Skip to comments.SELECTING A GUN FOR HOME DEFENSE
Posted on 10/10/2008 12:41:21 PM PDT by doug from upland
Selecting a Gun for Home Defense
Published by the LearnAboutGuns.com
Many people purchase their first gun for home defense, and the question of which type of gun to pick is a common one. The three basic choices are a handgun, shotgun, or rifle. Of the three, I would recommend a shotgun for most situations, with handguns being recommended for people who lack the physical ability to handle a shotgun. My recommendation for the ideal home defense shotgun, and the pros and cons of each of these firearm types, in the order which I recommend them, are discussed below.
My ideal home defense firearm is a 12 gauge pump action shotgun with an 18″ barrel and a magazine capacity of 6 shells or more, such as the Remington 870 XCS Marine Magnum. 12 gauge is the most common shotgun gauge these days, and 12 gauge shells are amazingly effective when loaded with 00 buckshot (pronounced double ought buckshot). The 18″ barrel is the minimum length generally allowed by law, and does not make the gun too cumbersome inside a home. The pump action is the pinnacle of reliability, and makes it easy to keep the gun stored safely but ready to use at a moments notice. The gun will be amazingly effective at close range, and the risk of over penetration through exterior walls and subsequent injury to neighbors is lower than with a rifle or handgun.
The gun I listed as my 1st choice, a Remington 870 XCS Marine Magnum, costs about $900, which is nearly three times as much as as basic pump action shotgun such as the Remington 870 Express. The benefit of paying for this more expensive gun comes in the form of better build quality, a corrosion resistant coating, a nice recoil reducing pad on the stock, and the ability of the gun to easily accept magazine extensions. If you feel like spending more on the Remington 870 XCS Marine Magnum go for it, and if not the standard Remington 870 will still provide excellent protection for your home and loved ones.
1st Choice: A Shotgun:
Pros: Incredibly effective. Less risk of injury to neighbors due to over penetration of walls. Cons: Harder to maneuver with in tight spaces due to larger size than handguns.
I would generally recommend a shotgun for home defense, because shotguns are (rightfully so) generally considered to be the most effective short ranged firearm. Rather than shooting a single bullet with each pull of the trigger as a rifle or handgun would do, shotguns shoot multiple pellets. These multiple pellets are more likely to stop an attacker but less likely to pass through the exterior walls of your home and injure your neighbors (note that I say *less* likely, as there is always a risk to bystanders). The recoil from firing a shotgun is heavier than a handgun, but this heavier recoil is more than worth the increase in effectiveness (although there is more to the effectiveness of a firearm than the kinetic energy of its projectiles, you can compare the 500 ft-lbs of energy from a .45 caliber bullet to the 2000+ ft-lbs from a shotgun firing 00 buckshot). For those who are new to guns and not accustomed to recoil, let me assure you that you will quickly get used to it after a few trips to your local range. For those who have a physical condition that does not allow them to tolerate heavier recoil, I would suggest acquiring a gas operated semi-automatic shogun (such as the Remington 11-87) which will be more gentle than a pump action or double barreled shotgun. Another option is to use low recoil shotgun shells, which as the name suggests, will be more gentle than standard shells. Such low recoil shells are going to be slightly less effective than standard shells, but this difference is trivial in the home defense scenario, and some experts recommend low recoil shells for home defense over standard shells.
Another consideration that applies to shotguns and rifles is the length of the firearm. In smaller homes with narrower hallways, a barrel that is too long would make the firearm difficult to maneuver with. For this reason I would suggest a barrel length of 18″, rather than the 30″ barrel which might be more appropriate for hunting or trapshooting purposes.
There are also some accessories you may want to consider for your home defense shotgun.
2nd Choice: a Handgun:
Pros: Easier to maneuver with in tight spaces do to its small size. Lower recoil than most shotguns and rifles. Cons: Less effective than a shotgun or rifle.
A handgun, such as one from the Springfield XD line of pistols, would be my 2nd choice recommendation for home defense.
Handguns are generally less effective than shotguns or rifles, as their projectiles have less energy, but they do have the benefit of being easier to maneuver with in cramped quarters, such as smaller houses and apartments. Handgun bullets will generally penetrate exterior walls more than shotguns, but less than rifles, meaning the danger to your neighbors is higher than with a rifle but lower than with a shotgun. My recommendations for the proper pistol self defense calibers are here. Those who are unsure whether they should select a pistol or revolver will find this article helpful.
