Here's What You Need to Know: Some guns do it better than others.
This is the complete guide to home defense guns. In this in-depth guide, you’ll learn:
-What to look for in a home defense gun
-The pros/cons with each firearm type
-What’s the best home defense gun for you
- And much more
So if you’re trying to look for the best home defense weapon that’ll protect you and your family, this guide is for you. Let’s dive right in.
There’s no such thing as a one size fits all for home defense.
It depends on you and your needs. More specifically, it boils down to your proficiency (or comfort) with your firearm. For example, if all you do is practice with a pistol, then that’s the right gun for you. Likewise, if you only practice with a rifle, then that’s your best home defense weapon. Why is that so?
Stress. When the stressful home invasion occurs, you won’t have time to think. You’ll only have time to act. So choosing a gun that you’re proficient with will help you respond faster, saving you and your families’ life.
That said, here’s the complete breakdown of each firearm type with pros, cons, best use, and even recommendations.
Rifles are a great home defense choice. Why? Rifles are insanely accurate, fast, and have the largest magazine. This is great for multi-intruder home defense scenarios. But is it the right choice for you? Here the complete breakdown:
-Very accurate (longer sight radius)
-Low recoil (depending on your caliber)
-Large magazine (30 rounds)
-Designed to engage multiple targets
-Heavier (reduces handling speed)
-Easier to disarm (due to barrel size)
-Over-penetration (hits more than the intended target)
-Decreased maneuverability (can’t easily be moved in small spaces)
If you want an edge over your intruders, then get a rifle.
It has a larger magazine, more accurate, and incapacitates quickly. You can take an army with a rifle. In fact, that’s how a veteran took out a three-man armed robbery. That’s why I highly recommend a rifle (if you can afford one). It gives you the firepower necessary to overpower your intruder(s).
Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport II: A very popular 30 round AR-15. It’s an affordable, close-quarters AR-15 that’s designed for home defense. Bonus tip: throw on some game-changing accessories like an AR-15 optic, light and an adjustable stock, and you’ll be ready-to-go.
Shotguns are usually recommended for home defense. It’s great at short-range, scary, and very reliable. Here’s the breakdown:
- Doesn’t over-penetrate (depending on gauge)
-Racking sound scares intruders
-Works great in low light
-Weapon-of-choice for wild animals and zombies (just kidding)
-Shorter magazine (5-6 rounds)
-Short-range use only
-Not precise (can hit friendlies due to spread)
-Needs to be aimed (at home defense ranges)
-Weak stopping power (may not incapacitate targets immediately)
If you potentially deal with wild animals or you want to intimidate your intruder, then choose a shotgun. Otherwise, opt-in for another firearm type.
Why? The spread. Let’s say the bad guy’s got your wife in a headlock. Will a shotgun be able to accurately (and safely) take down the bad guy without hitting your wife? No, it wouldn’t.
You’d probably end up hitting your wife because of the spread. Not to mention, most shotguns have a 5-6 shot magazine, so you’ll be out of ammo very fast. That said, I have nothing against shotguns. A lot of people prefer them for home defense with wonderful results. I’m just breaking it down on paper.
If you like a shotgun and you’re proficient with it, then go with one! I agree: it’s an intimidating gun and can save you a firefight when you rack the gun. Yet, it does have its flaws (as mentioned above).
Remington 870: A reliable (and popular) pump-action shotgun. It’s lightweight, intimidating, and affordable.
Benelli M2: A semi-automatic shotgun that doesn’t require you to pump the handle. Just aim and fire.
A revolver (or a “hand cannon”) is a simple and reliable handgun. It’s small, deadly, and affordable. It’s also terrifying. That’s why some prefer a revolver for home defense. But is it any good?
Let’s break it down:
-Easy-to-operate (aim and pull)
-Requires more skill to fire
-Fires slower (due to trigger)
-Reloads slower (due to revolver’s cylinder)
-Smaller Magazine (6 rounds)
If you’re a “revolver” kind of guy, then go for a revolver. But be warned: it’s not very effective.
It has a small magazine, a bit of a kick, takes longer to reload, and requires more skill to shoot accurately. That’s why law enforcement (minus old cops) stopped using revolvers. They replaced it with a semi-automatic pistol (I’ll cover why below).
That said, if you’re a revolver man, you don’t need a recommendation. But if you do, here it is.
Smith & Wesson Model 66: A 6-shot, .357 Magnum revolver. It’s got an adjustable sight and concealable.
A semi-automatic pistol is the most common home defense weapon. It’s lightweight, accurate, easy to use, and concealable. It also fits in cramped locations like hallways and doorways. That’s why Law Enforcement and FBI prefer it. But is it the right choice for home defense? Here’s the full breakdown:
-Fast Target Acquisition
-Requires only one hand
-Maneuverable in tight spaces (like small rooms)
-Shorter Mag (potential ammo shortages)
-Less control (smaller grip surface)
-Can over-penetrate (depending on caliber)
If you’re looking for a fast and accessible firearm, then go for a semi-automatic pistol. In many gun experts’ opinions, it’s the best firearm type for home defense. It’s cheap, concealable, accurate, and very fast. It’ll be ready whenever you need it.
S&W M&P9c: A polymer-frame, striker-fired double-stack 9mm pistol. It’s affordable, accurate, ergonomic and very concealable.
What’s The Best Gun For Home Defense?
The truth is, it doesn’t matter what weapon you choose. You can choose a shotgun, pistol, revolver, or rifle. They all do the same job—incapacitate whomever it’s pointed at.
Sure, some guns do it better than others. But honestly, it doesn’t matter. What matters is you choose a weapon and practice with it. Because let’s face it:
In a stressful home defense situation, you’re not going to have time to “remember” how to use a gun. You’ll be relying on your training instincts. The better trained you are, the better instincts you’ll have at your disposal.
So keep it simple. First, choose a weapon you like. Then, take it out to the range. And continuously practice. The more you practice, the better the gun (and you) become at home defense. But that’s enough from me.
Richard Douglas is a firearms expert and educator. His work has appeared on large gun publications like The Daily Caller, ODU Magazine, American Shooting Journal, SOFREP, and more. In his free time, he reviews various optics and guns on his Scopes Field blog.
This article first appeared in October 2019.