The Noise that Wasn’t There

As I write this it is the morning after the event. It made me think about my own personal preparedness, complacency and norms.

Last night I was in bed reading. It was about 11, my wife was asleep and my kids had been asleep since 8:30. The house was quiet, and then I heard a sound I had heard before – a door opening and closing. I had heard this before as I have two kids and it normally results in one of them barging into our room and declaring, “I’m sick”, “I’m scared,” “The dog is bothering me,” etc. I braced myself for one of my kids walking into the room, only they didn’t. After about 20 seconds I got up and went looking for the kid thinking they might be vomiting or getting water from the kitchen.

Gunsite Day 1 Night Shoot 020

 

What I found was both kids sound asleep, as were the dogs that sleep with them each night.

At that point a terror shot through me, there might be someone in my house and I was ill-equipped with only boxer shorts and fist at my disposal.

With trepidation I started turning on lights and checking the house. Ultimately I found nothing. Not. A. Single. Thing. In the past my wife has heard doors open and close and believes our house to be haunted (tongue in check). I on the other hand, am pretty sure it is something less sinister than a poltergeist. Nevertheless it was an eye opener. I was so sure it was my one of my kids I had never stopped to consider the worst. I am grateful it was nothing, but what if I wasn’t lucky? What if my family and I were now just a statistic? A simple headline in a newspaper. A prime example of what not to do.

With this fresh in my mind I am reviewing my own procedures. I have long entertained creating something similar to the Intruder Defense Bag as shown by Sootch00 on YouTube. I even have the bag, but I got side tracked and never finished. My goal now is to finish the bag and have something usable. As I work through this I will update and track it here. It may be a one simple post or more, I honestly don’t know yet.

Ray Wylie Hubbard has a song called Conversation with the Devil. In it has says

Some get spiritual, ’cause they see the light
And some, ’cause they feel the heat

A little extrapolation and that applies to my situation completely!

What or how have you prepared for the Bump in the night. Have you ever entertained the possibility you might mistake an intruder for a sick kid?

Edited: December 11, 2015 to correct typos.

Gun Nuts Movie Reviews: The Purge, or “How to fail at home security”

Wow what a terrible movie that was. I have to confess, I was somewhat interested in the fictional universe presented by the backstory of The Purge, set in a future America where one night a year, all crime is legal. This usually centers around murdering folk, and it’s generally suggested that the people usually targeted for murder are lower class/poor folk. Get rid of those undesirables, and whatnot. Anyway the movie is total garbage, and if you want to see everything wrong with The Purge, check out CinemaSins.

ThePurgeTaurusRagingBull3

Back to the movie itself, it’s awful to watch. The only good thing about the movie is Lena Headey, and the scene where Ethan Hawke shoots his teenage daughter’s boyfriend, because who hasn’t wanted to do that, right? (I do not have teenage daughters) But the movie itself is sort of useful to gun nuts, because it presents the total breakdown in a home defense strategy and several really good examples of “how to get everyone killed in a home invasion.” So instead of reviewing the movie, we’re going to take a look at the tactical mistakes made by the main characters in the film.

1. They let the family scatter after the lockdown
In the film, Hawke’s family has this banging home-security system with big steel doors and shutters that makes their house relatively safe. However, after they go into lockdown, they’re lulled into a false sense of security by the big steel doors, and the entire family of four disperses over the large house, which allows the youngest child to temporarily lower their defenses, leading to the movie’s central conflict.

The fix for this is simple, and common sense: if you’re under imminent threat, you get everyone in a central, easily defended location. I would consider the house to be under imminent threat for the entire 12 hours of the Purge, so before the event started, everyone would be ushered into the safe-room/bunker, which would be nicely equipped with cots, video games, food, weapons, and security monitors, and we’d all stay there. For 12 hours. Spending 12 hours with your family is a small price to pay for not getting murdered.

2. Don’t divide your forces
But of course they don’t do that, and everything goes TU, so they have to fight to defend themselves, at which point Ethan Hawke gives his trembling, scared wife a gun and says “go find our daughter” while he goes off to kill badguys in their house.

He gets killed and Lena Headey gets captured. THIS IS MY SHOCKED FACE. If you have to go retrieve a child in that situation, either go alone and leave someone to defend the safe-room, or take as much force with you. Don’t split up and send two people out into the house by themselves to confront an unknown number of intruders. Come one.

3. Don’t trust mechanical systems
The biggest point of the film is that their security system is defeated; and the badguys gain easy entry after that. I like security systems, they’re very handy for warning that there’s an intruder in the house and alerting the cops that you need help if 911 isn’t available. But they’re not going to save your life. No ADT system in the world ever shot a determined invader in the face, which is why the most important part of a real home security system is having a smart plan.

That’s where the main characters in the film really failed, and the most important lesson of all. They believed “this can’t happen to us” so when the moment came where it did happen, there was a lot of lost strategic time due to panic. There was no plan, because they figured they were safe behind their steel doors. Locks are great, secure buildings are great, but don’t let them lull you into a false sense of security. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Not just home invasions, but fires, natural disasters, and all kinds of things like that.

Have a plan. Stick to your plan.

And if you’re in a horror movie, DON’T SPLIT UP.

Rifles for home defense

There’s no question that the expert consensus on rifles for home defense is that they’re good to go. In the AR15 platform, a rifle offers a considerable amount of firepower, easy handling in tight quarters, and good shootability. Most members of the family over age 12 can quite likely handle a carbine and get good hits with it. However, if you do choose a rifle for home defense, here are some things you should remember.

Get a sling
A rifle without a sling is like a carry gun without a holster. In the event that you do need to use your hands for something while running a carbine, a sling means you don’t have to put the rifle on the deck, or somewhere out of your control. Let it hang (with control) and then take care of whatever needs taking care of.

Get a white light
If someone ever tells you that white lights will give away your position in a home defense scenario, you don’t need to listen to anything else they’re going to say after that. One of the drawbacks of a rifle means that you can’t hold a flashlight in your weak hand like you could with a pistol, so you definitely need a white light. But remember, whatever your white light gets pointed at, you’re also now pointing the muzzle of your gun at it. Learn your house and how to bounce the light off surfaces to provide illumination for searching and ID without muzzling things.

Rifles are high pressure and very loud
Cooking off an un-suppressed rifle indoors without hearing protection will absolutely cause hearing damage. The shorter the rifle, the louder it’s going to be. The best option to mitigate this issue is a suppressor, but that’s not necessarily realistic for most shooters. The next best option is to keep a set of electronic earpro next to your rack. However, if you have kids around whom you may need to fire the rifle? That presents a problem, because their ears are even more sensitive. At that point, going with a lower pressure/noise option like a shotgun may make sense.

Know what your ammo does after penetrating sheetrock
There are countless studies, some good and some bad on how rifle bullets behave after passing through common interior wallboard material. Generally speaking, overpenetration isn’t an issue with .223, as many commercially available rounds fragment/destabilize after penetrating wallboard. But, you should know what your round is going to do.

arx100

Figure out how you’re going to stage the rifle, and practice from that condition
There are quite a few options for how to stage an HD gun. Probably the most common is the rifle version of the ancient “cruiser ready” status. Fully loaded magazine inserted, no round in the chamber, safety off. You could also stage it in Condition 1, fully loaded and safety on, or even loaded mag, empty chamber, and safety on, so long as you rack the bolt on an empty chamber first. Whatever ready position you set your carbine in, make sure when you’re at the range practicing with it, you practice getting it in action from that condition.

Rifles are great tools for home defense. They might not be the perfect fit for everyone and every circumstance, but they’re an incredibly versatile and easy to employ platform. I’m sure there are plenty of other things to remember about using a rifle for HD, but hopefully this list will get you started.

