home defense

Best Type of Gun for Home Defense

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Finding the best gun for home defense is essential. With all that’s happening at home in the US and around the world nowadays, it’s always best to prepare before a threat occurs.

Depending on your budget, situation, and what you’re comfortable with — the right gun for you might not be the right gun for me. That’s okay!

From revolvers to ARs, we’ve got a list of the best home defense guns and we’re going to tell you the pros and cons of each.

Coming up…

  • Mossberg 500: Best pump-action shotgun for home defense
  • Beretta 1301 Tactical: A semiautomatic shotgun alternative for home defense
  • Maverick 88: Best budget shotgun for home defense
  • Glock 19: The best home defense pistol
  • Smith & Wesson 686: Best revolver for home defense
  • Smith & Wesson 15 Sport II: Best beginner rifle for home defense
  • Daniel Defense MK18: Premium AR-15 style pistol for home defense

Why Get a Weapon for Home Defense?

Our home defense requirements vary depending on where we live and the dangers we face. Yet, we all need to think about how we can secure our homes if the worst happens.

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Any home security plan’s primary purpose is to keep all residents safe. A suitable weapon can be a deterrent as well as allow you to control the situation while you wait for the police.

Any gun is better than no gun at all, but that doesn’t mean all guns are equally good. Fortunately, there are good options whether you are a fan of shotgunspistols, or rifles.

Best Gun for Home Defense Woman Holding Firearm
Photo credit: Majcher

Which Type of Gun to Use for Home Defense?

The three most common types of guns for home defense are handguns, shotguns, and rifles. Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of each. We’ll also cover why they’re the best weapon for a self-defensive situation.

Many of you will know all of this and can go straight to Choosing the Best Gun for Home Defense.

Handgun

A handgun is one of the most common selections for good home defense weapons. Within that, you have revolvers or semi-auto pistols to choose from.

Best Gun for Home Defense S&W 500 Mag
S&W 500 Mag; Photo credit: Rezz Guns

A pistol is a handgun that has one chamber built into the gun barrel. A pistol has the advantages of being compact, easy to handle, and firing with one hand. The disadvantages are that it can only load a limited number of bullets compared to rifles. It also has a lower power output than long guns. The following are some examples of pistol’s common firing mechanisms:

  • Revolver: A revolver is a handgun that fires from a spinning cylinder. You must load the rounds into the revolving cylinder that usually holds six bullets. A revolver might have a single-action or double-action mechanism. A single-action trigger does only one thing — it drops the hammer. The hammer then fires the round. A double-action trigger does two things in one trigger pull. First, it cocks the hammer and then releases it.
  • Semi-automatic: A semi-automatic pistol are magazine fed and have a standard capsity of 10-17 shots. One trigger pull equals one shot fired. Reloading is also very fast and easy by way of the magazine.

Shotgun

shotgun has long been considered one of the gold standards for home defense, and for very good reason. Not only are they (normally) the cheapest option, they offer a wide range of choices as well.

Shotguns take a variety of ammunition. The drawbacks are mainly the limited amount of ammo loaded at any one time, and they are challenging to use in tight and compact locations.

You also need both hands to operate one properly, ammo choice is critical or else you’ll face drastic overpenetration.

Best Gun for Home Defense Coach gun, double-barreled shotgun
Coach gun, double-barreled shotgun; Wikimedia

Types of Shotgun Ammo

  • Birdshot: Birdshot is designed especially for bird hunting. You can stuff more pellets into these shells because the pellets are smaller. As a result, you increase your odds of striking the target effectively. The pellets burst off from the shell and scatter in all directions. A pellet-filled shotgun cartridge lacks stopping power once discharged. Due to how inconsistant lethal results are with bird shot against humans, we strongly do NOT recommend it for home defense.
  • Buckshot: These are shotgun shells that contain huge metal pellets. These are often used for larger game. Buckshot pellets disperse outward in the same way that birdshot does when fired. However, the larger pellets of the buckshot does more damage than birdshot. However, due to overpenitration a smaller than normal buckshot is recommended for home defense. #4 Buckshot is out pick.
  • Slugs: A shotgun slug is a large bullet fired from a shotgun. You can use slugs for hunting large game. If you’re looking for a one shot solution, this is it. However, slugs have a lot of felt recoil and a lot of overpenitration and are NOT recommended for homes with other occupants or close neighbors.
(left to right) #7-1/2 Birdshot, #4 Buckshot, 00 Buckshot, 000 Buckshot, 1oz Slug Shot

