Oleoresin capsaicin (OC) pepper spray
is safe and very effective on animals and lowly motivated human offenders like drunks, but are illegal in some areas and not suitable for use in windy conditions. The mist type are best as they allow users to place a wall of irritant between them and the assailant as they retreat. Tasers
(dart firing stun guns) are safe and can be very effective but have a short effective range and are slow to reload (they can be used like a contact type stun gun). Older style stun guns can only be used as contact weapons.
Twelve gauge shotguns can be loaded with low velocity 'bean bag
' type rounds (typically a nylon bag filled with small lead pellets). They are normally meant to be fired at the offender's gut area in order to wind them, and unlikely to cause a life threatening injury unless aimed at the offender's head or throat (only when justified in using lethal force). They can be very effective but light cover or insensitivity to pain due to intoxication can render them ineffective. If you use them don't have conventional ammunition as this could result in a tragedy.
Police and security guards use firearms because they are the safest and most practical weapons of last resort against offenders with deadly weapons. They are a very effective deterrent as most offenders will flee or surrender when confronted with an armed 'victim'. Rapid fire firearms designed for defensive use are best (not single-shot sporting firearms designed for target shooting or hunting). Edged weapons like knives can be useful, as can a baseball bat, but any contact weapon is less than ideal and of little use against gun toting felons.
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Handguns are more versatile than long guns as they can be discretely slipped into a pocket before investigating an unusual sound and discreetly carried outside the home. A handgun is also easier to keep hold of during a struggle than any long gun and allows you to scoop up a child with one hand and cover your retreat with a gun in the other hand. Semi-automatic pistols are prone to 'limp wrist' stoppages if not held correctly due to an injury or an awkward firing position and are dependant on ammunition quality and spring condition (springs are susceptible to metal fatigue) for reliable functioning. Modern handguns are safer than most long guns as they will not discharge if dropped.
Long guns are best restricted to defensive use inside a safe room as they not suitable for concealed carry or one handed use (if a hand/arm is injured/disabled) and harder to keep control of during a struggle than a handgun. The pump action shotgun is ideal for people who have practiced a lot with them so rigorously pumping the slide to reload the chamber is an automatic reflex, but everyone else is better off with a semi-auto. Casual users of pump action shotguns are prone to 'pilot error' malfunctions (they often short-stroke the action in a high stress life-of-death encounter), thus firearms that simply require you to pull the trigger to fire them are often best for defensive use.
Rifles have excessive penetration unless chambered for a low power pistol round like the 9mm Parabellum (9mm Luger) or a intermediate power rifle round like the 5.56x45mm (.223 Remington) loaded with light hollowpoint bullets, which are better for people who are frail or a disability than a manually operated pump action shotgun. The only situation where a rifle chambered for a high power round (e.g., 308 Winchester) would be an acceptable defensive weapon is on a rural property, unless loaded with ammunition that used highly frangible bullets (e.g., Glaser) which are designed to rapidly disintegrate when they hit an offender or an exterior wall so as not to endanger one's neighbors. It is best to store long guns and semi-auto pistols with the hammer down on an empty chamber to protect their hammer spring.
In revolvers the .357 Magnum round is the optimum round for defensive use as it has the best stopping power record of any handgun round (with the 125-grain JHP loads from Federal and Remington) and is very versatile as it can be loaded with heavy hard cast bullets for deep penetration against large animals, low recoil .38 Special rounds for people who are recoil sensitive, and shotshells for snakes. In 2014 the FBI concluded that 9mm Parabellum chambered semi-auto pistols were best for law enforcement use when used with modern expanding bullets as they have the optimum combination of stopping power, magazine capacity and controllability. People who have trouble using handguns due to frailty or a disability are best served by a Beretta 3032 Tomcat pistol (.32 ACP) that is easy to load and shoot.
The 12 gauge shotgun round is best in a long gun as it has excellent stopping power and is very versatile as it can be loaded with heavy slugs for deep penetration against large animals, reduced recoil buckshot rounds for use against humans, feral dogs, wolves and mountain lions, less-lethal bean bag rounds, and fine shot for use against snakes. The 5.56x45mm rifle round (a higher pressure version of the .223 Remington round) is best in a semi-auto rifle as it has the best mix of power, magazine capacity and controllability in a lightweight rifle, and is well suited to militia use by members of the unorganized militia, though for close range use some prefer long guns chambered for the 9mm Parabellum pistol round like the MP5 as they are typically shorter and are better suited to use with sound suppressors.
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Revolver - Ruger LCR
[.357 Magnum ]
The .357 Magnum chambered LCR (five shot) is the best pocket handgun for defensive use. This small double-action-only (DAO) revolver is small and light enough to carry in a pocket and arguably has the best trigger pull on any mass production revolver. If a round does not go off (due to a defective primer) you can instantly fire the next round by simply pulling the trigger, whereas manually reloading a semi-auto pistol takes much longer. Unlike most pistols, revolvers will fire when the barrel is pressed against an attacker. The LCR will also fire from inside a jacket pocket in an emergency thanks to the internal hammer that will not catch on the lining. The LCR is the equivalent of a Glock pistol in a revolver as it has a steel upper and polymer lower, is simple to use, reliable, durable, robust, and has an easy to use trigger.
It is also available in .327 Federal Magnum (six shot), but it is less powerful than the .357 Magnum round and does not perform well from the short 1.88" LCR barrel (needs a 3" barrel). A 9mm Parabellum (five shot) variant is available that makes sense for people who have a semi-auto pistol in this caliber and is more powerful than the .38 Special round (but has about the same recoil due to its heavier steel upper), has about the same energy level as the .327 Federal round in this barrel length but with much less muzzle blast and muzzle flash, but is not as versatile as the more powerful .357 Magnum round. The 9mm variant uses full moon clips to faciliate extraction of the rimless rounds.
