I’m a fairly pragmatic person. I’m an engineer by schooling and like to base my decisions on statistics, facts, research, personal experience, and sometimes a sprinkling of intuition. I’m no different when it comes to the self defense game. I’m going to write an ongoing series of posts about my decision to outfit a Ruger 10/22 for my wife for home defense. I’ll try to make my case about choosing this rifle by noting some case studies on actual defensive gun uses, terminal ballistics, ease of training with the rifle, advantages of the .22LR for a muzzle-blast sensitive shooter, financial reasons to choose .22LR, methodology for training my wife and family in it’s use, and I will document the ongoing process of developing a training program around this rifle.
The Mission: Find and outfit a firearm for my wife which is reliable, chambered in an empirically effective caliber, will allow her to pass basic shooting standards, with which she can build competence and confidence to protect our family.
Why not a ‘real’ caliber like 5.56mm, 12 gauge, or a 9mm pistol?
Don’t get me wrong. My wife can shoot her Glock19 very well. She has taken a two day, 1000+ round Fighting Pistol class with Tactical Response, and plenty of follow up practice sessions, including a few with Claude Werner (The Tactical Professor). She shoots it well, but I think she would be the first to admit that shooting the 9mm isn’t a totally pleasant experience for her. I realize some of you are married to women who shoot .357mag in an airlite Smith for 150 rounds in a day and laugh about it. Well my wife can’t. In fact, in my experience, not many people can stand up to extended range sessions in any full-house caliber. She is good for maybe 25-50 rounds of practice before her flinch and trigger jerking starts to get the better of her. Many people, and women in particular, seem to be very sensitive to the over-pressure concussion of gun shots. My wife is noticeably rattled after a short time in an indoor range. So what? So, she doesn’t want to practice, doesn’t want to go to the range, and doesn’t want to maintain what is absolutely a perishable skill. These are all bad things, especially with the chance that she’ll have to make a shot on the home invader while I’m actively fighting them. The need to make a ‘downrange friendly’ shot is a very real possibility. It is a more likely shot for average Joe Gunowner than the ‘hostage shot’ we see in all of the paper targets and cop movies.
The fight between the two men broke the dining room table and chairs but, as they tussled, Miss Brown produced her pink gun from her bedside table.
‘I had my gun drawn, focused in on him – as he moved, my gun moved. I waited for my shot and when I saw an opening, I fired,’ she told the newspaper.
I’ll admit that it’s a little selfish of me, but I want to give my wife every chance to make her shot if this situation arises. To do this, she needs to enjoy practice and be able to make these kinds of low probability shots cold and on demand. I decided that a Ruger 10/22 rifle could be a good choice based on the advice of my friends and mentors. Let’s talk further about why.
Can the .22LR be effective against human targets?
About four years ago I started getting turned on to the idea of .22lr as a pocket gun caliber when The Tactical Professor was writing his Old Man Gun series of posts on a popular self-defense forum, followed by my watching some ballistics gelatin tests of varied .22lr ammo at the Mid-Atlantic Tactical Conference in 2010. Then I read Greg Ellifritz’s An Alternate Look at Handgun Stopping Power research article. Here’s an excerpt from this data collection:
.22 (short, long and long rifle)# of people shot – 154 # of hits – 213, % of hits that were fatal – 34%, Average number of rounds until incapacitation – 1.38, % of people who were not incapacitated – 31%, One-shot-stop % – 31%, Accuracy (head and torso hits) – 76% %, actually incapacitated by one shot (torso or head hit) – 60%
He goes on to say:
Some people will look at this data and say “He’s telling us all to carry .22s”. That’s not true. Although this study showed that the percentages of people stopped with one shot are similar between almost all handgun cartridges, there’s more to the story. Take a look at two numbers: the percentage of people who did not stop (no matter how many rounds were fired into them) and the one-shot-stop percentage. The lower caliber rounds (.22, .25, .32) had a failure rate that was roughly double that of the higher caliber rounds. The one-shot-stop percentage (where I considered all hits, anywhere on the body) trended generally higher as the round gets more powerful.
So, we have to try to consider all aspects of Greg’s data. We can see that we have an approximate need for 1.4 rounds of .22LR before the attacker stops pressing the attack and a 34% chance of a fatality resulting from quality shot placement. The Ruger 10/22 factory 25 round magazines hold more than 1.4 rounds, so we’re looking good so far. Rifles, in general, are easier to shoot, hold more ammunition, and allow a greater degree of accuracy due to four points of contact with the body, instead of two with the pistol.
With some training, we can improve our chances to make quality hits and affect the desired outcome (for the invader to leave us alone). We have to also be fair and acknowledge the fact that there is a higher probability of non-stops when using small calibers in defensive situations. Their lack of intermediate barrier penetration, their small permanent wound cavity, reliability issues, and all of the other issues with small and light projectiles need to be considered. I personally believe the statistic about failed stops is a shot placement issue and therefor can be trained to be improved (high center chest, ocular cavity hits being key). I don’t have any proof of this, so take that for what it’s worth. Our training needs to address putting a volley of rounds into these areas in a constrained time-frame, which we will talk about soon.
