get better by not using the skill, you won’t get strong, you won’t get quicker.

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