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Granny’s Guerrilla Gun

February 15, 2018

The training industry, whether professional trainers, writers, bloggers, or the denizens of any tactical training forum, tend to be more than a little snobbish. I’ve been guilty of it myself.
“If you don’t carry XYZ pistol, and ZYX knife, you’re gonna get kilt in deez streetz, yo!”

There is an article going around social media right now, that I read the other night. I don’t recall the website or author, so I can’t link it, but it made a point that a number of other people, who specialize in criminal/predatory violence and personal protection issues, that resonated with me, again.

The point made was that, criminals, armed with whatever piece of shit gun they could steal, had a higher hit rate than police officers did (it also made the point that, while police officers should not be considered the pinnacle of firearms skill, they are probably more skilled than the AVERAGE concealed carry permittee).

I suspect the reason that this jumped out at me, this time, was because, half an hour after I read the article, a friend of a friend called me on the phone.

“Hey, John, Bobby suggested I call you. I asked him, but he said you were the guy to ask, so…if you had to choose between a S&W Sigma40 (I don’t actually recall what S&W it was, but I do know it wasn’t an M&P), and a Taurus, which would you choose?”

Now, my initial response was, “Fucking neither one of those pieces of shit. Get a Glock.”

“Well, I’d get a Glock, but I can’t afford it.”

“How much money do you have? Why can’t you save up the difference?”

He went on to explain that he had roughly $250, and with his income (barely above minimum wage), and with a wife and a school-aged kid, he really didn’t think he could save double that, without something taking priority before he saved it up.

“Well, in that case, I’d look for a decent .38 wheel gun.”

Now, that sounds like sacrilege to a lot of readers, and it sounded like sacrilege to him, because he’d been around me enough to hear me explain that ammunition capacity, when coupled with accurate fire, is never a detriment. So, I asked him what he wanted/needed the gun for. Home defense.

“Alright, dude. Here’s the thing…unless you are doing something that you think is gonna cause a crew of ‘bangers to come through your door, a revolver is probably gonna be more than adequate for home defense in our little town.”

I kept considering it though, after I got off the phone with him, and it actually really bugged me. I’m not rich. Economically, I’m probably not even upper middle-class. Nevertheless, I’ve got enough gear and weapons and preparedness supplies to outfit not just us, but a couple other families within our community. So, at a brief glance, it seems fair for me to tell people, “Exercise some self-discipline, save some money, and get a decent gun!”

But…I also recognize that not everyone shares my concerns and priorities. Not everyone makes even as much money as we do. Not everyone who makes as little money as we do has enough self-sufficiency to raise some of their own food, to reduce their financial burdens.

They should, but they don’t. And, that’s not the end of the world.

So, my point is, so what if someone comes to you and asks for recommendations on guns, and cannot afford the gun(s) you think “everyone” needs? Do you scoff and tell them to suck it up and get what you recommend, or do you offer them some ideas on which they should get?

The Armed Citizen column, at the end of The American Rifleman, the NRA magazine, and Tamara Keel’s relatively new column for SWAT Magazine, highlight the defensive use of firearms by normal, average Americans. Lots of them are elderly, or live in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. It’s fair to guess—when we don’t explicitly know—that most of those guns used are NOT red-dot equipped, custom-stippled polymer frame guns with aftermarket triggers. They are old surplus 1911s, or .38 SPL revolvers, left over from Grandpa’s days walking a beat.

I don’t want to face down a home invasion with a .38 wheel gun. You know what I have never done? Anything that warranted me being worried about a crew of ‘bangers coming through my front door. Granted, I live in a very rural location, on the outskirts of a very small, rural village, but even when I lived in a shitty, ghetto apartment, in a large urban center, I never really worried too much about it. Most of the people you and I know probably don’t legitimately need to be worried about it either. If you do, fix your shit. If your friends do, reconsider your social choices, and fix their shit while you’re at it.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to trade out my Glocks for the ancient Harrington .32 caliber revolver sitting in my desk drawer, but at the same time, I have decided to peruse the counters of some of the pawnshops and gun stores in the closest larger towns to us, to see what is available, in different price points. That way, the next time someone calls me and asks for advice on what kind of pistol he should look for, when he only has $XXX to spend, I can actually give him better advice than I was able to this time.

