What is the best gun for home defense? The answer is simple but not simplistic. The best choice is one you can handle. This means the best gun for home protection is a gun you can pick up, grasp, and operate under stress.
It needs to be comfortable enough in your hand so you can use it as a deterrent and so you can shoot repeatedly, accurately and consistently. It needs to be light enough for you to be able to draw the gun and shoot it when tired, when moving, and around barricades. You have to be able to handle the recoil so you can reacquire your target quickly in case you need to fire it again. You should be able to place multiple rounds on the threat or target in stressful situations ACCURATELY!
There are a plethora of choices and options when considering guns for home defense. And how do you go about determining which is the best gun for you? Handle guns before buying one. Then, it’s practice and experience.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. They will all have their pros and cons, depending on the situation and who is using it.
Table of Contents
Best Gun for Home Defense
Depending on who you talk to, they may recommend any of these guns for home defense. Learn about each to determine what will work for your situation and your personal preference. Note, I do not recommend a shotgun for home defense unless it’s to protect from wildlife. I’ll explain more below.
- 9mm pistol
- Glock 19
- Mossberg pistol
- Ruger American pistol
- Pistol caliber carbine
- Taurus handguns
- Pistol red dot
- Ruger AR 556 pistol
- AR pistol brace
- Tactical shotgun
- KSG shotgun
- Bullpup shotgun
- .12 gauge pump action
- Pistol grip shotgun
- Double barrel shotgun
- 410 shotgun
Best caliber for home defense
There’s also discussion about caliber. When considering, “What is the best caliber for home defense?” it also depends. Caliber measures the diameter of the bore or barrel of a gun and what size bullet it will fit. A larger caliber means means a bigger more powerful bullet or round. It also means more recoil and typically a larger frame firearm.
Pistol for Home Defense
The simplest gun to own for home defense is a pistol. Pistols come in 2 basic types: Semi-auto pistol and revolvers. Here, I discuss semi-auto pistols.
With a pistol, you can shoot one-handed and operate the pistol one handed if your other hand is busy or inoperable. Pistols will also fit in most standard safes. Its small stature means you can travel with it easily, too—but check the gun policies of your accommodation if this is the case.
However, it’s not as simple as just walking up to a dealer and asking for a pistol. There are many different types, some better for you than others. Before ordering online, handle the gun first. It’s imperative to get the best fit for your hand and for your strength. You must ensure it’s not too heavy and large.
A 9mm pistol is a broad term. But if you’re a complete gun beginner (please, get some training), then it may be the only one you know. You can ask a dealer for the best 9mm pistol and sound slightly more educated than if you just asked for a “pistol.” But it’ll be even better if you ask for a specific brand, like a 9mm Glock. Here are some 9mm pistols to consider for home defense.
This is the most popular handgun in the world. Police departments and military units around the world use the Glock 19 because of its durability and reliability. It’s popular for home protection as well because it’s easy to use, maintain and repair.
The Glock 19 is designed with a lot less moving parts than other semi-auto handguns. There’s a lot less to go wrong or break.
In addition, there are endless accessories and customization options to fit your mission and likes. You can customize the grip to a certain extent.
I personally have owned a Glock 19 for 15+ years. I have fired thousands of rounds (easily exceeding 10,000 rounds) using the cheapest 9mm bullets I could find. It’s easy to use and requires minimal maintenance. I have oiled it but have yet to clean it in all this time. I’ve used it on tactical courses and in self defense courses. It always fires. I never worry about it; it just works.
Another advantage to owning the Glock 19 semi-auto handgun is it’s affordable.
Again, the Glock 19 is what most police departments use, showing it’s a well-known and trustworthy brand. It’s small, easily concealed, and fully loaded with 15 rounds. It weighs 30 ounces in total.
Mossberg pistol has two variants of a semi-auto 9mm handgun: the MC1sc and MC2c.
The Mossberg pistol MC1sc, is a sleek and concealable pistol designed for everyday carry, self-protection and safety. It features a textured grip and a no-pull disassembly to ensure you remain safe once your home is.
It can only hold 7 rounds, but that’s what keeps it ergonomic and light. It’s also snap-free with a flat trigger for ease of reveal and shooting.
The Mossberg pistol MC2c, is larger and more feature rich. Comes with more capacity with double stacked 13 or 15 round magazines and is an excellent choice for home defense.
Ruger American Pistol
There are many Ruger American pistols, with the EC9 9mm being a recent release. It’s small, only 6 inches long, and easy to grip.
It comes with an added finger grip extension floorplate to add to the 7-round magazine to make things more comfortable. The trigger is incredibly light, making pulling it easy. Of course, there’s also integrated trigger safety for before you’re ready to shoot. Although, some owners find the trigger reset awful.
Its main standout is the ergonomics. At 18 ounces loaded, with ways to make it easier to grip, it’s great for a quick draw in an emergency.
Pistol Caliber Carbine
A Pistol Caliber Carbine is like a mini rifle but using smaller less powerful pistol rounds / bullets. But, whereas a rifle’s power is best for medium-to-longer ranges, a pistol caliber carbine works well for shorter ranges and inside. It’s small enough for you to get around tight corners.