Shotgun Action

Many types of action used for shotguns are similar to those used for rifles. This includes actions such as pump-action, semi-automatic action, and bolt action. A gun’s action is the mechanism that allows it to fire. Here are the most common types:

  • Pump action: Pump-action shotguns are also known as slide-action shotguns. They are hand-operated firearms. The shooter must manually move the forend to the rear and then push it forward to cock, eject, and load a round.
  • Semi-automatic: This type of shotgun fires a cartridge out with each trigger pull. The action is reset and a new cartridge loaded by way of gas or inertia. These remove the need to manually cock the shotgun, but require more cleaning and consistant ammo.
  • Bolt action: In a bolt-action shotgun, the bolt handle directly controls the bolt. You can usually find it on the right side of the shotgun. These are very rare and can be effecively ignored.

Rifle

Rifles come in a variety of sizes and forms. One of the most well-known rifles is the AR-15. This rifle is lightweight, has little recoil, and has high-capacity magazines.

AR-15 equipped with a red dot, foregrip, and flashlight.

Rifles offer a lot when it comes to home defense. They are easy to use, accurate, hold a lot of rounds per magazine, and are easy to equip with lights, slings, and sights.

For home defense, we strongly recommend either 5.56 NATO or 300 Blackout (7.62×39 Soviet can be a good alternative to 300 BLK). These are standard cartridges that are plentiful, easy to get, come in lots of options, and are fairly cheap making training more accessible.

While we recommend the AR-15 as our top pick, almost any rifle in the above calibers will work as well.

Types of Rifles

  • Lever-action: In this type, there’s a large lever that swings out from the bottom of the rifle. These take a lot of effort to become profishent with and are normally difficult to fit with sights, lights, and slings.
  • Bolt-action: Bolt-action has a bolt handle located on the side of the rifle behind the chamber. To use a bolt action, you first lift the bolt handle. Second, you pull it to the back. Then return it to the front. Finally, you lock it down before squeezing the trigger. The cartridges are held in place by a built-in or external magazine on these rifles. This design enables a wider range of cartridge capacities. Great for hunting, bad for home defense.
  • Semi-automatic: Semi-automatic rifle fires with each pull and release of the trigger. These are simple, easy to use, and are normally magazine fed giving you a lot of rounds on tap.
  • Pump-action: This action uses a built-in sliding mechanism to eject an old cartridge and load a new one. In addition, pump-action rifles use tube magazines. They are difficult to load because the shooter must feed cartridges one at a time. Pump-action rifles are also very rare.

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Choosing the Best Gun for Home Defense

Take caution when choosing a gun for home defense.

Everything comes with trade-offs and compromises. There is no perfect answer for everyone, but there are some options that are much better balanced than others.

Here are the factors to consider for choosing a gun if you’re a beginner:

  • Fit: Fitting your needs is critical. Every individual is different. Determine which firearm is best suited to you and your circumstances.
  • Gun size: Novice shooters should avoid subcompact pistols. Because smaller guns have more felt recoil, it makes them difficult to handle. Up to a point, larger is generally better in home defense. This does NOT mean lager caliber, just larger gun size.
  • Features: Beginners should consider a handgun with no external safety. In a defensive situation, external safeties need more manipulation. It will slow you down, or you may forget about them. In a self-defense situation where your life is already on the line, that extra step is just one more thing that could go wrong. Furthermore, any defensive firearm should at the very least have night sights, perferably a light and, for rifles and shotguns, a sling also.

Other Considerations

Must-Have Accessories

Weapon Mounted Light: It’s highly unlikely that you’ll face intruders during the daytime, if you’re going to be the victim of a home-related crime it’s almost always at night. Having a strong source of light can be the difference between life and death, not just for you but also for your family.

The ability to positively ID what you’re shooting at is critical. Maybe you’ll have time to hit the lights, maybe you won’t. Do you want to take to fumble with a switch while drawing down on someone?

A flashlight installed on an AR-15

Personally, I strongly question any defensive firearm that doesn’t have a light on it. If you agree, you should keep that in mind when choosing a home defense gun. Not everything can mount a light.

Sling: This is clearly only a concern if you’re using a rifle or shotgun, but either way a sling is a good idea. Retaining your weapon is important and the ability to use your hands is really underrated. Most rifles and shotguns can mount a sling in some fashion.

Location

Maybe you live alone in the middle of nowhere and you’re not worried about the fact that .308 Win goes through 10+ layers of drywall. But if you’re like most of us and you have family, pets, and neighbors just a wall or two away from you — you might want to consider something that won’t go zipping through the home.

