Debate: The Handgun as the Primary Weapon

Hobo Vehicle Armor
January 24, 2014
Guest Article: Long Range Shooters – by ‘Misfit’
January 24, 2014

I found a link to this blog post at Practical Eschatology via a post on Facebook (H/T Greg Ellifritz).

While I agree with what the article is saying in terms of general ‘myth busting’, there is one part with which I disagree (my comments in bold):

MYTH #4: YOUR PRIMARY WEAPON IS YOUR RIFLE.

There are a significant number of preppers that seem to believe that when whatever earth-rendering disaster, financial collapse, or alien invasion occurs, we will suddenly be launched into a full-blown, “Mad Max” situation of kill-or-be-killed. They envision picking off bandits (or U.N. Peacekeepers) at hundreds of yards as they advance toward the particular prepper’s retreat, all the while safely ensconced in a concealed location beyond the reach of the bandits’ weapons. For instance, there was this post earlier today at the Survivalist Blog, stating:

… Distance ALWAYS equals two things. Time and safety. The time aspect of this is quite simple. The further away an enemy is from a target the longer it will take to achieve their objective. The further away from your loved ones that you can engage a threat provides reaction time for your and your loved ones to initiate whatever pre arranged defense protocols you have established. This in and of itself provides an added level of safety. If you are trying to protect your family, and they are going to be in the home, than the defense should be started as far away from the house as is possible. A good shot with an AR style rifle can ruin your day from five hundred meters in. I am aware that it may not be possible to establish a perimeter at that distance, but that would be best. I suggest possibly establishing a forward outpost at this distance if possible. A forward placed rifle and a few well placed shots may well be all it takes to persuade someone that its better to go somewhere else.

There is nothing wrong with this tactic … in a war.
MV: The quote is discussing ‘stand off’ which is always a good thing in a defensive situation. It also goes on to talk about pushing out a perimeter, a forward OP, which may even go so far as to include security patrolling. This is therefore not only about ‘a war’ but any situation where you are surviving post-SHTF in an area where you have a bit of property that allows you to include standoff. It does not even just apply to a purely rural area – it can also apply to a group defending a suburban street or similar. 
The danger with the quote is that it could easily fall into the argument for the ‘retreat sniper’ tactic/mindset. It only doesn’t because it does discuss pushing out an OP. But it is an ideological tactical sibling to the retreat sniper mindset, I think. It’s all about defend and die in place. If the marauders are coming for your stuff, then by all means stop them with standoff and accurate fire. However, if a force with any notion of what they are doing is coming, such as a foreign or domestic army, then it’s time to bug out if you are just a family group at a retreat. 
So, like a Libtard, the author conflates things and uses extremes to paint a negative picture of the ‘right wing tea bagging nut job’ sitting in his cabin waiting to fight the U.N./Aliens. There is tactical merit in the quote from survivalist blog, but it has shades of the retreat sniper, which is the wrong idea in and of itself. Thus, to use that as an example of why the rifle will  not be the primary weapon is wrong, and does a disservice to all of us who plan on using correct tactics come SHTF, or even intend to fight to resist tyranny in similar times.
But when we prepare, we aren’t necessarily preparing for the end of civilization, but other disasters, big and small and in-between. As Fernando “FerFal” Aguirre explains in his book, Surviving the Economic Collapse:

Rifles are terrific but they are not your main weapon. Again, here’s the difference between a soldier or a SWAT member and you.

A soldier carries his rifle because it’s his job to do so while at war. SWAT guy has his rifle when doing his thing as well but both soldier guy and SWAT guy do NOT carry their rifles when they go pick up the kids at a friend’s birthday party. And yes, the bad guys will attack you at that birthday party, or some other ridiculously unlikely circumstance.

That’s the way it is my friend. Understand that while I’m writing this tonight there are thousands staying awake in their beds thinking about possible plans and ideas to rob people like you and me.

