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It was a long and rough day, and when your head hits the pillow you are out instantly. Hours later, you jump out of a deep sleep to the sound of your front door being kicked in. Disoriented and confused, you listen as your dog barks hysterically and then whimpers in pain. The silence that follows is terrifying.
You grab the phone and call 911, but know the response time will be far too long. Like they say, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.
Next you hear the door to your daughter’s room open and she starts screaming.

This is when you find out if you are a sheep or a sheepdog. Sure you could take the advice of the sheep and lock your door, wait for the police, but who would do that? You are going to your child’s assistance and what you bring with you will make all the difference in how this ends.

The best way to survive this thing is to use stealth and surprise. Don’t yell out, “I have a gun!” or even think about a warning shot. The first time he realizes you are there, your gun should be pointed at his center of mass and your finger should be on the trigger. If he is attempting to hurt your daughter, his first clue should be the hole through his vitals, followed quickly with another.

Letting him know you are there and have a gun, just gives him an advantage and puts you in danger. If he eliminates you from the equation, you have failed yourself and your child.

Handguns For Self Defense

A handgun can be easily manipulated in tight quarters and can be kept back close to your body so that the bad guy can’t grab it as easily or move past the muzzle. Even if the bad guy is able to attack you, a handgun can be used during a hand-to-hand close-quarters confrontation, but typically a long gun cannot. Also, a handgun keeps one hand free to fight, or to open doors or operate light switches.

The only downside to a handgun, assuming you train and are proficient with it, is that the bullet can penetrate walls and injure or kill somebody on the other side. This is one place a shotgun has an advantage. When loaded with large birdshot like #6 it is deadly at close range, but will not penetrate as many layers of a wallboard as a handgun or rifle.

You own every shot and are fully responsible for what the bullet does, so bear that in mind. If you keep a handgun for defense, know what’s on the other side
of any wall, including an exterior wall. A bedside handgun might well be your carry gun. Or it might be a handgun dedicated to bedside use. Regardless, there are things to consider. First is caliber.

I am of the belief that it’s far better to be over-gunned than under-gunned. The goal here is not to make it a fair fight, or to prove what a great shot you are. The goal you’re after is survival. The argument for a smaller cartridge is almost always “shot placement,” which is a great theory but flawed logic. Shot placement is important, but it’s also elusive. When you are stressed, the lighting is poor and the target is moving, suddenly the idea of “shooting him right in the eye” is a lot tougher than it sounds. I like the idea of any handgun as long as it starts with a four. A bigger bullet simply does more damage. If the shot is not perfectly placed, a bigger bullet has higher odds of causing an incapacitating wound than a small bullet. A .40 S&W or .45 ACP is a far better fight stopper than a .380 ACP or even the 9mm.

Think you need the high magazine capacity of a 9mm? Think again, that’s Hollywood. This will be over in a few shots. Besides, you can get a .40 S&W like the Smith & Wesson M&P with a 15-round magazine, which is as many shots as a lot of high-cap nines.

Of course, you should always use the best ammo possible and have your gun loaded with expanding bullets. But, remember a small bullet may or may not expand, but a large bullet will never shrink. If the big bullet expands as expected, great; now you have a really big bullet punching a really big hole. Big holes win fights.

Revolver Or Semi-auto?

If you are under intense stress, your fine motor skills suffer. A revolver is the simplest to operate and the most foolproof. A high-quality double-action revolver in a powerful and proven cartridge like the .357 Magnum is a formidable defensive handgun. (I know, it doesn’t start with a four, but there are exceptions. Muzzle velocity counts too.) But, a revolver is limited to five or six shots (for most models) and is slow to reload. In a fight it will most likely be used in the double-action mode, and that is hard to master, making the gun difficult to shoot well. You can cock the hammer, but now you have a very light trigger pull in the single-action mode. This can lead to an accidental discharge in a high-stress situation, particularly with a person who is not highly skilled with firearms.

Remember, the main goal here is to protect your family. But a secondary goal should be to not shoot anybody. Unfortunately, even a justified self-defense shooting in today’s America will alter your life dramatically. You will need a lawyer and will almost certainly be charged and brought to trial. It’s not fair, it’s not what America should be about, but it is the reality.

While you hope that the system works and you are exonerated, it will be hugely expensive, as in bankruptcy expensive. If you shoot him because you were stressed out and accidently pulled the light trigger on your gun, the prosecutor will hang you out to dry.

This is a classic Catch-22: the revolver’s simplicity favors somebody who is not a gun guy and does not shoot a lot. Yet the trigger mechanism and options tend to favor a highly skilled operator. But, when you weigh all the pros and cons, if you are the type of person who buys a gun but doesn’t shoot it much and never trains, a revolver might be the best choice.

Most shooters who do burn powder regularly will be happier with a semi-auto handgun. These magazine-fed guns have a larger ammo capacity and are very fast to reload with a spare magazine. They are pretty much a defensive handgun by design and come in a lot of cartridge options.

While a nice, light trigger pull on a single-action gun like a tuned 1911 does make it easier to shoot the gun well, it can lead to problems when you are under stress. That’s why most police departments do not issue a single-action handgun. If you are a highly trained shooter, a 1911 is a good choice, but then you would already know that. For most everybody else, it’s a bit dicey.

Action Considerations

The double-action/single-action guns are not the best options for self defense in my opinion. While they exhibit all the same trigger-manipulation challenges that a revolver does, they don’t stop there. The first shot will be a long, hard double-action pull, while the next and all subsequent shots will have a much lighter single-action trigger pull, usually following a long take-up.

Striker-fired handguns provide a balance in trigger pull that make sense in a bedside home-defensive pistol. Just as with the revolver, there is no need to manipulate a safety, just pick up the handgun, aim and pull the trigger. Oh yeah, keep a cartridge in the chamber. You may not have time to work the slide, or you may only have one hand available. Besides, it makes noise when you rack the slide, and that warns the bad guy you are around. But, be sure to keep the gun securely locked and away from unauthorized access and not just lying around.

Night Sights

Every home-defense pistol should have night sights. You can’t hit the bad guy if you can’t aim your pistol. I also am a huge advocate of laser sights on defensive handguns. A laser lets you watch the bad guys, not the sights. They show up well in low light and are easy to see. Shooting a handgun with a laser sight is much easier than with the sights and always faster and more accurate. The argument that they are battery operated and can fail is flawed—that’s why you have the night sights. If your laser does not work, use the sights. Not putting a laser on your gun because you think it might fail is foolish. It’s a secondary system—your sights are primary.

Besides, I have been using lasers on my defensive handguns for many years and have never had one fail. The batteries last a long time, if you don’t waste them letting your dog chase the red dot. Also, not trying to be flippant here, but they make new batteries every day. Change them out on a schedule and your laser will always work.

I am also a big advocate of gun-mounted lights. Trying to shoot with a flashlight in your weak hand is extremely difficult. You can spend hours and hours training with all the tactical methods of holding a flashlight, or you can use a gun-mounted light.
With the light on the gun, you have it pointed where the gun is pointed and your weak hand is still free to support the gun, open a door, turn on a light switch or punch the bad guy.

One last thing. Your loved ones count on you to protect them and to be there for them. Take your bedside handgun to the range and practice, often. Competition is a great way to practice. It wouldn’t hurt to sign up for some professional training as well.

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