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Old March 22, 2011, 01:07 PM   #1
Bartholomew Roberts
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Why would you use rubber buckshot for home defense?

Lately, I've read several posts where TFL members have mentioned loading several rounds of less-lethal rubber buckshot as the first rounds in their shotgun in order to defend their home against intruders.

This strikes me as a remarkably bad idea for a number of reasons. I am going to explain my reasoning here and hopefully, TFL can educate me on when and where (if ever) rubber buckshot might be appropriate for home defense.

1. The first issue is that many people mistakenly believe these rounds are "less than lethal" but in fact, they can and have caused deaths - particularly at close ranges. In the above linked study, the chance of serious injury from a less lethal projectile increases significantly as the range becomes less then 10'.

As a result, in many states, the law for using "less lethal" ammunition such as rubber buckshot is the same as 5he law for using buckshot or other lethal ammunition - you must have a reasonable belief that you face an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury from your attacker/intruder.

So right away, my first problem is that you are almost always using the wrong tool for the task when you load rubber buckshot. If there is no imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury, you shouldn't be using a tool (shotgun) that causes that.

If there is an imminent threat of death or serious injury, then using a load that has limited effectiveness is probably not a real good idea given the seriousnesss of the consequences.

2. My second problem is that less-lethal rounds were never envisioned in the home defense role.

The National Institute of Justice study linked above recommends that law enforcement officers employing less-lethal munitions be backed up by officers with lethal force. In short, they recommend that less-lethal munitions are appropriate when used by groups of trained people wearing body armor and backed up by lethal force

Now, maybe your home defense plan is different than mine; but realistically, I don't see many gunowners using the NIJ recommended procedures and training.

3. My third problem is loading with one or two rounds of rubber buckshot assumes you will have the time necessary to escalate to more serious ammo if your first shot is ineffective.

In the force-on-force training I've done, people are remarkably reluctant to stand there like a B-27 silhouette and let you shoot at them repeatedly. Usually things are fairly dynamic - they are moving and shooting, you are moving and shooting. If they aren't moving, it is usually because they are hiding behind something that will block your shots.

To give an example, not too long ago I read here a firsthand account of a home invasion in Houston where intruders had enetered the man's two story home and were moving down the 2nd floor hallway. The man barricaded himself in the bedroom and announced he was armed and had called police. The intruders responded by firing randomly through the wall. At this point, the man decided he had to go out into the hallway to deal with the problem. He stepped out into the dark hallway and identified the first threat. He used a weapon mounted flashlight which caused the man to stop shooting and raise his pistol to shade his eyes. He shot that man. He then noticed a second man firing at him and changed his position and lit up, ID'd and shot the second man. Unfortunately, during the process he was shot in the abdomen as well. On the bright side, the non-rubber buckshot (assisted by the considerable amount of time he had spent training with the shotgun) ended both threats with a single shot.

When I think of that scenario, I don't think "I bet that guy wishes he had rubber buckshot loaded for the first two rounds."

So I am admittedly biased against this practice. I think it is a misapplication of the tool. So why do people do it?
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Old March 22, 2011, 01:53 PM   #2
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I too think it is a very bad idea. Even real rounds fail at times to stop an attacker. If the situation is bad enough to use lethal force, use lethal force. If the situation doesn't warrant firing real ammo, it doesn't warrant firing rubber rounds.
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Old March 22, 2011, 02:10 PM   #3
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I'm right there with you for the same reasons.

I am not a policeman. My job is not to take someone into custody. My duty is to stop the threat to myself and my family. I am not eager to cause harm to another, but if I am justified in involving a firearm (no matter what I have loaded), then there needs to be the belief that we are under immediate threat.

If we are under immediate threat of harm or death, why would I choose anything less effective? I'm going to want the most effective tool in my hand to end the threat. Therefore, less lethal loads make no sense from a logical standpoint.

Furthermore, as you point out, these less lethal loads make no sense from a legal standpoint. If you are employing a firearm, you are using a deadly weapon. Be it rubber shot, beanbags, or what have you, it's still seen by the law as a deadly weapon. If you are using a less lethal load, you are essentially granting that the threat before you is not necessarily immediate or harmful. Thus, you shouldn't be using a firearm anyway.

There's nothing you can accomplish with less lethal loads that you cannot accomplish with a verbal warning. If that does not cause the assailant to flee, it's going to be time for something more potent anyway.

It's like trying to shoot someone in an extremity in the hopes that "shooting to wound" will cause the person to stop. If you're in honest fear for your life, why go for a less capable option (to say nothing of the difficulty of achieving that hit)?

If you're in the game, it means the other person is playing for keeps, and you had best do the same.
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Old March 22, 2011, 04:31 PM   #4
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I'll bite... (and I am willing to be convinced otherwise depending on the progression of this thread)

My 870 is parked next to my bed. The magazine tube is loaded. The chamber is empty. The first round in the tube is a less-than-lethal beanbag round. The remaining rounds are HD buckshot.

If someone breaks in while I or the GF are home, the shotgun gets racked accompanied by a loud verbal warning to get the F out. If it's a bad guy and they take something and run away, and that means I don't HAVE to take a life, great. Maybe I loose a possession or two. That's still less for me to deal with than killing someone (I'm prepared to, just not my preference).

If they DON'T get out, and/or if they continue to advance, I have options. The bean-bag round could be a warning shot, it could be a stopping shot (and I am well aware that at shorter distances it is likely to be as lethal as a solid slug), OR... I can shuck it out with a quick rack and chamber a buckshot round instead. So, in this case, the less-than-lethal round could be viewed as a deterrent, with lethal force ready to be applied immediately if needed.

Secondly, I'm in a town home. The beanbag isn't likely to over-penetrate (although the buckshot isn't likely to either I suppose).

That said, maybe it ISN'T a bad guy... the GF's parents have a set of spare keys as does her ex-roommate who's a good friend of ours. All know we have loaded guns in the house. All know that coming in unannounced would be a VERY BAD idea. It's never happened and they've all been told NEVER to but that said, the possibility is there, and while it does nothing to diminish my responsibility should I ever feel that I need to pull the trigger, it at least leaves me feeling like I have options that do not force a lethal shoot should something bad happen.

It also puts me in the frame-of-mind that the shotgun is a deterrent first, and lethal option second. I'll do everything I can to scare an SOB off before I have to ventilate someone (but if my hand is forced, so be it).

Let me add that the GF is also a competent shooter. I also keep a loaded (round in the chamber) .45 next to the bed. Again, I (we) have options. One of us may take the .45, the other the 870 should we hear a bump in the night. The .45 has no less-than-lethal option obviously.

It all comes down to this: in my own home, I have a small home-turf advantage. If I have the circumstance to use less-than-lethal force, I'll take it (only for the sake of my conscience and my ability to sleep soundly at night thereafter... and possibly for the saved headache of going to court over the shoot afterwards).

If I do not have that option, lethal force is readily available.

Last edited by c0nspire; March 22, 2011 at 04:42 PM.
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Old March 22, 2011, 04:39 PM   #5
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Quote:
Bartholomew Roberts
Why would you use rubber buckshot for home defense?
Um, I wouldn't and I don't.
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Old March 22, 2011, 05:04 PM   #6
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Onward Allusion
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Bartholomew Roberts
Why would you use rubber buckshot for home defense?

Quote:
Um, I wouldn't and I don't.
AGREED.....
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Old March 22, 2011, 05:27 PM   #7
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A Lawyer would probably like the idea.

Hmmm, let me think,,,,If I had a shotgun for home-defense, I pointed it at someone who was looking to harm myself or my family. I squeezed the trigger to protect mentioned self or family, rubber buckshot injured the idiot, he escapes the scene. I call police, they find him and arrest him. Some PUKE lawyer convinces him to SUE me for injuring him, hurting his self esteem, and causing him emotional stress. Why would I want that ???? Kill the creep with buckshot, or a slug and be done with it..
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Old March 22, 2011, 05:42 PM   #8
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Kill the creep with buckshot, or a slug and be done with it..
Then the creep's wife can sue you for killing the bread winner of her family.
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Old March 22, 2011, 05:52 PM   #9
Bartholomew Roberts
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Quote:
Originally Posted by c0nspire
If someone breaks in while I or the GF are home, the shotgun gets racked accompanied by a loud verbal warning to get the F out. If they DON'T get out, and/or if they continue to advance, I have options. The bean-bag round could be a warning shot, it could be a stopping shot (and I am well aware that at shorter distances it is likely to be as lethal as a solid slug), OR... I can shuck it out with a quick rack and chamber a buckshot round instead. So, in this case, the less-than-lethal round could be viewed as a deterrent, with lethal force ready to be applied immediately if needed.
OK, here is my analysis. We have an intruder in your townhome. They have already broken and entered someone else's home, so we know they likely aren't girlscouts aggressively peddling cookies. On top of that, they are given a loud verbal warning and it is made known you are armed.

Now, if someone continues to advance after they've been alerted to the fact that the house is occupied and the owner armed, I would have to rate that as a fairly serious threat. If somebody is still coming at me while looking down the bore of a 12 gauge, I don't think I am going to be thinking "OK, I'll give him one more chance with the beanbag." And that's assuming that the reply to the verbal warning isn't gunfire directed my way...

Quote:
Secondly, I'm in a town home. The beanbag isn't likely to over-penetrate (although the buckshot isn't likely to either I suppose).
Actually, given what most interior walls are composed of, I imagine a beanbag or rubber buckshot will sail right through the wall too; though I imagine it will lose energy very quickly and present less of a lethal threat to bystanders than buckshot. So it probably does have an edge if you miss.

On the other hand, if the bad guy is shooting, that is a threat to you and others as well and will continue to be a threat for as long as he continues to shoot.

Quote:
That said, maybe it ISN'T a bad guy... the GF's parents have a set of spare keys as does her ex-roommate who's a good friend of ours. All know we have loaded guns in the house.
I may not be understanding you well; but this makes no sense to me. You've got an obligation to positively identify your target before shooting whether you are using buckshot or beanbags. Were you suggesting that using a beanbag round means you can be less careful about identifying your target before firing? If so, I disagree with that.
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Old March 22, 2011, 07:13 PM   #10
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You've got an obligation to positively identify your target before shooting whether you are using buckshot or beanbags. Were you suggesting that using a beanbag round means you can be less careful about identifying your target before firing?
ABSOLUTELY NOT. You are 100% correct in stating I have an obligation to identify my target.

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Actually, given what most interior walls are composed of, I imagine a beanbag or rubber buckshot will sail right through the wall too
The building is of concrete bock construction. I am not positive, but I believe the wall that separates me from neighbors on both sides is of double thickness. Maybe you are correct, but I believe the bean bag rounds have reduced loads to boot. In any case, having test fired one at a pumpkin at 40' or so, it doesn't seem likely to me that bag would penetrate the dividing wall here.

Let me make it clear that I would never fire a less-than-lethal round in a situation where I was not willing to accept the consequences of the shot were it lethal. I simply am increasing the possibility that I do not kill the intruder with the first shot if possible. The above comment regarding getting sued by the intruders family is what sometimes goes through my head.

Here's a scenario I sometimes think about:

There are lots of teenage kids in my neighborhood. One night the GF wakes up and says she hears something downstairs. I grab the shotgun, rack it loudly and announce myself as I go down the stairs to investigate. I can hear some rustling (could be the cat?) and as I begin to see into the living room, there's a shady looking pair of guys standing there looking back at me. One has what looks to be a gun in his hand. As I shout at them again to stop, the one that has what looks to be a gun, appears to raise it towards me. I shoot in self defense believing I was about to be fired on by intruders. Turns out it's a neighborhood kid who's high and getting into trouble and he had one of my TV remotes in his hand.His buddy freezes up, so he doesn't get shot, but he witnesses the whole thing and right or wrong, now I have to find a good lawyer...

Now, if anyone thinks that's a bad shoot on my behalf, please let me know. What would you do?

Of course, that's only one possibility. The chances of me finding myself in that particular scenario is less than tiny. It could be anything. However, as I try to think of and prepare for the scenarios that could occur in my home, on my property, I have yet to come across one where the first round being less-than-lethal becomes a liability to me or the GF.
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Old March 22, 2011, 07:40 PM   #11
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From state to state self defense laws vary in New Hampshire only time I can use a gun in my home for deadly force is when there is no other means of escape. I have 12ga rubber ball rounds fps is 900fps. I have fired a round to see the effects and for me to kill some one with it I would have to shoot them from the neck up. My guess most people would shoot at the biggest part they could see the persons chest. They way i look at it if you got a slug or buck shot in gun the law will look at it as intent to kill. At least with bean bag or rubber ball that intent to kill is not there.
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Old March 22, 2011, 09:37 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by rottieman33
They way i look at it if you got a slug or buck shot in gun the law will look at it as intent to kill. At least with bean bag or rubber ball that intent to kill is not there.
Does the law in NH actually differentiate between what materials make up the projectile(s) you shoot at someone from a deadly weapon?
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Old March 22, 2011, 09:50 PM   #13
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From state to state self defense laws vary in New Hampshire only time I can use a gun in my home for deadly force is when there is no other means of escape.
There's no duty to retreat in NH if you're in your own dwelling or its curtilage and are not the initial aggressor.
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Old March 22, 2011, 09:58 PM   #14
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Not the right choice for me.

I view it as an way to "cheat" and not really address the deadly force issue - e.g., are you willing and ready, at that moment, to take a life to protect a life?

I think it might make sense for a person who has a family member/friend with unmanaged mental illness where they fear an attack by that person and don't want to kill them. This is a very rare circumstance - but because of my work (I am an estate planning/administration attorney) I talk to a lot of people with a lot of variation in their families and I have worked with a few clients who had children that (a) they cared about very much, who (b) posed a plausible threat to the parents' life. We can argue all day long about whether or not a parent can legally and morally take their own child's life - but the simple fact is many parents cannot imagine it and don't know how to, or won't use deadly force to defend themselves against a deadly-force attack by a family member or close friend. A less-lethal round might be a choice for them.

But for the other 99.9% of the non-LEO population, I really don't see the application in a HD context.

Maybe they'd be useful to people living in a rural area who wanted to run stray/neighbor dogs off their property without actually killing the dogs - but if I point a shotgun at another human being, it's because I'm moments away from using deadly force against them, and I don't think it's helpful to make that situation less clear, to me or to the bad guy.
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Old March 22, 2011, 10:22 PM   #15
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Good discussion, and stepping across a state line (like AZ to CA) could make a hugh difference. My question is, in a clutch event where everything is likely over in several seconds, why would you use a progressively stouter load (bean bag up to buck) to stop the threat vs. buck or a slug in the first place?
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Old March 22, 2011, 10:50 PM   #16
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I agree with the points TXAZ has pointed out.

Nobody here wants to take another life but I can't risk the lives of my wife and kids trying to scare off an intruder. Once someone is in my house, the time for threats is over. If it ever came down to having to protect my family, I will stick with 00buck.
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Old March 23, 2011, 01:27 AM   #17
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I'll bite, coming from a very simple perspective...

I would never pull the trigger unless lethal force is legally authorized. However, the purpose of me pulling the trigger is not to kill someone, but to stop the threat against my life. If I give the BG a slightly better chance at living because I use a less LIKELY lethal first shot, then that's a conscience decision of mine. I don't use rubber shot or bean bags right now, the first round is #8 bird shot. That absolutely is likely to be lethal within 10 feet. Not as likely to be so as buckshot or slugs, but nothing to be sneezed at.

I've been to Iraq, I've been shot at, I've shot back. I'm prepared to take a small risk that may save a life, albeit a low-life's life.
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Old March 23, 2011, 07:37 AM   #18
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In my situation, I don't see the need for rubber buckshot/beanbags.

If a BG gets into my securely locked home, he has fooled the alarm system and starred down/killed a 130lb German Shephard. He's also entered to the sounds of a yakking 20lb killer Pomeranian. She's tougher then the Shephard .
At any rate, I figure the BG means very bad business to my family to overcome the odds of getting in the house in the first place. I'm not 20yrs. old anymore and won't risk hand-to-hand combat in my own house in the middle of the night if I can prevent it.

Thanks...I'll stick to my present HD load.
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Old March 23, 2011, 07:54 AM   #19
Bartholomew Roberts
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Quote:
Originally Posted by c0nspire
However, as I try to think of and prepare for the scenarios that could occur in my home, on my property, I have yet to come across one where the first round being less-than-lethal becomes a liability to me or the GF
How about a scenario where you don't fire the first shot? It seems to me that there are lots of scenarios where the first-shot being less-lethal has the potential to be a liability. If anything, I would think it would be the other way around - a scenario where less-lethal rounds are useful is probably more likely to give you the time to load less-lethal rounds.

On another point, what kind of training do you have with these rounds? You note your girlfriend is backing you up. In the NIJ study I linked to, there were 373 incidents involving less lethal rounds amongst law enforcement and corrections. 10 of these resulted in fatalities. 2 of those ten fatalities happened when officers working with the person using the less lethal ammo heard the shotgun discharge and began shooting with their service weapons. Not typically relevant for most of us; but might be something to think about in your particular circumstance - how will your girlfriend know what load you've fired and whether she should be shooting back or not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rottieman33
have 12ga rubber ball rounds fps is 900fps. I have fired a round to see the effects and for me to kill some one with it I would have to shoot them from the neck up.
Actually, the most common cause of fatality using less-lethal munitions in the NIJ study above was broken ribs or sternum lacerating the heart. In other words, being shot in the chest with less lethal munitions at less than 10 yds.

Quote:
They way i look at it if you got a slug or buck shot in gun the law will look at it as intent to kill. At least with bean bag or rubber ball that intent to kill is not there.
Have you found out whether New Hampshire regards less lethal ammunition as deadly force? For example, in Iowa Section 704.2 of their Criminal Code says:

"The term "deadly force" means any of the following:

1. Force used for the purpose of causing serious injury.

2. Force which the actor knows or reasonably should know will create a strong probability that serious injury will result.

3. The discharge of a firearm, other than a firearm loaded with less lethal munitions and discharged by a peace officer, corrections officer, or corrections official in the line of duty, in the direction of some person with the knowledge of the person's presence there, even though no intent to inflict serious physical injury can be shown.

4. The discharge of a firearm, other than a firearm loaded with less lethal munitions and discharged by a peace officer, corrections officer, or corrections official in the line of duty, at a vehicle in which a person is known to be.

As used in this section, "less lethal munitions" means projectiles which are designed to stun, temporarily incapacitate, or cause temporary discomfort to a person without penetrating the person's body."


So under Iowa law, less-lethal munitions are regarded as deadly force unless they are discharged by a peace officer or corrections officer in the line of duty.

Also, I am not sure why you feel intent to kill is relevant. If deadly force isn't legal to use, then it isn't legal to use. The fact that you didn't intend to kill someone when you used deadly force illegally just makes it something less than murder or attempted murder - assuming of course that the jury buys your story that when you pointed a shotgun at someone and pulled the trigger, you didn't intend to kill them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 5whiskey
I don't use rubber shot or bean bags right now, the first round is #8 bird shot. That absolutely is likely to be lethal within 10 feet. Not as likely to be so as buckshot or slugs, but nothing to be sneezed at.
Well, I don't think I'd reach the same decision, even if it was only me I was concerned about; but it seems like you've got a good grasp on the risks you are running and why.

And to be clear, I'm not looking for an ultra-lethal round. I am looking for a round that is effective in stopping the threat as fast as possible. However, the only way to physiologically do that (so that the attacker's psychological state of mind is irrelevant) is to shut down the CNS through direct damage or loss of blood pressure. Unofrtunately, that may also prove to be lethal in many cases - which is why a firearm is a last resort in self-defense that is strictly governed by law.

Last edited by Bartholomew Roberts; March 23, 2011 at 10:01 AM. Reason: Grammar
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Old March 23, 2011, 09:11 AM   #20
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If someone invaded my home, I can not tell you exactly what would happen, I may use deadly force, or, I may not, it all depends on that moment in time and the circumstances involved.

One thing I know for sure, I would not consider LTL ammo for my families protection.
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Old March 23, 2011, 09:14 AM   #21
Joey V.
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I wouldn't consider it!

I took a defensive shooting class when I turned 21 and got my permit to carry. I learned that defending your LIFE is the only time you can shoot someone or even pull your gun. I was told to double tap in the chest only!!! He said if you take a less lethal shot the scum lawyer will say you didn't think your life was all that threatened if you only shot him in the leg.... Now with a shotgun you will not need a double tap but I would give an attacker one 3" mag of 00 lead shot right in the pump! Again if I used rubber bullets and it didn't kill him the lawyer could mount a defense that you used less lethal means so therefore you must have thought the threat wasn't life or death. I know this sounds sooooooo stupid but so did the case of the woman that spilled hot coffee on her privates and got millions of dollars from McDonald a few years back. Besides if your life is threatened why would you want anything less lethal anyway? the class and the lawyers are right now that I think of it. If I shot in the leg or something I must not have been all that scared right?
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Old March 23, 2011, 09:50 AM   #22
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The only reason that justifies discharging a firearm at someone, regardless of what it's loaded with, is if your life is in danger.

If that's the case, you want to be able to respond with lethal force. Right now and in large doses. Not on your next shot.
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Old March 23, 2011, 10:18 AM   #23
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Rubber? Nope

Anybody stupid or crazy enough to break into someone's home needs to be put down for good----no telling what they would do to you and your family.
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Old March 23, 2011, 10:23 AM   #24
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Idiot messing around with shotgun. Bean bag round accidentally discharged in the local PD office. Bag went through the wall and landed on the LT's desk. Thank goodness it was late at night and no one was there.
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Old March 23, 2011, 11:10 AM   #25
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Only reason I can think of for using rubber buck or slugs would be for rousting a problem bear away from the house and away from the barn.
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