“House Guns and the 24/7 Solution”
“I in my own house am an emperor,
and will defend what is mine.”
Massinger-The Roman Actor. Act 1. Sc. 2.33
It is no secret that more honest citizens are lawfully carrying concealed handguns than ever before due to more states enacting concealed carry laws, a change that I heartily welcome. Handgun manufacturers responded with “compact” or “ultra-compact” versions of their service size shooters such as Glock’s Model 19, 23, 26 and 27 and Beretta’s PX4 Storm ultra-compact. Ruger created both their LCP (.380 ACP semiautomatic) and the LCR (.38 Special/.357 Magnum revolver) for the concealed carry market as well as a compact version of their newest full-size autopistol, the SR9c. Kel-Tec’s line of firearms predominantly cater to the compact handgun market.
The list can go on but you get the idea: Readily concealable “carry guns” are in high demand.
But what about choices for non-carriers or handguns dedicated solely to defense of hearth and home? Are their better choices than the popular compacts for this purpose? What about overlap or dual purpose handguns? Can some rack up high points in either role or are such considerations needless over-complications?
It has frequently been suggested that since concealment is not an issue, the house gun need not be as small as the carry gun. In fact, some opine that we could be restricting our defensive capabilities by using a small, harder-to-shoot, handgun as well as unnecessarily limiting our “firepower” due to size constraints that are just not necessary. I partially agree with this.
Arguments for large-frame handguns are frequent in these discussions. With revolvers, ammo-capacity is sometimes upped a round or two and even if it remains at the traditional six, the gun’s extra size and weight reduce felt-recoil and its longer sight radius will probably aid in more accurate shot placement. I partially agree with this concept, too.
The small 5-shot J-Frame S&W Model 37 Airweight (bottom) gives up only one round to the medium size S&W Model 10 built on the K-Frame. Even though both are snubs, it has been my observation that most shooters find the heavier all-steel Model 10 significantly easier to shoot accurately due to considerably reduced felt-recoil.
If bigger is better, wouldn’t this larger S&W Model 28 N-Frame be a better choice than the medium K-Frame Model 10 below it if both were loaded with the same ammunition? After all, it weighs more and would further dampen recoil. While that is true, the size is just too large for some shooters and accuracy, particularly at speed is sacrificed if a proper hold on the handgun cannot be had. Where folks with larger hands might find the Model 28 just the ticket, odds are that they would find the medium-frame gun comfortable as well as would their wives. Are you the only one to use the house gun or are their others? Such factors should be considered when selecting a house gun in my opinion.
Some folks who normally tote an autoloader for defense opt for the DA/SA revolver for a house gun. Why is this and do you agree with this idea? The reason I most often hear is that since the house gun will probably be “out of sight and out of mind” more than the carry gun and compressed magazine springs might weaken over time. Others suggest not wanting to leave a single-action autopistol “cocked-and-locked” when off of the body and express concerns over the mainspring weakening over time.
At the other end of the discussion, folks not all that concerned with maximum ammunition-capacity for the carry gun, feel just the opposite for the house gun, the idea being that the ammunition you have in the handgun is probably all that you will have on you if quickly exiting your bed because of the infamous “bump in the night”. If fully dressed, the concealed handgun carrier probably has a spare reload or two secreted on his person, but this is probably not the case if creeping about only in pajamas…or less.
So what is the truth…or best gleaning of it from these ideas? I believe that it depends significantly on your own personal situation but will offer what I hope to be useful suggestions for your individual consideration. In other words, you decide what you believe to be right for you, not me.
The late Jeff Cooper wrote that the service handgun was possibly the most useful because it could be used in a wider array of scenarios than handguns designed for more specific purposes such as formal target competition or deep concealed carry. It might not be the “best” for all things, but it very well might suffice. I believe that he was correct.
Revolver vs. Semiautomatic: In my view this is strictly personal preference. With quality handguns, either is reliable and loaded original-capacity magazines just do not weaken dangerously from being loaded over time. Ditto, autoloaders stored in Condition One. Test after test over the years from such folks as Cooper, Taylor and others as well as my own have convinced me that such concerns are not justified. Seldom mentioned is that revolver mainsprings and trigger-return springs are compressed. If worrying about this is appropriate for automatics, why isn’t it for revolvers as well?
