You wake up to a sound downstairs and your heart is racing.
You know you need to go check it out for the sake of your family. Maybe your wife is even pushing you out of bed.
Would you give $400 to have something other than a flashlight and a baseball bat to defend yourself if someone has broken into your home?
If your answer is yes, you can skip ahead to see what we recommend you consider. If your answer is no, read the next section to see why we recommend some sort of home defense gun.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Why does somebody need a weapon for home defense?
- Features to look for
- Introducing the candidates
- Choosing the best handgun for home defense
- Choosing the best shotgun for home defense
Why do I need a home defense weapon?
Just like a mugger pointing a gun in your face compels you to comply with handing over your valuables, confronting a thief with a gun gives is an automatic incentive to get out of your house to everyone in their right mind. And, for those that aren’t in their right mind, it gives you a chance to defend yourself with overwhelming force.
After all, most criminals are just looking for a quick and easy payday. That’s why most burglaries happen during the day, when you’re at work. It’s also for the same reason why you should fortify your doors. And, the FBI confirms that most burglars carry no weapon (~60%) or just a knife (~10%). So, my letting them know that you’re home and you are armed, you have a pretty good chance of avoiding a serious confrontation.
Now, you may have noticed that I said “home defense weapon” in the heading to this section. That’s because I believe that there are self defense weapons out there that can be just as good as a gun for home defense for some people’s needs and legal constraints. There are also great non-lethal options (maybe a topic for another day). Despite our bravado, I don’t believe the average person wants to take a life, and most would prefer to avoid it altogether, if possible. After all, I believe all human life is valued as highly as my own in the eyes of our Creator.
So, why a gun?
For me, my handguns serve multiple purposes, one of which is home defense. I enjoy shooting them as a hobby (no matter how expensive!) and the utility as a home defense weapon is a great bonus. I haven’t ever seen anybody shooting sihlouettes with a stun gun just for fun. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen . . . just saying I haven’t seen it.So, what happens when the security measures that you have in place alert you that someone is in your house? Do you grab a baseball bat and a flashlight and venture out to see what the racket was? If your answer is yes to that question, you may want to check out this comment by a retired thief on reddit. To save you a tab:
User: were you ever afraid of a homeowner with a gun? Burglar: That’s about the only thing I was truly afraid of.
So, that means you need to look like you’re home, if at all possible. If the criminal is smart enough to case the house first and falls for it, then he picks another house. If it is a spur of the moment crime or someone that is really bold, then you’re out of luck and will be faced with a home invasion while you’re at home. Having the best home defense setup will increase your security than not having anything at all.
For me, my priorities in that situation are
- Protect my family
- Call the police
- Eliminate the threat.
In this article, we’re going to be focusing on one of the tools that will make #3 more effective.
I am not advocating sliding down the banister with a pistol and a flashlight in your hands to go shoot someone.
Eliminating the threat can be as simple as letting them know you’re awake and armed. But, I am educated enough to know that some criminals enter your house with malicious intent and are not going to be frightened away by the fact that the cops are coming in 10-15 minutes. Also, please be aware of the self-defense laws in your jurisdiction before you are put in this situation. An action that common sense may tell you is OK may not be justifiable from a legal standpoint in your state. Most areas have training providers with courses that either cover or solely focus on the legal use of force.
Features of the best home defense guns
When facing these types of criminals, you need a strong deterrent. For me, that deterrent is a gun that:
- Allows you to effectively move in close quarters
- You can easily use in highly stressful situations
- Has sufficient stopping power
Now, in case you misunderstand what I mean by those features, let me explain a little further.
- Movement – The rules on engaging a criminal in your home vary wildly from state to state. Here in Virginia, you can not actively seek out, confront, and shoot a burglar legally. Even if I could, movement for me means being able to prevent access to my kid’s bedrooms and assisting my wife in consolidating my family into a defensible location.
- Ease of use – Home defense guns should be something that you can load, arm, and unload with your eyes close. Anything that seems simple when done casually will get exponentially harder with your nerves jacked in a highly stressful home invasion. Unless you trained for these types of situations in the military or law enforcement, you will not know how to properly compensate for the physiological effects of the situation. That could include adrenaline and/or nervousness causing you to fumble with the safety, shoot wildly, and drop ammo.
- Stopping power – If you are one of the few who actually have to use a gun in your defense or in defense of your family, you want to make sure that your target will be incapacitated. I am not saying that you have to shoot a 45 ACP or larger for home defense. Accurate shot placement is just as important as the energy transferred by the bullet or shot when it comes to stopping an advance. So, I am suggesting that your home defense guns should have adequate stopping power, good accuracy, and controllable recoil for follow-up shots.
