picking a defense weapons set for an average Joe or Jill in three different hypothetical scenarios

My thoughts on picking a defense weapons set for an average Joe in three different hypothetical scenarios. An average Jill can use the same principles, but if necessary she will need to adjust suggestions below to her physical strength (for example get a revolver in .38 caliber that might be lighter than .357, use regular .38 ammo instead of .38 +P, etc).

Let me first describe Joe. He’s a male of an average strength. He knows how to shoot a handgun, but never went through a formal training, nor does he practice his shooting skills on a regular basis. He has a wife and two small children. He does not have much money to spend on guns. He lives in low-middle income class suburbs. He rents a large apartment or owns a mid-size townhome or a house.

Scenario 1 – home invasion by burglars
Suggested items: alarm system, large can of pepper spray, medium to large frame double action revolver, mini gun safe, good tactical flashlight from a reputable maker

Some thoughts on strategy and auxiliary means of protection.
1) Joe should get an alarm system. Even cheap alarms sold at discount stores, that simply sound an alarm when somebody passes them by, are better than nothing. While they are not connected to a police station and might not be loud enough to attract neighbors attention, they are likely to serve two purposes: startle the invader and possibly make him leave the house and wake Joe up. Awake Joe has a chance of getting to his defensive weapons before attacker gets to the sleeping Joe and his family.
Hint: if you have a pet, place this security device 3-4 feet of the floor. Most pets will be shorter than 4 feet and most attackers will be taller. If your dog is taller than 4 feet, you might not need a security device in a first place.
Hint: If you get an alarm system from a security agency, you will pay monthly fees. In exchange the agency will provide monitoring services and automatically call police department if alarm is breached. However, in cases when burglar cuts the phone/cable wires they won’t get a call although the alarm bell inside of the house will still go off and wake Joe up. Joe might consider getting a system with so called cellular backup. It sends a cellular call to the monitoring agency when land lines are cut (you can not add this to your Verizon Wireless plan, btw). More advanced burglars might jam the signal, then cut the wires, but such advanced burglars are unlikely to target Joe’s residence in the first place.
2) Joe should devise a plan of action
3) Joe should make an effort to read a home defense book or better yet attend training. Two books I would recommend are: NRA’s “Personal Protection Inside Home” and “The Farnam method of defensive handgunning”. The classes I would recommend are both from NRA: “Basic Pistol” and “Personal Protection Inside Home” courses. Note that there are 40,000+ NRA instructors. Vast majority are good, but use common sense when picking whose class to attend.

Suggested brands: Smith and Wesson, Ruger, modern (2005 +) Charter Arms, Taurus. A very good option would be to find a used Smith and Wesson or Ruger in good condition with maybe some holster wear, but excellent bore and tight action and then have it serviced by a gunsmith. This will give Joe an excellent revolver at an excellent price (in my opnion certainly better than Taurus and Charter Arms).

* Suggested caliber and barrel length: .357 with 4 inch barrel. For home defense concellability is not a concern, so get a full size revolver that will offer you more options. While, as you see below, I think .38 caliber ammo should be used for home protection, being able to shoot .357 gives you more options, should you ever need to shoot a bear that wandered into your backyard (note: if you don’t know it yet – both .38 and .357 ammo can be shot from .357 revolver, but not the other way around). Given the same round 4 inch barrel has more rifling to spin bullet to a higher speed than say a 2 inch barrel can. It also puts a bit more weight in the barrel, thus helping to reduce recoil. On possible downsides, a pistol with longer barrel is easier to wrestle out during hand to hand fight and it might be a bit too heavy to hold for small frame folks who do not excercise. However, I would not recommend to go with anything less than 2 1/4 in barrel for a home defense revolver. Revolvers with shorter barrels also tend to be made for concealed carry and as a result be smaller and hold 5 rounds as oppose to 6 or 7. Note that .38 revolver might be a little less heavy than .357 due to having a slightly less beafed up frame.

* Fixed sights or adjustable
Not relevant for home defense. Joe is likely to point and shoot as oppose to to take a careful aim at a stationary target that is 50 yards away. Fixed sight revolvers tend to be a bit less expensive on average, however they are unlikely to come with high visibility sights. Note that not all adjustable sights are high visibility either. This can be remedied by applying inexpensive glow in the dark paint to the front sight (don’t look for this paint at your local PartyCity store. Look on gun sites such as Brownells, MidwayUSA, Cabella’s, Cheaperthandirt, etc or ask your gun dealer). A gunsmith can also install a high visibility plastic insert in the front sight for a small fee. Additionally, fixed sights won’t get misaligned or catch on clothing.

* Laser sights
Highly recommended. Do not buy cheap sights for $20-80. They will waste your money and put your life in danger when a serious situation arises. Go for expensive, proven laser sights, such as Crimson Trace or one of their major competators. Crimson trace can set you back a couple of hunder dollars, but it will give the best of the breed and provide with some perks such as 1hr video tutorial on using the sights (tactics, benefits, pitfalls). Since most of CT sights replace your factory grips, you can get some money back by selling your old grips online. I will say that unless you can afford a good, reliable, and reputable sight, do not get it at all. Note that while it very is helpful, thousands of folks survived just fine wthout one. This is not unlike paper map vs a GPS or sliced bread vs a loaf. And of course always remember to practice with your iron sights (this might come in handy if your laser does fail for some reason – dead batteries for example) ! Even CrimsonTrace folks remind us of that.

* Sight in your revolver
Sight in your laser or adjustable sights following manufacturer instructions. Ask a gunshop owner or experienced folks at a firing range if you need help. While it might seem that this contradicts what I have said about adjustable sights relevancy for home defense it does not. If you ever use your sights to take a careful aim you will need to follow one of the cardinal rules of firearm safety is “Be sure of your traget and what is beyond”. How can you be sure of your target if your laser sights make you shoot 5 inches to te right?

* Get the right ammo
Much can be found on the web about what kind of ammo one should choose for a revolver to be used for home defense. For an average Joe I would recommend to stick with .38 +P hollow points in 125 grain, .38 +P in 158 grain lead semi wudcutter hollow point (aka FBI load), or maybe 110 grain .357 hollow points if you find recoil manageable and can hit targets consistently. If you find all of the above too much, then consider .38 lead hollow points in 125 grain made by Federal. They are a bit hard to find and might be expensive, but have a solid reputation. Try to practice with ammo similar to what you have for self defense. For example, if it is .38 +P in 158 grain lead semi wudcutter hollow point then practice with .38 159 grain +P rounds. They do not have to be hollow point of course, which will make them less expensive. Make sure to run 200+ rounds of chosen self defense ammo (or at least as much as you can afford) through your revolver to ensure it functions flawlessly with it. Your gun might function perfectly with practice ammo you use, but fail to operate properly with your self defense ammo, if it has harder primers, etc.

Scenario 2 – localized riots, looting aka Katrina scenario

Scenario 3 – the End of the World as We Know It aka SHTF

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