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Reader Sean Counihan has a bone to pick with Nick Leghorn’s recent piece on home defense and rifles:

First off, I would like to qualify that I am not an expert in this arena by any stretch of the imagination. I served in the US Army as a combat engineer; I do have experience with both rifles and pistols in an offensive function. Mr Leghorn suggests a hierarchy of home defense weapons as such: 1.) Pistol, I assume he is referencing a modern high capacity pistol in a defensive caliber (9mm or greater). 2.) Shotgun, again modern pump or auto. I would assume 12 gauge loaded with #4 buck or greater or slug. 3.) rifle. I offer a different opinion and simple hierarchy: 1.) long gun. 2.) pistol if long gun is not available . . .

For our purposes here, I will define long gun as meaning a modern carbine or shotgun configured for defense. A long gun offers many distinct advantages over a pistol in terms of accuracy (both potential and practical) and stopping power. The ultimate goal of any DGU is to end the danger as quickly as possible with the least amount of harm coming to your family, yourself or others you are not involved. All while limiting the collateral damage. Making quick, accurate hits that have enough stopping power to end the fight through incapacitation or death is the best way to achieve this goal. The long gun is uniquely adept at achieving this exact thing.

Let us delve into the world of today’s defensive carbine first. The expiration of the “assault weapon ban” has allowed manufacturers to make a defensive carbine possible. The EVIL features that make a carbine look so EVIL are what allows us to successfully use it as a HD option. The collapsible stock, 16″ barrel, flash hider, and removable “high capacity” magazines have allowed us to take rifle stopping power and make it maneuverable in tight spaces.

An AR clone with these terribly vile features can be used effectively to clear tight rooms and hallways. The obvious advantage here is the muzzle energy and devastating soft tissue cavitation from a 5.56 soft nose or polymer tipped round in the small package of a 16″ bbl. carbine with collapsible stock. This option has become cost effective as well, with the proliferation of the Modern Sporting Rifle in the market place. A solid HD AR clone carbine can be had for under $700. Ruger also makes the mini-14 in a “tactical” configuration that can be found in the same price range.

The other HD long gun would be a shotgun equipped with 18-20″ bbl and extended magazine tube. Shotguns are extremely practical for HD, a veritable Swiss Army knife. With a proper choke, a shot gun can be considered combat accurate. There are even recoil reducing stocks on the aftermarket from Knox and others that can take some of the punch out of the recoil.

The most apparent advantage to a shotgun would be the pure knockdown power of a defensive buck shot load in #4 or greater. It does suffer from stout recoil that can make follow shots difficult and also deter novice shooters. Stepping down from a 12 gauge to a 20 gauge is an excellent option for smaller framed people or those that are recoil sensitive.

The extended sight radius of either long gun coupled with the option for a no magnification optic allows for a quicker and more precise sight picture to be obtained. This coupled with the superior stopping power of a rifle caliber bullet or shot gun load makes the long gun the obvious choice for my family’s protection. Again, I want to end the fight as quickly as possible. The best way to accomplish this is through rapid accurate engagement with a round that has enough stopping power to take the BG out of the fight with one or two solid hits.

I do want to close with this: I am not saying that a pistol is not a viable option for HD. The pistol holds advantages over any long gun that cannot be overlooked. While the diminutive size of a pistol is a detraction in terms of sight acquisition and practical accuracy, it is also an advantage in maneuverability. A pistol can be effectively operated with one hand if trained. The pistol will also allow for a more natural course of movement.

Joe Snuffy Average Homeowner does not train regularly with a long gun. The movements required to effectively use one in a house clearing scenario are not natural and are in fact counter-intuitive for most people. A pistol will be better suited for Joe Snuffy to mall ninja through his house hunting bad guys. I would never recommend for anyone to do this without having been trained in room clearing first – unless it is absolutely necessary and then proceed with extreme caution. Let the police do their jobs and you focus on keeping your loved ones safe.

So my take: use a long gun set up for HD. Seek out the proper training to use said long gun. And use your pistol to fight your way back to your long gun if needed.


Sean Counihan

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  1. This sounds more like fantasy home defense against the red invasion than a realistic home defense scenario. The first rule of a gun fight is have a gun. How many people have any gun on them ready to use 24/7? Bet it’s less than 50%, maybe less than 5-10%. So you are going to have a rifle at the ready as you go about your daily routine? Most likely for me would be a burglar while I’m asleep, a distant second is a home invasion (I don’t participate in any illegal activities or live on the border with Mexico). Any robber or home invader that sticks around after the sight of a hand gun much less a few shots fired probably has me covered anyway. Split second access to a weapon is much more valuable to me than shear firepower or long range pinpoint accuracy. Sure a long gun may give you a warm fuzzy feeling but as a practical tool for first line of home defense? You’ve got to be kidding me.

