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Let’s get started by looking at some pros and cons regarding different active home defense issues.

1. If you  are the “primary” weapon carrier, when you leave the house, is there a “secondary” means of defense that stays in the Castle?

2.  Are ALL of the other members of the family, who are of a responsible age, able and trained to use it?

3.  What type of weapon should you consider?

A. 12ga pump-action shotgun with 00 buck

PROS: It’s hard to miss the BG (Bad Guy) when firing a shotgun at close range. Massive stopping power.

CONS: Massive hearing damage for you and your family. A shotgun requires two hands in a situation where you need one for operational necessities (dialing 911, closing doors, etc.) A 12ga is pretty heavy; they can be intimidating to persons of small stature. Shooters unfamiliar with the action can “short stroke” a pump action gun, rendering it inoperative. Semi-automatic shotguns are pricey and less reliable. Very messy! Over-penetration is an issue; there’s a high possibility of stray pellets penetrating walls.

POSSIBLE SOLUTION: There are many smaller gauge pump shotguns on the market. Mossberg makes a tactical, pump-action .410 and there are plenty of 20ga shotguns from which to choose. There are also various new tactical loads (rounds) which minimize over-penetration and maximize carnage.

B.  Handguns:

PROS: Small, easy to hide in an accessible location, leaves a hand free for self-defense in close quarters combat. Easier for maneuvering in tight spaces. Depending on the type of gun, relatively easy to operate by primary and secondary (perhaps unskilled) defenders.

CONS: Large caliber handguns may be so intimidating that a smaller person may fear the recoil enough to hesitate engaging the threat. Smaller caliber guns may not get the job done. Handguns require more training and practice than other options. If bullet A misses Threat B, Child C may find it in their body D, after it passed thru wall E, resulting in a sucking chest wound, F. We all know that an “F” is a failing grade in most schools.

C.  Less than lethal:

Snake Shot:

PROS: I keep snake shot as the first round in my CCW. When things go south, and bad things start happening fast, certain things begin to happen to our bodies.Without going into a health blog, it’s the things our bodies do under stress: sweaty palms. tunnel vision, and the dreaded ADRENALINE  SHAKES! If I am forced to engage, the snake will prevent me from wounding a bystander, and perhaps terminate the encounter. If not, Plan B can be put into effect with a mere squeeze of the trigger.

Mace/Pepper Spray:

PROS:  None come to mind. The only chemical agent I would use is the foam that sticks to the face, and then only in an emergency.

CONS:  If you engage a threat with mace in your house, most likely you will be in the same condition as the threat. If the central heat/air are running, you may gas every room and every member of the family. Very bad situation! It may not work on the threat, and you may have to decontaminate everything in the Castle.

Stun Devices:

PROS: They look bad to the bone when you use the test mode!

CONS:  The threat must be within arms reach. Depending on the unit, it may or may not have any effect on on the threat. I may just make him very, very angry!

BOTTOM LINE: It’s not all about you

The “right” firearm for Castle Security: the one with which all the individuals within the home are comfortable. NOT the one the King likes! Let your family test-fire various options and see what THEY feel good about. It’s them that must defend themselves if you are are absent.


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  1. Hrm. I understand and respect your logic in snake shot as round #1 in a defensive application but I think you may deserve to trust yourself a bit more. I’ve only been in a few encounters where I thought I was very likely going to have to fight for my life due to random angry and chemically altered folks on the street, and thankfully I’ve always had an out and it never crossed the line, but I feel like these few moments were the most lucid moments of my life. Also, I would be concerned if your CCW is an auto, as snake loads have demonstrated in my experience (anecdotally) to be fairly unreliable at cycling short recoil operated pistols. This would necessitate a “tap rack” kind of skill in the other potential users of the firearm.

    I think that a 4″ .38+p or .357 magnum revolver (steel) is just about as good as it gets as a user friendly house gun. 20GA pump is also good so long as it is a model which is resistant to short-shucking. 12GA with lighter loads is also pretty manageable regardless of the size of the user.

  2. Marlin 1894C anyone? Increased sight radius yet still light and maneuverable, high(er) capacity, ability to load up or down from .38 special through .38+p to .357 magnum depending on size, skill of secondary users and concerns about over penetration. Even the .38 out of the 18″ bbl gains some velocity improving its stopping power. Cheap ammo encourages practice, reliable lever action makes it easy to battery and keep running…

  3. What about Tasers? They are a stun device, but aren’t limited to arms reach, though they are limited to a single shot.