The lighter .38 Special variant (five shot) is 3.5-oz lighter (aluminium upper) than the other variants which all have a steel upper so has more recoil than the .357 Magnum variant when loaded with the same .38 Special rounds. Recoil is very heavy with full power .357 Magnum loads so if you want to use such loads the 9-oz heavier Ruger SP101
is much better, though the SP101 needs a trigger/action job and a lighter 10-lb Wolf main spring to improve the trigger pull which is rough and heavy as it comes from the factory, is too heavy for most pockets (best in an IWB or waistpack type holster), and is not suited to firing from inside a pocket as it has an external hammer. SP101 review
The full power .357 Magnum loads from Federal and Remington with the 125-grain JHP bullets have the best stopping power record in a handgun (against humans) and are also a top choice for use against predators like wolves and mountain lions. For recoil sensitive people we recommend the reduced power 135-grain Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel JHP load. If this still has too much recoil for you we recommend the Speer Gold Dot 135-grain JHP +P load in .38 Special. If you are carrying it as a backup gun and might give it to an unarmed good guy with little or no experience with guns it would be best to load it with .38 Special rounds. If the LCR is used as a backup for a 9mm auto it would be best to use one chambered for the same round, and we recommend the Federal Premium Tactical 124-grain EFMJ 9mm Luger +P load.
For use against large animals we recommend heavy flat point bullets designed to penetrate thick bone like the skull of a feral bull or bear, such as the Buffalo Bore HEAVY 357 MAG OUTDOORSMAN load with a 180-grain hard cast LFN-GC bullet, and (for the recoil sensitive) the Buffalo Bore 38 SPL +P OUTDOORSMAN load with a 158-grain hard cast Keith bullet. Shotshell loads can be used to kill snakes and as a less-lethal alternative to conventional loads against larger threats (though they are deadly at point blank range as the shot is so close together they act as a single bullet) for situations when pepper spray (which should accompany a gun so you have a non-lethal alternative to deadly force) is not a viable alternative. Shotshells are also available in 9mm Parabellum (best suited to use in revolvers).
Pistol - Glock 19
[ 9mm Parabellum ]
The 9mm Parabellum (9mm Luger) chambered Glock Model 19 has the best combination of stopping power, magazine capacity, reliability, durability, robustness, simplicity, lightness, shootability and ready concealability of any defensive pistol. Its short travel, single-action (SA) trigger pull (standard trigger pull is 5.5-lbs) makes it very easy to shoot well, but is best fitted with the New York No.1 trigger which produces an 8-lb trigger pull that helps prevent accidental discharges in high stress situations. We recommend the Gen3 variant (adopted by the US Navy SEALs in 2015 to replace the larger, heavier, and more complex double-action (DA) SIG SAUER MK25) which is simpler than the later variants which don't have full parts compatibility with earlier variants (for no good reason) and violate the KIS principle.
DA pistols like the SIG SAUER MK25 (P226) have a long, heavy trigger pull for the first shot (trigger cocking mode) to help prevent accidental discharges and a short, light trigger pull for all subsequent shots as the reciprocating slide cocks the hammer upon firing, but many find the trigger cocking mode difficult to use while one can forget which mode it is in during a high stress emergency. DA pistols are also more complex mechanically and operationally so we prefer the simpler SA Glock. Avoid Glocks chambered for the .357 SIG, .40 S&W, 10mm Auto, .45 ACP and .45 GAP rounds as they do not have fully supported chambers so can blow up and injure their users. If you have large hands you might prefer the slightly larger Glock 17 which has a ½-inch longer grip as well as a ½-inch longer barrel/slide assembly.
High pressure +P rounds are best, ideally loaded with expanding bullets travelling faster than the speed of sound as they have the best stopping power record. We recommend the Federal Premium Tactical 124-grain EFMJ 9mm Luger +P load as their bullets are more feed reliable than conventional expanding bullets like hollowpoints and softpoints. For deep penetration against large animals we recommend the Buffalo Bore HEAVY 9mm +P OUTDOORSMAN load (147-grain hard cast FN bullet), which is designed to penetrate heavy bone like the skull of a bear. The Bullalo Bore rounds will work very well against humans and similar sized animals like wolves if you hit a vital zone. Shotshells are also available in 9mm but these low power loads (which use lead pellets that together weigh much less than a conventional bullet) are best suited to revolvers chambered for this round as they will not cycle pistols (meant to be manually extracted in pistols).
Only use Glock magazines as aftermarket magazines are notoriously unreliable. An extended baseplate is available that increases the capacity of the 15 round magazine by two rounds. The Glock 19 will also accept the 17/19 round magazines made for the Glock 17 (and the 33 round magazines made for the Glock 18). After loading the gun don't remove the magazine to top it off with one round as this could compromise reliability. Don't use magazines used for live-fire training for combat use as they could have damaged feed lips or their springs could have been damaged by metal fatigue caused by the many compression cycles involved in loading and unloading.
Pistol - Beretta 3032 Tomcat
[.32 ACP ]
The .32 ACP chambered Tomcat (seven round magazine) is ideal for people with a weak firing hand due to old age or a disability who cannot manage the heavy trigger pull of DA/DAO revolvers, lack the hand strength to pull back the slide of a service pistol like the Glock 19 to load it, or find the recoil of the more powerful rounds used in the above handguns excessive. The DA Tomcat has light recoil and can be easily loaded by placing a round directly into the chamber without having to pull the slide back thanks to its pivoting barrel feature.
