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"The store defense handgun": when it's time to choose, which gun do you carry?

As a gun dealer, it's your job to answer your customers' questions about firearms and their proper use. You advise them which guns best suit their applications: sporting, competition, hunting, plinking, and protection. With all of that knowledge and expertise at your hands, when it comes time to pick a gun to defend the lives of your employees, which do you choose? A high-capacity, 9mm auto? A big-bore, man-stopping .45? An easy-to-use double-action revolver?

This month Massad Ayoob takes a look at the tools available to defend your gunshop and which ones you may want to consider.

There are predators out there who use guns to intimidate their human prey. That's why so many law-abiding customers come into your shop in the first place.

But it's not always the good guys who lay down their credit cards and sign the 4473 forms. The killers Platt and Matix, who murdered two FBI agents and shot and wounded five more on April 11, 1986, had bought some of their guns legally. That was because they had not yet been convicted of, or even charged with, any crimes.

Interestingly, however, Platt and Matix also stole several guns, including the Ruger Mini-14 that proved to be so effective in the shootout. It is not unknown for would-be scumbags to use gunshops as their source of weapons. In decades past, criminals like John Dillinger even looted their weapons from National Guard armories and police stations. Some of tomorrow's perpetrators will also see the local gunshops at their personal armory.

They may, however, use their own legally obtained or previously stolen weapons instead of a VISA to gain possession of your guns for their purposes.

In past issues, we have talked about the advisability of arming store personnel against this very real occupational hazard. Let's now take a look at the selection of appropriate hardware.

A Gun To Suit Your Needs

A gunshop is like a clothing store. It caters to different needs, different customers, different styles of life. Unless you run the most upscale gunshop on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, you probably don't have salespersons wearing tuxedos with James Bond Signature Model Walther PPK pistols in chamois shoulder holsters under their jackets.

In real life your staff members are like your customers: male and female, tall and short, fat and thin, dressed heavily and dressed light. You have to help the customers tailor their purchase of a carry gun accordingly. So it is with your employees.

The difference is, when the staff are carrying guns in your shop, you know what the job description is. That's something you don't always know about the consumer who fills out that 4473 for you.

So what is your staff person's need for a handgun, at least during the time he or she is working for you?

That defensive handgun is there, not to protect the money in the cash register, and not even to keep the guns from being removed from the store, but to allow your employees to protect their lives should an armed robbery occur.

Which Gun To Choose

If the employee's have to protect their lives against lethal threat by armed robbers in the store environment, what are their actual needs?

First, the gun must be concealable in order to preserve surprise capability and to keep "strange ranger" customers from "jokingly" grabbing at the weapon. This means that nothing much larger than a 4-inch barrel police-type service revolver, or a 5-inch barrel police/military style semiautomatic pistol is going to qualify in this category.

Second, the gun must be reactive. This means the gun must be user-friendly for instant access and firing. If the staffer likes a Smith & Wesson autoloader carried on-safe, that's what they should carry.

If, however, that person needs both hands to release the safety catch and awkwardly requires two seconds to do so, you might suggest (a) that the staffer learn to swiftly manipulate a slide-mounted safety catch; (b) that the employee carry "lever up" in fire position; (c) that the employee switch to a decocker-only or DA-only model of his preferred S&W; or (d) that the employee go to another gun so that he or she can react more swiftly if they have to shoot to live while facing the muzzle of a criminal's weapon.

For the skilled user, the on-safe S&W or Beretta is a good reactive weapon. For the less-skilled, a Glock, a decocker auto, or a revolver will be more instinctive to operate under stress. In the middle is the squeeze-cocking HK P7, which for the shooter of even moderate skill will quickly activate and deliver effective hits under stress if the shooter is properly trained. The same is true for a cocked-and-locked, single-action semiautomatic pistol.

If the gun is going to be concealed, it should be snag-free. Facing three members of the Aryan Brotherhood with drawn guns is a lousy time for your hammer spur to snag in the knitting of your cardigan sweater.

Quick Stop

History shows that if a gunshop is hit during business hours, multiple perpetrators will probably be involved. If you are a revolver person, you want a revolver that will stop an aggressor cold with one centered shot. This means something on the order of a .357 Magnum with 125-grain full Magnum hollowpoint ammo.

Remember, if your employee responds with the same skill as the average trained, qualified police officer, he or she will hit with only one of every four shots fired from a double action revolver. If there are three perpetrators, and you have a gun with only 25 percent hit potential -- even if every hit has the effect of a death ray -- it doesn't take Nick the Greek to figure out that the odds are that at least one armed perpetrator will be up and running and angry as hell when the defender runs out of ammo.

With this in mind, a high-capacity pistol, firing powerful ammunition, starts to make a whole lot of sense. Studies show that hit potential with the semiautomatic pistol is at least twice that of the double-action revolver in real-world combat, so let's say very conservatively that you have a 50 percent hit potential. Given the same three perpetrators, every suspect could be hit at least once (and one of them twice) with an eight-shot auto, and with an 18-shot Glock 9mm there's now three hits per antagonist before the gun runs dry, even with a 50 percent miss potential.

Choose the guns which you and your staff members carry with the same care you use to select the guns you recommend to your customers. Statistics show that when a gunshop is robbed, assault and possibly murder is very likely to occur. The time to prepare is now, before you're looking down the barrel of the bad guy's gun.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Publishers' Development Corporation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Lethal Force
Author:Ayoob, Massad
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:Column
Date:Jun 1, 1992
Words:1139
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