- Set up an ambush.
- Evade the hostiles and escape to a safe location.
- Search for/hunt the hostiles.
Monday, December 31, 2012
Guns for Home Defense – Putting it all Together.
I've written several articles now on guns for Home Defense (HD), including articles focusing on the capabilities of handguns, shotguns, and carbines. Now it's time to put the pieces together and arrive at some conclusions.
First off, it's very important to understand the proper way to analyze a combat scenario.
The most important part, and what comes first, is to understand the totality of the situation. Who are you and what are your skills? Where are you? Who is with you, and are you responsible for defending them? Who are the hostiles, where are they, and how many of them are there? What is their motivation, and what are their capabilities? For HD, the situation is often you at home with family and/or friends, in daytime or night, and the hostiles may be a group of home-invasion robbers, a drug gang making a hit on the wrong house, a lone burglar, or simply an unknown bump in the night that merits investigation. Each of these (and many other) situations need to be considered and analyzed.
The next part is taking all the information from the situation and arriving at a strategy or mission to deal with it. There are three very broad strategies for dealing with combat scenarios:
Setting up an ambush in the HD realm might be simply waiting in your bedroom and being ready to fire when the hostiles break through the door. Escaping might be sneaking out a window or back door to safety at a neighbor's house. Searching your home and/or hunting the hostiles is a very large and very complicated realm. A search might be casual, or it might be high-stress. It may be slow and methodical, or it may be extremely dynamic. The goal of the search may be to identify the threat and then retreat, or it may be to engage and neutralize the threat immediately. Indeed whole books, DVDs, and courses have been devoted to the study of this.
Once the situation and mission are mostly set, the next area of consideration is tactics. This is the meat of how the mission is executed, and is the answer to all the “how” questions. How do I set up an ambush? How do I escape the danger area? How do I search for the threat and neutralize it? Again, many books, DVDs, and courses have been devoted to the study of these concepts.
Lastly, after the situation, the mission, and the tactics are mostly known, consideration is given to what gear is most appropriate to accomplish our objective. There will of course be some feedback – we might think an ambush would be the best strategy if we had a long gun, but if we only have a handgun we may conclude that the best strategy is to evade and escape.
A short way to summarize all this is:
Situations determine Mission. Mission determines Tactics. Tactics determine Gear (including weapons/guns).
The reason I went through all this is to emphasize that choosing the best gun for HD isn't a matter of choosing a gun you like the best and then seeing how you can use it for HD. This seems to be how a great many people do it, and is why I think so many of them come to the wrong conclusion.
Back to analyzing guns...
The main advantages for handguns is that they allow greater maneuverability and can be handled with one hand if necessary. It should therefore be fairly obvious that they are not the best choice for setting up an ambush. Sitting behind your bed with a gun pointed at the door requires little maneuverability and calls for a high degree of terminal effect. Long guns are thus clearly superior for setting up ambushes. Because HD ambushes are normally over very quickly (usually with only one or two shots), neither carbines nor shotguns have a large advantage. For people who don't like the complexity of carbines and who don't mind the recoil of a shotgun, then I have no problem with them choosing a shotgun. The greater precision, lower recoil for faster followup shots, and higher capacity make me conclude that a carbine is a more versatile weapon and is my preferred weapon in the HD ambush role.
Evading and escaping hostiles on the other hand, may require a large degree of maneuverability. Climbing out a window, making a quick dash out a back door, or carrying a child while covering threat areas are scenarios where handguns shine. I conclude that handguns are superior for most evade and escape missions.
The tricky part is the searching/hunting missions. I believe the most relevant points to consider are that when searching for hostiles you often don't know exactly how many of them there are and what their intentions or capabilities are. Yes, handguns provide the greatest maneuverability for searching, but they lack decisive terminal effect. It is not uncommon for a committed (or drugged) attacker to absorb several handgun rounds and maintain his attack for an uncomfortably long time before being incapacitated. There are techniques to mitigate this, but taking the time to shoot one hostile to the ground is not the best idea when there are an unknown number of other hostiles in the area. The definitive effect of proper shotgun and carbine ammunition is a very large advantage in this area. Also, given the unknowns in these types of situations, the greater capacity and precision of carbines give them a great advantage over shotguns.
A lot of people have never taken the time to train with modern carbines set up for HD (adjustable stock, red dot sight, white light) so they think that searching with a rifle is extremely awkward and clumsy. While I admit that it is more difficult than with a handgun, searching with a carbine is clearly effective if practiced. It is my opinion that the greater terminal effect of a carbine more than overcomes whatever it lacks in maneuverability given the uncertainties of most searching/hunting missions.
My experience is that most people who actively train with HD scenarios choose a handgun or a carbine based on the situations they envision. Twenty years ago this was very different, and shotguns were much more popular. My experience has also been that if you take highly skilled people (those who train hundreds of hours a year in these areas) and tell them you will put them in a house in an unknown location where murders and home-invasion activity by gangs is very high and they can take only one gun with them, 90%+ of them will choose a carbine.
What is the best gun for HD? That really depends on the situations you want to be able to defend against, the strategies (missions) that you choose to employ, and the tactics you can effectively execute. For me, the answer is clear – a modern carbine (AR15 or AK47) properly set up for HD provides the greatest capabilities for the greatest number of situations where a large deal of uncertainty exists. It's possible for someone else to come to a different conclusion, and as long as his conclusion is based on situations, missions, and tactics, and not on something his Uncle Joe told him 30 years ago, I have no problem with that.