Last month I got my hands on an old revolver my uncle had back when he was a cop some 40 years ago. I was, as always, excited to get a new gun in my hands, even if it was 40 years old. It was clear that the pistol, a snub nose .38 S&W, had not been fired for a long time. It was not dirty on the frame and the cylinder spun freely. The trigger pull was smooth and gave no sign of dangerous wear that could cause a failure. I ran a cleaning cloth across the pistol and was excited to add it to my collection.
Later that week I grabbed a box of paper punching .38s and headed to the range. The first rounds down the barrel were smooth and surprisingly accurate for a snubby. Both double action trigger and single action trigger pulls were smooth and broke crisply and I was pleased with the gun. After 50 rounds I put it away and headed home, planning to give it a good cleaning later.
The next day I pulled it out of my safe to clean it, opened it up and discovered the cylinder would barely rotate. Closing the cylinder, both the trigger and the hammer would barely budge. I couldn’t believe 50 rounds of 38s would foul a gun so much. I set to cleaning and oiling the pistol using M-Pro 7 foaming gun cleaner and Kleen Bore gun oil. When I was done the cylinder spun freely and the trigger and hammer moved smoothly.
Satisfied I had fixed the problem and cleaned the pistol well, it went back into my safe. Looking at it the next day the same problems returned! It seems that the built up carbon from 40 years past was loosened and heated in the process of firing it and when cooled it gummed up the pistol. My original cleaning would have been adequate for a pistol that was well maintained. This pistol needed a much deeper cleaning.
I set to taking apart the revolver and removing the cylinder from the arm. Bingo! 40 years of carbon fouling smeared off the cylinder arm. This gun was dirty!
After a complete and thorough cleaning and oiling I’m pleased to report that the gun functions like new and there is no evidence of any old dirty carbon on the gun! The lesson learned even if it looks clean, when you get your hands on a new (to you) gun, your first order of business is a thorough cleaning!
I regularly watch several Facebook pages for new ideas and information around protection and preparedness. I pick up a new idea from these pages maybe once a month. More usefully, I can see what the ‘popular knowledge’ items of the day are. This knowledge is usually more ‘popular’ than it is ‘knowledge’. It’s important to know what misinformation there is out there and have the ability to correct it.
In the past week, I’ve seen the following myths perpetuated as “it is known” information. More sad that this information being passed on at all is the diligent devotion the ill-informed have towards it. Let’s look at some myths that need to go away.
Myth: The shotgun is the ultimate home defense gun
The shotgun is popular because many homes used to have shotguns. With different loads, you could drop a deer, hunt bird, and even deal with nuisance animals. But just because it was popular does not mean it is ‘ultimate’ in a home defense role. It was widely available, and pressed into protection-intent service in earlier days, just like a hatchet was pressed into service as a hand weapon (though the sword is a superior fighting weapon).
Despite its popularity, the shotgun is a subpar home defense gun.
This is not to say the shotgun isn’t effective. It is versatile and deadly. But if you’re putting your life and your family’s life as the consequence, do you want a versatile weapon pressed into service as a defensive gun, or do you want the ultimate defensive gun there is? Let’s look at some measurables for the shotgun, the AR-15, and a 9mm semiautomatic pistol.
In the above table, the shotgun suffers in recoil intensity, ammunition capacity, and overpenetration (for defensive loads). Long guns tend to be less maneuverable that the handgun. In reality, the shotgun has two things going for it the others do not: price and versatility.
Myth: You don’t even need to aim
The shotgun uses ammunition called a shotshell. This is a brass base with a (usually plastic) hull. The shell contains the primer and gunpowder like other cartridges. There is then a wad, separating the powder from the projectiles. The projectiles are either one large mass (a slug), a few large spherical balls (buckshot), or many small spherical balls (birdshot).
The only home defense loads that have reliable stopping power is buckshot and slugs. There are proponents of heavier birdshot, but penetration from these shells are not reliable and should not be used.
When fired, multi-projectile loads start to disperse, creating what is called a ‘shot pattern’. For bird shot from a 12 gauge, The “you don’t need to aim” crowd uses a birdshot dispersal pattern approximating 1 inch of spread per yard of travel. In truth, the pattern is not quite linear like that. Using this generalization, a home defense encounter of 10 yards will yield a 10″ pattern. Despite the myth, a spread such as this still requires aiming. For more realistic defensive distances of 5 yards with an estimated 5″ spread, aiming is absolutely required.
Myth: The ole switcharoo
This is my favorite part of the shotgun myth. The people that say “You don’t even have to aim” use birdshot dispersal pattern as their justification for this claim. When it is suggested that birdshot is not an effective threat neutralization load, they switch to “well a slug will take care of anything”. Yes, it’s true that a slug will take care of anything, but it is a single mass of lead, just like a bullet.
The “you don’t need to aim” crowd switches their logic from inferior birdshot neutralization to the superb stopping power of a slug without dropping the “you don’t need to aim” argument!
At some point in the shotgun, there will either be a slug or shot. When that shot goes off, the advantages/disadvantages of that load will be at play. There will either be some dispersal (shot) with insufficient threat neutralization, OR there will be no dispersal (slug) with superior threat neutralization. The same round cannot have both.
Myth: If you walk into a room and cycle the pump, criminal will wet themselves
It is true that, when faced with an armed protector, criminals will realize that their actions have consequence. No one prefers armed prey. This being said, relying on the noise of a firearm’s action as a deterrent is not an effective means of protection.
I had a person say “if you walk into a room with a shotgun and pump it, the criminal will flee.” My replies were as follows:
Why did you enter a room with a known home invader on an empty chamber? Wouldn’t you cycle the action while you have cover/concealment from another room? Would you really go confront when barricading might be the better option?
