Are revolvers really simpler and more reliable? I dont think so. This is looong.

Are revolvers really simpler and more reliable? I dont think so. This is looong.

This is a discussion on Are revolvers really simpler and more reliable? I dont think so. This is looong. within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; Where there are discussions about revolvers and semis, seem like the shortcomings of the semi is always mentioned, i.e. FTFs, FTEs, stovepipes etc. and one ...

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Thread: Are revolvers really simpler and more reliable? I dont think so. This is looong.

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    Are revolvers really simpler and more reliable? I dont think so. This is looong.

    Where there are discussions about revolvers and semis, seem like the shortcomings of the semi is always mentioned, i.e. FTFs, FTEs, stovepipes etc. and one would think that the revolver has no shortcomings at all. So I decided to look into the situation for myself. Since I was going to Gunsite (Summer 2004) to attend the Advanced Tactics Handgun Course and since I had taken semi-autos to my three previous “prerequisite” Gunsite handgun classes, I decided to take a S&W 686, 2-1/2” revolver and a S&W 686, 4” revolver as a backup.

    I discovered that revolvers have few, if any, advantages over semis, and I was surprised to discover they are not as reliable as a semi and they are anything but simple to operate. I also discovered that the semi is more durable and robust than the revolver.

    The retired Border Patrol officer who instructed the Advanced Tactics Class, said he carried a backup revolver in a more protected area (under a coat/jacket), even though it was against regulations, because he knew if his main revolver got in the sand it would probably lock up and it would require tools and time to get it working again. Yet in demos, Glock reps typically bury their guns in the sand and then let every student in the class shoot it and it rarely fails.

    In a previous class, I mentioned to my instructor, Giles Stock, that with all the malfunction drills we were practicing for autos, it seems like carrying a revolver would eliminate a lot of potential problems. He replied that he merely dropped his revolver once and it locked up so badly that he had to take it home, remove the side plate and clean it out to get it working again. On the other hand, in one of my classes, I saw a police officer lose control of his Beretta 92 during a draw and fire drill and wound up inadvertently slinging his gun 15 feet in front of him resulting in the gun doing a flip or two and then sliding to a stop in the dirt/sand. He picked it up, blew it off and continued without a problem.

    I was practicing speed reloads with my revolver one day at my local outdoor range and as I pushed to go a bit faster, I dropped my S&W 686 revolver. It hit on a crumpled sheet I was using to catch brass and then it bounced into the dirt. When I picked it up, the cylinder wouldn't close; the cylinder rod that the cylinder rotates on had bent. The gun was totally disabled. I took it home and literally hammered the cylinder back into alignment with a leather gun mallet. I had the gunsmith at Gunsite check it and it was in perfect alignment! I guess it proves dumb luck does beat skill sometimes!

    I learned a number of things about revolvers from my instructor at Gunsite. It seems revolvers commonly shake the ejector rod loose. Since I had to remove my ejector rod to repair my gun, I put LockTite on it when I re-installed it because I noticed how easy it was to remove. Then I did the same thing to my back up revolver.

    Next I learned that I should never put or allow lubricant to get under the ejector star because it holds debris which will cause the cylinder to bind up. Along with that, I was instructed to periodically check the cylinder to make sure it rotates freely, because, even without the lubricant, debris will build up under the ejector star and cause the cylinder to bind. I noticed that that does indeed happen.

    I discovered that even if you do everything right, “speed” reloading a revolver is an iffy procedure. Many say that you will not have time, or not need to reload a gun in a gunfight so reloading is not an issue. But if we shoot three of our five shots at the BG and even if he’s down, are we just going to stand there with two rounds in our gun? Is it really over? Is the BG’s partner coming on the scene? Do we really want to leave two rounds in our gun after shooting someone? I just don’t think that’s a good idea. So we just may want to get that thing topped off, just in case, and that’s often problematic. Revolvers are both slow and tedious to reload efficiently unless you really practice it and use good technique. Compare that same situation with a semi loaded with 15 rounds – there’s no need to worry about reloading after two or three shots.

