This article is going to buy me a lot of hate. I know that delving into this topic is controversial and some of my recommendations will go against the established dogma. I will not only make a recommendation, but give you my reasoning behind it. Perhaps I can save some reader a lot of money, hassle and disappointment. Before you continue reading, I want you to make a decision. I want you to visualize yourself killing another human being. Now visualize a loved one bleeding to death in your arms.
Make a choice which one would you prefer. The purpose of a firearm is to kill another being. Yes, I know, you are supposed to say that you are only trying to stop a threat. I know of no better way to stop a threat than to kill it. If you cannot make that decision now, in relative safety, you will not be able to make that decision in an emergency. The most important decision you must make when using a firearm to defend your life is to pull the trigger.
First, why buy a firearm? You are probably considering purchasing your first firearm for the same reason most of us have firearms, personal protection. But personal protection is too broad a term. Let’s narrow this down a bit. Ask yourself, who or what do you need protection from? Who are you trying to protect? Where will you be when you need to use deadly force? These questions, which seem a logical starting point, are seldom asked before choosing a weapon. But, weapons are tools, and tools fit specific needs, so we need to define your specific needs before we can choose the tool.
Will the primary location you will need protection be at home or a place of business? Or perhaps during your commute? Or all of the above? If at home, will you be able to barricade yourself and not move or do you have little ones you need to go get in the middle of the night? If at work, do you stay stationary behind a counter or desk or do you roam your place of business? Are you even allowed to carry a firearm to defend yourself at your job?
You need to create a scenario and play thru all these questions before you decide what firearm to purchase. Do not make the mistake of taking the advice of any “expert”, me included, before you work thru your specific needs.
Now that you have created a scenario and determined the most likely threats, let me give you an example of a typical situation. You live is a fairly safe neighborhood but are concerned with a break in. You have a couple of little ones and their bedrooms are across the house or some distance from the master bedroom. You commute to work on what you consider safe streets and are not allowed to possess a firearm at work. Still, the possibility exists of work place violence and you do not want to become a victim. With this scenario in mind, here are some sensible options. I recommend you purchase them in this order.
First, you would purchase a handgun. I know, I know, most “experts”, including our former VP recommend a shotgun. The shotgun, a wonderful weapon we will get back to, is the wrong tool for your scenario. You need a weapon that you can take with you, down the hall, and open doors, grab kids and return to your bedroom or safe space with. You cannot, without extensive training, employ a shotgun in this scenario. Don’t believe me. Grab a baseball bat and carry it as you would a shotgun. Move from your bedroom to your kid’s rooms. Now open the door, grab a sleeping child and carry him/her back to your bedroom while keeping the “shotgun” oriented towards a potential avenue of approach. Not easy, is it? Now think of trying to do this when first waking up to a breaking window or door with a squirming toddler in tow. Next try it holding a handgun proxy, a banana will do. See the difference? A handgun is better tool for offensive (meaning moving towards a threat) operations than a shotgun. Now think of a carjacking scenario. Take said baseball bat and hide it in your car. Can you access the shotgun from the driver’s seat? Can you carry the “shotgun” from your home to your car every morning along your briefcase, coffee cup, laptop bag and whatever else you carry?
What handgun should you buy? A semi-automatic pistol. I am a fan of Glocks and carry one daily but, you may find another handgun that best fits your hands. Forget revolvers. Yes, a revolver requires less muscle memory to operate than a pistol. But a revolver will give you 6 rounds before needing to be fed again. You are not likely to be carrying extra rounds when you carry your revolver and it takes forever to reload a revolver during a high stress situation. A Glock gives you 17 rounds before needing a reload. It is better to have 17 rounds than 6. But revolvers are dependable you heard said. Sure, so are modern semi-automatics. My Glock goes bang every time I pull the trigger.
Next, let’s talk caliber. Understand that there is no such thing as “stopping power”. A .45 will not blow a hole the size of a watermelon on a human torso or remove extremities. You will probably not stop a threat with a single round. You stop a threat by causing shock and blood loss. Shock is caused by hitting the central nervous system (CNS) and blood loss is caused by the number and size of holes you put on your target and what veins, arteries and internal organs you puncture. A CNS hit requires you hit the spine or brain. You will not, unless you are very lucky or extremely well trained, hit the CNS. What you need is to put as many holes as you can in the torso area to cause as much blood loss as possible as fast as possible. The difference in diameter between a modern 9mm and .45 caliber, and everything in between, is negligible for practical purposes. Yes, I know I am killing sacred cows here but, a modern 9mm jacketed hollow point (JHP), 124 grain Speer gold dot, expands to .62 inches while a 230 grain .45 caliber from the same manufacturer expands to .74 inches. So, a bit over 1/2 an inch hole vs. a bit under ¾ of an inch hole. Big difference, right? Not really when you consider that your intention is to create as much blood loss as possible and the holes are very similar. Much more critical factors are, how well does it fit your hand, how well can you control the firearm while using it, how many rounds before reload and how much will it cost you to train with it.
