The past twelve months have been a wake-up call for many Americans who have spent their lives in a slumber of naivety, assuming that the government would protect them from all adversity, great or small. A pandemic, followed shortly by mass civil unrest and violent rioting, spurred over nine million Americans to buy a firearm for the first time. The tens of millions of Americans who were already armed bought millions of more guns yet. Such staggering numbers indicate that many people finally concluded that they are their own first responder.
The top-selling firearms remain concealed carry handguns, and this is no surprise, considering that self-defense is, by far, the biggest motivation behind the masses arming themselves. Many who have been gun owners for a long time, however, have shifted their focus to preparation beyond simple street-level criminal activity. Certainly, the violent mob activity witnessed this past year was frightening, leading many Americans to arm themselves with more substantial weaponry beyond the handgun. Defensive shotguns and the nation’s most popular firearm, the AR15, have been top sellers.
This author has always been an advocate of being armed with defensive tools beyond the handgun where appropriate, which is in the home or in the rare event that a violent threat is anticipated. A dedicated defensive shotgun or rifle should be kept ready in every household that prioritizes self-protection and preparedness. If circumstance and time allow, arming oneself with a long gun to face danger makes absolute sense as shotguns and rifles are far more decisive fight stoppers than are handguns. However, in a civilian self-defense context, the handgun remains the primary and most likely used firearm of personal protection because it is more readily accessible and faster in deployment than any long gun can be.
The truth is, the handgun remains the primary even for most law enforcement as the gun on the hip is readily available, whereas the long gun in the car may not be. Realistically, outside of military personnel in a theater of war or specialty law enforcement response teams, the handgun simply remains the most accessible and fastest deployed self-defense firearm. For the citizen, the handgun is, indeed, the weapon of immediate response, even in the home. While a dedicated defensive long gun should be kept available in the home, violence happens quickly, and a handgun will typically prove the faster solution.
The past year of chaos has reinforced the notion that the handgun remains the primary rather than detract from that notion. Events such as large and violent crowds rampaging through neighborhoods do, absolutely, confirm the need for a dedicated defensive long gun in the home and it is undeniable that the defensive long gun serves an important role. Yet, the majority of violence that has been witnessed has emerged rapidly and, often, unexpectedly. Motorists getting stuck in the middle of angry mobs, shop owners being assaulted in their place of business, etc.…, are situations that reinforce the understanding that violence happens quickly and unexpectedly. In such circumstances, the handgun remains the primary solution.
Consider the increase in mob activity that has jeopardized motorists who have become trapped in their vehicle, unable to drive away from the situation; this concerning scenario has led many to adopt the use of a “trunk gun” or a “bag gun” or another means of keeping a long gun in the car, should it be needed to deal with the threat of large and violent mobs. The inclination to arm oneself with a long gun in the face of large numbers of adversaries makes perfect sense, but the execution of this strategy for this particular threat is flawed.
When dealing with large crowds, the long gun provides far superior firepower and decisiveness, but it makes the defender carrying it conspicuous and draws attention. This was clearly displayed in Kenosha, Wisconsin, this past summer; had Kyle Rittenhouse been armed with a concealed handgun rather than a slung rifle (I am in no way criticizing him as I firmly believe he acted in a justified manner, I am just making the tactical point regarding the open carry of long guns) he may not have drawn attention from the trouble makers that chased him down. The reality is, an openly displayed long gun can turn into a liability rather than an asset very quickly in the midst of crowds. If you carry a long gun in the vehicle I strongly urge you to only do so if it is a weapon that can be kept and carried in a discreet looking bag so that it can remain hidden if you need to leave the vehicle with it.
In terms of crowd violence, I will suggest that most concealed carriers are probably better served by adding a backup gun to their concealed loadout rather than try to prepare a long gun for fast access in a vehicle. If your car is disabled or immobilized and you need to leave it, you certainly don’t want to have an openly carried rifle slung over your shoulder. A folded rifle in a pack is better, but it will not be as quickly accessible as the handgun on your hip. A second handgun, however, will provide a backup weapon that may be more useful. In many incidents of crowd violence, we see people knocked down to the ground and assaulted, often by multiple assailants. In such a situation it is easy to lose your primary handgun. Having a backup handgun, under such a circumstance, is sound.
Beyond even the chaos that we have witnessed recently, those who envision a societal descent into total without-rule-of-law conditions often consider this the exclusive domain of AR15s and AK47s. I would argue that, even under such extreme circumstances, the handgun will remain the primary weapon. In any situation in which you must interact with other people, the concealed handgun will be the only inconspicuous means of defense. Even for those who live in a remote environment who don’t anticipate dealing with others, there is no guarantee that trouble will not sneak up on you unexpectedly. Do you intend to chop wood and till your garden with an AR15 slung over your shoulder? The concealed handgun will remain your ever-present defensive tool even under those conditions.
Defensive rifles and shotguns should be a key part of our preparedness for a whole variety of reasons, but the concealed handgun remains the most immediate and least conspicuous form of personal protection there is, no matter how mundane or exceptional our future turns out to be.