SFC Ton’s Survival Series: On Pistols

I posted this at J4G’s 1st, but changed it around for my place, removed a technical error I made and hit up on two things I should have done the 1st time around. Writing ain’t my bag baby 

Howdy Y’all. People of all sorts ask me about survivalist type topics, mostly because of my military experience. So let’s start there. I joined the Army when I was 18 years old, signing up to be a Ranger. I was pretty good at that, and called up to the big leagues, injured and sent back to the minors and retired with 24 years of service. 12 in SpecOps, 12 as a light infantryman, with two of those 24 years doing staff time (when I was recovering from the injuries which ended my SpecOps career). I have 10 years of direct action combat time (4 in a SpecOps; 6 in a conventional light infantry role), 4 months as an observer of the USMC during their combat operations in Iraq and a year plus as a high risk defense contractor in Kandahar.  My specialty was the scout/ sniper role. Which I did in some form or fashion for 21 out of 24 years. I worked as a designated defensive marksman in Kandahar and now leading my own crew of men somewhere in Afghanistan.

Militarily experience does not automatically transcribe to good survivalist advice. It’s highly unlikely you will ever defend your home with a squad of Rangers and AC 130 gunship in support from an unknown number of Taliban insurgents. However the basics are the basics are the basics. The most advantageous aspect of military experience is time spent planning high risk missions, making contingency plans and an understanding of logistics and hygiene.  Time under pressure and training helps too. Hell it’s not the even the combat time that is the most vital but the training to do something purposeful, practical and calmly when shit goes bad.

Initially I was asked to focus on men living in the big city. While I took the king’s silver and fought the king’s enemies in cities all over the globe, I have lived in one major city for two short years. I will do my best. I am writing this with the newbie in mind, trying to give him an easy to follow plan and information he can act on.  I will strive to make this easy to follow through on and not break anyone’s budget or give advice that hogs up a man’s time and energy.

I want to start with guns. Nothing stirs up pointless debates and brings out so called experts who don’t know shit then gun debates. Let’s avoid that. This advice is not for the gun nut or the blossoming gun nut but for the guy who wants to protect himself and his property without investing a small fortune.

Hand guns. Your 1st investment should be a hand gun. Hand guns are poor man stoppers but excellent tools as they are easy to carry, easy to conceal, and leave your hands free to do other stuff (which is why cops use them).  I am not a fan of having a pistol for all occasions. Really you need one gun that you can take anywhere, which is where the pocket pistol comes into play.

Revolver vs. semi auto. Revolvers are solid choices and I carried one for years, thinking they were superior to semi-auto pistols. See I grew up when semi autos weren’t that great. Many had safety issues, reliability issues and problems with accuracy.  Well for 20 plus years now, that has not been true. Today’s modern semi autos are more accurate, more reliable and just as safe as the best of revolvers. Hell some semi autos like Glocks have less working parts.  Given a semi-auto’s higher round capacity it is the superior choice. However you won’t be out gunned or any such nonsense carrying a revolver either.

Caliber is where folks really like to argue. There shouldn’t be one. In the USA you’re most likely looking at getting a .38 or .357 revolver, or a 9mm, .40 or .45 semi auto. The .38, 9mm and .357 is the same bullet. The difference is the casing.  What this means is more powder behind the bullet and an increase in velocity. This is important to know for two reasons. The faster the bullet, the more kick or recoil you have to deal with, and the faster the bullet the better it will penetrate the bad guy. So if you have problems managing recoil for whatever reason a .38 might be the gun for you and a .357 is most likely not, but many folks I know swear.38’s have more felt recoil then 9mm. The point being on this, try it before you buy. Find a gun range that will let you rent firearms and invest the money in trying them out before you decide to lay down cash.

9mm vs .40 vs .45. Which is better? Lame question. FBI research has them in a statistical tie for killing power, with a slight edge for the .40 but still within the margin of error (or standard deviation for you nerds). So…. Don’t waste time on debating silly stuff. In practical terms, most people will not enjoy shooting a .40, especially in the kind of gun I will suggest.