Just be aware that your assumption about which guns are best for each may need adjustment.
You would naturally think a pistol is much shorter than a home defense shotgun. But, there isn’t a ton of difference when held in a ready position like you would use when moving around your home. Don’t believe me, check out the video:
Introducing the candidates
Let’s see how each of these stack up using our 3 criteria:
[accordion id=”gunEval”][accordion_item title=”Movement” parent_id=”gunEval” open=”true”]
- [icon type=”thumbs-o-up”] Handgun – Because of the size, the handgun is an obvious favorite here. Leaving one hand free to use a flashlight, open doors, and carry children is a great benefit.
- Rifle – If you’re talking a full-size rifle, it really makes it hard to maneuver effectively. The only thing that I would consider here is something short in the assault lineup, but these are out of reach for a lot of people because of the high cost.
- Shotgun – Again, there is a big difference between a goose gun and a tactical or home defense shotgun. A tactical shotgun with an 18″ barrel is on par with a short assault rifle and just a touch longer than a pistol when held at the ready. The obvious disadvantage is that one-handed operation is much more difficult.
- Handgun – Pistols can be all over the board here. The simplest models have grip and/or trigger safeties that are automatic with the proper grip and squeeze of the trigger. Single action revolvers could require cocking a hammer before firing that you could forget to do. And, many other pistols have slide safeties that you will need to remember. Another advantage is the capacity, which lets you hold more ammo in a single magazine so that you likely won’t need to reload.
- Rifle – I would argue that rifles have the largest variation in loading and safety variations depending on what you get. Unless you practice regularly with the rifle that you plan to use for home defense, you may forget which one you are picking up and squeeze the trigger with the safety on.
- Shotgun – I slightly favor the shotgun here because it’s a scattergun for crying out loud. There is one safety and they’re simple to load with large features and shells that are tough to screw up in the dark with at least a little practice.
- Handgun – Being the smallest weapon on the list, it’s tougher to aim effectively. Though at the ranges that you are likely to engage someone, this isn’t a major issue in my mind
- Rifle – A rifle is a long weapon and is easy to aim effectively. The long barrel also helps with accuracy over that of a handgun, though the proximity of engagement makes this less of an issue compared to longer ranges.
- [icon type=”thumbs-o-up”] Shotgun – You have a pattern the size of a softball depending on your choke, and while you can miss, it’s harder to. And, it’s a longer gun with makes it easier to aim accurately. So, the shotgun gets the lead here.
You’ve Decided: Choosing the Best Handgun for Home Defense
For those that don’t like reading, my recommendation is the Springfield XD in 9mm (or something similar) for most people.
Now, I am assuming that you’ve already settled on a handgun for home defense, either because you prefer to shoot it for other reasons or like the maneuverability in close quarters. Or, maybe you’ve already been reading some other good sources that favor handguns as your first home defense gun. So, I’m going to be focusing on just pistols in this section. Also, just realize that there is no one size fits all solution, and you will certainly find people who disagree with my opinions without looking too hard.
Major criteria for your best home defense handgun:
- Type of operation
I submit that other factors like accuracy and ease of use come from one or more of these. Here’s a rundown of my thoughts in each of these areas.[dropcap style=”font-size: 40px”]Operation[/dropcap]The two real options here are semi-automatic or a revolver. Revolvers are simple to operate and clean. They also have a long trigger pull with the hammer down (double action). This can be good if you don’t practice very often and want to offset the adrenaline caused by the situation, even though it can be tough to shoot accurately. It’s tough to accidentally squeeze off a shot if the hammer is down.
