Saturday, May 21, 2011

Stopping Power

Long ago and far away, I was a private eye. When I moved back to Louisiana from L.A., My brother and I opened our own agency, Perry and Perry Confidential Investigators. We worked our own cases, but most of what we did was sub-contracting for a lawyer/investigator who was much better established. The pay was okay, there was plenty of work, and it was interesting.

This was Ron Johnston and Associates, and we were the associates. There was a period there of a year or so when we were the go-to guys for P.I. biz in Baton Rouge, and we had some adventures ...

Ron, a balding, nervous, two-pack-a-day smoker, was doing well enough that he decided to buy a wine and cheese place. This was called The Bottle Shop, and it was ahead of its time–they probably sold more Mad Dog and cheap Gallo than anything else. Ron kept it for a while and then got rid of it. It was on Government Street, across from the entrance to the Rebel Drive In Theater.

Now and again, when the regular clerk was sick or otherwise unavailable, I would sometimes cover the stick-up shift, from six until midnight. Mostly that gave me a chance to catch up on my reading, since business was slow at best, and glacially so during those hours. 

There was a big container of Slim Jims on the counter, and for those of you who have never indulged in such, these were long and skinny sticks of compressed-something that was a spicy, greasy, salty, jerky-like snack. Vile things, and I used to eat three or four of them every time I worked there.

I told you that story so I could tell you this story:

Ron kept a .32 S&W revolver under the counter at the wine shop, just in case. Ron was not a shooter, he had a couple of old handguns, and the ammo in the one at the shop was so old the brass was turning green. Only five rounds in the gun, and one empty shell under the hammer.

I knew the gun was there, I checked it, and though I never needed it, it was comforting to know I could lay my hands on it in an emergency.

Well, comforting until I found the box of envelopes ...

Because the shift was so quiet and there was usually little to do, and because I was, after all, a private eye who got paid to snoop, when the place was empty, I took the opportunity to poke around. Under the counter were business-related things, including a box of #10 envelopes. I happened to notice that there was a small hole in the end of the box.


So I opened it up, and lo, the first twenty or thirty of these were ripped along the top edges, and at the end of the furrow was an expended .32 round.

It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out: Gun under the counter, one empty in the cylinder, box of envelopes with a bullet in it. The only questions were, who had fired the shot? And why?

I pointed this out to Ron, and to shorten the story, the regular clerk who at first denied it, eventually admitted to plinking the box. Why? Because he was bored, and he wanted to see if the gun worked. 

It did work, sort of, but the next time I clerked in the shop, I brought my own gun with me. If a round from the .32 wouldn't penetrate more than a few inches of paper envelopes, it didn't seem like it was apt to stop a robber lusting after some MD 20/20 and the contents of the register ...


kdorian said...

That does sound kind of unimpressive, but paper turns out to be surprisingly resistant.

I don't have any figures, but I did try to stab a stack of paper once (long story) and was very surprised to discover I had only managed to penetrate around a quarter to a third of an inch into the paper; I'd have expected to easily go all the way through a 5 to 7 pound rump roast with an equivalent blow.

There are also any number of stories of people being saved by pocket bibles, and the case of Teddy Roosevelt, whose life was saved by the manuscript for a speech he was planning on giving.

Paper: Not quite a bulletproof vest, but better than nothing! :D

kdorian said...

Sometimes I need to keep reading before I hit post. Turns out some of those pocket bibles had metal covers - and the site that has the Roosevelt story failed to mention that the bullet also went through his steel eyeglasses case.

However, for something more definitive, here's a guy who tested out the 'bullet stopped by a pocket bible' stories by firing different calibers at a stack of books and seeing how far they went - the 32 only got about 1 1/8" in.