The notion that the house gun is likely not to be checked over great periods of time is just not a valid reason to justify revolvers in my opinion. To me it probably indicates either negligence on the part of the owner or the (dangerous) mindset that a handgun in itself can be counted upon to ward off evil like some sort of talisman.
Compared to some autoloaders, the DA/SA revolver does have a simpler manual-of-arms and it seems more readily “understandable” to people not really interested in shooting and firearms. This or plain old personal preference are valid reasons to opt for the “round gun” in my view.
Ammunition Capacity: I cannot envision anyone suggesting that they prefer less ammunition rather than more in a defense situation but I still believe that in the surprise, compressed time-frame situations for which we tote a handgun, we will run out of time before ammunition. If we cannot quickly “solve” this unexpected surprise problem before it “solves” us, how many rounds we still had on tap is moot while our chalk outline is being drawn by homicide officers.
Many folks express concerns over home invasions. Consider that they will have the element of surprise and will be right on top of you as soon as they can manage it. A larger-capacity service pistol in the bureau drawer might as well be in China. A 17-shot Glock might be of great use but how many shots can we get off before we ourselves take incoming fire from presumably armed home invaders?
This brings me to my main point:
Instant Accessibility: Handguns are chosen for the unexpected, for the deadly force scenarios we hope we never have to experience but can happen in the blink of an eye. They can be employed with but one arm while carrying a kid to safety under the other. They can be easily hidden in strategic places. The handgun is what we have with us “just in case” but is not (usually) our primary choice when we know the wolf is either at the door or on the way. For that we call law enforcement or opt for some sort of long arm such as a fast-handling carbine or shotgun.
The service sidearm suggested by Jeff Cooper makes a lot of sense to me assuming that our lifestyle allows us to have it immediately at hand while at home. If memory serves, the good colonel suggested wearing it at home as well as when out. Whether we agree with this concept or not (I do), more than a few of us simply will not be able to do this. Neighbors might perceive us as paranoid mental cases while the wives of some would be constantly upset over it despite the fact that it might save her life someday…or night. So, while I believe that this is the optimal house gun accessibility solution, it just won’t work for many of us, which brings me to what I call the “24/7 approach”.
I strongly believe that unless our abode sports bank vault doors or barred windows, we are deluding ourselves if we believe we can access our stored house gun in time to ward off unlawful, surprise deadly attack or other unexpected criminal activity within our homes. (There’s that pesky time issue again. Most doors can be kicked open rather easily, more so than many even suspect.)
The gun must be on the person. After trying more than a few, my nomination for the best 24/7 gun, one that is own my person while awake and near it when asleep, bathing or whatever is a Plus-P-loaded S&W J-Frame in .38 Special. Being on my person, it allows me at least five immediate “tries’ at survival rather than double or triple that from a firearm somewhere else! I would hate the sting of my throat being slit because I didn’t have my “obsolete” pocket snub on me and just didn’t have the time to access my “tactically superior” light-mounted autoloader in the next room!
The Glock 19 (left) is shown next to an S&W Model 042 J-Frame .38 Special I carried as a BUG while a police officer. I think that the Glock 19, a worldwide favorite, is the better defensive arm but only if it is immediately ready to use. For me the Glock 26’s 10-round magazine and simple revolver-like point-and-pull operation had much to recommend it, but the G26 (right) was enough too large to preclude it from pocket carry for me…though I tried for over a year.
As this is being written, a service size pistol is on the desk next to my right hand and it is what I would use if unexpected push came to very hard shove, but if I walk over to a filing cabinet across the room, my J-Frame is with me and ready to go from its Tuff Products pocket holster, which also contains a spare reload.
For me, the “24/7 solution” has been viable. My “always” snub is on my person and a service size handgun as close to hand as possible. I would much prefer the .45 Dan Wesson Patriot in a fight than the S&W Model 642, but I am more likely to have the snub with me at all times. With the snub on my person and a “real gun” close to hand, I have a choice rather than just hope. In my opinion, immediate accessibility is as non-negotiable as reliability for the handgun(s) employed for home defense. It has to work but to do so it must be present!
For me, this means two.
You decide what works best for you but I respectfully suggest (strongly) giving it some serious thought before there are any problems. Statistically, there will not be but I don’t choose to live on the proverbial “wing and a prayer”.
How about you?