Like one of TTAG’s prolific writers, I too have been on a quest to find the perfect firearm for self-defense. There are three practical kinds; rifles, shotguns, and of course, pistols. Of those three, there is only one that can apply to defense both out in the world and inside the home; the handgun. They can be carried concealed, openly, and kept close to one’s bedside at night. I believe anyone who intends to exercise their right to own and bear a firearm should have a handgun, as it is the most versatile in all roles. Now it would seem that handguns are perfect for everything, right? . . .
They are lightweight, concealable and versatile, but every ballistics expert out there will tell you that pistols are underpowered. They are vastly outclassed by rifles and shotguns when it comes to lethality, period. Even with high-caliber revolvers. While shot placement is king, you stand a much better chance of inflicting a debilitating or incapacitating wound on an attacker with a rifle or shotgun, than with a pistol.
Now life is all about choices, and there are a million and one different tools out there to be used for the defense of home and hearth. But before we get into those, first we’re going to go on a magical Nutnfancy-esque journey…
A journey I like to call philosophy of use. Yes, I am terribly sorry to say, this will be a long-winded section, so I’ll try to keep it short and sweet.
Defensive VS Offensive
First, there are two philosophies for the use of any weapon. Defensive and offensive.
-And not in the non-politically correct frame of discussion-
A defensive mindset seeks only to survive. The goal is not to kill, but to stop the threat. This is what we have, as armed citizens, the People of the Gun.
Now an Offensive mindset wants to deprive others of their life/property/power. This is what soldiers, and some members of Law Enforcement, have.
Because our uses are limited only to a defensive mindset, handguns and short carbines/shotguns are our preferred tools. We have little need for weapons that work best at distances further than a hundred yards, at least in our daily lives.
This will be short. The firearms I am discussing are the things that will be most useful in our day-to-day lives, but believe it or not, they would be fairly effective under extreme circumstances.
Concealability is a must, while long-distance effectiveness is not. Needing to engage a target beyond fifty feet is extremely unlikely, and is NOT recommended. While being able to eliminate threats from huge distances is an advantage, a better solution would be to avoid that threat altogether.
Why waste the ammo and take the unneeded risk, after all?
Ah, yes. The trusty trunk gun.
In my opinion, a trunk gun should be a long gun that is rugged, effective as a weapon, relatively compact, and utterly reliable. A short AK or AR15 carbine/pistol is a good choice, while an 18 inch pump shotgun or Mare’s Leg is also a valid option.
But, one must be mindful of their state’s laws regarding long guns being transported in a vehicle. If they must be in the open, unloaded, seperate from ammunition, locked, etc. This is why I prefer an AK pistol with the Sig/Century arm brace; I can throw it in the trunk and take it anywhere with a concealed carry permit, locked and loaded, ready to go.
If there is only one reason to get an AR/AK pistol, it’s to have a good trunk gun that is more effective at stopping a threat than a handgun.
Alternate Methods of Self-Defense
Aye, I’m giving this a mention.
There are two types of categories for self-defense. Lethal and less-lethal. There is no such thing as non-lethal, as even pepper/OC spray can kill someone.
For less-lethal, tasers, spray, batons and martial arts are the most common choices. They all have their merits. Tasers are cheaper than a firearm and are very effective. There is a chance they can kill someone, and they rely on batteries, though. One might also tase themselves by accident with certain models. Some jurisdictions prohibit people from carrying them.
OC/Pepper spray is a very good deterrant, but if someone is allergic to it or if they have asthma, it can kill them. I’m not sure on how common an allergy to pepper spray is, but asthma isn’t uncommon.
Batons can be considered a deadly weapon, and are banned in some areas. One must take care with their use, lest your attempt to defend yourself gets you into serious trouble. They require more physical strength than that of your attacker, and can be used against you. The “Unbreakable Umbrella,” and city sticks are popular options, and are easier to carry around unnoticed than collapsibles.
Martial arts are always brought up. “You don’t need a gun, just learn to fight!” When outnumbered, or if you lack the physical fitness needed, it isn’t a valid option. While fighting multiple opponents can be done, it takes many years of practice to be effective. Learning martial arts takes time, and is fairly expensive. One of its best benefits is that it is perfectly concealed, and always with you. Can’t have your arms and legs stolen form under you, ya?
