Saturday, April 14, 2007

Long gun or pistol in the home?

I read several gun related forums at various times to keep an ear out for product news what people are talking about. One topic constantly amazes me; the discussion of what type of firearm to use for home defense. The fascinating aspect is that, by far, most people talk about using a shotgun or a rifle and downplay the use a handgun. What AR should I use? Is buckshot OK inside? Is birdshot a better choice?

For me, I much prefer a handgun for most aspects of defending the inside of my home. I certainly acknowledge that long guns offer far better stopping power compared to a handgun, but the reason I prefer a handgun is because it is more practical.

Working within the confines of a typical home, the reality of dealing with light switches, doors, and family members often requires that one hand be available for extraneous use while the other operates the firearm. When the subject comes up in my tactical handgun classes, I have each participant in the class handle a shotgun while opening doors, activating light switches in the classroom and guiding family members to the a “safe room”. Inevitably, each student is forced to hold the shotgun with just one hand, usually for an extended time. Each time, often within ten seconds, the person quickly realizes how heavy and awkward it is to handle a shotgun with just one hand.

Let’s look at it from a naysayer’s point of view. “Light switches can be activated by shoulders and elbows while maintaining two hands on the long gun.” That may be true, but under extreme stress that method probably won’t be easy, plus, the instinctive method is to use your hands, and under extreme stress most people revert to what is instinctive. “It only takes a second to use a door knob”. Ok, I agree, that is true.

Some may say that “family members should be trained on what to do in a crisis and should not need to be directed.” Well, let’s be practical. How many of us have actually trained with our family members? Of those who have, do you drill often enough so that every member of the family is completely sure of what to do by instinct and won’t panic if an attack comes? Will your family know how to react if the event occurs differently than planned? Will anyone panic regardless of their training? What do you do if you have small children? In many, if not most cases, a leader must take charge, direct the family members, and ward off the attack.

Let’s say that you have trained yourself to open and close doors quickly, turn lights on and off with extraneous body parts, and you have no one else living with you. Is a handgun still the best choice? In my opinion, again, yes.

In order to not give your position away and to prevent a gun grab when negotiating travelways through the home, a gun should not protrude beyond a corner or through a doorway. To survey around a corner or pass through a doorway, a long gun must be lowered or raised to keep it from view. Due to its length and weight, that’s not easy to do, especially so with just one hand. Additionally, if you are limited to one hand, it’s not easy to get a long gun back on target in a hurry from a raised or lowered position. Whether you have one hand or two on your weapon, it is far easier to negotiate doorways with a handgun.

While a short-barreled rifle or shotgun is most often the weapon of choice for law enforcement entry teams, there is quite a difference between an entry team and a typical homeowner. First off, police are highly trained and practiced. Secondly, they are a team. One officer can operate the doors and deal with innocents while other members make entry and take care of business.

A long gun does have a presence in my home defense plan. In case of a home invasion, my plan consists of getting my handgun, gathering my family and directing them and myself to a “safe room.” This room is the one furthest the from anticipated entry location, one that is the easiest to get to and to defend, and one that has a cell phone and long guns. I plan to use my handgun to get my family safe, then defend my safe room with a long gun.

In reality, there is a lot more to planning a home defense than what is written here and the principles presented have been greatly simplified, but you can see that a handgun, does indeed, have plenty to offer in protecting your family and yourself.


Anonymous said...

wow, that makes me re-think my position on grabbing the 12 gauge. What if the introuder is hidding around the corner when I come out of my living room? The gun barrel will be out in plain view before I make the turn making it susceptible to a gun grab. Then my chances of defending myself and family are slim to nill.

Thanks for that invaluable article!

Zaakir said...

Yeah, I'd grab my Smith and Wesson M&P 9mm first. Then hold down the fort with the AR15.

eblackhawk said...

I have a 2-storey home and I have my 9mm Baby Eagle by my bed while downstairs I have a Walther P99c 9mm in a hidden quick vault for protection. In a high-stress situation simple is better and that's how I train!

Allen said...

Very Good points. I have my shotgun within easy access, but the truth is I'm most likely to grab my pistol if I need to deal with an intruder in my home.

Try firing a rifle or shotgun from a "close retention" position... in the event of your attacker being within an arms reach.

A shotgun or rifle would be a good choice for the family that's holding out in a safe room, but definately should never be the first choice in a home encounter.

Ken said...

I think most people contemplate a lot more movement around their home that is healthy. Attempting to clear a building on your own, even one you know like like the back of your hand, is looking to get killed. That's why you've got that charged cell phone at hand. I'll happily sit behind my safe room door and wait for the police to send in the dogs to locate any goblins. Any stupid enough to attempt to force their way into the safe room before that should expect to be engaged from cover.

My first choice is to deter goblins from attempting an entry, and second to prevent any such attempt from succeeding or at the least give me all the time I need to get everyone to the safe room with my shotgun. Unfortunately, that sort of planning and preparation isn't sufficiently glamorous or exciting for far too many people. Only when those preparations fail will I fall back on whatever's closest at hand, which will almost always be a handgun on my person. Simple planning and preparation will always do more to keep me and my family safe than all my guns and all the time I practice.

DW said...

This is a great article & I refer it to people often.I found this site by reading Mr.Kenik's "role of the handgun" article that appeared in Personal Defense Magazine.I found a lot of the idea's reminded me of my favorite self-defense expert,the great Massad Ayoob,& then I noticed who wrote the foreward to Armed Response.If your going to get training,you might as well receive it from the best & Mas is the best.I think I'll be ordering a copy of Armed Response,because I've been very impressed with what I've read so far from Mr. Kenik.Kudos!