Harris Publications shutting down

cover-combat-handguns

This came as quite a shock to me yesterday. Harris Publications, the publisher of gun magazines like Combat Handguns, Guns & Weapons for Law Enforcement, Guns of the Old West, and a considerable volume of annual publications. In the interest of full disclosure, I have written for Harris a considerable amount in the past, and count many of their staff on the firearms publication among my friends.

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Small 1911’s and Reliability

Earlier this week I started a long-term review of a Dan Wesson ECO, which is a 3.5 inch Officer’s sized 1911.  Lest anyone think its reliability will be a gimme, I offer the following video from Rob Pincus.  I don’t know Rob, and I don’t agree with everything he writes, but based off my personal experience he is correct.

Yes, the gun in the video is a Kimber, but that is irrelevant.  Small 1911’s are generally finicky.  In fact, I fully expect the ECO will fail at some point.  And if it does, I have a couple of things in my bag of tricks that might help reliability.

Did you see the challenge at the end of the video?  I don’t know if Rob is still offering this, but if the ECO kicks ass, maybe I could take him up on the offer – not likely.

In the end, I hope the ECO stuns me with utter reliability, but if it fails, I will not be shocked in any way.  It is the nature of the beast.

So… do you have a small 1911 that has been flawless?  Let us know.  Please include the total cumulative round count, as well as the maximum round count you shot in one session.

And for those that care, I finally got around to buying some ammo so testing will start tomorrow!

Killing Bambi with a 9mm (Or Why A Head-Shot Might Not Stop The Attack)

Click bait title right?  Obviously I don’t mean using a 9mm to hunt Mr. Buck; but, I recently had to dispatch a gravely wounded deer with my CCW and in doing so I came away with some insight worth sharing.

First a quick yarn about how the events unfolded.

I was on my way to work in pretty heavy fog, when out of nowhere a deer jumped in front of the car ahead of me and tried to wrestle.  As expected the car won.  Amazingly the driver didn’t stop, instead they  kept going (how do I know they didn’t have insurance…) even though their headlight and portions of their bumper where now occupying the road.  Normally I wouldn’t have stopped either, but the deer came to rest directly in front of the bus entrance to my son’s elementary school.  It was early in the morning and the buses hadn’t started running, but I knew if I didn’t move the carcass no one would.  I didn’t want school buses dodging a deer in morning school traffic, nor did I want small kids to start their school day witnessing bloody gore.

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Lessons from real life: The Potato Chip Assault

A friend recently posted a story on social media:

“Breland, who appeared to be in “a highly agitated state,” entered the store and made a purchase before berating the store clerk, using racial slurs, Ruple said. The clerk, who is of Middle Eastern descent, ordered Breland, who is white, to leave, and threatened to call police, authorities said.

He left but re-entered the store several times, becoming more aggressive each time, Ruple said. The clerk then called police.

The armed customer, who was inside the store trying to make a purchase, tried to calm the situation by telling Breland to leave, according to the police account. Breland left again but returned and threw what appeared to be potato chips at the clerk.

The customer followed Breland outside to get his license plate number for police, but Breland got out of the vehicle and attacked him, Ruple said. The man drew his weapon, ordered Breland back and tried to retreat into the store. Breland followed and continued the attack, grabbing for the gun, Ruple said.

The man warned he would shoot if Breland did not stop, and he retreated into a corner of the store while still under attack. He then fired one round, striking Breland, and fired twice more when Breland kept coming at him, Ruple said.

Police Chief Rick Richard said the customer was lawfully carrying the firearm on his side in plain view. “Louisiana is an open-carry state. The guy was straight-up legal,” the chief said.” 

The wise man learns from the experience of others, and I believe there are some things we can learn from this story.

The power of anger: 

Many people have never dealt with a truly angry person before, and have never themselves had experience with genuine anger. When I say “genuine anger” I mean something like this:

Note how flushed the individual’s face is. Note his body language…the almost primate like displays. Note that he’s screaming himself hoarse.

