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A Firearm For Home Defense

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I'm looking into getting a pistol that is well suited to home defense. I was wondering if anyone else here was knowledgeable on the subject and might be able to recommend anything or enlighten me as to what I need to know.

*cough*RationalCop*cough*

;)

So far I've heard from a friend who works with "professionals" that the .40 round is the best compromise between stopping power and controllability. Since the purpose is home defense, the weapon I am seeking need not be concealable. Also, a full-size pistol is said to be more controllable, and since I am not too experienced, I will need that.

Funny, that I'm "not too experienced." I could talk you up and down about weapons, calibers, etc. I used to check out "Jane's infantry weapons" from the library as a kid. I've read Tom Clancy and played all the Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, Delta Force, Counterstrike, and what have you that "simulate" firearms. In many ways I might qualify as an enthusiast, but I've had little to no opportunities to actually fire a weapon. I consider it a bit ridiculous, this disparity... Now that I'm living in a less "restrictive" state of the union, I mean to change that!

So anyway, I'm looking at Sig and H/K right now. I would be looking at Glock, but the light weight might work against them in this application.

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I've been using firearms for 40 years. I've competed, I’ve hunted, I've built my own firearms, and I have hand-loaded many different calibers (not to brag but to give you a point of reference). I have discussed the home defense with many fine marksmen. Get a pump action 12-gauge shotgun (with no choke) and load it up with buckshot. You might even hit what you are aiming at (you will miss with a handgun—because even the professionals do), it can be reloaded even when there is still a round in the chamber, and it will stop a lion (literally).

Research what weapon is used in Africa to back up lion hunters -- I guarantee no professional guide will carry a wimpy little pistol (and even the biggest handgun calibers are wimpy compared to a 12-gauge). Like I’ve said I have spent years shooting firearms—I am a very good shot with a pistol, but I would never even think of (if I had the choice) choosing a pistol over a shotgun for home defense.

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I won't disagree with RSalar that a shotgun is a viable option, especially if you have a concern for lions. ;) I will disagree that just because you choose a pistol you WILL miss. I have been to too many shootings/homicides (on average, 1 or 2 a week for the last 20 years) where people who weren't professionals somehow managed to hit the mark. Whatever you get, practice, practice, practice. And if your serious about it, which I assume you are, I wouldn't simply practice shooting static targets. Find a range that has an instructor that will teach you different drills, moving and static.

To be honest however, I've never really done alot of research on the effectiveness of various rounds. While there are probably some rounds that are more effective at stopping than others, all I have ever used on the street are the calibers .38 and 9mm. And with that, I've never actually had to shoot anyone. I tend to think based on my experience that shot placement is just as important, if not moreso, than the caliber. I have been to quite a few homicide scenes where the murder weapon was .22 to .25 caliber. Little rounds like that tend to bounce around alot in the body doing plenty of internal damage. I wouldn't pick a small weapon based on that, but they are very deadly. That said, I have "heard" other police officers who were more "enthusiastic" in their gun interests and collections say good things about the .40 cal. round so I don't think you would have any problems there.

If you are going to have a gun, be prepared to use it if necessary. This seems simple, but if you introduce a gun to a situation, the bad guy may attempt to get and use YOUR gun against you. In policing we have a saying, EVERY call we go on involves a gun; ours.

Edited by RationalCop

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I've heard that the .44 magnum is a handy little pistol. One thing I would suggest is using it before needing to use it. We took one of those critters camping (to scare bears off) and figured we could waste a bit of ammo on cans. That being the first firearm I had fired, I didn't really have the right expectations about recoil and noise, so there was a bit of delay between shots as I re-concentrated. It might be useful to practice.

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Judging from news reports and reports from friends (some of whom legally carry as well as keep at home), I would recommend considering several additional issues:

1. Once you have a weapon -- of any sort -- what will you do with it? Will you lock it, unloaded, in a box and put the box on a high shelf of a closet at the back of the house? Or will you carry it loaded, safety on, in a holster, with you as you move around the house, removing it only to shower, for example? Or something in between?

2. When will you use it? If it is 11 am, in bright sunlight, and an elderly man, possibly intoxicated, stumbles up to your porch, tries to put a key in your lock, and then breaks a window trying to get in -- will you shoot him? Or if you see someone breaking into your detached garage late at night, will you go out and confront him with your pistol -- on your driveway?

