Guns for Beginners: Pistol, Shotgun or AR for Home Defense? Yes!

Over at, David LaPell tackles ye olde shotgun vs. handgun for home defense debate. After taking a Remington 870 and his Makarov PM to the range, Mr. LaPell asks “Why not both? Well, that’s probably the smartest option, but not really in the spirit of this exercise.” Wait! It IS the smartest option. The thing is . . .

A handgun is ideal for home defense.

It frees the [two-] armed home defender to open doors, turn on lights, call 911, corral friendlies, etc. There’s a farrago of handgun sizes, calibers, sighting options and silencers from which to choose. And most gun owners will practice with their handgun, and won’t with a shotgun.

On the other hand, a shotgun is ideal for home defense.

It’s a fearsome weapon; offering the only realistic chance of a one-stop shot. It’s also extremely intimidating. And dependable. And relatively easy to run. Easier to aim accurately than a handgun too, being a long gun and all.

On the other hand, an AR-style rifle — or AR pistol with a SB Tactical brace — is ideal for home defense.

An AR is just as easy to aim as a shotgun, more wieldy and holds more ammo than a scattergun or a handgun (depending on state law). You can fit it with a silencer, light, laser, coffee maker, whatever.

So the answer is . . . all of them!

If you need to do stuff during a home invasion, if you home carry, a handgun is the best choice. If you’re assuming a defensive position, a shotgun is the better bet. And if you’re clearing a house or going outside, an AR is you ballistic BFF.

This is America, the land of choice (and good pie). Have all three firearms ready to go. That is all.


  1. avatar Survivordude1090 says:

    There are three types of guns

    “Get out of my house” guns.

    “Get off my property” guns.

    “Get out of my country” guns.

    These three cover that.

    1. avatar BLAMMO says:

      You forgot about the “Get off my lawn!!” gun, which of course is the M1 Garand.

      1. avatar JDC says:

        What a great movie! A classic already.

    2. avatar Florian Geyer says:

      What About concealed carry guns?

  2. avatar JDC says:

    I think a pistol caliber short carbine (16″ barrel) is probably the best. Either a lever action or semi-auto.

    1. avatar Nanashi says:

      9mm from 16 inch eats more drywall than 5.56 from 16 inch will.

    2. avatar TexTed says:

      Opinions will vary, of course. I think a PCC, and especially a 9mm PCC, is the worst of all worlds — handgun stopping power but long-gun wieldliness.

      If I’m manhandling a long gun around, it’ll either be a 12-gauge or a real rifle (well, if you consider a .223/5.56 a “real” rifle).

      If I’m putting up with the lousy terminal ballistics of a 9mm, it’s going to be in a compact, maneuverable handgun, and almost certainly the one in my pocket, which I will then use to fight my way to a good decent long gun (preferably 12-gauge).

      1. avatar tiger says:

        Lousy ballistics? It is a house. Not a street battle in Syria. At that range, it works fine.

    3. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      I’m with Tex, you just don’t get much more out of a 16″ barrel in 9mm (or .45acp) than you do out of a 5″. Now .357 is a whole nuther story. The hot loads will net more muzzle energy than a 5.56 out of a 16″. 10mm might be intriguing in a semi-auto carbine, but I think the only one out there is the Kriss Vector which kind of defeats the whole purpose by loading the magazine in front of the trigger instead of up the grip. Besides, way too much money for such an ugly g un.

      1. avatar Anner says:

        That’s the only reason I haven’t bought a 10mm vector (pistol or SBR) yet, it has a shorter barrel than a Glock 40. If I could find an 8″ barrel to swap out, I would buy two.

        Aero Survival makes their pistol in 10mm, though the buffer tube/inability to collapse it down to just the length of the bolt+barrel kinda kills it.

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          Something like Beretta’s CX4 (only with a better trigger) in 10mm would be really cool. 16.6″ barrel and under 30″ long. That’s about 5-1/2″ shorter than a Vector with an M4 stock fully collapsed. Plus the Vector costs as much as a very well equipped AR and close enough that I’d probably splurge and go with the Tavor. Otherwise, there’s got to be a justification for the pis tol round. 10mm could give you AR power at close ra nge in a substantially shorter package, but nobody makes one.

          As far as the Vector pi stol – if I wanted a 6lb pis tol I’d just get a Smith X-frame and attach some wheel weights to it.

