“It’s better than nothing.” It’s the phrase that launched a million snub-nosed revolvers and pocket-sized semi-automatic pistols. “I’d like to carry my full-size gun, but it’s just not practical. So I carry this. It’s only for emergencies, like a parachute. Besides, it’s better than nothing.” While there are plenty of examples of gun owners using a mouse gun to stop a life-threatening attack, generally speaking, it’s not true. Nothing is better than the wrong gun. And for most people, a small gun is the wrong gun. Here’s why mouse guns are a bad choice for self-defense and why you’re better off with nothing . . .

1. You’ll miss

Miniature barrel, non-existent sights, two-finger grip, big recoil. Put it all together and it spells the first four letters of the Hospitality State. When you’re trying to shoot someone, missing them is a no-no. Oh, sorry, I forgot: adrenalin rush, low-light, moving target(s), the need for cover and friendlies you don’t want to kill.

Yes, there is that. On the range, missing a target is no big deal. In real life, every shot that doesn’t hit the bad guy can hit a good guy. And that sucks. Especially if the good guy is someone you know or love.

The argument against the mouse gun’s obvious limitations: “Most gun fights occur at the seven to ten foot range.”

Setting aside the fact that I’ve seen revolver owners miss a paper target at five feet, that oft-quoted number is an average. For every gunfight that occurs at point-blank range, you need one at twenty feet to create the stat.  Truth be told, you don’t know what kind of accuracy you’ll need. But more is always better than less.

A mouse gun’s accuracy depends on two main factors: distance and skill. The further away your target, the more skill you need to hit it. There is a point at which your accuracy is non-existent. A point that’s a LOT closer than it would be if you were using a gun with a longer barrel, a bigger grip, a longer sight radius, proper sights and better recoil control. How much closer? Again, that depends on your skill.

And that depends on your level of training and practice. There are revolver experts who can shoot the eye out of a newt at 40 feet with a snub-nosed revolver. That’s because they’ve got flawless trigger technique, unshakeable recoil control and superb hand-eye coordination. And practice. Lots and lots and lots of practice.

Who the hell wants to practice with a mouse gun? Those things hurt. What’s more, the people who gravitate towards a gun that fits in their purse or front pocket are exactly the type of people who don’t practice. “One of the great ironies,” the rabbi told me this morning. “Is that the people who are least able to shoot buy the hardest gun to shoot.”

And, it must be said, one of the guns least likely to kill someone. Which leads us to . . .

2. You’ll really annoy the bad guy

The point of shooting someone: stop them from attacking you. Bullets are pretty good at that sort of thing (provided you’re shooting them from a gun). Which is why a lot of people who are not au fait with guns buy small revolvers and semis. What they don’t realize: shooting someone with a small bullet may not stop them. Quite the opposite . . .

We’ve discussed stopping power on these e-pages dozens of times. So let’s recap: a bigger bullet has a better chance of hurting someone enough to stop them from trying to hurt you than a smaller one. While we can debate the differences between calibers, it helps to think of 9mm as the dividing line. Anything 9mm and up is your friend. Anything below (.380. .38. 32. .25 .22)  is . . . risky.

The defenders of smaller caliber ammo invariably base their argument on shot placement. “It’s better to hit someone with a .22 than miss them with a .357.” Yes, well, another word for “effective shot placement” is “accuracy.” [See: above.] And if it’s all the same to you, why not have both accuracy and a large caliber bullet? You can! Unless you’ve got a mouse gun.

And here’s the danger: if you shoot someone with a small caliber bullet, they may not die at all. Not one little bit. They may not even feel any pain. But they will realize that you’ve just tried to kill them. And that’s going to get them angry. Which brings us to the “nothing” part of the program . . .

3. You’ll escalate the violence

Careful. I’m not saying that it’s better to appease an attacker than attack them. I’m pointing out that shooting someone—and not hitting them hard or well enough to stop them—is a sure way to increase their level of violence. It may be that they’re already at maximum mayhem. But if they’re not, shooting them with a mouse gun is sure to ratchet up their aggression levels.