3. What will you tell people you know, about ownership? Should you tell anyone -- thus risking word spreading and you becoming a burglarly target after you leave for work in the morning?

4. If you do anticipate needing to fire a weapon, is that weapon appropriate for where you live? Would you want a high-caliber, high-power pistol -- while living in an apartment building that has thin walls, thus possibly killing a neighbor while firing a shot at a home invader?

5. Do you keep the phone number of your most trusted attorney next to your phone?

6. Does your insurance cover you against suits filed against you for unlawful death if you end up killing a short, skinny, unarmed 13 year old burglar in the middle of the night when the power goes out?

7. Have you done everything else to reduce the chance of threats against you -- for example, trimming shrubs, adding lighting, buying a dog, setting up a neighborhood watch network, and protecting doors and windows?

These are a few of the issues I have seen arise. I have friends who -- rightly and legally -- own or even carry weapons despite these pitfalls, but they are painfully aware of the potential problems.

Edited by BurgessLau

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From a practical standpoint, if using a handgun, one issue is the ability of the round to go right through the house, potentially hitting somebody in your own family in the process. I remembered reading about Glaser safety slugs some time ago, they might be of interest. Basically instead of a solid lead slug, the projectile is a casing filled with pellets, similar to a shotgun, that are designed to easily disintegrate when it first hits something. That means that they're more likely to fragment if they hit a wall, reducing the danger thereafter, and also deliver more energy and trauma to the person they hit.

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Along the line of what Burgess was mentioning, it's also a good idea to know the laws of you jurisdiction regarding self-defense / lethal force usage. Some states require you to retreat as much as possible, if you can, before using force. Others, like Texas, allow you to shoot somebody coming onto your property (outside the home even) for a whole host of reasons.

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Burgess, David, Vern:

Yes, from what I have heard, that is all great (maybe even essential) advice. (Although David, a .44 magnum is something I will want to own as a collector some day, I think it's a bit big for what I am doing... especially since it could go through the walls like others have mentioned)

As for the shotgun/pistol issue,

There is a LOT to recommend a shotgun in terms of accuracy, controllability, and stopping power, and even price, but for close quarters home defense it also has one rather large negative...

Have you ever seen the SWAT team members the use shotguns? Ever notice how they wear lexan faceplates attached to their helmets? That is because buckshot has a nasty tendency to ricochet when in close quarters. As soon as I learned this fact, I crossed "shotgun" off my list.

Of course if anyone has a bunch of personal experience that says otherwise, feel free to correct me.

Anyway, while I welcome what everyone has to say on all the other connected topics, does anyone have a brand or model to recommend?

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Anyway, while I welcome what everyone has to say on all the other connected topics, does anyone have a brand or model to recommend?

It's hard to go wrong with a Glock. Well built, durable, light weight, and accurate. The model number would depend on the caliber you decide on.

You can make some more specific technical inquires on this forum if you like;

www.glocktalk.com

Just watch out for the rabid folk...they are about on that board. ;)

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As for the shotgun/pistol issue,

There is a LOT to recommend a shotgun in terms of accuracy, controllability, and stopping power, and even price, but for close quarters home defense it also has one rather large negative...

Of course if anyone has a bunch of personal experience that says otherwise, feel free to correct me.

First of all you should only use deadly force if your life (or the lives of your loved ones) are truly in danger. In other words you have to be in a situation where you either kill or you will be killed. If that threat does occur in your home you want to stop the attack. In other words you want to hit the attacker. Do a little research on shootouts and you will learn how many shots are fired by trained police officers using handguns that miss. Hitting a target is one thing but try hitting a madman who is shooting at you! Stopping power only counts if you hit the intruder. All the theoretic talk about which caliber is best is mute when you are blazing away and hitting nothing but air. And as far as ricochets are concerned: Would you rather be struck by a ricocheting soft lead pellet or a ricocheting jacketed bullet?

Why not go to a gun club and do a test. Set up some targets 20 feet away and blast away. Try a shotgun and try a pistol. If you give this an honest try and hit more targets with the pistol than with the shotgun I will fly to wherever you are and buy you lunch.