(Surviving the Economic Collapse, p. 155). Massad Ayoob similarly wrote:

For you, it won’t happen on a battlefield where the nearest Soviet soldier is 600 meters away behind a French hedgerow. For you, it will happen at point-blank range. Studies by the FBI show that the great majority of shoot-outs occur at a range of 7 yards or less, and more commonly at about 7feet. And this is among police, whose statistics include running gunfights on the highway and long-distance gunfire exchanges with snipers and barricaded felons.

The civilian, almost always, will fight his opponent face-to-face. In that close space he won’t be able to bring a rifle or shotgun up before the attacker can take two steps forward and stab, club, or disarm him, or fire his own illegal gun. …

(The Truth About Self Protection, p. 346). Ayoob also discusses the downsides to using a rifle at close quarters, such as the lack of mobility, the overpowering flash and stunning noise, and the need for two hands.

This is not to discount obtaining a rifle or shotgun. They have their place and, as I said earlier, I believe that this nation–the United States–will see another civil war. But I don’t know when. It could be tomorrow, or 100 years from now. The burglar or mugger, though, is always with us.Your primary weapon should be, where available, a good quality handgun, extra magazines (or speed loaders if you choose to use a revolver), a good supply of ammunition, and practice. Your rifle is secondary…at least for now.
MV: I fervently disagree. These quotes rely on normalcy bias and the idea that they can ridicule the rifle as primary by conflation with its use only in the extreme case of ‘war’, as in inter nation state warfare. I can tell you that if we hit SHTF, I will have my rifle with me at all times, with a handgun as backup. The handgun will only become a primary weapon at certain times or circumstances – which is why we have it! How can these authors tell that these ‘war’ situations will not come to pass? It does not have to be extreme ‘Mad Max’ for it to be so – the way this is written reflects a normalcy bias. What about civil war, balkanization, enemies foreign and domestic?
Where they are going wrong is denying the inevitable place to where a collapse can take us, and confusing the slide with the collapse. They are confusing what I have often described as the slide to tyranny, increasing lawlessness, with how bad it can/will get. In our current ‘normal’ police state, you are not going to walk about with your rifle. We are not there yet. So these arguments apply to the now, when you need to carry a concealed handgun  and be ready for threats. And then, if the current slide is short circuited by a sudden event, like an economic collapse, we will be right into a WROL situation. 
Whether I am able to bug out to the woods or not, when the EBTs start flashing empty, I will be dressed 24 hours in my gear carrying my rifle. Its just a question of judging the moment. Right now, it’s my choice to patrol my property in the woods carrying either a handgun or a rifle as my primary weapon. I won’t go into the feed store, or Sheetz (for example) with a rifle, so that is when the concealed handgun comes to the fore. 
If I find myself in an SHTF situation, or in a civil war, I can guarantee you that I will carry my rifle most of the time and that it will be my primary weapon. And that is without even expecting to shoot at Blue Helmets! Or Aliens! 😉

Live Hard

Die Free

Max

36 Comments

  1. Alex Wolf says:

    Nobody knows what the crap hits the fan situation will look like–trying to predict exactly what you will need isn’t productive. It could be a self defense situation in normal times (what Mas Ayoob’s quote is about), it could be the need for self defense during the ‘slide’ (FerFal’s quote), or it could be something worse, where you’d certainly want a rifle at hand.

    Having options available at hand and the gear to accommodate those options is key…versatility wins.

  2. Matt says:

    Your pistol is what you use to fight your way to your rifle…

    • Submariner says:

      “… you should have never laid down.” Clint Smith

      It’s tough to be a rifleman without a rifle…

  3. justin says:

    You don’t go to a fight with a handgun, you end up in a fight with a handgun. You go to a fight with a rifle.

  4. Bergmann says:

    Terrain dictates tactics. If I’m slogging through a sewer system like Obergefreiter Han Kruger in the Stalingrad “Rattenkrieg” I might be using my pistol as primary or if im climbing through a mine shaft up here in Alaska to clear it, but not as a general rule, the pistol wont be a primary. I dont see it. There is a reason Tunnel Rats carried 45s and not M16A1s..

    Pistol will always be the second choice.

