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Shotgun, Handgun, or Rifle. What's the best choice for home defense?

Most gun owners cite home defense as their main motivation for owning a firearm. According to and Jacksonville State University, a home burglary occurs every 15 seconds in the United States. It’s easy to see why more and more citizens choose to purchase a firearm to protect their homes and their families.

If you’re looking for a gun to keep your loved ones safe in the event of a break-in, there are several factors to consider before making a purchase. This article will review the benefits and potential drawbacks of various types of firearms as well as the importance of training, proper ammunition, and gun safety when using a firearm for home defense.


Shotguns are the most popular type of firearm for home defense. With shotguns, ammunition is a crucial consideration when determining whether a shotgun will keep you and your family safe at home. While ammunition is obviously meant to stop an intruder, it’s important to remember that a bullet can continue past its intended target, especially in high-stress situations where accuracy is compromised. For this reason, it’s important to choose ammunition that suits the environment in and around your home.

If you live near other homes, apartments, condominiums, or other dwellings, a shotgun slug or buckshot load each has the power and velocity to break through common construction materials, whether it be a door, wall, or window. In densely populated areas, birdshot is a more suitable choice for home defense with a shotgun. Making the right decision about ammunition could keep your neighbors safe and potentially save an innocent bystander’s life.

There are a few pervasive myths concerning shotgun use today. For example, some may say, “I don’t even need to aim my shotgun to hit a bad guy.” This thinking is because of how the birdshot sprays a cone of pellets. People believe all they must do is shoot the gun in a general direction and the target will be hit due to the spray of pellets hitting a larger target area. This kind of reasoning is extremely dangerous. It is imperative to install quality sights on your shotgun if it does not already have a factory sighting system.

Additionally, the myth that the sound of loading a shotgun will scare off an intruder is poor judgment. Some people believe if they just pump the action of the shotgun, the intruder will hear it and flee the scene. However, this is not always true, and that mindset is potentially deadly. If the shell fails to chamber when you need it, as a home defender you will be left vulnerable in a time-is-life situation.


Because of their convenient size and versatility, pistols are quickly becoming a more common choice for personal protection. Although pistols can be challenging in terms of accuracy, they generally offer more capacity and maneuverability than most home defense shotguns.

In the same way that the wrong ammunition can be a deadly mistake with a shotgun, you should choose your ammunition for a pistol carefully and mindfully. 9mm, .40 and .45 ACP hollow-point ammunition are the most common and well-proven options for a pistol, as opposed to a .22 LR bullet that is better for plinking and paper targets.

Some people argue that a revolver is preferable to a semi-automatic pistol due to its functional reliability. While it’s true that pistol proficiency takes time and effort, anyone can learn to use one. Pistols offer more shots than revolvers, which means a greater chance of defending yourself against an intruder.


When you use a rifle for home defense, you have access to up to 6 points of contact, whereas a handgun offers 2 points of contact, (like most shotguns) in optimal conditions. These points of contact deliver better control of the muzzle, which creates better accuracy and consistency. However, maneuvering a rifle through the halls of your home may not be as simple as with a handgun. And similar to shotgun slugs, rifle rounds have incredible penetration capability and can easily travel through your wall and into your neighbor's home. We generally don't recommend rifles for home defense for these reasons. Rifles are naturally designed to hit targets at a distance. Most home defense scenarios involve conflict with a threat that is only a few feet away. A rifle is better than nothing, but shotguns and handguns are often better suited for home defense scenarios.


Regardless of the type of firearm that you choose to keep yourself and your family safe, the most important element of owning a gun is training. Knowing your firearm and ammunition inside and out can help you operate well under stress if an intruder does come into your home. For even more accuracy, mount a quality, bright light and/or laser on your firearm to improve target identification. Threat identification is critical in a low/no light situation. With the proper ammunition, training, and awareness, you can defend your home and loved ones effectively and with confidence.

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