The most dangerous places are outside the home. For home defense, we have barriers including outer doors, glass, and hard interior doors. Hopefully, the family has your back, and you have a plan. If not, you have more problems than I can address. Illegal narcotics, and the pharmaceutical industry’s greed fed opioid epidemic, turn many against their fellows, and the family is the first victim—just so you will not be surprised.
My home is modest, and I have genuine affection for my neighbors. I am lucky. The first line of defense is an early warning system named Lucy. She is a rescue dog, an American Dingo sometimes called a Carolina Dog or a Pariah dog. She is 55-pounds of love, loyalty, and fine-tuned senses that serve to alert us of movements around the neighborhood.
The courts have held that the need for self-defense is more apparent in the home. However, many liberal doctrines have given every advantage to the burglar. The Castle Doctrine, defining the right of citizens, outlines that there is no need to retreat from an attack in the home. This is a return to the doctrine of the Kings Peace that is fair and just.
All prepared Americans should have a good grasp of the law. We should also be prepared. My experience as a trainer indicates that more Americans keep a firearm at ready in the home than carry a handgun concealed.
The concealed carry permit holder may own but a single handgun. The concealed carry handgun is a compromise of power, weight, size, and control. While pistols such as the Glock 19 9mm are fine home defenders, the snub nose .38 and compact slim line 9mm pistols may be less than ideal in comparison.
Any reliable handgun is better than a broom handle, but there are good choices that should be examined. A full-size revolver and proper loads make for a formidable home-defense handgun. The revolver may be braced against a door jamb for greater control and will deliver its gun load into a single ragged hole at 7 yards. If you carry a Commander .45 or SIG P227 as I do, then the carry gun simply becomes the home defense gun.
A good program many shooters are following is to carry the handgun at all times when at home. A study of time and motion indicates that this is a good course. A home invasion, despite your best preparation, will be a surprise. A shotgun in the closet or a handgun under the mattress is worthless when you are in the kitchen.
A firearm in every room—which some of my cop friends find suits them well—simply serves to arm the burglar that invades the home when you are absent. The guns not actually being deployed should be in the safe. A counter argument by my friend Sid is that if you have a safe in the house, the burglar will return, place a gun to your head, and you will open the safe.
While I respect Sid’s opinion, I think it is mostly millionaires who have the worry of concerning such sophisticated thieves. The Hornady RAPiD safe is the ideal storage place for handguns and rifles and shotguns that may be needed at a moments notice. As for myself, I have adopted a rather reserved program that works for me.
The carry gun, usually a Les Baer or Kimber .45 these days, is kept at home to be ready when I return from my daily chores. For moving about the home, mowing the lawn, and other chores, the snub nose .38 is kept in the pocket. This solves a lot of problems. It is my choice, and it works.
The .45 is still the dedicated home defense gun; I simply have something extra. It seems odd the weight of the 1911 never bothers out of the home but when typing and working at home it does. Each has to determine their personal preferences. In practically every waking moment, I am armed. The pistol under the coat, in an IWB holster, or shoulder holster may be a .357 or .44 revolver, or a 10mm or .45 caliber self-loader.
When I am asleep, the carry gun is near my hand. In my youth, and as a peace officer, I observed a common ready mode that was nearly always taken by widows and other ladies. A .32 or .38 revolver was kept under the pillow at night. I am not recommending this, but it seemed comforting for my grandmother after my grandfather passed. Considering the number of women that have been awakened by a burglar or rapist at the foot of the bed or even in bed with them, this ready mode made good sense. Thus, a rifle in the corner isn’t the best answer for such attacks.
For those with a more defined concern, such as a takeover robbery, a rifle might be the answer. Those living in the back forty, who sometimes get into fights with feral dogs or wish to dust off predators, may wish to keep a versatile rifle handy.
The 5.56mm carbine—with proper loads—is one choice. As of today, I am seeing second- and third-quality AR-type rifles selling for less than $500. Good quality rifles, such as the Ruger AR-15 is selling for less than $700. ($622.15 at cheaperthandirt.com) This makes it easier to recommend the AR-15 rifle for home defense.
Another good home-defense long gun, the M1 carbine, is becoming increasingly difficult to find (in good examples). If you have one, confirm its reliability and load it with the Hornady Critical Defense .30 carbine load. I cannot imagine a better home defender.
These rifles will give you an advantage against a takeover gang or marauding dog packs. There are some valid concerns with over penetration, but the primary means of avoiding over penetration is to hit the target. The Hornady .223 55-grain V Max, as an example, will exhibit less penetration than the typical 9mm or .45 caliber handgun, and it has greater predicted wound potential. The SIG Sauer Elite .300 Blackout hollow point was recently adopted by a good friend. Thus far, the reports from his testing shows this is a good home defense loading.
Sporting guns may be pressed into service for home defense. A .22 Long Rifle self-loader is a common home defense load. There are many files on this rifle, and it has generally been successful. The primary concern is reliability with the heel-based bullet and inside priming of the rimfire cartridge. While it is not the preferred cartridge for most, the .22 LR may be all that is available, and it will serve if properly delivered in double and triple taps to the arterial region.
Whatever the firearm chosen the piece should be proofed for reliability. While the long gun is a formidable firearm, be certain of its handling under stress. Carrying a child in one arm, moving with the firearm, or using the cellphone to call 911 makes for complicated gun handling that should be practiced.
A weapon-mounted light is an aid in home defense provided the user is skilled in its use. I like the advantage of a light that isn’t attached to the firearm as well. You will search more often than you will engage an adversary. Aiming the light slightly to one side of an object (such as a door jamb) makes for greater visual clarity and less glare. Properly illuminating an object in a modest-sized room may be accomplished by aiming the light toward the ceiling.
While I do not like gadgets for their own sake, my worst-case scenario rifle is well equipped for every problem. The Colt SOCOM is fitted with a Redfield Battlezone scope. This rifle is my test bed for ammunition performance. In the home, it is often loaded with the Hornady V Max. The rifle is fitted with a LaserMax Uni Laser in order to give the rifle utility in home defense. I have practiced looking over the top turret of the scope and results are good to 15 yards—far beyond a home defense problem.
The shotgun is a superior home defense firearm provided the user takes the time to learn to handle the recoil and power of the shotgun. The Remington 870 is among the fastest handling and most reliable shotguns of all time. A modern AR-15-type stock with a forend that will accept a combat light seems a good modification for those who practice.
I prefer the easy handling of the standard riot gun. However, when the shotgun is used with slugs and accuracy becomes more important, a rifle-sighted shotgun with improvements is a viable option. As an observation, I have never seen a riot-type shotgun used for home defense. I have over a dozen files in which homeowners successfully defended themselves and their family with a standard-length sporting shotgun. If that is what you own, then you may have the perfect home defender in a shotgun you are already familiar with.
Home Defense Ammunition Selection
The often-touted frangible bullet handgun loads are something I never choose for personal defense. Cycle reliability in self loaders may not be ideal and the reduced mass and penetration of these loads leaves the user with a serious deficit in penetration. After many years of testing ammunition and studying wound potential, I find that frangible loads lack the necessary penetration to prove effective.
The best choices for home defense are usually middle-of-the-range bullet weights with good quality control. The Hornady Critical Defense load is among these. The balance of penetration and expansion is ideal for most uses. Be certain to proof the firearm with the load of choice. Stick with proven firearms that have demonstrated good reliability, get training, and avoid odd ideas that cannot survive a climb up the logic ladder.
What firearm(s) do you rely on for home defense and why did you choose each? Share your answers in the comment section.
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Larry A Schillinger says
An interesting article, which I agree, but when you begin recommending brand names, you begin to loose credibility as there are a multitude of reliable firearms. If someone is new to firearms, they need to speak to a gunsmith who will guide them to a good reliable firearm. Other than that, good advice.
The article mentions AR-15s and M-1 Carbines. How about a 7.62 AK? It’s a compact carbine that’s dependable and packs a harder punch than either of the other two guns.
Good article, but I don’t understand this sentence:
“The concealed carry permit holder may own but a single handgun”
I think he meant that he might own only one gun, and he chooses to use it for concealed carry.
James Rosse says
After much research, I have a Beretta CX4 Storm 9mm carbine as my main home defense go to, with a red dot and laser/ light combo and a 2 mag saddle on the stock. I use Hornady Critical Defense 124 grain +P in 18 and 32 mags. I can nail drive all day at the 7 yards it is sighted in at the range. I also have a pair of noise cancelling ear muffs by my bed.
John Bibb says
The new Auto Ordinance .30 cal M-1 Carbine I ordered online is a beautiful piece of work. However–it was very sticky–field stripping and careful cleaning / lubing didn’t help much. It jammed every few shots with any and all ammunition.
I had to use fine steel wool to smooth out tooling marks and sharp cast receiver edges and excess parkerizing to make it operate smoothly. The 10 round magazine that came with it was unusable. After market 30 round Korean mags were better with Wolfe springs in them. However–only the Fulton Armory 30 round mags work perfectly.
A modified B-Square scope mount, a compact 4 power mildot scope, and a NC Star weapon light / laser combo on an under barrel clamp make it far better for low light conditions. All good quality ammo–including the excellent Hornady CD rounds–work reliably in it now. It’s a joy to shoot!
Pistol caliber carbines like the BerrettaStorm, Cz Scorpion, Kel Teb Sub 2000, Kris’s Vector, Sig MPX, and even the venerable M 1 Carbine are flying off the shelves as home defense guns.
And why not?
30 rounds of ammo that has low penetration yet good stopping power.
Short, light, handy, accurate and (except the M1), reliable.
Women and novices can shoot them well using red dots or lasers.
You left one of the most important thing in a home defense gun…put a silencer on it!
39 states allow silencers and they are easy to get by paying a $200 tax and waiting about 10 months.
If you ever have to shoot your gun inside your house, you will want a silencer on it!
All of the above pistol caliber carbines ( alas, except for the M1 carbine) are designed to mount a silencer.
You can also buy threaded barbells for most semi auto pistols in order to attach the silencer.
Revolvers cannot be silenced.
Actually the Beretta CX4 Storm does not have a threaded barrel due to the Clinton era restrictions on gun imports. I would have to solder an thread adapter to it.
Threaded barrels, not barbels
Darned auto correct!