Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Safe At Home

 

If you’re a gun owner, there will come a time when you’ll hear someone tell you that “You don’t need a pistol or an ‘assault rifle,’ just get yourself a shotgun for home defense.” Chances are the person offering that advice won’t be the current Vice President of the United States, but nevertheless, a shotgun or a rifle brings two things to the table that a defensive handgun just can’t.

1. Firepower. A 12 gauge shotgun firing 00 buckshot throws twelve .33 caliber lead pellets at one time into its unfortunate target. Ouch. A 55 grain .223 bullet weighs significantly less than a buckshot load, but it’s traveling at a tremendous speed that allows it to impart a lot of force on-target, far more than common handgun calibers. In short, when it comes to firepower, pistols are pistols, and long guns are long guns.

2. Distance. An AR-15 rifle in the hands of a semi-competent marksman is more than capable of delivering shots on-target out to 100 yards and beyond, and a shotgun with slugs can hit targets out beyond 50 yards. Both of those distances are considered extreme distances for even the most competent of pistol shooters, so a long gun allows you to extend the fight to distances your pistol can’t reach.

Which is better for personal defense, a handgun, a rifle or a shotgun? In my opinion, they all have a role to play in keeping you and your loved ones safe. Let’s compare the advantages and disadvantages of each of type of firearm and how that might affect your choice:

  • Pistols
    Advantages: Compact, easy to carry, can be shot with one hand;
    Disadvantages: Not much ammo compared to rifles, low-powered compared to long guns.
  • Shotguns
    Advantages: Devastating amount of power per round, flexible ammunition types;
    Disadvantages: Hard to maneuver in tight spots, needs two hands to operate, low ammunition capacity.
  • Rifles
    Advantages: Powerful rounds. Higher capacity. Great for long-distance work;
    Disadvantages: Needs two hands to use. Harder to maneuver in tight spots. Some locales have magazine capacity limitations.

I use all three, inside and outside the house. Inside our home, we have a designated safe room, a place that the entire family knows is our “rally point,” the place we all go to if someone enters our home with evil intent. Inside that safe room is a first-aid kit, flashlight, cell phone* and a quick-access safe that contains a handgun and a spare magazine. Next to that safe, higher up on the wall to keep it safer from prying hands, is a Mossberg 500 pump-action shotgun, cruiser-ready, loaded with buckshot, which also has a half-dozen more shells and a couple of deer slugs ready for fast reloads. Our safe room is meant to be the place where the entire family holes up and stays until help arrives. I’m not a SWAT cop and have no desire to move from room to room clearing my house of any bad guys. I’m going to try to wait it out, because aside from my family, there is nothing in my house worth dying (or killing) for. I have no need to creep through my house looking for bad guys unless one of my family’s lives might be on the line

Outside the home, I have my concealed defensive handgun on me and a rifle in the trunk. Yes, there is a danger that if my car gets stolen, my rifle will go along with it into criminal hands; however, I drive a seriously uncool car that’s devoid of NRA stickers and whatnot, so it will be a mighty desperate car thief who choses to steal my car rather than others in the parking lot. The rifle is there not to deal with active shooters, but because my family likes to travel, and I don’t want to repeat what my family went through when we decided to visit St. Louis last year.

Is a handgun good for home defense? Yes, absolutely. Is a rifle better? Maybe, and maybe a shotgun is preferable for you. For me, I see a pistol as my primary weapon outside the home and secondary inside the home. The pump-action shotgun is my primary home defensive weapon inside the home (because BOOM) and a rifle is, a best, a tertiary weapon for me.

Your life and your circumstances will probably be different than mine, so think about where and how you live, then plan accordingly. If you live in a rural area, the extra distance that a rifle gives you is something to think about. If you live in a more densely-packed areas, #4 buckshot penetrates building walls less than #00 shot, and I’ve seen studies that show that the fast, unstable bullet fired from an AR-15 will shed its energy faster than even a pistol round will.

Local laws can affect your choices: If you can’t own the standard-capacity 30 round magazine for an AR-15 or live in an area where scary black rifles might bring unwanted attention from a prosecutor, a lever-action rifle is an excellent choice for self-defense inside the home or as a trunk gun outside of the house.

Whatever you chose, commit to training with your gun and teach the responsible parties inside your house where your defensive guns are and how they are meant to be used. Having a plan, even having safe room with a sturdy locking door and a flashlight will put you far ahead of the rest of America. You don’t have to be perfect, you just need to have a plan.

* Any working cell phone can dial 911, no matter if it has a current mobile service plan or not. Mighty useful for people like me who don’t have a land line and tend to leave our smartphones lying around the home.

There are 49 comments.

  1. Profile Photo Member

    A lot of good advice. Thank you for sharing.