If you have trouble using the trigger in trigger-cocking mode (for the first shot) you can carry it cocked with the safety catch engaged (in a holster like Mitch Rosen's No. 18, not loose in a pocket where the safety catch might disengage as a result of it moving around). The 'Inox' version is best as it is more corrosion resistant (stainless steel barrel and slide). Use blue Loctite on the grip screws to keep them tight as the grips hold the recoil transfer levers on their pivot pins. If the grip screws loosen a lever can fall off its pin and cause the slide to jam.
We recommend the Winchester 60-grain Silvertip JHP round. The round has a good stopping power record (though markedly less than the more powerful rounds in the handguns described above) and is feed reliable in the Tomcat. Don't use high pressure +P rounds (or any ammunition that exceeds 130 ft-lbs/176 J muzzle energy) as doing so will compromise reliability and durability, with the light alloy frames being prone to cracking if one does so. All variants now have heavier slides to reduce the stress on the frame (not just the Inox variant).
Only use Beretta magazines as aftermarket magazines are notoriously unreliable. After loading the gun don't remove the magazine to top it off with one round as this could compromise reliability. Don't use magazines used for live-fire training for combat use as they could have damaged feed lips or their springs could have been damaged by metal fatigue caused by the many compression cycles involved in loading and unloading.
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Shotgun - Remington 870
[ 12 Gauge ]
The most versatile long gun for defensive use is a pump action shotgun. The sound they make when loaded will scare off many offenders. The 12 gauge round is best as there are a large variety of loads available for it, including less-lethal bean bag rounds. If a round does not go off (due to a dud primer) you can instantly load the next round by pumping the slide, whereas manually reloading a semi-auto takes much longer. It can readily be fitted with a folding stock like those made by Arms Tech
and Choate Machine & Tool
and a shorter barrel.
A left hand version of the 870 is available. In jurisdictions that restrict or ban the ownership of pump action shotguns but not pump action rifles you may be able to register one as a 12 gauge rifle by ordering it with a rifled 'slug' barrel (which improves the accuracy of bean bag rounds). SureFire
make a forend with a built-in tactical light, which is a valuable accessory as you want to be able to identify a threat but (unlike a handgun) you need both hands to control a long gun. A high intensity light can also drive off a potential attacker.
The best 12 gauge rounds for defensive use are the reduced recoil '00' buckshot loads (full power loads have punishing recoil). Less-lethal bean bag rounds are ideal in a thin walled apartment as they won't penetrate an internal sheetrock wall. Bean bag rounds should normally be aimed at the gut area to wind an offender except when lethal force is justified and it is appropriate to shoot an offender in the head or throat. If you use less-lethal bean bag rounds don't mix them with conventional loads as you could mistake one for the other in an emergency.
The four round magazine can be left fully loaded as the magazine spring is designed for this level of stress. Magazine extensions are also available if you want to increase the magazine capacity. A magazine extension that is as long as the 20-inch barrel on the 870 Deer Gun will increase the capacity of the magazine to eight rounds with 2¾
-inch long rounds, but it would be best to download these non-standard magazines by one round to err on the side of caution as they might apply too much pressure to the plastic bodied rounds which could cause them to bulge and be difficult to load. If you use your shotgun on a regular basis for training or sporting use replace the magazine spring every five years as magazine springs can suffer metal fatigue from the many compression cycles involved in loading and unloading.
Rifle - POF-5
[ 9mm Parabellum ]
When fitted with a stock (ideally the folding stock from B&T
) the POF-5 - a semi-auto pistol version of the HK MP5 submachine gun - is ideal for people who want a compact, low recoil self-loading long gun suited to use with a sound suppressor (in case you have to shoot before you can put on hearing protection - sound suppressors are not practical on shotguns). It is best fitted with a SureFire 328 Lighted Forearm for identifying targets in low light. Make sure the suppressor is designed to clear the 328 light bezel. The 15 round magazines are much less likely to catch on clothing or cover than the 30 round variety (pictured) and all you need with a semi-auto.
The POF-5 has a steel trigger housing (like the original G3 service rifle), which makes it better than the original MP5 and most clones which use a weaker polymer housing, and has a separate pistol grip assembly that allows you to replace it if it's damaged and fit different grips made for HK metal grip frames (secured with a grip screw visible in the above photo). It also has an ambidextrous magazine paddle, unlike most MP5 clones which only have the magazine release button fitted to the right hand side of the receiver which is difficult and slow to use at the best of times. It can be fitted with an ambidextrous selector lever, which are available from companies like HKParts.net
which also sell the MP5 Armorer's Manual, MP5 & MP5K 9mm Cleaning Kit, HK Rear Sight Tool, and HK 3 Point Sling.
High pressure +P rounds are best, ideally loaded with expanding bullets travelling faster than the speed of sound as they have the best stopping power record. We recommend the Federal Premium Tactical 124-grain EFMJ 9mm Luger +P load as their bullets are more feed reliable than conventional expanding bullets like hollowpoints and softpoints. Subsonic 147-grain loads are ideal for use with a sound suppressor but do not have as good a stopping power record as rounds with lighter supersonic bullets, so we favor the later for defensive use in the home. The Russian 7N31 round will defeat light body armor.
