Hero Training: The Best Weapons for Home Defense

When you become the man of the house you inherit a sacred responsibility to protect your family. Former Marine Jeff Barnett gives the bottom line on the best tools for the job we hope you’ll never have to use.

Jeff is a former Marine with a lifetime of experience with firearms. For the past ten years he has pursued strength and health in numerous ways and posts his daily workouts on his website, CrossFit Impulse.

Defending yourself and your loved ones from home intruders that would do you harm is a serious matter and a grave responsibility. If you have decided to take this responsibility seriously but don’t know quite where to begin then this article is for you.

Today’s focus is what weapon to choose for home defense. Each option I will recommend is a firearm, because firearms are simply the best modern home defense weapons. While a fighting knife and a backpack full of claymores may work well for John J. Rambo, there can only be one Rambo. Similarly, non-lethal defenses such as stun guns and mace leave much more to chance than I am willing to accept. Real aggressors don’t slowly walk towards you in a straight line like Jason Voorhees.

When selecting a weapon for home defense you should consider the following factors:

Effectiveness

The weapon must be capable of stopping the threat, which is primarily a matter of caliber, assuming proper shot placement. This is a very subjective topic and you will find as many opinions as you will find commentators. Let it suffice that all of the weapons I recommend will be effective enough for anything short of a zombie horde or rabid grizzly bear.

Overpenetration

The complement to effectiveness is overpenetration. Walls don’t stop bullets. If you have to discharge a firearm in your house then you must be aware of what lies behind your target. Innocent bystanders in adjacent rooms and adjacent houses can be wounded and even killed. Caliber and ammunition selection can mitigate this significant risk, but the bottom line for any weapon of any caliber is this: Never discharge a firearm at a target if you are not willing to strike everything that lies behind that target.

Ammo Capacity

The weapon should also hold ample ammunition, because under stressful situations even an accomplished marksman requires more than one shot to hit his target, and some aggressors require more than one shot to neutralize.

Reliability

An effective weapon that doesn’t work properly when needed or that quickly malfunctions is hardly effective at all.

Cost

Just because home defense is important doesn’t mean you should squander your retirement preparing for a scenario that will likely never happen. Effective solutions can be had for less than a $200 total investment, including ammunition.

Here are my top picks for home defense weapons:

1. 12 Gauge Pump-Action Shotgun

No, not because of the sound it makes when cycling the action. Sounds do a poor job of neutralizing intruders. Pump-action shotguns are familiar to everyone and easily accessible to the beginner.

Remington 870

Effectiveness: High 

Effectiveness Effectiveness Effectiveness Effectiveness
At ranges of less than 25 yards there is scarcely a more effective weapon than 12-Gauge loaded with #1 or larger buckshot. When it comes to shotshell loads, smaller numbers mean larger projectiles. Example: #1 buckshot consists of (10) .30” diameter projectiles while #4 buckshot consists of (21) .24” diameter projectiles.
Overpenetration: Moderate 

Overpenetration Overpenetration
With #1 and smaller buckshot the projectiles will lose enough energy to reasonably mitigate this risk. With larger buckshot the chances of overpenetration increase. If you are in a densely populated home or neighborhood you can almost completely mitigate overpenetration by using small game loads of #6 shot or smaller, but this sacrifices a great deal of effectiveness. Versatility in available loadings is a great strength of shotguns, but you must choose your loads carefully for your environment.
Ammo Capacity: Low 

ammo shotgun
With extended magazine tubes seven to eight round capacities are common. This is likely more ammo than you’ll need in the most common defense scenarios, but it still relatively low compared to other choices.
Reliability: High 

Reliablility Reliablility Reliablility Reliablility
Extremely reliable. KISS design and manual cycling make weapon-related malfunctions all but impossible.
Cost: Low 

Cost
You can find used examples in gun shops for $150. With quality brands, well-worn shotguns work exactly the same as their new counterparts. I suggest going with an ugly example of a proven brand. New models start around $300.
My pick: Mossberg 500 or Remington 870 Both designs have proven themselves for decades. I prefer the controls and price of Mossberg, but a Remington 870 is my primary home defense weapon.

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AR15

2. .223 / 5.56mm Carbine

You may know this type of rifle by the name AR-15. It is the civilian (semi-auto) version of the M16 family of weapons. While this may seem intimidating, it’s just a rifle with lots of doo-dads and handy features. If you can shoot grandpa’s lever-action 30-30 then you can engage targets with an AR-15.

Effectiveness: High 

Effectiveness Effectiveness Effectiveness Effectiveness
While not packing quite the punch of multiple projectiles (a shotgun) a 5.56 mm frangible projectile is extremely lethal and has greater range.
Overpenetration: Moderate 

Overpenetration Overpenetration
With frangible ammunition (such as Hornady TAP) bullets begin to yaw, turn, and fragment upon impacting any medium other than air. This significantly reduces overpenetration, but is only valid for frangible ammo. Do not use standard full metal jacket (FMJ) or hollow point (HP) ammo for home defense!
Ammo Capacity: High 

ammo shotgun ammo shotgun ammo shotgun ammo shotgun
Thirty rounds in a single magazine–almost certainly more than you’ll need.
Reliability: Moderate 

Reliablility Reliablility
A clean and broken-in AR-15 will function for many hundreds (sometimes more than 1000) rounds before malfunctioning.
Cost: High 

Cost Cost Cost Cost
Quality entry models begin just short of $700.
My pick: DPMS Panther Lite 16 This is a quality rifle that’s on the low end of price. Short, light, effective, and relatively simple.