    • It depends.

      Since the odds of a gunfight in a house for most not in the illicit pharmaceutical business is very very low, my attitude is get the toy you like the best, be it EBR, Shotgun, Pistol, Crossbow, Compout Bow, etc, and sell it to the significant other as a “home defense” item, but really, its just fun, whatever it is.

      But if I was living in a bad neighborhood where night-time breakins do happen, and thus needed a home-defense gun by my bed, it would be a pump shotgun in a Shotlock or similar. A mount-to-the-wall combo-holder to keep it from kids or a casual daytime burglar, but just as easy to access as a pistol in a similar nightstand-safe. That its the cheapest option is simply a bonus.

    • I’m with you, Don. Home carry is the best for rapid response and sudden violent action. Shotgun is king. The rifle is fun. All those are gotten to with the handgun on your hip though. +1, Don.

  2. That image is from this month’s Guns and Ammo magazine, I believe. There was a comprehensive article on the AR15 for home defense.

  3. Handgun, now and forever. Also, searching a house/building is fraught with danger for even the most experienced person. For an inexpericened person it’s suicidal, especially with a long gun.

    Grab your easily accessable and manuverable handgun and cell phone and make your way to your safe room. Or shoot your way to the safe room. Then get behind cover or concealment and wait for the BG to enter the fatal funnel while advising the cavalry of your position/situation.

    BTW, the safe room is any room you can get yourself and your family into quickly without exposing yourself to danger. Bottom line is get you and your family somewhere you can ambush the BG’s while remaining on the phone so that you’re aware when the cops enter the house. My cell and pistol are constant companions.

    • My cell phone has a speaker function, and my AR has more stopping power and capacity than your handgun. If I pull the trigger, someone will be calling 911 very soon, even if I don’t.

    • A handgun requires more training and familiarity to use effectively and accurately than a rifle or shotgun. While it is easier to maneuver, a carbine still has 30 rounds (or, pessimistically, 20 rounds), which is more than a pistol. A rifle also produces more kinetic energy than a pistol. Your “stopping power”.

  4. Shotgun! I have all my corners and shooting areas memorized and practised to the tee. There is no retreating. No one is breaking in here with anymore of a cannon than what I have. Unless the Gman decides I am a drug dealer somehow.

  5. Good thing the defender took the time to put his hat on. Would have looked way less cool with bed head.

    Anyone have info on a good lockable rack? I would like the 870 in my bedroom closet, but want it safe there unless I unlock it.

    • There is the Shotlock solo-shotgun locking rack, I think thats what you want. I haven’t played with one myself, but it looks like what you desire.

    • Fort Knox has a new line of quick access secure containers which use Simplex locks. They’re far superior to any style of electronic lock as it doesn’t require batteries, doesn’t rely on fingerprints (60-70% hit ratings aren’t good), doesn’t lock you out for a time if you enter the wrong code a few times, and is much faster than combination locks.

      They have appropriate sizes for handguns and long guns, with different options for what side opens on some. Definitely worth a look.

  6. All of these articles have been well thought out and informative. I enjoy reading them. I like reading the different opinions. I have a couple of questions I hope will be addressed.
    First, what is the practical use of an AR-15 for home defense in a home with close neighbors? A round that travels at 3000 fps is going to go through some shit. Second, what about hearing protection? A round that creates a 165 db when fired is going to leave you deaf after the first shot. This question applies to any firearm really. Once a gun is fired inside a home the shooter is going to have a hard time hearing anything else for a while.
    Any thoughts?

    • The use of the proper bullet is important. Don’t use military green-tipped steel penetrator 5.56 rounds and you should be fine as far as overpenetration is concerned. Believe it or not, 9mm FMJ penetrates further after going through drywall than 5.56. So does 00 buck.

      As for deafness? The same thing is going to occur with a pistol. I suggest buying some electronic muffs that amplify certain sounds and protect your hearing at the same time. Put them next to your HD weapon.

      Even if you don’t go that route, what matters more to you? Your hearing or your life? And it’s not like you’ll go instantly and permanently deaf. Our troops have been engaged in CQC in combat zones for years without ear protection. You may suffer some tinnitus and later hearing loss, but I’d rather go through that than be dead.

