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Firearms and Firearm Culture for Writers, Part 1

December 07, 2008  Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Not Exactly Random, The Craft   5 Comments

This is the first in the series of “Firearms and Firearm Culture for Writers” posts. Today we explore a popular trend in home defense.

What are people stocking their homes with for self defense?

Increasingly, it is the AR-15.

The AR-15 carbine, or M4, is the short version of America’s rifle. It’s what the military issues to our servicemen for CQB.

The civilian model is quite popular, of course. Mine doesn’t have the switch that flips over to full auto. Otherwise, it is exactly the same in many respects.

The particular model I use is a Bushmaster Modular carbine. Attached to it is a Aimpoint Comp M3 red dot sight, a Surefire X200 light, a fore grip and sling. And for me, that’s all it needs.

The 20″ (and 24″, with ‘inch’ refering to the length of the barrel) version of the AR-15 is a popular varmint rifle (and in some states, deer) for hunting. While you can plunk at varmints with a carbine, I purchased mine for the reason 90% of the other people purchased theirs: home defense.

Why is this platform so popular? Two reasons, the inherent accuracy of the system itself and the waning use of the shotgun as a home defense weapon.

Accuracy & Lethality

The AR-15 carbine is easy to shoot. Eugene Stoner‘s design mitigates a lot of the recoil inherent with firing a rifle cartridge. Indeed, one could fire it all day.

This translates to several things: confidence and speed, two things absolutely necessary in a CQB rifle.

Despite the low recoil, as a true rifle round, the 5.56mm NATO (or the very close cousin: .223 Remington) round is an effective lethal round, compared to a pistol cartridge. Consider my sidearm I am wearing now:

G19: 9mm 124gr at 1295fps / 462 ft. lbs.

Now consider my M4:

M4: .223 Remington 55gr at 2989fps / 1091 ft. lbs

What do those numbers mean? That’s the weight of the bullet, feet per second and energy/pound. I am not going to go into the physics, but essentially, you can see the M4 is a superior weapon, because it is a rifle, not a pistol. There is an old maxim: “You use your pistol to fight to your rifle.” In this case, it’s a better weapon (assuming of course, you have it when you need it).

The terminal ballistics of the M4 is vastly superior, but it is also several times more accurate than my pistol. When engaging targets, the M4 is faster.

Speed and accuracy: what more could one ask for? I bring this all up for a reason, below.

The Slow Decline of the Shotgun as a Home Defense Weapon

On one hand I respect the choice to have a shotgun as a home defense weapon. On the other, I remain unimpressed by the shotgun for several reasons. At close ranges it is a devastating weapon. And my take on this is… so what? It also is inherently inaccurate and slow. Take a self defense class and what are you taught? Speed and accuracy. Accuracy and speed. Two things the shotgun is not.

Don’t believe me? You don’t have to: Americans vote with their wallet. The AR-15 is America’s rifle for a reason. People are buying them left and right. Shotguns are replaced with carbines. They are everywhere, because, when it comes down to the basics, a person using an AR-15 is faster and more accurate than a person using a shotgun.

There are other reasons beyond the technical in the AR-15 vs. shotgun comparison. Our men and women use the M4 to shoot the enemy in our wars, and with great effect. This has a huge impact in the mindset of the average American purchasing a rifle. I know it did with me. Basically, when it came to a purchasing decision, if it was good enough for the United State Marine Corps, it was good enough for me.

One thing, the M4 is not is cheaper than a shotgun. And to me, that is the only reason to have a shotgun as a primary defense weapon. One could argue to simply use your pistol in place of the shotgun, but that is not an argument I am qualified to make. Far from disparaging the shotgun, I appreciate it very much for this reason: for $200 you can have an excellent weapon to protect your kith and kin.

But you should save up for a M4.


There is a reason for this post—not just to be mildly enlightening, but as a prelude to next Sunday’s topic: The Gun Culture Explained for Writers. To write such a post, I have to provide a bit of technical context. And there it is.

My M4, G17 and a random selection of books

M4, G17 and a random selection of books

5 comments on: Firearms and Firearm Culture for Writers, Part 1

  1. J.C December 7, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Pretty. I’m way more into knives though…
    When did you get into guns? I grew up on a farm so have some experience with them but not loads. Everyone on a farm has a gun, well, did back when I grew up… there isn’t a huge gun culture in NZ though so the majority of people don’t have one and wouldn’t consider having one in the home important.

  2. Anthony December 7, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Katrina. I saw it unfold by people reporting about it on the ground, not the inane crap that was on “the news”. Comparing the information between the two, I began to wonder: “If what they are saying is so out of touch, what else is going on?”

    That and 911 police response is 20 to 40 minutes out here, and there was an “incident” in the neighborhood.

    The combination of the two was a huge eye-opener.

  3. J.C December 7, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    Yeah I can imagine. There is nothing worse than thinking that something might happen and you’d have no defense against it, specially where family are concerned.

  4. larry7504 December 8, 2008 at 10:06 am

    Hmmm, nice weapons but a little awkward in close quarters. I prefer my Taurus 6″ revolver. It’s a .357 but for defense I have .38 special hollow points.

  5. Anthony December 8, 2008 at 10:24 am

    Training removes that issue. I’ve done training at 0 to 25 yards with both my sidearm and my carbine, and the carbine by far was more versatile.

    Of course, having both makes a big difference.

    Nice wheel gun. That’s a beauty! The sight picture on a 6″ barrel is excellent.

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