TABLE 5-1 Comparing Sampling Design of the NCVS and NSDS


National Crime Victimization Survey

National Self-Defense Survey


  • Noninstitutionalized U.S. population, age 12 and over, each year since 1973

  • Defensive gun use questions to victims (self-reported)

  • U.S population, age 18 and over, with phones, 1993

  • DGU questions to all respondents

Sample design

  • Rotating panel design

  • Stratified, multistage cluster sample of housing units

  • Telephone and personal contacts

  • One-shot cross-section

  • Stratified by region (South and West oversampled)

  • Random digit dialing

Sample size

Approximately 50,000 households and 100,000 individuals

4,997 individuals

Response rate

Approximately 95% of eligible housing units

61% of eligible numbers answered by human beings


U.S. Census Bureau for U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics

Research Network

Estimated defensive gun use

116,398 annual incidents using 1993-1994 data from redesigned survey

2,549,862 annual incidents

SOURCE: McDowall et al. (2000: Table 1). Used with kind permission of Springer Science and Business Media.

Was there anything you did or tried to do about the incident while it was going on?

Did you do anything (else) with the idea of protecting yourself or your property while the incident was going on?

Responses to these follow-up probes are coded into a number of categories, including whether the respondent attacked or threatened the offender with a gun.

The NSDS was a one-shot cross-sectional phone survey conducted by a private polling firm, Research Network, of a representative sample of nearly 5,000 adults (age 18 and over). The survey, which focused on firearms use, first assessed whether the respondent used a gun defensively during the past five years, and then asked details about the incident. In particular, respondents were first asked:

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