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.

Barrett's Long Range Basics class - Magazine Article

I had the privilege of attending Barrett's Long Range Basics class a few months ago in Raton, New Mexico for an article assignment for the Barrett annual publication. Participants received training as a depot level armor, marksmanship skills, ranging, scope adjustments, and had lots of range time with the big 50. Starting at 200, we worked our way back to shooting at 1,000 yards. After that experience, the 200-yard range at my local club looks tiny! This class was very educational and a lot of fun. It certainly gave me the bug for long distance shooting.

Barrett Long Range Basics.pdf