Lessons From the Philando Castille Shooting

The social media story is simple- Philando Castille was stopped for a traffic offense. He told the officer up-front that he had a CCW permit and was carrying a gun and the officer shot and killed him in front of his girlfriend and her small child. The girlfriend immediately live-cast the aftermath from her phone.

Mr. Castille was a law-abiding citizen and by all I have heard a decent guy who would never pull a gun on a police officer- or anyone else- inappropriately. The consensus was that this was apparently another incident of police over-reacting and shooting someone in a panic or ‘because he was black.’ But last Thursday it was announced that the officer who shot him was found ‘Not Guilty’ of all charges, and outrage resulted. The dash-cam footage has now been released, and I have watched this video a half-dozen times from different sources. The one that I feel gives you the best view of the incident is here- I have to say, this is some pretty raw stuff. Viewer discretion is definitely advised:

Combined Video

The video is ambiguous, but we clearly see the officer telling him not to reach for his gun more than once before drawing and shooting. I can offer no opinion here; I am not privy to all of the information the jury had in-hand and we have no way of knowing what the officer saw from his perspective. What we do know is that Mr.Castille did not inform the officer that he had a carry permit, and that it happened fast. We also know that a jury that was in possession of all of the available facts acquitted the officer of criminal wrong-doing. He may yet be subject to civil actions, but that won’t help Mr. Castille.

Without a doubt this was a horrific tragedy and a good man lost his life. I don’t know all of the facts, I don’t know what the jury knows that I don’t and I don’t know if the jury reached the right verdict. But I do know that there are lessons to be learned here- ones that could save your life if you legally carry a concealed firearm- or even if you don’t.

If you are pulled over by the police it is a good idea to have your ID, proof of insurance and Carry Permit already in your hand when the officer approaches, and keep your hands in plain sight. On top of the steering wheel is a good place to put them. Announce that you have a permit while handing your documents over before announcing that you are armed. Keep your hands in plain sight at all times and don’t initiate any movement except at the specific instructions of the officer. Do not move quickly or unexpectedly. Do exactly what you are told to do, do it when you are told to do it and do it slowly. If the officer says ‘stop’ freeze, and I mean right now.

Be polite and non-threatening. Stay calm and follow instructions, and whatever happens don’t resist. If they ask you to get out of the car do it. You do not need to consent to having your car searched; that’s up to you.

Maybe you feel the stop was unjustified. Maybe you feel the officer is being rude or obnoxious. Doesn’t matter and it doesn’t change a thing. You can count on this- if you make the officer fear for their life they will shoot you. Be calm, be non-confrontational and do what you are told. Be very, very clear on this: the place for justice- if it is to be had- is in the courts, not on the street.

Whatever your opinions on police over-reaching their authority, your personal liberties and how things ought to be is irrelevant in the moment. Feel free to air them in any and every appropriate venue. The middle of an interaction with someone who has a gun and will shoot you if you scare them enough is not such a venue.

Self defense is about survival, first and foremost. Not being shot will dramatically increase your chances of surviving. Be calm, keep your wits about you. Do everything in your power to make sure the officer feels safe and in control. We’ve seen what happens if you don’t.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 24 June 17

Getting Real About Self-Defense


I was reading a post on one of the gun forums that asked the question, “What is ‘enough’ gun?” The OP explained that he was referring to civilian self-defense. People tossed around their personal preferences, opinions and aired their prejudices. Then one fellow said he wouldn’t carry less than a high-capacity handgun with several reloads. What if he was faced with an armed gang? What if he was attacked by multiple men with rifles wearing armor and all he had was a J-Frame?

Seriously, you are more likely to be struck by a meteor than find yourself in a situation like that as an average citizen going about your business. His argument for this scenario was that you have to plan for the absolute worst-case. The thing is that we do not live in a Hollywood action movie. If you find yourself in that situation and try to fight with any handgun you are going to die if your attackers are not complete idiots.

As it happens I agree with him- you need to have a plan for even unlikely scenarios. But that plan should be based on reality, and in reality it’s not always smart to fight. Not to mention something that most people seem to forget- it’s not your job. You carry a gun for self-defense. Job one is to survive. Job two is to help as many other innocents as is feasible to survive. You are not obliged to single-handedly take on and defeat the baddies- your purpose is to live through the situation, and a gun might or might not help you do that.

You do possess a weapon far more important than your gun- your brain. Use it effectively and it will make the rest easier.

If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have enough gun to fight your way to victory then focus your efforts on fighting your way clear. Or better yet getting clear without fighting. I’ve commented on mass shootings before. These typically happen in crowded venues, and if you engage the shooter any bullet that doesn’t hit them will hit something. If there are a lot of people running around in a panic it’s reasonably likely to hit one of them.

You are not a cop. you are not a super-hero, and I hope that you are not a vigilante. In a mass shooting situation it is your job to extract yourself and ideally any other innocents that you can. If you are armed your gun is literally for self-defense while you extract yourself from the situation. The same can generally be said of bank robberies, drive-by shootings and other such incidents. It is not your job to take down the bad guys and trying to is likely to get you shot, either by the baddies or responding police.

This is not to say you should never intervene; situations can arise where where it is sensible and legitimately within the realm of ‘use of deadly force’ guidelines to do so. The classic convenience store robbery could be an example if you are reasonably sure that the perpetrator is going to harm you or another. That’s the bottom line, really; generally speaking you are allowed to use deadly force if you or another innocent are in imminent danger of loss of life or grave bodily injury.

Real life is not a movie or TV show, and things are often not as simple as they appear. You need to make sure that you understand the situation. Is the woman menacing that guy with a gun a victim fighting back or a deranged ‘ex’ looking for revenge? Is that person with a gun in their hand chasing someone a baddie, or an undercover cop?

Another thing to consider is what to do when the police arrive. You are most likely to survive if you do exactly what they tell you to do when they tell you do it. An officer just arriving on scene doesn’t know who you are or what you are doing, and they are likely to treat you as a suspect first and sort things out later. Don’t argue and for the love of God don’t resist. Just do as you’re told. Not getting shot by the good guys is also part of self-defense!

A lot of this comes down to basic firearms safety- make sure of your backstop, never point your firearm at anything you are not willing to shoot, keep your finger off the trigger until you intend to fire etc.

The most important thing is to think. Your mind is your first, best and most effective weapon- use it!

Michael Tinker Pearce, 14June17


Quick Update – .355/19R


Ran 25 rounds through the Taurus m905 today- accurate, low recoil and no sign of trauma to the brass. Calling this one a win!  Next- load some more for Linda to shoot and start ratcheting up the power to see how much oomph the brass will take. I’d like to get up to .38 Special pressures, but with the tapered 9mm chamber bulging might become an issue.

I’m quite pleased with how this is working out.

Michael Tinker Pearce  9 June 17

New Wildcat- .355/19R! This Will Change… uh… nothing.


A few years back Linda told me, “We should both have 9mm.s.” I said that was fine with me; perhaps she could get me one for my birthday? She did, and it was not exactly what I was expecting- a Taurus m905 9mm snub-nosed revolver. It’s a nice little revolver; you’ve seen it in range reports. The problem is that it has a very sharp recoil impulse- even with range ammo. Linda likes the gun, but it’s too unpleasant for her to shoot; it hurts her dodgy wrist.

The obvious thing to do, since I am reloading now, was to make some very light loads so that she can enjoy the gun without hurting herself. I saw no reason not to simply load my .38 S&W load- a 148gr. HBWC- in 9x19mm brass. These loads will not cycle a 9mm semi-auto, but the protruding wadcutter made them visually distinct so we would not accidentally fire them out of autos. Problem solved.

OK, not quite. It turns out that the chambers in the Taurus’s cylinder are really tight- so tight that the .358 diameter wadcutters won’t chamber. I don’t have a good way of swaging them down, so I was going to need to use a .355 diameter bullet. OK, admittedly having one of the autos fail to function from a low-powered load was a tragedy of limited scope, but my paranoia kicked in. What if the bullet lodged in the bore and it chambered another round? This was a recipe for badness. Unlikely though it might be, it provided an excuse to tinker, and I did.

