Monthly Archives: June 2016

Armed Society- Politer? No. Safer? Perhaps.

(Reprinted from Michael Tinker Pearce & Linda Pearce blog)

There is a saying that ‘An armed society is a polite society.’ This is notably, demonstrably untrue. Elizabethan England was an armed society and even a cursory glance through ‘The Elizabethan Journals’ will reveal that it was anything but polite. Modern Somalia is far from being a polite society, and America is certainly not a polite society.

OK, so not more polite- but is it safer? Yes and no. Only a vanishingly small percentage of the guns in America are ever used in a crime. Despite a rash of ‘spree killings’ and single-incident mass-shootings America experiences less violent crime per capita than it has in many decades according to law enforcement reporting- which is more comprehensive than it was at any other point in history. I do not attribute this to the presence of firearms, BTW, but it’s difficult to estimate the net effect of the presence of civilian-owned weapons. Most instances of armed self-defense do not involve injury and are never reported. Contrary to this a vastly higher percentage of the instances of criminal use of a weapon are reported (excepting rape and domestic abuse.)

For much of my adult life I possessed a carry permit and often actually carried a gun. In that time there were two instances (as a civilian) where producing a weapon ended the situation without violence.  That is the most common result of such encounters, and like most people I didn’t bother to report them.

What stands out in my mind though was an incident of armed self-defense that occurred when I was actually unarmed.  It was winter, and I was wearing a jacket partially zipped up and was generally respectable-looking. I am a large man who carries himself with confidence and I appear physically competent- exactly the sort of person that street criminals typically avoid.

I had met a friend in Pioneer Square one Friday evening and was returning to my car, which was parked under the Alaskan Way Viaduct. This area is dark and untenanted in the evening except for people like me returning to their car.  I was walking along a row of parked cars when I saw a group of five boisterous young men approaching from the opposite direction. They were dressed in hoodies and ragged jeans- typical ‘street’ attire for urban toughs. They suddenly turned and began to cross the street directly towards me and I reflexively ‘cleared my coat;’ meaning that I unzipped it and swept it back slightly as one would to prepare to draw a weapon.

The effect was electric- it was like the young men bounced off an invisible wall in mid-street and immediately turned away and went about their business. They had obviously recognized the gesture and knew what it meant; that fact alone means they almost certainly had some criminal intent. It might have been a strong-arm robbery, and armed robbery or a beat-down but we’ll never know now.

Yes, I was unarmed. But we live in an armed society, and they knew that there was a chance that I was carrying a gun. When my gesture confirmed (to them at least) that I was they were instantly deterred. Naturally I did not report this incident- I mean really, there was nothing to report. But this was an instance of effective self-defense that was only possible because a civilian might reasonably be carrying a weapon. One has to wonder how often incidents like this occur, where crime is deterred by the mere possibility that the prospective victim might be armed.

Is this an isolated incident? No.

A friend– we’ll call her Susie– does not care for firearms and will probably never own one. One evening she came home from work at dusk. The house was dim, but it was still bright outside so when she opened her front door she was silhouetted in the doorway. Down the hall she could see a man approaching her from her bedroom with a box of her stuff in his hands. Realizing that he could not see her clearly she raised both hands before her and spot-lighted him with the laser attached to her keychain (that she normally used to play with her cat) and commanded him to ‘Freeze!’ He did- these days everyone knows what a red dot means! She made him put the box down and call the police to report that he was a burglar being held at gunpoint, and would they please come get him? They did, and she was safe. Again, this was effectively armed self defense even though she had no weapon. It was only possible because it was believable to the suspect that a civilian might be armed.

Interviews with felons convicted of violent crime indicate that these criminals are far more concerned about running into an armed civilian than they are about an encounter with the police. They know the rules and conditions under which the police will generally fire. An armed civilian? In their minds all bets are off.

These are two instances where living in an armed society was a positive defense and prevented- or ended- a crime. They come from my own small circle of acquaintance; what are the odds that these events are that unusual given the very small sample group they are derived from?

An armed society is manifestly not necessarily a polite one- but America may be safer as an armed society than it might be otherwise.

Responding to a Mass Shooting/Terrorist Attack

I have a fair bit of experience shooting under stress; enough to tell you this- it isn’t easy. Especially if you’ve never done it before.  Adrenaline causes degraded fine motor control. You get tunnel vision. Time will seem to go into slow motion. These are all things that can be overcome with training. That’s the important note there- the training. Without it your reactions are likely to be, shall we say, highly unpredictable. They aren’t going to be a certainty even with training, but you are a lot more likely to do something appropriate.

As I’ve noted previously in this blog while the overall threat of violence is much diminished the scope of the threat has increased greatly. The Paris shootings heralded a new era in terrorist attacks, as we saw in California and Orlando. A mass shooting attack takes relatively little planning, is easy to equip for and is very difficult to detect and stop in advance.

Understand, if you are Joe Average living in Typical Town USA you are statistically more likely to be eaten by an alligator than to be caught in one of these incidents. But because responding to them is what this article is about let’s say you are. What should you do? Heroically open fire? No. If you aren’t trained you are likely to miss with most or all of your shots.  Those bullets will not vanish if they miss the bad guy, and he’s there because there are a lot of people. In this situation every bullet that doesn’t hit the bad guy has the potential to kill an innocent. Probably best not to start shooting- unless the bad guy is on top of you and you have no other option. It’s only moderately likely to be useful, but at least you’ll go down swinging.

