“What is the best gun for home defense?” and “What’s the best home defense gun for my grandma/friend who isn’t into guns?” are two questions you’ll often see asked on firearm forums. Like many questions the answer is, it depends.
BEFORE we get into specific weapons we need to address our basic requirements.
A light is an absolute must have. There is simply no debate about it. As responsible gun owners we don’t go shooting at shadows or figures in the night. Many irresponsible gun owners have learned this the hard way. They awake to a noise and half asleep with adrenalin pumping they didn’t think there was any reason for a person to be in their house. The shoot the figure moving in the dark, turn on the lights and discover it was a loved one they weren’t expecting to be there. I can’t even imagine such a horrible event. Even if it’s not a loved one and it’s the neighbours bone-headed 12 year old being stupid, while you may be legally justified in shooting them wouldn’t you want to avoid that if possible? Please use a light.
Handheld lights and weapon mounted lights each have their trade-offs but having at least one of them is mandatory. I prefer to use both, I have a handheld light sitting next to my nightstand gun with a Streamlight TLR mounted. I feel this gives me the greatest amount of flexibility with whatever the scenario is.
I love 1911s but I don’t want to have only 8-9 rounds to deal with a situation, I need whatever gun I grab to hold lots of ammo. If you consider the average shots-fired-to-hits ratio in a standard gunfight and then add in just waking up, I want as much ammo as possible in the magazine. My personal minimum is 15 rounds. With it not being uncommon for multiple invaders to enter a home I don’t think I’m being unreasonable.
One Hand Operable
If you have kids this is a big requirement. Even if you don’t I highly recommend it. With kids you may need to carry, lead, or drag them from one area to another. If you encounter a threat you must be able to engage and move without dropping your kid or leaving them behind.
THERE are always a few recommendations people automatically give in home defense discussions but when you break it down they really aren’t the best options.
Often touted as the best home defense gun is the shotgun. The problem is the reasons it is often recommended are based in fiction. Things like not having to aim because the shot will expand and you’ll hit everything in front of the muzzle. Joe Biden himself is a fan of the shotgun and has this to say on using it for home defense-
Horrible advice. Not only is it incredibly unsafe but also illegal.
Shotguns do a devastating amount of damage, if you get proper hits. In typical home interior distances the shot isn’t going to expand that much, aiming is still key. The shotgun is limited in capacity and not for the inexperienced. In addition to the recoil that must be managed most people buy a pump that they must also remember to operate under stress. For non-gun people those aren’t positives. Even for gun people, shotguns are quite long unless you go the NFA route and they aren’t accommodating to one handed use.
This is the one I see most often recommended for non-gun or elderly people. The theory is that because they’re so simple and reliable that they’re foolproof. There are issues with them though. If the person is elderly then hand strength may be an issue and revolvers have heavy triggers. Plus with a heavy trigger comes the increased challenge in hitting your target. And to round it out they have limited capacity.
Here’s a real life example of an average person defending themselves from three armed intruders-
She was blasting one handed and used lots of ammo in her defense.
NOW we know what our requirements are and what we want to avoid, so what does that leave us with?
A double stack pistol is probably one of the most common home defense guns people use. They have high capacity, can be operated one handed, can have a light mounted and are very simple. There’s no reason for a dedicated home gun to be compact, take advantage of the higher magazine capacity along with the increased size and weight to reduce recoil.
AR-15 / AK-47 / Modern Sporting Rifle / Assault Rifle / Whatever…
Often attacked as having no real life defensive use the AR-15 can, in fact, be a great home defense gun. Recently in Oklahoma a man defended his property and life against three home invaders. Four armed robbers walked into a jewelry store in Texas, the punchline is they were met by three armed employees. One of whom grabbed an AK-47 and laid down some hurt on the robbers. It does have limitations in one handed use but certainly doable with a little practice.
WHAT about for someone who isn’t a gun person? K.I.S.S. ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’ works for a reason. If this is someone who isn’t going to go to the range, has only shot a gun once in their life, maybe never, but still wants to have one around just in case then they need something as simple as possible. For that reason I prefer a firearm without a manual safety. It may seem counterintuitive but if something happens they aren’t going to remember to disengage the safety so they may as well throw it at the burglars.
Now before someone gets worked up I obviously don’t recommend the above scenario. If someone owns a gun I believe they should receive training and regularly practice. But that’s not real life and just may not be feasible for some people. This is where simple education comes into play. I’m not going to drop off a loaded Glock to Grandma and say “Here you go, have fun and don’t shoot yourself!” I’m not even going to tell Grandma how to load or unload it. It’s going to sit in her nightstand, she has absolutely no reason to be messing with it.
From as young as I can remember I was around loaded guns, in major violation of probably every state’s laws nowadays. But, I knew not to mess with them and had a clear understanding of the consequences, i.e. their destructive power. We lived out in the middle of absolutely nowhere so I also knew how they worked should an unwelcomed visitor of two or four legs come by. While I wouldn’t claim as a 6 year old to have been proficient with our .44 Magnum lever-action rifle I knew if there was trouble a round was in the chamber, to cock it, line up the sights, squeeze the trigger, rack the lever and take up the sights again.
Once again, I’m not recommending the above scenario. In my real life story and with the fictitious grandma neither have a reason to ever touch a gun unsupervised unless in a life or death situation. As long as that is crystal clear, along with the basic rules of firearms safety, I’m happy to arm Grandma. The other option, heard in the video below, is completely unacceptable.