19 January 2010

Guns and Gear: Scenarios for Civilians

For this week's installment of "Grog Guns and Gear," let's take a break from the usual "gear porn" and talk about the fundamental question for any gun or piece of gear: what do you want to do with it?

For those of you in the military or in law enforcement, these questions are largely answered for you by your leadership. To a large extent, they also dictate the guns and gear that you have available to accomplish your mission. Civilian shooters like myself have as much freedom as our pocketbooks allow. This is both a blessing and a curse.

Let's just be honest and admit that for some of us, "because it's cool" is often all the justification we need. If and when I drop $3,000 on a Georgia Precision AR-10 precision rifle and $1,500 for a suitable optic, it'll be because it's cool. I can imagine real-world scenarios where a semi-automatic precision rifle might be useful for a civilian like myself, but they are unlikely.

Our selection of practical guns and gear, on the other hand, should be driven by the scenarios in which you expect to use them. Here are the key scenarios that I think a civilian should consider, rated according to their relative likelihood and severity (in much the same way miltiary planners and other professionals evaluate risks) along with examples of appropriate gear for the situation.

Prowler/"Things that Goes Bump in the Night"

The basic self-defense scenario is protecting yourself, your home, and your family from 1-2 intruders. Their goal might be simply to sneak in, grab what they can, and sneak out. Or they may intend to rob your or your family at gunpoint. Perhaps they intend to rape your wife or children. Perhaps they intend to torture and maim you and your family because you represent the society against which they hold a grudge. Perhaps they intend to kidnap you, take your car, force you to withdraw as much cash as you can at ATMs, and then murder you to make sure that you can't act as a witness against them or because your life means nothing to them. The latter variant has become increasingly common, as in the Eve Carson case (the comically-attired thug pictured to the right is one of the two suspects charged in that case).

Likelihood: High. Severity: Low to High.

I think it's important to note that the severity of this basic scenario can be difficult to assess. One school of thought, often advocated by police (at least in public) is to not resist and just give the thug whatever money or property they're looking for. However, by not resisting, you have effectively surrendered to the thug and your well-being and life, and that of your family, now depend on his good will and (perhaps) his fear of judicial consequences. However, if he had much good will and deep thinking skills to begin with, he wouldn't have broken into your house.

A good handgun can get you through kind of situation, as long as you have the skills and mindset to use it effectively, although some schools of thought favor shotguns or even rifles for this basic home defense scenario.

At this point, I will also note that, as always, I am not offering legal advice. It is your responsibility to know the self-defense laws in your jurisdiction and understand that in today's litigious society, "every bullet has a lawyer attached to it." It is also up to you to decide whether, as the old saying goes, you would "rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6."

Street Crime

Robberies, car jackings, kidnappings, rape, and murder can and do happen to average, hard-working, law-abiding citizens every day as they travel to or from work, stop at a convenience store to pick up a gallon of milk, walk out of the shopping mall with an arm-load of Christmas presents for their family, or go for an evening jog after a stressful day at the office. Perhaps they look like they might have a few dollars in their pocket. Perhaps they look like easy prey. In a moment, their life can be changed forever, or end entirely, through an encounter with the predators that we allow to roam our streets.

Likelihood: High. Severity: Low to High.

Your only real choice for this scenario is a concealed handgun. Police, business owners, and the general public tend to frown on people walking through shopping malls with a .45 in a thigh holster, an AR-15 slung across their chest, and a Remington 870 on their back :).

Home Invasion

In a home invasion, a group of criminals (sometimes only 2, but sometimes as many as 7 or 8, as in the well-publicized 2009 Billings case in Florida) assaults an occupied home with the intent of commiting some other crime, such as robbery, assault, kidnapping, rape, or murder. In a home invasion, the perpetrators intend to overwhelm with occupants of the home with overwhelming force. In some cases (like the Billings case), the assaults are planned, rehearsed, and executed with a level of precision and firepower comparable to a SWAT raid, making a home invasion a qualitatively different scenario than a thing that goes bump in the night.

Likelihood: Medium, Severity: Medium to High.

