SIG SAUER P365-380 .380 ACP
Graham Baates for TTAG
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Defending yourself away from home and defending your castle are two different tasks, and for many people, that suggests different tools. But if you use different guns for home and personal defense out in the world, there are some factors to consider to find the best guns for the job.

Regardless of your choices, the most important factor is familiarity and training with a particular weapon.

The provisions for better ammunition capacity, more precision, maneuverability, and ammunition choice won’t matter much if you can’t operate your home-defense gun(s) under stress. So making your choices line up with the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principles is smart, effective, and safer.

The Argument for Using Your Carry Gun At Home

If you have a single firearm as both your carry and primary home-defense firearms, that’s about as flat and simple as it can get. The training you put in to keep competent on your carry gun will pay dividends when things go bump in the night at home.

In a daily cycle, a carry handgun can be available in the house, then it can be moved into an appropriate transport for automotive defense, then carried on the body when out in public. Then it’s back into the car, and then the house for overnight use. Rinse and repeat.

But a lot of folks want more capacity and accessories on their home-defense firearm because they don’t have to carry that extra mass around.

night stand gun
(Dan Z. for TTAG)

No worries. To get extra capacity with your carry gun at home, simply keep extra magazines at hand. Or, some handgun series will accept larger (longer) magazines where you can pick up extra rounds without needing a magazine change. When you get home, swap a bigger magazine in your concealed carry gun to the higher capacity.

Caveat: Just be sure to shoot the carry gun with the larger mags often, because the extra weight and height can change the handling of the gun.

If you want to add a light, either keep a flashlight with the gun and train to shoot the gun with the light, or add a lightweight gun light to the front rail of your pistol when you go to bed. Putting a Streamlight TLR-3 on your carry gun rail might take 30 seconds.

I have concealed-carried a Smith & Wesson lightweight revolver for nearly 25 years, with a Crimson Trace LaserGrip for much of that time. I’ve also used it as my “what was that noise, honey?” first home firearm much of that time, even though it can’t carry a mounted light. So that meant keeping a handheld light nearby, plus two speedloaders, and a lot of one-handed shooting practice.

Carry Gun Changeout to a Similar Home Model

Another option is to carry a smaller version of your home-defense handgun, so you have a familiar manual of arms in both situations and similar grips and/or grip textures, similar triggers, and similar sights, preferably night sights.

GLOCKs chambered in 9x19mm are an obvious choice in this case, where the self-defense shooter can carry a smaller GLOCK 19, G19X, G26, G43, G43X, or G45 out into the world and come home to a full-size G17 GenX, G17 MOS, or even a G34 at home.

GLOCK 19 FDE
Bigstock

The same can be done with SIG Sauer, Springfield Armory, Smith & Wesson, Beretta, Ruger, Colt, Taurus, and other companies’ offerings.

Different Models for Carry and Home

But what about a 9mm pistol that’s great to carry, such as a KelTec PF9, but which holds seven rounds or fewer in the magazine? Or, in my case, my .38 Special has a five-shot capacity, and I’d like more in the gun to start — who has ever complained about having too much ammo during a fight? So I have tried other sidearms in the primary home role.

An FN-USA FNX-45 was a good home solution. Chambered in .45 ACP, the semi-automatic fired rounds with more stopping power than my five-shooter carry gun, holds 15+1, and had a better sighting system — a laser/light, a red dot, and irons. But I couldn’t carry it comfortably, so that meant training with it specifically.

That meant I had to drill with the .45 ACP at least monthly, along with the revolver, which I dry-fire from concealment nearly every day. Having the two very different guns increased my training time since I’m operating two vastly different systems.

The revolver was extract and fire, with no safety step. I left the FNX-45 pistol loaded, with one in the pipe, on Safe, so flicking the lever to Fire wasn’t a big step. But the feel and sequencing were different than the double-action wheelgun, which made me uneasy.

And my wife was never comfortable with the FNX-45 when I was gone.