Only use factory magazines as aftermarket magazines are notoriously unreliable. After loading the gun don't remove the magazine to top it off with one round as this could compromise reliability. Don't use magazines used for live-fire training for combat use as they could have damaged feed lips or their springs could have been damaged by metal fatigue caused by the many compression cycles involved in loading and unloading. When you load it make sure the top round in the magazine is on the left as you look at it from the rear.
Rifle - FN 15 Military Collector M4
[ 5.56x45mm ]
A low recoil 5.56mm rifle like the M4 Carbine is an excellent long gun for people who a prefer self-loading firearm to the manually operated variety and want more power and range than a firearm like the MP5 (chambered for the 9mm pistol round). The collapsible stock makes it suitable for small adults and those wearing body armor and/or backpack. You might like to use a high visibility front sight blade like the TFO AR-15 Style Front Sight (TRUGLO
) and a red dot sight like the Micro H-1 (Aimpoint
), along with a tactical light.
A huge range of accessories are available for these rifles, but for most uses all you need is a red dot sight like the Micro H-1 and a tactical light like the SureFire M300 Mini Scout Light (Surefire
). The M300 is best used in conjunction with a short vertical grip like the Stubby Grip (TangoDown
) so your support hand can easily use the pressure switch on the tail cap. Lasers are of limited utility outside night operations when you are using night vision goggles and want an IR laser to target the enemy. Try to keep your rifle light. It is also desirable to obtain the Otis Defender Series cleaning kit and 5.56 B.O.NE. Tool (Otis Technology
), the .223/5.56 MSR Scraper Tool (Real Avid
), along with the M16/M4 Maintenance Field Pack (Brownell's
), and the Field Survivor 1 maintenance tool (Samson Manufacturing Corporation
We recommend the VOR-TX 5.56mm load with the 62-grain TSX (TAC-X) bullet which has excellent stopping power within the maximum practical range (300 meters) and good penetration of light cover. Military issue 5.56mm loads with FMJ bullets tend to tumble and fragment within 50 meters when fired from a short M4 Carbine barrel, which produces very good stopping power, but simply drill a small caliber hole through targets beyond that range. The M995 AP round is best for shooting through barriers and light body armor.
We recommend the 20 round polymer magazines from Magpul and 20 round USGI magazines with the Magpul anti-tilt follower. Thirty round magazines tend to catch on clothing and cover, thus are more prone to damage, are less reliable, and are not needed on a semi-auto. After loading the gun don't remove the magazine to top it off with one round as this could compromise reliability. Don't use magazines used for live-fire training for combat use as they could have damaged feed lips or their springs could have been damaged by metal fatigue caused by the many compression cycles involved in loading and unloading.
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A-Zoom Snap Caps
Snap caps like the A-Zoom Snap Caps are ideal for dry fire practice as they cushion the firing pin which helps prevent damage. Trigger control is crucial to accuracy, but you don't need to spend a lot of money using live rounds unnecessarily. Always make sure the gun you are dry firing is pointed in a safe direction in case you accidentally load a live round. Lyman Products Corporation
First Defense 360°
Oleoresin capsaicin (OC) pepper spray like First Defense 360° (which will work even if held upside down) is the ideal non-lethal defensive weapon for situations where a gun is inappropriate. Pepper spray is much more effective than the old tear gas and Mace type sprays and ideal for use on lowly motivated offenders and animals like dogs, mountain lions and bears. Safariland
A small but powerful flashlight that is ideal for identifying targets (use a wide rubber band to stop the tailcap turning). Avoid flashlights with multiple power settings for use in high stress situations. SureFire also make tactical lights designed specifically for firearms which can be fitted with remote switches to facilitate ease of use, though some prefer a simpler and less expensive flashlight like the G2X. SureFire
These fast opening steel safes are ideal for storing a firearm. The GV1000 Mini and GV2000 Multi handgun safes have holes in their base so it can be bolted to the floor, or temporarily secured via a detachable steel cable. The larger GV5500 is designed to store both handguns and long guns. They open via a battery (or mains) powered button keypad or a backup key. GunVault Inc.
No. 18 Holster
This superbly made pocket holster is ideal for concealing a Beretta Tomcat by breaking up the tell-tale outline of the pistol, keeps it correctly positioned in your pocket, and protects it from lint and other debris. These are not generic holsters, but fitted and boned to specific weapons, as are all of Mitch Rosen's holsters. Mitch Rosen Extraordinary Gunleather
3M Peltor SV Tactical Pro Hearing Protector
These electronic shooting muffs protect the ears from high intensity gunshots but allow users to have a conversation. They can also intensify sounds like an intruder walking on carpet or breathing, and are bi-aural so you can tell what direction a sound came from. Ideal for home defense and the shooting range. 3M
Second Chance Monarch
Monarch soft body armor provides protection against most pistol/SMG bullets and may stop a rifle bullet slowed and fragmented by cover. The Monarch is readily concealable in the SPA carrier. Second Chance also make a carrier for overt use that can be fitted with a pistol holster and pouches for a flashlight, pistol magazines and a first aid kit (TAC w/Modular Webbing). Second Chance
Secret Service Grips
The smooth surface of this rosewood revolver grip allows your hand to easily slide around and grasp it even when it's in an enclosed space like a pocket or held tightly against the body in an IWB or bellyband style holster (rubber grips tend to untuck shirts). They are ergonomically designed so provide excellent recoil control but are not as comfortable to use as rubber grips. Eagle Grips
SF RYDER 9Ti
This light sound suppressor was designed for 9mm Parabellum chambered handguns and long guns. Surefire also make sound suppressors for 5.56mm chambered rifles such as the SOCOM556-MINI2. Unlike 5.56mm rifles, a 9mm chambered firearm fitted with a good sound suppressor like this will be well under 140-dB (140-dB and above will cause permanent hearing damage to unprotected ears). Surefire
The leather Stealth Pac waistpack holster is far more stylish than the nylon variety and much quieter (snap or zip) to open than brands that use Velcro (snap is best). One should not carry a weapon in a handbag or laptop bag due to the difficulty in quickly accessing it and poor security (they are targeted by thieves and could be left on a bus seat if you are distracted or tired). Coronado Leather
Slip 2000 725 is an excellent lubricant for firearms which also helps prevent a build up of carbon, while Slip 2000 EWL is superb for removing carbon from firearm components like a barrel (chamber and bore) and the bolt assembly of self-loading firearms like the M4 rifle and MP5 submachine gun. Keeping your firearms well lubricated and clean is crucial to maintaining reliability. Slip 2000
The best choice in a concealment holster for the Ruger LCR and Glock 19. This metal reinforced inside waistband (IWB) holster requires only a tucked in shirt for concealment, with the only visible part of the holster being the leather belt loop. The LCR needs a smooth grip like the Secret Service Grip from Eagle Grips as the standard rubber grip tends to untuck shirts. Mitch Rosen Extraordinary Gunleather
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Rule 1: All guns are always loaded.
Rule one doesn't mean that all guns are in fact loaded, only that all guns are treated and handled as if loaded. If you wouldn't point a loaded gun at a friend, then don't point an unloaded gun at them. If you wouldn't leave a loaded gun unattended where a child could get at it, then don't do so with an unloaded gun.
Rule 2: Never let the muzzle cover anything you're not willing to destroy.
Muzzle control is rule two. What an ejection seat is to a jet fighter pilot or a life raft to a sailor, so muzzle control is to a shooter. It's the last line of defense, the one thing that can save a life when everything else goes wrong. A gun can discharge for a number of reasons, but if the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction nobody will be hurt.
Rule 3: Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
The purpose of the trigger is to fire the gun, not rest your finger. If your finger is on the trigger and you trip or are startled the gun may go off. If you are holding an offender at gunpoint you will probably have your finger on the trigger (survival instinct), which is why guns with a long, heavy trigger pull are best for 'threat-management'.
Rule 4: Be sure of your target.
Know what you are shooting at, and what is behind it. Innocents may be behind the assailant, so it is your responsibility to aim where the bullet is unlikely to pass through the offender. In darkened houses family members and friends have been mistaken for intruders and shot, so always
identify your target before firing.
NRA Gun Safety Rules
Read Gunproof Your Children
if any children live in or visit your home.
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Knowledge is power. Start with Massad Ayoob's books: In the Gravest Extreme
and The Ayoob Files: The Book
. Then go to a legal library and tell the librarian you want to see everything in the statute books about guns, assault, homicide and self-defense. The more knowledgeable you are, the less likely you are to make a tragic mistake.
One must only use lethal force to stop an immediate and unavoidable deadly threat to an innocent person. If an offender ceases to pose a threat you cannot shoot him. There are three key factors to determining whether or not lethal force is justified. Ability
: Did the offender have the means to kill or seriously injure the victim. The weapon may be a gun, knife, baseball bat, or greatly superior strength or ability (e.g., a karate expert). Proximity
: Was the offender close enough to the victim to use the weapon immediately. Intent
: Did the offender display his intent to kill or seriously injure the victim. This can take the form of a verbal threat, body language or other actions that indicate his intent.
There is another factor that needs to be considered. Was there any way you could have reasonably extricated yourself and other innocents from the situation without resorting to lethal force?
In public some states allow you to defend yourself without retreat if attacked any place you have a right to be. Others have a "retreat requirement". This last requirement is often misunderstood. It does not say you must retreat or die. One typical law states that retreat is required before resorting to lethal force if the retreat can be accomplished with complete safety to yourself and others. Shooting an offender when you could have safely escaped without doing so may make said shooting appear unreasonable.
An exception to the retreat requirement comes from English common law. The doctrine states, "A man's home is his castle, and attacked therein, he is not required to retreat". Do not, however, assume that because your state has a law affirming your right to defend yourself in your home that you can shoot any intruder, which is not the case. Even in your own home retreat is an excellent idea, as it indicates that your use of lethal force was a last resort. This is just one more reason why the logical thing to do when there is an intrusion is to scoop up the whole family and get them into the safe room. If the intruder smashes his way into the safe room it is clear that he posed a genuine threat to your family.
The Eternal Yardstick
Your actions will be judged by another doctrine derived from English common law, namely the 'Reasonable Man Doctrine'. The judge will tell the jury: "You must ask yourself if the firing of the gun by the defendant was the act of a reasonable and prudent person in the same situation, who knew what the defendant knew. If you believe a reasonable and prudent person in that situation knowing what the defendant knew would not have fired, then you should find the defendant guilty of manslaughter". "If, however, you believe that a reasonable and prudent person, in the same situation and knowing what the defendant knew, would have shot the deceased, you must find the defendant not guilty."
Lethal Force Commandments
1. Avoid all fights
Whenever you go armed you must go to extremes to avoid physical conflict.
2. Lethal force is a last resort.
Only use a lethal weapon as a last resort to prevent an immediate, unavoidable deadly threat to innocents.
3. Don't shoot fleeing criminals.
If an offender flees he's no longer a threat to you. Capturing offenders is a job best left to the police.
4. Never fire 'warning' shots.
A warning shot can kill an innocent bystander. You may be charged with reckless behavior or attempted murder.
