|Dirty Harry S&W 629*|
I thought he went on a bit long, frankly. A minor detail, that safety. I didn't need the history of safeties, who'd invented them, their various types and styles. I get it.
But he drawled on, "Well, have you ever carried one?" Silence. "A handgun, I mean." More silence. "Do you know how it feels?" All I felt was an embarrassed blush, a hot-flash, sorta. I'm sure I stained my tee-shirt. "Well, do you know how you sit, whether you change your gait?"
I remember I looked out the window, wondered if leaping would hurt. Well, not the leap, really, but the other end of it, the part down on the flagstones, the squashed-flat part. How much would that hurt, or would I notice at all?
"Do you touch it for assurance?" he said.
That one caught me.
I ignored my dirty mind for once. If I were carrying a weapon and I got nervous, wouldn't I touch it? Of course I would; I'd wanna know that baby was there, especially if I were new to being armed. In fact, I'd be self-conscious of it, act a bit too casual. I'd look at people, wondering if they knew...
He came at me again. "Do you check whether you've been printed?" A beat. "Do you know what that term means?"
If on Jeopardy, I'd have pushed the button.
My answer wasn't his point. "Son," he said, "you don't piss off gunners. Or people who know about guns. There are a lot of them." He took a breath. "And they'll catch your errors every time, point them out to you, paint you the fool." He paused. "You can't do that."
I thought about a Bang Ben Blog, sponsored by the NRA maybe. [Yeah, we authors are a bit self-possessed. We think people read our books.]
So, lest you follow my fate, heads-up. Here are some pointers.
A .22 caliber bullet -- unless it's a .22 Magnum, an entirely different round -- will not pass through a skull. It'll rattle around inside like a BB in a bottle, causing massive damage while it bounces and disintegrates, which is why the .22 caliber round is in the Mob Hall of Fame.
There's an enormous difference between a .357 fired from a semi-automatic weapon and one fired from a revolver. While their ballistics may be nearly identical, put these shells next to each other and they're Mutt and Fat Jeff.. The .357 case is much longer than the .357 Sig, and the .357 Sig case is much wider -- squat -- than the .357's. The .357 is a revolver shell; the .357 Sig belongs only in semi-autos; they don't date.
Shoot either a .357 or a .357 Sig indoors in a confined space without hearing protection and you'll be deaf...probably forever. Magnum rounds of any caliber are loud. That's why I do not recommend these rounds for home defense. More likely than not, if you need this weapon, you will not be wearing ears. Even outdoors, a magnum round in .357 or .44 will deafen you for awhile. But .38 Special rounds can be used in place of .357s in revolvers, as .44 Special rounds can used in place of Dirty Harry's .44 Magnum round. Shoot either the .38 Special or the .44 Special indoors in a closed room, and you'll be deaf, but you'll likely recover.
.38 Special and the .38 Super are not the same rounds. Some fools don't understand this.
The 10 mm is a hunting handgiun round. It's got good range. Originally developed after a disastrous FBI bank robbery in Miami, where agents died through blunder, bad luck and insufficient weaponry, the 10 mm got axed because too powerful, carried too far. Some ammo tinkerer at Smith & Wesson cut down the round case and powder charge, and the .40 S&W caliber debuted. A reasonable compromise: more stopping power than the .38 Special and 9mm, but not as lethal as the 10 mm or the Mighty .45.
Shoot any gun inside a car, and say goodbye to your hearing.
Don't shoot a handgun sideways, you know, the way gangs wave them on TV. Even idiots should realize muzzle-flip will spray bullets sideways. Shoot your wife, and the second shot hits her mother. Uh, wait... There's an exception to this rule...
When firing a semi-auto, you will probably hold your support hand under your shooting hand, perhaps a bit forward so as to control muzzle-flip, which occurs when firing any handgun. Doing so with a revolver will leave your support hand burned, as hot gases release from the side of the chamber. So when firing a revolver, put your support hand slightly behind your shooting hand, under it. Or shoot one-handed, called "Point and Shoot." Some pistols are better at Point and Shoot than others. Glocks, for instance. A Glock pistol grip is slanted differently than revolvers or most other handguns. Some like this Glock feature; some hate it. But if your perp or protag isn't used to shooting a Glock, the difference may affect his or her accuracy. Glocks shoot point-and-shoot well. So do Springfield XDs and XDms, or S&W M&Ps. Beretta, not so much. Yet, Berettas are supplied to our infantry troops.
Some guns will bite you, especially if you grip the pistol high or place your support hand too high. The Sig P210, perhaps the most accurate production handgun ever manufactured, is known for this, as is the Browning.
