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Home self-defense in 2020

Posted by John T. Reed on

McCloskey on his St. Louis lawn with his AR-15

Mr. McCloskey and his wife came out on his lawn with guns to chase away a 200-person mob who had destroyed a gate on his gated neighborhood in St. Louis. He was in bare feet, has one magazine, and was outside of his house. He needed to be inside of it for legal reasons. He is a lawyer. He and his wife are now under indictment for brandishing a firearm.


911 voice mail

Anyway, that and the refusal of police to respond to 911 calls in a number of cities persuaded me that you need to be prepared to defend yourself in your home. 

I am not a gun guy but I have military experience

I am not a gun guy. However, I did have a machine gun in my room in college the first three years. I went to West Point. The machine gun was an M-14 rifle. We carried them in parades during the school year. In the summer, we often used them in two months of field training. Senior year we carried sabers in parades. Like most of my West Point classmates, I qualified “expert” on the M-14. That means I passed the marksmanship test on the M-14 with the highest category of scores. We also fired a dozen or more other Army weapons from pistols to bazookas to cannons to tank guns during our summer training at West Point.
I also graduated from Army Ranger School. We carried M-14s there most of the time. I was in the 82nd Airborne Division in the summer of 1969. I probably had an M-16 assigned to me then. Never saw it.
Then I did a tour in Vietnam where I was assigned an M-14, then an M-16, then an M1911 .45 cal pistol.

Front Sight Handgun Self-defense Course

I also with my wife took the four-day Front Sight Handgun Self-Defense course near Las Vegas where they loaned us Glock 17 pistols for the course.
So I think Mr. McCloskey and others like him could use the perspective of a West Point grad ranger Vietnam vet on home defense. Obviously, a whole lot of people reacted to McCloskey et al. by buying a gun.

That is not enough. Here is the complete list:

Firearms: We have his and hers PC9s and Glock 17s. I feel more comfortable with a rifle than a pistol—maybe because I trained on the M-14. But semi-automatic rifles jam at times so I also like to have a sidearm in case a bad guy charges me while I am clearing a jam or changing magazines.

Initially, my wife bought some guns based on a friend’s recommendations. It was seven different weapons that used six different types of ammo. Having been in the military, I recognize that in a firefight—likely in the dark—you want to have one type of ammo and one type of magazine. 

Thus the two weapons we bought: the Ruger Police Carbine 9 and the Glock 17 pistol. They both use the same 9x19 mm Luger ammo and the same magazine. It is unusual for one manufacturer to set his weapon up so that it can use another manufacturer’s magazines. But that is what Ruger did.
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A carbine is a “rifle” that uses pistol ammunition. Carbines are also generally smaller than rifles. Some special ops and paratroopers prefer them because they want to travel lighter.
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The effective range of rifles like the M-14 and AR 15 is about 300 meters. In home defense, that range is not needed and may get you into legal trouble. E.g., You shoot at a nearby mob and the bullet keeps going until it kills a baby in a crib three blocks away. The effective range of a carbine like the PC 9 is about 100 to 150 meters. A pistol probably has all the range you need for home defense—about 50 meters—but I feel more accurate with a shoulder-aimed and -fired weapon.

Ammunition: Home defense ammunition means ammo that mushrooms upon impact. That gives it much greater stopping power and it likely prevents it from hurting innocent people hundreds of yards beyond the person you shot at. One home defense ammo is jacket hollow point (JHP). What you do not want is full metal jacket (FMJ) because those are the ones that keep going for hundreds of meters and can do that even after passing through a person. I believe some firing ranges require FMJ and prohibit JHP because the JHP destroys their targets faster.

How much ammo: If a mob is the possible problem, you need mob quantity of ammo. Duh. You do not take a knife to a gun fight. And unlike McCloskey, you do not take a single 30-round magazine of ammo to stop a 200-person mob.

You need two quantities: one for home defense and one for target practice to zero in your sights and to get proficient at marksmanship as well as getting proficient at changing magazines quickly and clearing jams quickly.

Magazines: if you own a semi-automatic weapon and bullets but no magazines, you own a paperweight. True, you could put one bullet at a time into the firing chamber and fire it. That would be very War of 1812ish. To fire a semi-automatic weapon as it is designed, you need magazines.

How many magazines: You need as many full magazines as you might have to use to hold off a mob. When you run out of full magazines, your weapon turns into a paperweight.