5. Never draw your weapon unless you are fully prepared to use it.
Criminals can sense if you are bluffing from body language and tone of voice.
6. Be discreet in concealing a weapon.
A gun must be kept out of sight until needed. Revealing a gun unnecessarily will attract police attention.
7. Shoot to stop, not to wound.
A wounded assailant can kill you. Never use deadly force unless justified in killing an assailant.
8. Your defense weapon should be legally owned and carried.
An illegally owned or carried gun can indicate a reckless disregard for the law.
9. Maintain your skills and knowledge.
Practice with your gun regularly (join a gun club). Keep up to date on the law relating to guns and self-defense.
10. Be responsible.
Never endanger innocents. Stay at the scene of a shooting to wait for police (if safe to do so).
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If you know an intruder has entered your home, or is about to enter it, the best thing to do is get family members into the safe room and call the police. Looking for the intruder is a bad idea as he will probably hear you coming and ambush you. A 'safe room' is simply a main bedroom that has been fitted with a reinforced door and frame with a deadbolt lock, windows covered by bars (that can be quickly released from the inside if there is a fire) and/or fitted with reinforced glass (the bullet resistant variety or normal glass covered with window film), a secure telephone line (a land line should use an underground cable and have no extensions), a gun and flashlight. The perimeter would ideally be protected by a high fence, sensor lights and a dog, with no vegetation near entrances or windows. An alarm (connected to a private security company) that will warn you of an intruder breaking in is highly desirable, one that can be triggered manually via panic buttons located by entrances and in bedrooms even when the door/window sensors are deactivated.
You cannot call the police every time you hear an unusual sound, so if you decide to investigate tell your partner to call police if he or she hears a scuffle or shout before you leave the bedroom. Be dressed and have a flashlight and gun (ideally a handgun). Move slowly along the edge of hallways and rooms (floors are less likely to squeak as they are better supported there), only using the flashlight briefly when necessary to illuminate/clear a room or hallway (leaving it on makes you an easy target). If you realize there is an intruder who poses an imminent and unavoidable deadly threat shoot him until he is no longer a threat (a potentially armed adult intruder poses an imminent deadly threat to a child in a nearby bedroom). If the intruder has a gun don't give a warning like "don't move" as this will give him time to spin and shoot you before you can react - shoot until he is no longer a threat even if this means shooting him in the back. If he does not pose an imminent deadly threat to anyone retreat to the safe room and call police.
On the street it is important to have situational awareness, best achieved by via Jeff Cooper's awareness color code. Condition 'white' is a state of inattentiveness when in a secure environment like your home. The following three conditions are for everywhere else.
Yellow (ready): You are aware of your environment.
Orange (set): You see a potential threat and keep it under observation.
Red (go): A threat materializes so you take appropriate action.
In a potentially dangerous situation it is best to have your hand on your weapon. The best place to carry it is a pocket so you can discreetly have your hand on it. If an imminent deadly threat you cannot avoid materializes use lethal force. If the deadly threat is not imminent shout "piss off" and leave the area while keeping your weapon in the ready position (pointed at the ground between you and the offender). In a dangerous situation where you don't have a gun, or lethal force is not justified, a can of pepper spray is recommended, as is becoming highly proficient with half-a-dozen essential hand-to-hand combat skills (Aikido and Ju-Jitsu are the best martial arts).
Personal Defense Principles
Jeff Cooper wrote a book called Principles of Personal Defense
, from which his awareness color code was extracted. His principles are taught to many police cadets and soldiers.
Alertness: Don't be surprised. Use the awareness color code.
Decisiveness: Have a plan of action thought out beforehand.
Aggressiveness: Be willing to attack the attacker.
Speed: Action beats reaction. Don't waste time.
Coolness: Gun sports are great practice for gun defense.
Ruthlessness: Be willing to injure or kill the attacker.
Surprise: Most criminals don't expect a counter-attack.
'What if?' game
It is a good idea to think about what you would do in various situations by playing the 'what if?' game. It is often too late to think through a problem when faced with a deadly threat, as the cocktail of chemicals released into he bloodstream primes the body for action ('fight or flight' reflex), not
analyzing situations. Trying to evaluate the pros and cons of various courses of action in such a situation may cause a lethal delay. Most violent criminals (consciously or unconsciously) want to harm their victims, so it is best to run or fight whenever practical. Getting into a kidnapper's vehicle or letting a criminal tie you up is especially dangerous as it will probably result in your death. Fighting a rapist is more likely to result in an injury, but victims are much less likely to be raped. A good tactic with robbers is to throw a dummy purse/wallet on the ground in one direction and run in the other direction while shouting for help.
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If forced to defend yourself you will want to have three things in place beforehand.
If an attacker dies and you are charged bond can run to $100,000 or more. Give your partner power of attorney so he or she can post bond using property, since most of us do not have that much cash lying around in reserve.
If the incident has left a vengeful perpetrator out and about, you are at risk. However, if you used a weapon it has just gone into the police evidence room! Solution? Have a spare weapon. It should be identical to your defense weapon, and be capable of being used by either hand - in case your strong hand or arm is injured.
Find the best self-defense lawyer around. If you don't have a lawyer now, contact a lawyer referral service in your area. The lawyer should be paid by you. If a co-defendant hired your lawyer (e.g., insurance company) the lawyer will try to shift the blame off their paymaster and onto you! When you get the opportunity to talk with your lawyer after a shooting, tell him or her everything, every little detail. Anything you say to your lawyer cannot be used against you.
Things to Avoid
Sometimes it is the things you don't do that can help prevent an unjust criminal conviction.
