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Massad Ayoob on Guns

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Archive for the ‘Firearms’ Category

Massad Ayoob


Thursday, September 4th, 2014

In Rifle, one of my favorite gun magazines, I always enjoy reading Terry Wieland’s thoughtful column, “Walnut Hill.”  In the May 2014 issue, he cited an important quote from a great authority on firearms, Bob Hagel.

The quote was, “You should not carry a rifle that will do the job when everything goes right; you should have one that works when everything goes wrong.”

Words to live by, and they don’t apply just to rifles.

It’s looking as if the FBI is going to scale down from .40 caliber Glocks to 9mm, starting next year. The 9mm has long been approved as an option for agents, and a recommended one for those who find the recoil of the .40 too difficult to manage in training and qualification, even though .40 Glocks have been standard issue for the Bureau since the late 1990s.  The .45 caliber Glock 21, if privately purchased, is also approved, and I can think offhand of at least three agents I know who carry them, all “gun guys.”  I hope that option remains for field agents if and when the Bureau goes to 9mm as its primary caliber.

It comes at a time when, as discussed here, there’s a push in the military to go back to .45 from the 9mm that has been standard issue for most elements since the mid-1980s.  Non-expanding ball ammo being the norm for military pistols, I can certainly see the .45 argument: it’s what I’d definitely prefer if I suffered under the same limitations of bullet configuration.  With law enforcement hollow points, current ammo has made the 9mm a much more viable defensive choice than it used to be. Of course, the same new designs make .40 S&W and .45 ACP more potent than they used to be, too.

Lower ammo cost, and smaller rounds allowing more cartridges on board, favor the 9mm over the .45 in a pistol, and the 5.56mm over 7.62mm in the rifle.  Yet if there’s time for only one shot – whether it’s the winter venison or your own life that’s at stake – all of a sudden, more powerful cartridges seem more comforting.

Each of us has to assess our needs and our abilities, balance them, and make the right decision.

Where did you find your balance?

Massad Ayoob


Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Our military – not for the first time – listens to complaints about poor “man-stopping” ability with 9mm ball ammunition in combat: .

It seems to me that there’s little wrong with Beretta M9 performance that better 9mm ammunition (i.e., police-type high performance hollow point), MecGar magazines, and maintenance can’t cure.  (Yes, the trigger reach is long for small-handed personnel. There are some mechanical fixes to help that, too.)

But I’m not military.  Many of you reading this are, or have been.

What’s all y’all’s take on the matter?

Massad Ayoob


Saturday, July 12th, 2014

In keeping with the last post here, regarding small self-defense revolvers, let me flag you to something an old friend of mine recently came up with.  Roy Huntington spent 20 years as a cop on the mean streets of San Diego, and today is one of my editors. We both started at a time when cops carried service revolvers, and detectives and off duty officers traditionally packed .38 snubs.  Handguns with lights attached were not a practical reality.

Roy has come up with a new product via Hyskore.  The Griplight fits any round-butt J-frame Smith & Wesson revolver, replacing the grips.  Grasping pressure of the firing hand activates 100 plus lumens of white light, much the way Crimson Trace LaserGrips send out a red aiming beam.  Light is more important, IMHO, since it lets you identify your target.  To give you half an hour of running time, it uses a CR2 battery which, storing more juice than flat batteries, needs to be put in the butt area.  This lengthens the grip accordingly.


Left, with Gunlight installed J-frame 5-shot S&W .357 is similar in grip profile to standard K-frame 6-shot .357, right.

This brings grip configuration to about the size of a service revolver with good, hand-filling combat stocks.  No longer an ankle holster or concealed-in-the-pocket proposition, but hell, folks of Roy’s and my generation and older have been concealing full-size service revolvers under sport coats and even un-tucked polo shirts in good hideout holsters for many decades.

On the farm or ranch, open carry is no concern, and the J-frame so equipped carries nicely tucked in the hip pocket or the front pouch of bib overalls; when you’re on your own property, concealment isn’t mandatory.  Right now, my test unit is on a Model 340 Military & Police .357 Magnum. The big grips really attenuate the recoil of a sub-fourteen-ounce super lightweight revolver with a full power Magnum load.

A lot of the vermin that needs to be shot in the countryside can be handled with a .22.  I’m thinking seriously of putting these grips onto my sweet old Smith & Wesson .22 Kit Gun, which is more accurate than a 2” barrel revolver has any right to be.  The last animals that had to be killed on my rural property – a rabid fox, and a water moccasin – were shot with Glocks in calibers .45 GAP and .357 SIG respectively, and both in poor light.  A .22 would have been easier on the ears.  The white light from the Griplight would have been perfect under those conditions.

The Griplight is an excellent value, I think, at approximately $130.  They can be ordered from another old friend, Bill Laughridge at Cylinder & Slide, be sure to click on “new products.”  A very useful product, designed by one good man who knows his stuff, and sold by another…what’s not to like?

