I have been debating writing this article for several months, as I have learned from previous writings over the past twenty years such articles have met with opposition and derision from the anti-gun community. This article is in response to the sudden rise in violent crime and unfathomable local murders that private e-mails to me have requested a commentary, and advice, based on my 30 years “carry” and occupational trade experience with the US Navy security, and lecture tours in the past.
Recent SECOND AMENDMENT clarification from the US Supreme Court asserts your right to own a firearm. Responsible people, especially the elderly, have flocked to gun stores fearing the expected rise in violent crime with the downturn in the economy. Of note, motivation is also stimulated by the hyperbole of fear-mongers on TV and related media fanning the flames of chaos. No wonder people are scared.
I grew up in a different age-with firearms- then through thirty years with the military I was involved with firearms. Today, I still have firearms, and I consider them an important tool for my peace of mind and recreational use. This article is directed to those who would purchase, for the first time, a defensive handgun for personal peace of mind.
However the peace of mind can easily turn into a litigious nightmare with improper employment of the weapon. Everything you see on TV and movies is entertainment, NOT reality. We will consider TV and Movies as erroneous, misleading, and dangerous.
In addition, relatives, friends, and commentators on handguns are not to be relied on either. Only your personal investigation into the selection, purchase, training and employment of the handgun rests with you. You are responsible for the handgun.
After reading this series, consult an attorney for advice. Locate a training course with a shooting range to practice, practice and practice again. The author assumes NO RESPONSIBILITY in your choice, or non-choice of a purchase and employment of a firearm.
For the purposes of discussion we are going to examine REVOLVERS and SEMI-AUTOMATIC Hand Guns. We will include the necessary internal ballistic functions of the cartridges and firing mechanisms limiting our discussion to common cartridge calibers and their terminal potentials.
Safety is paramount and is a required guideline in reading, possessing and employment of the handgun.
The PSYCHOLOGY of possessing a handgun is different for men and women, and also age groups. Young men tend to want “macho” big bore, shiny semi-automatics with an attitude of “Dirty Harry” fame. They will want their girl friends and wives to have a similar weapon emphasizing hyper-vigilances toward imagined swarms of the disenfranchised raping and pillaging. Older men, as statistics show, favor rifles and shotguns for sport hunting.
The 100 MILLION PLUS Firearms in the public trust reflects in the majority, safe, intelligent use of said firearms. The principal concealed carry occupations of gun owners are (1) Psychiatrists, (2) State Prosecutors, (3) Retired police/military and (4) shopkeepers.
Young women tend to acquiesce toward their male hero, purchase the handgun and bury it in a trunk-so the children do not find it, or just because it is in their nature to find handguns-any guns-repulsive.
Such behavioral patterns are trends to the less informed. It is our goal to provide a more practical assessment for the purchaser to meet their specific needs. Handguns require in this state of Virginia an instant screening check for past criminal records, arrests, mental incompetence and domestic violence reports. That precludes these individuals to purchase a handgun openly in the market. Otherwise the purchase is expensive. Some good souls consider a handgun purchase each month as an investment hedge against further inflation. Firearms, interestingly enough, command the highest inflation value of any other investment.
Ammunition is also expensive; often precluding your local gun store from having small volume purchases available in odd lot sizes you seek. Dealers must order by a huge volume to have variety. The major retail suppliers who may have the variety you seek are: www.sportsmansguide.com , www.cabellas.com, and www.cheaperthandirt.com .
Let us start with the Revolver-first conceived by Samuel Colt in the 1830’s. This was a black powder handgun that revolutionized firearms. The single shot, flint flash pan handguns were truly from an earlier era. Black powder as a propellant was used until the beginning of the 20th Century. Velocity in all black powder firearms was averaged to 1000 feet per second and it was demonstrated that the longer the barrel one could gain a bit more velocity-conversely shorter barrels had less velocity. It was discovered that the larger the projectile, measured in caliber-bore diameter of the firearm was important as the larger and heavier the projectile the more lethal it became. However with black powder you were limited to fine or slightly coarser power, aka: FG and FGG grades. Many people in the pioneer era made their own powder from Sulfur, Charcoal and Salt Peter.
Black powder handguns found improvement after the Civil War with complete cartridge design, vice: loading ball, powder and primer cap separately. Also the standard single action 1851 models phased out with the introduction of the double action Schoenfield (and others) revolver as an improvement. The US Army employed the famous Long Colt .45 caliber in a single action revolver and it was considered the best of its day on into the beginning of the 20th Century. This specific cartridge may be purchased today in smokeless powder higher velocities and remains a superior terminal-hunting cartridge. Do not use smokeless powder cartridges in antique black powder handguns and rifles, or they may blow up in your face.
