The “Best” Home Defense Gun

    If you’re a gun guy, odds are pretty good that non-gun people often ask your opinion on things. At least, People often make the mistake of asking my opinion, anyway. I guess they figure that just because I write about and make videos about guns, that my opinion is worth listening to. Of course you, dear reader, know that my opinion is worth every cent you paid for it. Still, I should probably indulge these poor, misguided souls. To that end, I’m going to answer some of these more common questions in a series of articles. Today, we’re going to cover the ever popular “best” home defense gun.

    For the purpose of this question, a “home defense gun” will be defined as the gun that you would most want to have in your hands to defend your home if you have the choice, and the one that you choose to keep at the ready for the task. This is distinct from you carry gun. Pistols are not powerful, they’re portable. Your carry gun is well suited to the task of being conveniently on your person, but it isn’t as easy to shoot accurately and quickly and it is far less terminally effective than a rifle or shotgun. A pistol is also a lot harder to retain in a hands on fight than a slung rifle or shotgun.

    That’s not to say that you shouldn’t continue to carry your pistol around the house, either. By all means, we’re just discussing the gun that you would go to if someone were kicking at your door and you had a few seconds to get a better gun ready.

    What does a good home defense gun look like? To begin, it should be loaded with ammunition that is very terminally effective. It should be relatively short. It will need a sling. It will need a light. Having a lot of ammunition available is not a bad idea, considering you might need it while you’re wearing tighty whities without any ammo pouches.

    It’s quite common for people to recommend a pump action shotgun for home defense. 12 ga buckshot really does have a lot going for it. It’s seriously impressive on tissue, but shotguns have some disadvantages, too. But first, we have to lay aside stupid nonsense like the notion that you don’t have to aim or that crooks will run scared if you just pump the action. Yes, you do need to aim a shotgun. Unless your home was featured on MTV Cribs, the pattern probably isn’t going to be any larger than an inch or two anywhere inside your house. And sure, racking the action might scare a bad guy into leaving. Or it might scare him into firing his Hi-Point wildly through your children’s bedroom walls. If you do keep a shotgun ready for home defense, please keep it loaded.

    Now, a shotgun isn’t a terrible choice, but when compared to a carbine, shotguns recoil more, carry less ammunition, and are more likely to malfunction. If you don’t believe me, watch a 3 gun match some day. It is very common for semi auto shotguns to choke and for people to short stroke pumps under stress. Most folks can shoot a carbine far faster and engage more targets more quickly and more precisely.

    But carbines have their own myths surrounding them. Probably the most common is the belief that rifle cartridges penetrate more. It is true that military FMJ will tend to get through one obstacle (a single block wall or a single steel plate) better than pistols or shotguns, but modern defense ammo in 5.56mm penetrates about as many (sometimes fewer) layers of drywall as modern defense ammo in a pistol or shotgun.

    So the answer to the question is a short, light carbine is probably the best choice for home defense. And the best short, light carbine to choose is a 10.5″-11.5″ suppressed AR-15 chambered in 5.56mm and loaded with Sierra 77gr TMK.

    Of course, all of these points disregard your own familiarity with a gun. The best gun for YOU is the one that YOU shoot best. If that gun isn’t a carbine in an intermediate cartridge, then you should take some classes and shoot some gun games until it is. Hey, it’s my opinion.


    Andrew is a combat veteran of OEF and has performed hundreds of ballistic tests for his YouTube channel, The Chopping Block ( He is an avid firearm collector and competitor and lives with his family in Arizona. If you have any questions, you may email him at [email protected]