This is less likely than the previous two scenarios, but the impacts are likely more severe: nobody is going to go through the trouble of a planning and executing a home invasion to steal your 5-year-old DVD player.

As I'll discuss later, this is the scenario that I struggle with the most, but it is also where a semi-automatic rifle really comes into its own.

"Shit Hits the Fan" (a.k.a. SHTF)

A wise man said "Civilization is never more than a few missed meals from anarchy."

As I write this, looters armed with machetes are roaming the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti in the aftermath of a major earthquake. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, over 30,000 people were crammed into the Superdome and, according to some reports, the situation rapidly deterioriated into a Hobbesian nightmare of vandalism, theft, intimidation, assault, rape, and gang violence while other gangs of looters roamed the city in search of everything from essentials like food and water to televisions and Heineken beer. In 1992, the city of Los Angeles suffered six days of violent rioting when certain members of the community expressed their disagreement with the jury's verdict in the Rodney King case by attacking innocent bystanders, looting, vandalizing, and burning large parts of the city. On a more personal level, a co-worker's family was without electrical power, water, or any other basic services for 7 weeks in the aftermath of a hurricane in Houston, Texas. There are also lessons for personal security to be learned from my own experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq, which I may re-visit in another posting.

Based on these precedents, I think a civilian is well-justified in being prepared to provide for and protect yourself and your family for up to 90 days without any outside assistance (no police, no hospital, no National Guard, and no FEMA) or supplies (no food, no medicine, nothing... not even a loaf of bread), giving the authorities time to restore some kind of order.

Likelihood: Low to High. Impact: High.

The likelihood of a SHTF scenario depends, to some extent, on where you live. Some areas, like the southeastern United States, are prone to frequent natural disasters in the form of hurricanes, while natural disasters are relatively rare in other areas. Urban areas are also much more prone to civil unrest, simply because of population density.

As far as impact, consider one of the rotating motivational banners on Magpul's Web site: "We prepare so we don't end up in the Superdome."

In this scenario, a semi-automatic rifle is, in my opinion, just one of the items of gear and supplies you'll need.

The End of the World As We Know It (a.k.a. TEOTWAWKI)

In a TEOTWAWKI scenario, civilization as we know it collapses not temporarily (as in a SHTF scenario) but permanently. Cormac McCarthy's The Road comes to mind, as does a major regional or global catastrophe like a nuclear war or a large asteroid impact.

My personal decision is that the costs of being prepared for such a scenario outweigh the benefits in light of its improbability, but that is a decision for each of us to make with our families. For what it's worth, my own experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq lead to me to be less concerned with a TEOTWAWKI scenario that I might otherwise be. I was in Iraq at the height of the insurgency and, despite the constant threat of terrorist attacks and daily battles between criminal gangs, militia groups, insurgents, terrorists, the fledging Iraqi security forces, and Coalition forces, Iraqi society still sort of functioned: adults went to work, children went to school, markets were open, and doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies provided medical care not only for those injured in the fighting but also those suffering from day-to-day injuries and ailments. It was certainly dangerous and almost unimaginable to those of us who have known only the relatively safe, peaceful, and comfortable lives we enjoy in 21st-century America, but it was not the end of the world.

I think by far the most likely TEOTWAWKI scenario is economic collapse followed by collapse of the government. My experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq suggest that even if the economy and government were to collapse here, some kind of new order would emerge after a painful and likely violent, but also relatively short, (SHTF) transition period.

Likelihood: Very Low to Low, Impact: Extreme.

In future postings, I will discuss some of the options for guns, gear, and training for each of the scenarios that I am focused on: prowlers, street crime, home invasions, and SHTF.

Until next time, keep your powder dry.

By: Guardian

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I always thought a shotgun would be the most practical weapon for home defence. It's big and menacing, you don't have to aim it precisely, it goes off with an intimidating flash and a roar, and the pellets do not go through the wall to hit people in the next room.

Of course, in the case of extended breakdown of normal life and you have to defend the outside of your house from looters etc., then I agree a semi-auto rifle would be a better choice.