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Why Everyone Needs a 9mm Pistol

 Everyone needs at least one 9mm pistol. I don’t mean your only pistol caliber should be 9mm, but if you find yourself with just one pistol, it should be a 9mm. 

The reasons for this are many and varied, and I can’t possibly put them all down in one blog session, but for starters just consider that it is unquestionably the most ubiquitous pistol round in the world. I would venture to say there are more loaded rounds of 9mm ammunition in the world than all other service calibers put together. This should tell you something about the utility of the round for general military and law enforcement sidearms use. 

But to get to some specifics:

1. The 9mm is a compact cartridge. This means you can carry more rounds in a given pistol chambered in 9mm than if you’re carrying a .40 or .45.  Example: the Glock 17 holds 18 rounds of 9mm, while the .40 caliber version of the same gun, the G22, holds 15 rounds. Does this really matter? Hard to say… but I know guys who work in Executive Protection who assure me that they all carry Glock 17’s, in no small part because they have plenty of anecdotal evidence from EP guys all over the world who have needed fast access to all 18 rounds in executing a successful protection/extrication. And because it’s compact, you can carry more reloads, too. 

2. The compact size of  the 9×19 cartridge also means gunmakers can chamber extremely small pistols like the Kahr M9/PM9, the Keltec PF9, and the Ruger LCP. I carry a Kahr PM9 as my “always” gun, which means it’s my backup gun (BUG) even when I’m packing a larger pistol, and my only gun when I’m in maximum concealment mode. And I can shoot it very, very well, even with +P ammunition.

3. The 9mm is about as light-kicking  a round that packs enough punch to win a gunfight. This means it’s highly controllable for just about anybody who can shoot a handgun. This means it’s more likely to be an accurate pistol in most people’s hands, and as the late Bill Jordan said, when it comes to gunfights, accuracy is the final word. 

4. The small size of the 9mm cartridge means it’s cheaper to manufacture (or reload your own, if you’re so inclined) than any other service caliber cartridge. Cheap is good. 

5. The 9mm has more than enough power to deliver lethal force to your attacker’s vital hit zones. I have plenty of stories in my files about the effectiveness of the 9mm in Officer Involved Shootings world wide. Members of this website can go to the members-only area and look at the photos of the would-be armed robbers shot by that cop in Brazil a few years back. He was shooting a 9mm pistol and his duty ammo, which was, IIRC, 115 gr +P Magtech JHP ammo. It’s a deadly cartridge provided you put your bullets where they need to go… but that applies to all service caliber handgun cartridges from 9mm through 10mm and 45ACP.

So now you’re convinced you need a 9mm handgun. Which one should you get? 

Well, I admit I’m biased very strongly toward the Glock 19. It’s a good sized pistol, but slightly more compact than the G17, a great shooter, and reliable as all get-out. I prefer my Glocks with a NY-1 trigger, which is more crisp than the standard Glock trigger, and with a shorter reset. Combine that with a 3.5 pound trigger connect and an internal polishing job, and you’ve got one sweet-shooting pistol that is uber-reliable. Other 9mm’s I know and trust in the fullsize category include the G17, the Browning Hi-Power, the Beretta M9 and its Brazilian clone, the Taurus PT-92, and the great Smith & Wesson Model 39/59/69 pistols plus their new M&P line.

You should probably get at least one sub-compact 9mm, too. The Glock 26 is a great pistol, if a bit chunky. The previously mentioned Kahr PM9/CW9 pistol is a phenomenal little 9mm handgun, and while it’s kind of ugly, the Kel-Tec PF9 is a rock-solid subcompact as well.

I have found a 9mm pistol that fits the hands of all the shooters in my family. My youngest daughter and my son both prefer the S&W 6906, while my elder daughter prefers the Glock 19. My youngest daughter has also obtained her CCW permit, and is planning to purchase a Kahr CW9 for her standard carry gun. With my G19 or Taurus PT92 on my belt and my Kahr in my pocket, I round out the group nicely, and we can all share and shoot the exact same ammo. I have a Dillon Square Deal B set up in my shop to reload 9mm ammo in quantity, so we have no excuses not to go to the range to maintain our proficiency.  

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Low Light Training

Low light training with your carry sidearms is an oft-overlooked opportunity in the non-LE world. And it shouldn’t be.

