Choosing a Gun for Home Defense

Choosing a Gun for Home Defense

There are a lot of opinions out here on the interweb regarding some of the best methods for choosing a gun for home defense… and this post will be no different in the sense of opinions.


This post is meant to give you my perspective on why certain weapons systems may be preferable to others. I am not saying one is better or worse than others but we need to consider a few items…


Have one. In fact… have two. If you don’t have a handgun, you’re simply wrong at the most basic level. (Yeah I know… some folks may not be able to get one due to age/licensing issues.)

There are several pro’s to having a handgun in the home for home defense:

  • Smaller size allows for easier stowage and concealment within the home
  • Relatively easy to use (mechanically)
  • Most newer models allow for after market accessories (lights, lasers, suppressors, even red dots)
  • Ease of use. This is true especially with DAO (Double Action Only) Pistols such as the Glock, Smith and Wesson M&P, Sig 320, Springfield, etc….

There are also a few con’s to relying on the handgun:

  • Accuracy under stress is more difficult to attain. Training and consistent practice is required to maintain your skills. Naturally you can get your training here in case you were wondering.
  • Limitations in capacity. This depends on your choice of firearm as well as the legal restrictions that may be in place where you live. Lower capacity handguns will require you to stage a spare magazine (you should anyways)
  • Ballistic considerations: over penetration is a concern within a residence as it is with all weapons systems.

The bottom line with choosing a handgun for home defense is that you need to make your purchase based on a careful consideration of the following factors:

  1. Ease of use / shootability The gun must be easy to use with as few moving parts as possible. Manual safeties get in the way under stress. Just ask anyone who does any serious shooting with a 1911.
  2. Ability to attach a light –  This is a MUST in my opinion. You cannot engage a potential threat without properly identifying the threat. Having a light attached directly to the handgun is a great start… but bring a handheld too. Murphy is an a**hole.
  3. Bring enough bullets to the party Capacity is Key. Bring a spare magazine too. (Notice how I’m not talking about revolvers here… hint hint)


The shotgun is is a great choice… if you know how to work it well. If you;re running slugs, you’re launching 1.5 oz of “get out of my house” at the threat which tends to have a devastating terminal effect. For the most part, shotguns are easy to use and do the job well. There are more accessories than you can count (some good, some bad, some just silly) and you can trick out your boomstick until the cows come home.

Benefits of the shotgun:

  • For the most part… shotguns are pretty simple. Basic familiarization will get you working the gun at an acceptable level of proficiency.
  • Accuracy – Inside the house setting, you’re not going to need to worry too much about a shot group* (hold that thought) as you pretty much only need to hit them once* (hold that thought too)
  • DEVASTATING terminal ballistics. Yeah it will get the job done.
  • Versatility in loads. Buckshot, birdshot, or slug. Your choice…. choose wisely.

Con’s of the shotgun:

  • Not everyone in the family will be able to, nor want to use the shotgun. This is especially true if its a 12 gauge.
  • Potential for improper load to be chambered. You don’t want to have buckshot in the gun when a slug is needed. Now this does depend on the type of buckshot (we like Federal Flight Control) used. Check out the video below
  • IF you miss, you miss big… which can have tragic consequences

We aren’t saying a shotgun isn’t an option. It most certainly is! Just be sure to have the appropriate understanding of the weapon system, proper training and proficiency, and the correct load for the job.


We are HUGE proponents of the rifle when it comes down to choosing a gun for home defense. Simple to use when set up properly. Accurate. Minimal recoil. More accessories than you can even consider. Good terminal ballistics. Higher capacity. Yup. It’s the whole package. There are some considerations though…

  • Ounces equal pounds… pounds equal pain. You don’t need the latest widget or gadget out there on the market. We find that its more often the software that’s the issue… not the hardware. Get a good, reliable red dot optic, a quality sling, and a white light on your gun and you’re good to go.
  • Be careful with that compensator! You need to find a balance between the positive effect that the comp will have on your muzzle rise you really don’t want to light that stick off indoors with one of them on your gun without some ear pro. TRUST US.
  • If you can suppress your gun. DO IT. In fact… choose 300 Blackout regardless of whether or not you can suppress your rifle.
  • You MUST have a light on your rifle. White LED with at least 200 lumens. We like the Inforce WML’s.

The rifle is a simple to operate weapon system that provides a light weight, accurate, low recoil platform that virtually anyone in your family can pick up and with a minor amount of training, effectively use to get accurate hits on target.


Now I’m not saying you should certainly go with one over the other. I am just giving you my preferences when it comes to home defense. Hands down… I want my rifle. My pistol is for when my rifle stops working. I’m not opposed to a shotgun either… you just need to make sure that you’re setting yourself up for success and know what your gun does with different loads.

If all you have is a pistol… use it. The one you have is better than the one you don’t any day of the week.

Let us know your thoughts and give this post a share!

Robert Curran

Rob is co-owner of Tactical Dynamics Firearms Training and is a USMC veteran and active Law Enforcement Officer. Rob is a Sig Sauer Master Rated Firearms Instructor and holds several other ratings from various institutions.

  • joe c
    Posted at 12:57h, 04 March Reply

    Hey Rob,

    Great article and I look forward to training with you guys again soon. Could you elaborate on the choice of the .300 in a home defense carbine? Bigger hole, ballistics, noise level, or a combination?

    • Rob Curran
      Posted at 02:45h, 05 March Reply

      Hi Joe,

      I will be doing a more in depth post but the short of the short is this: .30 caliber in a 5.56 platform. Greater ballistics all day long as compared to any pistol caliber or 5.56/.223 rifle.


  • Chris V
    Posted at 22:04h, 06 March Reply

    Hand gun always ready to go but also my ar, which is my first choice for home defense!!

  • Steven Dworetz
    Posted at 12:56h, 12 March Reply

    An eye-opener. I learned a great deal from Rob’s brief, clear essay.


  • Bill
    Posted at 10:56h, 14 March Reply


    What type of rounds do you recommend for the handgun & rifle so they don’t go too far down range after the target is hit? I understand knowing your target and what is beyond, but sometimes the badges don’t line up with a dirt berm behind them…
    Thanks for the food for thought,

  • Ernest London
    Posted at 14:43h, 01 August Reply

    Thanks for the tips for choosing a firearm. My wife and I want to buy a gun for our home, to keep our family safe. We want to make sure we choose the right weapon. I like that you mentioned that you should choose a handgun based on how easy it is to use. If you are in a dangerous situation, you want to be able to use your firearm easily and quickly. I will keep this in mind as I search.

  • Thomas a Arnold
    Posted at 14:45h, 30 April Reply


    I will be first time gun owner…. home defense and shtf purpose… will take classes and try to train but not an enthusiast. I was set on getting a Mossberg 500 20ga but am now leaning to a pistol caliber carbine or bullpub shotgun. I like the new Ruger PC Carbine, the CZScorpion pistol caliber carbine and the ISI Tavor 12….leaning to the Ruger.

    i would appreciate thoughts…….. would you recommend the Mossberg or the PCC? If PCC, which one would you recommend?

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