All too popular a topic among self-defense and firearms enthusiasts… You’ve likely overheard, or been involved in, discussions more or less centered around this question: “What is the right weapon to use for home defense?”
Sounds like a difficult question to answer correctly, right? Well, that’s because it is and the correct answer really depends on the person asking the question. Specifically, their environment, risk of collateral damage, and more importantly their level of training. So many people ask that question without providing context and my answer is always the same – “Dude, I have no idea. I don’t know where you live, who you live with, what weapons you own and train with, or the layout and material construct of your home and perimeter.” I usually end up responding to this question with questions of my own and ninety percent of the time, I can’t make a recommendation because the person asking either A) does not train enough or B) does not train at all.
I know we sound like a record on repeat but that’s because it is essential – training. It is the most critical node to success. Furthermore, success – in this context – probably shouldn’t be considered success at all, as rarely does a good thing happen after a home invasion is initiated. Best-case scenario, you have law enforcement officers in your home after you’ve managed to thwart the operation without taking another human being’s life.
Before considering home defense firearms I’d advise one to take a lesson in physical security tactics in order to make the compound a little more secure; for example, your home not looking like a soft target while not actually being one either. Remember the pillars of integrated physical security: DETER, DETECT, DEFEND, and DEFEAT. Try to avoid having to defeat anybody, as it implies violent conflict and possibly legal ramifications. Do everything you can to not have to answer the questions of “How did I get here? How did this happen to me?” – In any context. Do this by implementing preventive security measures. That said, occasionally innocent people are forced to respond to the actions of the criminally violent.
Let’s skip to the meat of this...
Do not be outgunned during a deadly encounter. Do not inflict unjust harm upon another human being. Do not count on another’s lack of training or preparedness to ensure your success. Make no assumptions. Having a gun in your home is not the answer. It is an option.
Fundamental questions to ask: Is your home defense weapon likely to ensure fire superiority? Is it likely (in combination with its ammunition design) to minimize collateral damage, and reduce risk of unintended injury or death to others? Lastly, are you proficient with it?
If the answer to any of those questions is NO, then that weapon system is not a viable home defense option for you. Period.
The formula for this is quite simple. You should have enough rounds to fight off multiple, armed aggressors. The ammunition should be designed to not over-penetrate internal and/or external barriers of your home/perimeter. The weapon system should be accurate from the farthest possible distance in your home from which you would have to shoot and dispatch a deadly threat. And you should know that weapon system like the back of your hand, and be able to operate it with speed and precision. That’s about it in a nutshell. Easy, no?
Maybe not… As we might ask, “How practical is it to have immediate access to it?”
Imagine you are sitting on your living room couch, unarmed, and two upstanding members of society suddenly decide to invite themselves in through your front door. They are wielding a baseball bat and a large blade of some kind; you can’t quite make it out but it is shiny, and appears to have some very “stabby” characteristics. After being forced into this situation, are you going to make a run for the safe in the back room? Honestly, I can’t say what I’d do at that point. But this I do know – that would be a bold move on my part after being caught sleeping on watch... fiddling with dials and keypads while two armed intruders give chase. No thanks.
You see, because if we break down such an encounter, tactically, what they’ve accomplished immediately is the most important aspect of a successful ambush – the element of surprise. Then, almost immediately upon barging in, they’re moving quickly towards you (speed – the second piece). At that point, the third corner of the triangle to ensure mission success could be coming your way (depending on how you respond): intensity and violence of action. You are not in a great position to win the race to the safe, unfortunately.
So, back to the practical access question: does it make sense to have your AR-15 slung across your back during dinner; or leaning against your nightstand? Probably the latter… but you do you either way. We don’t tell people how to freedom.
The point is that, in our minds, home defense weapons are only useful if A) you have an early warning system in place, and you have time to retrieve them or B) you have immediate access to them in the event that no warnings are given. And this is where most err – they fail to plan for the event, as it would happen, from a realistic perspective.
If you keep a home defense weapon in your home, it isn’t accessible within a second or two, and an armed home invasion takes place, you’ve likely done nothing but surrender your weapon to an armed criminal.
“As it would happen”, I suppose. The outcome might be the same if you come home early from work, and interrupt two armed criminals trying to open or carry away your safe. “Oh, glad you’re home. Open this for us.”
It is best to just not have to make those hard decisions in the moment. “Do I run for the safe; or try to deescalate the situation?” “Do I open the safe; or risk my life to ensure my weapons aren’t sold on the black market to gang members or terrorists?” Tough call.
Remember that you are the Armed Response Team of your home, and reducing delay and response time makes all the difference to mission success – your mission being protecting your life and the lives of those around you. You are at an extreme disadvantage if part of that delay time includes you retrieving a weapon. Consider law enforcement officers wearing their side arms on their sides! This is done for a reason. It is because deadly violence often happens fast, and without much warning.
So, if you decide that armed response is going to be part of your home defense plan, arm yourself with the right tools for you and your environment, train with them, and implement your own security protocols to ensure an immediate response to any scenario.
Personally, I wear my pistol when I'm home. It's in my control zone constantly, it's there if I need it, and I don't have to worry about somebody picking it up and using it who shouldn't. Be responsible.
One last bit of tactical advice - use a weapon light, or handheld light source. "You can't shoot what you can't see, and you can't ID what you can't see either." Positive ID of shoot or no-shoot. This could be the difference between jail time or family time.
Lastly, but surely not least, we don’t get into the great caliber debate. The fact is that if you can shoot worth a damn while under stress, size doesn’t matter. Train.
- AVR Defense, signing off