So, I wanted low-power loads with a .355 bullet diameter that would chamber in the revolver but not an automatic. I seemed to recall that someone had invented a 9mm Rimmed specifically for use in revolvers, but that seems to have died a rapid death; there just aren’t enough 9mm revolvers, and metal clips that hold the rounds just aren’t a big enough bother to make 9mm rimmed viable.

Taurus M905 revolver with a ‘star clip’ of 9x19mm rounds

I admit, my worry about accidentally using under-powered rounds in one of our autos bordered on the ridiculous, but it made a fine excuse to let my inner Mad Scientist out to play. So I made a simple jig to uniformly shorten .38 Special cases to 19mm. Having just bought a box of 500 9mm 115gr. TMJ bullets it was easy to choose what to use in them.

Typically a load of 5.1gr. of Unique behind a 115gr. bullet is adequately powerful to cycle most semi-auto pistols, but we’re not worried about doing that. In a short-barreled revolver that load actually feels pretty stiff, about the same as shooting .38 Special +P, which is a lot more recoil than desired for our purpose. Since this load is not for self-defense, hunting or anything like that it need not be nearly so powerful. In fact this is strictly a target load; if it will punch holes in paper at twenty yards that’s good enough.

Accordingly I selected a load of 3.5gr. of Unique. I mounted a .38/.357 shell holder in the press and used 9mm dies to de-prime the shortened cartridge and tried it for fit in the Taurus’s chamber. It headspaced a bit deeper than 9x19mm but the primer ignited just fine. The primer also backed out of the cartridge a bit but didn’t interfere with the function of the gun. I guessed that the pressure of firing a loaded round would force the base of the cartridge against the breech and prevent this, so I proceeded to load a round. After adjusting the dies a bit I got satisfactory overall length and a strong, slightly rolled crimp.

A test shot revealed no issues with the primer backing out and the gun was able to cycle properly with further trigger pulls. The shell ejected easily, so it looked like I was in business. Recoil was very mild, similar to a .38 S&W. Fired from the 1-3/4″ Taurus the round penetrated nearly through two kiln-dried Douglas Fir 2x6s, slightly superior to my standard .38 S&W load using a 148gr. HBWC loaded over 2.5gr. of Unique. I judged that to be a satisfactory level of power for a light target load and loaded up a box for the next range trip. If it functions as well as the test shot we have a new cartridge and Linda can enjoy shooting it. If the head spacing proves to be an issue then I can always shoot them out of a .38 Special.

I’ve come up with a couple of Wildcat cartridges over the years, but they never did more than duplicate the performance and/or characteristics of an existing cartridge so I never pursued them. This one will be a record- I actually loaded fifty cartridges. Mind you, this is not a cartridge that is going to change anything for anyone but me; it is not going to ‘catch on.’ I feel perfectly safe in saying that we should not expect Ruger to chamber their next iteration of the LCR in it, nor is S&W going to be on fire to chamber their new offerings in this cartridge. I would be very surprised if the vast majority of the hand gunning community at large did not remain blissfully unaware of it. It is a singular, special-purpose cartridge that fills a personal need that very few, if any, will share.

It is not impossible that in the future I will develop a load for it that pushes a 115gr. self-defense bullet at .38 Special velocities. This would allow the use of speed loaders, which on the whole seem a great deal more reliable than the provided ‘star clips’ which can shed rounds or even become bent in a pocket.  Load factory 9mm rounds in a star-clip in the cylinder, and reload (if needed) with these rounds from a speed-loader or strip. This mimics my practice with the Chiappa Rhino, where I use the clips only to insure positive ejection of the first cylinder and speed-strips for the reload.

So, the name- .355/19R. It’s a .355 diameter bullet in a 19mm long case with a rim. Hey, I had to call it something, right? At least this is descriptive. I considered 9mm TIAG (Tinker is a Genius) or maybe 9mm AUW (Another Useless Wildcat) but on the whole I think I’ll stick with my first choice. Look for further developments in the next Range Report.

