How to Choose a Home Defense Gun

Choosing a home defense gun will be largely dependent on your proficiency, home environment and who may need to use the firearm. There is no one size fits all gun that will be perfect for everyone, and that is why some thought must be put into the decision process. There are tons of different types, sizes and calibers of firearms on the market and many of them are great, but what is the best one for you? We’ll cover some important topics you should consider when you are deciding on your home defense gun.

Types of Home Defense Guns


Handguns are a great choice for a home defense gun, especially If you also want to conceal carry, have limited storage space, or are more familiar/comfortable with the operation.

Many handgun calibers offer limited penetration compared to other options, making them great for use in apartments or houses with thinner walls. They will also be quieter and have less muzzle blast than rifles and shotguns.

Home defense handgun

Handguns will also be the hardest gun to master and shoot effectively. They only offer two points of contact (both hands) and this can be challenging to some shooters.

This difficulty will only be amplified when shooting under stressful conditions where you have increased adrenaline. Handgun rounds are also weaker than all the other options.


A rifle can be an incredibly effective option for home defense. Rifles provide you with an additional point of contact than a handgun because they have a stock to brace against your shoulder. This helps you shoot more accurately and retain better control over the firearm.

This can be a valuable asset in a home defense encounter where your adrenalin will be pumping and your nerves are on edge. Modern sporting rifles like the AR-15 allow for the use of magazines that can hold upwards of 30 rounds of ammunition, providing you with an ample amount of firepower for most situations.

Additionally, rifles shoot a more powerful cartridge than handguns, leading to better terminal ballistics.

Using an AR-15 for home defense

Rifles will also be much louder and have a brighter muzzle blast, which can cause vision and hearing loss in indoor environments. Rifles also have a tendency to penetrate further, making them a poor choice for use in apartment buildings or homes with thin walls. The last thing you want is to injure someone you did not intend to.

Pistol Caliber Carbine

A pistol-caliber carbine (or the shorter-barreled variants with a stabilizing brace) is a great option for a home defense gun.

It provides some of the benefits of a rifle with three points of contact and a buttstock to stabilize your shot, but has far less recoil and penetration than a rifle in a traditional caliber.

It will also have less muzzle blast and noise, which will be good for your eyesight and hearing should you be firing at night and indoors. Many of these utilize magazines that are common with handguns, making them a great option to pair with a concealed carry pistol.

Pistol-caliber carbines will have the same weight and size as a rifle, but fire a much smaller caliber. This means they may not be the best choice if you live on large property or an area where wildlife may need to be dispatched. They are also less maneuverable than handguns due to their length so are harder to use in close quarters.


A shotgun is a classic choice for home defense because it excels at close-quarters encounters.

Shotguns fire a shotshell that incorporates a number of pellets that spread as distance increases. This spread aids in accuracy, which will help you hit your target when your nerves are on edge.

Shotguns also offer a lot of power for your home defense needs and tend to be fairly simple to operate. Shotguns are great for a variety of purposes, they come in various configurations to suit the user’s specific needs. An 18-20” barrel variant should be selected for defensive use because of its easier mobility and lighter weight. That barrel length is also specialized for the closer-range encounters you would encounter in a defensive situation.

Home defense with a shotgun

Additionally, there are compact versions of shotguns like the Mossberg Shockwave or Remington Tac-14. These may be used with the equipped birds-head grip, or a pistol stabilizing brace may be added.

These are designed for close-quarters encounters, however they present the shooter with a massive amount of recoil. They demand practice and a firm grip to master.

Similarly, there are defensive shotguns that utilize a pistol grip without a stock. This lowers the overall length which aids in close-quarters engagements. However, they can be harder to shoot accurately, as you do not have a stock to brace against your shoulder. These too, require practice to master.

Shotguns also have a lot of recoil, especially in 12 gauge, which could make getting accurate follow-up shots more difficult. They are also more limited in ammunition capacity compared to other options, with a high count on a shotgun being around eight rounds (compared to around 15-30 rounds for semi-automatic handguns, rifles and PCCs).

Caliber Considerations

Power and Controllability:

It is important to select a caliber that offers a good balance between power and controllability. Having the biggest caliber is of no use if you cannot hit anything with it, and having a caliber that is too small may not effectively stop the threat in time.

As a general rule, handgun calibers from .380 ACP and up are adequate for defensive use, rifle calibers from .30-30 Winchester and .223 Remington and up are good, and both 20-gauge and 12-gauge shotguns are solid options.

Test out some of these calibers for whatever platform you choose and find the one that works best for you and your environment. You may be able to handle a .308 Winchester rifle, but the sound, blast and penetration could be far too much for your environment.


Different calibers will have different capacities as well. This is also largely dependent on the type of firearm you choose and your state laws. However, in general, a service-sized 9mm Luger handgun will have around 15-18 rounds per magazine.

A revolver will have around six rounds. A pump-action shotgun with a full-length magazine tube will have around eight rounds in either gauge. Finally, an AR-15 in .223 Remington will have around 30 rounds in a magazine and a .30-30 Winchester lever-action rifle will hold around seven rounds in the magazine tube.

Again, this will be dependent on your specific firearm, but these are good estimates. Additionally, as you increase in caliber size, you will tend to decrease in capacity.

Handgun with magazine

Training Cost/Availability:

You will want to make sure the caliber you select is both available and affordable. This is useful for stockpiling and training. Having a caliber that you can't find ammunition for or afford to practice with will do you less good than something you can train with.

