Why I’m Uneasy Carrying a Small Caliber “Pocket” Gun

I have long been an advocate of carrying a gun that holds more than five or six rounds and in a caliber that everyone agrees would do some damage. When I speak on this subject it’s from more than just a personal preference but from the point of view of an instructor who has some personal experience, but who has also thrown his life into studying everything he could get his hands on. Often, I’m simply ignored. “The guy at the gun store told me this would be enough gun,” seems to be the common response. I sure hope the guys at MY gun store didn’t tell you that!

I decided to aggregate in one place some of the incidents that have shaped my thinking so that my readers can understand it’s not just me that’s saying it. Let’s look at some real-life incidents and see what conclusions can be drawn from them

Incident 1:

Glock21August 25, 2008, Officer Tim Grammis of the Skokie, IL Police Department found himself engaged in a firefight with a fleeing bank robber, who did not want to go back to prison. In the ensuing gun battle, Officer Grammis emptied two magazines of .45 ACP from his Glock 21 at the robber and was on his third when the robber, Raymond Maddox, stopped shooting. Reconstruction of the episode revealed that 54 rounds had been fired during the incident, 33 from Officer Grammis. Autopsy results revealed that 17 of Grammis’ 230 Grain Speer Gold Dot Jacketed Hollow Points had struck Maddox. Some had struck extremities but Maddox had also been hit in one kidney, both lungs and his heart. The last three rounds that Grammis fired had hit Maddox in the head, but two were in the face. Only the last had pierced his brain and ended the fight. Arguments that he was on drugs and that’s why he didn’t succumb easily when shot were nullified when autopsy results revealed he was totally drug-free at the time of the incident. You may deduce from this incident that if even the big gun wouldn’t stop this guy, why carry one? I would argue differently. My thoughts on it are if it’s this hard to stop somebody, I need to start with something that might have chance instead of something that would just irritate him.

Incident 2:

Taurus738Tammy Sexton, age 47, was shot in the head with a .380 by her estranged husband. The bullet struck her square in the forehead and exited the back of her head.  Sheriff Mike Byrd of Jackson County, MS said, “When a sheriff’s deputy responding to a disturbance call arrived, she met him at the door holding a rag on her head and talking. She was conscious, but she was confused about what had happened,” he said. “She had made herself some tea and offered the officer something to drink.” Byrd said the bullet passed through the lobes of the woman’s brain without causing major damage.

LadysmithIncident 3:

January 8, 2013 – Melinda Herman was working at home when a man began to ring the doorbell. She called her husband at work, who told her to gather their 9-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, and go hide. All three of them went to an upstairs crawl space, and Melinda brought along a .38 caliber handgun to the hiding place.

The man broke into the house and rummaged around before making his way to the crawl space, where he found the mother and children hiding. Melinda shot the intruder five times, hitting him in the face and neck. She told the man if he moved she would shoot him again, although she had run out of bullets.  The intruder, who police identified as 32-year-old Paul Slater, managed to get to his car and as he tried to flee, crashed into a tree.  That’s five times in the face, folks, and now the gun is empty, but the guy is still on his feet!

Incident 4:

October of 1997 – Jacksonville, Florida officer Pete Soulis made contact with a suspicious driver, Joseph McGrotha, at a gas station.  McGrotha produced a 9mm handgun, firing one round into Soulis’ chest (it was stopped by his armor).   Before it was over Soulis was shot three more times while shooting McGrotha 22 times, 17 of which were described as “center mass.”   It would take McGrotha as long as 4 minutes to die after the last shot was fired. Officer Soulis service weapon was chambered in .40 S&W, Winchester Ranger SXT rounds.

I’ve been aware of various studies about what happens in real-life scenarios, including the one by Tom Givens of Rangemaster Training in Memphis, who has been able to track graduates who have been involved in shootings over a twenty-five year period and whose findings I’ve quoted in some of my training. The results of Tom’s research indicate that encounters involving firearms are usually 3 shots within 3 seconds from 3 yards or less, with the success rate from pocket guns being something like 50%, meaning the good guy lost about 50% of the time. Not very good odds in my book.

I recently came across another study conducted in central Texas by Karl Rein of KR Training in which he put students to the test with pocket guns and with medium to full-size guns. It’s an interesting study that you can read about here at usconcealedcarry.com/is-a-pocket-gun-enough. If you don’t have the time or inclination to read it, here is his conclusions:

Data analysis indicates that a five-shot .38 probably holds enough ammunition to handle 70 percent of all likely situations. In the hands of a “low skill” shooter (anyone lacking training beyond the CHL level), the odds of getting acceptable hits are poor; that group averaged 57 percent on the test. When those two probabilities are multiplied to calculate total probability, the result is 40 percent, which isn’t great, but is better than 0 percent (no gun).

What’s interesting to me is that the majority of the comments following Karl’s article are justifying anything from .32 to .380 to .38 caliber guns and basically telling him his research is full of it.

TaurusPT111I want my loved ones, my students and myself to have a much better success ration than 40% if we’re ever involved in an armed encounter where we are fighting for our life. For this reason, I do my best to teach people to shoot and carry handguns that are at least 9mm with 10-12 rounds of ammo or more. Keep that pocket gun around as a backup for when you’ve run your fighting gun dry.

The Taurus PT111 is just one of many choices for a decent-sized, affordable carry gun in a caliber (9mm) and with a capacity (13 rounds) that should provide adequate protection in almost any civilian armed encounter imaginable. If you’d put this gun up side-by-side with most of the popular pocket guns you’d have a hard time making the argument that you could carry one, but not the other.