ASR Rifles and ASR Med Kits
Most people get guns for “GPs,” general purposes. But, like golf clubs, different guns have different niches in your battle plan. Before you get a gun (or another gun), you should have some idea what you plan to accomplish with it.
Tactical Niche: What is it for?
For example, a smaller pistol might be your concealed carry gun, and a larger pistol may be better for home defense.
If you only have one handgun, then it’s your GP pistol: anything you need to do with a pistol must, and probably can, be done with it. You may need to train more or differently, or wear certain clothes, to make it fit different niches that might be filled more easily by different pistols.
An AR-pistol or “Krink” clone, with or without a (soon to be banned) brace, fits somewhere between home defense pistol and zombie apocalypse rifle. It’s a good grab-and-go gun for escape and evasion, as well as for repelling boarders from your car in a riot situation (think Reg Denny)–although it would be deafeningly loud in the latter situation. But as with your only pistol, if that’s all you’ve got, it must fill every possible role.
A rifle caliber pistol you have for defending the house or fighting from inside your car if you are bugging out from a natural or man-made disaster will likely have a shorter barrel than a dedicated mobile Active Shooter Response (ASR) rifle.
What is an ASR?
An ASR rifle is something you keep in a lock box in your vehicle, mainly for one mission: putting down a rabid dog who is, say, shooting up a parking lot or sniping at cars from a freeway overpass.
It’s something we use ONLY in the first couple minutes after an active shooter event kicks off, usually if the bad guy is in an open area, and the good guys are still a few minutes out. If you let the situation continue, the body count will pile up.
Also, the longer such a situation goes on, the more on-duty protectors will arrive, and the greater the likelihood that they will mistake YOU for the bad guy (see WHEN We Unlimber an ASR and Hazards of Self-Deployment below).
The ASR weapon fills a niche similar to a military “designated marksman” rifle, about halfway between a standard issue M4 and a sniper rifle.
Desirable Qualities of an ASR
The most important are reach, discernment (see below), and penetration of armor / windows / glass doors / car bodies.
- An ASR rifle might be more likely to have a longer barrel, and a more powerful cartridge with better penetration.
- A reflex (red dot) sight might be better for indoors–for most social work, really (even police sniper engagements are rarely at more than 80 meters)–but the ASR rifle probably should have a magnified optic. Not so much for accuracy at distance, which is important, but for discernment: knowing who is whom and what is going on down range, which is more important.
Volume of fire (ammo capacity and type of action) is not as important for an ASR if the rabid dog is a lone wolf. If it’s a massive, coordinated attack like in Mumbai (and elsewhere), I might wish my .308 ASR was a 5.56, which might be more mobile and carry more bullets (see The Next Mumbai below). But the lone wolf (or at most, a suicide pact pair) is more likely to happen, so my planning and equipment leans that way. I can press a .308 into service during a coordinated zombie apocalypse but I will run out of ammo sooner and will tire out faster, because it (and each cartridge for it) is heavier.
An old turnbolt repeater, like a Mauser KAR-98, can be pressed into service as an ASR, although a scoped hunting rifle would be better. Not so much if the bad guy has lots of friends who suddenly appear out of the woodwork. Turnbolts are suboptimal for clearing buildings–but you probably have no business doing that unless your kid is in there and the cops are still minutes out.
WHEN we unlimber an ASR
It’s hackneyed, but true, that
when seconds count, the cops are only minutes away.
Professional rescuers who witness a cardiac arrest–a person suddenly collapses in front of them–have slightly different CPR protocols than those who roll up on a man who’s been down for an unknown length of time.
Likewise, the least bad (notice I didn’t say “best”) time to unlimber an ASR is if you are loading your groceries when the balloon goes up (old geezers like me use that phrase to mean “when the bad stuff starts”). You’re minding your own business on a peaceful day when you suddenly hear shots and screams across the parking lot.
If he’s close by, take him out with your EDC (every day carry) pistol.
But if he’s out of pistol range, it’s safer, and more importantly may be FASTER, to invest a few moments unlimbering the ASR rifle. Your rifle bullet will cross the open area far more swiftly than you can run. You will not be exposing yourself as much if you don’t have to get closer to get within the effective range of a less capable handgun or shotgun. Also, your rifle bullet is far more likely to put the guy down with one or two shots than bullets from most handguns.
Last time I was involved in something like that, the bad guy, who had a rifle, took 8 or 9 hits from police handguns (using law enforcement jacketed hollowpoint .40 and 9mm+P ammunition) before he went down. While he was still on his feet, he shot 3 cops, all of whom went down from 1 or 2 hits (two of the agents died right there; the bad guy expired in the hospital later that day).
In other words, a single bullet from your rifle is far safer for the citizenry than multiple pistol bullets zinging through the neighborhood.
Hazards of Self-Deployment
Even if you are a special agent or detective, running around in plain clothes with a rifle at an active shooter event is a great way to get shot by responding police.
On 21 June 2021, armed citizen Johnny Hurley took on a nutjob who had just murdered Police Officer Gordon Beesley, and was running around Old Town Square (a busy shopping and restaurant district) in Arvada, Colorado with an AR-15. Hurley successfully stopped the murderer with well aimed pistol fire. Then Hurley picked up the murderer’s AR-15–and was shot dead by responding cops.
Police are even more likely to shoot an armed citizen responding to an active killing event in a state like California or New York, where most of the populace (except for the crooks) are disarmed (as opposed to flyover states, where teenagers have rifles in their cars so they can hunt deer right after school–and for some reason there is less gun violence).
I carry an old marked raid jacket with my ASR kit. It took me a long time to earn my pension, and I don’t intend to miss out on a dime of it getting shot by the good guys while performing my civic duty. I figure that if I live through the experience, we can hash out details of my pay status later.
If you are not a law enforcement officer (LEO) or retired LEO, it’s a BAD idea to have a raid jacket in your trunk with your rifle. It might be considered de facto evidence that you intend to do a pseudo-cop robbery.
You may be able to have a legitimate marked garment that could prevent your getting shot (or at least cause the cop looking at you over her or his sights to pause and assess). Maybe you pull security for rock concerts, or are on a volunteer fire department. Anything that screams good guy would help, especially if you just shot a bad guy with your ASR.
If you did, and you hear the sirens approaching, DROP THAT RIFLE LIKE IT’S ON FIRE.
IF your first indication that something is wrong is a bunch of police cars racing past you, DON’T get involved, unless the cops are overwhelmed (see Backing the Blue below).
If you feel you must do something, reach in that trunk and pull out a medical kit instead.
ASR Med Kits
An ASR med kit should have redundant bleeding control supplies, like tourniquets, gauze, and pressure dressings. Nasal cannulas are also good, but BCon should be the main thing. When I was a LEO, my ASR Med kit contained numerous zip-lock sandwich bags, each with an inch-thick stack of 4x4s (which can be bought in bulk) and some roller gauze.
My plan, if I ever had the misfortune of responding to (another) active shooter, was to pitch the sandwich bags at bystanders holding direct pressure on the wounded as I ran by.
Commercial tourniquets work better, but they can be prohibitively expensive if you’re a volunteer rescuer buying them with your own money to hand out to masses of bleeding people.
The RTF (Rescue Taskforce) model is becoming a nationwide standard for active shooter events. The idea is to combine medical and security assets in the wake of an active killer.
It was not always so. A combat nurse from my ‘Guard Aeromedical Evacuation squadron, who had recently graduated from a Tactical Medicine course, self-reported, with his med gear, to the command post at Columbine High School. He was told to wait. So he did. For three hours. While Dave Sanders and others inside the school bled to death.
Now, if you run up to an active shooter scene with a med kit (and the documented training to use it) after the first contact teams have made entry, a pair of cops might grab you and a firefighter or two to search the warm zone for wounded victims.
On 03 Apr 2006, I was eating with an old friend in the golf course club house at Dover AFB. A C-5 crashed just short of the Dover runway. The C-5 is one of the biggest planes ever, so I figured they might need some extra help. Security waved me in, and reported to the command post to offer my services. They said they were glad to see me–but I wasn’t needed after all. Although the gigantic plane was broken in half, and one engine was still on fire, all 17 souls who had been onboard were out and alive. All but three were unhurt.
Hazards of Self Deployment, revisited
Beslan was an indescribably horrible situation. It was made a little worse by citizens trying to save their kids.
There was a hostage situation in Stockton, CA that went mobile. Way too many cops from different agencies self-dispatched to help. The effort became massively uncoordinated, and it turned into a huge (forgive the English) shit show.
The same thing happened in the aftermath of the Watertown shootout with the Boston Marathon bombers. “Everybody wants to touch the magic,” one of the Boston Marathon investigators told us, when I worked on a Joint Terrorism Taskforce.
However, there are times when even the cops could use some better armed backup.
Backing the Blue
When I was a rookie cop, I learned of a highway trooper in the western part of Wyoming who pulled over a bad guy for speeding. The bad guy thought it was about the bank he’d just robbed, or whatever crime he’d just committed, so he came out shooting. The cop was severely wounded and went down. The bad guy walked up to finish him off. He stood over the trooper and took aim.
His head exploded.
Not the cop’s.
The bad guy’s.
A passing hunter said to himself “That don’t look right,” stopped his truck, and unlimbered a scoped hunting rifle on the bad guy’s head from a hundred or so meters away. He saved the trooper’s life.
The media does not like to mention it, but citizens, even armed citizens, often come to the aid of the police.
In October of 2020, a couple, back in their old hometown of Lyons, Kansas for a wedding, saw a police officer get gunned down as they drove past. The lady jammed the tranny into reverse, backing up between the downed cop and the (still active) incoming fire. The couple bailed out of their car on the downrange side, scooped up the cop, and drove him to the hospital, saving his life.
Armed citizens have been helping with active shooter response since active shooters became a thing.
Several armed citizens came to the aid of the Austin PD on August 1, 1966. Their return rifle fire was the only even moderately effective way of taking the fight back to the sniper on the concrete walled observation deck of the University of Texas clock tower, about 70 meters up. Armed citizen covering fire allowed three officers and another armed citizen to reach the building, eventually storming the observation deck and killing the sniper.
The nearby B&B gunshop “loaned” rifles and ammunition to LAPD officers during the North Hollywood shootout of 28 Feb 1997 (Officer John Caprarelli, Uniform Decisions, p. 147).
The Next Mumbai
From 26 to 29 November 2008, a squad of 10 Pakistani terrorists went on a carefully planned rampage at numerous locations in Mumbai, India. They attacked a train station, a hospital, a Jewish community center, and hotels full of people. They blew up taxis, set buildings on fire, shot cops and civilians. They also took hostages, pretending to have demands, to delay and confuse the police response.
Such Complex Coordinate Attacks (CCAs) are the future of terrorism.
CCAs can overwhelm police response by attacking over a wide geographic area. Urban uprisings such as the Los Angeles insurrection of 29 Apr to 04 May 1992 (the “Rodney King” riots) pose similar challenges.
When most people joke about a “zombie apocalypse” they’re referring to the Walking Dead. When I write about a zombie apocalypse, I’m really talking about widespread civil unrest or geographically dispersed terrorism like the Mumbai attacks.
The best way to prevent hypovolemic shock is to stop the bleeding at the point of injury, as soon as possible thereafter. The best civilian response to a zombie apocalypse should also be at the “point of injury.” Deny the terrorists or looters soft targets. Give them no safe, “gun free zones” to operate in. If every single one of their erstwhile victims throughout the region remained calm and returned fire–or even simply dogpiled them–there could be no apocalypse. There would only be dead Tangos and a few good guy casualties (some are inevitable).
As mentioned above, while the typical ASR mission can be completed with a few shots from a high powered rifle, response to a CCA or other zombie apocalypse might be better solved by the so-called “assault rifles” firing intermediate cartridges.
If you are in a restaurant when a CCA or widespread riot takes place, your ASR or zombie apocalypse rifle will likely be in your car, rather than slung across your chest. Use your pistol to fight your way back to it. Or take one from the bad guys.
That’s why Heloderm’s Defensive Pistol students train to trade up to the bad guy’s systems and to resupply ammunition off the downed Tango(s), as Brian Chontosh did.
The foundation of this article was an email I sent to a student on 30 Jan 2021.
–George H, Lead Instructor, Heloderm LLC