How to Select the Best Home Defense Gun

After looking over how to properly set up each firearm for home defense — rifle, shotgun, and pistol — the time comes when you must make a decision as to which suits your needs. It isn’t a problem to own all three. Or at least two — the handgun that is carried on the person during the day becomes a home defense handgun when you enter the home.

You may have a dedicated home defense firearm as well, and it should be a long gun. Before rounding up my opinion, I set one of my researchers on a path to study several personal defense situations that took place during the past few years. I was looking for the average number of shots fired during a home invasion.

Woman learning to shoot an AR-15 rifle at an outdoor gun range
The AR-15 rifle is famously friendly to all shooters. This is a first class defensive set up with Aimpoint sight.

I discovered disturbing trends. The world has changed somewhat and not for the better since I was actively investigating such things. I think that fear of incarceration is at an all-time low. Sure, felons still get time and long sentences — eventually. However, many of them are not jailed for the first offense and many are awaiting trial for a half-dozen crimes before they finally kill someone.

In my early years in law enforcement, a criminal might bail out of an offense but a second arrest soon after resulted in the original bail being revoked and the offender being held until his or her trial date. This is no longer a rule.

Let’s look at some of the information gathered during a few weeks research. While a relatively small sample, I think that the facts uncovered give us a meaningful overview of the present situation in armed invasions. I did not research burglaries when no one was home, and I did not research street crime. The crimes were home invasions or attempted burglaries of an occupied dwelling. An unfortunate realization is that there are a lot of misses recorded. We all need to practice more often.

Home Invasions

Let’s look at some of my research. I have looked over my indexed interviews and came up with trends that are strong enough to invite opinions and even conclusions. The information is disturbing and perplexing, until you put it all together. I was at a disjuncture at the professional level of some of the criminals compared to the general craziness of others. Drugs, greed, stupidity, and macho crap certainly play a role.

My previous conjectures regarding armed instructions are valid, but there are new trends. Previously, the party “peaked” as we used to say from about 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. As outlined on the November 21, 2023, Inside Edition, supper time invasions are more common. I should note in both incidents (captured on video surveillance), the homeowner confronted the armed trespassers with a handgun. Shots were fired in one instance.

Shooting a revolver with a ring of fire at the end of the barrel
That’s a lot of flash and blast in a short barrel .357 Magnum. Be certain you understand the pros and cons of each caliber.

I did my own research in this area, and it seems the trend is solid. Why take a chance on confronting a homeowner? Some takeover robbers seem to like the thrill, which makes them dangerous and stupid. When you are at home, it is easier to gain entrance than breaking into the home.

If you are at gunpoint, you will give up your hiding places. At one time in my career, the state had a charge called “midnight robbery” which applied at any hour if the home broken into was inhabited. The penalty was less severe for this common law offense. We need to enforce these laws more seriously.

I went to a reliable source, the Department of Justice. About 25 percent of home invasions take place during daylight hours. I was surprised to learn than the single item most reported stolen, and the single commodity exhibiting the greatest loss, was jewelry.

KelTec SU16 .223 folding rifle
KelTec’s folding SU16 .223 is a fine choice for defense use.

About 1.5 times the value of firearms, as an example. Perhaps the old fashioned jewelry box is no longer a good idea. I have interviewed a few people with a demonstrably emotional condition following a robbery.

I took several weeks to study these events and the number of shots fired when gunfire occurred. Some of the action began outside the home. In 15 cases, I was able to nail down solid information. I confirmed the actions that occurred.

I am aware that some writers like to enhance reality to the moment and imagine a worst case scenario at the slightest threat. A worst case scenario of five terrorist at McDonald’s just isn’t present. But it is common for a band of two to three to attack a home. All you need is a few well directed shots. I won’t endorse tactics as outdated as a double knit sweat shop, but fast reaction, the standard response drill, and marksmanship are what will count.

Man aiming an AR-15 in a home defense situation
Use cover and concealment, and practice movement inside the home.

If they are coming in the door, and you play Cyrano at the breech, you have a very good position. As it turns out, the average number of shots is low and about half hit the threat. A couple of incidents skewed the average. In one case, an assailant in what was really a domestic situation fired 40 rounds into a dwelling and wounded his mother and a minor child.

In another incident, a fool fired 30 rounds out his window and completely missed. That was fortunate, as the object of his fear was an innocent workman. Five seems to be an average number of shots fired, although there were a number with only two shots fired, and those defensive encounters were successful.

There is a lot of non-reporting when shots are fired, and no hits are observed (if anything is constant in the past 30 years). In short, successful defense doesn’t require a huge number of shots — when you hit what you are shooting at. If you are not certain of hitting, you probably should not fire. The inescapable conclusion is that you must get training and practice until you have mastered the firearm.

