Seeing the Light on Defensive Rifles

This is a discussion on Seeing the Light on Defensive Rifles within the Defensive Rifles & Shotgun Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; I've read enough books and websites about using a rifle for self-defense that I know the shortcomings of the pistol on an intellectual level. For ...

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Thread: Seeing the Light on Defensive Rifles

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    VIP Member Array Blackeagle's Avatar
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    Seeing the Light on Defensive Rifles

    I've read enough books and websites about using a rifle for self-defense that I know the shortcomings of the pistol on an intellectual level. For example Clint Smith's well know quote, "The purpose of a pistol is to fight your way back to the rifle that you should have never laid down." I've read The Box 'O Truth enough times that, "Pistols are pistols and rifles are rifles" has been drummed into my brain. While I knew all this intellectually, my visit to the range today really made me realize the advantages of a rifle on a visceral level.

    About seven or eight years ago (before I started thinking seriously about firearms for self defense) I bought a Norinco NHM-90 (basically an AK chambered in .223), mainly to plink around a bit, and because it was interesting to have. Went out to the desert and shot it a couple of times. I found it could do a hell of a number on a can of tomato soup, but never really did anything serious with it. For the last six years it's been a closet queen.

    Last year, I started really thinking seriously about firearms as defensive tools. I bought a pistol, got my concealed carry permit, took a class, started going to the range, and read various books and websites dedicated to self defense with firearms. The mention of defensive rifles got me thinking about the AK that was gathering dust in my closet. The NHM-90 dates from the ban era, so it had a really clunky thumbhole stock that I didn't like even when I was using it for plinking. So I got a plastic stock to put on it and replaced the original rear sight with a peep sight from Krebs. I did some dry fire practice with it, and read John Farnams Defensive Shotgun and Rifle book.

    Today, I finally got around to taking my new gussied up rifle out to the range. My slow-fire targets really aren't that impressive (even for someone shooting an iron-sighted rifle), but what really got me, what really made me realize the advantages of a rifle over a pistol at a gut level that I didn't get from just reading about it, were the results for quick shots from low ready. Shooting from offhand, pressing the trigger as soon as I had a sight picture, I shot about a six inch group at fifteen yards. Some of you with more experience than I might scoff at that performance, but what really made an impression on me was how easy it was. I've fired close to a thousand rounds though my pistol since I bought it, and I still feel like I've got a long way to go until I'm truly confident about using it as a defensive tool. This is effectively my first real range session with a defensive rifle, and I already feel more comfortable with it than I do with my pistol.

    So, call me a convert to the Church of the Defensive Rifle. Of course, a rifle is never going to replace a pistol as my primary defensive instrument (they're not exactly concealable or easy to carry all the time). However, if I'm in a situation where I've got a choice between them (say, home defense), from now on my choice is definitely going to lean towards a rifle.

    That said, it's probably not going to be this rifle. First off, while I was at the range I had a slamfire. It only happened once, no idea why it happened. It was while I was chambering a single round from a magazine, so I don't know if it would have gone full auto. I stripped it right afterwords and there didn't seem to be anything wrong (the firing pin wasn't stuck forward, and when I pushed it forward with my finger it sprung right back). I fired another 30 rounds after the slamfire, and there were no repeat incidents, but it still makes me leery. Having a slamfire in a defensive rifle would be really bad. Letting one off when chambering a round would be bad, but even worse would be going full auto after firing a shot in self defense (in any situation, emptying a 40 round mag would be a bit exciting).

    Even before the slamfire, I'd pretty much decided that this wasn't quite what I wanted in a defensive rifle. While I really like the mechanics and reliability of AK style weapons, their ergonomics really suck. In particular, the safety is really hard to get off in a hurry. It seems like this is pretty important in a defensive rifle. A rifle already takes more time to present than drawing a pistol from a holster, having to fiddle around with the AK's stiff, poorly placed safety doesn't seem like a good idea. Plus, the .223 NHM-90 is a bit of an oddball. Mags for it are really hard to find, and are expensive when they're available. I always have to kind of guess if regular AK parts/accessories are going to fit it properly, etc.

    Time to start shopping for a new rifle, I guess.
    Last edited by Blackeagle; December 20th, 2006 at 07:46 PM.

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    VIP Member Array frankmako's Avatar
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    i got the same rifle. picked it up in the late 80's with a truck load of 30 rounds mags. everybody look at me like i was a nut to get a ak in 223. but when it "hits the fan" you can get 223 ammo just about anywhere here in the states. not so with the regular ak ammo. not a bad gun for defense. yes the thumbhole stock is a joke, but all in all a good gun. just keep it clean and it should not give you any more problems. never had a slam fire, so i don't know what to tell you. if you want a second rifle for defense i would get a ruger 10/22. one of the best made, hard to beat a 22lr rifle.

