Ballistics by the inch

Reprise: Give in to the Power of the Dark Side — Converting Non-shooters

Prompted by my friends over at the Liberal Gun Club, this is another in an occasional series of revisiting some of my old articles which had been published elsewhere over the years, perhaps lightly edited or updated with my current thoughts on the topic discussed. This is an article I wrote for, and it originally ran 8/5/2011. Some additional observations at the end.


I swear, sometimes I feel like a Sith Lord.

Friends and acquaintances will find out that I’m “into” guns. We’ll be chatting and there will be this odd moment where I can see it in their eyes: attraction, mixed with not a little fear.

If they know me at all, either through interaction or by reputation, they probably have a certain expectation. I’m a professional book & document conservator. I used to own a big art gallery. For years I wrote a column about the arts for the local newspaper. I even gained some small measure of fame as a conceptual artist.  I was the primary care-provider for my elderly mother-in-law, and have been praised for my gentleness and compassion. I’ve published two books, and am working to complete a third. Based on that, they have probably put me into a nice little box in their mental map of the world.

That I am a gun owner, someone with a CCW, and even one of the principals behind the world’s premier handgun ballistics resource usually comes as a bit of a surprise.


Yes, I like this reaction. I like what it does to people: forces them to reconsider some of their stereotypes.

And I also like that it gives me the opportunity to tempt them. To corrupt them. By taking them shooting.

What can I say? I’m evil. You know, like a Dark Lord of the Sith.


I don’t know how many people I have done this to. Not enough. I want to turn more of them. To have them hold a gun in their hands, to learn how they can control it, to use it safely.

Because I have found that this is key – turning their fear of something they do not understand into a tool that they can use. I tap into the strong emotion of fear, subvert it, direct it. It becomes a motivator. It helps them understand that a gun needs to be respected and handled safely.

We go through the formula of the Four Rules. They handle the revolver, the pistol, and the rifle before the ammunition ever comes out of storage. We study cartridge, and bullet, and caliber. And then I reveal the mysteries of sighting, breathing, and trigger control.

We go to the range. There is the ritual of eye and hearing protection. A review of safety commands. An invocation of the formula of the Four Rules.

I take out a .22 rifle. Load it with one round only. Tension builds. I am down range at a simple target and fire the gun.

Now they’re almost hooked. There’s anticipation, almost a hunger as they watch me.

I check the gun to make sure it is unloaded. Hand it over, have them check it. Give them one round, have them load it. Carefully, they seat the rifle, take aim. When they are ready, I have them click off the safety, put their finger on the trigger and squeeze.

You can see it in their eyes. A part of them has come alive. A part they feared. Because they did not understand it.

Usually, they get a big smile on their face. Or maybe that comes later, when we shoot one of the handguns. Sometimes it takes until we get to one of the magnums, something with a real kick to it. A big badda-BOOM! But when that happens, every one of them is hooked.

Oh, not necessarily hooked in the sense of going out and getting their own guns, and taking up shooting sports as a lifetime activity. No, hooked in the sense of understanding at an almost cellular level what the appeal is: the ability to control a kind of power they never had before.

I have opened up a whole new world for them. Shown them possibilities they didn’t know existed. Gave them a taste of the potential they had locked away.

Some of them do get hooked in the sense of wanting to learn how to use that potential. They start asking me about the nuts and bolts of getting their own gun, what it takes to pass the state CCW requirements, the advantages of this caliber or that design. They become a convert.

But even if they don’t, they no longer have an irrational fear of guns because they now know something about them – something practical and hands-on—you can almost watch their stereotyping melt and wash away. They understand that guns are not inherently “evil” – they’re just a tool, which can be used by anyone willing to put in the time to learn how to do so.

And as we pack up from our trip to the range, I’ll usually joke that I have “turned them to the Dark Side.”

Like the good Sith Lord that I am.



Yeah, OK, now you know why I’m not the “Jim Downey” who was an SNL writer.

But I was trying to have a little fun with the idea of ‘turning’ someone on the subject of firearms, because it is a very real experience I’ve had countless times.


Jim Downey

July 30, 2017 Posted by | .22, .44 Magnum, Discussion. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


So, a small milestone: sometime today this blog will break the 100,000 visits mark.

Not huge by the measure of many websites. But pretty respectable for a little blog where there isn’t a lot of posting. And it got to the 100k mark in less time, and with only about one-tenth of the posts, as my personal blog.

So, yay! Thanks to everyone who has stopped by or who has shared this blog with others. We appreciate your support!


