American Rifleman | Home Defense Weapons: How To Choose The Right One
by B. Gil Horman –
Thursday April 15, 2021
Perhaps the only issue that raises more arguments than politics is the never-ending discussion of what is considered the “best” weapon for central defense. The truth is, no single shooting range solution meets the needs of any individual or household. Every weapon is a compromise exercise. Every platform has limitations that must be carefully considered when choosing.
Many firearms can be useful for a variety of uses, e.g. For shooting targets, hunting and concealed carry, and protecting your family. However, the following discussion will focus on firearms as the primary central defense role. The general pros and cons of each type of weapon should be borne in mind, given that most homes and residential areas limit the defender’s mobility. Remember that practical defensive shots are fired at close range, that is, at a contact distance, up to a range of 5 to 10 meters over the room.
Gun buyers should look for a firearm and ammunition combination that provides the optimum level of stopping power. Overpowering weapons create excessive recoil, noise, and muzzle flashes that can make the center-back deaf, blind, and pointed in the wrong direction. More importantly, hot laps are more likely to pass the intended destination, wander through thin-walled or window materials, and continue to cause unintended damage to others. At the other end of the spectrum, underpowered weapons will not stop the threat effectively.
Dealing with concerns of over-penetration or inadequate defense is one of the reasons civilians are often asked to investigate law enforcement practices. A police officer and a central defender have the same goals in mind, which is to stop a threat quickly without causing unintentional collateral damage. So don’t be too surprised if some of the weapon options listed here look like they were from a district inventory.
Many affordable rifles and handguns are available in .22 long rifle. However, they should be avoided for central defense. The .22 lap generates little braking force so that an attacker can still cause damage long after the bullet is hit. Rimfire weapons like the .22 can jam or fail to fire due to faulty primers than shotgun, rifle or handgun cartridges. The .22s are great for planking, hunting small game and practicing, but have no place in a central defense lineup.
The main difference between shotguns for outdoor sports and those for self-defense is barrel length. Combat shotguns typically have short barrels between 18.5 “and 20” in length. Some combat models offer expanded magazine capacity or a special sighting system, but are usually identical to sport shotguns in other respects.
The common types of combat shotguns include pump action, semi-automatic action, and the occasional break action. The pump or slide action requires the shooter to pull the forearm back towards the receiver and then push it forward again to take another round from the magazine. Pumps are abundant, relatively inexpensive, and mechanically reliable. Semi-automatic chamber a new lap with each pull of the trigger until the magazine is empty. Semi-automobiles can fire shots faster and more accurately, but they are more expensive to purchase and more tricky with certain 12 ga types. Ammunition. Break-Actions pivot to allow the base of the gun’s single or double barrel to swing away from the receiver to remove used grenades and manually reload fresh ones. Break-Actions are reliable and easy to use, but only offer a one or two shot capacity.
The 12-ga. The combat shotgun has been called the most effective anti-personnel weapon invented. The saturation effect of Buckshot is simply devastating for soft tissue. The result is a high level of braking power. However, the felt recoil produced by the 12-gauge is intense, often too intense for small-framed shooters. The shotgun’s shoulder bruises can be reduced by switching to low-recoil ammunition or by using 20-gauge ammunition instead.
Shotguns have low ammo capacity, usually 4 + 1 in the chamber, compared to most tactical rifles and semi-automatic handguns. They reload relatively slowly, so that the cartridges have to be drawn into the chamber or magazine one at a time. In addition, their length and weight can make maneuvering in tight spaces difficult.
It is important to take a moment here to dispel some of the Hollywood mythologies that surround these powerful firearms. A blow from a shotgun cartridge will not allow an attacker to fly across the room. Shotguns are not wands that shoot destructive beach ball-sized bullets. Holding a shotgun at waist height and spraying lead in the general direction of a threat is a bad idea for two important reasons. First, at home defense distances, shooting patterns remain small. This means that untargeted shots are just as likely to miss the threat as shots fired by other defensive weapons. Second, while an accumulation of shotgun pellets is unlikely to penetrate the human body, this accumulation can pass walls with great energy to cause damage beyond its intended target.