      • Long term hearing loss from a DGU is not really my concern. Not hearing a second or third person because of firing a weapon would be. I cannot recall anyone addressing the effect a DGU will have on hearing. Who has practiced jumping out of bed at 0 dark thirty put on hearing protection and grabbed their HD weapon and cleared the house? How hard is it to hear the sounds of the home wearing ear muffs? Even the active electronics kind.
        Anyway my excessively written point is there is more to think about when deciding the best HD weapon. Anything that can happen must be considered. My choice of HD weapon is a suppressed .45 with a mounted light and loaded with hollow points.

      • I am willing to bet that it’s going to take more than a “few seconds” to don your ear protection when the SHTF. If you have 10 seconds to get ready then you have just reduce your response time by 20-30% at best. I bet most of us will be fumbling with the protection when we shot or stabbed.

        • I’m with you, Tdiinva. Hearing protection or any protection is just not going to enter your mind whether or not the muffs are laying on the weapon you are bringing to the fight.

          You won’t hear anything over the pounding of your heart in your ears or the possible screams of family or even the perp.

          Worrying about being deaf is a concern for the living. If you worry about being deaf before a self defense situation your worries won’t be for long.

          Priorities people. Figure them out. It isn’t that hard.

        • So you think losing your hearing is after firing a weapon once is not a worry? I disagree. I admitt I have not been in a DGU or even a potential DGU. I have no idea what the pounding in my ears or any other physical effects will be like. I think about it though.

          I have fired a handgun in an enclosed space without hearing protection. A buddies old house about to be demo’d is a chance to see things for yourself. A .45 ACP creates about 155 db when fired. The loudness and over pressure does a number on your ears. My ears hurt and all I could hear was ringing.

          Now consider a scenario where it’s o dark thirty and there are sounds of an intruder in you house. How many and where? If the encounter results with a fired weapon and you cannot hear, your senses are diminished and clearing your house has become much more difficult. Audio input is important. The loss will have a severe impact. A realistic potential situation.

          The point is not about injury, It is about a tactical situation. One I have not seen discussed before. It should be so we all have as much info as possible. I see it as a priority. If no one else does then maybe I’m off base here.

        • Nobody is arguing about the effect of a gunshot on your hearing but when seconds count you need to buy more seconds not give them away. If you have 10 seconds to respond and you use three of them to get your hearing protection on then you have lost 30% of your response time you will be in a less tactically advantageous position when you encounter the bad guy.

        • I’m sorry. I’m not geting my true point across. I’m not saying we have to wear hearing protection. I use a suppressed weapon for HD myself.

          I’m saying in all our discussions about choosing the right weapon, tactics, and lights and lasers, I cannot recall a discussion about what happens to your hearing during a DGU inside a home or building.

          I’m saying a loss of hearing is a critical bit of info to be aware and discussed. What I learned while screwing around in my buddies old house had a profound impact on how I made my choices. I wanted to ensure it was out there to think about.

        • I am not disagreeing with you, CMD. I have never shot a gun without hearing protection anywhere. I have no need to because I value my ears very much. What I am saying is that I have recently been in a situation where my door was pounded on and kicked in (at an apartment) while I had just gotten out of the shower. Trust me. The only thoughts were to arm myself and remove the person. No others. I am not saying hearing is not important. I am saying the surprise makes things complicated enough. I home carry. Me being just out of the shower is the only time my family is unarmed when I am home. The gun was ten feet away but it felt like a mile. My wife and kid went to the same room with me just like we discussed in these scenario we practice. She was crying. The kid was not but was wondering what was going on. I was in my wife’s pink towel and completely off guard. Luckily she knows to have the gun on her when I don’t and to take it wherever she goes just like I do. Trust me. Hearing not thought about.

          Funny thought though. A brick shithouse built young Irishman freshly showered in a pink towel with a Springfield XDm in his hand. Scary sight? No. But the now on his knees invader thought so.

    • Electronic Ear Muffs, only take a couple seconds to don them as you get your firearm. If you have time to prep a long gun you have time to drop on your ear muffs on…

      • most defensive gun uses deter crimes without firing a shot. in a life and death situation, hearing protection should be the last f–king thing you should be concerned about. It may also deter your ability to hear the assailant moving around.

      • “Suppressor” unless your plan is to move swiftly and silently thru your 20,000 square foot mansion dispatching ninjas without them knowing your whereabouts for certain.. Forget the Suppressor..

        Your a defensive shooter likely in a home of no more than 5000 square feet (more likely 1800 square feet or less..

        You want the “Bang” all the noise you can create to disorient your opponent/s.

