We teach two things that many people disagree with – the need to be ready to shoot at (and only occasionally hit) attackers very many times before they will cease to be a threat, and that no pistol calibers are very effective when it comes to stopping attackers.
Traditional firearms defense classes will sometimes advocate you shoot twice then stop and observe if the person is still a threat. We understand the unfortunate reason that this should be a consideration – avoiding subsequent accusations of using excessive force.
And many people – ‘old timers’ – will argue against some calibers and claim that their favorite caliber is wonderful while all other calibers are useless.
The real world contradicts both perspectives. A determined attacker can absorb way too many hits before he will stop his attack, and it doesn’t seem to matter what the caliber of rounds you are sending his way may be. Although, for sure, sometimes you’ll get lucky and a single shot – whether it hits him or not – will be enough to have him turn tail and run away as fast as he can go.
But some of the time, you’ll not be so lucky, and those are the situations you need to most focus your training on.
Please read this article. It tells of a police sergeant who is a master firearms trainer and SWAT team sniper who found himself unexpectedly in a gunfight with a bad guy. The exchange of fire lasted less than a minute, and was at very short-range – both being very typical situations.
During the short exchange, the police officer fired 33 of the 37 rounds he had with him. He’d have probably fired more, but he had to switch to conserving ammunition because he was running very low. The bad guy fired 21 rounds from two pistols.
So there’s the first training point. A highly trained police officer fired 33 rounds – and would have loved to have been able to fire more – against one single attacker, who in turn sent 21 rounds back at the police officer. That’s a lot of lead flying through the air – do you always carry extra magazines with you? How would you have managed?
Now, of those 33 rounds, an amazing 17 hit the bad guy. That’s extremely good shooting indeed, and easily twice as good as most police officers achieve. As we said, the officer was much more trained at firearms use than most officers. On the other hand, none of the 21 shots from the bad guy hit the police officer.
Second training point – even at point-blank range, and with a great deal of training, you’re going to be lucky to get one in every three or four shots on target. How would you have scored – would your results have been more like the bad guy’s 0/21, or the police officer’s 17/33?
Third training point – the bad guy soaked up 14 rounds and was still attacking – it was only the last three rounds that stopped him.
That’s an incredible situation, all the more so when you appreciate the bad guy wasn’t high on drugs or anything; he was just simply a determined really bad guy. There’s no way the police officer was stopping after each shot to see the effects of it – he was simply firing as fast as he could.
Keep reading, and you’ll see that six of the 14 hits were ‘fatal’ hits. But none of the six fatal hits, nor any of the eight other hits, were enough to stop the bad guy from continuing his attack. The bad guy finally died in hospital, some time later.
Fourth training point – even ‘guaranteed’ stopping shots such as head shots don’t guarantee you’ll stop the bad guy instantly.
Oh – and the caliber of pistol the police officer was using? It was chambered for the classic .45 ACP round, and almost certainly the police officer was firing high quality hollow point rounds.
Fifth training point – Fourteen hits with .45 cal hollow point rounds, including six ‘fatal’ hits, failed to stop this bad guy’s attack. It was only the final three (three!) headshots that took him out of the fight. Note also the police officer didn’t shoot just once into the bad guy’s head – he did so three times as quickly as he could. A headshot is not a magical solution, and don’t assume your job is done after a single headshot.
In case it isn’t obvious from this story, you need to be sure to have an adequate supply of ammunition with your pistol in a convenient location on your person, and be skilled at quick reloading in a high stress environment. You need to be able to reload your empty pistol in under 2 seconds.
Note also the police officer’s conclusion. He no longer carries a 13 round Glock 21 in .45 ACP caliber. Instead, he carries a 17 round Glock 17 in 9mm. He decided it was better to have more rounds in his gun, albeit of a lesser caliber. And he now carries 145 rounds with him.
How many rounds do you have with your pistol?