For those of us living in California a New Year means that new gun laws of some kind will be going into effect. Cheers!Read More
Size most definitely matters when it comes to the grips on your handgun. Working in and around the firearms industry for the last 13 years there is a common trend I've seen over and over again: The assumption that certain people who might be smaller in stature need smaller guns and smaller calibers - "The smaller the person, the smaller the gun", right? Wrong. Whether you're 6'8" tall or 4'10" tall there is almost no handgun that would be impossible for you shoot comfortably. Except maybe for the massive S&W 500 revolver or the tiny derringer that fits in a belt buckle... those aren't fun to shoot no matter what size you are.
The fact is, the most effective firearm to keep for self defense is the one you will practice with. Having a large caliber handgun for self defense is not ideal if you are too afraid to practice with it regularly. And if you feel like you'd feel safer at home having a .44 Magnum but can barely wrap your fingers around the grip it's ok - just because you might want a smaller "gun", it doesn't have to mean a smaller caliber. The same goes for those who have large hands, you don't necessarily only have to choose large calibers. There are so many options now that will accommodate any hand size without sacrificing the ammunition size. Also, you will need to assess what your intended use will be. Will you be using it for home defense, concealed carry, or just recreation - or all three? Where do you live? Are you in an apartment surrounded by walls which would potentially have people on the other side of them? Do you live in a house alone? Do you live in the country with acreage? Are there kids in your home? How often do you plan to practice with this firearm? Can you afford to practice regularly with the caliber you chose? All of these questions are important when choosing a firearm for you.
As far as handguns are concerned, the grip is a critical aspect of selecting the right size for you. When you can get a firm and comfortable hold on the grip then the size of the caliber and the length of the barrel are both secondary. Having the proper grip is very important when practicing accuracy and consistency and also makes a huge difference when countering the recoil associated with larger calibers. For a lot of handguns you have the option of switching out the factory grip for smaller, more custom grips to fit your hands. Take this option into consideration when looking at firearms to purchase, if you like the size or caliber of the firearm but the grip is too big for your hand ask about switching them out.
You'll hear it discussed at many different ranges, pro shops, or shooting events - "knock down power" or "stopping power". And while it is true that my .45 ACP can cause exponentially more damage than your .380, your .380 can cause infinitely more damage than using nothing at all if it is what you are comfortable shooting and practicing with. A large caliber handgun in the hands of somebody who is uncomfortable with it is a lot less effective than a much smaller caliber in the hands of a skilled and confident firearm owner.
One of my most preferred handguns for home defense is the .357 Revolver simply because of the effectiveness and versatility of the caliber, as well as the simplicity-of-use of the Revolver. The .357 Revolver comes in many different makes, models, calibers, and sizes. You can find one with a a short, stubby barrel, a long barrel, or anything in between based on your preferences and needs. It is nice to have the option of shooting .38 Special ammo at the range for practice, which has less recoil and is more affordable, and then keep .357 Hollow Points in it at home for protection(the .357 can shoot .38 Special OR .357 Magnum). IF you ever do have to use it to defend yourself, grabbing it and shooting it is quick and simple. You don't have to think about whether the magazine is in it or loaded, is there a round chambered, whether the safety is on or off, what to do if it jams or misfires... you simply pull the trigger and if it doesn't go "bang", then pull the trigger again and it will. I recommend a Revolver for people who want a handgun but struggle with having the hand strength to manipulate the slide on a semi-auto, or for the person that can't practice enough to be completely familiar with the semi-automatic handgun in any scenario.
The caliber for you is the caliber you need based on what you intend to use the firearm for. If plinking away at the range is all you want to do, something mid-sized like a 9mm might be a good match. If the cost of ammunition is a concern for you but you want to practice often, then something versatile like the .357 Magnum mentioned above, or small and economic like a .22 might be a good fit. If all that matters is stopping somebody who is intruding and intending harm in your home, then a larger caliber is preferred as long as you can practice enough to be comfortable and proficient with it. If you walk into any Firearm shop and take a look at the variety of ammunition you will notice that there are many different calibers, most of which can be comparable in size or price if you're looking at the mid-size rounds. Like I've mentioned, the most effective caliber is the one you are most comfortable practicing with.
In November of 2016 CA voters passed Prop 63 which would require background checks for ammunition purchases(effective January 2019), make it illegal to buy ammunition online(effective January 2018), and ban the possession of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds(effective July 1st, 2017). As concerning as all of these new regulations are, lets discuss the magazine ban.
Prop 63 states that anyone possessing a high capacity magazine(meaning any firearm magazine holding more than 10 rounds) needs to "get rid of it" by the deadline. People in possession had several options, some of which were turning them over to law enforcement to be destroyed, sending them out of CA to a state where they're legal, and selling them to a licensed firearms dealer. In June 2017 several San Diego county residents along with the California Rifle and Pistol Association filed a lawsuit claiming this new law infringed on their constitutional rights. Federal Judge Roger Benitez temporarily blocked the new ban in his strongly worded 66-page ruling where he expressed concern that this new law would violate firearm owners' 2nd and 4th amendment rights. He stated that unless he issued the injunction that "hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of otherwise law-abiding citizens will have an untenable choice: become an outlaw or dispossess one’s self of lawfully acquired property." This measure of Prop 63 has been suspended until it can be further reviewed and ruled on.