    I found that reloads can get messed up for many reasons. Residue can collect in the cylinder chambers and cause a number of problems. One problem is when you turn the gun "upside down" to eject the cases, one case may not drop out. When that happens you have to realize it and pull the case out. The smaller the gun, the more likely it is to happen. That means a normal 5 - 6 second reload turns into a 8 - 10 second reload, while the auto can be reloaded in 2 seconds if it needs to be reloaded at all.

    The other problem that can happen from debris in a chamber is when you start to reload the fresh rounds. Sometimes one round doesn’t fully seat, and you don’t realize it until you try to close the cylinder and the case is catches on the frame and the cylinder won’t close. It is confusing when it happens and it adds time to the reload cycle.

    Another problem I experienced, was not realizing a case didn’t come out until I tried to insert the fresh rounds into the cylinder and none would go in. I had to look to see what the problem was, and since I now had the gun in one hand, the reloader in the other hand, I had to remove the case with the other hand. Wait, that’s too many hands isn’t it?

    Yet another thing that can happen when you try to eject the cases, they can hang on the grips, especially if the cylinder closes slightly. And the smaller the gun the more likely it is to occur.

    Reloading a revolver under stress, it is a far more tedious and nebulous procedure than reloading a semi. A semi only requires pressing a button to drop the mog out of the gun; you retrieve a rather large boxy magazine and insert it into a relatively large hole in the bottom of the grip. It’s interesting that the semi-auto tactical reload is criticized as too complex or too much manipulation but no one ever mentions that reloading a revolver is complex and requires much manipulation.

    Reloading a revolver requires opening the cylinder, switching the gun from the shooting hand to the support hand, turning the gun upside down (barrel up), pressing the ejector rod with the thumb of the support hand so you can be reaching for this rather small, round speed loader at the same time, which is mostly obscured by the pouch that holds it. By the way, when it comes to reloading a revolver, terms like speed, reliability, and simple shouldn’t be used. Reloading a revolver is none of those things! I know Jerry can do it in one second, but what about us mere mortals with ordinary skills and little practice with revolvers that don’t have highly chamfered chambers or moon clips?

    Anyway, then you turn the gun 180 degrees (barrel down) so you can align six little objects with six little holes. Once you believe you have the bullets started into the cylinder, you push (Safariland loader) or twist the little release knob (HKS loader), discard the speed loader, close the cylinder and switch the gun back to the shooting hand. Simple?

    There’s yet another problem or two that can happen during a reload. One is the speed loader doesn’t fully release the rounds and extra time has to be taken to correct that. Or, the some or all of the rounds hang in the speed loader and when you discard the speed loader the rounds go with it. That happened to me once during a timed qualification drill and all six rounds fell on the ground. It’s more than a little embarrassing.

    Anything else that can happen during a reload? Well, yes, since you asked. Since you have to twist a knob on HKS reloaders, I’ve noticed more than once, my support hand, whose job it is to hold the cylinder, inadvertently loses contact with the cylinder and when you twist the knob, instead of releasing the rounds the cylinder just spins. That’s why I switched to Safariland reloaders; you just push them toward the cylinder and they release – that’s what I took to Gunsite and that’s what my instructor recommended.

    Ok, so in an actual, average, gunfight, we’ll never have to reload our revolver, right. That’s what I thought until we did this little two BG drill. When the BGs turned, I shot each BG two times as instructed - pretty good shooting if I do say so myself. I was awakened from admiring my shots when the instructor said, “You got two shots left, do you think maybe it would be a good idea to reload – just in case?” What about the auto guys? Well they still had five rounds in their 1911s, so they were in pretty good shape. So I proceeded to reload, by dumping the empty cases and two unfired rounds on the ground. I figured if this was real, it’d be better to get the gun reloaded as quickly as possible rather than trying to retain two rounds by doing a slower and more complex reload with retention technique.

