Educational Zone #143 – What Is the Best Weapon for Home Defense? – A Serious Discussion

This subject comes up every so often on AR15.com, and it almost always results in a lot of “opinions” and sometimes some arguments.

Some folks might say, “Well, I like my pistol and that’s what I’m going to use.”

That is fine with me. I believe anyone should be able to use whatever they want for home defense. But they ought to make that decision based upon facts, and not “feelings”, and know the advantages and disadvantages of their decision.

The FACTS are not really in question. “Opinions” are nice, but “Facts” are what really matter.

Let’s consider the three main options.

Pistols

Many folks use a pistol for home defense. They can certainly be effective, and are a lot better for home defense than a spoon.

They, like other systems, have advantages and disadvantages. Let’s look at both.

Advantages:

  1. Pistols are “convenient”. They are small, and easy to carry on your person. They can be concealed in public, but that isn’t as big of a factor for home defense.
  2. It may be easier to move or manipulate a child while holding a pistol, as compared to holding a long-gun.

Disadvantages:

  1. They are much less effective as Stoppers than a rifle or a shotgun. This is not something to “argue” about. It is simply a FACT. Pistols “can” and often will Stop a bad guy, but they are less effective than a rifle or a shotgun.
  2. Pistols are harder to aim and hit the target with than other systems. Practice can improve your accuracy, but they cannot be operated as accurately as a shoulder-fired weapon. Novice shooters will have a harder time shooting a pistol accurately than a shoulder-fired weapon
  3. Pistols are easier to take away from the shooter than a rifle or a shotgun. Many people falsely believe this is not true, but if you ever get some professional training, you will find that this is a simple fact.
  4. Pistols will penetrate several walls, sometimes even more than a rifle or shotgun. Again, many people falsely believe this is not true, but it is a fact. See Shooting Through Walls
    Any round that will penetrate enough to effectively Stop a bad guy, will penetrate several walls.
Shotguns

Advantages:

  1. A shotgun loaded with buckshot, preferably #1 buckshot, or 00 buckshot, is a very effective Stopper. As Clint Smith notes, “A shotgun at close range will remove meat and bone.”
  2. Shotguns can be bought for less money than many other systems. Many folks cannot afford a $900 carbine, but a perfectly adequate pump shotgun can be found for less than $200. While not the biggest issue, this can be important for many people.
  3. At inside-the-home-distances, the spread of buckshot from a shotgun is relatively dense, that is, the patterns can be fairly tight, only a few inches wide. See Buckshot Patterns
    Some folks mistakenly think this is a bad thing, but we do not want wide patterns with a shotgun, as we are responsible for every projectile that does not hit the target. We want tight patterns.
    Federal Flight Control Buckshot is the “best of the best” for this application, as it will usually shoot the tightest patterns out of any shotgun.
  4. Intimidation – Let’s be honest, the large bore of a shotgun is intimidating to some bad guys. As an ex-police officer, I can tell you that people that are not afraid of having a pistol pointed at them will often feel much differently about a big bore shotgun.
  5. The shotgun is a shoulder-fired system and this gives the shooter a great advantage in accuracy.

Disadvantages:

  1. With the wrong ammo (birdshot), a shotgun can be a very poor stopper. See Shotgun Ammo FAQs
  2. Shotguns tend to have heavy recoil. This slows down follow-up shots. Follow-up shots can be very important, especially if there is more than one opponent.
  3. Shotguns are slow to reload. The more you have to manipulate your system (reloading, etc.), the less ready you are to use it.
    (Magazine loaded shotguns like the Saiga are faster to reload, but still have the recoil problem.)
  4. Precision – Some folks mistakenly think that precision is not a “shotgun word”, but that is not always true. Shotguns can be fairly precise, but not as precise as a carbine. See Precision Shooting with Buckshot.
  5. Pump shotguns (especially) can be easily jammed by a nervous shooter, and a “short stroke jam” is very difficult to fix.
Carbines/Rifles

When speaking of a carbine/rifle, we will primarily be speaking of a system such as an AR-15 carbine in .223. Other rifle/carbine systems will have slightly different advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages:

  1. The carbine is a very powerful weapon system. A carbine loaded with the best .223 ammunition is an excellent fight Stopper. They are much more powerful and effective than any normal handgun. Rifles are rifles and pistols are pistols. Don’t forget that.
  2. A carbine is a shoulder-fired system, meaning that it is much easier to make accurate hits with than a pistol. It will also usually have much better sights than most shotguns.
  3. A magazine fed carbine is much easier and faster to reload than a shotgun. And with a 30 round magazine, it will have less manipulation than a handgun or a shotgun, as you will not need to manipulate it as often.

Disadvantages:

  1. Cost – A carbine can be expensive, and not all folks can afford to buy one. That is not the “fault” of the system, but it is a consideration.
Let’s discuss some Myths about home defense.

1. Myth – I don’t want to use a long gun, because they can easily be taken away from you by the bad guy.

Fact – With proper training, a long gun is actually harder to take away from a shooter than a handgun.

Continued below...

“They say you can’t use a rifle or shotgun indoors because a bad guy will grab the barrel. Yeah? Well, he better hang on, ‘cause I’m gonna light him up and it’ll definitely be an “E” ticket ride.”- Clint Smith

Get some professional training.

2. Myth – Long guns are too loud and I might hurt my hearing.

Fact – Any firearm will be “loud” inside a home. But the actual decibels of noise are very close with all three systems. And if someone is trying to kill you or your family, hearing loss will be way down on the list of important things to worry about.

Suppressors are also a realistic possibility to reduce noise.

3. Myth – All I need is one shot, so reloading is not important.

Fact – You do not know how many shots will be needed, so you had better prepare for the worse scenario. Bad guys do not always stand facing you with their arms to their sides and let you shoot them in the 5X zone. They just might be running and hiding behind things, and even shooting back at you. You may need follow-up shots and need them quickly.

4. Myth – You should use the firearm you are most comfortable with.

Fact – This myth is often repeated, but is wrong. If the system you are “most comfortable with” is a .22 Short revolver, then you need to “get comfortable” with a better system.

Using a poor system that has a record of being poor at Stopping bad guys is not the best idea. Get something that is effective and practice until you are comfortable.

5. Myth – I do not need a light.

Fact – Half of every 24 hours is dark. Your house lights may be out or even turned out by the bad guy. You must identify your target, so a weapon light is essential. For more, see Low Light Essentials

6. Myth – I cannot use a carbine, as it will penetrate more walls than a pistol.

Fact – Many types of pistol ammo will actually penetrate more walls than a carbine or a shotgun loaded with buckshot.

But, most importantly, any round from any system that will Stop a bad guy, will penetrate several walls. See Rifles, Shotguns, and Walls

Conclusions:

Here’s the bottom line: Rifles > Shotguns > Pistols.

Do as you please, but that’s just the facts.

3 Comments on Educational Zone #143 – What Is the Best Weapon for Home Defense? – A Serious Discussion

  1. Bill Grant // April 25, 2016 at 1:45 pm // Reply

    This article has changed my mind as to buying a pistol for home defense I am a novice but will get pro training with a 12 gauge.

    Thank you
    Bill

  2. Old_Painless // May 18, 2016 at 11:23 am // Reply

    You’re welcome, Bill. 🙂

  3. Nice article with many good points. My home protection weapon has been a tactical 12 gauge for many years. However I recently changed to an AR15. The AR15 just has much more firepower.

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