Jan 17, 2014

Weapons of Choice: Caliber Myths and Safe Defense Information

There is a lot of talk about calibers and ballistics and much has to do with personal preference and myth. Smart preppers choose calibers that will give them a reasonable amount of range and dual purpose: hunting and defense. Some rely upon Hollywood action films who have been partly to blame for much of the myths that is circulating. Still others make their choice, especially in pistol calibers, “stopping power”. 
Some of the results in this article will surprise you, and the main consensus of affordable (in quantity) and still do a job for prepping survival is astonishingly, the .22 magnum or .17HMR. In the case of the latter, the .17HMR began with enthusiasm in a cartridge that is more powerful than a .22 long rifle or .22 magnum (bit larger bullet), more grains, making it a great varmint/survival cartridge. However, it was found that it did not work well or safely in a semi-automatic rifle or pistol. After semi-autos were pulled off the market because of those problems, .17HMR can only be found in bolt-action rifles and good luck finding a revolver in that caliber. Finally, a manufacturer has produced a semi-automatic rifle in .17 HMR - Alexander Arms. (MSRP: $1,210)
So, folks who want cheaper ammo go to the .22 Magnum cartridges, which contrary to belief will penetrating a home door even when covered with metal sheathing (full-metal jacket). Folks who have these as defense firearms have more money to spend on ammo at the range.
NOTE: Since the writing of this article, two manufacturers now produce a successful semi-auto rifle in .17 HMR - Alexander Arms and Franklin Armory.
As far as “stopping power” - I recommend you read Police Weapons Law Enforcement Magazine article: Stopping Power: Myths, Legends, and Realities.
The following video logically places ten calibers on a list that meets affordability and home defense criteria, produced by NeverEnuffAmmo, hosted by Mark.

The next myth buster video provides information of different rifles and different cartridges. Notice how well the 30-30 caliber, the traditional American hunting round and I like what the demonstrator says about the key is not the gun but what a person wants to do with the gun.

The following is a chart that shows the vast range of calibers in both rifles and handguns. [click on image for larger view]

In terms of research and practical field use, nothing can compare to the US military in terms of rifle calibers, its research and usage by snipers. Here is a list of cartridges used by armed forces snipers and law enforcement sniper/reaction forces, although is not a complete list in terms of preference:
  • 5.56x45mm NATO (.223 Remington). This one is a surprise for some, but since law enforcement generally deals with close combat and urban type terrain when dealing with criminals, this is a more affordable round (officers must keep their proficiency at target ranges) and has enough effective kill range to do the job in an urban environment using a quality scope.
  • 7.62x56mm Rimmed (.303 British). NOTE: the 7.62x39mm Russian round found in AK-47s is not on this list; although it is a cheaper round. For folks who love AR15s, this round is available for custom fitted rifles of that style and can be bought cheaper than the other 7.62mm rifle cartridges in this group.
  • 7.62x51mm NATO (.308 Winchester). This is the standard US Army sniper caliber used in the M24/M25 sniper rifle based upon the foundation of the reliable M14 fitted as a semi-automatic magazine-fed rifle fitted with state-of-the-art scopes, generally Leopold, that has the range-finding Mil-type lens. It is made by the Springfield Armory that has made firearms for the US military since the Civil War. It is also a cartridge used in the US medium belt-fed machine gun (M60) patterned after the Nazi MG42 of World War II and used extensively in Vietnam War and still a favorite today in several configurations that can be mounted on the ground for defense positions, in choppers, or on vehicles. It has range and has standard military cap-n-ball bullets. Adopted for international NATO use like the customized AR15 rifles in this caliber produced by the originator of the AR15, Armalite.
  • 7.72x63mm (.30-06 Springfield). This was the primary round used in WWI and on into the middle of the Vietnam War until the 7.62x51mm became the standard for NATO. It is an outstanding sniper round, and one of my personal preferences, fairly economical when purchased in bulk, and offers good ballistics. The Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) can be purchased in the caliber and although a bit heavy is a good long-range rifle that can be used with standard sights or scoped like a hunting rifle. Ballistics in this caliber is better than the .308 caliber and does not punish the shooter with the kick of the .300 Win Mag.
  • 7.62x66mm (.300 Winchester Magnum).
  • 8.60x70mm (.338 Lapua Magnum). Developed in 1983, the Lapua cartridge, it gained popularity among military snipers in the 1990s that has an effective range of 1000 meters and able to penetrate 5 layers of military-grade body armor. The recoil is remarkable, so a good muzzle brake is recommended.
  • 12.7x99mm (.50 BMG – Browning Machine Gun). This is the round that made world-record in long-range sniper kills – 2500 meters. It is true that this is the longest-range sniper caliber, but those ranges are a rarity in terms of effective kill. Barrett has the military contract for this deadly weapon, much like the British SAS used in the Gulf War against Scud missile launchers. Used since WWII in the Browning .50-caliber heavy machine gun, it has been used against aircraft and vehicles and as the primary caliber in aircraft machine guns even today. The main con against this rifle is its 30-lb weight; but when used in a defensive position or sniper position with bipod, it is an awesome long-range weapon. Used by Special Operations extensively in Afghanistan.
The following photo chart shows the range of rifle cartridges on the market (not including .50BMG:
(1) .17 HM2, (2) .17 HMR, (3) .22Lr, (4) .22 WMR, (5) .17/23 SMc, (6) 5mm/35 SMc, (7) .22 Hornet, (8) .223 Remington, (9) .223 WSSM, (10) .243 Winchester, (11) .243 Winchester Improved, (12) .25-06 Remington, (13) .270 Winchester, (14) .308, (15) 30-06 Remington, (16) .45-70, (17) .50-90 Sharps
The importance of calculating ballistics is imperative when it comes to hunting or military use. Winchester has developed a Ballistics Calculator that will help the shooter get tight groups and hunting kills. Ballistic computer optical equipment are available at premium cost that includes low-light capabilities, like that produced by Barrett.
TrackingPoint produces a “smart” rifle that features a high-tech scope that includes a laser rangefinder and a Wi-Fi server. Talk about computerization. Hit a moving target at 1000 yard with the long-range rifle or AR series rifles. Available in .300 ACC, 5.56 NATO, 7.62 NATO, .338 Lapua Magnum, .300 Win Mag. It is a bolt-action, magazine-fed quality rifle available with attached Harris telescope bipod and adjustable stock. It comes with a 5-round magazine. Called a Surgeon Rifle, ($12,000) it was featured at the 2014 SHOT Show and sponsored by the US Marine Corps Scout Sniper Association. Outfitted with the TrackingPoint computerized optical scope – it is definitely a professional rifle. The TrackingPoint rifles are in such demand that applications are taken for orders. The TP AR 300 seems to be the most popular. The AR15-type series TrackingPoint rifle system is in semi-automatic unlike the higher caliber bolt-actions.
Conversion kits made by TrackingPoint are available to custom your own AR-15/AR-30 rifle.
A 850-yard system costs $22,500 and a 1200-yard system costs $12,500. The basic rifle part of the cost is $6ooo. Even at that price - as of this writing, there is a six-month waiting list. One of the features is that you can upload video from the scope system and put it on Facebook to demonstrate accuracy or hunting scenes.
As far as home defense, the handgun is portable and concealable, but the 12-gauge semi-auto or pump shotgun is supreme. Used by Special Forces in urban and close-quarter combat and using buckshot – it is a menacing close-range weapon. If more range is wanted, rifled slugs are available.
In handguns, it is, once again, personal preference. Some like M1911, a standard for over 100 years, others the Glock in .40-caliber, 9mm Beretta and still others revolvers in .357 or .38 Special calibers. If you like the .38-caliber, the .38 Super can be used in semi-auto pistols configured for it. Many prefer revolvers for conceal carry and home defense – easy to maintain and available in a wide range of calibers. The ideology is that if someone cannot hit/stop an assailant with six rounds, they need to go to marksman and self-defense school. Reloading has been made easy with the speed-loader systems that can be carried in a leather case attached to a waist belt.
The Glock and Springfield XDS (.45-caliber) type handguns are good firearms, but personally I think they are as ugly as those boxy foreign vehicles.
Most gunsmiths find that Glocks are the pain in the butt to work on, but they are reliable and rarely need anything beyond simple repair. However, with the nifty Glock gunsmith tools, the headache of certain repairs/replacement parts is lessened. The same goes for the Springfield Armory line of pistols. Law enforcement personnel generally use a Glock the standard being in .40-caliber.
As you can see most of this wide selection is personal preference and most videos that attack a certain model are prejudice – but there are some who present quality comparisons, like Glock versus M1911: Which is Better?. The M1911 has received unjustified bad reviews and some shooters don't like them because of their single-action actions. To me Glocks (and imitations) just don't feel right. One gun owner friend of mine stated that it was more affordable, but that is not true because M1911s can be the same price range. I do have to say that Glocks can take more abuse than a M1911. 

