In stores, less often at ranges (but never in training classes), we regularly encounter a type of gun owner/buyer who is seeking a magical gun that will instantly transform him from an ordinary person into a gold medal world-class shooter.
He is looking for the gun that will do this, rather than seeking the training to do it himself.
We sometimes encounter gun owners who have progressed one step beyond the first type of gun owner. After having spent possibly tens of thousands of dollars on buying a huge assortment of different guns, they have slowly come to realize that there is no such thing as a magic gun. But – oooops. Instead they now hope there may be an accessory which, if added to a gun, will transform it into the magical gun that shoots straight, every time, all by itself.
They are still looking for some external factor that will instantly transform them into the deadliest of marksmen.
And then we also find people agonizing over bullet choices. ‘Which is better’, they will ask, ‘The Brand X or the Brand Y bullets?’ These people are seeking the ‘single shot stop’ capable bullets. They want a bullet that is guaranteed to stop an assailant in his tracks, no matter what the circumstance, or where the shot hits the bad guy.
These types of people are not necessarily ignorant. Indeed, some of them have read more gun magazines and articles than we have, and know more about the ballistics of different bullets, and the features/capabilities of different guns than we would ever wish to know.
But even the most expert of these people are sadly deluded and mistaken. They are aided and abetted in their delusion by overly hyped magazine articles – how many times have you seen articles referring to ‘the new super gun’ or ‘the new super bullet’? How many times have you read ‘reviews’ (they are termed reviews but they are more like recycled press releases than hard-hitting down to earth realistic reviews) that talk about how amazingly good a gun is, or how helpful and transformational an accessory is, or how accurate and deadly a particular cartridge may be?
Now for sure we’d all love to have a gun that is guaranteed to shoot straight, no matter who the shooter may be. And even if we accept that such guns don’t exist, we’re keen to get a gun that will help us to shoot as well as we can. The same with accessories. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as we understand the relative contributions to shooting well that come from the gun and from the person shooting it.
In reality, neither the fanciest of trigger jobs nor the ultimate in sights will guarantee our shots for us. They might help us improve our scoring, but they’ll only help, they won’t and can’t do it all for us.
And the bullets we put in our gun? Particularly if we’re talking pistol calibers, all cartridge variations are inadequate and insufficient to guarantee instant one shot stops. Does it really matter if a hollow point bullet opens up or not? The difference in wound cavity between a half-inch and a one inch wound cavity isn’t something that guarantees you a one stop shot when you’re firing into a target’s center of mass that measures maybe 150 square inches in size, of which only a very few square inches comprise ‘hot zones’ where a hit will give you a guaranteed one shot stop. Does it matter if your bullet’s velocity is 900 fps or 1100 fps? And so on.
The Most Important Part of Shooting Well
Here’s the key issue – the most important part of the overall gun/accessory/bullet combination is the person doing the shooting. Before you start spending a huge amount of money on some super-shooting gun and exotic accessories and bullets, you first need to spend some time, effort, energy and money on yourself.
A skilled shooter will always get better results, even when shooting with a bad gun, than will an unskilled shooter with state-of-the-art ultimate equipment. That is the most important ingredient towards ensuring your success in any encounter you end up finding yourself in. Your own skill, not your gun’s magical powers.
Lessons From the Real World
Look at the gun a policeman or soldier carries. Something like half the police forces in the US use Glocks – typically in 9mm or .40 caliber, and typically full size or mid size pistols. They have no accessories or custom gunsmithing done to their service weapons – they shoot them as they come, pretty much straight from the box. All other police departments also use standard pistols such as you can buy in your local gun store, too.
US soldiers for the longest time happily carried the M1911A1 semi-auto pistol, these days they usually carry the M9 (in other words, a Beretta 92FS). Both are standard pistols that you can buy from any gun shop, too.
Police departments tend to issue some type of hollow point ammunition, which admittedly is ‘better’ than standard ball ammo, whereas due to military treaties, the armed forces tend to use less effective ball ammo.
So neither the police nor military use any type of tricked out super-weapons, and neither do they use any sort of unusual ammunition. But they do spend lots of time and money on training their people in the use of their standard weapons.
Let’s look a bit further, at military sniper units. Since 1966, the legendary US Marine Corps snipers – perhaps the deadliest of snipers in the world – have used a close to standard regular Remington 700 bolt-action rifle. Hardly a high-tech exotic piece of equipment at all.
Three Real World Truths
For the person seeking the perfect gun : In truth, even the worst pistol offers better performance/accuracy that most shooters are capable of. There’s no need to get a better gun until you’re a good enough a shooter to be able to benefit from its slightly better performance than the gun you already have.
For the person seeking the ideal accessory : Every accessory you add to your gun also adds to its complexity, and increases the chance of, in an extreme situation, something failing. Additionally, all those fancy accessories make you look like a ‘gun nut’ and increase your vulnerability to civil and/or criminal prosecutions if you end up needing to use your gun. A stock standard gun, unaltered, and with ordinary fixed iron sights is all you need for most situations.
For the person seeking the best bullet : Two rounds of ordinary simple generic ball ammunition, accurately placed on target, will always have more effect on an attacker than one (or two or even three) rounds of super ammo, but poorly placed on target (maybe even missing altogether) and not striking vital organs. Learn where to place your shots, rather than hope your ammunition will compensate for inaccurate shooting, because it won’t.
The Best Way to Shoot Well
By all means get a good gun, and by all means choose good reliable ammunition to go with it. Maybe even consider adding an accessory or two. There’s no purpose to handicapping yourself any which way. This article is not intended to discourage you from getting the finest gun(s), accessories and ammo you can afford.
But, once you’ve got a reasonably decent gun and some ammo to go with it, your mission is only beginning. You now must switch your focus from your tools to your training.
There is no way of avoiding the need to train. Sure, there are better/smarter ways to train, and there are inferior/harder ways to train, but in some form or another, you need to train, train, train. Shooting accurately, particularly in a high stress situation, is not an instinctive skill. It is something you need to train repeatedly at.
It is also a perishable skill. It isn’t like riding a bike. It is something that your skill erodes at if you don’t continue to train. Once you’ve developed your proficiency, you don’t need to train as often or as much, but you do need to train steadily to build up a base of skills.
So – if you really want magical powers, you’ll need to devote yourself to sufficient and appropriate training. This may indeed give you close to what seem like magical powers, such as no equipment will ever provide.