If you are in a crowded area with no cover available and the gunman is close your best bet is to charge him and hope that others join you. Seriously, mob the shooter. In the rare cases that civilians stop a mass shooting that’s almost always how it happens. Incidents of armed civilians stopping these attacks are vanishingly rare. Most people are not armed, and even those who are often realize it is not prudent to intervene- not the least because the police will have trouble differentiating them from the shooter. Several people at the university in Oregon were armed and had the presence of mind not to draw their weapons and rush in when it was likely that the most they could accomplish would be to increase the confusion.

So what should you do?

The first thing is take cover (or concealment at least.) Try to locate the direction of the threat. If you can establish that look for a way out. If you find one get out and take as many others with you as you can. It’s not going to get a movie made about you, but it’s probably the most productive thing that you can do. If you are armed you might deploy your weapon while you do this- strictly to cover the retreat. Keep the weapon inconspicuous though; it would suck to get shot by the police while you are helping others to escape. As soon as you are clear put the weapon away- same reason.

This is not exactly a comprehensive guide, I know; these situations are highly variable and individual. There’s no telling when or where it’s going to happen, or wether you’ll be in a position to do anything about it, escape or whatever. The thing is to be mentally prepared, have a realistic assessment of your own abilities and if at all possible leave the shooter to the professionals.

I’m not going to tell you not to carry a gun, or not to use it. That’s an individual choice, and we do have a responsibility to our fellow citizens; the chief of which is not to make things worse. As an armed citizen your weapon is only one of the tools at your disposal, and it’s a lot less important than good sense and a plan.

‘Break-in Period-‘ WTF?

I’ve had a lot of dealings with the venerable 1911A1 and it’s variants. These were still the standard issue handgun when I was in the service. When I got out I worked for a time at Detonics. This company made some damn expensive guns in the 1980s; you’d pay $1100 for a new, in the box Scoremaster. But what you got for your money was an out-of-the-box accurate, dead-reliable high quality hand-fitted pistol.

They knew the gun was reliable when it left the factory because they fired three magazines of mixed ammunition through each and every gun before it went our the door. By mixed I mean several types of ball, hollow points, target wadcutters and semi-wadcutters. If the gun didn’t function flawlessly it went back and got reworked until it did. That was what you were paying a premium for after all- a well-made gun that you can count on.

Fast forward to 2010 SHOT Show. I was at the booth of a ‘premium’ 1911 manufacturer and listened as he explained that the $2200 dollar gun he was showing should be fired 500-1000 times to break it in before you should count on it. This struck me as a bit odd since I had just left a maker of inexpensive 1911s where the owner of the company said, “We recommend a 500 round break-in period, but honestly the gun should work out of the box. Just give it a good cleaning, lube it up and you ought to be ready to go.” This company’s products ran 20-25% of the cost of the ‘Premium’ gun.

He was very candid and went on to explain that while they did their best sometimes minor things slipped through- a rough surface, a small burs etc. that would work themselves out over the course of a few hundred rounds, so they liked people to ‘shoot them in’ before returning the product under warranty. Of everyone that I know that has purchased one of these guns it has, in fact, been reliable right out of the box.

So when the representative of the ‘Premium’ gun talked about a 500-1000 round ‘break-in’ period before the gun would be reliable I was dubious. This ‘break-in’ period means that if you don’t reload you are going to pay as much as $400 in addition to that $2200 price tag before you should ‘count on’ your gun being reliable. I know a number of people that have bought these guns and had numerous malfunctions in the first 500 rounds. To the companies credit most of these guns eventually settled down and became reliable.

The rational for this ‘break-in’ period was that these guns were manufactured to tighter tolerances and needed to ‘wear in.’ I’m well-known for speaking my mind- in other words without thinking- so I said, “So basically you charge a premium price, then draft your customers to finish the pistol for you. That sounds like a pretty good deal for you guys.”

The rep was speechless- in fact he gaped at me like a fish out of water. A couple of people chuckled and several looked uneasy. After thirty seconds of the fish-gape I moved on. So did several other people, mostly with thoughtful looks on their faces. I do not think I would have been welcome at that booth thereafter…

On another occasion a buddy of mine was proudly displaying his new premium 1911 and said, “It’s not really reliable yet; I’ve only put about 400 rounds through it.”

I said, “You know, if you bought a Glock for $450 dollars and it didn’t work right out of the box you’d throw a fit.”

He  looked gobsmacked, then a thoughtful.

Here’s the thing about break-in periods for premium 1911s- it’s a scam. The manufacturers of these guns have convinced us that this is normal. It’s not. The guns aren’t premium- they are just tight, and the manufacturers have convinced us that we should feel privileged to do their work for them. On a $400 1911 I can live with that. On a gun that is supposed be the top-of-the-line, the best of the best? It’s bullshit, and we need to call them on it. Because they will keep right on conning us as long as we let them get away with it.