Don't flee or lie.
Flight equals guilt. Once a liar, always a liar.
Don't alter the evidence.
Modern forensic techniques allow police investigators to recreate a crime scene with 90% accuracy.
Don't try to explain your actions immediately.
Tunnel vision and auditory exclusion make you the world's worst witness right after a shooting.
Don't help opposing counsel.
Failing to point out critical evidence, not reporting harassment, talking to the media, getting angry, etc., can hurt you.
Here are the things you should do after a self-defense incident, in the order they should be done.
Call the ambulance.
If someone is seriously injured dial the emergency number and ask the operator for the ambulance service. Say briefly what happened (e.g., "A person has been shot and needs medical assistance.") and where you are. Give no details.
Protect the scene.
Do not let anyone near the crime scene. Don't touch anything at the crime scene. An altered crime scene will be detected, and this will cast suspicion on you. If you can't protect the crime scene or are compelled to leave for safety reasons (hostile crowd), put the assailants weapon into a paper or plastic bag - do not wrap it in cloth as it destroys fingerprints. Turn the weapon over to your lawyer (or police if you do not have a lawyer - get a receipt).
Contact your lawyer.
Call your lawyer and briefly explain what happened. Have him or her meet you at the scene.
Call the police.
You (or your lawyer) dial the emergency number and ask the operator for the police. Tell the police there has been a shooting and to send a patrol. Say who and where you are. Also give them a description of yourself so you won't be mistaken for a suspect. Discuss no details of the incident.
Get your weapon out of sight.
If the danger has passed, put your weapon away. Whatever you do, don't turn toward police with a gun in your hand. If you're holding a suspect at gunpoint when police arrive, immediately yell "don't shoot". Then, tell them who you are. NEVER
allow your gun to point at police. Police cannot be sure who the good guy is so they'll point their guns at the "person with a gun". Obey every command. Make no sudden moves. Keep your hands in the open.
If you have just injured or killed an attacker it is important that you only say two things at the scene of the shooting.
Establish dynamic of what happened.
Point out critical evidence.
What should be said is something like - "Officer, I am the complainant. That man attacked me. His weapon fell into that gutter. That person is a witness. I will fully co-operate with your investigation as soon as I have been able to consult with my lawyer". THEN SHUT UP!
The police do not work for you, that's your lawyer's job. More than 97% of police suspects are guilty of a crime and lie to police, so police assume suspects are guilty of something and try to manipulate them into saying things that will hurt them in court. So beware of false sympathy from police after you put their latest client on the floor, surrounded by a chalk outline. It is advisable to wait at least 24 hours to come down from the extreme stress of a shooting before undergoing the police interrogation. Have your lawyer present and make sure it is video taped.
If you are prosecuted for assaulting someone with a weapon you will have two main questions to answer.
Why did you assault the person?
Why did you have the weapon?
Unless you have very good answers to these questions you are fighting an uphill battle. People who own weapons may appear to have violent personalities unless they have a good reason for possessing them.
Never waive your right to a jury trial. A judge is less likely to be sympathetic and may be overly friendly with the prosecution. A jury gives you 12 chances of freedom.
By reporting all threats, instances of harassment, applying for a restraining order, etc., you are seen to be using all non-violent means to stop a threat. If you are later forced to shoot an offender who has been stalking or threatening you, you can then present evidence that you had reason to fear for your life prior to the shooting. If you shoot someone who has allegedly been stalking you the police prosecutor will ask why you never reported it. The prosecutor will tell the jury: "The truth of the matter is that you shot the victim on the spur of the moment during an argument and made up a story about being stalked to con the jury into thinking you were the victim!"
Expect to be sued by the criminal (or his estate) if you have any money, even if not criminally charged. In a criminal court the onus is on the state to prove the defendant guilty beyond a "reasonable doubt" (95% probability of guilt). In a civil court you will be judged on what is called the "balance of probabilities" - the jury is instructed to find you guilty if more than 50% of the evidence suggests your guilt.
Never talk to the media even if you feel compelled to tell people what happened (a condition called 'logorrhea') - murder sells more air-time and newspapers than justifiable homicide. Editing of an interview can make the innocent look guilty. Tunnel vision, auditory exclusion and cognitive dissonance will effect statements you make right after a shooting. Leaving stuff out or putting events in the wrong order can hurt you in court.
Your mental health may suffer if you are forced to kill someone. Some experience nightmares, insomnia, depression, social withdrawal, appetite disturbances, flashbacks and sexual dysfunction. Some will see you as a killer, so expect some condemnation and harassment. Do not expect to be congratulated for maiming or killing someone. The good news is that it will not last. Get on with your life and the trauma will fade away.
The preceding may seem onerous but most people involved in genuine self-defense incidents are never charged, let alone convicted of a crime. Remember, better judged by 12 than carried by six.
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#1: Guns are not useful for defense.
Using incident files from the US National Crime Survey, Gary Kleck found victims with guns are far less likely to be attacked/injured in assault/robbery incidents than people without guns (Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America
, Aldine de Gruyter Press, 1991). A study covering a 15 year period (1977-92) by John Lott and David Mustard found that American states which adopted Florida type right-to-carry laws had (on average) an 8.5% fall in their murder rate (Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns
, University of Chicago, 1996) - the results are examined in Lott's subsequent book, More Guns, Less Crime
(University of Chicago Press, 1998). Even an anti-gun sponsored survey (Hart Survey, Point Blank
) showed that 783,000 Americans used guns defensively each year (criminals flee or surrender more than 95% of the time without a shot being fired). If guns were banned law-abiding victims would be greatly disadvantaged compared to gun toting felons who can readily obtain guns on the black market and could, in most cases, make do with knives, screwdrivers, machetes or clubs if guns magically disappeared, tools that are not practical defensive weapons for many female, elderly, injured, sick, disabled or outnumbered victims.
#2: Widespread gun ownership increases the murder rate.
Nations with high gun ownership levels naturally have higher gun death rates than nations with fewer guns, but widespread gun ownership suppresses the overall murder rate, while restricting guns does not reduce the suicide rate due to substitution. The US murder rate in 2013 was half what it was in 1993, in part because most states adopted handgun carry permit laws during that period, as John Lott's seminal work on gun defense predicted (More Guns, Less Crime
). Anti-gun groups asserted that the massive increase in CCW permit holders in the US (now over 10 million) would lead to anarchy as a result of "deranged gun fetishists running amok". A study published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy (Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide? A Review of International and Some Domestic Evidence
, Don B. Gates and Gary Mauser, Volume 30, Number 2 - Spring 2007) found that as gun ownership increases the overall murder rate and suicide rate decrease. Seems that guns provide some vulnerable crime victims with a sense of security that decreases the incidence of suicide among such people.
#3: Most murderers are ordinary people who kill in a moment of anger only because a gun is available.
Studies on homicide show that the overwhelming majority of murderers are people with life long histories of violence, sometimes irrational, sometimes acquisitive. The typical US murderer has a prior criminal history averaging at least six years, with four felony arrests. He is also likely to be a substance abuser with a record of traffic and/or gun accidents. Indeed, even people who accidentally kill with guns tend to have similar felony records and histories of substance abuse, car accidents and gun accidents. In short, they are an aberrant minority, characterized by a consistent indifference to human life, including their own - not the average gun owner.
#4: Gun owning families are at a high risk of accidental death or injury.
Gun accidents are very rare relative to the numbers exposed and comprise a small fraction of all gun deaths. Despite an estimated six million guns in Australian homes, about 100 times more people die in vehicle accidents each year than die in gun accidents (20 deaths vs. 2,000 deaths). Many of these accidental deaths are actually misreported gun suicides. Gun restrictions have no lasting effect on the overall suicide rate due to substitution. Many activities have much higher accidental death rates than gun ownership but provide no protection against violent criminals. Gun accidents are largely confined to a reckless subset of the population, people with criminal histories, alcoholics and those with personality disorders - not the average gun owner. Likewise, child gun accident deaths (very rare) are usually a result of gross negligence on the part of reckless parents who have little regard for the safety of their children or the law.
#5: A criminal would take a gun off me.
Anti-gun groups have for decades asserted that people who attempt to use guns for defensive use will have the gun taken away from them by an offender. Kleck identified crime incidents (using US National Crime Survey data) in which the crime victim used a gun for self-protection and lost a gun to an offender (Point Blank
). At most, one percent of civilian defensive gun uses resulted in the offender taking a gun away from a victim. If you believe an assailant is about to gain control of your gun during a struggle you are justified in shooting them with it as you must assume they will use it to kill you. If the assailant is clearly stronger than the victim, or is outnumbered, the victim should shoot them before
they get their hands on the gun even if it is fitted with a safety device (an offender might know how to overcome it).
#6: I'll be criminally charged and sued for damages if I shoot an attacker.
You have the right to defend yourself. Don't be frightened of being charged with a crime or civil litigation. So long as you know the law and do the right thing (e.g., don't flee the scene) it is very unlikely you will be charged with a criminal offence or successfully sued in civil court. If you use force, the force must be used strictly for defensive use, reasonably proportionate to the threat, and not as a means to 'punish' your attacker (vigilantism). There is always a chance you could be criminally charged or sued, but would you prefer to be judged by 12 or carried by six? If it really is a matter of life and death (for you and your loved ones) the answer should be easy.
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BOOKS & VIDEOS
Many of the following products are available from Massad Ayoob's Police Bookshelf
AGI Technical Manual & Armorer's Course
(DVD) by Robert Dunlap
AGI have video courses with detailed information about popular firearms.
Armed and Female
(book) by Paxton Quigley
Ms Quigley co-founded an anti-gun group but changed her mind about gun defense.
(book) by David Kenik
An excellent starting text for the first-time gun owner.
The Ayoob Files: The Book
(book) by Massad Ayoob
In depth look at defensive gun uses and their aftermath.
Guns Save Lives
(book) by Robert Walters
Examples of ordinary people successfully defending their lives with firearms.
In The Gravest Extreme
(book) by Massad Ayoob
Looks at the practical, legal and ethical aspects of gun defense. Essential reading.
Judicious Use of Deadly Force
(DVD) by Massad Ayoob
Core principles of law, ethics and tactics of using lethal force.
Shoot to Live: Gunfight Survival
(DVD) by Massad Ayoob
Excellent introduction to the defensive use of firearms. Essential viewing.
StressFire: Gunfighting for Police
(book) by Massad Ayoob
Advanced handgun techniques clearly explained.
StressFire II: Advanced Combat Shotgun
(book) by Massad Ayoob
Advanced shotgun techniques clearly explained.
StressFire Series - Part One - Handgun
(DVD) by Massad Ayoob
Advanced handgun skills clearly demonstrated.
StressFire Series - Part Two - Shotgun
(DVD) by Massad Ayoob
Advanced shotgun skills clearly demonstrated.
StressFire Series - Part Three - Rifle
(DVD) by Massad Ayoob
Advanced rifle skills clearly demonstrated.
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