Saturday, November 14, 2015


After the Garland, Texas incident this spring I wrote an article titled “The Threat Has Changed.”  Now, after last night’s six-phase terrorist attacks in Paris, leaving more than 120 dead, it’s time to revisit the topic:

Your five-shot revolver may not be enough anymore.

On May 3 two American-born Islamic radicals attacked a public gathering near Dallas.   They engaged police in a rifle versus pistol fight that was won by a 60-year-old traffic officer who knew how to use his .45 cal. Glock, though SWAT was involved.  Both of the self-proclaimed mujahedeen were killed; a school guard was wounded.

The attackers, whose names are irrelevant, were not starry-eyed kids.  They were self-motivated lone-wolf assassins in their thirties, and they lived in Phoenix.  Press reports stated that they had pledged loyalty to ISIS, which later attributed credit to “two soldiers of the caliphate,” for whatever that’s worth.

The Garland incident followed the January attack on the controversial Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, resulting in 12 dead and about as many wounded.  Those attackers, also in their thirties, were subsequently found and killed.

Both incidents involved depictions of the prophet Mohammad, whose image is banned due to Islamic aversion to idolatry.  Organizers of the Garland event drew criticism from liberals who considered the prize for a picture of the Prophet equal to trolling—ensuring a violent response.  Defenders of Americans’ freedom of expression thought otherwise, and there’s no middle ground.

None of which need concern us overmuch.  Sunni and Shia Muslims probably have slain far more Sunni and Shia Muslims than either has killed infidels.  But hajis and others do not need a specific reason to target Americans or westerners.  They will try again.

After Garland, ISIS announced that it had 71 “trained soldiers” in as many as 15 states and would commit them to the jihad.  It’s probably impossible to know, but Paris and Garland certainly lend credence.

The Garland event was held at the Curtiss Culwell Center, owned by the school district.  Certainly it was a potentially target-rich environment, with 6,800 seats.  Its website makes no mention of firearms, pro or con.  But apparently few if any of the attendees were armed because reportedly their response to gunfire was merely to sing the national anthem…

So what can we learn from Paris and Garland?

For starters, the S&W J-frame in your fanny pack probably won’t cut it these days.   

Many "packers" routinely carry a “groceries gun”—a small gat that fits in a pocket or nonstandard conveyance, often without a reload.  It’s probably adequate for the high-percentage confrontation: a random encounter at conversational distance in a store or on the street.

It is not optimum for a focused attack by jihadists or a mob of any origin.  Without delving into the legal complexities of shooting “unarmed teenaged assailants” (who kill hundreds of Americans annually), let’s concede that more ammo equals better.  And here’s why:

The jihadist attacks involved dedicated assailants armed with rifles and, if we can believe the press, body armor.  (Frequently the media cannot distinguish between armor and load-bearing “tactical” vests.)  

The engagement distances were far more than across the cafeteria counter or even across the convenience store lobby.  Film from Paris showed attackers shooting well down a street, and a detailed account from Garland said the effective police officer engaged from 20 yards down to 10. 

Most “civilian” mass killers stop or self-destruct when they encounter resistance.  Religious zealots do not.  They expect to kill or die fighting.  Reportedly the same applies to drug cartels insistent on making a point.

So: assume you will face two or more determined killers at medium to long range for a pistol, and they may wear armor.  How many rounds do you need to end the fight?

Damnsure more than five.

How accurate are you under stress?  Can you make an all-or-nothing head shot across the street—maybe 25 or 30 yards? 

In a gunfight you might get shot.  You don’t quit, but how’s your one-handed ambidextrous shooting?

Clearly, a three-round Mozambiqe Drill might not solve the problem.  And six or eight rounds may not be enough.  That’s why some confirmed single-stack .45 guys are converting to double-stack 9mm or .40 cal.  With today’s quality ammunition, increasingly it’s more about placement than bullet size.  My Para-Ord Lightweight Commander is spooky accurate, but a double-column looks attractive.

Many shooters prefer “off body” carry for convenience—no strapping belts, holsters, and mag pouches on and off.  Contrarily, a Safepacker is handy, practical, and fits almost any likely scenario.

But it doesn’t fit them all.  And it can never be as fast as the holstered pistol under your shirt.

While scenario shopping, consider the assassins’ perspective—what’s an optimum location?  Someplace where the victims are crowded, offering dense targets amid low mobility.  Like a restaurant.  (Remember the 1984 San Ysidro McDonald’s and 1991 Killeen Luby’s, both with 20 dead.)

The restaurant scenario is valuable for its complexity, and it compares the difference between off-body and “on body” carry.  Remember, a reload is far handier from the belt than from the Safepacker, which easily could run five lethal seconds.

Meanwhile, you may want to expand your options beyond a handgun.  A friend often carries a Ruger 10-22 in a zippered tennis racquet case.  He routinely makes fast, offhand 50-yard head shots on IPSC targets.  Another sportsman reportedly uses the same carry mode for a compact AR-15.

Of course, not everyone lives in Free America.  We Arizonans can legally carry concealed almost anywhere, and with a CCW we can carry where adult beverages are served.  (Meanwhile, there still have been no liquored-up Long Branch Saloon shootouts, just as we predicted.)  But since mass murderers prefer gun-free zones--recall the Colorado movie theater—you can guess where you and your loved ones are most vulnerable.  

Whatever your preference, it’s vital to analyze your options and to practice.  Get quality training—it’s the best insurance available.  But perhaps more than anything, make the attitude adjustment.  They’re here, folks.  They walk among us, and the initiative is always theirs.

Be aware, stay alert—and practice.