PaciFIST Firearms, LLC

Concealed Handgun Permit Training in the Baton Rouge Area

Myths and Misconceptions – “Grain Weights”

I answered a question recently which cleared up some misinformation that I realize I’ve heard many times over the years, so I think it is worth posting about. I hope I can clear up what is apparently a common misconception as so many people are rushing out to stock up on guns and ammo in stores and online.

When buying ammunition, many people believe that the grain weight (gr) listed on the box refers to different powder charges and, therefore, power levels. This is not true. The grain weight listed refers ONLY to the weight of the projectile itself – the bullet that leaves the barrel when fired.

The confusion is understandable. It is easy to see how someone would assume that “grains” means “grains of gunpowder” or something. Grains, however, are archaic units of measurement of weight/mass, not a number of flakes of powder. One grain is 1/7000 of a pound, supposedly the weight of a single grain of wheat or barley. What is more confusing is that gunpowder charge weights are measured in grains as well, but this isn’t published on the box, as different formulas of powder can have very different weights for the same level of performance.

Any given cartridge can use projectiles of various weights, but the overall “power” of the cartridge often has little to do with the bullet weight. “Power” is determined mostly by the maximum pressure the cartridge can safely achieve. So a lighter bullet can be fired at a higher velocity than a heavier bullet within that same safe pressure range, and the added velocity of the lighter bullet (or reduced velocity of the heavier) will likely make the different weight bullets very close in “power” to one another.

An excerpt from the Hornady catalog, showing available 9mm FMJ projectiles.

For example, 9mm Luger (AKA 9mm Parabellum, 9x19mm, etc.), is the most popular and common handgun cartridge there is. 9mm loads are available in a wide variety of bullet weights, but the most common are 115 grain, 124 grain, and 147 grain. As you can see from the image above, these bullets are different lengths (the heavier ones are longer of course), but they are the same diameter (9mm, or .355 inches). Again, the grains listed is only the weight of the bullet, and doesn’t say anything about the “power.” You don’t have any “power” until you’ve loaded the bullet into a cartridge case with a powder charge and primer. The barrel length of your gun also affects power. Longer barrels allow bullets to accelerate for longer under pressure, up to a point when all the powder has burned. You can have, for example, a very hot-loaded, powerful 115-grain load, or a very light-loaded, mild 147-grain load. The maximum “power” of any given cartridge will be more or less the same with a max load of any weight bullet, with slight variations.

When purchasing factory ammunition, the overall power of most bullet weights will be more-or-less the same. The lighter bullets will move faster and the heavier bullets slower. You will usually only see a noticeable difference in power if you move up to +P loaded cartridges, or down to anything marked “reduced recoil.” When it comes to full-metal jacket (FMJ) target loads, the difference isn’t important for most purposes for most shooters. If you’re just looking to shoot at the range, you don’t really need to be concerned. Get whatever is cheap and reliable.

If you’re buying premium hollow-points for self-defense, it might matter a little more. Certain bullet weights might provide better performance in certain guns. Proper hollow-point expansion requires a certain velocity. That being said, if you’ve got a common defensive gun using a common defensive cartridge, performance will probably be just fine. The best loads on the market, such as Federal HST and Speer Gold Dot, are designed to perform properly in all common barrel lengths. Many are marked on the box whether they are intended for short-barreled, compact guns. Finding optimum performance requires a little bit of research on the various tests that have been performed in different sized guns, but again, the differences are not usually very pronounced. 

So why are there so many choices? For practice ammo, some people prefer to train with a load that performs as closely as possible to that which they carry. Choosing the same grain weight usually helps with that. Sometimes different bullet weights will differ slightly in point-of-impact on the target, or might have slightly different feeling recoil. Additionally, as I stated before, there are slight performance differences with different weights, different loads, and different barrel lengths. As people demand the best performance, small changes do matter. It is the same reason that there are so many very similar guns on the market. Sometimes small differences matter, even if they are subjective. Additionally, if you have a suppressor, heavier bullets (like 147 grain 9mm), may be subsonic in your gun and thus quieter. 

Most people using a handgun for defensive purposes don’t need to worry too much about different weights. Just stick with the standard weights available and they should work as desired if you’re using a reputable, high-quality defensive load. When in doubt, just get the middle weight in the range (like 124 grain in 9mm). It matters a lot more with rifle rounds. Different guns may have wildly different levels of accuracy with different bullet weights depending on many factors. After all, the shooting with rifles is usually done at much greater distances. AR-15s, for example, come with varying twist rates on the rifling, with some bullet weights being more suitable for certain rates of spin than others for best performance. Further, with hunting, different sized game may require different bullet construction for the most effective, ethical kill.

But what about the different levels of “power” in handgun loads? Why do I keep putting “power” in quotes? It is true that different loads can have varying levels of power, but what “power” is when it comes to self-defense with a handgun is very misunderstood. I will have another post in the future explaining what you need to know about the myths of handgun “stopping power.”

