Thursday, December 26, 2013

Gun advise number 6

A modification and update to what I have previously written on guns and ammo.

As I have learned more about guns and ammo over the two years since I wrote on the subject, and as the world situation has changed, I find I need to modify my advice on the subject, mainly about ammo.

Today's world has become a lot more dangerous, and the prudent homeowner or family defender needs to improve their skills, since there is no point in scoring a second place finish.

Today's threat is more likely to be armed, more likely to be more than one attacker, more likely to attack violently and suddenly, and most of the time, in low light situations. 

I am discussing home defense almost exclusively here, and will take up other related subjects in future articles.

How much ammo do I need to keep on hand?

First, as a lesson learned during the recent ammo droughts, I now believe everyone should be buying their ammo by the case. Initially buy a case of each kind of practice ammo you plan to use, and find a kind of defense ammo you are satisfied with (more about that later, since I will be modifying my advice on defense ammo) and buy at least enough to cover the three year supply I discuss here. 

My current advise is to keep a three year supply of ammo, at your normal usage rate.  This means that if you shoot once a quarter, and each time you shoot, you use about 50 rounds, you need to have about 600 rounds of ammo. My next point is that you should be shooting at least a few of your defense rounds each time you go to the range, so you will be certain your weapon will fire them reliably.  This isn't too important with a revolver (unless your defense and practice ammo are vastly different, and then you should do it to insure you can reliably hit the target with it), but with an semiautomatic handgun, or even a defense rifle, I recommend, at the very least, shoot the last round of fire be with your defense ammo.

So, doing the math, if you shoot 50 rounds of practice ammo and 10 rounds of defense ammo each quarter, you also need 120 rounds of defense ammo. If you have a compact revolver, and only shoot 15 rounds of practice and 5 of defense, you only need 180 rounds of practice and 60 of defense, but I would go ahead and buy a case of the practice ammo, just to get a better price. You will probably use it eventually.

More info on JHP ammo. 

I wrote before about how to select defense ammo, but a few factors have come to my attention since then. To expand properly, almost all hollow point ammo need to impact at around 800 fps or more. Also, to gain penetration depth the round needs to be fairly heavy for the caliber. 

I found a passage in an article of Shooting Illustrated that sums up using a handgun to defend yourself in a gunfight today:
"Defensive handguns are very inadequate at stopping bad guys. The bullets make small holes and damage small amounts of tissue. Like GunSite instructor Charlie McNeese says, “Humans are hydraulic machines; they run on fluid.” All you can really hope a defensive handgun bullet will do is let a lot of fluid out in a hurry.
The problem with this approach is that even with a big leak, a bad guy can operate long enough to return the favor."

This problem really gets difficult with the 2in to 3in barrel lengh found on some subcompact pistols used for concealed carry.  A secondary problem with defensive ammo, which is made worse with a short barrel, is muzzle flash. Hornady makes a Critical Defense round and Buffalow Bore makes ammo for defensive pistol use that is flash suppressed and is specifically designed to generate a lot of power from a short barrel. I believe Speer uses the same powder (but with a slightly lighter charge) in their Gold Dot ammo.  Corbon and possibly a couple other brands may be marketing flash suppressed powers also. but I can't find their spec's at this time.

Over the past two years I have studied ammo design and watched dozens of tests using a standard block of gelatin covered with four layers of denim.  The effect desired is to see a large cavity just after the bullet enters the geletain, and the bullet penetrating 12-15 inches into the block of gel. The denim mimics heavy clothing (and is near the worst case) that might clog the nose of a hollow point bullet. The geletain, while not completely mimicing real life tissue, is about as close as any consistant medium gets. 

And the key word here is consistant. Bullets will behave differently in body tissues, but how they will behave
will depend on where in the body they are.  The test gives results that are consistent for testing one bullet against another.  There are variations on this test, using a layer of simulated bone or using phone books instead of geletain. The big advantage of geletain is that impact on the geletain results in expansion of the bullet in a fasion almost identical to the expansion you get from most body tissues. The disadvantage is that once the bullet drops to a lower speed, it will continue forward further than it will in body tissue, especially muscle, cartilage or bone, thus the need for 15 inches penetration. 

Over the past 15 years, there has been a considerable improvement made in bullet design. The ends of hollow point bullets today have notches and grooves cut in them, making them expand more easily, but preventing them from expanding so far they cannot penetrate far or break though bone. Some bullets now have a polymer plug in the hollow cavity that prevents them from clogging when they pass through something before hitting tissue. (A variant on this is the soft point found on some ammo that will expand a lot like a hollow point, such as found in "Guard Dog" ammo). In addition, the better JHP's today have a bonded jacket (or are completly alloy) that insures the bullet will not frament, since fragmentation will reduce penetration depth.

Another place I will make an adjustment to my former advise is shotgun ammo.  I still recommend ONLY buckshot for self defense, but now I will say any good "name brand" #4 buckshot load will suffice.  12 gauge shells come in 2-3/4 inch and 3 inch.  Some shotguns will only take the 2-3/4 inch, so I recommend getting that size exclusively. That way ammo can be traded with a neighbor if need be.  No need for premium anything. At close range 12 gauge delivers more than double the shock, and causes more than double the bleeding of any common handgun caliber. At medium to long range, a lighter load will allow you to make follow up shots faster and more accurately.

In my third article, I said on the second or third trip to the range, you may want to try doing a double tap (attempting to hit the center of the target twice as quickly as possible) or engage multiple targets.  And I said "How much or how often you need to practice does depend on how much responsibility you have."

But todays criminals are tougher, more likely to be armed, and more likely to work in teams.

Now I say train until you can hit center of the target two or three times quickly and train until you can hit multiple targets quickly.  But never practice doing it faster than you can score hits.  Missed shots not only don't count, they count against you. According to one article I read, you should be firing your shots less than six seconds after putting your sights on the target.  Too long and your muscles will begin to fatigue and shake.  At close range, of course, you should be able to get off at least one shot per second. To achieve this level of proficiency will likely take a lot of dry fire practice, and several trips to the range.

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