Defensive Rifles

T his will be my last 

Department of Defense article. I have enjoyed writing this column, but have come to the point where I have said about all that can be said. 

It is difficult to teach self-defense by correspondence course. If you will take what I have said in these columns and practice it on the range, you will be much better prepared to face an armed adversary. Your next step is to search out a good training facility and get the training with a gun in your hand. God bless.

A defensive tool is one that can be carried on the person to be used when the person is surprised and must defend himself with no advance notice. Or, to be kept ready and loaded in a handy place in the home for those times when a person may be required to defend himself and loved ones from a violent criminal who is breaking into the home.

In these situations a handgun or shotgun, especially a shotgun, is usually better than a rifle. A wise man once said that a handgun is used to fight your way to your rifle. I can’t argue with that, but a handgun in the hands of a person who is trained to use it well is pure purple poison.

A person who is really good with a handgun is one of the deadliest creatures on the face of the earth. A shotgun, however, is without doubt the best of all, and most especially for an untrained or poorly trained individual. There should be a shotgun in every home.

On the other hand, a rifle would be a good tool if the victim were required to protect his home and family from violence in the case of great civil unrest. This would be especially true if the person had advance notice and had time to prepare his home for defense.

In this situation the high capacity magazines that these weapons have, with the fast reloading capabilities, would be a tremendous advantage. An AR-15 and a dozen 30 round magazines is one heck of a lot of deterrence.

Choosing ammunition for the self-defense rifle is an important decision. Full metal-jacket ammo for the .22 caliber AR-15 is great for practice, but is not very effective in stopping a determined attacker. I know of one instance where an officer had to shoot an armed assailant 11 times with hardball .223 ammo before the bad guy quit trying to kill the officer with a .357 Magnum. This is why most of the police organizations have gone to soft-point ammunition for their officers. The Border Patrol, for example, currently issues the 64-grain Speer Gold Dot loads to their officers. 

In the larger .30 caliber rifles hardball is okay, but even then soft-points are more effective. Federal, for example, makes some very good soft-point ammo for the 7.62×39, which is the caliber of the AK-47-type weapons and SKS rifles. You could buy hardball to practice and load a number of magazines with higher quality soft-points for more serious social occasions.

The type of rifle you use is also something that takes a bit of thought. The old SKS is a great weapon. They are generally accurate and very durable. However, unless yours has been altered, it does not use a detachable magazine. When empty it must be reloaded from the top using a stripper clip. This is much slower than simply replacing an empty magazine. Also, the stripper clips are prone to drop a round or two when roughly handled. 

Better is an AK-type weapon. The AKs are renowned as being as tough and dependable as a sledgehammer. They will work in any kind of condition and will not fail if you forgot to clean it last time. Their failing is that they are not very accurate. They function well because the tolerances are greater, which is, also, why they are not as accurate as other weapons. 

The winners in the accuracy race are the ARs. It is not uncommon for an AR-15 to be as accurate as most out-of-the-box bolt actions. I have one made by Smith & Wesson that will regularly shoot three-shot groups at 100 yards right at one inch. The down side is that they are made with much tighter tolerances than AKs, and for that reason they are more prone to failures when they get dirty.

If you want to have the best of the best, the civilian version of the M-14, the M1A, is the winner. It provides power and accuracy. It fires .308 Winchester caliber ammo from a detachable 20-round magazine and hits, to steal a phrase from James Bond, “like a brick through a plate-glass window.”

The down side of the M1A is that it is long and heavy, the ammo is bulky, and the 20-round magazines are rather pricey. The M1A can be fitted with a riflescope, but it takes some simple alteration to do so. I prefer to leave it like it is. With the standard peep sight it is quite serviceable out to 300 yards and beyond.

Another choice is the old M1 Garand in .30-06. I love the Garand. It was our service rifle during WWII and Korea and it served with distinction. The drawbacks to the Garand are that it is heavy, it uses eight-round en bloc clips rather than high-capacity detachable magazines, and if you use standard high-velocity ammunition in it, it will eventually bend the long operating rod.

There are now adjustable devices that allow the use of standard .30-06 ammo, but the M1 must be altered for them. As for the clips, with a bit of practice you can learn to slap in another clip in a second or two and be right back in business. I have an M1 and wouldn’t trade it for two AR-15s. However, I also have an AK-47 and an AR15, so I don’t have to make that trade. 

The unique style of the XS Sights still proved to be plenty accurate as this seven-yard, rapid-fire shot group shows.

—Steve LaMascus





Dark Defense

In the beginning man killed animals as a necessity for food, clothing and turning bones into tools. Sporting aspects crept in with Teddy Roosevelt. 

He stimulated masses of Eastern hunters that could afford it to satisfy their urge for the outdoors and hunting, turning hunting into a sport; nearly eliminating the American Bison, a natural resource in the process. 

