Tuesday, November 8, 2011

3 Firearms 4 Life, Part I: Survival in the City

File Under: With Both Barrels

Copyright (c) 2011 The Demotivators
Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV  | Part V | Part VI | Part VII

Now I am no tactical or hunting expert, having never served in law enforcement or the military.  Nevertheless, a fun topic to talk about on the Internet, both seriously and whimsically, is what 5 firearms would you want to have in your possession for “X” situation. So I ask can one really expect to carry 5 useful firearms in most situations where they are reasonably able to do so? I suppose if you break some of rules about carry options you could easily carry 5 pistols and/or revolvers. If needed you could carry 3 pistols/reolverss and 2 long armss, though I cannot imagine you would be happy or very expeditious in your movements. If you are Rambo you can even carry 3 long arms and 2 sidearms, but we have not even begun talking about ammunition and other gear. Having something is of little benefit if it is not where you need it when you need it. If you ever are forced to leave one behind that firearm quickly becomes really non-useful. Therefore, I am going to have to yellow-card 5-Firearm lists and say 5 firearms is not only too generous but nigh bordering implausible. I want to have to put some earnest consideration into my ideal list, so what number makes this a challenging exercise and rests firmly within the land of reason? For this discussion, I will limit the number of firearms you can have for “X” situation to three. Using these 3 firearms you must fulfill the overarching need of the situation while still being able to fulfill the other roles of a firearm: self-defense, home defense, survival, and recreation.

In everyday life all rules and laws still apply and you can reasonably rely on the infrastructure of the society in which you live (don't laugh this is serious). Food, water, and other resources can be acquired readily without resorting to violence. Your home is your home and you travel from there to your place of employment or other places of interest on a regular basis. Your primary goal is your personal and home protection, at all times. In all likelihood carrying a long arm openly is not only illegal but counterproductive to what you want to accomplish – your safety and security. To this end, you will need options that allow you to do so at -ALL- times. The applicable laws and economy of your area will mitigate your selections. That said, the only firearm you can conceal on your person at all times, year-round is a pistol or revolver. The concealed carry laws of my state stipulate that with my permit I may carry 1 pistol and/or 1 revolver. Therefore my primary firearm is a semi-automatic pistol and my secondary firearm is a revolver. 

The reason I chose a pistol and a revolver rather than 2 pistols is already explained, but some may wonder why carry the extra weight of a revolver rather than additional ammunition for my pistol? The answer is that if I am transitioning from one firearm to another it will be for 1 of 2 reasons: either a) my primary firearm has expended all of its rounds without stopping all threats or b) my primary firearm has a malfunction which I cannot or should not address at that moment and I need to continue sending bullets downrange. Additional ammunition may not be beneficial to the first situation and definitely will not help the second. Moreover, in my opinion a firearm fulfilling the “secondary” role should have greater than or equal incapacitating ability and as much firepower as feasibly possible, in the event of situation one. Simply put your sidearm is an inadequate defensive tool in comparison to your long arms, does it really make sense to go from an inadequate firearm to one that is even more inadequate? The revolver has a caliber and platform that uniquely satisfies this criteria. Finally, the technical simplicity and reliability of a revolver make it an ideal choice to hand to a (trustworthy and competent) friendly shooter in a defensive scenario.

The following are my 3 Firearms 4 Everyday City Life:
  • A compact or full-sized semi-automatic pistol chambered in: 9x19mm Parabellum (9mm), .40 S&W, or .45 ACP
Springfield Armory XDm 40 3.8
Chamber: .40 S&W
3.8” barrel
16 round magazine
Polymer frame / Stainless steel slide
28 ounces
Trigger safety, grip safety, adjustable grip, ambidextrous magazine release, accessory rail
Retail: 595 – 630.00 USD
Alternatives: Taurus 24/7 G2, Glock 17/21/22

  • A compact or medium frame revolver, with a capacity of 5+ rounds chambered in .357 Magnum with a 3 or 4” barrel weighing about 28 ounces
Taurus Tracker Model 627
.357 Magnum
4” barrel
7 round capacity
Steel frame / rubber grip
28.8 ounces
Ported, DS/SA, adjustable rear sight
Retail: 474.00 USD
Alternatives: Ruger SP101

  • A 12 gauge pump-action shotgun with a 18-20” barrel.
Mossberg 835 Ulti-Mag
Chamber: 12 gauge 2 ¾”, 3”, 3 ½”
20” barrel
5 round magazine
blued steel / synthetic
7 ¼ pounds
adjustable trigger, overbored vent-rib, thumbhole stock
Retail: 420 – 450.00 USD
Alternatives: Remington 870, Mossberg 500/590, Maverick 88, Ithaca Model 37. H&R Pardner Pump Protector, Savage Arms Stevens Model 320/350

