View Full Version : BP pistols and self defense

October 17, 2010, 12:07 AM
I have a CC permit and took a 2 day course to obtain it. Part of the course included shooting correctly and placing shots to put down the bad guy.

The instructors said to shoot for the 2nd buttonhole on a man's shirt to stop the intruder. And if all else fails or your do not have a clear shot at his chest (2nd button hole) and it is a life threatening situation, then aim for the intruders nose to stop him.

I was using my 9mm Beretta for the class. I have the Beretta and a Ruger SP 101 357 loaded with special Corbon expanding self defense rounds for home defense use. I live in Colorado where we have the Make My Day law and have the right to stop a home intruder without fear of prosecution if done to protect the family.

Now, hypothetically, if I had a loaded BP 44 1851 Navy for instance, and that is the only gun I could access to shoot an intruder, would anything in my trained point of aim need to change when using a nonexpanding round ball?

I have read that most Civil War soldiers died of infection, not immediate wounds. So what do you expert BP shooters have to say?

I admit that I am a novice with BP, I know nothing about a 44 BP's ability to stop an intruder from advancing on me and my family or having him be able to get off shots that could harm us.

I have not seen any posts that address this issue so I am just asking. What would you do?

Thanks for reading. I love this forum and willingness of you old timers to help new members.


ps. I guess if I missed the BP pistol KABOOM and smoke would still scare the crap out of him.

October 17, 2010, 02:32 AM
Now, hypothetically, if I had a loaded BP 44 1851 Navy for instance, and that is the only gun I could access to shoot an intruder, would anything in my trained point of aim need to change when using a nonexpanding round ball?

No, I don't think that you would need to aim any differently at across the room distances.
Hopefully if the pistol was loaded up to be used for home defense then you would have had the opportunity to give it a try to see where it was sighted in and to verify its point of aim.
You'll be impressed by the lethal power produced by C&B guns at close range. They can really roar but in a more controllable way compared to some of the center fire pistols.

October 17, 2010, 05:46 AM
I find it simply ridiculous that a concealed carry instructor is giving new students instructions to 'aim' for a particular button on a shirt or a person's nose. Even if you had the ability to keep your head and remain calm when faced with a personal threat warranting deadly force, and then the practiced and proficient skill to make such a shot in that situation, you would be utterly foolish to waste the time in doing so.

Virtually ALL tactical combat instructors teach shooting (NOT aiming) at the center of mass of an assailant, and continuing to shoot until the threat is eliminated. If you are ever faced with that situation you won't be (and you shouldn't be) taking the time to identify and 'aim' at a particular button or someone's nose.

As regards the 'stopping power' of a percussion revolver, like with any gun shot placement is critical. If you really could make the 'second shirt button' or 'nose' shot a .44 round ball from a bp revolver would certainly do the job. On the other hand, in the real world you are more than likely to need all the Corbon rounds from a .357 magnum that you can get your hands on.

Uncle Buck
October 17, 2010, 09:09 AM
I really like Mykeals' reply.

Also, most of the bad guys who I have seen in the paper lately have been wearing hoodies or just sweatshirts, no buttons involved. :D

May the Good Lord protect you and yours and I hope you never have to be in a situation where you need to use a gun for self or family protection. If you do have the need, always go for center mass and shoot a second time, or like Mykeal said, shoot until the threat is eliminated.

A lot of people forget that for many years the homestead was protected by black powder powered lead.

McPhee Wrote:

I have read that most Civil War soldiers died of infection, not immediate wounds.

A lot of those wounds were from rifles that were not the most accurate in the world. The soldiers could have been shooting at the guy to the right of the soldier who was actually hit (or left). Also, reading some of the first hand accounts of the battles, the fighting was "... frenzied and the field was filled with smoke. We could not see the enemy after the first volleys were fired, only hear them..."

October 17, 2010, 02:32 PM
I would pick it for my first choice but it has done the job in the past and could certainly do so again. If they weren't effective then why did cavalrymen throw their swords away?

