Right now there is a trend toward single stack, smaller, “comfort carry” handguns. As the gun community moves toward carrying less ammunition I want to explore how this mentality could get you killed.
Don’t get me wrong I do in fact have a few of these handguns we are talking about. I was also lured by the “comfort carry” sales pitch from my friendly neighborhood gun seller. I own aGlock 42, Glock 43, a Walther CCP, and a couple 1911’s of course, because after all this is America and John Moses Browning was the most ingenious gunsmith of all time, and I couldn't resist owning such an iconic representation of his legacy… twice. I enjoy all of them for the most part but all have inevitably been retired to the big gun safe at the house in favor of higher capacity firearms for my everyday carry (EDC), this is why;
The old cliche’ “if you can’t do it in 6 you can’t do it at all” is just that, a cliche’ that does not necessarily represent the most current information on how best to approach self defense. Contrast that with this statement from Massad Ayoob prefacing his research into the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies’ switch from 5-6 round revolvers to 15-18 or 20 round semi automatics; “5-6 rounds was usually enough… but usually isn’t always.”
For me I don’t usually carry a gun, I always carry a gun. I carry a gun that always works, not a gun that usually works. It is this line of reasoning that compels me to carry a firearm with as much capacity as I can comfortably accommodate and at least one additional magazine. Right now I alternate between the HK P30L and the FNX 45 Tactical and an extra magazine or two just in front of the gun in my Brave Response Holster. For me it all started with this video:
Counting rounds is fairly difficult but I approach it in this manner, the bad guy has 40 rounds in his AK47. So even though there is an exchange of gunfire try to count off the first 37 and attribute those to the criminal. Then start the counting over and attribute all the remaining rounds to the officer and I ask the question “how many rounds does this guy take before he is no longer a threat to those officers?” The two police officers fire a total of 54 rounds. Is the bad guy still a threat when he is on his knees trying to lift the gun and put more rounds downrange? Absolutely. By my count he takes about 30 rounds out of the 54 total that the officers fire before he is not a threat and the remaining rounds as the assailant lays on his side are because the officer is terrified for his life, he and his partner are injured, and cannot afford to allow this guy to get back up and keep going to finish that 40 round mag.
But You Train A Lot and so Every Shot is going to “Count” Right?
One of the biggest mistakes we can make is thinking after a great training session at the range that we will be able to replicate that same speed, accuracy and fluidity if ever confronted with that life or death encounter, or even that we will experience an increase in our ability and focus because our lives are in danger. Dave Grossman in his book “On Combat” discusses many of the physiological and psychological pitfalls that are naturally programmed into our bodies. Some of the side effects of being in a deadly force situation include; loss of bowel and bladder control, tunnel vision or fog of war, loss of fine motor control, auditory exclusion, loss of depth perception, and more. In life or death situations that happen at lightning speed, and come with debilitating physical reactions from our bodies, we cannot expect that every one of our shots will be targeted perfectly. In fact according to several studies about police and law enforcement shootings conducted by the NYPD, the LAPD, and FBI we find that in fact the ‘hits to shots fired’ ratio is on average less than 20%. To do some quick math 20% of 8 is 1.6 So if in a gunfight you are better than average because you train weekly or bi-weekly and you carry 8 rounds in your gun you can expect to be in slide lock and have only put 2 good, effective hits into the target. To follow that line of reasoning and apply it to our video out of the 54 shots fired by the officers IF they were above average ‘life and death’ marksman, then it’s possible that only 10 of the rounds fired could have actually hit the assailant. The actual numbers of gunshot wounds the assailant in the video suffered are unknown. So then if 5-6 shots was “usually enough but not always” then we would need 25-32 rounds on our person to account for average number of missed shots in an average gunfight and still put the 5-6 good hits prescribed by a cliche’ saying that presumes to tell us about winning a gunfight.
But Having Less Capacity is Ok if You Have a Larger Caliber Right?
“Well he had to use so many rounds because he was using a 9mm and if he was carrying a .45 he could have gotten it done in less rounds.” I have created this table using Hornady’s ballistic chart PDF available on their website and therefore this is only looking at the rounds that Hornady manufactures and their energy in foot pounds at the muzzle. Because most defensive shootings occur between 5 and 21 feet the foot pound measurement at 50yds is negligible. Foot pounds is an energy measurement for amount of work an object can do ie; 1 foot pound is the amount of energy needed to move a 1 pound object, one foot off the ground at a certain altitude. The reason we use JHP or jacketed hollow point rounds in our defensive carry is because the “work” in this case is destroying those vital organs that effectively stop the assailant by disrupting or disabling that connection where the brain tells the finger to pull the trigger. We want the round to penetrate into the assailant, to transfer all of its energy into the target doing as much damage as possible in the form of expanding the projectile, creating heat energy, and transitioning raw violent force to the vital organs. Granted foot pounds is not the “end all be all” way to discuss the lethality of a round but it remains as maybe our most scientific way to discuss something that inherently combines maybe a hundred or more different factors that are all needed to effectively stop an assailant. However at a most basic level, we can use this to see what capacity each of these rounds has to do “work.”