But, many popular striker fired guns like Glocks also have pretty long triggers. For me, the capacity consideration knocks out revolvers, and I like the simplicity of the second shot in a semi-auto. But, I recognize that your likelihood of firing more than a couple of shots in a confrontation is practically zero, so they have a place in some situations.[dropcap style=”font-size: 40px”]Size[/dropcap]The best handgun for home defense should be large enough to aim easily and small enough to handle with one hand. You want to make sure that everyone who may use the gun can operate it comfortably. This means that the 110 lb. wife needs to be able to securely grip the weapon and get to the safety, slide release, trigger, etc. just as well as her husband. [dropcap style=”font-size: 40px”]Reliability[/dropcap]It should work when it’s needed, even when neglected. It just needs to work when you need it. And, it may be after sitting for months without being used or cleaned. After all, not many of us are structured enough to go through and cycle magazines (the springs can develop memory if they are continuously loaded) and blow the dust bunnies out of our guns. [dropcap style=”font-size: 40px”]Caliber[/dropcap]You want sufficient stopping power, but a caliber that is small enough to handle. For me, this means a 9mm (a little smaller or larger, as needed). After all, as long as it isn’t also needed as a concealed carry weapon, size is not usually an issue in this application. What you should consider is your ability to maintain control of the weapon for follow up shots and how much the muzzle flash may hinder your night vision after the first shot. [dropcap style=”font-size: 40px”]Capacity[/dropcap]Running out of bullets is (may be?) the last thing you want to do in your underwear with a burglar in your house. A full size .45 will give you 7 or 8 shots with a standard magazine, and nothing prevents you from getting an extended magazine (depending on the laws where you live). A thick 9mm may give you twice that capacity. [dropcap style=”font-size: 40px”]Comfort[/dropcap]The best pistol for home defense should be the one that you are comfortable handling and shooting. Implicit in that statement is my opinion that you should try to handle and (if possible) shoot any gun you are seriously considering. If you can’t find a friend with one, there are ranges that have rentals that you can try. After all, this gun purchase is most likely one that you will live with for a while. [dropcap style=”font-size: 40px”]Accessories[/dropcap]Built in low light operation or a rail for add-ons is a must. I would make sure to get tritium sights, laser sights, or a flashlight than can be mounted on a Picatinny or some other type of accessory rail. You don’t want to occupy your one free hand with a flashlight if you don’t have to. If you go the route of the rail, you can pick accessories up later to spread the cost of the initial purchase out a little bit.
Granted you can turn all of the lights in your apartment or house on, but I’d rather maintain the element of surprise, maintain my night vision, and see if I can locate him with my ears before my eyes.
If you don’t agree with me, I’d love to hear your opinion. Just add a comment below and tell us what you picked and why you chose something different.
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Why Sig Says You Need a Home Defense Pistol
I came across a nice video done by Sig Sauer the other day and thought it might be helpful for those deciding on a home defense weapon. In short, the Sig rep makes a compelling case for why a handgun is the best for home defense purposes.
You might even recognize some of the arguments from earlier work here.
I’ll give you a quick rundown in case you’re like me and like reading over video for its speed.
Advantages that Make Pistols Superior for Home Defense
At this point, it’s a pretty obvious win, but a pistol has no comparison for one-handed operation. That’s true no matter which rifle or shotgun you pick up.
That leaves you one hand free to:
- Talk to the 911 operator with your phone
- Open doors to move around your house to protect your family and seek cover
- Usher kids and other family members into a safe room or area where you intend to stand your ground
Now granted, a pistol with arms extended for firing isn’t much shorter than a home defense shotgun or a short-barrelled rifle. But, it can be brought in to the chest when rounding corners and to pass obstacles while still keeping the muzzle ready to engage immediately.
A pistol is clearly superior when getting around the house, especially when you consider the opportunity to use a free hand on door knobs when needed without losing significant engagement capability.
Pistols Are Easy to Store Safely Close By
Ever shop for secure, quick-access safes for a home defense shotgun?
Let’s face it, trigger locks are a disaster waiting to happen when somebody kicks in your door at night and the adrenaline is pumping (some criminals even know how to unlock a door with a credit card). You need a safe that keeps your gun away from kids and untrained adults, yet is quick to access when you need it.
Although you can find a quick access safe for a shotgun or rifle, the shear size of those platforms make finding a good place for them challenging.
A Couple of Suggestions
Subcompact Pistols Aren’t a Great Idea
First of all, think twice about getting a handgun for concealment and also using it for home defense. I completely understand if that’s all you can afford for now, but understand that there’s no point in a subcompact frame for home defense.
It will be dark, your adrenaline will be jacked, and your hands will appreciate the larger features of a full-sized gun.
And, you have a full capacity magazine right there in the gun ready to go.
Forget trying to toss an extra mag in your BVDs!
Consider Adding a Flashlight
There’s nothing like a good light for target recognition. And, there’s no reason to tie up a hand full time with a flashlight when you could mount one on your gun.
Hopefully, you’re thinking about a piece with a rail, right?
Lasers Can Be a Great De-Escalation Tool
Would you stop advancing when someone lit up your chest with a laser?
There’s nothing like lasing your target to let them know that incoming rounds are imminent and will be well-placed. Anybody in their right mind should back down in the face of that threat.
On the other hand, if you didn’t have a laser, the thug might just assume that you were bluffing about having a gun.
You’ve Decided: Choosing the Best Home Defense Shotguns
I’m going to take a little different approach with this one and address the different types of people that might be looking for a good HD shotgun. But before setting off down that path, let me clear up one point for those that want the answer up front.
Pull your hair out and hide your monitor from your wife, but unless the shotgun you already have is a 10 guage with a 36” barrell for turkey shoots, then you probably have everything that you need in a home security shotgun. Why do I say that? My top 3 criteria are:
The first one is obvious. You want something that will work with all sorts of shells no matter when you pick it up. It should be something you’re familiar with so that you know how to operate it in high stress scenarios. Good home defense weapons should also be affordable in my book.
