This is guest post by Andrew Betts
Is less lethal ammo a good idea for home defense?
It seems like a good idea, especially if your primary home defense gun is a shotgun. While shotguns have some stark disadvantages when compared to a carbine, one of their biggest advantages is the ability to fire a wide range of ammunition, including less lethal munitions. If Billy, your burger flipping bozo neighbor gets drunk and breaks into your home thinking he locked himself out of his own home, it would be nice to have something between “Hey stop!” and cleaning Billy’s memories off the refrigerator, right? Maybe.
There is no shortage of less lethal ammunition available and it is typically sold to private citizens with no greater restrictions than for any other ammunition. Remember that it is LESS lethal and that it can still produce a serious wound. It is designed for pain compliance and it produces that pain through impact. If it strikes the wrong area, it can cause life altering, if not life threatening injuries. Less lethal munitions should not be taken lightly, as is evident from this video:
There are some serious legal issues that accompany the use of less lethal ammunition by private citizens. Please bear in mind that the author is not an attorney, and laws vary by locale. The following statements are generalizations and you should take the time to learn use of force laws in your area. Discharging any firearm, regardless of the type of ammunition is considered to be a lethal level of force in most jurisdictions. Even firing a warning shot is legally considered to be the same level of force as putting a .44 JHP into an attacker’s chest. That is to say that there is no such thing as less lethal ammunition in the eyes of the law. “Fine,” you say, “I am justified in using deadly physical force to defend myself within my own home in my state, so what if I decide to use less force?”
That may be the case, but it is not quite that simple. See, even in states that have a so-called “castle doctrine” you cannot simply shoot a person just because they broke into your home. That may be the practical application in most cases, but in reality, the law simply recognizes that unlawful entry into a home qualifies as a reason to believe that the intruder intends to cause grievous bodily harm or death to the occupant.
The actual justification for use of force is the threat that is assumed to exist, but you still need to be able to articulate a reasonable fear that there was a credible threat of such harm. It is somewhat paradoxical, but by using a lethal level of force in a manner that has less likelihood of immediately incapacitating the attacker, it may be seen as an indication that the threat was not really so imminent after all and if the threat was not so imminent that you felt the need to use deadly physical force, then you were not justified in using deadly physical force.
That is to say, your use of less lethal ammunition may actually undermine your argument that deadly physical force was necessary in the first place. And remember that discharging the firearm, even with less lethal ammo is legally considered deadly physical force.
That doesn’t mean that you should never use less lethal force. There are a variety of other options, depending on your jurisdiction, training level, and budget. The easiest and most obvious pain compliance technique is to literally hit them with the gun. It really should go without saying that you must receive professional training in the proper use of a firearm as an impact weapon along with weapon retention techniques.
Alternatively, you may choose to use OC spray, or a Taser, though those devices generally require that you holster or sling your firearm to use them effectively and they have some severe limitations. They also require training to use properly just as a firearm does. Part of that training is the understanding that there is substantial risk in attempting to deploy these tools without a partner standing by ready to use deadly physical force if things go sideways.
Finally, your voice and a weapon mounted light can themselves be a powerful less lethal “weapon” when used properly. If you discover a person in your home who does not appear to be an immediate threat, a face full of 200 lumens and a loud, confident order to lie face down has a strong possibility of gaining compliance.
While it may be useful to have some less lethal options, it is important to remember that private citizens do not have a duty to detain criminals. The main reason that police officers use less lethal munitions is that they are required to subdue and apprehend criminals or some poor guy who’s seeing the Ambien walrus. We do not need to pursue and gain compliance from a bad guy. If he wishes to leave when confronted, that is just fine and it is not our job to keep him there.
Our only real duty is to the safety of our loved ones. Of course you want him locked up, but the priority is that the threat is stopped and the fact that you did not have to take a life to do it means that you will sleep easier and you will not spend your life savings defending yourself in court.
Andrew Betts served with the Arizona National Guard for over 12 years, including a tour to Afghanistan. Visit his YouTube Channel for more great shooting information.