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Self defense in the home is not so simple

June 14, 2009

A recent issue of Shooting Times magazine had an interesting article about firearms for home defense. It started me thinking about my own situation and I thought I would share my ideas. But, first let me make a disclaimer. My methods do not reflect the policy of The Morning Journal, nor do I recommend that you consider this column as advice for your own home defense. Those decisions are yours and yours alone.

The article covered three different firearms: an AR type of rifle, a shotgun, and a handgun. I immediately ruled out the rifle. In the close confines of a home, there is no need for a rifle. Just about any rifle cartridge is capable of penetrating a wall and your loved ones might be on the other side. Save the rifle for four legged varmint hunting, such as coyotes.

Time and again I have heard a pump action shotgun recommended for anyone without proper firearm training. The idea is that just the sound of a pump action being cycled will scare the bejabbers out of a burglar. If he doesn't run, the shotgun pellets will cover an entire wall and even a novice cannot miss. Those are the stories. Are they truth of myth?

I agree that any bad guy with an ounce of brains will leave tread marks on your carpet if he hears the cycling of a pump action shotgun. This assumes, however, that the guy is not high on some sort of brain altering drug, or just plain stupid. I keep seeing the security commercial on TV and I always wonder why the burglars sneak right past the sign in the yard advertising a security system before they attempt to break in. They seem so surprised when the alarm goes off. I think it is better to assume that not all criminals have control of their own actions.

Will that stubby shotgun have a pattern that will cover an entire wall? Here is where you actually need to fire a gun before you depend on it for protection. Those of us who hunt pattern our shotguns at 40 yards. This is the best distance to determine the spread of the pattern through various chokes. I count the number of shot kept in a 30-inch circle. I also pattern my shotguns at closer and farther ranges just o get a clear picture of my guns effectiveness with a variety of ammunition and chokes.

If you intend to use a shotgun for home protection, and have access to a safe shooting range, here is a test you should try. Measure the length of a couple of your rooms to learn the actual shooting distance. I doubt you will be shooting at more than about 8 yards. At the range, tack up a newspaper or other large sheet of paper or cardboard. Pace off the distance of your average room; aim at the center of the paper and fire. You might be surprised at how tight the pattern is at this short distance.

The shotgun will work fine, but you need to know its limitations. No firearm is perfect and all take a certain amount of practice.

The handgun takes more practice than any if you want to become proficient, but Shooting Times selected the handgun as the best home defense weapon. I tend to agree, with certain reservations. A powerful handgun also presents the problem of wall penetration, although there are new self defense loads available that penetrate less. My other reservation is having the right handgun and learning to use it.

Some gun store owners will likely disagree, but the article recommended a revolver over a semi-automatic. I know that there are some sexy looking semi-autos out there, but a revolver is simpler to use, especially in a scary situation. With a revolver there is no safety to disengage or slide to pull; you just pull the trigger and it goes bang. Granted that you have only six shots, but if you need more than six shots in a 20-foot bedroom, chances are that you are in real trouble.

No matter which firearm you choose, please keep in mind that this is not a TV program. Dealing with life and death is a serious matter. Shooting the worst criminal in the world still presents moral and legal consequences that could last you a lifetime.

This column is not a recommendation one way or the other. The one thing I do recommend is that you do as I do and pray to God that you will never be forced to defend your home.



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