What kind of firearm will you choose to defend family and property?
Perhaps you’ve heard of folks who recommend a shotgun or handgun for home defense purposes. Both are easily maneuverable in tight quarters, like your home’s hallways and doorways. But what they don’t tell you is that hitting a target accurately with a handgun takes immense practice. And using a shotgun indoors? You risk blowing your eardrums and destroying more of your home than the actual intruder. Does that mean neither will work for home defense purposes? No, that is not what we are saying. Every firearm has a use. Sometimes, that use is better suited for outside of the home rather than inside. Ever consider that an AR-15 might be better suited to home defense?
HOME DEFENSE FIREARM CONSIDERATIONS
Every weapon has its advantages and disadvantages for home defense. Before you run out and buy a new gun, consider the following factors if your primary goal is home defense.
- Space — As we said, your home is loaded with confined spaces, like hallways, that will affect how you operate a weapon and aim indoors. Both shotguns and stock AR-15s feature 16-inch or longer barrels. They are out of the question. But an AR-15 pistol or handgun would make sense.
- Experience — How experienced are you with each type of firearm? Do you have one in your home right now? If so, how often do you visit the range or clean your weapon? The greater your experience level, the more comfortable you are operating a weapon inside tight quarters.
- Firepower — A pistol offers the least amount of firepower of all three weapons in our discussion, but an AR-15 uses a small bullet with high velocity. Shotguns, on the other hand, offer stopping power at close ranges.
- Recoil — If your goal is to stop an intruder from doing you or your family harm, you want to take them down quickly. Therefore, recoil and target reacquisition is crucial. For that, an AR-15 is the clear winner, as shotguns are heavy and pistols kick hard.
- Family — The whole point of home defense is to protect your home and family. It would not be good to fire a round capable of piercing a wall and entering your master bedroom. In home defense scenarios, opt for hollow points, which expand and slow on impact rather than penetrate.
Shotguns are the classic answer to any home defense need. Reason being is probably because shotguns are what the average American household had at home for the past century. Today, it’s most likely a type of handgun. However, don’t follow President Biden’s advice, “buy a shotgun.” His suggestion for handling home intruders is “to walk out and fire two blasts outside the house…” Or, “just fire the shotgun through the door.” Definitely head over to USCCA to get clarity with actual legal experts on that instead.
Of course, if you want to opt for a shotgun, more power to you. But before you splurge on that next sick gun you saw in a movie, consider these pros and cons for using a shotgun in home defense scenarios:
- Pro #1 You probably won’t miss - The beauty of shotguns is that it makes it hard to miss while using birdshot or buckshot at close distances.
- Pro #2 Opt for slugs - If you want to be positive of cancelling the threat, you can opt for slugs which will be sure to pack a huge punch to your shoulder, but an even bigger hole in the intruder.
- Pro #3 Will instill fear into intruders when you pump the gun - Most home burglaries are looking to quickly grab the most valuable possessions they can find in a matter of minutes. They’re not looking to fight for their lives. So with any lunch, a quick pump of your shotgun and it might dissuade invaders that are not that invested. z
- Pro #4 Opt for semi-auto shotgun - Pump shotguns tend to kick a little hard so if you opt for a semi-auto shotgun which is driven by a gas piston, the shooting experience will be a lot more manageable and follow up shots will be easier to make.
- Con #1 It’s going to be incredibly loud - If you ever encounter a home defense situation chances are you might not have time to grab your ear pro. Of course, it’s going to be loud with a handgun too but 12 gauge, 18.5” barrel shotguns are about 161.50 decibels when fired and handguns are rated at around 159.8 dB so there isn’t really a way around that.
- Con #2 Length of barrel - Most 12 gauge shotguns are going to vary in lengths between 18.5”, 26” and 28”. If you do choose a shotgun make sure to choose one that is 18.5” It’s a little long but will still be more manageable than any longer length. But still, at that length it will be easy to accidentally run into walls or bump into door frames.
- Con #3 Ammo capacity - Unless your shotgun has an extended magazine tube the capacity of many 12 gauge shotguns are typically 5+1. That’s not a lot of rounds for you to send down range. If this is a concern you may want to look for different types of firearms.
- Con #4 Area of effect - If using birdshot or buckshot, you can bet that you’ll significantly damage your home as well if you blast off a few shells. Perhaps some investment in skill and other firearms platforms would be better compared to the home renovation that’s awaiting you in the aftermath of a home defense situation.
AR-15 Home Defense
We were just talking about the issue of barrel lengths so it might strike you as odd that an AR-15 is what we would reach for if an unlucky person ever decided to invade our homes. However, take a look at our pros and cons below and you’ll see why the AR-15 is our personal preference.
There are a few great reasons why homeowners opt for an AR-15 for home defense instead of the usual pistol or pump-action shotguns of old.
- Pro #1 Magazine Capacity — In most states, the standard magazine capacity of an AR-15 is 30 rounds. You do not want to take precious time to reload when someone is in your home.
- Pro #2 Simplicity — Overall, the AR-15 is one of the easiest and simplest firearms to learn and master. It offers fantastic ergonomics, controllable recoil, and customization to improve comfort, accuracy, and usability.
