Defending your person 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, 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.
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.
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.
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.