Handgun vs Long gun for Home Defense - a discussion starter

This is a discussion on Handgun vs Long gun for Home Defense - a discussion starter within the Home (And Away From Home) Defense Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; Home Defense: Handgun or Long Gun? By Dave Jenkins of Rochester Personal Defense, LLC For whatever reason - crime, predatory animals, anything - you have ...

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    Handgun vs Long gun for Home Defense - a discussion starter

    Home Defense: Handgun or Long Gun?
    By Dave Jenkins
    of
    Rochester Personal Defense, LLC


    For whatever reason - crime, predatory animals, anything - you have decided to look for a firearm to add to your home defense plan. OK. You’ve thought it through and now you have to go get it. Where do you go? What should you look for? What is the best choice – shotgun, rifle, handgun? How will you store it at home? Who will use it? If you are not familiar with the firearm, where will you go to learn? These are just some of the many questions that you will undoubtedly ask yourself. Let’s explore the details (and there are a lot of them!) and see if you can make an educated choice after reading this today.

    First, you should start with some determining factors that will be very important in making your choice. The most important factor is your location. Do you live in the country where there are no neighbors close by, or do you live in the city where the houses are practically on top of each other? If you live in the city, are you in a house or in an apartment building with neighbors above, below, and to the sides? Does your home have wood sheathing and vinyl siding, or are your walls brick? You need to consider the fact that a bullet or slug can travel great distances if it does not have an adequate backstop. Your average handgun round can penetrate at least a couple of walls and exit your home. This risk is higher with a shotgun slug or even a medium caliber rifle round. You should designate some “safe zones” or “no shoot zones” for your house so you won’t put innocents at risk when you have to discharge a round.

    Next important is the legal detail. What firearm are you legally able to possess where you live? Who can possess it? A lot of municipalities have enacted limits on the firearm type, size, capacity, etc. that you are allowed to own or keep in your home. Another legal issue is a permit or a license. Most states in the U.S. have a permit system for handguns. Some are easier to get, some are not. I would advise checking your local laws as part of your search.

    Experience is an important factor as well. If you or your family are unfamiliar with firearms, you may want to choose something simple to operate and shoot. If you have to figure out the controls, rather than just pointing the firearm and shooting it, you will be confused or stressed even more than you should be. Educate your family and yourself by taking a firearms/home safety course. This will help you understand and be more comfortable with your choice.

    Now you have to consider the other people in your home. Children, spouses, etc. all have different body sizes and types. Someone else in the house may not be able to handle what you can handle. A female will generally have less strength than a male and may have trouble operating a slide on a semi-auto or even pulling the trigger on a double action revolver. A smaller person may not be able to handle a shotgun’s or rifle’s recoil.

    The presence of children in the household is not a reason to avoid having a firearm in the home for protection. It is an excellent reason to include them in your choice and to educate them - not to hide the firearm from them. One of the worst things you can do is to hide any firearms in your home from your kids. Prohibition breeds fascination, especially in children. “You cannot gun proof your home, but you can gun proof your kids." As soon as your children are old enough to understand, tell them about firearm safety rules. If they want to see your gun, use that as a chance to educate them and reinforce the firearm safety rules. The NRA has a great program for kids called the Eddie Eagle program. If you let them see and handle a firearm under your supervision, they are a lot less likely to go looking for it while you aren't around.

    Now, for the equipment. There are really three choices: handgun, shotgun, and rifle. There are plusses and minuses for each.

    We’ll start with the handgun.


    The handgun can be either a revolver or semi-auto. Handguns are probably the most popular firearm for home defense. They are very portable as you can carry one just about anywhere in your home - either in your hand or in a holster. You can hide a handgun on your person with a decent quality holster, or in a hidden spot somewhere in your home, ready to use when you need it. Handguns are usable with both hands, your dominant hand, or your non-dominant hand if need be. Say, for instance, you are calling the police - it is easier to hold onto the handgun AND dial the police for help rather than using both hands to hold a long gun or - worse yet – put the firearm down! Handguns are shorter and, therefore, easily maneuverable in your hallways, bedrooms, doorways, etc. They also have (in general) less recoil than a rifle or shotgun as the ammunition is smaller in size. Handguns, specifically autoloaders, usually have a larger ammunition supply than a revolver and can be reloaded faster than most of the other firearms if you have a spare magazine (and it is full!). The best advantage to a handgun is that you can keep it close to you - under your mattress or in a nightstand.

