Home defense, shotgun or handgun?

You know Chris I’ve heard a lot of guys talking about keeping guns spread out all over the house . I have a 9 year old autistic daughter that prevents me from that scenario. When a gun is not locked up in my house it is beside me on me right there with me. Good point on them not scaring off, you’re right, they’re breaking into your house for a reason they know the chances. so I get that. They’re not going to run they’ll probably just react.


A couple of things to consider:

Are you trained to clear a house? I’m not. The only time I leave the security of my bedroom (also where my gun safe is) is if I have to get to another family member.

How large/small is your house? Long guns are just that - long. (I know MOTO.) That can work against you in a small area. It’s also harder for a bad guy to get a good grip on a handgun that is easier for you to maneuver.

Staging guns with children around can be difficult, but not impossible. Small easily accessible safes can be chained in place through the house if you’re determined to stage firearms.

My suggestion is make a plan and train with your family.


@NickC - I am actually leaning more (these days) to my revolver as well for home defense
S&W model 19-3 .357 for me it seems more like a safer choice and less likely to have a accidental discharge in the heat of the moment “grab in the middle of the night” situation.

@Dawn - EXCELLENT POINT All of you with Families read that twice!! - I’m single, no kids in the house and I would definitely follow that advice if I was staging


“…a pistol puts a hole in people, a rifle puts a hole through people, a shotgun at the right range with the right load will physically remove a chunk of ■■■■ off your opponent and throw that ■■■■on the floor…” ~ Clint Smith


I apologize beforehand as to what my observations are, and as to how they may be perceived by some. I am by no means the final word on anything, and everyone is entitled to their opinion. As stated in my initial introduction, I do have a considerable amount of practical experience, and I would like to present a few lessons I learned along the way.

Given the choice between a handgun or a shotgun for home defense, there are numerous things to consider. To start, let’s consider the weapon itself, free of all the “tacticool” accessories one may be inclined to add after the initial purchase. Tactics are tactics, and regardless of what you’re bringing with you to investigate that bump in the night, sound tactics still prevail. How long is the shotgun? Are you able to “cut the pie” in a narrow hallway or is your shotgun causing you to abandon sound tactics to maintain control of the weapon? Can you clear a room with the weapon in proper position to address an armed adversary or are you forced to perform a series of gymnastics to avoid furniture, children’s toys and various appliances? In most cases, the handgun will prevail.

The next aspect is ammunition. I have participated and preformed the FBI protocol with gelatin blocks many more times than I can remember. To those not familiar with it, the protocol was established to follow a set of criteria in determining how well various types and calibers of ammunition performed in certain media. The gelatin block represented human flesh without the necessity of using deceased animals or human cadavers. The ammunition was tested with a t-shirt on the gelatin block to see how the ammunition would perform with light (read summer) clothing. Next, the block was covered with multiple layers of clothing to replicate an armed incident in cold weather. The final three mediums were wallboard, auto glass and sheet metal. Keep in mind, this was a law enforcement test, and shooting around automobiles necessitated testing with the auto glass and sheet metal.

The results were fairly consistent throughout the testing process. Some hollowpoint ammunition became clogged by the heavy layers of clothing, and most were prone to shed their jackets when fired through automobile glass. However, the wallboard test is very relevant when choosing the proper ammunition for home defense. Contrary to “popular belief,” a good frangible round in 5.56 x 45 is much less penetrative than a 9mm in FMJ. As a matter of fact, short of high-powered rifle rounds, 9mm FMJ (full metal jacket) is notoriously over- penetrative. I have seen it penetrate three blocks of geletin and continue downrange. Shotgun slugs and 00 buck are also very penetrative. A good choice for the shotgun might be #6 lead shot, and a medium weight 9mm hollowpoint such as 124 grain is also optimal.

Accessories: everyone likes to accessorize, but before you sell the farm to have the gear of the week, here are some considerations. Should you mount a light on your home defense weapon? Well, there’s no doubt it’s convenient, and it’s absolutely necessary to be able to identify your potential target. Let’s say you hear a bump in the night, and go investigate with your light mounted shotgun. Finding no one in your secured house, you step outside and check the perimeter of your home. That’s when you come into contact with some neighbor kids up to some mischief. They are trespassing sure, but they’re posing no danger to you. Now the problem is you can’t use your flashlight effectively without pointing your weapon at things you shouldn’t be. If you turn off the light, you’re standing there in the dark. Maybe you have a quick detachment system which enables you to remove the light and maybe you don’t. It’s always best to carry another small flashlight with you, then when your weapon is no longer needed, you will have an independent light source.

What about lasers? In law enforcement, we ignored them. There are two glaring issues. You should never depend upon a sighting system that can fail. If your battery goes dead, it will always be at the absolute worst time. I have never seen a laser that is capable of illuminating a suspect well enough to establish a clear identification. So then the question becomes, “am I even pointing my weapon at the right person?” Once again, an independent light source is mandatory. Lastly, lasers don’t just project out to the suspect, they also eminate from your weapon. I can tell where you are as soon as you turn it on.
Lasers are OK, but they will never take the place of the principles of true marksmanship. Use a flashloght, and learn how to use your sights.

