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 firearm.

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.


The same can be done with SIG SAUER, FN, 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 revolver has a five-shot capacity, and I’d definitely want more in my home defense gun. No one 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 is an excellent home defense solution. Chambered in .45 ACP, the semi-automatic fired rounds with more stopping power than my five-shooter carry gun. It holds 15+1 and has a better sighting system — a laser/light, a red dot, and irons.

But I can’t carry it comfortably, so that means training with it specifically.

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 draw 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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      • First 3 months were the worst then the less criminal friendly jurisdictions and judges figured out how to hold the violent ones in spite of the law (ours didn’t cover attempted crimes for charges which can be upgraded at trial).

    • “So many options just out of legal reach.”

      That’s being worked on, right now.

      States that refuse to allow NFA ‘toys’ should be forced to allow them.

      Legally-registered NFA items are nearly never used in crime, so they can’t argue against them. LKB believes the ‘Hughes’ amendment can be struck down, so the concept of walking through Times Square with a ‘giggle-switch’ on your Glock just may come to pass.

      Most likely, the gun rights orgs are working on the big issues first (carry), and the rest later on… 🙂

      • Cautiously optimistic and reminding myself that on the legal timeframe things are flying through even though it is the difference of months and years vs years and decades of prior issues. Time and money will still be needed to see things right.

  1. I got a new holstein and its retention is different then my old holstein. Last night I was playing fast draw , oh shit , moment and just about yanked the holstein off its leash.
    Familiarity is the key to speed.

  2. I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t have a shotgun for home defense. Or a rifle, depending on where you live. I have a handgun to help me get to the shotgun, but that’s never the main weapon. God I WISH I could carry my shotgun everywhere I go, but unfortunately life isn’t that awesome.

    • Hearing damage mostly, if I have time to get the shotgun or rifle I should have time for the electronic ear pro. Otherwise 9 or 40sw awaits the immediate.

      • Now that’s a good point, and I have ProEars next to the shotgun. Unless they surprise me, I will have time to get them on, but if not I reckon I’ll just go deaf 😂

        • Was my starting assumption before I got the pistol permit and pistols. Now I just figure tinnitus will hit after dodging it from the army somehow. That a 45-70 was the backup at the time is mildly unsettling looking back but learning curves.

      • I really need to pick up some electronic ear pro. I don’t know how much it will help, but my .40 S&W is loaded with subsonic ammo. The secondary weapon is an AR-15, so goodbye hearing.

        • Same or slightly less hearing protection as normal ear pro but being able to hear floor boards creak or what your family is whispering is handy. It can miss odd high and low pitched sounds so playing around with it indoors with potential burglary noises is both fun and advisable.

        • I 100% agree with SAFE’s assessment and statement. I shoot with them all the time outside, and they’re phenomenal.

      • Gunms going off without ear protection once in awhile wont ruin your hearing to bad.

    • “I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t have a shotgun for home defense.”

      A pistol deploys a lot faster than a long gun.

      I’d have no problems with both, but if I could have only one, the handgun is the way to go…

      • If I could only have one option but didn’t have the legal restrictions…… probably something like a Beretta cx4 or cz scorpion. Either way should have enough extra barrel to make 9mm interesting in lighter grain weights and quieter at the face while still being handy to use and not budget crushing to lose to the police if needed. If money wasn’t an issue shorter barrel and silenced.

      • Now @Geoff, I respectfully disagree on that. Well, I disagree on the circumstances arising where those few fractions of a second matter all that frequently. Like I said, if I’m startled in the middle of the night, the first thing that comes out is the hand cannon, but my home is set up in such a way there is absolutely time to get to the scatter gun. Of course, as always, as long as people have what they need to keep themselves safe at home, I don’t care what it is. As long as it’s the best available and they chose it for themselves 😁

    • SafeUpstate and ChoseD are close to my thinking. I now have a bedside suppressed 9mm and bedroom located suppressed 300blk pistol that could be deployed in worst case conditions. I realized that something had to be suppressed or an indoor firing would be chaos for the entire household, not just the perp. So my recent additions are those two suppressors.

      • Having never messed with suppressors (just never right time or place to encounter them) how do they hold up re reliability with various loadings and how much ear pro do you need with them indoors if you have had a chance to evaluate all that yet?

  3. I’ve pared way down in the last couple of years. All my handguns are double action revolvers with 2 exceptions. A Single Six and a Glock 19.

    And the Glock, like the double action revolvers is a point and shoot piece. No bells, no whistles. Simple is best.

    • “And the Glock, like the double action revolvers is a point and shoot piece.”

      Provided there’s ‘one in the pipe’, yeah…

  4. When I was working I would qualify with every firearm that I had that I might carry. On, or off duty. Hey, in most cases I was being paid to shoot free ammunition. I’m still waiting to hear the downside of that. Anyway, the author has valid points. I just did a quick mental inventory. There are four different handgun action types ready for instant use in my home. Plus, a carbine. I have never been confused about what is in my hand and how to run it. Training.

  5. Can still field strip and reassemble a M2 including headspace and timing a decade after having one as my primary for months. No argument against training or lack of downsides you mentioned. But there are ways the government (especially military) can find to make even shooting guns with your buddies into a chore.

  6. it is the first time i have considered “throughput” as a measure of defense weapon virtue. if and when i ever assemble my 80% wylde i will be reassured.

  7. Since I switch out my carry gun between a Shield 9mm and a Ruger P89 on a regular basis. Usually depending on weather conditions or how I dress. I’ve never had an issue with confusing the two operationally. It all really comes down to feel and muscle memory. It’s virtually impossible to confuse the two.

  8. Well, being a “gun nut”, I have quite a few different handgun and long gun platforms. Probably a personal idiosyncrasy, but I never seem to have trouble remembering the ‘manual of arms’ for long guns, but I don’t even want to THINK about it for my defense handguns. I spent some time trying and comparing, and decided to get a home defense pistol, and a carry pistol, from the same family, with the same ‘manual of arms’. If I get woken up in the middle of the night by a burglar, or get accosted in the street and feel threatened, it’s pretty automatic what the hold, procedures, etc. are, because it’s basically the same gun, just larger or smaller. Not necessarily “the best” (but I find them quite adequate), but something I know, train with, so even groggy or hyped on adrenaline, I don’t have to stop to remember that stuff.

    Or at least that’s the theory. I hope I never find out if my theory is right.

    • Lamp, my experience pretty much parallels what you described. I carried a P7M8 early and briefly. After that a 1911. A Smith on my ankle. A Glock on the nightstand. Couple of Sig early P series sprinkled around the house. Rolled out of bed from a dead sleep with the Glock twice. Once for a very loud bump in the night. False alarm. The second was a very loud gunfight about 100 ft from my front door. Not a false alarm. Never had to glance at the pistol in my hand. Or, wonder how it worked. Or, the rifle I transitioned to as soon as I could. Again. Training.

  9. That’s a solid, well thought out article. I agree with some parts, and disagree with others, but that’s ok, because it made me think. Now we just need Dacian to chime in about Universal Background Checks and Safe Storage Laws or whatever drivel he can come up with..he is very predictable.

  10. Well, a GINORMOUS consideration which the author did not cover in enough detail is this: who all in your home may/will have to operate a firearm for self-defense if home invaders come calling?

    If you have children who are old/responsible enough to operate firearms, and yet are young enough that they cannot operate larger/heavier firearms, that may radically limit your options.

    An 11 year-old child could easily fall into the above category. For such a family member, I believe that the only practical option is a compact semi-auto pistol-caliber carbine which weighs about 4 pounds or less. Keep it loaded with the safety on. In that case all your child has to practice is flicking the safety off, aiming, and squeezing the trigger repeatedly.

    I state the above from first-hand experience figuring out what two different 11 year-old children could handle. Neither of them were able to safely/effectively handle/deploy any shotgun platform (including “youth” shotguns) nor any handgun platforms. Of course rifles were out of the question as well since they were too long and too heavy.

  11. The author suggests that many people are not able to competently deploy different types of firearms in a stressful self-defense situation without extensive practice.

    I suppose that may be true if those people do not possess the gift of physical coordination.

    Regardless, I will argue that you can do something exceedingly simple to largely eliminate that potential pitfall: keep all of your firearm platforms simple. If your everyday carry handgun is a semi-auto pistol with no manual safety and your home-defense firearm is another semi-auto pistol pistol with no manual safety, I don’t see how that would be problematic for anyone, even if you lack the gift of physical coordination. In both cases all you have to do is point and squeeze the trigger. Why would it matter if one of those pistols has a 2-inch barrel and a 6-round magazine and the other pistol has a 5-inch barrel and a 15-round magazine? Or for that matter, why would it matter if one of those handguns was a revolver and the other a semi-auto pistol with no manual safety? Again, in both cases, all you do is point and squeeze the trigger.

    • For functional accuracy at typical home defense distance (3-7 yards maybe 10 tops) not too much for center of mass but could be hit vs miss on head shots if you have some weird issues to deal with. Bigger issues are making sure everything is in working order, located where you know to retrieve it quickly, and most critically everyone knows what to do if you need to retrieve a weapon.

      • SAFEupstateFML,

        Agree on all of your points.

        I will offer one quibble: if a person lacks the gift of physical coordination and chooses to practice very little, I doubt that he/she would be able to deliver head shots at 20 to 30 feet under the stress of a home invasion, even if he/she only uses a single firearm for “daily carry” and home defense.

        I believe that it is very helpful in these types of discussions to think about the overall odds at play. Thankfully, the odds of a home invasion are still pretty low for most of us at this time. And the odds that a defender would literally HAVE to deliver on a head shot to a home invader to save a family member are drastically lower yet. Given those real-world odds, I will argue that practicing so extensively that a home defender is able to deliver head shots under stress is not warranted for the overwhelming majority of people.

        And we can look at managing the risk of a home invasion and preserving the life of family members another way. How much time and expense (in both range time and ammunition) would an average person (much less someone who is lacking in the physical coordination department) have to spend to get to the point where he/she can reliably deliver head shots at 30 feet on a home invader? The answer is obviously a lot of time and money. Why not invest that time and money on simply hardening your home? Make your primary doors effectively impossible to kick-in (which doesn’t cost very much money). And if you are really concerned, you could even upgrade your ground-floor windows with bars or shatter-resistant glass.

        • No argument on any of your points, while being able to make headshots is great the ammo/time investment may not be worth the benefit for most people in the overwhelming majority of issues. Getting security (anti shatter) film on sliding glass doors and making sure they cannot be lifted off their track would take care of a large plurality of security failure issues on many residential homes (especially up here). The same film can be applied to windows and upgrading the door/frame/hinges is a lasting upgrade.

    • Even more worried about the person who either orders ammo by the case for class and/or stopped saying they reload to save money with a similar volume of ammo consumption.

    • I had a .243 and and a .22 cowboy six gunm.
      I shot a butterfly off a guys car hood with the .243 and didnt scratch the hood.

      • Of course what possum isn’t telling us is that he was trying to shoot the guy driving the car … and shot the butterfly off of his car hood instead!

  12. Suppressed G45 with a flashlight and red dot optic; easy to handle, easy to shoot (just pull the trigger), 21 rounds on tap, no hearing damage with 147gr subsonics.


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