        You will not even hear the shots you fire in most cases.. The only time rounds fired hurt my ears was when I forgot ear muffs on a range.. Any other situation I did not even notice.

        The bad guys on the other hand are already in a higher state of arousal.. They do not want to get caught they want what they want but they do not want to suffer the consequences.. That big boom.. is exactly what they do not want to hear from you their intended victim and they will hear it..

        Also that noise unless you live isolated in the Country.. or in the Wrong Neighbor “Hood” draws attention. The last thing the bad guys want.. They know with certainty if they are not quick about things they will be dealing with you inside and more folks with guns will be arriving shortly..

        So don’t sweat the “Bang/s” like as not you will not even notice them as you go about driving the wolf from your door by fire and maneuver..

        As far as a rifle being fantasy.. A CAR or AK (light and maneuverable with lots of firepower)would be a first choice.. then a Shotgun then a Pistol.

        Actually for old guys like myself.. 30.06 with .308 being a close second… I am less concerned with rounds fired as I am with effects.. I am less concerned with over penetration as I am with effects.. I want the baddies down and out fast as there is no reason to assume he/she/it is alone and I am too old to hop around or get fancy..

        Now if I lived close to others I would down grade calibers and may exclusively choose to use a shotgun for long gun.. That is a balance we each must decide in advance and based upon our circumstances, experience and knowledge.

        Where do 100% of all home invasions occur..

        Well, where ever that’s at…. carry your gun there all the time also
        (handguns fine).


        • Don’t be simple, protecting ones hearing has nothing to do with ninjas, your specious anecdotes about lack of hearing loss notwithstanding. The law should not prevent people protecting their hearing. The volume of the shot has nothing to do with whether or not a criminal will flee, I think it has more to do with the sudden realization of our fragile mortality

  7. On topic: I prefer to either have the BG outgunned or at least be on a level playing field, which is why I’ll use the M4gery for HD. You use what you feel most comfortable with but I suggest you do research to make sure you’re making an informed decision.

  8. I totally concur with this write-up. My wilson combatized Rem 870 is still too much for my 5’1″ wife’s frame…so I built her a Glock 19 in a KPOS chasis SBR. 33rds of Glock reliability in a package that’s smaller than a mini-uzi.

    With the added points of contacts it’s much more stable, she’s like a surgeon with it when she can take her time, and would be more difficult to wrestle away than a naked pistola. Not to mention, with an EOTech and a light mounted up she has the “you really don’t want to Eff with me” look locked down.

    In a burglary, home invasion scenario the intent is to have one hand on the phone with 911 while maintaining multiple points of contact on the SBR. Absolutely no clearing rooms. Swiss style reduit mentality in effect because “he who defends everything defends nothing”.

    SBR/PDW combines nearly the maneuverability of a pistol with the advantages of a rifle. It and the BATF have taken my $ for the HD (as well as general purpose/hunting in the form of a 10″ Noveske 300 BLK) applications.

    • Amen, brother. I’ve been converting almost all my “business” rifles and shotguns to shortened variants (exact barrel length depending on caliber, of course) ever since I got my NFA trust. I came to the recent realization that I live and work in a suburban area, there are no ranges > 200yds anywhere nearby, and that pretending I was going to be taking 400yd shots was the height of absurdity. I need guns that can hit minute of man at 100yds as fast as possible, preferably while being light and handy enough so that my wife can also use them effectively.

      Of course, safe storage of long guns while maintaining rapid access is problematic when you have kids, and often expensive. Myself, I’m content to rely on my P226 and 1911 with lights in a fast access safe.

  9. I shoot SASS (Cowboy Action Shooting) events almost every weekend 8 months of the year and put thousands of rounds of .45 colt 250 gr slugs down range every year as a result. To say I am comfortable with them is something of an understatement. As a result a few years ago I decided to use them as my go to weapons for home defense. The tuned single action NMV Rugers are loaded with 6 .45 colt +P rounds, one by the bed, the other near where I sit watching TV (since these are transfer bar guns I do not feel constrained to abide by the SASS competition 5 round per gun rule). The short stroked Winchester 73 short rifle gets 10 rounds of the same ammo. and the Winchester 97 pump gun gets a full magazine of 00 Buck.

    For me being totally familiar and current shooting these guns at steel every week means I am sure I will be comfortable using them in a real home defense situation. I have safe full of other weapons that some would say are better choices. Everything from an AR-18 to modern high capacity .45 ACP pistols and almost anything you can think of in between including oddball things like a shoulder stock holster broom handle Mauser. if I decide to start shooting the Wild Bunch Matches I will ad my 1911 to the other 4 guns placed around the house

    I choose to use the guns I shoot all the time. That practice gives me confidence that if the worst ever happens I will be able to concentrate on the situation at hand and not have to even think about how the guns are used.

