Can Your Gun Fight?
What is and is not a fighting gun is an argument with no end. Everyone has an opinion on the matter and every opinion is vulnerable to the case where someone pulls off a stunning success with a gun we were all so sure was wholly inadequate, or the case where our mighty favorite falls flat on its muzzle. Then long after the chaos of the fight has subsided, we’ll continue to argue what really happened and how it all proves we, me, you, were right all along.
A fighting gun is of a different bloodline than the race guns you see in those solar system super matches where competitors shoot so fast the event seems over before the first shot is fired. To me a gun isn’t interesting unless it will stop a threat or kill game. I don’t doubt a race gun could stop a lethal attack but with all the gadgetry, customizing and hokey “holster systems” a racing gun is unlikely to find itself on scene and in action. Competition weaponry is designed and built to win the next match not the next gunfight. And the intense training necessary to reach the upper echelons of those competitions focuses on being faster and more accurate than other cardboard and steel shooters, not faster and more accurate than someone trying to shoot you.
Race guns are not interesting.
The Long Gun Argument
Many say your rifle is your fighting gun and you fight with your pistol to get to your rifle. This would be great if not for the obvious impracticality. But who knows, maybe the assailant you face on the street will wait while you fight your way back to your gun safe and return with your AR to finish him off. If you get into a gunfight, you’ll be fighting with your handgun. And it better be a fighting gun.
My Fighting Guns
So what’s my big fat fighting gun opinion? The two absolute ultimate fighting guns are the ones I carry: my Ruger SR1911 in .45 ACP and Ruger GP100 .357 Magnum. Before anyone spews coffee all over their screen and sputters on about caliber this, caliber that, Colt, Smith, Sig, What No Glock!!!, or whatever, let me say your fighting gun is the gun you fight with best. Even if it be plastic or of diminutive caliber.
Following are some of my thoughts on this fighting gun matter:
Your Fighting Gun will do Terrible Damage
Your fighting gun is not a target pistol drilling nice and neat holes in paper with wad cutters. It’s a tool of very last resort. And when you press its trigger in anger you will really be needing to hurt someone, and hurt ’em bad. This means hitting your assailant and hitting him hard with bullets designed to penetrate deeply and transfer as much of its energy as possible. There are many modern self- defense bullet designs which provide both adequate penetration and energy transfer. The round you choose will depend on your personal needs and preferences and which round your fighting gun likes. A fighting bullet is useless when jammed under a stove-pipe or sailing passed your attacker. Choose the round your gun shoots accurately and cycles flawlessly. For my 1911 I chose Speer’s Gold Dot 230 grain jacketed hollow-points and for the .357, Hornady’s 125 grain Critical Defense.
May Your Fighting Gun be with You
Your fighting gun will be with you at all possible times. It’s your constant companion and comfort is key. If your fighting gun is uncomfortable to wear you’ll be surprised how many excuses you’ll come up with not to strap on. With the great variety of carry gear and concealed carry clothing lines virtually any gun can be fitted to wear comfortably. I personally face the challenges of carrying big and heavy guns. For my 1911 I chose the Crossbreed IWB Super Tuck with the combat cut and a sturdy leather belt and for the GP100 I use a simple Winthrop OWB leather holster. When I first started packing these heavyweights I would wear them around the house to get used to the feel and to work out any kinks. It was much like when I transitioned from the weightless little Hondas 250’s at bike school and then jumped onto my new (to me) 660lb Harley Fatboy. It just takes getting used to.
If it ain’t there, it can’t fight.
I know there’s a flowering love affair with red-dot and laser sights for concealed carry weapons. If hi-tech sights give you the confidence to do what’s necessary when trouble finds you, then I say use them. I also understand the utility of optical and laser sights for those with failing vision and when the choice is between a battery-powered gun, and being unarmed.
For me, there’s no optical or laser sight which can provide the rock-solid confidence I get from having rugged and dependable iron sights on my fighting gun. The irons will be there every time I need to line them up, no exceptions. I believe optical and laser sights unnecessarily add another layer of proficiency to your training. Even advocates of these hi-tech sighting systems are always sure to point out not only must you train regularly with your optical/laser sights you must also train and master your iron sights. Why? Because hi-tech sights fail. We all train clearing malfunctions and fast re-loading but who trains for “sight-malfunction”. What will happen in the case of actual sight failure when your life depends on what you do next? I believe many hi-tech sight users will have a fateful moment when they no longer see their dot and assume it’s still out there somewhere, and begin some gun wiggling to reacquire said dot. When instead of wiggling they should be shooting over the irons. That fateful moment could be fatal.
