Home Defense, part 2

This is the second part in the Home Defense series, (part 1 is here) where we take a look at different home security devices, tactics, and methods.

In Part 1 we examined home security measures that didn’t involve firearms or other weapons; things like alarm systems, trimming hedges back, getting a dog, etc. Today we’re going to look at weapons, including non-firearm weapons. In part 3, we’ll take a very, very brief look at the tactics involved.

Weapons can be broken down into two broad categories, less-lethal and lethal. Obviously, your less-lethal weapons are going to be your various sprays, tasers, and cudgels. Your lethal weapons include all firearms; as well as swords, knives, etc.

Less-Lethal weapons
Some people don’t like guns, or for whatever reason they’re just adamantly opposed to keeping a firearm for home defense. While I disagree with that choice, choosing to not have a firearm in no way disqualifies you from your right to defend your life and property. It does complicate the issue, but it’s workable.

Less-Lethal weapons fall into three broad categories, as I mentioned above.

  • Sprays – these are your garden variety anti-personnel sprays, such as OC spray, Mace (which is becoming increasingly difficult to find), etc. The most common is probably OC spray, which is more commonly referred to as pepper spray. For home defense, it is a less than ideal solution. Apply a little critical thinking – you’re going to spray an airborne irritant into an enclosed space at an intruder. Generally, airborne irritants and closed spaces aren’t a good mix for you. Give pepper spray a pass for inside the home. It is best used in external areas.
  • Tasers/Stun guns – Again, two types of tasers and stun guns. The former (Tasers) are a specific device which launches two electrified darts into the target, and then runs a charge from the device through the wires into the target. The advantage of this is that it allows you to maintain some distance from a potential intruder. The disadvantage is that it also might not work that well. The other type of stun gun requires you to actually make physical contact with the target. Quite frankly, you’re better off with a baseball bat than a contact stun gun.
  • Clubs, cudgels, and bats – Ah, blunt force weapons. Into this category falls the trusty Louisville Slugger secured under the bed, as well as all manner of collapsible (or otherwise) batons. Right off the bat, I would recommend tossing out collapsible batons as home defense weapons. The point of a collapsible baton is that it takes up less space on an officer’s belt – space is not really a concern here. My two recommendations for a home defense club would either be a baseball bat (preferably wood) or a side handle baton (tonfa). The advantage in the baseball bat is that it requires very little training to use effectively, and provides the user with a decent amount of reach. However, it is worthwhile to note that in close quarters it looses a lot of its effectiveness. It’s best used when you have the ability to take large swings at an intruder; you may not have the room to do that in your bedroom. In my opinion, the single best cudgel/blunt force weapon for home defense is the venerable side-handle baton, or tonfa. The tonfa provides an extension of your reach so that you don’t have to get as close to an intruder as you would with a stun gun, etc. It’s also extremely versatile, being quite effective at intermediate distance and extremely close quarters. The major disadvantage to a tonfa is that it requires a relatively significant amount of training to be utilized to its maximum potential.

When dealing with less-lethal weapons, my standard advice is to avoid anything that forces you to close to very short range with an intruder. If you can avoid hand to hand combat, doing so is a tactically sound decision. As such, I advocate weapons that have a high possibility of incapacitating an intruder while maximizing your ability to stay away from said intruder. My recommendation for a non-lethal alternative would be 1) Tonfa, 2) Louisville Slugger, 3) Taser. The contact stun guns and pepper sprays are just a bad idea.

Lethal Weapons (Edged)
Because of the variety of firearms, I’m going to break lethal weapons into two categories, edged and projectile. When it comes to using an edged weapon for home defense, I’m less than enthusiastic. Most knives do not give you the ability to maintain distance from an assailant, and have an even higher learning curve than the tonfa to use effectively.