Black powder firearms in most states may be purchased openly, and without license, their handicap being the slowness of reloading and the myth that they are obsolete and pose no serious danger to the public at large. Nothing could be further from the truth. It requires a primer cap, powder and a ball, although variants of paper cartridges have been noted. Once loaded these replica black powder handguns of all calibers are deadly and not to be considered a toy.
With the advent of smokeless gunpowder being developed in the late 19th Century more variants in calibers and gun mechanism appeared. For the revolver the police and civilians favored it as a reliable five or six shot handgun, usually sold in .38 Police Positive calibers. The 32. Caliber lighter weight and smaller size revolvers were popular for concealed carry-pocket revolvers. Women in these uncertain times often carried revolvers of small caliber, as they were not unreliable in their performance due to the sundry, dusty items women carry in their handbags.
World War I, from 1914 to 1918 brought a great prosperity bubble into the USA economic picture rushing in the Roaring 20’s. Which in this era gangsters had open drive by shootouts, bank robberies and violence with illegal alcohol sales, and illegal places to consume it called: “Speak Easy’s”. The police were out gunned and sought the firearms manufacturers to improve their options with better weapons.
The Army, also at this early time was entertaining the .45 Automatic Center fire Projectile (ACP) where it found use with the famous Col. Thompson .45 sub machine gun that was on the street in a 1921 Colt model, and a 1911 Colt Army .45 semi automatic handgun that remained in military service until recently.
The .45 caliber projectile, although it can be found in modern revolvers, was unsuitable for police work at that time. The .38 Special was developed and remained in favor with the police duty officers until recently. The .357 Magnums were developed to penetrate the bullet resistant gangster vehicles of those days for the FBI. A year after its introduction it was a best seller in the general market, but the police flavored the less powerful .38 Special for community public relations. I will note that Highway patrol often chose the .357 Magnum revolvers. The Colt Python, still made today, is the epitome of modern revolver handguns in the. 357 calibers.
Today, from a myriad of firearms manufacturers you can purchase revolvers in almost any caliber from .22 Long Rifle to .50 caliber variants. The Dirty Harry Fame of the .44 Magnums was originally offered as a hunting handgun for deer and antelope, designed by the late Elmer Keith in the mid 1950’s. This weapon is heavy as all large calibers are and unless belt/holster carried they become impracticable for concealed carry.
Police found that the penetration of the .44 Magnum calibers, coupled with recoil was unsuitable. The goal of penetration was determined to be no more than 11 inches, a mean torso diameter, so as not to endanger bystanders with over penetration. The .41 Magnum was developed and has been found to be a large heavy belt/holster weapon that offers too much similarity to the .44 Magnum performances.
From a police perspective, the .38 Special/357 Magnum may be had in small pocket size revolvers and duty belt/holster size, and until recently was considered their standard as well as most civilian purchasers seeking a reliable, easily handled revolver for personal use. Unfortunately the usual five or six cartridges held in revolvers have been deemed inadequate for rate of firepower, and most police and civilians have turned to the semi-automatic handguns as these firearms offer more cartridges and faster rate of firing.
The early SEMI-AUTOMATIC handguns were of German design and the most famous of course, and the most collected, was the German Luger Pistole 08 of WWI vintage. Following this successful antique model, even the US Army investigated its use although settling on the Browning designed 1911 Colt Semi automatic in the .45 ACP caliber. I might add that since there has been the introduction of other calibers in this design, but the .45 caliber was the caliber of choice. I also understand that many solders do not favor the 9mm currently in use in the Mid East and they often purchase their own .45’s. To understand the wide generational popularity of this caliber; it was the only effective handgun caliber that “stopped” the attack of a Moro machete-wielding natives in the Philippines following our occupation till the close of WWII.
The 9mm Luger cartridge has been a European favorite for decades; functioning flawlessly with the tapered casing effecting ease of ejection. There are several 9mm designs, such as the .380 Browning, aka: 9mm short. This offers a slightly less powerful cartridge, but a lighter weight semi-automatic handgun.
Classic in its design and still manufactured is the WALTHER PP™ and PPK™ (Of James Bond fame in the .32 caliber offering good concealment and reliability for encounters of the close kind.) with .32 caliber, and 380, calibers. Also in this exceptional design which was then at its inception in the late 1920’s led the way for modern designs from other leading gun makers. The P-38 WWII German 9mm was considered a top reliable weapon in its day and still is. A shorter version of this famous military model is the WALTHER P5™, favored for left port ejection and legions of left hand shooters choose this 1970’s handgun vs.: the common right port ejection handguns.
Today the principal interest seems to lay toward the double stack magazine clips holding 16,or more, 9mm cartridges. Beretta makes the current military standard sidearm in 9mm. Special Forces, SEALS and SWAT teams have usually larger calibers, and even employ .22 Long Rifle (suppressed noise) for covert work. Even .45 calibers may be had in large magazine clip capacity.