As always, Piece be With You.


Walker man who shot home invader sentenced to 3 years; case tested ‘stand your ground’ law

I came across an interesting article today:

https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/communities/livingston_tangipahoa/article_5433a446-700b-11e8-9986-33e43510645e.html

As usual, the media seems to get the legal terminology a little bit wrong. “Stand your ground” law best refers to “no duty to retreat,” which is in Sections C and D of LA R.S. 14:19 and 14:20, respectively. All that says is that the jury is not allowed to consider the possibility of a peaceful retreat as a factor in whether or not you acted in self-defense (if you were not engaged in unlawful activity yourself at the time of the shooting). Prior to this, the possibility of a peaceful retreat was a factor which was traditionally considered by the courts (though there was still no unqualified duty to retreat). 

The problem faced by the shooter in this case is that there were plenty of factors that were against him without even having to consider the duty to retreat, so whether or not the duty to retreat was considered was almost certainly not the deciding factor. In this case, while deadly force was certainly justified while the robber was in his house actively robbing his family, by the time the robber was fleeing in his car there was no longer a threat. Further, since both the robber and the shooter were outside of the dwelling at the time of the shooting, the presumptions that the force was necessary were no longer present under 14:19(B). 

It is strange that he (almost certainly) would have been lawfully allowed to kill this guy during most of the encounter, but he didn’t actually shoot until the threat had ended. It is hard to blame the shooter, considering what his state of mind must have been at the time, but it is an important lesson nonetheless. Once there is no longer a threat, the use of force is no longer justified. This is why regular mental/legal training is important – you will not have time to think hard about the circumstances when you are in the heat of the moment and will default to your internalized training. 


Defensive Shooting in Baton Rouge – April 1, 2018

An armed robber was shot to death in Baton Rouge last weekend by an armed citizen after he attempted to rob the victim in front of a convenience store.

Link to story

According to the news report, the robber was standing outside of the convenience store and asked the victim/defender for money. The victim said that he would give him some change on the way out of the store, which he did. Even after giving him some money, the robber decided that it was not enough. He pulled a gun and demanded more. The victim defended himself, drew his own pistol, and killed the robber.

Fortunately for the victim, the scene was captured on the store’s surveillance camera, which appears to be enough for police to believe that he acted in self-defense.

This sort of scenario is, unfortunately, all to common. I’m sure everyone has, at one point or another, been approached at a gas station or convenience store and asked for money. It happens to me all the time, and as a concealed carrier, it is one of the most frightening situations. While I have never been robbed, this story makes clear that this is always a possibility, and it is always a concern of mine when approached under similar circumstances. What makes it extra frightening for a concealed carrier is how quickly it can go from innocent to deadly, and how quickly you may be forced to make a life-or-death decision. You can’t pull a gun on someone simply for asking you for money. You are often boxed in between your car and the pump, and they can maneuver themselves to prevent your escape. Essentially, there are many such encounters where, no matter how aware you are of the situation, you simply cannot prevent a possible attacker from having the upper hand. This is precisely why criminals often choose these tactics. You can’t know if drawing your gun is justifiable until after a gun has been drawn on you, and you may have very limited options for escape.

In this case, even though the defender had to draw on a drawn gun, he was still able to defend himself successfully. However, it could very easily go the other way, so think very hard about that decision. If you choose to draw against someone who already has you at gunpoint, make sure to utilize movement and cover to the best of your ability – a moving target is harder to hit, and running and drawing are not mutually exclusive – they can be done together.

Finally, avoidance is important. However, as I stated before, I have not been able to avoid parking lot beggars many times, despite my best efforts. Sometimes you just have to go somewhere. Sometimes they aren’t there until you are leaving. In larger parking lots, there are many places to hide. If you drive up to a store and see a suspicious person in the parking lot, maybe the best plan is to keep driving and try the next store. But what if they appear after you’re in the store? You can’t just stay in the store forever, waiting to see if they leave. Calling the police may be an option, but most of the time a suspicious looking person is not actually suspicious and is not doing anything wrong. There are just so many reasons that total avoidance of this scenario is simply not practical.

Even so, it is important to make your best effort to both stay aware and stay collected. You don’t want to get ambushed at the gas pump or coming out of a store, but you also don’t want to be so afraid that you pull a gun on anyone who walks by and end up committing a crime yourself. Try your best to go to safer, well-lit stores and parking lots, and try to go when there are plenty of other customers around. However, unless you shut yourself inside forever, there is no guarantee that all of these situations can be avoided. So far, I’ve had a 100% success rate in dealing with these situations by simply telling people that I don’t carry cash. However, because I do carry a gun, it is important that I make my best effort to ensure that, if I have to use it, that I do so as responsibly and effectively as possible.