Advice From A 19 Year Veteran Police Officer

David Trammel's picture

With many people expressing concern about the direction the country is going this year, and the heightened concern people have about crime at the moment, I thought this is a good discussion on some of the things a 19 year veteran police officer has learned.

Peak Prosperity - Personal Safety & Home Defense

Lots of good advice and links to other resources.

Ken's picture

It is a deeply depressing fact, but even in wealthy, urban areas the police nearly always arrive AFTER they are needed. In terms of personal and home security, you are kidding yourself if you think the police are able to protect you. I have nearly always lived in rural areas and most of that time before there were cell phones, so it wasn't even a concept to "call the police". The article makes use of the oft repeated line, "When seconds count, the police are only minutes away." Because I KNOW the police are more likely hours away and largely ineffectual if they do eventually show up, I have not the slightest doubt that it's up to me to protect my family, my home and myself. This is only going to get more and more true for more and more of us as budgets get squeezed at every level. Build good safety habits now; nothing can replace situational awareness and nothing gets respect faster than racking a 12 gauge pump.

David Trammel's picture

Shotguns are my go to home defense weapon. If someone asks me what kind of gun they should buy for that (and not for personal defense, which is a whole different caliber) a shotgun is what I recommend.

That said, I do think the classic pump action 12 gauge has its downsides. The pump action takes some training to convert into muscle memory you can reliably do in a stressful situation. I'd almost say choose an automatic, over a pump because with that, it's unclick the safety, point and shoot. If you have to rack the pump to feed a shell into the chamber and consequently broadcast that sound as an announcement of threat, you do run the risk of screwing it up and rendering your weapon useless.

Also, 12 gauge has an intimidating kick for casual users. Sometimes I've recommended 20 gauge shotguns as an alternative. And never ever use double 00. Go down to bird shot to get more pellets on the target. For both calibers you always have to remind people that for home defense distances you really don't get a lot of spread. The old saying of 1" per yard of distance is actually too big, its closer to 1/2". So at long hallway distance you can expect a 2-3" pattern at most. Easy to miss someone with that.

(pattern test here: "Defensive Shotgun Patterning: Deconstructing the one inch per yard myth

Cost and availability though are one of their biggest advantages. There are so many shotguns out there you should be able to pick up one for under $200 (or less if you buy used) and getting ammo is a breeze. Any half rural hardware store will have boxes of shells and in urban situations its a lot easier to get than pistol ammo. I prefer shorter barreled ones from the factory but I wouldn't hesitate to take a hacksaw and file to a longer one if I got a good deal, and wasn't going to use it for casual hunting or pest control.

Of course, shotguns have a intimidation factor all there own, just staring down the barrel or seeing a home owner holding one.

lathechuck's picture

My shotgun is a 100-year old single-shot 16-gauge, and a six years ago, there was not much to choose from in ammo. Since then, I hear that ammo of all kinds has gotten scarce and expensive. This is a bird gun (a "fowl piece"?); bird shot is what I wanted, and it was all I could get. Out at the range, it was clear that the pellets weren't going to disperse much, and that an extra moment to aim would be worth-while. In close quarters, there's probably no time to reload.

The weapon that actually helps me sleep at night is a 3' length of threaded brass rod, about 1/2" in diameter. I wouldn't keep a loaded gun loose under the bed, but a big brass burglar beater bar seems safe enough, and would give me a fighting chance at the door. But it's not going to kill anyone by accident.

lathechuck's picture

... is a pretty good indicator that a burglar would find very little of value inside the house. That's one of the reasons I still drive it.

Ken's picture

If only all dangerous home invasions were by rational and risk adverse burglars, I would say that looking poor is indeed the best defense. Unfortunately, I don't think that is the case. There are also drug-addled dimwits breaking and entering, probably only looking for drugs or money but always unpredictably dangerous. Much as I love your alliterative big bronze burglar beater, and I do have a Louisville Slugger leaning in the corner myself, I prefer a blinding flashlight in my left hand and a pistol in my right for checking weird noises in the night.