    Most of the “passive” simulators required us to clear a building. Normally civilians wouldn’t/shouldn’t be doing this, but as pointed out, it may be necessary to “clear” a building in order to escape from a situation or to reach a loved one. So, I found myself in the same situation over and over again. I’ve shot two rounds at a BG and I haven’t escaped yet. So, do I proceed with four rounds in my gun or reload? If I reload, how do I want to deal with the four unfired rounds in my gun? Although I had four Safariland reloaders on my belt, in reality, few of us civilians, carry more than one reload for a revolver, so those four rounds in the gun are significant in the given situation. Had I been carrying a five shot revolver, I would only have three rounds left in the gun and I’m pretty sure that calls for a reload.

    A shotgun has about the same capacity as a revolver – 5 to 6 rounds. Typically you are taught in shotgun courses (I took Gunsite’s shotgun course and I do believe it was the funnest course I’ve had, bruised arm and all), if you fire two, then you reload two ASAP, etc. Now here is a pretty awesome, but low capacity weapon and the strategy is to keep it “topped” off. Why shouldn’t/wouldn’t the same strategy apply even more so to a low capacity, not so awesome, relative anemic hadngun? It should, actually!

    That brings me back to the situation where I had fired two shots from a six shot revolver, don’t I need to reload? Well, I thought so. There is a revolver technique where you unload only the empties, and yes, there’s a way to do this in complete darkness, and reload only the empty chambers. But it is very slow and if all your rounds are in a reloader you have to take rounds out of your reloader and that’s even more time consuming and tedious. So probably the best choice is to dump everything in your hand, put cases and rounds in a convenient pocket and reload with the reloader.

    But that only solves the problem once. If I encounter one more BG and shoot him twice, I’ve got the same problem again except worse; I now four rounds in the gun, four loose rounds in my pocket intermingled with two cases and no reloader. Now I must remove the empties, reach in my pocket, get two rounds and load them. Well maybe that’s not so bad after all. Then again, if I had my Beretta 92 or Sig 226/229 I’d still have 13 rounds in the gun after four shots (I carry a 17 round Mecgar mag in my gun and another on my belt or pocket). I could carry 18 rounds in the gun, but I don’t, and that’s another issue.

    One last reloading problem – it is a disaster! This has happened to me, I’ve seen it happen to others, and my instructor mentioned that it happens, so I guess it does. That is, sometimes a case gets under the ejector star. It takes time to fix. And when we were doing one handed drills, my instructor said, “If you get a case under the ejector star, I know of no way to fix the problem with one hand.” Hmmmm….

    After observing me use a revolver for the week at Gunsite, one of my fellow students said something like, “I'm impressed with speed and accuracy he shoots his revolver with, but no offense, they just seem too complicated.” I took no offense and agreed with him.

    Some other things to consider about revolvers are night sights and weapon mounted lights (WML). Some like night sights; some wouldn’t have them. Some like WMLs; some wouldn’t have them. But nevertheless, night sights are more of a problem for revolvers than semis. They are more difficult to find and can be problematic to get them installed on revolvers. If you have to send a revolver to someone to have night sights installed, it’ll cost about $60 shipping plus the price of the sights and costs of installation. If you had to send a semi off, you do have the option of just shipping the slide.

    As for WMLs, for those who like them and believe in them for certain situations, I don’t believe I have ever seen a WML on a revolver. It would require some kind of mounting adapter that would attach to the barrel in such a way that it would allow the ejector rod to clear it to swing out the cylinder. Even if such a thing existed, you could not find a holster for it. Further, a revolver the same overall size of a compact semi-auto (Sig 229, Glock 19, etc.) would have too short of a barrel to mount a WML on.

    Speaking of size, for a similar size, a semi will always have a significantly longer sight radius than the revolver. Some believe the longer sight radius is an advantage.

    Having said all of that, a revolver would be my recommendation to novices and those who will not be handling or shooting their gun much. This would be those that would shoot three shots at a BG and not even think that there’s a need to reload; after all, there’s still two shots left in the gun.


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    Hey, you can't talk about my .357 and .44 like that. LOL(I would like smiley's just don't know how to get them). You sure did a fine writeup and it is 100% honest. I may add that shooting a revolver takes strength to pull the trigger double action, it flat wears me out. I did get my .44 to jam in a class one time but don't recall what the problem was. I like shooting my smith .357 and .44 for fun but I don't care to do it for say a class. It flat wears me down. I think you helped very much for us to see and feel the real life effort of shooting revolvers, thank you.
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    FortyFive,
    Man, thanks for the kind words.

