May 21, 2017

42 or 357?

What with all the Russian spies and other menacing characters around my neighborhood, I have thought in light of my advancing age that I ought to get a piece for my drawer.  You know, for punks.

Apart from the usual objections of "morality" I also have struggled with the national problem of overabundance: there are so many options, it is genuinely difficult to make a rational choice.  But I am making some progress.  I am not a sportsman or drug dealer, so long guns and Wonder Nines are out.  It needs to be something small, ideally concealable, but able to, you know, perforate baddies.

I had been considering the Walther PPK.  The merits of this fine firearm need hardly be rehearsed here, and how many personal defense weapons have such an impressive pop culture pedigree?

More prosaically, the slide burn issue has been addressed (after eighty years) with an extended tang.  It's a very good gun, as the estimable Hickock45 attests.

But the PPK has its problems.  It is hard work to shoot: the slide is stiff, and it kicks hard.  With some practice you can get proficient with it, but it's hard to imagine, in a sudden household firefight, tossing it to my wife and having her wield it effectively.  And in reality, most other compact guns have the same problem: the ones with stopping power are hard to shoot, and the ones that are easy to shoot may be too mild to achieve the desired results.

And there the matter stood with me, until the Glock 42 swam into my ken.  Glock took a lot of heat for the 42 because they decided to chamber it for .380 ACP instead of 9 mm.  This makes the gun more expensive to operate because 9mm ammunition is cheap and abundant:  it can be found on deserted beaches and school playgrounds all over America.  The .380 ACP, by contrast, must be bought in a store, with money, instead of stripping it from the bodies of the men who were so foolish as to betray you.

The PPK, which also uses .380 ACP is certainly the prettier of the two:
But the Glock has one huge advantage over the PPK and other "concealed carry" weapons:
[A]fter getting the hang of one of those little 9mm’s, switching over to the Glock 42 feels like cheating. With almost no effort at all, the front sight simply snaps back onto target after each shot. If all centerfire handgun calibers were equally effective for self-defense, the favorable combination of small size and light recoil found in the Glock 42 would instantly render obsolete dozens of other carry guns that are either more difficult to shoot or more difficult to carry.  (link)
So...have a couple of these babies around the house, toss them to the wife and kids when trouble starts, and the bad guys are going to learn what "downrange" really means.

But, the nagging thought pursues appealing as it is to shoot people, what's the point if the ammo isn't up the the job.  We've all heard these "I emptied my Beretta Bobcat into a perp and he didn't even drop his milkshake" stories.  When we shoot someone, we want them to know they've been shot, and fall down without unwanted additional activity.

I am of two minds about this.  One part of me notes that this particular round has a long history of killing people, including (according to Wikipedia) the Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophia.  That must count for something.  And when friends tell me the round has poor stopping power, I notice none of them accept my offer to be shot with the harmless ineffective little pea shooter.

On the other hand, this is not a game, and as a rawboned Alaskan used to negotiating safe passage with brown bears and wolverines, I know just how important it is that the things we shoot, stay shot.

As I think about it, most gunfights are over very, very quickly.  Whomever puts a round into their target first probably wins - if the round is up to the job.  So, reframing the question, is there a reliable and easy-to-operate small weapon that can put serious ammo to work instead of these .380 Lucky Charms or whatever you call them.  Well, I can think of 38 reasons to consider a J-Frame...

"Remarkably accurate and easy to shoot for a gun this small," Hickock says.

But only five shots.  Well, would you rather have five 38s or six 380s?  It's a difficult question.  My current thought is that the greater power of the .38 round in the J-Frame is not enough to offset the shooting ergonomics of the Glock 42. know...some of those J-Frames can handle a .357 Magnum load.  Oh yes.  Yes they can.

Tactical Tim says "you can have five rounds of .357 Magnum on your person for just a touch over one pound."  Therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome not included:

So are you going to go with the one that loves you, or are you going with the one you love?  I really admire the understated murder efficiency of the Glock 42, but as a middle aged man I'm not sure I want more potency issues to worry about.  The M&P 340 resolves those questions with total finality, but at what cost?

At what cost?


Blogger VMM said...

I have plenty of opinions about this but for starters: you live in pretty much The Safest Place in America. A greater danger to your safety may well be your rationalizing that you need a gun, which leads to keeping a loaded gun in the house, which greatly increases the probability of you or a family member being killed by a gun (most likely your own).

I was an alternate juror on a felony murder case a few years back. When the resident discovered robbers in his garage, he favored exchanging small-arms fire with them rather than fleeing. His S&W .40 auto -- lots of ammo and stopping power -- jammed after the first shot. He's dead, and the robbers are in prison. Both he and the robbers made the same mistake: thinking that a gun would give them control over a situation they couldn't control which they could have easily avoided. Guns make you stupid.

All that being said, I can't help but call out how this reinforced my view of automatic pistols: they're unreliable. Anyone who says their auto has never jammed is probably lying to you and himself. It's never the gun's fault -- it's the ammo, or the magazine, or whatever. Even if they never misfed, they're too complicated. Too many modes for them to be in. "But with proper training..." whatever. Not worth it. Don't let your fantasies of getting in a running gun battle you can't resolve in 5 shots or less make you buy a stupid gun. (All that being said, Glock is the best if you must buy an autoloader.)

Since I don't go shooting anymore, I'd probably trade all my guns for a S&W 640. It's the steel version of the 642. I've shot one before with .357 cartridges, and that experience led me to never want to do the same with an alloy frame of the same size.

But while getting a revolver rated for .357 is a good idea, there's a better option to actually load it with. Years ago I did some web research on the study the Army did of various small arms calibers at Letterman hospital in the 60's. The general finding was that comparing muzzle velocity is useless until you get to rifle velocities. For handgun velocities, the heavier the bullet the better. Their study reinforced some folklore that I'd heard elsewhere: the best round for a .38/.357 is the "FBI load" -- 158 grain .38 Special +P. Use it if you must kill somebody. (But don't kill people it's not safe and mostly illegal.)

May 21, 2017 at 10:50 AM  
Blogger VMM said...

Not to put too fine a point on it: 9mm's crap, and that goes double for .380. What would Elmer Keith say?

May 21, 2017 at 11:00 AM  
Blogger VMM said...

May 21, 2017 at 11:01 AM  
Blogger The Other Front said...

Not sure how serious I really am here. I do know the statistics on what happens when you have guns in the house. Probably will not arm self until kids out of house in any case. Our neighborhood is good, but there is a surprising amount of street crime, and burglaries have been much more frequent here since the financial crisis. I do want my wife to be able to protect herself when I'm not around.

The 640 seems more rational, appreciate the insight on the .38. My view on .38 vs. .357 Mag are overly influenced by old Dick Tracy comic strips.

Not planning to kill any good people in any case, just bad ones, so we should be ok.

May 21, 2017 at 7:48 PM  
Blogger The Other Front said...

"Guns make you stupid" should be engraved on every firearm sold in America.

May 21, 2017 at 7:52 PM  
Blogger VMM said...

"We got magnums!" :)

May 21, 2017 at 7:53 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home