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The Fighting Rifle (And Why Your Pistol Is A Backup Weapon)

America is very much a gun culture, and more weapons remain in civilian hands here than just about anywhere on earth, which is a good thing. We also have a fascination with pistols in this country, with the vast majority of the states having some sort of carry provisions in their laws allowing anyone not prohibited from carrying a pistol on their person. Some states have open carry while most have concealed carry, and thus a great many Americans are armed with handguns at any given time.

Reasons listed on most concealed carry applications range from personal protection, to protection from wildlife, protection from previous stalkers, or because of business considerations. All in all, we arm ourselves with pistols for just about any and all reasons – our law enforcement officers respond in kind, choosing to wear mostly Level IIA body armor, which is good only for pistol calibers.

A quick look at the military, however, shows an opposite preference. Each soldier or Marine is armed with a rifle or carbine. Even cooks, clerks, and supply staff must qualify with rifles, regardless of their jobs in the military. Pistols are a rarity, usually afforded to officers and senior NCOs, almost as an afterthought. In Iraq and Afghanistan, room clearing is still done by rifle. For all intents and purposes, pistols are a seldom-used backup weapon or at best, used for garrison MP work stateside.

Why, then, does the civilian populace have it backwards? Leaving aside the practicality of carrying a rifle around, a pistol for defense purposes is inferior in every way to a rifle. If it were the reverse, armies would march to war with them – but they don’t.

As an off-the-grid prepper or retreat homeowner, you need to begin acquainting yourself with the idea the home defense is a rifle fight that most people bring a pistol to. Sure, there are some cases, such as small homes, condominiums, and apartments – places in urban settings – that lend themselves to having a pistol as a primary defense weapon with a rifle in reserve, but in a rural or retreat setting, your pistols can safely remain in their holsters as backup – where they belong. As Clint Smith said, “The only purpose for a pistol is to fight your way back to the rifle you should have never laid down.”

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The Right Tool for the Job

In a rural or outdoor environment, a rifle or carbine is the perfect companion for a patrol. If you own an acreage or large retreat property, you’re going to want to walk it extensively to scout it out, learn its nuances, and see how your home looks from various other perspectives on your land. See what a potential intruder sees! Bring along a rifle in case of any trouble – even if no trouble is expected. First, this will familiarize yourself with patrolling, and secondly, it will teach you to bear the heft of your rifle. Go out as far from the home as you can on your land…three, four hundred yards if possible. Now take out your backup pistol – unloaded of course – and draw a bead on your house. The front sight probably is bigger than the front door. How do you expect to hit anything with a pistol at that range? It’s a rhetorical question.

Your new retreat should have a battle rifle to defend it. Don’t get hung up on nomenclature and armchair ninjas who declare that a battle rifle is solely a .308 caliber weapon. Your battle rifle is whatever you choose to defend your home with. Ideally, it should be a semi-automatic, gas-operated, detachable-magazine model chambered in a military caliber such as 7.62 x 39, 7.62 x 51 (.308), or 5.56 x 45 (.223). The reasons for these choices are simple. In a home defense situation, each one of the aforementioned features you don’t possess is a huge handicap to you.

You can most certainly hold off an invading horde with a Remington bolt-action rifle, or grandpa’s .30-30, or even a shotgun. Sooner or later though, you’re going to run into rate-of-fire problems since all of these designs are slow to shoot, relative to a semi-auto, and have extremely limited magazine capacities. So if those designs are inferior for home defense use, where does that leave our venerable pistols?

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As excellent backup weapons! Outside fifty yards, a pistol not only loses accuracy, but also knockdown power. Target acquisition becomes difficult due to the coarser sights on most pistols, and there are usually no adjustments possible in any case. Inside twenty-five yards, the game changes somewhat, with pistols having decent accuracy and passable knockdown power. They still suffer from short barrels (between three and six inches on most semi-autos) and low magazine capacities (as low as eight and as high as twenty without extended magazines). Even a $300 junk AK clone with a handful of thirty-round magazines brings far more firepower to the fight than a pistol with the same number of magazines, regardless of caliber.

Train Like You Fight

A prepper who is lucky enough to have a decent size piece of land should definitely practice with both a rifle and pistol (don’t forget the shotgun!) in various drills designed to have the shooter engage targets at long range with a rifle, and then transition to pistol for short range targets. This way, the shooter can smoothly switch from one weapons system to another. Why fool around with your rifle sights? It’s easy to make a range card beforehand so that you know the distances accurately on your own property – so that that tree over there is 50 yards, that rock, 250, that gully, 75. Preparation is key. While doing these drills, feel free to occasionally engage rifle targets with your pistol, to see just how useless it is at anything that is afar off.

While distance drills are great practice, don’t fall into the mentality that a rifle is purely a long-distance weapon. Carbines like the M4 and others represent excellent close-quarters weapons that have incredible power, huge magazine capacities, and the ability to rapidly reload as well as accept accessories such a lights and lasers, making them the perfect weapons for any job. Get good at clearing rooms or doing drills with a carbine, and you’ll start questioning why you even own a pistol.

©2012 Off the Grid News

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