Are Fully-automatic Firearms Good for Home Defense?

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

When the Las Vegas shooter attacked the Route 91 Harvest music festival, killing 58 people and injuring another 851, some thought that he was using a fully-automatic rifle. It turns out he wasn’t, but rather was using a device known as a “bump stock.” While this doesn’t fit the technical definition of a fully automatic firearm, it does a fair job of imitating it.

Before going any farther let me just say that shooting with a bump stock is very inaccurate. This isn’t something you can use to target individual people, but rather something used for nothing other than putting out a lot of lead in a short amount of time. Some people like that, but I consider it a waste of ammunition.

Getting back to Last Vegas, in addition to causing an uproar against bump-fire stocks, this event raised a legitimate question about home defense. That is, are fully-automatic weapons, or weapons that use bump fire, useful for home defense?

To properly answer this question, we need to understand the purpose of fully-automatic fire. We have had fully-automatic guns since the Gatling Gun was invented in 1861, and even earlier if you count the Puckle gun, which was made in 1718, although that was limited.

While many people think that such weapons were invented to kill as many people as possible, in the shortest amount of time possible, they are ignoring the words of the inventor, as well as military doctrine for the use of fully-automatic fire. Dr. Richard Gatling said that he created his gun to reduce the size of armies and so reduce the number of deaths by combat and disease. He was hoping through this, to show the futility of war.

Unfortunately for Doctor Gatling, his gun didn’t accomplish his desires, merely led to the invention of more modern machine guns; ones that use the recoil or expanding gas of firing to reload, thus becoming true full-automatic firearms.

So, how are these used by the military?

Basically there are two things that machine guns are used for; suppressive fire and mass fire. In the suppressive fire mode, which is more common, the large amount of lead thrown downrange forces enemy armies to keep their heads down and stay under cover, where they are unable to shoot back effectively. The mass fire mode is merely putting out a large volume of fire into a mass of soldiers, with the idea that at least some of the bullets will hit.

With this in mind, fully-automatic fire is actually extremely inefficient. The vast majority of shots fired don’t hit any target, let alone the target that the shooter might want to hit. That’s not a problem in war, where huge amounts of ammunition are expended and everyone in front of you is considered to be an enemy. But in a home defense situation, it can be disastrous.

There really is no such thing as suppressive fire in a home defense situation, even one in which you are defending your home against an attacking gang. The only way that your shots will help to defend your home is to hit the attackers. Near misses don’t count. Nor will suppressive fire keep them out of your home, because at some point in time to have to stop and reload.

One of our big concerns in any home defense situation is to make sure that our shots hit their marks. Any bullet that misses hitting an attacker will continue traveling, according to the laws of ballistics. That means that it will hit something, whether that something is a tree, a car, a house or a person.

This risk means that there is no way that we can just spray lead out there, hoping to hit our target. Killing innocent bystanders in an effort to protect your home merely means that the law will kill you, rather than the attackers. Whether that is the formal legal system or an ad-hoc committee of vigilantes from your community really doesn’t make a difference, you’ll be dead either way.

As anyone who has had military training knows, the other problem with fully-automatic fire is that it causes the muzzle to climb. If you hold the gun center mass for the first shot, the second shot may barely graze the target’s shoulder and the third shot will go over their head. Any subsequent shots will merely drill holes in the air. At least, that’s all they’ll do until gravity takes over and they come back down to earth, hitting something or someone.

The only reason that bump-fire (simulated full-automatic fire) was so effective for the Las Vegas shooter was that he was well above the ground, shooting down into the crowd. With everyone trying to leave the venue to escape his bullets, the crowd packed tightly together, making it almost impossible for him to miss. As his muzzle climbed from the shots, it merely caused the shots to hit another part of the crowd.

There is no way that you are going to have that sort of perch to shoot from in a home defense situation. If you did, then you would not be shooting in self-defense, as there would be no risk to your life. So, whatever reason one might think they have for using fully-automatic fire would be negated by the law.

With all this in mind, I can see no situation where owning a fully-automatic firearm, or having a bump-stock on your AR-15, would help you defend your home. If you want to own them for sports shooting, then by all means, buy them. But if you want to defend your home effectively, I’d say you’re much better off without them. Working on aiming and firing rapidly would be much more effective.

So, keep practicing, and like always, keep your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.

Chris and Dr. Rich

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