Saturday, June 9, 2018

Book Review: "Protecting Your Homestead" by Grant Cunningham

Book: Protecting Your Homestead: Using A Rifle To Defend Life On Your Property, by Grant Cunningham (2018); 224 pages.

        I have to admit that when I first started reading this book, I wondered if I had made a mistake because the information was so basic and obviously aimed at someone with little or no experience with firearms. And that is perfectly fine: everyone has to start somewhere. But as I got further into the book, and Cunningham got into discussing issues as to storing, accessing and handling the rifle, I started picking up some tips that I found useful. So, by the time I finished the book, I was satisfied that it had been worth my time and money.

       The first thing I want to clarify about this book is what it is not. This is not a book about using a rifle for just any household. Rather, this is a book about using a rifle on and around a farm or ranch both for personal defense and control of predators or other nuisance animals. Obviously, in that context, it is not a "tactical" manual on small unit combat or patrolling. As Cunningham notes in his book, "[t]he training market today is focused on either target shooting or 'close-quarters battle,' neither of which is really what you need" for protecting a farmstead. He also acknowledges that "[m]ost people live in urban or suburban areas, where the kind of defense we've been discussing isn't part of their reality[.]"

       So, what this book is about is what Cunningham refers to "perimeter defense." That is, defense of not just the curtilage about your house, but adjoining fields, corrals, barns or sheds. You may be awakened by the sound of livestock and discover a dog or coyote trying to kill them, a fox literally in the hen house, or even a thief or rustler (yes, people still rustle cattle); or discover someone(s) attempting to steal equipment or tools.

      While rimfire rifles are good for small nuisance animals, they are too small to be reliable against larger predators, whether two or four legged. Cunningham discusses the common calibers of centerfire rifles, as well as some of the acceptable calibers for pistol caliber carbines (.357 and .44 Magnum), as well as different types (actions) of rifles. I agree with Cunningham that bolt action rifles are less than ideal for defensive purposes, and you would be better off with a lever-action or semi-automatic rifle. Certainly if you have a pack of dogs harassing sheep or cattle, you may need to make multiple, quick shots that may require more speed and ammunition than most bolt-action rifles (most bolt action hunting rifles will only hold 3 to 4 rounds). Cunningham really likes bullpup semi-auto rifles for perimeter defense because of their handiness; that they are slower to reload than a rifle with a standard layout isn't a concern for the perimeter defense because it is extremely unlikely that you would ever use an entire magazine--even the smaller 20-round magazines that Cunningham recommends over 30-rounders because of the better balance and maneuverability.

      One thing that Cunningham raises as an important point is that your rifle must be accessible. He explains:
      The defining characteristic of perimeter defense is the need to retrieve the rifle from where it's being stored and transport it to the point where it can be used against the threat.  
* * * 
       [Unlike the pistol,] [t]he rifle ... isn't usually being carried. ... It's the defensive tool you must retrieve in order to use. You have to go to where the rifle is stored, get it out of its storage place or space, and carry it to the point where you can employ it.
But he also explains that in the heat of the moment, in the panic or excitement, it is easy to want to stick around to deal with the situation rather than going to get the rifle. In addition, even if you can tear yourself away from the situation to get your rifle, you will have to maneuver around obstacles--including, possibly, other people, which may heighten the panic. Thus, Cunningham spends time discussing how to stage your rifle for quick access. In doing so, Cunningham raises a good point: don't have a sling on your rifle because it is too easy to get tangled up. (Use a detachable swivel if you want to be able to be able to attach a sling at other times). I would recommend not even storing it next to other rifles with slings because of the risk of entanglement.

       Cunningham recommends keeping your rifle in a safe or lock box, although he recommends one that uses a push button lock (whether electronic or mechanical) over a dial lock, key lock, or biometric system. I suppose that if you normally have access to a handgun, it would be acceptable to have a defensive rifle locked up. But if that is your only weapon for self-defense, you may need to access the weapon faster than a safe or lockbox would allow. 

        Cunningham then goes into deploying the rifle, including the trade off between the time to take the shot and precision. "That first shot is your best opportunity to affect the attacker's ability to hurt you or the life you're protecting. Once the first round is fired, the situation deteriorates; people (and animals) start moving, and the scene becomes more chaotic." Also:
        Once you've made the decision to shoot, based on what's happening in front of your eyes, there is still a lot you need to do. If the rifle doesn't already have a round chambered, you need to quickly put it into a condition where it's ready to shoot. You need to assess what level of precision the target requires of you and what shooting position you need to use to deliver that level of precision. 
        Regardless of your selected shooting position, the rifle has to get onto your shoulder and in contact with your cheek, and the safety, if the rifle is so equipped, has to be turned off.
Cunningham devotes an entire chapter each to the subjects of aiming, trigger control, shooting positions, moving to the threat, and shouldering and firing. He also discusses accessories, ammunition, and zeroing the rifle. There is something even for the experienced shooter on these points.

        In sum, if you are inexperienced with rifles, this book will guide you through all the basics. If you are experienced, you may find the book to be too basic; yet, even then, I found helpful tips and suggestions. And at only $6.99 for the Kindle version, it isn't a lot of money out of pocket.


  1. Replies
    1. You are welcome. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise.

  2. I too own and have read Grant's new book. I also have read quite a few reviews of this book, but few to none have pointed out that much of the content of the book can also apply to suburban living. I am one of those rare people who own two homes - one in the country and one in the suburbs of a medium sized city. It is my opinion that, in the suburbs, "perimeter defense" may be defined as "line of sight." IMO "line of sight" means everywhere I can see in a straight line from my household and yard. Between my front door and my neighbor's house across the street is my perimeter...but not behind my neighbor's house which is blocked from my sight. Basically, I am talking about any area from which an attacker could fire on my position. In short, although Grant's book is written with the rural homestead in mind...much of what he says also applies to more urban settings. I would recommend his book to all audiences interested in "home defense."

    1. Yes. Although the intended audience is rural, the information in the book is applicable to anyone that is interested in using a rifle for self-defense. Just be cognizant of the legality of employing or carrying a weapon outside your home in an urban or suburban setting. For instance, assuming there are no restrictions on hunting, a rural farmer or rancher could step outside his home and shoot a coyote on his property; in an urban or suburban setting, such action would likely violate some ordinance or law on discharging a firearm within city limits, or recklessly discharging a firearm, etc. And, in an urban or suburban location, there is value to not alarming a neighbor (either to avoid the police being called or for simple purposes of OPSEC). If I hear a crash coming from my back porch or back yard that prompts me to go outside to see what is happening, it is more circumspect to slip a pistol in my pocket or keep it against my side so it can't be easily seen than to step out carrying a rifle.