Tack hammers are nice to have if you need to tack or brad a small project, but the thought of hammering a 16-penny nail with such a small tool seems ludicrous. Of course, today’s carpenter may certainly have at least one hammer in his toolbox but probably relies more on an air nailer. Quite simply, the pneumatic air nailer allows the carpenter to drive more nails or fasteners in a more efficient manner than a hammer, let alone a brad or tack hammer, does. Segue to self-defense and protection within the home. Do you want to take the ballistic equivalent of a tack hammer into an armed encounter inside your home when your life and possibly the lives of your family hang in the balance? I would say the answer is no.

What SWAT Does:
Within my 30-plus-year police career, I’ve pointed guns at hundreds of people. Being the busiest car in the busiest district, with street narcotics enforcement and 12.5 years on a very active SWAT team in the middle of the crack cocaine wars, had me taking down felons at gunpoint on a regular if not nightly basis. Ranging from pistols to shotguns, subguns, carbines and .308 precision rifles, I’ve pointed a variety of small arms at criminal suspects. And whenever I could, whenever the time and situation allowed, my partners and I armed ourselves with long guns.

Long guns increase your ballistic impact on target, are inherently more accurate to shoot, are more easily mounted with white lights, allow more rounds to be fired before reloading, and intimidate violent criminals more effectively than handguns do. For these reasons and more, tactical teams arm themselves with long guns. The carbine can be used near or far depending on the threat, and who knows what your home-defense scenario may look like? If you have property and are targeted by gunfire from a distance, the carbine allows you to neutralize the threat accurately without having to be close. This happened to my wife and I just last year, when gun blasts emanating from the rear of our property were closely followed by pellets whizzing through the trees over the house. After turning the interior lights out and my wife called the local police, I armed myself with my M4 Carbine.

Thirty years of law enforcement can make some enemies, and we certainly did not know who fired the three shots—and the rear property line is about 100 yards from my sliding glass door. When the young officer arrived, I met him in the driveway (without my carbine) and told him what was going on. Since I’m an officer in another city, he did not know me and asked if I had walked back to the rear of my property to investigate? I told him no, I had not done that. In truth, as an armed homeowner, it is better to call the police for non-life-threatening incidents that occur outside the home. In other words, unless your home is being fired upon by suspects or they are attempting to forcibly enter, stay inside and call the local cops or sheriffs. By the way, turns out the neighbor’s friend was shooting at squirrels, or for some other idiotic reason.

Now, that’s not to say that pistols don’t have their place. While searching small enclosed areas like bathrooms and crawlspaces, a pistol allows the operator to more easily maneuver and move, but if most tactical personnel had their druthers of what small arm they would want in a gunfight, it would be a long gun, specifically the 5.56mm carbine. Some will say that over-penetration is a concern with 5.56mm carbines, but when dealing with Sheetrock walls, that is a concern regardless of the caliber. A DEA agent once told me a story about a shooting where a .40 caliber handgun round fired by his agency exited the suspect’s trailer, went in and out of another trailer, and penetrated a third mobile home before coming to rest. One of the good things about 5.56mm rounds is the fragmentation that takes place at the standard velocity. Over-penetration is always a concern, but hitting your target decreases the damage errant rounds may cause—and carbines are more accurate.

Home Tactics
Now, there are those detractors who would say that the pistol reigns supreme in home defense, and it certainly is more easily carried, accessed and manipulated. But once again, if you’re going up against a committed, violent or deranged criminal suspect, you want to be effective. And the question is, what other kind of suspect breaks into your house in the middle of the night or, for that matter, at any time of day other than a committed, violent or deranged offender?

As a member of a police tactical team, I was once involved in the attempted apprehension of a dangerous home-invasion suspect. Rather than surrender, he chose to shoot it out with us. The result was that we went home and he went to the morgue. What was the weapon of choice for SWAT on that night? You guessed it, long guns. You want to be able to effectively control the threat. That may mean movement throughout your home to place yourself between the suspect and your family, or ensconcing within a room. It may mean searching in low or subdued lighting. You may have to stop multiple suspects. It may mean shooting deadly threats from a distance to prevent them from entering your domicile or stopping their lethal assault against you and yours. The carbine does all that more effectively than a pistol.
The key to successful home defense with a carbine is the training that must take place prior to the encounter. We’re not just talking about live fire at the range, which is essential to learning the fundamentals of marksmanship as well as how to run the gun. We are talking about how to move and maneuver within a structure. These tactics can be easily trained and practiced with an unloaded carbine that has been double- or, better yet, triple-checked to ensure it is, in fact, unloaded.

Positions and skills to be practiced and perfected are low ready (at an approximate 45-degree angle downward), indoor ready (with the buttstock in contact with the pectoral area, the carbine canted downward and the outboard with the muzzle inside the safety circle), the underarm position (to free the support hand to open doors or complete other actions), and on-sling (with the carbine muzzle downward and the rifle sling supporting the carbine). Another worthwhile position is the over-the-shoulder position. In this position, which is used in close confines when space is at a premium, the carbine is canted inboard and the buttstock is held over the shoulder. Sighting is accomplished by looking down the barrel at the intended target. At close ranges, this technique minimizes your overall profile and can be quite accurate with practice.

Cover is a lifesaver, and it makes vastly more tactical sense to challenge a threat from a corner or a doorway than stepping out into the open. Angling, or “slicing the pie,” allows the armed defender to divide a room into small sections versus stepping out in one movement, thereby exposing oneself. Another vital skill when using cover is the “rollout.” The carbine is mounted up in the shoulder/pectoral area or the over-the-shoulder technique, and you roll out the upper body from cover. While slicing the pie or rolling out from cover, it is important to not telegraph your intention or expose your position with your foot or leg. The searching movement is accomplished with an upper body movement. All of these techniques will probably be used during a search of your home.

Whether you’re a carpenter building a home or a homeowner defending your “castle,” you want and need to be effective. Homes built properly can withstand tough weather. Home defense built on a foundation of using the proper tools, like the modern carbine, with trained skills and techniques can withstand a tough assault and prevent you and yours from becoming victims. The modern carbine can, in some situations, be a better hammer for the job, and we’re not talking about building birdhouses here.

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