Self-Defense Tip: Change Guns, Change Strategy

Gemini Customs Smith & Wesson 642 (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

I’m all about training as you mean to fight. I’m completely on board with the “beware of the man with one gun” philosophy. I’m as dumb as you wanna be when it comes to the Keep It Simple Stupid. So I train with my GLOCK 19. A lot. And I concentrate on the basics: move and shoot, shoot and move, clear the gun, reload, hit the damn target (and variations thereof). I have every confidence that I will do something useful in a defensive gun use, should I be able to unholster my firearm at the appropriate moment. But I don’t always carry my GLOCK 19. This OWB OFWG sometimes carries a Kahr PM-9. Or a Gemini Customs Smith & Wesson 642. And when I do I change the way I think about my self-defense strategy. For one thing, capacity . . .

When I’m carrying the Smith I’ve got five hollow-point .38s to bring to bear on the bad guy. There’s no way I’m reloading that bad boy during a full adrenal dump. Even if I could, I can’t. I don’t carry extra ammo. Well not until I published this article and outed myself.

Even though the Gem’s had a trigger job and I’ve practice plenty with my pistolero, I’m no Jerry Miculek. To ensure accuracy, I reserve the right to run towards my attacker. Maybe even place the gun into his or her armpit before firing.

Did I say bad guy? What if there’s more than one attacker? Then I damn well better make sure one or more of those five bullets finds its target. To do that, I might add proximity (as above) or take a little more time to aim. Or screw that and run away faster. Or start looking for a secondary weapon even as I use my primary. Long distance shots? Fuhgeddabouttit.

If I’m carrying my Kahr, I’ve got more options—as you’d expect when you’re hauling around an easy refill semi with six rounds in situ and seven in reserve. I’m way more accurate with the PM-9 as well; I can hit my target more reliably at a greater distance (10 to 15 yards?). All of which means I might fire more rounds at my attacker or attackers initially. Or maybe spread ’em out: a few initially and a few as I retreat.

The weapon also influences my choice of cover or concealment. With the Smith I know I better find cover because I’d be ballistically played. With the Kahr I might— I repeat might—choose concealment first; knowing that I’d still be in the fight.

If I’m carrying my GLOCK with 16 rounds in the gun and 15 in my pocket (as is my wont) I’ve got access to a world of ballistic solutions. For one thing, I can continue firing at an attacker—rapidly—until I know he’s done. Or I effect my escape or evasion. And still have bullets left if the threat continues or new threats arise. What’s more I can shoot my GLOCK accurately from 15 yards, maybe more, depending.

Rocking the GLOCK is more difficult—but more relaxing—than schlepping the Smith or carrying the Kahr. But I’m a bit fatalistic about all this. If push comes to shove you gotta make the best out of what happens using whatever you have. Establishing gun-specific performance parameters before the s hits the f can help.

comments

  1. avatar gs650g says:

    5 rounds should be enough for 1 or 2 assailants at bad breath distances. 6 or 7 shots for a trio. And half a box of ammo in the Glock should cover a zomie hoard.

    1. avatar Hannibal says:

      I think you may be overestimating the ability of handgun rounds to take someone down quickly. It might happen, it might not.

      But a 5 shot gun is worlds better than nothing.

      1. avatar Cliff H says:

        While I have not seen definitive research on this subject, if the robbery videos we frequently see on TV are any indicator five shots (in most situations, YMMV) should be more than enough. Even with multiple BGs it seems in most cases the most serious chance of injury is when the perps trip over each other in their rush to find the exit.

        1. avatar styrgwillidar says:

          “If..” “…in most cases…” You will not be in a situation which is the average, mean or typical of most scenarios.

          You will be in the s**t personally chosen for you by the fates/deity of your choice, the only circumstances under your control being the preparations you made (training, planning, equipment). And Murphy may have chosen for you the desperate, determined, tough and nasty perp who will take a round or two and keep right on coming. Or in the words of the immortal Groucho Marx

          ” I could go on talking to you kids forever, but its time to play You Bet Your Life.”