Do you think this guy was amenable to a reasonable discussion? That it was possible to talk sense to him? Even when other people he apparently recognized showed up to the scene telling him to chill out, he continued to be aggressive. It took someone with more stripes on his uniform showing up and exerting some authority to begin to get a handle on the guy.

If you are watching somebody commit a serious breach of social order, odds are pretty good that they are doing so either because they believe they will face no serious consequences for their actions or because they are so enraged that they don’t give a damn about consequences anymore.

In that kind of state the rational part of the human brain is essentially irrelevant. When someone is at this level of anger, their brain function has essentially shrunk down to the amygdala. This is often colloquially referred to as our “reptile brain” or “monkey brain” which plays a critical role in our fight-or-flight response to a threat. We’re used to discussing it in terms of the fear or stress of a lethal threat in both mental and physical terms, but it can be every bit as powerful when inflamed by anger.

You literally cannot talk sense to someone who has crossed that threshold. It seems, though, that the would-be Good Samaritan in the news story attempted just that after the deceased chucked a bag of chips at the clerk behind the counter. This did not have the desired effect of calming the man down. It just shifted his focus from the convenience store clerk to the would-be Good Samaritan instead.

When you witness someone in such an agitated state that they are throwing things, odds are pretty good that you will not succeed in calming them down by appealing to reason…because there is no Dana, there is only Zuul. What you are likely to do is refocus their rage on you. This is, to put it mildly, inconvenient.

You probably aren’t intimidating: 

Let’s return to what I said earlier about displays of aggressive behavior when there is no expectation of serious consequences. Often displays of anger are happening at least partially because of estimations of vulnerability. I’m willing to bet that the guy throwing the fit didn’t see the convenience store clerk as a potentially fearsome opponent. If the clerk had been 6’6″ and built like a professional NFL lineman, I doubt the deceased would have spun up on him.

When the would-be Good Samaritan intervened, I’m guessing he wasn’t very intimidating either. And he had a gun.

So let’s deal with some unpleasant truth: Guns don’t scare everybody. The fact that you have one is not going to impress a certain percentage of the bad-guy population. When I see open carry discussed on the web and even in real life, the default assumption of the pro-open carry camp is that bad men will see the gun and be scared or intimidated by the mere presence of it.This is a foolhardy mindset to slip into.

The ability to intimidate a potential assailant is exceptionally useful and can often prevent the need to use violence altogether…but everyone isn’t capable of being intimidating. You do not magically become more intimidating to bad men when you put a gun on your hip.

In talking with a number of people who regularly openly carry, I get the feeling that a lot of them are hoping that showing the gun makes them sufficiently intimidating that they don’t have to fight…and this comes through loud and clear in the way they carry themselves.

Having the gun does not make up for not knowing how to fight, and if you pin your hopes on display of the gun intimidating the other guy into not wanting to test you on that it’s setting yourself up for disaster. Nobody who does this admits to themselves that they are doing it, of course…but lying to yourself doesn’t change the reality. You can’t Stuart Smalley yourself into being the sort of person who scares off bad guys.

Intimidation is a complex strategy that relies on a number of factors, some of them unique to the circumstances of the confrontation, to be effective. Having a gun doesn’t automatically check all those boxes for you.

Do not behave as if the other guy is going to be too intimidated to hurt you just because you have a gun. The would-be Good Samaritan’s decision to follow the agitated assailant out of the store to record his license plate was likely due to being overly confident in the intimidation power of the pistol on his hip. Had he realized that the agitated assailant wasn’t terribly scared of his gun, he might have played it smarter and stayed inside the store and maybe wouldn’t have had to shoot this guy.

Keep your options open:

The open display of the firearm in this situation removed options from the table. As soon as the agitated assailant started getting physical it became a lethal force situation because everybody knows there’s a gun involved…but that’s not the only way it can go wrong.

