The Age Old Question – Which Gun is Best for Home Defense?

Asking which gun is best for any purpose is bound to get an argument going. As some wag once said “if you want to know the number of opinionshome defense gun in this gun club, just count the number of feet and divide by two.” Like many things, there is not one good answer. There are tradeoffs, but some items are more important than others. We will endeavor to share some of those here so you can make the choice yourself.

First, let’s put human physiology into perspective. We are not all built the same, have the same size or strength hands, nor agility. So size of the weapon and recoil can have some play here. Also the trigger pull is important and for semi-automatic pistols, cycling the slide.  We do not all practice as often as we should to excel in a critical incident. So our innate ability to be calm and accurate varies considerably. Then our own bodies will take us places we do not often go. The ancient flight or fight syndrome built into mammals, descendant from primal eat or be eaten motivation, plays a large role in any confrontation utilizing a live weapon. We lose small muscle motor skills.  Except for those things where we have trained significantly, the more complex the task, the less likely it will be executed correctly.  All of these will weigh into our choice for a home defense weapon. Fortunately, the choices in modern hand guns are growing every day, giving us a good opportunity to find just what we need.

Another issue may be cost. Not all of us can afford a custom 1911 at two grand out the door. At the same time, we want something reliable because our lives may well depend on it. Again, there are tradeoffs. The nice thing is that we can often validate reliability through use at a range with the ammunition we intend to utilize around the home. If you have a good range nearby, renting a weapon to see how it fits, how you handle the recoil, and if it shows feed problems, ammunition sensitivity, or other oddities. That is a great way to start.

Much like making a commitment to carry concealed, keeping a weapon in the home requires more than just deciding to do it. Depending on your life style and the occupants of the home, your requirements may change. Does it change which gun you would choose? It well might. As a senior citizen, you could be happy with a Glock 19 in the nightstand drawer.  If you have small children, you might well want the extra security of a thumb and palm safety to make it more difficult for a child to discharge the weapon should they manage to gain access to it.  Indeed, you might also want to leave the weapon unloaded with a magazine or speed loader at the ready. Here the tradeoff is simplicity and speed versus safety.

So let’s bulletize the elements so far:

–Size the weapon

–Should fit the hands of the intended users – sometimes it is better to have multiple guns if there are large variables between the biggest and smallest hands of intended users.  If the pad on the end of the index finger does not easily rest square on the trigger then the reach is not correct.

–The caliber will influence the size and weight. We want as much stopping power as we can handle accurately. For home defense, I would start at 9mm and work up.

–The weight will also determine the recoil. A stainless steel S&W .38 snubbie will be easier to control than a Ruger LCR with the same ammunition, because the stainless gun will be heavier and less snappy on recoil.

–Small semi-automatics in large calibers require strong recoil springs, making the action much more difficult to cycle by hand. For home, there is no real advantage to having a small, concealable hand gun.

–Simple is better because we will probably remember to point and pull the trigger and not much else. Weigh your personal safety requirements versus simplicity.

–While light trigger pulls are nice for competition, for home defense, where you will be pumped with adrenaline, stay with 5-9 pound trigger pulls. You do not want to accidentally discharge the weapon because your hands are shaking. Of course, your finger should be off the trigger until you mean to destroy something.

Summary: Find a weapon you can easily handle, that has some stopping power, that you can accurately shoot, that will be reliable. This is really the easiest part. Now you need to train so in a panic situation you will react instinctively and effectively. It’s time to shop!

What type of weapon do you have for a home defense gun?  Let us know in the comments.


Photo credit: Michael E. Cumpston

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