Concealed Carry & Home Defense

CCW Weekend: Stuff Gun Guys Talk About That Doesn’t Matter Or Is Just Plain Wrong


Guns and Gear Contributor
Font Size:

By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters

The gun community or whatever one wants to call it is rife with various things that the novitiate might read about and think “gee, these guys know what they’re talking about and they say that X matters a lot.” Sometimes they do and it does, and sometimes it really, really doesn’t.

A lot of gun guy crap comes down to what you happen to prefer and what you’re used to more than anything else. Some of it matters, but what gets repeatedly proven in competitions or other circumstances where things can be measured is that a lot less stuff makes a difference than you’d think.

So what’s some of the stupid gun guy stuff that doesn’t mean a darn thing in the real world?

One such item is bore axis height. The bore axis is basically an invisible line through the exact center of the barrel; bore axis height (which some people colloquially and incorrectly refer to as the bore axis) is the distance from the center of the bore to a lower point. Some people measure it from the top of the shooting hand, others from the top of the lower frame of the pistol, and some from the center of the trigger.

Why people say it matters is that a gun pivots under recoil, since the shooting hand and the shooter essentially create a fulcrum. The higher the bore axis, the longer the lever and therefore the higher the muzzle will rise under recoil and therefore the slower to get back on target and the more recoil the shooter will feel.


As it turns out, the difference in the distance the muzzle climbs is negligible when comparing two guns of similar bore axis. Furthermore, slide velocity- how fast the slide is sent to the rear – has more to do with muzzle climb and felt recoil than bore axis. The faster it goes, the more recoil you’ll actually feel. Additionally, heavier pistols have a lot less felt recoil and muzzle climb than lighter guns, which is why – say – a 34 oz Beretta 92 will shoot softer than a 20 oz Smith and Wesson M&P9 Shield in the same (9mm) caliber.

Also, what makes a person more inured to recoil and muzzle rise? Range time. The thing is that elite shooters, with a lot of time on the trigger, can shoot almost any gun well, regardless of bore axis. World shooting championships have been won with Glocks and CZs, which have a lower bore axis, and with Sig Sauer and Beretta pistols with a higher bore axis, and with 1911s (medium) and revolvers. It just doesn’t matter.

Another old saw, though one with some truth, is that of accuracy and sight radius, the distance from the front sight to the rear.

Sight radius and barrel length have little to do with mechanical accuracy; if you removed the shooter from the equation guns are unbelievably accurate. Sight radius matters due to the distance the front sight post to the eye. The shorter it is, the more of the target will be occluded from your vision and thus the less precise your shooting will be.

What can solve this? More trigger time helps, but optics abrogate the issue. Hardly anyone uses iron sight rifles anymore outside of dangerous game hunting and since red dots are going on more and more pistols…that subcompact with an optic suddenly becomes a whole heck of a lot more capable.

So while there’s something to it, it’s the fault of the shooter and their frail human brain (I keep threatening mine that I’ll stab it with a Q-tip) rather than the gun, and there’s a solution for that as it turns out.

If you ever hear anyone talking about spread or shot pattern in a home defense shotgun as if it’s a good thing, dismiss everything they say.

For a start, the spread of a shot pattern is a function of distance. The farther it travels, the wider it spreads. At personal defense distances, which is generally 10 or fewer yards, the spread is minimal. Buckshot is about the size of a mandarin orange at that distance; #4 or #5 birdshot, the typical turkey load, is maybe the size of a grapefruit.

There are instances in which you want a wider pattern. If you’re, say, hunting doves, or pheasants or ducks, some sort of small bird that you have to wingshoot, or for skeet and trap. In that instance, having a wider pattern is desirable. After all, you only need a pellet or two to bust a clay pigeon or put smaller game birds on the deck.

In a home defense scenario, it’s not desirable at all. Every single pellet that isn’t embedded in the bad guy is going somewhere else, and rest assured that 00 buckshot goes through gypsum board like a hot knife through butter.

So please don’t believe any notions about shotguns not needing to be aimed (they need to be) and if anyone says anything about “spread” that isn’t “spread at home defense distances shouldn’t happen and isn’t desirable anyway” is full of it.

Another thing that gun guys like to talk about is what bullets do when they hit a fleshy target, and something that gets brought up occasionally is the “permanent wound cavity” or “stretch cavity.” When a bullet hits tissue, which is elastic, the force of the impact initially blows what appears to be a big hole in the target due to the impact.

If the bullet hits hard enough, that impact will create an enormous wound through an effect called “hydrostatic shock,” essentially a shockwave that permanently disrupts tissues, arteries and so on.

Why this matters is that none of this happens with handgun ammunition. There’s an initial disruption, but since tissue is elastic it closes right back up save the actual hole punched into the target by the bullet. Some people act as if it does, but it just doesn’t.

To date, no handgun caliber or particular brand/box of ammunition has ever been conclusively proven to produce hydrostatic shock. Lots and lots of claims, but no real proof.

Handguns put holes in things, that’s it. The permanent wound cavity is only the size of the projectile and the diameter it expands to in the target, which is universally pretty small. So while the permanent wound cavity is a thing, it barely exists when it comes to handguns.

Any other gun guy malarkey you’re tired of hearing about? Sound off in the comments.


Click here to get your 1911 Pistol Shopping Guide.

Click here to get The Complete Concealed Carry Training Guide

Sam Hoober is a Contributing Editor to, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit