Now a few words from David Reeder about a recent article and Judge Clark’s ruling – enjoy if you’re inclined and feel free to opine. Just remember David never uses a $.25 word when a $5 word will work. Breach-Bang-Clear
Perspectives: Rifles for Hearth and Home
A pro-2A writer recently suggested rifles aren’t a good choice for home defense. An anti-2A Judge says rifles aren’t “in common use” for “self-defense in the home.”
I say, “What fuckery is this?”
These are the two most disturbing recent developments in the firearms world (this week anyway). The article mentioned is 2 years old but recently recirculated the interwebz via social media (which all information good and bad is wont to do periodically). The judge’s ruling came just a couple of days ago. It upholds a Maryland law banning the sale of ‘assault weapons’.
Both are at least partially predicated on the idea that a rifle is not an appropriate weapon for self-defense. I disagree and will explain why. Then I’ll give you the perspective of a dozen SMEs of different backgrounds so you can see what they think. Last I’ll urge you to do some research, spend some time on the range and make some determinations yourself.
The judge in question, U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake, issued a 47-page opinion which said the court “…seriously doubts that the banned long guns are commonly possessed for lawful purposes, particularly self-defense in the home [emphasis added], which is at the core of the Second Amendment right, and is inclined to find the weapons fall outside Second Amendment protection as dangerous and unusual.”
“The Act substantially serves the government’s interest in protecting public safety, and it does so without significantly burdening what the Supreme Court has now explained is the core Second Amendment right of ‘law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.”
The writer, Nick Leghorn, wrote an op-ed on The Truth About Guns (TTAG) in which he says the use of rifles for self-defense is the “dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of.” He goes on to describe the difficulties of maneuvering through a house with a rifle, brings up the badly inaccurate ‘rifles shoot through walls’ argument and suggests a pistol provides additional advantages in the form of leaving one hand free.
“Moving through the hallway to get back to your family and protect them won’t be a problem because the handgun is small and light and fits nicely in the waistband of your Fruit of the Looms if need be (it’s a bad idea, but in a pinch it could work)…Even when doing other tasks such as herding your family into your bedroom and out of harm’s way or barricading the door, the pistol is small enough that you don’t need to put it down to lift things or move stuff.”
As you can imagine, I disagree on every level with Judge Blake. I also take exception with the writer’s stance. She is misinformed and uneducated—he should not have that excuse, but we all have our opinions. I have to wonder if he, a staunch Second Amendment proponent with a ready wit (who, so we’re clear, has written some good articles on TTAG), realizes he is unintentionally reinforcing anti-Second Amendment ideas among the credulous with his inaccuracies.
Are we now basing advice to gun owners and firearms legislation on urban myth?
Let’s put this to rest right now. Rifles are not only a suitable arm for the “defense of hearth and home” they are (all things being equal) the best arm for it. I believe Leghorn is way off on this issue and Judge Blake is so badly uninformed as to defy description (in fact, it’s pretty much without any grounding in reality).
All things being equal (like level of training and of course the availability/legality of the weapon) and stipulating there might be issues of storage and accessibility (meaning not everyone will be able to store a long gun in a readily accessible but secure location), a rifle is the best idea for defense; self-defense, home and hearth defense, business defense. You’re more accurate, you have a greater potential for lethality and have more readily accessible ammunition. Maybe it’s a little harder to maneuver through the restricted confines of a doorway than a Glock and the barrel is going to break the vertical plane sooner than your 1911, but unless you live in Harry Potter’s room under the stairs or you’re humping an 8mm Lebel you’re still better off with a long gun.
Oh, and just as an aside, I suspect the Korean business owners of LA in ’92 and certain business owners of Ferguson, MO this week might have a thing or two to add to the argument. This isn’t, of course, to say a handgun won’t work or that it’s not the appropriate choice for many people, but it would be foolish to suggest a pistol is superior to a carbine. Which would you choose for a gunfight if you knew the other guy had the same choice?
That said, I’m a POG-blooded shooter of middling skill and little experience. I haven’t spent years killing little brown men in mud huts while they were trying to kill me back. I certainly have not pursued marksmanship or ballistics in anything resembling samurai-like fashion. Don’t just take my word for it. Let’s find out what some squared away guys have to say. Ultimately you should carry what you’re most comfortable and most proficient with. No matter what your firearm of choice is, train with it as often and as realistically as you can.
