So you’ve committed to defending your home, and a firearm seems like the best choice. There is a lot to consider. First off, make sure that if you are considering a firearm for home defense, you are absolutely willing to take another human life. If you scrutinize yourself and find that you couldn’t under any circumstances take a life to save yourself or a family member, consider another means of defense. The Taser Pulse and Bolt come to mind as possible substitutes for firearms. They are also great to have when deadly force is not justified but danger still threatens. It is also important to remember that a gun is never to be used as a bluff or to scare an attacker.
Basic Considerations for a Home-Defense Gun
- Find someone you trust.
Is anyone advising you in this choice? Is he or she trustworthy and knowledgeable? Many years ago, you could get pretty fair advice from law enforcement officers. The average cop today, however, knows very little about the gun he or she carries daily, much less about the numerous other models out there. I’ve also found that gun salesmen, although well-meaning, are so enthused about guns that they only suggest the newest, latest and “greatest.”
- Think about your personal situation.
It’s important to think about what is best for you and your situation. Instructors who are certified by the USCCA or NRA should be able to offer sound advice. These folks are likely to be more oriented toward helping an individual find something that meets his or her defensive needs. Make sure you test-fire anything anyone suggests before buying. You should like and be totally comfortable with your selection.
- Two uses, one gun.
If you already have a concealed carry permit or plan to get one, think about double duty. You can use the same handgun for both purposes if you choose wisely. Any of my concealment handguns work fine for home defense, and using the same firearm for both circumstances will save you money initially. If you decide to get a home-defense pistol separate from your carry gun, select one with the same or similar operating system. It need not be the same brand or model but should operate similarly for the sake of familiarity.
Home-Defense Gun: Location Matters
When choosing your home-defense gun, remember the old real-estate adage: “Location, location, location.” Where you live will determine which type of firearm and caliber is apt to work best. If you live in a multi-family unit — with shared walls, floor or roof — your own personal safety is not the only concern. You must also consider the safety of your neighbors and the gunfire you could unintentionally be sending in their direction. While you certainly have the right to defend your home against intruders, you also have the responsibility to not injure your neighbors.
For example, choosing a .44 Magnum revolver loaded with full-power ammo shows a reckless disregard for any neighbors. Any reasonable person should know that even with perfect shot placement, a full-power .44 Magnum round will penetrate through the target and continue into whatever lies beyond. You don’t need a .44 Magnum to stop a threat — especially if you’re surrounded by innocent bystanders. Choice of caliber and bullet type are critical in terms of safeguarding yourself and your neighbors.
Long Guns for Home Defense
What about a long gun? I will be discussing this option in more detail in the future, but let’s quickly touch on the basics. With shotguns and rifles, space can become a concern, as neither is ideal for maneuvering in tight areas. A shotgun can make a great option. The “spray” of pellets makes a miss less likely. And a rifle, though overpenetration is again a concern, makes for great defense in more rural areas, where four-legged threats can often be a consideration.
I live on a ¾-acre lot in a solidly built 1955 ranch home. There are neighbors on either side of my house (about 40 feet away) in equally substantive homes. There are woods directly behind my home and across the street. Even with a reduced risk of striking an innocent party because of my location, my usual home-defense gun is a five- or six-shot .38 Special revolver or a 9mm semi-automatic pistol loaded with hollow-point ammunition. Both are reasonable choices given the circumstances.
Any home-defense firearm — long gun or handgun — that you select should be one that you can operate entirely on your own without assistance from anyone else. This includes safely loading and unloading. Carefully consider your location, risks and potential situation when purchasing your home-defense gun. Once you have settled on your home-defense firearm, practice working with it in your home — unloaded, of course. If you don’t feel like it works for you, it might be time to reconsider your choice. There is no shame in learning. It’s better to know before you need it.
Home-Defense Guns Series
Committing to home defense with a firearm is an important first step in being prepared for the worst. With some great tips from Scott Wagner on how to choose a home-defense gun (Article 1), you’re ready to look more specifically at some of the options. Up next, Duane Daiker dives deeper into the more popular options for home protection: the large handgun, carbine and shotgun. Bob Campbell discusses the benefits of using a shotgun in Article 3, while George Harris weighs shotguns against handguns in Article 4. If you weren’t able to get a carbine due to the increased interest in guns, Scott has some other options for you in Article 5. Finally, Scott has tips on how how to stage and store your firearms safely.
Find more articles in our Home-Defense Guns Series below: