Monday, October 13, 2008

Carrying to Live and Redundant Systems

Peter W. Wickham, Jr.
At the end of a recent column (the words are all stacked on top of each other, so it looks like a column to me) that I wrote and JR posted here on his blog, a certain party who left a comment facetiously questioned the wisdom of owning and/or carrying more firearms than one has manipulative appendages (read "hands"). Now this party shall remain nameless though she probably knows who she is, but let me take this opportunity to address the issue by discussing "redundant systems."

When I was a young lad, one of my favorite television shows was The Wild, Wild West. Starring Robert Conrad as James West and Ross Martin as Artemus Gordon, it was the story of two Secret Service Agents trying to bring some law and order to the frontier. Both characters were known for all the gear of advanced technology they had hidden about their persons. James West would have at any one time a Colt Peacemaker in a fast-draw holster tied down to his thigh, a Derringer in a pocket of his waistcoat, another Derringer attached to a special quick-release mechanism strapped to his arm, a throwing knife in a special pocket behind his neck, and another knife stored in the toe of his boot. In some episodes, James would be in peril after the "bad guys" who were holding him prisoner would search him and remove all his hidden weapons and throw him into a dungeon, or jail cell, or smoke house, get the idea. Then he would remove the heel of his boot and pull out some special exploding putty and save the day and the hot-looking girl. It's always good to have a back-up for when all else fails and that is what a redundant system is.


Everything that Man builds, creates, or manufactures is prone to at some point corrode, erode, or decompose. Nothing is 100% reliable and all systems must account for some probability of failure. A redundant system, sometimes working simultaneously and in parallel to a main system, is a back up designed to reduce the probability of failure in situations that might mean life or death or at least serious inconvenience. One such system that we are all very familiar with since we probably pass a dozen of them everyday is the 18 wheels and tires on the 18-wheeler tractor/trailer combination. If one tire should blow, the other seventeen tires can support the load until such time that the truck driver can make a safe stop. NASA has eight computers on the Space Shuttle all doing the same job which was a good thing on one mission when six of them failed and the Shuttle was able to return safely to Earth using the remaining two.

The primary sidearm that I "carry to live" is a Springfield Armory XD 45 Service Model. In the year and a half I have owned this pistol and the 500 rounds I have put through it, I have never (I'm probably cursing myself by saying this) had a single failure to fire or feed but with the experience I've had with auto-pistols, I know there has to be some probability of failure and it will most likely show up in the magazines. Let me assign a 10% chance of failure for any individual magazine designed for the XD. If I carry the weapon with just the single magazine inserted into the well, there is a 10% chance I will have a problem. If I carry a second back up magazine, I have reduced the probability that both magazines will fail to 1.0 % (10% of 10% is 1.0%). If I add a third magazine, then the probability is reduced further to 0.1% (10% of 10% of 10%). This does not make the individual magazine any more reliable but only reduces the chance that all three would fail me in one incident. Of course with the way my luck goes sometimes...hrumph.

The other technique to ensure one has a working firearm during one of those critical moments in life is to carry a second weapon. My other favorite is a Springfield Armory (anybody see a pattern developing?) G.I. Champion 1911A1. This pistol has proven to be a little more picky over the years so I will assign a 20% chance of failure to it. Even though the Champion is less reliable than the XD, by combining the two the probability of both failing to function at one time is reduced to 2.0% (10% of 20% is 2.0%) so there is an improvement over just carrying any one of these weapons alone.

Eugene Sockut, Israeli small arms specialist and firearms instructor, suggests that when carrying more than one weapon, one might want to carry handguns of different designs (revolver, double-shots, etc.) since each design reacts differently to environmental hazards like water and dust. A small revolver I have for this purpose is a Taurus 651 in stainless steel. My wife likes this one because it's so cute and can fit right into a handwarmer pocket of a jacket. Nothing macho about this baby except for five rounds of .357 Magnum.

Another reason that I sometimes carry more than one firearm on my person is, though I am the only one in my family licensed to carry a concealed handgun I am not the only who knows how to use a handgun effectively, so when the fecal matter strikes the oscillating blade I can share. When the family has ventured to parts unknown, I have carried all three handguns mentioned and two Gerber knives based on the Applegate-Fairbairn design. Though knives are short range weapons at best, they never need reloading.

Last but not least when it comes to reasons to own more than two firearms is the modern criminal justice system. If you ever have to use a firearm to protect yourself, you can rest assured that the police will not let you leave the scene of the shooting with the firearm you used. You are going to need another to protect yourself until the police have completed their investigation and are kind enough to return that firearm in good working order. When I was a police officer, I was involved in a shooting with a paroled convict who had a gun. My primary duty weapon was collected as evidence and I did not see it again for about seven months. Two days after the first shooting (my department was too small to place me on "administrative leave") while carrying my off-duty weapon in my duty holster, I was almost involved in another shooting with a burglary suspect who was armed with a big knife (see how my luck goes). Fortunately he had the good sense to surrender for if he had tried to stab me or one of my fellow officers, that would have been my last sidearm.

So owning and/or carrying quite a few firearms is a good thing. Come to think of it, my carrying three handguns and two knives at one time, it seems like I've grown up to emulate my boyhood hero. Now if I can get a hold of some explosive Play-Doh (tm), my life will be complete...

Peter W. Wickham, Jr.
AKA The Ol' Grey Ghost

For further reading I would like to recommend Secrets Of Street Survival - Israeli Style: Staying Alive In A Civilian War Zone by Eugene Sockut. For wholesome family entertainment with lots of "hero-beats-bad-guys" violence, let me recommend the four seasons of The Wild, Wild West on DVD.


Frances Clements said...

Its an honor to have a column written because of a comment I made.

Anonymous said...

Wait till you get my bill...