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14 of America’s Tactical Experts Give Their Take on the Best Home Defense Gun

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Best home defense gun according to the experts

When people are asked why they might want to own a firearm, the most common reason people cite is for self-defense – they want to protect their family and their home. In the event of a break-in or attempted robbery, the chances of the police being alerted and arriving on the scene in time to save the day are slim to none.

So, what’s the best home defense gun? There’s a lot of differing opinions and it can be difficult for people to know who they can trust when it comes to guns and self-defense.

As a result, Tactical Hyve thought it would be best to contact some of the country’s elite tactical experts to get their take on the best gun for home defense and why.

What is the best home defense weapon?

Here is the TLTR version:

Answers ranged from pistols to shotguns to ARs…

Each expert has their preferred home gun or guns, but if you read their complete responses below, you’ll notice a common theme–the best gun for home defense is the gun you’re comfortable with and can shoot well.

Lastly, many of the experts emphasize practicing often, i.e. being consistent, regardless of your preferred weapon system(s) for home self-defense.

Several Models Mentioned by the Experts

  • The GLOCK 19 is ideal for a more versatile role because of its reduced dimensions when compared to the standard-sized GLOCK 17 option.
  • Chambered in 9×19, it has found worldwide acclaim with both private and public security agencies.
  • In addition to being used as a conventional service pistol, it is ideal for concealed carry or as a backup weapon.
  • Chambered in 45 ACP, a semi-automatic handgun that delivers remarkable accuracy alongside light recoil.
  • Modular backstrap system allows the user to customize the grip to accommodate any hand size, while the reversible magazine catch makes this pistol ideal for left- and right-handed users alike.
  • Trusted by numerous law enforcement agencies over the years, this pistol is suitable for self-defense.
FN 509 Tactical
FN 509 Tactical
  • The pistol features a Low-Profile Optics Mounting System that enables the platform to accept more than ten commercially-available miniature red dot (MRD) optics that co-witness with the suppressor-height night sights.
  • An FN-signature 4.5-inch, cold hammer-forged, stainless-steel barrel with target crown, 1/2″ x 28 threads that accept the bulk of 9mm suppressors available and thread cap with integrated O-ring to prevent loosening during use complete the top end

Below you’ll find the complete answers from each of the 14 experts:

  • Alex [Redacted]
  • Bill Rapier
  • Dan Brokos
  • Frank Proctor
  • Greg Hake
  • Gordon Evans
  • Joe Dawson
  • Karl Erikson
  • Kyle Lamb
  • Mark Cochiolo
  • Pat McNamara
  • Paul Howe
  • Billy Leahy

In addition, here is a video summarizing the answers from 8 out of 14 of the experts we interviewed.

Alexandria Kern - First Female Assaulter / Operator

1. Alex

  • Maritime Security Response Team (MSRT) Operator
  • 1st Female to Qualify on a Direct Action Section (DAS)

My go to weapon would be a Glock, with a hollow point round. A pistol is always a go-to weapon to keep in the house for self-defense.

Alex’s complete response:

If you are looking for a weapon system to protect your family, your home and yourself, you want something that will work for you and your skill level.

What I Think You Should Consider

When considering a gun for your home, consider the distance you could be shooting. What weapon system is convenient to grab in a split second? Will you need one upstairs and downstairs? How many rounds is the gun capable of shooting with one magazine? You want a weapon that is reliable. Something that you can trust to protect you and your family. No one wants a malfunction when it is most inconvenient.

I’m proficient in the SIG229R DAK, but that would not be my first choice as a home defense gun. My go-to weapon would be a Glock, with a hollow point round.

My Thoughts on Pistols

A pistol is always a go-to weapon to keep in the house. They are small and compact. I can keep it in the nightstand or in the living room and have ease of access at any time. Glock, Smith and Wesson, and SIG all have great pistols and a wide selection to choose from. Anything from the caliber of the rounds, to the size of the grip.

Also, consider storage and access. There are biometric safes perfect for the night stand or if you have kids. They unlock with only a finger print/ handprint providing quick access your weapon.

My Thoughts on Long Guns

A reliable long gun is also a real consideration. I work with the MK-18 weapon system and for an additional weapon to keep in the house I would have one that is an AR variant type system. Be smart about the attachments you add, as the possibilities are endless and can be overwhelming. Some states have different gun regulations than others, but a semi-automatic rifle with a short barrel is my preference.

Black Assault rifle AR15 model MK18

I am accurate with it and very familiar with the components. I can manipulate it quickly and efficiently. Most importantly, I train weekly with it. If I am using it to defend my home and family, I would use a limited penetration round because of the close quarters and standard construction of the average home. Any semi-automatic weapon will send rounds down range very quickly while being cautious about distance.

Final Thoughts

When choosing a gun for self-defense, look at your options. Test out each gun you’re considering and make sure you are comfortable with it. Looking to see if it fits within your scope and capabilities. You will have to train to hit your intended target under duress. Anyone can grab a shotgun and say this is their home defense gun. The key is making sure it’s a weapon you know you can accurately shoot and manipulate under stress, with limited time to think about it.

2. Bill Rapier

For more information about Bill, visit his site at amtacshooting.com.

Bill Rapier Retired Navy SEAL

I recommend a Glock 17 with a SureFire XC-1b and an AR pistol with a SureFire Scout Light and T1/T2 because these are the best tools out there right now.

Bill’s complete response:

When choosing a home defense gun, a lot of different questions have to be answered, like:

  • What are you preparing for?
  • What is your paradigm of the world and how are you going to encounter violence?
  • What are you comfortable with?