So you need a gun, bullets, and those bullets need to be in magazines. When you run out of full magazines, you need to take bullets out of boxes and put them into magazines one at a time using an Uplula or Maglula magazine feeder. It takes about 30 second to load ten bullets into a ten-round magazine (the largest we are allowed to have in CA). Will the mob give you that 30 seconds? If not, you’d better have all the loaded magazines you need for the duration of the fight.

You must have full magazines ready in advance, not empty magazines and boxes of bullets! Without a full magazine, your weapon is a paperweight.

Gun safe: Guns and ammo must be kept away from children not to mention burglars, maids, and other regular visitors to your home—by law in most states.

Where should the safe be? Your bedroom. Not the garage? Not unless you sleep in the garage.

Gun cleaning items: If you fire the weapons, you must immediately clean them. YouTube videos show you how for each type of weapon.

Your kit: This is a British term. It refers to what you carry and wear when you go into combat.

In Vietnam, my kit was a helmet, flak jacket, web gear, and weapon. Web gear is a belt and suspenders on which you could hang stuff like your ammo pouches, canteen, first-aid kit, holster, and so on.

But the military crashes through a lot of bush so they need to secure this stuff for that purpose.

Police, on the other hand, are more conscious of quick reloads when the magazine in the gun goes empty. So they have a lot of magazine holsters on their belt or chest. Magazine holsters are hard plastic—polymer or kidex—which facilitates quick draw.

Cowboys in the Old West used leather holsters only because polymer and kidex had not yet been invented.

So you need not only full magazines, but they need to be in magazine holsters attached to the belt, suspenders, or vest that is part of your kit. The military and police now use MOLLE vests. Those have about a hundred cloth loops to which you can attach magazine holsters and flashlight and such. Watch a YouTube about how you use a MOLLE vest.

Kit components:

• weapon(s)

• holster for pistol

• safety goggles

• enough magazine holsters containing full magazines for the expected or possible threat

• MOLLE vest or other gear for carrying the magazine holsters

• empty magazines pouch (I use a carpenter’s bolt bag)

• hidden non-firearm weapon like combat knife or baton or mace

Sports goggles: Your gun fight with a mob can turn into hand-to-hand combat. for that and just for shooting at a range, you need safety goggles. I recommend https://www.amazon.com/Squash-Protective-Eyeguard-Eyewear-Case/dp/B011CTFBHY. Only $12.95 for plano. More if you need prescription.

Retention: I never heard this word in the military. I do not know why. Police use it. It refers to devices that prevent an enemy from taking your pistol out of your holster. That happened in the Michael Brown incident in Ferguson. I recommend you get a police duty holster with level III retention if you have a pistol.

 Slings: Slings are another retention device. If Kyle Rittenhouse did not have one in Kenosha, he probably would have been shot dead with his own AR when he tripped and fell down. 

I recommend two—one connected to the shoulder stock end of the rifle and the other attached to the front barrel area. When you drop the gun, it should fall to across your hips and pointed down at about a 30º down angle. Slings normally attach to two points on the rifle. I want you to have two slings and each of them only attaches to one point on the rifle.

If you are right handed, one sling around your neck over your left shoulder and under your right armpit attached to your shoulder stock and the other over your right shoulder and under your left armpit attached to your rifle barrel area. Opposite for left-handers.

The length of the slings from your body to the rifle should be long enough that you can put the rifle to your shoulder and aim and fire it, and no longer. With such slings, it should be impossible for a person grappling with you to pull the trigger and shoot you in the foot or elsewhere with your own gun.

I recommend Magpul for slings and Glock magazines. I also recommend Glock-made magazines.

We all had flak jackets in Vietnam. I have no recommendation on any sort of bulletproof vest. They can be heavy and may hinder your self defense. The stuff I listed above weighs enough. They also have gaps and may not stop certain bullets. Up to you.

You may want a pair of weight-lifter gloves with padded palm but no fingers. Firing a weapon, racking the pistol slide, charging the semi-automatic rifle, changing mags, and clearing jams bangs up your hands. It took a month or two for the nerves in my mag release thumb to stop hurting after Front Sight.

There are some modifications you may want to make to your pistol and/or rifle. I enlarged the mag release button on my Glock 17 and I put a ring charging handle on my wife’s. I may move my PC 9 charging handle to the left side to make the movement of cocking it similar to racking the Glock pistol.
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If you have a comment or question, johnreed@johntreed.com


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