“you’ll get dependent on the laser!”

Yesterday, we talked about the importance of lights and lasers on defensive firearms. I wasn’t particularly surprised when both here and on Facebook comments showed up saying that lasers were bad. These comments all followed the exact same pattern:

“Well actually I prefer to train to use the sights because I’ll get dependent on the laser which will fail and break when I need it, and besides I don’t need any of that tacticool gadgetry on my gun because I’m so awesome and I learned to shoot in the Army during Vietnam.”

HK VP9 with Crimson Trace

There are many problems with that line of reasoning, but at the core it’s simple. It is the argument of a lazy person. If you distill it to its essence, what they’re saying is “I’m so lazy that if I put a laser on my gun it would turn into a crutch, so no one should do it.” I have a solution, and a proptip: Don’t be lazy. Train to use the sights. Because the real secret of lasers is that they don’t magically make you into a super dooper ninja-shooter. If you’re a garbage shooter without a laser, putting a laser on will just make you a garbage shooter with a good sighting system. I’ve seen it in classes. I was taking a class once and the gentleman to the right of me on the line had some kind of Officer sized 1911 that was giving him all kinds of fits. I watched his laser bounce around the target, and every shot hit low and left. Of course he blamed the gun, until the instructor came over and center-punched the target repeatedly with the student’s gun.

A laser won’t magically make you better at shooting. But it won’t automatically become a crutch, either. Here’s the other big secret: if you train to use the sights and your laser fails, YOUR SIGHTS ARE STILL ON YOUR GUN. What a laser does is make it easier to get hits in low-light situations and retain a target focus. I have lasers on all my defensive guns, but I rarely have “laser-specific” training. I practice using my sights. All the time. Because I know that when I need the laser, it will be there, and if something goes TU and the laser goes down, well it’s not like my sights have disappeared from my gun.

The final thing I’d like to address is durability. I’m going to confine this discussion solely to the Crimson Trace line of products, because I have the most experience with those. I should note as an aside that I do have a Viridian unit on the way for T&E, and they seem to spoken pretty well of in my circles. Back to the durability point. Crimson Trace lasers have been around for decades now. I have a j-frame laser unit that’s been rained on, sweated on, dropped in the dirt, banged around a glove box, and it has never lost zero and still works. I’ve had dozens of different CTC products on guns over the years, and I’ve had problems with exactly 1 of them, and Crimson Trace fixed it. There is this idea that we’re still stuck with the lasers of the 1980s, which were delicate, fragile things. We’re not. Modern laser aiming devices from reputable companies are as durable and robust as a properly tough optic. They’re not going to just crap out for no reason…and if they do, you still have the sights on your gun.

Home defense requires more than just a gun

Tragedies are an unfortunate feature of human existence that all of us will experience at some time in our lives. Experiencing some sort of tragedy may be inevitable in human life, but we can reduce the chances of self-inflicted tragedy considerably by taking the time to think through some things and prepare ourselves. When it comes to home defense, our preparation has to include a lot more than just buying a gun.

Having the gun is certainly a good feature of a robust home defense plan, but it cannot be the totality one’s home defense plan or the end result is likely to be tragedy. I’ll quote from this story in the news:

“Colorado Springs police said the unidentified 14-year-old girl was shot just before 6 a.m. as she entered her home in the 4000 block of Ascendant Drive, on the city’s northeast side. Officers rushed her to a local hospital, where she died…Officers found the girl in the basement with a chest wound, KOAA-TV reported, adding police scanner suggests she had climbed through a cellar window.”

