Saturday, December 4, 2021

Thoughts on Self Defense and Shooting

I tried to keep up with the Kyle Rittenhouse trial as much as I could with work and other life pressures getting in the way. Suffice it to say, that trial was a hot mess in more ways than one. I spend a fair amount of time involved in civil litigation issues with peripheral contact with the criminal litigation world. My general opinion on lawyers (and most professions) is that there is a Bell Curve of talent and performance with a few really sleazy, unethical lawyers or really top notch lawyers on the opposite extremes with a varying degrees of mediocre in the middle leaning towards one end of the spectrum or the other. The way I usually say it is that there are rock stars and rocks in every profession. Unfortunately, the rocks far outweigh the rock stars. From what I saw, the prosecution team tried to take the boulder on the sleazy, unethical side of the curve, roll it down the beach into the ocean, drop it into the Marianas Trench and bury it as deep as possible into the mud. 

If they are not disciplined by the state bar association, I will be very disappointed. 

I will not present an opinion on the outcome of the trial other than to say that I think the verdict was correct legally. You can also bet that this is not the end of the circus. Act two has yet to begin.  

I will, however, share some thoughts on self defense and shooting guns in general (not necessarily related to the Rittenhouse trial) that percolated in my brain over the last couple of weeks.

1) You may have heard someone say that "Only Hits Count" (in competition, in a gunfight, etc.). That's not really true. The truth is that "Only INTENDED hits count". Refer to the Fourth Rule of Basic Firearms Safety: Be sure of your target AND what's behind it. A shot that hits an innocent bystander or destroys the Ming vase holding grandma's ashes is a huge negative. You are responsible for every bullet that comes out of your weapon, and "Oops, I didn't know..." or "It was an accident" will not hold up well in court. 

Also remember that most modern construction housing walls do not stop bullets and, at most, slow them down slightly. If you live in an apartment (which is one huge box of matchsticks and drywall) like I do currently, consider using frangible ammunition and understand that you will have very limited clear lanes of fire. For the love of all that is holy, do not use a shotgun with slugs in an apartment. 

2) Another gem you hear from time to time is: "You can’t miss fast enough". There is a corollary to this one: "A fast miss can turn into an unintended hit".  See number one above. Shooting GOOD is more important than shooting FAST. Unlike in the movies, you don't get unlimited ammunition. Even at the gun range just plinking on a weekend afternoon, there are no magic revolvers that have as many rounds a belt fed machine gun without reloading. I don't know about you, but I can't carry a pallet load of spare ammo and magazines with me everywhere I go. 

So, make every shot count. At the range, take your time, ensure you have a good and firm grip (none of this tea cup stuff and no limp wristing [even with revolvers]), get a good sight picture (whether irons or optics), and then smoothly press the trigger when your sights are aligned with the target. Take a moment to assess whether your shot went where it was supposed to; and, if not, ask yourself why not? If  you are taking your time, you will start to notice things like jerking the trigger, flinching, a weak grip, poor sight alignment. If you find yourself in a gunfight or self defense situation, that is not the time to "spray and pray" bullets everywhere. 

I'm not saying mag dumps aren't fun once in a while; but, unless you are super human (or Jerry Miculek), it is nearly impossible to see the sights and target under recoil and stress while trying to shoot 0.05 to 0.10 split times between shots. Save the mag dumps for the range with a safe back stop. Besides, at current ammo prices, you might as well light a $100 bill on fire. 

3) There are no warmups in a gunfight. The way you shoot cold at the range without warm up is the best you can expect in a defensive shooting situation.

4) Avoidance and situational awareness more important than shooting. There is an old saying that you win 100% of the fights you don't get into. Another saying is: "Don't do stupid things with stupid people in stupid places." 

5) Violence should be your last resort. 

6) There is no such thing as a fair fight. 

7) If you have to fight, fight to win. Fight like you are the third monkey waiting to board the arc, and it's starting to rain. 

8) Fatigue is a thing. Adrenaline is an even bigger thing. Embrace the suck. When you are tired or your heart is pounding like a heavy metal drummer on speed, your ability to shoot accurately is going to suffer. 

9) You will shoot some guns better than others, and it’s okay to have a favorite. But a well rounded shooter should be able to pick up ANY gun and get combat effective hits. I love me a 1911. It is, hand's down, my favorite type of firearm. Interestingly, I shoot Glocks as good or better than I do 1911s. Which really throws me for a loop because I love the aesthetics of wood and steel in a 1911 while the polymer of the Glock is very much function over form. 


