Discussion on the .25 auto

So we were sitting at the table in the hospitality room here at Circus Circus talking about small backup guns and someone mentioned how a visitor to his blog got all bent out of shape because of disparaging remarks about the .25 auto. I went looking with my cell phone web browser for what Jeff Cooper had to say about the .25, which is how I would handle someone defending the .25 as a defensive tool. I found the quotes but the moment had passed. Here they are–better late than never I guess:

We hear of an unfortunate woman who, during an nighttime asthma attack, confused the small handgun she kept under her pillow with an asthma inhaler and proceeded to relieve her symptoms. It was not a fatal mistake, partly because she used a 25 ACP, which everyone knows is not sufficient to clear sinuses.

From John B. Hubbard of Bangor, Maine 
Jeff Cooper
Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries
Vol. 2, No. 2
31 January 1994

Our old buddy Gene Harshbarger from Guatemala reports a recent episode with the 25 ACP pistol cartridge. It seems that Gene’s cousin was set upon by a trio of car thieves who shot him once almost dead center with that dinky little pistol. The bullet entered at a very flat angle, however, proceeded laterally just inside the pectoral muscle, and exited after about 5 inches of traverse, continuing on into the target’s left arm.

The cousin hit the deck and started shooting back, whereupon the assailants split. When he stood up the bullet slid out of his left sleeve and bounced on the pavement. It penetrated the jacket, but not the skin of his left arm.

As we used to teach in the spook business, carry a 25 if it makes you feel good, but do not ever load it. If you load it you may shoot it. If you shoot it you may hit somebody, and if you hit somebody – and he finds out about it – he may be very angry with you.

Jeff Cooper
From Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries
Vol. 4, No. 14
December 1996

In looking for Cooper’s advice I also found Ayoobs:

A .25 is a nice thing to have when you’re not carrying a gun.

 Massad F. Ayoob
 On the use of .25 caliber handgun.
 In the Gravest Extreme
 End of chapter 14
 ISBN 0-936297-001


4 thoughts on “Discussion on the .25 auto

  1. I carried a slightly less dinky pistol for a while– a Beretta .32 ACP. It was a beautifully designed piece in all respects, but after a while it scared me: I tried shooting some fir 2 x 4s and the 60 grain silvertips wouldn’t penetrate them. FMJs wouldn’t penetrate them either. That did it– I traded it for a heavy .45 that wears out my pockets, but which will punch some good holes in things.

  2. Joe, I tend to agree with you when it comes to the lowly .25, but I’d like to relate a story from a couple of years ago from talk.politics.guns (you can do a search on it.) One of the regulars owned a pawn shop in Crystal River (I believe) Florida. A young man went in to purchase a .357 revolver, but the background check came in “delayed.” He advised the young man to return later, as it was probably only a glitch. He came back a day or so later, but the background check came back “denied,” so he advised the young man on what he could do to get the denial overturned, and apologized that he could not complete the transaction. The young man left the store, and the shop owner went on about his business.

    He was sitting at his desk when the young man returned to the shop, armed with a samurai sword. While there was a pistol on his desk, he was so startled by the man coming at him he pushed away from the desk, narrowly avoiding being skewered. From that point forward, he did everything he could to keep away from the pig-sticker, as he was pursued through the store. He couldn’t get to a loaded rifle he kept behind a nearby door. His defensive shotgun lay in pieces on a pad where he had been cleaning it, etc. Finally, in the back of the store, he attempted to get into his office and close the door on his assailant.

    He didn’t make it. He was stabbed through the abdomen, the blade protruding from his back.

    It was at that moment he remembered his tiny Browning .25 Automatic in his back pocket. At that moment, he said, he knew he was going to live. With his left hand grasping the blade so that his assailant couldn’t withdraw it from his body, he drew the little pistol, and fired five shots into the man at the other end of the blade. A couple went into the assailant’s hand, but two went into his head – one through the eye socket. He was DRT – “dead right there.”

    The .25 ain’t much, but when it’s all you have, it’s better than nothing.

  3. Kevin, thank you for illustrating an exception to the advice of Cooper and Ayoob.

    If you read very closely you might notice that I didn’t actually agree with the conclusions of Cooper and Ayoob.

    I advise my students on gun selection as follows:

    1) The best gun to have is the one you will have when you need it. You can’t get much better than the .44 Mag or the .50 Desert Eagle in terms of handgun “stopping power” but it’s a very rare person that will be able to carry one of those monsters on a regular basis and if concealment is an issue that makes it even less likely.

    2) Reliability. If you can’t count on it going BANG when you pull the trigger you are better off with a knife.

    3) Can you hit what you need to hit with it? You might be able to cause severe pain and permanent hearing loss from a miss with your .44 or .50 caliber handgun but that might not be enough to save your life. You must be able to hit your target with high velocity lead in order to guarantee an appropriate attitude shift in your assailant. You aren’t going to be able to shoot well if you can’t or won’t practice with it. The large caliber handguns can cause more pain and fear to the shooter than many assailants. The recoil, noise, and cost of shooting all enter into this.

    4) Caliber and velocity of the cartrige. The bullet should be a) as heavy and b) as fast as practical given all the previous criteria are met.

    For one student, a ~60 year old woman who was not much over 5′ tall, frail, and a judge with sometimes less than happy “customers” I was satisfied that a .22LR revolver was probably the best gun for her. Even a .38 Special was just too much for her weak hands. And her hands were just too weak to rack the slide of any semi-auto except perhaps a .22 or .25. She didn’t seem to have the mechanical sense to run a semi-auto and so there weren’t many options left. Since more than 90% of defensive uses of firearms don’t result in a shot being fired I felt she was much better off after class with her CWL and a gun than before without either.

    If the student simply can’t afford anything more then the .25 or .22 could be the firearm of choice as well.

    I would only be insistent the .25/.22 was useless or even less than useless if the student told me they intended to use it as defense against wild animals. In that case I would recommend pepper spray as being the better choice if something much more powerful were impractical.

    I put forth the Cooper and Ayoob quotes primarily for the humor value. Despite there being more than a grain of truth in the quotes I do not consider them to be definitive answers for all situations.

  4. Hey Joe,

    That was me with the .25 auto story. I was expressing an opinion to Bill Quick at Daily Pundit that a Kimber Pro Carry in .45 Auto would be a good choice for concealed carry.

    Bill’s Post:

    I’m shopping for a deep-concealment handgun. I’m looking at either the North American Arms .22 Magnum Mini-Revolver, or the Beretta Tomcat. (I’ve already got a Beretta 950, which I guess is more or less the current Bobcat model in .25, but I want more oomph).What I really wanted was one of these, but apparently the idiot regulators in Kalifornia have banned them as being “unsafe.”Thoughts? Opinions? Other suggestions?

    Posted by ***** on March 5, 2006 08:40 PM| Permalink (see Update)

    I Answered

    “I think I can help you out.

    First of all, .25 caliber will only piss someone off if you use your Beretta. .22 mag is for small long-range varmints, not big ones.

    If someone is intent on wreaking havoc upon your person, you do not want them to be pissed off in the process.

    First stop in the decision process: caliber.
    Answer: .45

    Next stop type:
    Answer: most any of the 1911 variants will be fine, but for carry, look first at the Kimber Pro Carry line, then compare everything else you see against that.

    Hope this helps.”

    Bill response was that a .22 fired into my ear would produce some serious results.

    I responded, “If you can count on getting close enough to aim into someone’s ear, a number 2 pencil will be just as effective.”

    The posts were deleted.

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