    Bergmann

  5. Just a couple thoughts on a few of the statements:

    They envision picking off bandits (or U.N. Peacekeepers) at hundreds of yards as they advance toward the particular prepper’s retreat, all the while safely ensconced in a concealed location beyond the reach of the bandits’ weapons.

    Only if the prepper hasn’t done any serious tactics training or the prepper’s primary training location is his/her keyboard….

    Max said: “…these arguments apply to the now, when you need to carry a concealed handgun and be ready for threats.”

    Hit the nail right on the head, Max! I appreciate your analysis.

    “Ayoob also discusses the downsides to using a rifle at close quarters, such as the lack of mobility, the overpowering flash and stunning noise, and the need for two hands.”

    Sounds like the same downsides of using a pistol/revolver in close quarters, especially the larger calibers. The mobility, or lack thereof, as claimed, is a training issue. Else why do the SWAT that the authors keep referring to train primarily with AR type carbines?

    “…both soldier guy and SWAT guy do NOT carry their rifles when they go pick up the kids at a friend’s birthday party.” “Pistols are for surprises; if you know there’s a problem, get your rifle.”

    The above validates the old axiom: “Pistols are for surprises. If you know there’s a problem, get your rifle.”

  6. RobRoySimmons says:

    “Your rifle is secondary….. at least for now.” I think even Mosby says something like that since he writes that a Glock is his companion most of the time.

    For all the words that have been written about scenarios about the only ones I have fervently disagreed with involved the Grizzly Adams fantasists and the BeeHive Guru.

    In my domicile a handgun is my weapon along with a 200lumens Surefire and a Kabar, these are either readily securable and/or instantly usable. My fighting shotgun is locked in a wallmount near enough to give me a two minute window of deployability. My expensive and well appointed carbine is 5 minute deployable. BUT its not the weapon for defending my stick built house from thug(s) then call police, it is to be used standoff distances away from the property if possible, then evac the support staff to an ERV, a SHTF scenario no PoPo coming to do any good type happening.

    • Max Velocity says:

      Rifle is always primary and the go-to option. If circumstances dictate that your don’t have your rifle, or it stops working, that is why you have a concealed handgun.
      Handgun is only ever backup, even when it is all you have with you. It is not a primary fighting weapon. Try hitting shit with it in a firefight!
      Defensive backup when you only have that option available.
      SHTF = Rifle!
      Aliens = Phaser guns 😉

      • RobRoySimmons says:

        My METT-TC as your average ordinary suburban shlub that is my condition green everyday shit is still working in the FUSA. I also have security issues with expensive weaponry as a factor.

        Any hint that the candle is lit and I go full gear more loaded mags than you can count, and BB and economy armor from AR-500 as needed.

        I don’t really like handguns, not totally enthused about AR-15 or “assault guns” in general, I like bolt action hunting rifles. Truth be told I would rather smash some stormtrooper with a single shot from distance, but a man has gotta have the best tools for the jobs as they present themselves.

    • John Mosby says:

      Actually, I carry a Glock as my constant companion, because even in the rocky recesses of the American Redoubt, going to town carrying my rifle is socially unacceptable. I don’t get in the truck to go to town without my rifle, and a minimum of three spare magazines in the truck though. I’ll fight with my pistol if I have to, but I agree, it’s “well, shit, THIS sucks” solution that I am going to make every attempt to remedy by getting to a rifle.

  7. Max Velocity says:

    BTW: I saw that a bee guy will be on Doomsday Preppers. I have to look into this and see if he is my killer bee guy!
    Oh, so delicious. Must watch!