About 80 years ago deer hunting was still done for meat using a 30-30 Winchester and a pocketknife.  Eight hour work days and super markets increased the ability for the average man to hunt. The desire to eat the game he brought home is still with us.

In 1965, Leonel Garza of Freer Texas, recognizing the monetary value deer hunting brought to the communities, inaugurated the first big deer contest, called “Muy Grande”. Hunters throughout the State flocked to Freer to participate. It began with only one category, “Widest Spread”, many others have been added since, Ladies, Youth, bow, and about 70 others. Nearly every town in an area that supports a deer processing facility and motels has a contest now. Muy Grande remains the most prestigious.

The Boone and Crockett Club, gold standard for scoring whitetail deer, began keeping records in 1932. For whitetail they have two categories, typical, focusing on symmetry with deductions for inches that were not symmetrical and non-typical, which focuses on total inches with no deductions. Points must exceed, one-eighth inch or more, strict rules are applied concerning fair chase, causing only those deer within low fences to be considered. Every hunter=s goal became getting his name in the Abook@. Pope and Young include a category for scoring deer enclosed in high fences. The contests began using B & C scoring as a guide, but were required to change that when Texas landowners began receiving aid from Texas Parks & Wildlife to raise highly managed deer, those genetically improved. An explanation of this is later in the piece. 

Previously to get in the “book” meant getting leases where the big racks are grown. The majority in Texas are from the Golden Triangle; Webb, LaSalle, Duval, McMullen and Maverick Counties or those controlled by large ranches, consisting of huge tracts of pasture land laden with excellent natural nutrition from forbs, mesquite beans, etc., rain is the catalyst that prompts large antlered native bucks to demand the highest prices in Texas for leases or hunts. Gold is needed.

The drive from Houston is 200 miles but hunters come that far and farther to hunt South Texas and parts of Mexico with its added attractions.  The coming of eight hour work days and super markets made it possible for the average person to fulfill his dream of hunting deer in South Texas, even missing football games. 

When deer began to produce more revenue than cattle and goats the rancher was justified in building high fences and making the improvements necessary to acquire quality genetics. 

TPWD continued aiding ranchers by creating several programs i.e. Deer Breeder Program—the deer breeder permit authorizes individuals to hold white-tailed and mule deer in captivity for the purpose of propagation. A Deer Breeder permit has an annual fee of $200. A person who possesses a valid deer breeder permit may buy, sell, trade, transfer, and release captive deer. Deer breeders are required to keep detailed inventories of deer in the pens and all activities associated with those deer, meeting certain Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) testing standards. All deer in the captive facility must be identified with proper markings (ear tags / tattoos). Deer breeder permits and all applicable reporting requirements, including release site registration, are managed through the TWIMS Deer Breeder online system. More information on deer breeding can be found at: https://tpwd.texas.gov/business/permits/land/wildlifemanagment/deerbreeder/.  

People utilizing the deer breeder permit do so for many different reasons.  Some raise captive deer to sell to other breeders, some raise deer to release on their own property, and others raise deer to sell to others who want to release deer on their property. Some of the release sites are “put and take” operations where bucks are released and harvested in the same year while other properties release deer (bucks and does) with the intent to improve the “genetics” of the deer population on the ranch, ultimately with hopes of producing bucks with exceptional antler quality. It’s not uncommon for breeders to raise 200+ B&C bucks in the captive pens. For some hunters this is distasteful and they prefer to not hunt deer grown in pens and then released, while other hunters don’t mind the origin of the deer, but just enjoy the hunt. 

With all the programs, parties had their criticisms but they have been overcome with the current positive effects for ranchers, TPWD, and the public. Quarantines have been imposed for several diseases, most recently CWD, an extremely contagious disease found only in the deer family, and anthrax, which has been with us for decades, (found in all mammals). Rules to transport deer have been changed to maximize protection needed in times of quarantines. 

Programs also have given them latitude to manage their deer and harvest an overpopulated herd earlier. Extending the days to hunt has been accepted by everyone.  Enrollment deadlines and other information can be found on the Internet.

The big deer Beverly Hensley harvested this year was taken in Wharton County. This scenario allows every county to surpass scores that had been available only to a chosen few. 

Some purists say the sport is gone. Management only gives a choice, there are several to choose from, try it before you make an opinion. 

Hensley hunted two full days, she didn’t get a glimpse of this buck until late on the second day, and then it was trotting away at 75 yards. She’s an excellent shot, but still whispered “stop stop stop”, in very short breaths of excitement, just before the buck started out of the trail. Her 25-06 left no doubt of the merits of change. The deer showed a rough score of 474 inches and 69 total points. She still has to wait until certified official scorers have determined it.

Most deer hunters would rather know their lease has deer on it than pay big lease money and find out there are few deer to be found. 




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