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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Preparation for Home Protection
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Iowegan

There is so much hype about what gun is best or what ammo will shoot through three New York City phone books that most gun owners get confused on what's fact and what's fiction. To complicate matters, the so-called "experts" that write articles for gun magazines, corrupt your mind with even more garbage. Seems every new gun or type of ammo they test is the best ever in the whole world.

I thought I would give the Iowegan point of view on the subject with unbiased, common sense risk assessment information. I don't claim to be an expert but I do have many years of experience. We'll start with some really basic stuff to include options for firearms, ammunition, accessories, sighting systems, and good old common sense procedures.

There are many different things to consider when using a weapon to protect yourself or loved ones in your home. There can be a huge difference in what you legally can or can't do based on state and local laws. Example: in a few states, you are within your rights to use lethal force to protect your property. Most states exclude this and only allow you to protect yourself and other people. All states support home protection, without any special type of permit or license, other than what it takes to buy a gun. This document is not intended to be a legal guide so check the laws for your local area before you get in trouble.

Before we get into the details, let's define the basic concepts. Your goal with home protection is to keep yourself and household members out of harm's way should your home be invaded or if someone in your home is at risk of being attacked. The mission is to stop the attack, not to kill, maim, or destroy. In other words, don't do stupid macho things so the wrong person ends up in prison or innocent people get hurt. Always keep this in mind.

There are hundreds of firearms to choose from but really only a few that meet the "sanity test" for home defense. I look at firearms just like I do with tools .... always select the right one for the right job. In the bedroom, you want a gun that is easy and safe to use. If you wake up to an intrusion, you don't want anything that requires much thinking or dexterity to operate. Your self-defense weapon(s) should be stored in a loaded and ready condition. When time is of the essence, you don't want to be fumbling about trying to insert cartridges in a revolver or inserting a magazine in a pistol. There are too many opportunities to fail if you don't follow these basic concepts. In my narrow-minded opinion, a revolver is much better suited for the bedroom than any other type. All you have to do is point and shoot ... no inserting a magazine, jacking a slide, or even operating a safety catch; just point and pull the trigger. Most any revolver from a snub nose up to a 6" barrel will do nicely. Anything longer than a 6" barrel gets a bit unmanageable. Typically, you don't need a lot of firepower in a bedroom gun. Five or six rounds should be more than enough.

To be effective, home defense weapons must be loaded and positioned for quick access. Of course the presence of non-adults require additional safety equipment such as a GunValut, see: http://www.gunvault.com/handgunsafesminivaultstandard/ or an equivalent. Depending on your home's floor plan, you may need additional firearms or you may have to transport a single firearm from place to place. There's not much sense in having a gun in the bedroom if you have to run upstairs to get it and leave your family unprotected while a bad guy kicks the front door in. Firearms located in key areas of the home can be a revolver or pistol. Just make sure they are located in the area where they will be accessible. Just like a fire extinguisher, you don't want the fire between you and an escape route, likewise you don't want the bad guy to get between you and your family. Find a "retreat area" in your home where you can go if someone is kicking the door down. Again, depending on floor plans, you may need more than one retreat areas, which would require more than one firearm. In my home, the master bathroom is my retreat area. From that location, I can arm myself and get positioned between the bad guy and my family. My wife and I occasionally go over our "emergency action plan" to make sure we both remember what to do. My wife heads for the master bedroom and I rush to the bathroom. From there, I open the GunVault and grab the revolver. I then have the advantage over the bad guy. If I'm not home, my wife knows the drill too.

Here's some criteria for a home defense firearms and ammunition. You don't need and in fact don't want some big magnum gun loaded with bear killer loads. You want a weapon with manageable recoil, non-deafening sound, minimal muzzle flash, and loaded with ammo that won't pass through the walls and injure or kill the family next door or the person in the next bedroom. Granted, there's no such thing as a perfect cartridge but if you stack the odds in your favor, chances are you will emerge the victor without accidentally shooting an innocent victim. Of all the ammunition on the market, 38 Special lead hollow base wadcutters do the best job of meeting all the criteria. Wadcutters are intended for target loads so they are very accurate and low power, thus minimal recoil. The bullet is designed to cut a nice clean hole in the target instead of tearing a hole like a round nose bullet would do. They do the same with flesh and create a nasty wound that bleeds profusely. Because the loads are quite light, you won't get a muzzle flash to blind you nor will you blow your ear drums out like a more powerful load will do when fired indoors without hearing protection. Last, the soft lead bullet will flatten when it hits any solid object. Likely they won't go through an outside wall at all, and will lose most of their power if they go through an inside wall.

