Monday, February 7, 2011

Home defense guns

***Update with links to more pictures***

This post at Snowflakes in Hell reminded me of a test that a friend and I did a couple of years ago shooting drywall with rifles, which I will get to in a minute. The article is about fake gun experts, and is spot on. The expert in question drops this little gem:

Our instructor further advised that shotguns are the weapon of choice for home defense. Unlike a heavy-caliber handgun, a shotgun will put an intruder out of business without a bullet passing through a wall and killing a sleeping child.
I have found this to be a common belief amongst folks at the gun counter at the local Ganderous Mountainous, and it's not even close to being true. With AR type rifles becoming so popular, I had one loaded up in my home in case the Boogey Man came, and thought that the idea that rifles were overpenetrative in a home defense scenario was bunk. A good buddy helped me find out.

I never did publish the results of the shooting test as we did not complete it; we shot five walls with rifles using various loads, and intended to do the same with handguns and shotguns. While we had the walls set up we did fire one round of Winchester Super X 00 buckshot and a few rounds from handguns just for our own edification.

The five walls were to residential spec; 1/2" drywall screwed front and back to 2x4 studs. The longest span in either one of our modest homes measured 30', so we did the shooting at 15' with the walls spaced out over 15'. We used an AR15 and a Ruger Mini-14 both chambered in .223 Remington for the test, and we shot many different types of loads from factory ammo to some handloads. The results told us both without a doubt that that cartridge is way less penetrative than buckshot or handguns.

Here is the impact on the 2nd and 3rd wall made by a Black Hills 52 grain jacketed hollow point fired from the Mini-14's 16" barrel:

Click to make bigger.

As you can see, the bullet was sideways when it hit the second wall, and was in pieces when it hit the third. This was pretty typical for most of the rounds fired, but this was the most notable example of the round breaking up so quickly. Those little pieces of the bullet may still have been lethal, but then again, they may have not. That particular round didn't make it through the fourth wall, leading me to believe that it didn't have much energy left when it hit the third wall. Also, the bullet fragments would lose velocity and energy very rapidly given a little more distance, and when applied to a home defense scenario means that if a round fired from your rifle misses the bad guy and goes through an exterior wall of your home, it will not be nearly as likely to enter your neighbor's house and harm someone.

The one round of buckshot told a completely different story. Fired into the first wall at a distance of 15' from an improved cylendar choke showed that you still have to aim:

The orange dots are one inch, making the spread from the buckshot about six inches. That busts the myth about only needing to aim in the general direction of an attacker with a shotgun. It does show why they will effectively put down a scumbag with one well placed shot; the trauma of twenty five .30 caliber holes concentrated over the vitals gives you a high probability that you won't need to shoot twice.

Here is the face of the 5th wall, and if you look closely you can see 18 shot holes marked with arrows:

That leaves seven pellets unaccounted for. Some of them may have stopped in the fourth wall, or may have gone off the 5th wall and into the woods. The bad part about launching so many projectiles with one shot is that you cannot account for each and every one of them, as they go off on their own program if given some distance. With a rifle, you are only firing one round at a time, so you have much more control.

For fun, we also shot a .38 Special MagTec frangible round, a .357 magnum Glaser Safety Slug, and a Black Hills 124 grain +P 9mm at the walls, and all of them went straight through the five walls and into the woods. High velocity small mass bullets hitting something hard like drywall makes them break up and slow down, and low velocity high mass bullets just keep going.

Food for thought.
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