    For the same reason my normal carry gun is a short barrel .45 Ruger Vaquero. As I am a large man (6’4″ 260lbs) concealing it has not been a problem.

    • With the weapon systems covered in this topic, comfort and familiarity take precedence over all the other factors combined.

  10. @CMD, Actually, the light bullet weight of most 5.56 rounds make it disintegrate when it hits hard barriers. Personally, I would choose my AK with hornady Vmax’s loaded up in it over my glock, but that would be the “ideal, if yuo can call this an Ideal” situation. Normally, the AK is in the safe, and the Glock is on me, due to ease of carry, concealment, etc. I do not sleep with my ak in the nightstand, where the Glock fits there just fine. I would rather have the stopping power of the AK over my Glock 21, but due to convenience, the Glock is probably my go to.

  11. My sympathy to every post and comment writer: All of you are probably right about what is best within your own personal reality, your neighborhood, training history, skill with various firearms, work restrictions, family situation, and so forth. There is no ‘right’ solution except to make your choices from the list (alarms, dogs, locks, lights, firearms, phones, pepper, etc.), choices which suit your reality. Cops don’t carry handguns because they are the ‘best.’ They carry them because they are convenient and less intimidating than carbines. And yet they have a carbine or shotgun in the cruiser. Why? Obvious. SWAT teams (the ones that don’t shoot all the dogs first) don’t enter buildings with pistols. Few of us will carry a long gun around all day. The best is easy to state: Pick solutions which fit you. Learn from what others do. Never put safety second. Convey your knowledge honestly without pointless claims that any method or weapon is suitable for everyone. As long as a statement doesn’t include factual errors, this site’s motto should be “you’re both right” (Ralphred E. Newman).

  12. I missed my chance to respond to the original post so I am happy that I have another opportunity.

    Unless you live in the country a rifle is just too powerful. I have a .243, a 270 and a .308. At the ranges available to me in my suburban home I would be basically firing point blank. Even if I hit the BG center mass the round is going through my wall, into my neighbor’s house through multiple walls and out the other side. There is no way that a responsible shooter would use that kind of weapon in a typical suburban household. The argument for the 5.56 with PDX ammo is superficially appealing but the fact that the round would be contained in your house is indication on the lack of stopping power inherent in a 5.56 round. Even 243 PDX type round is, like Elvis, still leaving the building.

    I am left with a semi-auto 22, a 28″ barrel 12 gauge or one my handguns, The only situation where I would consider using the shotgun is if I had enough time to set up in a prepared position. Even though I would be using CCI stinger ammo in my 22 it would be the weapon of last resort. The hand gun is the way I am going

    I did note that a number of respondents brought up the pistol caliber carbine. I am in full agreement that if you want to use a carbine then that’s the way to go. It gives you rifle-like accuracy at HD ranges while significantly reducing the risk of involving your neighbors.

    Unless you are one of the .1%, a gang banger or member of some other organized criminal activity the scenario chosen was ridiculous. Your average citizen will be defending him/herself against a handgun or knife armed opponent who will not be using body armor. Unless one of the Serbs I ticked off in 1999 comes looking for me I don’t think I have to worry about an AK toting opponent.

    • Exactly my point in my response. This article wasn’t about far fetched scenarios, it was supposed to be about priority of waepons used in home defense situations. And like the article the other day pointed out, the handgun is by far the best weapon for #1 on this list for 99.999% of us.

    • A 5.56 with polymer tipped ammunition will have a less chance of over penetrating than defensive pistol rounds. of course, it has a high likelihood of stopping a assailant with a single shot. Cant get it in a single shot? there are 29 more in a magazine.

      • Unless it’s the “evilserb” I don’t expect to be in a prolonged firefight that requires multiple tens of rounds.

        • thats not the point. the point is that a rifle is more likely to “stop” a assailant than any pistol cartridge. the same arguement can be used to justify 10 round magazines for pistols rather than 15, 17, or larger because you “dont” need them.

    • With the loadings available to civilian users, 5.56 can have more than sufficient terminal ballistics at HD ranges, certainly compared with handgun rounds. And the shotgun simply penetrates more through typical home construction materials.