    2. avatar Kelvin Jones says:

      Seriously you guys are hilarious. You know i Always laugh at guys like you who think 5, 6, 7 or 8 rounds are enough to deal with a bad guy. Here’s a story about a cop who hit a guy 14 times with .45 acp rounds 6 of which were vital and it took 3 head shots to stop him shooting at the cop. http://www.policeone.com/patrol-issues/articles/6199620-Why-one-cop-carries-145-rounds-of-ammo-on-the-job/ Thats only one of many many many stories i’ve heard. Just for fun google search how many times a person can be shot and survive, there’s some who’ve been hit 30+ times with ar15 (223) rounds and survived. Adrenaline, Drugs and the will to live can be powerful. Fyi the guy the cop shot 14 times tested clean of any stimulants.

  2. avatar Michael B. says:

    I primarily carry my Ruger LCR .357 in my pocket. I shoot it very decently and I’m not worried about the fact it only carries five rounds because most of the stuff that goes down happens at really close range.

    I’m better off drawing from my pocket real quick (and maybe discreetly having my hand on the gun before an attack) than pulling up my shirt, drawing from my IWB holster, etc. It’s just faster for me.

    Fact of the matter is, the odds I’ll ever need to use a gun in self-defense are slim and the odds of me ever having to fire more than three or four shots in a self-defense scenario are far slimmer.

    If I run out of .357 it’s time to pop smoke and unass the A-O.

  3. avatar Charles5 says:

    I pretty much carry the Glock 26 everywhere now. 10+1 when I need to be more discreet, and 15+1 when I can carry a little more openly/less concealed.

  4. avatar jwm says:

    Carry 2 j frames. That way you’re covered for malfunctions and a New York reload.

    1. avatar S.CROCK says:

      you carry? i thought you were from ca.

      1. avatar Allbaniaaaaa says:

        Constitutional carry. Judged by 12 or carried by 6? Etc etc

      2. avatar jwm says:

        A gentlemen’s agreement between myself and a local cop precludes me from carrying anymore. But I still have my j frame on me at home. And a recent range trip involving an ammo malfunction convinced me that 1 is none. Carry 2 or don’t carry.

    2. avatar Andy says:

      I agree with you on the NY reload,I carry a CA 9 mm Pitbull backed up by a CA DAO .38 Undercover also carry a Quick Strip for each caliber in the pocket.As for the Pitbull after I got it I sent it in to CA and had the DAO hammer that fits the MagPug installed , due to the PB being on the same frame as the MP , this is so much easier since I carry in the appendix carry and also on the opposite side very easy to draw and bring into action.I am ambidextrous so I can fire just as well with either hand ,also can reload weapon with either hand.Be prepared and ready.Keep your powder dry.

  5. avatar Fug says:

    While you’re on the subject, one of the main reasons to carry a full size, metal (preferably steel) pistol is the capacity to effectively “buffalo” or “pistol whip” an assailant. You don’t always need to shoot an attacker. Again, that is…

    It would be interesting to try it with something like an SP-01 that has a full accessory rail or a big double action revolver. That way you could use the front of the weapon and get some nice leverage with your strike.

    1. avatar Accur81 says:

      Pistol whipping someone with a loaded firearm is a stupid idea. I’d much rather use a knife as a backup, or a different gun.

      1. avatar DJ says:

        I don’t think it would be my first option, either – but it did work rather well for Wyatt Earp, who apparently pistol whipped a lot more guys than he shot.

      2. avatar Barstow Cowboy says:

        DJ is right. I’ve seen it done in movies dozens of times probably, and each time the whipee immediately goes comatose, and I’ve never seen it result in a negligent discharge.

        1. avatar jwm says:

          In WV a cop pistol whipped a man. The gun went off and struck an elderly man in the head. Cop was charged and convicted. About 30 years ago. Only one I know of.

      3. avatar Fug says:

        I’m not really talking about backup. The whole theme here is what to do when you just have one weapon. You may have shot someone once already, it may only take non lethal force to subdue them at that point. With the right frame material, a large handgun can be an effective blunt instrument.

        Traditional old west buffalo technique relied on using the long barrel of a revolver to strike, which is why I suggested larger framed weapons. A large frame, steel weapon with enough length could easily crack someone’s skull.