Some manufacturers add a Beavertail to protect against hammer-bite. A Beavertail is shown below, immediately under the gun's hammer. The man who invented the Beavertail, Ed Brown, is perhaps the premier semi-auto handgun manufacturer in the world. The gun shown is one of Brown's. One of these new will set you back well over three grand.
All handguns are oily, some more so than others. The more premium the pistol, the more oily it will be. Semi-autos have numerous rubbing metal parts. So semi-autos are oilier than revolvers, Glocks being an exception. (More about Glocks later.) Premium guns are made to extremely tight tolerances, which is why they're so accurate. By the same token, because of these tight tolerances, you get oily.
Revolvers are often more accurate than semi-autos. That's because the cylinder is in a direct line with the barrel. Semi-autos must perform more functions than a simple revolver cylinder rotation and hammer release. They must extract a cartridge, lift another one, and line it up into the barrel. If you open a semi-auto up and take the barrel out, you'll see a wider area at the cylinder end than at the muzzle. Unless the semi-auto is made to extremely tight tolerances, as with the rare and very expensive Sig P-210, expect larger firing groups than with a revolver.
Most handguns, revolver or semi-auto, are more accurate than the shooter. Handguns are not accurate inherently. They have shorter barrel lengths than rifles, so have shorter sight-lines. In a NYC police shooting study performed some years ago, analysts determined that at a distance of under ten feet, only about twelve percent of police shots hit their target. But then, it's a fallacy that cops are good shooters. Most only shoot their firearms when forced to qualify, often only once a year. And in some cities, firing ranges are non-existent. So range time is hard to come by.
Hollow point bullets are safer than full metal jacket bullets. That's because a hollow point bullet will usually stay within the victim, causing massive damage. It usually will not penetrate and cause harm to bystanders behind the target. A full metal jacket bullet will usually pass through the target, causing harm to those even several hundred feet behind the target.
Glocks are abundant because they're cheap, they require little maintenance and they always go bang. Many shooters never bother to clean a Glock, and their pistols just keep firing. For this reason, one may not find much lube on a Glock. It doesn't require much. Ask what pistol cops prefer, and they'll probably respond Sig Sauer. That's because Sigs fit the hand so well. But a classic Sig will cost you almost double what you pay for a Glock, which is why police forces buy them.
|Glocks are ugly, but they work|
Glocks come in a variety of sizes and calibers, more so than any other pistol. For a Glock model chart, see below.
|17||9 mm||17||7.32"||5.43"||1.18"||6.49"||4.49"||22.04 oz||2.75 oz||~9.87 oz||~5.5lbs|
|17L||9 mm||17||8.85"||5.43"||1.18"||8.07"||6.02"||23.63 oz||2.75 oz||~9.87 oz||~4.5 lbs|
|19||9 mm||15||6.85"||5.00"||1.18"||6.02"||4.02"||20.99 oz||2.46 oz||~8.99 oz||~5.5 lbs|
|20||10 mm||15||7.59"||5.47"||1.27"||6.77"||4.60"||27.68 oz||2.64 oz||~11.46 oz||~5.5 lbs|
|21||.45 ACP||13||7.59"||5.47"||1.27"||6.77"||4.60"||~5.5 lbs|
|21SF||.45 ACP||13||7.59"||5.47"||1.27"||6.77"||4.60"||26.28 oz||3.1 oz||~12 oz||~5.5 lbs|
|22||.40||15||7.32"||5.43"||1.18"||6.49"||4.49"||22.92 oz||2.75 oz||~11.46 oz||~5.5 lbs|
|23||.40||13||6.85"||5.00"||1.18"||6.02"||4.02"||21.16 oz||2.46 oz||~9.87 oz||~5.5 lbs|
|24||.40||15||8.85"||5.43"||1.18"||8.07"||6.02"||26.70 oz||2.75 oz||~11.46 oz||~4.5 lbs|
|25||.380 ACP||15||6.85"||5.00"||1.18"||6.02"||4.02"||20.11 oz||2.40 oz||~7.2 oz||~5.5 lbs|
|26||9 mm||10||6.29"||4.17"||1.18"||5.67"||3.46"||19.75 oz||1.98 oz||~6.35 oz||~5.5 lbs|
|27||.40||9||6.29"||4.17"||1.18"||5.67"||3.46"||19.75 oz||2.12 oz||~7.23 oz||~5.5 lbs|
|28||.380 ACP||10||6.29"||4.17"||1.18"||5.67"||3.46"||18.66 oz||1.98 oz||~5.11 oz||~5.5 lbs|
|29||10 mm||10||6.77"||4.45"||1.27"||5.95"||3.78"||24.69 oz||2.40 oz||~8.29 oz||~5.5 lbs|
|30||.45 ACP||10||6.77"||4.76"||1.27"||5.95"||3.78"||23.99 oz||2.50 oz||~9.87 oz||~5.5 lbs|
|31||.357 sig||15||7.32"||5.43"||1.18"||6.49"||4.49"||23.28 oz||2.75 oz||~9.87 oz||~5.5 lbs|
|32||.357 sig||13||6.85"||5.00"||1.18"||6.02"||4.02"||21.52 oz||2.46 oz||~8.64 oz||~5.5 lbs|
