What Gun Should I Use for Home Defense?

published: March 19, 2018 by: firearmslegal

It probably comes as no surprise to know that the vast majority of firearms related incidents and shootings occur in or near the home. Even before people get their license to carry, they often buy a gun for home defense.

With that in mind, what type of gun should you use for home defense? Should you use a shotgun, a handgun, a rifle? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

There is actually no easy answer to this question and firearms experts will offer differing opinions. Perhaps the best answer is, “it depends.” It is kind of like asking which golf club is best. If you are on the green, then I’d recommend a putter. If you are on the tee box, a driver will do.

Below, we will look at the pros and cons of using a shotgun, a rifle, or a handgun for home defense.


There are many benefits to using a shotgun for home defense. The “shot” inside the shell scatters making it easier to hit your target. This is especially important since you will probably be shaking with adrenaline and may need to use it at night. Also, a shotgun causes a lot of damage at close range and may stop a threat quicker than a handgun will. Additionally, the shot from the shotgun shell won’t travel as far as a bullet – this is a benefit because it means that you may be able to keep the shot from going into your neighbor’s house next door. Lastly, it is an easy weapon to use for someone who does not have much formal training.

There are a few downsides to using a shotgun for home defense. If it is a hunting shotgun you won’t be able to hold more than a few shot-shells and it will be hard to maneuver a long barrel through your house (a tactical shotgun is a better option). But the biggest downside to using a shotgun is that you cannot access it quickly if you have kids in the house. If you have children around you will probably have it locked up and unloaded. It is hard to quickly retrieve, unlock, and load a shotgun while your hands are shaking and you have just woken up.


Semi-automatic rifles are the primary thing both the military and law enforcement currently use for close quarters combat. They can be fired quickly, accurately, and they have a large magazine capacity. Also, both rifles and shotguns (“long guns”) are more deadly than handguns. Your chance of dying if you are shot with a handgun in a non-vital organ is only 30%. However, your chance of dying if you are shot with a rifle in a non-vital organ is 70%. Why is that? Why is the rifle so much more devastating? Well, the rifle round is often going almost 3x as fast as a handgun round and it creates greater ballistic shock and a bigger permanent wound cavity. This leads to more organ damage and also quicker blood loss. The same is true with a shotgun because the spread of the shot causes more damage than a single handgun round.

The downside to using a rifle is the same with the shotgun. If you have to keep it in a safe location due to having kids in the house it is tough to get to quickly. Also, to safely and effectively use a rifle in a confined location you usually have to have a little more training so that you can maximize its effectiveness.


Though not as powerful as a rifle or shotgun, the biggest benefit of using a handgun is that you can get to it quickly, even if you have kids in the home. The best way to do this is to get a biometric safe that sits on your nightstand which allows you to keep a loaded gun ready that you can retrieve with the swipe of a finger. Also, a semi-automatic handgun usually has a higher magazine capacity and is easier to maneuver around confined spaces than a shotgun is.

The downside to using a handgun is that it is less deadly than a rifle or shotgun and that it is harder to shoot accurately (especially under stress).

There is no right answer to the question “What gun should I use for home defense?” A single person without kids may consider using a shotgun that they can access quickly. A lady who has young children in the house might want to get a handgun with a quick-access safe. A father who has older children who know how to safely use guns may consider a rifle. Your circumstances will dictate which option is best for you.