Firearms Guides Self Defense

Preparing for Violence

Violence is real. It can be a small random event or part of a larger emergency like a terrorist attack. Preparing for it begins with increased awareness and acquiring the proper tools which is best done when the economy is good and supplies are available.

According to the most recently published crime data published in the FBI Crime Data Explorer, in 2022 violent crime is the lowest it’s been since 2016. Property crime is up from 2021, but remains lower than all other years previously reported. That said, crime continues to be a reality. A reality that most of us are fed daily through social and traditional media. Combine that with new threats and concerns of terrorism such as the call From HAMAS for a “Day of Jihad” on Friday, October 13, 2023, and the result is a deluge of folks who are wondering how they can be better prepared to deal with violence. 

I will point readers towards Greg Ellifritz’ recent writing for a more nuanced and thought provoking discussion on preparing specifically for future “Days of Jihad” while I stay in my lane and take a more general approach to being prepared for violence. Here is the thing though. The economy isn’t great and there is a fair bit of chatter regarding recent happenings in the ammunition market which may make taking some preparation steps a bit heavier on the wallet. As such, I will narrow my suggestions down to the most budget friendly suggestions I can make that will still work. I will also encourage everyone to not go crazy and max out their credit cards or take out a second mortgage to acquire anything that is mentioned right this very second. Get what you can now and get a little more later. Panic buying isn’t good for the individual doing it and it wreaks havoc on the market.

First things first and to echo the very first thing Greg Ellifritz suggested in his article, raise your awareness and pay more attention to what’s going around you. Especially in public locations, but also at home. In other words, put the phone down. I get it our phones are likely the device most of us get most of our information from and I’m not saying don’t be informed. I’m saying get enough information to remain informed, ideally at home. Then keep the phone out of your face. Keep your eyes and ears open to remain aware of your surroundings. This will make it easier to notice when things are out of place and take steps to skedaddle or prepare for a confrontation. As John Coreia often says in the Active Self Protection videos, “distance buys us time and time buys us options”. It should go without saying that paying more attention costs us absolutely nothing.

The next thing I will suggest is along the same lines of the second part of Greg Ellifritz’ first suggestion: make the commitment to living the armed citizen lifestyle. This means acquiring a pistol if you don’t have one already and carry it at all times possible. Let me reiterate, as I mean this quite literally, carry your pistol whenever and wherever it is possible to do so. While I doubt a terrorist attack will come knocking on the front door of a residence, the FRI Crime Data Explorer notes that 48% of all violent crimes took place at home. So yeah, stay armed and stay alert. 

Folks who don’t currently own a pistol are probably wondering what pistol they should get. The usual suspects I see at matches and classes used by skilled practitioners and instructors include, but are not limited to: CZ P-10, H&K VP9, Glock 19, Glock 48, Sig Sauer P365 XL, Sig Sauer P365 X-MACRO, Smith & Wesson M&P 9, Walther PDP, or Walther PDP F-Series. For those limited to more budget friendly options, I will suggest taking a good look at the Palmetto State Armory Dagger or the Taurus G3 while remaining aware that sometimes the usual suspects are priced very competitively when they go on sale. When shopping also consider the price of additional magazines as one or two will also need to be acquired to meet my recommended minimum of three magazines as that is what is typically required in defensive pistol courses and matches. Don’t forget that magazines are consumables that will eventually require replacing. Also don’t forget to pick up a high quality holster from a reputable manufacturer such as: PHLSTR, KSG Armory, Dark Star Gear, JM Custom Kydex, or Keepers Concealment. In order to avoid getting too far into the weeds, I’ll refer folks to this post for more information on getting started with pistol ownership and training.

In my opinion, the next obvious question is, “what about ammo?” We’ll get into that soon enough, but first I want to talk about a long gun. The long gun is going to be far more effective at neutralizing threats of the two-legged variety and has a much easier learning curve than a pistol does. For the long gun, I’m going to suggest an AR-15 or AK-47 rifle. As Clint Smiths tells us, “a pistol puts holes in people, a rifle puts holes through people, and a shotgun, with the right load at the right distance, will take a chunk out of a person and throw it on the floor.”  While the shotgun in the right hands under the right conditions is devastating, I’m not going to suggest it as any cost savings gained by purchasing an affordable one are going to be spent (and then some) on developing proficiency with and configuring it for a self defense context. Those who may not be able to acquire an AR-15 or AK-47 due to jurisdictional regulations may want to consider something along the lines of an allowed semi-auto like the M1A or a lever action rifle. My go to source for inexpensive AR-15 or AK-47 rifles that provide an adequate starting point is Palmetto State Armory. I’ve also assembled rifles with components from Aero Precision and Ballistic Advantage. Quality control is sometimes lacking in these so ensure to check them for reliable function before depending on them when the stakes are the highest.