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RSalar, I don't dispute a single word that you have said. I know the advantages of a shotgun. The question is, does it have a substantially higher risk of ricocheting back and blinding me vs. a pistol? From what I have heard from ex-military people in security, the answer to that question is "yes."

If you've done indoor training in close quarters (such as a "kill house") with live rounds and can tell me otherwise, I would be interested in that. My information is second-hand friend-of-a-friend stuff, so that's why I ask.

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I also would recommend a shotgun as the primary home defense weapon, *provided one receives adequate instruction in its proper use*, because of its greater effectiveness relative to a handgun in stopping any bad guy(s).

But if you are specifically interested in a handgun, I'd like to make a plug for the classic old-fashioned revolver. A good quality revolver chambered for .357 magnum will stop an intruder very well. Plus it has the advantage that in a stressful situation, if you happen to have a misfire, you simply have to pull the trigger once again. My wife and I are proficient with both revolvers and with Glocks, and I like my Glock 30 a lot. However, I've chosen to use the revolver as our middle-of-the-night-there's-an-intruder-in-the-house home defense handgun for the reason I've given above. I don't want to have to remember on very short notice what to do if I get a Type 2 "stovepipe" malfunction or a Type 3 "doublefeed" malfunction, even though I've practiced these drills multiple times at the firing range.

With a revolver, if it doesn't fire, the only thing you have to remember is pull the trigger again.

I definitely acknowledge that a revolver holds fewer rounds than most modern semi-automatics and that it takes longer to reload. However, given that most home defense situations will require fewer than 6 shots (usually fewer than 3), I therefore believe that these drawbacks are more than outweighed by the simplicity of the revolver.

Plus the revolver can be kept loaded indefinitely in the nightstand (or in a lockbox by the bedside), without stressing any magazine springs.

One advantage of a revolver chambered in .357 is the versatility of the ammunition. You can practice with light .38 special rounds at the range (with a few .357 just so you know what to expect), then load it with anywhere from .38 special, or more powerful .38+P, or even more powerful light .357 (such as the Remington Golden Saber) or full strength .357 rounds. The best choice would depend on a number of factors in your personal context, including whether you live in a house (separated from neighbors) or an apartment with thin walls, as well as your own personal tolerance for recoil.

Specific models for home defense include Smith&Wesson 686 or Ruger GP-100, assuming you want 6-round capacity, and that you don't intend it for concealed carry out of the house. Some models of the S&W 686 carry 7 rounds, which may come in handy sometime.

I also agree that you should know the laws in your state with respect to use of deadly force, and how to deal with the legal aftermath.

Anyways, just more food for thought.

Edited by psh

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If you have never shot a pistol before, I highly reccomend you get a .22 to start with. No matter how experienced you get, they are still a lot of fun, and the ammo is substantially cheaper than anything else, usually under 2 cents a round. You can get a Browning BuckMark, or Ruger MKII for $200-$250 new. Either of these pistols will last a lifetime. After you get one, go and use it! A lot! Get some experience.

After this, I would go to a range and rent a variety of pistols, in a variety of calibers. With premium ammo, there really isn't enough difference to worry about between 9mm, .40, and .45. 9mm is decidely cheaper than the other two rounds though, which hopefully means more practice on your part. Find a gun that you like, one that fits your hand well, is totally reliable, and is reasonably accurate. For home defense I would suggest as large a pistol as possible, the size will reduce felt recoil, and hold more rounds. If you don't intend on carrying it (whether open or concealed) there is really no reason to get a smaller gun, unless it just happens to feel better.

I would suggest you look at the Sig line. The 220 (.45), and the 226 (9mm or .40) shoot very well for many people. That being said, any of the major brands of pistols should serve you well. Also download the catalog here: CDNN Investments they have awesome deals, especially on police trade in pistols.

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Scott,

Then a longslide model would be a plus for this application (i.e. no concealed carry)?

I also like what's been said about revolvers, but isn't the recoil worse?

This is a wealth of information so far, let's keep it coming. :confused:

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In considering the advantages of the shotgun over the pistol, or vice versa, one must consider the context. In exactly what situation would you most likely think you would be forced to use one or the other. Obviously, you won't know that until it happens.

