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.