Try and select a mainstream caliber so that the ammunition will be more widely available and less expensive. Check and compare ammunition prices so you have an accurate idea of what it is going to cost you.

Ammunition Choice

Hollow Point:

Use hollow point ammunition for home defense

If you select a rifle, PCC or handgun, you will want to choose quality hollow-point ammunition for defensive use. It is important to test the load you want to use in your specific gun to ensure that it functions properly.

Having a good hollow-point projectile will decrease penetration and provide expansion to improve wound ballistics. This helps make sure the round doesn’t overpenetrate through walls or pass through the intruder.


If you choose a shotgun, you should pick a good buckshot ammunition load. Buckshot will provide much better terminal ballistics than birdshot. There are varying sizes of buckshot, and you should evaluate the size that would work best for you and your home environment.

Some provide more power like 00 Buck, which is great, but may not be the best for homes or apartments with thinner walls.

#4 Buck provides a good balance of power and penetration for home defense. Additionally, you will want to pattern your shotgun for home defense so you know how it will spread.

Size and Weight

Paying attention to the size and weight of your home defense gun is important because that will determine your ability to use the firearm.

If you get a gun that is too large or heavy, you may not be able to maneuver your gun easily or hold it up for any real amount of time. This can hinder your ability to make an effective shot or retain control of your firearm.

However, heavier guns help to soak up recoil so you will feel less of a kick, and if your gun is too small, you may not be able to get a full grip or operate it properly. Finding a good balance between size and weight is important when choosing a home defense gun.


Lights and Lasers:

Some consider having a good weapon-mounted light a must-have on your home defense gun.

A flashlight will ensure you can properly identify your target at night or during low-lighting conditions. A laser can also be useful for fast aiming, especially in the dark. These devices are also easily removed if for some reason you decided later on you prefer not to have them.

You could also use a handheld light if your firearm lacks a rail, or if you simply prefer a light that is not attached to your firearm. There are a couple of benefits to this. Primarily, you are able to illuminate areas without having to point your loaded gun at the location.

Further, there are techniques that teach you to hold the light away from your body so that you can illuminate an area without a possible enemy knowing exactly where your body is. This is a personal choice and you need to evaluate which benefits are most important to you.

Use a light or laser on your defense gun

Night Sights:

Night sights are a great addition to a home defense gun because they allow for a more clear sight picture at night or in low-lighting environments. These sights will glow in the dark either when exposed to a little light or via tritium vials that will glow for a certain number of years. The best options are tritium sights, because you don’t need to worry whether or not they will be ready when you need them. Many will stay bright for 10-20 years and whenever they get too dim, you can simply replace them.


Adding an optic to your home defense gun can be beneficial for quick target acquisition or accuracy when firing at nighttime.

A red-dot sight is a great choice for the distances that home defense encounters would take place, and it will be easily visible in all lighting conditions. There’s a plethora of different types of optics, so it is best to find the one that suits your defensive needs and environment. Before purchasing an optic, it is important to make sure that your choice of firearm is able to mount it.

Suppressor or Hearing Protection:

Adding an One final accessory you may want to consider is a suppressor or some sort of hearing protection. When you fire a gun inside, the acoustics make it much louder than when fired outside. If it is legal in your state and you are able to, a suppressor can make your home defense gun much more hearing safe. If you aren't able to, or simply do not wish to invest that much money, you can get some electronic hearing protection that will still allow you to hear voices, but will muffle sounds over a certain decibel level (the gunshots). Hearing protection is important, as you do not want to blow out your eardrums if it can be avoided.

Use a suppressor on your defense gun to protect your hearing

Other Considerations

Customization and Upgrades:

Let me introduce this section with the preface that I am not a lawyer and this is not intended to be legal advice. However, it is important to consider how your choice of firearm will appear to a courtroom and a jury in the unfortunate event that you actually have to fire your gun.

There are plenty of people on both sides of the argument that something will or won’t matter, and that is a personal decision you must make. Just know that the gun was designed in a certain way for a certain reason and every change you make from how the manufacturer intended the firearm to be could be under scrutiny.

For example, if you change the trigger out to something with a lighter pull weight, then have a negligent discharge, there could be more blame placed on you because you change the design of the firearm. I think a simple sight change or addition of a weapon-mounted light would be fine, but I would not want to put aggressive wording or logos on the firearm. Additionally, a simple wood-stocked 12-gauge shotgun looks much more traditional to the non-gun crowd than an AR-15 with a drum magazine.


Night Once you have your home defense gun, now you need a way to store it that is both secure from possible children or roommates, but is accessible in the event you need it quickly. There are plenty of bedside lock boxes that open with a thumbprint or a simple code. These allow the handgun to be kept close, while remaining secure. You can also store your firearm in a gun safe. This is especially useful if you have or plan on owning a number of firearms. These provide the ultimate in security, but are slightly less accessible. Finally, there are simple cable locks that prevent the gun from being loaded and fired. These are not meant to stop thieves, but will prevent children or other individuals from firing the gun.

Keep your gun in a safe


Clearly there is a lot to consider when choosing a home defense firearm, but hopefully this walkthrough helped.

Once you have decided on a type, go to your gun range and try shooting some different firearms and see what feels best to you. People are independent creatures and so are guns.

You need to test or at least feel them for yourself if you want to find the perfect one for you. You should also consider selecting a firearm that everyone in the household is able to handle. Some firearms may work great for you, but not so well for your spouse or other household members who may need to use the gun.

Once you know your priorities and have an idea of what you are looking for, finding the perfect home defense gun becomes much easier.