In my research over the past 15 years or more, I’ve read a lot of tales of self-defense shootings. Shootings that took place in the home, on the street, in the woods, you name it. But the thing that I realized with crystal clarity long ago is that the great majority of these shootings happened in dark places.

This makes sense, doesn’t it? Criminal activity goes up sharply after dark, as any cop (or ER doc!) knows. In fact, fully 60% or more of police shootings, depending on jurisdiction, occur between dusk and dawn. That’s why cops do (some) range training in the dark.

But non-LE citizens don’t train in the dark. I know this for a fact. I used to run an annual IDPA night match at my club in Wisconsin to give folks an opportunity to find out just how much tougher it is to shoot in the dark. Our usual club matches drew 40 people every month, more or less; but our Night Match registration never hit 15. Folks apparently don’t want to shoot in the dark. They don’t want to shoot when it’s cold and windy and rainy, either, but those conditions don’t correlate well with criminal activity.

But criminals love darkness. And that’s why chances are pretty good that if you ever have to use your defensive firearms, it’s gonna be dark.

So if you’re serious about self-defense with your firearms, get some low-light training. Do it yourself, or take it from a school.

If you belong to a gun club, especially a club that runs IDPA or IPSC matches, find out if they will sponsor or even just allow some low-light training. If they don’t want to do that, then get some buddies together and find a place in the country where you can shoot safely after dark, and then go out and do it. A word to the wise, though: do yourself a favor and call the Sheriff’s office and let them know where you’ll be conducting your training, and at what times. You REALLY don’t want the SWAT team showing up with flash-bangs and gas at this gig.

In my night matches, as in my more serious low-light training, I like to give people the opportunity to shoot in 4 different low-light environments. This allows people to familiarize themselves with their weapon(s) in the kinds of settings they’re most likely to encounter. You can expand on this at your discretion. For instance, in one of my SWAT team’s training sessions, we had the guys go from the vehicles in bright sunlight with their tactical Oakley’s on, and enter a building that was pitch-dark, and then put "live" fire on them (paintball guns and blank guns). You never saw so many pairs of $150 sunglasses hit the deck that fast!

So here are the four basic environments I like to start with:

1) Targets in front of you, and lights behind you. A car’s headlights will work for this. You want the targets fairly close, say 10 yards or less. This will be pretty easy for most people, as they can see the targets, and see their sights.

2) Targets in front of you, and lights behind the targets. You’ll need some yard floodlights for this. Protect the lights, or someone is sure to shoot ’em out. Trust me on this. This gets a lot harder than the first scenario. You can see your sights when they’re perfectly aligned, but once they drift out (like in recoil, after each shot!) acquiring them again is a bitch.

3) Targets, a gun, and a flashlight. Now, it gets interesting. You should try the various flashlight techniques… Rogers, Harries, etc, to find out which one sucks the least. Targets need to be close–3 yards or less. And you need to make sure BEFORE you go to the firing line that everyone has PRACTICED their flashlight technique, so they don’t cross their muzzles over their flashlight hands on the draw stroke. If you want to make it interesting, put a picture of a toddler in her jammies on a swinger and have her pop out once the shooting starts. This can be very humbling. If you’re going to try shooting while moving, this is NOT the place to do it. At least not in the first couple of tries. If your team works with weapons-mounted lights, so much the better. Use them.

4) Targets, a gun, and no light at all. This is my favorite course of fire, period. I know, I’m a sick f**k. Use a red light to illuminate the targets for 2 seconds, turn the light off, then have the shooter draw and fire on the targets. I will typically set out an array of 5-6 IDPA targets from 2 to 10 yards. You’ll find you can "see" the afterimage of the targets on your retinas from the light of your muzzle flashes. But if you don’t have night sights, you ain’t gonna hit much.

You can add as much as you want to these four basic elements, but I strongly recommend you use these four as your starting point. After you have these things mastered, introduce one concept at a time: shooting while moving, shooting at moving targets, non-threat targets, shooting from positions of disadvantage. You name it, you can do it in the dark.

I guarantee you that this is the most fun you can have in the dark, with all your clothes on. Naked, I expect there are other things that might compete, but still…

Range safety is paramount in a low-light shoot, and you have to ramp up your protocols accordingly. In the dark, you don’t want people loading and unloading; let them load in a lighted area, then come to the firing line "hot". Have one range safety officer for every shooter, and have them play man-to-man defense. Stuff can go sideways in a hurry in a low-light scenario! The only thing I can think of that is harder to do than shoot in the dark, is to perform CPR and critical first aid in the dark..