To sum this up, the best weapon you can use is the one you have. Maybe you can’t afford more than one. If your weapon is a shotgun, use the right load, make sure you have a good home defense plan in place and practice clearing your home with an empty weapon. I believe your best bet is a handgun, as it is so much easier to maneuver within the tight confines of a residence. One final thought: use your light switch, and turn on your lights. If you are clearing your home with a flashlight, as the bad guy, no matter how many times you turn off the flashlight and wriggle to a new position, I will immediately know where you are as soon as the flashlight comes back on. If I am crouched in the dark, you might not see me until it is too late. Turning on you home lights takes all the advantage away from the intruder, not you.


I just started my membership yesterday at 11 p.m. and already I am glad that I did. all of you have very useful information in different situations and different walks of life. Thank you very much for your rapid responses. This is an awesome community.


welcome Justin!


My instructor used to say (if a shot went a little wide) “you know what that is?”
“That’s 10 years in solitary, you just winged a anti-gun lobbist while they were getting a latte”


My house is old…narrow doorways, smaller shared spaces, bigger bedrooms. A handgun allows better maneuverability in my situation. I do have a mounted light, but I will work in the dark until I find the intruder.


I have no small children at home anymore. There’s a very handy handgun with a light on my nightstand every night. There’s another handgun handy to me or on me everywhere else. Then there’s a loaded AR with the correct ammo for indoor use a short distance away in case I deem the handgun insufficient for dealing with whatever I’m facing. There’s also a vest with 20 full AR mags and other essentials hanging in the closet if we’re talking zombie apocalypse (or equivalent) or I need to leave in a hurry.


There are a few minor differences. They are pretty much the same pistol. They share the same instruction manual


You do have a private word for danger and what to do when it is said? My wife would what did you say and why should I do that.


Small home does a shotgun even make sense.12 gauge 00 buck goes through walls , neighbors home & any thing else in it’s way. Heard #4 buck has less penetration so maybe? Close range still have to be able to aim it. Racking a shotgun means nothing except how bad guy takes it from you while doing you in. Depending on your home keep family safe, get a plan & then get another…


Youth model 410 with defense rounds


Hello @Justin47 and welcome to the community.

I myself used to keep my Mossberg 12Ga shotgun as a primary home defense weapon and my Sig P228 9mm as a secondary. When I was 22yo and living by myself that was not so much an issue about worrying of any loved ones or a cross fire. Being the creature of habit that I am I kept that train of thought for many years.

Fast forward to today at 50yo, aside from signage, security cameras, motion sensing flood lights, and dogs.

Both my wife and I each have 9mm ARs as primary home defense weapons with a pair of Glock 21 .45 ACPs secondary weapons for home defense.

Here’s my flowchart

Further we each have a 12Ga Mossberg as @JamesR puts it if things get hinky.

We have a 2 story home with a safe on each floor, all 3 bedrooms are upstairs. We only have our 23yo daughter who lives with us these days almost an empty nest. She knows how to shoot and prefers a shotgun or an AR over a pistol or revolver.

Clearing rooms alone as @Dawn pointed out isn’t something I probably would do, our plan is to get to the master bedroom and hunker down like it’s Helm’s Deep. Clearing rooms alone is too risky if untrained.

We’ve gotten fast at pulling up the security cameras that we can check the live feed or roll it back and pan/rotate the view from safety. Granted this is with power on, if the power is out then we’ll deal with that.

Now in general I always have my Glock 26 with me, I also keep flashlights handy all over the house paired with a folding knife, a repurposed hickory shovel handle is cut down and staged in the support brackets to our staircase so it blends in, with a couple more up stairs.

For our home this works for us, and if it evolves again then we’ll adapt to that.


That is a great idea to stage other weapons in other parts of the house. I like your setups brother. Carry on and stay safe. God bless you.


Love the analogy!

Don’t tell the elf. :elf:


In my opinion both, I always have my carry gun holstered and on my side, even when I’m at home. That way if, God forbid, a home invasion or something of that matter occurs
I don’t have to run to my gun safe to get my gun, it’s already on my person. However, if I’m in a situation where I see the fight coming, ( let’s say, one or more people trying to “peacefully protest” by attempting to bring death or harm to my family, for example.) and I need to call the police and prepare for a fight in case they don’t arrive in time. Then I want something that’s going to help me end that fight as fast as possible. For that I have my 12ga 870.


Hey Justin, I’m former military and during any urban warfare training (urban environment meaning clearing buildings and such) I used anything from an AR, Shotgun, and pistol. Here’s some things to think about in a home setting.

When you are making your way around a corner, your barrel will likely be exposed before you are. This wouldn’t seem like a big issue unless someone sees it and grabs it and/or shoots at you as you expose yourself.

round penetration could be an issue for your loved ones. a 40 hollow point will still go through many walls before something more dense stops it.

shorter barrels are harder to shoot effectively when your heart is beating through your chest in a high stress environment.

I prefer a 9mm next to my bed so that if I’m dead or wounded, my wife can effectively wield it also. What if you’re in the bathroom and your spouse has to respond? Which would they be able to wield effectively?

Train train train!!! when push comes to shove, it’s all theoretical until you really need it. When that day comes (and I hope it never does), the ONLY thing that will matter is whatever you trained for that’s in muscle memory. You can run through some practice drills at home and have your spouse or friend try and grab the barrel or react so you’re familiar with it.


Why not grab both?