I was recently asked what my home defense weapon was, as this client had read a few articles on the subject and it seemed confusing and sort of contradictory to them. Some of the advice given was so odd it made it difficult for her to make a choice. She was honestly wondering if these choices were real, or just a way to sell product. Hmmm……good question.
Expert, at least they say they are?
Its always interesting to see what “experts” recommend for a home defense gun (or anything else), especially when they are an “expert” because they are either brand ambassadors, sales people, or marketing directors that pay for or authorize advertising. In some cases they truly are expert mostly due to past employment, in most cases their “expertise” is an industry construct. Its like going to a car salesman and asking “whats your preferred car”. The answer is seldom a surprise, the one I can sell you. You can almost always match the top ten (fill in the blank) with the top ten advertisers for that publisher. Its just how it is and why I have not authored lists for years. Occasionally, if there is some assurance it will remain unchanged, but seldom at best. The first time I put together a list for a major publication it was altered both in sequence and content to please advertisers. I have even seen lists exclude direct competitors to their favorite advertisers. Its important to know that seldom are the choices published those of the author. Its why much of the writing industry is ignored so take any of these lists with a grain of salt the size of Mars.
Sales is Sales
Calling a sales person who has attended numerous “industry events” an expert is disingenuous at best. Again, its not that every salesman or marketing director has no real experience, some are truly expert, but in most cases their employment would be at risk recommending in print anything other than what they sell. In many cases their only experience comes from media events that are just as often more indoctrination than information taught by an “expert” on the company’s payroll. So, if advice seems odd or impractical, and product focussed it may be because it is. Why, because many experts at a broad range of application suck as salesman, myself included. Accomplished sales people can sell you anything, and can appear expert. Accomplished experts are often less than congenial, opinionated, lacking in tact, and couldn’t sell ice water to someone who just crossed the Sahara. Its why those that can do both are so sought after, they are rare.
Those selling training are not much different in many cases. Too often they take off their “teacher” hat and hock whatever they are given to use, again, advertising. Having had instructors tell me “don’t print that, or don’t show that” even after clearly stating they believed it to be true is not uncommon. Maybe its not a direct buy off, it may be all they know, but talking head / brand ambassadors are very careful about not alienating the company they are being paid to advertise or is providing product. Nor will they alienate their customer or client base for something as fleeting as a “belief” or “truth”. You want fame, in many cases thats the cost and why I will never be “famous”. Again, there are a few out there, I can think of four or five I have had personal experience with, but they are anything but the norm. Real world experts with actual experience are seldom asked, because their answer does not sell product. Its something that has existed for the entire time I have worked in this business, much longer I am sure.
So Answer the damned question already!
Any answer that does not start with “it depends” should be immediately dismissed. No single system (rifle, pistol, shotgun) is universally suited to the task of home defense. What is appropriate is based on numerous factors including legal (state laws), environmental (what you live in, who lives there, neighbors, kids), and personal (your skill set and ability and willingness to practice). Especially in our socialist states what is “best” may not even be available. Maybe the best example today is the definition of a pistol. When asked this question prior to the advent of what I call “prifles” my answer would be completely different. Sorry, but any expert dismissing this change needs to do some homework. When a 9″ barreled prifle chambered in 5.56mm or 300 BLK is legally a “pistol” your choices are altered exponentially.
What I use as a home defense weapon is a running joke amongst my friends. The typical answer being what day is it, and what is he testing. My situation is not typical, even for gun writers. My environment is completely different, so what I carry is not particularly relevant to anyone. I also pride myself on being a practitioner of weapons craft and am equally adept at the use of a rifle, shotgun, pistol, or prifle. If it has a trigger and sights it will be effective for me. Not everyone has that kind of time, or a range to use, or three decades using them all. SO my real answer is “what ever is within reach”.
That being said, if limited to one it would be my 14″ shotgun, a very old Remington 870 Police Magnum masterfully rebuilt by Vang Comp Systems. Iron sights, weapons light, loaded with Federal Tactical Buckshot with a short stock and Blue Force sling, simplicity personified. Having used a pump gun for decades it is familiar and I am skilled in its use. During that same time investigating numerous shootings no one being shot with a 12 gauge continued to do what it was they were shot for doing. It is a proven man stopper. Using tactical buckshot it is controllable, accurate, and flat out deadly at any range I would EVER see at home. They are loud, but nothing like a rifle with a short barrel (prifle). Barring the short barrel they are inexpensive and legal in all 50 states. If you are incapable of using one, or unwilling to learn, my next choice is a “prifle”
Choices for Others
With the advent of rifle calibered pistols my choice for most is a “pistol” chambered in 300 BLK, preferably suppressed. Incredibly accurate, zero recoil, and when suppressed very quiet, even with supersonic ammunition. Use a folding or collapsible stock with your “brace” and they are very compact. No paperwork, tax stamps etc, basically an SBR without all the hassle and legal where NFA weapons are not. Loaded with sub-sonic loads dedicated to expansion at close range they are like shooting a pistol unsuppressed, suppressed you barely know it went off. With 4.5″ suppressors out there it stays compact. Loaded with supersonic ammunition you have a legitimate 200 meter weapon even with a 9″ barrel. Anyone in your family can use it and get multiple hits on target fast. I have friends whose ten years olds are adept with these things. You can mount lights, lasers, RDS, you name it. At MINIMUM it must have solid sights and a mounted light. Identifying your target is EVERYTHING! You need to be able to do that, and these tools are perfect for that. Have a hand held light as well for searching without the muzzle. Used for defense its all about hits, and this may be the easiest weapon to get on target for anyone that can press a trigger. Were it not for my time on a shotgun and my environment this would be my first choice.
