Originally, the plan for Ep.1 was to put together a list of all the firearms I’d recommend for urban defense. That plan fell apart when my discussion on rifles alone started pushing 2,000 words (I like guns, sue me). So, I decided to break the firearms topic into two episodes: rifles and other things that go bang.
Before I get started on the other things that go bang, we had a lot of readers hit up the comments section with favorites, which is much appreciated. Special hat tip to the M1 Carbine guys, one of my favorites too. It wasn’t included on my list because, as mentioned, I was getting really long-winded. The .30 Carbine (7.62x33mm) is ballistically very similar to .357 Magnum out of a rifle, which is not a bad thing at all.
We also got a lotta love for the lever action mention as well, with some cogent commentary. I recommended .30-30 due to the extended reach. But I will concede that a pistol caliber such as .357- or .44 Magnum has significantly longer legs out of a rifle and I can’t fault that choice either. By the way, the Big Horn Armory lever gun pictured in Ep.1 is actually in .500 S&W, which would be devastatingly effective.
Okay, moving on. It’s time to discuss the other options on the table. Some of you are probably going to disagree with my choices here, but I can take the heat.
Clay’s Guide to Urban Defense
- Series Introduction
- Ep. 1 Rifles
- Ep. 2 Other Things That Go Bang
- Ep. 3 Ammo: The Amount You’ll Actually Need
- Ep. 4 Hardening the Home
- Ep. 5 Surviving In A Concrete Jungle
- Ep. 6 Escape from NY
Strategy and Storage
In combat terms, worrying about your pistol is generally akin to worrying about the color of your underwear. That is to say, they don’t matter much and you should really be thinking about something more important. They are less lethal than any centerfire rifle cartridge unless you are at .41 Magnum or above, and I wouldn’t even guarantee that. They are typically lower in capacity, harder to shoot, and generally less capable.
From having fought in a city or ten, my opinion of pistols is pretty low. My recommendation under normal conditions would be to either carry a loaded pistol. Or, in lieu of the pistol, just carry an extra rifle mag. But the scenario I presented in our series introduction isn’t normal conditions. And you don’t have a military logistics train supporting you, nor a dozen friends with rocket launchers and machine guns backing your play. So you might have to lean on pistols more than anyone with alternatives would like to.
I’m serious when I say that pistols are nearly useless in a combat zone. But the one thing that they absolutely have going for them is they are small. Everyone knows space costs money in a city. Having lived in a few apartments, I can appreciate how little storage you actually have, much less that you can leverage to stash an arsenal. In size terms, you can get about four to five pistols in the same spot as one rifle. And since I’m talking about urban defense, that might not be a bad strategy.
I haven’t talked a great deal about strategy yet. But on that note, let’s admit up front you can’t defend a building by yourself. Moreover, that defending an entire building with thick exterior walls and multiple vantage points is much preferred to trying to ride it out alone in your individual apartment. All that to say, you are going to need help. And most of that help didn’t prepare for this contingency, they were too busy keeping up the Kardashians. If you expect them to hold any ground at all, you will have to arm them yourself. As scary as that sounds, it beats trying to do everything on your own. So the number of weapons on hand is actually a factor. I am sure that is hysterical to the GunsAmerica readers that live in areas with larger living spaces, but we are talking about a narrow band here.
So while a pistol wouldn’t be my ideal option for a recently converted Starbucks Barista, it might be what is available. It can still get the job done. As long as you plan your defensive strategy right, you can play to those strengths. We will cover this more in detail later but think for now about the corners of a fortified building held by lookouts with pistols as defensive weapons, with rifles higher up to maximize fields of fire. It only takes one slip up to have bad guys inside your structure, so you have to hold the ground floor. But that is not the best use of your bigger guns if you’re in short supply.
The Caliber Debate Is Over: 9mm All the Way
If we agree that some pistols are handy to have, what about caliber? Given the use of your pistols, I don’t feel like there’s even an argument with this one in the way we had with 5.56/308. I’m recommending 9mm all the way! Now don’t get your shorts in a tizzy just yet. Hear me out.
As many of you know, I am usually a fan of .45 ACP and .40 S&W, not to mention my all-time favorite: 10mm. I believe they’re — all things being equal — more lethal than 9mm, forget what the FBI says. Shouldn’t the increase in lethality from .4 calibers offset the capacity and weight difference from 9mm? Usually. But that’s for a seasoned shooter like myself with many years on the job (You’ll have to make your own call on that). But if we are talking about the hands of the untrained, 9mm is better all around.
