Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Increased crime levels and our personal security


In the light of the influx of criminal migrants and the increased levels of urban crime (rapidly spreading to smaller towns and rural areas), I think it's worth reminding ourselves of the need to provide security for ourselves, our families and our loved ones.

To begin with, I'd like to refer you to several previous articles on the subject.  They're as relevant today as they were when I wrote them.  If you missed any of them, or can't remember them, please click on the links provided and read them before continuing here.

Updating and revising our approach to self-defense, Part 1

Updating and revising our approach to self-defense, Part 2

Updating and revising our approach to self-defense, Part 3

In two of those articles, I repeated the wisdom of John Farnam.  It bears repeating here, because it's absolutely fundamental to our personal security.  We ignore it at our literal peril.

The best way to handle any potentially injurious encounter is: Don’t be there. Arrange to be somewhere else. Don’t go to stupid places. Don’t associate with stupid people. Don’t do stupid things. This is the advice I give to all students of defensive firearms. Winning a gunfight, or any other potentially injurious encounter, is financially and emotionally burdensome. The aftermath will become your full-time job for weeks or months afterward, and you will quickly grow weary of writing checks to lawyer(s). It is, of course, better than being dead or suffering a permanently disfiguring or disabling injury, but the “penalty” for successfully fighting for your life is still formidable.

Crowds of any kind, particularly those with an agenda, such as political rallies, demonstrations, picket lines, etc are good examples of “stupid places.” Any crowd with a high collective energy level harbors potential catastrophe. To a lesser degree, bank buildings, hospital emergency rooms, airports, government buildings, and bars (particularly crowded ones) fall into the same category. All should be avoided. When they can’t be avoided, we should make it a practice to spend only the minimum time necessary there and then quickly get out.

“A superior gunman is best defined as one who uses his superior judgment in order to keep himself out of situations that would require the use of his superior skills.”

When I trained at Thunder Ranch (in its Texas location), one of the instructors told us that even if a defensive shooting was absolutely 100% legitimate, and no criminal charges were filed, we could still expect lawsuits from the person we shot and/or his survivors.  One phrase has stuck in my memory.  "Any defensive shooting, no matter how justified, may cost you a new Suburban in lawyer's fees."  That was scary enough back then.  At today's vehicle prices, it's a ghastly thought!

Nevertheless, there are times when only a kinetic response can ward off a criminal threat.  It's no good trying to plead with an attacker that you're really a good person and don't deserve this.  He isn't a good person, by definition, and doesn't care that you are (except for the fact that your timidity makes you easier prey for him).  Given that attackers often come in multiples, and are usually armed with weapons that can disable or kill you (even a rock can do that - I've seen it done, with my own eyes), you need weapons that can at least keep them off you and your loved ones, and stop any determined attack in its tracks.  That means a firearm.  There is simply no other adequate choice.

Go read the articles above for a discussion about choosing a firearm and training with it.  I won't repeat them here.  However, a handgun may no longer be enough when dealing with mobs of urban youth running wild and terrorizing a neighborhood (particularly if you live in a state or city where magazine capacities are legally restricted).  You may well need something more powerful, with longer range, and able to accept sights that allow you to shoot more accurately at those longer ranges.  That means a defensive rifle.  (Yes, a shotgun is not a bad choice, but it has limited range and carries with it the disadvantage of very heavy recoil, comparatively speaking, making it harder to control in accurate, rapid fire;  and its ammunition is bulky, heavy, and relatively slow to reload except for an expert.  Most of us can't afford to train to that level of expertise;  therefore, I no longer recommend shotguns as a primary defensive weapon for those who are not well trained in their use.)

I wrote three articles a few years ago about the personal defense rifle.  Again, I refer you to those rather than trying to repeat all that information here.

The personal defense rifle, part 1: a few thoughts

The personal defense rifle, part 2: reader's questions

The personal defense rifle, part 3: choosing ammunition

Those articles focused on an AR-15-style firearm.  Sadly, due to misguided legislators in various states, you may live in an area where it's not legal to own one, or where its features are so restricted as to remove many of its advantages.  Not to worry:  there's another option that's well worth having - a lever-action rifle or carbine.  Those in pistol calibers (.357 Magnum, which can also fire .38 Special ammunition, or .44 Magnum, which can also shoot .44 Special cartridges) are particularly useful in urban situations, where you don't want a higher-powered rifle cartridge that might shoot through multiple walls or carry much further than you intend, possibly injuring an innocent person in the process.  The late, great Jeff Cooper referred to such firearms as "urban assault rifles", and I think that's not a bad description.  Sheriff Jim Wilson has written an article about using them for defensive purposes, and I recommend you read it for yourself.

My preferred lever-action defensive carbine is a Marlin 1894 chambered in .44 Magnum.  Its solid frame lets me mount a red-dot or low-power telescopic sight without difficulty, making aiming easier on my older eyes.  I load .44 Specials for short-range urban use, and full-patch .44 Magnums for longer ranges.  I've had the barrel shortened to 16", which makes it very easy to handle in confined spaces;  and I haven't heard anyone complain yet that a heavy .44 slug doesn't hit hard enough, if placed in the right spot.  If I travel to a place where an AR-15 is illegal, guess what I'm taking with me?

(There are those who would argue - quite legitimately - that a .357 Magnum carbine is just as good for defensive purposes, with less recoil.  I agree with them, if they expect to use it only in locations where hollow-point ammunition is legal for civilians.  There are jurisdictions - take a bow, New Jersey - where civilians are forbidden to own or use such rounds;  and I don't think anyone would argue that a 158-grain solid from a .38/.357 will hit as hard as a 240- to 250-grain solid from a .44.  That's why I've chosen the larger round.  My .44 Special load uses a 250gr. flat-nose lead bullet moving at over 1,000 feet per second out of a 16" carbine barrel.  That's enough to take a black bear at short to medium range if it has to - its performance is comparable to the .44-40 round of the Old West, and I don't recall anyone complaining about the .44-40's man-stopping ability.  If I want more oomph, I load Federal's 300gr. CastCore load in .44 Magnum, which will do even better.)