    There are, however, some drawbacks when considering a handgun for home defense. Some handguns are harder to operate and shoot than others. Those of us with smaller or weaker hands may not be able to work the safeties, triggers, or, in the case of the semi-auto, the slide. Handguns are also fairly difficult to shoot accurately under stress. Handguns are by nature woefully underpowered when you need to stop an intruder or animal predator. The chances are great that you may miss your target altogether. There is also a huge risk of over-penetrating your target, thus putting someone else at risk.

    Next up: the shotgun.


    Although shotguns are longer than handguns, and are fairly difficult to move around in your home with, they do indeed have the “power” to put down your target. If your aggressor or home invader has been drinking, is on drugs, or is incapable of feeling pain due to his habit, you will not have the desired effect with a handgun round; you definitely will with a shotgun round. One of the biggest advantages of a shotgun is cost. You can get a well made, reliable pump action shotgun for less than the cost of your average handgun. Most shotgun ammunition is also less expensive than handgun ammunition.

    Ammunition selection is wider with a shotgun. You can choose between slugs (big hunks of lead) or shot (pellets of lead encased in the cartridge). The slug would be advantageous in a rural area where distances are plentiful, whereas the slug would most likely go through a few of your neighbors’ walls before stopping. Shot (#4) would have less of a chance of penetrating a wall beyond your target and has a better chance of striking your target rather than missing it. Shot will also lessen the chances of over-penetration. Note that 00 buck shot has only 9 pellets and will still penetrate a wall as the shot does not “spread” early enough as would #4 or birdshot.
    One of the more pronounced advantages of the shotgun, specifically the pump action, is the sound when you work the action. This is very intimidating and can inform the offender that you are aware of his or her presence and that you are most likely armed. I would be willing to bet that everyone knows what a pump action shotgun sounds like. According to the research of Professor Gary Kleck, a majority of defensive firearm uses end without shooting because just the threat of being shot is usually enough to stop the aggressor. That intimidating sound is very valuable to you as the defender.

    And now, the rifle.

    Rifles can be very valuable in a rural setting, as well as in an urban one. In the country, they can be used to eliminate a predator such as a fox, wolf, bear, etc. You have a longer distance to shoot and the round is inherently more accurate. In the city, rifles can be useful, but only under the right circumstances. A rifle bullet has a lot of energy and will definitely go through your target, the wall behind him, and quite possibly, into your neighbor’s house. Of course, some rifle rounds will stop in their target, such as a .223, but the chance of over-penetration is still very high. If you can adjust to the penetration factor, a rifle at close range can be very effective.

    Rifles can be just as bulky as shotguns to maneuver in your home. If you have a large home with wider hallways and rooms, this problem becomes a bit less of a hindrance. Still, if you decide you have to move around in your home, you have to be very aware of the muzzle and where you are going.

    Saving the best for last, one major factor in choosing a firearm for home defense is your mindset. Are you prepared to defend your family? This is a very difficult decision and should not be made lightly. Shooting another human being, even if they are threatening you and/or your family, can be very tough. I would suggest attending a formal training class that deals with the mindset, as well as the physical skills, behind shooting.

    Now, if you have to defend yourself, here are a few things that you need to be aware of:

    1) No warning shots. A warning shot is reckless and dangerous. You just dumped a round past the aggressor and you have no idea where it went. Remember, bullets always have to end up somewhere. Bullets can ricochet off of any hard surface: the ground, a brick wall, a vehicle’s rim. A bullet that does not hit your target will end up in the very worst place that you can imagine.

    2) An aggressor can be more dangerous after you have shot them. They will most likely still be in the house, either on the floor or resting against something. Don’t go help them. When you call the police, let them know where the aggressor is, or where you think he/she is. Do not go looking for them. If you can see them, stay away from them. If they need first aid, tell them what to do. Do not do it for them. Your safety and your family’s safety comes first.

    3) Do not move the aggressor or their weapon(s) unless you absolutely have to in order to make it safer for you and your family. Unless your safety is at stake, leave everything alone. Your home is now a crime scene and everything involving you and the aggressor is now considered evidence. Inform the police when they arrive that you had to move the weapon - they will understand.