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Glock 17

3. Handgun

While one of the least overall effective tools for the job, small size and accessibility to the beginner have made handguns one of the most popular home defense weapons used today. Handguns are easy to learn, cheap to practice with, and store comfortably in a nightstand.

Effectiveness: Low 

Effectiveness
Despite what you may have seen in movies, pistol caliber projectiles simply do not create the type of damage that instantly incapacitates an aggressor. The key is to place your rounds on target and have plenty of rounds available. Overpenetration: High 

Overpenetration Overpenetration Overpenetration Overpenetration
Know what lies beyond your target, because your rounds may end up outside your home. Ammo Capacity: Moderate 

9mm cartridge 9mm cartridge
Most handguns hold between 7-15 rounds. Some hold over 30 rounds. Reliability: High 

Reliablility Reliablility Reliablility Reliablility
A quality handgun with quality ammunition will function flawlessly for much longer than you’ll need it in a defensive scenario. Cost: Moderate 

Cost Cost
Inexpensive handguns start around $300. Some production handguns go well into the $600s My pick: Glock 17
The Glock design is as simple and reliable as any handgun made. These polymer framed pistols have a high capacity, good accuracy, unmatched reliability, and are readily available for $500 new and as low as $300 for a well-worn example. There are no external safeties to fumble with, making this a good weapon for high-stress scenarios where fine motor skills are lost. I use a Glock model 26 as my backup home defense weapon and concealed carry weapon.

Concluding Thoughts

You are legally, morally, and financially responsible for everything that exits the barrel of a firearm under your control. Any of the choices presented here will serve you well in a defensive scenario. However, should you be thrust into the dreadful circumstance of repelling an aggressor in your home, you must decide based on federal, state, and local laws as well as your own principles what constitutes a legitimate use of deadly force. I’m not advising you to shoot at anything other than paper targets, and I hope that’s all that will ever be necessary.

Jeff Barnett is an entrepreneur, fitness enthusiast, and former Marine. He has an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and an MBA. When you don't find him wakeboarding, writing, or eating meat off the bone, he's at his startup, CrossFit Impulse.

  • martin

    I have 2 personal favorites. Shotgun Tactical load “00″ buck shot for myself but I think the “0″ buck is just as good but no one seems to use it. You don’t need the 3″ magnum shells it is just over kill and penetrates farther with tons more recoil, which you don’t need. The second choice/favorite one for everyone is the M1 carbine. It is so simple, no recoil, 30 round magazines and the new rounds that have been developed for it with the expanding bullets 2009 are about as perfect as you can get for unloading on a human target without overpenetration. Military ammo is so cheap for this rife so you can practice to your hearts content and it is so easy and fun to shoot. But do not use the military FMJ ammo for defense in the home because it will overpenetrate and go right through someone, ever III body armor and keep going. So practice with the fmj rounds by the 1000 and keep 2 mags of the new awsome rounds developed for it for defense. Your wife and all family members will like and enjoy handling and shooting this small easy gun. The best thing is that they have all sorts of suff you can put on them with lights, optics and whatever and they are just plain simple to operate. The new rounds have brought it into the 21st century:)

  • Mark Lumpkin

    Jeff,
    I came across your article just as I was beginning to think about acquiring an additional firearm besides my Beretta 92FS for home defense. If you were going to buy one additional firearm, what would you purchase? I am more comfortable with the prospect of an AR-15 than a 12 gauge, but would like to see if you still feel the same as when you published this article. Thanks.

  • Jeff Barnett

    Mark,
    I keep a Remington 870 HD beside my headboard with a Glock 26 in the nightstand and an AR-15 on call in my gunsafe. The AR-15 is technically the best choice, but ONLY with frangible ammo. Let me say that again: ONLY with frangible ammo. I like the simplicity and reduced need for accuracy of the shotgun loaded with 00 buck. I live in a suburban neighborhood of brick homes, so overpenetration is not a huge concern for me. Best of luck.

    Jeff

  • Jeff Barnett

    Wait, sorry for the mistake. My home defense load is #4 buck. More effective and less overpenetration.

  • Mark

    Thanks for your reply. I went looking today and couldn’t quite decide what to buy. I thought about checking out pawn shops but wound up going to several gun stores and just looking. Do you own the DPMS Panther Lite? Would you buy used or even trust buying one from a pawn shop? We had an army base that closed and I wonder if that would be a good place to start (the pawn shops that is). Sorry to be so uneducated about this issue.

  • Mike

    Thanks for tips, great article!

  • Karl

    Just wanted to throw in my two cents on this debate. I am a former infantryman, and I recently purchased an AR-15 for home defense. I went with the AR for a number of reasons, but one of the most important was that it was the weapon I felt the most comfortable with. After lugging an M-4 for years, the controls and action of an AR-15 seem second nature to me. Also an AR is more versatile than the other options. I can use it for simple home defense, civil unrest situations and for fun at the range. But back to my main point, I think people should get the weapon they are the most comfortible with. Remember most people won’t rise to the occasion, they will revert to their level of training!

  • NN

    Ok, it’s interesting reading this as an outsider. I thought this was an interesting magazine until I saw this article.

    Reading this as a European this reads like it was written by a psycho. The comments are even more scary.

    Why the hell do Americans persist in believing that guns make you safer? Your crime rates (and particularly violent crime rates) are orders of magnitude greater than ours – almost certainly because of your crazy constitutional right to bear arms.

    Charlton Heston’s “cold dead hands” comment really epitomises the collective madness that you have all gotten into.