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    Long guns are much easier to shoot accurately.
    "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock." Thomas Jefferson


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    Reading Here...

    and talking with a neighbor (LEO) about when (not if) the SHTF, I have come to realize the value of long guns. I sold all my long guns when I moved to FL in 2000...yep dumb...but I did.
    I now have a Stoeger dbl 12 ga (customized for competition), a new BushMaster AR-15 with a E.O. Tech holographic scope, a Ruger 10-22 with a 3-9 scope, and Sunday, I picked up a Marlin 334 (.30-.30) in stainless and also with a fiber optic front site.

    Do you have any idea how hard it is to sneak all this stuff into the house?

    Stay armed...stay alive...stay safe!

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    AK pattern rifle in very available .223 makes great logical sense for a U.S.A. S.H.T.F. rifle.
    At least in my book.
    Liberty Over Tyranny Μολὼν λαβέ

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    Distinguished Member Array BIG E's Avatar
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    I'm sorry, but I don't see the benefit of a rifle for home defense.

    I own a SKS that I have done quite a bit of custom work to. I love to own and shoot it, but I would never think of using it for home defense. As a matter of fact I am going for my shotgun first and the .45 is the backup.

    My main concern in using a rifle like the SKS for defense is the fact that the rounds just don't stop when they hit walls. It is very plausible to think that you could fire in the home and have the round travel through the walls and into another home. This is the reason why I laugh when I see the guy in the movies jump behind the car door or 55 gallon drum when he is taking fire from an AK47 or the like. You know what I mean.

    If I have a small army attacking my home then I could see the AK47 be a valid choice, but not for the midnight intruder.

    Please help me see the light here. What am I missing?
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    VIP Member Array Blackeagle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by a_kayaker View Post
    My main concern in using a rifle like the SKS for defense is the fact that the rounds just don't stop when they hit walls.
    Quote Originally Posted by a_kayaker View Post
    Please help me see the light here. What am I missing?
    I think what you're missing is that walls don't stop handgun rounds or buckshot either. Anything that has enough penetration to do serious damage to a BG is going to go through an interior wall (or an exterior wall that isn't made of something really solid like cinderblock or concrete) like butter. A rifle has a lot more stopping power, and, as I found out at the range today, is easier to shoot accurately at self defense ranges than a pistol.

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    Distinguished Member Array p8riot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackeagle View Post
    Today, I finally got around to taking my new gussied up rifle out to the range. My slow-fire targets really aren't that impressive (even for someone shooting an iron-sighted rifle), but what really got me, what really made me realize the advantages of a rifle over a pistol at a gut level that I didn't get from just reading about it, were the results for quick shots from low ready. Shooting from offhand, pressing the trigger as soon as I had a sight picture, I shot about a six inch group at fifteen yards. Some of you with more experience than I might scoff at that performance, but what really made an impression on me was how easy it was. I've fired close to a thousand rounds though my pistol since I bought it, and I still feel like I've got a long way to go until I'm truly confident about using it as a defensive tool. This is effectively my first real range session with a defensive rifle, and I already feel more comfortable with it than I do with my pistol.
    Want a real hoot. Try "bump firing" that AK. Keep the rifle low (down below your waist and pointed in a safe direction, get a firm grip on the forend, place your index finger (from your other hand of course) directly in front of the trigger and keep it (your finger) stiff (I poke it into the side of my thigh), pull the rifle forward with the other hand. The gun will simulate full auto fire untill either you release your grip or the mag goes empty. It isn't accurate, but it sure is fun and it raises some eyebrows.
    "You can get more with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone." - Al Capone

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    Senior Member Array Exodus's Avatar
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    The difference in penetration is that a handgun round (especially a hollow-point) won't go through the BG, and if it does, probably not the wall. Even at medium range inside your house (say a 20' hallway), even a .30-30 round will go through the BG, and through the wall behind him, and still retain enough energy to be lethal.

    Yes, if you miss, then just about any round will go through a modern home wall.

    The safety of a rifle in a defensive situation (read: home invasion, not SHTF), depends largely on where you live. If you live in the country, on the center of 10 acres, and know where your family is in your house, then a rifle is a good choice. If you live in apartment, not so good. A handgun, or shotgun is much more practical (and safe). The right shotgun load will give you good stopping power, the same results of your rifle experience at the range, and a low likelihood of over-penetration.

    I should say that my home defense guns are all handguns (don't own anything else yet) and that my next gun will a Marlin 336A (unless I get distracted by something shinier!), but it will not be for defense (unless the SHTF - It will be kept loaded).

    Remember! One of the FOUR KEY RULES is always be aware of your target, and what is behind it. Over-penetration can be the difference between a lawful, defensive shooting, and a tragedy.

    Sorry about the rant - It just came out that way.
    "To my mind it is wholly irresponsible to go into the world incapable of preventing violence, injury, crime, and death. How feeble is the mindset to accept defenselessness. How unnatural. How cheap. How cowardly. How pathetic." Ted Nugent

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    JT
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    Quote Originally Posted by a_kayaker View Post
    I'm sorry, but I don't see the benefit of a rifle for home defense.

