The Saturday Night Special Lives!

The Trace recently published a article by Alex Yablon titled “Concealed Carriers Have Made a Tiny Pistol with a Sketchy Past a Big Seller for Gun Makers.” It is a fascinating read because it gets alot of things right at a descriptive level, but packages what it gets right in its generally anti-gun framework.

I didn’t know that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives reported data on the caliber of firearms produced, but The Trace article usefully charts production of .380 caliber “pocket” pistols alongside the percentage of U.S. adults with concealed carry permits (according to John Lott’s Crime Prevention Research Center).

Source: The Trace, 13 March 2016
Source: The Trace, 13 March 2016

The article also quotes Kevin Michalowski of the United States Concealed Carry Association and M.D. Creekmore of The Survivalist Blog, cites Terrence McLeod’s book Concealable Pocket Pistols (2001) and the NRA’s American Rifleman magazine, and draws on the websites of Guns and Ammo and Lucky Gunner.

Of course, all of these gun culture sources are invoked by The Trace to argue that .380 pocket pistols are basically a bad idea because they are really hard to shoot, especially for beginners.

Yablon also invokes their low cost (relative to full size weapons) and questions their reliability in order to be able to dust off the old slur, saying these “carry guns” are just rebranded Saturday Night Specials. In fact, Yablon declares, “The .380 is one of the gun industry’s greatest rebranding success stories.” (The fact that Yablon opens his article by referring to the gun industry as “Big Gun” says alot.)

Yablon saves his best for last, though, concluding his story with the cautionary tale of Stephen Sharp. During a co-worker’s homicidal rampage at a St. Louis power plant in 2010, Sharp was seriously injured after he tried to stop the rampage using a Walther PPK/S .380 that he kept in his truck. Yablon observes  that Sharp “opened fire at Hendron [the homicidal maniac], and kept shooting until he had loosed all six rounds from across the parking lot. None struck Hendron, who returned fire, grievously wounding Sharp before returning to his rampage.”

Walther PPK/S .380 Auto Pistol
Walther PPK/S .380 Auto Pistol

Yablon does not conclude from Sharp’s experience that he would have been better off carrying a full-size 9mm pistol with a 17 round magazine (plus a couple of spares) or an AR-15 with two or three 30 round magazines in his car to make it easier to stop the homicidal maniac. Of course he didn’t, though this is certainly a conclusion that many will draw from the event.

All we are left to think is how foolish Stephen Sharp was to think he could stop an AK-47 wielding homicidal maniac with a measly little .380 pocket pistol.

Yablon also does not relate that before he heroically tried to stop the shooter, putting his own life at risk in the process, Sharp and Matt Elder were trying to carry an injured co-worker, Terry Mabry, across the parking lot to safety. After they were forced to leave Mabry behind because Hendron was closing on them, Hendron fired five more rounds into Mabry at point blank range, killing him. It was at that point that Sharp went to his truck to retrieve his handgun and try to do something to stop the carnage.



  1. Anti-gunners are keen to bring up incidents where someone attempted to counter a threat and it wasn’t a complete and instantaneous success. Nothing is 100%. Even if a threat is not immediately stopped, the delay, distraction, and impediment to the threat is of value.


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