Defensive Carbine: Is it actually worth the effort?

Earlier this year I started chipping away at the dogma that is the 21 foot rule using actual data from violent encounters. Here I’ll tackle the common wisdom that a shotgun or carbine (like an AR-15 pushing high velocity ammo) is a better choice for defense than other weapon systems. Forget everything you read on a gun board about how a 55gr FMJ doesn’t over penetrate walls (which is BS) and forget a politician saying “just fire two shots through the door” with a shotgun. Data doesn’t lie, although it can be incomplete.

The number of “defensive carbine” uses in the United States every year is an amazingly difficult number to pin down. Even the the FBI UCR statistics isn’t really useful in getting a good idea since you only get the “justified homicide” raw numbers rather than every incident where a carbine was used that didn’t result in a homicide. Holding a guy at gun point until Johnny Law hauls him off to the pokey doesn’t show up. So I can’t really talk about every situation, but we can talk about the data that is collected, the justified homicide section.

Since that is really the only data we have to go on (and to anyone who wonders why I don’t use short hyperlinks and instead hyperlink the entire URL, it is so that people who aren’t tech savy can actually see where my reference is without having to hover the moust or click)…

Justified Homicide by Cop:
Justified Homicide by Citizen:

Ten. Ten American citizens in 2014 successfully used lethal force to defend their life using a rifle. This is exactly the same number of Americans in 2014 who successfully defended their life with lethal force using a shotgun. Even combined this is less than the 36 Americans who used justified lethal force with knives, or the 178 who used handguns.

Even looking at the law enforcement data for 2014 paints a similar picture. 45 cops killed people with a rifle, 5 with a shotgun, and 323 with handguns.

So given the small amount of data we have, what does this tell you about a “defensive carbine”? It should tell you that the odds of having a defensive carbine available at the time of need is incredibly small, even for law enforcement officers (and I guarantee you that those law enforcement officers were using those rifles in an offensive manner).

The mighty shotgun, which Vice President Joe Biden seems to think is more than enough, accounted for only 15 justified homicides in 2015 between cops and citizens. Edged weapons had 36 for citizens and 1 for a cop. That doesn’t make a knife a better choice than a shotgun for defense, but it illustrates the point that pocket knives and handguns are often “what you have” to deal with a situation rather than “using your pistol to fight to a rifle.”

So based on this data, if you are private citizen you should focus your defensive training on Handgun, Knife, Rifle, and Shotgun in that order. If you are a cop it would go Handgun, Rifle, Shotgun, Knife in that order.

This data also highlights a truth, that what you have on you is what you have to work with. This is why the “other deadly weapon” section exists in the UCR data set. Beer bottles, chairs,  baseball bats, and pool cues can be quite effective weapons. But YOU have to get out of the fight alive, and simply carrying tools doesn’t make you a good tool user (and don’t forget luck will play a big part).

If you haven’t taken a pistol class and you are eyeing that “combat carbine class” I recommend you don’t, and opt for the pistol class instead. At least based on the data available. It is your life and your money and your choice, but unless you are part of a SWAT team and you really need a carbine class to be good at your job, opt for pistol training.

Comments are open.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Defensive Carbine: Is it actually worth the effort?

  1. Dick B says:

    Concur . . . the value of the rifle/carbine lies in the threat of ‘The Golden Horde’ and pitched battles for your potato crop. Handling a tricked out AR, with 30rd mags and sundry doo dads in a crowded bedroom in the middle of the night, freshly awakened from deep sleep and family in the line of fire directly or indirectly, to deal with a home invasion, is not something I’d want to attempt.

    Since we live close enough to the border, in sparsely settled country, frequented by drug runners and cartel gun goons, it’s a problem I’ve thought about. My ‘solution’ is plenty pistols and M500
    loaded up with shorty 12ga buck with on board reloads, and of course, Big Dogs.

    My situation is not everybody’s, and neither is my solution; my point is, think through your own
    problem and plan accordingly. Identify YOUR Threats, work out your own plan.


    • rthtgnbs says:

      Yup, getting people to think about what their situation is rather than accepting the conventional wisdom “buy a shotgun, you won’t even have to aim!” BS is probably the toughest part. Then again, you can lead people to facts, but you can’t make ’em think….


  2. DW says:

    I get / somewhat agree with your position – primarily that in today’s “civil society” ( ?? ) in a threat/defensive situation you will most likely be using your handgun. That’s because for the most part, concealed carry is the only acceptable way to arm yourself presently (although I often wish I could walk around many places with my AR slung!). When the family began acquiring weapons, I was fortunate in that the attitudes were very favorable and embraced by the family. My concern was ( wife’s side grew up in Californistan ) the lack of any experience with weapons.

    Obviously we have both rifles & pistols, but the majority of our formal/paid training has been with the rifle. My reason for this was that the rifle (especially the AR platform) is much easier to learn/train with and most people can achieve basic competency/success in a much shorter time frame than with a pistol. So I think it makes the training more effective. The drills and concepts learned, we apply to both rifle and pistol practice as the tool used do not change the drills/concepts. Of course there are definite nuances to handling a rifle or pistol and the range/distance you drill at can change sometimes, but target acquisition/shoot-don’t shoot decisions, etc do not.

    We all need to practice more with the pistol to get better at it, but that’s on us to dry fire more and get down to the range more. Work/family issues often conflict with training as most of us know. So we take good notes when we pay for training and apply what we have learned to both types of weapons.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s