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You will often hear that “your home is your castle”; unfortunately, it is not defended as a castle. Chances are, if you attempted to dig a moat, your homeowners’ association might have some issues.

When looking to defend the home, there are many options people will turn to. You might get a large dog, bars on the windows and doors, and maybe an alarm system. These are all good steps.

Many people take the extra step and get a gun to defend their home and family. Choosing a practical firearm for home-defense requires some decisions. How much training you have, where you live, if you have children, as well as a host of other aspects, should be considered before you go out and get that gun. Then, choose your home-defense gun wisely.


Most people who want to have a gun in the house for defense will turn to a handgun. It’s a good choice in most situations and can provide protection from the average home invader. The advantage of a handgun is that it is likely the same gun you might carry every day. You can take it to most shooting ranges— either indoor or outdoor, get training on it and then keep it close to you in the house without much extra consideration.

If you don’t keep it with you, and you have children in the home, additional safety precautions should be taken (such as locks or a safe).

A selection of firearms for home-defense. From top to bottom: Remington 870 Express with extended magazine, six-position collapsible stock and 18-inch barrel. Next, Rock River Arms CAR-15 Elite, Surefire M900V Vertical Foregrip Weapon Light and Aimpoint CompM2. Below that, Kimber Pro Carry II with LG-301 laser grips. Bottom, Glock 30S with iProtec RM 190 rail light.


Another choice for a home-defense weapon is the AR platform. It comes in a number of different calibers, is easy to operate, can be fitted with accessories to assist the user and, in 5.56mm, has relatively low recoil. On the down side, moving through your house with an AR can be a bit difficult. Training can help negate that disadvantage.

It is not likely you will be clearing your home in SWAT fashion. Instead, you should be moving to a strong point in your home and waiting for either the assailant to get to you—in which case, you have the advantage—or for law enforcement to show up.

Of concern with the AR as a home-defense weapon is the possibility of penetration of the outer walls of your home and into the home of a neighbor or passerby. That should definitely be on your list of things to consider.


The third choice in home-defense weaponry is the shotgun. While there are numerous types, my suggestion is a pump action with an extended magazine, short barrel (18 inches) and a collapsible stock similar to the AR platform style. This makes the shotgun easier to store and retrieve, as well as bring to a firing position in your home.

.33-caliber projectiles every time you pull the trigger on a 12 gauge. This is not much less than if you were using a .380 pistol; however, there are far more projectiles. The lower velocity also lessens the chance of overpenetration of your exterior walls. Like the AR, a shotgun can be more difficult to manipulate through your home, but it is still a very good choice for home-defense.

From left to right:
examples of what types of shot patterns you might expect from your gun. Left top: a 12 gauge, 00 buckshot, 5 rounds. Left bottom: five rounds of 12 gauge, #8 shot. Center: 30 rounds of 5.56mm. Finally, on the right: eight rounds of .45 ACP. Shots were taken from 21 feet, because that is the likely distance of an engagement in the home. Bear in mind, however, that the 5.56 holes are smaller, but they’re moving at a much faster velocity.


Storage can be more difficult for both the AR and shotgun, because they require a larger safe (if that’s how they will be stored when not in use). It is unlikely you will be using either the AR or the shotgun for everyday use, as you might with a handgun that is doubling as your concealed-carry weapon.


The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that in 2010 (the most current year for gathered data), more than 3.7 million household burglaries occurred. Of that number, a member of the house was at home more than 1 million times. As shocking as that is to hear, the number of actual violent altercations was more than 260 thousand times. It is important to pay attention to who comes in and out of your house. At least the victim knew 65 percent of assailants.

The FBI statistics list 430 homicides on average per year between 2003 and 2007. Statistically, you should have the advantage if you are armed, because the assailant was armed with a fi rearm in less than 11 percent of all burglaries. It is more likely they will have a weapon of a different sort, such as a knife. Over 40 percent of all burglaries are committed by an intruder armed with some sort of weapon.


The most common accessory you might choose for your homedefense gun is a flashlight. Whether attached to the gun or separate, it can assist you greatly in the event of a break-in at night. You may not want to turn on the lights in your house if there is an assailant or burglar to maintain an advantage: You know your house; the intruder does not. Turning the lights on takes your home-court advantage away. Get to know the squeaks and creaks in your house. It will help you identify where in the house someone is. You should test it out during your home-defense plan.

In addition to a flashlight, a laser is also helpful. The main advantage is that it allows you to point and shoot (after it’s zeroed) and have a reasonable chance of hitting what you aim at. If you have never shot in low- or no-light conditions, I recommend you try it. You will be surprised by the difference a lack of daylight makes to your shot group. The laser will help you with your confidence and create an intimidation factor for an assailant when the laser is placed on them.

Just having a gun, no matter how powerful or intimidating, does you very little good if you aren’t trained to use it.


Regardless of the gun you decide to use for home-defense, you should also have a plan for how you intend to defend yourself in your home. Your plan should include where you will move to secure yourself until help arrives.

A communication plan that includes backup comms is crucial. A few points to consider: If your landline is cut, is your cell phone available and charged?

If there are other family members in the house, are you moving to them, or are they moving to you? This is especially important if bedrooms are spread throughout different areas in the home or on different fl oors. If you have multiple fl oors to your house, what are your ceilings and walls made of, and do they offer any protection?

Shown are projectiles from each of the guns used for this article. From left to right: 5.56mm, .45 ACP, 12-gauge 00 Buckshot, 12-gauge #8 shot.


There are a lot of considerations when it comes to home-defense, and firearms are just one part. As with all things related to guns, training is imperative. Just having a gun, no matter how powerful or intimidating, does you very little good if you aren’t trained to use it.

In your training, make sure to create scenarios in which you might actually fi nd yourself—sitting in your recliner, sleeping in bed, working in the garage, etc. Keep in mind that during a home break-in, you are reacting. Nothing will go as you planned it.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, most break-ins happen between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. Thus, having your gun where you can get to it quickly is critical.

The best advice is to have multiple options, fi nd a strong point in your house, and wait for either the police or the intruder to come to you. You then bring things closer to your terms.

You need to also prepare yourself mentally to defend yourself. If you aren’t prepared to take a life in defense of your own or your loved ones, you might have already lost the battle.

In addition to getting the right gun for home-defense, you need to prepare your home to be defended. Next month, I will cover how to get your house in order, discuss planning considerations and what you should look for to have a better-prepared home.


About the Author: Brian Berry is a retired Army Special Forces Command sergeant major. He is a former Special Forces Weapons sergeant and has multiple combat tours under his belt. Brian is the co-founder of Spartan Defensive Concepts, at which he teaches concealed carry and defensive marksmanship courses. Brian retired in 2014 and is now a consultant currently working for the Special Operations community, as well as a senior instructor for American Survival Guide University.


Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the May 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.