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RF and I got to talking the other day about defending your castle in the middle of the night. Assume that you’re sound asleep and you hear a noise. You’re in bed. NOW what do you do? Let’s also asume you’re armed. What do you have next to the bed? Shotgun? Handgun? Baseball bat? All of the above? (That would be me, actually.) We’ve been talking to the helpful, friendly folks at Taurus, makers of the “Judge” line of revolvers that shoot both .45 Colt ammo and the oft-overlooked .410 shot shells. Our Taurus rep opined that the best shotgun for home defense is a Taurus Judge – because it’s both a handgun and a shotgun. This got me to thinking. What would happen if you had to defend your home, starting from a sound sleep? Could you effectively rack a shotgun and bring it to bear? What about semi-auto or revolver? What about stopping power? And then there’s that aiming thing. What if I miss? Would shooting double-aught buck help?

You can think of these as “interesting questions,” or as our Fearless Leader likes to refer to it, “an assignment.” Me, I’ll go with “job security,” for this one’s gonna take some research. The plan: take a Taurus Judge, my trusty Wingmaster 870, my 1911, and the family S&W .38 Chief Special out to an outdoor range, along with a cot, some large, innocent-looking melons and a bushell basket of safety gear, then simulate getting out of bed, grabbing a weapon and firing it at a target less than 20 feet away. Provided I don’t do anything stupid (and I will have a range officer there to keep “stupid” away from the testing sight), this should be a fairly interesting test. As soon as we get the Taurus Judge in, we’ll start testing. Check back here in a couple of weeks for the results.

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  1. I thought we covered this in a previous post. If the intruders are in your bedroom before you're out of bed, the fight is pretty much over. Go down fighting if you must, but don't expect to win. This is a nothing more than a gun masturbation fantasy.

    To truly defend the castle, make it tough enough to get in such that you'll hear them and wake up before they actually gain entry. Stronger doors, better windows, secure locks, etc.

    Second, and to prevent an appearance in the Irresponsible Gun Owner list, you should be awake enough to fully ID your target before shooting. Period. As I also mentioned, performing a quick draw quick shot from a sound sleep is a very good way to shoot a family member stumbling into your bedroom late at night.

    Have kids? Have teenage kids? Ever have one "accidentally" get drunk, wreck the car, then make a lot of loud noise stumbling into the bedroom at 2 am to tell you about it? Please don't shoot them.

  2. To better explain, I'll add that I have a very hard time waking up from REM sleep. There are several very groggy minutes before I'm awake enough to participate in the real world.

    Second, my oldest has a history of sleep walking. There's been more than one occasion where I woke up to find him standing beside the bed, in the dark. Hasn't happened lately, but it could. The quick draw quick shot scenario is a nightmare to me.

    If this is the TRUTH about guns, and given the focus on responsible behavior, then the scenario you're testing is extremely irresponsible.

  3. To some extent, I think this is sort of an individual thing: Personally, I wake up and am instantly fully alert/functional.

    But I think that research like this would be valuable beyond the "just woke up" scenario. I mean, haven't you ever been awakened by a noise and listened for a moment before doing anything? A second, louder noise – at, say, your bedroom door – would certainly spawn a rapid movement toward your nearest firearm, and I think it would be good to know how quickly/effectively the weapon could be presented from various in-bed positions (i.e. on your side, facing away from your gun, with your arm around your wife, etc.).

    I practice this drill with my pistol (unloaded and partially-disassembled), and can have the gun pointed at my bedroom door and ready to fire in right at one second, while two seconds will facilitate an upright stance and a two-handed grip.

    I certainly agree that you should never handle a firearm unless completely awake/lucid, and that not properly identifying your target can absolutely be as bad as being killed by an intruder (if you accidentally kill a loved one); however, I believe that there are situations where being able to respond to a threat from an in-bed position is both necessary and warranted. Therefore, I'd say the issue is definitely worthy of further explication by way of the research Brad is proposing.

  4. Further, TTAG is working with a sleep clinic to study alertness and firearms skills.

  5. Wow. Touched a nerve, did I?

    The whole point of this test is to try and apply some actual tests to what has heretofore been a pretty subjective topic. I've never been a big fan of the .410, but if it can deliver the goods (via a Taurus Judge) who am I to dismiss it out-of-hand? I'll be doing this test with both male and female subjects (pulling the trigger – not catching the rounds in their teeth). I want to see what it takes to bring a gun to bear when you start from a reclined position. Robert's going after the sleep studies angle. I'm interested in two questions – stopping power and ease-of-use. How is that a bad thing?