Well, now you have it.  You can avoid my pedantic explanations by skipping the rest if you only came here for cool pictures or to see if I agreed with your favorite firearms.  For your pistol, the choice of frame will depend on what you can comfortably hold, control, and effectively conceal. Sub-compact firearms are lighter, easier to conceal, and may provide a better grip for individuals with smaller hands, however conventional wisdom holds that these firearms with their shorter sight radius and ultra-lightness are harder to shoot for new shooters in the 3 preferred calibers for self-defense. The caliber will depend on what is affordable for you to practice with until your accuracy and precision is something which you can bank your life or the life of a friend/family member. You will want to practice a minimum of once, preferably twice or more a month, every month firing a minimum of 200-400 rounds through your everyday carry firearms. Some will question the exclusion of the .380 ACP from the list of preferred calibers, while I do believe the .380 ACP is the minimum caliber that can be included in any self-defense strategy I do not believe it can fill the role of a primary or secondary firearm due to performance, firepower, handling, and cost. This round is relegated to the niche roles of backup firearm or ultra-concealed, the former of which my 2 firearm CCW setup does not allow and the latter I avoid by avoiding situations that demand it as this is often a matter of preparation or choice.

Once you've solved the logistics and economics of fielding a firearm and you've practiced presentation, grip, stance, and Mozambique drills until you have nightmares of neon silhouettes returning from the dead for revenge ...it is largely up to you to put the bullets where they need to go in a self-defense scenario.  As long as the bullet can reach something important, pistol or revolver caliber is largely irrelevant if you put it right there.  Thus any of the Big 3 will serve you well, some better in certain areas, but all well overall.  That said, I have selected the .40 S&W as my caliber of choice and a 180-grain bonded jacketed hollow point (JHP), for the ammunition. In the most important areas of concern: penetration, tissue damage, and capacity, the .40 S&W is a perfect compromise between the 9mm and the .45 ACP. The bullet is heavier and more massive than 9mm and at standard pressures it can be faster than 9mm while remaining subsonic. This is important as the critical components to deep penetration are velocity and mass; a bonded bullet will help prevent shallow penetration and fragmentation. Good ammunition in this caliber can routinely achieve the minimum 12” of penetration deemed necessary by the FBI to reach vital organs from all angles and through different barriers, without over-penetration becoming an issue. The unexpanded diameter of .400” is sufficient enough to cause a serious permanent wound cavity.  Further, a wider bullet not only creates a wider whole facilitating faster blood-loss but it also offers an increased chance to strike something important (vital organs or central nervous system) in the event of a near miss. In an ideal situation, a well-crafted hollow point bullet can easily expand to 1.5x or more its initial diameter, meaning in the case of the .40 S&W the target now has a minimum .600” hole in it compared to .534” with a 9mm.

There is a statistic floating around the internet that states individuals struck once by a bullet have a high (to the number of 80-85%) chance of surviving the encounter, whereas individuals struck at minimum just twice have a vastly higher (90%) chance of -NOT- surviving. While this analysis is unconfirmed it stands up to a certain degree of reason – if you are bleeding from two holes you will pass out (and possibly expire) a lot faster than if you were bleeding from one and the more you are struck the more likely you are to receive a wound to a vital area. Therefore the final question is how many threats can I stop with the number of rounds in a standard magazine of the firearm I have chosen? Using the ubiquitous Glock 17 (9mm, 17 rounds), Glock 22 (.40 S&W, 15 rounds), and Glock 21 (.45 ACP, 13 rounds) as reference platforms we determine you can handle approximately 5-8, 5-7, and 4-6 threats respectively under semi-ideal situations employing double or triple “taps” if necessary. The ability to deal with 5 threats is “good enough,” and probably slightly unrealistic given the level of proficiency with a pistol even the most tenacious civilian has and the fact that defensive situations will never be even “semi-ideal.”

Rounding out your list of considerations should be (in order of descending importance): recoil, learning curve, economy, and ubiquity (commonness). Recoil is the upward and reward motion of the firearm that occurs when the bullet exits the muzzle. This will affect your ability to reacquire sight alignment and sight picture, thus affecting how quickly you can fire (with precision) again. Recoil control is largely a matter of good fundamentals and repetitive training. The .40 S&W is intermediate in recoil between 9mm and .45 ACP, though this may initially be too much and cause training issues for some. This bleeds into the next few secondary concerns. Learning to shoot the .40 S&W in a full-sized pistol without acquiring negative shooting habits rests subjectively between the 9mm and .45 ACP. If you cannot shoot it accurately or precisely it is useless to you. Moreover, while not as cheap as 9mm, good quality training and personal defense ammunition is cheaper than .45 ACP. Without question, you cannot train with or utilize what you do not own; however, no matter what price-point you buy at the quality of the firearm, parts, and ammunition trumps the actual cost. Finally, in the United States these 3 calibers are fairly common and thus so are their firearms and replacement parts. Certain specific models of pistol, accessories for that model, and replacement parts will be more common than others (i.e. Glock 17, Glock 22, 1911 style .45s, etc.), but in general they are all fairly common. Outside of the United States, the 9mm will probably exceed the other Big 3 by a large margin. Much of the affinity towards the 9mm is related to its longevity, penetration, use by the members of NATO, and subsequent logistical advantage; it is noteworthy that while law enforcement in general favors the 9mm, the Federal government (with the exception of the 3 main branches of the military) and many individual non-federal law enforcement agencies are proponents of the .40 S&W as their duty load.