There really isn't a good comparable load for a semi-auto. One weapon that meets most of the needs is a 45 ACP loaded with low power lead semi-wadcutters. Light target loads won't function well in most 45 ACP pistols without installing a light recoil spring. They tend to penetrate deeply so walls aren't much of an obstacle to innocent victims.

For home defense, ammunition tends to drive the type of firearm. In this case, a 38 Special or 357 Mag revolver loaded with 38 Special 148 gr HBWCs is the overall best solution for a bedside gun. It's also a good solution for a retreat area weapon, however some people prefer a semi-auto pistol.

Home defense weapons don't need many accessories. Unless you plan to carry the weapon, holsters are not recommended because they just take extra access time. A GunVault mini-safe is a good idea if there are non-adults in the house. Access time from a GunVault isn't much different than a gun sitting on a shelf. A loaded speedloader or magazine isn't a bad idea even though statistics don't support some big firefight in home invasion scenarios. Standard factory fixed or adjustable sights are fine. I like the Crimson Trace Laser Grips and have a set on my bedside revolver. It's very intimidating when a bad guy sees a red dot on his chest. Besides, it makes the weapon much easier to aim in low light conditions and from awkward positions. Action jobs, or other custom work is not necessary ... just a basic weapon that functions flawless.

This is no time to skimp so buy a good quality weapon. Though snub nose revolvers or compact pistols will work, the most manageable weapons are full sized guns with 4 to 6 inch barrels. Ruger GP-100s or S&W Mod 586/686 with a 4" barrel top the list. The larger size and heavier weights are in your favor, especially because you don't have to carry the weapon on your person. Your home defense weapon can also be used as a CCW or as a range gun for fun and practice. Unless you live alone, make sure other adults in your home can also handle the gun.

38 Special, or 357 Mag with 38 Special HBWCs: low muzzle flash, low recoil, modest noise level, excellent accuracy, adequate stopping power, unlikely to penetrate walls. (best)

9mm, 40 S&W, 45 ACP, or 44 Special: low muzzle flash, modest recoil, very loud, good accuracy, excellent stopping power, likely to penetrate both internal and external walls. (marginal)

380 ACP, 32 ACP or 22 LR: Modest muzzle flash, low recoil, modest noise level, poor accuracy, marginal stopping power, likely to penetrate interior wall but not exterior.
(poor)

Shotgun: excessive muzzle flash, heavy recoil, excessively loud, hard to miss accuracy, excessive close range stopping power, wall penetration depends on shot size and distance. (bad choice for indoors, excellent choice for outdoors)

357 Mag or 44 Mag: excessive muzzle flash, heavy to excessive recoil, excessively loud, good accuracy for the first shot only, overkill stopping power, excessive wall penetration. (bad choice)

Don't confuse home protection with trespassing on the property outside the home. Here's where an additional shotgun may be the best tool for the job. Just remember ..... in most states, the laws for inside the home and outside the home aren't the same. Check it out.

In conclusion, use some brains when selecting weapons or ammunition. Forget the macho crap and base your decisions on a good common sense risk assessment. Practice with your weapons, your equipment, and your accessories and make sure they all perform to your satisfaction. Make an "emergency plan" and use it. All adults in the home should be proficient with the weapons and know where and how to access them.
 

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All sound advice. Well thought out and a good read for anyone on the forum. Although I might possibly differ on a few things to suit my own opinion or circumstance I could get by handily with just about every thing you've recommended. Some of your advice and choices though, might get a few of the "macho search and destroy" types all lathered up.:)
Baker
 

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I hope others will read and learn from this material. All good info, and much appreciated. Iowegan; thanks for the time invested in these 'guides'. - jh
 

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Nice reality-based info. Thanks, Iowegan. I notice that .45 Colt is not included in the summary portion. I imagine that it would fall into the same category as the .44 special.

Yeah, I use my Blackhawk as my primary home defense weapon, as I would hand the P-345 to my wife to use. Those are just the guns we are most proficient with. Others might have a problem using a single action in SD situation, but that dead horse has been overly beaten.

I am using Federal Champion .45 Colt rounds for SD. They are 225 gr. semi-wadcutter hollow points, all lead, no jacket, moing at 830fps and generating 345ft/lbs of energy. I feel that this is a good load because it will hopefully not penetrate too many walls, but do a number of soft and fleshy targets as needed.
 