Would you be surprised in your bedroom while waking from your sleep? Which would be more accessible if that were the case? What is the layout and composition of your house? Which weapon could you readily wield in your house? What range do you expect to have to shot? Which weapon are you more comfortable with using/handling? Which weapon do you shoot/handle best in static shoot situation? Which weapon do you shoot/handle best in a moving shoot situation? Consider what it would be like doing a 180 degree turn around in your hallway, your kitchen, your living room, your bathroom, your bedroom, etc. Shooting a gun and hitting a target starts well before pulling the trigger. You have to get on target first, and hopefully before you agressor gets you in his sights.

In my house, wielding a shotgun in certain areas would be difficult, or at least a little more time consuming than wielding a pistol. The LONGEST shot I would have inside my house would be about 13 yards. (yes, I have a relatively small house) That would be shooting along the narrow quarters of a hallway. Most likely, any encounter I would have in my house would be 10 yards or less.

I do agree with RSalar that a comparison test would be useful, though I think 20 feet is too short a distance for a good overall test. Sure, if you are just picking up a gun NEVER having fired one before, the shotgun will probably win, depending on whatever natural propensity your body and mind may have for shooting to begin with. But after just a modicum of practice with a pistol/revolver in that test, you will likely be hitting targets 20 feet away just as often as you would with a shotgun. At that distance, with any practice, "aiming" proper is almost unnecessary. By "aiming" in that context I mean literally lining the front sight up with the rear sights. When we train that at the 7 yard line, we bring the gun straight out at eye level and just focus on pointing the front sight center mass and we don't worry about the rear sight. Unless your wrists are cocked wildly left, right, up or down, you are probably going to hit your target very consistently at that range. The further back, the greater the need to consider the rear sight.

Try the test he suggests at 10 yards, 15 yards, and 20 yards. I would suspect that the shotgun is going to win over the pistol the further back the target gets. But in close quarters, I'm not convinced the shotgun is going to any more often, and depending on how close the target is, the subject of wielding the weapon becomes more of an issue, as well as the attackers ability to grab the weapon.

Regardless of all that, whatever other people do, or statistically how often they do it, will not determine what you will do if the situation arises. You must find the weapon that best suits you and your needs individually, with perhaps some consideration of statistics and guidance, along with a healthy dose of your own reasoning. The common theme I think we all agree on is whichever weapon you choose; practice, practice, practice.

The last thing I would like to address is the studying of police shootings. I won't say that this has no value, but I would question how much value it may to have to any given individual and their shooting ability. It will certainly reveal some useful information. The question is, is that information useful and relevant to your situation?

Yes, cops train in shooting. Sometimes, they train alot. Sometimes they don't. Yes, cops become involved in a variety of shootings more frequently than most other occupations. However, I don't think it would be very difficult to find a fair number of non-LEO citizens who shoot better than the average cop. That is a sad testament to the state of affairs for cops and their ability to shoot, but I think it reflects reality. I know some cops who train rigorously and frequently. Other cops I know only shoot at a range ONCE, maybe TWICE a year when they have to qualify. In VA, the state only mandates qualifying with the TQC once a year, and the TQC is not a difficult course. Training aside, the choice to be a cop has NO influence on one's ability to shoot a firearm, and sometimes only dubious influence on one's interest or enthusiasm in firearms usage or training. Some officers do not qualify the first, second and even third time around. The usual procedure at that point is to detail the officer to the range and do intensive training until they do pass.

What may be of more value to you is to read up on actual home defense situations, and their results.

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Good point about range! I know that in my apartment, the range would never be beyond 6 yards or so. Accessability is a factor of a number of things, one of which is whether the weapon can be stored safely in a loaded condition? A revolver would be most accessable, followed by a shotgun, then a semi-auto. For home defense, a few seconds of prep time could make the difference between life and death.

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I'm looking into getting a pistol that is well suited to home defense.
This is kind of off the question and a bit nosey, but is there a reason? I haven't ever thought of getting a firearm for self-defense, because I've never perceived any need for one. If I did live in a dangerous neighborhood, I guess I would want to take into consideration the nature of the criminal element -- what are they carrying, and how many of them are there? If your house is invaded by a platoon of enraged Navy Seals, I think you're doomed so there's not much point in planning for that scenario. If there's a plausible threat of a bunch of guys breaking in with semi-automatic weapons (a situation that I could never imagine), that might suggest a different choice of weapon.