Say this agitated assailant had left the scene and called 911 reporting that he had been threatened with a gun…including giving an accurate description of the firearm in question to the police. I know of two occasions where something very similar has happened, one resulting in a normal nice guy looking down the barrel of multiple police-issue firearms.

I would much rather have the presence of my firearm become public knowledge at the moment of my choosing rather than leaving it out there for the other guy to factor into his actions. That gives me more options in a worsening situation.

I also make a habit of carrying OC spray with me because that’s another option. Would this fight have gone lethal if the would-be Good Samaritan had given the agitated assailant a snooter full of Sabre Red? It’s impossible to say for sure, but there have been many fights ended or prevented altogether by the judicious application of some liquid pain.

If the gun is the only plan you’ve got for hostile behavior from another human being, you are painting yourself into a pretty unpleasant corner. If this individual had more options he might have avoided the life altering  decision of to killing another human being.

There’s a lot we can learn from this story if we are inclined to do so. I think this is a perfect example of where abiding by the proverb “Not my circus, not my monkeys” would have been a much better idea. The urge to help is laudable, but we have to be sophisticated enough to recognize exactly when a problem can be genuinely helped by our relatively modest capabilities and resources.

It’s one thing to fight when a violent criminal assault leaves you no other choice. It’s another to end up in a spiraling dance of stupidity that ends in gunfire.

What caliber for dinosaurs?

Have you seen this photo? It’s been widely shared on Facebook, because some ranchers in Florida had what is clearly a dinosaur eating their cattle, so they did what any reasonable person would do in that situation and killed it.

15 foot alligator

And that’s when the drama began, because people On the Internet don’t like it when you kill things, even if those things are an apex predator that lived through the K-T extinction. Physically unchanged for a hundred million years, because it’s the perfect killing machine. A half ton of cold-blooded fury, the bite force of 20,000 Newtons, and stomach acid so strong it can dissolve bones and hoofs.

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We don’t bash guns

I get accused from time to time of being biased against certain guns, or unfairly targeting certain brands for “bashing,” whatever that’s supposed to mean. That’s not really true, although I can sort of understand why people would get that idea. I certainly am biased against certain types of guns, but I’ve come by that bias honestly through experience. I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide “lolscrewTaurus” or something like that.

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Project Lumen

If you spend any time watching low light videos on YouTube, or reading articles by “experts”, you will notice two differing opinions on the requirements of a home defense light.  Some will say too many lumens will reflect back into your face and blind you; others say it doesn’t matter and you should go with the brightest possible.  So which is it?

I wanted to find out and decided to do some testing of my own – Project Lumen.  With this article I will lay out the goal and some ground rules.

The Goal

Can have too many lumens at night?  Will too bright a light lead to self-induced blindness?  Are the opinions of other based in fact, or just regurgitated internet tripe?

This experiment will hopefully answer those questions while also helping me to determine what the best illumination for my house is.  Keep in mind your house may be different.  You may have more, or less, shadows; your house is likely a different color and sheen on the interior walls.  I have real wood floors throughout my house.  If you have carpet the reflected light will be different.  You may have mirrors that reflect light.  In my house we have a set of French doors leading into what has become the kid’s playroom.  Will the light reflected off of those doors be problematic?

Nitecore nvg

Ground Rules

It is worth noting that while I can’t test every flashlight ever made, I have gathered a decent spread of different types and lumen outputs to evaluate.  This testing will not be done in a sleep lab or a scientific dark room; no, instead it will be performed in my home, under realistic “bump in the night” conditions.  I will get to the actual test procedure in a minute, but certain aspects will be beyond my control; things such as:

  • How much moonlight is present through the windows.
  • Is there cloud cover?
  • Are my neighbors flood lights on or off?
  • How well, or how deep, was I sleeping when the test begins?

You may not agree with the results and it is entirely possible that your results would differ from mine. Still, I hope that you take the information and processes used and decide to test your own environment, draw your own conclusions, and ensure the best for your protection.