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I myself disagree with the idea that making lots of noise is inherently bad. Look at the reaction that Nazi paratroopers got with those full auto 8mm weapons. They werent really hitting anything, but a full-size rifle caliber going off that fast gains much fear from enemy troops, particularly when coming from a short barrel and raining from the sky. I want as much ka-BOOM as possible. Smoke and noise can be impressive deterrents.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Darkness, The very things that make a particular cartridge better for self defense can be your demise for a home defense. Big heavy bullets have very high momentum which in turn means they penetrate way too much ... not for flesh but for walls. My goal is to stop the attack not hurt an innocent bystander.

rp_cavanaugh, I fail to see the connection for home defense .... but I'll keep it in mind the next time I'm attacked by Nazi paratroopers. Any round fired indoors ... even a 22 is going to be loud enough for a good scare factor. What you don't want to use is such a powerful round that you inflect temporary deafness and concussion on yourself ... possibly a permanent hearing loss.
 

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Let's assume that one of these "multiple invaders" scenarios actually materializes, though it is highly unlikely. If I put one down, I want to intimidate the living daylights out of any others at the same time. If it sounds like I am upstairs unleashing hell with a cannonade, any other bad guys are inspired to run fast and far. I for one, will be using at least a .357, or some high-brass 12 gauge rounds.

Do police officers or Marines swap out for less powerful weapons when they are inside or the sun is down?
 

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"Do police officers or Marines swap out for less powerful weapons when they are inside or the sun is down?"

I don't. If it's good enough to carry on the street it's good enough to carry in the home is my thinking.

Just make sure that you can perform adequately at the Range with your chosen load. I like the 5x5x5x5 Test for that.

5 Round at 5 Yards inside 5" in 5 Seconds or less, from the leather or "low ready".

Biker
 

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i think the point is
a round such as the 44 mag going off in doors can be almost like a flash-bang-----its gonna dis-oreinate everyone in the room from the concussion---good guy and bad guy included..........accurate repeat fire if necessary will be severely hindered by this and to compound the problems, it will probably be in a low light situtation as well............

we ain't gonna be grabbin our hearing protection and shootin glasses when it goes down.............

I make do with what i got on hand that are kept at the "ready"
the 38 spl
45 acp
.22 rifle
20 ga and 12 ga shotguns.

the "family" guns that all have access to are the .22 rifle and the 20 ga loaded with standard #8 dove loads. They all can handle that as proven at the range-----the other calibers i have---they can't handle near as well. Are there better choices in weapons? For some, yes, for some ---no-----but these are available and they can all be used satisifactorly by my family----same thing can't be said for other calibers.

Its gonna depend more on you and your family as to what guns can be handled and used in a situtation.

+1 iowgean---very good article and points.
 

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Excellent and well thought out. Will give the bullet advice some thought. My revolvers either have .357 hp (GP100 and Blackhawk) or .38 lrn (S&W 442). I much prefer the simplicity of revolvers for the 3AM fumbles. However, I do keep a 1911 loaded with 200 gr lswc and a 9mm with 125 gr lrn.

The only thing I didn't see was some regular practice. Might be a given on this forum that we would actually force ourselves to take the darned things out and shoot them every now and then, but not for everyone. A coworker asked me about 9mm for HD. He heard the ammo was inexpensive. When I told him that I thought revolvers were better, he said that someone told him that 25 years ago, so he bought a .44 magnum, loaded it and put it in a drawer. He has never fired the revolver. After a losing discussion on the value of shooting it every now and then, just for familarity, I gave him my advice on 9mm's. Guess that one is now loaded and in the drawer beside the .44, unfired.
 

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Many thanks, Iowegan -- insightful as always! I'd only add one piece of equipment which we bought on the advice of a former cop who has had to plan for the eventuality that some of his former "customers" might decide to visit him and his family some dark night: we now have electronic hearing protection for all of the inhabitants of the house, which we can all put on and adjust in the dark. When they're turned up a bit, we can hear better than the BGs, but we won't be nearly as disoriented by the thunder of a .44 or 12-gauge going off in an enclosed space as the BGs will be.
 

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38s in my GP100 sounds good, but why not hollow points instead of wad cutters? Would there be a significant difference in wall penetration? I would think that a well placed HP would incapacitate a BG more quickly than a WC.
 

