Carbine vs. Shotgun vs. Pistol for home defense

This post is in response to a request from pax of www,  She is an excellent firearms instructor out of Washington state.  She knew that I was a big proponent of shoulder fired long guns, either carbines or shotguns for home defense, whereas she primarily favors the pistol.  She asked me to write up a little bit about my opinions for her.  So here goes.

All three types of weapon have their pros and cons. 

Now when I teach CCW (actually it is a CFP, Concealed Firearms Permit, in Utah) when I get to the portion of the class about wound ballistics I always tell the class that I’m about to tell them a profound truth, and the sooner they realize it, the better off they’re going to be.  Then I write the following:


General nervous laughter from the class…

Now let me explain.  I love handguns.  I teach people to shoot handguns.  I carry a handgun on my person constantly.  I just spent a fat chunk of money on a fancy new STI 9mm so I could have a better hoser gun for 3gun.   Even with that information, every time I say handguns suck, it manages to offend the heck out of somebody on the internet, because the internet exists primarily to let random strangers get offended.  So let me rephrase, handguns suck relative to long guns.

Let me break it down for you.  There is only one reason we use handguns, and that is because they are convenient.  They’re small, light, and you can conceal them on a person.  I would look a little goofy with an AK47 under my shirt. 

But in comparison to a long gun, they lack power, and they are much more difficult to learn to shoot well.  Anything you can mount on your shoulder is going to be a far easier platform to get fast, accurate hits with. 

To put this in perspective, when you shoot somebody in self defense, the goal isn’t necessarily to kill them, it is to stop them.  You want the bad guy to stop doing whatever it is they are doing that caused you go pull a gun in the first place.  Live or die is really irrelevant.  You want them to leave you alone.  Sadly, the best way to make somebody leave you alone is to shoot them in their vital organs, and that often results in the bad guy’s death.  But that’s his problem, not yours.

So to stop somebody, there are two main ways to do it, psychologically or physiologically.  Now when I say psychologically, that means the bad guy quits because he decides to, as in “OH CRAP!  He’s got a gun!  Run!”  Or if you shoot them with a non-fatal wound, and they say “Damn, that hurt.  I’m done.” 

But you don’t control the brain waves of the critter attacking you.  You might get lucky and get a bad guy that will just quit, the kind of guy that if he wanted to work hard for a living, would get a job.  Victim with gun = work.  On the other hand, you might get some really crazy, evil, whackadoo, who ain’t gonna stop, no matter what.  And that guy, you’re going to have to shoot.  A lot. 

So that brings us to the physical stoppage of another person.  Now when you are legally justified in shooting somebody, it is normally in a situation where you want them to stop RIGHT NOW.  So you want to hit them with something that will do as much damage to them as possible.  If the guy bleeds to death in 30 minutes, that doesn’t do you much good, because in that time he killed you and raped your family to death.  You want to inflict enough trauma on their body that they have no choice but to quit immediately. 

The problem with this is that most of America’s knowledge about guns comes from watching movies.  Where if I shoot somebody with a .45, they fly backwards out the window, do a flip, roll fifty feet, and burst into flames.  Now as much as I like Bruce Willis in Last Man Standing, that doesn’t actually happen in real life. 

So what do bullets do to you?  Now Internet Wound Ballisticians, whether you’re a morgue monster or a jello junkie, don’t jump my case.  I’m no scientist.  I’m a guy that has to take a very complex topic and break it down into a manner that a person whose entire firearms experience is based on shooting a .22 at scout camp once, can understand in about a 15 minute block of instruction in a 5 hour CFP class.

Handguns poke a hole in you.  That is basically what they do.  If you’re using good hollow point ammo, the bullet may expand, and you will make a bigger hole.  That hole is going to go through stuff that pumps blood.  The bigger and deeper hole you make, through the more important stuff, the more blood is going to go outside, and not to its destination, which tends to be very bad for the guy getting shot.

The body is an amazing creation.  Your body will automatically adjust for trauma as much as possible.  The more holes you put, the more trauma you inflict, the more the body has to adjust for, the greater the chance that the body is going to say “Screw this.  I’m done.” And shut down.

Now you can shoot somebody once with a feeble handgun round, and instantly incapacitate them.  Great.  You won.  But on the same token, we’ve got people that have been shot a dozen times with duty ammo who walk under their own power into the ambulance.   Humans are amazing.

So if people can be so amazing, and I want to stop them right now, then I want to maximize the amount of trauma I inflict on them.  This is where rifle caliber carbines and shotguns rule. 

