Sunday, December 23, 2012

Just the Basics - Home Defense – Weapons


The bottom line with weapons is that ANYTHING can be used as a weapon – it just depends on the circumstances. I want to discuss the three basic defensive weapons most people choose – then offer some thoughts about “at hand” weapons when you are caught without a firearm.

The three basic defensive weapons most people turn to are a pistol, carbine or shotgun . Each has advantages and disadvantages, each have multiple configurations and each will “do the job”. Let’s talk about them for a bit.

Defensive Handgun: A defensive handgun is probably the weapon you are most familiar with. For me the weapon at my bedside is the weapon on my hip each and every day – a Glock 17. The advantage to having your carry weapon as your primary defensive weapon at home is that this is the weapon you have chosen as your “go-to” gun to protect yourself, your family or friends when you are “out and about”. Presumably, this weapon gets a great workout on the range on a frequent basis. It is well maintained, always loaded and its use and function have become integrated into your body.

If some of these statements don’t “ring true” for you – if you do not shoot your carry weapon frequently, if you can’t quickly clear malfunctions, if you don’t strip it down and clean it frequently – I would urge you to change your habits or your weapon. Do whatever it takes to learn the use of this defensive tool.

The traditional argument between revolvers and semi-automatic pistols also enters the fray here as well. I tend towards a semi-automatic pistol because the volume of ammunition in the weapon and the ease of reloads is attractive to me. That does not mean that a person familiar with revolvers – and with a number of loaded speed-loaders – can’t be just as effective as I when defending their home against an armed intruder. Use the weapon you are most familiar with and – I would add – the one you carry daily.

Handgun Ammunition: Rule number four: “Always know what is in front of – and behind – your target.”  This is especially true in a home defense situation. There are innumerable stories of fathers killing sons who snuck in the house unexpectedly. Either the son didn’t identify themselves and make their presence known or the father shot before truly identifying his target. A tragedy with life-long consequences.

Just as important is to be CERTAIN of your fields of fire, the location of all family members and the capability of the ammunition in your handgun. Once all family members are accounted for and your field of fire is clear then – and only then – should you engage a mortal threat.

There is a broad range of ammunition available for personal defense. In general the bullet the casing holds can be lumped into two primary categories – solid lead and “hollow-point”.

Solid lead bullets: These are simply “balls” of lead that, when entering a body, will expend energy as they pass through the body creating damage and a wound channel. There is typically little deformation of the bullet and the wound channel is limited to the diameter of the bullet plus a bit of expansion due to the kinetic energy of the bullet. They have great penetration capability and can easily total penetrate a person plus a couple of walls or house siding. For defensive purposes in general – and especially within a home – this is not the best choice of defensive bullet.

Hollow-Point Bullets: These are also lead bullets but with a cone-shaped hole in the end of the bullet. With many they are also scored to insure uniform expansion and many times the outside is coated with a bonded layer of copper.  Many new rounds are filled with a pliable rubber material to fill the cavity in the end of the bullet to make sure the bullet does not expand while penetrating a couple layers of clothing.

There are a couple of advantages to a hollow-point bullet; they are designed to expand quickly to approximately twice the diameter of the bullet. This increases the size of the wound channel doing more damage to the threat. And, it allows more energy to bleed off the bullet quicker helping to insure that the bullet remains inside the threat rather than exiting only to pass through a wall or another person. Hollow points are typically the round of choice for a defensive handgun.

Do your research, talk to knowledgeable professionals in your area and then choose a defensive round that will meet your needs best.

Flashlight / Weapon Light: A flashlight of some type is a must in a home defense situation. The power may be our, your power may be cut, the breakers may be thrown . . . and you’re in the dark. In this case you have two primary choices – a hand-held flashlight or a weapon mounted light. Again, pros and cons for each choice.

A hand-held flashlight offers you the maximum flexibility. You can momentarily flick it on to look into a room or down a hall. It can be flashed on a ceiling to provide illumination of an entire room. It can even act as a secondary weapon. This is my personal choice in my home, a separate hand-held flashlight.