- Pro #3 Customizable — Speaking of customization, the AR-15 is one of the most modifiable weapons of all time. You can attach lights, lasers, adjustable stocks, fore grips and a variety of optics to your rifle.
- Pro #4 Pistol Caliber Options - For those more familiar with terminal ballistics, it wouldn’t really make sense to have an AR-15 chambered in .223 Remington/ 5.56 NATO so what one can do is opt for an AR-9 and utilize a short barrel chambered in 9mm instead. You get all the benefits of the AR platform and it will still be maneuverable around the home.
Of course, an AR-15 is not without a few marks in the cons section.
- Con #1 Price -For one, you have the price. Of all three firearms, a rifle is the most expensive. If you know where to look, you can score a bargain rifle for less than $800 but it won’t be the highest quality nor will it run the smoothest; it will simply work. Handguns cost an average of $5-700 and it’s quite easy to score a pump shotgun for less than $400. So if you build out a nice AR-15, you’re probably looking at something closer to $1000 or more, and that’s without any optics.
- Con #2 Length- Unless you purchase an AR-15 pistol or apply for a tax stamp to run a short-barreled AR-15, the length of a legally compliant (16") AR-15 can be difficult to maneuver in tight spaces like hallways and doorways.. The area can be too confined.
- Con #3 Weight - While there are lightweight parts out there, if you buy a more budget AR-15, it will likely be pretty heavy. The lightweight builds are dope, but not cheap. However, that weight can partially help to counteract some of the recoil so keep that in mind too.
Revolvers & Pistols
Pistols and yes, even revolvers can do very well in home defense situations. When it comes to handguns some of the most popular compact, striker-fired pistols come to mind such as the Glock 19, Walther PPQ M2 or Sig P320. Honestly, most of us don’t shoot a lot of revolvers but a popular option could include the Ruger LCR (lightweight compact revolver) which is offered in a variety of different calibers like .22LR, 9mm, .38 Special and .357 Magnum. It’s small and can be doubled as a concealed carry gun since it can be easily pocketed or tucked away somewhere around the house. Generally speaking, when it comes to home defense we want to try to avoid guns that have too long of a barrel as it can be difficult to aim while clearing doors and hallways. That’s why handguns are great.
Revolvers & Pistol PROS
With handguns, the greatest thing to overcome is going to be skill. In a beginner’s hands, it is incredibly easy to miss a target at even point blank without enough proper training and practice. Wheel guns are cool and all but at the end of the day we aren’t Jerry Miculek and don’t expect to be able to reload that cylinder fast enough to address a threat if five or six rounds isn’t enough when a home intruder comes through.
- Pro #1 Zero Recoil - With some revolvers, there’s little to no recoil at all because there’s no slide that racks back. The hammer simply goes down and the bullet goes forward.
- Pro #2 Maneuverability - You won’t get a better firearm than a handgun if you’re trying to defend yourself in extremely close quarters like your home. Door frames and hallways won’t even bother you.
- Pro #3 Magazine Capacity- At least with handguns, there are plenty of models that accommodate magazines which hold anywhere from 10 to 26 rounds. And if that’s not enough, prepare another mag! Reloading handguns is fairly easy and can be very quick.
- Pro #4 Affordability and Availability - There are so many different revolvers and pistols out there and chambered in a wide variety of calibers that what you can choose is really only limited by your budget and how patient you are as during the pandemic, it has become more difficult to source just about any desirable pistol.
- Pro #5 Ease of Use - Compared to a handgun that has a slide, the revolver is very straightforward that just about anyone can figure out how it works just by looking at it. Cock the hammer, pull the trigger. Pretty simple!
Revolvers & Pistol CONS
- Con # 1 Reloading - If you decide to be a cowboy or cowgirl, I hope you have a good throwing arm cuz you might have to check that revolver at the intruder after you empty its small capacity of five or six rounds. Sure, there are speed loaders but they’re easy to fumble around with and take a good amount of practice before you can get fast with them compared to handguns with slides.
- Con # 2 Skill Requirement - Whether you use a revolver or a striker/hammer-fired pistol, all these guns take practice for you to be familiar and comfortable with using in the event you do have to respond to a home intruder. “I went to the range once last year,” just won’t cut it.
- Con # 3 Maintenance - Unlike handguns, revolvers require regular cleaning and maintenance because, while they are extremely reliable, if something breaks it is usually not something that be a DIY fix and requires a professional to look at so best to keep them ship shape as often as possible.
HOME DEFENSE SAFETY
If you intend to purchase a firearm for home defense purposes, always remember to secure your weapon at all times. It is especially important if you have children in the home or often expect guests. For a pistol, an excellent handgun safe with a code lock is preferred. You can purchase strong and secure long-gun safes both online and in-person at most gun shops and sports equipment stores for a rifle or shotgun. Furthermore, learn how to shoot accurately and maintain your firearm. The same goes for anyone in your home old enough to use a gun safely. Practice makes perfect.
BUILD YOUR NEXT HOME DEFENSE FIREARM
While we don’t make any 80% shotguns (yet), we do make 80% lowers for Glock-style handguns and AR style rifles! If you want to skip the line at your local gun store an excellent option, should you choose to use an AR-15 for home defense, is to build one yourself using an 80% lower receiver. We have all you need to get started if you want to specifically build an AR for 9mm as well.