As a homeowner, you may often consider the risk of home invasion – depending on the relative crime rate in your area – and the usefulness of a defense weapon to protect yourself.
Thankfully, there are a large number of options when it comes to purchasing the right firearm to keep your home and family safe. Before choosing a home defense gun, do careful research to decide what type of gun is best for your situation, experience level, and needs.
Always consider the laws within your state when making a decision about buying a firearm. Here are some of the pros and cons for the three main types of firearms used in home defense.
Pistols for Home Defense
Pistols are a popular choice for home defense based on their light weight and portability. Being a handgun, pistols range from 3-10 pounds depending on the make and model.
This relative lightness allows for people of nearly all builds and body types to pick up and handle the firearm with one hand.
In the instance of a home invasion, having a free hand allows the shooter to more efficiently block or hold family members, and gives the ability to open doors to check around the house.
Pistols are also small enough to be stored in safe places, away from children.
Pistols are always going to be less powerful than other firearms. When it comes to possibly facing a large, durable intruder, a pistol shot may lack the power necessary to neutralize the situation.
From an energy perspective, pistols typically have a fourth of the power of a 12-gauge buckshot load and a third of the power of a rifle.
Pistols, although small and easy to hold, are also deceptively difficult to handle compared to a shoulder-fired gun. They are hard to accurately fire under stress, as they are usually lighter than the force required to pull the trigger.
A shaky hand will struggle to apply the force of balance necessary to effectively aim at the target.
Best Pistols for Home Defense
This compact pistol is known for its reliability, accuracy, and ease of use, making it a popular choice for home defense.
Smith & Wesson M&P9
The M&P9 is a versatile handgun with a durable design and customizable features, making it a favorite among gun enthusiasts and law enforcement personnel.
Sig Sauer P320
This modular pistol offers a customizable grip and trigger, as well as a reputation for accuracy and reliability.
The XD(M) offers a large capacity magazine, adjustable sights, and a comfortable grip, making it an attractive option for home defense.
This affordable pistol offers a compact design, reliable performance, and a variety of safety features, making it an excellent option for those on a budget.
The PPQ offers a smooth trigger, ergonomic design, and high accuracy, making it a popular choice for both home defense and competition shooting.
Rifles for Home Defense
Rifles are considered to be much more accurate than handguns, especially for inexperienced shooters.
The rifle’s larger size offers more points of contact with the shooter’s body, allowing the shooter to more effectively stabilize and provide a platform for the firearm.
Rifles are easier to aim because the longer barrel helps the shooter accurately point at the intended target. Rifles are quicker to reload than shotguns, and many take a 30-round magazine, so you won’t have to reload as often.
Rifles also offer an increased intimidation factor to potential intruders, based on their size and capability.
Some rifles, such as AR-15s, are extremely powerful and have the ability to cause collateral damage if the shooter misses the target.
Home defense is often about moving and communicating in tight spaces, and rifles restrict maneuverability when attempting to get around the house. Most rifles are nearly impossible to handle with one hand, unless the shooter is particularly experienced.
Rifles tend to be more expensive than both handguns and shotguns, and while money shouldn’t come before your family’s safety, this is a valid consideration for many.
Best Rifles for Home Defense
The AR-15 is a popular choice for home defense due to its accuracy, reliability, and high-capacity magazine. It's also highly customizable, making it an attractive option for gun enthusiasts.
The AK-47 is known for its ruggedness, reliability, and ease of use, making it a favorite among gun enthusiasts and military personnel.
This lightweight rifle offers a compact design, accurate performance, and reliable action, making it an excellent option for those who prefer a rifle for home defense.
Ruger PC Carbine
This compact rifle is highly customizable and offers reliable action and accurate performance. It is an attractive option for those who prefer a rifle for home defense.
This compact rifle offers a foldable design and customizable features, making it popular among gun enthusiasts and those who prefer a rifle for home defense.
Shotguns for Home Defense
The shotgun’s hefty size and barrel can be extremely intimidating to the target. They say nothing’s more frightening to a burglar than the sound of a pump-action shotgun.
Adding to the intimidation, the burglar is probably aware that shotguns have a high stopping power, even in a high-stress situation for the shooter.
Since the projectiles spray out of the shotgun barrel, there’s a very good chance you’ll hit your target, as well as anything nearby (which could be a con).
Shotguns can jam easily especially in the hands of an inexperienced user in a stressful situation.
A short stroke jam is not a quick fix, and in the heat of the moment it may be the difference between your assailant harming you or your family, or being stopped before he has the chance to do so.
If a shotgun is your preferred defense weapon, be sure you understand (and practice) how to properly use the firearm to avoid a jam, and what to do in the case that your gun does jam.
Shotguns, while quite powerful, tend to be slower to use than both rifles and handguns. It takes longer to reload a shotgun than a rifle, and shotguns need to be reloaded more frequently.
In the case of a home invasion, every second you spend reloading is another second you aren’t focused on the target. Shotguns also have a heavy recoil, which delays the shooter in firing a follow-up shot.
Best Shotguns for Home Defense
While technically a shotgun, the Remington 870 is a popular choice for home defense due to its reliable performance, customizable features, and versatility in terms of ammunition selection.
Like the Remington 870, the Mossberg 500 is a shotgun that is often used for home defense due to its reliability, durability, and customizable features.
This semi-automatic shotgun is a favorite among law enforcement and military personnel due to its reliability, accuracy, and customizable features.
This pump-action shotgun offers fast and smooth action, making it an attractive option for those who value speed and accuracy.
Beretta 1301 Tactical
This semi-automatic shotgun offers a comfortable grip and customizable features, making it an excellent option for those who prefer a shotgun for home defense.
An Overview of Gun Laws for Home Defense
Being a responsible and knowledgeable gun owner is necessary to stay within the law when it comes to use of a firearm.
Although the U.S. constitution warrants the right to bear arms, the use of lethal force should be minimized and applied only in dire circumstances.
Gun laws vary in each state and should be researched thoroughly when considering purchasing and using one personally.
First off, gun owners have the responsibility to ensure that their firearms do not fall into the hands of criminals or children, due to carelessness or neglect.
This requires both moral and legal responsibility. Many jurisdictions have now made it a criminal offense to leave guns unsecured, so be cautious and safe when storing, carrying, or using a personal firearm.
It’s important to understand the law in regards to the use of deadly force in self-defense or home defense.
The booklet of the Armed Citizen’s Educational Foundation suggests that shooters can face severe penalties in assault situations in which self-defense is not clear-cut.
Most states require strict “rebuttable presumption,” meaning that people who use force intentionally to cause death, or great bodily injury, to an intruder within their home must hold reasonable fear of imminent threat (death or great bodily injury) by said intruder.
Home intruders are typically considered to be in the realm of imminent threat, so in many cases the benefit of the doubt is given to the resident.
Defending Your Home
As a responsible homeowner or renter, it’s important to understand the possibility of home invasion and consider your plan of action in such a circumstance.
Having a solid plan prepared will enable you to handle a dangerous situation as swiftly and safely as possible. In many cases, owning a gun can certainly assist in the defense of your home and the protection of your family.
When choosing the right firearm for home defense, the lightweight and portable pistol, quick and accurate rifle, and powerful and intimidating shotgun are all valid options.
Be sure to carefully consider the pros and cons of each type to choose the best possible firearm for your household, and understand the laws that come with ownership and self-defense.
No matter which type of firearm you use for home defense, the real key is proficiency. It’s essential to put the time into practicing and becoming comfortable with using your gun accurately.
Remember that the gun is only as good as the shooter holding it. During a home invasion, everything will move quickly — in that flash of a moment, when you need to respond to oncoming danger, your firearm will only be an effective defense if you are proficient in using it.
*Always check with your state and local laws for restrictions before purchasing firearms or ammunition, and make sure you use the correct ammunition for your specific firearm.