When choosing a weapon, the two primary considerations are reliability and logistics (i.e. cost).

The answer to the question really depends on a number of different factors. Regardless of what you firearm you pick, the key to victory in any confrontation is lots of training beforehand.

For a home defense weapon, the number #1 factor to me is having that weapon on me ready to use if necessary.

If an intruder broke into my home while I was watching television with my children sitting on my lap, I wouldn’t leave my children to grab a weapon that may be stored in another room. I want the weapon on me.

Family Watching TV
What if you are watching TV with your children when an intruder breaks into your home? Where would your gun be? How would you get it?

I recommend a Glock 17 with a SureFire XC-1b and an AR pistol with a SureFire Scout Light and T1/T2 because these are the best tools out there right now.

Dan Brokos, Retired Special Forces and Owner of Lead Faucet Tactical

3. Dan Brokos

  • Retired Army Special Forces Sergeant Major (SGM)
  • Served Over 20 Year with Special Forces
  • Founder of Lead Faucet Tactical

For more information about Dan, visit his site at leadfaucettactical.com.

My gun for home defense is the most universal handgun in the world: a Glock 19.”

Dan’s complete response:

I often get asked, “Dan, what is your favorite weapon for home defense and why?”

Well, I teach at the lowest common denominator, shoot the clients gun or shoot Duty Tactical Carbines and Pistols. That principle applies to my home defense – not just for me but my wife and family of five Kiddos.

Family Protection

Glock 19 Shadow Systems MR918

Two of the kids are out there surviving on their own but we still have two teenagers and an adult kid at the house. They all know where the two pistols are placed in the house and are very comfortable with them.

My choice is the most universal handgun in the world: a Glock 19. I have a variant of that Shadow Systems MR918 (Custom but built for Duty). They are easy to manipulate, small enough for females to grip and extremely reliable; and 9mm is a great round for magazine capacity and killing – just look at what the FBI went back to, it’s for a reason.

Now that we have established that we are shooting, a custom duty Glock 19 variant the “Why?” of my choice, besides it being a badass blaster, is because I have carried a Glock for years in the SOF community. A home defense blaster should be one you and your family are most familiar with and should be your favorite in my opinion. Why have something different?

Not just the gun but accessories count, too!

Talking about Accessories

The blaster (weapon) you choose for home defense needs to be more than just a gun – every little aspect that you can fine tune or have that makes sense tactically speaking than own it if it works for you. My home defense blaster definitely has a good set of Tritium Night sights and a solid black rear. Easier on the eyes especially at night with a white light if needed. I think weapon lights are a must these days.

Have a Plan

You should know your house very well. I have done many rehearsals with my family on the most advantageous places to be if an intruder enters but you can’t count on that plan to work. So, slap a light on it so you can see and visually identify the person, or persons, you think are intruding.

Run an extended magazine (I have + 2 tactical base-pad with a Glock 17 Magazine in my home defense guns). In the middle of the night, my kiddos or wife won’t remember to stick an extra mag in their pocket like me, so I give them 19 rounds. Nothing wrong with establishing fire superiority (LOL).

Final Thoughts

The standard Glock is just not very user-friendly when it comes to how grooves are cut on the slide. My blasters are not loaded but have a magazine in them and need to be racked them before you are hot – like it or not, that’s the Brokos family SOP. Seeing how I am surrounded by females, mostly, I make sure the groves are well cut and the pistol can be easily racked.

All-in-all, pick a blaster you and your family are most comfortable with, easy to use, and has features for Day and Night.

4. Frank Proctor

  • Retired Army Special Forces
  • USPSA Competition Shooter (Rank of Grand Master in Limited Division)
  • Owner of Frank Proctor Shooting

Visit frankproctorshooting.com for more information on Frank and his workshops.

Frank Proctor Army Special Forces

I choose an AR-15 for my home defense gun.

Frank’s complete response:

I choose an AR-15 for my home defense gun. My reasons for doing so are as follows:

  • It’s a very effective platform inside a structure.
  • Over-penetration isn’t an issue with the correct ammunition choice.
  • Carbines are MUCH EASIER to shoot than pistols or shotguns.

To expand on that last statement, I can shoot a pistol fairly well, but in the event that my wife needs the “house gun” for self-defense inside our home, the carbine is an easier solution to perform with. Pistols require much more training and refinement to master, and shotgun weight and recoil impulse are way too harsh for smaller framed shooters.

I have been shooting a 9mm AR a good bit and may switch to a suppressed 9mm AR as a house gun. Same shoot-ability and great ammo selections.

Greg Hake Retired Navy SEAL

5. Greg Hake

  • 22 Year Navy SEAL Veteran (Retired)
  • CQC Instructor having Trained Over 1200 SEAL Candidates

Read more about Greg here.

More often than not you are looking at defending yourself and your loved ones against one to three intruders – max. A shotgun is more than adequate for that type of setting.

Greg’s complete response:

It all depends on your experience level and what weapon you are comfortable utilizing. If you’re a novice gun owner, I would not recommend purchasing an M4 style assault rifle for home defense. Assault rifles are phenomenal firearms, it’s just that most people are not proficient in using them; you’re going to be more of a liability using one than it being a benefit to you and your family.

For a novice shooter, I am more inclined to recommend a double barrel break action shotgun. It has fewer moving parts reducing the chance for malfunction, is dirt simple to use, and has relatively low penetration values. So, if you’re shooting at an intruder and miss, the likelihood that the 04 buck round is going to go through the walls of your house and kill your sleeping child are a lot lower than with an assault rifle-style weapon.

What is Your Goal?

Think about what you’re trying to achieve: you are just attempting to defend your home, you are not required to assault a target building or fend off the zombie horde. More often than not, you are looking at defending yourself and your loved ones against one to three intruders – max. A shotgun is more than adequate for that type of setting.

I would even go further and say a shotgun chambered for a 20 gauge shell would work better. It will be easier for the whole family to handle should the situation arise and someone of a smaller build is forced into a compromising situation with an unwelcome guest in the domicile.

Here’s an Example:

My grandmother lived for many years by herself in a remote area of Nebraska on the family farm. She was relatively close to a major highway for the region and often had unwelcome guests swing by the farm in the evening or late at night. These people were often male, traveling through looking for gas because they were too drunk to think about gassing up elsewhere. She had a short 20 gauge double barrel for just such an occasion to effectively communicate where they could fill up at. If she could use it well into her 80’s, I suspect most people can as well.

Just my opinion.

6. Gordon Evans

  • Retired Navy SEAL
  • 20 Years of Experience with Naval Special Warfare
  • Firearms Instructor for Over 10 Years Having Trained 3000+ Navy SEAL Candidates

Read more about Gordon here.

Retired Navy Seal Gordon Evans

My pick for a home defense gun? I would have to say the 12-gauge shotgun. You get a choice of rounds, you can pick from: no.9 shot so you don’t over penetrate or 00 buck-shot, and for some real stopping power, you can load a slug round, one ounce of pure stopping power.”

Gordon’s complete response:

My pick for a home defense gun? I would have to say the 12-gauge shotgun.

You get a choice of rounds, you can pick from: no.9 shot so you don’t over penetrate or 00 buck-shot, and for some real stopping power, you can load a slug round, one ounce of pure stopping power.

So you don’t have a shotgun; well then a .45 is my pick. Oh, you don’t own a .45 either. Well, let’s go with a …

I hope you’re beginning to see that there are a lot of choices for a home defense weapon and it is hard to tell you what is best for you. I don’t know how big or small you are. What your home is like: it could be big and you may have longer shots; it could be a small apartment with no room to maneuver. So what is my answer?

Use the gun you know the best. A home break-in is not the time to learn that you did not train enough on the weapon you chose.

What Weapon to Choose?

First and foremost is how much training do you have on whichever weapon you pick. Even though a shotgun has more stopping power, you may need to accept the fact that you do not own one or may not be as proficient with a shotgun as you are with, let’s say your pistol.

Which weapon have you trained on the most? Under stress, you will have to know how to use whichever weapon you have chosen. I teach home invasion classes and have witnessed the strange things people do under this type of pressure. Both men and woman have accidentally shot their spouse. They have even forgotten to load their weapon, and the list keeps going. I have observed that most of the time it would not have mattered which weapon they chose. The most important choice was picking a weapon they have trained on and were very confident using.

What’s the Intruder’s Goal?

You also need to take into account what type of break-in it is. Is it a break-in and the thieves think you are asleep or not home or, as is becoming more common, a home invasion where the thugs are armed and are wanting to hurt you. Of course use the gun with the most stopping power that you can handle and have trained with.

Aspects to Consider

It comes down to practice your plan. If you have not practiced your plan, you do not have a plan. I would see a dramatic change in confidence and competence with as little as two practice runs. I cannot stress enough to practice your plan.

You must be able to hit your target so have a flashlight, a light on your gun, or you could even turn the house lights on. A light on your gun is the better choice, but that is a topic for another time.

And the last point is the hardest for a lot of men. Bunker up in a room that is safe. Make them come to you. Call out “I have a gun and have called the police”. Unless you have children or your spouse is in danger, stay where you are safe. Everything else is just stuff and can be replaced.

I am not sure if I answered the question or not. I will have to say that the choice of gun is secondary to being confident with your gun and practicing your plan.

Retired Navy SEAL Joe Dawson

7. Joe Dawson

  • Medically Retired After 14 Years as Navy SEAL Chief
  • Sniper Program Manager
  • FBI (POST Certified) Firearms Instructor
  • Owner of Bruiser Industries

The “best” gun is one you are comfortable enough to handle in that situation and utilize to defend your life and that of your family.

Joe’s complete response:

Attempting to answer the general “best home defense gun” question is like trying to answer the question of what is the best vehicle to use to get to work. There are so many questions that have to be answered prior to giving a solid suggestion. Typically, in this industry, you will get the general “gun of the month” response or watch as the Glock guys and 1911 diehards rip each other apart.

Following that battle for the ages, in will come a couple “ol’ uncle Joe’s” who just fall back to their old scatter gun and how they will just point in the general direction of a threat and “blow a hole through them”.

None of these are correct, and possibly all of them are depending on your situation. What is your house made out of? Where you do live? Do you currently own guns that you train with regularly? Do you want to train with any gun you purchase (you should)?

For a typical home invasion or defense, it will probably happen when you aren’t expecting it, probably asleep and your adrenaline will be pumping. The “best” gun is one you are comfortable enough to handle in that situation and utilize to defend your life and that of your family.

What You Need to Consider

Considerations such as terminal ballistics and penetration comes down to bullet choice more than caliber choice, as there are popular 9mm rounds that will penetrate 40”+ inches and .308 rifle rounds that will do 6-7”. In my opinion, I would have a weapon with a light if at all possible, whether it is a shotgun, rifle, or pistol as getting to a light switch or maneuvering around your house may prove difficult otherwise.

Without the need to conceal, a larger capacity can be beneficial as it wouldn’t be ideal to face a group of home invaders with a 5 shot J frame if you have other options.

Budget is always a consideration and utilizing your money wisely to get a weapon and any associated gear that you will train with and feel comfortable handling in a stressful situation is more important than what color it is or the coating on the bolt carrier group if you don’t shoot it.

Find what works for you as in the end it won’t be what works best for everyone. It’s your responsibility to protect yourself and your family not someone else’s.

8. Karl Erickson

  • Retired Army Special Forces Sergeant Major (SGM)
  • 25 Years Military Experience
  • Served 18 Years with Special Forces
  • Host of YouTube Channel Tactical Rifleman

For more information on Karl and his training, visit tacticalrifleman.com.

Karl Erickson Special Forces

So, my weapon of choice for home defense will always be a rifle. I didn’t just say “AR Rifle” as most any semi-auto rifle is better than a shotgun or pistol for home defense. Whether it’s a Mini-14, KelTec, AK, Travor, AR, or a SIG MPX; a good short carbine will never let you down.

Karl’s complete response:

OK, I know everyone has their own opinion on “Home Defense” weapons. Well, that includes me. My opinion is “Go with what you know.” My background is 26+ years of military service, with much of that in Special Ops, including Direct Action units.

I carried a rifle & pistol during hostage rescues or provided overwatch with a semi-auto sniper rifle while the other assaulters conducted the raid. Since retiring, I went from “shooting & blowing stuff up” to teaching people how to “shoot & blow stuff up.” I also host a YouTube channel called “Tactical RIFLEman.”

So, can you guess which weapon I would pick for Home Defense? Again, “Go with what you know.”

If you only practice with a pistol, use that pistol for home defense. If you carry a rifle for a living, then it only makes sense for you to use the same type of weapon for home defense. Now, you notice that I’ve mentioned a pistol and a rifle. I haven’t said anything about a shotgun. That surprises many of you because everyone on the internet/TV/movies pushes using a shotgun for home defense because:

  • It doesn’t go through walls like a pistol
  • The “Racking Sound” will scare the intruder away.
  • You don’t have to aim
  • Better in low light
  • The pump shotgun will never jam
  • Weapon of choice for Zombies

Well, call me crazy, but to me, for Home Defense, I want:

  • Accuracy, so I don’t hit friendlies
  • Stopping power
  • Something that I have “Muscle-memory” with, for ease of use in hasty situations
  • In my world, Shotguns are for breaching doors and shooting birds.

For the Shotgun Lovers out There…

Yes, I know a shotgun has great stopping power, close up. Even Birdshot is devastating up close. However, Birdshot also quickly slows down. Now that can be great, when you are trying to prevent over-penetration. However, it can also be bad when you are trying to incapacitate the intruder at the other end of a long hallway.

Yes, Buckshot retains energy at hallway distances and will kill any intruder. However, good luck keeping all the pellets on the target. Those that miss are going through walls and potentially hitting non-combatants.

Yes, your shotgun has a tighter choke than mine and you are using special “Flight Control” shotgun shells that group tighter. Yep, that’s great. You can even switch to a Slug. Slugs are great, but then you really just have a 8-shot rifle that reloads really slow, right? See my point?

I like Shotguns. I own close to as many shotguns as I do rifles. I know their strengths and their versatility. That said, there is a reason every hostage rescue and direct-action unit on the planet uses a carbine for a primary weapon system.

My Choice?

So, my weapon of choice for home defense will always be a rifle. I didn’t just say “AR Rifle” as most any semi-auto rifle is better than a shotgun or pistol for home defense. Whether it is a Mini-14, KelTec, AK, Travor, AR, or a SIG MPX; a good short carbine will never let you down.

I’m not going to bring just a pistol to a gunfight; I’m going to bring a rifle. Now, before you comment why I carry a pistol EDC; I carry a pistol every day because I am NOT planning on getting into a gunfight. I carry the pistol just in case. If I knew I was going to a gunfight, I would bring a rifle… and a lot of friends.

Now, some will say that a pistol is faster, lighter, and easier to maneuver around the house while flipping light switches and opening doors. Nope.

Try it Out Yourself

Don’t take my word for it; go out to a good shooting range and run drills with your pistol against your rifle. The rifle will be faster. Now try it at twice that distance. The rifle is faster and much more accurate. Remember, your home is filled with your loved ones and your property; you can’t afford to miss. As for being “too heavy to open doors”; if you can’t hold up and control a Short Barreled Rifle (SBR) with one hand, then you need to hand it to your wife and stand behind her.

Set up your shorty rifle with a good Red-Dot optic and a Flashlight and you are all set. I also run a sling but, again, that is muscle memory for me. After that run good home defense ammo, like Inceptor Frangible or Hornady TAP.

Note I said “Home Defense ammo” and not “Combat ammo.” Yes, you are fighting for your life to defend your family. However, modern military “Combat Ammo” like M855 or M855A1 is designed to be able to penetrate light barriers, like car doors & windshields, while still having enough energy to incapacitate a foe. You don’t want nor need that barrier penetration within your house.

Again, go with what you know. If you don’t train with your firearm, you shouldn’t have it. However, whether you pick a rifle, pistol, or shotgun, if you are proficient with it, you will win the day. That said, there is always room to improve the odds.

