Firearms

How Tactical Are You?

Rex Delta 9mm Handgun

The term tactical seems to sell when attached to guns, ammunition, rifle scopes, holsters, writing pens, underwear and (I assume) eating utensils. There are many things that may be used to gain an advantage, and that makes them tactical.

But I think that quite a few range commandos are not very tactical at all. I do not wear tactical boots and gear-up for my range trips, and have not since I left police service.

Tactical Isn’t Everything

Some folks embarrass themselves because I ain’t sure they really make that gear in their size and they have some of their epidermis exposed. I wear loose-fitting khakis to the range and I wear hiking boots practically every day.

I use shooting muffs that are above and beyond the average and I use the best-quality glasses. Quality gear— such as Walker, Blackhawk! and GALCO— is important.

Appellations used to sell products include SWAT and Special Forces. A SEAL once used a product to open his mail pouch sack full of Red Man and I suppose it gets a recommendation.

The SWAT name on a flea market knife isn’t going to convince me to purchase it, but a lot of teenagers and the hordes that don’t know better scarf them up.

Maybe I am critical, but I certainly did not get to my place in life and age by being overly critical. I am positive. Here are the feel-good words: a lot of what you may feel is ordinary, and mundane gear is pretty tactical.

Just don’t be caught up in the catchword salad that is marketing. I am not touching on training, but I will say that there are many men and women with strong military training that are training to a high standard.

It’s fine to attend a school ran by a former SEAL or Special Forces soldier. You won’t shoot like a SEAL unless you train like a SEAL and fire more than 10,000 rounds a year. But you will be on your way.

If you do not fire 10,000 rounds a year and your gear isn’t the same thing LAPD SWAT uses, you will still be able to defend yourself well.

Winchester Buckshot in Double Barrel
Winchester buckshot is known for a certain finality in action.

Master the Basics

Tactical training isn’t always the best choice for most shooters. After all, we are not running a police action into Syria or knocking down doors in Detroit (heaven only knows which is more dangerous).

We are saving our lives, the lives of someone we love, or someone we are responsible for. I was trained in public safety and I still have a lot of that in me. Personal safety/fending for yourself is just as important, but the gear is less expensive.

If you spend your life doing something terribly important, like making a living and providing for your family, then shooting is a sport or a hobby. It is good to be trained, but you do not need a $2,000 AR and a long-slide pistol.

The shotgun is possibly the most affordable. The pistol is the most difficult to master. While advanced training is good. the bottom line is that the basics must be mastered. If you do not master the basics of marksmanship, the advanced courses are worthless.

With the handgun, you need to be competent in drawing from concealed carry, getting on target and getting a hit. Use the logic ladder and common sense.

Shotgun
This old shotgun features a Weaver compensator. It would be difficult to be better armed with any shotgun for home defense.

Good Firearm Choices

Handguns

I think that the 9mm high-capacity handgun is the default personal defense and home defense handgun at present, from the FBI to the average homeowner. The balance of power and control favors control.

The 9mm can be effective with good modern loads like the Winchester 124 grain PDX +P. The GLOCK is a baseline, but not the only choice. Some prefer the double-action first-shot 9mm handgun. The CZ 75 is an excellent choice and so is the SIG P229.

Perhaps the best buy in a modern 9mm is the new Rex Delta, a polymer-framed, striker-fired 9mm with good features, good reliability and excellent practical accuracy. If you choose a heavier caliber, be prepared to practice at least twenty percent more.

Beretta APX 9mm Handgun
The Beretta APX 9mm is among many good choices in handguns.

Shotguns

Any officer that worked a busy area for more than 20 years has seen homeowners defend themselves with shotguns.

What sticks in my mind— and as an interested observer, I took careful notes— is that I cannot recall a single instance among the two dozen incidents of shotgun defense, or so I am aware of, in which a homeowner used a tactical shotgun.

Every single instance involved a standard sporting shotgun. Most were 12-gauge, some 20s, a 16 and a couple of .410s. They worked fine. The police used standard riot guns and the half dozen cases I have in my files showed excellent results.

The point is, the shotgun is a projectile launcher. An inexpensive pump works just great. If you are going to fire a few hundred full-power shells a year and want a shotgun with good slug accuracy, by all means, obtain a Mossberg 590.

Mine is loaded with Winchester #1 buckshot. Another shotgun I trust a great deal and carry traveling is a 1931 Remington 16 gauge automatic.

Deployed for many years by a now-passed law enforcement veteran, this shotgun is fitted with a poly choke and the grip is wrapped in electrical tape. There is also a dent in the receiver from a .38 caliber bullet. That’s history, and the piece will still do what it once did.

Shotgun and Ammo
If the shotgun is simply a projectile launcher, then this double barrel is a fine choice. Winchester offers a broad choice in buckshot and slug loads, as well as the PDX buck and ball load.

Rifles

I like the AR-15. There seems to be something of a price war at present. It isn’t a surprise as some pretty big guys have laid-off workers in AR plants and some retailers have overbought on the AR.

Just the same, this is one place where you want to purchase the best you can afford. The DPMS rifle and the Ruger 5.56mm rifle are good choices. The good news is a relatively inexpensive load, such as Winchester’s 55 grain JSP, is a very effective loading.

If you need a general-purpose defensive rifle that is useful for personal defense and clearing the area of dangerous predators and pests, a quality bolt-action rifle such as the CZ 527 is a good choice.

I load my 7.62 x 39mm rifle with Winchester’s PDX and feel well-armed. The Ruger American is another. Each wears a Leupold rifle scope.

CZ 527 Bolt Action Rifle
The CZ 527 in 7.62 x 39mm is a great all-around rifle.

When I grew up in a rural area, we were close to the earth. Behind my home were hundreds of acres filled with every type of wildlife. Everyone had a good .22 rifle in the home.

A .22 repeater with 15 rounds or so in reserve is a good all-around personal defense and small game choice. I have investigated at least four instances in which the .22 rifle was used in home defense.

Each time, it was surprisingly effective. A fast-handling, easy-to-fire weapon is a good choice. The .22 LR has good penetration. After all, accuracy can make up for power. The reverse is seldom true.

Hunting Tactical Super Sixty .22 LR
The author’s favorite .22 is this Super Sixty from Hunting Tactical, based on the long-serving Marlin 60 rifle.

Conclusion

You don’t have to spend a ton of money to be tactical. All that is really needed is a reliable firearm and common sense.

What’s your go-to home defense firearm? Do you believe tactical options are over-hyped in today’s market? Let us know in the comments section below!

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 (10)

  1. Dr. Thomas, thank you for your service and sacrifices. I am in law enforcement in the south and want to make sure you know your sacrifices are not for naught. And I agree, the MP5 is a wonderful weapon 🙂

  2. I decided years ago that “tactical” actually means “matte black and twice the price”. It’s a fad that helps immature men deal with the tedium of modern life as office and factory drones, when they grew up thinking they would be Indiana Jones or James Bond.

  3. Tactical doesn’t mean only firearms and range time. My opinion is that it can be situational awareness and the most important training of gun shot first aid and CPR.

  4. I have a Mossberg 500 Cruiser in .410 for home defense. The legal short barrel and pistol grip make it highly maneuverable in the home like a handgun, and the .410 Critical Defense ammunition make it a formidable weapon. The .410 won’t make a mess of your home while still doing the job. I have several handguns and long guns, but this is my favorite. It is also available in larger calibers if desired.

  5. I am a retired Police Chief. My first line of home defense is a S&W Model 3000, 12 gauge pump. I back that up with a Glock 19 in 9mm and a Glock 22 in 40 cal. I also have a S&W AR if the need should arise All these are readily assessible should the need arrise

  6. Spent over 40 years as a Peace Officer/ Deputy Sheriff/LEO. In all departments, the shot gun was most feared and used for defense,it never failed,love to well written articles,and common sense.

  7. Maybe the author is nicer than i am. He did not mention the “tacticool” crowd. It is a thing, of that i am certain. HALO, the Tom Clancy branded games i believe brought about much of this. Thow in paint ball … these are all reactions of a society that has forgotten the true horrer of war. Everything is normalized and sterilized so that no snowflakes melt in the making of this reality. That reality is ss bolts in your spine and neverending pain for every waking moment, if you are “lucky” enough to make it out alive. These people that glorify and buy the tacticool stuff , play the video games and paintball on the weekend are sometimes the same people railing against our god given right to defend ourselves amd shunning those that defend us and may pay the ultimate price for it.
    I digress, end rant.

  8. What works for you is tactical. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Ruger 10-22 bought back in the 80’s for $100.00 or the latest greatest offering from Kimber in 10mm. If you feel confident with it, and more importantly can hit what you shoot at with it, it’s the way to go. My EDC is a relatively inexpensive S.A. XDM-40 with a mounted light, and carried in a Wilderness LLC Safepacker it’s what works for me, and God forbid I have to use it to defend myself I wont have $3000.00 dollars of equipment sitting in a police evidence room for a few years.

  9. I have a half dozen bolts in my lower spine, the result of injuries from Desert Storm. Because of that, my focus for home defense has to be small, light weight, and easily maneuverable weapons. My military experience left me with a taste for the MP5. This is something that used to be difficult to obtain in the civilian market. The Sig MPX fit the bill exceedingly well. Fitted with an Ospray Supressor and 30 rounds of low velocity 9mm as well as a Sig Romeo5 5 Red Dot and a Surefire light on a pressure switch, I believe it more than meets my need for home defense. I back that up with a quality 1911 filled with the appropriate rounds. I train as often as possible at my local Gun Club, keeping old skills as sharp as possible within the limits of my disability. Since I can no longer play the “run and gun and hide” game any more, I feel adequately protected by my choice of defense.

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