October 17, 2010, 03:29 PM
A +1 to mykeal's answer - he makes some very valid points. No course of any kind will ever prepare you for what you will experience if the situation comes up that you have to use deadly force. You certainly won't have time to figure out where the "second button" is. I just recently bought a Ruger SR9 9mm to have when I am in AZ for the winter - we are close to the border and I wanted something to carry in the car when and if we are traveling out in the boonies as well as HD. With all the problems down here with the drug smuglers, weapons smugglers and drug cartels, it just gives me a little bit of "peace of mind" if we should ever break down in the middle of nowhere. I will admit that as far as shooting a lot of cartridge handguns, my experience is limited to a Colt 1911A1 and a Ruger New Vaquero - (I shoot 38 spl. in that) and now my SR9. I have practiced shooting the 9mm and will do so often to keep familiar with how it shoots and to know that I can place shots in a "kill zone" if necessary (God forbid). I bought some HD ammo for it and have been on the semi-auto forum to learn as much as I can about them. I recently had a question on "hydro shock" cartridges and one of the things that was pointed out to me was if you had to fire at night (or in a dimly lighted room such as could occur in a house break-in/attack in your house at night, with the wrong ammo, you could get a lot of "night flash" (muzzle flash) when you shoot which could temporily blind you. That is one thing that you certainly would have to consider if you were using a BP revolver for HD as in a dimly lighted atmosphere, it will look like a Roman Candle went off. I think that any LE officer or combat veteran on this forum will back me up when I say that if you are ever put in a position of where you have to defend yourself or your family, all that you can hope for is that your training and practice "kicks in" and you can respond appropriately. Just a casual comment not aimed at anybody - I am always amazed at times and often shake my head when I read some of the things on the forums in regards to HD and the "bravado" that some individuals like to express of "what they would do". Not even a seasoned veteran or a person who has gone through the nightmare of being shot at or having to defend themselves knows how they will react "the next time". Many years ago, while working rescue, we were fired upon just as we arrived at the scene and I stepped out of the vehicle. I actually felt the heat of a bullet as it passed my ear and took out one of the overhead beacons on the rig. While I wasn't "nicked", it did cause a minor burn to my ear. If I had been standing an inch in the wrong direction, I wouldn't be here today. It was almost surreal and I remember that it seemed like an eternity before my body smacked into the gound as I tried to "take cover". Fortunately, nobody was hurt and the perp was taken into custody without injury. However, I can tell you that I have never been so scared in my life and it is a nightmare that still haunts me today, almost 40 years later. Don't get me wrong, I still love my BP guns . . . . but I also know that in today's world, the bad guys are usually better armed than most police departments. I pray to God that I will never be put in a position that I have to defend myself or my family and fire on another individual, but if I do, I want to at least be on a level playing field with the BG and have a weapon with the punch and capacity to get the job done. That's why I leave my BP revolvers for the target range and plinking and pack a 9mm. Just my 2 cents worth. :)

madd trapper
October 17, 2010, 04:12 PM
Black Powder is just as deadly as smokeless powder.Shoot center mass! Even in modern times bad guys have been shot numerous times and some still survive.I have hunted with my black powder pistol and harvested several deer with it.The round ball will do some damage if it hits bone . Like a rib cage.You have to know your limitations . I would never shoot pass 20 yards at a deer with a black powder pistol.During the civil war over six hundred thousand men lost their lives to black powder firearms , cannons ect.But seriously I would use a modern firearm when it comes to Self Defense its more reliable.

October 17, 2010, 04:54 PM
During the civil war over six hundred thousand men lost their lives to black powder firearms

That's not exactly true. 600,000 men died but most of it was from disease.

October 17, 2010, 05:24 PM
My CC instructor is NRA certified. He has taught over a hundred CC classes. Our class was a mix of about 15 people from those experienced in firearms to those who wanted to carry a firearm in their purse. Some had never fired a gun before.

A target of a BG was about 15-20 feet away facing us. The instructor said had us put one round in the chamber, pick up the gun and fire as quickly and accurately as possible. Then we had to turn around and do it. Then turn around and load and fire. Lots of different drills to experience fast fire and hitting "center mass". When some missed badly and hit low, he said to point and aim at where the second button would be. If you think about it, that is center mass for the chest area. If you are left or right you hit a lung and perhaps the heart. If you hit the area of the second button you may hit the spine. So I don't believe that our instructor really meant to hit the second button but it was rather a way to point out center mass.