For the average citizen, the role of the rifle is generally limited to defense of the home and is typically staged for access either in a designated safe room or near the nightstand to address the proverbial bump in the night. This is mainly due to the long gun’s lack of portability or concealability.  However, should an emergency situation arise that requires evacuating the home it can be taken on the road to provide that additional terminal effectiveness should it be required. Some thought should be given to the legal constraints of that use and how it will be transported, slung on a shoulder for the world to see or discretely concealed. This post over here provides a more in depth look at getting started with AR-15 ownership and is, for the most part, applicable to other defensive rifles.

But what about the ammo? How much ammo do I need? What should I buy? I can’t answer this question for you because I’m me and I’m not you. What I perceive my needs to be are going to be different than what you perceive your needs to be. Frankly, if I provided my exact inventory actuals and goals, then some of you would think that those numbers are way too much while others will think that those numbers are nowhere near enough. So instead I’ll supply some guidelines. For the pistol, I suggest having enough practice ammo, that is cartridges with full metal jacket projectiles in the weight of your choice (124 grain is arguably the most common), to attend a 2-day training class or practice monthly for half a year. That translates into a case of 1,000 rounds assuming one practices with roughly 150-200 rounds (that’s 3-4 50 round boxes) per monthly practice session. This is what I would consider prudent and shouldn’t break the bank unless prices begin to skyrocket (which is possible at any moment). That number can be cut in half for practice rifle ammunition which ends up also working out to about a case of 500 rounds. Depending on how often one practices/trains and what their budget can tolerate, the  number of cases to pick up and keep on hand can be increased as needed, but I strongly suggest ordering and buying be the case to keep the cost per round as low as possible.

In terms of defensive ammo, that would be cartridges with projectiles that are designed to expand on impact so most, if not all, their energy is dumped into the target while penetrating deep enough to disrupt vital anatomical structures, I suggest buying enough to run two or three full magazines through the firearms to ensure reliable operation and then keeping enough on hand to keep two or three magazines loaded. The math for the typical 15 round pistol works out to 75-90 rounds. We can round that up to a cool hundred. For rifles that will workout to about 150-180 rounds which can be rounded up to a cool 200. Sometimes these defensive, which are sometimes marketed as tactical, ammunition loads can be found in 250 round quantities at much per cost per round. That isn’t a bad investment assuming the budget can handle it.

I’m fairly certain that most readers are probably thinking that those numbers are way too low for a large-scale “Red Dawn” style assault and I agree with that assessment. However, there are many other aspects to preparing for a major long-term emergency of that magnitude than guns and ammunition. As such, what I have provided in this post is nothing more than a starting point consisting of what I would consider to be the minimum requirements to be properly equipped to deal with immediate unplanned violence. The operative word there is equipped, not prepared. These are merely the tools. The next order of business would be to learn the fundamentals of using those tools competently. That should be followed by learning how and when, or more importantly when not, to employ these tools as there are dire legal, ethical, and moral implications attached to their use. Another way to look at it, we need something to shoot with, then we need to learn to shoot well, and then we need to learn how to and decide when to fight well. For a little help finding a good instructor, see this post. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I offer firearms training services. If I’m not the right instructor for you and need additional help finding an instructor in your area, then send me a note via the contact form and I will do what I can to help you find one. 

In the context of all the other aspects of preparing for an emergency or disaster, I do believe that having the minimum tools necessary  to adequately defend one’s self and their loved ones comes first. From there, I suggest turning to other aspects such as having sufficient food, water, medical, first aid, communications, shelter, and other necessities during a supply chain disruption. There are also other things to consider and prioritize such as community organization, alternate locations, and production of consumable essentials. Acquiring weapons, ammo, and gear will likely result as plans developing those capabilities are put into action. However, a lot of that is what I consider outside my area of expertise and, in some cases, outside my scope of practice. So rather than pretending to have all the answers I will suggest looking at the work of the following folks:

As the late Dr. William April reminded us, our consent and understanding are not necessary in order for a violent criminal actor [including terrorists] to immerse us in their world where rage, hate, and blood are common. When violence strikes, it won’t make an appointment and provide an opportunity to prepare for it. It will strike fast and most likely when one isn’t expecting it. It won’t look like the way it’s depicted on TV or in movies. It will be chaotic. There won’t be time to study laws and ask for advice to help with decisions. One will have to deal with it right then and there with whatever tools, skills, and tactics are immediately available. Start by paying attention. If you don’t already have a pistol and long gun, then get a pistol and a long gun. If the personal ammo stash is low or empty, then top it off or fill it up. Do this as soon as it’s feasibly possible. Ideally, while supplies are still available and prices haven’t skyrocketed. Then develop and maintain a reasonable level of competency while looking at other areas of your life that could use bolstering and reinforcement against longer term emergencies. 

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