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The Best Guns for Home Defense

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For many people, ‘home defense’ means protecting the home against robbers or thieves. In reality, ‘home defense’ is simply the act of defending your physical property and the people inside of it against external threats.

When discussing home defense, ‘home’ could refer to a car or business that you own, or even something like a temporary campsite in the wilderness. The threats to these areas can vary widely. Depending on your location, you may need to defend against burglars, rapists, bears, wolves, or any other potential intruder. The perfect home defense firearm is one that can protect you against all of these threats reliably and effectively.

An ideal home defense gun provides complete peace-of-mind, and can be safely handled without fear of malfunction. A home defense firearm can be a handgun, a rifle, or a shotgun, depending on the owner’s needs.


Handguns are generally the most popular choice for home defense solutions. Because of their compact design, handguns are ideal for engaging targets at close distances and in small spaces. Handguns allow the user to easily navigate through hallways and around tight corners, like those found in residential spaces. Because of this, it’s easy to think that ‘smaller is better’ when it comes to home defense handgun options.

But, that might not always be the case. Smaller is generally better for concealed carry options, but gun owners should not feel limited to small-sized firearms for their home defense solutions. If you are in a high-stress situation -- like facing a home invader -- there is something to be said for having a larger gun to keep you safe.

It may also be helpful to consider what guns have been carried by people who put themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis. For example, law enforcement once carried full size .38-caliber revolvers with double and single-action triggers.

During this time, revolvers were reliable for stopping threats, where criminals were often equipped with very similar (or even inferior) weapons. Today, revolvers are still popular for home-defense, due in part to their reliability. The cylinder rotates with every pull of the trigger, so you won’t run into failure-to-feed problems.

In the 1980s, however, law enforcement decided to move away from low-capacity, heavy revolver. Instead, they needed a more lightweight gun that could chamber more rounds. The Austrian company Glock was quick to design such a gun, and the Glock 17 was born. With a lightweight polymer frame and a 9mm chamber that holds 17 rounds, the Glock 17 satisfied all of the needs of military and law enforcement leaders worldwide.

Since then, many companies have adopted designs similar to the Glock 17, offering their own versions that can even improve on the original Glock design.

Today, duty pistols are available in 9mm, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP. They feature polymer frames, and come loaded with customizable features and components. This includes interchangeable grips, ambidextrous controls, and a Picatinny rail for mounting lights or lasers.

Explore the best handguns for for home defense.


Shotguns are also a great choice for home defense solutions. They’re easy to use, and unlike handguns or rifles, shotguns do not require extreme precision aiming to stop a threat. Shotguns fire shot shells, not single projectiles. This means they discharge many small pieces of metal which spread as they fly through the air, creating a ‘net’ of impact area. While the spread in a tight residential area might not be huge, hitting a target with a shotgun is significantly easier than with a single-projectile weapon.

For home defense purposes, many customers look for pump-action types of shotguns. Pump-action shotguns are easy to fire, simple to maintain, and relatively inexpensive when compared to more specialized firearms.

Shotguns are also quite versatile, and can be used for hunting as well as home-defense. If you aren’t interested in owning multiple guns, shotguns can be a fantastic option to serve double-duty for both hunting and home defense.

The features found on tactical shotguns are optional in home defense situations, but can provide peace of mind for some users.

Unfortunately, shotguns have quite limited maneuverability, especially in some of the larger models of the gun. Without proper training, a shotgun can be very difficult to safely handle in small, enclosed spaces. Per federal regulations, the shortest barrel available for a shotgun is 18 inches.

Another significant drawback to shotguns is the very limited magazine capacity. Most shotguns can only hold five 12-gauge shells. Once emptied, it takes time to reload a shotgun. In a high-stress situation, that may not be time you’re willing (or able) to sacrifice.

Standard pump-action shotguns with five rounds can also stop threats, but the low-capacity may be an issue for some prospective owners. However, there are now shotguns with detachable, higher-capacity magazines and clever feeding functions. There are plenty of options for higher-capacity shotguns that have the stopping power to neutralize any threat, provided the user has been through the proper training and practice.

Discover the top shotguns for home defense.


Rifles will produce greater velocity, distance, and accuracy than either a shotgun or a handgun. They are far and away the best option to neutralize targets at long distance. Unfortunately, that makes them less practical for close-range situations like those that often occur in home defense situations.

The rifle’s long barrel also limits maneuverability in compact, residential settings. In addition to this issue, over-penetration is a huge danger when using a rifle in a home-defense situation. Rifles are very powerful, and if fired indoors, the round could go through drywall and potentially hit an unintended target.

Regardless, the AR-style of rifle is generally the standard for home defense and sporting applications today. They have standardized builds which makes AR-style rifles are highly modifiable. An AR-15 in .223/5.56mm is very easy to use, has a light recoil, and features a magazine that holds 30 rounds. For full customization, there’s a huge range of attachments that can modify a standard AR rifle to fit your exact needs and specifications -- at least, to a point.

Unlike shotguns, AR barrel length can not be re-designed or altered, and the stock cannot be removed. If the barrel is altered, the AR becomes a short-barreled rifle which is legally a different firearm and is subject to extremely strict regulations. If the stock is removed, the gun legally becomes a pistol, and is subject again to a different set of regulations.

In 2012, though, Florida-based accessory manufacturer SB Tactical introduced a stabilizing brace that fits around the forearm. The brace can also be shouldered, and was reviewed and approved by federal regulators for both of these uses.

Since this invention, countless variations of that design have been released. These give users the added flexibility and maneuverability which has long been wanted by AR enthusiasts. With the increased demand for shorter AR-style rifles, gun makers have begun extending their AR selections, including AR pistols equipped with tactical braces.

So what's the best?

Like many things, the best home defense gun is a matter of preference. There are arguments for and against every type of gun that you can possibly find on the market. While you should definitely take these characteristics and arguments into consideration, the best home defense firearm is the one that you can use safely and effectively.