Final protective fire.

The term “final protective fire” means the highest priority is given to this request due to the danger of a position being overrun. For the guy in the trenches, that means firing as fast as possible to break up a determined assault — even if that uses up barrels and ammo fast. If the FPF fails, there won’t be a “later” for those troops.

How does this relate to civilian self-defense? Very directly: almost every defense against a foe with a contact weapon is an FPF event. Most short range shootings are the same. They are rapid affairs with very little care given to the aftermath — if you fail to stop a guy with a shank, there won’t be an “after” for you. The difference is that you seldom have another person covering you and have to rely on your own firepower to break the attack.

There’s another, far less common case where the same considerations come up — riots and civil disturbances. Unlike personal defense events where attackers are usually few and retreat is sometimes an option, a large-scale civil disturbance doesn’t leave many safe havens. Your home or place of business ends up being the safest location. Having non-combatant dependents with you — such as kids or infirm grandparents — limits your ability to maneuver, while the flimsy construction of most modern homes and offices makes them poor cover against incoming fire. One way to deal with threats in that environment is to outrange the attackers in both firepower and the ability to spare innocent people. Gangbangers going after a juicy target don’t care who they shoot — but you ought to care. It’s good to have the ability to take a precise 200 yard shot against a hostile shooter and still be agile enough to break a rush at 20 yards. As LA riots showed, Molotov cocktails are no joke in urban areas.

Suppressive fire does have a place in such situations: you don’t really care if you kill the foe as long as they are prevented from killing you. The lack of automatic capability isn’t too big of a problem, because it reduces the problems from the lack of interchangeable or watercooled barrels. Thirty rounds per minute is sustainable for a medium/heavy AR15. A hundred would not be for long, but it could come in handy in case of push coming to a shove. While you are unlikely to face a human wave attack, a stolen commercial truck used to crash your neighborhood watch barricade would take a lot of stopping when all you have is a rifle.

This rifle is not shown with a bipod because of its dual long/short range role. Sandbags or other improvised supports would keep the shooter less visible than a bipod, and the forend thermal wrap combined with a VFG would keep the support hand from burning. Smaller magazines would work fine, but there’s something comforting about 150 rounds on tap in a reliable drum.

The rifle, incidentally, isn’t fully mine. The upper was acquired by a friend, a veteran of the South African civil war as an addition to the shorter-range arms. He’s concerned that the US situation may call for such a tool in the near future.

The thermal wraps, by the way, work just as well for three-gun competitions or a long day at the range as they do for stopping hordes of zombies in the wire.

Most equipment would do if you can. That said, an effective range of a 30-30 with open sights is under a hundred yards, while a an AR10 with a variable scope might stretch out to 400 and still be as fast at room distance. While I like having good gear on hand, I think that a dry run through the neighborhood with SuperSoakers or nerf “guns” would do as much to improve the defense plan as a day at the range. Given the cost of ammunition right now, the tactical exercises may be worth doing in preference to more trigger time. Finding ways to join forces with neighbors would be a help as well, since a typical family with two adults cannot hold a fixed position against even a slightly competent assault  for any length of time. 24 hour/360 degree watch would be too hard to effect. Exceptions to that would be locations where the approach can be properly channeled, but that’s not the case for most of us.

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30 Responses to Final protective fire.

  1. Lyle says:

    Those are points worth considering.

  2. That wrap looks like a pretty good idea, actually.

    As for the drums, the guys at Armatac really know their stuff; that magazine is a high quality piece of kit.

  3. Rodger Young says:

    Sustained rate of fire with the M16/M4 is 12-15 rounds per minute. Anything faster over prolonged periods risks cookoffs.

    • Oleg Volk says:

      M4 has a lighter barrel with less surface area than this rifle. 30 might be pushing it but 150 rounds over 5-6 minutes ought to be doable.

      • Gerry says:

        We typically did Mad Minute drills, 100-150 rounds, with a variety of rifles at the begining of DTI training classes. Never cooked any rounds off but did have some smoldering wooden forearms on AK’s and Mini 14.

