This is standard advise given to every person who asks the question that we all seem to ask at one point. Which question is that you ask? Surely you know, as I’m sure everyone has seen the question asked. In fact, the answers are usually the same from most “seasoned” and “experienced” shooters, which means you probably have told someone this answer.
“What gun should I buy for home defense?”
That’s usually how the question goes, or close to it. And usually the internet explodes with the same answer, “Get a shotgun”. Even gun stores have employees and patrons who parrot this same phrase. It’s like everyone went to the same tactics school and learned that universally known common tactic for home defense, which seems to involve purchasing a shotgun. But what if you’re a small female? That’s ok, because the sound alone of the shotgun being racked and a round being chambered is enough to hold off an invading army. After all, we all keep our defensive shotguns unloaded, just so we can scare off intruders with a rack of a shell.
Even if you’re not up to speed on shotgun tactics, and keep the firearm loaded, do not worry. An intruder who simply sees the shotgun wielding, sleep deprived, home owner will certainly flee. Because nothing is scarier than a 12ga pointed in your direction. If by chance the intruder doesn’t see the shotgun because of the off chance they broke into your house at night, and it’s dark, then that’s ok! You don’t need to aim, just point in their general direction, and pull the trigger.
What? You’re worried about missing and over penetration? Nonsense! You were smart enough to listen to those people on the internet, and because of this, you loaded your home defense shotgun with birdshot! Yessiry Bob, do not think that birdshot is only good for those scrawny chickens otherwise known as quail. Nope, birdshot is the premium home defense loading chosen by operators all over the internet. It’s in such common use that you can walk into any Walmart and pickup 100 shells for $25, and they aren’t even locked up! Talk about a score! But I digress…
Everything I’ve posted is entirely true. There are MANY people on the internet who will tell you these things (this is the true part in case you didn’t read the sarcasm in my voice). And we all know that if it’s on the internet, it must be true. But, what if we say, use science and real life scenarios? Well, that’s when things get a little weird.
You see, there is no perfect home defense gun. This is where people who say “buy a shotgun” or “buy a Glock” are completely wrong when they’re responding to someone’s general question. Then again, an uninformed question usually begets an uninformed answer. So, instead of asking an uninformed question, gather some information. Some important questions you should ask yourself are as follows:
Who will need to use the firearm?
What area/space will the firearm be used in?
Will I need to perform tasks when using the firearm?
Will I be able to train with the firearm?
Can I safely store the firearm?
Can I effectively use the firearm?
Lets break these questions down one-by-one so we understand what we’re asking, and why, which are both equally important. First off, “who” is a great question. Myself being 6’3″ and 240lbs, I can handle the largest of weapons (I almost said that with a straight face) comfortably. My wife on the other hand who is 5’4″ and 120lbs? Not so much… What about my 15 or 12 year old daughters? Again, not so much. Would a 12ga shotgun be suitable for them to wield in our home? Maybe… And this is a weak maybe. They may be able to do it if they used the bed or some other rest to support the shotgun. I say this because follow up shots otherwise wouldn’t happen. In fact, the gun may as well be a single shot for them. That is of course if they can even get it on target fast enough.
I know, you saw some young girl on Youtube running a 3 gun match with her 12ga, right? Well, was she scared? Did she have a 6’5″ 250lbs felon coming through the door to kill her? Was she in a dark room trying to swing the muzzle around to get on target? All of these are real life factors, all of which will change how a weapon is handled. All of which entirely matter.
Next question, what area/space will you use this firearm? Small apartment? Hallways? Large yard? This matters too. Maneuvering a long gun in narrow spaces takes some training. Sure, you can hit the range every weekend with your SD gun, but that doesn’t train you on CQB tactics. Besides, I rarely see people at the range with their shotgun. Why is this? Probably because they feel they don’t need to train with it as much, because you know, you just point and shoot. Oh, and shotguns never malfunction, so why practice?
If you live in a smaller area or need to navigate in tighter tolerance areas, maybe a shorter firearm is more ideal?
Now, this question is usually the one that NO ONE EVER ASKS! Why? No idea… This seems to be an important question. When you’re defending your home, life, children, chihuahua… You have this shotgun in your hands (yes, plural). Maybe you have a snazzy light on it, but I doubt it. Maybe you have a sling, but I doubt it again (and if you did, have your trained with it indoors? Are you aware of the pros and cons?). You’re creeping down the hallway and confront an intruder. Now what? Lets pretend he complies with your commands and lays face down, crosses his ankles, has his arms out with palms up, and is looking away from you. Tell me, how do you call 911 with both hands on your shotgun? Bluetooth, right? You remembered to grab your bluetooth at 3am, didn’t you? Well, there is always speakerphone I suppose. What about a flashlight? Are you holding a flashlight and your shotgun? Hmm, I guess that doesn’t work too well either. I personally have large hands (goes with handling large weapons, remember?), but I don’t think I would do well trying to hold my Pelican 7060 light and my shotgun at the same time. Especially if a fight ensued.