    4) The most important factor to remember is to let the police know exactly what happened. “Officer, he/she tried to kill us. We had no choice.” Do not embellish. Do not use slang words. Learn to use terminology that the police use or know. This will help you out in more ways than you can imagine. You also should not have a weapon in your possession when the police arrive. They may mistake you for the aggressor.

    As with any subject, there are a lot of other ways to accomplish your goal. The above suggestions are only a couple of ideas. The firearm is only a part of the total equation for home defense. Your mindset and training will form a more complete package. Learn what you can do, when you can do it, and how to do it. Attend a defensive shotgun, handgun, or rifle class to learn what you will need to do in your home. Learn to develop a plan and then practice it so that everyone knows what to do in case of that emergency. Best of all, the more training and education you can get, the better equipped you will be in the long run.

    Hopefully, this article will help you make the best choice for you and your home. This is not something to take lightly. Take the time to decide and you will be better for it. Good luck and stay safe.

    Dave Jenkins is the founder of Rochester Personal Defense where he trains and educates people on both weapon and non–weapon based personal defense, home security, and firearms safety. Dave has trained with police departments, military personnel, and civilian instructors. The training and theory basis he provides has been used to model home defense and concealed carry training across NY State. Dave can be reached through his website at Rochester Personal Defense - SafeInRochester.com, Self Defense Classes, Firearms Training in Rochester New York.

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    VIP Member Array JonInNY's Avatar
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    This was a well written, concise, and intelligently thought out article. It is by necessity a little short on details. If anyone wants more in-depth ideas as to types of guns for home defense, and scenarios and ideas, I recommend the book, "In The Gravest Extreme", by Massad Ayoob.
    Last edited by JonInNY; December 6th, 2009 at 10:01 PM.
    "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch; Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."
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    VIP Member Array searcher 45's Avatar
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    Just get all three!!!!! Enjoy be very safe!!!!!
    NOT LIVING IN FEAR, JUST READY!!!
    I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness,
    nor the arrow for its swiftness,
    nor the warrior for his glory.
    I love only that which they defend.
    -J.R.R. Tolkien

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    Distinguished Member Array Spec's Avatar
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    great post.... i'll have to check out that book...
    NRA Certified Rifle/Pistol Instructor
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G18CFw0lnD8

    Accuracy ALWAYS WINS! So carry what you can hit with.

    If you find yourself in a fair fight your tactics stink.

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    There was just a show on one of the shooting TV shows that proved that a AR was LESS likely to over penetrate walls. Both the 9mm hollow point and 45 hollow point pistol rounds penetrated two interior walls and an exterior wall and were still a hazard but the AR with 55 grain FMJ would fragment almost completely by the time it cleared the second interior wall due to speed with no exterior wall penetration.

    I would have lost money on that bet before I saw the show.

    It was Personal Defense TV I think.

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    Distinguished Member Array tiwee's Avatar
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    On the original question, it depends on the type of living space you have.

    We have lived in small places that have been kind of chopped up. In those, I had my shotgun, but it was kind of awkward to move around in confined spaces. A pistol would have been better, but it was not always an option.

    Our retirement home has an open plan. Shotguns with #1 buckshot are perfect in this house. It is not a large place, so a couple of good cover spots enable me to control most of the traffic areas. I have an inside dog that will tell me the location of the break-in. I'll not be moving from cover, preferring to wait for the police to arrive. If the intruders expose themselves, I get a good ID on them, and feel threatened, it will not be a fair fight.

    It has long been settled in my mind that shotguns are my home self defense weapons of choice. I seldom think about it except on this forum.

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    No doubt handguns are easier to handle in close spaces, but if possible, I'm getting a long gun...either long gun or shotgun...hit probability goes up exponentially using a shoulder fired weapon over a handgun...I'll pick a 12ga. first, then a pistol caliber levergun...my handgun is for getting to one of those...
    "Texas can make it without the United States, but the United States can't make it without Texas!".... Sam Houston

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    Senior Member Array RebelRabbi's Avatar
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    Where did I leave my Rifle?

    A handgun's main virtue is portability. It is a CQB weapon. Most self defense scenarios happen at near contact distance in poor light. The need to identify the threat means that one also needs a high quality flashlight, I prefer a weapon mounted light but that is not always practical. The need to communicate with 911 necessitates a cell phone. In an urban / suburban area I recommend:
    1. High quality, reliable, simple and powerful handgun.
    2. High quality handheld or weapon mounted light.
    3. Cell Phone.
    4. Competently trained and practiced in CQB including knife defense.

