I read most of every gun magazine that hits the stands. I’m a gun guy and a firearms instructor and much of the information that’s in those magazines helps me be better at what I do. That said, I can’t help but notice most of the wording on the front of the magazines, in the advertisements and in the article titles is designed to sell guns. “Rimfire fun! .22 Long Rifle Conversions”, “.45 ACP PERFECTION!”, “Sexiest XDm Ever!”, “9mm CC Shoot Out!” Makes you want one, right! Or two, or all of them!
I’m all for selling guns. I’m in the business. And like any business owner, I’ve got rent to pay, suppliers to keep happy and employees I want to take care of. I can’t do all of that without selling guns, along with the ammunition, accessories and training to go along with them. But to me, it’s not about selling merchandise as much as it is about helping people. You see, deep down in my heart of hearts I believe people should be able to defend themselves. I believe they should be able to stand up against a tyrannical government, if it becomes necessary. And I believe people in a free country should be able to responsibly own guns because they’re cool, they’re fun to shoot and frankly, just because they want them.
So I’m not down on the fancy, eye-grabbing magazine covers or article titles designed to create the desire or need for this firearm or that firearm. But I am down on some of the marketing techniques that suggest to people that are brand new to firearms that this is the gun they need to own, when in fact it probably isn’t.
Let me give you some examples. A recent article in a popular gun magazine was titled “Today’s Top 12 Concealed Carry Pocket Pistols”. The intro went like this:
Want something that is powerful and portable? Compact yet capable? Omnipresent but not overwhelming? Well, there are many choices out there, with a broad selection of compact autopistols and revolvers (as well as interesting derringers and the like) in powerful and capable chamberings available.
The listing started off with the S&W Bodyguard .380 auto pistol. Okay, I will sell you one of these if you give me every indication that you know what it is and why you want it. But if you’re a first time pistol buyer, especially if you’re woman, I am not going to sell you that gun without insisting first that you go rent one and shoot it. Even then, I’ll want you to look over some of the ballistics charts and hopefully, understand just why a .380 is such a minimal caliber for personal defense.
The other day one of our students showed up at a Handgun 101 class with a Ruger LCP. Not a Ruger LC380, but an LCP. She wanted to learn everything about her gun because the next day she was coming to a License to Carry Class. I must confess, without singling her out, I kind of dissed her gun. Not hers specifically, but I did talk about little guns, little calibers and the shortcomings of them, pointing out that it’s not just about the effectiveness or non-effectiveness of the .380 round. I discussed recoil and how difficult it is for a small lightweight gun to absorb recoil, leaving your hands to do it. I discussed additional facts that in my humble, but somewhat educated and informed opinion, are important to know. Facts like: the little guns like the bodyguard don’t hold much ammo, they don’t offer much to hold on to, they have a short barrel and short sight radius and in general are just not very easy to shoot accurately and effectively. And most importantly, the ammunition they shoot is not very powerful compared to just moving up one notch in caliber.
The student in my class smiled throughout my little discussion and seemed to not have her feelings hurt. The next day she passed the License to Carry Shooting qualification with her bodyguard. She passed, but not with flying colors. She asked the instructors if she could shoot again with another group, this time using one of our 9mm handguns. They pulled a SAR B6 9mm out of our loaner bag and she shot the qualification test again, this time with a much higher score.
In my mind the bottom line of this story should be that she came back to our shop and bought a SAR B6. But that’s not what happened. She’d spent hard-earned money on that Bodyguard and at least for now, that’s the one that will have to do.
Okay, here’s another article, this one from Personal Defense World. The article’s title was: 380 Pocket Pistols Under $700 That Deliver Instant Self-Defense. The first gun on their list was a Beretta Pico. Now I love Berettas. The M9, the PX-4 Storm — these are great pistols. The Nano, not bad, but the Pico is just too darned little.
Here is how they tout it: “At only 11.5 ounces, the ultra-compact Beretta Pico pistol is easy to carry all day long. Chambered in .380 ACP, the Pico was designed by Beretta to be flat and snag free, so that it slips into a pocket or holster without any obvious bulges.”
No doubt it’s easy to carry, but as I’ve said to my students many times. Carrying isn’t the objective. Defending yourself is. If the only objective is to carry, we’d all carry lightweight, snag-free tiny little pocket guns. But the objective is really to have a gun that will defend you.
I’ve yet to see any of the Picos shot in my classes fire more than two or three rounds without some type of stoppage. It’s probably not the gun, but the shooter, trying to hold the gun in way that lets it function.
My purpose in this article is not to be critical of a bunch of different guns, but to make you think twice about whether or not the gun you want to carry for personal defense will actually do the job of defending you.
I bought a little .380 myself. It’s a Taurus 738 that fits in a little pouch that you can put on your belt and most people would think it’s cell phone or PDA. I shoot it occasionally, just for fun. But do I carry I carry it for self-defense? Only if I want an additional backup gun.
I want you to think about something. What kind and size of guns do the police carry? What kind and size of guns to the LTC instructors you may know carry? You don’t find them carrying little guns. You don’t find them carrying small calibers. Or, if you do, I can almost guarantee you they are new to the business. Those of us who have really studied what goes on in the real world, those of us who have shot a lot of different guns, those of us who have studied real-world ballistics, rather than the fancy headlines in magazines and advertisements, are pretty careful about what guns we carry. Those of us who are instructors and who sell guns, have totally different perspective on what we recommend than does a typical gun salesman in a retail establishment.
Let me suggest to you that before you buy your next gun you seek out a veteran instructor. Let that instructor talk to you about your shooting experience, about your need for the gun, how you intend to use it. Then try to shoot one if you can. I’ve told the guys at my shop that if it’s not the right gun for you, they can only sell it to you if you have been advised of how it may or may not work for you and you are twisting their arm and throwing money at them.
We need your money, believe me, we do. But we want you to have a gun, or guns, that you like to shoot and can shoot well, and which will stop bad guys if that’s what you need. If you just need the gun to punch holes in paper or put game on the table, maybe it’s not as critical. But if there’s a chance you would have to use the gun to defend your life, we want it to be capable of doing that. Let me say that another way. If you’re a lady, I wouldn’t sell you a gun for personal defense that I wouldn’t provide for my wife for that same purpose. If you’re a girl, I’ll have to take that analogy to my daughters-in-law and my granddaughters because I don’t have a daughter, but you get my drift.