  6. I was looking at .357s, but I got a glance at a Taurus Judge this weekend – during my first ever visit to a gun shop. This one appeared to have the 2.5" chamber. I understand that the newer one with the 3" chamber can deliver five instead of three pellets of buckshot. But I have read that the spread of five pellets isn't all that great in close quarters.

    And I don't get the flexibility angle. When you are ready to shoot, the next chamber will be loaded with either .45 or .410, so you have to use whatever you loaded. For some reason I expected the Judge to be large, but it was far from the largest handgun in the store. Some of the revolvers had barrels as long as my forearm.

  7. Donal, welcome to my world. Again. Still. Again. Anyway, get thee to a gun range! One with a large rental inventory and people who can help you learn the operation of various systems. Don't buy a gun until you've fired it. BTW: the larger the barrel the easier it is to shoot, and shoot accurately. Generally. Specifically, .357 is pretty damn peppery. I prefer .45, .40, .38 and 9mm—all of which will do what you need it to do if you hit what you need to hit. That said, you can fire .38s through a .357, no probs. Remember: try before you die. I mean, buy.

  8. How is that a bad thing?

    Brad – testing the Judge is not a bad thing. But the scenario you've given leaves open an excellent opportunity to shoot a family member by mistake. That's my only real comment. And yes, I'm touchy on that.

    As for the Judge? I've fired specialty shot shells through other handguns (.22, .357, .45auto, etc.) and was never impressed. OK as a snake gun (if you're close enough to be standing on the damn snake), but not good for anything else. I've loaded two 0.36 round balls (from my black powder stock) into a 38 cartridge, with mixed results. Also, the extra long Judge cylinder means a very large gap between cartridge and forcing cone when firing .45 pistol rounds. Not a good thing in most cases.

    Still, I'm interested enough to read your results, when published.

  9. Donal, I'm all about avoiding friendly-fire/fragging/collateral damage. I've done a lot of thinking about self-defense/home-defense. I try to figure out what's likely to happen, and then plan for a reasonable defense. In my current abode, a daytime home invasion is unlikely. A night-time break-in is far more likely. I'm also worried about getting carjacked or assaulted in a parking lot. Not paranoid – I'm 6'4" and about 240 lbs. If I'm gonna attract the attention of some scumbag, they're likely gonna have help. Assailants usually have the advantage, as they try to take victims by surprise. To even the odds, I try to anticipate what might happen. Having a firearm by the bed IS a risk, but any gun is worthless if you can't get to it when you need it. I wake up pretty fast – based on past performance, especially when I'm alerted by something that trips my "something's wrong" sense. So that comes back around to what gun will work the best. I've got everything but a rifle. (Don't have a Judge, but I will be getting one in for review). Which one will have the most stopping power? Which one can be brought to bear easiest? We'll see…

    • I have to agree that my biggest fear about owning a gun would be shooting someone by mistake, and I think Farago's recommendation to install an alarm system first makes a lot of sense.

      I would suggest a dog, too, but my wife told me a funny story. She woke up one morning and found a man asleep on her couch – he seemed to be a biker. Her dog hadn't barked and no one in the household (this was long before we had even met) had heard him come in.

      Police arrived and woke him up. Turns out he was a biker, had gotten drunk and thought he was sleeping it off in a friend's house – one of their neighbors with a similar house.

  10. Alarm is a must. Otherwise, forget it. Also, there are dogs and there are dogs. I recommend a yappy terrier. They can't do much in way of hurting, but MY GOD, they're loud. And aggressive towards strangers. But don't hurt family members. Well, if they do, they don't bite their faces off like SOME dogs I could mention.

  11. In addition to what dodgeman said, everyone needs an alarm system. Think in layers. Your firearm is your last layer.

    Also, the .410 doesn’t deliver the goods any better than a 380 acp. There, I’ve said it. Look at the ballistics. Compare a .410 slug (87-109 gr) to a 380 fmj (90-100 gr) for example. The shot load offers no improvement. Actually, the 380 often penetrates BETTER because it has a higher sectional density.

    The Judge is a fun/novelty gun and a snake/varmint gun.

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