Now, this last one is likely the most controversial, so let me explain. I can buy a complete home security system with an insanely loud alarm for $300 that is just as likely to deter criminals from continuing a burglary. And, it works just as well when I’m not home. So, spending 4x that on a tactical, semi-auto shotgun does not make a lot of sense, in my opinion, if you have another suitable home defense weapon. If you are willing to spend that kind of money, then you’re probably buying the weapon because it looks cool or you would have fun shooting paper with it. That’s a legitimate reason for buying a gun.
Be honest with yourself. You’re buying a man toy that happens to pull double duty for home defense.
What does that mean for you?
Here are a few profiles that you may fit into. Take a look at the one that fits you best and see which gun is right for you.
[accordion id=”buyerTypes”][accordion_item open=”true” title=”As your only gun” parent_id=”buyerTypes”]
Best Home Defense Shotgun – As your only gun
If you have no experience owning a weapon and no desire to hunt with said weapon, then your good home defense shotgun is a used, pump shotgun. You can pick up the most famous guns in this category (Remington 870 or Mossberg 500) for $250 used. Of course, there are less well-known manufacturers that make fine weapons that will be a bit cheaper if you do your research. The important thing to look for is a short barrel (18-20”) and an extended magazine tube (if you can find it). You probably won’t need the extra rounds, but I doubt you’ll complain about having leftovers if you do end up firing at an intruder.
[/accordion_item][accordion_item title=”For the outdoorsman” parent_id=”buyerTypes”]
Best HD Shotgun – For the outdoorsman
As I said before, the best gun is probably the one you already have. Unless you have a single shot, over-under, or double barrel gun, I would say just use what you have. Since you hunt with it, you are familiar with it and get regular practice. It works. And, it costs $0.
That being said, if you have a turkey or goose gun with a huge barrel, you may want to consider picking up an extra barrel for the off-season for $200. When the season is over, remove your magazine plug to be able to store more shells and swap out for the short barrel so that you can get around the house more easily without a burglar grabbing the end of your gun when you turn a corner.
If your hunting gun is a semi-auto, that works just as well. You can get rounds out more quickly and with less thought than a pump gun, and most of the quality autoloaders today run on all kinds of factory loads without an issue. Just make your you run some of your home defense loads through the gun to make sure that it cycles reliably.
[/accordion_item][accordion_item title=”For the prepper” parent_id=”buyerTypes”]
HD Shotguns – For the prepper
Some of you just want to spend money on cool guns that would devastate an intruder. Well, who am I to judge, right? Here’s something to drool over.
It’s an AK action, chambered in 12 GA. Since these are now banned for import, the prices are pretty steep in the US. A semi-auto set up like the one in the picture will set you back about $1300. You could probably find a version for $900. But, how much fun is a drum magazine full of 12 guage shells? By the way, they do make standard banana mags if you object to the drum magazine in a self defense situation (which you should).
See something you liked here? Share it with your buddies and let them know what you’re going to order!
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Safe and secure storage – This is somewhat related to size, but another consideration is how you will be storing your guns. It needs to be secured in a way that it keeps kids and strangers out as a priority. The second priority is that it is easy to access. Seconds are precious during a home invasion and let you gather yourself and prepare for your defense. You don’t want to give up time fumbling around in a desk drawer for a key to open your safe. And, I definitely don’t want to be stressing over a dial combination to get into a safe while my heart is beating out of your chest.
For your rifle or shotgun:
I don’t have any experience with this particular unit, but it looks like a great solution to the problem of quick access storage of a long gun.
For your pistol:
I use a Gunvault GV2000 (Amazon) safe for my handguns. It is quick to open and does a good job of preventing unwanted access of your weapons. You can also check out a detailed review of the Gunvault here.
Ammo – When you’re buying ammunition for your handgun, keep in mind stopping power and penetration. If you get full metal jacket ammo, it could go through a few more walls before stopping and jeopardize your family or neighbors. So, spend a few extra dollars and get hollow point (filled or otherwise) bullets that will expand and transfer energy quickly to maximize damage to your assailant and minimize additional bullet travel. However, we do not recommend that you use bolo shotgun rounds because they don’t really offer the best defense.
What do you think?
Think I missed something? Leave me a comment below.
Hi, I’m Jody. I graduated with honors with a Masters of Science in Computer Engineering and have over 15 years of experience working as an engineer with electronics products. I’m a lifelong learner and tinkerer and enjoy automating things around the house so I can solve bigger problems than getting out of bed to check if the garage door is closed . . . like too little sleep!