How much firepower do we need to defend ourselves without become tactical paranoids? I'm not going to waste time with hypotheticals and "how things ought to be". I'm just going to take this from my understanding of the current state of the firearm in America. Not going to argue about legislation, "guns don't kill people" or any of that political stuff.
What we want to find out is what we need to defend ourselves in a realistic manner.
Right now, guns are pretty much all over the place. Restrictions vary in different states and locales, but for the most part, pretty much anyone in America can get a gun. Legally or otherwise. Full-auto firearms, such as military assault rifles and machine guns, are not widely available, but they are out there in considerable numbers and civilians have them. Civilians also have standard bolt-action rifles, semi-auto rifles, pistols, revolvers, and whatever.
The only things not widely available would be artillery above 20mm and other military grade weapons. But I assume that there is some of that in private ownership as well, not to mention stockpiles that homegrown terrorists and gangs might have stowed away somewhere.
So what I'm saying is, that there is no restrictions on guns in America. Yes, there are legal restrictions, but that doesn't actually bar anyone from gaining possession of any of these weapons. The point is that all manner of firearms are physically on-land in America, they're just hard to get to.
And what that means is that criminals (yeah, the bad guys) can theoretically get a hold of weapons fitting into any of these categories. If you think that's a bit much, let's remember the fruitcake who stole a tank out of a National Guard armory and tried to knock down a bridge with it.
Virtually, there is no weapon that you can't justify owning. And no, I'm not really going to count WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction), let's not get technical about it.
So if you do get loaded out like Rambo, saying "You just can never know" well, we couldn't expressly say that you're wrong. Who knows. Maybe a terrorist group will spring an attack in your neighborhood. Maybe your ballistic armor and AR-15 will save your life.
But this is where "tactical, practical, prepared, normal person" has to come in. Most people cannot afford an arsenal. And you can't really protect yourself from anything no matter how much money you spend. Even if you managed to invent a real Iron Man suit, and you wore it all the time, making you impervious to all manner of physical attack, there's still that possibility of someone shooting you while you're in the shower when you finally take it off. Or by that point, you're probably so paranoid that wouldn't take showers anymore anyway. But you get the point.
As Benjamin Franklin said (on his deathbed pretty much) there are only two things that are certain in life: Death and taxes. I don't think that's an entirely accurate statement, but he got the death part right. Sooner or later, by natural or man-made cause, you are going to die. (Unless you're a Christian and The Rapture takes place in your lifetime).
And if you are so intent on protecting yourself, eventually that will become counter-productive, because a life lived in fear isn't much of a life at all. I'm definitely not saying you should just go and jump off a bridge, but that you should simply come to terms with the reality of your earthly existence.
We can spend all the money in the world on guns and security cameras and body armor, but that’s it. There is no such thing as being prepared for everything, and eventually you're going to die anyway.
So when it comes down to how much weaponry you should have, and how much is too much, it becomes pretty subjective. No one can answer that for you.
Most people who invest in guns and self-defense are people who (like myself) simply enjoy these things for their own sake. Guns and knives are cool. Sure, they have practical application, but if I weren't "into" guns, I probably wouldn’t have any. Or any interest in getting them.
Having a hobby that has real-world applicability is great, but we have to realize thats its just that. Real-world defense with a firearm is a serious subject that requires time , training, and money, plus the necessary mindset and responsibility. Its not about having the coolest guns, body armor, or whatever.
The time when you actually have to defend yourself could very well go down like the imaginary example that I will illustrate in a minute. Danger doesn't strike when you want it to, or just on the days you feel ready for it. It could, but it probably won't. That perfect moment where you chase away the purse snatcher and get the number of the pretty girl is just fantasy. If you have any Hollywood ideas about self-defense, then in the words of the legendary Rex Kwon-Do of Napolean Dynamite fame:
The following example offers a dismal view, but for the sake of humor and not being overly optimistic, I wrote it the way I did. Honestly, I think it is a pretty realistic scenario, with full acknowledgment of the fact that life is not Hollywood. When it comes to guarding your life in a deadly situation, being optimistic and rosy about your skills and reactions is a pretty silly thing to do anyway. Be positive, yes. But don't overestimate yourself.
Anyways, let's proceed with the example:
Begin fictional scenario-
*Dream sequence hazy fade-in
Imagine you're driving to go to a job interview early in the morning. You're getting ready to go inside a restaurant for breakfast. You have your almost brand-new M1911 holstered inside your jacket. You think about leaving it in the car because its heavy and uncomfortable to actually wear.
Not to mention you don't feel comfortable shooting it, and you still forget to take off the safety most of the time. You just bought it, and it's probably the worst financial decision you've made in your life up to this point, unless we're going to count college.
Last week, you went to the gunshop. You walked through the aisles, ogling at all the guns, wearing an Oakley T-shirt and responding to comments and conversation with cryptic language, trying to pass yourself off as someone who has really been around guns. You know, that kid who grew up in Dakota, shooting rabbits with his trusty .22, still has it, named it Bessy, "Oh how I loved that gun" Yada yada.
After looking at all manner of guns and trying not to ask too many questions (even though there's a lot you'd like to know) you walk over the to the pistol counter.
You look at the handguns. You find yourself attracted to the .380 pistols, knowing that they have good accuracy and that their recoil isn't too bad.
Who needs a firebreather like a 1911? Not to mention 1911s are way out of your budget (even the entry-level ones). Secretly you don't think you could handle that much gun.