Another issue might be the dedication level of the attackers. Against an opportunistic bad guy, it’s very probable that shooting won’t even be necessary (it often isn’t), just showing the intent and ability to use deadly force will make him remember he has somewhere better to be. Against a home invader, however, it’s possible that you’ll be facing a dedicated attacker who is after you. This is the sort of bad guy that you will have to shoot until you incapacitate them. You will have to make enough holes in the pump works or computer to shut down the attack. The .22LR can help you to this end by allowing rapid followup shots through minimal recoil, high capacity, and minimal muzzle flash. It can be a poor choice based on it’s lack of muzzle energy and occasional poor ignition.
While Greg’s stats are a compilation of actual events (a whole lot of them, in fact) it’s still useful to read a few examples to illustrate some points. Let’s run through a few.
“She was telling him not to hurt her, that she had money in the house. He then forced her into the bedroom where it’s believed he was going to sexually assault her with the threat of the knife. The victim was able to retrieve her .22 cal. pistol and responded to his deadly threat with deadly force and shot the suspect multiple times,” said Ritter.
Ritter says the man fled out the back door and then he collapsed in the backyard. The suspect died at Gwinnett Medical Center.
The notable issue here was the percentage of hits she achieved. As I recall it was 8/9 or 9/10 shots that found their mark. A very good hit ratio. She had done her practice. He was dead as she shot him, but he didn’t realize it until he made it out into the yard. The .22LR has several great benefits that allow one to become proficient, which we will talk about in a later installment.
According to the release, Newman came to the home, threatened to kill Richard Green and began punching him. After Newman placed him in a chokehold, Green’s 15-year-old son got a .22-caliber rifle and threatened to shoot if he didn’t release the hold, the statement said.
When Newman didn’t let go, Green’s son fired once, striking Newman in the back, the statement said.
I chose this situation to show that a young man (or even child with proper training) can wield a .22 and make a low probability shot with a friendly downrange. Stories like this made me consider long-guns over pistols.
hen she heard the glass break. The 72-year-old told police that’s when she rushed to her bedroom to retrieve her revolver, and began yelling, “leave me alone” and “get out of here!”
The homeowner says she feared for her life and pulled the trigger, but the gun misfired. The woman says she then pulled the trigger of the gun a second time and a shot was fired.
That’s when she called 911, and held the intruder at gunpoint.
She can be heard on the 911 tape telling the 26-year-old male suspect, “You better sit down! You better sit.” Then she asks 911 operators if they can hurry and get a police officer to help her.
This one shows that an old woman can wield a .22 revolver and hold down the fort. It also shows the well known fact that rimfire ammo is prone to misfires. Which just stresses the importance of using high quality ammunition to ensure ignition when it matters. Here’s a cool interview Greg Ellifritz had with an older fellow about his use of the .22 revolvers for defense.
The .22LR and ease of practice and training
Even though finding .22LR in stock in today’s market is like finding hen’s teeth, it still is an affordable caliber when you can find it. It can be had in very reliable loads. While these loadings are more expensive than the 550 round bricks, they are not prohibitively expensive. A reliable .22LR rifle will not break the bank. A new Ruger 10/22, for example, can be had for about $200. Add to this the required white light and mount, and possibly a red dot optic, and you’re into a budget home defense rifle for $300-$400. This allows inexpensive practice on an inexpensive rifle that is enjoyable to shoot, not abusive in recoil or noise, reliable with the right ammunition, light weight, and has proven effective in actual situations.
So hopefully you’re following my train of thought on why the .22LR can be used for home defense. I hope I’ve given enough logical evidence to make my point. The next articles in this series will discuss how I’ve outfitted my wife’s rifle, the training program I’m developing with her, and her ongoing training.
Stay Safe and Protect the Brood,
References and Notes:
I want to thank Dr. Sherman of http://revolverscience.wordpress.com/ and Claude Werner of http://tacticalprofessor.wordpress.com/ for the inspiration to begin this project. Getting this project off the ground has been paying off tremendously in easing my mind when it comes to setting up a firearm for my wife and my mother to use in the event of an emergency if they’re home alone, or in the event that something happens to me during a home invasion and they are the last line of defense between the bad guys and my son.
The .22 Caliber Rifle For Home Defense? (Podcast – Season 2, Ballistic Radio Episode 57 – April 13th, 2014)
An Alternate Look at Handgun Stopping Power
Real World .22s for Self Defense
Trends in Self Defense Part 2: The Mighty .22LR
Part 2: https://growingupguns.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/the-special-application-22lr-for-home-defense-part-2-the-setup/