    • #1
    • December 10, 2015, at 7:21 PM PST
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  2. Shawn Buell (Majestyk) Contributor

    May I ask how you feel about a Louisville Slugger for home defense? :D

    I mainly don’t want to loose bullets in the house.

    • #2
    • December 10, 2015, at 8:00 PM PST
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  3. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    Any advice for someone with physical limitations that put a shotgun (at least the 12 gauge) out of the realm of possibilities? I’ve heard a 410 with the right load can be effective without kicking like a mule. Perhaps a 20 gauge would work better should my shoulder cooperate with practice.

    • #3
    • December 10, 2015, at 8:09 PM PST
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  4. EHerring Coolidge

    We need to get the laws that prevent one from having a gun in the car on school or military base property eliminated. Criminals ignore them. They prevent law abiding parents or military members from concealed carry and from having a shotgun in the car.

    • #4
    • December 10, 2015, at 8:13 PM PST
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  5. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton Post author

    There’s a Mossberg Maverick youth model in 20ga that might just be the best bang for the buck (pun intended) out there. It can be found for well under $300 and has all the parts of their 500 pump gun, it’s just assembled in Mexico. Great gun, and 20ga buck will put a serious hurt on to whatever is downrange.

    • #5
    • December 10, 2015, at 8:13 PM PST
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  6. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    EHerring:We need to get the laws that prevent one from having a gun in the car on school or military base property eliminated. Criminals ignore them. They prevent law abiding parents or military members from concealed carry and from having a shotgun in the car.

    There’s some movement on this. The NDAA signed last month gives installation commanders orders to allow service members to be armed if it is deemed appropriate for personal or force protection. It’s far from perfect, but it’s a start.

    • #6
    • December 10, 2015, at 8:21 PM PST
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  7. wilber forge Member

    Mossberg 590 A1, sans bayonete is workable. Perhaps a Saiga Semi-Auto, somewhat spendy though.

    For 20 Ga. A Remington 870 is easier, yet only holds three rounds and firing slugs through same can be quite a suprise.

    Just a thought.

    • #7
    • December 10, 2015, at 8:34 PM PST
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  8. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    It would be nice to catch the right sale and walk out with my new carry pistol (should I ever actually decide which one), my shotgun, and my AR at the same time.

    • #8
    • December 10, 2015, at 8:41 PM PST
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  9. Rapporteur Inactive

    Valuable information, Kevin. I have recommended your Main Feed articles to friends on Facebook who are thinking about security, and I will commend this article to their attention as well.

    • #9
    • December 10, 2015, at 9:37 PM PST
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  10. Trinity Waters Inactive

    Majestyk:May I ask how you feel about a Louisville Slugger for home defense? :D

    I mainly don’t want to loose bullets in the house.

    There are special purpose home-defense rounds that won’t penetrate a wall. But, the first object they hit is toast. I bought these for my .357 Magnum because a standard round will go not only through a wall, but several walls.

    • #10
    • December 10, 2015, at 9:57 PM PST
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  11. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    I carry an 88 magnum. It is made special for me.

    It goes through armor and it goes through the victim… through the wall… through a tree outside.
    It shoots through schools.

    • #11
    • December 10, 2015, at 10:01 PM PST
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  12. BenMSYS Inactive

    I want a gun, but worry about my boy’s curiosity, age, and surprising ability to climb into every nook and cranny of my house. If I had one now it would be so locked up as to be useless in a crucial moment. As it is, my house is protected by a particularly aggressive (but very accepting of a three year old “super hero” leaping on him from atop a coffee table) Belgian Shepherd/Yellow Lab mix.

    No one in my neighborhood has a Matisse hanging over the dining room side board. No house is targeted or subject to a planned robbery.

    The rare thief that hits my subdivision finds the house of least resistance and acts. Barking keeps that from being us.

    So I want a gun, but it’s not practical for me at home right now. That said, if I’m at a movie, the mall, a restaurant, or any public gathering, I’d be thrilled to know that an armed person such as yourself were on site. I don’t get the fear of armed people. You make me feel safe.

    • #12
    • December 10, 2015, at 11:34 PM PST
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  13. Terry Mott Member

    The King Prawn:Any advice for someone with physical limitations that put a shotgun (at least the 12 gauge) out of the realm of possibilities?I’ve heard a 410 with the right load can be effective without kicking like a mule. Perhaps a 20 gauge would work better should my shoulder cooperate with practice.

    My wife just bought me a .357 Magnum lever action carbine as an early Christmas present. I haven’t gotten to the range with it yet, but am looking forward to doing so.

    This is a light weight (4.8 lbs), compact (33.5″ long, 16″ barrel) carbine that shoots both 38 Special and .357 Mag ammo. It has a reputation for low recoil, especially when shooting 38’s. The magazine on this model holds 8 rounds of .357, or 9 rounds of 38. Moving up to a 20″ barrel increases the weight a little, but gives 2 more rounds of ammo capacity (the magazine is lengthened along with the barrel).