The revolver chambered in .357 magnum settles so snugly into the role of secondary firearm it is almost as if the latter was created for the former. I intend to show in subsequent posts how this firearm can be quite capable as the leader of the pack, however today it will be Scotty Pippen to the Michael Jordan of your defensive strategy. The frame you employ will follow the same logic as a pistol – what can I hold, control, conceal, and shoot effectively; avoid a revolver that is too light/heavy or too short/long. You want one just right for you. The .357 Magnum will have greater recoil and muzzle blast. You will want to not only be able to control the recoil but have that blast as far away from your face as possible, the size and weight of the revolver helps with this. Due to advances in metallurgical science some medium and compact revolvers are able to provide capacities of 7 rounds or more, allowing you to deal with 2-3 additional threats or more. That may not seem like much, but it is very comforting when your pistol experiences a critical failure. Discounting reloads you can now effectively deal with 7-10 threats, more than good enough for any situation you have a prayer of dealing with alone. Hopefully after all that shooting you have managed to simultaneously reach a rifle/shotgun and get more shooters on your side or at least convince any remaining bad guys to just all get along. When going from .40 S&W to .357 Magnum you do not reduce your capacity to incapacitate a target, you amplify it. The round travels very fast, penetrates very deep, and expands significantly in soft tissue. While the heavier-for-caliber bullets weight 158 grains or more can drop medium game in the woods if needed, they might be a bit too “caliente” for the plywood and plaster jungle. A 125 grain JHP bullet can get the job done in the city without over-penetration becoming a major problem.

The .357 Magnum is an expensive round to shoot, however, what could be an Achilles' heel is what gives this revolver some added value in your defense strategy. In a revolver, you can fire cartridges of differing length from the same chamber so long as the bullets are of the same diameter and the cartridge fits within the chamber. What this means for your revolver is the shorter .38 Special can be safely fired from the chamber of the longer .357 Magnum. Not only is .38 Special shorter, it also produces less recoil from the same revolver, is extremely common, and is much cheaper per round, making it more economical to use for practice. Additionally, the .38 Special +P (an overpressure variant) is safe to fire in the chamber designed for the high pressure .357 magnum and makes an effective self-defense round in a pinch. The revolver is dirt simple to learn and operate, and both of these chamberings for your revolver are fairly ubiquitous here in the USA. These were the rounds good guys used to stop bad guys in the decades before the rise to prominence of the Wonder Nines, and they are still effective in that capacity in the hands of an accurate shooter.

Now we all know pistols/revolvers are employed to fight our way to rifles/shotguns, and we are not going to be out on the street all the time. So what do you keep in the trunk or at the ready to defend your home? With your third and final firearm you cannot go wrong with a 12 gauge pump-action shotgun for everyday city living. It is versatile, reliable, simple, rugged, affordable, and as common as opinions on the Internet regarding what firearms would be the best for “X” situation. A 3" or 3-1/2" defensive shotgun round loaded with #4 buckshot has no problem penetrating soft targets and has the least likelihood of over-penetration of your 3 firearms. It also has the highest hit probability and inflicts the most tissue damage. The shotgun's simplicity of operation is exceeded only by the revolver, and it can be fitted with numerous accessories which make operating it effectively under stressful situations even easier. Moreover, should you feel adventurous and wish to venture out into the wilderness your defensive shotgun can, with little or no modification, bring home dinner and keep you from being dinner in the wild.

There you have it, my 3 Firearms 4 City Survival. The overarching goal of firearm ownership in the big city is legal self-defense and home defense. With these selections you have yourself and your home covered in every possible situation. You also have tools at your disposal to survive in the wild if you choose to go out in it, and provide you with hours of economical recreation. I do apologize about the length, however, if I am going to back a caliber in the Great Caliber Debate such a position requires a good explanation, for what it is worth. All of the information presented in this series is espoused based upon analysis of much “expert” (real or otherwise) opinion and raw data collected by others over the years. Having lived under the conditions of situation one all my life and having never lived through WROL, SHTF, or Zombies much if not all of what follows in this series is enormous conjecture and speculation. However, I hope it will be fun and welcome your questions, comments, and concerns.

Next Discussion: 3 Firearms 4 Life, Part II: Welcome to the Jungle ...Errr, Woods

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV  | Part V | Part VI | Part VII

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