Finally, consider the possible need for multiple firearms.  You should ideally have access to one wherever you are, in case of need.  If you carry a handgun on your person, that takes care of that problem;  but some people can't do that for whatever reason.  In that case, I suggest stashing additional firearms in a secure manner in areas where they might be needed in a hurry.  (Obviously, if you have children around this is not a viable solution, because they'll almost certainly find them.)  I use revolvers for the purpose, since they can remain loaded indefinitely and are about as maintenance-free as any firearm is going to get.  I've concealed them in places where a casual thief is unlikely to find them, but where I can reach them in a hurry.  (If you can use an X-acto knife or something similar, try carving a concealed hiding place inside an old book, and position it on your bookshelf in a location you won't forget.  If you aren't that handy with a knife, you can buy a fake book that conceals a gun.  In emergency, take out the book, open the cover, and there you are.)

Depending on your needs, you might also consider stashing a defensive rifle in multiple locations, because it's a lot harder to carry a rifle inconspicuously on your person or in a vehicle.  That won't apply to most of my readers, I know, but in high-threat areas such as a farm or smallholding, where you might have to move between two or three buildings on a regular basis, it might be a handy solution to your security needs.  You'll have to make up your own mind about that.

Anyway, I hope these thoughts have helped readers who haven't given much thought to the subject.



Andrew B said...

My wife and I got a wake up call last week. A local neighborhood Facebook page alerted us that a violent criminal suspect had escaped from a nearby psychiatric facility. He was last seen headed in our general direction. Our neighborhood is usually a nice, quiet place, but it seemed pretty ominous that morning. I had to go to work, but my wife had her handgun ready and secured all the doors and made sure our perimeter cameras were all working. The escapee was caught the following day and must have passed within 1/2 mile of us. As you say, it can happen anywhere.

Weredragon said...

I’m NJ born and raised. Just for your general information, NJ state police Have issued a letter saying that polymer filled bullets, think Hornady’s Critical Duty is not banned by the hollow point law. Which has made it very popular in NJ

Paul said...

I have a M1 style of rifle that is chamber to 9mm and uses beretta 92 Mags. That is my go to as reloads are a magazine swap.

Anonymous said...

If the AR platform is verbotten in your AO I can enthusiastically support Ruger's Mini14, which is also .223/5.56. I have the synthetic/stainless model with an Eotech out in the barn. Good times. Takes 30 rd mags and can dump them just fine.

Anonymous said...

The cartels and others are going wherever they can do business. See the attached about cartels coming to Montana.
Even five years ago there were local gangs that were being recruited by California and NJ gangs according to the local police. It is a cancer and it will continue.

Anonymous said...

NJ resident but not a native. Hollow points are not illegal in NJ, but are a charge enhancement on other illegal activity. Carrying a handgun illegally and it is loaded with hallow point ammunition? Each round is an enhancement to the charge of carrying a handgun illegally.

Will said...

"Hollow points are not illegal in NJ, but are a charge enhancement on other illegal activity."

IIRC, the cost includes a $1000 fine for EACH round in your possession.

Aesop said...

In a defensive shooting, the advice from the 1960s applies:

"Do unto others. Then split."

Unless you're at home, in your own house, with the body stining up the place, sticking around to answer questions that will be used in your indictment is a foolish gamble.

Go home, consult a lawyer - on retainer, so privilege applies - and STFU.

If arrested, STFU. Say nothing. Call your lawyer.

If nothing happens, nothing happens.

Being a Boy Scout nowadays only gets you pimped by the gay scoutmaster.
We have entered the time of Big Boy Rules.
You pays your nickel, and you takes your chances.
Don't be a sucker. And yet again, STFU.

Watch Humphrey Bogart's visit to the D.A. in The Maltese Falson if you're unclear on this.


tsquared said...

I have a 9mm AR pistol with a red dot on it. I would like to build a 10mm version of the same gun.

Hamsterman said...

I was thinking about getting a Henry with the side gate. I'm not sure how to secure it properly outside of locking it in a cabinet, which would make it useless for self defense.

"The best way to handle any potentially injurious encounter is: Don’t be there. Arrange to be somewhere else."

Reminds me of the Ballad of Irving
The James Boys were coming on the train at first sun
and the town said "Irving, we need your gun!"
So when the train pulled in at the crack of dawn
Irving's gun was there, but Irving was gone

Paul Chappell said...

Well written article, the only (very minor) gripe I would have being the usage of the term "civilian" when speaking of things like hollow point ammunition. I know many police officers use the term, and as I have politely asked a few of them what military rank they currently hold when discussing how "civilians do not need 'x'" while carrying precisely such a weapon themselves... The reply of "Oh, so you are a civilian then?" confuses and angers some... But then I'm just another ex-GI and my kind might not be known as the most polite and politically correct...

Howard Brewi said...

I have Marlin 94’s in both 44mag and .357 mag. I once shot two caribou with one shot with the 44 using 265 gr Hornadies so for use where you need to worry about someone behind the target use flat or hollow point ammo or .44 special which I have never tried in my carbine. I tried .38 special in the .357 mag and end up with a jam every time. I figured on using them for small game with cheap bullets. Haven’t tried light loads in .357 mag cases any advice?

lee n. field said...

As a matter of fact my state did just go stupid on modern rifles, and I am contemplating .357 lever gun as a "Ill-i-noise friendly" PCC. With my budget, probably Rossi.