Below you will find the opinions of guys who’ve long since forgotten more than I’ll never know about firearms and tactics. They are listed in the order I was able to get them on the phone: Matt Graham, Kyle Lamb, Steve Fisher, Matt Jacques, Larry Vickers, Michael Lamb, Pat Rogers, Chris Costa, Travis Haley, Rob Pincus and Daryl Holland. I was unable to establish comms with James Yeager, Cazz Castaneda or Jim Smith and I couldn’t reach Yancey Harrington. (He was presumably busy HALO jumping into Victoria Falls with
No.1 No. 5 Recce Commando, stealing a helicopter from the Agrupación Antisecuestros Aéreos or whatever the Most Interesting Man in Arizona does when he’s bored.)
Here’s what they had to say:
Nine out of 10 times I’m gonna take a carbine. The 10th time I’m going to use my pistol to go get it. In the theory of bring enough gun, carbine trumps pistol every time. Everything you can do with a pistol, you can do with a carbine but you have greater lethality. All penetration tests support a carbine, it’s just a better platform.
As far as maneuverability, there is no place you can take a pistol you cannot take a carbine. You can move through confined space with the carbine under the arm, or over the shoulder, and remember the eyes to muzzle distance is the same with a carbine as it is if I’m at extended gun with my pistol. A carbine is a tool—you should know how to use your tool.
The issue becomes, all circumstances become dynamic but people approach them static. People use style, not lifestyle. Style is limiting. Lifestyle is not. The fight is dynamic, not static, but people prefer set questions. They want set questions because it fits set answers. When you’ve been involved in situations you recognize they’re dynamic, there are no set answers. That gunfight might take you outside as things evolve. Your house, David, might be different than mine.
The problem is, people approach it as a task. It’s not a task, it’s a lifestyle. I have this bag, I carry this mag, I run this setup. It’s all very task-oriented, but that’s not the best way to approach it. You need to be able to flow through tasks in a dynamic environment.
Is a carbine the best weapon to use in the house? I don’t know, I don’t know what the fight’s gonna be. Since I don’t know, I’ll take a carbine every time. The key is, don’t focus on the task. Finish the fight, whatever event the fight is.
Matt Graham, Graham Combat
“I tell ya Dave, my first choice for home defense would be a rifle for sure, an AR. One, it’s very maneuverable. If you don’t feel you can maneuver with a carbine you just need some training. I run a 16” gun all the time and have no problem moving it around. Two, you have more firepower, with 30 rounds in the mag—and yes, I run 30 rounds in my 30 rounders.
If some guy thinks you’re going to just shoot through numerous walls with a rifle, that guy doesn’t understand penetration. You have a great selection of ammo to choose from if you’re worked about overpenetration, the pistol is going to penetrate much more significantly than the rifle. Anything that says otherwise is just urban myth. Once you start shooting these guns against different mediums, you’ll see, pistols really penetrate. Most shooters will be more confident with a rifle, even if they can shoot a pistol very well. In a situation like that you’re more accurate with the rifle and you’re quicker on the trigger if it requires multiple rounds to put someone down.
Some of it may be determined by what other members of your family can handle and your situation of course. Now, when it come to this ‘holstering’ a gun in your underwear business – I gotta tell you, underwear’s not gonna hold my pistol up. It’s going to have 15-17 rounds in it minimum, it will have a light on it and I’m probably not going to want to put my gun up if the bad guys still has his out. Anyway, everybody knows that only pussies wear underwear.
Seriously though, there are many advantages to consider when it comes to a rifle for home defense but it will ultimately come down to what the individual is comfortable with and his level of training.
Grab a rifle.