Now onto the common lethal weapons. Brass knuckles, baseball bats and knives. Brass knuckles are prohibited in a lot of places. Most states have banned them.
Baseball bats are commonly used, and commonly owned. They can’t exactly be carried around in the open, but having one in the truck of your car can be useful. Golf clubs, axes, bats and other such things have the same caveats as bats and batons.
Knives are also restricted in many places. I disagree with this, as are knives are useful tools. Fixed-blades are always better than folders for several reasons, but they are more difficult to carry. Learning how to use a blade properly is more time-consuming than other martial arts, and as any instructor will tell you, knife-fighting is a dirty sport. Anyone who gets into one will bleed. It is dangerous, and should only be done as a last resort, as even an amateur can turn your knife against you if you get careless.
Something to remember! If you ever use a knife for self-defense, it doesn’t matter what situation it is. You WILL be taken to court over it. Americans are used to seeing guns used for defense, but knives are a taboo, and you have to get real intimate with your attacker to use one. Leave throwing knives for jokers, the only way you use one for defense is by grabbing, grappling, and stabbing.
Now that I’ve gotten all of this out of the way, we’ll move onto pistols!
Concealed or Open Carry
This gets brought up a lot. And I mean a LOT.
So I’ll glaze over this by saying it depends on your intended use, environmant, and destination.
Automatic or Revolver
Again, another common question, and I’ll not get into the middle of it, lest I ruffle too many feathers.
I prefer automatics, as they are less finicky and more practical than revolvers. Some prefer the higher-calibers that revolvers use, and enjoy the classic feel.
If you train often and thoroughly, you’ll be fine with either type. But be sure to look into the strengths and weaknesses of each before committing.
Cartridge, and Bullet Type
Dear Lord, there’s an argument over this every ten minutes! Look it up yourselves for Chrissake, but I’ll offer what little I know.
I like the 9mm. I know it has shortcomings. I’ve personally seen security footage of a man shot 15 times at point-blank range, including two that went through the back of his skull, and he was still moving, crawling and clawing away from his attacker. I was shown this as a High School Junior during my Criminal Investigation class. The difference between using this and something else is that I can accurately put rounds on-target twice as quickly with +P 9mm as I can with standard 40 or 45.
I do not like the 40S&W. It has too much muzzle flip for my liking and increases wear on the firearm. It has great ballistics, but the downsides are too much for me.
While I like the 45ACP, I still prefer my 9. It has a lot of kick, and you know full well that bullet has a lot of OOMPH to it. Its ammunition is more expensive and has a more limited capacity. The grip of a double-stack handgun using it will be larger than the equivalent 9mm or 40.
The 10mm has all the problems of the 45ACP and the 40S&W combined. It is the most powerful automatic handgun cartridge you can acquire. It is longer than the 45, leading to a larger grip suitable only to those with large hands. Those with balls big enough to carry this on their person, or a penis small enough to feel the need to carry it, are definitely not someone you would want to mess with.
IN MY OPINION, use 9mm or 45. The tradeoffs with 40 or 10mm aren’t worth it.
For defense, use jacketed hollow points. They are the most effective on soft targets. FMJ works, but if you’re going to use them exclusively, than carry the biggest you can effectively use. Use the cheapest non-remanufactured ammo you can get for target practice, unless it proves problematic with your firearm. Having to clear malfunctions all the time would become too irritating, and might cause other problems with your handgun.
I’m not getting into revolver cartridges, as I don’t have anywhere near enough experience with them to have an informed opinion. So sue me.
Single or Double Stack
Okay, this is relevant more to your needs, build and preferences than anything else.
A single stack will be thinner and easier to conceal. But it has only have the ammunition of a similarly-sized double stack. It will be more comfortable to carry, and will most likely be lighter than an equivalent double stack by more than a few ounces when you include ammo.
Now I prefer double stack. Why? More ammo, not much size difference. “Carrying a gun should be comforting, not comfortable,” as my old man told me. Find a position, get a good holster and belt, wear a shirt that’s a size bigger than you’d normally wear. Good to go.
For females? Damned if I know, I have a penis. Wear a regular, non-formfitted shirt and don’t wear skintight pants? Maybe ask another female who carries daily.
Okay, since this is the pistol section, I’ll add this.
These aren’t very useful without a stock. Having the Sig/Century arm brace alleviates that downfall.
