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The Best and Worst Guns for Home Defense

One of the best life advice you can heed is "always bring a gun to a gunfight". This is especially true when choosing the best home-defense guns available today. Of course, having one defensive firearm is better than having none at all. There's a reason why guns vary widely in size and features- each has its own pros and cons you should consider for your needs. Quick Navigation:   1. Best Guns:         a. Shotguns         b. Rifles         c. Revolvers         d. Auto Loading Pistols   2. Worst Guns         a. Pocket Pistols         b. Bolt Action Hunting Rifles         c. Single Shot Guns   3. Choosing a Gun Best & Worst Home Defense Guns Each and every firearm has an advantage and a disadvantage. It quickly becomes apparent as soon as you fire it, or as soon as you take a look at its features. One important thing to consider in light of home defense is the fact that living spaces and homes limit your mobility. Should home encounters happen, the practical defensive shots are fired at very close range. You aim and shoot anywhere from contact range to across the room ranges (5-10 yard proximity). There are some guns that are better suited for close-range shooting as compared to the others. Here's a list of considerations for you to read:

The Best:

1) Shoulder Weapons

a. Shotguns

You'll notice one thing when comparing shotguns for outdoor ranges and ones for home defense- the length of the shotgun barrel. Short-barreled shotguns, or otherwise known as riot guns or tactical shotguns are extremely effective for defending your home with.
remington-870-tactical-shotgun

Remington 870 Tactical Shotgun

Combat shotguns are equipped with barrels that range from 18" to 20" in length. Some combat models have added features such as specialized sights or extended magazine capacities. They are about the same as sporting shotguns in this respect. Perhaps the best feature in keeping a shotgun for home defense is its intimidation factor. An intruder, or any other person with malicious intent will surely think twice as they stare at a shotgun barrel. Carrying a shotgun reduces the chances that you'll actually have to shoot! Some of the most common shotgun types you will see are the pump-action types, semi-automatic types and the break-action types.
  • Pump-actions or Slide-actions require the gun operator to pull the shotgun's forearm to the receiver and push it into its starting position to put a round into the chamber. These shotgun types are plentiful and inexpensive. Reliability-wise, they have the best mechanism over their counterparts.
semi-auto-shotgun

Pump Action Shotgun

Some of the best pump-action shotguns available are the Winchester Super-X Defender, the Remington Tactical Model 870 and the Mossberg Tactical Model 500.
  • Semi-Automatics. This type of shotgun puts in fresh rounds for each pulled trigger as the magazine empties out. The semi-automatic shotgun is more accurate and has a faster shooting rate, but is more expensive than the other shotgun types.
pump-action-shotgun-gif

Semi-Auto Mechanism

  • Break-Actions. Break-action types have a hinged base positioned right at the end of the single or double barrel to allow for manual reloading. These shotgun types are probably the easiest to operate out of all the different shotguns, but you can only fire one or two rounds at a time.
  break-action-shotgun Get a 12 gauge to get the most out of your shotgun chambering. There's a reason why most firearm experts say the 12 gauge is the best anti-personnel weapon ever invented. The buckshot's effective saturation range plus the close proximity firing is devastating to say the least. It presents a high level of stopping power. But as with most powerful shotguns, the recoil effect is something to think about. Small to medium-frame individuals may experience shoulder bruising as they fire the 12 gauge. To offset the disadvantage, you can choose a 20 gauge, or switch out to a lower-recoil ammunition. 16 gauges and 20 gauges are good secondary options. Shotguns have low capacity when it comes to ammunition. Most models can only take 4 plus 1 in their chambers, which quickly becomes apparent when put in a side by side comparison with semi-automatics and tactical rifles. Shotguns are notoriously slow to reload. You will need to manually put in rounds to the chamber or magazine one bullet at a time. The relative length and weight may also prove to be bulky and/or unwieldy in tight spaces.
winchester-superx-defender-shotgun

Winchester Super X Defender Shotgun

Let's take a moment to separate fact from fiction when it comes to shotguns as they are portrayed in Hollywood movies. A shell fired from close range does not have enough force to send a person flying across the room. They are not magic guns that shoot giant spherical shells of destruction. Positioning to fire a shotgun at hip level and firing at the assailant's general direction is considered sub-optimal for a couple of reasons. First, the shot pellets normally don't have the power to pass through an individual's soft tissue, but they can pass through walls and harm objects and bodies. Secondly, the shot patterns are still relatively small even in the home-defense range, which states that you will most likely miss hitting the intruder, as with any other home-defense firearm. Most shotguns in Hollywood pictures also are of the pistol type grip variety. Home defense professionals won't recommend this setup for anyone. Let's break it down- eliminating the shoulder stock makes the length shorter and easier to move about in, but accuracy is greatly sacrificed. In short, you'll find it nigh-impossible to aim and shoot your intended target. The pistol grip shotgun types should be left to SWAT teams in breaching operations. Instead of installing pistol grips, why not put in a six-position stock instead?  