        If the weapon is drop safe with a firing pin block, I don’t see how it could go off when you strike someone with it. Obviously your finger should not be in the trigger guard and it is only applicable to specific handguns. It would be inadvisable with a grip safety or on a gun with the firing pin block removed or never there to begin with.

      4. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        And pistol-whipping people with certain guns can damage the gun to a point where you’re going to wish you hadn’t done it.

        Colt double-action revolvers, for example.

    2. avatar Ted says:

      Heavy is good, heavy is reliable, if it does not work you can always hit him with it.

  6. avatar Mark N. says:

    I can’t imagine being in a situation outside the house where I’d need more than a couple of shots–so 7+1 suits. Around here, I’d be much more likely to have an intruder in the house–and there I have plenty of options.

    1. avatar Kelvin Jones says:

      You know i Always laugh at guys like you who think 5, 6, 7 or 8 rounds are enough to deal with a bad guy. Here’s a story about a cop who hit a guy 14 times with .45 acp rounds 6 of which were vital and it took 3 head shots to stop him shooting at the cop. http://www.policeone.com/patrol-issues/articles/6199620-Why-one-cop-carries-145-rounds-of-ammo-on-the-job/ Thats only one of many many many stories i’ve heard. Just for fun google search how many times a person can be shot and survive, there’s some who’ve been hit 30+ times with ar15 (223) rounds and survived. Adrenaline, Drugs and the will to live can be powerful. Fyi the guy the cop shot 14 times tested clean of any stimulants.

  7. avatar Anmut says:

    Robert – how much muzzle flash do you get from that 642 with those ports??

    1. avatar Robert Farago says:

      Some.

      1. avatar Anmut says:

        Video or it didn’t happen.

  8. avatar Hondo Gibbs says:

    Robert, do the holes in your 642 help with recoil? Do you have a video comparing a compensated 642 vs a non-compensated 642?

    1. avatar Robert Farago says:

      I can do that. Thanks for the idea.

  9. avatar OODAloop says:

    So why change guns then? Pick something that’s in the middle of all of that and run with it as your full-time carry. I picked a single stack 9mm- light, slim, good follow-up shots, 9+1 and another 9 in my pocket. Less messing around with different holsters, train with the same firearm all the time, use the same tactics. KISS, baby, KISS.

    And yes, it is a 1911 (EMP), thank you for asking.

    1. avatar Hannibal says:

      Yeah that was my idea… lasted about a month till gun #2 got bought…

      1. avatar OODAloop says:

        I’ve got dozens of firearms, but I only carry one and it goes to every class, training session and range trip with me. Emerson might have written that “consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” however I’ve taken very intensive classes where I’m solely running on auto-pilot for the draw and presentation and there’s definitely something to be said for having one gun.

        1. avatar ropingdown says:

          Emerson was just being catty, as are people who quote his version. He was intentionally misquoting the more famous version from Johnson, “Consistency in trivial matters is the hobgoblin of small minds.” The “trivial matters” part was key to the quote.

          I can’t imagine both thinking that carry is very important, but switching specific models (weight, barrel length, action type, etc.) more often than necessary. A pistol isn’t a fashion accessory. It is something you need to fire at extreme speed under intense pressure. “A gentleman rarely needs a pistol, but when he does he needs it very badly.” Churchill. I’m all for small guns in suitably arranged pocket carry or holsters. I think people who carry various guns as primary are never actually are in danger, and know it. Opinionated, ain’t I?!

  10. avatar Pete says:

    I agree with Robert. KISS is great, but you got a brain for a reason. Planning on not needing it is probably not the way to go. Just sayin.

    1. avatar OODAloop says:

      But your brain doesn’t work well under pressure. Instinctually knowing how many rounds you have left is very powerful knowledge. You won’t get that by swapping between firearms constantly.

      1. avatar Pete says:

        You can instinctually keep track of how many rounds you’ve shot? Out of how many? (I find that real hard to believe)

        Also you aren’t swapping randomly, you are still picking weapons you know well. If you can do it for one, you can do it for three (or whatever).

  11. avatar Vhyrus says:

    I don’t say this often about guns, but that revolver is sexy.

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      Have you seen RF’s Gemini Customs SP101? I never wanted a revolver before I saw that gun, and now… sigh. That thing gives me a little bit of a hip-pocket feeling.