  • BB

    NN,
    I haven’t checked out your estimate that crime is magnitudes higher in America than in Europe. But, as an American victim of one violent unprovoked crime that sent the perpetrator to prison for 20 years, and another home invasion in which I was threatened with a knife (all strangers to me), I can attest that crime does happen to regular middle class people like me. If, as you say, crime is heavy in America, it only makes sense to me, that I SHOULD be responsible enough to inform myself, protect myself and arm myself to take care that I not be victimized again.

    In a crime situation, since time is of the essence, a faster repulsion of the perpetrators, either by scaring them away or blowing them away, seems the better option than waiting for someone to call 911 (if they can. I couldn’t in my cases) and then waiting for a possible appropriate response from law enforcement (or not). Being armed and ready is, in my estimation, not ‘mad’, but rather, a prudent and responsible way to provide security and preserve one’s own life and property.

    In the case of an isolated situation of home defense, as above, or more widespread anarchy or tyranny, where law enforcement would either be overtaxed or otherwise unavailable to defend someone, the U.S. Constitution, fortunately, recognizes the right of U.S. citizens to defend themselves with ‘arms’. One of the main reasons this right to bear arms was originally instituted was as a check to avoid tyranny, wherein a power-mad government might forget that government in America is of the people, by the people, and for the people. One could even call the second amendment a sort of 4th branch of the government (the people) because of this defensive check against possible tyranny. In my opinion, this amendment to the Constitution was not only not ‘crazy’, but a sound and solid preventative measure – a very good thing. If the unfortunate circumstances ever occur wherein we need to exercise resistance against tyranny, it’s easy to see that if we were not armed, we would just be mowed down. If armed, we could defend ourselves and defend freedom. But, no matter where a possible threat may originate, be it rouge government, criminals, civil unrest, dangerous animals, or foreign invasion, it shows healthy responsiblilty, to just be prepared for it – in case. This is a good thing and there’s everything right with it and nothing wrong with it. To me, it is self-evident.
    BB

    On another note to anyone,
    That some people are paranoid so they own a gun and others are paranoid so they are afraid of guns, just shows that some people are paranoid and has nothing to do with the separate argument that it’s better to be prepared for emergencies than not to be prepared.
    BB

    Jeff,
    Another ‘weapon’ for home defense, not related to firearms, but certainly worth mentioning, is Heaven’s help. In the 2 instances where I was victimized (above), the intervention of God in my defense was what brought me through. I know that God is there for me to call upon for help. And it’s the best kind of help I’ve yet experienced.
    BB

  • http://www.filmschoolrejects.com Doc Brown

    Hey NN,

    I’m back from the past and can tell you’re living in some sort of Time Warp. Even the European Media admits that Europe is more dangerous than America in terms of violent crime. Violent Crime and Murder in America has steadily declined for decades. Violent crime in the UK rose – unironically after stricter gun control laws. Take a look here:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1196941/The-violent-country-Europe-Britain-worse-South-Africa-U-S.html

    Britain is the most violent country in Europe. London is the 10th Most Dangerous City in the world. America doesn’t even rank in the top 10 Western countries for violence anymore. Statistically, per 100,000, Britain, France, Canada, and Finland are all more dangerous than America – and America counts reported crimes, not just cases that result in conviction. So while we may seem paranoid, at least we’re safer.

    And for BB,

    In terms of religion being there for you, I’ll simply say this: God created all men equal, Samuel Colt made them all the same size.
    .-= Doc Brown´s last blog ..Uncovering The Secret of Kells: This Year’s Surprise Oscar Nominee =-.

  • TXinChi

    I am a former IPSC shooter from Texas that would like to add to this conversation.

    I am unable to arm myself with a pistol in Chicago. It is currently under review, and I hope it works out. Why?

    I live in a high rise and have neighbors. My load hear would be a .38 Special Glazer round out of my 4″ Colt Python. I used this gun on rare occasion for competion. I shoot my Gold Cup .45 more commonly in IPSC and shoot much better.

    I have grown up with pistol shooting.

    I have practiced with shot guns a good deal, but I know pistols.

    I am now forced into a .12 gauge by world. I live in a high rise Chicago, Chicago law say I can not have a pistol or hand gun and as such left them all in Texas with family.

    I am much better with pistols, but have been made to live with a weapon that is not my best shot. My neighbors are the one that might suffer the price. I admit the chance of home intrusion is low where I live, but I have to sacrifice my capability and the saftey of those around me for what? Look at crime stats in Chicago.

    All that said, it’s about what you know how to shoot. For me, I will never miss shot with a .45, or a .357. These are the best 1st shot stoppers. (Outside of really large rounds). Time and time again they have proven as the best (one round) man stoppers.

    These are what I shoot best, and I can’t. I am greatful that that hand-band of Chicago is before the supreme court.

    As to the topic..

    I would never fire a rifle in my own house, but that has a lot to do with the fact that I have never effectively used one in competion or for survival.

    As former Marine, I would trust you know that weapons. For home use, I am not sold on a combat rifle outside those with such expertise. I trust myself with a pistol more than any other weapon because of my exp. This is not to disregard rifles. I own many.

    Experience is the word. Learn to shoot. Take classes. Learn proper handling. Know your weapon well. Take proper care of your weapon. Safety, safety, then, practice, practice, practice.

  • AG

    Guys,

    First my qualifications: I’m professionally trained, non-LEO, and I teach that of which you debate for a living. (Unfortunately with experience on both sides of the gun – although without any self-inflicted issues.)