b. Rifles

The best home defense rifles are of the pistol-caliber or tactical semi-auto carbine types. Tactical rifles, or otherwise known as modern sporting rifles have risen in popularity over the last few years. The most renowned models are of the AR-15 design. Some of the known rifles in this category are the Ruger Mini 14, the M1 Carbine and the AK-47. All of them are relatively easy to shoot with, produce low recoil levels, are light and can hold plenty of rounds.
ruger-mini-14-rifle

Ruger Mini 14 Rifle

Some of the more potent rifle models' stopping power can be compared to a shotgun's, but with less recoil. Home defenders living in a rural area can choose the rifle and its excellent accuracy and range should four-legged wild animals come their way. One notable downside with rifles is that they are hard to operate in tight confines. That, and the expensive price can prove to be more than some home defenders can handle. Just how expensive are they? A good rifle is equal to two or three defensive shotguns. Home defenders can also opt for the pistol-caliber type carbine. Compact rifles touting lever-action and chambered in for cartridges such as the .45 Colt and the .357 Mag have made quite a name for themselves in protecting people's properties. Lever guns may hold quite a few rounds for shooting before running out, but it requires slotting one cartridge at a time. Manufacturers have tried eliminating the tediousness by providing some semi-automatic models that are compatible with handgun magazines. These models work with the handgun you already have, plus they provide a higher load velocity due to their longer barrel length.
ak-47-rifle

AK-47

If you are confined to choosing only a rifle for your home defense option, then choose a handy, low-powered carbine length rifle. An M1 Carbine military surplus, a semi-automatic carbine fitted for cartridges such as the SR-556 or the Ruger Mini-14 .223, or a lever action carbine rifle fitted for the Magnum .357 revolver cartridge should do nicely in the home defense department. Urban defenders will fare with these rifle types much better against civil insurrections, riots, etc. The bullets for your home defense rifle should be made for quick expansion. Varmint-type bullets are great because they have almost instantaneous expansion, and they don't have the ability to ricochet off hard surfaces, which is ideal when defending in close quarters.

2) Handguns

Some people instantly think handgun when the topic of home defense comes into play. It's easy to see why- handguns are popular because they are quite maneuverable. You can hold and fire off a round with just one hand, which frees up the other for holding a flashlight, etc. You can hold a handgun close to your body to keep it from being knocked off or wrestled away in tight situations. In terms of storage, a handgun is excellent. You can put it in a strong box, a closet or in your night stand drawer. It shines in indoor home defense situations and can be put away for immediate use. The home defense market is simply replete with good handgun options.  

a. Revolvers

Dual-action revolvers have that cylinder that could be swung out for loading bullets with. The cylinder can accommodate up to six bullets. Revolvers are beginner-friendly as they could prove to be very reliable and very user-friendly. There's no other switch, lever or button to tinker with; you can just pull the trigger and the bullet goes out. Home defense revolvers usually have .357 Mag or .38 Spl chambers. Slotting in the P ammunition and the .38 Spl chamber can increase your revolver's stopping power minus the recoil and flash of the .357 chamber load. Home defense experts recommend a barrel length of about 3 to 4 inches.
smith-wesson-model-10-handgun

Smith & Wesson Model 10

The best revolver you can get for the home defense option is the Double Action type. They are often coined as "police types". There's the Taurus Model 608, the Smith and Wesson Model 10, the Ruger GP1 and the Colt Python. For an even better home defense, choose one that has fully adjustable sights. Notice the hammer at the end of revolvers? You can thumb and cock them, similar to single action revolvers. To fire, you just need to press the trigger. This cycle of prepping and firing is called a "single action", and is usually used for the most accurate firing option. As mentioned, double action revolvers are among the top when it comes to being reliable, shooting accurately, intuitive, easy to operate and safe to use. Furthermore, they are immune to jamming. A speed loader takes away some of the weakness, and individuals will find it relatively easy to reload from an ammunition box. Now you know why some homeowners swear by double action revolvers. You can select from some of the most common revolver centerfire cartridges, including the .45 Colt, .44 Magnum, .357 Magnum, .38 Special, any of the .32 calibers (Magnum, H&R Magnum and Long). You may choose the .38 Special if you feel like you need superior stopping power.
colt-python-handgun