    • You really should watch that show more often- it is a veritable goldmine of “full retard”.
      IF you can stomach the headache you’re going to get from it….and the belly cramps from the laughs… lol
      I’ve watched a few episodes- the highlights so far are a rather large fellow with home-made “armor” (which apparently isn’t even bullet resistant) with plans to have him and his cronies play “marauder” during SHFT, and a bunch of guys planning to hide in a propane tank to fight the Russians trojan horse style. The best part was the waterboarding torture training, though….
      And then there was the guy with plans to use 4-wheelers for vehicle patrols and stuff…. but, despite supposedly being ex-SF…. it was approached a *just* little wrong (imo).
      There’s some reviews on it here: http://thepracticalprepper.com/

      So delicious indeed…. 😀

  8. frenchie262 says:

    Handgun is the primary weapon for Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, and myself when walking back to my car w/ wife in tow after watching 27 Dresses …otherwise its the rifle….Kosovo, Ukraine, any number of African countries, and yes even here in the near future. I just don’t think alot of people out there are getting there minds around the fact that this isnt going to be an action movie. Thanks for starting the post Max. Look forward to more discussion.

  9. Chuck says:

    In the here and now and unless threat level changes, my G23 (with spare mag, Benchmade and light) is my primary once I leave my property.

    At home it’s also my primary unless the threat level indicates that I need to take the AR out of the safe and load it. Leaving the rifle laying around unsecured day to day is a no-go for various reasons.

    As soon as the situation changes such that stepping out the front door is a patrol, it’s rifle first, rifle always.

    • Max Velocity says:

      I don’t think the here and now is in question – it’s more about after some ‘shtf’ when ‘the situation changes,’ and normalcy bias applied to how badly the situation will change.
      Consider the subtle psyop when the passage talks of soldiers and ‘SWAT guys’, thus not so subtly discounting the role of the armed civilian to alien invasion or Red Dawn.
      You will be ok with just a pistol though….citizen.

      • F says:

        I was gonna stay out of it because its all so obvious but that jumped out at me as well.

        “taught helplessness” I believe its called.

      • Chuck says:

        Agreed. And I’ve been known to bring out the rifle for something as relatively benign as a power outage. I figure anything that might encourage people to act like jackasses calls for a bit more firepower.

        Hell, when I was a kid I used to take a rifle with me anytime I went for a walk in the woods on the family farm.

        That used to be considered normal.

        On another note, it seems to me there is a niche for something not quite a rifle, but better than a pistol that you can keep with you in your vehicle as things start to slide down hill. My solution is a Sub 2000 in a laptop bag with 3 Glock 33rd mags, but others have gone the AR pistol route, or the AK underfolder route. Sort of how a pistol is something you carry “Just In Case”…this is “Just In Case!!!”

  10. Docent says:

    Max: With all due respect, I think you miss the point of my comments. My outlook is that prepping encompasses personal disasters (a mugging, a house fire, etc.) as well statistically more remote events (major flooding, earthquake, the proverbial SHTF, etc.). I believe people should take a baby-steps approach for prepping. Accordingly, my comments concerned something less than a SHTF, grid-down situation. I was talking about the standard day-to-day crime, or a localized or regional disaster such as a tornado, floods, etc., which might produce an opportunistic looter. Like you, I do not carry my rifle on me for common everyday activities. So my point was that the handgun is “primary” because it is the weapon you are most likely to have with you and the most likely to use. And you should train, purchase and plan accordingly.

    Also, I want to make clear that I was not attempting to belittle the guest post at Survival Blog. I acknowledged his tactics were valid in a war, and I should have said something slightly broader such as a war-like state, conflict or a raid. I did not say that such a situation could not come to pass–in fact, I specifically said that I believed that our nation will see another civil war. That is also why I said that the rifle was not primary “…yet”.

    I appreciate the opportunity to better explain my points.

  11. Jay says:

    “… Distance ALWAYS equals two things. Time and safety. The time aspect of this is quite simple. The further away an enemy is from a target the longer it will take to achieve their objective. The further away from your loved ones that you can engage a threat provides reaction time for your and your loved ones to initiate whatever pre arranged defense protocols you have established. This in and of itself provides an added level of safety. If you are trying to protect your family, and they are going to be in the home, than the defense should be started as far away from the house as is possible. ” – so he establishes a SHTF scenario and praises the rifle then normalizes the threat to a birthday party robbery and denigrates the rifle. Nice logic. With that type of “logical” line of thought we can get rid of hospitals because most injuries are relatively minor and the expense and rarity of going to the hospital really makes it a poor investment and isn’t needed that often. Pinhead award!

