Editor's Note: Paul Markel isn't just a good writer, he's also a highly qualified instructor in combat shooting and emergency trauma care. Occasionally, he hears or sees someone dispensing "advice" that not only makes him cringe, it compels him to say- or write- something to refute that bit of "advice" he's heard. That's the case today, as he takes a few well-placed shots at self-proclaimed experts.
The Truth About Posers: How Arrogance, Ignorance, and Under-Education can get you killed
"I wouldn't worry about how many rounds the gun holds. If you can't get the job done with the first couple of shots you probably can't get it done." That quote was offered within earshot at a gun shop I occasionally frequent by the resident expert standing behind the counter.
The recipient of the advice was a middle-aged woman looking for her first defensive handgun. In the clerk's hand was an S&W J-frame revolver of which he was attempting to convince her to purchase. What qualifications did the clerk possess to advise this woman that after the first couple of shots the rest were gratuitous? The best I could tell was that he owned firearms and worked in a gun shop.
Accepting the previously offered logic, lawmen nationwide should be carrying 3-shot sidearms to save the taxpayers from purchasing all that wasteful and superfluous ammunition. After all, aren't lawmen better trained than the woman in question? Certainly a police officer should be able solve any shooting problem with a "couple of shots".
The total disregard for actual deadly force encounters aside, the advice offered by the in-store expert was not just thoughtless, but potentially deadly. Gun stores aren't selling toasters and coffee makers where the customer choice isn't all that big a deal. Gun shops often sell the tools with which someone might use in an attempt to defend their very life. Poor advice could prove fatal.
100,000 Online Experts
Of all the inventions of the late 20th century, the Internet will naturally rank near the top. Never in the history of mankind has so much information been so readily accessible to so many people worldwide. The telegraph, telephone, and television all pale in comparison to the World Wide Web. That, of course, is only one side of the coin.
We now have the twenty-four seven, three-sixty-five format of the Internet coupled with the fact that people can now access it nearly everywhere they go. Circumstances exist where any person can post comments or videos online declaring themselves an expert in the field of their choosing. The genuine consumer, those who truly seek legitimate and factual information are easily lost in a sea of sales pitches, hyperbole, rumors and unsupported opinions.
If the topic in question is a barbecue recipe, advice on extracting wine stains from your tan carpet, or the best place to purchase scented candles, opinions may vary and bad advice is not that big a deal. Trial and error will happen, and you learn from your mistakes, no biggie. However, if the subject happens to be dire, such as protecting your life from felonious assault or dealing with a life-threatening injury, there is little room for trial and error. That approach could have mortal consequences.
The Forum Warrior and the Blog Commando
People get involved with firearms and shooting for a variety of reasons. For many, firearms are a family tradition and they were raised in the shooting community. Others are introduced to firearms by their chosen vocation, be it the military or law enforcement. Still others become involved as adults from a perceived necessity; the most common reason being personal protection.
Many others people, men being the worst offenders, get involved with the firearms culture or the shooting community as an attempt to either bolster a fragile ego or make up for below the belt shortcomings. Of these, most have their own blogs or forum identities. And no, this is not a blanket indictment of firearms blogs or forums. I will say this, if the twisted panties fit, wear them.
Having come from the writer's community, there is a saying that goes something like this. "The ownership of a pen does not make one a writer." I suppose that the modern translation could be, "Owning a laptop with WordPress software does not make you an expert at anything". That doesn't really roll off the tongue, but you get the point.
Forum Warriors and Blog Commandos love to paraphrase words and thoughts they've previously encountered and pass them off as their own. Furthermore, these same folks love to regurgitate turn of the century shooting advice with their own spin based on limited perception.
One of my favorites is the advice to 'Never trust your life to hollow-point ammo. Only hardball can be counted on to feed reliably'. Yes, in 1973 this was valid advice. Prior to the mid-1980's the number of out-of-the-box, semi-automatic pistols that would cycle controlled-expansion ammo reliably could be counted on a single hand. Today the opposite is true, yet we still frequently encounter that aforementioned advice.
The Over-Penetration Boogeyman is another hot topic. People who have never fired a single round into a living-creature will drone on about this ammunition or that being 'too dangerous for self-defense' because of over-penetration concerns. These folks offer ridiculous advice against using a self-loading rifle in .223 Remington because it's 'overkill' but the old reliable .45 is a better choice.
There is no science or ballistic experience in their argument, there cannot be. A light, fast-moving bullet is LESS likely to exit a human torso than a heavy, slow-moving bullet, it is simple ballistic science. As for passing through interior walls, a .25 ACP bullet fired from a pocket gun will pass through wood paneling and two-layers of sheet rock (been there, saw it). If that feeble cartridge will go through a bedroom wall I'd offer that few other projectiles will be slowed down much.