        2. avatar Anner says:

          I should clarify: when I say pistol on anything that unwieldy, I’m certainly adding a brace to it. For the Vector, it would be a Gen 1 folding “stock” kit with a Tailhook brace on the end.

          Same with the AS Pistol, though it would be a Blade or SBT brace on the buffer tube.

    4. avatar Pro2AGuy says:

      Kel-Tec Sub2000 with 33 round Glock Mag…

    5. avatar Chet says:

      I’m with you. 10 rounds of 125 grain .357 magnum at 1900 fps from a carbine lever gun. Light recoil, hard hitting. Great home defense for a smaller stature person.

  3. avatar OmnivorousBeorn says:

    Am I the only one who doesn’t see why you’d use a shotgun in HD if you had an AR or even a pistol?

    1. avatar Timothy says:

      Was a survey of prisoners about the scariest thing they could hear in a home invasion. The number one response was the sound of a pump action shotgun.

      Furthermore, shotguns can fire a wider variety of rounds and have more power at close ranges than pistols and ARs. If a person was disinclined to lethality then taser, beanbag, and salt rounds are available. If you wanted to guarantee lethality, a single shot of 00 buck magnum is like a half magazine from a pistol

      1. avatar OmnivorousBeorn says:

        Yeah I could care less about what a study says they’re the most scared of. I just care about what is the most effective with me.

        I don’t really need non-lethal rounds in a lethal weapon . . . You could just get pepper spray or a Taser if you wanted non-lethal.

        I don’t like shotguns because capacity and follow up shots (and short shucking if you’re using a pump-gun). YMMV.

        1. avatar Big Bill says:

          Follow-up shots? Just how many people are you pissing off? Most HD uses are two people at max. The odd outlier is three. Follow-up with a shotgun is no worse than with a pistol or carbine.
          Short-stroking? Practice is the key.
          If you’re serious about HD, practice is the key, no matter which platform you choose.

      2. avatar pcb_duffer says:

        An intruder into my home will never be given the courtesy of a warning sound.

      3. avatar tiger says:

        Myth & wise tales… I’ll skip the shotgun.

    2. avatar BLoving says:

      If you’re telling us you have a MSR and a handgun but no shotgun – then don’t worry, you’re fine.
      If I’m to take your question literally, then I’d say use the shotgun over the other two if it is nearer to hand… 😉

  4. avatar BLAMMO says:

    If I could own one, I’d probably opt for a suppressed SBR in sub-sonic .300 Blackout. Wouldn’t have to look around for ear pro and 210 grain HPs would bring quite a load without too much penetration.

    1. avatar TexTed says:

      Suppressed .300 Blackout is about equivalent to a .45 Auto handgun, 220-ish grains at 1000-ish fps. Not pocket change, but it’s nothing like a real rifle round.

      1. avatar TexTed says:

        added: .458 Socom is the stuff when you want a big suppressed round. 600 grains, .45 diameter, and 1000 fps. That’s 3x the smack of a .300 Blackout, in a bullet that’s punching a hole a good 2x bigger.

        1. avatar Snatchums says:

          That’s what I want for HD, an integrally suppressed .458 SOCOM.

  5. avatar Ing says:

    It’s my goal to have a long gun and a concealable pistol for every member of my household. Currently we’re short by two pistols and (unless you count .22 rifles…they’re not exactly nothing) one long gun — a shotgun will probably be the next addition to the family arsenal.

  6. avatar former water walker says:

    I got 2 outa’ 3. AR on layaway. But I would grab my pistol(s) 1st. And a flashlight. Then again 8 rounds of 00buck and slugs would work…YMMV

  7. I feel
    Pretty comfortable with all 3 or 4 .
    If you break into my house I’m pretty sure I can kill you with my 22, my 9 mil pistol, my 45 pistol, my scorpion sbr with folding brace,my ar or my shotgun .
    I like my 45 xds because I have combo crimson lazer light so I have one hand free . Second choice is my scorpion sbr 30 shot clip and also light.
    My ar and my shotgun are locked in my safe in another room and are to big in my opinion . I use those for hunting .

    1. avatar Big Bill says:

      Shotguns don’t need to be that big. Stick with a 20″ or 18.5″ barrel. These are maneuverable in hallways if you keep the muzzle down.
      The major difference between the two (besides the 1.5″ barrel length) is ammo capacity. But, realizing that most HD uses are against one or two perps, ammo capacity isn’t really a concern, if you practice. The shotgun is a one-shot stopper if you do your part. That’s something that’s much harder to say with either a pistol or AR.
      But, as always, practice is the key.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        “The shotgun is a one-shot stopper if you do your part. That’s something that’s much harder to say with either a pistol or AR.”