Firearm storage is an important topic, as our firearms are usually stored somewhere if they’re not carried on our person. I don’t foresee anyone carrying their shotgun on a daily basis, although I’m sure some people do. So that means it will be stored. If you have children in your home, can you store the shotgun in a place that keeps it accessible within seconds, yet makes it safe enough so children cannot access it? Kind of a tough one, as most people don’t want to have the shotgun bolted to the wall somewhere in their home. But, lets say you did purchase one of these long gun wall mounted security devices that protect the trigger and action. Where do you put it? What if you want to move the shotgun from say, your bedroom to the living room while you watch a movie? This makes things a bit more difficult as you’re stuck having the shotgun safe in your room, but not safe in the living room. Of course if you do not have children, this doesn’t apply. But most of us will have or do have children.
Using a shotgun is simply and complicated. It’s simple because most of us run a pump action that seems to be very reliable. It’s complicated because we rarely train for failures, and we rarely take real classes just for shotgun use or put out shotguns to the test. This is less about the weapon itself, and more about the operator (you). Buying a tool doesn’t make you an expert, proficient, a novice, or any other term. All it does is mean you’ve acquired a tool, an asset. Most people will purchase a self defense gun, shoot it once, and then never fire it again. There are even people who may never fire their firearm which they’ve tasked with protecting themselves and their family. I call these people reckless, which may be a harsh word, but that’s my opinion. Learning how to clear a malfunction on a shotgun is different from other guns. Learning how a shotgun works period is different from other guns. Some people will buy a semi-auto and never shoot it with defensive loads. Semi-auto shotguns can be very picky when it comes to ammo, so again, not running your gun at the range in it’s defensive trim is only hurting you.
Oh, while we’re at it, lets talk about ammo. Birdshot is called so because it is used to hunt birds. These little flying creatures which weigh a couple pounds. This ammo was never designed nor intended to be used on people. Yes, shooting anything at a person will be painful, scary, harmful, and potentially fatal. Birdshot does not carry the energy required to reliably stop a threat (threat means a person intent on harming you). I never understood why people on the internet will go on and on about the FBI tests when it comes to bullet/caliber penetration, yet completely go retard and recommend birdshit, I mean birdshot for self defense. Which law enforcement or military agency issues and uses birdshot for defensive use? Any? Let me know when you find out.
Buckshot and slugs are what is common. In fact, they sell special “defensive” ammo which has reduced recoil properties and is designed to keep small groups (flight control) at distance. This helps minimize stray pellets at distance, which ARE A LIABILITY! Remember, you’re responsible for EVERY SINGLE BULLET YOU LET LOOSE. When you’re loosing 9 bullets per trigger pull with a shotgun, think of 9 lawyers trying to sue you. But wait, we shouldn’t worry about lawyers during defensive encounters, right? This is correct, to an extent. So this is why we’re hashing it out now, so we don’t have to second guess our ammo choice at 3am with Mr. Crackhead kicking in your door. So, to sum up ammo. If it’s not legal to hunt large game with, don’t use it for humans. This applies to shotguns only, as handguns are an entirely different animal.
So, you may be asking yourself if a shotgun is really the best choice. Well, let me tell you about me. For me a handgun is my preferred home defense gun at this point in my life. Remember, this is my situation, and life is always changing. So what works for me, might not work for you, or may not work for me next year. As my situation changes, so do my tools. My primary defensive gun for the house (this is the gun that I, my wife, and my two eldest daughters have access to and are trained on) is a Glock 17. This Glock has night sights, a Surefire X300 Ultra, and a 33 round magazine.
Why? Remember, this is always the important question. If I can explain why, others may be able to use the same information.
9mm because it’s controllable for everyone. It also has a capacity advantage (maybe you’re limited to 10 rounds, I would advise to find normal capacity magazines if at all possible).
The Glock is user friendly. No external safeties, a single trigger pull to master, and it’s light being made out of polymer.
The light allows for one handed operation by anyone with minimal training.
The 33 round magazine allows for less reloads. Knowing less seasoned shooters may need to use the gun, I’ve tried to make it as simple and foolproof as possible.
What else does a handgun give me? The ability to move the gun from room to room and keep it safe or out of reach of the younger children. It allows me to use the handgun with one hand and also use a phone, open a door, carry a child, or do other tasks (maybe disable the house alarm). If need be, I can drop the pistol into my pocket or put it into my waistband. In my particular situation, my decision to run a pistol makes perfect sense. Given your situation, your choice should also make this much sense. If it doesn’t, then you should reconsider your choice. That’s the great thing about information, we can learn, and change our view. Hopefully before we make a mistake or which we did things differently.
In closing, I’d like to note that ideally I would have a SBR AR15 chambered in .300blk with a suppressor as my go to home defense gun. The gun would have a light attached and given my size and the compactness of the SBR, I would easily hold it with one hand to manipulate other items. This of course would be if I was the only person interested in running this firearm. There should never be a generic answer to this question. You must consider all of these questions and what options you have.