Another benefit of handguns is that they often have less recoil and can be less intimidating to some people. Indeed my girlfriend is more comfortable with handguns than with rifles or shotguns, as discussed here. You may also wish to consider certain accessories for your home defense handgun.
3rd Choice: a Rifle:
Pros: Generally much more effective than a handgun. Cons: Rifle bullets have a tendency to over penetrate walls, increasing the danger to your neighbors. A rifle would be my last choice for a home defense firearm, although it would certainly be preferable over throwing sticks and stones at a home invader.
Rifles are generally more effective than handguns, however rifle bullets are able to penetrate much further than the shot from a shotgun or the bullets from a handgun. This creates a much greater risk to your neighbors, without much benefit to you. Rifles are generally designed for longer range shooting (e.g. 100 yards, and much further +) so there is no appreciable benefit in rifle designed for long range shooting within your house, since if you are ever forced to shoot a home invader it will be at very close range. Indeed, shooting at someone who is 100 yards away is almost impossible to justify as self defense. Although rifles are great for many purposes, home defense is not usually one of them, since rifles possess the drawbacks of shotguns (heavier recoil, more physically bulky and difficult to maneuver with in close quarters) while having none of the advantages (such as less of a risk of over penetration). That said, pistol caliber carbines can be a viable self defense option.
Now that you have selected a gun for home defense, pick the proper ammunition.
When discussing the risk of overpenetration, I assumed that the shotgun ammunition being used was 00 buckshot from a 2.75″ shotgun shell, that the handgun ammunition being used was somewhere between 9mm and .45 caliber, and that the rifle ammunition being used was somewhere between .243 and .30-06. Although the danger of over penetration may be lower with shotguns than with handguns or rifles, the projectile(s) from any gun can over penetrate and pose a danger to innocent bystanders. Even if you are forced to fire your gun in self defense or defense of your family, you should not endanger the lives of your neighbors or other innocent bystanders. Also, it should go without saying that firing at a human being is the absolute last resort and is only justified to prevent death or grievous bodily harm from being inflicted on yourself or a loved one. The decision to possess a gun carries with it the moral responsibly to use the utmost care and good judgment. Similary, it is the responsibility of the gun owner to ensure the gun is not stolen by criminals or misused by children, and to comply with any applicable laws on the storage of the firearm.
For those who say that an Obama presidency would lead to another Reagan, you are dreaming. The left, with tens of millions of new dependent voters, will have taken over this nation for generations. They will use their power to prevent the next Reagan.
I’ve got the Springfield XD 40 with a laser. It’s my first gun.
Just where do they think they will get their ‘largess’ for the treasury? I don’t plan on contributing to their ‘success’ by working more. Atlas is shrugging!
Thanks, doug. I’m in the market for a new handgun and every bit of info helps. Still can’t decide whether to trade my Beretta .380 or just get a second one.
I’m picking this up next week:
My daughter works in west Los Angeles. I’m going to ask her to stay home on election day.
I remember the Rodney King riots. People weren’t safe driving through town to get home.
Sheesh.... Listen to yourself man.
With an attitude like that how can we win?!
The glass is not half empty my friend!
2nd Amendment... I’ve heard that Jefferson said it’s beauty is that it won’t be needed until the government tries to take it away.
My 870 is in the shop right now, getting a tune up. I’ll have it back in a couple days.
If the scenario plays out like you suggest, there will be blood in the streets. The only way Obama wins this election is with fraud and the absence of the Wilder Effect. I believe a majority of Americans will REJECT the garbage known as Obama. Americans will not be kept in bondage as long as there is a 2nd Amendment no matter the outcome of the election. American Patriots will do whatever it takes to defend our famiies, and if our leaders decide on tyranny, they will soon discover they are neither bulletproof nor 10ft tall...
one of our GOP precinct captains is an officer in the Sheriff’s office in the county and about 10 of us decided we were going to get guns but get serious first.
I just joined the NRA and the Sheriff Officer said he would set up some training for us.
thank for the info.
Thanks for the education Doug. You may be helping to save a few lives out here.
Finally! A possibly contentious thread that doesn’t have to do with money!
