Hollow Points

State requirements for a concealed weapons permit are hit or miss

Gruner tells us the video is not intended to convince us to buy Gold Dot bullets, but to graphically demonstrate what a hollow-point round does upon "penetrating a fleshy media": bursts into a deadly flower shape which twirls through muscle and vital organs.

The Geneva Convention prohibits the use of hollow-point bullets in warfare, but they are the nearly universal choice of law enforcement agencies nationwide, for two reasons: They do far more damage than a round-tip bullet, and they use up most of their kinetic energy doing it, meaning they're far less likely to pass all the way through a body and hit a second person.

Gruner, a cop-in-training himself, recommends we load our guns with the same brand of hollow-point bullets used by our local police department, so as to discourage a prosecutor from ever using our high-tech ammunition against us.

Urban Firearms Institute Instructor Ben Gruner
Mark Poutenis
Urban Firearms Institute Instructor Ben Gruner
Urban Firearms Institute Instructor Ben Gruner
Paolo Vescia
Urban Firearms Institute Instructor Ben Gruner

One of my fellow pupils, an elderly gent enrolled in the class with his daughter, raises his hand. "Are you going to talk about bullets and tires?" he asks.

Gruner says, "What?"

"Well, you know, what kind of bullets are best to shoot out tires?"

"Sir, you can't shoot out tires with handgun bullets. They'll bounce off."

"Even if the tire's moving?"

"Especially then."

"Well, what if it's moving really fast, like 80 miles per hour, and you shoot it at just the right angle?"

Gruner exhales slowly. "Sir, may I ask why you're so interested in this subject?"

The old man demurs. "Oh, no reason, really. I've just always been interested in bullets and tires."

Gruner calls for a 10-minute break.

Later that night, we learn the standard police-academy self-defense shooting rhythm, which goes like this: Two to body, one to head. Three to body, one to head.

"A penetrating head shot will shut down the central nervous system instantly, whereas if you shoot someone in the heart they might keep fighting for 10 seconds or more," says Gruner. "Unfortunately, the head is a small, mobile, hard-to-penetrate target. If your enemy is wearing body armor, though, it may be your only primary target, although you always have the groin area as a last resort.

"The bottom line is, the important stuff must be hit and destroyed."

3) Legal issues relating to the use of deadly force

Vaughn, the Urban Firearms Institute's legal scholar, leads the second night of class. He breaks down the differences between a civil and criminal trial, then teaches us what to do after we shoot someone in self-defense.

Call the police as soon as possible. Tell them next to nothing once they arrive.

"The only way to control your statement is to issue it through an attorney," Vaughn says. "So say this, and only this: 'He tried to kill me. I'm really shaken up right now. I'll be happy to answer all your questions as soon as I've consulted with my attorney.'"

(One of the handouts in Caswell's CCW class packet is a recommended list of 13 Valley criminal attorneys who've defended people who've shot someone in self-defense.) If the police keep asking questions, Vaughn says, tell them your chest hurts and you need immediate medical attention.

"It's easy to extract yourself from legal danger if you know how to play the game, and if you're going to carry a gun, you'd better know how to play the game, because the deck is stacked against you."

Finally, Vaughn says, do not openly hold racist views in your daily life.

"If you have any slurs in your vocabulary, I suggest you get rid of them, because if a prosecutor can play the race card on you, they will.

"After all, that poor little crackhead you just shot, everyone knows he was going to get off crack the next week and become a brain surgeon, right?"

Right. It's us Good Wolves versus the Crackheads of Color in our Violent, Predatory World.

Vaughn moves to a definition of deadly force:

"That degree of force which a reasonable and prudent person would consider capable of causing death or great bodily harm."

We then learn when you can and cannot legally blow someone away in this state. Four criteria must be met for a shooting to be justified by law: The person you shoot must have the ability to kill or seriously injure you, he must have the opportunity to do so, he must demonstrate a "manifest intent" to do you damage, and it must be "immediately necessary" to shoot him.

"Basically, all this boils down to one question: 'Do you believe you are about to be killed or crippled?'" says Vaughn. "If you can answer 'Yes' in your dark little heart, then pull the trigger."

Several of my classmates have to struggle with the new concept that, should they come home one evening to find an unarmed stranger ransacking their home, they are not legally entitled to kill him.

"That just doesn't seem right," one of them keeps saying.

Vaughn discourages us from using deadly force to defend a third party unless we know exactly what's happening.

"Say you walk into a Circle K and you see a longhaired guy pointing a gun at the clerk's head. Can you shoot him?"

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