At the end of it all, one of the things I’ve tried to express to readers, in this blog, and in my books is, when shit gets sporty, you’re probably not going to have a hand-picked crew of pipehitters with a decade of door-kicking experience under their battle belts. You’re going to have your friends and your neighbors. So, while it would be NICE if they were all equipped with top-of-the-line M4s and tricked-out Glocks or M&Ps, it’s probably not going to turn out that way. It’s going to turn out far more inline with typical SF CIDG/UW experience, where folks show up with everything from old bolt-action hunting rifles and single-shot, break-action shotguns, to pocket pistols, retired police revolvers, and whatever Saturday Night Special that Grandpa bought as a home defense gun for Grandma when they were in their twenties and just starting out. You’re going to have to do what SF soldiers and old-time Jedburghs did when that happened…roll your eyes, laugh at the ironic sense of humor of the gods of war, and drive on with the mission. So, get in the practice now. When someone asks you for the advice I was asked for, look at it as a training opportunity for yourself.

When someone shows up at the range, and they are sporting a gun you think of as a piece-of-shit, take the opportunity for what it is: a chance to a) familiarize yourself with a gun you’d probably have NEVER even touched, otherwise, and b) a chance to train a local G with their personal weapon, just like you will be doing as things get more desolate.

Oh, and don’t be a dick, by telling them they’re dumb for buying a piece-of-shit. You don’t know their circumstances, so roll with it.


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  1. Brennen Munro permalink

    Thank you for putting it into words about not being a dick… All of us started somewhere, and many of the people that you will meet do not have the benefit of having a military past. Be patient with the clueless and try to give them non-judgmental advice… If they have asked for it, otherwise shut the hell up and maybe offer to let them shoot your tricked out 3k BBQ gun! I have been telling folks who are tight on money to check the pawn shops for guns for a while now. People would be surprised at how many people pawn guns because they can not manage their money. If your contact is doing just a bit better than the ones who are selling, well then they have a chance to buy at a discount. Just tell them to have someone who can at least function check it to go with them. There is no point in buying someone else’s broke stuff just to make the pawn guy happy twice…


  2. Well said.

    God bless you, sir.

  3. somedude permalink

    He can PU a nice 500 series or 870 for that price as well in in 20g or 12g more rounds, ammo is cheaper.

  4. Hypo permalink

    I love my cheap Tri-Star L-120 CZ75 clone.
    A 9mm Tokarev wouldn’t be something I would turn down either.
    Even a 22 is better than nothing.
    A friend brought me one of those Walther manufactured Colt 1911 replica 22LR to fix over the weekend.

    It has a fixed barrel compared to my Kimber Rimfire Target.
    Dang if it doesn’t have a standard 1911 trigger group though.
    Called Walther Monday and they are mailing a striker out gratis.
    We will probably be putting about $100 of Wilson Combat parts into the replica and shoot it in Steel Challenge Rimfire iron sights class.

    A good used holster to go with the gun too.
    They should spend more on ammo than the gun in the first year learning to use it.
    A snap cap and lots of dry fire.

    Thanks for the article.

    Oh, over 3k through the Shadow 2 since November…
    The Aluminum framed L-120 clone can be had for about $350 new if you shop around.
    Put a $17 spring kit in it from CGW.

  5. Emsmiller permalink

    This is simply the reality for many folks! I have a hard time getting folks to get first aid training and medical supplies as well. So I try to find supplies or work around that fit their budget. There is a lady I know who has various medical conditions and is on SSDI and Medicare. She simply does not have the money for the best firearms. She wanted a semi automatic rifle. But with her medical conditions and budget, she could not use most rifles. In the end she got a Hi Point Carbine in 9mm. Was it the best choice? For her it was! The Red dot sight she got was cheap but it works! The sling, she made it out of some torn up jeans. I help her with ammo from time to time and she can make good hits out to about 100 yds every time. It is the best setup for her ! Another friend gifted her a Zastava M88 pistol in 9mm. Same situation, it works for her!

    So Misty’s comments are simply based on reality. Work with what they can afford or do. My friend is not a liability with the firearms she owns, she is an asset!

  6. Cavguy permalink

    And that price on the pawn shop gun is usually not set in stone. My local store owner says “ hey I’m not in love with it make me an offer “. Lesson here learn the art of dickering!


    • anonymous permalink

      If you have the physical $$$ with you, place on counter in front of them with offer – ‘This is what I have to spend on this right now – can we deal ?’ Amazing how that speeds the process along. Especially if he realizes a happy customer returns.

  7. Frank Brickey permalink

    Well said.

  8. Mike M. permalink

    Never underestimate the power of a weapon in the hands of a determined individual. Read the article about the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto Uprising > They held out for almost a month against soldiers with probably 10 times the number of weapons and their weapons were not the best to begin with. I’ve been to the museum in Warsaw where they have exhibits of pistols recovered in the decades since the war from that area. They would not even make a second choice of the gang banger crowd.