        I’m sure that rate of fire could not be maintained for any length of time.

    • Sid says:


      There are two possible scenarios.
      One: you are about to be overwhelmed and you won’t care if the weapon is damaged after the firefight is over. In which case, a cookoff is not a terrible thing. A magazine-fed weapon has a built-in feature to stop runaway firing. The magazine runs dry.
      Two: you are just plinking away and the gun gets hot. Believe me, you will notice an AR overheating long before a cook off is a possibility. Lubricant will be smoking and my God the heat. Watch any Youtube of a gun nut capping off rounds. They run out of ammo before they ruin a serviceable weapon.

      So, can I load up 2100 rounds in 14 150 rd magazines and fire them all? No. The gun will overheat. But that is not an issue. You can (and I have) fire 150 rounds reliably out of an AR. Aimed, quick shots. Suppress the upper story windows. Got it. Don’t let anyone leave that draw without fear of life. Got it. Mow down the entire prairie dog clan. Yep.

  4. Bob G says:

    Very good and thoughtful article, Oleg. I was reading about the ’92 Los Angeles riots this week, and consider such a situation pretty close to a worst-case-scenario. When one reads what was done to people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, it’s chilling. Reginald Denny and Fidel Lopez suffered not only beatings but deliberate mutilation and attempted murder. Now is the time to plan how to keep our families safe if such a conflagration comes to our parts of the country. It isn’t hard to think of a chain of events that could become an excuse for murderous rage against the members of whichever group is chosen as the scapegoat.

    Good pic of the Sterling carbine. Have you tried any other pistol-caliber semiautos? The Suomi looks interesting and has a fascinating history.

    • Oleg Volk says:

      I am not a fan of Suomi. I shot it alongside of the PPSh and liked the latter much better — more controllable and better balanced. I didn’t even bother with the semi-auto after that. On the contrary, semi-auto Sterling was better in some ways than the SMG (longer sight radius and closed bolt firing add up to far better accuracy).

  5. Lyle says:

    You’ve never gone product torture test shooting with me. I’m not saying cookoffs never happen, it’s just that I’ve had hand guards billowing smoke many times and I’ve never seen a cookoff. A friend of mine said he once had a cookoff, but to me they’re one of those things you hear about, you look out for by not setting your loaded, hot rifle down and then walking in front of it, but they must be pretty rare. Certainly 150 rounds in an HBAR like that is well within my comfort zone. Understand that we’re not talking about a 150 rd mag dump as fast as you can jerk the trigger. What’s the point in that crap anyway?

  6. weambulance says:

    Good post, but I’d like a little clarification. Why are you calling the effective range of a 30-30 with open sights under 100 yards? Because of the sights? A 30-30 with a low power variable (1-4x) is a 250 meter rifle with the right zero (12″ target, aiming COM with about a 220m zero) and can stretch farther if the shooter can judge drop correctly. Any rifle is pretty much a 100m rifle with no magnification in general conditions.

    I’m not saying I’d choose a 30-30 lever action as a defensive weapon, but my reasons for not choosing one include low capacity, relatively low rate of fire, and glacial reloads, not the fact that it’s a 30-30. Manual actions definitely have their place in my collection, but they suck for fighting people at close range. I have 5.56 carbines for that.

    • Oleg Volk says:

      Sights, mainly. Also capacity and rate of fire. Manually operated actions also heat up more for the same number of shots fired because the hot casings have time to transfer the heat back to the action.

  7. LarryArnold says:

    Any rifle is pretty much a 100m rifle with no magnification in general conditions.

    IHMSA folks shoot 100m with iron sights with handguns. We taught Basic Combat Training recruits to shoot 460m using peep sights on M-14s, and the M-16 course is similar.

    • Oleg Volk says:

      On a range without friendlies. In civilian self-defense, much better target ID is often required. Also, most of us cannot see a 460m target without optics unless that target is deliberately high in contrast. Iron sights are great — I also practice out to 100m with pistol and out to 300 with rifle — but they are less useful than magnified optics for defensive shooting in urban areas.

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  9. Dave says:

    Thanks for the memory!
    I haven’t read the term Final Protective Fire “FPF” in 30 years since Parris Island, 1983.
    We were taught that it was to be used as a last resort, if you were surrounded & were about to run out of ammo so that the enemy just might think you’re on the attack & break off his engagement with you.
    That seems like a better plan than simply running out of ammo…
    We were also taught the M16A1 had a sustained fire of 12 to 15 rd/min, but I cannot imagine any group of street scum wishing to tangle with someone for more than a couple minutes.

    • Oleg Volk says:

      M16A1 had a very thin barrel and minimal heat shields. It would work great for maneuvering infantry but all well for people who can’t get out of harms way due to their homes being right behind. The rifle I pictured is more for fighting from fixed positions or from vehicles (thought it’s a bit long for the latter). Thicker barrel, ventilated handguards with a stand-off should add up to a little more than 12-15 sustained rpm.

  10. Gary Olson says:

    I think the article could use a brief qualifying statement about the function and place of a rifle in FPF. In an urban situation, a semi-automatic rifle will probably be outnumbered by other defensive weapons.

    • Oleg Volk says:

      In the military context, rifles are far down the food chain. Indirect fire, machine guns and other, more potent devices would rule. In civilian self-defense context, the rifle and perhaps semi-auto shotgun would be the best we have available. We don’t have directional command detonated mines, nor machine guns, and no friendly artillery either. We have rifles and everything from that down is less effective. You can try to break a charge with pistol fire but chances of that succeeding are much lower.

  11. MicroBalrog says:

    I don’t think we can properly say that full-auto provides no benefit.

    It’s quite clear that it’s uses by police forces around the world for just these sort of situations for a very good reason.

  12. TOR says:

    FPF’s are not just shooting faster because people are close. They are aimed along specific angles to deny the enemy the ability to overrun your position. Basically putting the MG’s 20 degrees (can’t remember and not willing to dig out FM 7-8) off your lines and going almost cyclic. For most situations their strict definition would not really apply to a home defense situation. It could apply to Korean grocery hypothetically trying to prevent dozens of gang bangers to overrun their position with a vet or two organizing things.

  13. Y. says:

    Why use euphemisms? Zombies?

    While I like having good gear on hand, I think that a dry run through the neighborhood with SuperSoakers or nerf “guns” would do as much to improve the defense plan as a day at the range.

    Paintball markers are pretty affordable these days.

    In civilian self-defense context, the rifle and perhaps semi-auto shotgun would be the best we have available.

    The slidefire stock combined with some heavy-barrel AR build could perhaps double as a LMG in a pinch..

    Can it be fitted on AK’s?

  14. Will says:

    Bump-fire systems require you to focus on what the gun is doing, instead of being focused on your targets/tactical situation. Finicky toys have no place in battle. They are intended for play-time.

  15. Ted N says:

    “Paintball markers are pretty affordable these days.”

    Uncontrolled neighborhood, decent chance of catching somebody that’s not in on the game. Look up what they can do to an unprotected eye, it’s pretty gross.

    Add in that there’s always somebody that doesn’t want to deal with the clean up, and thinks the paint is gonna stain his house, etc.

    Airsoft might be easier, plus they’re similar manual of arms. Would just need to make sure the whole neighborhood knows and has eye pro as well. Still kinda risky, but doable.

    Add in the cost of gear for either set up as well, gonna have people dragging their feet to go buy another toy.

    Fun idea though, I miss playing paintball. Playing in an actual neighborhood would be fun, rather than the pallet and tire piles that most of the fields I’ve been to were made of.

    • Y. says:

      Something like the MILES would be the way to go though. Paintball/airsoft are inaccurate and have low range.

      One day, maybe.

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