I want to give a quick note to those that might complain about my methods.  I am open to completely redoing the test in a perfectly controlled environment.  Just tell me what lab you are paying for and provide me with airfare, per diem, the address, a rental car, lost wages, and the brace of lights you want tested… ‘nuff said.

To make things simple I will use two parameters to define the test flashlights – lumens and bulb type.  Lumens is not the “be all, end all” of lighting; but it provides a number that can be used as a reference.  Bulb type will allow me to determine if the coloration of the light effects the result (for more on light color and mood click here) on the surrounding environment.  I will neither test nor document; run time, durability, candlepower, watts, weight, size or cost.  I have also made a conscious decision not to test a weapon mounted light.  This test is to determine the effects of light reflection and overall lumens on my eye sight; thus I see no reason to increase the element of error, and danger, by introducing a weapon into the test when I can get the same results with a flashlight.

Definitions

Lumen – :  a unit of luminous flux equal to the light emitted in a unit solid angle by a uniform point source of one candle intensity.  The Wikipedia page actually has a lot of quality information about lumens for those that want to geek out.

Candlepower – illuminating power expressed in candelas or candles.

The Contestants

Before I get to the test, which is remarkably simple, I want to list the players. I will test one flashlight per night.

  • Streamlight TL-3 (incandescent xenon gas-filled pen bulb, 211 lumens)
  • Streamlight NF-2 (incandescent xenon gas-filled pen bulb, 78 lumens)
  • Streamlight ProTac (C4 LED, 180 lumens)
  • Streamlight Micro Stream (C4 LED, 45 lumens)
  • Streamlight PolyTac (C4 LED, 275 lumens)
  • Nitecore SRT3 (CREE XM-L2 T6 LED, 550 lumens)
  • INOVA XS Micro (LED, 80 lumens)
  • NEBO Classic (LED, about 100 lumens)
  • Mag Light – 3 D Cell (incandescent, around 45 lumens)
  • A borrowed Streamlight Stinger DS LED (C4 LED, 350 Lumens)
  • Maybe a Q-Beam if I can borrow one (Bright!)

The Test

For as long as this article has become, the test is actually pretty easy.  I will stage one flashlight on my bedside table at bedtime. I wake up at 5:00 AM, well before anyone else in my house; so, when my alarm goes off, I will simply proceed to “clear” my house.  I will take the same path during each test. With nine flashlights and the potential for more this will take a couple of weeks, but my goal is to update what I learn as I go and offer a final conclusion at the end.

The test begins tonight.

Everyone calm down about the cell phone gun

cell phone gun

Been on the internet lately? You’ve probably seen the news reports about the company in Minnesota that has designed a gun to look like a cell phone. I’ve seen it posted across facebook with all kinds of different headings, from “Cops be on the alert” to “wouldn’t this be cool for CCW” and everything in between. It’s all incredibly hysterical, and everyone should calm down.

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What the hell is a Patreon and why do we have one?

You might have noticed some…uh…downtime recently here on Gun Nuts. As it turns out, we had some pretty severe server-side issues that took longer to work out than expected, although if you’re reading this they’ve since been solved. Which is awesome, and I’m glad for it. Now that we’re back up and running, I wanted to take a second and talk about something you might have noticed if you subscribe to our Youtube channel (which you totally should because it’s rad); because in the description for every video lately I’ve included a bump for people to donate to us on Patreon.

Now you’re probably thinking, “oh boy, here comes Caleb asking for money again, didn’t he already try this with that GoFundMe or whatever?” You’re right, I did try a GoFundMe, and it didn’t work the way I’d hoped; in fact I’ve contacted everyone who donated to the GoFundMe and asked if they want a refund. But that’s not the point, because the idea behind the Patreon is it allows viewers and readers to contribute however much they want, be it as small as a dollar, to support our content on a monthly basis. It’s much better than other types of crowdfunding because instead of just asking for a huge amount of money, all it asks for is small donations. If you think our content is worth a buck a month, awesome, donate that. If you don’t think it’s worth anything, don’t donate. There’s no pressure.

