Working With What
You've Got

Protection On A Budget


The slowness of reloading and subsequent shots with a single-action revolver doesn’t make it the best choice for personal protection. But, point one at a bad guy and you probably will not have to pull the trigger.

With regard to personal protection, we all live somewhere between a box of ammo and a bodyguard. Like most things in life, how well you can protect yourself and your family is somewhat related to your bank account. Well-to-do folks can live in a fortress with security systems, surrounded by attack dogs and armed with the latest and greatest. But for most of us, our personal protection is part of our budget, and it’s a small part at that.

I know, your survival and the protection of your family should be the most important thing, and it is for most sound-minded humans. However, sound-minded humans have to balance protection with the electric bill, the truck payment, clothes for their kids, food and well, 97 million other things required to live normally is this modern world.

You might dearly want to buy that new $3,000 custom Wilson Combat 1911 or you might really, really want to go to Gunsite for some serious defensive handgun training. Those things could be on the top of your list, but realistically they are much closer to the bottom because of so many of the other financial demands placed on you and your family.

The point is, sometimes you just have to work with what you have until you are in a position to improve on what you’ve got. Practically speaking, this doesn’t have to necessarily mean you can’t be prepared. The number one thing you need to defend yourself and your family is the right mindset. That’s an article in itself, but for less than the cost of a box of ammo you can become educated on this topic by reading The Principles of Personal Defense, by Jeff Cooper.


Reading, consuming and trusting the words of Jeff Cooper in his book Principles of Personal Defense is one of the best things you can do to improve your ability to survive a lethal confrontation. And, it costs less than a box of ammo.

working rifle

A Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 with a magazine fully loaded with CCI Stingers is nothing to be overlooked. It is easy to shoot and can put a lot of lead on target in a short time.

Guns In General

With that behind you and since this is kind of a gun book, let’s look at firearms. You might not think your gun is suitable for personal protection. Maybe the only handgun you own is a .22 LR pistol or maybe the only long gun you own is a Ruger 10-22 or your turkey shotgun. Your only gun could even be a single-action revolver — a cowboy pistol. While none of these firearms are generally considered suitable for personal protection, they can work.

Having a loaded gun is the first priority. Statistically speaking, the introduction of a firearm into a dangerous confrontation deescalates the threat. I spent 13 years as a police officer and countless times I was called to investigate a situation where a good guy pulled a gun on the bad guy and the bad guy ran away. This happened much more frequently than the bad guy getting shot. By the same token, I’m aware of a number of incidents where a bad guy was shot with a .22 LR and it immediately stopped the bad things he was doing.


This little reflex sight from Cabela’s retails for less than $200 and can be a great off-season, close-quarters, personal protection accessory to a shotgun or a common hunting rifle.


Flashlights to bad guys are almost like sun to vampires. Keep them at home, in your car and even carry a small one when out at night.


Need a carry holster but got no money? Check out the Versacarry, which retails for about $25. You won’t find a more covert carry method.

cz usa handgun

If you already own a defensive handgun, but can’t afford to shoot it a lot, consider a .22 LR conversion kit. This one from CZ fits right on their CZ-75 pistol and is reliable and very accurate.

The Little .22

This is not to suggest the .22 LR is the best personal protection firearm, but it should serve as evidence it will work. So, if a .22 LR is the only firearm you own, what should you load it with? A .22 LR bullet is not going to make a large wound no matter which bullet you use, but it can penetrate reasonably deep; on average about 10 to 13″ in 10 percent gelatin. The heavier bullets and the high-velocity loads seem to be the best options.

However, I’ve used CCI’s rimfire shot shells to shoot snakes and I’ve also tested them rather extensively. At about 6 to 8′, one of these fired in the face of an attacker will cause immense pain and very likely temporary, if not permanent, blindness. A friend keeps his Ruger Single Six .22 Magnum handy at home and the first round in the cylinder is a CCI .22 Magnum shot shell. They are something to consider, but you should also consider the fact they will generally not cycle the action of any semi-automatic firearm and their range is seriously limited.

We have a lot of different firearms here at Shadowland, and my wife and I both carry a handgun on a daily basis. It might surprise you that our primary home-defense firearm is in fact chambered for the .22 LR. It’s a Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 fitted with a Zeiss Compact Point red dot sight and a Crimson Trace Modular Vertical Foregrip, which has an integrated laser and light. Everyone in my home can shoot this rifle, they can shoot it fast and they can shoot it accurately.

Racking the slide of a shotgun in order to scare away a threat means you've
just chambered a round and/or ejected an unused round. In either case, you've
wasted precious time and not been ready to shoot.

A regular old shotgun is a great home-defense firearm. It can even be the shotgun you use for squirrels or turkeys. The best part is that it really doesn’t matter which load you chose.

The Shotgun

As for shotguns, they are very devastating weapons. The guy who shoots squirrels with his old Model 12 Winchester might not believe it so, but inside 15′, just about any shotgun load is crippling, if not lethal. A special personal-defense shot shell or buck shot load is not necessary. Put a load of #4 or even #8 shot in the gut of a home invader with murderous intent and then call an ambulance — he’s going to need one in a hurry.

The latest and greatest tactical shotgun like a Remington Versa-Max Tactical would be a magnificent home-defense firearm. But, it will cost you more than $1,000. If you’ve got the cash, go for it, but let’s hope if you do your refrigerator does not go out in the next several months. Your squirrel or turkey shotgun in 20-, 16- or 12-gauge, though it may be a bit long for close combat and may not look like something a SWAT member would use, it will do the job.

working cowboy

A regular old shotgun is a great home-defense firearm. It can even be the shotgun you use for squirrels or turkeys. The best part is that it really doesn’t matter which load you chose.


Cowboy guns and .22 LR pistols are not often recommended for personal protection. However, in a pinch, they are better than nothing.

Going Western

Antiquated as they seem, single-action revolvers — cowboy pistols — remain very popular. The downside to the single action is obviously they can’t be fired as fast as double actions and they are slow to reload. Undeniably, there are better options for home-defense or for concealed carry, but if a single action is all you have, don’t leave it at home or keep it put away just ’cause its not a Glock or a 1911. The bullets they fire are just as deadly, and when these guns are pointed at a bad guy, they are just as intimidating.

For a good while a Ruger Single Six in .32 H&R Magnum was the only handgun I owned. I carried that gun around the ranch extensively and I also carried it when out and about. I used it to kill snakes and a variety of critters, to include deer. When loaded with the proper ammo like Buffalo Bore’s 100-grain JHP or Doubletap’s 60-grain TAC-XP, the .32 H&R Magnum is nothing to be toyed with.

One problem with carrying a single-action revolver on a daily basis is a holster. Most single-action holsters are cowboy-type holsters that make you look like a gunslinger. You’ll have to turn to a custom maker for this but one of Barranti Leather’s Urban Companions or Bruce Nelson holsters will allow you carry a single action in style.


Most .22 Magnum loads are designed for hunting, but this Critical Defense load from Hornady was purpose-built for personal protection.

target shooting

Not all of us can afford to attend or to send our family members to Gunsite with a Wilson Combat 1911. This young man was lucky in that regard but when something bad happens, mindset will matter more.

Other Stuff

A good holster is imperative if you are going to carry on a daily basis. One that is uncomfortable or unwieldy will soon have you leaving your handgun in your car or even at home. But, for the most part, a quality holster made to securely and comfortably carry is not free. One exception is the Versacarry system These inside-the-pants rigs will conceal your double-action revolver or semi-automatic handgun expertly and they retail for around the price of that one box of ammo.

Gun or not, one of the best personal protection tools you can have is a flashlight, and this applies whether you are at home or out in public. The criminal element thrives in darkness, and if you shine a little light on a bad guy it can make them reevaluate their fiendish thoughts. Just ask any cop who works the night shift and he’ll tell you how important a flashlight is.

You don’t have to spend hundred of dollars on a flashlight, but you should have several. Some for around the house, one in your car and one you can stuff in your pocket. When it comes to light, bad guys are like vampires: take away their shadows and you have taken away their advantage.

Another thing you can do with accessories is turn what might otherwise be a straight-up hunting rifle into a reasonable home-defense gun. Most hunters have a traditional-style riflescope on their hunting rifle, and while this makes good work of a mule deer across the canyon, it can be limiting in the front yard or the front room. During the off-season, consider replacing the traditional riflescope with some sort of red-dot sight. Cabela’s sells a super compact reflex sight that will attach to a Weaver scope base for less than $200.

Next to mindset, practicing with whatever firearm you have is critical. Here is where the .22 really shines; even if your actual carry gun or home-defensive weapon is of a larger, more effective caliber. With the .22 LR you can put a lot of rounds downrange for just a little bit of money. In fact, .22’s are so affordable to shoot, sometimes it makes sense to buy one similar to your carry or home-defense gun. You might also consider a conversion kit for either of those guns, just for practice.

In this modern world there is no shortage of bad guys. There is also an abundance of tactard trainers and mall ninja advisors looking to tell you what you must have and what you do have is not sufficient. Sure, we would all like to be armed as well as possible and we would all like to attend some high-speed, low-drag shooting course to improve our skills, even if all we want to do is brag to our buddies.

In the end it mostly comes down to two things: you need a gun and you must be willing. The first requirement is not all hard to come by. In fact you probably have one reasonably close at hand right now. However, the “be willing” part is what most folks find they are lacking when the excrement hits the wind generator.

Read Cooper’s book, heed his advice and you’ll be a lot further along in the journey of personal protection than a lot of folks who are dressed in black or who yak on the TV about how cool they are and about what they can do. Eventually you’ll get that better gun and a little training. Until then, you’ll just have to work with what you got.