  4. +1 for Don re snake loads. interesting idea but I don’t think it’s worth it.

    re shottys
    semi-auto will soak up some of the recoil. If you have a trustworthy system then the most compact semi shotty that all the adults in the house can handle seems like a good option.

    • In a podcast I’ve heard someone famous (Massad Ayoob perhaps) mention that a Remington “Model 11-87™ Sportsman® Youth Compact” 20ga auto makes a good home defense shotgun. It’s smaller, lighter (compared to a 12ga) and is gas operated auto loading.

      They also discussed buck-shot size and concluded that #1 shot is preferred over 00 shot because #1 is less likely to over penetrate.

      • You’re right, it was Ayoob who liked the 20-ga and the Remington auto in particular. In “Stressfire II: Advanced Combat Shotgun” he describes the 20-ga as 75-80% of the stopping power, with only 50% of the recoil.

  5. There is a secondary firearm in my house. My wife does know how to use it. Ideally I would want a .410 semi for her – in time.

      • That’s great. I wouldn’t either but if my wife is terrified to use my 12ga (which she is) then I have to give her something she is not afraid of. That is a .410.

  6. We have had difficulty training the cats to properly handle the firearms, instead they are “trained” to run and hide under the comforters on the beds whenever someone enters the house.

    For the cat’s staff (My wife and I), we each have our own handguns and pistol caliber carbines. (Is the PS90 a pistol caliber carbine or is the Five-seveN a rifle caliber pistol?)

    • I have one cat who hides under the bed. I have another who runs toward a suspicious sound and growls (not kidding). Guess which cat gets saved if its TEOTWAWKI?

    • I agree. My coonhounds would scare 99% of potential intruders. My oversize male Plott is a pussy who would run away and cower if someone actually broke in. I have no doubt that my little Red Tick girl would go straight for the perp. In any case they will provide warning and buy a little time for us to gun-up.

    • Dogs are great, JM, but as a former pro dog trainer, I have three words of caution: Poison-Proof Them (if you haven’t already done so). Because they’re the first line of defense, they’re also the first target.

  7. I keep bird-shot in my shotgun for home defense. I do also have a box of PDX slug and buck as well. I know that it does not have the same knockdown power as buck, but combining the reduced recoil and reduced risk of over-penetration seems like a good thing to me. I have never tried it on anything like a human, but I would hope that if I hit someone with a round or two of bird-shot, they would be leaving the premises in a lot of pain, or be incapacitated by shock and the damage of potentially hundreds of minor wounds. Any thoughts on this idea?

    • My thoughts are that it is un-wise to load a shotgun with anything but lethal rounds for defense. If the birdshot is not going to kill and the prep files a civvy case against you, he has a good lead on you. You obviously didn’t think your life was at stake so much that you didn’t load what I would call lethal rounds. Therefore if they went against you you have less of a case for self defense. Self defense being the right to kill another if you feel your life is threatened.

      I don’t think you should blur the lines. I know the Castle Law is in place for a reason but I also don’t think that you should half-do it either. Load self defense rounds (or whatever rounds the police in your area load) and hope for the best and help the prep survive if you feel you need to. I wouldn’t load the bird shot based on it may not stop someone, who knows.

      I wouldn’t leave it to the courts. These are my opinions. I am not trying to tell you what to do, just what I would.

      • Practically speaking I feel like shot doesn’t expand as fast as people think, particularly in the distances within a normal house. I bet the overall mass of the bird shot is plenty lethal at the likely distances you’d be shooting at inside.

        Though given the logic defying outcomes and prosecution strategies observed in the courts, I support your “labeled lethal” argument completely.

        • “Don says:

          June 7, 2011 at 6:00 PM

          Practically speaking I feel like shot doesn’t expand as fast as people think, particularly in the distances within a normal house. I bet the overall mass of the bird shot is plenty lethal at the likely distances you’d be shooting at inside.”

          No arguments here. I just like to make sure what I am trying to stop, gets stopped. Buck and slug for me. If not I use Magnum buck. It has a lot of kick and rise but I am sure there won’t be a follow up shot.

        • Don, you’re correct. Birdshot is devastating on soft targets at close-range. Don’t believe internet wisdom for a minute. Set-up some targets and try it yourself sometime. The best way to describe it is that birdshot is to slugs as JHP is to FMJ. Within 25 feet, of course.