The unidentified girl was the stepdaughter of the man who pulled the trigger. I certainly don’t have all the facts of this incident, so my guess about what happened is as good as anyone’s…but I’m going to proceed from the supposition that this step father would not have pulled the trigger had he identified the person coming through the cellar window as his stepdaughter. I’m going to guess that this shooting took place in conditions of low light, and that the shooter didn’t really have a clear read on the intruder, other than it was “somebody” breaking in…and he resorted to lethal force on that basis. intruder

In the moment it probably seemed like a pretty reasonable course of action to the average mind. If you’ve never been in a situation like that it’s difficult to appreciate just how differently your mind works. You don’t perceive things the same way under stress that you do when you’re not in danger. Your brain doesn’t process information the same way. Once the adrenaline leaves, the situation can often look very different. I can only imagine how much the situation changed for the shooter here when he figured out that the person he shot was his stepdaughter.

In various discussions of home defense both online and offline I’ve repeatedly encountered people who are perfectly OK with the concept of shooting at some shadowy figure in the dark. I’m not. I hold that you need to be able to clearly and specifically articulate why you are about to try and take another person’s life. “They’re not supposed to be here!” is really only a justification for the use of lethal force if you are charged with guarding a secure facility. If you trespass past a certain point at a nuclear weapons facility, the armed guards at the place will kill you. That’s because of the dangerous nature of what they are guarding. The physical layout of those sorts of places generally makes it impossible for someone to be in the lethal zone by accident, so it can be safely assumed that unauthorized personnel in secure areas are there maliciously.

The typical family home shares nothing in common with a nuclear weapons facility, including the ROE used at them. Someone forcing their way into your house through a door or a window certainly does rank as a potential threat, and you should absolutely be prepared to confront the intruder…but confronting the intruder is not the same thing as shooting at them. The confrontation does not necessarily require a conversation. Something as simple as using a hand-held or weapon-mounted light (or, barring that, just turning the lights on in the room) to get a visual read on the intruder can provide a great deal of information. If when you shine the light you see a person you don’t recognize with a weapon in his hand, it’s probably a safe bet that he isn’t breaking into your house to tell you about Jesus. Do what you must.

On the other hand, if it turns out that the person climbing through your window is actually your misbehaving stepdaughter trying to sneak back in after a night of unauthorized partying, it’s a hell of a lot better to figure that out using a burst from your SureFire than your Glock.

Home defense is about more than just having a gun. You need a home defense plan, a multi-faceted strategy that is the result of carefully considering possibilities and preparing a course of action ahead of time. If you don’t apply some thought to this ahead of time with realistic consideration of the possibilities, you’ll find that making up a plan under stress cold turkey sucks.

While we shouldn’t be reluctant to use violence when it is called for, we should never allow that to devolve into viewing the use of violence casually. You don’t want to come to the understanding of the gravity of pulling the trigger when you recognize the person the paramedics are rolling out on a stretcher to be your stepdaughter. Even if the police rule it as an accidental shooting and you face no criminal sanction, you still have to live with having killed someone you were supposed to protect. To me, that sounds like a recipe for hell on earth…ceaseless torment.

…and all over something that could have been avoided with a SureFire and a little bit of clear thinking ahead of time. Self defense isn’t a game, folks. Take it seriously. If you’re going to have a gun for home defense, then by gum establish some guidelines for yourself that you can call upon while your mind is racing at a million miles an hour. Setting clear rules for your use of force ahead of time will help you make decisions more clearly under stress and will probably go a long way toward avoiding this kind of horrible outcome.

 

 

Shotguns vs. rifles for home defense

In the post “Revolvers and Shotguns don’t jam” I mentioned that I would prefer to recommend a semi-automatic rifle to an inexperienced shooter for self-defense over a pump-action shotgun. There were some questions raised in the comments, so today we’re going to take a look at the various factors involved in choosing a rifle or a shotgun for home-defense.

Colt Sporting Rifle - GunUp Magazine (6)

For rifles, we’ll use the ubiquitous AR15 platform, because it’s the most popular rifle in the USA right now. Pump-action shotguns are a fairly generic concept, but for the sake of this post we’ll assume we’re talking about the either Remington 870s or the Mossberg 590 series. There are plenty of other pump guns on the market, and some of them are truly excellent such as the FNH P-12, but to include every single pump would make this a 30,000 work article.