Movies and TV shows have enchanted shotguns only with pistol grip. None of the professional instructors I’ve worked with recommend this configuration for home protection. Removing the shoulder stick makes a shotgun shorter and easier to move, but they are not practical means of defense as it is almost impossible to aim properly. Leave the pistol grip shotguns only to the SWAT teams to break through doors and install a traditional or six position stock on you.
While bolt action rifles are great for big game, they’re poor choices for central defense. These rifles are slow to load, slow to fire, and the high powered cartridges they fire create excessive muzzle flash, noise, recoil, and are very likely to be able to penetrate the target. If you need a rifle for central defense, consider a tactical semi-auto or pistol carbine.
In recent years the popularity of tactical rifles has skyrocketed. The most popular seem to be those based on the AR-15 design. Other examples of this breed are the AK-47, M1 Carbine, and Ruger Mini-14. These rifles are light, easy to fire, have low recoil, and offer plenty of ammunition.
Rifles are powerful defensive weapons, with some models offering stopping power similar to a shotgun, but without as much recoil. For center-backs who live in rural areas, rifles can provide the extra range and accuracy needed to deal with pests of the four-legged variety. As with the shotgun, the length of a rifle can make it difficult to maneuver in tight spaces. The other disadvantage of tactical rifles is their high price. In some cases, you can buy two or three defensive shotguns for the price of a tactical rifle.
Another great choice for central defense is a pistol-caliber carbine. Compact lever rifles, chambered for revolver cartridges such as .357 Mag. And .45 Colt, have been protecting people’s interests for some time. Lever rifles usually hold multiple cartridges in their magazines, but fresh cartridges must be loaded one at a time, much like a shotgun. Some manufacturers offer semi-automatic carbines that accept pistol magazines in popular defensive pistol calibers. These rifles provide ammo and magazine compatibility with a pistol you already own, and the longer barrels increase the speed of the charge.
Small arms continue to be some of the most commonly purchased firearms for home defense for several reasons. Easy to maneuver in tight spaces, they can be held and fired with one hand, with the other hand free to operate a flashlight, open doors, and so on. They can be held close to the body to prevent them from being grabbed or pushed away by an intruder. The compact size of a pistol allows it to be stored in a small space, like a safe box in a dresser drawer. The market right now is full of excellent defensive handgun options.
The two most common types of defensive handguns are double-acting revolvers and semi-automatic pistols. Double action turrets have a cylinder that swings to the side for loading and unloading and typically has a capacity of five to six rounds. Revolvers are easy to use and very reliable. They have no buttons, levers, or switches. Just pull the trigger and the gun will fire. Defensive revolvers are most commonly used in .38 Spl. And .357 Mag. Loading a revolver with .38 Spl. + P ammunition can increase the braking power of the revolver without the lightning and recoil associated with .357 Mag. Charges. A 3 to 4 inch barrel is usually recommended for home use.
Semi-automatic pistols use a box magazine to load the ammunition. These pistols can be more complicated to use, but they have a lighter trigger, hold more ammunition, and can be reloaded faster than a revolver. Some of the most common semi-automatic pistol cartridges available for defense are the 9mm Luger, .45 ACP, and .40 S&W full-size pistols, also known as duty-size pistols, offer larger magazine capacities and longer grips for more comfortable practicing than the compact and sub-compact pistols preferred for legal concealed carry.
Although handguns are useful for central defense, they are poor stoppers overall when compared to rifles and shotguns. The rule of thumb when choosing a defensive pistol is to choose the most powerful cartridge that you can comfortably handle. The exception to this rule are the high-performance hunting pistols such as .44 Mag., .454 Casull and .500 S&W, which should be avoided. Just like a hunting rifle, the lightning bolt and report of these cartridges leave home defenders deaf and blind when they need their senses most urgently, and the bullet is very likely to get over the target.
Choosing a firearm for home defense is a process that should involve careful research and foresight. Do your homework. Get within range and test the weapons you are interested in before you buy. Trust your instincts as you identify the gun that best suits your needs, even if the gun freak behind the counter disagrees.
In our turnkey solutions society, we sometimes look to our equipment to solve our problems and do the hard work for us. No amount of money invested in flashy guns and high quality ammunition will ever make up for a mistake unless you invest in your understanding of defensive shooting. The budget for a home rifle should include funds for on-site practice, textbooks and videos, and live training with a professional instructor. The self-defense instruments that you have between your ears are always more important than the weapon that you have in your hands.