Same for a head shot. If you aim for the head and hit the skull the bullet may bounce of or not stop the BG. If you shoot lower toward the nose, you hit many areas that disable the BG immediately if not kill him.

I have been a bowhunter for many years as well as shooter. I know that I always shoot for a small area on the game.....aim small, miss small. But if I shoot for the game without focusing on a small spot, I may miss entirely by going over or under the animal.

I do the same when hunting with a handgun or rifle.

I know hunting is not the same as self defense situations. I know your motor skills and thinking are out the window and things happen in a heartbeat. I know your reactions have to be automatic. I know your reflexes have to take over and you don't have time to mentally pick out a spot. I know there is nothing better than ....practice, practice, practice.

My reason for my question was due to the fact that I have never killed an animal with a BP pistol. I do have a BP hunting rifle and have no doubts of what it does when a deer sized game is hit with it.

October 17, 2010, 08:39 PM
So he did teach center of mass, and used the 2nd button/nose descriptions to emphasize the location of the center of mass to students that failed to hit properly.

Well, good that he teaches center of mass, but I still would not have used those descriptions. First of all, the students didn't miss because they didn't know where the center of mass is located - the concept is self descriptive. They missed because they didn't control their guns properly. Second, his use of the familiar terms replaced the center of mass in your mind, which is why you passed them along in your description. In combat, that's the training that would come to the forefront, and you'd be in deep trouble.

I'd have asked each of the students that mislocated their shots to point out the center of mass and their POA on the bad shots, then gone into why they missed it and how to fix the bad control. Suggesting they didn't identify the target addresses and masks the real problem.

4V50 Gary
October 17, 2010, 10:14 PM
I wouldn't try for any button hole but the largest center mass of the target.

BTW, don't count on infection killing the naughty man. Soldiers slept in the field and picked up all sorts of nasty things (feces) on their uniform. The bullet carried bits of the uniform into the body and exposed the body to bacteria. Wounds were not cleaned as they are today, so infection set in and killed many poor soldiers. That however, could take days. Modern medicine (with the exception of streptococcus) has beaten it. While medical science was aware of bacteria as early as the late 1700s, no one associated those little critters with infections until after the Civil War.

Last word, don't rely on black powder revolvers if you have a modern cartridge firearm available.

October 17, 2010, 10:55 PM
McPhee - trust me . . . I'm not being critical of you and your question about using BP pistol for HD . . nor anyone else's remarks and comments. I'm finding each of the posts interesting. I live in MI during the summer and AZ in the winter. I haven't taken the concealed weapons training yet in Michigan - but plan on it to get certified when I get back there in the spring. In AZ, you can open carry and now, you don't even need a permit to carry concealed. Personally, I'm not in favor of that as I think a person should go through the training - there are too many out there who have never fired a pistol - EV ER - that could possibly carry out here - I think it is an invitation for disaster but that is only my humble opinion. What I HAVE found interesting though, is reading these posts and talking with others who have undergone the training. It seems to vary a lot from instructor to instructor as far as "qualifying" in regards to hitting the target. You said you shot from 15 to 20 feet. I have had others tell me they had to shoot at a further distance than that and I had one fellow who went through the training and they shot from about 4 to 7 feet - the instructor's thinkiing was that most confrontations occur at close distances. The fellow said that even then, some inexperienced shooters (using semi-autos) had their hits walk up the target due to recoil and not keeping their weapon under control. I just find the varying shooting distances curious and interesting. I, personally, am always working on my hold, stance,, etc. to get better accuracy. What works for one person doesn't work for another - that's a given. When I got my Ruger SR9 - I had never shot a 9mm. After shooting from a distance of about 35 feet, I was not happy with my hits so I started from scratch. As odd as it might seem, I moved up to about 5 feet from the target and kept shooting until I could put them in a small grouping. I then moved back about five feet and repeated the same thing. I worked on it until I was about fifty feet from the target. Yes . . . I went through a number of cartridges . . but I learned how the new gun shot . . and where. I did have to do some sight adjustment along the way as well. But, by the time I was done, I was feeling very comfortable with the new pistol, its operation and how it shot. Of course this was not performed under the stress of self defense. It was a controlled situation. I'm not being critical of any instructor as there are many excellent ones who teach what they need to in their own style. I also know that there is a time restriction on the length of the course as well. I'm just curious as to why there is such a variation in shooting distances and why a method such as I used to become familiar with my pistol isn't used. As I said, a lot of folks have never even handled a pistol before. It seems like this would be a good way to give them experience with their weapon and become more accurate. Or, do some instructors do this type of thing? Perhaps there is even a better way? Thanks! :)