Fit, fit, fit! The best weapon isn’t one that you’ve heard a lot about but one that fits like a glove. If it feels awkward in your grip, it’ll be awkward to shoot.
Best for home defense is a 12 guage without a doubt. The mossberg persuader has the option of 7+1. I put a top folding stock pistol grip on mine, definatly easy to maneuver in a hall way and much easier to shoot from the hip.
I have a Ruger SP 101 .357 magnum (all stainless) and LOVE it! It is inherently safe and very rugged.
I got one because that is what the Navy Seals on board my carrier carried.
It is my home defense weapon. I have frangible rounds for it so if I miss I don't shoot my neighbors.
I use all of those Doug.
12ga shotgun with ... I know are going to say something... +6 birdshot.... but with several shells in the weapon. (I figure if they don’t stop on the first one, then the next three will stop them).
A handgun. 9mm Taurus PT92 15 rounds in the mag and second 15 rnd mag sitting there if I need it. Hollow points.
Rifle is a .30-30. Both loaded, both in the safe. One belongs to me, one to the wife.
She keeps a 9mm - ummm... I forget the maker at the moment, with two 15 rnd mags ready, hollow points.
Those are all available in specific places to prevent a home invasion.
In my case, I have a final backup if an attack really turns to crap. The safe is in my bedroom and I keep a loaded AR15 with several magazines ready to go. I have to be able to open the safe though. If I get to that point, there’s going to be either an all-out firefight, or some would-be intruders.
I personally use a 38 lady colt snub nose with 5 frangible rounds guaranteed deadly. The explode inside the intruder, do not go through walls, no magazine spring to weaken, no hammer to get jammed with the thumb or hang on clothing, and can be easily palmed.
And for the record I can't quibble with any of this advice. Well I could quibble.
OK, I will quibble.
The Marine Maqnum is a great shotgun, but a tad pricey IMO. Look at the Mossberg 500/590 series. They're probably the best value in a pump action these days.
The Springfield SD is an excellent firearm. I've got one chambered in .45 ACP. Haven't really detected any major flaws in design or workmanship yet. Add a laser to the integral rail system and you've got one fine fighting pistol.
Rifles, I'm not even going to get into that subject....LOL
Nicely done, Doug.
What kind of locks are available for shotguns? I know nothing about guns, so keep it simple. Is there a lock that will fit inside the trigger area that can be removed easily with a key? I want that shotgun shown (under my bed), but don’t want a gun safe.
Best is the one that is close by. No fun lugging a 12 gauge around while washing the car.
I’m packed, loaded and ready. The liberty tree needs a drink.
Is it very heavy? The problem I have with the Beretta is that I can’t pull back the slide. Used to (in the ‘80’s, but not anymore.:(
Love the 870. Love Glocks, XDs, and of course, the 1911, best handgun ever crafted.
I am also a 20 guage fan. Plenty of human stopping power, but with the added benefit of easy follow up shots, in case there are multiple boogey men.
Of course, the sound of the first 12 gauge blast would probably send the rest a-scurrying. Wouldn’t want to bet on it, though.
12 ga. semi.
.410 double barrel
No need to buy a Remington marine unless you own a house boat. I picked up a used excellent condition Mossberg 500 for $125 for my son in law. It holds 6 shots and will repel boarders as well as that $900 Remington. Also consider a 20 gauge which are very effective with less weight and recoil.
Nope! It is a small gun, more suited for my wife.
If she can handle it (seeing as it is a .357 magnum) then it shouldn't be a problem for most people.
I only see a problem if you have big hands. Then the grip could be a bit uncomfortable but all in all it is a very fine firing weapon.
Several years ago I was the co-owner of a gun shop and women would frequently come in and talk with me about what gun to have for this or for that...primarily for protection in the house. These women tended to be frightened of the reported recoil of a firearm. I would recommend a shotgun and show them how to place the butt against the headboard so it would take the impact. This was especially helpful with older women. I also talked them out of buying little guns and talked them into the larger 4”-6” barrel revolvers. I suggested a revolver because women, not being taught, tend to forget to pull the slide on a pistol. They were afraid to leave a bullet in the chamber because “it might go off”. A revolver is so much easier to use. I also told them to learn to fire their weapon in the dark and how to make that second shot blind because the flash would temporarily blind them after that first shot. Told them if they intended to carry a gun in the car that they should learn how to shoot it with either hand because, depending on the thug attacking them and ‘his’ position one might have to use a different hand than the dominant one. If people are taught about guns and then are allowed to shoot one in a range they will learn not to fear them. I remember the first time I fired a .44 magnum.....that was the day I realized the immense power of a woman and a big ole gun. Loved it!! Still do!!
