Sobering thoughts on self-defense firearms from a Minnesota cop

I have a friend who’s a police officer in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area of Minnesota.  He’s got more than twenty years service, and is looking forward to retiring soon.  He’s had a lot of “street” and “hands-on” experience, and knows whereof he speaks.  I’ll call him Mike for the purposes of this discussion (not his real name).

Mike got in touch a few days ago.  After the usual pleasantries between friends, he got down to business.  He said that the current crop of synthetic marijuana, sometimes known as “spice” (and by up to 700 other street names), is producing some truly weird and sometimes very dangerous effects in its users.  He’s personally encountered several addicts with superhuman strength, who don’t seem able to feel pain at all.  Even a Taser will only slow them down, not stop them.  If they’re shot with standard police handgun rounds, they often don’t go down, and require a large number of rounds to do the job (which are often lethal, of course).

Mike warned me that such addicts are being encountered more and more often, and in more and more areas.  He said that it’s no longer safe to assume they’re a big-city problem;  they’re being encountered in smaller towns and rural areas too.  He also said, very soberly, that typical deep-concealment (i.e. small, lightweight) pocket revolvers and pistols are simply not adequate to deal with people under the influence of this stuff.  His personal opinion was that .32 ACP, .380 ACP, .38 Special, and even 9mm. Luger or .357 Magnum rounds, if fired from smaller weapons whose barrels aren’t sufficiently long to give high velocity and promote bullet expansion, are not going to get the job done against a hopped-up addict who won’t even realize he’s been shot.

Mike knew I had a couple of revolvers chambered in .44 Special and .45 Colt.  He recommended very strongly that I get a couple more, and use them for pocket carry instead of smaller weapons, because with the right ammunition (I use Buffalo Bore’s .44 Special hard-cast wadcutter), they’re much more effective at stopping someone who won’t notice hits from smaller calibers.  He says they’re not nearly as good as a shotgun slug, which he recommends from personal experience, but in a small, concealable weapon, he says such rounds are more likely to get the job done, particularly at halitosis range.

I’m taking Mike’s advice;  and I thought I’d share it with my readers, in case any of you have read reports about this sort of thing in your area, and want to be better prepared to deal with it if the need should arise.  Please God, it won’t:  but in this day and age, one never knows.

If you don’t have a compact revolver in either .44 Special or .45 Colt, consider the Charter Arms offerings.  I’ve handled and fired both the .44 Special Bulldog (reviewed here, and shown below) and the .45 Colt Bulldog XL (reviewed here:  it no longer appears on Charter’s Web site, so it may be discontinued).  I recommend either model as a low-cost entry-level revolver.

Charter Arms’ quality control can be spotty, so one has to inspect their revolvers carefully and test-fire them to make sure everything works;  but if you get a reliable example, they’re worth having, and at a reasonable price, too.  Holsters of various kinds are freely available to fit them.



  1. Yer not gonna do much better in "Stopping Power" from on of the pictured revolvers, in any caliber, than you are in either 9mm or ,357/.38+P or even short barreled .45 auto pistols.

    Until you exceed 4 inches or so of barrel, you won't get max velocity with most rounds.

    If it won't make it in .357, then that sort barrel will handicap the .45 LC or .44 magnum even worse.

  2. @B: Read the write-up of that Buffalo Bore round I mentioned in the article. Even from a short-barreled revolver, it promises over 20" of penetration, and it's a full-caliber wadcutter. That's going to leave a mark even without expanding. I'm confident enough in it to trust it, even from a short barrel. However, I agree with you that standard hollowpoint rounds need more barrel to get enough velocity to expand.

  3. I remember a recent article that basically said, "todays mary jane aint like your fathers mary jane"
    The writer stated that the mary jane of this era is a cousin of the 60"s stuff. It has more THC AND the growers are ginning up the genetics, further enhancing the THC.
    Also, the dope heads are NEVER happy with the high they get; they are always going for more, more, more. So they're "lacing" the weed with other chemicals.
    So lets make that stuff legal……yeah right.


  4. 1- I have come to see the “stopping power” debate as, at least between the common self defense options, pointless. It is BS and not backed by any real data. YMMV.

    2- Shot placement is what matters. Even negligible chamberings like .22, .25, .32 work if you hit the right spots. Ditto bullets. As Pat Rogers said of the .38 lead round nose (more or less) “It worked just fine if you could shoot.”

    As such if you are really worried I would focus on a gun you can really shoot well more than theoretical stopping power. A .22 you can stack rounds on someone’s face with beats a .44/.45 which will hit them somewhere in the torso.

    3- My caution to you would be to buy a box of that expensive buffalo bore ammo and see if it shoots to the (I presume fixed) sights. Be a shame to drop big money on a bunch of ammo to find out it shoots 6” high at 10 yards.

  5. I find myself agreeing with theotherryan.
    I've been shooting since I was 10.
    I pretty much put the bullets where I want them to go and most assuredly at halitosis range.

  6. Re:spice. Meh. Yeah, superhuman strength and batshit crazy, but we were getting that already with bath salts and meth, and, rarely, PCP. So, it just makes my nights more interesting and requires a few extra people to sit on them for a bit until they can be B52d. Same crap, different day.

