Criminals Often Carry Ineffectual Guns that are Broken, Unloaded, or Toys

Criminals Often Carry Ineffectual Guns that are Broken, Unloaded, or Toys
Criminals Often Carry Ineffectual Guns that are Broken, Unloaded, or Toys

U.S.A. -( In Mount Clemens Michigan, on South Main Street, at the Mobil gas station, On 24 April 2019, at about 5:10 p.m., a criminal attempted to rob the store and assault a clerk. The suspect had a  .22 revolver. The suspect pointed the revolver at the clerk and pulled the trigger, but the revolver failed to fire. The clerk responded with his 9 mm handgun. The Sheriff’s office said the suspect was hit six times.  From

In a news release Friday afternoon, Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith said the robbery concluded when the defendant aimed his gun at the store clerk and pulled the trigger, resulting in an audible “click.” The clerk, fearing for his life and the lives of the gas station patrons, fired his own weapon at the defendant, striking him and causing him to fall to the ground just outside of the store door.


Macomb County Sheriff’s evidence technicians placed at least 12 markers over shell casings just outside the doors. On the bloodstained pavement outside were approximately two dozen packs of cigarettes, a pair of gym shoes and sunglasses. The robbery suspect’s weapon, a .22-caliber revolver that police said had been stolen, and the clerk’s 9-millimeter handgun were confiscated by police. The latter pistol was found on the sidewalk next to the gas station building.

The wounded  suspect was found to have a criminal history with at least one felony conviction. He was charged with armed robbery, possessing a firearm while committing a felony, possessing a firearm while a prohibited possessor, and illegally concealing a weapon.

The clerk was fortunate the suspect’s gun did not fire. Criminals often carry ineffectual guns. Greg Ellifritz has written about his research on the subject. While his sample is not large, it is instructive.  From Greg Ellifritz’ Research on Criminals and the Guns They Carry:

Out of 85 weapons seized:

  • 24 are not loaded
  • 2 are not loaded with the correct ammunition
  • 9 are completely broken

Combine those facts and you will see that 41% of the weapons we seize from criminals are completely non-functional. 

Now include the four guns that weren’t fully loaded and the 17 with extremely limited function (no magazines, malfunctioned within first three rounds, etc.) and take a look at the results.  In total, 66% of the guns we took from criminals were unable to be fired or could be fired for fewer than three rounds before being empty or experiencing a malfunction.

Greg Ellifritz deliberately did not include toy, pneumatic, replica or starter’s guns in his analysis. He linked to a Bureau of Justice Statistics paper, in which robbery investigators consistently estimated that 15% of all robberies were committed with imitation guns. From

Between January 1, 1985 and September 1, 1989,458 police departments (65.5% of the study population) reported 5,654 robberies known to be committed with an imitation gun. Robbery investigators interviewed estimated that, on an average, 15% of all robberies were committed with imitation guns.

Later in the report, the 15% figure was re-emphasized:

On an average, robbery investigators consistently estimated around 15% of the robberies were committed with guns that were toys, pneumatic, replicas, or starter’s pistols.

Police are taught if the object in the subject’s hand resembles a firearm, assume it is a firearm.  Armed citizens should do the same. If a criminal acts as if the gun he is holding is real, his victims can reasonably act as if it is real.

Adding the 15% of guns that are toys, replicas, pneumatic, or Starter’s to the 66% of firearms that will not work or are severely limited in their function, means a victim facing an armed robbery suspect can reasonably expect the weapon they are facing to be severely limited or non-functional over 80% of the time. I have read of cases where the criminal’s semi-auto was functional, but did not have a round chambered.

This does not mean those guns are not dangerous. Criminals often use guns as clubs, pistol whipping and bludgeoning their victims into submission.  A gun that does not have a magazine may be able to fire one shot. A gun that will not fire three shots may still fire two. It only takes one shot to kill or severely wound an innocent person.

The numbers are based on a small sample, and from estimates of robbery investigators. More research would be helpful.

A defender should include the information in their calculus about the cost/benefit ratio of fighting back in an armed encounter.

Observe your opponent closely. There may be opportunities for decisive action. Sometimes, a defender can identify the criminal’s weapon as fake or inoperable.

Be aware. Gunfights are dangerous and should be avoided. Criminals are not superhuman. Often, criminals are inept, drugged/drunk, and clueless.  Very often, their weapons of choice are inoperative, unloaded, or toys.

About Dean Weingarten:Dean Weingarten

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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Mike in a Truck

Interesting article but I will not put my faith into the incompetence of goofball criminals. Over in Winston Salem it’s like every night thugs are shooting each other up.Usually drug related.Those guns seem to fire just fine. Not only that but they are emptying full magazines.Some have even taken to using rifles.I wont assume that these jerks don’t know their weapons.They do know and they practice! Dont be lulled into a false sense of security and never underestimate your attacker.


Criminals don’t clean or oil their guns? Criminals don’t sweat whether the gun jams a lot? Whoda thunk!!! Next you’ll tell me they don’t function check it regularly or bother to clear it when they hand it to their buddies for show and tell.

We were all one of those newbies once with the ammo going in the mag backwards. Everyone starts some where. Just appreciate someone is taking the ownership to get a gun and go to the range. Give them time, they’ll get there.

Thumbs up on the ASP channel. I watch it daily and learn a lot.


Stay tuned for tomorrow’s article on why it’s usually OK to play Russian Roulette.


According to DOJ crime statistics, guns are used 2.5 million times per year to stop violent crimes, 98% of the time without a shot being fired. (1) That makes even more sense when we learn that 80% of the time their gun is non-functional.



I suggest that everyone go watch John Correa on his you tube channel “Active Self Protection”.
He analyzes video surveillance footage of armed and unarmed self protection incidents.
Including the one mentioned where the criminals’ slide was out of battery.
There are plenty of videos there where the good guy gets shot.
He suggests feigned compliance and waiting for a chance to launch a counterattack when the perp is distracted.
His catchphrase is “cover your Asp” Get it? Armed Self Protection…Asp


The biggest problem is the CLERK gave the criminal time to pull the trigger… Once the criminal went for his gun (and it was identified as a weapon) or started to raise it, the CLERK should have fired … Situational awareness and being alert at all times is a necessity if you are going to carry a weapon and/or defend yourself… Sorry to all dumb criminals and drunk/dope heads out there, but if you pull a weapon on me, I am NOT going to take the time to analyze it for it’s capabilities and/or functionality and/or the users abilities or… Read more »


Okay tough guy, settle down. The point wasn’t that you have very little to fear from armed criminals, it was that you have very little to fear from fighting back.


I am surprised this author would write an article such as this. NEVER ASSUME A WEAPON POINTED AT YOU BY A GOBLIN IS FAULTY OR UNLOADED !!

Charles Moore

Correct. A bad guy with a weapon pointed at me or others in my presence WILL be shot. No “might be” about it. That being said, he does cite valid statistics; within the past year or less, I saw video of an armed robbery on the news out of Kansas City that showed the perp pointing a pistol with the slide clearly out of battery at a store clerk. I would have shot him, too.


It’s good to know that one’s chances in a confrontation are this good, but still, we always need to follow the same rule #1: Even if you “know” otherwise, assume the gun is loaded and able to fire.


Thank you for the perspective. It seems that looking closely at the gun pointed at you and making an informed decision is perhaps more important than looking into the eyes of the gun holder in making a decision that could end your life… or save it.


A .22 will make you just as dead as a 44 mag. You can’t stop stupid..


The man had just committed an armed robbery. He attempted murder when he pulled the trigger on the clerk. The fleeing felon presented a danger to others. He could be stopped with deadly force even if he was fleeing. Let any DA try to prosecute a case like that and they will lose every time.