Conceal-carry permits have become available to more citizens, and most states require a safety course be taken approved by that state government. I highly recommend that those that never served in the military at least take a firearm defense course, and even ex-military should go through a conceal carry course that demonstrates safe retrieval of firearm and practicing close-range combat. Remember, if the firearm must be used in real-life self defense you are naturally going to be nervous. If you are familiar with your firearm, practice drawing from your concealed/unconcealed holster; you will be more confident and proficient – two factors that could save your life and other lives. Read a Tactical Paradise article about an experience with legal aspects in the aftermath of a shootout with criminals.I wanted to convey this after a customer stated that he had a .40-caliber pistol so he could shoot through his home door when an intruded tried to break-in. He could use a .22 WMR or .17 HMR for that affect; however, if the burglar was only carrying burglar tools, like a screwdriver and that person died from bullet wounds through a door - guess what? More than likely the homeowner would be charged with either voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, because the burglar would not be considered to be armed.
Folks, you have the right to defend your homestead and property, and even protect a neighbor against armed assault - but with firearms comes responsibility based upon a foundation of common sense and lawful actions. Be proficient, trained and ready to defend anywhere, anytime - but use common sense.
An incident that occurred in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield, just before Operation Desert Storm, where if I did not use common sense and fire control, there could have been a terrible incident where innocent people could have been wounded and/or killed. To make the tale as short as possible: I was given the mission to drive a bus provided by the Saudi government for our use in picking up replacement from the airport. It was late in the evening when I drove personnel from the airport, and I was not provided with an armed teammate, nor were any of my passengers armed. I was armed with an M16 with a combat payload for myself, resting next to my driver's seat. A vehicle that looked to be part of the airport with flashing orange lights came up the ramp to where I had entered the main highway back to our operating post that was following behind us and occasionally drifting into the passing lane as if observing us. Seeing this in my mirror, I instructed to the personnel that if they see any weapon, hit the floor and yell out. The intent was to make a quick left into the vehicle and fire from my open window on left side with M16 that I had resting indiscreetly on the window sill.  It turned out just be Saudi citizens curious about seeing Americans, for when I slowed down and then speeded up, they turned off at the next exit. If I had panicked and had fired upon them, it would have been a terrible tragedy, something I would not like to live with.
Friendly Fire occurs in every war, and the tragedy is compounded upon those that erroneously kill or wound innocent people. Indeed, during the Gulf War and Iraq War (Gulf War II), one British personnel went home in a body bag and five were wounded because two tank-killing A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft pilots mistook a UK column for Iraqi vehicles. Most friendly fire events occur in night operations or in the heat of a battle with ground troops.
US soldiers were also killed in friendly fire incident (Iraq 2003), depicted in the following video:
You see how important it is to know your target, and this applies to any self-defense situation.
Military personnel train and train constantly, eventually getting bored with AR15 and handgun practice – but this makes one more effective in the confusion and hair-raising actions of combat.
Spend the money and seek a reputable self-defense course. Check with local law enforcement for their recommendation. Be a responsible 2nd Amendment citizen.
Read a July 2013 CDC Study about the use of firearms for self-defense and its importance in crime deterrent. 

Remember: Self-defense is not just a constitutional right, it is an international HUMAN RIGHT.  

Proper training not only increases proficiency but you develop standard and important safety practices.
What's wrong with this picture?!?
Be safe and always think when holding a firearm - always considered to be loaded.

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