As I write this, the buying fever for AR-15 and AK-47S rifles is at an all-time high, prompted in no small part by the prospect of a new Assault Weapons Ban becoming law under our newly-elected President, with his party having control of both houses of Congress. It was a Democrat President and his party that passed such a ban in 1994. The law did lack some specificity in defining the prohibited “assault weapons” and also had a ten-year sunset provision. The ban achieved nothing as far as reducing crime (its avowed purpose), so it was allowed to sunset in 2004. But the concept still lives, with gun owners anticipating a new version written much more tightly and without the sunset provision. (We can be sure liberals will not make the same mistakes twice.)
I also see part of this interest in “getting one while you still can” prompted by the potential gun buyer taking notice of the ongoing up-arming of law enforcement with versions of these rifles. LE departments’ oft-stated rationale for having these is they do not wish to be disadvantaged in dealing with criminals or against any post-9/11 terrorist actions. Well, neither does a non-sworn citizen!
Regardless of the many reasons for buying the AR and AK-based rifles, I also think some of their owners will use them defensively in their homes. The AR-15 and AK clones are light to carry, easier to shoot well (compared to a handgun), have minimal recoil, hold lots of ammunition and can be quickly reloaded. In addition, they fire cartridges that are more powerful than most common handgun calibers. With all this, what’s not to like?
Now, I have no quarrel with a rifle for personal defense if the long gun’s pluses as well as its minuses are recognized. Negatives include possible over penetration of fired rounds but, more to the point, a long gun is just not handy. That is, handy in the sense of being able to have it in hand but concealed while investigating a “bump in the night,” yet if need be, fire it immediately.
Admittedly, this need for concealing or at the least shielding your defensive arm from casual view is driven by geographic and demographic factors. Live in a red state on a 600-acre farm and you could roll out with most any thing hand-held with no one near enough to take notice. And if they did, they wouldn’t panic and frantically call 911.
Many folks, however, me included, do not live in such areas. I’m in a well-populated blue state and live nearby a large city. In my neighborhood, anyone seen walking around with a gun in hand will be the subject of a 911 call. Like it or not, such an action is simply not acceptable in most urbanized areas of our country.
In the 20 years I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen anyone display a gun other than those worn by local police. Say what you will about the negatives of the area, gun owners do know how to do discreet here! And, truth be told, I’d probably call 911 if I saw someone with a gun. This is simply not done.
A handgun is definitely the better choice in such urban and suburban locales if you have cause to leave the privacy of your home. For example, you want to check outside your home and think you need to be armed to do so. With a handgun, you can quickly and casually conceal it while still holding it by covering it with a rag, magazine or newspaper. These same methods work well for answering the door to an unexpected visitor when you’re concerned enough due to circumstances to want to be armed. These scenarios are just not rifle-friendly.
Choosing the right handgun for these tasks is not difficult. And you can add a light or laser and perhaps an extended magazine if you can still easily provide casual concealment for it. My Beretta Elite and Taurus PT1911 are concealable for me with their extended 20-round and 10-round magazines, but not a 9mm Glock with the Glock 33-round magazine.
Mandatory Long Gun
If you do choose or are forced to use a long gun due to local laws against handguns, a sling is mandatory. Keep it simple, though, with a two-point sling. All you want to do is free up one or both hands. Adding a light is a plus. Working a stand-alone light and long gun can be done, but attaching the two makes things less complicated. Fortunately, now there are all sorts of aftermarket attachments to fit the AR and AK rifles. Or you can always use the old standby method of simply taping the light to the barrel or stock.
As I mentioned previously, not all of us are fortunate enough to live in non-gun-phobic areas, so we must include being discreet in displaying our gun in our personal defense program. Ideally, though, combining both long gun and handgun is the best self-defense package. It’s just too bad not all of us can do that legally.
As I write this, the buying fever for AR-15 and AK-47S rifles is at an…
by Massad Ayoob / Dec 23, 2009