      Here: http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2011/05/robert-farago/obscure-object-of-desire-gemini-customs-ruger-sp101/

      1. avatar BillF says:

        Well shit. There’s something else I need.

  12. avatar NotoriousAPP says:

    Damn I love Gemini Customs work. Mark over at Gemini still has my SP101, should be in my hands in 2-3 weeks, then I get to play “look at my pretty piece” with all my friends.

  13. avatar tdiinva says:

    You should be constantly evolving until you reach an optimum that suits you best at a given point in time. I have found that JMB designs suit my eye the best so I replaced my XDm compact 9 with a Browning Hi Power. The Browning has the most benign recoil of any centerfire pistol I have ever shot which is a big plus since I carry it when I walk my dogs. Under those circumstances it’s going be a one handed shot. And I agree with Fug when you have a steel framed pistol you have bludgeon as well as a gun.

  14. avatar scooter says:

    Just test-drove an FN .45. 15 rounds of 230 grain persuasion? Win!

  15. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    The way I look at it, you’re unlikely to ever need even a single bullet, let alone 31. The odds are astronomically against ever having to fire the first round. Now if you have to fire the first round, unless you’re packing a 44 magnum you’d best squeeze off another 2 or 3. After that the odds of needing additional bullets drops dramatically. The last thought in the bad guy’s buddies’ minds will be whether that’s a 5 shot or a 6 shot revolver. In a country of 300 million people with 300 million firearms, there’s maybe one case a year where a non LEO or a non criminal needs to replace a 15 round magazine to continue the fight. The most important thing IMHO is not what you carry or even how prolific you are with it but that you are mentally prepared to handle the situation when it happens. Your brain is going to be telling you that what you are seeing can’t possibly be actually happening and once you do accept that it is happening you’re likely to panic. You can train all you want, and it’s fun and probably helps, but keeping a cool head is 99% of the battle.

    So carry what you want and have fun shooting it.

  16. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    I don’t understand what possible advantage there is in putting porting onto a snubbie’s barrel.

    It isn’t as tho you’re developing full velocity in a snubbie already. Dumping pressure out before you get to the muzzle seems a waste of a precious resource in a snubbie — not to mention a good way of going deaf quickly.

    1. avatar Accur81 says:

      I couldn’t agree more.

    2. avatar Matt in FL says:

      I feel like you’re forgetting the “because it looks cool” reason.

    3. avatar Jack says:

      The advantage is less muzzle flip, which should improve accuracy.

      1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        Yea, I’ve heard that for years.

        Sadly, being a retired engineer, I have this penchant for numbers showing me results. I’ve yet to see any quantification answering my question “how much less muzzle flip?” do these porting jobs give.

        I say this, BTW, as a guy who owns comp’ed IPSC race guns. Unless I load my race guns with a particular powder and bullet, the effects of the comp are negligible. For example, on my race 1911, it has a big two-port comp. Unless I’m loading with 185gr pills and lots of powder, the comp might as well not be there. When shooting 230gr ball .45 ACP ammo, I can’t even notice a difference between my comp’ed 1911 and a regular 1911. If I load my 9×21 race gun (with a four-port comp) to 9×19 loadings, again, the comp might as well not exist. Only when I choose a powder and a pill to get an excess of gas can I “light up” the comp to a point where I honestly believe that the muzzle is being kept “flatter” than without.

        Given my experience, unless the user of a revolver like the one pictured is shooting light bullets with an excess of powder, that porting won’t amount to much.

        1. avatar Jack says:

          I suppose it would be hard to quantify. But I’ve got a Masterpiece Arms Protector that has a ported barrel. It’s a diminutive .380 with no sights, and it stays right on target, shot after shot. Muzzle flip is negligible. I’m pretty sure that the ballistics out of that thing are unimpressive, but it is surprisingly easy to shoot.

  17. avatar Actually says:

    With the semi you also have to worry about contact shots. They could push the slide out of battery, or cause a malfunction if the first shot does go off.

  18. avatar Accur81 says:

    I have virtually the same philosophy, although my primary carry pieces alternate between a Glock 23, 27, or Smith 340 PD loaded with .38 +P.