    You reminded me of a drill we did. The targets would turn for 1.5 seconds and from a low ready, we were supposed to shoot our target as fast as we could. I didn't have any trouble firing six shots and getting six good hits. But by about the third round of this, my finger was fatigued from the long heavy trigger and I could barely get three shots off. And it wasn't that heavy because I had done a trigger job on it before I went.

    I know what you mean, for some reason I really like revolvers, but not for carry. And they do have more recoil, I forgot that.

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    Thumbs up

    Quote Originally Posted by FortyFive
    Hey, you can't talk about my .357 and .44 like that. LOL(I would like smiley's just don't know how to get them). You sure did a fine writeup and it is 100% honest. I may add that shooting a revolver takes strength to pull the trigger double action, it flat wears me out. I did get my .44 to jam in a class one time but don't recall what the problem was. I like shooting my smith .357 and .44 for fun but I don't care to do it for say a class. It flat wears me down. I think you helped very much for us to see and feel the real life effort of shooting revolvers, thank you.
    OK here is what you do to add a smiley. Pick any smiley and right click on it. In this case we will use the thumbs up. Left click on properties location them high light location and copy it. Them paste it and you will get this

    http://combatcarry.com/vbulletin/ima...ons/icon14.gif

    Now all you need to do is add this to the front [img]
    and add this to the end [/img]
    you will wind up with this
    [img]location[/img] and it will show this on screen

    You can use this method to copy any picture from any site but if you copy a picture that belongs to someone’s private site it is considered stealing bandwidth.
    But it isn't a big deal if you post a picture like this

    Because it is from a commercial site and S&W is probably glad to see their guns getting exposure.

    There is a post icons box at the bottom of the screen but you can find free icons by doing a google search. just be careful because some of those "FREE" icons contain spyware
    Last edited by silvercorvette; February 3rd, 2005 at 09:26 PM.

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    Senior Member Array KC135's Avatar
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    Tangle, not trying to be critical, but.
    I agree that in most cases the auto is reliable, easier and quicker.

    Many of your problems could have been solved ahead of time. A few hours spent with a rabid revolver shooter would have led to avoidance of some of the mechanical problems.

    Lots of dry fire practice and lots of practice reloading would have made sure the speed loaders had lots of clearance.

    It sounds as if you might have been using two kinds of speed loaders. I have to stick to just one type.

    In 60 years of revolver shooting, I have never had a shell get under the star. A matter of the ejection process. Do not know the grip used for ejection/reloading, but I have never had an HKS SL turn the cylinder.

    Any revolver deserves the same care you give an auto. If you load an auto up with too much lube, you cause a problem. Same with revolver and oil under the star, or anyplace else in the gun.

    Junk under the star is usually a result of a poor ejection procedure....not having the gun in a vertical position, and not slapping the ejector rod. I never use my thumb to eject the empties, but I shoot mostly 44 Special and the case has a much larger surface area thus more friction.



    Having been to Gunsite several times, I know it is sandy. All of my guns are almost dry when I am out there.

    Ejector rods are famous for backing out, as all screw are, so locktite is used before the problem occurs. Same with autos.

    One thing is a fact, the auto holds more rounds. That is why I always carry two or more revolvers.

    Night sights...sights alone can be sent for tube instalation, or any gunsmith can install sights.

    Giles is a hoot isn't he???

    On autos, seen many broken extractors in 1911s and other autos. Seen Glocks lock up due to lack of lube, oversize cases, sights shoot off, break off, etc. Reason I always carry more than one gun, usually more than two.

    Nothing is perfect, so we must all always expect murphy, and have a plan B, and C, and maybe D.
    Keep the shotgun handy!!