|33||.357 sig||9||6.29"||4.17"||1.18"||5.67"||3.46"||19.75 oz||2.12 oz||~6.88 oz||~5.5 lbs|
|34||9 mm||17||8.15"||5.43"||1.18"||7.56"||5.32"||22.92 oz||2.75 oz||~9.87 oz||~4.5 lbs|
|35||.40||15||8.15"||5.43"||1.18"||7.56"||5.32"||24.52 oz||2.75 oz||~11.46 oz||~4.5 lbs|
|36||.45 ACP||6||6.77"||4.76"||1.13"||6.18"||3.78"||20.11 oz||2.40 oz||~6.88 oz||~5.5 lbs|
|37||.45 GAP||10||7.32"||5.51"||1.18"||6.49"||4.49"||25.95 oz||2.68 oz||~9.53 oz||~5.5lbs|
|38||.45 GAP||8||6.85"||5.00"||1.18"||6.02"||4.02"||24.16 oz||~7.76 oz||~5.5lbs|
|39||.45 GAP||6||6.30"||4.17"||1.18"||5.67"||3.46"||19.33 oz||7.76 oz||~5.5lbs|
Glocks, and models based upon the Glock design, like the Springfield XD and XDm, are striker-fired pistols. Experts debate whether a Glock is a single-action pistol, which must first be cocked to fire, or double-action, in which cocking is part of the trigger action. The Glock is actually neither. As a striker-fired pistol, it and its brethren, are in a class by themselves.
Double-action, single-action pistols, often preferred by shooters, start in double-action, then once the first shot is fired, the pistol cocks itself for another shot. The DAK pistol, patented by Sig, is double-action only. The "K" stands for "Konstant," at least to most shooters. (It actually stands for the name of its inventor). DAK trigger-pulls don't vary. They're always the same, so a cop knows exactly where the trigger-break occurs in the shooting cycle. With double-action, single-action pistols, the trigger pull-weight for the first shot, unless cocked, will be greater than for the single-action shot. The difference adds variety and may surprise a novice -- or one who forgets the gun is cocked. The pull weight variable can be a much as six pounds or more.
Oops, forgot my finger was on the trigger. Just blew out my knee.
The longer the barrel of any pistol, the less recoil experienced. Trust me, shooting a short barrel .44 Magnum is not fun. I've seen videos of unsuspecting first-time shooters, and I chuckle as the barrel strikes their noggin.
Shoot any semi-auto with less than a firm grip and you won't get a second shot. That's because the action requires a firm resistance in order to cycle. What you'll end up with if you limp-wrist the shot, is what's called a stove-top, where the shell only partially ejects. You'll have to eject the magazine, clear the jam, re-insert the mag and re-jack the slide for the pistol to become operative again. And some semi-autos come with a grip safety, which will not permit the pistol to fire unless firmly grasped.
Speaking of jacking the slide, you cannot just insert a magazine and pull the trigger in a semi-auto and expect the gun to bang. First, you must rack (or jack) the slide. Professional trainers will instruct you to do this by pulling on the serrated back of the slide, rather than pushing back over the breech from the front serrations. That's because if you jack the slide from the front, you may catch part of your hand in the open breach. A very painful pinch, which will probably break the skin. I did it last weekend. Ouch! Talk about blood blisters... I turned to my shooting buddy and showed him my wound. He laughed and said, "Happens to us all, dude."
And it does.
Professional trainers recommend not using the slide-release button on the side of the pistol to rack the slide. There's no guarantee the buttoned release-pressure will be sufficient to load a round. Jacking the slide, i.e. pulling it back and releasing, does the best job. You know that round is ready.
Never, ever flip a revolver's cylinder back into place. You'll likely damage the cylinder, preventing rotation. You see this done on television and in the movies, but those folks don't care about reality; they're entertainment. Try that with someone else's revolver, and you'll make the owner very unhappy. Try it in a gun shop, and you may buy a new gun.
Classic Sigs and Glocks don't have safeties. Neither do revolvers.
The Colt Python has the smoothest revolver action ever created. No longer manufactured, they are the definition of "revolver cool."
Never carry an expensive gun, unless you want to lose it if you fire it at someone. Doesn't matter if you hit your target or not. The cops will take it, and they don't maintain custodial guns with quality care.
