Theories on the best way to employ firearms in self-defense are constantly evolving. Instructors, trainers, and gun writers come at the problem from various angles and with varying levels and kinds of training and experience. Each wants to pass along what they feel is “the best” solution. Unfortunately, the formal training and practical experience of those offering up their opinions varies widely, as does the quality of their advice.
Wheelchair Gunfighter (a self-defense trainer and student) pointed out an example of this sort of opinion today in a Facebook post:
Wheelchair Gunfighter’s commentary is directed at a post by Nick Leghorn of The Truth About Guns, and his 2012 article, “Self Defense Tip: Don’t Use a Rifle.”
Leghorn proposed this self-defense scenario:
It’s 2:00 a.m., you’re sound asleep in your nice warm bed in your two story house when a loud noise wakes you up. Your wife, predictably, is still sound asleep (as are your 2.5 kids) as you head for the gun safe and then crouch at the top of the stairs.
There’s a man at the front door who sounds like he’s trying to break in. You call 911, and just as you finish telling the dispatcher what’s going on, the man applies boot to door and bursts through in a shower of splinters. He has an evil looking AK-47 in hand and baklava on his face. Or is it balaclava? I can never seem to remember…
Anyway, there you are with an immediate threat to your life staring you in the face. He has the means, opportunity and ability to kill you and has just made an overt act of aggression. In other words, you’re cleared hot on the bastard. So which gun is best for the job of protecting yourself, your wife, and your two point five small children?
Like anyone reading such an article, I have to filter the scenario through my own perspective and experiences, which isn’t extensive. I’m not in law enforcement, and I’ve never been in the military. My experience in deploying firearms in a life-or-death situation has been blessedly non-existent. I’d like to keep it that way, if at all possible.
Nonetheless, I’ve been through a half-dozen defensive pistol courses (defensive handgun class number 7 will be Gunsite Academy’s 250 Defensive Pistol, next week). I’ve done only limited defensive rifle training, primarily consisting of informal training with friends in the military and law enforcement. All of my formal rifle training has been marksmanship focused.
I’ve found that most everything I’ve learned in a defensive pistol class is readily adaptable to a defensive rifle or shotgun.
A shouldered shotgun with a defensive-length barrel (18.5″-20″ inches) is only a few inches longer than a handgun extended at arm’s length. The shouldered shotgun offers more practical accuracy (three points of contact, versus two for a handgun) in high stress situations when you are more likely to instinctive jerk the trigger. A shotgun has more potential energy to distribute per shot than the typical defensive handgun, and depending on ammo selection, may offer less of a threat of downrange over-penetration. [As a side note, I’m convinced that while 00 buckshot is great at middle-distances outside the home out to 50 yards, I think that turkey loads and waterfowl loads are undervalued as in-home defensive cartridges where discharge distances are measures in feet instead of yards.]
A shouldered AR-15 carbine in .223 Remington only projects out a few more inches than a handgun extended at arm’s length (a Tavor is actually shorter), offers better practical accuracy, roughly double the number of rounds in a standard capacity magazine, packs far more downrange energy, and depending on ammo selection, may offer less of a threat of downrange penetration due to the lighter projectile weight and cartridge construction in ammunition designed to fragment. Depending on ammunition selection, you may also experience far less muzzle flash in low-light conditions as well.
Mr. Leghorn is welcome to use a handgun for the defense of his family if that is what he has the most confidence in.
Personally, I’m not bringing a pistol to a rifle fight. I’m grabbing my AR-15 with a weapon light and a 30-round mag of ballistic-tip varmint ammunition.
Which would you prefer?