Those two factors eventually led me back to using my carry Smith & Wesson .38 Special as the first home-defense weapon. It’s dead-simple to operate, and both of us can shoot it pretty well. My wife has a similar Smith & Wesson she carries, so revolvers are all in the family.

Both revolvers have Crimson Trace lasers with points of aim just above the front sight and are zeroed at 10 yards for close-range use.

But I don’t expect the wheelgun to be the only gun in the fight. As Clint Smith at Thunder Ranch has famously said, “The only purpose for a pistol is to fight your way back to the rifle you should never have laid down.”

Then Something Robust

So, like many other people, for home use my carry gun is simply the first thing I pick up if I’m alerted. But in short order, my wife or I can move to more robust options…long guns if the situation requires it.

I parked my Daniel Defense DDM4 V7 LW carbine in the bedroom for a few years, but there was length and complexity and training we both had to keep up with. Ultimately, I decided to downsize to something that we could both use, that was easy to train on, didn’t have a lot of recoil or the drywall over-penetration worries of the 5.56, but which had enough terminal effectiveness to satisfy me.

The Mossberg Cruiser .410-bore pumpgun has light enough weight and enough power for smaller-statured shooters to handle. It lacks capacity at 5+1, so top-off loading must be part of the training for its use as a home-defense choice. Woody for TTAG

What filled the bill as a home-defense gun was a Mossberg 500 Cruiser .410-bore pump-action shotgun loaded with buckshot shotshells. With an 18.5-inch barrel length, it’s small and light enough for my wife to handle in close quarters, even one-handed, but powerful enough to defend the house if it’s just her.

Also, the pump shotgun carries its own light, a TLR-3 in a Beamshot RF9 Picatinny rail mount, and a sling. It’s easy to hide and a blast to shoot at the range, where we usually train with birdshot rounds to save money. And we work on topping-the-shotgun-off reloads when we shoot it.

A loaded rifle bandolier (the shotgun is a .410 caliber, so shotgun bandoliers are far too big) supplies extra rounds if it comes to that.

The point isn’t that a similar set up would be right for you to protect your loved ones. But if you use different guns for home and carry defense, you’ve got to consider which other family member might need to use the home-defense firearm, and it’s got to be suitable for you all.

Youth shotguns in the Remington 870 line are another option, using low-recoil 12- or 20-gauge shotshells. Also, pistol-caliber carbines have larger magazine capacities in 9mm Luger, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, 10mm, or .44 Magnum, and can be lighter and shorter than 5.56-chambered ARs.

Your Best Home Protection Gun?

So if you decide to use guns for home defense other than your familiar daily carry options, take into account upper-body strength, firearms familiarity, ergonomics, and willingness to train when you decide what tools you want to defend your castle.

Springfield Hellcat red dot sight
What considerations must you think about if your carry handgun, such as the Springfield Hellcat, above, is different than your home-defense firearm? (Dan Z. for TTAG)
Familiarity is the key to using a home-defense choice that’s different than your carry gun. If you choose a more powerful handgun, such as the Colt Python in .357 Magnum, all the members of your household team should be able to use it. (Woody for TTAG)

 

 

The allure of using a different configuration of your carry gun at home is strong. You may like your G21 sans silencer for a carrying-around gun, then doll it up with the tube when you get home. Adding magazines is another way to get capacity without a lot of fuss. (Woody for TTAG)

 

The AR has a lot of qualifications for a home-defense choice that you don’t carry. It offers power, capacity, and throughput, to name three. But factors such as offset need to be considered, as well as ease of use for people in your home who don’t shoot as much as you do. (Woody for TTAG)
best home defense shotgun
(Warren Wilson for TTAG)

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38 COMMENTS

  1. You traded yer AR for a Mossberg cruiser?!?🙃 Must live in a super safe place. My home isn’t huge but I have zero problem manuvering with my S&W AR. Or my handgun’s(all with lights). Bizarre anyone would recommend a pump shottie with low capacity & no stock…and a 410.