4. You’ll miss more effective tactical options

If you don’t have a gun when facing a life or death attack, you’ll do something other than try to shoot your assailant. You’ll run, hit them with something, seek cover, scream, something. All of which would be a LOT more effective than shooting a mouse gun and missing or hitting then with a diddy bullet and pissing them off. If only because fights usually last seconds. You don’t get three or four or five decision points. You usually get one. If you use up valuable time trying to use an ineffective tool, chances are you’ll lose.

As for the “mouse gun as parachute” meme, for most people, a mouse gun is like a parachute with holes. If you knew your parachute wasn’t going to work, well, what then?

31 Responses to Nothing is Better than A Small Gun. Literally.

  1. Most gunfights – aren't. Simply showing a gun (yeah, yeah, I know, the Rabbi don't like that either) but just showing one will quite often cause the other side to back down. Or, if a scream will stop an attack, how about a really really loud bang from a snub-nosed whatever. There's the old saying, if I don't hit them at least they'll shit their pants. Not all gunfights involve fighting off IRA terrorists. So yeah, count me as one in the "Better a small gun than no gun" camp.

  2. What happens when "quite often" isn't? I prefer to rely on a full size gun over a load in the bad guy's pants. Underestimating your adversary (showing a mouse gun) may have deadly consequenses.

  3. I'd prefer a contingent of marines over a full size gun. Better yet, pull out and hit them with an orbital nuke. You can't always pack exactly what you'd want. Face it, having an adversary in the first place may have deadly consequences, regardless of firearm choice. The question isn't a large gun vs. a small gun – according to Robert's logic you either pack a large gun or nothing. So, if you can't have your full size gun, pack a mini or pack nothing? I'd pack a mini and then understand that there are some limitations.

    As for when "quite often" isn't, then you pull the frigging trigger.

  4. As Clint Eastwood says, a man's gotta know his limitations.

    If you can't use a gun effectively, you shouldn't use it. Small guns are FAR harder to master than larger ones, and bigger bullets are better than small ones.

    I reckon the key is to find and carry the best gun (i.e. biggest and largest caliber) you can use with reasonable accuracy (a subjective measure if there ever was one), and train enough so that you understand what you can and can not do with it from various distances in various scenarios.

    How many mouse gun buyers approach it from that direction? Me, I want to "upgrade" to an XD-M 45. I'm not good enough yet. Nor am I good enough to carry a mouse gun. I'm working on it . . .

  5. I used to be leery of "mouse guns."

    But now I own a few, and practice with them, a couple of .380's and even a .32.

    I'd much rather have a mouse gun than a sharp pointy stick or a good-sized rock.

    No matter what caliber handgun I'm carrying (all handgun calibers are puny for self-defense) my first plan is situational awareness, and fleeing the scene if at all possible, while calling 9-1-1.

    The gun is only for a last resort.

    During my "last stand" I really want a gun, not a hammer or a club.

    Even a .22 would give me a chance, if I could get several fast hits in the upper middle chest.

    If there are two attackers, and all I've got is a club or hammer, I think I've got less of a chance than if I've got a reliable mouse gun that I've practiced with.

    But as others have said, practice and familiarity is the key, as it is with anything else.

  6. Robert, I'd only agree insofar as the .25ACP is concerned. To me the flaw of the .25 (besides the fact that most .25 cal pistols are too small to handle with skill) is that it combines the power of a rimfire with the ammo cost of a centerfire.

    Still, there's a lot to be said for choosing a firerarm with which you are proficient, regardless of caliber. Once when I left for an extended trip my wife asked me to leave a pistol for her, "just in case." The pistol she asked for was not the nice new .38 snubby I had just bought her, it was the rather clunky Taurus .22 revolver I had before I even knew her. Why did she prefer the Taurus? Easy: She was familiar with it. She had shot it dozens of times and could make an aluminum can dance from 25 feet. She knew how to shoot it and how to hit what she was shooting at. The more I thought about it the more that made sense. After all, the most valuable weapon you carry is the one between your ears.

  7. Martin Albright, amen on the .25 ACP comments.

    The .25 is like the worst of everything….barely bigger diameter than a .22, with velocity below a .22, and way more expensive than a .22

    • I live in AZ and most of the year clothing is kinda skimpy. The purpose of a mouse gun (A 38 revolver is not a mouse gun) is the ability to be armed with something at all times. People laugh at the .25 auto. I owned one for years. If I practiced I found I could hit the target. Years ago a big beer drinking logger was killed by his wife with one shot from a 25 auto. Dropped like a stone. My favorite caliber is the .327 Federal. That said I am a big fan of dependable mouse guns. When you need it and don’t have it….