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Social Networks

 I don’t like Facebook. 

Except I do. 

I hate assholes who post ignorant–and I truly mean IGNORANT–stuff on social networks like Facebook. But I recognize that social networking is a big part of how people communicate in this day and age,

Which is why TAS has gone on to make itself its own Facebook page.

Col. Cooper would be appalled, I expect.


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Antigunners and “Common Sense”

I was cruising one of the firearms forums on the internet today, when I came across an appeal from a guy who alleges he’s from Alaska, a gun owner, but who feels armed police or security guards in schools are a bad idea. Apparently a shool cop in Poughkeepsie, NY, accidentally discharged his firearm. No details were given in the news article other than saying neither the officer nor any students were injured in this incident.

Nonetheless, our friend from Alaska posted this news story as "evidence" that armed security in schools is a very bad idea, and all armed police/security need to be removed from America’s schools immediately. He finished his argument thusly:

"…I support gun ownership and your rights but there needs to be some common sense to this argument…"

I love it when anti-gun people spout the "common sense" buzzword. They keep saying things like "commonsense gun controls", as if this is something that everyone with any brain at all believes, and if YOU don’t agree with it, you must be a retard, a bigot, or a terrorist. I love it when they use this buzzword, because it’s so easy to shred their entire argument by simply looking it up in the dictionary. And nobody can argue with Daniel Webster, dontcha know? Even the Devil lost his argument with ol’ Daniel!

So let’s take a look at that "common sense"  buzzword, shall we?

First, let’s look at the meaning of "common". Merriam-Webster lists 7 definitions, the first of which is this:

"of or relating to a community at large"

This means that for an idea or concept to be held "in common",  the community at large has to agree on it. "At large" means the general community, the vast majority of the community. It doesn’t apply to an idea or position on which the community is evenly split, and it certainly does not  apply to a viewpoint held by a minority, even a vocal minority.

So does our Alaskan friend’s position meet Daniel Webster’s definition of "common"? Nope. Not even close. Poll after poll published in the last few months, and certainly over the past few years, clearly states that the proportion of Americans who want more gun laws are in the decided minority. And the question of whether we should have armed security guards in our schools is pretty much an even split. So the "common" part of his "common sense" buzzword is kaput.

One down.  

Okay, now let’s move on to the second part of that idiotic buzzword:  "sense".  Again, Webster-Merriam offers this as its first definition:

"conscious awareness or rationality"

We must have a conscious awareness of the term or position in question, not just a vague feeling, and it has to be a rational awareness. Rationality is the operative term here. In other words, there needs to be a demonstrably rational basis for the viewpoint or idea in question in order for one to hold it sensibly.

Let’s look at that in the context of our Alaskan friend’s post:  he says that removing all guns from our schools, even guns held in the hands of trained professional security guards/police, is a rational position. If that were the case, he should be able to point to data that unequivocally support his position in order for it to meet the rationality criterion.

Hmmm. That might be tough. If we look for nations where armed security guards are in all the schools, such as Israel, or Switzerland, we see there have been ZERO schoolchildren shot by madmen since security was initiated. In America, where guns are banned from schools and armed security is frowned upon, the death toll due to madmen with guns in the past 15 years is three hundred and twenty-three (323) according to ABC News.  ( So nwa’s idiot position makes no sense.

So our gun-grabbing Alaskan friend appeals to us to use our "common sense" in supporting his idea that armed security guards should be removed from our nation’s schools. Yet his idea is neither "common", nor does it meet the simple dictionary definition of "sense".

Time to find a new buzzword, gun grabbers!

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Political Malpractice

I was deeply disturbed by the headlines a couple of weeks ago about a Chicago mother who had lost four children to murder. My heart ached for that mother’s loss.

But as I was more disturbed when I realized that this tragedy has been (yet again!) exploited by the media in its relentless camgaign to demonize firearms. The headlines read GUN violence. Not gang violence, not drug trade violence, not out-of-control-crime-rate violence; no, the media calls it GUN violence.

Why is that? Why are the newspapers and electronic news outlets almost all blaming firearms in general, and “assault weapons” in particular–for the massacres at Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech?

The media’s demonization of guns as the source of the violence and death in America is, quite simply, irrational. I can demonstrate that it’s irresponsible, even outright insane. It flies in the face of reason and experience, yet it is virtually unchallenged. Why?