They can be legally concealed in a vehicle if you have a CCP. As of this minute, they CAN be shouldered with the brace since the ATF gave their blessing on the matter. See above as to why you would want one of these instead of a full-on rifle or shotgun.
Think of the MP5 with a 16 inch barrel, or H&K’s UMC. Or the High-Point carbine, Keltec Sub-2k, etc.
That’s what a PCC is. I prefer an actual rifle, as they are the same size with a rifle being undoubtedly more effective as a weapon.
The only places where the PCC shines is in areas where overpenetration is a major factor, such as a densely-populared city or suburb. And of course, commonality of ammunition between carbine and pistol is a good thing, except for both being underpowered.
Pistols are done with. Now for RIFLES!
Conventional and Bullpup
Big, big argument is which format is better.
This is like arguing over whether Mac is better than Windows. They both have benefits and detractors.
Bullpups are as small as a Short-Barreled Rifle while retaining a full-length barrel, and the better ballistics of said barrel. They have terrible triggers that are very heavy, double-action-esque heavy. They usually have much worse accuracy over conventional rifles because of that, and many of them present problems for left-handed users with a few notable exceptions. Some hate having their face so close to the chamber, and fret over the possible injuries that could be caused by a catastrophic malfunction.
Standard rifles are longer and have a better reputation for reliability. They also have better triggers. C’mon, you all know what regular rifles are like.
Once more, your preferences and mission requirements will dictate which better fits your needs.
Semi-Automatic, Lever- and Bolt-Action
For self-defense, an automatic is always preferable. The manually-operated rifles are more relible in most circumstances, but automatics have a serious advantage in firepower.
Lever guns are limited to round- and flat-nose ammo, and typically have a small capacity that is limited by barrel length.
Bolt-Actions are usually precision rifles, and should be treated as such. If you’re needing to use a bolt gun to defend your home from an attacker, there’s a problem. At that point, a pump shotgun is a better option.
The choice here should be obvious, but different strokes for different folks.
Intermediate and Full-Power Cartridges
Okay, this is more of a “mission dictates the gear” area. Beware of your firing lanes, and where those bullets might go.
While a 308 is definitely more powerful, the smaller rounds will be easier to use under stress due to lower recoil and less disorientation from the blast that occurs indoors. A battle rifle will also be heavier, more expensive, and likely longer than one chambered in 5.56/7.62×39/5.45/300/6.8/etc. It’s also very difficult to find anyhting bigger than 308 in semi-automatic.
The smaller round will have a higher capacity, and will be much cheaper to purchase the rifle/ammo than the higher-caliber equivalent. Lighter, lower recoil, less noise, easier to use, etc.
Pick based on where you’re at. If you’re out in the boonies where your closest neighbors are over five miles out, go hog wild with whatever you like.
For ammunition choice, go read the forums. There are thousands of options form FMJ, JSP, OTM, BTHP, etc.
SBR, Carbine or Full-Length
Now this is where I get angry. The best option for defense of self, loved ones and property is an SBR with a sub-12 inch barrel. It’s small, light, easy to use indoors and minimized over-penetration. Everything you need and nothing you don’t.
But due to the NFA, an SBR is a bad option. Why? More expensive, takes nearly a year to acquire, and God forbid someone should use an eeevil NFA item to defend themselves. Their property will be detained and abused by their local crime techs and law enforcement evidence guys, even after they are cleard of any wrongdoing. And good luck not going on trial due to simply using an “evil” weapon.
In some Communist states, firearms used in self-defense are “Roach Motel’d” by the local department due to the political beliefs of the police chief/Sheriff. It’s often not worth the legal costs of attempting to recover such property, and is considered forever lost. Even when the individual goes to the trouble, there are times where personal property is “lost” by the evidence guys and the procurement chain mysteriously vanishes. Happens more often than you’d think whenever an expensive firearm comes into their possession. Items returning to their owner banged-up and beat all to hell happens, too. Beware.
Carbines are the middle of the road, with a barrel between 12 and 16 inches. They’re essentially the best you could use without getting crucified by the media and the DA. A 14.5 pinned to 16 inches is about as short as you can go without being in NFA territory, while also being useful for outdoors or indoors. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than you’d think. By pulling the stock out of one’s shoulder and back, laying it flat on said shoulder and pointed to the floor, you can keep it close to your body. Having it in your shoulder should have the muzzle only a few inches further from the body than when you’ve got a pistol held out. Having a short stock helps, of course.
