It’s Not The Caliber That Counts – It’s The Size.

Our friends at The Trace carried an article this week by Alex Yablon which illustrates some of the best aspects of independent gun journalism that hopefully will continue to expand.  Note the words ‘independent’ and ‘journalism,’ which basically rules out any and all of the writing found on the various pro-gun blogs, several of which immediately attacked Yablon because their basic job is to attack anyone who says something which might interfere or diminish the American love affair with guns. Don’t worry Alex, now that the guys have been told by the puppet master that he no longer wants them to ‘lock her up, the pro-gun noise machine will have more time to come after you.

glock             Anyway, what Yablon argues is that the types of guns being picked up at crime scenes continue to show a steady increase in the larger, more powerful handgun calibers like 9mm, 40 S&W and 45acp.  These calibers have increasingly come to dominate the handgun market which means they end up being found in large numbers in the illegal gun market as well.  Not only are these guns more lethal because of their high-powered calibers, they can hold magazines which contain 15 rounds or more.

As Yablon points out, in the olden days most ‘street guns’ were small, cheaply-made and chambered for 22 or 25acp.  Now these bullets will kill you just as quickly as a nine, but the shooter has to hit a lethal spot.  Back in the early 1970s, one of the pioneering gun researchers, Frank Zimring, did a study of the lethality of calibers in guns picked up by the Chicago police, and he found that not a single victim of a shooting died if he was hit by one round from a 22-caliber gun.

That was then, this is now.  According to ATF data, the number of high-caliber guns found at crime scenes between 2012 and 2015 increased by 30% to 39% depending on caliber, whereas the number of 22-caliber guns recovered in the street remained about the same. Anyone who thinks that when a quarter-ounce of lead snapping along at 1,000 feet every second won’t blow the bejesus out of anything solid with which it comes into contact, has never seen what the wound looks like after someone is shot by a gun.

I got into the gun business back when I went down to North Carolina and at the age of 21 and spent the summer working for my Uncle Ben.  He manufactured a 22-caliber revolver which he sold in his pawn shop for a Jackson plus five.  The gun was a quintessential ‘Saturday Night Special’ which Ben stopped making around the time the big gun law was passed in 1968.  I still see them for sale on internet sites, which brings back fond memories of Kinston, NC in 1965.

That was also then, this is also now. And now means polymers, modular manufacturing and all the other technology advances that have the gun industry to meet the demand for small, highly-lethal guns. And here is where Yablon’s article contains a small but important deficiency in understanding guns, because he makes the assumption that a gun with a powerful caliber has to be a big gun, when in fact what is really happening in the gun industry is that more powerful calibers are now found in increasingly smaller guns.

“The vogue for big, powerful semiautomatic handguns has taken over the industry,” says Yablon, but that’s not really true. What is driving the gun industry are handguns that are no larger than my droid, yet the shoot the most lethal handgun ammo around.  Sig, Ruger, Glock, Smith & Wesson and Kahr are all marketing pistols whose overall length is six inches or less.  And it is the concealability of these guns which is much more a factor in their lethality than the caliber of the guns themselves.

The Glock 42 is 5.9 inches long.  My Samsung G5 is 6.2” – shouldn’t everyone with a Droid also carry a Glock?

3 thoughts on “It’s Not The Caliber That Counts – It’s The Size.

  1. Or as I said on one of my own posts, be the first one on your block to have your boy come home with a Glock. With apologies to Country Joe and the Fish.

    Where Yablon stepped in the goo was in going outside his expertise in several areas, such as his hilarious chart of large v small caliber cartridges where a 12 gauge round is small caliber and a 9mm, 357, 380, and 38 special are different calibers in spite of being essentially the same diameter. And where a 7.62 is a small caliber. He needs to learn about muzzle energy and stopping power. Plus, the assertions on the increased lethality of crime guns would have been nicely demonstrated with references and data.

    As you say, his misunderstanding of the gun market is more important as far as what is driving Concealed Carry Nation. A good example of where the industry is going was a Guns and Ammo article that came out circa 2012 on the topic of “Pocket Nines”, i.e., guns that you can easily hide in a pocket such as a Glock 26 or a Ruger LC9S that can fire a +P (high pressure, high energy) 9 mm round that is far more lethal than the old fashioned jacketed hollow points of days gone by. Indeed, the state of the art is in giving smaller cartridges like the 9×19 Luger tremendous stopping power so that one does not have to carry a large hand cannon. Other than price, who would want to carry a Hi Point Ugly Special when a Ruger LC9S will do the job?

  2. As all crazed gun-fanatics know, it was the Federal Gov that largely drove these evolutions. FBI studies back in the 80s and 90s revealed that too many of their guys were losing gun fights with cocaine fueled bad guys – lost in the sense that the bad guys kept shooting effectively even after taking several soon-to-be fatal hits. So, they demanded more gun – hence the development of the modern self defense higher pressure rounds with serrations inside the hollow point and much larger 2 row stacked magazines. Indeed, the original Glock pistol was designed to meet the severe specifications of the Austrian military and police. As far as the shrinking size — well, that would not happen except for the particular requirements of “concealed” carry. I personally would never open carry, but if I did, it would be with my Ruger Vaquero in .45 Colt/Government. It feels right my hand and I have been shooting guns like it for about 50 years.

    • If I needed to carry for self defense my first choices would be an M1911 in 45ACP or a double stack M1911 in 9mm, both shooting modern bullets at +P. But those cannons are hard to conceal, as you say…

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