Michael Tinker Pearce   07 June 17

Range Report for 3 June 17- New Guns, Big Fun

After a fruitful trip to the Washington Arms Collector’s show and a surprise early birthday present at Ben’s Loans Linda and I stopped in at Champion Arms for a bit of recreational shooting. Since it was dinner time we were able to walk in and get a lane with no wait- there’s a Pro Tip there. Linda had her ‘new’ Kahr E9 and Vz70, and I trotted out the Taurus m905 9mm revolver and the brand-new-to-me Para Ordinance LDA .45 Carry.  I cover this gun at some length here-LDA .45 Carry.

We shot the LDA .45 first, and I instantly learned not to ride the safety with my thumb the way I usually do with a 1911. Ouch. Like other short 1911s recoil isn’t bad, and while there is significant muzzle flip the gun comes back on target very quickly. Linda and I both enjoyed shooting it a great deal and had pretty good results. We were shooting Freedom Munitions 230gr. CPHP and found these hit a couple of inches low at 7 yards. This was easily compensated for. The novel trigger required almost no adaptation-time, and I was able to produce these as my first and last rapid-fire targets at that range-

The gun performed flawlessly- I think this gun has a bright future as an EDC, and you can expect to see it frequently in future range reports.

We had picked up two boxes of PMC Bronze 115gr. FMC 9x19mm at the gun show, and shooting these through the Taurus showed they were quite a bit milder than the supposedly mid-range hand-loads I took on our last expedition. I will be making a significant adjustment to that load…

The Taurus m905 is pretty snappy, even with 9mm range-loads. It’s an all-steel gun but recoil is comparable to an alloy-frame .38 Special with +P loads. I have reinstalled the boot-grip since the target grip failed, and I ran a few cylinders, strong, weak and two-hand and called it good. Here’s the results of two cylinders full rapid-fired at seven yards-


I need more practice with this gun, and may make a change to the front sight. Despite the rep of Taurus revolvers the trigger is light and smooth. I plan on working up some revolver-specific light loads so that Linda can shoot this gun as well. I’m experimenting with shortening .38 Special cases and loading them with 9mm 115gr. FMC bullets. I use the .38 shell-holder and the 9mm dies. This allows me to dispense with the ‘star-clips’ needed to eject 9x19mm cases, and I cannot accidentally load them into a semi-auto that they would be too light to function in. Since any new cartridge needs a name I call this .355-19R (.355 diameter bullet, 19mm case length, Revolver.) because calling it 9mm Rimmed would be too easy.

The Kahr was next up, and while I love the ergonomics, trigger and soft-recoiling mechanism I am finding that I really don’t like the dot-over-bar sights. They are reasonably quick to acquire but rather imprecise. Other than that it’s a very pleasant gun to shoot and completely reliable. 7 yards, rapid-fire-


Finally the Vz70- though the Kahr is her first love Linda found this gun the most pleasant to shoot. Not surprising; it’s the same size and weight as the Kahr but is chambered for .32 ACP. I do need to apply some color to the front-sight to make it easier to pick up, but the double-action trigger is quite smooth (though a bit heavy) and the single-action trigger is light and crisp with very little over travel.

The only issue experienced with this gun was that it failed to lock the slide back after the last round in the magazine, though it would lock back every time when the slide was operated manually with an empty magazine. We were firing this gun with Fiochi 73gr. FMC which has a rep for being a bit wimpy, so perhaps that is the culprit. We’ll try a different brand next time and see what happens. 7 Yards, RF-


Not an impressive group; perhaps practice and a more visible front sight will help this.

We had a terrific day together, and the range trip was a nice way to finish things up.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 3 June 17

The Para-Ordinance LDA .45 Carry- Because Sometimes Weird is Good


Notice anything odd about this compact .45?  Yeah, you’re right. It is kinda’ weird.

Having escaped the Washington Arms Collector’s show in Puyallup without buying any new guns- only just, mind you- we were feeling rather smug and stopped by Ben’s Loans in Renton. One of our top-two favorite gun stores, and since I have a birthday inbound in a couple of weeks we were just going to have a peek at what was new. We looked at a bit of this and that, then Linda said, “Hey, have a look at this Para-Ordinance.”