Oh yeah, batteries die too.
The cavalry coming over the hill will be useless if they’re not bringing fighting guns to the fight. Your primary fighting gun must be backed up by a gun that can finish the fight with the same devastating effects as your first liner. As with your primary, your back-up is a matter of personal choice and includes the dynamic of what you fight with best. My choice is a Smith and Wesson J-Frame revolver with a 1.875” barrel loaded with Speer Gold-Dot Short Barrel +P hollow-points. One thing I do like about some of the non-steel guns is magazines for some full-framed models fit the compact versions making carrying spare ammo for your back-up a simple matter.
Also, I don’t hesitate to strap on just the J-Frame when circumstances require “light carry”.
Those are some of my thoughts on the fighting gun. For the edification of my readers I discussed the matter with two retired police officers I personally know and who have been in actual gunfights. I asked each to recount their experience and then tell me what their fighting gun choice would be if ever the elephant should return.
Sgt. Ron Witten – Saugus, Massachusetts Police Department
It was 1972 and Officer Ron Witten had been on the force for just about one year. Ron was on night patrol with his more experienced partner, an 82nd Airborne veteran, when they received a call for a possible hostage situation involving multiple gunman at a large department store. On scene, Ron and his partner were preceded by two other officers who had already entered the store. Store employees informed the other officers there were two gunman and they had taken the store manager to the office at gunpoint. Ron and his partner were soon met with a sight for the grandkids: emerging from the store was the store manager clutching a 55 gallon drum full of cash and coin and flanked by two gunman pressing pistols to each of his temples. As the trio headed towards the get-a-way car Ron’s partner shot out the car’s windshield hoping this would prevent an escape. One suspect starting shooting at Ron while the other made for the car and the store manager simply vanished. Ron returned one shot from his S&W Model 10 .38 Special revolver prompting the shooter to drop his gun, raise his hands and surrender. The second suspect made it to the car and as he sped pass, Ron fired two rounds into the driver’s door. The fleeing suspect was later apprehended in a jurisdiction about 15 miles south and Ron learned his bullets penetrated the car door but expended themselves just beneath the upholstery. After the shooting Ron was granted permission to purchase and carry on duty a .357 Magnum. Ron duty carried the magnum until the department transitioned to Glocks chambered in .40 S&W.
Ron’s fighting gun choice now is his former duty weapon the Glock 23 in .40 S&W because it’s the gun he shoots best.
Detective George Hall – Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department
In the late 1960’s, then Officer Hall was a veteran street cop who had survived the Martin Luther King riots. As George will tell you, there was a lot of work to do before the National Guard showed up.
George has been in many shoot-outs and he was once asked by a young man, had he ever killed anyone. George’s response was “Not that I know of”. The young man chuckled at George’s seemingly flip answer, but George wasn’t kidding. When out on patrol with his partner many nights back they received a call for a home invasion in progress. Arriving on scene the two officers saw four men rushing to get into a car at a range of about thirty yards. One of the men turned towards the officers and drew a gun. Before the armed suspect could fire, George had drawn and fired his .38 Special Model 10 and shot the man. The wounded man’s friends quickly gathered him up and shoved him into the car. Since the officers were unsure if there were injured victims on scene and perhaps needing immediate help, no pursuit was offered. When George walked up to the spot the armed and wounded man was last seen, it was obvious the suspect had been hit hard as the ground was drenched with blood.
That night, and the following days and weeks saw no such gunshot victim turn up at any emergency rooms and no such body being discovered.
George wasn’t kidding.
Today, George’s fighting gun choices are a .38 Special revolver for close in work, and a 12 gauge pump shotgun loaded with slugs for distance work.
So now you have some ideas for reference when considering what attributes you require for the gun you may someday rely on to save your life or the lives of your family. You can also reflect on the experiences of two men who have fired their guns for real and on their opinions for what they choose for a fighting gun.
Your choices are for you to make, and fight with.