Colt Python Handgun

Magnums in particular offer a greater stopping factor at the expense of increased flash and muzzle blast, which becomes significant in low-light and indoor conditions. Reviews and various recommendations state that the 125 grain JHP, .357 Mag is the best on all handgun cartridges when talking about stopping power. Revolvers and Centerfire pistols are great for home defense because they provide enough stopping power to neutralize intruders. Choose from the 9mm or .35 Caliber upwards and the appropriate ammunition. They can provide considerable benefits over rifles and shotguns in that they won't over-penetrate or shoot wide-spaced slugs.
taurus-model-608-handgun

Taurus Model 608

The disadvantage of revolvers is that they are the weaker stoppers as compared to rifles and shotguns. There's a rule of thumb you can follow as you shop around for home defense revolvers- pick out the highest-powered cartridge that you are comfortable with. There's an exception to the rule, though- don't pick tremendous caliber cartridges such as the .500 S&W, .454 Casull and the .44 Mag. The report and succeeding flash will cripple the home defender's hearing and sight, something that is essential to these types of emergencies. Moreover, the bullet will most likely overpenetrate your target.

 

b. Autoloading Pistols

The most renowned among autoloader service-style firearms include the SIG P229, the Ruger P series, the Glock 19 and the Beretta 90-TWO, among others. They come in two variety- the safe action or the double action. You can load the chambers in and switch the safety to off and the pistols will still be relatively safe. When the whistle comes, you won't need to switch the safety or cycle the action- just press the trigger and fire. The mechanism is similar to that of a double action revolver.
sig-p229-handgun

Sig P229

  Autoloading pistols typically can hold more rounds than their revolver counterparts. It can hold anywhere from 7 to 15 rounds in total. The autoloading factor makes reloading faster if there's a pre-loaded magazine present. Autoloaders are terrible at reloading from a loose box cartridge, something that happens a lot in home defending situations. The bottom line is that autoloading pistols have a high rate of fire, but that also means you get an empty cartridge much faster.
glock-19-handgun

Glock 19

The disadvantage in using an autoloader for home defense is that they are more likely to jam than the reliable revolver. The maxim holds especially true if you fire from your bathrobe or through your pocket, if you fire at an unusual downward or upward angle, or if you hold it with a limp wrist. Minimize this disadvantage by doing regular cleaning and proper lubricating, with the occasional disassembly for optimal operation.
beretta-90-two-handgun

Beretta 90

Semi-automatic pistols make use of a box magazine for loading ammunition. These pistol types could prove to be trickier to handle but they have a less-resistant trigger pull, can be reloaded much more quickly than the typical revolver and they hold more ammunition.
semi-auto_handgun-gif

Semi Auto Handgun Mechanism

Autoloaders may be chambered with different cartridge types, including the .22 Short and the .50 AE. You will find the most common cartridges for home defense include the .380 ACP, the .40 S&W, .45 ACP and the 9mm Luger. These cartridges are more than enough to do the task. The lesser recommended cartridges include the 10mm Auto and .357 SIG. Duty size, also known as full-sized pistols provide a much larger magazine capacity and a significantly longer grip for practice, as compared to the sub-compacts and compacts that are used for legal concealed carry.  

The Worst:

1) Pocket Pistols Semi-automatic pistols belonging in the small and compact categories that may hold .25 automatic , .22 LR or derringer cartridges. It is certainly true that any gun is better than having no gun at all in cases of home intrusion, but pocket guns are virtually unusable because they have extremely short barrels and compact size. They are only good for extremely short-ranged situations.
pocket-pistol-remington-rm380