      The SBR/SMG rules indoors and can be kept within reach of the bed almost as easily as the pistol. The pistol should always be rapidly accessible, but the SBR/SMG can be very rapidly accessible in most scenarios with reasonable preparation and planning. An SBR’d 5.56 carbine can equal or nearly equal the SMG’s close range maneuverability and provide superior ballistic effect without a significant and action/reaction slowing recoil increase.

      A bullpup 5.56 like my FNH FS2000 or the soon to arrive IWI Tavor are as short as a 10″ barrel AR and can fill the SBR/SMG role rather well in close quarters while maintaining the velocities and terminal ballistics of a full length barrel. An SBR’d 5.56 bullpup with a good suppressor might be the best indoor defensive firearm. Whether SBR’d or not, an FS2000 with a suppressor is still in the SBR/SMG size range, especially with a minimalist suppressor like the AAC Mini.

      For certain, grabbing the pistol in your waistband is the best response to a surprise, but if one has any time to react, and preparation can greatly increase that likelihood, then going to a long gun appropriate for indoor usage is a huge advantage. I love a good shotgun for certain HD paradigms. but I don’t want to fire one indoors unless it’s some sort of magical suppressed Sons of Guns project.

      And while one should keep expectations realistic in defense planning, one should also take great care to avoid the deadly fallacy of known outcomes. No matter how nice a house in how nice a neighborhood in how nice a town you live, the chaos of random violence could spill into your world when you least expect. Anyone can become the victim of a home invasion. I speak from experience. Preparing your home and yourself for worst case scenarios is just an investment in your family’s future.

  13. Emd – If you are forced to defend your life with a firearm, you won’t notice the sound of the shot while things are happening, nor will recoil be noticable Having to do with adrenalin, fight or flight response, etc. Afterwards you will/might experience ringing in the ears. If you fire an AR-15 or 12 gauge multiple times in close quarters, you might have a LOT of ringing in the ears afterwards.

    Not being able to hear your buddy/family members has probably more to due with auditory exclusion associated with the fight or flight response than the sound of gunfire at the time.

  14. A friend of mine says the AR is the Winchester ’73-’94 of our era. (I suppose that makes the AK the Sharps? The 870 the Coach Gun?). The Sigs, Glocks, 1911s, are just the Colt SA Army of the times. Which one you carry or place by your bedside didn’t baffle them back in 1880 and it isn’t much more complicated today. I guess it depends whether you live near Comanches or Quakers. What’s good for the saloon keeper may well be different than what the rancher keeps at hand.

    • The only gun on the list that is the modern equivalent of the Colt SA Army is the M1911 because that’s what replaced the venerable Colt in the Army inventory.

      • tdiinva, though I was speaking loosely of western civilians and modern ones, I do like to feel the continuity the 1911 offers. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” I almost feel that my CT laser grips are cheating history.

  15. If my house was the Hearst Mansion in California I then might go with a modern carbine as my HD gun backed up of course with a handgun, and provided I was using my private firing range (with its moving targets) frequently to practice shooting.

    ‘…have allowed us to take rifle stopping power and make it maneuverable in tight spaces’.
    — That’s debatable. What if the intruder is quietly waiting for you just outside the doorway and around the corner of the room you are about to walk into? A longer gun can be more easily grabbed and re-directed at a wall while another gun gets pointed into the home owner’s face. A longer gun takes a bit more space and time to bring into alignment for a clear shot at the intruder.

    An armed ambush attacker on the street can cover twenty feet in less than two seconds. Having an ability to accurately fire the first shot faster than the bad gal err bad guy is vital to surviving. In home defense shootings, I think it is often the first shooter who usually wins the fight.

    ‘While the diminutive size of a pistol is detraction in terms of sight acquisition and practical accuracy’
    — A handgun, especially a classic western style revolver becomes a lightning-fast natural instinctive lock-onto-target extension of the user’s hand. HD is generally defined as occurring within the finite distances of a house or an apartment. I think a handgun’s sight acquisition and practical accuracy is usually fine for a home. An exception might be planning for a shootout on a secluded ranch home.

    ‘I would never recommend for anyone to do this without having been trained in room clearing first – unless it is absolutely necessary and then proceed with extreme caution’.
    — Even if I was a recent grad of a room clearing course (top shooter too of course) I would defer to letting my local police do the clearing.

    There is no right one size fits all answer (despite the fun debates here) to the best type of HD gun and tactics. Imagine the feasibility of using a carbine or rifle in an apartment complex or in an urban area with neighbor houses close by that have lots of children living in them, and only twenty feet and two windows away. I prefer my revolver and ammo that won’t over penetrate hurting innocent neighbors. I would prefer death than to accidentally kill a neighbor’s child.

