U.S.A. -(Ammoland.com)- 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 macombdaily.com:
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 bjs.gov:
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 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.