    • His wife may not be able to handle anything bigger than the .410. He mentions her. As we’ve gotten older my wife, who is just 5 foot tall, has trouble with some of the guns she ran with in her younger days.

      We may wind up getting her one of those cruiser type shotguns in .410. Some guns are verboten here in the fascist state of CA. Or simply not on the shelves. I think for her the .410 and a tip barrel Beretta may be a good combo.

      A couple more years and we can get out to freer pastures.

    • Agreed. 5.56 is less likely to overpenetrate than buckshot, and kicks less. Ability to handle something bigger than a .410 would increase dramatically going from hands to shoulder. Authors often present the false dichotomy of PGO shotguns vs. the length and bulk of duck guns, but now that bullpup shotguns exist (and have none of the issues preventing militaries from adopting bullpup rifles) PGOs are pointless.

    • I guess the number one takeaway is that you actually need to put thought into your home defense protocols so that your gear is in place and everyone knows what to do when something goes bump in the night.

      So if the dogs go crazy and I’m hearing pounding at my door, I’m grabbing the AR while wifey grabs the FNX-45 and secures the kids.

  2. Although yesterday for us, today is ANZAC day.

    Please have a minute’s silence and raise a glass of your favorite beverage in honor of those who served.

  3. Home defense allows for greater options than daily carrying does. One of the biggest things I see so much in life is people going for less than they have to. Why sacrifice? Get the flash light. Those that live in high crime areas with greater risk will be thankful for higher capacity. Home defense weapons can be heavier making them easier to handle recoil. Something for the home would benefit greatly from a silencer. Many people opt for a 16″ carbine and 18″ smooth bore shotguns are very common for this role.

    Whatever you choose. Practice with it at the range. None of it matters if you can’t hit what your aiming at.

    • “Practice with it at the range.”

      Right!!!
      Learned that the hard way. Practicing at home…so many holes in the walls, even a few busted pipes…What a mess!!!

      So I purchased a membership in an indoor range and joined a rod and gun club.

      Gotta go….heading out to Home Depot for more spackle.

      • I wonder how many people think they have to have a membership and decide not to go because they can’t afford it. Even though some ranges do require memberships and some even require you to be an NRA member, that isn’t the case with many (likely most) ranges.

        If you go there enough then it’s probably worth joining. It’s likely cheaper to not get a membership if you only go to the range once every month or two. Certainly cheaper if you only go once or twice a year.

        Before Covid, I might be there every other weekend or once a month depending on what else was going on in life. At one point, I went every weekend going through a hundred rounds per gun per visit.

        There are ways of safely practicing at home though and some people are fortunate enough to have land for a personal range. I don’t currently have that option but who knows what the future has in store.

  4. Sorry, but you worry about different textures on your different carry guns? That is just plane silly, I can see not wanting to carry a 1911 and a Glock interchangeably since that thumb safety is something you have to train for, but otherwise anything that is about the same size and has the same manual of arms won’t be an issue.

  5. My revolvers and semi-autos all have one thing in common. When presented and aimed, pull the trigger as required. No safeties, ready to go, no matter if it’s my wheel guns (642, 686) striker fired pistols (Shield, M&P9c) or DA/SA heavyweights (5906, CZ75, P220). Pull. Point. Pew.

    • Scooter for the win!

      I refuse to use safeties on my handguns for a multitude of reasons.

      And yet I most certainly do NOT sacrifice any personal/family safety.

      My striker-fired semi-auto pistol (with single-action only trigger, no safety, and a cartridge in the chamber) stays in a holster and it WILL NOT fire unless someone pulls it out of the holster and pulls the trigger. That holster IS the safety.

      My revolver has a typical double-action trigger pull which WILL NOT fire unless someone’s finger is pulling the trigger. That double-action trigger pull IS the safety.

      There is no cross-training or any other such nonsense. Just point the handgun and pull the trigger.

