The Guns of the Defenders

Most people buying guns these days are doing so for self-defense and home defense. It’s been the leading influence of gun purchases for years now. In those years, we’ve seen several high-profile situations where an armed citizen has made a significant difference. Heck, the NRA chronicles them in their member’s magazines. Over and over, we’ve seen brave men and women make a difference and save lives by being armed, ready, and responding with the utmost courage. Today, we are chronicling what I call “the Defenders” and their firearm choices.

Defenders are people willing to carry firearms and use them to defend themselves, their loved ones, and others. We’ll look at these heroes, their feats, and the tools they used to get it done and make a difference. You may notice I’ve left active duty law enforcement out of the mix. I wanted to focus specifically on the civilian Defender, who doesn’t have a profession of service and protection but rose to the occasion. 

Eli Dickens and the Glock 19 

Eli Dickens is the epitome of an average dude. He’s just a guy at a mall with his girlfriend. His gun of choice is the Glock 19. As far as guns go, it’s tough to find a better combination of basic but effective weapons than the Glock 19. This compact 9mm handgun has been in production for decades and armed countless concealed carriers. It defines the compact genre. 

Glock 19 gen 4
The Glock 19 is an Austrian classic compact pistol.

Eli Dickens used the Glock 19 to shut down an active shooter armed with a rifle in the middle of a busy mall. He began firing from as far as 50 yards away. Dickens used the environment to provide cover and a trash can to provide a stable sight picture. He fired ten rounds and landed eight. His range varied as he continually approached the threat, seemingly without fear. 

According to his lawyer, his cadence in firing slowed due to the panic of shoppers. He kept his mind right in the face of adversity and did not fire when potential innocents were within his sight picture. That kind of discipline is nuts, and Eli Dickens is a credit to his country and community. 

Jeanne Assam and the Beretta 92FS 

While Jeane Assam had been a police officer, she had left the world of police work before her experience at the New Life Church. She was a volunteer security officer at the Church, and in 2007, a coward armed with a rifle opened fire on churchgoers as they left the sanctuary. Jeanne Assam admitted she asked God to be with her as she engaged the threat. 

Beretta 92FS handgun
Who doesn’t love the Beretta 92FS? (Photo: Beretta)

She hit the attacker 10 times with her Beretta 92FS. The Beretta 92FS is a big gun and the basis for the Beretta M9, which served the United States from 1985 til roughly now. The Beretta 92FS is the quintessential wonder-nine. It holds 15 to 17 rounds of 9mm in an all-metal, beefy DA/SA design. 

Jeane Assam shot the threat in both his femoral and carotid arteries. The coward bled out and died on the scene. Good.

Jeane Assam is credited with saving over 100 lives that day with cool hands, quick thinking, and a Beretta 92FS. 

Mark Vaughan and the AR-15 

Mark Vaughan is a reserve deputy with his local sheriff’s department but was not acting as a police officer on the day he stopped a brutal threat. Vaughan was the chief operating officer of Vaughan Foods, a grocery store in Oklahoma. A recently fired employee came into the store one fateful day armed with a knife. 

The AR-15 is easily the best-selling firearm in history. (Photo: Jim Davis)

He killed one woman and was on a rampage in the store. Vaughan went to his truck, retrieved an AR-15 he kept on the ready as well as an armored vest, and intercepted the threat. Before anyone else was seriously harmed, Mark Vaughan fired three rounds into the vicious killer. He had given the man ample opportunity to surrender, but the man rushed Vaughan. 

Mark Vaughan does consider himself a hero. He claims he was just doing what was needed that day to protect his employees. A rifle allowed for accurate and quick shots on a threat inside a very highly occupied location. 

Samuel Williams and the Taurus TCP 

Samuel Williams doesn’t look like the type to involve himself in a gunfight. The 71-year-old Flordia man wasn’t looking for trouble in the summer of 2012. He situated himself in an internet cafe, using a computer, when two men stormed the cafe in what appeared to be an attempted armed robbery. 

Taurus TCP handgun
The Taurus TCP isn’t much of a gun, but it got the job done. (Photo: Taurus)

One man wielded a handgun and the other baseball bat. They ordered the patrons not to move, but apparently, Samuel Williams didn’t take kind to that and retrieved his TCP. The TCP is a Taurus micro .380, one of the OGs of the pocket .380 craze that had overtaken the 2010s. Samuel Williams engaged the two with his micro .380 ACP. The little gun likely bucked hard, and the short sight radius makes hitting anything difficult. 

Williams engaged the two threats and sent them scurrying like the cowards they were. This one old man took on two armed thugs and likely saved lives that day. Quick thinking and a little gun did wonders to save the day. 

Jack Wilson and the SIG P229 

Jack Wilson was a simple, God-fearing man attending a Sunday service when the worst-case scenario occurred. A deranged man with a shotgun entered the Church with the intent to kill the church-going crowd. Six seconds after the man pulled the shotgun, he was dead. The steady hand of Jack Wilson and his Sig Sauer P229 in .357 SIG ended the fight. 

SIG P229
The SIG P229 is a very capable pistol. (Photo: Sig Sauer)

Jack Wilson served as a volunteer on the Church’s security team and was seemingly a crack shot. He put down the threat with a single round to the threat, who promptly dropped to the ground and died. The P229 is a compact gun, but basically in name only. It’s a big, all-metal handgun with a DA/SA design, is well-proven, and it’s one of the better DA/SA guns out there. 

The .357 SIG is an interesting cartridge that promises .357 Magnum power in a semi-auto platform. The cartridge itself has fallen out of vogue, but as Jack Wilson proved, it doesn’t need to be popular to be effective. Wilson served as a reserve deputy and was a firearms instructor. He clearly has the skill to teach, as he took down an armed attacker with a well-aimed headshot. 

Stephen Willeford – AR-15 

On November 5th, 2017, the town of Sutherland Springs was beset by a mass murderer, armed and armored. He targeted a church and aimed to bring havoc to Sutherland Springs. It was a dark day for this small town, but firearms instructor Stephen Willeford stepped up to prevent more bloodshed. He had heard the shots and rushed to load his AR-15 rifle with a handful of rounds as he headed out the door. 

Smith & Wesson M&P rifle Mexican Lawsuit
The AR-15 is a very effective defensive weapon.

He encountered the shooter in the parking lot and exchanged gunfire with him. He struck the man twice, causing him to drop his rifle and flee in an SUV. Stephen Willeford came across another average Joe in a truck, and the two men teamed up and pursued the shooter. They kept the police informed as they followed the man. 

The shooter eventually crashed, and facing an agonizing death due to blood loss, the coward took his own life. Stephen Willeford undoubtedly saved numerous lives that day. His act of valor, his ability to shoot a rifle, and his pursuit of the man prevented other lives from being taken. 

Modern Heroes 

While we often look to heroes of old for inspiration, there are plenty of modern heroes willing to give their lives in the defense of others. We have six of many here. Their bravery, guile, and firearms ensured they could defend their friends, family, and community. It’s a stark reminder of your responsibility to carry every day, to be trained and ready for the fight. 

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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