The best way to know how well a firearm will fit your hand is to hold one. Go to your local gun shop and ask. Believe me, they will be happy to let you handle as many handguns as you wish. Handle the handguns. Try to operate the controls, operate the safety and magazine release. See what fits your hand. Pick a handgun that fits, between 9mm and .45 caliber. Second, consider handling.
Find a range where they rent firearms or a friend that will let you try different calibers. Shoot your preferred firearm and see if it fits you. Only you can decide. Next, consider cost.
A 9mm JHP round costs about 66 cents as of this writing. A .45 caliber round, from the same manufacturer, runs about 98 cents. Significant difference if you plan to train regularly. A 9mm full metal jacket (FMJ) round, what you will normally use for training, runs about 27 cents while a similar .45 from the same manufacturer runs about 48 cents a round. So, you will spend about twice as much to train with a .45 than to train with a 9mm. Things to consider.
Now that you picked your handgun, what next?
First, before you even leave the gun shop, buy a holster. A quality holster is a safety device. It covers the trigger while the handgun is not in use preventing negligent discharges. A holster will also allow you to secure your weapon on your body while dealing with events that require both hands such as providing first aid or removing obstacles. Which holster? Start with a Kydex outside the waist band holster. There are many manufacturers, prices and styles but a Kydex holster will secure your weapon, protect it and is easier to re-holster on a Kydex holster vs leather.
Next, I would highly recommend you purchase a gun mounted light. You need to be able to identify your target before you pull the trigger. Firing at a shadow or a silhouette illuminated by ambient light is a recipe for disaster. Get a light. There are many quality choices out there, you just want one that will attach to your weapon and provide both momentary and constant light. You will also do well to pick one that uses standard batteries (AA or AAA) and not some $15 a battery light that requires a special order to get a replacement. A decent light should provide over 100 lumens and cost around $50 retail.
Continuing with accessories, here is one not many people consider, body armor. Bad guys, unlike paper targets, shoot back. You need body armor to survive incoming fire. With the low prices and easy availability today, there is no reason not to buy body armor. Body armor comes in both soft ballistic armor and rigid plates. Both have their place in your bag of tricks but, you will get the best overall protection from rigid plates rated to at least IIIA. In this category you will find two basic options, steel and ceramics. Steel is cheaper, more durable against multiple impacts and weather variances and thinner than ceramics. But, steel is heavier. For at home wear, steel is a better choice. For professional day to day wear, such as security, ceramics are better.
Soft ballistic armor, on the other hand, is much more comfortable, lighter and thinner than rigid plates. Soft ballistic armor is more expensive and, should you get shot, will stop the projectile from penetrating your torso but will do nothing about the impact force from the projectile. In other words, you will get hurt but will not be killed. The photo on the right is a laparoscopy of a police officer’s chest cavity after being shot while wearing soft body armor. The officer recovered but, you can see that the projectile did cause damage to muscle tissue and broke a rib. Rigid armor does not flex so the impact is better distributed thru your torso reducing the overall impact trauma. I wear steel armor from AR500. Very well priced and excellent protection. No, I don’t work or receive compensation from them, I just like their products.
And on the subject of surviving a firefight, the next accessory is an Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK). The IFAK was developed based on combat experience in Afghanistan and Iraq. Your IFAK should be a pouch attached to your ballistic armor or in an easily accessible location. At a minimum, your IFAK should contain:
- A tourniquet. There are two available commercially that are worth having, the Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT-T) and the SOF-T. They are both under $50 each and are the premier combat tourniquets. As a minimum go on YouTube and learn how to use them.
- A Sharpie pen. Used to mark the patient with the time the tourniquet was applied and any other treatment or injuries you want the EMS to find.
- Clotting gauze. Ideally Celox or QuickClot brand. Clotting gauze contains chemicals that will force clotting and stop medium bleeds.
- A nasopharyngeal airway. This is a rubber tube that is inserted into a nostril to keep an open airway in case of face trauma. Buy the kit with the lubricant.
- ARS Needle Decompression Kit. This needle is to resolve a case of tension pneumothorax or collapsed lung. You need to get training in using this needle but it is a critical lifesaving tool.
- Chest seal. This is for sucking chest wounds. In case of an upper torso bullet hole it will become very difficult for the patient to breath. A chest seal is a piece of plastic that is placed over the bullet wound and it burps air pockets in the chest cavity while providing a seal to permit an inhale.
Last on the accessory list is hearing protection, as a minimum or a suppressor as ideal. If you have never fired a weapon indoors without hearing protection, don’t. It is much louder than you would think. Although under stress you will not hear the shot as badly, it is still deafening and you need your hearing in a combat scenario. Purchase an electronic noise cancelling headset designed for shooting. This way you can still hear before and after the shot. Foam ear plugs will not work, you need electronic muffs. The problem is that this only provides protection for your hearing. What about the little ones? Getting ripped out of bed is bad enough but, once you open fire, it will become traumatic. Imagine trying to fight with a squirming toddler in your hands. That is why I recommend a sound suppressor. Contrary to popular belief sound suppressors are legal in the US. That may not be true in your State, check the local laws. A sound suppressor will not only protect your hearing but your loved one’s as well. These days a good sound suppressor could run you under $400 plus the $200 tax stamp. There are much more expensive suppressors but you don’t need a titanium suppressor rated for full auto fire. A $400 aluminum suppressor works just fine for your needs.