The average number of shots should not dissuade us from choosing a firearm with a generous magazine capacity. Likewise, neither should capacity be placed over practical accuracy and hit probability. Let’s wrap up the firearms that will serve well in a defensive situation.


Revolvers offer simplicity, reliability, and easy handling. Limp wristing a revolver will not cause a malfunction. While a revolver is often touted as a beginner’s gun, revolvers are often praised by very experienced shooters.

four-inch barrel revolver, right profile
A four-inch barrel revolver is a good choice for home defense for many reasons.

A revolver may be kept in storage and come up firring indefinitely. The generous grip of a short-barrel revolver allows a firm hold, while a gun-grabbing assailant will not have much leverage to wrest the piece away from your hand. These things do happen.

Within 20 miles of my home, a pastor was attacked in his home by a burglar. The adversary grabbed this elderly gentleman’s gun hand. The pastor fired once and dropped the assailant, but his gun jammed after the first shot due to four hands struggling for control.

The revolver offers a smooth, rolling, trigger action allowing the average shooter to ‘combat’ flinch. I like revolvers, although I very seldom carry one as primary during the day. (Save for the magnums on the trail.) I also carry a revolver as backup.

EAA Windicator revolver on wood decking
This Windicator revolver is among the best buys in the revolver world. The author has enjoyed good results with his.

As expert shooter Jerry Brickhouse says, “The revolver isn’t something you can leave in a drawer and then grab it and shoot. You must practice.”  A four-inch barrel revolver is a joy to fire and use, and offers a good balance in a home defense situation. A four-inch barrel .357 Magnum loaded with .38 Special +P ammunition is a solid choice for defense for the occasional shooter. However, that occasional shooter should make the occasion at least quarterly.

9mm Self-Loaders

A 9mm semi-automatic pistol is perhaps the most popular carry gun in America. The balance of power and a fast follow-up hit is respectable. The pistol you carry during the day is the handgun that will be at home ready. If it is a good quality 9mm handgun, you have a formidable firearm. Choose well, and you may use the same pistol for carry, home defense, and some forms of competition.

Wilson Combat Beretta 9mm semi-auto handgun
This Wilson Combat Beretta is loaded with a 20-round magazine for home defense use. That is a good ammunition reserve.

1911 handguns

I carry a 1911 often. It is my favorite pistol, and the type I fire best. When I am carrying the pistol concealed, I need only draw the gun, take the safety off, and fire. There is no firearm faster to an accurate first shot hit than a 1911. Home ready demands the pistol be at ready — hammer down on a loaded chamber. You will have to cock the hammer to fire. Those very experienced with the 1911 find this not to be a detriment.

I would think this through carefully. That said, I often keep a 1911 nearby as I rest. Admittedly, I have carried that handgun during the day outside the home.

Two Les Baer 1911 handguns
The author’s Les Baer 1911 handguns do a wonderful job defending the home.

Long Guns

The shotgun has the most formidable wound ballistics. When the shot used is buckshot, you can anchor an assailant with a single center hit. It doesn’t much matter which brand or buckshot size in the home — all are effective.

At longer range, Hornady Critical Defense and Federal Flite Wad have desirable, cohesive patterns. At the distance of a shot inside the home, pattern size and spread does not really matter. The pattern will be tight.

Springfield Saint 9mm carbine PCC, quartering to
A very AR-15-like carbine, the Springfield Saint 9mm is a first-class home defender.

The shotgun handles by feel and has a good natural point. A shotgun with a ‘real’ stock and 18 to 20-inch barrel is among the best choices for personal defense.


The 9mm carbine is a decent choice for personal defense and perhaps the best choice for most homeowners. Easy to shoot well, and firing an easily obtainable cartridge, a 9mm carbine may be fired much more accurately (by the average shooter) than any handgun. The next step up is America’s rifle, the AR-15.

Other similar types, such as the Ruger Mini-14 and KelTec SU16 are also well suited to personal defense. The .223 cartridge is highly unlikely to over-penetrate, when JSP loads are used. That is the key to safety, hit your target.

Tokarev pump-action shotgun, right profile
This Tokarev shotgun is affordable and very useful.

A .223 bullet is highly frangible and offers excellent wound potential. A fast follow-up shot is simple enough and the rifle offers low recoil with high hit potential.


Whichever type you choose for home defense, get training, practice often, and carefully consider your emergency plan. If the piece isn’t on your person or in your control zone, be certain it is in a gun safe.

Which gun or guns do you recommend for home defense? Share your answer in the Comment section.

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