There are now four generations of Glocks, each one varying from the one before it. The latest, the fourth generation, is only available now in two models. This will change as Glock refurbishes their entire line. The primary difference in the fourth generation pistol is the choice of backstraps, i.e. the back of the grip. The intent is to allow shooters to choose a backstrap to fit their hand. It's a modification Glock picked up from Springfield's XD and XDm lines.
Much has been made of the new Springfield XD and XDm models, and rightfully so. The XD is a plastic gun like the Glock, and its design is based upon the Glock, but the Springfield has some refinements, notably three choices of backstrap, a Glock-like price, and a hard case, an auto-loader and a holster -- right-hand only -- all thrown in. The XDm is a similar gun, but with some additional refinements, such as a match barrel; smoother trigger; more capacity, and de-burring... so you don't catch in your draw.
More and more semi-autos are plastic, with steel barrels and slides. While some purists prefer all-steel semi-autos, the reasons for these changes are production cost related, and they're lighter than full metal versions -- an advantage if you carry in summer. There's no difference in quality, however, just weight, cost and a slight increase in perceived recoil.
After much deliberation and experimentation, the pistols I carry are a Glock 26 for concealed carry and car-gun, and a Springfield XDm when I carry openly, like at the range. (I don't usually carry concealed, just when I'm writing. I notice how I walk, sit and act. It's called practice. So I know what I'm writing about.)
One of the more interesting revolver designs in the last hundred years is Taurus the Judge, a five round pistol that shoots a .45 Colt Wild West style... or a .410 shotgun shell. Mix 'em up: bird, buck, slug or bullet. This revolver comes in various barrel lengths and in either a 2 1/2" chamber or a 3" chamber. I've owned both, and gave my brother in law -- a judge -- the smaller one. The pistol gets its name because judges like them. Varied, escalating rounds are measured responses to perceived threat levels -- just what you'd expect from a judge.
Besides, the look, smoke and fire of this dragon might scare an attacker to death. Just look at the size of the cylinder. Think of a three inch shotgun shell. Taurus the Judge might not kill a bear, but the bear would certainly take notice. Check out Kevin Bacon in Death Sentence, blowing off steel bathroom doors, or watch this video.
|Taurus the Judge|
For some reason, .380s are all the rage. Just find ammo for one. But almost nobody recommends a .380 for defense, for while the bullet itself is almost the same as the 9mm, the .38 Special and the .357, the case and type and amount of powder behind the bullet make it the shrimp of the family. A hollow point .380 shell might not pierce a leather jacket, or even a heavy sweatshirt. And there's no guarantee a full metal jacketed round will penetrate far enough to do damage to an attacker. If pros or cops use them at all, it's usually as a third backup gun only -- for when all else has failed.
No, most cops will tell you the minimum caliber for home defense should be a 9mm or a .38 Special. A .45? Anyone shot by a .45 caliber bullet will go down. None of the smaller calibers provide that assurance. And over-penetration? Studies in ballistic jelly show a 9mm more likely to penetrate and keep going, because its got a smaller mass than a .45. Still, experts can argue about the issue all they want. Everybody knows the best home defense gun is a shotgun. But in a handgun, I'll take the .40 S&W or the .45. The Judge is loud, and I might burn the bedding. No, the .40 S&W looks like a good trade-off to me, unless one's talking about revolvers, in which case, I'd go .45. I don't think revolvers shoot the .40 S&W bullet.
9mm Parabellum = 9mm Luger = 9mm NATO. They're the same thing.
|A .380 round would appear between the two little guys on the right|
Never put your finger on the trigger before you're ready to shoot. It just isn't done. Somebody says boo, you'll shoot your foot.
For a Rightie, shots patterning to the left mean either too much wind or too much trigger-finger. Shots patterning right mean too much wind or too little finger. Shots all over the place, mean you flinched. Warning: Flinch times vary; some people never open their eyes. People may die; maybe the flincher.
Don't make up a grain number, for powder or bullet, unless it's a wildcat round you know is feasible or it's a commercial or military round. If you don't know what "wildcat round" means, Google it. Some things are easy.
Any forensics expert will tell you, if you fire a handgun, you'll leave powder residue on your body and your clothing. If you're gonna have your perp wear plastic gloves, make sure of two things: They cover exposed skin, and your finger fits in the trigger-guard. Playtex long-arm plastic gloves might not be feasible. And don't go through an airport screener the day after you've been shooting. Those machine sensors are as sensitive to gun-gas as TSA junk-grabbers are to what Kim Kardashian's crammed in her cleavage.
And if you have questions, don't bother me. I'm in TSA training.
* Dirty Harry's gun was this model in blued form, known as the Model 29. In Stainless, it's the 629.