I was emailed the following question. It’s a good question with an involved answer.
Which snubby do you recommend?
This was my reply:
It depends on the person, their ability, their needs, and their desire to achieve an acceptable standard of performance. The S&W 642 and Ruger LCR .38 Special have become the default purchases for people who want to carry a snub. They work for some people but not everyone.
Popular culture has evolved its interpretation of the fictional assassin quite a bit over the past 100 years. The interaction between the assassin and protagonist has evolved, as well. A good example is an antagonist of Sherlock Holmes, Sebastian Moran.
Sebastian Moran first made his appearance in A. Conan Doyle’s story The Adventure of the Empty House, published in 1903. The index kept by Holmes indicated that Moran had been educated at Eton and Oxford. He eventually became a Colonel in the British Army, stationed in India and mentioned in despatches (noted for bravery or gallantry). While there, he was a masterful big game hunter whose record of tiger kills was still unequaled at the time of his Adventure with Holmes. Moran also wrote two books while in India.
Due to some unnamed but unsavory incident while he was in India, he retired and returned to London. Upon his return, Moran became allied with the criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty, described by Holmes as the most dangerous man in London. For a time, Moran was Moriarty’s Chief of Staff and was also used by Moriarty for “only one or two very high-class [assassination] jobs, which no ordinary criminal could have undertaken.” Holmes described Moran as the second most dangerous man in London.
The TV series Elementary is a modern day re-imagining of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It is set in New York where Holmes has relocated from London. In the first season episode ‘M,’ Sebastian Moran enters the current era of the fictional assassin. However, his methods and background have changed somewhat.
He had previously come to Sherlock’s attention in London, being known only as ‘M’ at that time. M was a serial killer of dozens of people. The list of M’s London victims included Sherlock’s love interest, Irene Adler. Eventually, when caught by Sherlock in New York, M reveals his name as Sebastian Moran and that he is an assassin for an as yet unknown Moriarty. All of M’s killing in London had been in the employ of and directed by Moriarty. So the new imagining of Moran is much more prolific at murder than the original. Two scenes also indicate that Moran is an avid soccer fan and apparently from a working class background. His portrayal is more of a clever but lower class thug than the original Colonel Moran.
Perhaps the grisliest change is the method of killing employed by the century apart assassins. Colonel Moran was described by Holmes as “one of the best shots in the world.” His chosen weapon in London was a relatively quiet but extremely powerful air rifle, which fired an “expanding revolver bullet.”
The newly imagined Moran (M) has a rather different method of murdering his victims. He positions the victims for the kill by tying them up and then hanging them upside down from a portable folding tripod he carries with him. The actual killing is done by slitting their throats and letting all their blood drain out of their bodies onto the floor of their abode. Once all the blood (mistakenly described in the episode as five pints rather than five quarts/liters) is drained, M removes the body and tripod. The body is then dumped in whatever nearby large body of water, such as a river or ocean, is convenient.
Presumably, the new method was chosen because firearms are socially unacceptable for even a professional assassin to use on TV. The process of rendering the victim kosher or halal is perhaps less objectionable.
The tools and objectives of the protagonist Holmes have also changed somewhat. The original Holmes frequently used two different weapons. Watson described his favorite as a heavy hunting crop, essentially a very long blackjack. However, he was not at all averse to bringing a revolver along on his adventures or keeping one close at hand in his sitting room. An aspect of Holmes’ behavior that was not appreciated by his landlady was his habit of periodically taking revolver practice in his sitting room.
He, aided by Dr. Watson, killed the Hound of Baskervilles with his revolver. Holmes checked that Watson was carrying his revolver in numerous adventures. In some cases, Holmes even directed it.
Very well. And, I say, doctor, there may be some little danger, so kindly put your army revolver in your pocket.
In the course of capturing Colonel Moran, Watson described the situation thusly: “I struck him on the head with the butt of my revolver, and he dropped again on the floor.”
Nor was Holmes reluctant to threaten using a handgun to gain compliance, “I clapped a pistol to his head before he could strike. Then he became a little more reasonable.”
In the series Elementary, both Holmes and Dr. Watson eschew firearms in favor of collapsible batons. This might be explained away that they are not sworn members of the NYPD. However, it is unlikely they have any more authority to carry a baton than a handgun in New York City. Perhaps Captain Gregson has given them unofficial special dispensation.