  9. Roseman permalink

    Granny’s gun (my wife in this case) was a S&W .38. Even after a trigger job and the addition of a crimson trace, she could only hit the broad side of the barn from the inside.
    A buddy was about to purchase another Glock and asked me if I had any use for his Ruger LCP .380 with crimson trace handle that he no longer wanted.
    Long story short, she is now akin to Annie Oakley. I could’t believe the difference using the Ruger.
    In her case, good hits with a .380 is better than no or poor hits from something larger.
    He sold it to me for $100 including two mags and a couple boxes of ammo.

  10. Good word, thank you. Everybody has a story that YOU do not know, so don’t be a judgmental dick. As you said; it’s a chance to learn about a potentially new and different firearm. And, who knows, you might just end up meeting someone that ends up being a good friend down the road…

  11. Been there and done that teaching people with less than optimal guns. It goes back to the old maxim about fighting with the army you have and not the one you wish you had. If a Hi-Point or an old .38 is what you can afford, get one. Then save for something better, and spend some of your money on training and practice. There are guns and classes on my wish list, and I’m sure there always will be.

  12. LOL. Great article John.

    I often roll my eyes, with some of what you write however I just said out loud, “right on.” which my wife then asked, “what?” never mind dear….

    I coach a few folks on firearm use and I must admit when they show up at the range after class work, with what ever they have, hand gun or long gun, I often say to myself, “oh crap!” Anyway, I go forward with the training and do not talk poorly of their choices. Hell my Dad always told me, ” ya’ dance at the party with who you went there with” even when it is obvious Sally-Sue was giving you that special look.

    Anyway, typically during time on the range training students my tactic is one of introducing them to some nice optional tools. Once that is done you can help them along in new (er) and better selections for their needs.

    Thx for the article,

  13. Diz permalink

    Wow, words of wisdom for sure. One of the problems with ‘Merica these days is the overabundance of lots of shit. So the effort to learn for practical applications becomes diluted with the hobby-lobby mindset. At some point there is an intersection of practical use with acceptable reliability. The Russians have probably been closer to the bone on this kind of thing than we have. The Italians are probably the world’s worst at insisting on the combination beauty with function. But we aren’t far behind.

    Point well taken. Just about any weapon will do, if you will do.

    There goes all your opportunity for lucrative endorsements.

  14. FedUpWithWelfareStates permalink

    You seem to have toned down your rhetoric, anger & profanity…congratulations…

  15. unreconstruced Gordo permalink

    I just had to comment on this, being a gun guy all my life, from family two generations at least before in the same vein your article is right on. Most of my life I have been giving (mostly basic) firearm training to those I care about and yes supplying them with firearms. Now that I am into my 70s I am sitting on an Armory of top quality firearms, and am driving myself to be pysically fit to enjoy SOME of them a few years now I have time and space to do it. Most will be sold off, and many others distributed to family after I use a few I never got the chance to play with yet. I am moving to Oregon as I don’t want to keep on being a patriotic outlaw the rest of my life and want to be just an armed old gentleman. To that extent a fine old Charter .44 Bulldog always carried with 1 speed loader seems better than my Para P14 with three 16 round mags as a carry option on my beloved war belt I put so many training hours in .. The little 5 pound Remington 600 carbine a better option than The Noveske Infidel with advanced optics, for woods bumming and for HD that well worn 870 that Louis Awerbuck taught me to make sing 🙂 Keep up your good works of reality ! 🙂

  16. Robert permalink

    Right on JM
    My very first handgun I ever bought when I was of legal age was a Gen1 glock 17, circa 1986.
    5 years later when money got tight and I had to make rent, I sold it. I don’t remember how much sold it for, but it’s something I regret having to do under the circumstances.
    Fast fwd 20 something years and, fortunately, my financial situation has improved enough to allow me to own 3 handguns, all glocks.

  17. lineman permalink

    What I can’t understand is why anyone in this economy is barely making above minimum wage when there is so many opportunities out there…

    • Circumstances vary. He may not be prepared to exploit those opportunities, he may be in transitional underemployment, he may have obligations that make more lucrative jobs untenable… all kinds of things happen. In general I think you’re correct, but the details matter enormously.

      • lineman permalink

        Yea I understand details matter but when my 16 year old can make 2 bucks an hour over it then it shouldn’t be that hard to find a better paying job…

  18. Nyle Fullmer permalink

    Once again, Well said and THANKS !

  19. anonymous permalink

    Any functioning loaded firearm is better than nothing. If you are a practiced user of it, you should not feel that you are at a disadvantage. One thing that does hurt the defender is attitude. Good Guys are wired like that – we just want to be left alone. We don’t want to hurt any body.