As we all know, 9mm recoils less and the shooter has an easier time getting back to the target, which is magnified exponentially in rookie hands. That plus the added capacity of a 9mm, not to mention the shots to weight ratio of ammo, increases the odds of a hit. As we say in the Army, “If you can’t shoot hot, shoot a lot.”
If you already have a hand cannon, by all means, feed it. But if you are buying today, with this guide in mind, you can go one of two ways. I can recommend either equally.
1. Go with a high-capacity 9mm pistol with a red dot, such as the Springfield Armory XD(M) OSP. Red dots make it easier to put lead on target. They also have an added benefit of making a long shot more likely. The 19+1 capacity is crazy high, and reliability is off the chart.
2. Go with the AK of pistols. The Hi-Point! An XD(M) OSP will set you back around $800, which stacks up quick if you are arming the entire floor. Hi-Points have a street price of around $150, which is a lot more palatable for things you aren’t likely to see again. Sometimes we need to take the words of Stalin to heart, “Quantity has a quality all its own.”
Normally, I don’t like shotguns for home defense, but again that is under normal conditions. A lot of my argument against the 12 gauge scattergun is offset by the scenario presented, a defensive posture in an urban environment, and the new mag-fed guns on the market.
Traditionally, I’ve argued that most lawful home-defense shootings happen inside your home at a distance of about 7 meters or less, which is not enough space for the pattern to actually open up. Which means, I would rather have a rifle and its higher capacity. Shotgun rounds are bulky and heavy, which also means I wouldn’t choose to carry one on offense.
But if you have time to carry the can of 00 buckshot up the stairs before the crisis starts and if you happen to get your hands on one of these new mag-fed shotguns like the Mossberg 590M, then it’s an altogether different story.
While the rounds are still heavy, especially in terms of bangs to weight and storage size, the scenario presented plays directly to the shotgun’s strengths. If I needed to stop a mob 100 deep streaming down a hallway or up a staircase, bent on my violent death, my first choice would be a belt-fed on a tripod. But those are in pretty short supply, so a 590M with a 20-round magazine makes an excellent second choice. You can find em on GunsAmerica for around $600.
In terms of hurting a lot of evildoers quickly, if they happen to be massed together at least, a shotgun at about 35 yards is absolutely perfect. And while slugs are not a normal scenario good choice, since they are difficult to shoot well and recoil hard, they have an added benefit here. If you fuel up with hard-cast slugs, they are likely to penetrate 6 miscreants per shot, if not more. In raw energy terms, a 1-ounce slug at 1,600 fps second is beyond most magnum rifles. It might not have the reach, but it would be devastating to a horde trying to breach your defenses.
Pistol Caliber Carbines
It was brought up in the comment sections on Ep.1 that PCCs are easier to shoot than pistols, plus the added velocity makes them more lethal. True. But the restrictions on barrel length mean they are the same size as ARs, and ammo weight ( 9mm to 5.56) is nearly identical. Cost is also virtually the same. Given those facts, I would stick with a real rifle caliber.
Again, normally a bad choice for home defense. But from a fortified position, things change. The great benefit here is the volume of ammo you can store in a small container, an incredible shot to weight ratio.
Obviously, .22 LR is by far the cheapest and most common, which is worth considering. With .17 WSM, I have made reliable hits at 450 meters, in high winds. That is worth considering too. A rimfire rifle takes up just as much space as a centerfire. But given the crazy amount of ammo you can carry, I think it is worth having at least one in this scenario.
If nothing else, a rimfire is very useful for probing the darkness, aka recon by fire. Most of us don’t have a pile of night vision goggles laying around, and if we did, we would just take our private helicopter out of the crisis zone. So the nights are going to get dark and the mind starts seeing things. It is much better to send harassment fire that is likely to hit nothing with your cheapest option, saving your precious centerfire for sure targets.
I wouldn’t waste space on hand-to-hand implements. True, swords don’t run out of ammo. But in my opinion, it’s still folly. If you expect your makeshift army to stand its ground with Viking-style weapons in the teeth of a surging mob of screaming banshees, it isn’t going to happen. And even if they did engage the mob, who do you think would win tête-à-tête? The insurance salesman you drafted yesterday whose hobbies include talking about his feelings and sock folding? Or the thug who spent the last four years getting experience at street fighting with bike locks and billy clubs?
Exactly. Don’t waste money on melee weapons.
At last, we have exhausted the weapons talk. Before you get out your Visa card and go hog wild, remember, we have other things to factor into the budget. Tune in next week for our discussion on tactics and hardening the castle: boiling oil, razor wire, and plywood. It’ll be Home Depot shopping like you’ve never done before!