One of the leading reasons a person buys a firearm is for protection of the home. Protection of the home is a pretty sacred right in the United States with very few states and cities make it difficult for men and women to defend their homes. When it comes to home defense there are a lot of different opinions out there on a lot of different weapons. The three firearms that compete to be home defense firearms are the modern handgun, the repeating shotgun, and the semi-automatic rifle. Today I want to explore all three weapons and discuss their advantages and disadvantages.
After doing a bit of research and talking to a few people knowledgeable in the subject it does seem that there is no perfect answer for every person. Different homes, situations, and people will have a gun that is best for them. There is no end all be all best home defense platform, just different platforms. At the end of the day, the most important thing is having a weapon to defend your family.
The littlest of the bunch is the pistol or the handgun. When I talk about defensive handguns for home defense I am talking about modern semi-automatic pistols. Revolvers are great, and if that’s all you have it’ll do, but the modern handgun offers so many more advantages. By modern handgun, I mean the Glock series, the SIG Sauer P series, the S&W M&P guns and so on and so forth.
The Pistol is the lightest of the home defense weapons and this can be important to petite shooters. The pistol is very maneuverable and easy to handle in close quarters combat. As a Marine whenever I had to clear a stairwell I’d switch to my M9 for a reason. It’s insanely easy to maneuver in tight quarters. The handgun can also be used with one hand relatively easily and accurately, especially if a shooter trains to do so.
Certain pistols can be outfitted with extended magazines to give them an edge, but most modern 9mm handguns will come with at least a 15 round capacity magazine. A handgun can also be hidden and kept on the body when answering doors or investigating noises. This can prevent undue panic in an innocent stranger in need but give you a weapon to combat someone will ill intent.
Also If you can afford only one gun and need a weapon for both home defense and concealed carry the handgun can pull double duty.
The pistol is the weakest of the bunch. Pistols are considered secondary weapons for a reason. They are extremely dangerous but are also the least likely to stop an attacker with a single shot. Shot placement with handguns is extremely important for them to be efficient. Handguns are also the hardest to shoot accurately so you may need some extra time at the range you become proficient with a handgun.
The rifle was long considered a bit much for home defense but times and attitude have changed significantly about the rifle. A modern semi-automatic rifle is an efficient tool for home defense. The AR 15 in particular in an excellent platform due to its capacity, cost, accessibility, and modularity. A home defense rifle should be a centerfire weapon that feeds from a box magazine and be in a controllable and easy to use platform.
The home defense rifle is quite powerful and very capable of doing damage to the human body through the speed at which the projectile travels. Rifles are also easier to control than handguns or shotguns and with three points of contact and minimal recoil a shooter can easily engage multiple targets and fire rounds accurately in quick succession. Modern semi-auto rifles most often feed from 30 round magazines which provide enough ammo for multiple home invaders.
The home defense rifle is easily equipped with optics, lights, and other accessories to make it a true close quarters combat machine. When paired with the correct ammo they may penetrate drywall but rapidly lose energy and become less likely to continue traveling than both pistol and shotgun rounds. These rounds include the Hornady V-Max and Nosler Ballistic Tip. The modern rifle is a very capable weapon and their use in the War on Terror have proven them to be dependable close quarters weapons. They’ve also become more and more affordable over the last few years.
The primary disadvantage will likely be the weight of the gun for a smaller shooter. Some rifles, especially pistol caliber rifles, can be incredibly light. A rifle is designed to be fired with two hands and in a pinch, it can be used with a single hand with severely detrimental effects. The rifle is also longer which can make it difficult to navigate small areas and harder to use when opening doors and other navigational tasks.
The shotgun, specifically the repeating shotgun, has been a favorite for home defense for a long time. A repeating shotgun is typically a pump or semi-automatic design. Shotguns come in various calibers but 12 and 20 gauge are the most commonly used for home defense. Shotguns are quite affordable, easy to find, and often available in states with strong gun rights infringements. A pump action shotgun can be had for less than 200 dollars making them very accessible for those on a budget.
The strength of the shotgun is its power. A shotgun delivers a payload of shot per trigger pull and with standard 2 ¾ 00 buckshot you are sending nine 33 caliber pellets at a threat. In close range, the spread is likely to be about the size of the fist when it hits an opponent. The 9 projectiles are more likely to strike a vital organ which that first shot. Shotguns are also more capable of causing significant blood loss from a single shot.
Shotguns can also be very light weapons and guns like the Mossberg Maverick can weigh as little as six pounds. They are also very easy to use and pump actions are insanely reliable due to their manual action. Shotguns also offer the user a multitude of different types of ammo including differently sized buckshot, reduced recoil ammo, slugs, and even less lethal ammo.
The shotgun is best used as a shoulder fired weapon. It’s quick and easy to point and fast to get on target, especially if the target is moving, or its dark. The shotgun is a thinking man’s weapon.
The biggest disadvantage of the shotgun is the training it requires to run effectively. It has a high level of recoil with 12 gauge buckshot this can be reduced with managed recoil loads or a semi-auto gun. The shotgun also has low capacity in most configurations including box fed models. This means knowing how to reload your gun is absolutely critical. Shotgun also require two hands to use and are a challenge for most shooters to move and shoot with. As a two-handed, long gun, they are difficult to use when managing doors and other obstacles requiring a second hand.
Choosing one or another as your primary self-defense weapon can be a challenge. Different situations require different tools. Small homes and apartments may be better served with a pistol due to their small size. A shotgun is perfect for bunkering down in one room and engaging threats through a funnel. The rifle is a great tool when you may not know if you’ll be clearing a house or holding steady.
You can choose one, but it may be a wise idea to have more than one. Having a weapon ready for a home invasion scenario allows you to be flexible and to adapt to the situation as it arises. Of course, budgeting exists and if one is all you can afford to choose one that you are comfortable with, can afford, and can practice frequently with.