Not only can I hit the guy more accurately and faster, I can do a lot more trauma.  Plus we’re talking about home defense in this post, not carrying in public, so I’m not worried about concealment. 

On shotguns, if poking one hole is good, poking a dozen at one time, is a whole lot better.  And at the range that shotguns are used defensively, there really isn’t that much spread.  At across room distance, your pattern is usually about the size of a soft ball, and if you’ve got a big house, a basketball.  So you still have to aim.  (Man, I hate that myth that shotguns throw this boulder of death that can’t miss, usually perpetuated by some dude on the internet that doesn’t ever actually shoot anything).  You can still miss, but man when you hit, it does make a mess on the carpet.

Rifle bullets are going a whole lot faster and do a lot more damage than a pistol, (and keep in mind I’m keeping this simple, and not going into ten pages of argument about AP and SS109 and other esoteric information that will make a newbie’s head explode).  When you shoot something with most rifles, you aren’t just poking a hole, but you are actually causing trauma in the tissue surrounding the hole, and most defensive bullets are designed to fragment or tumble and make even bigger, nastier holes in people.   

Here in Utah, where a very large portion of our population has been deer hunting, everybody is at least familiar with the following kind of story.  Most of my students have either shot a deer, or know somebody who has shot a deer. 

So you shoot a deer with a 30-06 (or some other decently powerful rifle bullet).  The wound is fatal, damaging the heart or lungs, and the 150-200 pound deer still manages to take off in a full sprint for 100 meters before it falls over dead.  Pretty common right?  Sometimes the shot isn’t as perfect, and the deer will make it even further.

So why then do I expect to take a human that is bigger than that deer, and possibly high on goofballs and horse tranquilizer, and shoot them with a handgun that has a fraction of the power of that deer rifle, and expect them to stop immediately?

Ahh… The light bulb clicks on.

So if you’re going to get into a gunfight, bring a rifle.  Heck, bring friends with rifles. 

Now another concern that always pops up is over penetration.  People are worried that the more powerful guns are going to poke through more walls of their house, and potentially endanger their neighborhoods. 

Here’s the thing.  Remember good old Safety Rule #4.  Be aware of your target and its environment?  It still applies.  You are responsible for where your bullets go, even in a gunfight. 

And since you’re trying to stop somebody, any round powerful enough to poke a deep enough hole to reliably damage a person, is powerful enough to penetrate a bunch of building materials.  TANSTAAFL.  There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

But this is one benefit of using a rifle for home defense.  Loaded with PROPER ammunition, the more powerful rifle bullet will often penetrate less than a pistol bullet.  A proper defensive rifle bullet is going really fast, and is designed to fragment, which causes more damage to people, but also tends to cause the bullet to break in drywall and 2x4s faster than a slow moving, solidly-constructed pistol bullet.  Either one will still penetrate, but with the correct ammo, the rifle bullet can give you the best of both worlds.

The other concern about long guns usually some how deals with maneuverability, and how if they have to clear their house, the long gun will be awkward. 

First off, clearing your house by yourself is usually a bad idea.  Don’t do it unless you have to.  To illustrate, play this game with your kids or your spouse.  Have them be the bad guy somewhere in your house.  Now, you go find them.  Who sees who first?  Right, usually they see you coming. 

So if possible, take up a defensive position that covers the entrance to your room and your kid’s rooms and call 911.  In this scenario long gun totally wins. 

But if you have to move through your house (kids on a different floor, something of that nature) you can still move with the more effective weapon, it just takes practice and training.  And if you don’t have the patience to get effective moving with a long gun, I doubt you’ve got the patience to become an effective pistol shot under stress. 

As for maneuverability, look at somebody pointing a carbine or an 18” barreled home defense shotgun, side by side with somebody pointing a pistol in a Weaver or Isosceles shooting stance.  Interestingly enough, the long guns don’t poke out that much further in real life.   

So my personal opinion?  Rule number one of a gunfight is to have a gun.  A .25 Lorcin beats a pointy stick.  If your personal situation only allows you to have a handgun at home, great.  Learn to use it.  Learn its limitations (in the case of the Lorcin, that is when it inevitably breaks into three pieces when you look at it funny), and go practice under stress.

If possible, get yourself a long gun.

Now on shotgun vs. carbine, that is all personal preference.  Which one do you shoot better? 

If you’ve got a billion rounds through a 30” 870 Wingmaster dusting clays and are a veritable pheasant holocaust, then if you want to keep an 18” barreled shotgun stoked with buckshot next to the bed, I’m not going to fault you one bit, and I’m not going to try to invade your home at 3:00 in the morning either. 