  12. In the updated comment on the article he said ” Accordingly, my comments concerned something less than a SHTF, grid-down situation. I was talking about the standard day-to-day crime, or a localized or regional disaster such as a tornado, floods, etc., which might produce an opportunistic looter.” My first question is this,are you talking about Preppers (sounds to me like your talking about commuters), or are you not? Preppers are generally gearing up for SHTF on one scale or another (their own subjective analysis). Whether it’s a grid down (EMP, solar flare, etc.), or grid off (power outage) having a longgun, preferably a rifle is the smartest choice, and one that could help you avert a deadly force confrontation (by an overt show of force). This comment by FerFal has a conclusion that opposes the stated premise. ” A soldier carries his rifle because it’s his job to do so while at war. SWAT guy has his rifle when doing his thing as well but both soldier guy and SWAT guy do NOT carry their rifles when they go pick up the kids at a friend’s birthday party. And yes, the bad guys will attack you at that birthday party, or some other ridiculously unlikely circumstance.” A soldier carries his rifle, due to a defined threat in said war, and he carries a rifle, because it is the most efficient and effective hand held means to terminate a threat. The SWAT cop (along with most other cops these days) carries a rifle in the trunk of the cruiser for the very same reason. As far as the not carrying a rifle to pick up the kids at the B-day party, what responsible parent (police officer or otherwise) is taking their kid to a B-day party during even a mild case of SHTF, and if they do, other responsible parents should be there for security WITH RIFLES! I love Mas Ayoob’s writing, but 1) His experience is as a cop, not a rifle toting anything, so guess what, he’s geared towards a pistol being his primary weapon, and 2) His “statistics” don’t hold water in relation to the SHTF scenario’s primary weapon selection criteria category, since they are from “normal times” events, not SHTF incidents. Anyone that says a pistol is better than a rifle/shotgun in close quarters, does not understand long gun dynamics in close quarters, period! A long gun will also give you more less lethal/less than lethal options (impact weapon), that the pistol does not, and isn’t that something that should be factored in to you SHTF weapon type selection criteria? A pistol is a self defense first aid kit, nothing more. You might not have your rifle in your hand at all times during SHTF, but only a fool would not have it easily accessible (within reach). One of the primary reason the underfolder AKM rifle is such a good choice, is it’s ability to be concealed under a jacket. SHTF means different things to different people, but for the most part Preppers are gearing towards something that doesn’t involve “business as usual” B-day parties without a rifle armed OP. Pistols are a convenience, not a “Go to”.

  13. Ray says:

    I have noticed a lot of articles bashing long range riflemen. It almost seems that someone is very afraid of men who can hide in the long grass and make killing shots at long range. It also seems that people who have target & hunting rifles and old military battle rifles are suddenly being demonized as “retreat snipers” by government propaganda outlets. I don’t think they like the idea of someone with a weapon that can shoot thru both sides of an ARCH helmet at 600 yards (I know for a fact that a 1903 Springfield with M-2AP will penetrate an AR-500 plate at 400 yards) Pistols are pistols and Rifles are rifles; They do different jobs. So when the world go’s T.U. I’ll keep my rile ..Thanks

    • Max Velocity says:

      I also demonize ‘retreat snipers’ because its not a good way to live (die). Let’s PT, do some SUT, and get more effective. Long range rifle skills (old school normal rifle skills) have a front place in that.

  14. “Let’s PT, do some SUT, and get more effective. Long range rifle skills (old school normal rifle skills) have a front place in that.”

    Amen!

  15. SP says:

    With the UK being the way it is (ie disarmed), civvies have got virtually zero choice of weapons to defend themselves with (cricket bats excluded) if a true SHTF or serious nasty Police state kicks into gear.

    Though that doesn’t mean it isn’t impossible to make firearms should the need arise.

    This is how daft the UK is:
    Buying component parts such as brass/shotty shells and bullet heads/shot is not illegal though the propellant and some types of primers are illegal. Buying blank ammo up to 50cal size is legal so 9mm is no problem.

    Obviously firearms is a no-no unless licensed, which means the Police (aka The Filth) knows who has what firearms – a nice little list. How lovely.

    If it did/does descend to that level, my little lathe will be going into overdrive to pop out a few Stens. Not exactly an ideal choice of firearm but it will be good enough to do the job till hopefully something better comes along.

  16. Andy A says:

    I will state up front, I have not read everyone’s response. But the few I have voice the same opinion as MV, we view our rifle as the primary weapon.

    I have this going debate with a fellow coworker were he claims that my M4 is no better than his Glock 17. He expects the battle space to be no further than 30 feet, he never shoots at targets pass 20 feet. How someone can view a target space that small is beyond me. I think in terms of 100’s of meters with a rifle and 75 feet for my sidearm. Maybe this has been covered but those who define such a small space never experienced conditions encounter in modern combat. Even in an urban, the scale is beyond 25 feet and can reach several 100 meters (sorry to keep switching between units of measurement).

    AA

    • Thomas says:

      Is your addicted to precision?

      Many shooters crave accuracy. They dial into a distance such as 21 feet and every bit of shooting they do is at that distance because they have trained themselves to make tight little groups at that distance.

      The shooter gains a false level of confidence that is difficult to break. They do not want to be challenged by distance, movement, or platform. That is why SUT training is so different than other types of training. SUT forces the student work on multiple thought paths to solve the problem.

      The Japanese proverb that every problem looks like a nail when your only tool is hammer is applicable.

  17. jerry says:

    I have a AR pistol, a kel-tec PLR-16 in 5.56 cal, with a nice sight. in bad times I have a rifle cal weapon that I could hide under my coat but able to reach out and touch someone. though I do have a 9mm for CCW.

  18. […] post Debate: The Handgun as the Primary Weapon appeared first onTactical Training by Max […]

  19. ApoloDoc says:

    I strongly agree with much of the sentiment posted here. Accurate handgun shooting is wonderful, and we see such amazing shooting in our movies. Unfortunately I looked at statistics for police shootings. They SUCK! The number of rounds fired out of their handguns vs. targets hit is a very low percentage.

    I picture the climactic scene in “The Unforgiven” when a sick and beat-up Clint Eastwood carefully walks through the saloon shooting people one-by-one, all the while the bad guys are shooting like crazy.

    For inside the house defense, I am partial to a bullpup in .223. The Steyr Aug is a great weapon and the Tavor looks great as well. The Aug balances nicely in one hand, is barely over 26″ long (so it goes through doorways easily) and has a 16″ barrel so that the blast is less noticeable than an AR pistol or SBR.

    Training with Max has moved me to seeing the AR as my primary go-to weapon, though. Increasing familiarity and comfort toting it around at his classes has helped me to see how easy it would be to perform chores around a retreat with an AR slung to my back, or even carried if I had a free hand. Light, reliable, easy to use, accurate. Handgun? Only as a dire necessity!

  20. The rest of the author’s article actually makes decent sense.

    I think part of the “wrongness” of some of the statements in the article go a little beyond the “it can’t happen here” mindset. Just like retarded caliber debates, this is an aspect of the gun debate called “one gun to rule them all”. There is no “one” gun that will be all you ever need to carry- each fills it’s own role, at a specific time. Failing to have the needed tool at the needed time, and discounting all others in favor of one is, IMHO, unsatisfactory if one is actually serious about the preparations they are making. If one is preparing for all eventualities, why cut off an arm before anything even happens?

    From the author’s new edited version-
    “Your primary weapon should be, where available, a good quality handgun, extra magazines (or speed loaders if you choose to use a revolver), a good supply of ammunition, and practice. Your rifle is secondary…at least for now. With that mind, if you are just starting out with putting together a battery of defensive weapons, my general suggestion is to first obtain a handgun and some ammo, and start practicing and learning to use it for self-defense. Then, as you expand your preps, look to get a defensive rifle….”

    AH! Now it makes more sense….