    In a rural area, yes, have both rifle and shotgun as well as the above. Most country folks already know this.

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    While I was away in Desert Storm some **** heads decided to knock on my door. When my wife looked out the peep hole she noticed these idoits standing there looking suspicious....she told them that they had the wrong house and to go away...the guys knocked on the door again and told her to open the door.

    So she went into our bedroom and got my Mossberg 500 shotgun. She walked back to the door and jacked a round into the chamber. The dudes heard the noise and took off running.....I had buck shot loaded in the magazine....man they would have had a nice suprise if they would have decided to kick in my front door. I wish I could have seen the look on their faces when they heard that wonderful sound...LOL.....I say if you have a wife or girlfriend get a shotgun...its easy to use and they don't have to aim. I myself keep my Glock 23 and Ka-bar right next to my bed.

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    Are we talking BG stealing watches defense or S%@# hit the fan defense?

    When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.
    The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.
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    I've been thinking about this for a while. Long guns are great, but as original poster mentioned, they're not very portable. I don't know about most of you, but I don't carry my AR around the house, much less while working around the yard or in my garage. But with home invasion with multiple assalant becomming more and more common, I need to be able to engage multiple immediate threats with effective firepower. Yea, we need long gun we can fall back to when time permits, but most engagement shouldn't last very long. So I decided on full size semi-auto handgun with double stack magazine for my house carry gun. Yea, I love my 1911, but I don't feel confortable with only 9 rounds, 8+1 capacity. Imagine engaging 3 threats, you double tap at each target and take down 2. I've only got 3 rounds left. Tactical reload? Yea, but it takes time. I think I will feel better with 6 or 7 rounds left in my sidearm than 7 or 8 round magazine on my belt.

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    BAC
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    I like the article, but...

    Quote Originally Posted by RochPersDef View Post
    Although shotguns are longer than handguns, and are fairly difficult to move around in your home with, they do indeed have the “power” to put down your target. If your aggressor or home invader has been drinking, is on drugs, or is incapable of feeling pain due to his habit, you will not have the desired effect with a handgun round; you definitely will with a shotgun round.
    I've heard many firearms-savvy cops describe the disbelief on the faces of fellow officers after having to use a shotgun for the first time and finding it didn't immediately stop the threat. A handgun is undoubtedly less lethal than a shotgun or rifle, but no firearm is a sure thing, and shot placement counts.

    One of the more pronounced advantages of the shotgun, specifically the pump action, is the sound when you work the action. This is very intimidating and can inform the offender that you are aware of his or her presence and that you are most likely armed. I would be willing to bet that everyone knows what a pump action shotgun sounds like. According to the research of Professor Gary Kleck, a majority of defensive firearm uses end without shooting because just the threat of being shot is usually enough to stop the aggressor. That intimidating sound is very valuable to you as the defender.
    This is poor advice and written as though research supports it. Research confirms that most defensive firearm uses end without a shot fired, but doesn't remotely suggest that it's because of the sound a weapon makes when being charged. I sincerely hope that you're not arguing a bad guy can tell the difference between a handgun, rifle, and shotgun being racked.


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    BAC
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    Quote Originally Posted by chucktait View Post
    Yea, I love my 1911, but I don't feel confortable with only 9 rounds, 8+1 capacity. Imagine engaging 3 threats, you double tap at each target and take down 2. I've only got 3 rounds left. Tactical reload? Yea, but it takes time. I think I will feel better with 6 or 7 rounds left in my sidearm than 7 or 8 round magazine on my belt.
    I'm in the same boat as well. As much as I love my 1911, I simply don't think that 8+1, and maybe a reload if I remember to grab one, is an adequate plan to handle multiple assailants. And since I won't know if there will be multiple assailants...

    Good point to bring up, though.


    -B
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    Senior Member Array RebelRabbi's Avatar
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    IMHO, the high capacity .40 / .357 Sig semi auto is the most efficient police pistol available today. It would serve the armed citizen just as well.

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    "...get a shotgun...its easy to use and they don't have to aim."

    Actually, they do have to aim. Try a shotgun at household self defense distances next time you are at the range. You won't find a room-filling pattern. A person still has to properly place that shot charge.

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