Ask Foghorn: Best Firearm for One Handed Home Defense

J.R. writes:

I like your article on the self defense shotgun. Unfortunately I cannot use a pump. I lost my right arm in Iraq in 2006 so I’m now permanently left handed. I keep my M4 handy because I’m so used to it that, even left handed, I can operate it in the dark with one hand. But I like the idea of a shotgun better. I keep my Mossberg turkey gun nearby with buckshot loaded, but the safety is so stiff that I can barely flip it off with my shrapnel mangled left hand. That, and the barrel is way too long. So what do you suggest? Stick with my M4 that I can operate in my sleep? Or do you recommend a certain semi-auto shotgun?

First and most importantly, thank you for your service. And if I may make a suggestion a pistol might be a better option.

The handgun is the perfect firearm for one handed defensive shooting because that’s exactly what it was designed to do. It’s a lightweight firearm that uses ammunition with a large diameter but relatively gentle recoil and is designed to be fired using a single hand. Some modern firearms even have ambidextrous controls, but most at least have a left handed version available for purchase. The compact size and lightweight ammunition also mean the gun is easier to hold and maneuver around the house and won’t tire out your arm from holding up the gun as fast as a rifle or shotgun would.

In terms of specific type of handgun for one handed shooting the best option would be a striker fired handgun like a Glock or a S&W M&P that doesn’t have a safety, or a DA/SA pistol like the Beretta 92FS or Sig P226 where the “safety” is a longer double action pull for the first shot. Single action firearms like the 1911 are great for accurate shooting, but the need to disengage the safety first can get in the way of getting rounds on target quickly, and since you mentioned that disengaging the safety on your shotgun was an issue it might be better just to take manual safeties out of the equation completely.

For you, depending on how much strength you have in your left hand a DA/SA might not be a good idea. Glock or S&W M&P pistols will give you roughly the same trigger weight as a standard M4 but a much lighter overall weight and no external safeties to deal with.

As for caliber, I’ve always been a HUGE fan of the 9mm round. Shot placement trumps all other considerations, and if you’re anticipating some stiff .45ACP recoil then you’re more likely to jerk the shot off target under pressure. Especially when shooting one handed you’re less able to control the recoil of the handgun so a lighter round is a great idea. It also gives you more ammunition in the same space, being able to have double stacked magazines instead of the single stacked .45ACP.

At the end of the day the best option is whatever you feel most comfortable using. If you can handle an M4 better than anything else then stick with it, because under pressure you want to know that you can reliably put rounds on target. But if you’re looking for a better solution to self defense with only one hand then the pistol is probably your best bet.

If you really, really want a shotgun then my recommendation is the Mossberg 930 SPX. The safety is mounted on top of the tang and so easy to disengage either single handed or with either hand, the action is reliable and the weapon is lightweight. Plus, the factory installed ghost rings and fiber optic front sight will make putting rounds on target a breeze. You can remove the magazine extension and cap the gun at 5 rounds for a little extra weight savings as well.

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