  8. I don't think that a mouse gun is for a running gun battle through Fallujah. They are primarily for women to use to avoid being kidnapped and/or raped. If you opponent is close enough to touch with the barrel, then you should be able to hit whatever is in front of the barrel.

    • I agree except for the sexist remark. (aren't we beyond the "Guns for Women" meme?)

      It works well for small frame people who have difficulty concealing a larger gun, or for times when deep concealment is paramount.

      Nope, not ideal guns at all (then again handguns kinda suck when you look at overall ballistics) but far better than the stupid remark of "you’re better off with nothing ".

  9. Sometimes it is all you can carry. Don't show it, just pull in up close, put it in their eye, and fire. That is how you use a small gun, up close and personal.

  10. All good points,but; any reliable data available to back up the author's arguments? It would be instructive to access real-world encounters involving the use of mouse guns in stress fire situations. Thanks

  11. Man, I thought I was a non-mouse gunner myself, but after reading this, I'm not sure. I agree that the average thug does not want a gunfight, he wants a victim. Any gun displayed will probably scare him off. But, what if it doesn't?

    Ok, first, don't even think about .25acp as a gun. I have seen .25 bounce off clothing from 20 feet. I saw this with my own eyes. The target was a nylon jacket like a members only (it was the 80s, give me a break. It was a target after all). The load was a FMJ, I don't remember the weight. The .22 went through, and as stated above, costs about 1/4 as much.

    There are a lot of fans of the .32acp. Sorry, Im not one of them. IMHO, if you insist on carrying a smaller round, carry a .380. There are a number of small .380s that are only slightly larger than a .22. I have become a big fan of kel-tec products. I have shot the p3at, and found it to be accurate and reliable (and cheap).

    Personally, I don't carry anything smaller than a 9mm. My latest acquisition is a Kel Tec PF9. It will be used as an alternative to my G26 and PT-145 (which is having some problems). The PF9 is only slightly larger than the average .380, but holds 7+1 of the more effective (and cheaper to practice with) 9mm. They are selling for right at $200 too. This is a gun that will take some getting used to though. It is small and light which means that it will be harder to shoot that a full size gun. Maybe not a good "first gun"?

    As for reliability? A broken .45 is not as good as a reliable 9mm. Any gun you consider should be tested (after at least 100 rounds for break in) with at least 50 rounds of the load you intend to carry. More would be better. The gun should work in almost any position. Yea, you should be able to hold it gangsta style with no feed problems. I also would not waste my money on those dollar a round super bullets. Find a decent hollow point that is cheap enough to practice with. Your carry piece should also be the one thing in your life that is maintained. Maybe you let your oil changes get behind? You Windows people may leave your defrag for another month. Don't take chances with your carry piece. Clean it often and go to the range and practice, practice, practice.

    Didn't mean to get so long winded, but there are so many variables in choosing a carry piece. My rule has always been "carry the biggest, baddest, gun that I can fit in my pocket". I hope I never have to shoot anyone, but I refuse to allow my family to be at some criminals mercy.

  12. I carry anything from .45 ACP (Officer’s Model), .38 Special (Model 642 J Frame), to 9 MM Parabellum (Keltec P-11 or Browning Hi-Power). First requirement for weapon is reliability. Second requirement is for me to be able to hit the target effectively.
    I like the J frame better since I put laser grips on it; the P-11 is now my last choice at night, since I’ve got lasers on all the rest. By the way–I subscribe to the bigger hole theory for self defense handgun applications– but you must be able to make holes where they count (and good quality self defense ammo is required). The smaller the gun, the harder that becomes, especially without practice. Carry what you can practice with and hit with, and what will make the most effect when it hits! I rule out .380’s and .44 magnums — personally, I’m comfortable with most of what’s in between. That ‘better than nothing…’ argument is so lame…