    The Bad Guys pick the time and place to their advantage. They may have several people helping them. That violence is unhesitating, They are not conflicted towards hurting you or yours. That is the world they live in, they choose the risk.

  20. zaarin7 permalink

    My take on this is and has been this. The 2A was not written defining that only people of a certain income level have that right. It applies to everybody unless they are on one of the prohibited lists. But not everybody can afford the latest $800 revolver or $1000 pistol or $1200 rifle. Are those folks no less deserving of personal protection than those who can afford those prices? And you just can’t say save up because things happen. And if you don’t have the income to afford to put down that kind of cash for a gun it gets damn hard to save up for anything at all.

    Keep your powder dry and your faith in God.

  21. Curtis permalink

    When I first started out,I bought a cheap Philipino RIA 1911 as a range toy because I couldn’t afford a genuine WW2 1911. The magazine and all the springs sucked. I bought better mags, and all new springs from Wolf. Now my cheapo range toy is my absolute favorite shooter, and the one I choose to wear when I have to go bad places.

    A cheap gun that fits your hand and works reliably is a hell of a drug.

  22. John h. permalink

    I went to a class at Thunder Ranch and Clint had us place our pistols in a malfunction state, i.e. Stove pipe, loose mag, etc. on the ground behind barricade. On command move to position to your right and clear malfunction and fire three rds. Rinse lather and repeat. I think i shot 10 dif brands, styles, sight configs and other variables in that hr than i ever had. Before or since. Very informative. The best weapon in a fight is the one in your Hand!!
    John h.

  23. Thomas permalink

    Police trade in M&P and Glock 40s are on the market CHEAP right now because of the widespread reversion to 9mm

  24. DJ 9r permalink

    Look into the Ruger Security 9 pistol.

    I “rented” one a few weeks ago (free rental this month, had to buy the range’s overpriced ammo, but I digress…), and was VERY favorably impressed with it. Soft shooter, great grip, better-than-average trigger action, usable sights. If I wasn’t already hip-deep in Glocks, I’d have a couple of these, and at/around $300 new, I don’t think they can be beat.

  25. Davey permalink

    That, sir, is a refreshing perspective. My philosophy is that everybody should be able to own a “Rule #1 gun”. As in, “First rule of a gunfight – Have a gun”. The combination of gun, ammo and range time has to be affordable.

  26. Chuck permalink

    [quote]lineman permalink
    What I can’t understand is why anyone in this economy is barely making above minimum wage when there is so many opportunities out there…[/quote]

    Consider training/education and location and the limits that those enforce.

    • lineman permalink

      Consider training/education and location and the limits that those enforce.

      Those can all be remedied though it just takes the will to do it and then action…

  27. SAM permalink

    “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” – George Orwell – but he never lived in Broward County did he.

  28. Bob Butler permalink

    And again you come up with more common sense in one paragraph than most people today seem capable of accepting in their entire lives. Thank you!

  29. Diz permalink

    It never ceases to amaze me. Someone comes up with an excellent essay and people are out in the weeds talking about irrelevant crap.

    Having any kind of weapon and the will to use it will trump any fancy weapon and the lack of courage to use it.

  30. S18-1000 permalink

    One of my roommates during college wanted to buy himself a pistol; we lived in bottom-of-the-barrel apartments off campus, he didn’t grow up shooting like I did, and he knew I wouldn’t be there 24/7 with my gun to guard the place. He was looking at HK45’s, FN Five-seven, really high-end stuff. Took him to Dunham’s: a 9mm Hi-Point. Ugly as sin, but easy for him to use, was in his budget at $175, and will go bang when he needs it to. Odds are good it will lay in his nightstand drawer for the rest of its days, but it was exactly what he needed.

  31. Troglodyte permalink

    For somebody that is not a collector and just wants to be prepared , how many duplicates of their main sidearm and rifle should they have?
    Is there a general rule of thumb you go by?

    • Davey permalink

      Prepared? For what? That is what you must decide. Fears aside, what have you rationally considered is a reasonable emergency scenario to prepare for?

      Prepared for the end of civilization? Do you want to sock away enough stuff for your grandchildren to be equipped with food, medicine and serviceable, modern gear?

      A 72-hour to two week weather emergency or natural disaster? That’s quite possible and even likely.

      A mult-year disaster or political upheaval that brings large-scale services down? A war with physical destruction of infrastructure that will take years to recover from? Ebola?

      Let me be frank. My wife and I both have medical issues that realistically limit our options. We will be fine as long as we have our meds or can get refills from a pharmacy. Without that, our survival will be measured in weeks to months. That realization has radically changed our planning. In an emergency, we will invest our time in supporting our adult children. Then we will make sure that we do not become a burden to them.

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