Author Archives: tinker1066

The Difference Between Can and Should

Last Saturday a man was shot and killed near Silver Lake. This is a small lake with a swimming area and parks, and I spent a lot of time there when I was younger; swimming, picnicking; the sorts of things one does at a recreational area.

A gun is not a solution; it’s the tool you resort to when all other options have been exhausted. It is the LAST resort, not a hammer for every nail.

It was a typical summertime weekend afternoon at the park. Suddenly a man walking his dog started screaming obscenities, deployed a metal baton and began chasing people, including a grandmother with her grandchild. He is not reported to have actually struck anyone, but the situation had potential to end badly. It did.

A bystander intervened verbally, and the man with the baton pepper-sprayed him and struck him repeatedly with the baton. Another man also attempted to intervene, and at some point deployed a concealed handgun and shot the suspect twice. The suspect was transported to a nearby hospital and subsequently died. The shooter was detained and questioned, but no charges have been filed. It appears that the authorities are inclined to view this as a justifiable homicide.

In Washington state rules regarding the use of lethal force in self-defense are that the person employing force must have a reasonable belief that they or another innocent party are in imminent danger of death or grave bodily harm. Someone shouting that they are going to kill you is not enough, unless they have a demonstrated capacity to carry out that threat at that time. This would be demonstrated by that person by brandishing or using a weapon.

By this standard the authorities appear to be inclined at this time to view this as a justifiable shooting, and no charges have been filed. But there’s a difference between ‘justifiable’ and ‘necessary’ that needs to be examined here.

First things first. I was not there. I did not witness the incident, and we do not have all of the facts available to the witnesses, the shooter, the police or courts. Let’s take a look at what we do know.

The weapon deployed by the suspect is considered a ‘Less Lethal’ weapon. This is a weapon that while capable of producing a lethal injury it is not intended to do so. Police batons, pepper spray, rubber bullets and TASERs all fall into this category. Simply striking someone with this weapon is unlikely to produce ‘death or grave bodily harm.’ The suspect also used pepper spray, another ‘Less Lethal’ weapon.

Second, the suspect was obviously deranged and violent, but did not necessarily represent an immediate threat of death or grave bodily harm to either the shooter or the man he had pepper-sprayed. He had deployed a potentially lethal weapon, but had not yet used it in a manner likely to inflict death or grave bodily harm but the potential for both was undeniably present.

Based on the information available to us this appears to be a legally justified shooting. But the question that comes up in my mind is was it necessary? The use of lethal force is the court of last resort, to be employed only when it is the least bad solution to the problem. Looking at the information we have the shooting was justified, but may not have been the least bad response.

We do not, cannot know what was in the mind of the armed citizen that shot the suspect, or what combination of thoughts, experience and immediate circumstances led him to resort to deadly force, but put yourself in the situation for a moment and think about it. Is there something else that could have been done? Might it have been better to use a lesser degree of force? Would it have been better to observe the situation without direct intervention, but be ready if it became necessary?

My inclination, based on the facts available to us is that I would not have resorted to lethal force. I would have stood ready to intervene if necessary, and that intervention might have been an unarmed response. But I’m a large, well trained and physically-capable man. I also have a good understanding of the weapons employed by the suspect. That’s not true of everyone; we are each individuals and need to make decisions based on our own unique circumstances, which will inevitably result in different outcomes. In some cases these factors may result in a sub-optimal outcome, but it might be the best that could reasonably be hoped for.

If you carry a weapon for self-defense you need to be aware of and consider all of the options in a situation. It is immensely helpful to consider situations like this in detail and be aware of those options before you find yourself having to respond. It can literally be the difference between life and death, and not just yours.

Stay safe and take care.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 8 July 2021

Underwood Xtreme Defender Follow-up

I recently tested Underwood Xtreme Defender 9mm ammunition provided by Ballistics By The Inch, a website dedicated to testing ammunition. The results were intriguing. In gel tests penetration was good and the permanent wound cavity showed significant disruption of ’tissue’ along the length of the track. Very promising on ‘on paper,’ but I and others have had questions about how it would perform in the real world of bone, gristle and other body structures.

Underwood Xtreme Defender ammunition used a monolithic copper/light-for-caliber round configured to both penetrate and disrupt tissue with hydraulic forces.

During discussions of my tests we all agreed that some sort of real-world test was needed before passing judgement on these bullets. As it happens I have a friend in Texas, which is suffering under a veritable plague of feral pigs. In addition to wreaking havoc on crops these creatures represent a legitimate threat to human beings, even to the point of attacking, killing and eating them. Mike regularly has to kill these creatures, and agreed to test the Xtreme Defender on them should appropriate circumstances occur. BBTI sent him some ammunition for the test, and we didn’t have to wait long for a report.

The pig was shot and crippled with a rifle, then finished with the 9mm ammunition. Mike is indication the wound from the pistol bullet with his knife.

“Was able to pop a moderate sized wounded sow last night with a Defender. She had been knocked down and got up to flee when we walked up on her. IMO this is a good and valid test, as adrenaline and the urge to flee is about as high as possible. The bullet cleanly broke a rib and penetrated about 6-8 inches. The wound track showed considerable tissue disruption for the full depth of penetration. At the hit, she went down and stopped all attempts to do anything. She just breathed a few breaths and was dead.”