October 17, 2010, 11:29 PM
At 15' a BP .44 ball round will do about as much damage as most SD rounds on the market, if it's well placed. I keep a BP at near ready in my home as one of my "just i case" guns. 'way I see it .44" of soft lead at 15' will do just as much, if not more, damage than the Spear Gold Dots I keep in my 9mm. But the 9mm is more efficient, faster to fire and more reliable.

Andy Griffith
October 18, 2010, 12:28 AM
There are better things out there currently than percussion revolver technology which are more reliable that I would much rather stake my life upon.

That being said, they are quite capable and useful if that is what is at hand, and the user knows the capabilities of the piece. Of course, this goes for any handgun, whether modern or antique.

There are parts of the world in which percussion and antique handguns are just about all that are available to keep in the home legally. These countries and localities that permit these as the only handguns kept by the owner though don't typically allow them to be kept loaded or handy for emergency use anyway. Even if the owner of said handgun did, and he used it for defense of home, life and family- he would likely be carted away never to be heard from again except an excerpt on an international news agency or talked about on a forum like this while his assailant writes a book and goes on talk shows and runs for a governmental position.

All joking aside, make certain it functions 100% of the time. Practice with it, make certain to know how to handle malfunctions or correct it so those malfunctions don't happen again- this goes whether it's practicing for a match or training for emergency use. Plenty of threads on making handguns reliable and what to do when they aren't.

Practice, practice, practice. Pick a handgun and stick with it.
Always heard it said, "beware the man that uses just one gun." I believe that, even though I don't practice it.

October 18, 2010, 12:44 AM
I made the post to exchange ideas, not because I intended to use my BP pistols as my primary guns for self defense. I have a loaded 9mm Beretta by my bed, a loaded Ruger 357 near my desk, a loaded Bersa 380 in my vehicle, and loaded Ruger 22 at the back door for skunks and other varmints. I know how to use them all and practice with them regularly. I live in the country and I just walk about a hundred feet from my back door to practice shooting with any weapon. I shoot often with my weapons, plus the dozen or so other
guns that I own.

I am retired and have shot guns for over 50 years. I am just new to
BP. Thus the reasons for questions using BP weapons.

You never know if you are out somewhere and a BP weapon is what you happen to have at the time and then need to use it for self defense arises, it is best to know what the weapon will or will not do. One never knows when an emergency will arise. A wise man said it is better to have a gun and not need it than to not have a gun and need it.

I think it is time to let this thread die. This horse has been beaten to death.:)


October 18, 2010, 11:36 AM
I just saw this. Not sure what all the foofaraw is about.

You know, I've worked on a lot of handgun killing cases. Over 200, in some capacity. Precise shot-placement and penetration into the heart/aorta or brain seem to be what's necessary to guarantee a rapid stop with a handgun. (Shots into the "center of mass" that do not hit these structures may effect a stop - or they may not. They might even be lethal, but not effect a stop for some time. I've seen this happen in dozens of cases.) Based on what I've seen in the cases I've worked, I now frequently recommend that shooters study Gray's Anatomy (available online) to learn just exactly where these structures lie in the human body so that they can target them.

That said, I don't think the instructor's advice was bad at all. Regardless of what "virtually all" instructors may teach (and I've trained with a range of them), McPhee's instructor was attempting to promulgate a technique that would be likely to maximize stops by hitting the correct vital structures. I think that he's targeting the right areas for effectiveness, and - as any accurate shooter can tell you - focusing on a small point is a good way to hit accurately.

Back to McPhee's question, I feel pretty secure that your revolver can deliver the mail in terms of accuracy and penetration needed - provided that you can do your part. It's not what I'd use, but it is certainly capable.