Some other online lunacy follows. There is the advice against carrying spare ammunition or a second gun because it will make you seem like you were looking for a fight. Never carry your pistol with a round chambered, it's too dangerous and you'll have time to chamber a round if you ever need to. Keep shooting until you know the bad guy is dead so they can't sue you. Load your home defense shotgun with rubber buckshot so you won't over-penetrate or get sued for shooting a felon. None of this advice is based on the realities of violent conflict, but it still abounds on forum boards and online advice columns.
The Arrogance Angle
Many of the self-proclaimed experts will advise against certain purchases or uses of equipment based on a strange sense of arrogance or elitism. It offends me to hear men telling physically capable adult women to 'stick with a .22 for self-defense so you can handle it'. Other ridiculous counsel to the males and females to 'carry a gun only when you might need it' makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
Another one of my top ten all time favorite pieces of arrogance is the guy who says, 'I don't need to waste my time and money at some shooting school. I've been shooting since I was twelve'. Yes, if your aim is to shoot soup cans with a .22 rifle you probably don't need a school to teach you that. If, on the other hand, you may be faced with one or more violent criminals bent on killing you and then raping your wife before they kill her, a bit of training under your belt may offer some comfort.
To continue, "I don't need to carry all that other crap, I have my gun." is a fantastic way to put yourself into a no win situation. When faced with a non-deadly threat you are left with only empty hands and a firearm. While the use of a gun may not be justified at that point based on the circumstances, going hand to hand with the bad guy might very well put you at a severe disadvantage.
Tell the victim to bleed slowly
Coinciding with the previous thought pattern are those who view the firearm as the only tool you'll ever need to preserve your life. As of late, traumatic medical care is the prime area where arrogance and condescension raise their ugly heads.
CPR and the Heimlich maneuver have both become a staple for in-service training at most every major workplace. Both of these first aid techniques have merit and are seen as reasonable measures that 'everyone should know'. Be that as it may, during a traumatic medical emergency that involves a major hemorrhage or multiple hemorrhages, CPR is essentially worthless.
Eighteen year old Army privates and Marines (as well as other service members) are taught basic traumatic wound care. This training has attributed to saving innumerable lives that would likely have been lost ten years ago. We aren't teaching these young people to be doctors or even Paramedics; we give them the basic, but invaluable skills needed to stop-gap a life-threatening injury until the professionals have time to show up and begin treatment.
When it is suggested that citizens be given similar life-saving training, the Forum Warriors and Blog Commandos get their panties all in a twist and start spouting cautionary tales about 'liability' and 'leaving it to the professionals'.
These same thimble-weenie keyboard commandos who espouse the mighty 1911 chambered in .45 ACP as the greatest man-stopper on planet Earth, recoil in horror at the idea of an armed citizen stopping a major hemorrhage with a ready-made tourniquet. The self-acclaimed experts see no liability concerns with their regurgitated advice to put "two in the chest and one in the face" but will tell you that performing life-saving, stop-gap medical care on a trauma victim will 'get you sued'.
Deadly Poser Advice
The issue I have with all of the aforementioned opinions and advice is that much of it will fall upon the genuine neophyte, the person who is truly seeking guidance as they make their first gun purchase or at least their first personal defense gun purchase. The new person, lacking the experience to make educated decisions, falls for the arrogance, ignorance, and under-educated opinions of online experts.
Not wanting to be viewed by his family or peers as a "crazy person" or "paranoid", the new gun buyer won't actually carry his gun or even fully load it. The woman who wanted to purchase a GLOCK 19 that she could comfortably operate is instead talked into buying a .22LR compact revolver with a 12 pound double-action trigger. She now struggles to hit the target with a single shot.
A man with a concealed carry permit is considering taking a new Immediate Action Medical class and purchasing a trauma kit. He first does some research online. After reading an article by a volunteer EMT that states 'civilians' should leave medical care to the professionals and are better off sticking to CPR, the man is talked out of it.
Six, twelve, perhaps eighteen months later, our subject is involved in a high-speed car crash. His vehicle is struck and rolls over into a ditch. In the passenger seat is his twelve year old daughter. Her right arm is partially amputated and blood is pumping from the wound. All the man on his person is his clothing and a holstered pistol. Direct pressure slows the blood flow but he has to use both hands. He cannot dial the phone to call for help. He cannot let go of her arm to use his hands to free her from the tangled wreckage. For lack of training and equipment, the well-meaning man who was talked out of attending training and purchasing basic trauma gear is left with no other recourse than to comfort his child as she slowly bleeds to death.
If you asked our keyboard commando to comment on the previous scenario, would they extol the virtues of not being sued and the bliss of ignorance or perhaps advise you to shoot the wound closed with the mighty .45? Or, would they likely change the subject and call for their mom to bring another sandwich down to the basement?
Paul Markel © 2013
About the Author
Paul Markel has been US Marine, Police Officer, Professional Bodyguard and a firearms industry writer for twenty years. He is the author of the new book "Student of the Gun; A beginner once, a student for life." Paul hosts and produces "Student of the Gun" a show dedicated to education, experience, and enjoyment of firearms. Episodes of SOTG can be viewed by simply going to www.studentofthegun.com and clicking the "play" icon.