Home Defense Guns – controversy brewing

Controversy seems to be brewing as to what are the best home defense guns, and which ones will get you killed.

 I am going to come to TTAG’s defense here a bit on this issue. I believe TTAG is partly correct, and partly wrong, and the delivery was questionable. I believe a rifle can be a poor choice for home defense, and a handgun can be a good choice.  I believe the best choice is largely determined by your home and your training. 

Nearly every firearm has the potential to over-penetrate – some more so than others. If I had my dithers I would go with a 20 gauge short barrelled shotgun.  Sadly, the BATFE has made that a less than easily accessible option.  So we’ll put that aside for now.

The truth is, every person is different, and every home is different. The best defense is usually not a concern of the firearm that you are wielding, but of the head that is wielding the firearm.  To live, you’ll need two things.

  1. A reliably working firearm and
  2. A “head” on your shoulders that knows how to use it and how to keep you and your family safe.

The best strategy, is to gather your family in a safe room area. Be armed. And when you identify the intruder and they enter your safe area, you make the area “safe” again. But that’s a perfect scenario. (actually the perfect scenario is that the intruder never bothers your home or loved ones to begin with).  There are scenarios that might require retrieving a toddler from a nearby bedroom, or even confirming there is a threat in your house (no point spending 3 hours cooped in your house waiting for a fallen dish pan to leave).

Let’s return to the topic at hand, what firearm to use?

The best option is different for different people and different homes. I know some advocate shotguns, others ARs and others pistols. Most disparage whatever is not that which they advocate.
When is a Handgun is Best?

Many people are used to large open houses. My mom has a very small and cramped house. Her wielding a long heavy shotgun in that home would be awkward and would likely impede her movement and ability to respond.  I do not believe a shotgun nor a rifle would be the best choice for her.  Furthermore, 90% of her firearm experience is with shooting .357 revolvers. 

So what would I recommend to my mom for home defense? A large cumbersome long gun for her narrow cramp home? A system she has little to no experience handling or shooting?  Or a revolver which she can store easily, handle easily and has a fair amount of experience and competance in shooting?

Duh…it’s a no brainer. Give my mom a revolver (and watch out bad guys, she’s good shot).

If you live in a cramped place, or even an RV, then a handgun might be the best tool for your scenario. Especially, if you have a lot of familiarity with pistols and revolvers.
When is a Shotgun Best?

You’ve got a fairly large traditional American home. You’ve hunted or participated in trap. You’re quite familiar with shotguns.  Don’t rely on racking the chamber of the shotgun, if “bad guy” can hear that, then you’re probably already too late in loading.

Shotguns are very effective defensive weapons. They fire a large amount of led. They are not long range weapons, but for home defense you don’t need a 100 yard gun. You need an immediate in your face weapon. And a shotgun provides that.

It also has the benefit of spread, allowing for even a poorly aimed shot to potentially hit it’s target. But don’t think Hollywood – you are NOT going to point a shot gun at a wall and blow a 3 foot hole in it.  Think of it as the difference between a rifle bullet putting a small hole and a shotgun maybe hitting the area of a 50 cent piece.

Disadvantages, they’re long, and can be rather cumbersome in cramped quarters. But when it comes to having all your family members safely behind you barricaded in your “safe area” few things rival the effectiveness of a shotgun.

Other consideration: Realize a 12 guage has a lot of kick. Consider a 12 guage, and make sure you have a good defensive load. Many people talk about using birdshot, but most experts vehemently discourage it’s use for self-defense. You want something that will stop a predator, not just maime or piss them off.

When is a Rifle Best?

Many rifles are likely to over-penetrate through a house, and potentially a neighbors house. However, some studies seem to point to the .223 caliber (and perhaps other .22 caliber rounds) as being less likely to over-penetrate than many handgun rounds.

This is due to the tendency of the small round to fragment and/or tumble. 

When it comes to rifles, I would recommend choosing “wisely”. Furthermore, be mindful that rifles can be long and cumbersome as well. That said, our own military devised the M4 style carbine for with close-quarters in mind. And such principles also influenced many bullpup rifle designs. These shorter profiles allow for greater flexibility of movement within confined quarters (ie: your house).  While such shortened designs sacrifice long-range accuracy, this is not a concern in home defense.

Who best to use such a weapon for home defense?  Prior military who have a large basis of experience using the M16/M4/AR platform.  That experience basis is likely to make up for any disadvantages the platform may have over the handgun or shotgun.


The real deciding factor is that you have a reliably working firearm, that you know how to use it, and that you have trained initiative to respond to such a situation; having already plotted out a course of action as well as alternative fallback strategies.

Rather than listen to the great debate of what tool is best, I am of the opinion that you should use for home defense whichever tool YOU are BEST at. The last thing you want to be doing is fumbling with a 12 guage trying to make it loaded and ready, because your best bud told you it was the best and only home defense choice. All while your reliable and familiar .357 Magnum sits locked away unused.

Published in: on March 16, 2012 at 10:19 am  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] Home Defense Guns – controversy brewing […]

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