    • I took a class from a guy who’s on King County’s SWAT team and he said that unless he couldn’t account for a family member, he wouldn’t clear his own house. This is a guy with skills who can shoot and moves like a cat, but in his opinion those skills are best employed defending a barricaded room with his family behind cover. That’s where he’s going to stay until the police arrive and after that he’s going to have them clear his house. His priority is making sure his family is okay.

      Most homes have way too many places someone could get the drop on a single person trying to clear it. That’s why tactical teams are teams that perform practiced, coordinated maneuvers.

      • carlos, exactly right! defensive gun use is defending your room that is already cleared. Why go to the assailant rummaging throughout house, increasing the odds of him getting the jump on you, when you can wait for him to channelize in a hallway or your room doorway?

        Call 911 and let the police clear your house. They have the manpower to conduct a cordon and search the parameter. You do not.

    • You left out the “let the police do their job and you worry about keeping your loved ones safe.”.
      I in no way recommend for anyone to take to the offensive and clear their home of BG’s. I spent years learning how to clear buildings, but we executed this as a highly trained team with every member knowing their exact responsibility.

  16. Shotguns, handguns and rifles will all work for SD, but none of them work best all the time in all situations. Any one of them represents a tradeoff between power, accuracy and portability. Make your decision based on your own surroundings and abilities and don’t look back.

    For perimeter security, my personal choice would be a ring of M18A1 Claymore mines. But that’s just me.

    • Just remember to point them the right way. Thankfully, they’ve got that helpful instruction printed on them.

      • Nope. Hard on the neighbor’s house and stuff, not to mention the bad guy. Could be worse for the bad guy, though. Ralph could just put down his coffee and give the guy a piece of his mind. Humiliate the bastard into surrendering. Laugh.

  17. Jesus. The comments here make it plain that even pro gun folks are decidedly set in there ways and will shout complete inaccuracies just like the anti’s.

    • “They don’t believe that the attack on LaVelle started as a racial incident”

      Love that flagrant double standard.

  18. I want to thank TTAG for allowing me to get my opinion out there. And thank anyone who read my barely incoherent ramblings. I just wanted to present another view point that was gained through experience in the Army.

    Thanks again,
    Sean Counihan

  19. %100 agree with everything in this post except for the ommision of the noise problem.
    I think the AR clone carbine is a near perfect weapon for HD. I just don’t know if the 5.56/.223 is the best round. As I said in the last article, a 5.56 out a 14.5″ or 16″ barrel, in the dark, in a tight space will leave most of us (at least me) blind for several seconds and deaf for several minutes.
    So, assuming a suppressor is as far out of the question for most as it is for me, it’s my opinion that a pistol caliber carbine in a big boy round is the most flexible and well rounded tool for HD.

  20. I would advise against house clearing.
    I do have a large dog that goes nuts if someone comes on the property. Get a dog.
    I do have new steel doors.
    I do have an outside light in the driveway thanks to REMC.
    I do have soft lights on in the non-bedroom areas of the house.
    Main defense weapon is an 870.
    I do have a Walther PP as supplement.
    I do have flashlights and cell phones in the house.

  21. Sorry Nick, but SEAL Team Six used a long gun on OBL for their house clearing activities, not their SIG P226’s. However, Dan did say that Joe Snuffy Average Homeowner does need to train regularly with a long gun, so the verdict is that you are BOTH RIGHT!

  22. To: Sean Counihan
    “The best way to accomplish this is through rapid accurate engagement with a round that has enough stopping power to take the BG out of the fight with one or two solid hits.”
    To you what is a “solid hit” also what cartridge in your opinion would not drop a BG in a few solid hits? I believe every round even down to .32 acp or even the lowly .22 LR can drop a guy in a few solid hits. As discussed shot placement is key, even a .50 cal shot grazing the arm does nothing (Actually a .50 bmg at close range is worse than a pistol calibre). And if you are worried about someone hyped up on PCP honestly it does not matter what you shoot them with, you need to hit the heart or the brain, with anything really. In truth anything will work, so our selection preferences must rely instead on other concerns. Out of shorter rifles I am sure the 5.56 can wound perfectly fine, but the cartridge has the potential to over penetrate and go through walls and injure/kill neighbours, which is a legitimate concern to us with sheet rock walls. So to maintain lethality a larger and slower bullet such as those in a handgun calibre would be preferable.

    Also never EVER clear your own home. Barricade yourself into a room (with family obviously) and call the police. Let the pros do it, and if the BG comes in you will have the upper hand.

