The Great Home-Defense Debate: Shotgun vs. AR-15 vs. Pistol

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The only thing more complicated than the Great Caliber Debate is the Great Home-Defense Debate.

What should you use to defend hearth and home? Is there a perfect gun for home defense?

Here’s something to think about: The BEST gun to have during a home invasion is the gun you have on you when the home invasion starts.

Home invasions happen quickly. Criminals know that violent, dynamic action gives them the advantage they need to control the situation. Because of that, you need to respond with violent, dynamic action. If you are more than two seconds away from your gun, you are unarmed.

Those statements above might make you think that I prefer a handgun for home defense. In actuality, I prefer a handgun for immediate personal defense. I keep my sidearm with me nearly all the time, so it stands to reason that I would use it to defend my home. But some people don’t have a pistol with them at all times. That’s fine, but I would suggest some means of defense.

Let’s set the scenario: You are at home in bed when you hear noises coming from your living room. You know you locked the door, and you know that no one else should be inside your home at this time. You’ve got a hallway from your bedroom to the living room area.

In that scenario, just about any gun will work for you — but consider the pros and cons. With a shotgun, you likely have six shots. My guess is that if the situation comes to gunfire, you won’t need them all. If you are shooting #00 buckshot, you are looking at about nine pellets per round that should strike in a group of about 2 inches at 7 yards. Even if you are using birdshot, you still get a group of roughly the same size at a distance equal to the length of the average hallway. What I’m saying here is that even with a shotgun, you could still miss if you don’t aim carefully. Don’t assume the shotgun will just sweep the hallway clean of bad guys.

With an AR-15-style rifle, you get 30 rounds from a standard magazine. Shooting at 7 yards, you should be able to put several of those rounds into a 4-inch group in pretty short order. AR-15 rounds are light, fast and hit hard. They tend to break apart when they hit hard barriers, but there is no guarantee that they will hit something hard if you miss your target. They might go through the drywall, insulation, sheathing and siding of your house. Then again, they might not. Err on the side of safety. Know your target and what is beyond it. Also, hit your target.

The AR-15 is typically lighter and offers less recoil than a 12-gauge shotgun. Anyone who is recoil-sensitive might want to opt for an AR or one of the smaller-gauge shotguns.

Here is the real downside with long guns: They are longer than handguns. In a home-defense situation, some of the upside of the long gun disappears when you need to use a hand to operate a light switch, guide a family member or hold a telephone to talk to authorities. Yes, shooting a pistol with one hand is usually less accurate than shooting a pistol with two hands, but shooting a long gun with one hand is much more difficult than shooting with two hands.

You know what? I have really settled nothing about this debate. I apologize. Here is my advice: 1. Get a gun. 2. Learn how to use it. 3. Develop a home-defense plan. 4. Train. 5. Train some more.

A gun should be part of your home-defense plan. It needs to be secure but also easily accessible. Talk amongst yourselves. Tell us what works for you.