As for its advantages over a handgun, the main one is stability. You need two hands to shoot and steady it, letting you have better accuracy from a distance.
However, many pistol caliber carbines can use the same popular handgun magazines. This makes it easy to own both guns for different home defense scenarios.
There are many options of pistol caliber carbine, and a gun dealer can help you find your perfect fit. But if you want a suggestion here, consider the Kel-Tec SUB-2000. It uses 9mm or .40 caliber ammo, is compatible with some handgun magazines (including Glock), and overall is simple, but not basic.
Taurus’s handgun selections are vast and varied. They have several 9mm handguns to choose from, but I like the .22 Poly. The Taurus .22 Poly is small, light, and smooth and a great choice for concealed carry.
This is also a great one for elderly people or women, who may have arthritic, weaker, or smaller hands. It requires no dealing with springs—like on a semi-auto pistol—to get it loaded. It’s an excellent pocket gun to take while investigating a bump in the night.
Although small and simple, the .22 Poly is the perfect companion for an older or disabled person living alone. It’s also budget-friendly as its ammo (.22 caliber or 5.6mm) usually costs less than a 9mm.
Pistol Red Dot
Whatever your choice of pistol, I would recommend a red dot sight for your pistol. Pistol red dots are becoming increasingly popular because incredible fast target acquisition and easy-to-use gun sights for target shooting, hunting, self defense and in police applications.
The ‘dot’ is illuminated and lets you quickly get your sights on your target quickly; this is excellent for beginners or those getting a little bit older.
Full disclosure: The red dot may slow you down as you have to look through it to see the dot. But as you practice, you quicken.
Consider the Trijicon RMR Type 2 RMO6 if you go with a pistol red dot. It’s compatible with most pistols and has a long battery life. Just make sure, whichever you choose, it’s compatible with your pistol.
If you prefer a shotgun for home defense, you can have a red dot for those as well. Here is a review of the 11 Best Red Dot For Shotgun.
Next, we come to the AR pistol, another choice for home defense. An AR pistol uses AR-15 rifle components to create a handgun instead. They’re essentially miniature rifles, small enough for home defense.
They have short barrels, around 7.5 inches long, but can be as short as 4 inches and can accommodate 5.56 or .223 cartridges.
You can use them with two hands or one hand, depending on what equipment you have. And they are perfectly legal with the correct license or registration.
Ruger AR 556 Pistol
If you’re looking for an AR pistol, the Ruger AR 556 is a great pick. There are four models, and the 8571 is an excellent one for home defense. It’s slim, ergonomic, has three accessory slots, and is equipped with a brass deflector, dust cover, and forward assist on its upper receiver.
Performance-wise, it can hit targets from close to moderate distances, and owners state it’s well worth the hefty price tag it bears.
AR Pistol Brace
If you want to use your AR pistol one-handed, you need an AR pistol brace. The brace goes around your arm and attaches to the buffer tube/receiver extension on the pistol.
Having a brace has two main benefits:
- You can shoot, or threaten, one-handed, leaving the other hand free to call the police.
- It adds stability when shooting two-handed.
It’s easy for a stock to slip against your chest if you’re a beginner or untrained with an AR pistol. So, ensuring it’s strapped tightly to your arm, make sure the gun doesn’t shake or slip while you’re aiming.
If you want an AR pistol for home defense, it’s definitely worth considering a brace too.
Shotgun for Home Defense
A shotgun can be an excellent choice for defending your home’s outdoor parameters especially if you are in a rural area. Consider a shotgun if defending your home from dangerous animals, like bears.
I personally do not recommend a shotgun for a beginner or for home defense.
Shotgun rounds are going to shred the interior walls; hitting people behind them. This is important to consider if there are multiple people in the home, including in kids’ bedrooms. Bullets can travel and pass through interior walls several rooms away.
In addition, bullets can travel through exterior walls and possible hit innocent bystanders, neighbors and into neighbor’s homes.
Would I use one? If it was all I had, yes. However, I’ve had a lot of training and experience using them (as a police officer, tactical officer, private contractor and in the military along with additional years of training as a civilian).
In my opinion, the best gun for home defense is an AR-15, not a shotgun. Another good option is a pistol. Shotguns are long and they can be heavy. They require two hands to operate, and the recoil can be significant.
KSGs and bullpups are tactical shotguns—like ones made for combat. Although, they don’t all feature a bullpup’s genius magazine placement. These are more for close-range defense, making them well-suited to inside your home or smaller yards.
A tactical shotgun can be semi-automatic or pump-action and range from 18–20 inches barrel length so there’s plenty of variety; they’re also excellently compatible with red dots and other sights, so you can be sure you hit your target.
They shoot various projectiles, most commonly in the 12 gauge size. You’ll have the most range with slugs, which work well outdoors, but bird and buckshot will do less damage inside your home.
Although buckshot is the better choice, as birdshot won’t do much damage to a violent intruder, birdshot is better suited to defend your floors from dangerous animals that slither or wander in.
If you’re looking for a fantastic tactical shotgun, consider the Mossberg 500 series; they’re pump shotguns with useful safety features, and police officers use the 590 in particular.