The first thing that I noticed was that it was a sub-compact. The next things were the trigger, spurless hammer and complete lack of a tail on the grip safety. It’s double-action only… except it isn’t. I tried the trigger-pull and it was remarkably light and broke like snapping a glass rod. If that wasn’t weird enough the hammer only seemed to move back about an eighth of an inch before dropping. I thought it was broken- there was no way that wussy little strike would hit the firing-pin hard enough! Further examination showed that I wasn’t seeing everything that was happening because it was too fast for the naked eye. When the trigger breaks the hammer actually moves back another three-eighths of an inch or so before snapping forward, and while the hammer is very light it moves really fast.

OK, the notion of a double-action 1911 is weird and a double-action-only 1911 is even weirder, but this seemed like witchcraft. I don’t have a trigger-gauge but at an educated guess the force required is 3-1/2 to 5 lbs. It doesn’t feel like any double-action pull I’ve ever felt. In fact in their marketing Para Ordinance says it’s ‘Exactly like nothing you’ve ever felt’ and that sums it up pretty well.

Some research revealed what is actually happening. In a Glock the striker is brought to half-cock when the slide operates, leaving you with a light semi-double-action trigger pull. In this system the slide’s movement brings the gun to full-cock, then the hammer disengages and drops to a safe position. When you pull the trigger all you are doing is returning the hammer against very light spring pressure to a point where it re-engages then releases the sear. So it’s kinda’ not double-action, but it kinda’ is. What it is like is, well, nothing you’ve ever experienced.

These guns have been around since the early 2000s, but have remained largely obscure. partly because they were not cheap and partly because, uh, reasons. Certainly a DAO 1911 is anathema to the diehard 1911 cultists; I found the idea bizarre myself right up t when I tried it. In a lot of ways it’s an answer to a question nobody was asking. Trigger travel and reset are long but it works, especially on something designed as a carry gun. At 24 ounces it’s no lightweight, but with a proper holster it will be a doddle to carry.

Field-stripping is very much standard 1911- or at least sub-compact 1911.  Pull the slide back to the take-down notch, pop out the slide stop and it goes pretty familiarly from there. Yeh, it’s a bull-barrel, has a captured dual-stage recoil spring and the recoil plug comes out the back instead of the front but it’s nothing an old 1911 hand can’t suss out.

The Para LDA Carry field stripped

I was warned not to take it past field-stripping; much past that and it starts vomiting parts whose place and function is not intuitive. I watched a video about dismantling the fire-control group, and I will not be doing so any time soon!

The grip safety is functional, and it has a license-built Series 80 firing pin safety as well as a conventional thumb-safety, which is not ambidextrous. Without a beavertail in the way it is very fast and easy to access the safety when holding the gun in the left hand. The flat plastic grips and ridged front-strap provide a very secure grip. The lack of a beavertail isn’t really an issue, as the hammer doesn’t travel far enough to bite. Like most 1911s in this size range the stock magazine holds 6+1, but of course for reloads you can use full-length magazines.

So, how does it shoot? In a word- fantastic. Stubby .45s benefit from the short slides low reciprocating weight and the duration of the recoil is shorter; there is more muzzle-whip but the gun comes back down faster and there really isn’t much difference in felt recoil between this and a full-sized gun. Even my notoriously recoil-sensitive wife had a ball shooting it. The 3-inch match-grade bull-barrel delivers quite adequate accuracy at SD distances. While you might think a die-hard 1911 guy like myself would find the trigger hard to adapt to in practice I stopped noticing it very quickly, and double-taps come easily after a very little shooting.

IMG_0431 copy
7-yards, rapid fire with Freedom Munitions 230gr. CPHPs

The gun was perfectly reliable for the couple boxes of ammunition we fed it. The only thing that I noted was that it does not like to feed the first round from the magazine by using the slide-stop to drop the slide. But if you grab the slide, pull to the rear and release it feeds every time.

If you fancy a wee 1911 but are nervous about carrying ‘cocked-and-locked’ this might be just what you have been looking for. Be prepared to pay for the privilege though- these guns seem to often go for $700-$900* on the used market and the upcoming new version will start at $1025.

It’s early days yet, but I love the hell out of this gun! It may be the answer to a question no one was asking, but it’s a good answer. I foresee a bright future as an EDC, and it’s safe to say you’ll be seeing a lot of it in future Range Reports.

*not that we paid anywhere near that!

Michael Tinker Pearce, 03June17