In addition to the tools used, Holmes’ values have changed in a century. Doyle’s Holmes went to extraordinary lengths to capture Colonel Moran for trial. This despite the fact that Moran had attempted to murder Holmes three years previously and was in the act of attempting to assassinate him when he was taken into custody.
By contrast, when Sherlock of Elementary realizes his nemesis ‘M’ is in New York, he blatantly tells Dr. Watson:
I have no intention of capturing M [for the authorities]. I have every intention of torturing and murdering him.
Sherlock does catch M and kidnaps him, taking him to an unused family property where he shackles M to a frame in preparation for his torture and murder. In the course of their repartee, and after a short beating, M reveals himself to be Sebastian Moran, an assassin in the employ of Moriarty. It is also revealed that M was in prison when Irene Adler was murdered. At this point Sherlock relents about the torture and murder but stabs Moran in such a way that no vital organs are hit. When Moran is turned over to the police, he confesses to his murders and insists that his injuries are the result of self-defense by Sherlock.
The assassin becomes both grislier and more sympathetic. The hero treads water in the role of anti-hero, even perhaps villain. Times change.
I don’t want to burst any bubbles among the broad public but I have a different take on a very unfortunate incident than the family and the news reporter do.
A little background is in order. The NYPD Stakeout Unit, unofficially called the Stakeout Squad, was formed in 1968 and existed until 1973. Its formation was due to the large number of retail robberies occurring in New York City at the time, many of which resulted in the brutalization or murder of shopkeepers. The Squad was disbanded in 1973, allegedly for ‘efficiency’ reasons but the members generally conceded that it was because the Squad shot so many robbers, whom they caught red-handed and who decided to shoot it out rather than surrender. Jimmy Cirillo was one of the founding members and a good friend of mine. Jimmy died in a motor vehicle accident in 2007. His wit and wisdom will always be remembered by those of us who knew him.
Here is an incident synopsis from the full article:
Hero mom dies protecting her baby daughter
She was young, beautiful and tragically killed by her daughter’s father early Sunday morning. Now, Jessica Arrendale, 33, is being hailed by her family as a hero for saving her six-month old daughter’s life, even as she died from a bullet to the head.
It began Saturday night when Jessica and Cobie’s father, 30-year old Antoine Davis, went out for the evening. At some point, Ionniello said, Davis, a former Marine who served in Iraq, became belligerently drunk and abusive. It had happened many times, Ionniello said, but her daughter did not seem able to turn Davis away no matter how often he abused her.
Davis chased Arrendale up the stairs of her three-story townhome in the Oakdale Bluffs subdivision sometime around midnight, she said….
Arrendale locked herself in a bathroom. Davis got his gun, an assault rifle outfitted with a suppressor. He burst into the bathroom and, while Arrendale was still holding Cobie in her arms, shot the young mother in the head, Ionniello said…..
“He shot her and they (police) don’t know how she was able to twist her body and fall literally in the opposite direction,” Ionniello said. Instead of falling onto the floor, Ionniello said her daughter fell over the toilet, dropping little Cobie into the water-filled bowl….
The baby remained in the toilet, covered by her mother’s body, for 13-hours before officers finally stormed the townhouse and rescued her. She was cradled in the arms of an officer who rushed her outside to a waiting ambulance.
No one ‘makes decisions’ when they’ve been shot in the head, probably brain, with a 5.56mm bullet at point blank range. That’s an instant shutoff. In a macabre way, I would like to see the coroner’s report as to the extent of the damage to her brain. However, this immediately brought to mind something Jimmy Cirillo told me about his experiences in the Stakeout Squad shootings.
He observed that every time a perpetrator was instantly killed by Stakeout Squad gunfire, they fell where they stood and their legs were crossed as they fell. Usually, they were facing the opposite direction from the way they had been standing. Jimmy’s hypothesis was that one side of the brain shut off before the other causing one side of the body to collapse before the other, resulting in the turning of the body and the crossing of the legs.
He didn’t indicate he had any medical basis for his opinion. Therefore, I regard it as a hypothesis based on his observations of the numerous men he and the other members of the Stakeout Squad had killed.
