Y’know, it’s a good thing I didn’t start this blog in order to make friends… as I’m sure this post won’t win me many. But I gotta go with what I know. Even if it’s controversial. And this post just might be.
Note: in this article, it’s presumed that you have the legal right to defend your home with a firearm; if you live in a state or country that doesn’t provide that right, then obviously none of this can apply to you… check into whether your state provides you the Castle Doctrine or a Stand Your Ground law to find out what your legal options are. The rest of this article presumes that the reader lives in a state where a person in their own home is entitled to defend themselves with deadly force through use of a firearm.
Okay, the topic at hand: home defense. There’s an eternal battle that rages across gun stores, internet discussion forums, at shooting ranges, everywhere — what’s the BEST gun to have for home defense?
Answer’s obvious: a 12-gauge shotgun. Duh. Right?
Well, let’s think a little before we just accept the common wisdom… a 12-gauge is a profoundly powerful weapon. It is a true fight-stopper. People in handgun forums can argue endlessly about “stopping power”, but a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with 00 buckshot is the ultimate in stopping power. One blast from a 12-gauge is usually enough to stop any aggression by any particular individual.
But does that make it the BEST weapon for home defense? There are so many variables that it’s hard to ever determine what’s “best” so let’s just start with this: who’s supposed to be firing that 12-gauge? If you’re a 300-lb 6-foot ex-football player, then sure, a 12-gauge may be totally appropriate. But what about for a petite 5-foot tall, 90-lb female? Er… sorry, a 12-gauge would very likely not be the “best” weapon for her — she may get the first shot off, but may find it extremely difficult to get a second shot off, if one is necessary, and she may even have been knocked over by the recoil. I’ve met plenty of women shooters who simply hate shotguns. They’re big, they’re incredibly loud, and they just plain hurt to fire. Even a “youth” model 20-gauge can be a significant handful.
Okay, If Not a 12-Gauge, Then an AR-15, Right?
It seems like there’s a huge surge in interest in using the AR-15 (or other small-caliber rifle) for home defense. And I can well understand why — an AR-15 is much easier to handle, and definitely easier for even smaller people to get off follow-up shots, than a 12-gauge (or even 20-gauge) shotgun. A 30-round magazine offers enough capacity to handle any conceivable threat. A solid hit with an AR-15 (and the proper self-defense ammo) will stop an aggressor immediately. Sure, it may overpenetrate more than the shotgun, but (as goes the argument) it’s easier to aim, so as long as you don’t miss, it’s — well, let’s borrow from Obi-Wan Kenobi — “it’s not as clumsy or random as a blaster, it’s a more elegant weapon, for a more civilized day.”
Those are the two primary candidates that I hear bandied about most frequently. One side argues the superiority of the shotgun, the other argues that the AR15 is actually more practical. But which side is actually right?
Neither — Of Course.
You didn’t expect me to actually declare one of the prevailing arguments the winner, did you? If so, you haven’t been reading the blog here very long…
Here’s the thing — both are superb weapons, and any properly-defended castle should probably have both. But when determining what’s the “best” weapon, you have to first ask the question: what is the threat I’m going to face? Only then can you answer what weapon will best meet and defeat that threat.
So what type of incidents are you likely to encounter, in today’s society? Is it the gang of thugs rolling through a neighborhood trashing anyone and everything they encounter? Not very likely in most neighborhoods (but if it’s likely where you live, then I have one and only one piece of advice for you: MOVE. NOW.)
Is the threat you face a horde of pillagers (looters, which are a realistic interpretation of the “zombie apocalypse”)? Again, not likely — that’s a TEOTWAWKI scenario, and if that happens, all bets are off (and you’d better have both the shotgun and the AR15 in that scenario anyway). But is this a realistic threat assessment for everyday life? Not likely.
So let’s talk about the threats that are most likely to affect people on a daily basis, in their home: burglars, and the home invasion. These are real threats. The FBI’s crime statistics say that over 13% of homes are burglarized each year(!) 85% of burglaries are through the front door, and 67% of all burglaries are forced entries.
In both cases (burglars and home invaders) someone enters your home with the intent to rob your home and/or harm you. For purposes of clarity here, I’ll separate them out into two classes, “classic burglars” and home invaders, with the defining characteristic being whether they expect you to be home.
The traditional burglar, by and large, doesn’t want you to be home, and doesn’t want to be interrupted. They prize stealth, they want to slip in quietly, grab your stuff, and get out undetected. They may be deterred by burglar alarms, or by a barking dog. If you are home when the burglar enters, all bets are off: the burglar may decide to avoid conflict and just flee, or they may escalate into a bigger threat — the burglar may physically assault you, they may become a rapist, a kidnapper, or even a murderer as the opportunities or threats present themselves. But this may not necessarily be on the burglar’s initial agenda; they may just be attempting to score some loot by robbing a (presumably unoccupied) house. Or they may be doing a quick grab of goods at night, when you’re supposed to be asleep and therefore not an interruption to them.