If you shoot your AK or AR better, do a little reading about what ammo is available, pick a good load, and you’re good to go.

If you are new to both types, the carbine is a little bit easier to learn to shoot and has less recoil.  Plus when the zombies come, (oh mark my words, it is just a matter of time)  it does have more ammunition capacity, and far greater effective range. 

Really, they’ve all got their pros and cons.  I don’t care what you learn to use, just learn to use something, and then go practice.  A lot.


Online fiction adventure

I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was a little kid.  I was a pretty stereotypical nerd boy.  You know the one.  During recess, the other kids go play sports, while the one fat kid stayed inside and read Dune.  Yep, that was me.    

Since then, I’ve been published a few times writing for gun magazines.  I still do that occasionally, though it is totally freelance.  I’ve got a few articles that I need to get finished and over to SWAT magazine right now.  I enjoy writing reviews, (somebody actually pays me to have an opinion about a gun, how cool is that?) but my primary love is fiction. 

My first novel will be coming out in the next few months.  I’ll save the story about what a nightmare trying to get published as a first timer is like for another day.  Basically, it really sucks.

The most fun I’ve ever had on a writing project started June 25th, 2006 on the best gun discussion boards on the net, The High Road.  There’s this guy that posts there who goes by Nightcrawler, and he was another wannabe writer like me.  I barely knew him at the time. 

So he started this online fiction thread, that was basically a continuation of an earlier, more basic story.  Now normally, I hate most online fiction.  It tends to be very poorly crafted, badly written, with no good characters, and most of the time since it is unfurling serial style, the author loses interest and doesn’t even bother to finish it.

But I started reading this one, this Nightcrawler guy was pretty good.  As you look at it, keep in mind that you’re basically seeing a rough draft as it is hammered out.  I was very impressed.  Every couple of days he would manage to crank out another scene and slap it up for several hundred people to pick at.

For those of you that like to write, you’ve got to realize, that takes guts.  Normally you write something, then pour over it, again and again, and polish it until you think it is perfect.  Then we you let somebody else read it, they’ll still manage to hurt your feelings.

I’ll admit, Nightcrawler’s story of mercenaries and black ops in Qatar sucked me in.  And as a wannabe writer, I couldn’t help but think, wow, you know, it would be really cool if this and this and this were to happen.  That would be an awesome scene.  So I thought, what the heck, it is online.  Maybe I should write that stuff myself.   

So I sent Nightcrawler an e-mail, and asked if he minded if I wrote one scene in his story from another person’s perspective.  It just started out as a silly little joke.  It was meant to be a single stand alone thing. 

Well, it turned into something else.  Behold Welcome Back, Mr. Nightcrawler:  

What started as a lark turned into a writing partnership.  I’m pretty sure it was the biggest thread in the history of THR, with over 100,000 hits, and our writing was actually novel size.  It is an intertwining story told from two perspectives, a mercenary plagued with the demons of his past, and a professional thief on a mission to save his family.   It was written by gun nuts, for an audience of gun nuts, but I do believe it came out pretty darn good. 

Now as you read that, keep in mind that we had no plan to speak of.  We would write scenes on our lunch hours, zero proof reading, and boom, slap it up on the internet for people to poke at.  I had not idea where I was going with anything, and the fact that it actually turned out surprised the heck out of me.  Think of it as Improv Fiction. 

And my online name on THR is Correia.  Yes, I am aware that is a shockingly creative pseudonym.   

Since that mega thread was actually a sequel to an earlier, rougher work, Nightcrawler went back and rewrote his original.   I give you, The Mr. Nightcrawler Trilogy:  Book I:

Now on that one, I didn’t really do much.  I stuck in a couple of little things that the reader could probably think of as bonus features on a DVD.  That one is all Nightcrawler.  Though the cow was totally my idea.

My current writing project is the third and final book of this project.  We’re still a few months away from being ready to start posting it online.  We’ll be doing it serial style just like last time, and will be posting it on THR and Monster Hunter Nation.   

This time we’ve actually put a lot of thought into the plot going in, and I believe that the fans of our earlier collaboration will be pleased with where we take it.  Book III has huge conspiracies, slave trading, prison breaks, a secret war, black ops, warlords, terrorists, the Russian mafia, triads, knife fights, hand to hand combat, explosions, guns, and Thai food.   For some strange reason I figure those things will appeal to our target audience. 

I hope you like it.  Because in the words of Nightcrawler, (the fictional one, not the real one) “Everybody’s good at something.” 

