Saturday, July 24, 2010

The .45 ACP Big Bear Medicine ?














We often associate hysteria and hype with the hoplophobes, but if we are honest we know full well it exists in the shooting community as well. Perhaps nowhere more predominately than in the mystical world of "stopping power".

My good friend
Lead Chucker and I were weighing the merits of handgun stopping power against the big Bruins prior to his family's vacation out west earlier this summer. If there is or at least was good justification for buying a new gun it was to prevent death-by-bear. Ultimately he settled on just packing his XD in .45 ACP and has safely returned back across the plains to suffer the summer heat here in the mid-west.

Without a doubt most in the gun culture would quickly enter into a discourse that the illustrious .45 automatic is less than formidable against
Ursus arctos horribilis of the lower 48, and down right suicidal against the Coastal Browns of Alaska. Myself included, but now I have to reconsider such a position in light of evidence that has been proving otherwise.

In late May of this year an
incident report surfaced of a backpacker in Denali National Park being forced to shoot and kill a female Grizzly when she emerged from brush near the trail and charged the man's female companion. He drew his .45 ACP and fired about nine rounds into the bear. The Sow then retreated into the brush and park officials later found it located about a hundred feet away, irrevocably dead.

Now any arm chair commando worth his salt will quickly point out that the bear was still able to travel a hundred feet prior to dying. And that had she chose to she could have had ample time to kill them both.
That the bear collapsed and died in such close proximity bodes to the fact that severe internal trauma took any potential fight from it.

So the fact are this; We know the bear suffered significant and fatal trauma in a respected short distance, that it was killed by several, albeit well placed rounds of .45 ACP.

What we do not know from the reports was how long it took the bear to expire and what type of .45 ammo was used.

Case #2

This was not the first report I am aware of where a Coastal Grizzly was killed by the .45 automatic. A friend of mine and hunting companion has a brother who resides in Alaska's Northwest Arctic Borough year round. Five or six years ago he told me that his brother had killed a large Grizzly on a Caribou hunt, to the extent it was up for consideration for a state record (it did not qualify despite it's size for a few reasons). Since Grizzly bears are not common these days in my area of operation the interest was peaked immediately. I asked what he shot it with. My friend said "I think a Glock .45 or something. A .45 handgun".

While my friend is an avid hunter he is not a handgun shooter by any stretch of the means, so I thought perhaps the story had gotten a little bigger on the road.

A year or so later the Brother had come home for a visit, and my buddy asked if I would mind taking them to the range to do some shooting. I jumped at the chance, as this would allow me to investigate this "bear" story further.

And it turned out to be true. The brother and some friends of his who are part of an Indian tribe were out hunting Caribou. "Carl" was using a .243 for the Caribou and had a Glock 21 on the front of his pack on a snowmobile. The Bear was an unexpected arrival/opportunity and realizing that the .243 would not provide sufficient penetration to the Bear's vitals he opted for the .45.

At that point I wanted details, and in a basic context this is what I was told.

That the Glock had been loaded with hard cast lead +P rounds from Buffalo Bore and that he had shot the Bear from a distance of about 6o yards. When I inquired as to how many rounds he fired in order to anchor the bear, he said a full magazine and that he reloaded a new magazine but did not have to shoot it. Given that this was a few years back and the Glock 21 came into prominence during the '94 Assault Weapons Ban I do not know if a full magazine meant ten rounds +1 or 13 rounds + 1.

Granted there can be an argument made that the Bear was shot under hunting conditions and not from aggressive and attacking self-defense stand point. Hence the reason for the two comparisons.

So what does it all mean?

Is the .45 ACP the new kid on the block for big bear stopping?

Hardly.

However, we all must begin realizing is that new developments in this modern age of ammunition are changing previous held beliefs and results. And that the magical one-shot-stop mindset has to die out. Multiple well placed rounds on target against an aggressor, two or four legged, is ultimately the real solution to the problem.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

For the Defense: Phoning it in

In the moments immediately following a lethal self-defense fight there is an existence of perverse intimacy.

No firearms instructors ever talk about it. That is the reality of being in the same room, the same parking garage, the same empty backwoods trail as your attacker dies and bleeds out because you have done this to him. His life having either left him or is leaving him as he struggles, kicks, moans and dies. It is a dark moment on anyone's life. You may be alone, you maybe with your loved ones, or a completely innocent by-stander, either way, there you are.

