I want to relate a funny experience about shot placement. This was an experience I had with a friend of mine (I use that term loosely) who was a somewhat shallow thinker when it came to Firearms. He was that sort of Self Proclaimed-Know It All kind of guy who had an answer to every question and a response to every subject. Needless to say, he knew “Everything” when it came to guns.
This “friend” of mine, who was an avid shooter and gun enthusiast, had very opinionated views about Semi-Automatic Pistol Cartridges for Self Defense, as many people do. The problem is, a lot of folks talk without real world knowledge and most of what they say is just regurgitated rhetoric they heard from somewhere on the internet. Well, since you can’t be around Firearms enthusiasts without a caliber debate popping up every 5 minutes, it was only a matter of time before we heard his high and mighty opinion on the most popular of handgun calibers.
Some people are just hard headed..
His opinion was, in a nutshell, that the 9mm Parabellum was a silly round only good for shooting holes through paper targets. He considered shot placement of secondary importance to a big fat bullet, often poking fun at the 9mm when it was brought up for self-defense, claiming it was too weak and light to be effective. That in turn made me laugh, and if you know me or have read my opinions on the 9mm you’d know why. What he insisted was that you must have at least a 40 S&W to be adequately protected, and even this he considered too weak to really account for anything. He carried around everything from a 40 M&P, a Springfield 1911, Glock 29 10mm, Ruger SP101 in .357 Magnum, and a few others.
The first (and last) time we went shooting together, we took a variety of guns with us into the mountains just to hang out and do a little afternoon target practice. We had something to the effect of about 10 different pistols, a variety of rifles and maybe one shotgun. Amongst his collection he brought with him was an AR-15 (chambered in .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO), which I don’t recall the make or model of currently, but he claimed it was a very expensive rifle. It certainly looked nice from what I remember, and I believe he pieced out all the specifics individually as a custom build. He had a soft spot for expensive guns and had the deep pockets to own them. Next to the AR-15 was a first generation Ruger Mini 14, which wouldn’t shoot straight for the life of it. What happened next I will never forget, but before I continue please remember, he had already bestowed upon me and many others his be-all-end-all opinion on semi-automatic calibers.
Strong Opinions meet Real World Capabilities
After we had arrived at our destination, my friend reaches into his bag and pulls out some Tannerite, mixes it up, and places it upwind about 30 yards. He grabs the AR-15, slides the stock out and leans over the hood of my truck. He peaks through the Red Dot site and about 30 seconds later, BANG! …. Miss. I was a little surprised, but it was the first shot and it was a windy day and I had not seen him site in his optics, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. After looking the rifle over again he fidgets with the optics a little, and returns to his shooting position. Another 5 seconds pass… BANG! Miss….. Looks again at his rifle, insisting something is off. Another few seconds pass. BANG! Miss…….. BANG! BANG! BANG! Miss, Miss, Miss. You get the point. It took him a total of 9 shots to finally connect with the Tannerite.
With a look of frustration and a little embarrassment, he returned to his range bag and pulled out another small pack of Tannerite, mixed it up and placed it back out at the 30 yard line. He hands me the rifle and insists that I give it a try, thinking that he “overlooked” something. I lean over the edge of the truck, look through the Red Dot and… BANG! BOOOM!!! Tannerite is toast.
The Reality of the Situation
Just so you know, I am not the world’s greatest rifleman. In fact, I could use a lot of training myself and feel I have a very long way to go to hit the distances I want. Ultimately though, I am always practicing and working on quick and accurate shot placement. Not only for self defense, but many hunting scenarios can require quick thinking and adaptation when hunting in the bush and thick overgrowth we have here. But that is not the point here. The point was, it was 30 yards and he had a very accurate AR-15 that in fact was functioning quite flawlessly. He was in a resting position, with minimal wind and high visibility. If you’ve ever shot an AR-15, you would know just how soft they shoot and easy they are to handle. It’s not exactly a .300 Win Mag if you know what I mean. Well, after I connected with my target on the first shot, he was quite surprised and played it off somewhat as a lucky shot. So we did it again, and guess what. Yep, same results. Before you ask, he is not a small guy, and size did not factor into this at all. In fact he is 6’2” and probably about 250 lbs, so managing recoil is not a problem. He was just rushing through the motions and had poor shot placement, clear and simple.
Personality Might Have Something To Do With It
Over the next hour, I watched him cycle through several different firearms in a variety of types and calibers. While his horribly inaccurate shot placement stayed consistent, the other things I observed were nothing short of horrifying. Not only was his handling of firearms frightening, but just about everything he did was appalling. Terrible stance, bad posturing, horrible grip, and worst of all, incredibly unsafe. It was no wonder his shot placement was so horrific. Generally when shooting with people I know, especially people who have demonstrated knowledge of firearms and who also own several, I would not feel the need to spray range rules onto them like a first time shooter. Apparently this was a mistake on my part, because I found out the hard way that he was the kind of guy, without calling it out, would just start firing off into whatever direction he pleased, at whatever time he pleased, and whatever target he pleased. That’s not cool. I have an incredibly large and healthy fear of firearms, and I take range safety very seriously.
Outside of shot placement and being horribly unsafe, I could go on all day about the many flawed things this guy did that day, but the moral of the story is this: You can carry whatever hand cannon you want, but if you can’t hit a white target on a dark background from 30 yards using a highly accurate AR-15, it doesn’t matter what you’re carrying. Shot placement is never a secondary consideration. “Almost” hitting your target does not count in a Self Defense situation, nor in hunting or any firearms related sport. In fact, I’m not sure it counts in any situation. That’s not to say that a big heavy piece of lead is a bad thing, but if you’re going to slam a particular cartridge for being too light or small, you damn well better be able to back up your statements with some quality shooting. In this case, no, he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, even with the lightweight easy to shoot .223 Remington.
So remember, Shot Placement, Shot Placement, Shot Placement. Keep up your training and always work on your accuracy because in the end, a single well-placed round of 9mm will stop a bad guy much quicker than 10 shots of heavy lead in the dirt.