  13. I have a .25 titan, mirror image of the one at the top of the page. While it does not have size, caliber or capacity on its side, from 0-10 feet it is capable of keyhole accuracy. My .45 caliber (High-Point yes, reliable and accurate, also yes, bought for price and durability, I have to feed my family AND defend them, so I can’t spend too much on my arsenal ) is my mainstay, and I would rather not use the .25 unless it was all I had handy, but therein lies the tale…. The .25 won’t drop anyone, but its low recoil and accuracy means its entire magazine can get pumped into places that it doesn’t take a big bullet to do a lot of damage. Yeah I would rather just double-tap with the .45, but nine rounds of .25 in a weapon that (with good velocity loads) can reliable put into eye socket, jugular, and any other exposed soft target as easily as most others can hit center mass targets is far better than nothing. On the flip side, at eleven feet the accuracy drops off and gets worse from there, the barrel is short and while my sights are spot on, well with the anemic round and tiny pistol if I expected more I would need committed asap. Sorry to run on so far, but figured I would put in my two bits. It is better than nothing, but only as a pocket backup for a larger sidearm in my view.

  14. Also, while ammo is pricey, I still put a box through it every few months, as I train at least once a month so as to not allow rust to develop.

  15. “Nothing is Better than A Small Gun. Literally.” is not a very well thought-out premise.

    As with most issues in life, it depends on a variety of factors.

    A “mousegun” .380 can be lethal. A 1911 that is not practical to carry concealed in summer clothing may not be with you if you need it.

    Carrying a “mousegun” does not mean one is underestimating their “adversary”. As someone else pointed out, having an “adversary” would be a mistake in the first place. As others have pointed out, MOST criminals do not want a gunfight, they just want a victim. Displaying a gun has deterred more crimes than actually shooting someone has stopped crimes in progress.

    Sure, a paranoid raging tweaker or psychotic spree killer MAY get angry if you shoot them with a “mousegun”, but they are already past the point of de-escalation anyone. Put enough holes in the right places and any gun can stop any man.

    If all else fails and lead starts flying, I’d rather have a .380 than no weapon.

  16. I thought this site was called the TRUTH about guns! Several big problems with this story.

    First, the author lists a .38 as smaller than a 9mm. a .38 uses basically the same diameter bullet, but usually a heavier one with more kinetic energy and more velocity. Add +P and his 9mm is left choking on the .38’s dust. A .380 incidentally, is the same diameter bullet as a 9mm with a shorter case. (9X17 instead of 9X19)

    Second, at least one study of real world self defense rates the .380 as the MOST effective self defense caliber, with .22 coming in second. This study was based on actual real world data. The author of the study’s thought is the quick follow up shots made the difference. The author is a police trainer with an extensive background in firearms training.
    http://www.buckeyefirearms.org//node/7866

    I think this article should have been based on research rather than conjecture and the author’s apparent opinion that everyone needs to carry a gun similar to his. 80% of the time, a crime is stopped by the sight of a gun. Of the remaining 20 criminals, 13 or so will stop whether you hit them or not at the sound of a gun firing. 93% is a pretty good chance, and DEFINITELY better than nothing!

  17. Take a look at a hole just one a .25 round puts clean through 2 x 6 wood and you’ll pray a deadly round like that never hits your much more fragile body!

  18. if its only for home,
    the biggest thing you can point and shoot straight, provided you practice and know how to use it
    if its for ‘carry’
    what ever you can actually hit the intended target with and will carry with you, “not leave it at home”
    a 380 or 25 on your person is better than the magnum you left at home
    forget this body shot BS.. get some bad guy targets and shoot for the mouth
    any hit in the head is good, neck, heart ,spine etc..
    practice…practice…practice..

  19. Just a bunch of bs. “Most”bad guys will flee and cower if shot at. The ones that would rather fight than flight and want to engage close range are going to have a bad day. You are telling people they are better off bare fisted, wow. I’ve done a lot of 380 testing and there are defensive rounds that actually pack just as much punch as some standard pressure 9mm defensive rounds. (Fiocchi with xtp bullets are amazing!) agreed that without proper training it’s risky but most time having the gun outweighs the risk … Not much training is needed for a point blank head or belly shot that could save your life where a bare handed punch would not.

  20. Check your data on ammunition before you post nothing more than your tard-o opinion of mouse guns! I love my 3″ Kimber Ultra Carry CDP ll in .45acp. It has a huge amount of stopping power. (Remember, check the data).