        • A.Lee, are you saying that birdshot is more devastating then 00 Buck or even a slug?

  8. “A. 12ga pump-action shotgun with 00 buck
    PROS: It’s hard to miss the BG (Bad Guy) when firing a shotgun at close range.”

    Not really. If you’ve ever patterned OO buck at close range you’d see the spread stays very tight, even with an open cylinder bore. At typical in-house ranges it’s quite possible to miss with it, just as it is with a handgun or a rifle. A shotgun still has to be aimed to be effective. Too many people perpetuate the myth that with a shotgun all you have to do is point in the general direction.

    • The pattern is about the circumference of a large coffee mug for me and what I use at 20 feet. That doesn’t include the strays. At 10 feet you are looking at a fist sized ball. It actually isn’t that hard to maintain the target and strike it.

      I think a lot of people think they are so easy to shoot and hit things with is because they are – compared to a handgun. Compared to a same style, shape, and designed rifle they are a little easier. There just isn’t any argument against the fact that the shotgun is the easiest tool with which to hit a moving target consistently. Add that to the fact that people like to blow things out of shape and size and there you have it.

  9. Interesting replies!! I am not a huge fan of tasers, at least in cold weather areas, as layers of clothing can defeat the electrodes. No matter the method of defense used, it must be understood that NO METHOD is guaranteed 100% effective 100% of the time.
    Again, I have no desire to insinuate that what I write is the only way to take care of business. Rather, to encourage one to debate, consider options, and re-examine our mind-set.
    Being the great country it is, anyone can file a lawsuit for almost any reason they desire! If you wound an intruder, he may take you to court: if you kill him his family, who didn’t know they were related til they saw the 10:00pm news, may take you to court on a wrongfull death suit. Juries are strange creatures, as we know. It may be easier to convince them you tried NOT to kill, but the sucker died anyhow, than give an indication that we were prepared and hoping for the opportunity to kill.
    One more thing to consider, is it is a fact that the greater your level of expertise, the closer you will be examined.
    If I double tap a 120lb., 5ft 1in. 16 yr. old between the running lights, I may have a problem convincing anyone I reacted instinctivly if am a Firearms Instructor, spend 3 days a week at the range, own enough weapons to arm a small South American country, as well as being on the All Army Pistol Team 4 consecutive times.
    There are no absolutes in this area. Again, I’m just throwing out food for thought.
    ps. Never had any issue in any of my autos with snake shot, as long as they aren’t fired “limp-wristed”.

  10. Argh! I missed all the fun yesterday! I caught a bug at the dr’s office-this is why germ carrying kids should be vacuum sealed until they’re 15. My first line is alternately the 340PD .357 or a .40 Glock-always in my pocket. Smith scored 1 today against a large water moccasin my bulldog Piggy cornered in the backyard. My secondary is one of many shotguns, most pump, my preferred is a tried and true 12 ga. chopped 1100 with a pistol grip synthetic stock and a side saddle mounted on the right side of the stock. It has been hand honed internally and has never failed. It has a tactical flashlight mounted just under the 20” barrel. My alternatives are my “world’s gone to hell” RPK and my PLR16. Why would I consider these? The home invasion I stopped years ago made me reflect, a lot. I counted three distinct voices at the door as they tried to pry it open. Had they succeeded, would my shotgun be fast enough to clear them out of the “fatal funnel” of my doorway? My logic followed that in such a case, a weapon with faster fire power would be best. I practice a lot. I practice sighted fire, and with both eyes open. I practice sight reference and I practice point shooting-no longer in style these days, but very effective reactive shooting-if you practice. No bullet is magic. There is always a risk of over penetration and under penetration. I do use MagSafe and Extreme Shock when possible. In fact, I have different types of Extreme Shock ammo and others on the way to do a field comparison. The simple fact is you need practice and skill to shoot under stress. I also leave other options open. I have several Cold Steel Inferno OC foggers and some aerosol (non flammable) OC grenades. It gives me the option of blinding, say, a group of drunks on the front lawn or making my home less than hospitable to invaders. I’ve been Oc’d and it sucks, but I’ve been exposed to it so much that it has lessened effect on me. Tasers? I used one on a psychotic and it didn’t work-that time. I think OC is more reliable and is cheaper. Oh, in my book, 00 buck and JHP rule.

      • You should see my collection of edged fighting weapons-everything from honed machetes to custom hand axes and tomahawks to $1000 shoulder rig Japanese short sword.


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