The home invasion is related, but it’s also a totally different beast — this is a violent criminal who doesn’t care whether you’re home or not. If you are home, you can expect a violent assault from the home invader. The home invader may be high on drugs, they may be drunk, they may be mentally unstable, they may primarily be interested in robbing, but they’re not concerned with the subtlety or quiet appearance and swift disappearance of the burglar; the home invader is going to kick in your door, storm in, subdue you in whatever violent manner he chooses (all in just the first few seconds), and then will go about whatever his hostile business is (which may include robbery, rape, kidnapping, murder, or whatever else his criminal mind decides to do.) And the home invader doesn’t wait for or care about the cover of night — he will strike in broad daylight, or at night, or whenever he wants to. There are simply NO rules for the home invader.
By and large, these are the more likely threats that the average household may face one day. Which weapon is most appropriate for meeting these threats? A shotgun or a rifle?
How about a pocket pistol?
WHAT?!?!? Am I insane? (perhaps, but that’s an unnecessary distraction from the topic at hand…)
Seriously, let’s think about this. You’re relaxing on the couch, watching a football game, when the door gets kicked in and two guys come bursting in the door. Their plan of attack is to look around for any threat and neutralize it (meaning, they’re immediately going to rush you and violently attack you). Should you go for the shotgun you have stored in your back bedroom, locked away in a biometric safe? Good luck with that, because these thugs will be on you in about two and a half seconds. Maybe instead you should go for the AR-15 that you have in the garage, locked up in your big 55-gun rifle safe — how are you going to get to it? “Excuse me, guys, can I just get past you, I need to go out in the garage…” No, I don’t think that’s gonna work.
How about you reach in your pocket, pull out your pocket-nine or micro-380, and start firing as soon as they invade your house? They didn’t see that coming, did they? Bursting through a door and being met with six blasts of lead might very well discourage even the nastiest of home invaders.
Now, obviously a shotgun will deliver a vastly more incapacitating blow than a pocket .380 will, but — what’s the old adage, “the .380 that you’ve got with you beats the .45 locked in the safe every time”?
Okay, let’s talk about scenario 2 — you’re a mom home alone with your toddler. A home invader kicks in the door and grabs your kid. What are you going to do — are you going to run to the master bedroom closet to get your trusty 20-gauge? Of course not, you’re going to immediately start screaming and pleading for him to not hurt your baby. He’s got you completely subdued, and can then set about doing whatever it was he planned on (or whatever new plan he improvises). And there’s not a thing you can do to stop him — or is there? What about when he looks away, you pull out your pocket 9mm and give him a magazine full of lead? Didn’t see that one coming, did he?
Third scenario — someone rings the doorbell. You don’t know who they are, but you decide to answer the door anyway. Two big guys shove past you, and now they’re in your house. You’re thrown to the ground, and — what’s next? Whatever they want, that’s what. And what can you do about it? What if you have an AR15 right in the next room? Too bad, because you’ve got a 230-lb thug blocking the path to it. However, a quick dip in the pocket, a double-tap of some pocket-9mm Federal HST’s, and all of a sudden the dynamics of the situation change — now you’ve only got one thug to worry about, and his hands are up in the air. Now you’ve got time to call 911 and get the authorities there to deal with the second invader.
Is the threat you face one of a personal nature — a jealous ex, a bitter divorce, an alcoholic stalker? I’d say for most people, we don’t have dangerous individuals in our life, but for those who do, this is a very real threat. Which home weapon should you have to protect yourself in that scenario? Obviously, the answer is the same — the pistol you have on you beats the arsenal you have locked up in a safe somewhere where you can’t get to it. If you have a person who may attack you, whose motivation is personal and who will not be scared off by a burglar alarm or a barking dog, then you need to be able to defend yourself whenever and wherever you are.
Wait — Isn’t This Crazy?
Isn’t carrying a pistol while you’re at home a little… paranoid? Well, again, let’s think about it — why have a shotgun or rifle at home at all? Is that paranoid? Some may say yes, others may vigorously argue that notion, but let’s consider this simple fact: 100% of home invasions happen at home. So why be defenseless when you’re at home? If you can’t get to your weapon, you’re defenseless.
If you want to have the ability to protect yourself and your loved ones from a home invasion… if you’ve already made the decision to defend your home with force… if you’ve already come to the conclusion that the potential threat is real enough to need to take action to do something about it … then … isn’t it kind of crazy to NOT pocket-carry?
Back in the days when everyone lived on farms, when you could see a neighbor (or stranger) driving up to your house, then having Pa go and grab the shotgun made sense. Today it’s not that way — today, your door could be kicked in and invaders in your house in literally seconds, and you have no time to prepare. At all.
If you’re concerned about home defense in a world where the threat can be on you in literally seconds, then the answer is obvious: pocket-carry a 9mm (or, if you want an even smaller, lighter option, a pocket .380). I would argue that you’d be much better prepared to meet any threat with the pistol you have on you, than you would be with the long gun you can’t get to. Most of us don’t really want to wear a shoulder holster and a big double-stack full-size duty pistol when we’re relaxing at home, but I think all of us could find room for an LCP or TCP or DB9 in our pocket or tucked in a Remora in the waistband. And maybe the pocket pistol will buy you the time you need to get to your fightstopper; maybe a quick couple of rounds to the doorway buys you the time to get to your master bedroom safe where you can unleash the mighty 12-gauge behemoth you keep there.
But if you don’t have the pocket pistol with you, then there are many potential scenarios where you will just plain lose. The pocket pistol gives you a multitude of options and an immediate ability to act. And for those reasons, I would make a case that a pocket pistol (or other easily-carried handgun) may be the “best” weapon to have for home defense.