A KSG shotgun features a more military look and is purposely built for self defense. For larger looming pests, it’ll also be effective. KSG shotguns work with 3-inch shells, feature the “world’s fastest” reload and are compatible with various projectile types.
Due to its quick and easy reload, it’s a great gun for beginners. It’s also fantastic for people with shorter or weaker arms, as the KSG ranges from slightly to significantly shorter than your typical shotgun.
The length difference in this high-velocity, two-magazine-holding shotgun is down to its bullpup design.
KSG AND BULLPUP not designed for hunting; made for personal defense they way they are designed
If you’re not going specifically with a KSG, any bullpup shotgun works excellently for home defense. Due to their shorter length, they’re more suitable for inside use than a traditional shotgun.
Think of them as tactical shotguns.
Bullpup Tactical shotguns, the magazine sits right behind the trigger. Usually, the magazine sits above the trigger, requiring a longer barrel to gather velocity.
Here everything sits further back, letting shells gather velocity without interference, despite a short barrel. So overall, bullpups are the size of a Pistol Caliber Carbine, with the strength of a shotgun.
.12 Gauge Pump Action Shotgun
This is a .12 gauge shotgun. This is the classic multipurpose hunting personal protection home defense, go to war/ military shotgun.
It’s been the go-to long gun used by police departments for the last 75 years and is the most popular for home defense and personal defense.
A .12 gauge holds 5 – 10 rounds with a magazine extension on it. It’s simple to use and maintain. This gun is rugged, dependable but heavier. There is significant recoil. You’ll need experience, strength and training or it’s not a good choice. You may get off one round, and it’s likely you’ll miss. It’ll take significant time to recover.
A .12 gauge pump action shotgun is not for someone without good upper body strength. It’s not easy to maneuver around your home because it’s longer than a pistol or AR-15 rifle, Bullpup or KSG.
Pistol Grip Shotgun
Most shotguns have a stock, a solid part at the end of the weapon that sits against your body and helps you balance the gun.
There are various stock sizes to accommodate different guns and shooters. Then to shoot it, your hand fits into a curve in front of the stock, and you reach forward for the trigger.
So with a pistol grip shotgun, there’s a part by the trigger that you hold. It resembles the toe grip of a shotgun. Pistol grip shotguns are available with and without the stock. However, that’s not for everyone. I personally hate shooting a pistol grip shotgun. They hurt! I want a big heavy stock securely and firmly braced against my shoulder to help absorb some of the recoil.
For some people, a pistol grip is more convenient to store and manipulate—especially if you have trained with a pistol first and are more comfortable with a pistol gripped firearm.
A pistol grip allows for easy maneuvering of your weapon; that’s great for indoors, especially around tight corners.
Double Barrel Shotgun
If a double barrel shotgun is what you currently have, or what you can afford, or it needs to serve dual purposes, it can work. However, I do not recommend a double barrel shotgun for home defense.
These are really for hunting. Double barrel shotguns are designed for hunting not self-defense, but are better than nothing if that is all you have. The best ability is availability.
Double barrel shotguns only have two rounds (or shots). They are really only effective in close ranges and with lighter load that have high ‘shot’ pellets.
For a small shotgun, the .410 caliber is the way to go. It’s the best thing for pest control such as badgers, snakes, rats, fox, wild dogs, etc. It doesn’t really lend itself to home defense. It won’t be much good against larger animals either.
However, if it’s what you own, you can put slugs inside and use it to take someone down. You can also use it for larger animals from shorter distances.
Generally, it’s dubbed as the “beginner’s gun” or a “child’s gun,” although a 20 gauge is mainly regarded as better for beginners.
Still, it’s a decent shotgun starting point. Browning’s BPS pump-action is a solid example of a great beginner .410 shotgun.
What is the Best Gun for Home Defense
Your best gun for home defense will depend largely on availability, budget, and your experience with firearms in general.
My personal choice is not one but two totally different guns I use for home defense and personal defense. First is a Glock 19 9mm handgun which is my go-to when I’m not sleeping, or if I need something quick to grab like answer the door.
But when something wakes me up in the middle of the night or if there is something happening in my community, I have an AR 15 Rifle that is my number one primary choice.
If you own a gun
When considering the best gun for home defense, it’s the one you have. I always tell my kids regarding sports or clubs or activities is that the best ‘ability’ is ‘availability’. The best choice for you is the one you already have or is simply available for you to obtain. If you have the means to purchase a gun specifically for home defense, consider what to look for using the above points. A pistol is preferable to a shotgun.
Buying a gun for home defense
The most important thing is that you can handle it and can tolerate the recoil. Before you purchase a gun, you must physically handle it. You must hold it in your hand and try it out.
The best gun for home defense is one of a mixed bag of excellent choices. Hopefully, you’re now more informed on the different gun categories and your options within them. Choose wisely and carefully, and always ensure you have the necessary training to operate your chosen firearm safely and proficiently.
Now that you have a good idea or have decided which gun for home defense if right for you, I’ll explain how to buy a gun.
Prepping Is for Everyone: What to Consider