  6. #6
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    While lots of your observations on revolvers are accurate, I really didn't run into any during my training for LE. We used old worn m66 S&W's and they worked well. Speedloading is difficult, but once ya master it I feel its just as fast as reloading a semi auto. never carryed a revolver for defense, so can't say as far as dirt , mud reliability. I still prefer semi autos to revolvers too.

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    What KC said.

    If you're worried about reloading, carry a second revolver.

    If I need more than 5 or 6 shots to solve any given problem:

    #1. I should be using a rifle because it's an absolutely disastrous situation in the first place.
    #2. I can't hit the target regardless of how many rounds I fire.
    #3. I am probably going to die because I pulled some kind of stupid cowboy stunt. Now I am not saying I would never pull such a cowboy stunt. If I have a chance to save a loved one and I don't take it, I'd hate myself the rest of my life.

    I think that even in "tactical scenarios" the only real use of a handgun is to fight your way to a long gun.

    The fact is that we can construct all the defeatist scenarios we want to for either platform. Let's say you have to jump over a fence, but your gear gets snagged and you have to keep running and you lose all your magazines. Suddenly the plastic plate your automatic pistol depends on pops off and your magazine group collapses. Congratulations you now have a hard to load single shot pistol.

    See? Anyone can do it. It's easy to de defeatist.

    And also, this is why I own a double stack 9mm automatic in addition to my revolvers, and why I'd like to eventually carry both kinds of pistols.

    As for speedloading, well I admit I'll fumble a lot more if I ever did it in actual combat, but who can say I could reload a magazine under the same circumstances? Once again it's just being defeatist.
    Last edited by Euclidean; February 3rd, 2005 at 10:26 PM.

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    Great Thread Guys,
    While I don't think that revolvers are antiquated or out of date for self defence, I prefer a semi-auto. I do think that anyone who wishes to be proficient in the handling of firearms in a defensive setting should be able to handle either equally. I do KNOW that single action semis (ie 1911, Browning's etc.) are much faster to get off a shot in a time critical situation. I have trained and practiced this against a 6th dan black belt. He kicked my butt with any double action weapon, but with the single action he got shot about 7 out of 10 times.
    Just my two cents worth.
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    I used to be a revolver only guy. SW 629 .44 and a 340 .357 among others. Over time I've aquired several automatics and some custom .45's. I've found the automatic over time to be very reliable and sturdy. Sold most of the revolvers and sit with auto's now. Great thread.

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    You Said:

    "the cylinder rod that the cylinder rotates on had bent."
    That sure is a "freak drop" because it should take way more than a drop in the dirt to bend that cylinder rod on any S&W revolver.
    Liberty Over Tyranny Μολὼν λαβέ

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    I still think a Wheelis is fine for carry if you abuse something it will break down in moment of need no matter what it is ...

    I typicall dont carry a wheelie becuse i prefer a few more rounds to weight ration... When i bought my first carry gun i was gonna go 5 shot 357 then i saw the Springfield XD and it hel 10 shots (13 with 40 cal mags) and was just a hair smaller than 357 really wasnt a tough choice.

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    Can I play devil's advocate with you Bud?

    What precisely do you plan on doing with the extra 5 or 6 shots?

    I personally believe if I ever do have to fire in self defense, I am going to empty it into the crackhead in a rush of adrenaline and won't even realize I did so until it's over.

    I don't need some civil lawsuit where the opposing attorney can say

    "The pistol was fired 10 (15, or 17) times. According to my research, most firearms experts believe that 3 shots is all that's necessary... blah blah blah...."

    Can you say liable?

    Just some food for thought.

    Of course if you feel like you're better off with an automatic for concealment or marksmanship purposes, that trumps the whole liability lawsuit argument in my book.

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    Well, I A Pretty Much A Semi~Auto Guy

    Mostly due to personal preference & the fact that really large caliber revolvers have (historically) mostly been a tad heavy/bulky & more difficult for me to "pull in tight" enough to MY body for maximum concealment. I also feel that most semi~autos have a much more natural grip (for me) and "point" much better...also...(for me.)
    Colt D.A. revolvers NEVER EVER fit my hand properly & always felt weird to me.
    With stronger modern alloys like Scandium & Titanium and gun makers now willing to produce BIG revolvers in really compact packages...that disadvantage has changed a bit for the better.
    Also, you can carry a "speed loader" & have 5 or 6 extra shots with a very quick and well rehearsed "wheel~gun~reload."
    It's possible for any firearm to fail at EXACTLY the wrong time.
    I don't think that any practiced civilian and decent marksman is at much (if any) real world disadvantage by going armed for self~defense with a high quality revolver.
    Whatever floats your little boat is A-OK with me.
    Luckily we are (not too many times) ever faced with multiple armed attackers.
    I am just HAPPY when good, honest, folks demonstrate some personal responsibility & decide to carry something for personal protection.
    .38 special +P+ & up will do a decent defensive job with the right person "Behind The Wheel."
    Whatever people desire to carry is their own business as long as it's not a zinc diecast cheap piece of total junk. Then...I sure will say something.
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    How can you call any shots "extra" before you know how many will be needed to survive a gunfight?

    That raises the question of how many shots will one need in a gunfight? We really don't know but, most of us have heard the 2 - 3 shot number that likely orginated from the FBI analysis of the SOP9 study. It purportedly showed that the average gunfight ended in 2 - 3 shots. However, what isn't commonly known about that study is that 2 - 3 shots were fired when an officer DIED in the gunfight. Further, the data included officer suicides and accidental shooting deaths which would lower the average.

    Later studies show that officers that SURVIVE gunfights, fire from 6 to 8 shots. This shows two things: on average, more shots are fired in a gunfight than we think and two, even though the officers have 15 or so rounds in their gun, they stop shooting well before they empty their gun.

    Remember the incident where a number of cops shot a guy on the porch because they thought he was reaching for a gun that turned out to be a billfold? I don't recall how many shots were fired, but wasn't it something like 21? If there were three officers, that's 7 shots apiece! And this guy wasn't even shooting back at them.

    The point is we don't have anyway to know how many rounds we may need in a gunfight.

    And, is it just me, or do others find this puzzling, "A handgun just is to fight your way back to a rifle."? What rifle would that be? How far is the rifle from the gunfight? If 2 or 3 handgun rounds is all it takes to end a gunfight, why bother with a rifle at all? How does one manage to fire only 2 - 3 shots from a handgun in a gunfight that requres a rifle with a 20 - 30 round mag?
    Last edited by Tangle; February 4th, 2005 at 04:27 PM.

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    Euclidean
    "The pistol was fired 10 (15, or 17) times. According to my research, most firearms experts believe that 3 shots is all that's necessary... blah blah blah...."
    In most jurisdictions what you know before the "event" can be entered into evidence in your defense i.e., the guy down the street that has been in prison for multiple assaults and attempted murder, hell in this age, murder and he could be out in 5 years. This knowledge could be used to justify shooting him if he came at you. BUT if you shoot someone and it turns out after the fact he was wanted for child rape and murder in 5 states it does you no good to justify your actions at the time.

    So, I have a copy of “Deadly Effects; what bullets do to bodies” featuring a Dr. Fackler, head of the US Army wound ballistics lab, who goes into great detail on what happens when bullets hit a body. The short if is that handguns are very poor “stoppers” the guy shot may die at some point, but what can he do in the meantime. Like in the Miami shootout, the BG that did most the mayhem was fatally shot at the start but kept going and killed and maimed multiple agents. There is a segment where they show the body of a biker shot 27-32 times with 9mm and 4 times with 12 ga slugs, the body is laying on the road on it’s side and the picture is from the back and you can clearly see one of the slugs took out the spine and is obviously what put him down. I have also watched the official FBI training tape recreation of the Miami shootout and can call as a witness a senior FBI agent to testify that I have seen it, along with the chief deputy of my old home county that I have watched all the departments training tapes including tapes about knife attacks etc. As long as the BG is vertical I am going to keep putting holes in him, and then as I have seen advised else where have my lawyer file the first civil suit against the BGs family in the thinking that “the best defense is an offence”. I may never need the tape, but I have never needed my homeowners insurance either.

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