If you’re in a smaller home or apartment, a long gun might be awkward to navigate with. Likewise, if you have long hallways a pistol might not offer the stability you want for some of those longer shots.

Selecting a Caliber

I cannot stress enough that as long as you’re using a minimum viable cartridge with a good bullet design, the caliber you choose really doesn’t matter as much as most people try to tell you it does.

Options, lots of options

Instead of getting lost in the weeds here, I’m just going to give you my firm recommendations.

Pistols should be 9mm.

Revolvers should be .38 Spl, .357 Mag, or 9mm.

Rifles should be 5.56 NATO or 300 BLK/7.62×39 Soviet.

Shotguns should be 20ga or 12ga.

These are not the only viable options, .45 ACP, .380 ACP, .410 shotguns, 5.45 rifles, and many, many more can also get the job done. But those are all more esoteric options that will not improve your odds of survival.

Budget

On the super cheap you should expect to spend at least $250 on a home defense weapon that you can trust your life to. On the high end, the sky is the limit.

More isn’t always better. You should also consider training, ammo, and range time as part of your total cost.

You will be far better off with a $300 gun, $200 of hands-on training, and $1,000 worth of training ammo than you will be with a $1,200 gun, $200 training class, and $100 practice ammo.

As a complete package, I think you should assume $500 as the rock bottom bare minimum. Roughly $250-300 for the weapon and the rest in ammo. Hands-on training is always better, but there is a wide range of great firearms classes that are on YouTube these days and will give you a crash course in the basics.

If you can afford it, I would strongly recommend a budget of at least $500 for training and ammo.

Home Defense – the Law

The varies state-by-state and you need to look at your state to know your own laws. There are a couple of big things that you should know though.

Castle Doctrine: This is fundamentally the legal right to defend your home with lethal force and generally gives the homeowner/legal resident the benefit of the doubt by granting them an automatic legal assumption that they were in grave danger.

However, the exact flavor of your castle doctrine may be very different. Most states have some kind of castle law, but only about half of the states have strong ones. And even many of those states don’t actually have a law — just a common-law understanding or jury instructions that follow it.

Stand Your Ground: This is kind of like Castle Doctrine, but it applies everywhere you are as long as you’re legally allowed to be there. There is a lot more nuance to Stand Your Ground, but that’s a general idea.

Again, it depends a lot on where you live. 38 states recognize Stand Your Ground, 30 via law, and 8 by way of case law or jury instructions. The other 12 impose a Duty To Retreat.

You won’t be able to beat the ride, but with CCW Insurance you can feel confidant that your lawyer isn’t far behind you and will be there to protect your rights.

Duty To Retreat: It sounds exactly like what it is, if you have the ability to get away then you have the legal requirement to do so. If you fail to avail yourself of that and instead use deadly force, you’ll likely face murder charges of some kind.

While thankfully this is not the norm in America, if you’re in a Duty To Retreat state you should be hyper-aware of that fact and take care to not run afoul of it.

Bit worried by all of this? Read more about Concealed Carry Insurance and how the organizations offering these can help you if you ever have to fire your gun in self-defense.

Best Home Defense Gun

Mossberg 500

My top selection for the best shotgun for home defense is the Mossberg 500. The Mossberg 500 is a tough, American-made shotgun.

It is utilized by military and law enforcement agencies all over the world and has proven to be among the most adaptable and reliable shotgun platforms on the market. 

Moreover, this pump-action shotgun is reasonably priced. In addition, it hits hard and is ideal for home defense.

Best Mossberg 500 Tactical Conversion Kits
Mossberg 500 with flashlight

The Model 500 is simple to operate and maintain. Thus, it’s a good idea to keep one at home for self-defense. Depending on the magazine capacity, all Model 500s have changeable barrels. You can locate the Mossberg 500’s safety on the receiver’s rear top.

This is a great spot for safety when using a standard shotgun stock. It’s easy to reach with your thumb. The Mossberg 500’s optional pistol grip is another remarkable feature. It allows you to operate the weapon more comfortably. 