There are conventional rules of engagement for the good guys, though they are for the most part unwritten. The first is that you call 9-1-1 and that you stay where you are.

Once while working a kidnapping case in a very rough borough in mid-western city my local contact advised me to make one of two choices should I find myself in a gunfight. The first was to have all my brass wiped clean of fingerprints and get out of the city as fast as possible. Kidnapped victim or no Kidnapped victim. The second was to call the police tell them I was involved in a shooting and that I was driving myself to the hospital due to chest pains. I was advised not to stand pat because the local drug lord owned all the cops that would be responding and, my life expectancy would be precisely: zero

In the end I resolved the situation without a round fired and lived to tell the tale, never having to use my pre-laid decision.

Conventional dictum, rattled off very fast and passed over far too quickly goes something like: "shoot-to-neutralize, reload, threat assess, call 9-1-1 and wait for the Calvary to come pick up the trash".

The problem can lie with the Calvary. And while I may ruffle a few feathers understand it is not my intent, nor is it to make nefarious accusations. Don't read it as such. When officers respond to the scene of a shooting they bring with them some predisposed items. Some is training, some is life, regardless when the first couple of Cops arrive they have to contend with the fact that:
  • everyone with a gun is a bad guy until verified otherwise
  • things are probably not as they are claimed
  • their personal safety is at risk since they know at least one person has willingly pulled the trigger.
  • their partner's safety
  • regret over eating that thing they ate they wished that they hadn't
  • unanswered questions at the scene that revolve around a very violent situation
  • insert life here
The point is this while you are looking at the dead man in the hallway whose chest just stopped rising and falling forever your life as well is forever changed. And the only "for better" part is that you are still alive.

For the first responder it's another day on the job (at best). And when they arrive maintaining the integrity of the crime scene is not as important as making sure any threat is dealt with. The honest cop will tell you that there are more than a couple of idiots on the force that they they have to contend with. The know-it-all, the over-eager, the unprofessional lazy tool, the anti-gun, anti self-defense jerk that the rest of them hate working with.

You may now be working with him as well.

I know of one case where the Cops responded to a father shooting his daughter's abusive ex-boyfriend in the front yard. The Ex-BF showed up drunk with a gallon of gasoline and began dousing the front yard. They also found later that he had several guns in the car and it was thought he planned on shooting everyone as they came out.

Dad responded to the arsonist by killing him via several well placed 9mm rounds to the chest. Everyone saw it as a clear cut case of self-defense.

The local Prosecutor however was bothered by the fact that the shooting took place outside the home, coupled with the fact that two shell casings were missing. In his infinite wisdom the Prosecutor decided that the father must have picked up two of the casings for one reason or another. Charges were filed against him for tampering with a crime scene.

The reality was, a Rookie wanted a souvenir from his first "crime scene" and took two of the spent rounds. Fortunately he fessed up.

What if he hadn't.

There also exists another problem. Should the Bad-Guy-in-Question not be dead the Paramedics are surely going to arrive and try to save him. In doing so a crime scene may get changed. Blood smeared, brass kicked, couches moved, cars made to be backed out of the way.

All well intentioned, but changed. Changes that may, and to be fair, may not hamper your plea of self-defense.

I once witnessed this personally. Walking down the street late in the evening of the Urban environment I lived in when I was single I witnessed two males come out of a club in a bloody fist fight. All was not what it seemed. One was empty handed and the other had a busted bottle and was attempting to slash him, and succeeded pretty well in doing so. When the sirens began wailing he dropped the bottle in the street near the curb. Surprisingly it didn't bust. That is until the ambulance arrived and pulled on top of it. Evidence was crushed. Literally.

My lingering thought was this. What if that had been me and I had been forced to shoot him. I could then only rely on my claim that he had a weapon and witnesses that surely would have included his friends. What then?


The Point.

There is nothing illegal about you taking pictures of the crime scene. Period. The Defense (you) has a legal right to collect and maintain evidence as long as the evidence is not in and of itself illegal (think: unlicensed automatic weapons, illegal drugs, etc).

Therefore your new best friend maybe that little phone in your pocket with the camera.

Unusual, unorthodox yes it is. Some may question that this shows a disturbed state of mind to willingly take pictures of the deceased, but you have to realize that pictures are going to be taken. If its out on the street or in a public location you can rest assured the new media in a chopper somewhere is going to have aerial photographs (which you may also want your lawyer to subpoena). They just generally don't show it on the evening news out of decency these days.

