Do you want to know how many rounds you actually need in your carry gun? The correct answer is you won’t know until after the fact, I’m sad to report.
Every defensive gun use situation is different. Millions of variables to consider, everything from the distance to target, number of attackers, caliber of weapon to the expertise of the shooter, etc. etc., etc., all play a factor. Trying to prescribe a universal round count, a one-size-fits-all for every concealed carrier, is, therefore, a fool’s errand. Telling you that you need “x” number does you no good because you may only need “y” or you may actually need “z.” You won’t know until the threat is eliminated.
With that said, this week, I came across an article by a brilliant writer and 2A advocate from the Cato Institute, Matthew Larosiere, that postulated that 12 was the minimum number of rounds a novice cop should have in his sidearm to reliably put down a violent attacker.
“It’s important to consider the realities of defensive gun use, which occur hundreds of thousands, or even millions of times per year. Someone who finds their home being invaded didn’t plan the encounter,” Larosiere wrote in his article “A Defense of Assault Weapons,” published by The Orange County Register.
“Even law enforcement officers have a 39 percent probability to hit a target in a high-stress situation,” he continued. “This, combined with the fact that each hit with a handgun or intermediate cartridge has only an approximate 22 percent chance to stop the target, explains the need for larger magazines. From this, we can extrapolate that a novice law enforcement officer (likely more experienced than the average American) would need about 12 shots to reliably stop a single attacker.”
I reached out to Matt to get his sources for those percentages. Numbers were plucked from a 2015 study by the International Journal of Police Science & Management, which found hit probability for novice shooters, intermediate shooters and expert shooters at typical engagement distances (3 to 75ft). Per the study:
- Novice Shooter: 39 percent hit probability
- Intermediate Shooter: 48 percent hit probability
- Expert Shooter: 49 percent hit probability
Matt then juxtaposed that info against an article debunking the myth of the single shot kill, a real-life defensive gun use encounter, and academic research published by the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, titled, “Unusually Low Mortality of Penetrating Wounds of the Chest,” to surmise that each hit only has a 22 percent chance of stopping the target.
Of course, these numbers are rough approximations and not a definitive evaluation of the subject. But let’s roll with the numbers Matt researched. Let’s assume you’re a novice shooter on par with a novice police officer (per the study) and you draw your Glock 43 with a flush-fitting magazine to stop an assailant who is about to commit a forcible felony against your wife. Are 6+1 rounds of 9mm enough?
You may think that if I fire seven rounds at least two to three rounds are going to penetrate the rapist because 2.8 is 40 percent of seven. However, you need to remember there are no guarantees that any round lands on target. It’s a highly stressful situation. Your flight, fight, freeze (aka autonomic nervous) system is kicking in so your heart is pounding and your hands are sweating. Put another way, you have a 60 percent chance of missing the target altogether after every pull of the trigger.
But let’s say this happens during the confrontation: Round 1: miss. Round 2: miss. Round 3: hit. Round 4: miss. Round 5: miss. Round 6: hit. Round 7: miss. You did hit him twice! Nice shooting! But will that stop him?
With that first hit there is a 78 percent chance that it did not. And with that second shot, even with the compounded effect of the first shot, it’s not certain that he is stopping the assault. It’s hard to exactly quantify in a percentage because there’s no way to factor in the wounding repercussions of the first hit. A bullet to the thigh is going to affect one differently than a bullet to the brain.
We’ve all heard of stories where assailants are shot 6, 7, 8 times and keep charging, especially in cases where they’re fueled by drugs. It’s a really scary thought. I guess we can state the obvious at this point. There is a reason why law enforcement officers carry duty-sized guns with a capacity exceeding 10 rounds along with several extra mags and, in some cases, a backup gun. Because when it hits the fan there are no guarantees about capacity, save one: more is better.
Let me just add that the vast majority of DGU cases don’t involve a gun even being fired. Simply brandishing one is enough to send a perp running in most instances. I’ve also heard people cite stats suggesting that in DGU cases where shots are fired, four to two is about the average depending on the study. There is probably truth to that as well because the loud report of the firearm is enough of a situation resolver, to say nothing of the lead heading the perp’s way. Presumably, most bad guys flee after hearing the first “bang.” Most is the operative word as not all bad guys will bolt.
Which raises the question: Does your carry loadout cover you for both types of bad guys: the common runner and the rare fighter? I’m guessing your J-frame-sized wheel gun or subcompact carry pistol with a flush mag holds either 5 or 7 rounds, respectively. Sure, that will work on a weak-kneed runner. But are you confident enough that it will put down a violent fighter?