I recently posted an essay where I mentioned my desire for a handgun suitable to be legally carried by someone with a concealed carry license, but which could also be used to reliably and accurately hit a target at 100 yards.
Is there anything that would fit the bill? Maybe so, but I have yet to find it.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. Even handgun bullets, less powerful and accurate than those fired from rifles, will travel more than a mile before air resistance will scrub their velocity down to nothing. So it is certainly within the realm of the possible to strike a target at 100 yards with the compact autoloader I normally carry for my defense.
Conditions were absolutely perfect, however. The coyote was moving directly away from me at a trot instead of a run, there was no cover or obstructing brush, the air was still with no breeze to push the bullet off target, and I was able to rest the barrel on a fence post to steady the gun. None of those are likely to be present if one has to defend themselves against a crazed criminal wielding a rifle.
So anyone with good marksmanship skills can hit a target at 100 yards with a standard handgun, as long as they are calm and take a fair amount of time to set up the shot. But to draw your weapon under stress while someone is trying to take your life, and deliver fast and accurate fire at that distance? I’m sure there are some superlative shots who can do that, but the rest of us need some special equipment.
What kind of special equipment? Read on and we will see what others have tried. Please click the name of the gun to see more information, and click on the pictures for a larger version.
Introduced in the closing years of the 19th Century, the C96 was a German attempt to make a one-size-fits-all weapon. It boasted a 10 round internal magazine, reloaded with the same stripper clip technology that was all the rage at the time when it came to military rifles. In a world where 6 shot revolvers were the standard handgun, it must have seemed like a science fiction weapon from the far future.
The C96 was also chambered for a cartridge that drove a little bitty bullet to very high muzzle velocities. This resulted in a handgun that shot very flat, which means one didn’t have to raise the muzzle all that far to counteract downward drift if you were trying to hit a target at far range. A hollow wooden shoulder stock would not only provide greater stability if attached, but it also served as a sturdy holster to keep the gun out of the weather.
An indication of just how the good folks at Mauser intended the gun for many roles can be seen by a glance at the rear sight, which is adjustable for range.
One thousand yard shots for a handgun? Talk about optimistic! The idea was not to actually shoot individual targets at that range, but to have the rounds maybe kinda sorta generally pitter-patter down amongst large troop concentrations. This is a fine idea if the owner of the C96 was going to take part against an enemy employing tactics developed during the Napoleonic Wars, but much less useful for just about any non-colonial military engagement that occurred after the gun was introduced.
I’ve had some experience firing a C96 with the shoulder stock attached, brief though it was. The target was a steel gong set up at 100 yards, and it was not often that I missed!
There are a great many reasons why I wouldn’t carry a C96 for my main defensive arm, taken though I was with the performance of the handgun. They are extremely expensive, mechanically complicated, and the 7.62x35mm Mauser round produces a wound too small for me to feel comfortable relying on it if ever I encountered a violent criminal. Another factor is that the shoulder stock is really rather large, and it would be a significant problem to conceal the fact that I’m hauling around a big block of wood around under my clothes.
A nice idea, it just doesn’t work. The gun and stock are too big, the bullet too small.
(The source of the last two pictures can be found here.)
Yet another attempt by the Germans to make a do-anything weapon out of a handgun. The purpose was to provide a self defense weapon for artillery crews, as they couldn’t do their jobs while hauling around battle rifles but could always strap a sidearm to their belts.
As is obvious, the barrel was lengthened and a wooden shoulder stock/holster was provided. The odd round thing sticking out of the grip is a 32 round drum that would provide extra firepower if the cannon cockers found themselves in a close up firefight. It has been referred in my hearing as either a “snail drum” or a “snail clip”. I’m sure someone out there knows the correct term, but I did know what the speaker was referring to when either label was applied.
Have I ever fired one of these? Regrettably no, though I would dearly love to. With that extra long barrel, as well as the stability provided by the stock, I’m pretty sure it would perform well enough.