Find a trainer that will teach beyond your basic concealed carry license trainer. Yes, you need to know the legalities behind using your handgun but, you really need to go beyond basic range training. You need situational training. Not just how to fire your weapon and hit targets but how to fight with your weapon. There are many quality trainers in the US. A place like Gunsight Academy or Suarez International will be well worth the expense. Call or write the different training sites. Find out what each class teaches and how many instructors per student. Ask about instructor’s experience in real life situations. You will spend about $500 to $1500 per class and it is worth every penny. The amount of money you save on ammo later by focusing your training vs just shooting steel will make up the cost of the class. This class by no means ends your training. You must continue training on a regular basis. Expect to spend 4-5 hours a month minimum training. Of course, this training is not all range training. You will need to dry fire rehearse scenarios and responses. As an example; start from your bed with a cleared weapon and go thru all the steps needed to secure against different intrusions. Ask yourself, what if? Front door or side door? Window? Then rehearse to those scenarios. Include your family in the rehearsals so they know what is happening and how to respond. Purchase snap caps (inert rounds designed for training) and go thru loading, moving, firing and reloading. You should spend tenfold the time on dry firing than live firing. Live firing is needed for target engagement but dry firing rehearsals are about fighting with your gun.
Take a combat first aid class. You need to learn how to keep someone alive while the paramedics are on their way. A single day class that deals with combat trauma injuries should be sufficient. Do not waste your money on the local Red Cross class. Yes, they are wonderful skills to know if someone chokes on a chicken bone or falls down the stairs but, you are looking for battle field trauma training. Different skill set.
So, what about the shotgun? Ah yes, the shotgun. The shotgun is a defensive weapon. It is the weapon you hold while barricaded behind strong cover and aim towards the door. It is the weapon you get back to after you secure your little ones. If you live in a state where you cannot take a firearm with you (recommend you move) and you have no reason why leave your bedroom, a shotgun should be your first weapon.
With a shotgun, all of the above recommendations apply with a few changes. First, to dispel some myths. No, racking a shotgun will not stop a bad guy. Your shotgun should be loaded with an empty chamber while at home. As soon as you secure your shotgun rake the slide and proceed to your covered position. This covered position should give you line of sight to the door but not be directly in front of the door. Once you arrive to your covered position, aim your shotgun waist high at the locked door and take it off safe. Yes, a shotgun needs to be aimed. In general, a shotgun spreads pellets about an inch per foot. If it is 15 feet to your door, the shot pattern will be a bit larger than a dinner plate. You have to aim. Then dial 911 and wait. It is not your job to go hunting for the bad guy. Let someone else catch those bullets.
What shotgun should you buy? I prefer a Mossberg with the safety on top, easier to take off and return to safe. Something like a Mossberg 930 SPX or the Mossberg SA-20 tactical. You want a full stock. No macho pistol grips, they are terrible to fire. You need a side saddle ammo holder. This provides you with extra rounds for a fast reload. You want a light. Same as with the pistol. And you need a sling to shoulder your weapon in case you need to move with your little ones or provide first aid. Like with the pistol, you will need to go to a gun shop and to the range. Although the basic recommendation is usually the 12 gauge, it may not be right for you. Persons with smaller frames may need to go with a 20 gauge youth model.
Let’s talk about ammunition. On a 12 gauge a #00 buck shell will fire 9 .33 caliber (a bit smaller than the 9mm) pellets from a standard-length shell. 00 buck or #1 buck are both acceptable defensive loads. Do not go for reduced recoil loads outside of training. You want full penetration of your target. While 3 inch shells increase power and recoil without adding any more holes to your target. Stick to 2 ¾ inch shells.
You wake up to banging on your front door. You don’t know who is banging but it sounds violent. You and your wife don body armor (you did buy one for her, right?) and you grab your gun, turn on the gun light and proceed down the hallway, with your wife holding on to your body armor with one hand. You arrive at your little one’s room, walk past the door while still covering the possible avenue of approach and your wife grabs the sleeping ones. Once she is pass you she makes physical contact with you and tells you “clear”. You place your strong shoulder against the wall and back up, following your wife, to the reinforced corner in your bedroom, locking the door behind you, that you have selected to defend from. You holster your handgun, grab your shotgun, lock a round in the chamber, take it off safe and aim waist high towards the door. In the meantime, your wife grabs the pre-printed cue card and cell phone, dials 911 and reads the pre-scripted report to the 911 dispatcher. This pre-printed cue card may say something like this:
“My name is _________, I am at 123 willow drive, some town, some state. My call back number is 555-123-4567. Someone is trying to break into my home. I am in the NW bedroom upstairs, behind a locked door with my husband and our two children. We are armed but barricaded in the bedroom. Please send assistance.”
source : http://www.thesurvivalistblog.net/selecting-and-using-a-gun-for-self-defense/