Home Protection: Handgun, Rifle, or Shotgun?


Home Protection: Handgun, Rifle, or Shotgun?

This has to be one of the most-discussed topics in the shooting/protection world! Will a handgun, rifle, or shotgun serve me best for home defense?

In some ways, it’s a matter of opinion. There will always be people who feel strongly that one particular choice is best. You could say it’s an argument that nobody will never win. But what the heck? Let’s take a look at the options and see where that leads us.


The Handgun

Handguns are handy, and often your carry gun is the gun you’re most familiar with. After all, you carry it daily and train with it, right? So why not depend on it for home defense? A lot of people will say your pistol is only useful to prolong a fight or delay until you can get to your long gun.

So you know it, now you are in your room behind a locked door and calling the police. If this is all that happens you should be good. You do not want to blindly shoot through the door. You need to warn them WHILE on the phone with 911 that you have a gun and will use it to defend yourself if needed.

Handgun Pros

  • Small and easy to handle
  • Ability to hold plenty of ammo
  • You know it better than other guns
  • Easy to shoot from awkward positions

Handgun Cons

  • Small and easy to lose
  • Easier to miss in a stressful situation
  • Usually offers less knockdown power than a rifle or shotgun


The Rifle

For the sake of this article, the rifle I’m writing about is an AR15.

One of the biggest misconceptions of the AR is over-penetration. Fact is, IF you get the right ammunition, you have nothing to worry about. Use an expanding bullet designed to expend all of its energy inside of an animal.

Rifle Pros

  • Ability to hold plenty of ammo
  • More area for optics (multiple possible)
  • More stable than a handgun
  • Possible forward handle and shoulder stock allow easy handling
  • More powerful than a handgun

Rifle Cons

  • Longer firearm, harder to maneuver
  • Weighs much more than a typical handgun
  • Possibly easier for an attacker to grab
  • Maybe not as familiar to you as your handgun


The Shotgun

This may be the favorite home defense firearm, largely due to Hollywood lying to people by portraying a shotgun blast as powerful enough to knock people flying when they’re shot.

It is true you will get more knockdown power with a scattergun, but you should be selective of your loads. Many people will say that a slug is the best choice for home defense with a shotgun, but the problem there is over-penetration; it may travel through multiple interior walls. Buckshot will also shoot through walls, but not as many as a slug.


Me, I use personal defense ammo in my home defense shotgun, but prior to that I had 7½ birdshot loaded in mine. This should provide good stopping power without the risk of traveling through multiple walls and hitting family members elsewhere in the house.

Shotgun Pros

  • More knockdown power
  • A pump or double-barrel shotgun is extremely reliable and easy to operate
  • Possibly smaller than a rifle

Shotgun Cons

  • More recoil than a rifle or handgun
  • Usually holds fewer rounds of ammo
  • Bigger muzzle flash (may damage your night vision)

This is not the end of this discussion by any means. I’m trying to get you look at your own personal situation and determine which is best for you. Consider this a wake-up article to get you involved in doing what you need to do to protect the ones you love.

Just take some time and look at your home to assess the layout, look for weakness in entry points, and make a plan on where to go and what to do if a home invasion ever did happen.

The debate between which type of firearm is best will never end, and maybe it shouldn’t!


Avatar Author ID 170 - 1898587951

Started as a firearms instructor in 1986, sponsored pro shooter, teaches CC classes, advanced pistol and shotgun tactics, teaches reloading classes, does seminars, radio shows and in-store promotions for the sponsors. But more important is I spend as much time as possible with my family, life is just too short!

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