Debate: The Handgun as the Primary Weapon

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):


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! ;-)

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