Anything with a 16+ inch barrel, plus muzzle device, is what I consider to be a rifle. They’re too long, too front-heavy for proper inside work. Not ideal, but doable with practice, same technique as I mentioned earlier. A bullpup is probably the best way to get a full-length rifle that can be effectively used indoors, though that’s got its own set of problems.
Scope, Irons or Red Dot
Ah yes, optics. Lots and lots of options.
Mission dictates the gear, and remember to research what you’re getting. Personal preference will determine what you use.
You should always have irons, but a 1x optic is better when under stress.
Always use a reputable manufacturer for optics. Bad optics go bad quickly and easily, and could very well do so during a bad situation. Remember Murphy’s Law, and try to change any batteries regularly.
A scope is nearly unusuable inside, but point shooting is still a valid option. An ACOG-like optic can be used with the Bindon Aiming Concept, but it require practice. Then again, you’re going to practice with your rifle anyway, right?
Zero your weapon at the maximum range you’ll be shooting at. For an AK47 clone, I find a 25 yard zero is effective. For an AR15, I like the 50 yard zero. Do your homework before choosing, and remember to zero with your chosen SD ammo!
Same as earlier with NFA goodies. If not for the NFA, I’d love to have a suppressor. But they’re expensive and unwieldy, and not just due to the added length/weight.
Personally, if I had to shoot someone and the rifle I grabbed had a suppressor, I’d take it off and clean it thoroughly, then place it back in its box. I’d probably tell the officer, but I most certainly wouldn’t want them “detaining” an $600+ dollar piece of kit. Especially not in the areas I’ve lived.
I’d probably take any optics and accessories off my rifle, too, but I’m a very distrusting person.
Don’t hang a ton of crap off your weapon. Find what you need, figure out the best way to attach it. A grip, optic, light, sling, spare batteries, spare bolt/firing pin, and possibly rail covers. That’s it.
Yes, a sling. You have a holster, right?
Yes, a light. You can’t see in the dark, right? You can’t use a rifle with only one hand, right?
Fully loaded with everything on it, unless it’s a Vepr, a 308 or something else insanely heavy, it should be under 10 pounds. Preferably under 8 pounds, but make do with what you’ve got.
Finally! Almost done. Now for shotguns.
Pump or Automatic
I have a pump. I like my pump.
Would I turn down an automatic?
For home defense, the shorter the better. Mine has a 20 inch barrel and I’m happy with it. I’d never want anything longer than that, but I’d definitely take something a bit shorter.
Not a Serbu Shorty, but something like a 14 inch MCS would be perfect.
Handle one and decide. The 18 inch requirement makes them less optimal than a pinned carbine, 12 gauge or not.
Rifled or Smoothbore
You can run any kind of shell through it. Rifles bores can only be used with slugs and other solid munitions. Smooth is just more versatile.
You can also use chokes with a smoothbore, should you wish to tighten up the shot spread a little bit.
Buckshot, Slug or Birdshot
Flip a coin. They all do the same thing within thirty feet or so; tear a massive gaping hole through the target.
I’m biased towards 00 buck, but I was a spoiled kid.
Pistol Grip or Stock
Stock. Always, always use a stock.
Standalone pistol grips are for gamers, doorkickers and jokers.
There’s also some funky duck’s head grip out there that looks like a chopped synthetic stock. I’ve never used it, but it looks like it would work better than the standard pistol grip.
Still, use a stock. Your wrist will thank you, and you’ll thank me later.
Sights. Ghost Ring, Bead or Optic
Flip a damn coin already, ya cheapskates.
Optics are difficult to install and zero unless you’ve got a built-in picatinny rail. Shotguns are very, very hard on optics, so beware going this route.
Bead sights aren’t too complicated. Point and shoot, ‘cuz these are all about how familiar you are with the gun. You can also cheat a bit with a Mossberg. On the top of the receiver, there should be some flathead screws. Loosen the rearmost one a tiny bit, just intil the little groove/slot lines up with the bead. Works wonders, and you can Loctite it that way if you prefer.
Ghost rings are the best factory sights, being more precise and user-friendly than the bead, but they seem to catch and snag on damned-near everything!
I still love them. Brings me back to when I used to shoot my grandad’s M16 as a kid.
And that’s all, folks! Take it or leave it, this is what I’ve got to offer. Thanks for reading, and have a good one.