On B-Movie Goodness – Review of Necroville

So what makes a good B Movie?

It certainly isn’t the awesome special effects, which usually consists of a bunch of colored corn syrup and a chainsaw with the blade removed,  or the acting, because just because your cousin will work for free, and owns his own cape (for some unknown reason), doesn’t mean he makes a convincing vampire.

Good B-movies have heart. 

So here comes my first movie review on my new blog.  Necroville.

It isn’t out yet.  I got to go to a special, invite-only, pre-release VIP screening.  As in, I’m buddies with the executive producer, and he brought a copy by as he passed through Salt Lake, and we ate Papa Murphy’s Chicago Style pizza with fresh smoked New Mexico chili peppers, and watched the DVD.  But I do have a relatively big TV, so it still counts.

Necroville is a cross between a slacker comedy and a monster movie.  That’s the best way I can describe it.  In a town that is infested with zombies, vampires, werewolves, and goth kids, two guys that are too inept to work at the video store end up killing pesky monsters for a living. 

Now, like I said, a good B-movie has heart, they don’t have production values.  But Necroville still managed to look really good.  Having the producer there is also nice, as you get your own personalized commentary track, like “this is why we went over budget, because they messed up my truck.”  Or  “man, that piano was really heavy.” 

Like a lot of B-movies, the acting varied greatly from person to person.  I will say this though, Billy Garberina, the lead, is actually a pretty darn good actor.   If you’re a monster movie geek like me, you’ve seen him since he’s the cameraman on Feeding the Masses.   The rest of the performances were a little more hit or miss, but once again, that’s why I love this stuff.   The lead villain hammed it up, and did an excellent job. 

Mostly, I laughed my butt off.  There are some truly great lines, funny scenes, and laugh out loud stupid moments.  Even my wife, who prefers movies staring lots of British people with accents that I can’t understand, and names like Lord Devonshire Clevon-Smythe presents Jayne Austin’s Masterpiece Theater of Great British Angst and Scones, thought it was really fun. 

Basically, Necroville has heart.  It is the kind of movie that reminds me why I love this stuff.

So when this movie reaches distribution, throw it in your Blockbuster Que.  Trust me, any movie that does something so horribly unspeakable with a twisty straw gets major bonus points.

So it begins…

I’ve never blogged before.  Sure, I’ve screwed around on the internet a lot, but I’ve never had one of these before.  I started Monster Hunter Nation for a couple of reasons. 

  1. I have written a novel which will be published later this year.  I wanted a place to put up samples of my writing, as well as other online fiction projects.  
  2. I like to randomly complain about stuff. 

My name is Larry Correia.  I live in the suburbs outside of Salt Lake City, Utah.  I’m a California refugee.  Somehow I tricked a wonderful woman into marrying me, having my kids, and sticking around for the last ten years.

Not counting my families, I have two great loves in life, guns and monster movies. 

I’m one of the owners of a gun store in Draper, Utah, called FBMG.  We’re an NFA dealer, which means that in addition to regular guns, we specialize in machine guns, suppressors (silencers is what most of you would call them), and other cool stuff like that.  FBMG actually stands for Fuzzy Bunny Movie Guns.  No, really.  I’m not making that up.  Everybody else in this business is Elite Tactical Ninja Systems Force Alpha, or some crap like that, and we wanted to be different.  Besides, who could hate fuzzy bunnies? 

For the last four years, I have been a certified firearms instructor.  Primarily I teach the class for the Utah Concealed Firearms permit, but through my company, I get to do lots of other things as well.  I’ve got to admit that I love teaching people to defend themselves.  Nothing warms my heart quite like seeing an otherwise defenseless person learning to take on the responsibility to defend themselves. 

So basically, I hang out with my kind of people all day, play with guns, and get to shoot stuff.  Yes, life is hard.  I know. 

On the other love, I’m a B movie geek.  Show me a movie with a budget larger than the Apollo moon landings, Oscar winning actors, and a whole bunch of hype, and I won’t really care.  Show me a movie made by a bunch of college students, with a budget smaller than the big movies’ doughnut fund, where the actors were literally paid in beer, and I’m so there.  Bonus points if the monster is actually a guy in a gorilla suit.  

I’m a writer.  I’ve been published a few times.  My first novel, Monster Hunter International, will be coming out in the next few months, and I’ll be posting the first portion on this blog shortly.  I’ve also done a few successful online fiction serials, and I’ll be posting those here as well. 

So this is it.  I can’t promise anything, but at least I’m going to have fun.