The Capacity Question – part 1

Last week Caleb posted a little article on the obsolescence of revolvers that mentioned the capacity of the revolver as one of the factors working against it in the modern market. Capacity often comes up in discussions that involve concealed carry but, at least in my experience, it’s usually not really explored in a satisfactory way. So taking a cue from Caleb’s writeup, let’s try and bring the capacity question into focus.

I often encounter the sentiment that the ~ 15 round magazine capacity that’s typical of a double-stack semi-automatic pistol these days is “a lot” of ammunition to have in a firearm. People often have this belief because of their typical shooting experience. If the totality of your shooting experience is firing a shot every couple of seconds at a stationary bullseye on a sunny Sunday afternoon, it can certainly seem like 15 rounds in the magazine plus another in the chamber is “a lot” of ammunition. Gunfights, unfortunately, bear no resemblance to that sunny Sunday range outing.

Video footage shows rather conclusively that when someone believes they are faced with an existential threat, they aren’t firing their weapon at the relaxed pace you often see people using on the range. More than likely they will be pulling the trigger as fast as they can (whether they can hit anything that way reliably or not) in a frantic effort to stop the person who is trying to kill them. With that sort of motivation the 15+1 round capacity of a typical double-stack 9mm handgun is exhausted in just a few short seconds. Somewhere a group of smart people set about to study gunfight footage and during the course of examining as much video of shootouts as they could, determined that the average rate of fire for a person in an exchange was 1 shot every 1/4 of a second. You can go on Youtube and look up footage from dashcams and stop’n’robs to try and work that out for yourself, and more often than not you’ll see the 1/4 second rule in play. In the initial salvo of the gunfight above, the officer’s rate of fire was right around 4 shots per second until the vehicle moved away and he slowed down to get better accuracy as the distance increased. Faced with just one dude who wanted to kill him, the officer fired 14 shots…almost the entire on-board payload of his sidearm.

It didn’t take a zombie apocalypse or a roving gang of thugs to make him shoot almost to slidelock. Just one person who wants to kill you is plenty of motivation to point the weapon in the general direction of the threat and pull the trigger as fast as you can.

One of the benefits of taking training seriously and training oneself to high standards of competence (or even excellence) is that under stress the well-trained person will act in a more disciplined, controlled fashion than the person with less trainig…but this doesn’t necessarily translate into a slower rate of fire. A well trained person who has spent considerable time on the range honing their skill might well pull the trigger even faster than the average person under stress, but will typically have much better control and will deliver hits. There’s an old joke about bullets that have someone’s name on them versus those labeled “To Whom it may concern…” which fits here. The average untrained person is going to point the weapon in the general direction of the threat, will have their focus on the threat, and will pull the trigger as fast as they can to make the bad man stop. They are typically firing more in hope than in expectation.

The trained person, on the other hand, will aim the weapon at specific parts of the bad guy’s anatomy and will be using the sights to intelligently direct fire where it will do some good. Even so, they will be pulling the trigger multiple times because of gunfight conditions and knowledge that any threat worth shooting is worth shooting more than once. I can cite multiple instances of a well trained shooter who delivered mortal wounds to a threat but without the threat visibly reacting to it or going down. With careful training on the range they developed the ability to deliver excellent accuracy at high speed and when faced with a real threat often delivered mortal wounds with the first shots they fired, but continued to fire either because the bad guy didn’t visibly react or was still on his feet. In the real thing it’s not always easy to tell where you hit someone or what effect the bullet you just fired will eventually have. Especially if there are rounds incoming. You’re left with a very binary mental assessment. Until your brain recognizes that the bad guy is on the ground doing nothing more dangerous than bleeding, the urge for self preservation will have you on the trigger. You don’t wait and hope that the bullet you just fired into the center of that guy’s chest will take effect. You keep launching bullets into him until he’s no longer able to kill you. If you’re exceptionally well trained, you may transition from shooting at the triangle of doom between the nipples and the adam’s apple up to shooting at the head of the threat.

…but you’re going to keep shooting.

Knowing that it will probably take more than one shot, and knowing that the well-trained and the average person alike are likely to expend ammunition fast in the real thing, I tend to view capacity as opportunity. Using the 1/4 second per shot average deduced from study of real gunfights as a guide, it’s possible to express capacity as time. With a S&W J frame I have 1.25 seconds of cyclic-rate fire to stop whatever threat I’m facing. With my P30 (15+1 capacity) I have 4 seconds. That means I’m able to keep shooting 3.25 times longer with my P30 than my S&W 442.

Invariably someone will read that and start yelling at the screen about just reloading the revolver. Let me be perfectly clear about this: You aren’t likely to reload a revolver in a gunfight. I say that because reloading a revolver, even with a speed loader, often takes longer than the fight is going to last. Yes, Jerry Miculek can reload a revolver with phenomenal speed from his competition gear:

When I saw that footage originally it was on an old program hosted by Jim Scoutten that included an interview with Mr. Miculek. When asked how he learned to reload a revolver so fast he responded that 2-3 hours a night of practice for 20 years, full moon clips, and chamfered chambers in the revolver’s cylinder pretty much did the trick. Jerry can reload his competition revolver setup faster than most really good shooters can reload a semi-automatic from a competition rig, and that’s an awesome testament to Jerry’s skill.

That’s Jerry’s skill. Not yours or mine. The average dude with a J frame and a speed loader in his pocket isn’t going to come close to replicating the speed in that video. The New York Reload didn’t come into being because people enjoyed the sensation of carrying multiple firearms. People like Jim Cirillo who did their homework on the range figured out that even with a speedloader, in a gunfight getting the revolver back into action was going to take longer than the fight was likely to last. So he and many others made a practice of carrying multiple revolvers.