‘That’s not enough penetration!’ I hear you cry. Isn’t it? The FBI standard is 12-19″ of penetration in ordinance gel after passing through four layers of 16 oz. denim, but the thing to remember is that this doesn’t represent penetration in an actual human body; it is a comparative tool only. The reason for the depth specification is because real bodies contain bone and other variable-density structures that can reduce the bullet’s penetration. The 12-19″ standard takes this into account; in absolute terms a bullet needs much less penetration than that in a body do cripple vital structures.

I’ve read several accounts of wounds left in medium game animals by 9mm 115gr. JHPs, and this performance appears comparable to those accounts. I’m usually skeptical about light-for-caliber high velocity bullets for self defense, and both testing and real-world results seem to bear that out. But these bullet’s differ in both design and wounding mechanism compared to conventional bullets, and it seems to work. They are also immune to ‘loading up’ with fabric etc. as can sometimes happen with hollow-point bullets.

That being said there is no such thing as a ‘magic bullet.’ The only way to produce a ‘hard stop’ with a handgun is to break things the baddie can’t function without, and these don’t change that fact. You still need to do your part by getting the rounds on target, and to hit things that matter like the central nervous system and circulatory system. No bullet will do the work for you. With that caveat I have to say I continue to be intrigued by these bullets, and I strongly suspect that they will do the job as well as conventional hollow-point ammunition.

The only way we will know how these perform in self-defense shootings is if enough of those happen that we have a large pool of evidence, a circumstance that I honestly hope never occurs. Comparative tests are likely to be the best measure we’re going to get, and in our tests and others these bullets seem to perform comparably to other defensive ammunition in this caliber, with some potential advantages.

In my testing they have been accurate, they are low recoil and work reliably in my weapon. The low-mass of the projectile means it will have poor penetration of household obstacles like walls and appliances. With that in mind I would be confident in loading them in my ‘night-stand’ gun for self-defense.

More testing is in the offing, and I’ll follow up as more information becomes available.

Take care and stay safe- and Happy Independance Day!

Michael Tinker Pearce, 4 July 2021

What the Police Don’t Know Can Kill You.

As an armed civilian you may need to use your weapon in defense of yourself or another innocent. Civilian self-defense shootings are wildly varied, so it’s hard to generalize about them. But if it happens in public you can bet the police will be arriving quickly, and when they get there it’s very likely they will have insufficient information. They will evaluate the situation mostly on what they can observe on arrival.

The gear you carry matters, but mental preparation and training matter a lot more.

They’re going to be keyed up, knowing that people have been shot. If it was a spree shooter or if there’s an officer down they’re going to be really keyed up. It’s a situation tailor-made for mistakes. You need to be prepared to deal with them, and you need to make absolutely sure that you are not part of the problem. It would suck to survive a lethal force encounter only to be shot by the police. The other week in Colorado it happened.

Details are sketchy and we’re not going to focus on those here; the gist of it is a bad guy shot a good guy, an armed civilian shot the bad guy, the police showed up and shot the good guy. Three people dead, only one of them a bad guy.

We’re all human. A lot of us train. We all have reflexes. Good things, generally, but in the wrong situation even good training can get you killed if you haven’t thought about what to do after the bullets stop flying.

I’ve been around the block a time or two, and had some experiences most people haven’t. Despite this I’m just some guy on the internet so take my words as food for thought, not Received Gospel. This is a thing I have thought about and come to understand that the danger isn’t over until the police are in control of the situation.

When the police arrive they will have some very specific priorities, the first being to establish that the danger has passed. Close on the heels of that they will want to establish control of the scene, both to insure the safety of themselves and the public and to preserve evidence. Anything that interferes with these priorities will be dealt with abruptly and with little regard for social niceties. Because of the variability of the circumstances of civilian shootings it’s difficult to give specific advice, but anything that appears threatening to either their safety or their sense of control can have bad, even tragic, results. You need to bear this in mind.

That’s not going to be easy; you’ve just had the mother of all adrenaline rushes. Your fight-or-flight reflex has been triggered in a big way. You may be experiencing a major rush of elation as it sinks in that you have survived. Everything you have just experienced is going to make it difficult for you to control your responses and you may even be in shock. So what do do?

Think it through in advance. Be mentally prepared; understand the priorities and needs of the responding officers. Know what they want and do your best to give it to them. Condition yourself to do as they order, immediately and without hesitation. Don’t volunteer information, don’t try to explain anything and, for the love of God, don’t argue with them. If they tell you to drop your $3,000 STI pistol drop it. A gun is a lot easier to fix than a bullet hole.

There’s another thing you can do to improve the situation if it seems safe and prudent.

Dial 911.

Yes, other people have probably called them already. So what? Tell the operator who you are. Answer their questions, but don’t volunteer information. OK you’re pretty much going to need to give them basic details like the fact that you were involved in a shooting. But that thing about ‘anything you say can and will be used against you’ is very much in play here. People tend to be a bit disorganized in these situations and sometimes say things out of their proper order or express themselves in a way that later sounds bad in court. Limiting yourself to the bare essentials can insulate you from this possibility. The police will make their decisions based on what they find, and you’ll have ENDLESS opportunities to tell your side of things later, trust me. Ideally after consulting with and in the presence of your lawyer.

The 911 operators will keep the responding officers informed, and the more information they have the safer you are. They’ll also probably keep you informed and instruct you on what to do as the police arrive.

Any shooting situation is messy and chaotic. People are going to be frightened, maybe hysterical. The responding police will be in a high state of readiness and hyper-alert. Nothing will absolutely guarantee things will go as they should, but with some understanding and forethought you can stack the odds in your favor, and really that’s all you can ever do.

Stay safe and take care.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 30 June 2021