This is a BIG question. Like anything else involving firearms, the short answer is “it depends”. What I will attempt to do is break down some reasoning that might impact your home defense choices.
First, let’s address the home defense needs. You can find this data in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting. Overall crime is decreasing dramatically in the US since 2007 (and even further back).
Each year there are over 2.2 million burglaries in the US – that’s one about every 22 seconds. Home burglaries account for close to 70% of all crimes. They tend to occur between 10 AM and 3 PM and the burglars usually do not have weapons. Burglars want an easy target that they can enter and egress quickly without a lot of risks.
Robberies in the US occur about every 1.7 minutes. These crimes tend to happen at night, under the threat of violence. About 42% of these crimes happen in the victim’s home. Robbers, as opposed to burglars, know the likelihood of you being home is high. They tend to visit between 10 PM and 4 AM. Firearms are used in 41% of all robberies.
Extrapolating to something simple to chew on: Bad guys visiting your home during the day don’t expect you to be home and are not intent on violence. Bad guys visiting your home at night expect someone to be home and are, in the very least, prepared for violence, if not intent on it.
Additionally, an increasing number of property crimes (burglaries and robberies) include multiple perpetrators. This is a combined coordinated attack on your home. The criminals have usually conducted recon, profiled their targets, and planned entrance and egress routes. Robbers also determine what weapons (usually handguns) are most useful for their ability to get in, subdue their victims, and get out with your goodies.
So our selection criteria need to consider the following – how best to counter a dynamic entrance by multiple individuals who likely do not care whether they hurt you or not? This is in addition to usability criteria that we always think about for firearm selection.
#4 – Shotgun Pistol
A Taurus Judge or S&W Governor might do the trick. The Judge is fairly economical and is chambered for .410 bore and .45 Long Colt. It’s a revolver with a 5-shot capacity. Ease of use is fairly good. .410 shotgun shells are not known for their stopping power, however. The .45 long Colt will take some practice to achieve skill with on a moving target.
The Governor has one more round. It can also chamger .45 ACP which makes it more versatile. It is more expensive than the Judge, however. I would only discount this as a possible home defense weapon because of capacity.
#3 Semi-automatic 9mm/10mm/40 cal/45 cal pistol
Yes, I left out .380. I don’t have any beef with the caliber, but these other calibers enjoy a lot more ubiquity and tend to have more capacity. There are a couple of double-stack .380s on the market, but your choices are limited.
The other calibers are all great for stopping power against violent intruders. Like any tool you’d use for home defense, training is key. Engaging multiple attackers is a skill developed over a lot of training. It’s not just about repointing and pressing the trigger, as everyone who carries seems to imagine.
Many will lean toward 9mm simply due to the cost and ubiquity of the ammo. All of these calibers (as well as .380) have decent stopping power. However, none of these calibers guarantees you will stop an intruder before he does harm. I’ve heard many times, “I’ll just aim for the head.” In a defensive situation, it is unlikely you will AIM at all. That’s just not how these fights go down.
Proficiency for most members of your family might not be easy to achieve.
#2 12 gauge shotgun
Shotguns are easy to use with only minimal training, especially in more closed quarters. The 12 gauge definitely has the power to put a serious damper on a violent criminal’s enthusiasm for hurting you and your family.
What must be considered with this selection, as well as our #1 recommendation, is minimum effective range. With most firearms, we concern ourselves with maximum effective range (the maximum distance it can be fired effectively), but with close-quarter engagements, we have to consider how close a bad guy can get to us. With a long-barrelled shotgun, you need to consider coming around blind corners with the barrel leading. Can this be used against you? What are your chances of someone getting so close, you can’t engage them?
If you train for this consideration, the 12 gauge shotgun is a formidable home defense choice. Racking a round in the chamber is universally recognized and criminals understand the damage this round can do. Shotguns have been used in combat since forever, and have proven close-quarter effectiveness with easily found barrels, sights, etc. We’re not necessarily talking about granddad’s turkey gun here – you’ll want a shorter barrel and an attached light.
The downside is capacity. Most shotguns tap out at 7 rounds, although you might see some around 13.
Originally intended as a civilian sporting rifle, the Armalite Rifle design has found a level of ubiquity that is not achieved by any other firearm I can think of since the Brown Bess. The .223 round in various weights with various powder charges is fairly versatile outside of shooting sports. It’s a great ranch rifle, hunting platform, and is perfect for shooting sports. Military adoption and extension of this design simply underscore the genius of Eugene Stoner – the engineer who designed it.
Gun aficionados reading this article are already forming alliances with supporting our recommendation or fighting it, but the AR-15 or similar variants is the perfect home defense firearm.
First of all, the .223 caliber is effective from a ballistic standpoint. There are tons of studies related to this, and Google is your best source.
The design itself accommodates multiple barrel lengths, attachments for lights, lasers, and a myriad of other useful attachments. Ammo is fairly inexpensive. With a little training, is not difficult for most members of your family to become proficient. With the right selection, people of just about any size can use it. It can be very loud, especially with the shorter barrel variants, which is psychologically impactful against intruders. But best of all, it is easy to employ against multiple intruders due to the standard 30 round magazine, as well as even higher capacity magazines.
If you are trying to counter the violent efforts of 4-5 home invaders, do you settle for 5 chances, 17 chances, or 30 chances to stop you and yours from being brutalized?
The cool thing about all of the information we provide is that you can do whatever you want with it. I also don’t want you to feel you can’t have layers of defense – Selecting one type of firearm doesn’t necessarily discount the others.