My opinion is that the same thing happened to this poor young woman; her brain shut off sequentially, which caused her body to twist as it fell. It was random chance that protected her infant son from the crazed father. While I would like to accord her ‘hero’ status, I don’t see it that way. No offense to her is intended, I am sure she would have protected her child any way she could, had she been capable.
The lesson is this: be cautious about approaching predators after they’ve been shot; they might not be completely disabled. With handguns, the mechanism causing the opponent to stop is largely exsanguination, meaning blood loss. When someone falls after being shot and bleeding profusely, they may regain consciousness when the brain comes level with the heart. Central Nervous System (CNS) stops, such as this unfortunate young lady experienced, are the only really sure anchors.
For those interested in reading more about the Stakeout Squad, I recommend Paul Kirchner’s excellent book, Jim Cirillo’s Tales of the Stakeout Squad.
Another shooting incident resource that I have added is the NYPD Annual Firearms Discharge Report. The 2012 Report, which is the latest, provided some interesting information. The thing about any of the big reports is that you have to actually read them to see what’s in them rather than just skimming. Nancy Pelosi research methods don’t work well here. Some nuggets are small and easily missed. Sometimes, you have to do a little number crunching on your own.
The distances that officers shot it out was interesting. 0-5 yards – 18 (41%), 6-15 yards – 15 (34%), 16-25 yards – 5 (11%), 26+ yards – 6 (14%). page 21
Contrary to popular opinion, over half (59%) of NYPD gunfights took place at six yards or more.
There were 21 unintentional discharges in 2012. This was a large increase from 2011. The increase was due to unintentional discharges during ‘adversarial conflict.’
Of the 21 firearms that were unintentionally discharged in 2012, 13 (62%) were the officers’ service weapons. Of the 13 service weapons involved, 4 (31%) were Glock 19s, 6 (46%) were Smith & Wesson 5946s, and 3 (23%) were Sig Sauer P226s. p 37 Current NYPD service pistols are all “double action only.” The NYPD uses 124 grain hollow-point bullets. p 49
IOW, there were more NDs with DAO pistols than with Glocks. Unfortunately, I have no way to quantify the percentage of Glocks v. DAO guns owned by NYPD officers. I’m willing to bet the preponderance is toward Glocks, though.
Another thing I found interesting was the difference in number of rounds fired in relation to the subject’s injury. p 55-56
The mode (most common) number of rounds fired per Fatality was one. For Injury, it was two. The median (middle point of the dataset) for Fatality was 1.5. For Injury, it was six. And the average rounds per Fatality was three, but for Injury, it was nine. Another counter-intuitive result; death of the subject resulted, generally, from less rounds being fired, rather than more. I wonder if that might have something to do with marksmanship.
NYPD only gives incident summaries when the ‘Subject’ is killed. Unlike LAPD, NYPD does not appear to discourage enforcement action when an officer is off-duty. There was an interesting incident involving an off-duty officer. It just wasn’t a good day for anyone involved. As John Hall, a former head of the FBI Firearms Training Unit, observed years ago, “There is an element of chance in every encounter.”
On October 24, at 1837 hours, in the 46th Precinct, an off-duty officer was sitting in a parked vehicle with a friend, when he saw two men rob another man at gunpoint on the other side of the street. The officer got out of his car and approached the men. As soon as he identified himself as a police officer, the subject, one of the individuals involved in the robbery, turned and fired one round at the officer, striking him in the chest from about ten feet away. The men then fled on foot, while the officer went back to his vehicle, clutching his chest. The officer’s friend tried to drive away, only to get stuck in traffic behind a white Mustang which was stopped in front of them. The Mustang sped off and crashed up the street. Three individuals, including the subject, fled the Mustang. When the officer saw them, he pursued, still clutching his chest. The officer ordered bystanders to get down for their safety, and while taking cover behind a vehicle, fired eight rounds at the perpetrators, striking the subject once in the head and causing his demise. The other individuals who participated in the robbery were apprehended later. The subject had two prior arrests, for Robbery and Criminal Possession of a Weapon. p 54
The officer did not die as a result of his wound.
It’s hard to make that kind of stuff up, which is yet another reason I prefer to read the real reports rather than dreaming up my own scenarios.