In 2000, magazines holding more than 10 rounds were(with very limited exceptions) made illegal to buy or sell in CA, but not illegal to possess. For over 20 years law-abiding citizens have possessed high capacity handgun magazines, the overwhelming majority of these people have not gone out and committed crimes with these magazines. The reason this ban is considered a violation of law-abiding citizen's rights is because citizens have the "right to bear arms"(2th amendment) to defend themselves and their families and are protected against "unreasonable searches and seizures"(4th amendment) by the government. Prop 63 would essentially take law-abiding citizens and potentially turn them into criminals by forcing them to hand over their property without any compensation.
A criminal, by definition, does not abide by the laws and statutes our government has put in place. So then it is unreasonable to expect that these criminals will follow the same laws that we must abide by. It is illogical to think that, by taking away certain rights from law-abiding citizens the criminals are just going to hand theirs in too, or that they won't continue to be able to still have access to finding these illegal items by unlawful means. It is irrational to think that by putting further limitations on the "good guys" that you'll be in any way restricting the "bad guys". This doesn't make us safer, this instead puts us at an unfair disadvantage when it comes to defending ourselves and our families.
A common argument of those supporting the ban is that high capacity magazines are often used in mass shootings, causing more casualties, and that "common citizens don't need all of those rounds to protect themselves". Who determines that what an individual needs or deems necessary to defend themselves is acceptable? The question has been asked: "why do you need more than 10 rounds at a time anyway?" Well, the question isn't about "need". Why does your car's speedometer say it can go 180mph when you can't legally go over 65mph on most highways? A speeding 2-ton vehicle can cause massive damage and casualties when not used safely and responsibly, should we then regulate all vehicles and cap all speedometers at 80mph over a concern that not all citizens will be safe and responsible with them? After all, look at the statistics of deaths caused by vehicles in crashes, DUIs, and even(more recently) terrorist attacks. But again, the majority of drivers are abiding within the law when out on the roads and it would be unreasonable to enforce strict regulations on lawful citizens because of those who choose to use vehicles recklessly. In the US we have certain rights we can enjoy simply because it is our right to. It is part of what makes this country great. These are things our constitution continues to protect for those of us that chose to abide by our nation's laws.
At the end of the day a law-abiding citizen will still abide by the law and a criminal will still break the law.
One of the most common misconceptions I've heard both on the range and in classes is: "isn't hollow point ammunition illegal?". The answer is no. Hollow Point ammunition is not illegal. However, lets talk about what exactly is hollow point ammunition and what makes it different from "every day range ammo"?
Hollow Point ammunition means that the bullet has a hollowed-out space or divot in the nose of the bullet which causes it to exponentially expand upon impact. The most significant benefits of this expansion (as pertaining to self defense) are: 1. Less Penetration, and 2. More internal damage. The reason you might want decreased penetration is because if you're shooting a "bad guy" in a self defense situation, either in public or in your home, the chance that the bullet could go through the target (a body or maybe even a wall) and cause collateral damage is notably lessened with hollow point bullets. You might have heard the term "stopping power" when referencing ammunition at a range or pro-shop, this typically means that the round that has the most velocity or size or expansion supposedly is the best for stopping a threat the quickest. Not always. To stop a threat the fastest means you need to cause the most internal damage. A carefully placed round-nosed FMJ can do a lot more damage than a JHP that hits, lets say, a less vital area of the body. The benefit of a JHP is that upon expansion internally it is tearing at tissue, possibly organs, and hopefully bones as it travels through (and not always stops in) the body.
There was a recent case here locally where an unwanted intruder forced his way into a home and the homeowner, trying to protect his family, shot him twice. The injured intruder was arrested and the homeowner is not currently facing any charges. Whether the family-man intended to simply injure the intruder or not is unknown, but lets use this case as an example. A lot of self-defense cases here in CA end in a lawsuit, whether civil or criminal it is almost expected. It is more common than you might think, and scarily so, that shooting a bad guy once or even multiple times doesn't always mean that the threat stops. It doesn't always mean they fall down and stop coming at you like they do in the movies. If this was true then this particular homeowner might not have needed to fire a second round. The mindset needed when choosing self defense is survival. When the situation is "it's them or me" or "I need to protect my children" then the thought that it might result in some court case is not the first thing I would think about, personally. My first thought would be to keep myself and my family alive and well. So when choosing ammunition to keep in my home-defense firearm I would logically choose the ammo that, together with training, would be the most likely to guarantee that I can stop a threat if I ever have to.
A good rule I like to set is this: Practice with FMJ at the range and keep JHP at home for self-defense or carry. There are many different brands and hybrids of hollow points so when you purchase JHP make sure to cycle a few through your semi-auto to make sure that your firearm works well with that specific kind. If it does then buy another box or two and keep them on hand.
I know this is a topic that can be discussed for hours; the pros and cons, the rights and wrongs, the what-if's, the studies and ballistic tests - but I hope this answers the most common questions about hollow point ammunition.