If you calculate it out the 9mm averages around 332 foot pounds, where the .40 S&W and the .45 ACP average around 409 foot pounds. For a total difference of 77 foot pounds or about ¾ the energy in a .22. Many states have passed laws defining minimum foot pounds needed in a projectile in order to humanely (effectively) take a deer or an Elk. Most have pinned that number around 1,000 foot pounds. So by law stopping a strong healthy 150 pound animal requires at least 1,000 foot pounds of energy and we know that even still many of these animals are able to run and evade and even survive after the shot even if the shot damaged vital organs. If your 150lb animal is another human being bent on killing you, the scary fact is that alone, none of these handgun rounds has even half that capacity to do work.
So assuming that all factors remain the same and we just switch out the officer’s 9mm for .45ACP an effective case cannot be made for the .45 ACP doing a substantially better job at stopping this bad guy faster. We can make the case that .45 ACP might do a better job some of the time but not ALL of the time. Certainly it cannot do 2x or 3x the damage of the other rounds as it is so often purported to do.
That still leaves us with the issue that a handgun capable of holding 15/18 rounds of 9, .40 or .45 even still wasn’t enough to stop this guy. At 1:10 we hear the officer do a magazine change and then proceed to empty his second magazine into the assailant to eventually stop him. I think too often we think “well if I need a second magazine then then I must be in a much worse situation than is reasonable to anticipate.” EJ Owens talks about this in his video about whether to carry a round in the chamber or not he says something to the effect that “If I need an extra magazine then that guy is REALLY in trouble.” Again, to me this video illustrates the point that having an extra magazine and needing to reload in the middle of a gunfight is a little more prevalent of a concern than maybe we are all willing to mentally confront. It is scary to think you would have to reload in the middle of a gunfight. When was the last time you practiced a tactical reload? Did you move your feet to practice taking cover during the drill or were you standing in a lane at a gun range where moving out of your lane/stall would have been a terrible safety issue so the skill wasn’t practiced, and won't be there for you if you need it.
Don’t Forget the Physiology of being stopped by gunshots
In a deadly force situation your objective is to stop the threat. Shoot to kill, shoot to maim, shoot to injure does not exist in real life. Hollywood has led many of us to believe in the essence of a “kill shot” or one shot kill. It is portrayed as a clean, sanitized ‘easy’ thing to do with one bullet. The Villain and the Hero circling each other with guns drawn, well aimed and fingers on triggers. The hero shoots and the other dramatically dies in a few seconds gripping and pointing their gun, gasping for breath a look of shock on their face and for some unknown reason the inability to squeeze the trigger on their still aimed gun and respond to the hero… Roll Credits. The truth is that one or three well placed shots are unlikely to stop the threat because of the way the brain, the nervous system, and the muscles work. The brain can continue to tell the finger to squeeze that trigger up to 2-3 minutes after the heart and lungs have been damaged as a result of several shots to center mass and no longer pump blood to the brain. So we either need to cause MASSIVE trauma like the officer in the video did putting shot after shot into the assailant causing the assailant’s body to shut down or give up faster than the three minute mark. Or we shoot a target area that is difficult to hit (occular occipital) and hopefully we are just really super accurate. Or we find a place to hide while we wait for the bad guy to succumb to their injuries.
READ MORE: The Physiology of Stopping The Threat
Are Your Assumptions About Criminals Accurate?
Dave Grossman in “On Combat” tell us that are three things that we want to be prepared for so that we can effectively win a defensive shooting.
- We automatically assume that EVERY violent attacker is going to be under the influence of some type of narcotic. In the 1996 National institute of Justice report “Adult Patterns of Criminal behavior” this is a preveiw or overview only it states that “Use of illegal drugs was related to all four measures of offending. For example, during months of drug use, the odds of committing a property crime increased by 54 percent; the odds of committing an assault increased by over 100 percent. Overall, illegal drug use increased the odds of committing any crime sixfold.” It stands to reason that if doing drugs increases the odds of committing a crime sixfold that if you are the victim of a crime it is likely that the assailant is under the influence. If it took 25ish rounds to stop a guy that is only determined, then how many will it take to stop a guy who is determined and under the influence of some type of narcotic where his body may not respond to massive trauma and may just keep going until his brain runs out of oxygen. One word, Nightmare.
- We automatically assume that EVERY violent attacker is heavily armed. These days there is no shortage of news stories where some “legacy shooter” is trying to make a name for himself and is too lazy to do something positive so instead opts to do what he was trained to do by hollywood and video games and tries to kill as many people as he can and rack up as many points as he can before he gives up, or is killed or subdued. This kind of started with the North Hollywood shootout where three bank robbers were better armed than police and wore head to toe body armor. And even though instances of this type of violence are statistically on the decline, the media makes it seem as though they are getting more and more prevalent.
- We automatically assume EVERY Criminal will not be alone but committing crimes with friends or accomplices. These days the instance of criminals committing petty crimes with friends or accomplices makes a ton of sense. In my neighborhood a few months ago we had a group of 3-5 thugs walking around checking the locks on front doors and cars and in some cases walking into homes and bedrooms while people are sleeping. In one case they brazenly stole a wallet out of a man’s pants in his bedroom while he was asleep just a few feet away. Or even worse the video below shows multiple, prepared criminals enter a home heavily armed. This is a neighborhood of upper middle class homes in a tight knit community where people feel so safe they don’t even lock their doors at night. As a side note, that does not exist any more, if you have a habit of not locking your doors, please change it tonight so I don’t ever have to read about it in the news.
The Size of the Gun Isn’t the Only Factor in Concealability
Even after all of that, you might be saying “that’s all well and good but a big gun like that is just not comfortable to conceal and carry. Not to mention an extra 15 rounds of 45 ACP will be like almost five pounds hanging on my belt. A big gun like that is heavy, it prints more and I can’t sit down in the car with it on and if it’s not comfortable I don’t carry.” For years I used a variety of holsters and felt the same way. For the longest time it was an expensive leather and kydex holster. I spent the money on it because it was a high quality holster that EVERYONE said was the only way to go, and I like quality and I was single and there was no one to say “who the hell is ****** holsters!” When the bank statements came at the end of the month. Using that system I wholeheartedly agreed with you when I finally realized, that the leather and kydex contributed to the discomfort and printing almost as much as the size of the gun did. It was this experience that drove me to invent the Brave Response Holster. I wanted to make it comfortable to carry large capacity firearms and extra mags in the same way it is more comfortable to carry smaller lower capacity firearms and no mags.
The Best Way to Increase Capacity NOW for free, Is to just Carry A Spare Magazine
The gun you carry aside, the best way to double your ammunition capacity is to carry a spare magazine. These days it is highly likely that the gun you purchased came with at least one extra magazine. Initially I started carrying an extra magazine in my left front pocket because I hate carrying things on my belt. I was finding it easy to spot other concealed weapons permit holders by looking for belt clips that seem to come from nowhere or the dead give away, a magazine pouch designed to look like a cellphone pouch. That may have worked back in the days of boxy flip phones but these days it’s obvious to all of us what it is. I found that carrying in my pocket was a bad idea when I went to the range to practice tactical reloads. In my pocket it was next to impossible to index the magazine properly and then I found out that a bunch of pocket lint had found its way into the magazine and interfered with the magazine spring causing a misfeed. I’m just glad I discovered it in training on range not in a gunfight. So then I bought an Uncle Mike’s Undercover magazine pouch for my weak side and indexed my extra magazine there. I wore that for a few days and eventually realized that not only did I have to buy pants that that were a size bigger to accommodate a gun under my waistband, I had to go even bigger to accommodate a weak side magazine pouch. So Instead of a 38 waist I was in a 40 with my gun then with the mag pouch I had to go to a 42. Which made finding pants next to impossible.
The Holster That Solves All Your Problems
While designing the Brave Response Holster we found that if we did a couple of things differently than ALL of the other guys out there that are doing essentially the same thing (‘leather and kydex this,’ ‘just leather and slots for the belt that’ or ‘just kydex with clips this’… yawn) that the worries about comfort carrying a larger gun could be overcome. The first thing we tackled – put the mag in front of the gun – during our three years of product development we found a way to cheat the system, we found that if you put the mags in front of the gun the whole thing actually took up less total room under the waistband than having mag pouches on the weak side. Think about it this way, for your waistband to accommodate a gun in there it must leave the curvature of your body to meet the outside of the holster over your gun, then leave the outside of the holster to return back to your waist. We call this value “100% gun width,” then in order for your pants to do it again on the other side for the mags, same thing, the waistband leaves your waist and goes to the front of the mag holster, crosses over the mag holster, and returns to the body. Since mags are a little less beefy than the gun we call one mag ‘85% gun width.’ Now as the waistband leaves your waist to accommodate your gun there is a gap in front of and behind the gun that is left open, we found that if we position the magazine in that gap that the magazine only added about 25% gun width to the total making it easier to fit the magazine in the same size pants you are carrying with your gun. This we believe will encourage more folks to carry an extra mag because it makes it much more comfortable to do so. The only real adjustment I had to make was practicing drawing the magazine from my weak side by reaching across my body to draw it out, which quickly became second nature and now my reload speeds are the same as they were drawing from weak side.
All of that being said, in the end, I mostly just want folks to carry a gun so that they can effectively defend themselves. A happy coincidence of creating a holster that makes it comfortable to carry a large gun means that the same holster will improve the comfort of carrying a smaller one as well. If that’s the case then the Brave Response Holster will conveniently make it easier and more comfortable to carry a few extra mags just in case. If you are not able to find a gun that is comfortable in your hand that also has a higher magazine capacity then don’t buy a gun that does not work for you. Just do whatever it takes to make it so that carrying is an “everyday everywhere” type habit.