How You Should Prepare

Know the angles: You know where the family members are in your house. Avoid shooting those angles. If you can’t, yell for the family members to lay on the ground, then crouch and fire upward at your opponent , taking the loved ones out of the backstop.

Now, when that home alarm goes off, you can bet I’m coming prepared. I’ll be praying it was nothing. I’ll be praying they won’t be stupid… but if they come to hurt my family, rest assured I will exercise my right to spend the then next two weeks cleaning bio-hazard from all over my walls.

A good rifle, with a white light and good optic… along with a quality way to secure it safely; that’s all you need. Enough said. Again, just my opinion. Go with what you know. I know I’m choosing a rifle. Strength & Honor, TR.

Kyle Lamb Delta Viking Tactics

9. Kyle Lamb

  • Retired Sergeant Major in the Army (21 Years)
  • 15 Years in 1st SFOD-D
  • Founder and President of Viking Tactics

Fore more information on Kyle, visit vikingtactics.com.

If I had to pick one weapon for Home Defense it would far and away be the AR-15.

Kyle’s complete response:

Here are my 2 cents:

If I had to pick one weapon for Home Defense it would far and away be the AR-15. The reasons for that choice are simple, I’m the one in the fight. If you don’t like the AR or are not comfortable with it you should pick another gun.

I prefer the AR for several reasons: Standard capacity magazine, with 30 rounds, means I shouldn’t have to worry about reloads in a Home Defense scenario. I am also able to mount a light and red dot easily to most AR platforms.

Additional Considerations

If possible I would like to have a suppressor in place to keep it from damaging everyone’s ears if I don’t have time to put on ear protection. I also like the fact I can sling my carbine if need be.

If things get completely off the rails, this system allows me to engage at farther distances comfortably. Another benefit is the lack of over penetration. Most 9mm, and definitely 45 ACP’s or Shotgun slugs, will penetrate through more walls in the United States than standard high-velocity hollow point 5.56 or .223 carbine ammo. Some won’t believe this but it is truly a fact.

So, if you see my lurking around after midnight, don’t be surprised if I’m toting an AR.

10. Mark “Coch” Cochiolo

  • Retired Navy SEAL
  • Served Over 24 Years as a
    Naval Special Warfare Operator
  • 8 Years at Naval Special Warfare Development Group
  • Firearms Instructor for Over 10 Years Having Trained 3000+ Navy SEAL Candidates

For more information on Coch, check out his bio here.

Retired Navy SEAL Mark Cochiolo

Any reliable gun is better than none, a .22 LR pistol to a 12 ga. shotgun will do in a pinch, but we are planning ahead, here are some guidelines to help you decide what is best for you.

Coch’s complete response:

When choosing what gun to use to defend the home here are a few things to consider.

  • The size of your house or property
  • What would be the longest shot you could potentially be forced to make when defending?
  • Can you make that shot with a pistol?
  • What is the building constructed of?
  • Your individual capabilities and training as well as the abilities or disabilities and training of everyone else who would be expected to defend.

I have had a loaded, accessible firearm in every house I have lived in for over 25 years. During that time I have raised 3 kids through their high school years, 2 are still at home.

Because I spend many weeks away for work, everyone in the house knows what to do in case of fire, earthquake and home defense. Everyone is trained in extinguishing fires, turning off gas and water lines, weapons handling and firearm safety. Besides prepping to evacuate for a wildfire, we haven’t had any mishaps or had to exercise any of these skills, but we stand ready.

For example, I am well trained and capable with every weapon I own. On the other hand, my wife is much smaller than I am and cannot deal with the recoil of a 12 gauge shotgun.

The Most Important Thing to Remember

Before we discuss gear, the most important thing for home defense, just like a fire drill, is a well thought out and rehearsed plan, and a backup plan in case of the unexpected. The primary plan should involve getting all occupants to a safe, defendable room or space, calling 911 and retrieving and prepping your firearm. Backup plans may include escaping out of the building or clearing the building yourself, if absolutely necessary and you have the training to do so.

So, the first rule of gunfighting (this is a potential gunfight) is to bring a gun. Any reliable gun is better than none, a .22 LR pistol to a 12 ga. shotgun will do in a pinch, but we are planning ahead, here are some guidelines to help you decide what is best for you.

Remember that all potential defenders have to be capable with the firearm and the firearm should be from a company with a good reputation for reliability. I don’t recommend magnum pistol or high powered rifle calibers due to potential over penetration of bad guys and walls.

  • A semi-auto pistol with the highest capacity magazine allowed in your area chambered in a common self-defense caliber, 9mm, .40, .45.
  • A semi-auto rifle with the highest capacity magazine allowed in your area chambered in an intermediate cartridge, .223, .300 AAC, 7.62X39.
  • A 12 ga or 20 ga pump action shotgun loaded with lead buckshot (no. 4 to no. 1 in size) Pump action is best because they are reliable, can be stored safely with a full magazine and empty chamber (if local laws allow) and the unmistakable sound of the round being chambered lets them know you mean business, if they keep coming after they hear that, you know you are defending your life. .20 ga. is almost as effective as .12 ga but may be more suitable for women or smaller framed people.
  • Revolvers can be left loaded and untouched for years and still be dependable but their limited cylinder capacity and slower reload speed may be a factor, .38 special, or 9mm.

My Thoughts on Attachments

Any gun you choose should be equipped with a good weapon mounted flashlight or at least stored with a good working flashlight for positively identifying your target. Rifles and shotguns should have a sling of some sort in case you need both hands. A clip on holster may be a consideration for a pistol if your plan B includes climbing or using both hands.