  6. 2″-3″ Revolvers, especially 6 shooters loaded with appropriate loads in 9mm or 38 spl. make excellent home defense handguns. They are easy to operate, have adequate caliber, present little to be grabbed in a close struggle and have the added benefit of being able to be loaded for an indefinite period without compromising the abilities of a magazine to properly function the firearm.

    You could do much worse with a striker fired “Plastic Fantastic” pistol.

  7. No.
    I’m not crazy. I have a Hellcat and i know that i suck with it compared to any full size gun. I know that and it’s a trade off i’m willing to make.
    But at home i can have a Glock 17 with 19rnd magazines no problem. I can have an AR-15. I’m not gonna limit myself to a lesser gun that i only have for comfort of carry – because carry isn’t the consideration here.
    Now go to a car shop and steal all their tools, as you only carry a Leatherman so that’s all they should be allowed to use in their shop.

    • Yeah me too! My Taurus 709 is quite similar to those tiny new gats. My wife claimed it. But I have a full size pistol & an AR locked & loaded. I echo your sentiment…

    • Joatmon,

      You describe an excellent configuration that many people employ in their homes.

      Pro-tip: keep that pistol on your waist even at home and position another shotgun at another location in your home close to where you spend most of your waking hours.

  8. My advice is shoot what you like to shoot and carry what you shoot. Like SAAs? Carry one, and keep a couple around the house for backup. Like Glocks, or non-Glock brand Glocks, just as well. Don’t carry anything because you think it’s more ‘tacticool’ or you’re afraid of being attacked by a swarm of Mongols. Your more likely to be struck dead by lightning. If you’re delving that deep into what MIGHT happen, your time would be better spent getting your cholesterol checked and maybe sending in a Cologuard test. And don’t forget your prostate specific antigen test and triglycerides.

  9. But a lot of folks want more capacity … on their home-defense firearm …
    When you get home, swap a bigger magazine in your concealed carry gun to the higher capacity.

    That requires ejecting and inserting a magazine into your firearm at least twice a day for however many days a year that you leave home. If you leave home 6 days a week (and there are 52 weeks in a year), that means inserting a magazine 624 times (== 2 x 6 x 52) a year. Over the course of 10 years, that means ejecting and inserting a magazine 6,240 times. I have serious concerns that a non-trivial percentage of semi-auto handguns will develop magazine catch and/or release defects with that many cycles.

    With the above in mind, I STRONGLY DISCOURAGE EVERYONE FROM SWAPPING MAGAZINES EVERY DAY in their everyday carry handgun. My intuition tells me that there is too great a risk that your handgun will develop a magazine catch or release defect.

    • On a similar vein, don’t unchamber and rechamber the same round over and over as the bullet can be pushed back into the case and cause a potentially dangerous overpressure condition.

      Unless you carry a revolver.

  10. I do swap out a gunbelt and revolver for an old 1911 with an inside the waistband holster if going from the farm into town. Keep an old 12 gauge pump and a couple rifles on a wall rack inside the kitchen door for use around the farm if needed. My wife has her Walther P38 or she uses my Browning Hi-Power. Of course we also have a couple of grouchy old dogs around the farmstead. If nothing else they will make enough noise to let us know if anyone is visiting uninvited late at night. Only real issue is I usually keep the first 2 rounds in the revolver snake shot loads. Killed a big cottonmouth just this morning. Since 1 of my neighbors said he spotted some feral hogs just up the road yesterday, I will be putting the AR10 in the rack and be putting the 30/30 back in the safe tonight.

    • Our pigs used to eat snakes, getting bit didn’t seem to bother them much. As a matter of fact we had a snake problem on our frog raising pond so dad fenced it in and the pigs got rid of all the snakes.
      Dont feed snakes to chickens though, they get rubber neck. Dad said dont feed snakes to the chickens, but like a kid will do I did and sure enough a bunch of chickens couldn’t get their peckers up.

  11. Am I the only one who stashes various guns everywhere and knows how to use them all? You come into my house there’s the gun on me and in most cases I’m never more than six paces from another. Rifles, pistols, revolvers, pump and semi auto shotties, lever guns, … basically the mix other than bolt actions. The only reason it’s not deeper is because the I don’t have good stash spots for more so the rest are in the safes.

