The Column, No. 116:

Home and Personal Protection

By Chuck Hawks

The United States Constitution (Second Amendment) gives individual citizens the right to maintain (own and possess) and bear (carry) firearms. We Americans legally have the God given, natural right to defend ourselves, our families and friends, our homes and our communities with lethal force, if necessary.

With rights come responsibilities and, in the case of personal protection, informed decisions must be made about which firearms are most appropriate and practical for the purpose.

I am no expert on the subject. My interest in firearms has always been as a recreational shooter and hunter. For me, firearms are primarily recreational tools, like a set of golf clubs is to a golfer, or fine rods and reels are to a fisherman. (Yeah, I am also a fisherman.)

However, any gun owner should decide for him or her self when, if ever, they would employ one of their firearms for personal protection and under what circumstances they would do so. They also need to decide if one or more of their existing (sporting) firearms is adequate for the purpose, or whether to purchase more specialized firearms specifically for protection.

I reached those decisions and made those calculations early in my gun owning life (which began in my late teens) and I have had a concealed carry permit since the end of the 1970s. Naturally, the specific firearms I own have changed over time, as my lifestyle, needs and finances have evolved.

As a gun writer, I get questions about firearms for personal protection all the time, even though it is not my primary motivation for owning and enjoying firearms. My choices will not be appropriate for everyone, but for the record here they are, as I write these words in the autumn of 2017.

My primary home defense firearm is a 12 gauge Mossberg 500 Mariner riot shotgun loaded with 2-3/4", #4 buckshot shells. (I avoid 3" magnum shells, due to their outsized recoil.) I have been a boat owner off and on throughout my life, hence the choice of a marine shotgun that can do double duty, on the water as well as on land.

This shotgun has more stopping power than a handgun and less risk of penetrating the neighbor's walls. I live in a mobile home and over-penetration must always be a concern. (We have every right to protect our lives and property, but we do not have the right to endanger our neighbors in the process.) I do have one of those elastic shell holders around the butt stock filled with one ounce rifled slug loads, in case some extraordinary situation requires cartridges with more range or penetration than #4 buckshot can handle.

I suggest a projected laser sight for whatever firearms you choose for short to moderate range personal and home protection. Projected laser sights simply make hitting faster and easier. Rifles for longer range protection on a farm or ranch not included, of course. My riot shotgun is equipped with both a projected green laser and a tactical flashlight and my dedicated personal protection handguns are equipped with projected laser sights, as well as tritium night sights.

In terms of handguns, my suggestion is to use whatever type you can shoot best. In my case, this would be a revolver, the type of handgun with which I learned to shoot and with which I still feel most comfortable. Any caliber from .32 H&R Magnum and .380 ACP to .45 ACP and .45 Long Colt will work fine with appropriate loads. It is shot placement that matters the most, by far.

As lasers have become more available, I have switched to a 2" Ruger LCRx (.38 Spec.) revolver with a LaserGrip for concealed carry and a 4" Ruger GP100 (.357 Mag.) with a LaserGrip for home defense. I use Federal Nyclad 125 grain HP .38 Spec. loads in the former and either Remington 125 grain Golden Saber .38 Spec. +P, or Winchester 110 grain JHP .357 Magnum loads in the latter.

For concealed carry a small, portable handgun is very desirable, hence the popularity of subcompact .380 and 9mm autos and snub nose .32 Mag. and .38 Spec. revolvers. For home defense a larger handgun with a longer barrel (4" or 5") is desirable, both in terms of better handling and superior ballistics.

A home defense autoloader can be a .380 ACP, 9x19mm, .357 SIG, .38 Super, .40 S&W, 10mm Auto or .45 ACP, to name some reasonable choices. A home defense revolver can be a .32 H&R Mag, .327 Mag, .38 Spec., .357 Mag, .41 Mag, .44 Spec., .44 Mag. or .45 Long Colt.

Based on my research, the caliber is not as important as choosing an effective load for your purposes and situation. In most civilian shooting situations, which usually involve short range frontal targets, maximum bullet expansion is a top priority, with only enough penetration required to get into the vitals.

I suggest avoiding full power Magnum loads in .357, .41 and .44 revolvers and using FBI light loads in 10mm Autos to minimize recoil and muzzle blast, especially at night. The most important factor of all, to repeat, is bullet placement. To quote Wyatt Earp, "Speed is fine, but accuracy is final."

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Copyright 2017 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.