Choosing a Carry Weapon

I recently ran across a post elsewhere denigrating the .22 LR (.22 caliber long rifle cartridge) as a self-defense round.  It reminded me of a rather long article that I read some time ago.  The article outlined a study detailing the mortality rate of gunshot victims over a statistically significant period of time.  According to that study, the oft-maligned .22 was in a statistical tie with one or two other calibers as being the most deadly; that is, a higher percentage of people shot with a .22 died than with most other calibers.  Note: there wasn’t MUCH difference between the top and bottom, percentage-wise, but it showed quite clearly that the .22 LR, despite whatever its limitations may be in penetrating armor, crushing bone, or initiating bowel movements in unprepared bad guys (i.e., scaring the …. out of them), is quite deadly.

Now, I DO appreciate the fact that a large-caliber projectile imparts more energy than a small one, but I think it’s effectiveness is overstated.  (Note that I said “overstated,” not “inconsequential.”)  Deep penetration and big shock waves are all fine and dandy and make very cool slow-motion videos of twelve-inch blocks of ballistics gel with t-shirts draped in front – but heart and lungs are less than THREE INCHES from the surface. Not much penetration is required for a lethal wound.

I know, I know…   Some of you are thinking, “Yeah, but what if I’m confronted with a caffeinated, coked-up, meth junkie on acid?  I want a round that will drop him in his tracks!”  Seriously, if you have a 200+ pound drug-fueled wacko coming at you, his oxygenated blood will keep him moving for probably 30 seconds no matter HOW big a hole you put in his chest. Okay, maybe something big enough to knock him off his feet would be nice.  How many people are going to be packing (and able to handle) a gun big enough to accomplish that?  Furthermore – and fortunately – that’s really a rare scenario… unless you live on the South Side of Chicago (or similar neighborhood).  Even there, most of the attacks are not drug-fueled (but many are motivated by drug money).
I once had to put down a pest (animal, not human) that destroyed over a hundred dollars worth of plants in our yard. (We even opened up our vegetable garden to him, but he insisted on eating rose bushes and other expensive plants instead of the lettuce we were willing to share.)  The .22 slug passed through the upper torso of the animal (that included 2 fur hides) and kicked up a piece of sod the size of a silver dollar behind it. That same bullet could EASILY have penetrated a shirt, one layer of skin, and found a human heart or lung.  I don’t see lack of penetration as a real issue in a .22.
If everything else were equal, would I choose a larger caliber for self-defense? Sure — for the same reason Ty Cobb used to kick the first base bag when he reached it: eliminating one inch of the 90-foot distance just might make the difference between being safe and out at second base (or third or home).  Far more important is, in an emergency, pulling out a weapon with which you can put a bullet where you want it with a high degree of confidence (i.e., accuracy).

So, whether one’s other considerations are budget, weapon size and/or weight, feel (grip shape, balance, recoil…), or looks, the gun one chooses should be one that will RELIABLY dispense bullets with every squeeze of the trigger and be one with which the user is PROFICIENT. (I’m guessing many people buy guns and don’t practice much with them.)  If ammo cost is prohibitive, then by all means get a .22 and get good with it.  The ammo is plentiful again and prices are generally under 10 cents per round. No matter how big a punch is packed into the round you choose, if you can’t quickly draw, aim, and shoot accurately with it, you will likely inflict just a flesh wound or have an outright miss.  Then, what?  If your life is in danger, you need to disable your attacker.  If you can become proficient with a large-caliber weapon, great!  Oh, and, by the way, if reliability is as important to you as it should be, take a close look at revolvers. They have none of the negative feed and eject issues of the semi-automatic pistols.  (I’m particularly fond of magnum revolvers, .357 and .44.)   Everything taken into consideration, I might prefer a large-caliber weapon with which I am familiar.  However, even in a tight spot, I’d have no qualms whatsoever about using a .22 with which I’m familiar.

As a former business owner, I can attest to the old adage that the top three considerations in opening a business are location, location, and location.  Similarly, the top three considerations in shooting are placement, placement, and placement.  Choose a weapon that will help you achieve that.  Hope for the best (that it will never be necessary to use it), but prepare well for the worst.

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