Let’s look at killing a man. Bullets are not magic death rays. A .45 bullet weighing 230 grains hitting a 170 pound man will remove less than 1% of his body mass. Men die because you shut down the central nervous center(CNS), because they bleed out, or they simply lay down and give up. (the FBI has done a lot of research on this too. Shooting a man in the heart leaves him about 30 seconds worth of blood and oxygen. He can still fuck you up in those 30 seconds). Never count on the bad guy giving up, and it takes a high degree of training to reliably shut down the CNS(head shots but even then it has to be in the right part of the head) so you are talking about waiting for the bad guy to bleed out. Two schools of thought on the best way to do that. Fewer but larger holes, more but smaller holes. Works about the same same. I recommend the 9mm because it A) works B) is generally easier on new shooters and C) it will save you money and D) they are somewhat easier to conceal then a similar hand gun in .40 or .45

I recommend a semi auto in 9mm. A semi auto gives you more rounds then a revolver, allowing you to speed up the bleeding out process or to engage a second target (unlikely but the need does occur), 9mm gives you the penetration you are looking for (what you are looking for is a round that will travel through a man’s out stretched arms, then all the way through his torso so the blood can flow freely) at a substantially lower cost and easier to manage recoil. Which means you can pull the trigger faster without giving up accuracy. It takes time to bring a .40 or .45 pistol back down on to target, while odds are good, your 9mm pistol won’t ever really leave the target….. Pardon this interruption….. Look 5 holes anywhere in a mans belly and chest is lethal, you get no style points for having all the holes touch. Speed matters more so as long as you are hitting the dude in the chest or gut you can speed yo the trigger pull….  I also recommend a 9mm in the pocket pistol class. These are relatively small guns that fit in your front pocket. You can most certainly carry them inside your waist band, or on your belt or what have you, plus you have the additional possibility of sliding into your pocket. After years of having a pistol for all occasions, I settled on a pocket pistol. It is the most easy to conceal, no matter what I wear.

Good quality defensive ammo for a 9mm is about $25 for 20 rounds. Don’t shoot too many of these. These are for carrying around. Ball 9mm ammo is cheap in bulk like $300 for 1000 rounds, and about $17 for a box of 50.

As for the gun, generally speaking, you can pick up a new KelTec for $300 without too much trouble. Sometimes cheaper on the web.  Buying a gun from the internet dealer is pretty darn easy. Any rate, the PF-9 holds 8 rounds and weighs about a pound.  The P-11 holds 11. There are is also a good chance you can buy a used Ruger, XDS or M&P shield for around $350, and used .38 snub nose revolvers are easy to find in the$300 range in my neck of the woods I know a shop locally that sells Ruger LCP with a laser for $380 but that don’t help y’all none…  All will fit into a man’s pocket. Get an Uncle Mikes pocket holster for $15 or so to keep your trigger free of whatever random bullshit you stick in your pocket, including your fingers. Don’t go any smaller then a .38.You will lose reliable penetration power/ ability to kill your attacker quickly with calibers smaller then .38.  The last thing you want to do is put 4 .380 rounds into your attacker and then have him bleed out 30 minutes after fracturing you skull (true story).

Quick note about .380…. they are trusted all over Europe. My biggest worry would be how long they take to put a man down and penetration up north where folks where like 20 layers of clothes or what ever it takes to survive in the arctic circle. The best gun is the one you will carry and if .380 is it, then it beats a sharp stick

So for about $400 your armed and on your way to being a Sovereign Man. If you have a bigger budget, I still suggest you buy something in the $300-$350 range. Use the extra money you have to buy concealable body armor, or add a laser to your pistol, or both. Look, Lord forbid you ever use your gun to defend yourself, the cops will take it from you. You may or may not get it back. It is an open murder investigation after all. Sure would suck to have your $2400 Kimber Arms 1911 gather dust in the local cop shop’s evidence locker.

Any rate, it isn’t that complex of a topic, but folks like to muddy the water. I promise you, for the average man, and for 98% of criminal events, a small 9mm in your pocket will do the job while not busting your budget. A dollar spent on one thing cannot be spent on another. I love guns, but they are tools, tools most men will never need. Be smart about how you spend your money, just like you should be smart about which street you walk down.


37 thoughts on “SFC Ton’s Survival Series: On Pistols

  1. theshadowedknight

    One note on ammunition and caliber: the most detailed and comprehensive breakdown of lethality between calibers I have ever read reached the same conclusion as Ton. The difference in diameter of a full expanded hollowpoint .45 and 9mm is about .05 inches. Train with ball, as it is cheaper, but load a magazine of hollowpoints for when it matters.

    The Shadowed Knight

      1. theshadowedknight

        Getting back into lifting again, applying for college, hating life. The usual.

        How about you? Enjoying the climate and the culture?

        The Shadowed Knight

      2. sfcton Post author

        yep little brother. Work is good, I have my own party compound, a girl to keep my bed warm…. all a modern day Norseman could want

      3. theshadowedknight

        You got my email, still? Hit me up, and we can talk. Always good chatting with you.

        The Shadowed Knight

  2. BuenaVista

    Thanks again for writing this.

    In your opinion, for nonprofessionals with rudimentary training, should one only carry DAO pistols? (Instead of a DAO/SA.)

    1. sfcton Post author

      Most welcome

      You are over thinking it my friend. Get the gun you will carry and shoot during practice; leave your finger off the trigger until its time to kill.

    1. sfcton Post author

      most certainly did not BV and I understand the question because the folks who sell guns like this shit to be confusing so they can up sell honest folks

  3. BuenaVista

    It’s an ambition of mine to piss you off. Just to experience, watch, and admire it! Perhaps another day, then.

    1. sfcton Post author

      LOL I rarely get angry BV….. I was pretty pissed when the urban youth tried to culturally enrich me and my beloved but I cannot remember the time before that. Mostly I go from world’s happiest hillbilly to killing rage and the killing rage only comes out when my life etc is on the line

  4. Cill

    Having red your article, I realize I need to skill myself with pistols. In NZ you can’t just own a pistol and keep it at home the way you can in USA. I’ll have to approach it another way. The easiest way is to join a pistol club then get a B Endorsement on my firearms licence for firing at a pistol range.

    Otherwise we “saw off” a sporting shotgun and also the stock leaving only the “pistol grip” section. The weapon can then be gripped approximately like a pistol. However from your article I can see a pistol would have a lot of advantages over a sawn-off. Recoil, reloading, firing rate, size, weight, ability to conceal on the person, would all be better with a pistol.

    I make my own bullet presses with which I can then produce my own ammunition. As an Engineer, I own my own lathes, and I could have a go at making a pistol. I’d start by researching some of the makes of pistol in your article and seeing which one could be replicated (if any). Do you know of anyone doing this?

    1. sfcton Post author

      I have friends that have made Mad Max style 12 ga pistols and use mini buckshot rounds out of them. Kind of fun to shoot


      Here in the usa, you can buy partially milled weapons, then finish milling them yourself. Is that an option in NZ?

      Most of my firearm friends are more of the practical application sort of men. If I was going to try that, I would build a Derringer style pistol. Double barrel palm sized pistol. Reckon there are less moving parts


      I do my best not to over thing things and both seem like more simple solutions then machining a semi auto pistol

      1. Cill

        Man, I wasn’t expecting something right on the money like those links! Thanks. I’ve been looking for a project to keep me out of mischief and it looks like milling a pistol is it. Yeah I wanted a straightforward one to start with. Just what I wanted.

        BTW Partially milled weapons are illegal here. It’s almost impossible to own a pistol legally (or illegally for that matter) in NZ. we just can’t get them.

      2. Cill

        BTW all this is clean. I’ll speak to my local Police Sargent first and get his advice how to approach the legal side or veto. There are various endorsements for enthusiasts and I think gun making is one of them. It won’t be easy but we’ll see. I’ll make sure it’s all within the law.

      3. sfcton Post author

        Much welcome

        I’m no respecter of the law, a good man is his own law, so no need to reassure me but I do recommend staying out of trouble. The laws vary a lot between states here in the Occupied Confederate States so I cannot imagine what they are like in NZ

        Is there an age limit on the pistols? as in can you own and cap and ball/ black powder pistol?

        I know basically nothing about the 3D printers but I should have thought of them. Hat tip to BV. Making firearms with them scares the feds

      4. Cill

        There are 6 endorsements for Firearm Licences ranging from sporting (shotguns and rifles, no semi automatics) through to military grade weapons. Amateur enthusiasts of Cap and Ball etc are somewhere in between. Also somewhere in there but harder to get is an endorsement for amateur enthusiast gunsmith of modern pistols. That’s the angle I want to take. I’ll do my homework on it first, then give it a go.

      5. sfcton Post author

        don’t let folks fool you, the usa’s gun laws get murky once you pass beyond f gun ownership.

        Having never been to NZ I ask this…. do you feel the security need to carry a pistol? I have a concealed carry permit for the Czech Republic, it’s an interesting process, but never felt like I stumbled into a part of town that required carrying.

        Hell its totally cool to me if its a want vs need as well. Both are equally valid reasons why in my book

      6. Cill

        Ton, I need pistol skills to “Be prepared.” I don’t know when or in which part of the world, some day I might thank my lucky stars I learned pistol skills. For this goal I can join a gun club, which I intend to do. As for milling a pistol, this is not a need, it’s just a challenge, a project to keep me out of mischief.

