Reader Sean Counihan has a bone to pick with Nick Leghorn’s recent piece on home defense and rifles:
First off, I would like to qualify that I am not an expert in this arena by any stretch of the imagination. I served in the US Army as a combat engineer; I do have experience with both rifles and pistols in an offensive function. Mr Leghorn suggests a hierarchy of home defense weapons as such: 1.) Pistol, I assume he is referencing a modern high capacity pistol in a defensive caliber (9mm or greater). 2.) Shotgun, again modern pump or auto. I would assume 12 gauge loaded with #4 buck or greater or slug. 3.) rifle. I offer a different opinion and simple hierarchy: 1.) long gun. 2.) pistol if long gun is not available . . .
For our purposes here, I will define long gun as meaning a modern carbine or shotgun configured for defense. A long gun offers many distinct advantages over a pistol in terms of accuracy (both potential and practical) and stopping power. The ultimate goal of any DGU is to end the danger as quickly as possible with the least amount of harm coming to your family, yourself or others you are not involved. All while limiting the collateral damage. Making quick, accurate hits that have enough stopping power to end the fight through incapacitation or death is the best way to achieve this goal. The long gun is uniquely adept at achieving this exact thing.
Let us delve into the world of today’s defensive carbine first. The expiration of the “assault weapon ban” has allowed manufacturers to make a defensive carbine possible. The EVIL features that make a carbine look so EVIL are what allows us to successfully use it as a HD option. The collapsible stock, 16″ barrel, flash hider, and removable “high capacity” magazines have allowed us to take rifle stopping power and make it maneuverable in tight spaces.
An AR clone with these terribly vile features can be used effectively to clear tight rooms and hallways. The obvious advantage here is the muzzle energy and devastating soft tissue cavitation from a 5.56 soft nose or polymer tipped round in the small package of a 16″ bbl. carbine with collapsible stock. This option has become cost effective as well, with the proliferation of the Modern Sporting Rifle in the market place. A solid HD AR clone carbine can be had for under $700. Ruger also makes the mini-14 in a “tactical” configuration that can be found in the same price range.
The other HD long gun would be a shotgun equipped with 18-20″ bbl and extended magazine tube. Shotguns are extremely practical for HD, a veritable Swiss Army knife. With a proper choke, a shot gun can be considered combat accurate. There are even recoil reducing stocks on the aftermarket from Knox and others that can take some of the punch out of the recoil.
The most apparent advantage to a shotgun would be the pure knockdown power of a defensive buck shot load in #4 or greater. It does suffer from stout recoil that can make follow shots difficult and also deter novice shooters. Stepping down from a 12 gauge to a 20 gauge is an excellent option for smaller framed people or those that are recoil sensitive.
The extended sight radius of either long gun coupled with the option for a no magnification optic allows for a quicker and more precise sight picture to be obtained. This coupled with the superior stopping power of a rifle caliber bullet or shot gun load makes the long gun the obvious choice for my family’s protection. Again, I want to end the fight as quickly as possible. The best way to accomplish this is through rapid accurate engagement with a round that has enough stopping power to take the BG out of the fight with one or two solid hits.
I do want to close with this: I am not saying that a pistol is not a viable option for HD. The pistol holds advantages over any long gun that cannot be overlooked. While the diminutive size of a pistol is a detraction in terms of sight acquisition and practical accuracy, it is also an advantage in maneuverability. A pistol can be effectively operated with one hand if trained. The pistol will also allow for a more natural course of movement.
Joe Snuffy Average Homeowner does not train regularly with a long gun. The movements required to effectively use one in a house clearing scenario are not natural and are in fact counter-intuitive for most people. A pistol will be better suited for Joe Snuffy to mall ninja through his house hunting bad guys. I would never recommend for anyone to do this without having been trained in room clearing first – unless it is absolutely necessary and then proceed with extreme caution. Let the police do their jobs and you focus on keeping your loved ones safe.
So my take: use a long gun set up for HD. Seek out the proper training to use said long gun. And use your pistol to fight your way back to your long gun if needed.