        If you load soft points or hollowpoints in your .223/5.56mm AR, I have to think they are going to be pretty good manstoppers at 20 feet.

        1. avatar Big Bill says:

          You might want to check out some Youtube videos of each in gel.
          The difference between a .223 hollowpoint or soft point and a 12 gauge 00 or #4 buchshot is,

  8. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

    Shotgun = HD
    Pistol = EDC
    Rifle (AR, AK, etc.) = SHTF

  9. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    Kind of partial to a handg un for primary home def ense myself because (beside the reasons mentioned in the article) many home invasions start with a knock on your door. I like to be able to answer the door with a firearm in my hand behind my back or behind the door. In my case that’s usually a 6″ GP 100 loaded with Double Taps, so I can hit someone pretty hard but only 6 times. So I keep my 3″ GP EDC and a .30-30 loaded with 125gr. hollow points (2500+fps) in a spot I can quickly retreat to. And if that fails, the safe is unlocked and the weapons (including the sh otgun and the AR) are all condition 3. But realistically, if 6 shots of full pressure .357 doesn’t cut it I’m almost certainly facing a SWAT team conducting a no-knock raid on the wrong address.

    1. avatar Tim says:

      Sierra Papa makes an nice aftermarket trigger for the CX4.

  10. avatar Mechanically says:

    My thought process, you may disagree:

    My wife is unlikely to assist with firepower under duress. Say what you want, but she’s a delightful creature and I’m thankful to have her. (I suspect many of you dudes are in similar situations, but prefer presenting your better-half as Xena, Warrior Gunfighter on the interwebs. Hope it’s working well for you…)

    Anyway. My 12″ VZ58 in 5.56 is awesome. Nimble, powerful, well-capacitied, but damn that noise. Even in a carport its painful with plugs… much less 1950s plaster walls and ceiling and maple hardwood. Woof.

    My kids are important, so are their eardrums.

    Conclusion: CZ Scorpion with a can and Fed 147g HSTs. Quiet, reliable, easy to top-up with 30 rounders, and operable by any adult in the household, though only trained with by myself.

    If I had confidence in my VZ running reliably with a can, I’d consider it, but that’s still a big sacrifice on hearing for what I perceive to be a small benefit on “power.” The ability to stack rounds quickly with the Scorpion is awfully compelling. Why send 1 when you can promptly and with efficacy send 5?

    (I can’t have my favorite option. A full auto MP10 in 10mm with 3-round-burst. That was an experience! Full auto is almost useless other than for giggles. But the burst mode was terrifyingly effective.)

  11. avatar derfel cadarn says:

    Unless you possess the ability to identify and engage your assailant, from ranges in which you could not claim physical threat as defense, then any rifle is a nonstarter. If your only choice is a rifle then you are exponentially better off then being unarmed, but in close quarters there are far better choices. As for the AR platform its hype far outstrips its actual performance, and that is a fact.

  12. avatar Bob999 says:

    The best gun for home defense is the one you have in your hands. If you have a choice on what to put in your hands, that is a personal choice based on your own research and training. For me, in a stressful situation, since I have far more time training with pistol (50k rounds, tons of courses taken), I am going to a pistol for home defense.

  13. avatar Tile floor says:

    If you have any modicum of skill or training about you, you can shoot an AR with only one hand on the weapon and still hit your intruder in a home. Opening a door or moving a kid shouldn’t require an extended period of time with hands off the gun anyway.

    1. avatar Bob999 says:

      If Schwarzenegger can do it in the movie Commando, I guess why not. The only thing holding you back is physics. seriously, try 5 shots center mass at 20 feet in rapid succession with a standard, no frills AR-15 rifle with one hand. If every shot is within a 12 inch group, let me buy you a protein drink.

      1. avatar Tile floor says:

        I prefer monster protien drinks.

        I’ve done it before. I should have the caveat that I was an infantryman for 6 years and have been a PD firearms instructor for five. But honestly at 20 feet as long as your mechanics or sound 5 shots rapidly center mass isn’t an impossible feat by any means.

  14. avatar ATTAGReader says:

    9mm handgun and if I would have to run upstairs an AK 47 normally in condition 3 with pointed soft points in the magazine. .380 in pocket as backup.

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