That's a loaded question. (Sorry, but I just couldn't resist the pun.)
That's a question I ask every time I read yet another ridiculous article. Convoluted (or completely absent) logic, factual errors, reliance on outdated or inappropriately applied data are all issues with far too many writers. The "old days" weren't much better, either; I can find articles from some of the past luminaries in the gunwriting game which aren't exactly paragons of research or fact. They were, however, far more entertaining and generally better written.
Greg Ellifritz, however, answered the question better than I ever could (or perhaps would.) That's mainly because he's less reticent about calling a spade a spade than I am. Go read his article about an article he read - and what he thought of it (and its author.)
My reaction to the article was much like his. Now don't get me wrong; this is not to say that I'm always right (nor that Ellifritz is either.) What I hope, with every article or book, is that I've done my research properly, that I've analyzed my own experiences from as neutral a perspective as possible, and that I'm open to the possibility that I may not know everything. The author of the article Ellifritz dissects appears to have done none of that, and thus perpetuates hoary myths that should have been put down years ago.
Go read his article; it's worth your time.
-=[ Grant ]=-
The latest internet rumor, apparently from the proprietor of a gun store back east, is that U.S. Customs is holding up containers of imported smokeless powder on the orders of the White House. This, it's claimed, is the reason that powder - for both reloaders and ammunition manufacturers - is in such short supply.
Ed Harris, who many of you will recognize as one of the longstanding voices of sanity in the gun industry, has access to people the rest of us don't. When I call Hodgdon Powder Co., for instance, I get a Customer Service Rep. When Ed calls, he gets Chris Hodgdon - which is exactly what happened a few days ago, and this is what Ed related to me of their conversation:
“[Chris] says that the story [the gun shop] related about US Customs playing games with containers waiting to come into the country is nothing but an Internet rumor.
He says that since the President was re-elected that demand for powder has exceeded anything they have ever seen. They are importing more powder than they ever have, and shipping over 100,000 lbs. a month but the market is absorbing it instantly. Their supply is the greatest it has ever been and it is still not enough. The market has gone crazy since Obama’s re-election.
Hodgdon asks dealers and consumers to be patient. Panic buying is driving the current shortage. It is likely to continue until the administration is required to move onto some other, serious world crisis probably unrelated to gun control…… Then we will have something else to worry about."
There you have it, folks, straight from the horse's mouth. People are simply buying up everything that's being produced, even though it's being produced and shipped in record amounts.
As to the source of the rumor, my general rule of thumb is this: if you hear something from someone behind the counter in a gun store, it's probably false. Just like this rumor.
-=[ Grant ]=-
I was going to share this with you last week, but then the whole RECOIL mess came up and pre-empted my planned programming!
Over at the Vuurwapen blog is the entry "Why I Don't Care If Military Or Police Use Certain Items", and it's all about the silliness of picking a gun (or anything else for that matter) because a particular police or military group uses it. It's a good read.
There are a bunch of logic failures associated with that kind of aspirational marketing or consumption, but unfortunately people fall for them constantly:
- Let's say you've got one police agency using a specific gun (like, oh, the Kimber) and you make your decision based on that. What if another agency that picks, say, the HK P7? They can't both be "best", so how do you make your choice with such contradictory endorsements? What usually happens is that people actually end up arguing about which agency is the best/toughest/most respected, as if that somehow validates their choice - and therefore yours.
- Use of a specific product by any group isn't proof that it is superior to any other choice under all conditions. In fact, it isn't even proof that it's a superior choice for any specific conditions! The testing and procurement process is byzantine in complexity and subject to many kinds of coercion and meddling, from kickbacks by vendors to top brass intervening in the process to influence the selection of their personal favorites. That a product manages to survive that process isn't proof of any intrinsic superiority. Our cops and our troops often end up with inferior gear and supplies, but for some reason the private sector looks upon the failures as having the same stamp of quality as the successes. (CLP, anyone?)
- The presence of an NSN doesn't even mean the product is even being used by the people who are presumably using it. Lots of products that have an NSN aren't actually wanted or needed by the people on the front lines, but they're invariably sold to you as being "the choice of our brave men and women!" Look at the marketing of gun cleaning and lubrication products; when any product claims to be in use with Navy Seals, complete with the NSN, it's probably bunk. And even if it were true, that still doesn't mean it's the best choice for THEM, let alone you!
- Finally, remember that the procurement process (when it works) is designed to get a product that is minimally acceptable for its purpose at the lowest cost to the agency. It's useful to remember what the late, great Alan Shephard once said: "It's a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one's safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract." Not very reassuring, is it?
You need to make your purchasing decisions based on an honest assessment of your needs and the product's suitability for your purpose, not internet loudmouths going by names like Geck045 who drone on about how their gun "must" be the best because "LAPD don't buy junk!"
Yes, they do. Very often.
-=[ Grant ]=-
An article by Greg Ellifritz, titled "An Alternate Look at Handgun Stopping Power", caused some waves a few weeks back. Like all such attempts at quantifying shooting incidents, it suffers from a lack of strictly filtered data and results in less adherence to statistical principles and methods than I would like (no confidence interval, for instance.)
I acknowledge that this is a problem with all shooting studies, simply because no two bullet paths are ever identical. I think it’s important to understand that one must be extremely careful about applying any such study in a prescriptive manner, and cognizant of the potential inaccuracies that are part and parcel of the kind of data being studied. That being said, I think Ellifritz gives us a much more realistic look at the topic than Marshall & Sanow ever did.