  19. avatar NavyVet73 says:

    RF, when hauling the PM9 you have “an easy refill semi with six rounds in situ and seven in reserve”? I would hope you put one in the pipe, then top off and reinsert the 6-round mag. That gives me 7 rounds in situ on my MK9. 😉

  20. avatar Ron says:

    I’m not sure I can get all warn n fuzzy over a J Frame that has been ported. I tend to believe that a high percentage of defensive encounters will take place at bad breath/contact distance. The distance between good guy & bad guy might be measured in inches. In consideration of that I doubt I want a Dragon Gun burning the hair out of my nostrils while I may be forced to shoot.

    I have the luxury of being able to shoot in the dark (not common on public ranges) and having done so enough times I realize that that extra muzzle flash rising up in front of you is rather blinding.

    Nancy Reagan told me just say NO, and I believe I will say no to porting on a carry gun.

    1. avatar tom w a glock says:

      While I can understand your concern, I have to point out that my sweetheart’s Glock 19c was in her arsenal & fired regularly. without her even suspecting it was compensated. I carry Glock compact frame models in 9mm, .40s&w, compensated or not. Never encountered enough flash to notice a difference exccept in .357sig. I do suspect that at close quarters, muzzle flash will provide a disincentive to grabbing my weapon by the barrel/slide.

  21. avatar LMJ says:

    Always carry extra ammo. You will burn through faster than you think. If one trains with a variety of weapons (revolver and glock as I do too), when the buzzer sounds, you engage with a view to completing the “scenario”–whatever that might be. With a wheel gun, you train to reload sooner. If you have your glock hat on, but you find yourself carrying a j-frame, be prepared to reload sooner, moving while shooting, heading to cover no matter what weapon you are carrying.

    If one shoots his weapon dry, but tactically cannot reload, transition to other tools. Better have other tools–knife, spray, tac-light, cane, sword.

    A few extra speed strips, each with 6 extra rounds of 38sp, is a comforting thought in a multiple target engagement.

  22. avatar ready,fire,aim says:

    1st you need to get rid of the cheap version of the OTC grips and get the next model up they have a rubber grip instead of plastic (doesn’t make your hand hurt as bad) and theirs room for your pinky 2nd “There’s no way I’m reloading that bad boy during a full adrenal dump. Even if I could, I can’t. I don’t carry extra ammo. 2 word’s….. speed-loader…by now you must have realized that i carry the same set-up

  23. avatar Lars says:

    9mm and .380? What a poor choice of calibers for carry. Why do so many people hold onto the 9mm for carry defense? .380 is just a ridiculously weak caliber and that’s why when I heard glock is coming out with civilian versions of the .380 I just shook my head.
    Out of all the moments in life where you may come across an instance where one would need to defend themselves they decide on inferior calibers. I find this so strange. While I understand weight and length is an issue with carry and especially conceal there are plenty of superior caliber handgun models that are compact enough for a man to carry, most women to. Recoil for a shooter should not be a big issue, shot placement is. Anyone can learn to deal with excessive recoil say for a weaker shooter carrying a g30, 36, 32, 33 and even the weakened .40 in 23 or 27, or the 29 which both me and my soon to be wife carry. She is 5′ 5″ 110 maybe, I’m 5′ 11″ 235. While recoil is a more noticeable issue with her when firing her draw speed and shot placement is as quick as mine or most I’ve seen. So don’t use the excuse of whining about how heavy or big the gun is or how hard the recoil is if a woman who is a few lbs. away from a 10 mph wind taking her away is successfully shooting and conceal/carrying a 10mm glock. She was the only one out of 13 women without a 9mm in her carry class, in my class out of maybe 30 people only a few had .45 and .40 everyone else 9mm and .380 and one soul had a 357sig. So this practice of carrying inferior caliber firearms is the norm. Maybe it’s mostly people who get to shoot many calibers often that can figure the caliber truth thing out better IDK, then the follow me or die folks like James Yeager who swear the 9mm is thee best handgun round ever who get tons of range time with many calibers maybe they know better or maybe they are just the exception to the rule. Maybe it’s as simple as believing more is good as in mag capacity, if that’s the case sounds like those people need more range practice. Or the fact that any caliber bullet can kill, or it could be a popular thing to where novices just getting into carry have had the 9mm name pumped into their brain over and over through film and tv. While all calibers ballistics beat the armor most humans carry which is skin and bones and typical clothing, there is something called real world experience in which case after case of police/fbi shootings have proven that the 9mm round is not a effective round much of the time.–end of rant.
    Away from glock there are many other makes and models of larger caliber carry guns as well to chose from.
    As to the actual point of the article of course you can use more than one carry piece, as long as you train with them all.

