How to Choose a Gun For Home Defense

Posted by Gunprime Staff on 09/22/22

Posted by: Corey Fuller

Corey is a gun guy for Gunprime, the senior security consultant at Fuller Security Solutions, and a partner at Heroes Academy Online.  When he isn’t writing about guns he spends time helping schools and businesses bolster their security programs and rolling on the mats with his friends at Heroes Combat BJJ.  

Choosing a gun for home defense can be a daunting task. Whether you are new to firearms or a seasoned veteran, you cannot afford to take this decision lightly. You need to consider a variety of factors such as where you live, who lives with you, training, budget, accessibility, and much more. This article will give you a few tips to help you choose the right gun for your needs.

Do you have a Concealed Carry Pistol?

Staccato C2 Concealed Carry Pistol

Staccato C2 Concealed Carry Pistol

If you do not have a concealed carry pistol, you need to buy one now! A concealable pistol is the most critical firearm you can purchase. You can carry a concealed handgun at all times, whether inside your home or outside. If you only have the budget for one firearm, your concealed carry pistol must be your home defense weapon. Remember, your budget includes not only the gun itself but the ammunition for training, defensive ammunition, time for training, accessories such as a weapon-mounted light, and a holster. Just because you have enough money to purchase two firearms does not mean you have the money or time to invest in adequately equipping your gun and training with it. If you only have time to dry practice and go to the range practicing with one firearm, you need to focus on becoming good with one gun. Once you have reached an adequate level of proficiency, you might devote more time to another weapon. Still, it would be best if you spent most of your time training with your carry gun because the skills will transfer over to other weapons, and you will spend the most time with your carry gun. If you want to learn more about choosing a concealed carry pistol, check out this article.  


Pistols for Home Defense

Two Staccato C2 Concealed Carry Pistols

Pistols are a great option for home defense, but like anything else in life, there are tradeoffs.

Pros for Choosing a Pistol for Home Defense

  • Maneuverable- Because pistols are small and compact, pistols are very maneuverable. When navigating a structure like a house longer, weapons can become unwieldy, even for an experienced shooter. By choosing a pistol, you are choosing the most maneuverable firearm.
  • Utilitarian- Pistols can have multiple uses, such as concealed carry, home defense, and competition shooting. You can buy one pistol to serve an extensive array of firearms needs.   If you can afford multiple handguns from the same family, such as a Glock 19 for concealed carry and a Glock 34 for competition then you can practice with a similar gun you carry. Because of their practical nature, you can use a pistol for various needs, making them easy to use for defense and recreation.
  • Accessible - Pistols are very easy to store whether you keep them in a holster all day and place it by your bedside on the nightstand or in a safe. Carrying a pistol is straightforward, making it a great option that you can have easy access to while keeping it safe from children and others. Pistol safes are much cheaper than rifle safes if you decide you do need one.  
  • Cheaper ammunition- Pistol ammunition, such as 9mm, is usually cheaper than rifle or shotgun ammunition. Training with and loading up on ammo will be more cost-effective.  

Cons for Choosing a Pistol for Home Defense

  • Lethality- Pistol rounds generally do not create as large of permanent wound cavities as long guns. Even though technology has improved pistol caliber bullet design, they will likely never be able to incapacitate a threat as quickly as a shotgun or rifle.
  • Harder to Shoot Well- Pistols are harder to shoot because most people do not grow up shooting pistols and have fewer points of contact than long guns. Many people grow up learning to shoot rifles and shotguns. Very few individuals grow up learning to shoot handguns proficiently. Even if one did grow up learning how to shoot pistols, they would most likely be better at shooting a rifle due to having more points of contact, such as your shoulder and cheek, compared to only your hands with a pistol.  

To learn more about the best pistols on the market, check out Gunprime's article on the best 9mm pistols here.  

Rifles for Home Defense

AR-15 Home Defense AR Pistol

Rifles can be a great home defense option!

Pros for choosing a Rifle for Home Defense

  • Lethality- Traditional rifle calibers travel at much faster speeds than pistol rounds expending more energy on the target. If one observes the wound characteristics of a rifle shot versus a pistol shot, one will find much larger permanent and temporary wound cavities on average. Hitting someone with proven defensive rifle ammunition will more reliably stop threats in a home defense scenario.  
  • Shootability- Shooting a rifle requires more contact points than shooting a pistol. When shooting a rifle correctly, the rifle will contact the hands, shoulder, and cheek, whereas when shooting a handgun, the only contact points will be the hands. More points of contact on the rifle make it much easier to aim than a pistol. More contact points also lead to more control over recoil for faster follow-up shots when shooting milder intermediate cartridges like 5.56. Yes, heavy recoiling rifles like a 45-70 may induce slower follow-up shots, but choosing the right caliber for home defense makes controlling a rifle much easier than a pistol.  

Cons for Choosing a Rifle for Home Defense

  • Maneuverability- Longer rifles can be more cumbersome to maneuver around structures than other weapons, such as pistols. Training and choosing a shorter barrel length can help overcome the problems with handling the rifle. Still, training takes time, and shorter rifles can present legal dilemmas. Any rifle under 16 inches is classified as a short barrel rifle. Short-barreled rifles are regulated by the NFA and require prior approval and the purchase of a 200-dollar tax stamp. Without the NFA regulation, one can purchase an AR pistol that offers many of the same benefits as a short-barreled rifle. Still, if you buy an AR pistol or short-barreled rifle, please ensure that you follow all local and federal laws regarding your firearm possession. Lastly, with all things come tradeoffs. There is no best firearm for all situations. When you choose a longer gun for home defense, you will increase the round's velocity and lethality at the expense of losing maneuverability. The opposite is true when you use a short-barreled rifle or AR pistol. Shorter barrels will provide more maneuverability at the cost of less effective terminal ballistics. Only you can decide which rifle is best for your unique home defense scenario.    
  • Storage- Storing a rifle can be more cumbersome than keeping a pistol, but it still can be done safely and effectively for home defense. Unlike a pistol, carrying a rifle all day long is not plausible. Rifles, therefore, must be stored and staged in certain areas of the house. No one can predict where they will be in their home during an invasion, but one can expect the most likely locations where they would be vulnerable. Under ideal conditions, one would carry their concealed carry pistol with them at all times to be ready to defend themselves. If one has the means to buy a second firearm, such as a rifle for home defense, they would then stage it in a strategic spot in the house based on their home defense plan. If you live by yourself, this location could be in a closet, under a bed, or in a safe in your bedroom. If you have children or state laws require you to lock your firearm, then a safe is probably your best option. If your home defense plan involves you barricading your family in a safe room, then you may want to have a safe with firearms stored in your room and one in your bedroom. There are no cookie-cutter solutions to storing your rifles for home defense. You must objectively consider your unique situation and decide what works best for you. 

For more information on the two most popular home defense rifles, check out this article from the Gunprime team here.  

Bullpups for Home Defense

Steyr AUG Bullpup Home Defense Rifle

Bullpups make for excellent home defense weapons. If you want the most maneuverable firearm without sacrificing lethality, you might want to check out a Bullpup.  

Pros for Choosing a Bullpup For Home Defense

  • Maneuverability- Bullpups allow for a longer barrel due to placing the action at the rear of the firearm. A longer barrel in a small package makes it ideal for home defense. Most houses have very confined spaces, and although we do not recommend clearing your house, having a bullpup will make the job easier.    
  • Shootability- Having the action in the rear of the firearm not only makes Bullpups shorter but also places the rifle's weight at the back. Weighting the rear of the gun prevents the top-heavy effect of other rifles, making it easier for smaller-stature individuals to shoot and decreases fatigue for all shooters during extended range sessions.  
  • Lethality- Maintaining a full-length barrel means your rounds will have the velocity to stop the threat or fragment, preventing over-penetration. Contrary to popular belief, large, slow bullets penetrate more than small, fast bullets. A 16-inch barreled Bullpup chambered in 5.56 will give you the velocity to end fights and prevent collateral damage of over-penetration.  

Cons for choosing a Bullpup for Home Defense

  • Expensive- The only con I can think of for choosing a bullpup is the cost. Bullpups usually cost more than other options for home defense, but then again, you cannot put a price on your life.

Shotguns for Home Defense

Benelli M4 Home Defense Shotgun

Pros for Choosing a Shotgun for Home Defense

  • Lethality- Shotgun ammunition like 00 or 000 Buckshot carries a lot more of a punch than your average cartridges used in home defense rifles and handguns. If you do your job, a 12 gauge buckshot is sufficient to stop a lethal threat.  
  • Inexpensive- One can find a shotgun that is reliable for less than 200 dollars. Pump shotguns are simply designed, making for a less-expensive manufacturing process. Unlike other weapons, inexpensive shotguns are often reliable. Single shot and pump shotguns are cheaper and more reliable than semiautomatics, so you do not have to fear purchasing an affordable shotgun. Find a reputable manufacturer, buy it, test it, and sleep well, knowing it will work when needed.  

Cons for Choosing a Shotgun for Home Defense

  • Recoil- The number one con for choosing a shotgun for home defense is the recoil. The recoil on a 12 gauge shotgun is much more significant than a 5.56mm rifle or a 9mm pistol. If you choose a shotgun for home defense you will have a more lethal weapon at the cost of higher recoil and slower follow-up shots.

For more information on home defense shotguns click here