Do you need a rifle?

You have done your research and selected a full size open carry pistol and a compact concealed carry pistol. You have received professional instruction in the serious use of these weapons. You are now confident in your ability to defend yourself and your loved ones and that confidence is based upon skill not illusion. Have you achieved preparedness? That depends on what you are preparing to survive. If your goal was to enhance your ability to protect your family from a random criminal attack, you have no doubt met that goal.
In 1965 I was witness to the Watts Riots in Los Angeles. The trigger was a traffic stop and arrest by a Highway Patrolman. The riots lasted 6 days. The official death toll was 34 but Police Officers and National Guard Troops quietly said that the number was much higher. More than 1,000 people were injured. Hundreds of buildings were destroyed most of which were burned to the ground after being looted. I watched Chief William Parker appear on television and state, “looting is a felony and the penal code (in 1965) says we can shoot felons.” He was sending a message to his Officers and the National Guard. Within a few hours a number of looters and arsonists were shot and the riot was over. I cannot imagine a Police Chief having the courage to take such action today.
In 1968 as a result of the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. riots broke out in 60 U.S. cities. These riots lasted 4 days and 5,000 Army Troops from Ft. Bragg were deployed to keep the peace. Already back from Viet Nam, I was stationed at Ft. Ord, assigned to the 41st Experimental Infantry Battalion and was trained in riot control and placed on standby. Los Angeles was one of the cities to experience rioting. Usually referred to by LAPD officers who worked the riot as the 68′ mini riots.
In 1976 I was deployed to the LAPD Harbor Division due to a Ship Explosion in San Pedro Harbor. When the ship blew up many people thought that it was a nuclear attack and they were looting the stores before the glass stopped falling out of the windows.
One night in the 1980′s, the event coordinator at the LA Coliseum failed to request extra police patrol for a Moto Cross. We (Metro) were called to deploy around the Coliseum but it was too late. A few hours with insufficient police patrol had led to “law of the jungle.” Hundreds of cars sat with their windows smashed and the radios ripped out. There were robberies, rapes, kidnappings, and shootings. South West Division Desk took hundreds of crime reports. People were lined up out the door, out to the street and around the corner, waiting to report crimes.
On 4-29-92 I was assigned to SWAT/Metro on long term loan to the Police Academy. Late in the afternoon training was suspended and I was called back to Metro Division. I drove home and picked up additional weapons and ammunition. I drove to Central Facilities and picked up the SWAT truck and drove to the command post. We were assigned to the Rodney King riots for 6 days. We had gun battles with looters and gang members who were just using the riot as cover to shoot at the police. Two officers standing to my right observed a suspect in a crowd of looters pull a gun and they promptly shot him. I waded into the crowd and drug the suspect to the sidewalk and helped handcuff him before he died. Although the violence broke out in the “Black community,” Hispanics quickly took advantage of the chaos. Most of them were illegal aliens and spoke no English. I asked Hispanic arrestees if they knew what started the riot and they said that they did not even know who Rodney King was. They simply saw an opportunity to steal. On the last day I was injured in an altercation with a looter (he lost). I eventually required left shoulder surgery as this was not the first such injury to my left shoulder due to an altercation. The cost of this riot was about 1 billion in damage, 53 people were dead and over 2,000 were injured.
The point we are making here is that civilization is much more fragile than you may imagine. In 1977, New York had a major riot because the power went out. The press called it “the night of the animals.” Detroit had a pretty good riot some years back because the Bulls won the NBA championship. So what does all of this have to do with you? These things always happen somewhere else, right? Try to imagine rioting on a national scale. That could not happen here? What would start such widespread civil unrest?
We have recently seen extensive rioting in France by Muslims. We are currently seeing riots in Greece, with police officers being firebombed by people who are unhappy because their government is bankrupt and wants to cut their pension benefits. The looting and lawlessness that occurred in New Orleans following hurricane Katrina has been well documented. Is it really so hard to imagine that such things could occur here? If you look up the history of riots and civil unrest in the U.S. you will be very surprised by the frequency and the level of the violence.
An Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack by North Korea or Iran could plunge our entire nation into the 19th century with little or no law enforcement or military help for months or even years. A world wide crop failure could cause food riots and looting on a scale never seen before. A coordinated terrorist attack involving weapons of mass destruction in multiple cities could start a deadly panic. Political assassination could result in wide spread rioting far beyond what occurred after the murder of MLK Jr. La Raza is calling for a violent revolution encouraging Hispanics to rise up and attack the “Gringos.” Muslim clerics are teaching Jihad in Mosques all over this country. Many economists believe that our government is going bankrupt and the whole financial system is near collapse. How would you and your neighbors react if the federal government declared an emergency and called for all guns to be confiscated and all stored food to be taken to a central location for “Redistribution” by the government. What if you refused to comply? Is it that hard to imagine widespread civil unrest? What is hard to believe, is the fact that it has not yet started.
Now consider hundreds of hungry, angry looters, including gang members and other criminals sweeping through neighborhoods looting, killing and burning what they cannot carry off. Many of these people will be armed. Some will have rifles. Under these worst case scenarios, how effectively will you be able to defend your family armed only with a hand gun. You will need several things in order to mount an effective defense during a large scale wide spread lawless situation. A semi automatic military type rifle, similar weapons for each member of your family who is capable of being trained and coordinated tactical plans with your neighbors who are similarly armed and trained. The only thing that will stop such an attack is over whelming force which will cause the criminals to move on to a less prepared neighborhood.
Do you remember the news footage of the Korean shop owners standing guard on the roof of their stores in LA during the riots. They survived and so did their shops while buildings all around them were looted and then burned to the ground. These citizens used military semi automatic rifles to defend their lives. When nearby Metro Officers were ambushed and came under fire from gang members they used rifles to kill the suspects and win the fight. Generally, rifles have a far greater effective range than handguns. They hold more ammunition than handguns. Their ammunition is more powerful thus capable of disabling or stopping an assailant more quickly than a handgun. Rifles are generally capable of penetrating objects that are often used for cover. You do not want to be fighting people who have rifles when you are armed with only a handgun. Any rifle is better than no rifle but a military semi automatic is the most effective rifle in this role.
In this discussion we must also consider why the founding fathers included the second amendment in the bill of rights. They were very clear in their writings. The primary purpose of the second amendment was to insure that the Army could never be better armed than the citizens so that the government could never control the people by force. Well at least that is one scenario we do not have to worry about, right? We have nothing to fear from our own government?
The history of the 20th century could be summarized in a few sentences. 100 million civilians ( historical estimates range from 55 million to nearly 200 million) were first disarmed and then murdered by their own governments, usually with the cooperation of their own military. 100 million civilians murdered in China, Germany, Poland, Russia, Armenia, Cambodia, Viet Nam, Rwanda, Ukraine, Uganda and other countries and nearly all of these governments who committed genocide were socialist or Communist. These kinds of things could not happen here. Americans are somehow different from people living in other countries. Perhaps, but let us take a critical look at our own history.
As we well know the First Colonists came from England. The roots of the early Americans were the British. During the revolutionary war thousands of American Patriots were captured by the British and chained on prison ships. They were treated so badly that nearly all of them (12,000) died in captivity. The cruelty that was bestowed upon prisoners of war during the American Civil War by Americans on both sides is well documented. At least 56,000 American prisoners were killed or allowed to die by their fellow Americans. During WWI thousands of German Americans were imprisoned by the American Government. Thousands of Japanese and German Americans were incarcerated by their own American government during WW II. So what is it that makes America so different from the rest of the world that imprisoning or murdering some of its own citizens is not possible? I missed that in my reading of American history.
Our founding fathers knew history and human behavior and believing that the greatest threat to liberty is an out of control government, they wrote the second amendment to the Constitution. If you do not yet understand why you need a rifle I can only assume that I am wasting my ink. To you I say, good luck. Hopefully you will be protected by better Americans. If you agree that you need a rifle but know little about the subject please read on.
A bolt action hunting rifle might make an accurate counter sniper rifle but will lack the volume of fire needed to engage multiple targets. Just as with handguns there are pros and cons to every tool. Each person needs to examine the use that they envision for the rifle. The size of the shooter is a consideration as well as his tolerance to recoil. Ammunition, magazine and parts availability should also be a factor in selecting a rifle.