There are only a few hard “no’s” in my opinion. No break action rifles or shotguns (no matter what Joe Biden said), single or double-barreled, and nothing too complicated.

Proper storage of your home defense firearm is critical, check with your local laws, I am not a lawyer and they vary so much from place to place there is no way I could list them here. Store weapons and ammo in as close a proximity as is legally allowed. practice retrieving, loading or prepping your weapon from its secure location both in the light and in the dark.

My Last Words

Deciding to keep a firearm for self-defense to defend your home and family should never be taken lightly. Training is more important than hardware and once you are trained, regular practice with the firearm in its fighting configuration day and low light, is critical to your ability to make good decisions under stress and good accurate shots on target if needed.

Patrick McNamara Delta Force

11. Patrick McNamara

  • 22 Years of Special Operations Experience
  • 13 Years in 1st SFOD-D
  • Owner of TMACS Inc.

For more information on Patrick and his training, visit tmacsinc.com.

Whichever one you can shoot the best during periods of limited visibility and while under duress.

Pat’s complete response:

I get asked that often and my answer remains the same. Whichever one you can shoot the best during periods of limited visibility and while under duress. If you suck at shooting, better use a shotgun. I am very comfortable with my pistol (with gun-mounted light and tritiums) for home defense.

12. Paul Howe

  • Served 20 Years in the Army
  • 10 Years in Special Operations
  • Tier 1 Special Ops
  • LE SWAT and Tactical Trainer for over 20 Years
  • Owner of Combat Shooting and Tactics

For more information on Paul, visit: http://www.combatshootingandtactics.com/.

Paul Howe Special Forces

My initial thoughts are that there are too many variables. Here is what I came up with…

Paul’s complete response:

My initial thoughts are that there are too many variables. Here is what I came up with:

Experienced Shooter Male/Female-Urban

  • General Defense of the home: Shotgun, 9mm AR Carbine, .223 Carbine with the right ammo.
  • Personal Self Defense: Gun that will have enough ammo to serve two people and get you out of the situation or to a rifle.

Experienced Shooter Male/Female-Rural

  • General Defense: AR or MAK 90 Clone with Flashlight. MAK will shoot through walls in a defensive posture and will open up cars. Ball ammo works great.
  • Personal Self Defense: Gun that will have enough ammo to serve two people and get you out of the situation or to a rifle.

Inexperienced Shooter Male/Female-Urban

  • General Defense: A weapon they can make work under high stress. A shotgun of a Gauge that they can handle and operate.
  • Personal Self Defense: I like hammerless revolvers, maybe a .22 LR or .22 Mag as it gives them confidence and they are not afraid to shoot it.

Inexperienced Shooter Male/Female-Rural

  • General Defense: A weapon they can make work under high stress. A shotgun of a Gauge that they can handle and operate. A 9mm AR Carbine if they can operate it would be good.
  • Personal Self Defense: I like hammerless revolvers, maybe a .22 LR or .22 Mag as it gives them confidence and they are not afraid to shoot it

Tim Kennedy Ranger Qualified Green Beret

13. Tim Kennedy

  • Ranger Qualified, Green Beret
  • Special Forces Sniper
  • Retired UFC Middleweight Fighter

For more info on Tim and his training, visit sheepdogresponse.com.

I had a few guns placed throughout my home but the gun that is bedside in a Liberty biometric safe is a FN 509 tactical.

Tim’s complete response:

I subscribe to the infantry approach like in FM 21-75. Always improve your fighting position. I’m not sure one weapon is ever the best approach. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

I have my home set up like a fortress. Deterrence is the best defense. I have 3m film on my windows, exterior lighting, and motion sensors. Visible and hidden cameras, and sensors on all the doors and windows. The list really does go on. Only an idiot would think about breaking into my house. Unfortunately, criminals are idiots.

I had someone try to break into my home at 3:55am. Fortunately, he couldn’t get in for the reasons above and I was fine waiting for the police to arrive until he started heading for my toddler’s bedroom window. It was at this point that he realized he had fucked up.

I had a few guns placed throughout my home but the gun that is bedside in a Liberty biometric safe is an FN 509 tactical. It has a light on it but I also have a light next to it in the safe. It has night sights with a co-witnessed red dot.

14. William “Billy” Leahy

  • Former US Coast Guard with 10 Years in the Deployable Specialized Forces (DSF) Unit and the Maritime Security Response Team (MSRT)
  • Former USCG Precision Marksmanship Instructor
  • 2017 US Army International Sniper Competition – 1st Place Service Class Winner

To learn more about Billy, read his bio here.

Personally, my “bedside” gun or home defense firearm go to is a Glock 21 with plus two magazine extensions giving 15 rounds of hollow point 45acp, a weapons mounted light and Glock night sights.

Billy’s complete response:

In my opinion, a home defense firearm should have these basic characteristics:

  • Simplistic
  • Modular
  • Familiar/Comfortable
  • Proven reliability.

Firearms to include bullets are nothing more than a tool used for a variety of jobs. Like anything else, one tool is may not be the best for every job. There is not one firearm that would be the best for every person, which is why there even is always a debate on the “perfect” home defense firearm. Looking at the topic as a whole the home defense firearm is a tool that will help preserve the lives of you and your family. Keep it simple.