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      See though, here’s the thing. 9mm is not a horrible caliber. It performs well, and it’s carried by many police departments and military units. It gets the job done. Some would say not as well as a .45, but I’m not looking to start a caliber war here. (Besides, .40 S&W, especially out of an XDm, is clearly the perfect caliber.)

      I personally carry a .380. I own a .40, but it doesn’t fit my life at the present time. So I carry a .380. Because the gun you’re carrying is better than the gun you left at home because it wasn’t comfortable or you couldn’t dress around it. I do not live a dangerous life; I do not do stupid things in stupid places with stupid people. As such, having to use a gun to defend my life or property is a black swan event that I choose to not rejigger my entire life around. It’s a calculated risk on a continuum, and everyone has to find their own place on that continuum.

      As far as you and your intended, well, everyone’s different. See: continuum. Some folks are afraid of the .45. (When I knew nothing, I bought into the hype and thought a .45 was “too much gun” for me. 9mm seemed weak, based on absolutely zero research on my part. The .40 seemed like a good compromise. I’d probably make that decision differently today.) Some people just find the .40 and 10mm unpleasant to shoot. “Well, that won’t matter when you’re defending your life!” Yeah, yeah, I know. But again, defending my life is an unlikely event, and between now and that-time-which-may-never-come I will probably spend a lot of time at the range recreating with my gun, and if it’s unpleasant to shoot, I will do less of that, which means less practice, which puts an upper limit on my chances of performing well if push ever really does come to shove.

      That works the other way, too, by the way. There are pocket .380s that weight less than a mouse fart and are easily forgettable. However, they’re damned unpleasant to shoot, and I like to go to the range. So instead of a lighter-than-air polymer .380, I chose a SIG P238. Its steel frame is heavier, and less forgettable, and you can’t really just drop it in a pocket, but it’s got a great trigger, it’s very comfortable to shoot, and it’s a blast at the range. I know that all the range time I spend with it will help my muscle memory and skillset if I ever have to use it defensively.

      With regard to the statistics of the carry class you talk about, one thing to keep in mind is many of those folks just recently got their gun (or may have borrowed it from someone), and may not be experienced enough to know what they want. I personally took my carry permit class with my .40, because it was the only handgun I owned at the time. I think if I had that purchase to do over, first, I know I’d have bought the compact version of my XDm for concealability, and second, I may have chosen .45 instead. (BLASPHEMY!) Some of those folks in that concealed carry class who attended with 9mm will likely change it up later to something bigger, whether that’s a considered choice after serious investigation or simply because they listen to someone who told them the 9mm was crap, as you’re doing. Conversely, some folks who took the class with a bigger caliber will later find themselves carrying something smaller like a pocket nine or .380 because that’s what fits their lifestyle, and again, the gun you have is always better than the gun you leave at home.

    2. avatar MDC says:

      Your soon to be wife is a keeper in my book. Any women liking the 10 Mike Mike is a keeper. My lady likes the G20 with Underwood Ammo coming out the pipe.

  24. avatar Jack says:

    People are free to choose whatever platform they like. Even if someone chooses to carry a relatively weak caliber, the important thing is that they’re exercising a civil right that many people are trying to destroy. They’ve overcome the antigun propaganda that we see every day. They should be lauded, not criticized.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Exactly. +1000.

      The first rule of carrying a defensive weapon is to carry it. If it’s too big, too heavy, too inconvenient, then you won’t carry it. In which case, why did you get all that training, the CCW, etc?

      I’d rather have a snub-nosed revolver in .22LR with me than the .45 ACP I left at home in my nightstand.

  25. “I’d rather have a snub-nosed revolver in .22LR with me than the .45 ACP I left at home in my nightstand.”

    A-frickin’-men. And that’s said as someone who’s a big fan of the .45 ACP.

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