Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Bats, Shotguns, and Knives (oh my!)

So I annoyed some folks at the gun shop today; though I suspect it was just because I let some air out of their comfort zone (which is a good thing).

Two guys (Roommates?) were at the counter talking about buying a shotgun for home defense. One was trying to convince the other it was safe and a good idea, the other said a bat was all you needed. My ignorance-o-meter pegged, and I stopped to listen to their conversation and positioned myself to become part of it. The bat-promoting one looked at me for help (not a good idea in a gun shop), I said that someone with a knife could beat someone with a bat 80% of the time. This earned me silence and looks of disbelief from both guys and the two guys behind the counter. I elaborated...

Swinging a bat or club has three steps; readying, striking, and recovering. Readying is pulling the bat back, striking is the actual swing, and the recovery is returning the bat to the ready position. All of these steps take time, and only one of them can inflict damage. You also must consider the effective area of a club weapon. When swinging a bat, the part that will do the most damage is the end of the bat because it's moving the fastest. Since you're swinging the bat, either from the side or from above the head, the speed of the bat decreases as it gets closer to your grip and becomes less effective. This means that if you hit someone with a bat right above where you are gripping it, it will hurt less than if you hit them with the end of the bat. So lets say that a bat has an effective area of two feet, starting from the end of the bat, and going back towards the handle, this means that if anyone is either in front or behind this effective area; the bat will do no or little damage. Couple that with the fact that a bat must be recovered to a swinging position to be reused, and there are a lot of openings for someone to get close enough to you to incapacitate you with a knife. See, people always think they should get away from the person swinging the bat, when they should really get closer. You might say that you could just not pull the club back as far, but then you make the club less effective by not swinging it broadly enough. If you have the bat pulled back and someone's walking towards you, can you honestly say that they can't approach two feet in either the time it takes you to swing and miss or pull the bat back more before swinging? Even if you catch hit him with the bat, if he only makes it 1.5 feet, it may not be going fast enough to incapacitate him. Once he's under the bat's range with a knife, you're done. And that's all assuming that you even have enough room to swing the bat effectively.

One of the clerks said, "Well, some robber isn't going to know to try that." To which I replied; "You gonna bet your life on that?" His reply; "...Well, I still know that the best thing for home defense is a good old 870." I thought briefly and decided to respond; "I don't trust long guns for checking out things that go bump in the night." "What?!" "It's the same argument..."

The effective area of any gun is beyond it's barrel, if someone can get between you and the end of the barrel, you're gun is useless. Remember that the barrel of a gun enters a room before you do, and if you can't see someone pressed against the wall next to the entrance, and they grab the barrel and point it in a safe direction while they tackle you, and get you with a knife, there's not much you can do.

"Feh! (yes he actually said "feh") He's actually going to get close enough to grab the barrel of my shotgun?! That's crazy. He'd be better off running."

"True, but what if he's cornered or thinks he's cornered? And you seriously don't think that he'd be able to get close enough to you in a house full of hallways, doors, and furniture? Door frames aren't wide enough for you to slice the pie completely without your barrel poking into the room."

"I still don't think that would happen."

Another clerk chimed in; "Ok; what would YOU use to clear your house?"

"A hi-cap pistol with a mounted flashlight so you can see, and laser sight so you can see where it's aiming when you pull close to your body when you enter a room blind. If you hold it to the side of your chest or under your chin against your chest it can't be grabbed or redirected by someone close. And a fixed blade knife on my left hip."

(the first clerk:) "A knife! Hah! I'm not listening anymore!"

"90% of fights wind up on the ground that's why Brazilian Jujitsu is such a popular fighting style. If one of you has a gun, chances are you're going to be fighting over it. When you're rolling on the ground a shotgun isn't going to help at all, and a handgun can be lost or change hands in the scuffle. With a knife ready, you can stick him to get the advantage. A knife is the most effective close range weapon. If two guys are rolling on the ground unarmed or fighting over a gun, the one with the knife will win."

"...Hmm. I still don't know..."

By now I noticed that more people were listening to our conversation and all seemed to have thoughtful expressions on the faces. I smiled inside because it looked like I got through to some people... But I had to go.

"Well, it's been fun guys; if you decide to go with the shottie, go with an 870, and get a sling for it so you can make sure it stays close to your body, and can't get wrestled away from you."

And I left without anyone saying a word.

Am I the only one who thinks of these things???


Anonymous said...

thats bullshit. a shotgun is the best home defence weapon ever. You just odn't know how to use it.

Fletch said...

Please allow me to refute your argument point by point... oops. No points here...

Please refer to the following link for info on anonymous posting...

thank you...

Anonymous said...

My comment got too long, so I made it a post at my place.

Basically, I agree with everything you said. Good read.

Fletch said...

Hit Josh's post HERE

craig said...

No, you're not the only one who thinks of these things. But you do think about them with more clarity. Great post.

defiant_infidel said...

A long while back I learned that it was an honor for someone to think enough of you to show you something you didn't know. 'Anonymous' is a treasured example of so much ego that he would rather be wrong, but remain smug and self righteous. In this category, that can get you killed. How ignorant and unnecessary.

Outstanding, Thing. Most don't think the possibles through anywhere near that far. Hell, most won't even admit there are "possibles". In your case, I'm not surprised, just impressed. Wish I'd been in the gun shop to watch that exchange. Great post.

Jay said...

Great post. One additional thing to be noted is which kind of ammo to use for home defense. If you have a shotgun, and other family members are in the house (like kids) avoid 00-buckshot shells which can penetrate walls. Use game loads instead, they will do plenty of damage at the range you are likely to be firing from and less likely to penetrate the wall.

If using a handgun, use frangiable rounds which disintegrate on contact with anything hard, such as sheetrock or bone. Otherwise they penetrate flesh nicely and transfer almost 100% of their energy to the target when they fragment, which gives them a bigger kick than hollowpoints. The Marines experimented with frangiables in Iraq and found that they could literally blow an insurgent's arm or head off with a well-placed shot, because the rounds practically explode when they hit the bone. I keep a clip of frangiables handy just for that purpose, and hope that they will never get used.

Also, keep in mind that an intruder may well be armed with a gun too, so if at all possible the best course of action is to call 911 and hole up with your loved ones until the cops arrive. Shotguns make a very intimidating sound when you rack a shell, but don't count on the sound alone to be a deterrent. If you are forced by circumstances to seek out the intruder you would definitely benefit from prior tactical assault training because there are plenty of wrong ways to do it. The NRA can help you connect with tactical trainers in your area.

rips31 said...

agreed. pistol/knife combo is a better bet than long gun, unless you have a large distance to work from. 25ft rule is valid, esp in close quarters and at night/dark.

Tony said...

"The Marines experimented with frangiables in Iraq and found that they could literally blow an insurgent's arm or head off with a well-placed shot, because the rounds practically explode when they hit the bone."

Oooookayyy.... Sources for such a claim would have been nice. I for one am having just a teensy bit of trouble believing such a claim as-is.

Actual ballistic gelatin studies (example: http://www.firearmstactical.com/images/Wound%20Profiles/357%20Magnum%20Glaser.jpg ) have shown that frangibles (and small shot) make messy but rather shallow wounds. A lot of the stuff you want to damage when shooting a violent person is behind flesh and bone, making sufficient penetration a problem with such ammunition.

So basically, the risk of over-penetration exists whenever you have a cartridge which has sufficient penetration for the job at hand. There is just no way around that.

Anonymous said...

The best way to "clear a house" is with a handgun. Lights and lasers are a perk, but not always used. I have a mounted light on my 1911.
A shotgun, to most is usually the first to come to mind, but the pros will tell you, a pistol with high cap mag is the way to go.
Most people who are scared of guns opt for the bat. We refer to them as the victims.

Anonymous said...