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duallydave, Maybe you missed the point of the post. Your first priority is to keep from injuring a family member or neighbor. I'm not saying a wadcutter is the best bullet for self defense but it is the safest bullet to shoot indoors and still have the qualities needed to stop the attack quickly.

OldCowHand, Having amplified hearing protection handy is a great idea .... I just have my doubts about waking up from a sound sleep and having my poop in a group enough to think about putting them on. Also ... nothing says you will have the luxury of a few valuable seconds to put them on. I have an extra set of Cadwell amplified muffs in my nightstand ... right next to my Mod 686.
 

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Iowegan;

Thanks for your very well thought out information. As a police officer, I am frequently asked by citizens about home security and my advice closely parallels what you have provided. My personal home defense handgun is a GP100, however I do have 125 grain Remington inside. Even though I carry a Glock 22 everyday for 10 plus hours, I have the revolver for the house. This is my reasoning:

1) If the gun is going to be left inside a safe for that night that may never come, I don't want to worry about springs that have been compressed for who knows how long that may have a problem when stuff happens. My duty gun and magazines are fully unloaded at the end of my work week to rest for the weekend. The house gun doesn't get time off to be unloaded for a rest.

2) Even though I shoot at the range on a regular basis and am frequently in high stress situations with a gun in my hand, I do not practice shooting from the being awaken from a dead asleep position. I think a double action trigger pull is a good thing when suddenly awaken and you are expected to perform as you would when fully conscious. I know my stress level will be pretty high while trying to wake up, get my gun out of the closet safe, and make it to the door while also trying to figure out what the hell is actually waking me up. I'd hate to be doing all that and have to remember that the safety is on and/or that my Glock has a fairly light trigger so I need to make sure to keep the finger out of the trigger guard. The finger needs to stay out on the revolver as well but at least the trigger spring is heavier should I accidentally touch it while in a rush.

3) I am a firm believer of the 5 rounds, 5 feet, 5 seconds. I am not concerned with multiple attackers and the such. And truthfully, should there be multiple attackers and I need more firepower, I'll just "borrow" the gun from the first one I dumped.

I also recommend that a flashlight be with the gun. I hate responding to prowler calls and finding the homeowner out looking for the guy who was just outside their window. The first mistake is coming outside when you know we are coming. You take care of the inside, let us take care of the outside. When Joe Homeowner does come outside, they typically don't have a flashlight which creates its own problems. When I pull up and find a guy, now the homeowner, looking through the bushes in the dark he becomes suspect #1. If he has a flashlight that is on and pointing it all over the place I am a little more cautious that this may be the homeowner. Flashlight or not, if you have a gun in your hand when I show up the discussion as to why you are where you are will be conducted with you laying on the ground. No disrespect regarding your legal right to defend your property, I just want to make sure I go home at the end of shift. I once responded to a burglary call where the homeowner called us due to his alarm company calling him. Homeowner told dispatch no one was home and he would be arriving in about 15 minutes. My partner and I arrived in under 5 minutes and found a male walking through the house with a Kimber .45 in his hand. When ordered to the ground, dude decides to argue with us instead of following commands to drop the gun and prone out. It was the homeowner who was only about 2 minutes from home, instead of the 15 he told the dispatcher, and decided to clear the house himself. For all we knew, this guy was there to kill the homeowner. He came as close to being shot as you can come. Even after dropping the gun and laying down he resisted when I tried to handcuff him so we could clear the rest of the house and figure out who he was for sure. When we discussed this after the situation was under control the homeowner felt we should have trusted him just because he told us he owned the house. Sorry, most people I come in contact with will tell me whatever they can to keep from going to jail.

Personally, I don't go outside to check on a noise that I think may be a prowler/burglar. I call 911 and stay on the line with the dispatcher to give real time info to the responding officers.

Sorry about the soap box I got onto. Thanks starting this thread.
 

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Thanks for all of the great advice guys. I too will have to rethink my ammo selection because I keep .357 magnums 130gr hp in my SP101 for the house.

Semper Fi
 

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Thanks

Thanks for the well thought out info. It is good food for thought. Also good practice. About the worst thing I can think of is taking out a family member. That just defeats the purpose of home protection.
 

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Another item you may want to think about is the appearance and physical impression your house makes on the BG. I spent an entire week in class with a large number of PD/SO, learning how to minimize the likely hood that the BG will select your house to invade. The summary of that week is at http://www.w0ipl.net/cpted.htm for anyone that cares to try that approach, as well.
 
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