When selecting a home defense weapon, pick something simple to use and train with it. Since it’s hard to replicate the stresses involved with defending your home from an intruder, it’s hard to tell how you are going to react (fight, flight or freeze). During a high-stress event, your fine motor skills are greatly reduced and, if not adequately trained, could make it even harder to manipulate the firearm safely!

That’s why I stress the importance of training and I hear “yeah it’s hard to get to the range” a lot. Well, practiced dry fire, dry magazine changes, and work the weapon so it’s familiar to you. Choose a weapon that’s easy to load, to clear malfunctions and to shoot.

Your “Bedside Gun”

The average gun owner has their one go-to firearm or the “bedside gun”. It’s important to select a weapon that is modular. Since we purchase the firearm to prepare for the unknown, it is a good idea to pick a firearm that is able to accept modifications to enhance its physical and mechanical capabilities.

For example, some basic 1911 style pistols have fixed sights built into the slide and no accessory rail. Now picture you have a night time engagement; you’re forced to act, so why make things harder on yourself?

Accessories Can Give You a Fighting Chance

One thing we are always told is “you’re in a fight for your life – never fight fair”. A few nice advantages you can get for yourself are weapon mounted lights, tritium night sights, and a red dot/ reflex style optic. Most modern polymer framed pistols have an accessory rail and the option to purchase tritium night sights.

One of the most modular firearms available is the AR style rifle not only for accessories it can also be configured to fire calibers ranging from .22LR to 50BMG.

How to Find Your Perfect Home Defense Weapon

Having a firearm that is comfortable and is easy to manipulate will make a difference. A Glock 21 (full-size .45acp) feels really natural and comfortable in my hands but I know plenty of people, including teammates, that have experience with the 21 and expressed it’s too big or doesn’t fit their hands and they don’t like it at all.

An easy way to understand what I’m saying is (and I know we all do it) when you go to the gun store and see that gun you’ve been interested in, you say “Hey Matt, let me take a look at that gun.” The first thing we do (after ensuring it’s clear) is establish a grip and look down the sights, and you’ll know instantly if it feels good in your hands or if something’s off.

When things we do are comfortable or natural, it’s a lot easier to repeat or build a habit. Anyone who knows anything about shooting will tell you it’s all about consistency. As a good base, find something that’s comfortable for you.

For obvious reasons, we want a reliable home defense firearm that incorporates a simple design, easy to keep maintained, and, something people seem to overlook…AMMUNITION!

A firearm is a tool or delivery system. Bullets are tools that complete the job. There are many considerations to take into account when selecting a caliber/projectile combination.

Safety is Always Key

Starting with safety, anytime you discharge a firearm you are directly responsible for that bullet morally and lawfully. There are many types of bullets; make sure you buy a few deferent boxes and test them out. Some guns have a hard time reliably feeding certain bullets. Another consideration to think about is over penetration (where the bullet finally come to rest) especially if you have multiple family members in your house or live in a highly populated area.

Having said that speed kills, with modern advancements in bullet technology, it’s not unheard of having 9mm ammo that travels at 1300fps+. The human body is more water than not; when you have small things moving fast, they tend to displace water a lot better then large things moving slow.

For example, take a small rock and slam it into water like your spiking a football then take a brick and drop it from shoulder height. Observe the displacement of the water. Sometimes they may look very similar (without going down that rabbit hole) but I bet you can carry more small rocks than bricks.

Bullets & Magazines

Like bullets, with magazine capacity there are differences. Comparing the 9mm to 45acp, a typical full size 9mm pistol capacity ranges from 15-20 rounds while the 45 is 7-13. Nothing is wrong with either caliber, just user preference.

A common argument when talking about pistol caliber selection is, “well, this bullet has more stopping power than this bullet.” I’ll touch on that, but the only way to quickly and efficiently disable anything is to destroy the pump (heart) or computer (brain); other than that, you’re waiting for the loss of fluid (volume), meaning it’s mostly about shot placement, if you want to quickly eliminate the threat.

What I Use

Personally, my self-defense “bedside” gun or home defense firearm go-to is a Glock 21 with plus two magazine extensions giving 15 rounds of hollow point 45acp, a weapon mounted light and Glock night sites. Everything else is completely factory to maintain the Glock’s reliability.

Anytime you start changing things springs, triggers, firing pins you’re “giving to get”, meaning to “get” that lighter trigger pull, you maybe be “giving” away firing pin spring tension or hammer spring tension (in my limited experience) that could cause malfunctions like light strikes.

It’s imperative to test your rig when it’s finished with the ammo you intend to use for home defense. My choosing a pistol over a shotgun or rifle is maneuverability and my comfort level. I feel just as comfortable shooting a pistol in a close quarters situation as I do a rifle.

A pistol in hand means I can be more adaptive to the unknown. Weapon retention is something to keep in mind; the last thing you want is to be in a fight for your own firearm in a home defense situation. A pistol is typically easier to move with and retain.

Final Thoughts

The best home defense firearm will differ from person to person through training, experience, and physical limitations. It’s important to remember to keep it simple because, hopefully, you’ll never have to use the firearm for it’s intended purpose. But, if you do, make sure you’re are ready.

Train as often as you can, even if it’s just handling the weapon as this will help exponentially if you ever have to use it. Shot placement; you’re personally responsible for every bullet that exits the end of that barrel. Test firing and training with your choice of home defense ammunition will instill confidence in you that the firearm will perform should you ever have to use it.


As you might have guessed (or already known), the “perfect” gun for home defense is not one weapon in particular. Each expert has their go-to firearm, however, the best home defense gun really depends on your personal situation, needs, and skill level.