  1. I use birdshot in my 12-GA for "in-house" deployment. If you shot an intruder twenty feet away from you, the shot will leave a hole in him the size of a Big Mac. It will definitely clear any bogies in a hallway. Yes, a miss will send shot through the drywall, but so much of its energy will be eaten going through it that will pose much less danger to anyone on the other side of the wall.

  2. Pete, I don't disagree that birdshot mitigates the risk of drywall penetration. The flip side is that individual pellet penetration for #7 or smaller shot tends to get fairly shallow in the intended intruder target fairly quickly. So, that Big Mac sized hole may only go 5 to 7 inches deep. Still enough to make someone rethink their life choices, and I'm sure not volunteering to stand in front of a load of birdshot.

    1. 4+ decades x raying people. Seen plenty of people who survived with a load of birdshot on their chest or abdomen film. VERY few living bodies with buckshot seen on an x ray. Take that however you wish.

    2. Daniel, I've seen all sorts of tests involving ballistic gelatin, water jugs, sheetrock and 2x4 wall sections, "meat targets", etc. The thing I took away from all that is that 1) physics is a thing, 2) bullets do weird things when acted upon by outside force and other objects midflight, and 3) you want the most effective round you can reliably put in a useful spot to stop a threat which may not be the same round for every situation. The Greg Ellifritz study of handgun stopping power is particularly instructive as it analyzes something north of 1000 real world shootings involving calibers from .22LR up to shotguns.

    3. As stated I have some 45 years of radiating people....the majority of that in the ER of various hospitals. My first fifteen in So. Central and East LA.... GSW sounds were routine. The take away from all those shootings.....the smaller the caliber the more likely the victim was to survive long enough to see the ER. A .22 can still kill....but often after getting to the ER. Larger calibers....rare to see. Again....take that as you wish but I know what I saw.

    4. Daniel, I do not doubt your direct, first hand experience (always the best kind in my humble opinion), and I agree that birdshot is not an optimal choice for most social situations. Having said that, shot placement is everything. If someone were to insist on using bird shot instead of buck shot in shotgun for home defense, there are some places on the human body that are better than others in terms of bird shot effectiveness. I would argue a load of #7 bird shot to the neck would make an awful mess and substantially increase the chances of stopping a threat well before the ER (and probably EMS) got involved.

  3. YOU are responsible for EVERY round you for and what it strikes..unless you are a badgemonkey sprinkled with the magic fairy dust of government authority and immunity

    Speed can cause you to miss and/or hit the wrong thing. Lack of speed can result in your opponent hitting the ten ring in YOU before you negate the threat they pose. Gaige Grosskreutz....the guy Rittenhouse nailed in the bicep, had a LOADED Glock in his hand and ADMITTED he was preparing to kill Rittenhouse when rendered ineffective by Kyle. If Kyle had hesitated or missed he would be speed DOES matter.

    Avoiding a fight is best. However the bad guy gets a vote. He may vote to FORCE you to fight.

    And what happens to you should you prevail in a fight has FAR more to do with the politics and agenda of the morons in power than with facts.
    Kyle Rittenhouse was very lucky there was a TON of video proving irrefutably that he was acting in self defense AND he was very lucky the prosecutor failed to pack the jury with liberal morons who could be led by the nose. As it was it took DAYS for the acquittal because one juror was a "Karen" with the IQ of soap and was scared to acquit because of threats from the commie left.

    You will NOT "rise to the occasion". You WILL fall to the level of your training and reflexive conditioning.

    And life is NEVER fair. You can do everything correctly, legally and properly and STILL die or end up in prison for life.....unless you are a badgemonkey. Different rules for them.

    1. Daniel, the way I've always heard it is that every bullet fired has a lawyer attached to it. Unless you have special governmental fairy dust sprinkled on you.

      Speed and accuracy have to be maintained in a delicate balance, and you cannot ignore movement. Being a static target is never a good thing in a fight.

      It's true that the bad guy generally takes the initiative to start the fight in a place and time of his (or her) choosing. That's where situational awareness comes into play to avoid being on the X when it's convenient for them.

      No argument the post fight political considerations. I'd much rather face a grand jury in a conservative rural county than a liberal urban county.

      Mindset is everything. If you have not taken the time to decide NOW how far you are willing to go defending yourself, you've already lost or will find yourself making poor decisions and reactions.

      Fair is something than happens once a year at the county or state level where all the FFA kids show off all the livestock, every imaginable food is deep fried and coated in sugar or chocalate, and you get to spend obscene amounts of money on carnie rides that were hastily assembled with a pair of channel locks and a worn out cotter pin.


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