Jim Downey

PS: Since I know someone will wonder, the BBTI site itself gets about 25,000 visits in a typical month, though that number can spike to 10x that size in months when we post new data. To date we’ve had something in excess of 25 million visits.

September 17, 2014 Posted by | Anecdotes, Links | , , | 4 Comments

Happy Thanksgivuk … er, I mean Birthday!

OK, first: Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow Americans. And Happy Hanukkah to all who observe it!

But most of all,

Happy Birthday to BBTI!

Yeah, it’s our fifth birthday. We officially launched the site on Thanksgiving in 2008.  And it’s been a fun romp since then. We’ve gone through many different iterations on the site, adding in more calibers/cartridges, doing the big cylinder gap test, tweaking this and changing that. We’ve shot something on the order of 22,000 – 23,000 rounds. We’ve had something in excess of 20 million hits to the site. We’ve invested more than $50,000 and untold hundreds of hours of labor. And we’ve become pretty much the default resource for anyone who has needed (or just wondered about) data pertaining to handgun ammunition performance over barrel length. Like I said, it’s been fun! Thanks for helping to make it so!

And since it is our birthday, it’s time for a gift in the form of a whole new section to the BBTI website:

Polygonal v. Traditional L&G Rifling (“Glock tests”)

From that page:

For years people have wondered about the effects of the different styles of rifling, and whether one or the other would offer specific advantages for accuracy or velocity from a given cartridge.  But since many different factors can have an effect on both accuracy and velocity, these discussions have largely remained anecdotal.  We decided to see whether we could generate data as to performance differences between the two styles of rifling as concerns bullet velocity, using our standard chop-test techniques.  The data on this page is the result of those tests.

Check it out when you get a chance! And thanks again to all who have shared links to our site, who have sent us emails, who have contributed to help offset our costs — you folks have made our success possible, and it is very much appreciated.


Jim Downey

PS: as a personal thanks as well, I have made both my first novel and our care-giving memoir available for free download for today and tomorrow (Nov. 28th & 29th).

November 28, 2013 Posted by | 9mm Luger (9x19), Anecdotes, Data, Discussion., Links | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Take a chance on a holster.

I haven’t mentioned it here yet, but last weekend I launched a Kickstarter project to support my next novel:

St. Cybi’s Well – a prequel to Communion of Dreams by Jim Downey

Prequel to the popular novel Communion of Dreams. Get an early release download or a hand-bound copy in your choice of cover material.

So, *why* am I mentioning it here now?

Well, yesterday I got an unexpected box in the mail. Sometime a few weeks back I contributed a few bucks to a firearms-related website, and was entered into a drawing for various goodies. I never win these things, but participate just to be supportive of groups I like. Anyway, as you might have guessed, I actually won something for a change. This is what the box contained:

Here’s the holster with my Springfield EMP in it:

This is a perfectly nice holster, made by  It’s marked as being for an “L-frame” S & W revolver with a 2.5″ barrel, but as you can see it isn’t molded specifically for that, and seems suitable for IWB use with a range of medium-to-small guns. I also tried my Steyr S9 and M357 guns, which fit perfectly, and smaller guns such as a Bond Arms derringer would also work, but ride deeper in it. A full-size 1911 and my Colt Python both fit fine, but the barrel protrudes out the end.

Now, the thing is, while this is a mighty fine holster, it’s made to be either used IWB or OWB left-handed. Note the position of the clip in the second image above. To me, it’s useless (or almost so). As I was thinking of how to find a new home for it, I also got to thinking about several other holsters of varying quality I have which I have wound up with but which I never use and I had another idea: use them for a promotion for the Kickstarter.

So, here’s the deal: make any kind of contribution to the Kickstarter (as little as $1.00 – I won’t mind), and enter into a drawing for a holster. Please note that this is *IN ADDITION* to the other rewards there on the Kickstarter – all perfectly good and valuable rewards. Then just come here and leave a comment, or post it on the BBTI Facebook page, or send me a Tweet. I’ll enter your name into a completely separate drawing. And each week or so while the Kickstarter is going I’ll select a name and send that person whichever holster is up for grabs. Each winner’s name will go back into the hat for the next drawing, so you have multiple chances to win (meaning that the sooner you enter, the better for you).

If you’ve already contributed to the Kickstarter, just let me know and your name will go in the hat for the first drawing (and subsequent ones).

So, what are you waiting for? Go – get entered!

Jim Downey

September 21, 2012 Posted by | .357 Magnum, .357 SIG, .45 ACP, 9mm Luger (9x19), Discussion., Links | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments