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Self-Defense in a Trailer Park


As a patrol officer in a Columbus, Ohio, suburb in 1990, I investigated a suicide in a small trailer park. The victim was a male who lived in a single-wide trailer.

He had used a 1911 .45 loaded with ball ammo. Standing in the bathroom, he fired a shot through his right temple. He was only 4 feet from the exterior wall. The slug penetrated both sides of the victim’s head … and the exterior wall, exiting to the outside. Fortunately, there were no neighbors on that side, as the slug was found in a woodpile about 10 yards away.

Affordable … and Penetrable

Mobile homes are notorious for their light construction. This makes them affordable … and easy for bullets to penetrate. It also makes the selection of self-defense handguns and the ammunition loaded in them critical for the safety of innocent bystanders.

Defensive shots, even when accurate and justified, leave the defender ultimately responsible for what the bullets continue to do if they exit the building. Exterior walls of trailer homes, RVs or travel trailers are not dense enough to stop most bullets. And the interior walls are even thinner.

Full metal jacket ammo is out for defensive use in any of these structures (although FMJ ammo in .32 or .25 ACP may be a different story). The use of the major handgun chamberings should also be avoided. You should pass on .45 ACP, .45 Colt, .40 Smith & Wesson, .357 SIG, .357 Magnum and .38 Super. The .38 Special and 9mm — when loaded with the lightest-weight expanding bullets possible — should be the maximum standard handgun chamberings for self-defense in a trailer park.

Choosing a Trailer Park Firearm

Three handguns come to my mind as being ideal for self-defense in an RV or mobile home. All are chambered for the .45 Colt/.410 shotshell. I would choose the .410 shotshell.

The first and least expensive option is the Bond Arms Rowdy two-shot derringer. Priced at $299, the Rowdy offers all the features Bond Arms derringers are famous for with a slightly lower level of exterior polishing. Loaded with traditional 2.5-inch .410 Buckshot or field loads, the .410 delivers a solid blow, with reduced risk of overpenetration.

Two shots not enough? You can step up to .45 Colt/.410 revolvers like the Taurus Judge or S&W Governor. Taurus offers the five-shot Judge Public Defender Polymer for $485.39. Want another round on tap? The Governor is a six-shooter with an MSRP of $869.

Another option is a handgun in .22 LR. People use .22-caliber handguns for self-defense more often than you would think. Soft lead .22 hollow-point bullets are stopped more easily than almost any other type of round.

In any event, know your target and what is beyond. Pick your defensive position and line of fire so that your neighbors and others inside your trailer are not further endangered by your actions. Their safety is in your hands.

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About Scott W. Wagner

Scott W. Wagner has been a law enforcement officer since 1980, working undercover in liquor and narcotics investigations and as a member, sniper and assistant team leader of a SWAT team. He currently works as a patrol sergeant. He is a police firearms instructor, certified to train revolver, semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, semi- and fully automatic patrol rifle, and submachine gun. Scott also works as a criminal justice professor and police academy commander.


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