I am not the man to answer that question. There are a lot of smarter people than me who have done a much better job of it than I could. John Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime and Dr. Gary Kleck’s papers published in peer review journals, among many other studies, have shown that Americans use firearms millions of times annually to actually prevent violent crime. The CDC’s analysis of the results of the last “assault weapons ban” (AWB) showed that it was a tremendous waste of money and time, and did nothing to prevent crim.

Gun control mania seized the U.K. and Australia after madmen slaughtered school children in Scotland, and tourists at a seaside resort. Both countries banned and confiscated huge numbers of firearms. But today, both countries suffer rates of violent crime—including “gun crime”—much higher than they had prior to their gun bans.

But America’s politicians and journalists ignore that evidence and clamor for more gun control. This is irrational, and arguably insane.

I am a trauma physician with tens of thousands of ER experience. If I were to practice medicine as irrationally as the gun-control politicians practice politics, I would be sued into poverty, and stripped of my license. Banning guns as a treatment for violence in America would be as useless as me applying leeches and muttering occult incantations to treat a trauma patient. It’s worse than useless: it’s malpractice.

Gunshot wounds can be terrible, but they can also be trivial. To us ER docs, a gunshot wound (GSW) is a relatively straightforward thing to deal with. Other types of trauma, like motor vehicle collision (MVC) trauma are often much more difficult to assess and treat. Most of the time, I treat GSW victims quickly and effectively and the patient will not only survive, but recover completely.

GSW’s aren’t the only deliberately inflicted trauma that we treat in the ER. Guns are used in 2/3 of American murders, but the other 1/3 use edged weapons, bludgeons, bombs, fists, etc. It will surprise most laymen, but blunt trauma and stab wounds are often a much harder medical problem to tackle than GSW’s.

If we look at worldwide data we find that murder rates have no apparent relationship to gun laws. The murder rate in the USA was 4.7/100,000 in 2011 (total 14,478), but strictly gun-controlled countries like Russia (10.2/100,000) and Brazil (21.0/100,000) are much more violent.

Examination of these figures suggest that if America could somehow round up all the guns in the country, the violence would be unlikely to diminish. Criminals are at least as violent in Russia and Brazil as they are in America. They use guns less often than American criminals, but their violence is no less awful.

Some of my ER colleagues worked in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, back in the 1980’s. They were used to dealing with GSW and bomb victims on a regular basis, and they were good at it. But they dreaded the cease-fires negotiated between the government and the IRA because when guns were taken out, the violence continued with even more horrific weapons. Incidence of GSW’s approached zero. but instead of shooting people, they would beat them with clubs, or drill holes in their brains with electric drills, or cut them to ribbons with razors, or douse them with gasoline and set them on fire.

I did my trauma training in Canada, which had a much lower rate of gun violence than the USA in the early 90’s. (it’s no longer true, by the way; Canadian criminals use guns now at a rate very close to the rates here in America, despite Canada’s much “tougher” gun laws). I saw far fewer GSW’s in Canada than I’ve seen in the USA, but I saw a hundred times as many trauma cases where the weapon was a knife, a machete, a club, a pipe.

Now, I happen to have been shot (once), stabbed (twice), and suffered severe burns (3 times). I will state for the record that if I was asked to choose among those three as my method of execution, I would take a bullet over a knife or a flame in a New York minute. This may seem a macabre distinction to the average American, but as a physician who deals in trauma on a daily basis, and who is responsible for treating the agony of the injured and dying, the distinction is real.

If we completely eliminate guns in America—arguably an impossible undertaking—we will not eliminate violence. Not only will we still have violence to deal with, but the trauma and suffering that will be incurred will be horrific beyond the imaginings of John and Jane Q. Citizen. Think about South Africa, with its incredible murder rate, which is also very, very tightly gun-controlled. Death by “necklace” (having a burning, gasoline-soaked car tire draped over your neck until your head and face are charred beyond recognition while you’re still alive) is more common in South Africa than death by GSW.

Take away guns, and you don’t take away violence. You just change its style.

If professors such as John Lott and Gary Kleck have demonstrated the positive value of firearms in Americans’ self-defense against violence, and public health authorities aorund the world have shown that gun bans have no effect on criminal violence, and if the experiences of Belfast and South Africa and the Soviet Union have shown that banning guns only condemns innocent people to death and torture by countless grisly means, then why in God’s name are America’s politicians and journalists continuing to harp on THE GUN as the evil thing that must be eradicated from our society?