Remigton RM-380 Pocket Pistol

  2) Single Shot Shotguns and/or Rifles There's quite a selection of cost-efficient rifles that can accommodate the .22 cartridges, but home defense is not their strongest suit. The .22 is notorious for having a low stopping power, which allows the intruder to continue attacking even if you've fired. Single shot rifles will not allow you to reload as you will be attacked before the action is completed. Rimfire guns are also likely to misfire or jam as compared to centerfire handguns, rifles or shotguns. They have no removable or internal magazines, and are therefore limited to single shots. Shotgun loads are more susceptible to over-penetration as they are centerfire rifles, and are best left for outdoor use. Buckshot and bird shot loads may lessen that particular risk, but can still do significant damage to your home. Small bore .410 and 28 shotguns should be avoided altogether when preparing for home defense.   3) Bolt Action Hunting Rifles You can argue that bolt action rifles have an edge over their capacity in the magazine category, but that's where their advantage ends. The long barrels make it extremely difficult to maneuver in close quarters. The bolt must also be manually operated after a shot, from which the shooter must put in a new round. More often than not these type of rifles are paired with high-powered cartridges made for hunting, which present the flash and bang problem. Your senses will be impaired and can put you to a great disadvantage. This could prove to be fatal for yourself and your family, so it's best to leave these rifles for outdoor hunting.
bolt-action-riflewinchester-30-06

Bolt Action Rifle Winchester 60-06

  4) Single Action Revolvers These revolvers have to be cocked manually before the shooter is able to fire off a round. You'll see these in most Western movies. They are accurate, powerful and reliable. They are also some of the fastest revolvers in their category when firing from short range. All these plusses are not for home defense. Single action revolvers also come with a steep learning curve. Overall a poor choice as a primary defensive tool for homes and properties.
single-action-handgun

Single Action Revolver

 

Choose Your Gun Carefully

Don't just go for the first gun that catches your eye, or purchase the most popular guns in your area. A gun should be carefully considered and researched, more so if you're bringing it in for home defense. If you can, visit the nearest firing range to get a firsthand experience on how the guns shoot before buying one. The best home defense gun is one that meets almost all, if not all your needs. At the best, you will need a gun and ammunition combo that gives the most optimal stopping power without being too much. You should also account for recoil, muzzle flash and the noise that could potentially dampen your senses. Hot rounds could pass through the target and hit window materials and thin walls to cause unintentional damage to others. Having an underpowered gun will prove to be insufficient in neutralizing the threat. outpostguns-com-store Civilians will also need to check on local law enforcement practices regarding over and underpowered defenses. We all want what is best for our homes and our families- stopping the threat without causing excessive damage. A shotgun or a rifle could easily be taken out at close range. Therefore, home defenders must be able to shoot before the apparent threat can close the distance. Shoulder weapons should be shot at the shoulders and not from the hips. At the heart of firearm home defense are the basics of good shooting. Home defense budget should include educational books, live training with the help of a professional instructor and shooting practices at the range. Make use the knowledge you learned and keep a present mind to become a more able home defender. When you finally choose a good firearm, take it and constantly practice with it. Become familiar with it. A weapon can save you and your family when wielded properly. You'll need to learn proper bullet placement as it can be more effective than a gun's raw power. The gun is only an equipment that could neutralize intruders on your home front. It's the shooter that uses the firearm effectively to shut down the threat Add some complementary defenses to boost your protection. Set up home alarms or wireless cameras around the perimeter of your house. Sometimes all it needs to deter a potential intruder is knowing that he is being watched by a live camera.

One comment

  1. Although I am not a firearms expert, I *DID* sleep at a Holiday Inn last night. :)

    A long time ago, a friend asked me “What are the best firearms for any and all emergencies. Just give me the guns that I need for anything that comes…”

    Well, it’s not THAT simple, but I’ll try to answer the question anyway.

    The easy answer is this one: You already own your favorite firearms—now start buying truckloads of ammo for them.

    In addition to your favorite firearms, please consider the following weapons:
    1) A .40 caliber pistol
    2) A 12 gauge shotgun
    3) A 9mm pistol
    4) An AR-15
    5) MAYBE an AK-47, if you really want one

    My friend asked me to tell him WHY I chose those four weapons.

    Because those weapons are (most often) the weapons used by local police and military. No matter what happens, from Alien Invasion to Red Dawn to the Zombie Apocalypse, the police and the military will have ammunition. Even if the Second Amendment is repealed, the police and the military will always have ammunition. If you already have the guns that fire their ammo, then all you need is to get their ammo. THAT ammo will always be produced and it will always be available. Get the weapons that fire the ammo that will ALWAYS be around. The AK-47 is the rifle most often used by enemies of the US, so there is a good chance that an invading army would be carrying that weapon and the ammo for it. If you already have one of their weapons, all you need is to take their ammo.

    Those are my choices for the firearms that preppers “need.”
    Happy Holidays.

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