When it comes to home defense, carbine > shotgun > handgun > anything that doesn't go "BANG". As with anything else, training is critical but assuming a reasonable level of training, a long gun is more suitable. Rifles and shotguns are much more powerful than handguns. Handguns are generally only useful because they are portable and concealable. Carbines are both powerful enough to more reliably stop bad guys and tend to have larger ammunition capacities (even CA's neutered ten rounds is double what most shotguns carry). Finally, and most importantly, long guns point more naturally. That's not to say that you don't need to aim a rifle or shotgun, but you're likelihood of scoring good hits on a moving target in the dark under stress is much higher than with a handgun.

To address the point that your muzzle leads or flags and therefore can be controlled more easily: This is only correct if you are untrained. The proper way to manuever about a house, with any weapon, is muzzle down, in the low ready. This reduces the likelihood of a grab and keeps the weapon pointed in a safe direction (2nd rule of gun safety). Even if someone does attempt to grab the weapon, there are several techniques that will quickly change their mind. A rifle or shotgun is easier to maintain control of, with the appropriate level of training.

On birdshot: birdshot is for birds. Period. Anything with sufficient energy to reach the vital organs of a bad guy has sufficient energy to penetrate multiple walls. Anything not capable of passing through multiple walls has insufficient energy to reliably incapacitate and therefore stop a human being. Hit your target. Be sure of your target and what's beyond (4th rule of firearm safety). You would do well to read this: http://www.theboxotruth.com/docs/bot14.htm Actual bullets from actual guns fired into actual building materials. Beats speculation every time. And please look up the difference betwee a clip and a magazine.

"A shotgun, to most is usually the first to come to mind, but the pros will tell you, a pistol with high cap mag is the way to go."
Yup, that's why police entry teams and miltary all use primarily handguns for performing raids and dynamic entries. Oh, wait, they don't. They mainly use carbine rifles. Shotguns and pistols see very limited use for specialty missions such as breeching doors (shotgun) or manuevering a shield (pistol). The handgun serves admirably in its intended role, though: as a sidearm.

Fletch said...


You'll get no argument from me that long guns beat handguns any day of the week, and twice on tuesday, but the concern here was over muzzle leads. If I were not moving, or my abode were layed out differently, there's no question I'd have a shotgun or carbine in my hands. As for the difficulty hitting a target under stress with a handgun, I have never shot when my life depended upon it, but I regularly practice and develop my pistol skill. I am as confident as one can be without having actually done it before that I will hit, and hit repeatedly.

If I was forced to clear my abode with a long gun, you wouldn't catch me pointing the muzzle at the ground. I'd have the long gun unshouldered (probably at my side, or in my armpit), and pulled as far back as possible, but it would be pointed in the direction of potential threats. Keeping the muzzle pointed at the ground enough to keep it from presenting a grab opportunity will prevent grabs, but a simple rush and tackle would sandwich your long gun between the two bodies, making it impossible to point or use in any direction other than where it was pointed when rushed. Still, if your muzzle is pointing low enough not to present a grab opportunity when entering a doorway, also means time to bring it up.

As for the level of training involved, this was meant to make people question their simple answer of "Grab the ol' bird gun, toss in some buck, and go hunting." We can argue until we're blue in the face about how this training is better than that, and will diffuse attack X, Y, and Zed, but this was originally meant to take people out of their comfort zone.

I'm a little confused by your birdshot comment, I can't find where I or any commenters recommended birdshot. Like you said, birdshot is for the birds. It doesn't give the required penetration to stop a threat, end of story.

I actually came to my conclusion after speaking to a long beach PD cop who was surprised that the entry man on their SWAT team carried a hi-cap pistol with a light and laser with his elbows deeply bent, and his forearms against his chest. He said this kept his line of sight right at his muzzle, and ensured that even in tight corners, he'd be able to retain his weapon, and fire in a rush-and-tackle or close range knife attack situation. I suppose different departments may do things differently, and the entry man certainly had the muzzles of two or three barrels floating right next to him for backup, but the retention and close range arguments stand.

If I had my way, I'd probably have a short barreled semi-auto shotgun with pistol grips forward and rear, (and a buttstock, of course) with a light and laser for confirming targets, and showing my point of aim when I couldn't have the shotgun shouldered safely.

Until I live in a state that will allow that, I'll continue with my hi-cap pistol against my chest, and blade available.