When The Dog Bites

I currently own two dogs, both rescues I found injured and lost on the streets.  One is a tiny and elderly Shih Tzu named Fuzzball, the other a skinny runt of a Pit Bull named Chris.

panting in the woods

chris takes his ease

(Click on all pictures for a larger version.)

We were taking our afternoon walk, the leashed dogs sniffing the breeze and the grass, when an unconstrained Pit Bull raced upon us with a yelling man right behind.  The dog was upon us in an instant, and it snatched up Fuzzball.  Chris and I moved to protect before the killing shake.

You might think this would be a minor problem, as Chris is yet another Pit Bull.  But the attacking animal was significantly heavier and more muscular, as well as being free of a hampering leash.  My dog was being torn apart.

Less than two seconds into the fracas, and I was bitten by the aggressor.

james with a chewed up arm

That handsome devil is yours truly, just moments after the fight.  Note the slippery nylon windbreaker I am wearing, as it saved me from serious injury.  As the jaws closed on my forearm, the material of the jacket kept the teeth of the animal from penetrating too deeply.  My arm squirted out from between the closing maw like a wet bar of soap.

Pure luck, but I’ll take what I can get.  Purchasing that jacket was the best twelve bucks I ever spent at WalMart.

I wasn’t seriously injured, but the bite changed the situation.  Lethal force was now the next logical step.  My gun came free of the holster.

taurus pt111 with magazine

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Self Defense Has Always Been A Concern

The laws in the United States concerning black powder firearms are a bit odd.

cap and ball

They are not considered to be actual firearms in many states, so they can be purchased without background checks or waiting periods most places across America.  One can even buy a cap-and-ball handgun through the mail and have it shipped to your door, as long as the buyer is not unlucky enough to live in one of the few places where such activity is illegal.

Some years ago, a reader suggested  that everyone interested in armed self defense should take the time to learn the basics of using black powder arms.  He said that it was possible anyone could be disarmed by the police if they were forced to defend themselves from violent criminal attack, as the authorities routinely confiscate any weapons used in the incident until after the investigation is concluded.  A cap-and-ball revolver purchased the very same day at a sporting goods store will allow the victim to still be able to legally fend off another attack while waiting for the police to release their property.

Are modern reproductions of antique handgun designs suitable for self defense?  I cannot say, as I don’t have any experience with such devices.  Any opinion I might voice would be nothing more than speculation, and you don’t come here for that.

Lucky for all concerned, a good friend of mine from the United Kingdom named Milo has been putting his own black powder revolver though its paces.  He recently posted two pictures after a trip to the range.

milo in his dont tread on me shirt

Considering his apparel, one would be forgiven if they assumed the picture was taken in the US.  But no, this image comes from the UK.  Milo calls the Tee his “hoplophobe-baiting shirt“.


milo shooting his 36 caliber snubby at ten yards

The target was set at ten yards, and all shots were in the black.  Not bad at all!  Particularly considering how chopped down the gun is, and how rudimentary the sights are.

Enough blather from me.  What are Milo’s thoughts?

I thought that the comparison of the shirt and the target pictures indicated that the gun would have performed accurately enough as a defensive arm. Unfortunately, there’s a high misfire rate (the caps drop off before firing, or spent ones jam the mechanism), so I wouldn’t want to trust that gun for defence without a bit of tweaking.

Of course, for me it’s just a recreational target arm, so these concerns are less important today, and guns like this seemed to suffice for those who used them back in the 1860s.”

So it looks like they would work, but modern arms are better.

It Isn’t Going To Explode

One of my students was very interested in acquiring a supply of ammunition so she could regularly practice.  As regular practice leads to precise shot placement, and putting the bullet where it will do the most good is the only sure way to end a violent criminal attack, I thought she was pretty smart to ask.


So I ran down some of the common methods.  Saving a large amount of cash in order to buy in bulk, endlessly checking the Internet for deals, spending a great deal of time reloading, and buying military surplus when it is available.

No, not military surplus!  I should be ashamed that I even suggested such a thing!  After all, she didn’t want to die!

So she thought old military ammunition would kill her?  Suddenly, my perception of her changed.

crazy dog

This just didn’t make any sense to me.  What exactly did she think surplus military ammunition would do, anyway?

Why, she replied, is was incredibly volatile stuff!  Leave it lying about and it would suddenly explode, destroying her neighborhood and killing everyone for blocks around!

nuke image

Okay, hold on a minute.  Where did she get this stuff?

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More Cartridges In Your Wheel Gun

Revolvers were an amazing advance in technology when they first appeared.  Of course, the standard at the time was single shot firearms.  Most people interested in portable self defense tools would carry two so they would have access to a follow up shot.

pair of dueling pistols 2

Revolvers must have seemed like they were spat out of a time machine that just visited the far future.  Six shots instead of one!  How amazing!

Walker Colt

Such high regard was not to last.  As anyone witnessing the rapid pace of innovation and invention that the 20th and 21st Centuries have brought can attest, the miraculous and liberating very quickly becomes the boring and confining.

And so it was with revolvers.  Six shots?  Not enough!

Oh, there are revolvers which offer more than the traditional six.  The vast majority are chambered for .22 caliber cartridges, ammunition that is considered to be too small and weak to be used as an effective self defense tool.

22 caliber revolver cylinder with 8 shots

Adding to this woe is the fact that the best selling revolvers for concealed carry are built on what is known as a “J frame“, a slightly miniaturized version of the traditional handgun.  The gun may get smaller, lighter, and more easy to conceal, but it also only leaves room for five shots instead of six.

j frame and standard cylinder revolvers

Revolver fans have chafed at this restriction for more than a century, frustrated by the iron rule of six-then-empty.  But is the rule made of iron?  Have there been revolvers designed to be portable self defense tools, chambered for potent cartridges, that sported more than half a dozen chambers?

There have been a few, but not many.  In fact, I can only think of four off the top of my head.  If you are interested, follow me below the break and join me on a walk down Memory Lane.  Click the name of the revolvers for a link to a webpage with more information.

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