Finally, it is a great price. MSRP is around $500 and the street price is almost always much less. While it isn’t the cheapest shotgun I would still trust, it is massively better in every possible way than anything cheaper. Hands down one of the best gun for home defense

Specs

ActionPump action
Caliber12 or 20 gauge, .410 bore
Barrel Length14-30 inches
Feed System2+1 to 8+1 rounds; internal tube magazine
Effective Firing Range130 feet
(40 m)
Pros
  • Has an excellent safety position
  • Comes at an affordable price
  • Simple design and easy to use
  • Made to MIL-SPEC
  • Changeable barrels
Cons
  • Manual operation required

Beretta 1301 Tactical 

The Beretta 1301 Tactical is a semi-automatic shotgun with a gas-operated action. This gun is suitable for tactical, self-defense, and law enforcement applications.

It possesses all the qualities that a modern tactical shotgun should have. It’s ultra-reliable and simple to use.

The 1301 Tactical has plenty of features. It has a larger charging handle, textured bolt release, and a reversible safety button. Thus, you can hold up and operate the controls securely and safely.

Additionally, the 1301 Tactical has a durable, protected ghost-ring mechanism. Plus, an adaptable front sight, allowing the user to change it to any situation.

In shooting, the 1301 Tactical’s integrated BLINK enables the shotgun to cycle 36 percent faster than any other shotgun. This gun will never let you down when you need it the most in a defensive situation.

Although this shotgun is another good option for a self-defense weapon, it also comes at a premium price.

You can get the Beretta 1301 Comp for around $1,230 on sale, which is nearly $100 less than the MSRP. Almost all types cost more than a thousand dollars. Now, you don’t need a high-priced shotgun to defend yourself. But if your budget is up for it, this is a good alternative for you.

Specs

ActionSemi-automatic
Caliber12 gauge
Barrel Length18.5 inches
(47 cm)
Feed System6+1 round capacity
ReceiverAluminum
Pros
  • Simple and secure to use
  • Available in many features
  • Customization is simple
  • Ideal for fast shooting
Cons
  • Expensive

Maverick 88 

The Maverick 88 is my top pick for the best budget shotgun for home defense. This pump-action shotgun is basically a carbon copy of the Mossburg 500, but with some corners cut and cheaper materials used.

The Maverick 88 is easy to use, operates well, and is a blast to fire! You’ll get a ribbed textured pump for a comfortable and stable grip. In addition, everything stays clean and tidy thanks to the dual extractors.

If you’re into customization, the Maverick is difficult to disassemble. You will need the use of tools. The Maverick’s trigger is a smooth-faced steel bow trigger that is a tad hefty but not too bad. The bolt safety is immediately in front. It’s encased in a standard polymer casing with a rounded trigger guard. 

The Maverick 88 is super affordable as you can only get it for less than $300. Out of the box, you’ll get a versatile and all-purpose shotgun. Although cheap, there is no compromise in reliability.

If you’re trying to defend your home on a tight budget, this is my top choice. Due to its low cost and high reliability, it has solidly earned itself the title of being one of the best gun for home defense

Specs

ActionPump action
Caliber12 or 20 gauge
Barrel Length22, 26, 28 inches
Feed System5- or 7-round tube magazine
ReceiverAluminum
Pros
  • Very affordable
  • Loading magazine is easy
Cons
  • A heavy trigger
  • Hard to disassemble

Glock 19

Glock is a well-known reputable pistol manufacturer. Its flagship modes are simple, efficient, and easy to use. The Glock 19 is a durable and sturdy pistol used by law enforcement and the military. As a result, it’s a popular carry gun and my top selection for the best pistol for home defense.

Glock 19 Gen 3 with Modlite PL350 light, Holosun 407c green dot, and Apex trigger

The Glock 19 is the ideal all-around gun. It’s small and concealable, with a 15-round capacity and comfortable grip. The controls are well-designed and positioned, and the size is almost perfect.

In addition, you can feed every sort of ammo fire from it. Moreover, the stability is superb. When shooting strings, controlling the recoil is simple. This handgun is neither too big nor too small for precision.

The Gen 5 is available with a range of backstrap configurations. It also has a variety of alternative components and accessories. However, Glock 19 isn’t an attractively designed pistol due to its polymer frame. Yet, with a few tweaks, it has the potential to be rather great. It has infinite customization and modification options. 

Prices can range a bit due to demand, but generally, the Glock 19 Gen 5 is affordable at around $500. However, adding modifications can balloon the price drastically. My Gen 3 Glock seen above is well over $1,000 with accessories.

Specs

ActionSemi-automatic
Caliber9mm
Barrel Length4.02 inches (102 mm)
Feed SystemStandard 15+1 magazine
Effective Firing Range55 yards (50 m)
Pros
  • Reliable and trusted by law enforcement
  • Easy to customize
  • Comfortability
  • Includes night sights
Cons
  • Unappealing design

Smith & Wesson 686

The Smith & Wesson 686 is my pick for the best revolver for home defense, but not as the best gun for home defense. If you’re more comfortable with a revolver, then this is a good option for you. But for everyone else — a good semi-auto pistol is better.