Stacey and I have considerable experience with rifles. Most of the 9,000 LAPD Officers did not have rifles. Only 300 handpicked well trained Patrol Officers were issued M-16s. Stacey was among them. I was the Chief Instructor who created and ran the Patrol Rifle Program. I carried and used the M-16 in Viet Nam. I was trained and qualified with the M-14 in the Army. I used a variety of rifles during my 14 years with LAPD SWAT. We will pass on some general information about some of the more appropriate rifles for your consideration.
The Russians call the AK-47 “the peoples rifle.” Far from perfect the AK-47 has been produced and used in greater numbers than any other rifle. They are cheap to manufacture and very reliable. I do not like the way the safety operates and I have always been disappointed with the lack of accuracy. If you already have one it should suffice. I have owned two semi automatic versions of the AK but I could not accept the poor groups. I agree with the phrase, “only accurate rifles are interesting.” This rifle is chambered for the 7.62 X 39 MM cartridge which has less recoil than the .308 win (7.62X51 MM). There are variations of the AK in other calibers. Civilian versions of this rifle are known by a slightly different designation (AKM, etc.) depending on the manufacture.
The Ruger Mini-14 is a handy little carbine in .223 cal. Flatter shooting and more accurate than the AK-47, it is available in a variety of configurations. I have owned several and have few complaints. This is a particularly good choice for people living in jurisdictions such as California which generally prohibit possession of the AR-15.
The AR-15 is the civilian version of the M-16 and is available in a plethora of variations and produced by numerous gun makers. Usually in .223, it can be found in several other calibers. This gun has much to offer the armed citizen. Ammunition, magazines and parts may be compatible with the rifles carried by our military troops and local police officers. The recoil is minimal making the rifles easy to shoot for all adult members of the family. The AR-15 is usually very accurate and ammunition is light and easy to carry. The .223 cartridge does not hit as hard as the .308 will but still works fairly well. This rifle could be called the “American- people’s rifle,” due to its widespread use.
The M-1A is the civilian version of the military M-14. This rifle is usually found in .308 Winchester. I have owned several of these rifles and used and qualified with the M-14 in the Army. They are currently in service with special ops units in the middle east. The big advantage of the M-1A is the powerful .308 cartridge which offers more range and will penetrate barriers far better that the .223. On the negative side the M-1A is heavier than most AR-15 rifles, the ammunition is heavier, there is a bit more recoil, and ammunition is more expensive. A great choice for some but not the best rifle for everyone. There are many other rifles available but these are some of the most common.
Rifles or Carbines in handgun calibers (.357 Magnum or .44 Magnum) can be useful to perhaps 125 yards. They have many advantages but limited range could be a problem. Shotguns are very specialized. With buck shot or slugs, shotguns can be difficult to shoot accurately. Buck shot spreads about 1 inch per yard or less. As a result the pattern is so tight at close range that the combat shotgun must be aligned almost as carefully as a rifle. At longer ranges the pattern may be so large that it becomes ineffective. Shot guns do not hold a lot of ammunition. In our opinion shotguns are most useful in very specific circumstances by expert shooters. That is why so many police departments have abandoned the shotgun, or limit its use, in favor of a patrol rifle which is easy to use and has more reach.
We hope that these comments are useful. Our intention is to get your research started in the right direction. There are more books and magazine articles on the subject of rifles than you could ever read. Do not forget that buying the right equipment is only the first step. The rifle without professional training may be of little use. Remember to check state and local laws regarding restrictions on the use and possession of certain rifles.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (2)

  1. Anybody keeping up with Biden meeting withObama Tuesday to discuss issuing the Executive order? MSNBC’s been talking about this all week. Obama wants to act quickly on this Biden says. With me being a sixty year old kid, I have a nice bolt gun in .223, and never really was turned on much by military guns. But the only child in me comes out when I think I won’t be able to have one later on. I can’t afford one now, and Hell, the last couple of weeks you could find one, or much ammo anyway.


  2. Wow. That was good; totally politically incorrect, by a real-deal operator; great to emphasize the 1st half of the 2nd Amendment, i.e., nationwide, a ‘well regulated militia’, i.e., that ‘we’ should be able to defend ourselves against the State, if need be, i.e., we’ll need anti-tank rifles, not just anti-vest rifles, just like any militia in the history of militias; also, on all the potential rioters: that actually justifies the FEMA detention centers we know exists, but DON’T know who will ACTUALLY end up in them…

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