October 18, 2010, 06:54 PM
I have no doubt that 'center of mass' is not necessarily a 'one shot stopper'. I never said it was, nor did anyone else. That's why the combat tactical training is to continue shooting.

Aiming for a vital organ, or for that matter simply taking the time to aim at anything, in a life threatening situation by an inexperienced, untrained shooter is a fool's mission. And a CCW or CPL class is NOT training for a combat situation.

I don't know what 'working a lot of killing cases' involves, but apparently it does not include being one of the shooters. It's one thing to sit back and critique the results of someone else's shooting after the fact and quite another to be the shooter involved in trying to stay alive.

I stand by my criticism of the OP's instructor. He's doing his students a grave disservice.

Ideal Tool
October 18, 2010, 07:16 PM
Hello, McPhee, I can't quite remember the book title, but it was the diary of a union cavalryman, during the war between the states. He said when they were foraging, he liked to have round ball loads in his 1851 .36 navy Colt, because if they had an opertunity to find a pig, the round ball would stop it quicker..usually only 1 or two shots, wheras the pointed conical type ball would go through with no real damage & might require the whole cyl, full to stop it. He went on to say, a man hit with the round ball would just kind of "wilt" out of the saddle, wheras with the conical, he showed much less distress. Interesting! Those round ball's present an almost flat surface..kind of like a wadcutter. Hope you never have to use that o'l smoker!

Ideal Tool
October 18, 2010, 11:16 PM
Hello, again McPhee. I have thought of this myself, but rejected the idea (assuming I had access to another type weapon), because, say you were involved in a shooting, and for some reason case wasn't clear cut, or you happened to have the bad luck to get stuck with a grumpy investigator, and your hangun was taken for evidence. Now I don't think you could talk them into waiting until the cleaning water came to a boil, so...what is that bore,or whole gun for that matter, going to look like after a week or two sitting in police custody? Just a thought.

October 19, 2010, 03:45 AM
.what is that bore,or whole gun for that matter, going to look like after a week or two sitting in police custody? Just a thought.

It most likely will look ok. I left one uncleaned for nine days once with no harm done and I live in the humid south. How much longer it would have gone I don't know. I was using Pyrodex which has a worse rep than real black for rust and corrosion.

October 19, 2010, 05:10 AM
I find it disturbing that a conceal carry class is teaching bullet placement. A CC class should teach safety and when and when not to use deadly force.

I got my CC way before classes were even considered, I have set in a few with friends and these have been safety and law, not bullet placement.

I think to many people get their CC and think they need to "prevent" crime. I know more than one person like that and they have gotten in trouble and lost their guns over it.

October 19, 2010, 05:19 AM

October 19, 2010, 08:24 AM
My first carry license was the Indiana pink slip - pretty much only required me to go in to the police station with $20. :) That's my kind of license!

Mykeal, I'm a lawyer. I have worked as an investigator, a prosecutor and an appellate defense lawyer. I've gotten to see an enormous number of OMI reports, photographs, etc., from shootings, and have gotten to talk in detail about the shooting and the behavior of the person shot with the shooter. Working on these cases have given me a lot of insight into what seems to actually matter (shot placement, adequate penetration), and what's maybe not so important (whether a hollowpoint was used, 9 vs. .45, etc.).

I agree that there's a real problem with some people getting their license and then imagining that they're some sort of superhero, out to stop crime. (You can pretty much tell who these people are by the way that they dress. :) ) This is one of the things that I warn against (discussing the citizen's arrest cases I've worked on) when I train people. On the other hand, I think that shot-placement is a totally valid thing for an instructor to teach: it's part of making sure the students are effective and are not likely to attempt silly things ("Shoot the gun out of his hand!") that are likely to endanger others.

Regarding "combat tactical training": I don't know whether any of the rest of you actually teach in concealed carry classes (I teach the legal section sometimes, as pro bono work), or how many of you have taken various shooting classes from a variety of instructors (Suarez, Ayoob, the Gunsite folks, the TR folks, Andy Stanford, Southnarc), but it's certainly true that "shoot them to the ground" is a common meme among instructors. My point here is not arguing that this is incorrect, but rather pointing out that precise shot-placement could validly be considered to be essential - even if it's not stressed by many instructors. Mykeal, if you think it's unrealistic to ask new shooters to be able to target and hit a precise point, well, that's your opinion. But why is it wrong for an instructor to attempt to give guidance to students that might assist them in being more effective?

