At the end of last year, an eleven year old girl armed with a single shot .22 rifle faced off three intruders. The perps fled in fear, even though they probably could have won by a determined attack. The defender posed a credible threat and they believed it enough to retreat. What do you think the outcome would have been had she relied on pepper spray or an electric stunner or a baseball bat? When people argue in favor of improvised weapons or “anything but a gun,” they are greatly increasing the chance that a criminal would try their defenses. The sword has been a lethal military weapon for millennia, but would a modern thug take it seriously? For better or worse, people are conditioned to treat firearms seriously for two reasons: guns require minimal strength to operate and they work at extended ranges. Less lethal weapons are often dismissed precisely for their lack of permanent effect. Quaint and unusual lethal weapons, such as swords, spears and bows get little respect because today’s thugs are unused to their effects, and also because violent criminals do not expect the ferocity necessary for melee fighting from their victims. But guns, “as everyone knows” require but a finger twitch with the muzzle pointed in the right direction. So the shout of “he’s got a gun!” is more likely to get would-be attackers to run than would some other weapon — even though the close-range effect of a sword may exceed the actual effect of a single shot .22. At the same time, the kind of good guys who would prefer not to shoot even in self-defense but are OK with improvised arms are clearly unfamiliar with the amount of effort required for victory in close combat. Keeping a Louisville Slugger for unbidden guests without any experience in fighting with it puts the defender at risk of losing due to lack of training — and at risk of a major emotional epiphany in case of victory. Improvised weapons aren’t any more gentle than firearms as the mechanism of incapacitation is similar. The only difference is the lack of range with the attendant increase in exposure to violence and enemy’s bio-hazardous bodily fluids.
We know from solders’ memoirs that the martial appearance would sometimes break morale of the enemy. Special Forces in Vietnam reported that sound-suppressed submachine guns were often less effective than more conventional guns precisely because they lacked the thundering report — the pursuing NVA troops believed themselves unopposed and pressed on that much harder. So a mild-looking home defender with a stick or a length of metal with a sharp edge may have to employ deadly force in earnest to run off an intruder, whereas the same person with a firearm would be able to intimidate without firing. Call it the “personal nuclear option” — conventional bombing has killed many more people than nukes ever had, but it’s not 4-pound incendiary bomb that figures prominently in anybody’s nightmares. Likewise, few thugs expect to get spitted on a pike or bashed with a golf club, but most of them have an existing fear of being shot. Play into that fear!