Kyle Lamb, Viking Tactics
Dude, that article’s a train wreck. First off, with a standard 5.56 carbine, say you’re using a 16” barrel…if you press a handgun out to full extension and compare that to shouldering a carbine, the lengths are the same. There’s no difference in maneuverability there. Sure, a handgun is more portable and might be easier for the untrained person to maneuver in tight spaces, to a trained individual the carbine is no less maneuverable. As for the rounds, with proper ammo selection the 5.56 rounds have less penetration of walls and barriers than some of today’s modern handgun ammunition. You can go up to some of the 70 grain TSX loads and still have less penetration than some of those hot pistol loads, and it’s going to expend a lot of energy through those intermediate barriers and start breaking up almost immediately. You have a shoulder fired, lightweight carbine that weighs what, 6 or 7 pounds with a red dot and a white light? It gives you better accuracy under stress, better terminal performance and greater magazine capacity, and you still have the ability to operate it one handed with it braced against the shoulder. There’s a bunch of fucktardery in any argument that a rifle can’t or shouldn’t be used for home defense.
Steve Fisher, Sentinel Concepts
So, first, a handgun is something you use to get you to your rifle. A rifle is a very viable home defense weapon—provided you have the proper training. In fact, proper training and proper planning with your family will eliminate many of the concerns expressed in that article. You don’t necessarily need to move furniture and kids around and you can certainly maneuver through your house—it’s your house. You know the ground. Remember you’ll be more accurate and more effective, as far as lethality, with a rifle vs. a handgun. The last thing we ever need to do is forget or ignore what we’ve learned through decades of experience, watching what bullets from guns do to people. Those that have lived by carrying and using weapons should have some clout in the discussion. Experience is not just a word in the dictionary. Rifles can serve in the home defense role, just like a shotgun can if that is what you choose…but know what your ammo capabilities are, and get some training on safely deploying any firearm. You should also have a family plan for situations that could happen when you’re in your home.
Matt Jacques, Victory First
I would disagree with that [the assertion that a rifle you should not use a rifle for self defense in the home]. Everybody shoots a rifle better. It takes a much higher level of skill to use a handgun efficiently; achieving proficiency with a rifle is substantially easier than with a handgun. That alone trumps any lack of maneuverability. If you have access to a rifle, that should be the first thing you grab. The bottom line is, you’re better off with a carbine with a red dot and a magazine that has roughly twice the magazine capacity of that of a handgun. You’ve got a lot more going for you with a long gun than a handgun.
Davíd, the idea that a rifle is not a good home defense weapon couldn’t be more inaccurate. Now, I can only speak from my own experience—we have to remember it’s the craftsman, not the tool. There is nothing wrong with using a pistol for defense of the home. It’s just not necessarily the best tool. Use of a pistol vs. a rifle makes it even more vital that we remain vigilant of the 4th rule of firearms safety [awareness of foreground and background].
Look at the ballistics. You’re going to get way more over penetration with the pistol than the rifle. That’s just science. A rifle bullet, because it’s long and thin, is going to begin to yaw stroke when it hits. Once the tip of the bullet makes contact with any kind of intermediate barrier or soft tissue, different physics kick in. Most of the mass is at the back of the bus bullet and it wants to catch up to the little end up front. That starts the yaw stroke, when it tumbles and goes end over end. Potentially a huge amount of surface area of the bullet ( the slab side) will push through the soft tissue or barrier. This takes more energy to push through which drastically limits over penetration inside of structures. A pistol round (9mm, .40, .45), by comparison, is just a big, dumb, slow animal. It doesn’t have that spear shape and it’s not going to yaw. A pistol round (9mm, .40, .45), unless it deflects on something like a heavy bone, is likely to go completely through soft tissue and/ or walls. There are plenty of studies out there proving this point. Read Dr Gary Roberts’ ballistic reports. He fucks people up with the truth.
Now, when it comes to maneuverability, what did we use the whole time in the military? Fucking rifles. But it falls to your level of training. You’re not going to suddenly unfuck yourself when someone breaks into your house. Ultimately a threat situation will always come down to your level of training. If you have more training with a handgun, use it, but remember. One of the biggest things we lose on the square range is the 4th safety rule— being aware of our foreground and background. We have range inoculation because we’re used to hitting paper or steel with a big berm or a bullet wall behind it. In real life we don’t have that. If you are going to keep a pistol in the home, you need to train to get off line, which shifts the trajectory of the round in case your kid’s room or your roommate’s room is there on the other side behind the target. Go to a knee, move left or right laterally, but be aware of what is beyond the target.