So here’s our Patreon. The proceeds go directly to supporting things like paying writers, hosting fees, etc. Now that we’ve moved Gun Nuts to a new server, I want to make sure I’m committing resources directly to maintaining the stability and growth of the site. Do you like our 1911 reviews? I like writing them and creating them, and would like to do more, so if you like them consider donating. The long term goal here is still to break the advertising model and focus the site entirely on creating awesome content around the firearms space. I don’t like writing “hey check out this thing on Amazon” posts any more than you like reading them, but for now they’re an awful necessity of doing this as a business. So if you want less (or none) of that, toss a buck at us. I can say for a natural fact that if everyone who reads this post kicked in two bucks, I’d never have to run another ad again, and that would be pretty damn cool.

If you want to, donate please. If you don’t, that’s cool too. We’ll keep doing Gun Nuts no matter what.

Post Incident Stress

You see the truck in the lead photo?  It’s mine, and while the damage may not look all that bad, it was. So, what does my wreck have to do with guns, self-defense or shooting?  Simply put, it means nothing.  And everything.  That wreck gave me an epiphany, but I’ll get to that later.  First, I think it is important to understand my mental capacities leading up to the wreck, so we may better understand the epiphany.  Let me provide a quick background.

On March 2, 2016, my wife and I awoke our two boys for school like we do every day.  My oldest, who is nine, complained of a sore throat and had a fever – we were sure it was strep.  Neither I, nor my wife, could take off from work that day and since my wife works in the dental industry and sees patients, my oldest got to tag along with me.  Having my son at work with me was neither bad nor was it stressful.  No, my stress didn’t start its ascension until 3:44 when I received a phone call from our daycare.  They called to inform me that my youngest son, who is five, was running a fever and vomiting.  They needed me to pick him up post-haste.

No problem! I get off at 4:00 anyway.  With fears of cleaning vomit from my truck, my oldest son and I left for the daycare.  We made it three miles.  While driving down a road where we clearly had the right-of-way, a woman came down the freeway off-ramp and ran the stop sign.  The lead photo was the result.

Surprisingly this isn’t an article about situational awareness.  I actually saw her coming down the off ramp and she seemed to be slowing down;  I had no reason to believe she wouldn’t stop.  My son, being a crude young male, said a funny fart joke, so I looked at him for a second.  When I looked back, she was on me.  I screamed “SHIT” and mashed the brakes just as we hit – hard.  I saw her careen off my truck from the driver side window then I looked up and noticed the airbags deflating.  It was both serene and terrifying.  I have been in bad wrecks before; but never have airbags gone off and NEVER was my child on board.

I promise, the epiphany is nigh!

I gathered my wits and composure, kicked my now wedged door open and then struggled to get my son’s door open. (Unbeknownst to me at the time, the cab was twisted due to frame damage)  Once he was out I realized we were in the middle of a busy underpass and I had no safe place for him to stand.  My mind was racing as my wife wasn’t answering her cell phone and our youngest child was likely still vomiting at the daycare.  My stress was extremely high, but I remained calm.  I am a stark realist and I am well aware that panicking is a waste of time and effort.  I can bottle up things with the best of them.

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I corralled my son, left a message with the receptionist at my wife’s office and checked on the other driver, a young woman who was injured.  She would ultimately leave by ambulance.  The local police arrived on the scene quickly as we were close to the police station.  I was able to put my son in a squad car for safety and I felt some relief.  As I surveyed the scene and took stock an officer pulled me aside for questioning – that is when it happened.  It was something I had never experienced before following any other car wreck.  It was an event that led to the epiphany.

Upon seeing my son’s face, panicked and teary-eyed, in the front seat of a squad car, I became a stuttering fool.  I was babbling.  I was stammering.  My speech was jumbled and I must have sounded drunk as I struggled to find my words.  I failed to remember my own phone number, my wife’s phone number, and even the name of my employer.  Granted this only lasted 3 minutes or so; but it became an almost out-of-body experience.  It was like I was watching myself; and in my mind I was giving harsh smart-ass commentary over my own incoherence.

