Your Gun-Guide for Home Defense
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
The Pros: 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.
The Cons: 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.
Rifles for Home Defense
The Pros: 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.
The Cons: 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.
Shotguns for Home Defense
The Pros: 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).
The Cons: 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.
Gun Laws for Home Defense – An Overview
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.