    The difference between anti-gun and pro-gun is usually one violent encounter. It’s easy to sit at Starbuck’s and take shots at Mr. Barnett when you have NO idea how a violent attack feels. Chances are good that many self-proclaimed commando types are also fat-body types professing knowledge in the martial/civil combat/defense arena. A ‘real’ commando (true believer) is one with which you NEVER want to encounter. They are tools groomed for one specific purpose. Leave that alone.

    Civilian encounters can be violent and brutal. Spend some time with a violent offender sometime. You’ll want to leave that room so fast that you’ll spill your Latte. They exhibit compassion, reason, sympathy, and whatever else you would expect from your next door neighbor – until you reach the point of disconnect from ‘normalcy.’ They actually believe their own BS. I digress.

    Who really believes that society has progressed from biblical times? Really? The nature of men hasn’t changed much. ‘We’ actually want to believe that ‘We’ are a civilized society. Close, but no cigar.

    To the naysayers: I hope you get to live your life according to your plan. Walk around in your Birkenstocks along your clean city streets to your hybrid Earth-friendly sapien transport device and be happy. Feel fortunate if you haven’t lost a loved one to a violent act.

    To the caliber warriors: A man I’ve known for a lifetime was executed with a 22 caliber Beretta. One shot. He was felled by a lucky semi-pro. If he had a thousand 1911s in 38 super (you know who I’m talking to, guys) strapped to his body he still couldn’t have defended himself. This man could do more with his bare hands than most could do with edged weapons and firepower. I encourage everyone to become proficient in unarmed technique – yep, that means getting a few practice bruises and sprains here and there. They hurt a lot less when you get them from a controlled encounter. After an uncontrolled violent encounter be happy that you preserve life over all, but also eyesight, teeth, ears, and enough blood to sustain you on your trip to the ER. Waking up with surgical masked faces hovering over you is something you won’t ever forget.

    Shoot what you shoot well and HOPE you never have to use it. A 22 Beretta can kill you just as fast as a $2,500.00 speed gun.

    Seeing a charging militant unload his AK at your team – while recently losing his cardio-pulmonary system is quite an enlightening moment. It wouldn’t have mattered if he was hit with a 9mm or a 50bmg.

    My choice is easy: Dogs. Training. Home alarm (alerting system). Trained wife. Fly below the RADAR and make myself a hard invisible/latent target. Know when to NOT go somewhere.

    Peace or absence of conflict – your choice.

    Regards.

  • http://www.bluepitbulls.info/ Jameson

    waiting for a possible appropriate response from law enforcement (or not). Being armed and ready is, in my estimation, not ‘mad’, but rather, a prudent and responsible way to provide security and preserve one’s own life and property.
    .-= Jameson´s last blog ..News Release 4 =-.

  • Pingback: The New Generation of Nerf | Primer

  • iowapatriot

    I have been reading all the responses, and it’s been extremely interesting and informative. Only shot years and years ago while in Navy basic training (25 yards in an indoor range, only once, which is like not having any experience at all). My wife and I are considering a weapon for HD, and I will probably get a 12-gauge. We have a nephew who is a cop, and will take his advice on what kind of training to get (and we WILL get training). I just want to let everyone who has posted here that it’s been a real education. Thanks!!!!!!

  • 18y/oFarmer

    Personally i have a mix of weapons. Where i live the cops are 15 minutes out on a fantastic day. Under the my pillow i carry a 38 special wheel gun, i have enough experience with it and my black powder wheel gun that i trust them more than most. But please remember, i have military training and to ex cops for parents i am extremely well versed in the use of any type of weapon.

    Concerning the suggested weapons under the premise that the user is a civilian with limited to no experience outside of knowing how to fire the weapon, i concur to the lineup. Admittedly i would think that to “dumb it down” even further a simpler rifle might be better, a 30-30 lever action perhaps? Again this is to simplify the weapon even further. I forget who called the AR-15(M4) a “big black scary gun” but that person is right, the AR-15(M4) has military badass stamped all over it and is intimidating to the average person.

    But overall i believe that the shotgun with a birdshot or multi slug shell is still the best weapon BY FAR. It is very simple, very wide with the right choke and thus reducing the risk of missing due to adrenaline and lack of experience. Children do get killed by guns, but kids such as myself that are raised to respect firearms are no risk. It is those that seek to explore taboos that get themselves killed. In these cases it can be reasonably argued that had they been properly educated they would have never been killed in the first place.

  • 18y/oFarmer

    Oh yes, and as a side note from a “stupid farmer hillbilly soldier with a ego complex” CITE YOUR FUCKING SOURCES!!!! Some of you idiots need to go back to college which i am IN right now. WRI121 is devoted to the education of the need for citation.

    I am young, i have little to know experience compared to many of you, but this bickering over caliber and gun laws makes me pity you children. As AG said “Shoot what you shoot well and HOPE you never have to use it. A 22 Beretta can kill you just as fast as a $2,500.00 speed gun.”

    Do some calibers carry more lethality than others? No shit sherlock. Are some guns better than others for particular jobs? Duh. But at the end of the day a little 22 twin shot is just as deadly when shoved in your face as a shotgun. Experience and knowlege of your guns and your weaknesses are your best weapons.

  • http://redcrowmarketing.com web design mo

    Jeff great post. I love the way you placed the data.

  • Dennis C

    Thanks for an informative intro to home defense. I am not currently a gun owner (not for political or moral beliefs, I just don’t own one). I skimmed many replies, and I don’t recall anyone mentioning the need for firearms because some less-lethal means are basically useless against someone on certain drugs. So first, a question – what is the effectiveness of each of these weapons on someone on something like PCP? Do a couple of 9mm slugs in the stomach or chest stop someone who is basically impervious to a regular ass kicking?

    I have a second degree black belt in tae kwon do, and I learned first hand that trying to subdue someone on PCP is basically an exercise in futility (I broke his radius, ulna, four ribs, his collarbone and jaw, and he still kept coming). There are lots of home invasions in my city, and if someone comes through that door, I want effectiveness in spite of what they’re on.

    Any advice you can share is greatly appreciated.

  • TAB

    I just purchased a 12 gauge semi-auto Browning Maxus shot gun. I also own 2 handguns, a .45 S&W M&P and a S&W Air Weight .38 sp. I purchased the Browning because I am becoming involved in hunting and in sporting clays. That being said I have a question for those of you with more experienced than I may have. You have stated the pump shotgun to be a great home defense choice, how would my semi auto Browning compare in effectivness? Thank you and by the way, great job Jeff, great discussion.

  • gypsy

    I am a single mother of three young children. I do not have much gun experience but feel the need to change that soon. I live next to a bar. Due to the job I have I don’t get home until late at night sometimes even early in the a.m. My schedule is pretty consistent. My work location is in a not very good part of town. I also leave work late at night with lots of cash. I am looking for a versatile weapon that I can use for home defense and concealed carry for work. Leaning toward the Taurus Judge. Any thoughts? Easy on me fellas I’m new at this.

  • http://none Brian

    hey guys, I have always had a remington 870, and recently bought a ruger 9mm with a 17 round clip. just love this gun, it’s the SR9c, compact version but it comes with a 17 round clip! this gun feels so comfortable and easy to shoot and comes with a unique safety feature that is a small bar that pops up whenever there is a bullet in the chamber. it pops up and says right there “ready to fire” this is in addition to the regular safety. you take the safety off, and the bar is there telling you this gun is now ready to fire, so there is no mistake. anyway my question is more along the lines of not what gun, what caliber to have, but really what should one do? I recently had two kids (19 or so) ring my doorbell in a nice quiet suburban area full of expensive homes(mine not) at 6 in the morning. my car usually parked in the driveway was not there, it was at the shop, so they thought nobody was home. I woke up and looked out my peephole (great device to have!) and saw them looking in. then before I could think straight, one of them went behind the house and had a screwdriver or something in his hand looking for a way to pry open a window or door. Now I had the shotgun but it wasn’t loaded and I thought by the time I go back to my room and load the gun etc they could be inside the house already, so I just stuck my head out the window and told him to get lost. so they did, they just calmly drove off. ok so say I had the shotgun, or got my new 9mm and pointed it at them and gave them the old dirty harry routine. “well, do ya feel lucky, punk?” ok this would have worked in this case since they wern’t armed. well I don’t know for absolute sure but they didn’t seem armed. but what if they were? me pointing the gun at them, they might panic and start shooting at me. so on the one hand you have me telling them to get lost and they do. or, if I had had the gun, a possible shoot out. seems to me the first choice is better.
    also, which is better if you got 3 guys burst into your home and they all have loaded guns. cooperate and hope for the best? or start shooting and hope they have bad aims or get scared and leave? these are the types of questions I wonder about. now if severely threatened, I think I could definately shoot to kill but to always have a gun around seems like in some situations it’s just escalating the situation that might not need to be escalated. when to actually use the gun, and when to not in different situations, this is what I am thinking about, not what caliber is best. (by the way i took the advice and have hollow points for home defense, not the FMJ)

  • Jason

    Tab, If you’re comfortable shooting the Browning, then it’s effectiveness will not disappoint you. Get as comfortable as you can and train so you know it inside and out. Any properly working 12 gauge will accomplish what you need it to.

    Gypsy, no first hand experience with the Taurus Judge, but you may want to look into the Magnum edition since the .410 regular version isn’t rated very highly for self defense.

    Brian, The way I see it, if you’ve entered my home you’ve already escalated the situation. I’m not going to take the chance you’re not going to hurt me, by entering my home you’ve already made aggressive move towards me and there’s no way to tell how far you’ll go.

    Great discussion!

  • http://www.asciugatriceclassea.info Gina

    In my family we always had beretta’s, but I would like to handle a glock, look quite compact and of not too big size, too.

    I have start training in combat sports untill i was a kid, I have to say in almost 40 years of adult age I pointed a gun to somebody only once, all other stress situation I had met I was able to affront with out even take out my beretta.

  • Bill Mclaren

    Good question Brian.
    IMO having a secure perimiter is the first line of any home defense. If its hard to get in you will give yourself time to secure the family and arm yourself. Then you can call the cops and verbaly warn them before they are in your home.
    I have a 12 gauge with 00 for home defense which I feel comfortable keeping in the safe away from my small kids because my home is hard to get into without making a lot of noise.

  • Brian

    good point bill.my house is rediculously easy to break into, many cheap made windows, and a cheap sliding glass door in the back. putting a stick in windows and sliding glass doors works but it’s a pain since you always forget you have the stick in there and you have to keep on removing it and putting it back over and over again. most break in’s dont happen in the middle of the night. it’s usually when they think nobody is home during the day, as in my case. but you never know. even in my nice area of the city, we had a crack house close by, and even in a fancy bluff house overlooking the water, the renters had a pot growing operation and I came home one day to find the entire street blocked off, cause they had pipe bombs inside the house I guess to guard against somebody breaking into their pot operation and stealing stuff. crazy.

    we recently had a crime here in the north of seattle area, where people put adds on craigslist, and the people who responded to the add, came to their house. this happened two times. first time the person answers the door, and one guy says I want to buy such and such, so they let him in, he pulls a gun and then a couple other guys come in later with guns. they tie the people up with those plastic ties and ransack the house, stealing petty things. and left. second time, guy was selling a ring, and they showed up, again one guy, followed by a few more all with guns. this time a 14 year old boy put up some resistance so they pistol whipped him, his dad saw this and put up a struggle. they shot him dead. tied up the rest of the family stole some stuff and then left. they caught them in california a week later and charged this one punk with murder. so, first instance they cooperated and nobody got hurt, second instance they fought back without guns, and lost. I have decided I will not open my door to anybody whom I dont know. if I dont’ know em, I’m going to ignore em, unless of course it’s a 8 year old girl selling cookies or something. the newspapers came out and said anytime you sell something, agree to meet them in a public place. but how do you do that if what you are selling can’t be moved easily? i’ts pretty scary. the thing I think about in carrying a gun is if I was out hiking say. I like to have a gun for possible animal attacks or weird people attacks. we also had two women found murdered off a popular trail in the mountains close by where I live, and nobody ever found out who did it. if they had had a gun things might have been different for them.

  • Bill Mclaren

    Its expensive to make your house safe brian, but it is worth it. Memorial weekend around 8pm im barbecuing in back yard and my 6 year old daughter runs out shouting someone is trying to get in front door. I have ornamental steel outer security doors so i can open inside door and safely see who is there or leave inside door open to let breeze in. this guy is banging on door and trying handle. i tell him to back off and he just keeps trying door. so wife calls cops and i grab shotgun. he finaly gets the message when i point gun at him and warn him off. cops were there in 4 mins and took him down. turns out he was in a hit and run, ditched his car and was running from cops.
    only takes one instance in a lifetime to pay for those windows and doors.

  • The AncientOne

    When considering a weapon for self-defense, one must absolutely consider the circumstances and while most are thinking and applying what has been said to living in a city or town, there are a vast number of Americans living out in “the country” where things are much different. For example, where we live, we have 15 acres and there is no a home within a quarter of a mile. Yes, normally the shotgun would still apply, but change the circumstances to a total breakdown of the system to the point there is no power, no fire or police protection, and you are on your own and if people know you have more than they do, they will come. They will come anyway to find out if you do have more than they and they will plan on taking it. Still thinking .223? I don’t think so. For me, surrounded by woods with a large, very large open area, say 100 yards in all directions between us and the woods, I want some power so if I have to shoot an invader at 75 or even 100 yards away, I know they are not coming any further because I will protect my entire family. We have buried caches all over the property so I can get to what I need no matter where I am on the property and no, you will not find them and if you did, I assure you, entry into them will NOT happen unless you know how and unless you have had the intensive training many of us have had in the military, you will not get close enough to any cache to open it and if you do, you will not get it open!
    The AncientOne
    Remember this: Things are usually NOT as they seem!

  • http://domestictreason.blogspot.com MadDogMarine

    Neuville said
    “So Jeff, we get to the real crux of the issue. The reality is guns don’t make you safer. Guns make you feel safer. They are a psychological salve more than a real instrument of safety. Sep 24th, 2008″

    Weapons have never been an instrument of safety. They are an instrument of freedom. And many have died using them for that very purpose.
    Semper Fi

  • Brian

    Ditto about the AR-15; this is a long-range rifle with an easy 1/4 mile killing-range range, which isn’t really required unless you live on a ranch and have a lot of advanced warning about who’s coming. Likewise, it’s just too big and unwieldy for an indoors-weapon.

    If you were to cut the stock and barrel off, then you’d have a great home-defense pistol though– but I don’t know about the legality (or even feasibiity) of doing this.

  • Dau Tieng 59

    Mr. Chamberlain, the Second Amendment is about military weaponry does say do about hunting as the pols like to think. A shotgun in a multi person family is best because it will sweep an area as oppossed to a single ball needing to be placed properly. A head shot with a shotgun will settle the problem one shot, one problem solved. It is better to have a thousand extraneous rounds left then to be one round short. Evidently you think the only people with an interest ilarge capasity magazines are drug dealers. If you look to our southern boarder you will find the drug dealers are not just using their weapons on other drug dealers but on police and citizens. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to defend against them and also remember LA during Katrina when the citizens were disarmed and only the police and crooks had weapons.
    Over 100,00 people are killed each year by Medical mistakes are we going to close the hospitals to save them? As has been mentioned here the reason kids are dying from gunshot wounds is that the are not taught about weapons and kill themselves playing with weapons.

    Another scenario for your possible problems with a weapon in the home is if the sun came up behind the prep while you were trying to defend yourself you could be blinded by the light and the prep could take the weapon away from you. Remember when seconds count the police are just minutes away.

  • Mike Reiter

    Jeff, great article. I’ve kept a Mossberg 590 in our home for years. First shell is a #8 game load, the rest are #1 buck. The idea is, if I get my way with the first one, I don’t need the buck shot. However, if the first shell doesn’t get it done, the next one will. Another advantage of the lack of overpenetration on the game load is the drywall repairs are easier. In a pinch, you can always use a shotgun to beat an intruder half to death if you’re up to it.

    I have a Ruger .357 as a backup, using frangible ammo. I like 6 in the wheel and I like not tripping over spent brass on the ground…especially in the dark. If you can’t get it done with 6, you’re probably not ever going to ever get it done.

  • Matt

    Being an avid target shooter, my first choice would be a 12 gauge pump, followed by my S&W .357. However, both of these take practice to use in any situation. However, I did hear of an idea that is great as a backup, as well as for those who don’t have the time, inclination or money to invest in firearms and training. Wasp and Hornet Killer. Before you start laughing, grab yourself a can of the stuff and read the label. Sprays up to 22 feet and kills on contact. Hazardous to Humans and domestic animals. Contains Tetramethrin and Permetrin. It will disable and render someone unconscious. And it is cheap and readily available. Several cans will cost less than a box of good ammo. You can keep a can in different areas of the house so you are never without some defensive measures. A spray in the face will stop an aggressor. In the eyes, nose or moulth better call 911 unless….

  • Pete

    I prefer the concept of accuracy by volume. Meaning, more bullets, more better.

  • Fabian, another swiss

    A .223 Carbine would be the perfect choice if all functions were available, particularly the 3 shots full auto, but it takes some training. These weapons being unlawful I will settle on the shot gun but in 20 gauge.
    Effectively and unless you can drill like we do in the army, the 12 gauge has more to do with folklore than efficiency. The noise and the recoil are way to violent for a casual shooter. Furthermore, I checked the price of ammo and at $ 1/shot, it will cost you a fortune to get proficient. Automatic double actions handguns like the SIG or the Glock are very good weapons, they never fail with the proper ammo. Contrary to popular belief, shooting doubles with 2 hands, at 10 yards (majority of gun fights are within 10 yards) is easy and fun to master. Regarding over penetration, I’m sure that you can find loads that will mitigate this problem.

  • Brad Nailer

    I wonder, what are the odds of a life threatening personal attack, versus the threat of heart attack, stroke, cancer and the like. Do you guys bring the the same passion to guarding your health and protecting yourself from disease that you do to your weaponry?

  • Dan

    Some of the arguments against rifles here are ridiculous. Its obvious you shouldn’t trust your life to a weapon you are not comfortable or practiced with. An adrenaline dump and limited visibility don’t make you safer or more accurate with a shotgun than they do a rifle. Ever heard of reflexive fire? I’ve seen 19 year olds who can barely tie their shoes do it.

  • Keith Whitmore

    Using a AR-15 for home defense, you nuts? The 223 round is a deadly round. It will easily penetrate a block wall & keep going. Now, your going to shoot it in your house for home defense. I hope none of your family, friends or innocent people are walking any where near your hooch. If they are, they are dead meat & all you need to do is call the cops & the meat wagon.

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  • http://www.homedefenseshotgun.net Chuck Burns

    Great article!

    Lots of very good comments and it makes me smile and shake my head to read some of the comments. The one about the Glock safety was a head shaker. I love the Glock, it has three built in safeties that are always on as long as my finger is off the trigger. When my finger is on the trigger the safety is off. No worry in a stressful situation about finding the safety. Just aim and if need be, fire. 17 rounds of Hydra Shok.

    My home defense weapon of choice is the Remington 870 12GA along with my Glock 17. I keep trigger locks on all my guns because of grand children who live with me. My guns are not readily available to me but that is my choice. I like it that way, my choice and not the government dictating what I “SHALL” do. If I lived alone I would keep the Glock 17 and shotgun, and AR15 in a more ready to use condition.

    The recent comment about the AR15 penetrating a block wall. I guess that depends on the block. I watched a TV show that compared the M16 5.56×45 round to the AK47 7.62×39 round. The 5.56 did not appear to go through both sides of a common cinder block with the first round. After several rounds the block was broken up. The 7.62×39 round being much heavier did considerably more damage to the block with one shot and easily broke the block apart with following shots.

  • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Woody

    Jeff, I stumbled on this site by accident, but am glad I did. I live S/W of H’ville out in the sticks, I’m a retired farmer, totally disabled Vietnam Vet and needless to say a gun owner. We have NO close neighbors just cows and coyote’s, its not as safe out here as it use to be, when we were younger we never locked a door or window! Now if we are watching TV the doors are locked if we are out back the front door is locked, we live off of the road and have drive way monitors that let us know if someone turns off the main road. It goes off in our house and out back. We also have an alarm system on the house, but out here no one could hear it and the County cops are so far away by the time they got here intruders would be gone with what they came for. We have a daughter that lives on our farm with her husband but they both work, they are our only neighbors that we can see, you could yell you head off and no one could hear you. My wife and I are here most all of the time, she is disabled also, we’re in a hell of a mess but still function. As for protection I carry a Taurus PT 380 auto in my pocket 24/7, I have guns all over the house and in our out buildings, I’m not scared, I’m just rational. You can tell to look at me that I’m not in good health, but also I’m too damn old and have been too many miles and too many bad places to be scared of anyone, I won’t run and I never won’t to hurt anyone, But let someone try to break in on us or hurt me or my wife or hurt my daughter and he will be a dead SOB. I also keep a Mossburg 500 20 ga. pump gun close by.
    On the subject of kids and guns around the house, I’ve always had guns around and at a very young age we taught our daughter what guns were for and that they could hurt you very bad and kill. We never had a problem she knew what they were and didn’t bother them now at close to 40 she is a heck of a shot with anything that has a trigger.
    Woody
    .-= Woody´s last blog ..Get Your Email Under Control Like a CEO =-.

  • Dan S

    The thing I have failed to read throughout this thread is the need for tactical defensive training. Low light, shooting on the move, carjack defense, handgun retention, defensive folding knife. All are available and absolutely necessary. Find an instructor, a group…whatever, and start training. Train the way you’d fight. Use the weapons, ammo, and circumstances to get the muscle memory. We train at least twice a month. It’s fun, informative, and progressive.

  • Don

    Nice article and good discussion…In my south Texas nieghborhood, it is quiet for the most part except for speeders, drunkenly stuporous drivers and an occasional car break-in…I could care less about what is outside my home, insurance can help replace what is busted or lost of the items we really need…

    Coming inside will bring prospective thieves face to face with 4 dogs that have already been barking beforehand, which will give me more than enough time to make a 911 call and arm myself if or when it comes to that…I am proficient with 12 gauge shotguns and have a Mossberg 500 pump…but I like the idea of hornet/wasp insecticide as a possible temporary incapacitating agent if the situation dictates…But I’m going to assume the thieves are armed and defend myself accordingly…

  • Jonnyrat

    Jeff, great conversation.

    I would also recommend the alarm. We installed an alarm, every window and door has a sensor, plus 2 motion sensors. The sirens could wake the dead. This SHOULD deter most any intruder.
    If someone gets in the house and keeps coming with both alarms blaring, he probably needs to be met with lethal force.

    As a side note, we awoke at 2am to the screaming alarm, my 5 year old was apparently sleep walking and opened the front door.
    I hate to think what could have happened if we didn’t have the alarm.
    I’m on the road a lot, $40 per month is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

    I am also well armed, Colt Govt .45, Mossberg 12ga, Baby Eagle 9mm, SKS, Dragoon .44, Taurus .357….. The Colt and Mossberg are my at-hand weapons. Go to the range often, shooting should be second nature if you choose to own a firearm.

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  • Julie

    I am a older woman in my uper years and can not handle one of them 12 gauge guns. What do you think about the 20 gauge ones. Should I use a pistal, I have been robbed 2 times now.

  • Rob

    Hahaha an assault rifle (or almost) is the best weapon for home defence?? I’m glad I live in a country where guns are illegal… and also most homes are far too small to be able to bring a gun to bear, especially a huge one like that AR-15 or the shotgun. I live in London, by the way!
    Doesn’t being armed with a firearm mean you’re more likely to get shot and killed? i.e. you’re more of a threat. Isn’t this what insurance is for? Almost no-one is going to get kidnapped, so just keep safe, don’t be a hero, let the insurers reimburse you.

  • Frank M

    I prefer a short barrel 20 ga pump. Educate your children.

    I am 74 now and grew up with guns. I was started with a BB gun at age 6, then progressed into .22 bullseye, trap shooting, handgun bullseye and now, home defense. I reload to make target shooting and plinking less expensive. We live in Illinois where carrying is not yet allowed.

    We have a safe room. We (my wife and I) have a Mossberg 20 gage pump gun which I bought used and shortened to 18 1/2″ with a hardware store tubing cutter. Federal law allows, without special license, a short barrel shotgun if the barrel is 18 ” and overall length is 26″. Check local laws. I chose the Mossberg over a Remington 870 because the Mossberg is easier to reload quickly and it doesn’t pinch your finger. I left the original stock on it because to me the stock up at my shoulder is familiar, like trap shooting or hunting. I would have to learn the hip shot hold if it had a pistol grip. The weight of the stock absorbs some recoil. With 15 rounds of 2 3/4 inch, #3 buckshot the whole shebang only cost $177 in November 2010.

    I sleep with a cheap, Hi-Point 9mm semi-auto, with factory made jacketed hollow points, nearby. It and the 20 ga are ready/safe, with magazines full, chambers empty.

    My sons are grown and gone, but I would like to pass along my way of educating them because I think children want to learn and will be safe if they are properly taught. As soon as mine showed interest in my guns, I assured them that guns were dangerous and they should not touch them until they grew older. But I would be glad to stop whatever I was doing and show them a gun whenever they asked. I let them choose which gun they wanted to look at. I would hold the gun myself, but after the show, they could hold it for a minute or so to feel it. I began by determining and showing them the gun wasn’t loaded. Then I would carry it elsewhere, get one bullet or shell and point to where it goes in, point out how you cock it, where the trigger is, how you hold and aim it, and where the bullet or load comes out. Each time I showed them a gun I used the opportunity to review the gun handling safety measures I was following.

    I stopped whatever I was doing whenever they showed interested and used the opportunity to stress safety.

    When my children were old enough they could come with me to the gun club. I wouldn’t shoot when I had a “newbie” along, so I could supervise closely. One of them at a time could shoot for a while. As they matured I had them “coach” each other. At about age 9, whenever they demonstrated sufficient responsibility, they could shoot on their own at the gun range.

    At about age 11 we began hunting together. When they or their friends were old enough to drive, they could go hunting with friends, without me. I had confidence in their skill and safety.

  • BADLANDS

    NEUVILLE, OBVIOUSLY you have no first hand experience with forced entry home invasions. I live in a place where it has occurred to a house on every block and recently mine so I’ll tell you the basics.
    Criminals is a plural word. When they get together with a great idea they usually all/most carry weapons and storm down a locked door or two in about 1 minute. Once inside they point all of their guns at whomever is left inside and anyone reaching for anything is shot. (pepper spray = dead) So enjoy your happy never have to hurt anyone crime free life to pontificate about how unlikely this is to happen to you as I walk down my block as do many others living in bad areas know that our home invasions don’t even make the news.