        In answer to your question I don’t need to carry a pistol in NZ, but in some of the places I visit in my boat it would be handy – e.g. Papua New Guinea and the pirate-infested South China Sea.

        fair enough my friend. as long as you think the return on investment is worth the hassle then it is. To learn how to use a pistol…. hang out in the usa for a month. There are no shortages of high quality shooting schools where you can rent the pistol and who will bring you to a fairly high level of competency in a short while.

    2. BuenaVista

      These guys will sell you a pre-configured 3D printer to produce a ghost semi-auto rifle’s lower receiver, from solid billet. They’ve previously released the code to produce a pistol. They are in the ghost gun business. I suppose in other countries it is already illegal to mill your own devices, but it is not yet so, here.


      1. Cill

        Interesting! As you guessed, it’s illegal here. I think milling my own gun is my only hope of doing it within the law.

        I’ll have to go some way towards setting up the plant and materials to show I’m serious before I officially apply to the police. At the same time I’ll be searching for a hobby gunsmith club in NZ. If I can join such a club I reckon I’ll be in with a good chance. I’ll start with my local Police Sargent. He should know if there are any gunsmith clubs.
        Thanks for the interesting link.

      2. BuenaVista

        Some kid in Pennsylvania has designed a cartridge for composite, 3D printed guns. It contains the gas flow on firing, supposedly preventing delamination.

  5. BuenaVista

    Ton, technical question.

    Son#1 is an extreme athlete. For example he rode his bike last summer 5000 miles with 20 pounds of gear, and a $20/day budget for food, drink, and shelter. Basically he lived in the dirt for three months. (I’m not exaggerating, I met him for some beer and r&r in North Dakota, and I could smell him at 10 meters.) Mostly though he’s in the mountains — with less gear. Those mountains are in Montana, where there are a lot of bears. Winter, summer, he’s in the high mountains with less shit than most people haul to work on the subway.

    When I was climbing with him last year I asked myself, What the fuck do we do if we encounter a bear? “Bear spray” seems like a joke. I could hardly sleep. I have no interest in walking up to a bear and spraying him in the nose.

    So I want to get this young man a large caliber pistol for Christmas. I’m thinking that it should be a .45, but would you go instead with something like a Taurus Judge, which will fire a .410 shell?

    I’m leaning to a compact .45. It has the added utility of being useful when he’s riding his bike across a rez, and some vibrant in a beater truck threatens to scalp him, as also happened last summer.

    I know you don’t deal with a lot of 800 pound bears in NC, or any other Indian country locale, but any thoughts appreciated. I’m leaning toward a starter 1911, or a Glock .45, and a handgunning course. His friends are all tree-huggers, of course, but I’d rather he kill himself jumping off a cliff backwards on skis, than be slaughtered by a bear.

    Any thoughts appreciated.

  6. sfcton Post author

    For a bear I would go with a .44 magnum. The higher velocity should equal much better penetration and that’s the trick on killing things

    people kill bears with bows etc, but that’s getting the drop on the bear and getting the right shot off and from a distance, behind cover. You are talking about oh shit bear bang, bang, bang…. .44 seems the way to go

  7. BuenaVista

    Thanks for the suggestion, Ton. I’m hopeful Son#1 stays on his current path long enough to achieve what he wishes for himself, despite the blandishment of all the chicks who would divert him the usual life of quiet desperation, cubicle farming, and life on the installment plan. We’ll see.

    1. sfcton Post author

      yea man you’ll do right by him though

      I am also thinking a .40 would be a good option for him. I’ve emailed a guy in Alaska. He is a guide. I know he carries a Rem 11-87 with deer slugs to back up the bear hunters but that won’t help your boy. I’ll have a better answer soon

  8. BuenaVista

    Funny story about this Son#1. So I drove up to ND to meet him and rented for us a pleasant little tourist cabin in Napoleon: two rooms, kitchenette, etc. I gave him the back room because I’m usually up in the night, and he could close his door and sleep without interruption.

    Thirty minutes after we moved in I said, “Man, we’re going to go find a laundromat.” The whole cabin stank. I made him give me his clothes and gave him a t-shirt and boxers to wear. “Hose yourself off, dude, and I’ll be back with your shit and it will smell like Tide instead of two-week old sweat.” He was riding with two sets of bike togs, an ultralight sleeping bag and a bivvy bag, no tent. Started in Tahoe, west to the coast and up to Seattle, east across Montana, the upper peninsula of Michigan, finished on the Maine coast.


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