    But…..try carrying it when you’re wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Kinda sucks when your pants are down to your ankles in the produce isle because you cannon yanked them off. Now both of your cannons are giving the word “printing” a whole new meaning!

    My .380 Micro Desert Eagle is “ALWAYS” on me when I leave my home. The data of real life shooting situations and statistics clearly show that the .380 caliber bullet has a great amount of “threat” stopping power. Even compared to the 9mm round. I have all sorts of caliber carry guns, but I LOVE my M.D.E. .380.

    Seven quick hallow point shots to the head and chest at 5 feet will, believe me, stop almost anybody. And if by some miracle they are not dead, they are seriously not a threat any longer. Nothing left for them to do except cry, scream, and bleed while I call 911.

    There’s no way the author even read any information on the .380 caliber with having such a terribly inaccurate description of its capabilities, let alone having such a rediculous opinion of “having no weapon is better than a mouse gun”. Ever hear sombody scream “quick, hurry up, I need help, go grab me…….nothing”? Thought not.

    BTW, what we don’t ever talk about is the fact that if we are ever in a position that we have to shoot someone, chances are we’ll shit our own pants. So I guess it’s a good idea to carry your mouse gun wrapped in a fresh pair of underwear too.

    That said, just remember what the mouse did to the elephant…..your Honor I rest my case!

  21. I enjoy talking to people about guns. One thing I hear way too often is that they only carry a 40 or a 45 because that’s the only thing powerful enough to take someone down. When I ask if they have it on them their response is “no I don’t right now, but I usually do”. I always carry my 380 and I’m much better off than someone who’s only willing to have a 40 or 45 and never carry it.

  22. I’ve shot 9mm from a “full-size” gun AND .32 from a mouse gun. I would not want to be hit by either, not even once. They are both deadly. Many who say otherwise should go out and shoot them if they haven’t. It’s easy to overlook how deadly even a small caliber can be if only reading about them online or in paper. Look at Lee Harvey Oswald and Robert F Kennedy; both of them died from single .22 shots, and Oswald was only hit once in the chest.
    My small glock 26 9mm is simply too big to carry around with me all the time. I like to walk around with a t-shirt and jeans, or shorts, especially in warmer weather, and a full size pistol is just not as convenient or comfortable or concealable as something like a so-called “mouse-gun”. Yes, I’d rather have one of these mini guns than a full-size when casually walking around. AND I would feel safe.
    The reality is for most people, they will never need to use their gun in a gunfight anyway, and in most of those rare situations where you actually would need one, either gun would accomplish that task, which many times would be as simple as showing the aggressor that you are armed. I would rather be extremely comfortable and enjoy my life on a day-to-day basis, rather then sacrifice that everyday for the increased size of a bigger gun that in all likelihood would be unnecessary. And again, they are both deadly.
    As I have heard said before, “Better a small gun in your hand then a big gun in the safe”. A mouse gun is the only thing I could carry everyday with no noticeable difference in my day to day life. And in all likelihood, would accomplish what I needed it to in the extremely rare chance I actually needed a firearm.

  23. TIf the objective is to stop the agressor, not to assure that he dies even the mid-size guns far from guarantee that.

    Additionally carrying a backup gun and lots of expensive range time for ammunition with a high powered but physically small unpleast to shoot gun.

    I have taken a different path. I carry a light, highly concealeabke Beretta that fires cheap 22lr ammo. Fun to shoot at range means higher proficiency. Too small to stop an attack? Probably.

    So I wear a quickly accessed pepper spray on my belt. Quicker to draw than a concealed gun., Much more likely to instantly slow down or stop an attacker.Plenty of time for me to pull my Beretta from my pocket. If the situation has been neutralied the Beretta remains backup. If not I can escalate and likely am in a strong position to place my shots to assure maximum damage.

    The weapons back each other up and provide me the opportunity to choose to escalate or not. Together they weigh almost nothing, I do not need to conceal my first weapon, I can draw it faster than a gun, I can stop an assault temporarily as well as a large weapon. Legally I will be on much firmer ground to the measured responsored of pepper spray and a tiny gun.

    FYI I live in NH with an incredibly low crime rate so what feels like adequate protection here may not be so for Detroit. My theory is that the best way to outwit the bad guy is to live somewhere he doesnt.

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