Even with my reservations, there much in his compilation that I think is interesting from a training standpoint (even if it might not be a completely reliable predictor.) Take, for instance, the number of people who failed to be incapacitated by shots fired. His figures for all calibers remain remarkably consistent, hovering around 13%, right down to the lowly .380 ACP. Below that, the numbers more than double but again remain surprisingly consistent.
The reason this is interesting is because today's training emphasizes engagement until the threat ceases activity. In the old days, when lots of people believed that certain calibers were magic wands, the common training was to shoot two rounds and assess the situation. This was aided and abetted by the bogus one-stop-shot percentages that were all the rage at the time (and continue to be in certain circles.)
Thankfully that changed as more and more people noticed that bad guys didn't always stop with the first round, and that the best course of action was to keep shooting until he did. That's the norm today: shoot until the threat ceases (though there are still some backwaters where the outdated techniques are still taught with gusto.)
If we’re going to shoot until the threat goes away, are there any calibers which won’t reliably achieve that goal? Not as many as you might think.
If his data is reliable it would tend to support my long-held view that there is a floor beneath which calibers are not terribly effective for self defense, and that the floor is probably lower than most gunnies will admit. I know more than one gunstore goon who sneers at the .380ACP, yet I've met people who've used it quite successfully. Ellifritz's article suggests that their successes were not unusual.
Those same people think I'm daft for loading my revolvers with "only" .38 +P rounds instead of the .357 Magnum, but I'm more than comfortable with my choice because I know it's based on a rational assessment of its performance over a long period of time.
One thing to keep in mind: a lack of incapacitation does not mean that the rounds failed their job! Even though not incapacitated, the bad guys may have changed their minds and stopped their activity without being physiologically forced to do so. That's just one of the problems with blindly applying data from these kinds of studies, because the lesser calibers might in fact be more useful than this would suggest. Still, it is a different way of looking at the issue.
Bottom line: pick your gun based on your ability to use it efficiently, practice frequently and realistically with it, and you'll be far more prepared than the average gunshow denizen who loudly proclaims that all good self defense calibers must begin with '.4'.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Wednesday, February 04, 2009 Filed in: Revolvers, Techniques & Training, Shooting industry, General gun stuff
I've written about this before, but it's getting worse. All across this country are people standing behind gun counters who need to be taught that women are people, too.
I've lost track of the number of times I've run into a woman who was sold (as opposed to deciding to buy) a revolver for self defense. Now it should be pretty clear to even the densest web denizen that this is a revolver-friendly blog, so it should not come as a shock that I think revolvers are a great tool.
They are not necessarily, however, the right tool. As I mentioned last week, the revolver is the easiest gun in the world to shoot, but the most difficult gun to shoot well. That long, heavy (in stock configuration) trigger requires a certain amount of hand strength, without which the gun cannot be fired.
Herein lies the problem: the female of the species, in general, tends to have less strength in her digits than does the male. It's not unusual, therefore, to find a woman saddled with a brand-new revolver on which she cannot manipulate the trigger. I've seen countless numbers of women who actually have to use two fingers to get the trigger moving!
It's not so much a matter of gun fit (though that enters into the equation far too often), but simply the trigger offering more resistance than a slim finger is capable of overcoming. In reality most women would really be better served with the shorter, lighter trigger action of an autoloading pistol, but the wisdom of the gunstore commando is that autoloaders are just "too complicated for the little lady."
Hey, Bubba, I've got news for you: women actually drive cars these days! Yes, automobiles, with their myriad switches and levers and pedals and buttons. Women have no problem figuring those things out, yet you think they can't handle the concept of a slide stop lever?
The usual rejoinder is that women don't have the upper body strength to manipulate the slide of an autoloader. This is fact turned on it's side to bolster a flawed assumption; yes, women tend not to have our arm strength, but that deficiency can be rendered immaterial through proper technique. It's a simple matter, and nearly any female (and a more enlightened male) firearms instructor can teach it inside of thirty seconds.
This whole issue wouldn't bother me so much - and I wouldn't be writing about it again - but the inferiority attitude is so pervasive that some women are themselves buying into the notion that they're not "capable" of handling an autoloader. I've actually had students to whom I've taught the autoloader manipulation techniques (and who've shot very well with one) go out and end up with a revolver. Not because they wanted one, mind you, but because some dolt behind a counter convinced her that it was all she could handle.
Mind you, I'm not some new-age "sensitive man". I'm as big a neanderthal as the next guy; I believe that women and men are different, and you can thank your favorite deity for the difference! I'm just tired of people assuming that my wife, sisters, nieces, and mother are so stupid that they can't handle a simple mechanical device. I'm annoyed that they are doing their level best to indoctrinate women to this nonsensical point of view, and I'm appalled that it actually seems to be gaining some traction among women themselves!
I don't have a prescription for this problem, other than to continue to educate every person - man or woman - I run across. If that means I repeat myself every so often, I'm willing to do so. I hope you'll forgive me!
Yes, revolvers are wonderful, but they're not for everyone. We need to help people to make intelligent decisions, and if that means they choose a self-shucker, so be it. Heretical? No, just realistic.
-=[ Grant ]=-