Any handgun the starts with a 4
Even a handgun “expert” can forget about the chamber in the round as we have seen from a recent FR thread. And even an “expert” assassin can forget to chamber a round when attempting to shoot President Ford.
If you want a reliable gun that will always fire when loaded and never fire when unloaded, get a REVOLVER.
My pistol is a Ruger GP10 .357. There isn't a single mechanism on that gun that will prevent it from firing if there is a bullet in the cylinder when the hammer comes down. And when you take out the six rounds or six shells, it is completely and totally safe without the possibility of a “hidden” round in the chamber.
A Revolver is much easier to train your wife and teenage daughters on as well; and can be loaded with .38’s for less kick for training (as well as less money per round) but a .357 hollow point or Glaser safety slug for home defense.
Just my 2 cents.
I’ll check it out and thanks a lot.
Good article! I agree that the short barrel 12 bore pump is the best around the house weapon. I personally like #4s’ over 00 for a little better spread.
But one thing that the article misses is that the #1 reason the pumpgun is best is pure dee INTIMIDATION. The idea is not to have to pull the trigger if you can help it. Also, when you rack the slide on the thing it makes a really UNIQUE sound that any fool who has watched TV in the last 30 years will immediately recognize, especially if you are downrange.
Let’s see...Walther P99 - check; Mossberg 590 Special Purpose pump shotgun - check; Henry Golden Boy .22 rifle - check. Praying to God that I will not have to use any of them: double check.
Thanks for the advice.
I haven't touch a weapon since loading them in the Air Force and M-16 quals but as like many I have been seriously thinking about my family if the debris hits the rotating blades!
I live down the road from the great Remington Factory in Ilion, NY and called a friend just the other night who works there and his recommendation right off was the Remington 870. He also suggested the lighter load from over penetration and reduce home rebuilding costs!
One spring morning the professional soldiers of the hated occupation army moved before dawn to seize the lawfully held firearms of the local citizenry.
As was their custom, these soldiers marched four abreast and shoulder to shoulder. They came upon a small line of farmers blocking their path through a small park.
The farmers, outnumbered twenty to one and hopelessly undergunned, refused to yield.
Which side fired the first show is unknown. When the smoke cleared the farmers had run leaving eight dead in the park.
Can anyone comment on the significance of this event and its aftermath?
By the way, Lee Greenwood's Proud to be an American is on 97.1 Houston right now.
Love the article. I love my Remington 870 Pump. I prefer the pump for one reason because the distinctive ‘khat-khat’ sound of the slide loading a shell will scare most intruders before they even see you. I recently installed a shock-absorbing stock to mine and it really reduces the force into my shoulder.
My biggest problem is choosing my handgun. I have a Glock (9mm), a P96 Ruger (9mm), a Beretta P92 (9mm), and a Beretta PX4 Storm (.40S&W).
Israel, if you are listening, the time is now if you are going to save your nation and have our support.
The sound is very, very intimidating, especially when the officer is kneeling behind an open squad car door.
bump for later reading
I used a similar thread on FR from a couple of years ago to settle on the Remington 870 Express. I believe it was about $250. I understand the appeal of a shorter barrel, but $900 was way over budget.
Rossi Coach Gun! Mine’s 12ga. 3”. Remington lead BBs do amazing damage at about 10 feet.
Years back, a gun writer (I forget which) decided to test the home defense advice he'd been giving. To simulate a middle-of-the-night scenario he arranged to fire his .357 in a dark, enclosed space. The short story is that the .357 was good for one shot. Good for one shot because the first shot blinded him with muzzle flash and had him flinching for the painful sound.
Just a thought.
“My biggest problem is choosing my handgun. I have a Glock (9mm), a P96 Ruger (9mm), a Beretta P92 (9mm), and a Beretta PX4 Storm (.40S&W).”
Choose whichever is most reliable and load it with cor bon DPX or gold dot ammo.
I have everything I need already. thanks for the reminder.
“If you find yourself in a fair fight, your tactics suck.”