Cost
This is the first area everyone wants to talk about, and it’s a reasonable point to start. Cost absolutely figures into this equation, and it’s not exactly as disparate as you’d think. An entry level AR will probably run you about $700-800 in the current market, and with that you’ll get the vanilla features: adjustable stock, iron sights, A2 flash hider and probably a rail to mount a light on. For $400-600 you can get a similarly entry level shotgun, which will not have good sights, and will likely not have the capability to accept a light anywhere. Climbing the shotgun price ladder to $700-800 dollars will get you a top notch pump gun with good sights, a light capable forend, and higher magazine capacity (8-9 rounds). So for the price of an entry level AR, you can get the best pump shotgun on the planet.

Winner: Shotgun

Firepower
I had to think up a category that would combine both lethality and capacity, and because I like trite, cliche terms I went with firepower. Obviously, the rifle has a huge edge in capacity, since it holds 30 rounds. However, the 12 gauge pump action shotgun is the most destructive individual weapon system out there, and is the only gun that can accurately have the term “stopping power” applied to it. 00 buckshot from a 12 gauge creates massive destruction on the target and has an excellent reputation for stopping fights. .223 ammo isn’t as well regarded, however modern JHP loads like our favorite, Hornady TAP are excellent defensive rounds. However, despite the massive power of the shotgun, the edge in the firepower goes to the rifle. 30 rounds is a lot more than 9, and even more importantly it’s a lot easier to get hits with a rifle than it is a shotgun. Contrary to movies, shotguns do not spray a magical cone of death that blows badguys into a red mist.

Winner: Rifle

Shootability
This goes hand in hand with the firepower category, because having all the ammo in the world doesn’t do you any good if you can’t get hits. I won’t waste too much time on this one, because the answer is simple: rifles are easier to accurately than shotguns. They usually have better sights, better triggers, and a less complex manual of arms.

Winner: Rifle

Ease of use
A key reason people recommend a pump action shotgun is because it’s “simple”, while poo-poohing the semi-auto rifle because it’s so complex. Let’s take a quick look at the loading/firing/unloading cycle for both guns:

Shotgun:

  • Load the magazine by inserting shells into the magazine tube one at a time on the bottom of the gun.
  • Pump the action to the rear, drive it all the way forward, place the weapon on safe.
  • Take the safety off, fire the weapon by pressing the trigger, pump the action action again. Make sure you don’t short stroke the action.
  • Repeat as necessary for a maximum of 9 rounds.

Rifle

  • Load the magazine by pressing the cartridges straight down into the box.
  • Insert the box in the gun.
  • Pull the charging handle, place the weapon on safe.
  • Take the weapon off safe, fire the weapon by pressing the trigger
  • Repeat as necessary up to 30 times.

The reloading process for the rifle is also much simpler as it consists of “put another magazine in the gun”, while the shotgun requires you to manually thumb more rounds into the tube. Additionally, if either guns are carried “cruiser ready” (loaded magazine, empty chamber, safety off) the AR still gets the edge because all you have to do is yank the charging handle, which is easier than pumping a shotgun.

Winner: Rifle

The Verdict: When you break down the pros and cons of a rifle versus a pump-gun for home defense, the rifle ends up making a lot more sense. There’s also the fact that if you want to hit something with a shotgun past 50 yards, you need to do a slug changeover, whereas with a rifle you just shoot at it. I love shotguns, and I do keep several shotguns in the house for defensive use. The current state of technology and the vast proliferation of rifles means that they just make more sense as a home defense weapon than a shotgun. You can get a good rifle with a decent light and optic for ~$1000 if you shop smart (shop S-Mart), and if you really want to fully outfit your shotgun, you’ll end up spending at or near that. Yes, you can get a used shotgun that will be perfectly serviceable for $250, but this post isn’t about home defense on a budget. If you really want the best for home defense, you want a rifle.