Better start out small, right? (A buddy took you out shooting a few weeks ago, and his 1911 practically jumped out of your hands when you shot it, leaving your ears ringing).
As you examine the .380s with a thoughtful eye, a soccer mom walks up to the counter next to you and leans over the glass case, also looking at the very same .380s, a baby bottle sticking out of her purse.
A friendly sales man comes to the desk, and shows her one of the .380s. You notice a lot of words like, "Oh yeah, great for small hands," Real popular with the ladies" "Guy brought his 12-yr old to shoot one of these". And you quickly slip away to the .40s and .45s, 10mms and stuff like that.
As you look at these robustly military-looking guns and start breaking into a cold sweat (both fear and excitement), a female voice taps your ears. "Can I help you find anything?"
Mossy Oak hoodie, brunette, and blue jeans, this girl is about as 'Murican as they come.
And she's just as pretty as those obnoxious country songs say she is.
Swallowing back the frog in your throat, you breathlessly ask about the guns, saying things like, "I used to shoot a Desert Eagle .50 Action Express, but I was thinking of maybe down-sizing a bit, like... (you make a weird face) like... .45? "
She quirks her face a little bit and proceeds to show you several guns. After showing you some entry-level guns, she points out their feature model, a $2,500 .45 M1911 pistol.
"Oh yeah," she says, "This has been real popular with our tactical crowd, its an awesome gun, I shoot it all the time, I have two, one for home, one for carry".
$2,500?! You think. You planned on spending about $400, ammo and an extra mag included. Gulping down the lump in your throat (and everything your parents told you about spending money), you ask for the papers and start signing your life away.
Then you buy some ammo and take it to the on-site range. You shoot two mags worth at the range, and you scratch your head a lot when you take the target down, only finding two holes.
Thinking that those holes are way too small to be from .45 bullets you realise that thats where you put the staples in to hang up the target.
A few hours before dinner, you walk out of the shop with a hefty Pelican case containing what is now one of your most exspensive possessions and a hefty charge on your Discover Card.
And all just because it was so macho, trying to impress that cute sales girl behind the gunshop counter instead of settling for that plain-looking .380 handgun that you might have actually been able to shoot with subpar accuracy.
And without flinching like a five-year old during a loud parental argument.
So long story short, and with a certain degree of reluctance, you decide to leave your new gun in the car.
After eating and paying the bill you walk out to your car when a nasty-looking punk approaches you, asking for a couple bucks. You get nervous. You don’t have your gun. You don’t like people randomly approaching and asking you for stuff. Maybe you don’t like talking in general.
Not to mention you woke up with a headache that morning and you don’t feel very positive about the ensuing job interview, let alone winning a gunfight.
The punk keeps talking and then pulls a snubnose revolver out of his sweatpants. You freak out and he has to basically calm you down before you hand him your phone and wallet.
You’re crying and after your heart rate settles down (and the punk is two blocks away) you remember two things: You should call the police, and you have a .45 caliber handgun lying in your car that you could have shot this guy with.
But honestly, your hands would have been shaking so bad that you probably would have just ended up blasting off five rounds that would have gone flying into the restaurant, hitting and killing the poor 17-year old who flips burgers there, trying to raise enough money to go to community college.
And after this outburst, the dirtbag would take his turn and kill you with two shots to the face, eliminating the possibility of an open casket.
Shocked and mentally kicking yourself, you walk to the car with your hands shaking and sit down. Then you squirm uncomfortably as you realize that you wet your pants during the intense "tactical" exchange that had taken place just a few minutes prior.
Guns and glamour completely out of your mind, now you have to face the reality of what you're going to do about the job interview you were driving to, your best suit of clothes, and basically, what the heck you're going to do now.
-End of fictional scenario-
You can own guns and be a tactical nerd without being a obnoxious know-it-all that constantly spouts off about self-defense, and guns, and the apocalypse. If you want a gun to defend yourself, then its on you to determine what you need, and "how much is enough”.
In the end, a gun can't guarantee your safety, no matter how well you are trained in using it. It only gives you a better chance of surviving. And again, provided that you know how to use it well and actually get the chance to. Can you imagine how many people have dropped dead without even knowing what hit them?
So I guess, in closing, what I’m saying is this: That the tacticool junkie has nothing to do with real-world self-defense and combat. But that doesn't mean you have to throw it out the window.
Cool guns, video games, the Chevy Avalanche that you modified to look like a hummer?-that's awesome. That cool 5.11 Tactical lunchbag with integrated spotting scope pouch so you can snipe South American drug dealers while eating your lunch? (Clear and Present Danger, LOL).
But that's the movies, the video games, and your inner child. Don't fool yourself into thinking that your hobby or fashion statement could someday save your life. Maybe it could. But it's foolish to count on it.
When we actually need to use guns to defend ourselves and to kill another human being, there's nothing glamorous about it.
When it comes down to that, let us not cheapen human life, or give such a serious subject a cavalier tone. Let us not demean ourselves to the minds of barbarians.
You can enjoy "tacticool-ness" and still be a responsible adult who understands the true nature of violence and self-defense. You can still be a war buff. But you just need to remember: Tacticool is tacticool, and tactical is tactical. They are similar words, but completely different, and never the two shall meet.
I Hope you enjoyed this post series as much as I enjoyed writing it. Merry Christmas!