A weapon mounted light insures the threat you are attempting to identify can be illuminated while you have two hands on your gun. I like that. But, what ever you want to “light up” will be muzzled by your handgun – and that could be a “friendly”. I don’t like that.

Make your choice, give them a try, do a couple of “dry runs”. Remember, attempting to stop an intruder in a dark house can be a real bear . . . . .

Defensive Carbine: These have really gained in popularity over the years. The new adjustable stock, 16” barrel carbines provide a powerful, large capacity weapon with plenty of stopping power for any type of threat in a very compact form factor.

There are a number of things that I believe are real considerations for their use inside your home.

It takes more space to maneuver around with a carbine than a pistol. It is very easy to expose your barrel to the inside of a room well before you are in a position to engage a threat inside the room. They are “two handed” weapons meaning that weapon lights are typical the choice – easily leading to muzzling “friendlies’. And, when opening doors, you will have to take one hand off your weapon – not a good idea going into a room with a potential bad guy

The ammunition tends to be FMJ rounds which will have significant penetrating power and the ability to span the threat as well as interior walls quite easily.

Again, if you are intent on using your carbine as your home defense weapon, train with it. “Clear” your home, get used to its weapons light, wear a sling to aid in retention. And, work through any difficulties you find before you actually have to defend your turf.

Defensive Shotgun: “Why, I’ll just let’em have it with a load of double-ought buckshot!! That’ll fix’em!!!” Yep, probably true, and it may well penetrate an interior wall or two as well. The allure of shotguns is the mental image of a massive load of pellets bringing down the most aggressive intruder. While that may be true, you have all the same considerations with a shotgun that you did with a carbine – they are physically large (in fact they would typically be much longer than a carbine), they require two hands, they would probably require a weapon-mounted light. Movement within your home would be made much more difficult simply because of its size.

Defensive Shotgun Ammunition: This would typically fall into three categories – slugs, buckshot and birdshot. A shotgun slug consists of a sizable chunk of lead with substantial muzzle velocity as it leaves the barrel. Again, you are left with a penetration problem – the slug would easily completely penetrate the threat and keep right on going. You may well run into the same issue with buckshot – especially with shot that missed the threat. Bird shot offers the benefit of substantial stopping power and “shock factor” while limiting the possibility of penetration of other rooms by pellets that missed your threat.

Your “battle buddy”: With the exception of the single home/apartment dweller, you will not be the only person in the home. There may well be a partner, spouse or child that is depending on you for their defense. Or, they may be able to provide backup to you in your defense. We’ll talk about the specifics of this more when we get to the “Engagements” post, but there is one thing I want to address here – weapons training for other people in your home is a must. This past year, children as young as 12 have found it necessary to defend their lives with firearms. I find this a sad commentary on the state of civilization in the US – and commend the parents that loved their child enough to insure they could protect themselves. If you have firearms in your home for personal defense – make sure everyone old enough to handle the firearm is fully trained in firearm safety and trained in your weapon’s use.

A final topic – weapons at hand: If a bad guy comes bursting through your front door, you may have little or no time to make it to your defensive position within your home. If you have chosen to NOT wear your weapon at home (yet another reminder – WEAR YOUR DAMN GUN), you will have to make do with what is at hand. If you have developed a habit of carrying secondary EDC weapons in your pockets (knife, defensive pen or flashlight), now would be a good time to “load and make ready” – draw your knife and flashlight and use them to fight for your life – because HELP IS NOT COMING! Look around, what else can you use? A lamp, fireplace tool, ball bat, knife from the kitchen . . . . there are weapons at hand to use, you simply never think of them that way. Next evening you are stretched out in your recliner, look around the room – what would you use if a bad guy burst through the door . . . . . right . . . . . NOW!!!!

Your home is your sanctuary – that place on the planet where you deserve to be safe. And yet, evil exists and cares little about what is right or wrong.

You have all the time in the world – now – to prepare . . . .

Got your gun on ya?????

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