    I have a Remington 870 pump-action 12 gauge with a magazine extension for home defense, but I’m considering making the .357 carbine my primary defensive long gun, if it proves to be reliable. It’s lighter, handier, holds more rounds, and should have much less recoil and muzzle blast.

    Something for you to consider.

    • #13
    • December 10, 2015, at 11:50 PM PST
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  14. Quietpi Member

    Majestyk:May I ask how you feel about a Louisville Slugger for home defense? :D

    I mainly don’t want to loose bullets in the house.

    I can’t decide whether you’re serious or not, given your second sentence. To be sure, anything is better than nothing, but a bat is darn close to nothing.

    • #14
    • December 11, 2015, at 12:20 AM PST
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  15. Terry Mott Member

    Quietpi:

    Majestyk:May I ask how you feel about a Louisville Slugger for home defense? :D

    I mainly don’t want to loose bullets in the house.

    I can’t decide whether you’re serious or not, given your second sentence. To be sure, anything is better than nothing, but a bat is darn close to nothing.

    Heh. Never bring a bat to a gunfight.

    • #15
    • December 11, 2015, at 12:39 AM PST
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  16. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton Post author

    Fake John/Jane Galt:I carry an 88 magnum.It is made special for me.

    It goes through armor and it goes through the victim… through the wall… through a tree outside. It shoots through schools.

    You shouldn’t hang me on a door. My father hung me on a door… ONCE!

    • #16
    • December 11, 2015, at 4:05 AM PST
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  17. iWe Reagan
    iWe

    Shotguns are much more likely to hit the target when the adrenaline kicks in. The sound they make just being cocked really concentrates the mind. And they can hold 6 or 7 shells, fired semiautomatically.

    • #17
    • December 11, 2015, at 4:11 AM PST
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  18. Larry3435 Member

    It’s hard to keep a shotgun in the nightstand. I have a .38 S&W Special in mine (with a trigger lock, and we have no kids in the house). When you wake up and hear someone in the house, getting to the safe room might be a harrowing trip.

    • #18
    • December 11, 2015, at 4:26 AM PST
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  19. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton Post author

    iWe:Shotguns are much more likely to hit the target when the adrenaline kicks in. The sound they make just being cocked really concentrates the mind. And they can hold 6 or 7 shells, fired semiautomatically.

    1. Actions have little to do with capacity. The pump-action Mossberg 500 in my safe room holds seven in the tube and one in the chamber, and the semi auto 930 I run in competition holds 8+1. Then there’s this thing, that holds 23+1 (!) shells.
    2. Define “target”: At close distances, the pellets in a shotgun don’t spread out that much, and at far distances, they may spread out too much. Aiming is still needed, and in some cases (like those $#@! 20 yard steel plates I was shooting at and missing in a competition last week) it’s REALLY needed with a shotgun.
    3. Re: The sound of a pump gun… you don’t hear it. When you’re running a pump gun fast, you hear the boom and then the boom of the next shell: The sound of an action cycling is no more noticeable than the sound of the bolt on your AR going back and forth.
    • #19
    • December 11, 2015, at 4:29 AM PST
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  20. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton Post author

    Terry Mott: My wife just bought me a .357 Magnum lever action carbine as an early Christmas present.

    I adore pistol-caliber lever guns. They’re so much fun to shoot, and surprising accurate: I was pinging 8×8 steel with a .44 lever gun shooting offhand at 100 yards, something that I did not expect. Plus they have the advantages of not being a scary black rifle and if you have a .357 wheel gun, you just have one kind of ammo to worry about.

    • #20
    • December 11, 2015, at 4:34 AM PST
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  21. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton Post author

    Terry Mott: I want a gun, but worry about my boy’s curiosity, age, and surprising ability to climb into every nook and cranny of my house. If I had one now it would be so locked up as to be useless in a crucial moment.

    Your thinking pretty much mirrors mine ten years ago. There was a number of brutal home invasions in the Phoenix area, so my wanted wanted us to get an alarm system, and I got a gun, and put in a quick-access safe. They really work, and they’re good enough to keep young hands away from things they shouldn’t have.

    • #21
    • December 11, 2015, at 5:09 AM PST
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  22. Kozak Member

    Kevin Creighton: Shotguns Advantages: Devastating amount of power per round, flexible ammunition types; Disadvantages: Hard to maneuver in tight spots, needs two hands to operate, low ammunition capacity.

    Not always….

    saiga drum

    • #22
    • December 11, 2015, at 5:11 AM PST
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  23. Orion Inactive

    Kevin Creighton:

    Terry Mott: My wife just bought me a .357 Magnum lever action carbine as an early Christmas present.