The Evil Princess pierces the darkness with white light and orange fire from Griplight-ed S&W.


Ultralight S&W 340 M&P at height of recoil; Griplight absorbed recoil of full power Black Hills 158 grain .357 Magnum rounds very well.


Massad Ayoob


Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Michael deBethencourt Snub Nose RevolverThe “snub-nose .38” revolver, dating back to the Colt Detective Special of 1926, is a standard prop in noir movies. Most see it as an urban gun, something to hide under the suit in the dangerous streets of the big cities.  However, country folk like ‘em too.  Where I live nowadays, I often spot one in the jeans pocket of a workin’ man, or even the front chest pouch of a farmer’s overalls (where it’s pretty handy to get to, actually).

A general rule of little guns is that “they’re easy to carry, but hard to shoot.”  A Google or Amazon search should get you to some useful advice, such as the book “The Snubby Revolver” by my old friend Ed Lovette, who has “been there and done that.” Now we can add a small but meaty booklet by an old friend, Michael deBethencourt.

A lifelong martial artist, Michael is best known for his expertise with two weapons: the knife, with which he has developed his own simple, primal, and highly effective series of techniques, and the short-barrel revolver.  The reading matter in question is titled “Thirty Eight Straight Tips for Better Snub Shooting.”  The short-barrel Smith & Wesson .38 depicted on the cover sits under a fedora from the snub-nose .38’s heyday, appropriately enough.

While Michael and I differ on some things, as all instructors do – speed reload techniques for the revolver, in this case – brother deBethencourt gives you advice you can take to the bank. I’ve been in this game for a long time, and I learned some new stuff from “Thirty Eight Tips.” For instance, I hadn’t realized the JetLoader people (Buffer Technologies at were making their super-fast loader for the J-frame Smith & Wesson.  I immediately ordered three, and they’ve become my new favorite speedloader for these little five-shot .38s and .357 Magnums.

You can order Michael’s monograph at, and you can get info on his excellent training at  In addition to knowing his stuff and imparting it superbly, Michael is a funny guy who uses his humor positively as “enter-train-ment,” and genuinely cares about his students.  He embodies something I learned from one of my mentors, the supercop Col. Robert Lindsey, and have shared with instructors I’ve trained ever since.  “We are not God’s gift to our students…our students are God’s gift to us.”

Massad Ayoob


Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Here’s an entry promised earlier…

After a shooting, witness’ recollections may vary widely.  Add to that what we would now consider sloppy investigation – the way it was done on the Frontier in Old West times – and 19th Century history starts to get a little fuzzy by the time it filters down to 21st Century readers.

While doing some research recently on the Northfield Bank Raid in Minnesota in 1876, that became apparent. No two historical accounts place the exchanges of gunfire at that hectic scene in the exact same order. “Jesse James was inside the First National Bank and killed the cashier!” “No, Jesse was outside, and it was his brother Frank who murdered the cashier inside!” “No, Jesse wasn’t even there, and he was turning his life around anyway…”

“The gunman killed by an armed citizen with a skillful 80-yard rifle shot was Bill Chadwell.” “No, it was another bad guy, named Stiles.”  “You’re all nuts, Stiles was just one of Chadwell’s aliases!”  And so it goes.

Hell, historians agree that Jesse James was killed by the “dirty little coward,” Robert Ford, but no one seems to agree on what he killed him with. Some historians can’t even agree with “they’s own selfs.” In “Jesse James: Legendary Outlaw” by Roger Bruns, we find on page 83, “…Bob Ford drew his Smith & Wesson .45 and shot the infamous outlaw through the back of the head.” However, turn the page and on P.85 we find this photo caption: “Bob Ford, the assassin of Jesse James, posed for this photograph with the weapon he used to kill the infamous outlaw.” The revolver in that photo is clearly a 7 ½” barrel Cavalry Model Colt Single Action Army.

In “The Escapades of Frank and Jesse James” historian Carl Breihan wrote, “Without hesitation Bob drew his Smith & Wesson and sent a slug crashing through Jesse’s head. This nickel-plated revolver, Serial No. 3766, Model No. 3, was the same weapon Jesse had given Bob as a present some days before.” (P.277)  He adds, “Inquest records show that the gun used by Bob Ford was a Smith & Wesson and not a Colt as generally believed. Charley Ford said, ’Bob had a Smith & Wesson, and it was easier for him to get it out of his pocket.’ Bob Ford admitted, in part, “I could see that it was all over with Jesse when that Smith .44 slug tore through his head.” (P.280)

And some would have it that Ford killed James with one of James’ own guns, snatched from a two-holster gun belt James had just unbuckled and set on a table.  Colt or Smith & Wesson? .44 or .45? Bob’s gun, or Jesse’s?  A gun snatched from Jesse’s holster, or given to Bob by Jesse, or …?

Ah, history…



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