Can you guarantee they’ll flee? The only real guarantee is they will respond in some way. Is it fight, flight, freeze, posture, or submit? You do NOT actually know. If you bank on them fleeing and they rush you, that’s very different.
If you believe in pump-noising a home invader, will you have the muzzle covering the target or will you do the whole movie-scene pump holding the shotgun diagonally in front of your torso? Because if you don’t have the muzzle on target, and bad guy decides to charge you, at home defense distances there is a very real chance he will close the distance before you shoulder that shotgun and get the muzzle on target. You will be secure in your bravado and his charge will be complete before you get through the OODA loop that you are not the master of your domain.
The reality of the situation is the shotgun itself, the projectile, and the willingness to effectively wield it is the only reliable deterrent in the system. Relying on the pump action’s noise, the bravado around cycling the action, or a plucky attitude are all 100% unreliable methods of protection.
Myth: Muh Taurus Judge
While not a shotgun technically, a disturbing percentage of fuddlore exists around the Taurus Judge. This revolver is chambered in .45 Long Colt and can accommodate the .410 shotgun cartridge. The .410 is an inadequate shotgun cartridge for home defense. The cartridge was designed in 1857 as a “garden gun” suitable for pests such as snakes and vegetable-robbing varmint. Proponents of the Taurus Judge claim shotgun-like power from a handgun, while not understanding that the .410 shotgun shell loaded with a slug has 1/3 the muzzle energy of a 12 gauge.
The misunderstanding around the Taurus Judge is that it brings the advantages of the handgun to the versatility of a shotgun. In truth, it does nothing of the sort. The firearm is expensive, there is no capacity advantage, it does have improved mobility, its effective range is even less than that of a 12 gauge, it has poor threat neutralization power (in fact, the .45 Long Colt cartridge would be a superior defensive load than the .410 slug), and has significant recoil. This option takes away any advantage a 12 gauge pump would have had.
Before folks get too up in arms over this article, yes, a shotgun is an effective threat neutralization weapon. It is cheap, it is versatile, and it is readily available. But again, as was asked in the intro: If you’re putting your life and your family’s life as the consequence, do you want a versatile weapon pressed into service as a defensive gun, or do you want the ultimate defensive gun there is?
If the shotgun is what’s available, it can be pressed into this role. If you have the means to select a purpose-driven platform for defense, the shotgun fills the role poorly compared to other choices.
It is with a not-so-heavy heart that I retire my Surefire E2D Exec Defender with the bulb (not LED!) as my EDC light. This light has been a part of my EDC and in my EDC pocket for literally a decade now.
I first started carrying the Surefire E2D as part of my martial training. We were focusing on modern protective implements that could be carried discretely every day. Outside a firearm and knife, the tactical pen and flashlight top the list in this regard for non-LEO carry. Their build is robust enough to use as a weapon, and proper shopping gets you something non-threatening in appearance for casual and discreet EDC.
Having a flashlight on my person was a game changer. There are many tasks we do where we “get by” with no augmented illumination, like when your black wallet falls under your car seat which has black upholstery, and it’s dusk. We can feel around for it, taking time, or just light up the space and grab and go. Similarly looking in bags, engine compartments, and any other tight space. Extra illumination is always a benefit (unless you still work in a photography darkroom).
When the LED lights started hitting the market, the argument was made that the solid state component was more durable than a bulb with a filament. I’ll concede that this is very likely the case. The part of the analysis that is left out, though, is whether the bulb is robust enough for its role. In other words, just because the LED might be better at enduring impact, does it mean that the bulb is inadequate?
I have a sample size of one. My E2D bulb light. During my 10 years with that light, I have used it as my primary illumination during low light shooting (support hand carry), primary illumination for a couple night navigation classes, and outdoor activities. I have run approximately 20 Personal Protection classes using it, and been a part of at least that many as a participant. These classes involve using the light to strike Bob (our assortment of torso targets) over and over, with different strike types, strike trajectories, etc. During these, the light is exercised as a possible blinding opportunity. Shine Bob’s eyes briefly and strike him. In short, I probably have well over 10k strikes with this same E2D in that time frame. Let’s be clear on some results:
10 years of EDC use. Includes pocket use, wear, drops, etc. Includes indoor/outdoor use from 0 degF – 100 degF with Michigan humidity.
Approximately 40 classes, and personal practice, resulting in approximately 10,000 strikes on a torso target.
Minor transferred recoil force from low-light firearm training.
ZERO failures to illuminate due to (non-battery) issues.
ZERO bulb replacements.
ZERO switch issues.
ZERO non-cosmetic damage to the hull or bezel.
The E2D still functions.
Again, I have a sample size of 1 flashlight. Statistically that isn’t great certainty until you account for how far beyond ‘normal use’ this one sample has gone. For those discounting the longevity of a bulb, I’d have to argue against their stance.
So why switch now? In all honesty, I am not one for the latest gadget and gear for my protection-intent equipment. There is a wisdom in delayed-adoption of new technology. Performance gains are wonderful, but performance and reliability need to be balanced out. Since the single best place your money can be allocated is training, training can make up for the slight advantages early-adopters of new equipment have over the status quo.
Why retire this light? Basically, I want all the lumens. The E2D was a fantastic light for its era, with the bulb rated at 60 lumens output. Modern LED lights have far outshined (heh heh) this performance level, with $50 tactical-ish lights hitting 500 lumens. Dedicated gear like the Surefire E2D LED light will crank out 1000 lumens and has a low and high setting to help balance intensity vs duration needs.
In short, the LED technology has completely obsoleted the bulb light in this case. For a reasonable cost I can get over 10x the lumens. With the equivalent model E2D LED I have identical form factor. The only thing that has changed is brighter light and lighter wallet.