For as calm as I had been seconds before, I was woefully unprepared for the overwhelming release of stress when I realized everything was secure, my son was indeed safe, and we were going to be OK.  I was crashing from an adrenaline rush and it was unlike any I had ever known.

I was mentally falling apart after things were calm following an auto accident.  A simple, stupid, automobile accident!  I do believe the vector for my stress filled breakdown was not the accident, but the fact I had been so worried for my son up until that point.  Immediately after the impact I was alive like never before.  Alert to everything, focusing on nothing; and now I could relax.

The epiphany came quickly, and the thought was both sickening and enlightening.

“How would I be acting or responding if I had just used my CCW to defend myself or my family nearby?” 

Like so many CCW holders I look for ways to mitigate the stress response.  I choose competition.  Some chose an endless stream of tactical classes.  Some do martial arts.  All work to mitigate the stress during the event… but what about the stress after the event is over?  Shooting a stage poorly at a USPSA match can’t invoke the kind of stress response I felt in my own body.

“Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law” – Miranda. 

Just because you haven’t been read your Miranda Rights doesn’t mean what you say is inadmissible.

“I didn’t want to shoot him.”

“I didn’t mean to kill him.”

“I don’t know what happened.”

What do those sayings all have in common?  They imply accidental discharge.  Negligence.  And negligence is the key ingredient to man-slaughter.  The facts are simple.  We can never know how we will truly react to a situation until we are in it; but at what cost do we risk not trying to mitigate all possible outcomes?

In my wallet I have a card from Texas Law Shield.  On the back of that card is written the following:

“The holder of this card invokes their Rights pursuant to the 4th, 5th & 6th Amendments to the U. S. Constitution, all applicable provisions of the State Constitution, and all applicable provisions of the State Codes and Statutes.  Any questioning of this individual must be immediately suspended and shall be continued only in the presence of and with the advice of legal counsel.”

Strong words, and while I have never been one to “lawyer up”; the simple fact is what you say following a self-defense situation may have ramifications that are far-reaching and costly.  This is not meant to be an advertisement Texas Law Shield, or for any other such service; it is meant to provide food for future thought.

In as little as three minutes after the wave of stress came over me I was more or less back to normal.  Three minutes where I could have said things that the best lawyer in the world might have had trouble dismissing.  Simply put, if was being interviewed by an officer following a self-defense event, I would rather hand them a card to read, then to open my mouth and increase the lawyer fees an order of magnitude.

I have been looking into some ways to mitigate the after action stress, but Mr. Benjamin Franklin was correct when he stated “surely an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.  Pay attention, avoid stupid situations, with stupid people, at stupid hours.  Finally, if the balloon goes up… keep your mouth shut until someone who is both calm and collective can prevent you from verbally hanging yourself.

Within the training community you will find a rare few that “get” the needs of a CCW.  Their teachings might not be as cool and as flashy as the 3 day AR class, but they are more important.  Entertrainment is fun, but carrying a gun is serious business and we should all look for training that supports realistic goals – at least when starting out.  For your CCW training you should seek out trainers that realize the differences between the needs of a civilian vs law enforcement vs military.  A list would include the likes of: Claude Warner, Tom Givens, Grant Cunningham, Massad Ayoob, Greg Ellifritz.  They are instructors who base their teachings on actual case study and reality.

Have I trained with any of them?  Unfortunately not yet; but you better believe they are on my short list and they are well ahead of a lot of entertrainers.  They should be on your list as well.

What happened with my son?  He was an emotional wreck for a few hours but there was no permanent damage – and I Thank God for that.

Are you curious about the truck?  The impact on the front wheel bent and twisted the frame something fierce; it was deemed a total loss.

Be safe out there, and be sure those you love know it.  I mean that, sincerely.