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The Dragon’s Breath Nonlethal Home Defense for the DIYer, by AJS


Persons in their own home may encounter an intruder who intends to take what they have and do them harm. They might run away, if they could. What if there is no way out? They may have no choice but to stand their ground, and unfortunately many people in a situation like this are reluctant to use deadly force, even if they stand to lose their possessions and possibly sustain personal body harm or even death. So what can these, who desire a nonlethal solution do if they have been forced into a confrontation when the time for talking is over?

A Home Defense Shotgun Load That’s Nonlethal

Imagine you are in your own home under threat by an intruder and you must survive the next two minutes and protect family members. What can you do? May I suggest a home defense shotgun load configuration that may deter intruders, even very nasty ones and even if there are several of them, yet save you from having to use deadly force… at least at first. You might consider using the “dragon’s breath” device, which you can make yourself, as it is not available in stores.

I happened upon the “dragon’s breath” while experimenting with shotgun reloads at my local range. As I am old and feeble now, I find the noise of a large report and the kick of a full 12 gauge recoil to be increasingly annoying. So, I have been experimenting by reloading full buck shot with lighter loads. I would use the same primer and powder measure but use less mass for the business end. It is interesting, but even removing just one of the nine 00 .32 caliber pellets actually makes a noticeable difference in recoil. One of the commercial manufacturers sells lighter loads with just that change; however, you pay more for them because of the extra effort of taking one pellet out, I suppose. I have tried those, and I think my way is better, as I take out one, two, or maybe all of the pellets. I have a choice.

Lighter Loads

Anyway, during my experiments, I got all the way down to just three of the nine pellets in the shell casing and still had good pattern results at 25 yards. It should be noted that most deer that are shot with shotguns are at about that distance, and three pellets in the chest cavity will do the job. So, it is even a good deer hunting load for “flat landers” on small farms.

With a recoil only about a third (three pellets versus nine) of normal, it also makes it easy to be ready for a follow-up shot if necessary. There is much to be said for lighter loads with less recoil.

Collateral Finding– Very Fine Oak Sawdust

However, the real point is the collateral finding, resulted from what I used to take up the extra space in the load. I used very fine oak sawdust, as I was doing a lot of hardwood work in my shop at the time. If you bought a box of 00 buckshot in 12 gauge, you can just peal carefully back the crimped end and dump out as many of the pellets as you care to remove. I was suggesting that since there are nine and you only need maybe three, dump out the six extra and fill the space with sawdust (or flour, but I have not tried that) and really pack it in so the pellets don’t move around. Then re-crimp the top. You might put a felt tip pen mark on the crimp, so you remember it is a light load. Maybe use a small piece of tape to hold the crimped top down while handling. You might remove all the pellets and just have the sawdust in there, if for home defense rather than hunting.

The Name “Dragon’s Breath”

I will explain why I picked the name “dragon’s breath” in a bit. For now, just focus on the use of this potentially nonlethal load.

Be First To Shoot

In the tactical setting mentioned in the introduction, you are confronted with an intruder or multiple intruders in your home. You can’t escape. With your trusty 12 gauge shotgun, which you keep handy for such an occasion, you take aim, even if only in a general direction or even pointed at the floor in front of the bad guy, if you want, and you pull the trigger. Do it right away. It is very important that you shoot first. In home defense, it can be a serious mistake to assume that if you shout a warning or some such notification that the bad guys will get scared and run away. Hey, they are already in your house.

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What If They Shoot First?

What if they shoot first? Studies show it is four to one in your advantage to shoot first. Remember this is potentially a nonlethal load, so if you are reluctant to kill, at least scare them so maybe you do not have to kill.

How It Works

This is how it works. After you point and pull the trigger, the shell goes off and sends the pellets (if any) and sawdust down the barrel, pushed along by the plastic cup wad and sleeve of the shell’s powder load.

Upon exiting, the muzzle and the pellets go to the target unabated, but the sawdust sprays into a big cloud and catches fire from the hot burning powder gasses pushed through from behind. A huge six by six by six foot cloud of yellow orange, which for a fraction of a second looks like the fourth of July even in daylight. It makes a bit of an echo secondary explosion as well. Try it outside just at sundown for an incredible display.

It Would Send a Message

You can imagine that if a bad guy(s) was at the end of the hall and advancing toward you when you aimed, even if just in his general direction and maybe even at the floor and you pulled the trigger, even if you had only the sawdust or substitute flour, it would send a message that they should go away by the same way they came in.

It will probably singe his eyebrows and hair, and if he forgot to wear eye and ear protection, probably a lot more. His ears will be ringing, so he is not going to hear anything you say. So don’t say anything, just assess the situation.

You did not have to kill him, and yet he is likely discouraged and the fight is probably over, at least for now. He may clear the area rather quickly. If necessary, the second shell could have some pellets in it. But that may not be necessary under the circumstances that may be overwhelming.

Look For Stranger In Neighborhood

When the neighbors come to see what the noise was about, you can tell them to look for a stranger in the neighborhood, probably dazed and with smoldering clothing. Then, call the police. You may have to fill out an incident report, so there may be some paperwork, but you don’t have a stiff on your hands, which would be a great deal more paperwork. Also, if it was just the neighbor coming in to tell you he was returning the lawnmower he borrowed you have avoided an embarrassing situation with that first load being the nonlethal one with just sawdust.

What Else Would Work?

You might be wondering if it would work with a 410. Sure, but since you are starting with a much smaller space with just three pellets to begin with, you might have the first load just sawdust and make the second one of just one pellet and the rest sawdust.

How about with a .38 revolver or bolt action center fire rifle load? Sure, it could work, but again it is a smaller payload. With a short barrel, like a .38 with a 3-inch barrel, the spray would be impressive. One of the other old gunners at the range I visit every week was saying he used to load rifle cartridges with the prescribed power measure and then take up the space from the powder to the bullet with sawdust. That kept the powder all packed back by the primer. He thought he got more consistent performance this way, as the powder was always back by the primer instead of shaking around in the empty space, which allowed for reaching a higher pressure faster and more consistently. This is all very technical stuff.

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Anyway, you could put in the powder and then the sawdust. Then, instead of a bullet, push in a piece of used wine bottle cork and seal the top with a drop of nail polish. That is how I waterproof my primers when I reload. The bullet casing for a revolver or bolt action rifle would be much smaller, of course. So, it is less bang for the buck, but it would work. There are alternatives, but the easiest one is to buy the shotgun buckshot and uncrimp, empty pellets, fill with sawdust, recrimp, and mark.

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been another entry for Round 79 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  7. American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.

Second Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  2. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  3. A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
  4. A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
  5. A Three-Day Deluxe Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $190 value),
  6. A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
  7. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
  6. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).

Round 79 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.



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