A pistol is an excellent home defense weapon because it’s often the most readily available and is easy to handle, but it does require more training to use effectively. Among the experts interviewed, a Glock 19 was the most common

Shotguns have always had a reputation of being the classic home defense weapon due to their stopping power and recognizable sound that can be used to scare or intimidate would-be burglars. However, like many experts pointed out, a shotgun may be too difficult to use for smaller-framed individuals and can become a liability.

Lastly, rifles make a great home defense weapon due to their increased accuracy (particularly at longer ranges), and the larger magazine capacity is definitely a benefit. One of its main downsides, though, is that it may be more difficult to wield within the confines of a smaller house or apartment.

We’ve heard from the tactical self-defense experts that a pistol, shotgun, and rifle can all be utilized as the perfect gun for home defense – if used in the right hands.

Now that we’ve heard from them, what are your thoughts about the best home defense gun and why? Please leave your comments below.

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About the author


Myles is the Founder of Tactical Hyve, a competitive shooter, and a life-long student of all things dealing with the tactical and self-defense worlds.

14 thoughts on “14 of America’s Tactical Experts Give Their Take on the Best Home Defense Gun”

  1. Great write up from some of the best warfighters in the business. I tell people the same. Damn. Thing. “Well, it depends.” on what? Your environment and your proficiency. Having a plan, executing that plan, and spending time behind your weapons is critical to success. It’s pretty easy, folks.

    If you refuse to train, you refuse to win. A nightstand gun shouldn’t look like you just bought it!

    Get the enemy’s balls on the walls, pick up that iPhone, start making calls. Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters. To clean up the bodies.

  2. I like that you actually quote people’s answers and Qualifications on the topic

  3. Here’s something that most articles never mention.
    I live in an apartment. So is it safer for me to use a shotgun for home defense instead of a handgun so a stray 9mm round doesn’t go through the wall
    And kill my neighbor?

    • Hey Josh,

      I believe several of the experts talk about this with the underlying message being that one really needs to consider the penetration of their rounds in urban environments.

      I’m no expert, but I feel the answer to your question truly depends on different factors/variables. For example, perhaps a birdshot shell wouldn’t go through an apartment wall, but you might not want that wide of a spread that a birdshot shell would produce.

      I’ve read and heard many times that a 9mm can penetrate much more than people think.

  4. My thoughts. All of these people are correct and, experienced with many weapons. Although, many male and females don’t have that opportunity that some have to get the training and also, the mind set, and calmness to go through a situation like that. Based upon some experience and training, here is my very humble opinion. A seasoned criminal breaking into a home where they know that home is occupied is obviously not concerned with who’s there or, what type of defense they may or may not have. If the homeowner is awakened and confronts them with a pistol at close range and is obviously scared and shaking I have to say that some of the people that have been trained and in active combat would be scared but not to the extent of the homeowner. It would be very easy to make that person miss at even 3-5’ft and anyone with any skills at all has that weapon at that point even if they’ve taken a hit! Now, that been said, if that homeowner has a short-barreled shotgun pointed at them and is shaking the chances of them missing has been cut down greatly. Point being. Get a short-barreled shotgun with 8-9 shot of a small gauge. You shouldn’t penetrate rooms and hurt other things. And, with any luck, you’ll send the perp on their way and not have to shoot. Nobody should have to live with that! Better to live and let live if possible?

  5. As any trainer should say, get a weapon you can handle, then train train train. You can train at home situation’s with an unloaded weapon with a laser. Practice. Remember let the threat come to.you, you have the advantage and suprise. A lot of hollow point pistol ammunition hitting the k5 areas should expand enough to avoid pennitration not always. Practice train.
    44 yrs LEO, 12 K9/SWAT. TARGET ranges set up on my 63 acres, my family trains weekly. All types caliber’s and makes. My choice, whatever gets 1st in my hand.

  6. Alot was said about best HD (home defense) firearms (I know this is the topic on hand) but I would like to add another variable into the equation. Self protection. Everyone should have on hand a bulletproof vest/ballistic shield. My go to in this situation would be a ballistic shield and a .40, .45 or 9mm but poaded with apropriately hot plus p rounds. A bright flashlight with a laser (if possible)
    and if possible all configured in a RONI/MCK with a single arm stabilizing brace. Whenever most CQB team are moving in to make an intervention, the lead person always goes in with a ballistic shield, plus many home invaders are now equipped with high caliber weapons. Such as AR’s and AK’s but even if not a ballastic shield can absolutely be a great asset and might even be a good psychological/visual deterrent. They went in looking for red riding hood’s grandma and found a spartan in her place.

  7. My most successes with intruders is bright home lights, a cleaning kit and a double barrel shotgun leaning on the coffee table. Backed up with a 45 where ever I’m at in the house. No one stayed after seeing the shotgun.

    The only other time someone tried to break in, I locked and re-loaded. The sound was enough.

    Use layers of defense, and delay obstacles. The intruder then loses the edge.

    I hope to never fire a shot.

  8. Dogs on the outside would give me the heads up,i can tell when they are looking at someone or not, other than the alarm i have a CMMG ar45 pistol with brace w/ 1x vortex prism that takes 26 rd mags of which i have several. hopefully the dogs will help them leave if not i will do what is needed.

  9. Thanks for this post. Wondering what the best type of gun or guns would be for home defense. Happy to start learning to shoot, but I never really shotguns. I ideally want something that won’t penetrate a wall or spread too wide, causing potential innocent casualties. Living in California.


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