I had best add at this point those seeking full automatic weapons, or select fire, or suppressed (Silencer) weapons, had best contact the BTAF in Atlanta for as Class III license first, or you may become a guest of the gulag for the next twenty years. All Police Officers have the legal right to demand your surrender of weapons that you are carrying. You may request a receipt.
Although there exists a wide variety of calibers for serious personal defense I would stay with what is proven in the .38 SPECIAL. This cartridge may also be fired in the .357 MAGNUM but not visa versa, the later being as heavier weapon because it requires a heavier frame. It is interesting to note that current manufacturers are enticing the women’s market with lighter handguns by the use of aluminum alloys-however the lighter the handgun, the bigger the recoil measured in foot lbs. Firing a .44 Magnum in a standard 1960’s heavy weight revolver is still a handful; for a small Derringer it is unmanageable. You may find some Taurus™ revolvers with recoil reducing ported barrel. These do reduce felt recoil and make for better accuracy, but they are louder, and some gas/firing residue may spray into the shootist face.
When target training always wear approved K2 yellow impact eye protection goggles. Also the wearing of hearing muffs and earplugs is necessary for a day on the range.
Smith and Wesson ™ Handguns have marketed a “Lady Smith™” for years. It is a 5 shot airwight-in colors too.
The Detective Models in a ’38 Special, 38 SPECIAL PLUS and .357 MAGNUM may be had in lighter weights. I believe the .38 two inch barrel in an airwight Detective Model with a hammerless action shroud is quite adequate as FBI statistics indicate the majority of firings are within 20 feet. The hammerless models do not tangle on drawing them as a hammer model might. Most of these are 5 cartridge models with only two or three, (FBI statistics) cartridges being expended during an engagement.
During the 1980’s the FBI was outgunned in a violent shootout with automatic weapons. They subsequently have purchased semi-automatic handguns in large calibers in 10mm, (popular Miami Vice caliber of the 1980’s). 41 caliber and .45 caliber, as a standard and are constantly investigating options. Cartridge designs come and go, like car models. I believe it is better to stay with a proven design so that in a decade you will still be able to buy it, vice looking to the www.OldWestScrounger.com for whatever may be left.
In summation the smaller the caliber, the less effective but if you have a small caliber, such as the .32 you may enhance its terminal effectiveness (also with larger calibers) with improved projectile design. Probably the Winchester Silver Tip ™ is the most proven for the .32 calibers as the terminal performance is enhanced to a .45 performance. Otherwise the TAP™ of Hornady fame is a projectile of choice in a reliable cartridge. Military projectiles are solid and designed for penetration (wounding) of adversaries in accord with the Geneva-Hague Convention 1911 agreement between nations that warfare is not for killing, but to only incapacitate the enemy combatant.
Other options to consider are the “shot projectiles” sold under the name of MagSafe ™. These avoid over penetration through walls into other rooms and apartments, there is no ricochet effect, and they have good terminal statistics.
A visit to your local gun store will reveal dozens of choices. Do not rush. THINK. Do not be mislead by panic buying media. Take your time.
In a discussion with your attorney on the liabilities of handgun ownership consider toddlers, and older children who you think would not touch a handgun for fear of a switching-well they brag to other kids, and when they are in the house- guess who gets the firearm? You MUST consider in your purchase: THE GUN SAFE™. Try www.gunvault.com as it is recommended for quick access. For handguns there are excellent fingerprint opening of small 16 gauge metal “safes”, easily bolted to where you think is the best spot, and these will keep children, burglars and miscreants away: for if they access your firearm, and injure, or rob someone, you may have liability.
Certainly if some one breaks into your house and you discharge your handgun and shoot Uncle Willie by mistake, or even a burglar you are liable. Criminals have rights. You must be in mortal fear for your life and the lives of whom you are entrusted to care for to discharge the firearm in defense. Being mucho only buys you time in the city jail. Also there will be in all cases, even if you are found innocent of willful homicide, or negligent shooting, you will have civil suits. Discuss this with your attorney.
You may want to visit the manufacturers on the web. Since there are dozens of manufacturers you take your choice and bet your money. Were I to purchase a handgun I would look close at the Taurus line for good pricing and the best warranty in the industry. Glock, Walther, Colt and Beretta also fill the bill. There are more expensive handguns than we can list.
I have not had good success with AMT, but that is a personal view. Many handgun manufacturers went out of business during the Clinton years as the anti-gun lobby ran roughshod over them. They almost put Colt out of business. Some of these earlier models are good investments, but again, look for current common calibers and avoid foreign outdated handguns from the Soviet era.
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COPYRIGHT: 2009, Back2theLand.com, Mark Steel