  • Knives – All knives, from pocket knives to machetes and everything in between fall into this category. Like I said, I don’t like knives for home defense. They’re less likely to cause an incapacitating blow than a good club, and are harder to use effectively. If you must choose a knife for home defense, my personal recommendation would be a machete, or similar long bladed knife. It maximizes distance and minimizes the learning curve necessary.
  • Swords – Well, why not? Swords are better choices than knives in my mind, again allowing you to keep some distance from an intruder. The problem of course is that to be truly effective with a sword, you have to train a lot. Additionally, anything the size of a baseball bat is going to have the same complications as a bat, namely it will be difficult to effectively manipulate in close quarters. If you forced me to pick a sword for home defense, I would most likely choose a well made replica of a Roman Gladius. It would not be difficult to wield in close quarters, and is designed to stab and penetrate deeply; deep stab wounds are generally more likely to incapacitate an intruder than a slash wound. However, I wouldn’t pick a sword for home defense.
  • Polearms – Spears? Really? Uh…don’t. Too long, unwieldy, and just bloody impractical. Despite the fact that charging an intruder with a spear seems like fun, there are just too many better options.

My general thoughts on edged weapons for home defense – don’t. They are harder to use well than a club or a gun, and less effective than a firearm.

Lethal Weapons (projectile)
Ah, the meat of the matter. Firearms sport several advantages over the other categories: they’re generally easier to learn how to use effectively than knives, they allow you to maintain distance from an intruder, and are more effective at producing incapacitation than non-lethal weapons or edged weapons. That is not to say that firearms are not without their disadvantages – namely among those is the possibility of a miss striking an innocent person, or a round that overpenetrates and strikes an innocent person. If you’re shooting indoors, you must be 100% sure of your target, and sure of what is behind and around your target.

  • Handguns – Lots and lots of people keep a handgun for home security purposes. While a handgun is limited in stopping power (the ability to rapidly induce an end to hostilities) when compared to a rifle or shotgun, what it lacks in power it makes up for in maneuverability. Be it a revolver or semi-auto, the handgun’s greatest advantage is its compact size. The disadvantages are (again) the relative lack of power, and the fact that it is harder to aim and hit with a handgun under stress conditions than a rifle or shotgun. However, a handgun is very capable of penetrating several interior walls if you miss a target – again be 100% sure of your target and what’s beyond your target.
  • Rifles – In the rifles category, you have rifle calibe
    (.223, 7.62×39, .30-30, etc) and then pistol caliber carbines, rifles which are chambered for pistol calibers. The rifle has significantly more power than most handguns, and thus is more likely to end hostilities in a rapid fashion. Additionally, rifles are easier to aim and hit with under stress firing situations. The major drawback of rifles is that they’re not nearly as compact as a pistol, which can create difficulty if you need to maneuver in a tight space. Again, over penetration is a concern.
  • Shotguns – possible the most recommended long arm for home defense is the pump-action 12 gauge shotgun. It has achieved this lofty status via its proven reputation of being devastatingly effective at short range. I strongly recommend shotguns, as they share the advantages of rifles; and also reduce the possibility of over penetration, albeit not by much. If the recoil of a 12 gauge pump with buck/slugs is too stout, consider a semi-automatic 12 gauge, or a 20 gauge. There are several excellent 20 gauge slugs, as well as more than a couple of good buck loads. Also, don’t leave out your traditional side-by-side shotguns – they’re quite often very compact and easy to tote around. Their greatest disadvantage is their limited ammo capacity.

When it comes to firearms, I’m personally leery about recommending a major centerfire rifle for home defense. I generally steer people towards shotguns or handguns for defending hearth and home. If you do choose a firearm, one of the most important things you can do is practice with it. All trigger time is good time, but if you get to a self-defense or home defense class, that’s even better.

In summary, my recommendations for a home defense weapon would be 1) Shotgun, 2) Handgun, 3) Rifle, 4) Tonfa, 5) Baseball bat. In part 3, we’ll address the most important part of home security, which is mindset/tactics.

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