The Evolution of Personal Defense

posted on December 11, 2017

The effort to improve our personal defense skills and equipment is a never-ending quest. Perfection is a state that we will never actually reach. But, we keep trying and improving, right? Well, sometimes. Here is a light-hearted look at some of the boo-boos that have been made along the way. Others will undoubtedly occur to you.

Back before World War II, the FBI decided that the proper way to dispatch bad guys was to just poke your pistol in their general direction and fire away. No need to bother with those pesky sights. The bureau also determined that it was essential to do so from a deep crouch—I mean squatting so low that it appeared that the shooter was having some sort of gastrointestinal difficulties. Cops of all kinds (and private citizens, too) copied this stance. One can only wonder how many shooters ripped the seat out of their pants during such endeavors.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that Deputy Sheriff Jack Weaver, Col. Jeff Cooper and a few others showed us beyond a doubt that standing up and using the pistol sights were far more effective. Now, don’t get me wrong, point shooting can work if you have lots of time to practice and lots (and lots) of ammo to burn. However, two things we find today are that very few people have anywhere near that much time for pistol practice, and ammunition continues to be pretty expensive.

Back in those days, most gunfighters used revolvers. Now, there is nothing wrong with the revolver as a defensive choice, but they are a bit of a chore to reload. It requires a good bit of fine motor skills, and ammo can easily be dropped in the process. So, someone came up with the excellent idea of modernizing the old piece of equipment called the speedloader. Recharging the DA revolver with one was much quicker and a whole lot more efficient.

The trouble with the speedloader was that our police administrators would not let us use them on duty. My department required us to continue to carry and use only the traditional belt loops to carry our extra ammunition. At the time, I figured that my boss must have just been a bit old fashioned. But, I have since talked to Border Patrol officers and highway patrolmen from various agencies who were faced with the same prohibition. Armed citizens, seeing that we cops didn’t use speedloaders, figured that there must be something inherently wrong with the gizmos, so they didn’t use them either. About the time we finally convinced our police administrators that speedloaders were a handy item for the revolver shooter to have, we all began the transition to semi-automatic pistols.

Holster designs came in with their share of some really bizarre stuff, too. One outfit made a police holster on which the whole front of the holster popped open when a button was pressed. For some reason this “clamshell” rig was particularly popular on the west coast. I am told that even kids on the street learned the location of the release button and got a kick out of surprising a policeman and watching his revolver fall out on the pavement.

And then there was the holster designer who decided that a superb idea for concealed carry was to design a groin holster. This holster fastened to the inside of the waistband on the pants and hung down into the frontal area of the trousers. One accessed the handgun by unzipping their pants. I will simply stop right there and let you use your imagination to envision the problems that might arise from this sort of thing. Other designs offered uncovered triggers, ostensibly to speed up a firing grip (but potentially at the expense of safety).

Nor are we gunwriters immune from gun-related boo-boos. Some years ago I was visiting with Bob Morrison, at that time head honcho of Taurus. At a gathering of industry folks, Morrison suggested that we sneak out to his car so he could show me something very new and very secret.

What he took out of the trunk was an unusual-looking revolver. After I examined this prototype, Morrison asked me for my opinion. I held nothing back. I told him that the gun was too big for personal defense. I also told him that the caliber and chambering were ridiculous. In short, I was convinced that the gun would never sell to the shooting public and encouraged him not to build it. The gun Morrison had shown me was the prototype of the Taurus Judge, in .45 Colt/.410-bore. Thankfully, he did not listen to me, nor did he take my advice, because Taurus has sold a ton of those guns since then and it continues to be quite popular with the armed citizen.

So, we can all chuckle at some of the innovations in equipment and training for the defensive shooter that have surfaced over the years. But, the actual fact is that we live in wonderful times. For every boo-boo that some designer or trainer comes up with, there are numerous designs and techniques that are making our lives better and safer on a daily basis. Holsters, ammo carriers and firearms continue to improve, as do the training techniques that help us to deal with a deadly threat.


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