I would point out if I were retained as an Expert Witness that the defendant was extremely sober minded and was very well educated in the matters of self-defense and had read case after case of over zealous Prosecutors going after "Victims".

If your pictures correlate that of the police then it reinforces your position.

However, should you find yourself at the mercy of a Prosecutor who cries murder you have the very first photos of the crime scene when it was you and the attacker prior to anyone else showing up and possibly altering the crime scene, unintentional or otherwise.

This establishes doubt against the the Prosecution's case in both the Judge and Jury's mind. Doubt is what wins in court.

It is generally accepted in court that the Defense is not required to provide Inculpatory (points to guilt) Evidence or Exculpatory (points to innocence) Evidence. The burden is on the Prosecutor, or in the case of a wrongful death suit the Plaintiff's attorney.

If you find yourself in an altercation that has not gone physically violent, but is escalating, take the Perps picture of him screaming threatening, etc. If you can, turn on your phones "voice memo" recorder and get a sound bite of his threats, his ranting, etc. Should you be forced to enter into a lethal encounter against the B-I-Q photos prior to it demonstrate that you were going to call the Police and give them the criminal's photograph of him for future use in his apprehension. What we all essentially know in the world of defense is that you are going to defend yourself far more in life with words that you ever will with a weapon. Having a sound bite and/or a photo that you are trying to de-escalate the situation or at least not the aggressor in the circumstance is a feather in your cap.

You want as many feathers as you can get.

Use your intellect that God gave you. And think about this long before you find yourself there. Training of any type starts in the brain first and having a plan (Rule 13) will help you implement it when the deal goes down.
  • Call 9-1-1 and report it, THEN take the photos. You don't want your Attorney to present them as evidence and the other side point out that the time stamp on the photos is three minutes earlier than your call to the LEOs. It makes you look creepy and perverse.
  • Don't take five thousand photos (again points to creepy) take five maybe a dozen if time allows for it. This will greatly depend on the response time of the Cops. I would advise taking pictures from where YOU were when the feces hits the impeller. Also known as POV (Point of View). As horrendously morbid as it sounds I would take a picture of the attacker especially if he is not dead. Your goal is to maintain integrity of the crime scene that paramedics could potentially disturb. It simply is what it is.
  • Take whatever your photos you can or need before the Police arrive. At the sight of the first flashing light. Stop....stop taking pictures. You don't want an Officer on the stand later saying "when I walked in the Defendant was taking photos of the scene. Remember me mentioning the creepy factor, it's worth mentioning again.
  • Don't play amateur detective if there is some extraordinary amount of time between your 9-1-1 call and the arrival of Law Enforcement. Leave everything alone. If the perp is alive, Don't Talk with Him.
  • Don't.
  • Don't move, touch, disturb or breath hard on anything you NEVER alter the crime scene to make it more favorable to you. This is the very reason you are taking your own photos. You don't lie to defend your integrity.
In the end. Keep your mouth shut about taking pictures. This is to be shared with your attorney and your attorney alone. No one else. Don't saddle up along side the responding Officers and say "yeah I got some pictures as well." Because at that point your phone just became evidence in whatever way the Governing powers see fit to use them.

The justice system here in the United States is an adversarial one. In theory at least, and the defense is supposed to meet the Prosecution on equal ground. Resource against resource, argument against argument and strength against strength. It is what ensures that the system works properly. Your Defense attorney (and your bank account) has an overwhelming fight against the broad and powerful resources of the State.
You are simply trying to close that gap.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

New Article Series : For the Defense

Recently I had a conversation with a defense attorney, who explained that a client had, in self-defense, shot and killed a would be attacker.

As it was explained to me they were going to have a difficult time defending this case of "well aimed" over kill". Because apparently the Non-Victim had admirably performed a text book Mozambique Drill.

The local Prosecuting Attorney saw this as somehow nefarious and, felt it in everyone's best interest to press charges.

A lengthy diatribe on my part ensued as to why and how this was not an "assassin's maneuver" as the Prosecutor had claimed. What disturbed me the most was not the Prosecutor's angle, but rather the Defense attorney's ignorance. The firm-in-question is considered the "Go-To" defense team in the mid-west. When I had finished explaining why the client had done everything in text book fashion she said "REALLY!?"
.

Where the "Dark Arts for Good Guys" series has always been about surviving extra-ordinary circumstances in an atmosphere of lawlessness the new series "For the Defense" will examine practical insight into surviving the scarier fight.

The Court room.