    I adore pistol-caliber lever guns. They’re so much fun to shoot, and surprising accurate: I was pinging 8×8 steel with a .44 lever gun shooting offhand at 100 yards, something that I did not expect. Plus they have the advantages of not being a scary black rifle and if you have a .357 wheel gun, you just have one kind of ammo to worry about.

    Something to consider with tubular magazines…

    If left compressed (loaded) for extended periods, magazine springs can lose some of their strength, possibly reducing the number of rounds that will feed reliably. Not a common problem but it does happen. Springs are cheap and it only takes a couple of minutes to replace. Changing the magazine spring every 3-5 years should be part of the maintenance cycle.

    • #23
    • December 11, 2015, at 5:13 AM PST
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  24. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton Post author

    Kozak: Not always….

    I’ve seen a bunches and bunches of Saigas in action in matches (Akdals too), and when they run well, they’re impressive to watch.

    When they don’t run well, the air around them tends to turn a bit blue.

    Saigas are like GM cars of the 70’s: If you get one built on a day when the factory workers were sober, it’s joy. If you don’t, be prepared to put your gunsmith’s kids through college.

    Not what I look for in a gun that has to work well in order to save my life…

    • #24
    • December 11, 2015, at 5:28 AM PST
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  25. iWe Reagan
    iWe

    Kevin Creighton:

    iWe:Shotguns are much more likely to hit the target when the adrenaline kicks in. The sound they make just being cocked really concentrates the mind. And they can hold 6 or 7 shells, fired semiautomatically

    1. Define “target”: At close distances, the pellets in a shotgun don’t spread out that much, and at far distances, they may spread out too much. Aiming is still needed, and in some cases (like those $#@! 20 yard steel plates I was shooting at and missing in a competition last week) it’s REALLY needed with a shotgun.

    In my house, the target would be between 2 and 25 feet away. By the time someone is outside farther than 20′ away, I don’t need to shoot them. I can just close the door.

    1. Re: The sound of a pump gun… you don’t hear it.

    I hear mine – sounds just like the movies.

    1. When you’re running a pump gun fast, you hear the boom and then the boom of the next shell: The sound of an action cycling is no more noticeable than the sound of the bolt on your AR going back and forth.

    The way I imagine a situation: I hear something in my house. I grab a firearm (my wife does, too). We Call out, we warn, we loudly cycle the gun without discharge.

    In my town, 99.99% of the time, the person is long gone when they realize the homeowner is not defenseless. Actually firing should be unnecessary unless the person is close and panics in the wrong direction.

    Every time I have had a “fight or flight” situation, I find that my decision-making becomes very limited. Creativity is lost – I sort between 2 (or if I am really clever, 3) decision trees that were pre-selected. I am pretty sure that the adrenaline would make me shake, which means targeting becomes a problem.

    Training does not necessarily solve the problem. So I prefer simple decision trees, loud sounds, shot that does not go through plaster walls, and preferably some leniency in aiming.

    • #25
    • December 11, 2015, at 5:32 AM PST
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  26. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    Kevin Creighton:

    Fake John/Jane Galt:I carry an 88 magnum.It is made special for me.

    It goes through armor and it goes through the victim… through the wall… through a tree outside. It shoots through schools.

    You shouldn’t hang me on a door. My father hung me on a door… ONCE!

    You shouldn’t have shot me. My grandmother shot me once…

    • #26
    • December 11, 2015, at 6:10 AM PST
    • Like
  27. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    On shotguns, what is a reasonable barrel length for a home defense gun? I can’t imagine 28″ birder is great in hallways.

    • #27
    • December 11, 2015, at 6:14 AM PST
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  28. iWe Reagan
    iWe

    The King Prawn:On shotguns, what is a reasonable barrel length for a home defense gun? I can’t imagine 28″ birder is great in hallways.

    The shorter the better. Within legal limits, of course.

    • #28
    • December 11, 2015, at 6:37 AM PST
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  29. PHCheese Member

    I an 70 years old . I just bought my first gun, a Mossberg 54301, 20 gage 8 shoot pump shot gun. I didn’t buy it for everyday home defence. I have the dogs and MRSCheese for that. I bought it for when the SHTF. I changed the door handle on a closet and put a lock on it. The gun also is locked. I have had my own home for almost fifty years and have never had a break in, I have always had at least one dog. I am more concerned with societal break down. We have food and water for about four months. It occurred to me one day that we live in a hurricane and a earthquake zone, it makes since to be prepared.

    • #29
    • December 11, 2015, at 6:38 AM PST
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  30. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton Post author

    The King Prawn:On shotguns, what is a reasonable barrel length for a home defense gun? I can’t imagine 28″ birder is great in hallways.

    18″ is the minimum, and resist the temptation to get a pistol-grip only gun. They’re hard to control, and things get a little weird with them, thanks to the NFA.

    • #30
    • December 11, 2015, at 6:54 AM PST
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