Some will advocate a pistol in 5.56mm, but it’s not my first choice. Unlike 300 BLK, short rifles in 5.56mm are a PITA to get to run period. You almost need a piston system and that just adds cost. If they do, unless suppressed they are deafeningly loud flame throwers. Getting them to run suppressed is iffy at best. The 5.56mm was never designed to run in a barrel that short, while the 300 BLK was ground up designed for a 9″ barrel. Will it work, sure, is it my preference for most, no.
If “rifle” calibers scare you, or present some other issue then a shoulder fired 9mm like a PCC, or dedicated pistol versions of the Sig MPX, CZ scorpion, modern variants of the MP5 are all suitable. All of them deliver accurate hits on target with ammunition proven in thousands of real world shootings at close range. All allow for a mounted light for effective target ID. Are they “more effective” ballistically, nope, its nothing more than a shoulder fired pistol, but they are easier to aim and control, and that is always better. Most anyone can grab one having not practiced in months and get hits, not always the case with a pistol.
If your situation does not allow the use of either then a traditional pistol will do. Are they the best tool for the job, not as a rule. Pistols have always been a compromise, they are convenient not effective. Would I want to get shot with one, of course not, but they are proven ineffective as a rule, but convenient to carry. When the prifles did not exist they were often a choice due to space, but that is seldom the case these days. Anyone who actually carries a weapon for a living would choose a shoulder fired weapon as primary, especially if it is a rifle. Pistol skills are perishable, anyone teaching people to shoot them knows that is just flat out fact. If you practice, and thats what you have, and you feel confident then fine, have at it. Have a light, pistol mounted is fine so long as it is NOT your only light. If dedicated to home defense I recommend a mounted light on the gun all the time and a secondary hand held for searching next to it. Real pistols are different in application than prifles. Mounted pistol lights can be manipulated by your control hand, not always good, its why you should have a light to search with. Attached to a rifle or prifle your off hand manipulates the light, much less likely to get “surprised” and shoot what’s there without proper identification. Use a practical caliber, your 25 auto is not the best choice for home defense. If its your only pistol then fine, but if possible use a caliber proven in real world shootings that STOPS the threat as best as a pistol is capable of.
You will notice I said nothing about over penetration. Is it a consideration, sure its part of that environment condition. Problem is most anything that will effectively stop a human will penetrate most construction when you miss. If you live in a cardboard box your pellet gun will “over penetrate” when you miss. Surrounded by reinforced concrete walls and you could use your 300 Winmag and not worry. But the real trick is to hit what the hell you aim at!! Pass through shots, those that enter the threat then exit and remain lethal are rare. Does it happen, sure, but its incredibly rare especially when proven self defense ammunition is used. Numerous police shootings using expanding ammunition in 308 precision rifles have proven this, its not conjecture. Use the correct ammunition and hit what you aim at and “over penetration” is seldom a real consideration. Its that simple, all the rest is just noise.
Live in the country, and your self defense weapon may be a full boat rifle. Had a friend a few years ago who lived on 100 acres, his “self defense” rifle was an M1 Garand chambered in 30-06. Probably not the best choice for urban dwellers, but for him it was perfect. He joked that if they got close enough he could beat them to death with it and it would still work. Maybe a 16″ carbine in 5.56mm is just the ticket, or a short 308 AR, or even a bolt rifle. It all DEPENDS, on who you are, where you live, what surrounds you, your practical range to the threat, and your willingness to become proficient at what you carry.
Like most things in the media, its critical to be well, critical of what you read, especially when it comes to “advice”. Seek out known professionals without any particular interest in one system. If their advice revolves around a single brand they should be universally ignored as a rule, no matter the brand. Its a clear sign they are selling something not advising. Firearms are little machines, they feel nothing, they are what they are and do nothing unless used by a human. They don’t care who likes them or dislikes them and do not suffer hormonal decision making. Whether someone “loves” them or not is meaningless. Old enough to remember when solid choices could be counted on one hand, nothing could be farther from the truth today. Is everything out there well suited to personal protection, not at all, but adding them up takes a couple hands your feet and maybe a friends help and just does not fit in anyones Internet list of 10. It may not be Internet friendly, but its the truth, and seldom to both meet…..