    • i agree with thomas 100%. the issue for me isn’t stopping power or kick or noise of a long gun (not a shotgun) but over penetration. i am worried about the endorsement of ARs as HD guns for mr tacticool suburbia. he is endangering everyone around him.

    • i personally use a 870 for HD, however, my single story home is split in a way that puts my wife & my bedroom on one side & my 6 year old sons on the other, w/ the front main entrance in between. while i do agree that it is better to protect the family in one room & wait for the calvary. in my situation if a BG kicks in my front door at two a.m the only thing i think i’ll have time to do is introducing myself w/ 00 buck center-mass asap.

  23. I saw a series of videos recently looking at various types of military firearms and their penetration effectiveness. Interestingly enough, the 9mm Baretta had far greater solid barrier penetration (plywood, wallboard) than did a .223/5.56. The resonlies in the fact that the rifle round is designed to tumble after impact and to break in two, resulting in a very large woulnd cavity but reducing its penetration, expecially through sold barriers, while the 9mm fmj went through all of it. Tests have also shown that a plugged hollow point (whether from fabric or wallmaterial) is much less likely to expand, again increasing its penetration.

  24. Guys, guys… how about a compromise? There are valid point on both sides of the aisle. Long guns are bigger, louder (a .223 or 12 gauge in doors will cause more hearing damage than a 9mm), and can cause over penetration. The are also more accurate and have more knockdown. Pistols are easier to navigate in tight quarters and (depending on load) less likely to over penetrate. But pistols take more work to master. Using one when half asleep, awoken by the sound of a window breaking at 2 am, is more difficult to shoot accurately. For those reasons, I like a compact carbine in a pistol caliber. My chosen HD weapon(s) is a Kel-Tec SUB 2000 in 9mm. It’s very short, and shoots 9mm very accurately. I have it feeding from S&W mags because I have an old S&W 5906 in my home office desk drawer so both guns feed from the same mags. Out of a carbine 9mm will do about 200 fps faster, making it more of a .357, which is not slouch in knockdown. Rifle accuracy, pistol caliber, compact and efficient. If the SUB 2000 isnt your game, there are several other carbines that are nice: the high point is very cheap but works well, the Just right runs off glock mags but cant use 9mm +P, and there are several 9mm carbines that are based off modified AR15’s by Bushmaster and Rock River. Heck, if semi auto isn’t your thing, lever gun and revolver is a combo that goes back to the 1880’s. Split the difference and call it a day.

    • A pistol caliber carbine or SMG, especially suppressed, is a great option, but like Thomas Everett Haynes post above and a few others, you’re still missing that at least when it comes to 5.56, the pistol rounds don’t have less over penetration risk; they have MORE over penetration risk. In the absence of an excellent 5.56 SBR(HK 53) or bullpup(FS2000), my next choice is a 9mm SMG/carbine like an Uzi, Mini-Uzi, MP-5, MAC-10, TP-9, or Beretta Storm CX-4 running standard velocity 147s with a suppressor.

      If it’s legal where you live, a suppressor is worth every penny of cost and every second of the wait.

  25. I hate to step off the tired old handgun vs longgun HD train, but the issue is NOT handgun vs longgun. The issue is — which one are YOU best trained and skilled with? Handgunners should use handguns. Longgunners should use longguns if they think best. Shoot the gun you are most confident with, because confidence is king in gunfighting, and confidence will minimize misses, which will minimize collateral damage. The “all things being equal” reasoning is flawed. All things involving human performance are not equal. Also, if we’re talking inside-HD, the psychology is more important than the hardware. You need to think how to handle an “oh sh*t” scenario, to shoot someone within 3 mins after being startled awake.
    All that said, for ME personally, for inside HD, I’ll use a handgun because: I’m well trained and experienced with handguns; it frees up the support hand as necessary to hold flashlights, manipulate doors and light switches, fend off CQ assaults; it’s easier to control and retain in a hand-hand assault; and it’s less likely to leave me with permanent hearing damage. In CQ, it’s all too easy to redirect a rifle/shotgun muzzle off-target. A guy can have his hands around my neck and I can still shoot him with a handgun. That’s much less likely if I’m holding a longgun.

  26. If I need to shoot through walls or immediately end the fight,,,m14/m1A… 14 is very maneuverable and can also repeat fast…..the shotgun for pure terror and destruction…(messy)…and Ruger LCR .357 (17 oz) for close in. No kids left at home and my wife is a shooter to…..SW Shield 9mm….everything is nearly always ready or can be in a few seconds


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