Of course, there are other factors worth considering related to the capacity question…which we will discuss later.



Review: SCCY CPX-2 a low cost CCW

SCCY CPX-2 9mm concealed carry pistolAlmost immediately after being approached by the SCCY rep to review the CPX-2 9mm concealed carry pistol, I met a woman who had just recieved one of these little guns as a gift. Frankly, she was miserable.

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Concealed Carry Options

20130902-011709.jpgAt my Georgia speaking engagement, a few weeks ago, a woman raised an issue for which I didn’t have a good immediate response. She said her place of employment did not allow the carrying of a firearm, concealed or otherwise.

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Why I carry a J-Frame

It seems that I always find myself back here – carrying a 5 shot .38 Special +P. I resolve to carry a “real gun” like a 1911, or a modern polymer pistol, and yet the gun that ends up on my belt most often is a j-frame. For a while, it was a 3-inch Model 60, which I regrettably sold, and now it’s a S&W 640 Pro Series. I was pondering on this, why do I always default back to a j-frame at the end of the day when I “know” that I should be carrying a bigger gun that holds more bullets.


I usually carry the j-frame exactly as pictured, in a simple Blackhawk leather holster at the AIWB position. This gun/holster combo prevents me from re-holstering one handed, so I treat it much like I’d treat a Raven Vanguard “holster.” It’s there to cover the trigger guard and keep me from putting an XTP into my femoral artery. If the gun comes out of the holster, the re-holstering process means that I take the holster off my belt and put the gun in it, then re-holster. The whole rig is very simple, and it goes on just as easy as it comes off. If I have to go somewhere during my work day that frowns on guns, it comes off without having to fuss around your belt line in a parking lot, which just looks shady.

Simplicity is a big part of why I come back to this rig over and over again. Another reason is my personal risk assessment puts the likelihood of getting into a gunfight pretty low. I don’t carry a reload, either. I guess I figure that if I’m in a situation where going loud with a j-frame is my best bet for survival, then I’m having a really improbably bad day anyway and a 3-second speedloader reload is going to be about 3 more seconds than I have.

Mostly, I do it because it’s convenient. I believe I should carry a gun, and wear my seat belt, etc. I also carry a knife at all times, because these are all useful things to have on my person. The j-frame is a definite upgrade from my old Beretta Jetfire, but it’s still light enough and easy enough to carry that it won’t get left in my safe like many of my other larger, “better” guns. Sure, I could buckle on my P229 every day, or take the time to strap on a full-size 1911, but I don’t particularly feel under-armed with five shots of .38 Special +P, so why bother?

Do you have a gun/holster combo that you default to even though you “know better?” Let me know your thoughts.

SCCY’s 9mm Concealed Carry Gun, First Look

Sig Sauer 1911 SpartanSaturday was a busy day for me and meeting new guns. I got to fondle a Sig 1911 Spartan, and dream… But I also got a first look at a very new brand and their new concealed carry offering.

SCCY firearms CPX-2 9mm concealed carryThe company is called SCCY (pronounced Sky) and they are based in Florida. The local rep and his daughter were at the range for National Take Your Daughter to the Range Day, and one of the league women came out of the range to tell the rest of us about the gun the man was shooting. She said it was incredibly light and barely bigger than her new XDs 9mm that she was wearing in a belly band that day (for practice). She said that while it was light weight, the man’s daughter (approximately 11 years old) was handling it like a champ. This woman takes her new hobby of shooting, very seriously and has thrown her self, head first, into IDPA as well. So when she said it was a brand she had never heard of, I was very surprised. When she said “SCCY” I was even more surprised that no gun nut in the room had heard of them either. I then broke out my phone for a quick “Bing” scan, (I no longer default to Google due to their “anti-weapon” policy). Upon arriving on the SCCY website I cringed and told the room the suggested retail price. They cringed as well.

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My Gun-Free-Family Surprises Me

Concealed carry in North CarolinaA day before last weekend’s trip to Asheville NC, my mother said to me,
“You’re not taking the gun with us, are you?” I informed her that this was, in fact, my plan, because when my family comes to my neck of the woods, I feel it’s my responsibility to protect them. She then worried that this would upset my sister, who is basically anti-guns. To which I replied that she needn’t know I was wearing it. Then my mother asked,
“So you’re going to wear it everywhere?!” Matter of fact-ly I said,
“That’s how it works.”
**and scene**

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Concealed Carry Woes

CCW App for NC carry lawsI’ve really been trying to do it regularly, but this whole concealed carry thing is f***in hard! Not only is the wearing of my my gun a pain, but following the rules so that none of my actions are criminal, is very, VERY complicated. Even with this knowledge, for the first time this weekend, I am not just taking my firearm across state lines, I intend to carry, and take on the responsibility of protect my family, as we vacation in Asheville, North Carolina. I check my CCW App (that I have previously reviewed) and we’re off!

Driving from Atlanta into NC: No problem. We drive from one state to the other, my pistol is surprisingly comfortably on my hip the entire time. When we get out of the car I have to remember to check that my shirt hasn’t crept up to reveal (my muffin top) and my pistol. Had we driven through South Carolina, I would have had to leave my gun in the car, probably would have made it the trunk, and kept it unloaded. If we’d been staying in South Carolina, I probably would have left it at home altogether. (Leaving a firearm in a rental car or a hotel, really doesn’t sound like a good plan to me.) But North Carolina is accepting of my GA permit so I wear my pistol all the way up.

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