    I own a SKS that I have done quite a bit of custom work to. I love to own and shoot it, but I would never think of using it for home defense. As a matter of fact I am going for my shotgun first and the .45 is the backup.

    My main concern in using a rifle like the SKS for defense is the fact that the rounds just don't stop when they hit walls. It is very plausible to think that you could fire in the home and have the round travel through the walls and into another home. This is the reason why I laugh when I see the guy in the movies jump behind the car door or 55 gallon drum when he is taking fire from an AK47 or the like. You know what I mean.

    If I have a small army attacking my home then I could see the AK47 be a valid choice, but not for the midnight intruder.

    Please help me see the light here. What am I missing?
    It depends on what caliber you're talking about. From the ammo oracle...

    "Although some police departments use the Hornady TAP ("Tactical Application Police") round, which is merely a hotter-loaded V-Max varmint round, the primary motivation for adopting this ammo is preventing over-penetration of both bad guys and of interior walls. It should be noted that many of these concerns are proving unfounded as testing on interior penetration is increasingly showing that 5.56 rounds are less of a overpenetration risk than even the 9mm handgun ammo that many departments deploy in submachineguns for interior raids."

    http://www.ammo-oracle.com/body.htm
    Blessed be the Lord my rock who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle. Psalm 144:1

    Si vis pacem, para bellum

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    JT
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackeagle View Post
    That said, it's probably not going to be this rifle. First off, while I was at the range I had a slamfire. It only happened once, no idea why it happened. It was while I was chambering a single round from a magazine, so I don't know if it would have gone full auto. I stripped it right afterwords and there didn't seem to be anything wrong (the firing pin wasn't stuck forward, and when I pushed it forward with my finger it sprung right back). I fired another 30 rounds after the slamfire, and there were no repeat incidents, but it still makes me leery. Having a slamfire in a defensive rifle would be really bad. Letting one off when chambering a round would be bad, but even worse would be going full auto after firing a shot in self defense (in any situation, emptying a 40 round mag would be a bit exciting).
    What type of ammo were you using? Your Norinco has a free-floating firing pin, designed to be used with military ammo that has hard primers. If you were using standard commercial .223 like Winchester white box, the softer primer could have been the reason for the slam fire.
    Blessed be the Lord my rock who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle. Psalm 144:1

    Si vis pacem, para bellum

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    VIP Member Array raevan's Avatar
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    I just purchased a 1894 marlin in 44MAG for my farm and house rifle so I can peserve my Winchesters. My outside walls are made of stone so unless the bullet pases through a window it willnot escape the house.

    When I was growing up we always had a gunrack in the living room with at least 2 rifles on it and an individual rack over the back door with guns loaded and ammo on a shelf nearby.

    So I figured my carbin should be near at hand at alltimes. I rigged one of my lightstands with one of my wood clamps and I lean the rifle against it. I have been moving it around the house everywhere I go to keep it close at hand. When not at home I lock it up.

    I figure the point of having a home rifle for defence it must be available at all times. This may seem a little extreme, but I always wear my pistol so why not my rifle?

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    VIP Member Array Blackeagle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JT View Post
    What type of ammo were you using? Your Norinco has a free-floating firing pin, designed to be used with military ammo that has hard primers. If you were using standard commercial .223 like Winchester white box, the softer primer could have been the reason for the slam fire.
    I was shooting Wolf ammo (yes it's steel cased crap, but I figure the AK is designed to shoot steel cased crap).

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    JT
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    Wolf has hard primers, so it's not that. And yes, AKs are definitely designed for that ammo.

    I'm surprised you had that problem with an AK, especially a Norinco.
    Blessed be the Lord my rock who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle. Psalm 144:1

    Si vis pacem, para bellum

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    VIP Member Array Rob72's Avatar
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    Anytime you get a slamfire or burst: check/replace your disconnector spring. It would not hurt to take your bolt out, strip it, and thoruoghly clean it, especially the pin channel. Norinco is good, but a metal shaving can change a free-float FP to a fixed quite easily.

    Kayaker- it depends on your mindset. If you see a need for only the most basic self-defense tool, and assess your risk level as "low", a handgun is appropriate. However, given that we live in an uncertain world, and that there might be a time when I need to "put one of multiple hostiles down with alacrity" in my yard vs my living room, I have a defensive carbine and shotgun, as well.

    My personal risk assessment (PRA) is fairly low, so I'm not gauging fields of fire in my yard yet (tho' I did when I lived in Houston!) , but recognizing that I live in a city with much the same demographics and emotions present in other places where Big Bad Things have happened, I recognize the value of a bit more "oomph!", and having something I shoot DRT, rather than running off into the neighborhood. From experience with gangs- nothing is more demoralizing to the group than having a cohort made DRT with aimed fire and selective targeting- a challenge with handguns.

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