I was a little amazed when I read

I find it simply ridiculous that

and other criticisms of a class that only one person here ever even attended. I'll bet McPhee sort of regrets having brought it up - especially since the criticism of his instructor has nothing to do with answering his question. I enjoy your posts, you guys, but you don't have enough data to declaim that the instructor is "doing his students a "grave disservice."

October 19, 2010, 11:20 AM
Wow. You don't have any idea what data I do or don't have, so that claim is at best specious. As a lawyer, you should know better than to claim a level of experience or knowledge for your opponent that you don't know anything about.

There are two obvious problems with a CCW instructor teaching new-to-the-subject students to 'aim' at the second button on an assailant's shirt.

1) In the heat of a life threatening situation they can't do it. They are not trained by CCW class, they're only TOLD to do it, so there is no automatic response they can count on to achieve the goal. As madcratebuilder clearly pointed out, a CCW class is about safe gun handling and knowing the law; there is NO, repeat zero, nada, zilch TRAINING in armed combat, which is what a life-threatening attack by an assailant is. In such a situation your ability to calmly and rationally act goes away - ask any combat veteran. Your rational thought is replaced by automatic responses implanted by repetitive training and practice, not the sort of thing you get in a CCW class. The result: the student CANNOT locate, identify, AIM and fire at the second button on an assailant's shirt. If he tries, he dies.

2) The plaintiff's lawyers in a wrongful death or damages suit will have a field day with anyone who is, to use their words, 'taught' to 'aim at the second button' but fails to do so accurately. After all, the shooter took a class in how to properly defend himself and he completely failed to do so, evidence therefore he was negligent throughout the entire encounter, making poor judgments and failing to act on them.

You want to know
why is it wrong for an instructor to attempt to give guidance to students that might assist them in being more effective?
What's wrong is that it doesn't make them more effective. They CANNOT be expected to execute the maneuver without much, much more training and practice than what you get in a CCW class. It takes combat training and a lot of repetitive practice to achieve the level of being able to make that precise shot under extreme duress. The most that any untrained, scared out of his wits victim should be expected to do is to identify and shoot (NOT AIM) at the center of mass of an assailant. And just in case he misses, which is entirely likely, to keep shooting until the assailant is down.

October 19, 2010, 02:15 PM
I claim you don't have enough data by the fact that you're willing to make proclamations about a man's teaching based on a passing remark in a post.

Your speculations are silly - you're getting hung up on an absurd proposition. Again, you're demonstrating that we don't know what the man said. As a general aiming point, what was quoted in McPhee's is better than an un-defined "center of mass" that's often taught. And certainly better than the old police aiming point that was taught when I was a lad. And, how are you an expert on plaintiff's attorneys, anyway? While anything can happen in a civil suit, your knowledge of tort law (as demonstrated in your sweeping comment) seems a little weak.

Looks like you can't even admit that you might not know everything. Mykeal, I've lost a lot of respect for you. I won't be re-visiting this thread, so if anyone wants me, feel free to email me.

October 19, 2010, 03:36 PM
Why do you say 'non expanding round ball'?
A soft lead ball expands quite well and retains weight in most cases.
Aim as with any pistol.

October 19, 2010, 07:05 PM
Why do you say 'non expanding round ball'?
A soft lead ball expands quite well and retains weight in most cases.
Aim as with any pistol.

+1 That's a fact!

October 24, 2010, 11:43 AM
Your bp pistol will do the job.
I have killed many deer and wild hogs with the round ball in my .50 rifle and the killing power of the round ball is phenomenal.
They made hundreds of thousands of these pistols in the Civil War for one purpose: To kill a man. They do work.

Wild Bill Hickok shot a man once at a measured 76 paces and the fellow dropped dead. He was hit right through the heart.
Wild Bill used the 1851 Colt in .36
Anything the .36 will do, the .44 will do better.