Michael Lamb, Stoic Ventures
There is absolutely a place for the rifle for home defense, but it’s situational. You’re going to pick the right tool for the right circumstances. Overpenetration? Then you’ve got the wrong rounds. Look at Gary Robert’s study, it’s all about ammunition. I wouldn’t run green tip in my home, you know? Can’t maneuver with it? Learn to maneuver with it. You can maneuver with it in the house, our guys do it overseas all the time.
My home defense gun is a handgun, but I look at home defense in two scenarios. If I’m up and alert, I’ll go to the rifle. Lethality, violence…my goal with a rifle is to drive a person away. I can take the rifle from zero to five hundred yards back. The shotgun and rifle are up and alert guns. My handgun is my holy shit it’s the middle of the night what’s going on gun. That’s 0 to 100mph and the glass breaks or alarms start going off. It’s got a white light on it to ID a bad guy, leaving my other hand free if I need to move my kid behind me. Obviously that’s different if there’s been looting, a disaster, whatever, that’s also a home defense scenario. Then I might have more mags on me, be wearing a rig, be more prepared for an altercation. The shotgun is more violent than a handgun, has more uses, you can breach with it, go less lethal, etc., but for me the rifle is one of those things where I can start pushing them back.
Remember, it’s situational. Can you use a rifle, sure. But if I get home in the minivan and the door’s cracked open and I can account for everybody, I call the cops. If it’s in the middle of the night and someone kicks in the door I go to my handgun and light and have one hand free to manage a kid or 911 or whatever.
Chris Costa, Costa Ludus
I have access to about anything here in the house and my go to gun is an AR. This entire debate is much ado about nothing. The weapon that one chooses has to be: available, usable, sufficient.
Pistols are carried away from home as they are convenient and easily concealed- not because they are efficient. While any handgun is better than a sharp stick, it would not be my first choice. However, if that- for whatever reason- is your only option, then you will have to make do with it.
Many prefer a shotgun, but apparently many believe that myths are in fact reality when it comes to the Gauge.
If you actually believe that running the action has any deterrent value, stop reading this. Likewise, that it doesn’t have to be aimed and any shot fired from it will vaporize a ne’er do well. The shotgun is, however, ubiquitous, and therefore socially acceptable. It is also long…
The 5.56mm carbine (don’t even consider 9x19mm or .40cal long guns to be carbines), especially the AR Family of Weapons is ergonomic, extremely reliable, and carries a sufficient amount of ammunition on board. Even with a 16” barrel it is easy to use within residences. Cops and military do that everyday, and under extreme circumstances. It is certainly shorter than a shotgun with an 18” barrel. It is the easiest of any of the commonly available weapons to manipulate or shoot.
No matter what your choice, don’t presume that what you decide upon is in fact the Holy Grail, and then engage in errornet or Facebook buffoonery as you try to defend your choice.
My Go To gun? A Bravo Company 14.5” carbine, with an Aimpoint T1 and a SureFire P3X light. I am confident in my ability to employ it efficiently.
Your mileage may vary.
Hope this helps.
Pat Rogers, EAG Tactical
Is a rifle the most or least suitable weapon for home defense? That’s a loaded question, I’ll tell you that Dave. Arguing over tools—handgun, shotgun, rifle—it’s not that easy. I need more information than that. I know my capabilities, do you? That’s the first question I’d ask. ‘What’s your skill level?’ There’s also the preparation, cognitive side of the house. Good judgment, good use of angles, good tactics. My primary home defense gun, and this is for me, is a handgun with a light and laser on it.
That doesn’t mean a rifle isn’t a great option, but it’s the requirement you have to consider. It really depends on the situation. Why do you want a handgun vs. a rifle? I’m used to moving with a suppressed carbine and it doesn’t bother me to maneuver with it. My wife carries a handgun so she has one hand free for her phone. It’s a lifestyle and planning question. How big is your house? Who are you? Where do you live? What is your level of training and familiarity with one weapon system vs. the other?
As for caliber, it ain’t about caliber, it’s about shot placement. Ask any trauma surgeon in the world. You can die of a .22 to the heart or survive a half dozen hits from a .40. I would rather avoid a high school argument like rifle vs. pistol or shotgun. It’s like the 9mm vs. .45 debate. Seriously, are we still talking about this? I’d rather focus that energy on a security assessment of the home. Why not use PSD concepts for your own home?