Here’s where the media and our elected officials are committing malpractice. As long as they can blame GUNS for the problem, they don’t have to actually work at finding a real solution to the problem of violent crime. By blaming guns, they don’t have to admit that violence is not a simple problem that can be fixed with a new law or two. It’s a complex and difficult problem, and the solutions are going to be uncomfortable for many of us to face. Demonization of guns, rather than seeking a truly workable solution, would be like me using leeches and arsenic to treat a heart attack. It’s malpractice, plain and simple.

It is manifestly obvious that it is time to address the real reasons behind violence in America. Let’s address inner city decay and unemployment, and while we’re at it, let’s call the glorification of gangs and drugs and violence in movies and video games for the poison it is to our young people.

Let’s address the deplorably underfunded mental health system in this country, so that madmen like Adam Lanza can be kept safely away from potential victims–whether by institutionalization, or by better community treatment and monitoring.

And let’s provide armed guards in our schools, as the NRA and others have called for, a measure which has far more “commonsense” behind it than the half-witted proposals touted by demagogues like Sen. Diane Feinstein. Armed guards in schools have kept Israeli schools murder-free for nearly 40 years. The fact that Feinstein, Obama and Biden have dismissed this proven effective measure tells us that they are far less interested in protecting our children than they are in protecting their own political positions.

However we as a nation choose to address the issue of violence in America, our politicians and journalists have to stop this sinister and deliberately misleading demonization of firearms. Guns are no more responsible for violence than Rosie O’Donnell’s ice-cream scoop is responsible for her obesity. The sooner we as a nation face this fact the sooner we will be able to get working on some real solutions.

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New Podcast Released

I had the privilege of speaking with Ryan Rocquin of The Gunrunner Podcast (  last weekend just before the Super Bowl kickoff,  and had an enjoyable conversation with this young man. For those who don’t follow his website and podcasts, let me tell you a little bit about him.

Ryan is a USMC veteran with The Sandbox listed on  BTDT section of his resume. He has trained as a paramedic as well, but if I recall correctly he doesn’t actually work as an EMT currently. He is a public school teacher in the Pacific Northwest, one of my favorite parts of the USA, and a member of one of my favorite professions. He is also an enthusiastic lifelong hunter. Anyone who knows me at all will recognize that there are significant points of concordance with Ryan and myself, so it’s no surprise we get on pretty well.

Readers may recall that I did an interview with Ryan for his podcast last summer, in which I explained in my usual long-winded and pontificating manner why it matters more where you shoot someone than what you shoot him with. In other words, I explicated the principles of Tactical Anatomy as set forth in my book and in my training courses. 

Ryan tells me that he has received a lot of feedback on that podcast, some of which was actually positive. Moreover, listeners had peppered him with so many questions that he felt a followup interview was necessary to answer them all. So we did another interview, and I answered those questions. If you go to his website, which I’ve cited above, you can listen to that podcast, which was published on 2/8/13. 

Or, if you hate listening to my hoarse and scratchy voice, you can just follow this blog for the next little while, because I’m going to put down in pixels in this very weblog the points I made in the podcast, which include:

1. How badly the 380 ACP truly sucks as a defensive pistol round 

2. Why the 9mm is the world’s default defensive pistol round

3. Myth or Magic? Personal defense shotgun loads: bird, buck, and slug

4. Home defense tactics

5. Why you need to shoot the bad guy more than once

… and a couple of others, which I can’t recall off the top of my head, but which I’ll add in here using the "edit" function after I listen to the interview again later this weekend.

IN THE MEANTIME… Tactical Anatomy’s website reconstruction is underway!!! I have been discussing future direction of the website (and Tactical Anatomy LLC in general) with my advisors and my webmaster, Deleyna, and we are proceeding with several projects including making this website a LOT easier to use.

Those of you who have had difficulty getting hold of me through the website email link, I apologize to you profusely. We had to upgrade security drastically due to a huge number of hacking hits from China and Russia last fall, and it cut out a lot of emails accordingly. Hopefully the security issues will be a thing of the past with the website upgrade, and life will return to some semblance of normal.

Keep your eyes on this space, as I will be blogging a lot more frequently in this new format. You won’t be able to see the new format for a while, but trust me, Deleyna and I are getting it up and running in the background.

As always, remember: only incapacitating hits count.