Cheap Guns and Self Defense

According to statistics reported to the FBI annually there is about a 1/1,000,000 chance that a given person will need to use a firearm to shoot a criminal within a given year. Honestly that isn’t a very big chance. It is true that the odds that you may use a firearm for self-defense without shooting someone are much greater- such incidents are not reliably reported however, so it is not certain how frequent this is. Estimates vary from about 1/5,000 to about 1/100,000. These incidents aren’t the focus of today’s blog though- today we are concerned with the odds of your life depending on your firearm to function.

Your gun does not need to function to defend you; while the statistics are debatable it is clear that most instances of defensive use do not involve shots being fired. What we are talking about is how reliable your gun needs to be for legal, justifiable defensive use in which the gun must fire.

On a personal note, and excluding use in a professional capacity, I have used a firearm to defend myself without firing on 3 occasions. None of these incidents were reported to law enforcement.  Interestingly for the last twenty years I have lived in a ‘bad neighborhood.’ Only one of the three incidents occurred during the last twenty years- and it did not occur in my own neighborhood.

Back to the point- there is approximately a 1/1,000,000 chance that you will need your firearm to function to save a life, either your own or another innocent’s.  Now, the odds that you will need a firearm to avert crime without firing are, as stated, much greater. We purchase insurance to protect us from circumstances that are comparably unlikely, so carrying a gun for self defense is arguably not ridiculous- and much less expensive than insurance. While it can be argued that carrying a gun is maybe a bit over-cautious it’s not actually silly- statistically speaking.

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No really, I’m fine- he shot me with a cheap gun!

So what brings this up? Online gun snobs. A fellow in one venue asked to hear from people that routinely carry and practice at the range with ‘economy-priced’ revolvers, and this prompted a number of people to respond that they wouldn’t bet their life on an economy revolver, but would save up to spend twice as much for a ‘reputable’ product.

Over the course of a few decades I’ve gotten a feel for how often guns fail. I’ll grant that a Charter Arms is more likely to fail than a S&W- maybe twice as likely. Of course that’s still not bad- S&W revolvers almost never fail in use so how bad is ‘twice as bad’ really?  If you have a modern revolver in decent condition and it fired the last time you pulled the trigger then the odds are astronomically high that it will fire the next time you do as well.

OK, if I were to carry a revolver I would certainly fire it quite a bit, to insure both my accuracy and the gun’s reliability. That’s just sensible. If the gun goes bang when I pull the trigger and the bullets go roughly where I want them to I’m good to go- I’m not going to worry that I don’t have the right logo on the gun, nor am I going to worry about how much I paid for the gun. A Taurus, Charter Arms, Rossi or Weireacht that has proven itself to me is good enough. Given the literally 1/1,000,000 odds of a life depending on the gun working I think it is reasonable to anticipate that a proven gun will remain in working order.

So why would anyone spend more money on a gun than they, strictly speaking, needed to? Well, there are a lot of reasons. More expensive guns are very often nicer to shoot than inexpensive guns- more comfortable grips, better triggers etc.  Let’s face it, if practicality were the only measure we’d probably all own Glocks. But whatever we might tell ourselves, for most of it it’s about more than merely practical measures.  The supreme tacti-cool piece with all the right bells and whistles might win our admiration, but it’s the beautiful that garners the ooohs and ahhhs.

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“I’ll take it- just let me sell my house… what? That’s won’t be enough?!

There is a tactile pleasure in handling a high-quality firearm. The precise fit and finish, the grain and shaping of the wood handle, the clever mechanical bits… pleasure in ownership should not be discounted as a reason to spend more than is strictly needed for practical purposes. But this should not be conflated with need; let’s be honest with ourselves at least!  Yes, there is a fair chance that the more expensive gun will be more durable in the long run, and that is a practical consideration… for those of us that actually shoot enough for that to matter at least.

These are all good reasons to own a more expensive firearm, but all too often on the internet we encounter a less positive motive.  In all seriousness you will likely go your entire life as a civilian and never need to fire your gun in deadly earnest- but you can go online and rub other’s noses in your superiority every day. Given that day-to-day utility spending twice as much for your gun is a bargain!  Heck, if your primary philosophy of use for your gun is to use it to bludgeon others with their inferiority even a Korth is sensibly priced!

Yeah, we’ve all met That Guy, and for every person that agrees with him there are twenty that wish he would just go away.  The reality is we don’t all drive BMWs and Bentleys even if we can afford them; we may have other priorities or even preferences. Mind you I’m not saying that all you should buy for your EDC is a cheap gun; far from it. But if the best someone else can do is a cheap gun cut ’em some slack.

When it comes to cheap guns and self defense ask yourself this- will you really feel better if the bad guy is pointing a Taurus or Charter Arms gun at you than you would if it were a Colt or S&W?

Yeah. I didn’t think so.

Michael Tinker Pearce,  22 May 2018

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