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This is kind of off the question and a bit nosey, but is there a reason?

Yes, I suppose "home defense" is a bit vague. I don't have any delusions about being able to hold off a swat team or something. The idea is to be prepared to defend myself and my wife in case a person or persons try to break in. I live in a good neighborhood, but I don't want "lived in a good neighborhood" to be my epitaph.

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You may find that shooting, or at least improving your shooting skills, is an enjoyable recreational activity. It need not be a total monetary loss to buy a gun that hopefully you will never have to use.

Edit - Grammar Correction - RC

Edited by RationalCop

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You may find that shooting, or at least improving your shooting skills, is an enjoyable recreational activity. It need not be a total monetary loss to buy a gun that hopefully you will never have to use.

Edit - Grammar Correction - RC

Interesting you should mention that, as I would say that is my secondary goal. :) It've been interested in recreational shooting since I was quite young, I just never had the chance, outside of air rifles and such.

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Scott,

Then a longslide model would be a plus for this application (i.e. no concealed carry)?

I also like what's been said about revolvers, but isn't the recoil worse?

This is a wealth of information so far, let's keep it coming. :)

Yes, for a pistol that is striclty intended for home defense, the longer the slide (and barrel) the better. Assuming of course, that you can still shoot it well.

A longer slide will do a number of beneficial things. It will mean a longer barrel, which will mean a higher muzzle velocity, and this more power. It will mean a heavier gun that will reduce felt recoil. It will also give you a longer sight radius (the distance between the front and reaer sights) which should give extra accuracy. In a few models, the longer slide version will be more reliable. Short 1911s (barrel below 4") are semi-notorious for being finicky.

Recoil from a revolver shouldn't really be noticably worse, assuming of course that you are comparing cartiridges of equivalent power in guns of the same weight. Obviously a .44 magnum will have more recoil than a big 9mm (say a glock 17), but that is because it is firing a round with at least triple the power. A 9mm semi-automatic and a .38 special revolver will have very similar amounts of recoil, the shape of the grip will determine which is more comfortable to fire.

May I also suggest you browse through a gun forum for more advice? My suggestion is The High Road

I am a little surprised that more Objectivists don't own guns. I think an essential part of the philosophy is taking responsibility for your own life, and that means being able to protect it. A gun is a relatively small investment for almost everyone, and when you need one, nothing else will do half as good a job. To me, not having a gun (at all times) is like not wearing a seatbelt, because it is supposedly unlikely that you will get in a wreck. The pros (saving your life) seem to outweigh the cons (a few hundred dollars of expense, and the fairly minor annoyance of carrying a gun around) by such a huge margin, that I am a little confused by people who don't bother.

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Inspector,

I must add to a point Burgess Laughlin made about the possibility of being sued for wrongful death. When selecting your weapon and ammunition, you should consider the possibility that your attacker lives, and what damage you might cause him. I can just see it now, particularly if you're in a place like the Ninth Circuit. Someone breaks into your home at night and you shoot him. You were using some kind of bullet that caused extra internal damage and shredded his organs, whereas a standard bullet would not have. He sues you for using a stronger bullet than was necessary.

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The pros (saving your life) seem to outweigh the cons (a few hundred dollars of expense, and the fairly minor annoyance of carrying a gun around) by such a huge margin, that I am a little confused by people who don't bother.
The annoyance of carrying can be extremely high. I can't take a gun to work, and I don't think I can even leave it locked up in my trunk unless I find a new place to park. Many places of business have no-guns postings (this is a consequence of the liberal fascist nazi bastard backlash to our new concealed-carry law), meaning that if I need to go to that store and I were packing, I'd have to either go home and dump the piece for that shopping trip, or I'd have to park out in the back of beyond, shove the gun in the trunk, and do my business. The annoyance of keeping the gun out of the hands of small children is also not trivial, even if it is manageable. If I lived in Hyde Park in Chicago I suppose I would carry ordinance regularly, but that isn't the real world. I agree that taking responsibility for your life means being armed when there is an actual threat, but not if the threat is imaginary.

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