  7. @TheOtherRyan: I agree that the so-called "stopping power" debate is kinda ridiculous in many ways. I've written about it extensively here:

    Nevertheless, I take Mike's advice very seriously. He has actual hand-to-hand experience of dealing with such people, multiple times, as do his fellow cops. When you consider that the average citizen is not well trained or qualified in hand-to-hand stuff (much less shooting), and is unlikely to be able to put his shots where they need to go under great stress and on demand, Mike's advice makes a lot of sense. No handgun offers real "stopping power" unless the bullets hit something vital; but, failing that, causing greater injury and/or offering more and bigger holes through which the attacker can lose blood are the way to go. The British proved that with the old .455 Webley round in its Mark III and Mark IV configuration, more than a century ago.

    I've seen the effect of large-caliber, large-meplat rounds on game. I was sufficiently impressed by them that I keep such rounds on hand for hunting purposes. They're far more effective than the "average" jacketed hollowpoint against deer and the like. I see no reason why similar rounds shouldn't be just as effective against someone who's so chemically "armored" that he won't notice anything smaller, at least for a while. Therefore, I'm going to follow Mike's advice. YMMV.

  8. What Jen said. We've had this with PCP users since, what, the 70's?
    Contrary to rumors, the .45 does not kill the soul. Shot placement is king. Bring back the Mozambique drill.

    If you want to make them feel pain, use a club or a machete, not a handgun.

  9. We saw that in Saint Louis in the 70s when PCP hit the streets. Reportedly one department shot it out with a suspect who absorbed 23 rounds and was trying to reload when one cop strode in and broke his 870 over the guy's head. By the way, he lived to face prosecution.

  10. The 'new' drugs, Spice, K2, all the formaldehyde-laced, PCP-laced pot and cocaine, have created 'zombies' for all intensive purposes. Until the brain stops, the body will continue to fight, regardless of loss of functionality of the lungs or heart.

    This behavior is also seen in people suffering from organic brain syndrome (rotted holes in the brain) from drugs and various diseases like HepC and AIDS.

    So the weapon carrier is faced with much the same dilemma as the body-armor wearers. Body armor can be had that will supposedly stop .30-06 AP ammo, but it is heavy and cumbersome. Most wearers wear Level III or IIIa, which stops most pistol-caliber rounds and low-velocity rifle rounds (7.62×39,) while hoping not to come up with high velocity rifle rounds and bullet designs (the 5.7mm is effective against lots of body armor due to it's bullet design, narrow tapering sharp-pointed head, while the 5.56NATO family is definitely high-power.) So armor wearers on the sharp end, SWAT, SEALS etc wear the cumbersome Level IV and above armor.

    So with your carry gun. Do you carry an 'anti-zombie' gun when you most likely will never run across the new zombies? Or do you carry for the worst situation? There are still plenty of times when even having a mouse-gun in .25ACP or .32ACP will be enough.

    But, yeah, with the increase in drug cocktails and designer drugs, and the blurring of clear NO-GO areas as these evils drift into 'safe' zones, we all are now faced with carrying 'bear' guns in what was formerly 'no-bear' zones.

    Sad world. And, of course, the places one most needs a big-bang gun are the same places that restrict self defense.

    Oy Vey. The modern paradox. We have the tools to take the enemy down, but we aren't allowed to use the tools.

    One of these days the whole 'Shall Not Be Infringed' thingy will actually be the rule of law, rather than just a quaint saying.

  11. Lets be realistic….exactly how many people has your friend shot? How many were on drugs? How many lived…..or died. In the REAL world the average cop MIGHT shoot one person in their entire career. Two deadly force cases is unusual. NO COP engages in a sufficient number of deadly force encounters to become a first hand expert. Your friend is a bullshit slinger and you were lapping it up.

  12. @Daniel Barger: In 18 years in both "hot" military war zones and areas of violent civil unrest, in over a dozen African countries, I was personally present at and/or involved in over 100 firefights (including being shot twice, stabbed a few times, and picking up sundry other injuries). I've written about some of those incidents in these pages from time to time. I learned the hard way what works, what doesn't, and how to stay alive if possible. When it comes to Mike, he's had more than 20 years military experience, including combat zones, plus over 20 years as a cop. He, too, knows what works and what doesn't.

    For you to say "Your friend is a bullshit slinger and you were lapping it up" is to identify yourself as the bullshit slinger, not us. You know nothing about Mike or I. You have no idea just how much experience we have – and let me tell you, mine is a damned sight more extensive than almost anyone else I've met in these United States. Africa will do that to a man.

    Kindly take your idiotic comments and go away – and don't come back. We don't need your kind around here.

  13. Like a few others here…I disagree with "Minneapolis Mike" the cop. Like the poster "B" said above….a short barreled handgun…is a short barreled handgun (and) regardless of caliber, the shorter barrels are going to handicap any type of cartridge velocity-wise. Also…and TBH I'm surprised that nobody else mentioned it…but "Mike" worked in Minneapolis St.Paul where they have insanely long and cold Winters. Naturally, people living there must wear uber heavy clothing in many layers…which in a way constitutes improvised…albeit unintentional body armor. Handgun rounds are iffy at best as instant manstoppers…and heavy clothing only renders them even less effective. There is one thing here which is truly certain and which ALL of us must agree on – these types of debates have been going on for decades and everybody has an opinion which they think is correct!!

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