Concentric rings of security, maybe it’s just one ring of exterior lights. Maybe there’s an alarm system. Good locks and keys. Family members know and understand what to do if something happens. Are you relying just on a gun to protect the most precious things in your life? Do you use your own terrain, have visual cues so you know what’s going on inside and outside the residence? Do you know the foreground and background issues you’ll face throughout the home if you have to take a shot?
I’d feel like I was doing an injustice to somebody saying you should use a carbine for home defense, but you certainly can use one. Know your situation and capabilities when you choose.
Travis Haley, Haley Strategic Partners
I hear what he is saying in regard to the average guy moving around his house with a long gun… in fact, I generally tell people who envision themselves moving around the house with a gun, to get family members, check on things themselves or whatever, to stage a pistol with a holster. I’d much rather have someone walking around with a holstered pistol than any gun in their hand if they have family members in the house and no idea what is going on. Rifles and shotguns are great tools for someone who is barricaded and stationary. There is a lot of ego involved in people saying that they are going “clear” their house and what not… I’ve watched many great teams miss things while working together… anyone who thinks they are going to grab their AR and ‘clear their house’ on their own needs a reality check… and a holstered pistol.
You have ignorant people, especially politicians, who have no idea what they’re talking about. People say, “Barricade your house with a shotgun.” Others saying a rifle “is a dumb idea” when their sole experience is shooting paper. You know, a shotgun has pellets—very few people can account for every pellet and I’m big on a accountability. Whether your backdrop is the skin of an aircraft or the sheetrock of a house, you gotta hit what you’re aiming at. That’s why you use a rifle, it’s a great tool. It’s a precise tool. It’s the best tool in your inventory. If you have one dude with a carbine and another dude with the pistol, the dude with the carbine wins every time.
Sure, there are some people who can do great things with a pistol, but that’s just a handful. In the hands of an average shooter, if there is a choice between pistol and rifle, a rifle is the way to go. There’s a reason we use carbines—shot placement. Shot placement, shot placement, shot placement. It’s easier to put the round where you want it with a carbine than a pistol, bottom line.
You can be a world class paper shooter and very accomplished and still know little or nothing about tactics—leave that to the guys who have done it. You can’t replace experience. Politicians don’t talk to people who know, or have done it. They have no idea.
What if it’s a hostage situation? What if someone kicks in your door and has a gun to your 70 year old mom’s head? How you gonna shoot the medulla if you have a pistol and you’re an average shooter? If you’re using a shotgun, can you avoid hitting her with a pellet?
You don’t know what the situation is going to be, so if you have a choice and if you’re switched on enough to know which end the bullet comes out of, you go with the precision instrument. A carbine is the best tool hands down.
There you have it. Definitely a few things to think about, including some opposing perspectives. Let me be clear – there’s nothing wrong with choosing a pistol to defend yourself or your home but it’s not the best choice. That’s just, you know, science. I also don’t want to be seen as leading even a desultory mob with pitchforks and torches; this isn’t an attack on Leghorn or The Truth About Guns. It seems like writers are often just one bad article away from crucifixion, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as it’s not a good writer—or, you know, me.
Leghorn’s a good writer with his finger on the pulse of the firearms industry and he’s certainly pro-2A. However, anyone promulgating inaccurate, potentially dangerous information should be called to task – particularly if that person has a bully pulpit. Maybe Leghorn and others like him should spend some time in a shoot house or on the range shooting barriers with one of the guys I quoted above. He’s clearly not prepared to talk tactics or science and needs to correct that.
Note – I have no problem leading a mob with pitchforks and torches against Judge Blake. Half an hour of Google might have saved her from looking like a victim of Windex poisoning.
Still have doubts? Get some drywall and go to the range; get some training that involves movement in a constricted space. Measure out or pace off the the longest hallway and widest room in your house and use that as a baseline for some drills at the range. Develop confidence based on your own experience. That’s the best kind anyway.
In a couple days we’ll run the opinions of assorted other wretched minions, but that’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll leave you with the immortal words of Paul Gomez. Go forth and conquer.
“Guys. It’s not a matter of can you shoot a pistol. Anything you can do with a pistol you can do easier, with less effort, and more impact on threat, with a long gun. Pistols…are not the tool of choice to bring to a fight for your life.”
That’s it for now. Go forth and conquer.
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