Unfortunately, many of the same problems which keep me from considering a C96 as my main carry gun apply here. The Luger has a reputation for being mechanically finicky, this particular type may be available but are also expensive antiques, and the shoulder stock is very large when concealment is considered.
It does look very cool, though!
The same person who was kind enough to allow me to shoot their C96 also let me fire up their 1930’s vintage “Rear Adjustable Sight Model” Browning Hi Power. This was essentially a standard Hi Power with a detachable wooden shoulder stock, and fitted with some elaborate sights.
The sights were rather similar to those on the C96, but with a maximum range of 500 meters they are only half as optimistic.
So how did it do against the 100 yard steel target? At best I would say “meh“. While the C96 produced consistent hits, I was only getting about a 50% success rate with the Browning.
Why would that be so? Some of it is undoubtedly due to the fact that I am nothing more than a mediocre shot, and someone with even a slightly more advanced skill set would get much better results. The rest of the reason is probably due to the fact that the Hi Power was using standard pressure 9mm Parabellum cartridges, which doesn’t shoot as flat as the stuff the C96 was firing. I am pretty sure that loading up on some +P loads would have helped a great deal, but it would also have been hard on the antique gun I was allowed to shoot as a courtesy.
So why not one of these? While I have carried a Hi Power for defense in the past, it is once again the size of the shoulder holster which keeps me from giving it a try.
Honorable Mention goes to a gun that never made it into production. Intended to equip the Canadian military with a powerful new handgun, the Brigadier was developed in the 1950’s.
Looks like a Hi Power, doesn’t it? That is because it is pretty much that gun on steroids. At four pounds, the Brigadier weighed almost twice as much as a standard Hi Power. This extra metal was necessary to withstand the large Magnum cartridge designed to be used in this firearm. The recoil, even with such a heavy platform, was supposed to be rather daunting.
The Brigadier also came with a shoulder stock and extra trigger module, all so it could be converted into a submachine gun called the Borealis. I don’t know how useful it would be to fire full auto when the magazine only held six rounds, but the designers presumably had some high capacity feed device in mind. I can’t find any info on that, so we will never know.
So we have a high velocity round being launched by a gun that can be equipped with a shoulder stock. I still wouldn’t carry one, even if more than one prototype had ever been made. At four pounds it is a monster of a gun, and I have to consider my aching back!
Okay, Smart Guy, Why Don’t You Build Your Own?
Anyone who has gotten this far can see a pattern. All it takes for a handgun to consistently produce accurate and fast aimed shots out to 100 yards is a shoulder stock, and a gun that is either chambered for a high velocity round or has a long barrel.
The ammo choice is actually very easy. The .357 SIG, a semi-popular cartridge designed for use in semi-autos, certainly fits the bill. It is a bottleneck design, which aids in feeding and reduces the chance of jams. It also is a potent self defense round with a variety of different factory loads available.
It also isn’t difficult to obtain a shoulder stock. As this YouTube video shows, there are also a variety of attachable shoulder stocks available. All you have to do is fill out the correct US government forms, pay a fee of $200 USD, wait for permission from the Feds for you to own this bit of plastic, and then you are clear to buy the stock of your dreams!
I could even see myself carrying a lightweight plastic stock in a double shoulder rig. On one side would be my defensive handgun, on the other would hang the stock collapsed down to its smallest size. What would be wrong with that?
Plenty wrong, as it turns out. The Federal government in Washington might not have a problem with my ownership of a shoulder stock for my main defensive arm, but state and local governments might very well be looking to put me in jail if I can clip one to my handgun. Added to that is the bother of having to inform the Feds, in advance, each time I cross state lines with my inert plastic shoulder stock. This would put a serious damper on my ability to help crime victims through my charity self defense course, as well as cost me a great deal in lawyer fees for research into local laws. After all, it wouldn’t do to be convicted of a felony just because I visited a small town that has an obscure law banning the ownership of such devices.
And there you have it. There isn’t any physical reason why I can’t carry a handgun suitable for 100 yard defense, but the legal hurdles have defeated my dream!