Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Jon at Armslist.com. Armslist.com is an online firearms marketplace that helps users find buyers and sellers in their local market and effect transactions in the simplest way possible.
Disclaimer: This article is aimed at helping those who are not sure where to start their research process. It is not a definitive guide to firearms purchases. Some of the information is generalized and all readers should conduct further research before making any decision.
Nearly every American man has heard the story of the shootout at the O.K. Corral. Wyatt Earp and his cohorts confronted a group of outlaw cowboys and emerged victorious. While much myth and mystery surrounds the circumstances of this encounter, a few things are very clear. Wyatt Earp was proficient with his Colt Peacemaker and Doc Holiday with the shotgun. While much has changed since the days of the Wild West, both the handgun and the shotgun remain top choices for clearing out ruffians who are encroaching on your territory.
A man has always been the king of his castle and protector of his domain. When things go bump in the night, it’s your job to check on things. What should you grab when you head downstairs? Today we’ll the discuss the best guns for home defense as well as some of the pros and cons of each.
Before you even think about purchasing a gun, it is imperative that you are trained on how to properly use it. Remember: guns are a weapon. With the right to bear arms comes the heavy responsibility of handling them with the precaution and respect they deserve.
Moreover, a gun in the hands of a man who doesn’t know what he’s doing with it is a liability to him and to his family. Regardless of what you purchase, you should frequent the firing range, take a firearms course, and attend or even partake in shooting events. All of these tasks will help you to learn to properly handle firearms.
Here are a couple resources to check out to get started:
- Appleseed Project, a grassroots marksmanship program: http://www.appleseedinfo.org/
- IDPA, Defensive Pistol shooting: http://www.idpa.com/
The Best Guns for Home Defense
Pump Action Shotgun
The general consensus in the firearms community is that the pump action shotgun is the top choice for home defense. They’re relatively easy to use and nearly impossible to break. More importantly, the sound of chambering a hot round into a pump action 12 gauge is sure to soil the britches of even the most hardened criminal.
The Mossberg 500 and the Remington 870 are extremely popular choices in this category. Both are proven to be extremely reliable for a reasonable price, beginning at around $200.
Ease of Use and Reliability
The pump action shotgun is a relatively simple weapon to use. Shotgun shells are loaded into the gun, and the pump action chambers a round. Pulling the trigger fires the chambered round. The next pump ejects the spent shell and loads another round into the chamber. These attributes contribute to the pump action shotgun’s reliability.
Shotguns are most commonly used to fire a number of projectiles, anywhere from roughly nine pellets used in 00 buckshot up to hundreds of BB-sized pellets in bird shot. At close range and with proper ammunition, shotguns can be extremely effective in defending you and your loved ones.
For more information on different types of shot and their ballistic qualities, refer to this article.
Verdict (out of 5)
- Cost: 5
- Ease of Use: 4
- Reliability: 5
- Effectiveness: 5
- Bonus: sound of chambering a round
- Overall: 4.75
The next best weapon for home defense is the revolver. Revolvers are the simplest and most reliable of hand guns. One of the major advantages of the revolver is its small size, which allows for easy storage and access. Another benefit of the revolver is its price. You can find quality revolvers for as little as a few hundred dollars.
Ease of Use & Reliability
Revolvers are produced in double-action and single-action varieties. Single-action revolvers require the user to pull back the hammer manually before firing the gun. Most modern revolvers offer double-action operation, which alleviates the need to pull back the hammer before firing the weapon. While there are advantages to using a single-action revolver, the double-action revolver is the superior choice for home defense because of its ease of use. When an intruder has entered your home, you don’t want to have to think about cocking a gun.
Because of its simple design, the revolver is an extremely reliable weapon. Unlike semi-automatic weapons, it is nearly impossible for a revolver to jam. If there is a round in the cylinder of a double-action revolver, pulling the trigger will fire the gun. Simple as that. This simplicity is an important factor for use in already stressful situations.
One drawback on revolvers, or any handgun for that matter, is the skill required to properly and effectively operate them. Don’t be fooled by your hours of playing Duck Hunt. Hitting a target, even if it’s just a few feet away, is deceptively difficult.
Handguns are produced in a number of different calibers and the stopping power is dependent upon which round is used. Common choices are .38 Special (also available in a slightly stronger “+P” variety), .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, and .45 Long Colt. One advantage to buying a .357 revolver is that the owner can use .38 special, .38 special +P, or .357 magnum rounds, as the gun accepts and safely fires all of them. (Conversely, a .38 revolver cannot fire .357 magnum.)
It’s important to consider that larger caliber revolvers may be more difficult to fire accurately in quick succession. Unfortunately, smaller caliber revolvers may lack the stopping power necessary to quickly incapacitate an attacker.
- Further reading about stopping power.
- Further reading about wound ballistics studies.
- Further reading about .357 Magnum and .38 Special +P
Visual comparison of common handgun cartridges. Left to right:
- Ease of Use: 3
- Reliability: 5
- Effectiveness: 3
- Overall: 3.75
Every AoM reader has seen these in movies and TV shows. They’re also the guns that most police officers carry. While semi-automatic pistols might be good for cops, they’re not a good choice for one’s first firearm purchase, at least not when home defense is the primary use. We’ll go into why that is below.
Two iconic semi-automatic pistols are the 1911 variants and polymer pistols such as Glocks. The 1911 has seen action through two World Wars and is still in use by US Special Operations and the FBI. Glocks have been heralded for their ease of use and reliability and have seen much use in law enforcement. Quality semi-automatic pistols can cost as little as a few hundred or as much as a few thousand.
Ease of Use and Reliability
The operation of a semi-automatic handgun is more complicated than a revolver. An operator must become familiar with operating slide-stops and safeties, loading magazines, chambering rounds, and clearing jams. The additional actions involved make it less than ideal for those unfamiliar with handguns. This, combined with the skill required to accurately shoot a handgun, means that semi-automatic handguns are the least user friendly of the choices mentioned.
Because rounds are automatically loaded and the design is more complex, semi-automatic weapons are also more prone to jamming failures than revolvers.
Because of the semi-automatic handgun’s lower reliability and more complicated operation, first time purchasers should probably consider a shotgun or a revolver.
As with revolvers, effectiveness varies drastically with caliber. There are many different calibers for semi-automatic handguns. The most common are .380 ACP, 9mm, .357 Sig, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP. The 9mm is perhaps the most popular caliber, in use by military and law enforcement around the world. The .40 S&W was created by the FBI to allow for additional stopping power over the 9mm. The .45 ACP came about during the development of the 1911.
- Cost: 3
- Ease of Use: 2
- Reliability: 3
- Effectiveness: 3
- Overall: 2.75
This article is aimed at providing a starting place for those that lack prior knowledge of and experience with firearms. Again, proper education, training, and practice are essential when deciding to purchase a gun.
What are your thoughts on the best guns for home defense? Do you prefer a baseball bat over a gun? Let us know in the comments.