The 686 model is also available in six- and seven-shot cylinders. In addition, Smith & Wesson designed this revolver to withstand heavy use.

Thus, it is a popular choice among police officers and hunters. Revolvers are simpler than semi-automatic handguns. Some say that they are more reliable. This implies that even untrained shooters may use a revolver. As a result, it’s an excellent option for a home defense weapon for the novice.

The company designed the 686 L-Frame to make up for the lack of the smaller K-Frame while keeping the same grip size. It also helps increase the gun’s dimensions. Moreover, this revolver can withstand heavy use with full-power .357 Magnum ammunition. Yet, the downside is that revolvers could only contain seven rounds at a time. So if you ever run out of ammo while in a defensive situation, you’ll need to bring extra ammo or use a speed loader.

Furthermore, the 686 comes with white outline sights that are simple to adjust. This aids precision in low-light circumstances. Moreover, you can always change them if you desire something else.

You may use the 686 to shoot either .357 Magnum or .38 Special bullets. The smaller .38 special rounds have far less recoil than the .357 Magnum and are less expensive, great for training or recoil-sensitive shooters.

Specs

ActionDouble-action revolver
Caliber.38/.357
Barrel Length2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8.325 inches
Feed System6-round cylinder
Pros
  • Adjustable rear sights
  • Has less recoil
  • Comes with a one-year warranty
Cons
  • Limited round capacity

Smith & Wesson M&P 15 Sport II

M&P15 Rifles are both versatile and reliable. M&P15 Rifles are also simple to customize. The Sport II is compatible with the majority of AR-15 aftermarket and upgrades.

You can also add some drop-in improvements, such as vertical grips and rifle optics to the rifle. These rifles are also lightweight and long-lasting.

The magazine slides out effortlessly due to a beveled magazine hole allowing easy insertion. The M&P15 Sport II comes with a dust cover as well as a front assist. The original M&P15 Sport variant lacked both of these features.

Basic polymer design makes up the upgraded GI-style handguard and grip. The rifle also comes with a six-position M4-style telescopic stock. The length of the gun is 35 inches when fully extended and 32 inches when folded. With all these features, my only concern is that if you have limited space, this rifle is a little too lengthy.

The Smith and Wesson M&P Sport II is a high-quality rifle at such a great price. The accuracy, sturdiness, and overall functionality of this weapon continue to amaze consumers. As a result, it’s the greatest home defense rifle available!

Specs

ActionSemi-automatic
Caliber5.56mm NATO/.223
Barrel Length16 inches, 1:9-inch twist
Feed System30+1 rounds
Pros
  • Budget-friendly rifle
  • Easy to configure
  • Excellent features
Cons
  • A bit long for tight spaces

Daniel Defense MK18

The Daniel Defense MK18 is a premium AR-15-style home defense weapon. The MK18 is undeniably a high-end firearm that is well-made. It is worth noting that Daniel Defense pistols are extremely popular among military personnel.

If you ever find yourself in a position where you need to protect your home from intruders, the MK18 is perfect.

Sold with a 10.3″ barrel, this is legally a “pistol” because of the short barrel and pistol brace. However, in practical use, you can consider it like you would a rifle. If you want some more info on why the difference, take a look at our Best AR-15 Pistol article!

For tight spaces and maximum firepower without a huge risk of drastic overpenetration, pistols like the MK18 are ideal.

This isn’t cheap, but it is the best. If you can swing the cost this is my top pick as the best gun for home defense

Specs

ActionSemi-automatic
Caliber.223, 5.56mm NATO
Barrel Length10.3 inches (262 mm
Feed System20- to 30-round magazine
Effective Firing Range328 yards
(300 m)
Pros
  • Short-barreled rifle
  • Made of excellent quality
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Sights are sold separately

The Final Word

This brings us to the end of our list of the finest guns for home defense. You have a large selection of weapons from which to choose. Make sure that the handguns, shotguns, or rifles you pick are ideal for your needs.

There are many factors to consider, particularly in a home defense scenario. What matters is that you can keep your household safe with your weapon of choice.

Lastly, I hope this article helped you select your best gun for home defense. As a result, you should then be able to defend your loved ones without the fear of consequences.

To learn more, see our Best Concealed Carry Insurance article.

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