Charles Moore

We were actually told in training that we were justified in shooting a fleeing armed and/or desperate felon for that very reason – to prevent them from endangering others in effecting their escape or continuing to be a threat in the future. Same should (and, morally, does) apply to good members of the general public.


No, no, and no. If you think you are going to get away with shooting someone after he/she is no longer an immediate threat, perhaps a few minutes talking to an attorney who specializes in this type of law may be advised. Look, in most states, even a police officer cannot shoot a fleeing felon, and even those states that still allow it, assuming any state still allows it, the burden of proof that the bad guy would kill if he escaped is steep. Lookup this book: Deadly Force – Understanding Your Right To Self Defense by Massad Ayoob.


Sadly, the clerk will most likely be convicted of crimes as well. After reading a couple articles about that particular incident, it appears that the clerk chased the robber out of the station and fired as the bad guy was running away. This may not sit well with Michigan prosecutors and grand jury.


I should probably say “indicted”, not “convicted” . Bit of a Freudian slip there considering the locale of the incident.


It is legitimate defense of others to pursue and shoot a fleeing armed felon.


Good piece, Dean. I especially appreciate the last two paragraphs. I’m always concerned about “the calculus” as you put it. Calculus, and simply cognitive thought may be too much in a gunfight. Behavioral responses are best. Draw your weapon, get off the x, and put rounds on target until the threat is eliminated. Employ simple, overwhelming aggression against the threat and go home in close to one piece as you can. Your article states that for every 10 bad guy clowns, there are two with functional weaponry. How many practice? How many have some formal training? I’m not sure I… Read more »

Don Bailey

Good words Spurs6 in follow up to Dean Weingarten’s excellent article. I would say in addition to your words that “most” people, who are licensed to carry a firearm, have had sufficient training with their firearm, know when to pull it out, and know when to stop the threat without over analyzing the ills of society. Rely on your training.


Thanks Don. Though, I can’t even count the number of folks I have seen who get a carry permit, buy a gun and then never practice…or rarely carry. They may pack when they think they may need it but they really don’t have the mindset or the skills to effectively protect themselves or their loved ones. We, as a group of legal gun owners, are almost as bad as the criminals when it comes to gunfighter skills.

Rocky Mountain

How did unconstitutional gun control laws help stop the criminal? Best as I can tell from the story criminals don’t comply so why should victims? Seems the gov is doing all it can to give assialants the edge. Why? Quick, somebody send gov a copy of 2A because they must not have it.


We should be encouraging criminals to use toy guns

Mike S.

Just advertise them as “No Background Check Required!! Easy FInancing!! No Credit, No Problem!!” We’ll be a respectable nation again in somewhere between 2 weeks to a few months and the bigger cities may even quit resembling warzones for once this century.

Don Bailey

@Mike S., You might add to that also, if you survive, you will qualify for free housing, free three square meals a day, and free medical benefits.


And sometimes they even do this:
But I would imagine that’s an anomaly. It seems anyone should know the bullet goes to the front, even if only from TV and movies. Even with no idea of anything at all, one should be able to figure out that if the bullet is to come out of the muzzle, it must be in front of the powder. But it would seem there are some even more ignorant than that.


Not an anomaly. I have twice watched newbies loading magazines backwards, and the staff at my gun club says they’ve seen it repeatedly too. The problem seems to be that new gun owners faced with loading an empty mag don’t realize which direction will be “forward” when they put the mag into the gun.


As for bullets that killed someone 1/2 deep people have been shot in the arm and died from having a heart attack or just shock.


some box mags if you are not looking carefully it is easy to load them the wrong way since they for the most part there is no indicator as to which way the rounds are meant to go. I did this the first time i loaded a modifed BAR mag that went with a french rifle.

Charles Moore

I laugh at the ignorant leftist morons that produce movies and TV shows when they show the entire cartridge being fired downrange. Or, during an autopsy, they remove the bullet(s) that killed the person that are only 1/2″ or so deep.