Home Defense – Which Gun Works Best?


When it comes to home defense, there are many options to consider. The discussion over which firearm is best for a home defense situation is a highly debated topic.

The truth is there’s no right answer and different guns will be better for different situations. However, if you are new to guns or if you’re looking to buy a gun for home defense, then you may want to know what factors to consider when making your choice.

Factors to Consider:

Over Penetration:

While it may sound logical to use the most powerful weapon possible to stop a home invader, overpenetration must be considered. Over penetration occurs when a bullet is too powerful and it goes through your target penetrating your walls. This can be an even worse situation if you miss using a powerful firearm and the bullet penetrates through your walls into your neighbor’s home. You will have to find the right balance of stopping power need and penetration risk when choosing your home defense weapon. Every bullet has a lawyer attached to it and I don’t know about you but I can’t afford to miss.

Your drywall won’t stand a chance against the force of your stray rounds

Accuracy Needs:

Whatever option you pick, the bottom line is you need to be able to hit your intended target. Although most home defense situations may be in close quarters within 10 yards, you will still have to be able to aim under stress. To mitigate this you can use laser/light attachments on your home defense weapon. Interested in a weapon light? Check out our overview of the Streamlight TLR-8 and TLR-6.

Aim small miss small

Comfort Level:

Whatever you choose to fend off those home intruders, one most import factors to consider is your comfort level using that firearm. If you have only ever shot handguns and never used that shotgun in your closet, it may be best to use what you know you can stop the target with. Experience and familiarity with your defense platform is key to being able to mitigate the risks associated with stray bullets and to stop the threat as soon as possible.

Gotta know how to use it


Below is a simple breakdown of the three most popular firearm platforms for home defense along with their advantages and disadvantages.


A pistol is a versatile and popular option for home defense that offers many advantages. Handguns offer a verity of calibers and ammunition types.


  • Pistols are small and easy to maneuver is close-quarters situations.
  • Many handgun models offer a moderate-to-high ammunition capacity.
  • Can be operated single-handedly if needed


  • The smaller barrel length can increase the chances of inaccuracy
  • There is still a high risk of over-penetration within close quarters with most common calibers (9mm, .45 ACP, .40 S&W) even while using hollow points
  • Some pistols may have single stack magazines meaning they might have a small ammo capacity


The Shotgun is a tried and true go-to home defense option for many. Whether its uncle Jethrow’s double-barrel or your slick Mossberg 500 with Magpul furniture the shotgun offers many advantages to home defense.


  • Versatile ammunition to fit your needs. buckshot for when you need that extra stopping power and birdshot for when you want to mitigate over-penetration
  • Most shotgun rounds reduce the need for accuracy in high-stress situations due to them firing multiple pellets at once
  • There are many cost-effective shotguns that can be used for home defense


  • Shotguns are still fairly long with shorter barrels around 18″ which means they aren’t as maneuverable in close quarters
  • Two hands are required to operate a shotgun especially a pump-action shotgun. Unless of course, your Sarah Connor from Terminator 2
  • Generally, most shotguns especially those with shorter barrels for home defense have low ammunition capacity. Usually around 4-8 shells


Is accuracy a concern? Will you need to protect yourself at a distance? Do you need enough stopping power to take down that body armor-clad Mexican drug cartel smuggling illicit goods across your 100-acre farm in El Paso? If so, then the rifle may be the best option for you.


  • There are many different rifle platforms and calibers to choose from to suit your unique needs
  • Most common semi-automatic rifle platforms have moderate-to-high magazine capacities to make sure you have enough rounds to neutralize the threat
  • Due to their increased barrel length, rifles tend to be more accurate and have a greater range if you need to protect your home from a distance


  • Rifles of most calibers will severely over-penetrate not only your target but your walls and your neighbor’s walls too if you live in a conventional neighborhood or city
  • Even shorter more tactical rifles will be less maneuverable in a close-quarters situation
  • On that same note, rifles also require two hands to operate which means you won’t be able to open doors, move hazards, etc. and effectively utilize the rifle at the same time


While it will ultimately come down to the user’s need and their personal preference, In my opinion, the 12 gauge shotgun is the ideal candidate for my home defense needs. The versatility in ammunition types allows me to use birdshot to reduce the effects of over-penetration. I feel comfortable handling my 18″ 12 gauge and it is the ideal home defense gun for my needs.

What firearm do you prefer to use for home defense? Let us know in the comments below.

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