    Old habit, medium sized story, not worth telling. Point being, how is it that you own a bunch of guns and don’t know how to use some of them? That’s just odd to me.

    I mean, how does one run an AR platform to the point that one forgets how to run an SKS, AK or FAL? It’s not like these things are complicated pieces of equipment.

    • strych9,

      I like to think that I am very adept at using my firearms. I also like to think that I have extraordinary physical coordination–I master all manner of physical activities from fine-machining to every conceivable sport. And in case it is not readily apparent from my posts on this website, I have a significantly higher than average I.Q.

      With that in mind, I was hunting for white-tailed deer three years ago with my trusty break-action single-shot rifle chambered in .44 Magnum. Out comes a buck that is definitely large enough to shoot. I focused intensely on that buck and the intervening brush/trees thinking about where I might be able to get a shot. When he finally approached a location where I could shoot, I steadied my rifle, took careful aim, and squeezed the trigger. And…nothing. I had forgotten to pull the hammer back which is necessary to shoot my break-action rifle. I was confused for about one second, then I pulled back from my rifle and looked at it. Fortunately, I promptly noticed that I had failed to pull back the hammer and was able to get a shot a few seconds later. Mind you that I have put countless rounds through that rifle and pulled the trigger countless times during dry-fire practice.

      Moral of the story: in a “high stress” situation even the best of us will tend to forget details or make mistakes. A lot of training and lesser chances for error are the key reducing the risk of mistakes. But you already know that.

      • Maybe you should shoot/handle what you have until it’s second nature to just pick it up and run it?

        You can hand me any gun I own and I can ascertain the status of the gun and run it blindfolded. I can take them all apart, put the parts in a bag and then reassemble them individually, also blindfolded.

        Maybe that’s just the effect of having used them a lot?

        Then again, I also have entirely different and relatively macro ways of handling each one based on the way it fits to my body/hand. This means that I know each gun by feel and have different ways to handling them. Just like I have different ways of sliding a triangle on someone based on their body type and I don’t need to be able to see to do it, nor do I need to be able to see to know what that person is doing. I know where your feet are based on where your hips are, where your arms are based on where your chest is and therefore where your hands are and what they can do from there etc etc.

        This comes from experience.

      • uncommon_sense,
        I agree with you completely. I’m reasonably coordinated, have a good memory and 32 yrs driving experience (during which I’ve spent much more time driving than I, or the vast majority of people, have shooting) and yet occasionally find myself fiddling for the controls (gearshift, for example) of the more familiar car when I drive the other – even with no real stress. I know “muscle memory” isn’t a technically precise term, but IMHO it’s a more appropriate descriptor than regular memory (I have not “forgotten” where either gearshift is).

  12. The problem with discussing any aspect of firearms is that Poe’s Law immediately kicks whenever I see poorly thought-out, obviously untested advice like this. Like, it’s tempting to just assume that it’s satire, but so many people have said the most impossibly stupid things about guns in complete and total sincerity that you really can’t give anyone the benefit of doubt.

  13. I agree using an AR in a home defense situation is pure lunacy as the over penetration of rifle round will go through walls killing your own family or someone in the neighbor hood.

    And actual combat in the Philippian Islands 122 years ago proved the shotgun superior to the rifle at close range. I probably would not use a .410 but it will do the job under the right circumstances as I have seen large Whitetail Deer killed with the .410.

  14. My EDC is a H and K VP9 SK. When I carry it it has a 10 round flush mag with a 15 round back up. At night it is on my nightstand with the 15 round mag. H and K’s arewell built enuff to handle the mag changes. Every now and then I have to replace all the hollow points that have been pushed back into the case but it is the cost of self protection. I also have a savage MSR 15 recon under my bed. Both have rounds in the chamber. My wife prefers the VP9 full size so we are both very familiar with guns.

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