Some preps are perennially effective, not just in a “true” SHTF event or the End of the World as We Know It. Take for instance having a gun and the skills to use it. Reason? Sadly, evil exists in the hearts of men and there are those out there who will kill you and your family just to get what you have, or even just for sport. That is a possibility in the world we live in.
Around 1 in 35 to 40 homes in the U.S. are burglarized each year. An increasing number are invaded, meaning stormed while the homeowners (you) are there. Some neighborhood and cities have it far worse than others, but there is no place in America (or the world) that is truly safe, only safer.. Scumbags never sleep.
They’re always looking for their next victim, always looking for where the food is. If you are incautious or unlucky, it could be you, and that means you’ll need the means to deal with them in no uncertain terms.
In this article, we’ll be giving you a ground-floor guided tour of what guns are best in what conditions for in-home self-defense of you and your family. Your home is your castle, and castles are protected. So let’s get to it.
Table of Contents
Guns are Essential for Preparedness
Preppers might buy guns for different reasons, or at least think they do, but no matter if you are buying a small holdout pistol for concealed carry, a shotgun for defense against hordes of looters or a rifle for protection against marauding raiders, you are in fact getting a gun to protect yourself from the predations of other people.
Those self-same predators might fully embrace and exploit the greater troubles caused by a SHTF event for their own ends at the time, using the chaos and disruption of communications and law enforcement response to make hay while the sun is shining, so to speak, but they will also have no compunction about doing the very same thing in kinder, normal times if they feel they must or think they can get away with it.
For these reasons, guns are a fundamental part of preparedness in total, not just a “break glass in case of SHTF” emergency tool. In fact, you are far more likely to need to confront an intruder in your home than survive a great many variations on popular doomsday scenarios. Something to think about…
Choosing a Gun for Home Defense
The subject of guns comes up in conversation with likeminded and passionate people, you can be assured that the debate will turn lively. Everyone has an opinion on what class of gun and what specific model inside that class is best for a given role. Home defense is no different.
Guns, as with any tool, all have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Consider the humble hammer, as a family. If one was to use a framing hammer where one needed a tack hammer, you could probably get the work done, but it would be more dangerous and the quality of your work would surely suffer for it.
Same thing with a sledge hammer. It might be a brute force tool but it is excellent for its role. Using a shingling hammer for the same job would be an ugly, exhausting prospect.
You should apply the same level of care and common sense to selecting your home defense firearm, especially one that might have to be employed in a true SHTF situation, should that grim eventuality come to pass.
Setting aside training and skill level for just a moment (and we’ll come back to that, promise!) consider some other facets of your daily reality. Take your living arrangements, first: Do you live in an apartment? In a house? A condo? Do you have a lot of room inside, or is it cramped?
Are you in the city, the ‘burbs or the country? What about your property? Do you have a perimeter or large parcel to potentially cover and protect? All of the above will inform your decision.
So in an apartment or flat, a handgun or shotgun is probably your best option. A handgun is It’s e much easier to hide and transport surreptitiously past prying eyesasier to hide and, and in a crowded or cramped space it is much easier to handle and also makes it’s harder for an attacker to disarm you.
And if you haven’t yet moved out of the city or suburbs, you’re probably not prepared to hunt your own food and such, anyway. Bushcraft is probably not your thing so having a rifle doesn’t really make sense.
A shotgun affords far greater effectiveness though and a spray of buckshot will make it easier to get a good hit, but if you have neighbors all around you, on the sides as well as above and below, it might be more risk than it is worth.
Do you have a homestead or a perimeter to potentially defend? If you do, it is a good idea to invest in the kind of range and power that long guns bring to bear. Rifles or shotguns are both excellent choices depending on the ranges involved. For power and accuracy at extended ranges, rifles and shotguns both shine where handguns fall short.
Consider Family and Co-Inhabitants
Something else you should consider before settling on one type of gun over another is how many people live with you and who they are to you. If you have kids, roommates or relatives all over the house, you may very well want to choose a rifle or handgun over a shotgun, as a single projectile is all that will ever be launched with a pull of the trigger.
A shotgun loaded with shot will fire a flurry of pellets, each one capable of inflicting a lethal wound in typical defensive sizes.
Children located away from the master bedroom means you and potentially your mate will be moving through the house at best speed to get to them, and while this is risky enough in the face of an unknown invasion it takes on an entirely new degree of difficulty and danger if you have to do it with a long gun.
While this can be mitigated with training, a handgun allows you to easily control it with only one hand while the other is busy opening doors, using a phone or carrying a child.
Every gun can do if you can do, but certain situations and living arrangements lend themselves better to some scenarios more than others.
What is Your SHTF Plan?
Your plan for dealing with a serious SHTF event may further influence what self-defense gun to get. Some people prefer having a handgun even if they have a large perimeter to defend because the handgun is easier to conceal and move with should they need to evacuate among other people. A long gun is a difficult thing to hide and keep secret on your person.
If you plan to stay put no matter what, you would do well to consider maximum firepower, range and capacity as more important than concealability, since you will be protecting a fixed site from the inside out, you have little reason to worry over keeping a gun out of sight and out of mind on your own property.
Shotguns are rifles both blow handguns out of the water when it comes to power and the ability to make easy hits.
Do dangerous animals pose a threat to you or does hunting figure into your plans for sustenance? If so, a rifle or shotgun should be your defacto choice, and shotguns in particular afford you opportunity to bag all kinds of critters, airborne and otherwise since they can make use of multiple shell types for different objectives.
If you live in a somewhat remote area, yet prefer handguns, consider the fact that you might have to face dangerous animals. Handguns can save the day, but you’ll rarely see anyone who works in remote places where these creatures are willfully go forth armed only with a handgun.
How Experienced are You?
Your level of skill and how much training you plan to take or can afford will have some impact on the firearm you choose for your home defense plan. While no gun will suffer an untrained user or a fool, some designs are definitely more user friendly than others, and more forgiving of mistakes.
This is similar to buying a car. You can get one with an automatic gear box that’s perfect for newbies, OR you can get a stick shifter that is more complex, but can afford greater control and even remain competitive with modern cars if the driver is good enough.
Using that as our basis, consider one constantly recommended design for close-quarters home defense: the pump-action shotgun. While affordable, effective and mechanically robust, guns in this class are in no way the foolproof guns they are made out to be the less informed and experienced.
A manually operated shotgun may nominally be less sensitive to ammo than an autoloading shotgun, but they suffer from a unique chance to malfunction in the form of the shooter failing to run the action hard and briskly every time they fire. When this occurs, the gun will often malfunction and lock up.
An autoloader by contrast will fire once when the trigger is pulled. That’s it, Consider other manually operated firearms like lever-action rifles to be much the same in this regard; they can absolutely be valid, effective choices, but you must put in the long hours of practice until cycling their action is second nature, lest you screw things up.
Before you go with something dictated by “common knowledge” or tradition, remember that the purpose of your next gun is to defend your home.
You’re not necessarily looking a weapon to hunt with or to shoot a target a half mile away, you want something for protection of your home and family, and that means you should prioritize a design that you are less likely to fumble.
Are You Usually Mobile?
Are you constantly on the go, either travelling for work or pleasure? If you do, a handgun is going to make much more sense to for you since it is a cinch to carry with you at all times.
You can get into smaller long guns, something like an AR pistol or a shotgun with folding or even no stock if you want to make packing and travelling with your big gun easier, but these smaller guns often give up desirable handling and ballistic characteristics in the bargain.
They do, though, have a big advantage in that they are far nimbler in confined spaces. Something to consider is how much, if at all, you’ll need to do to move and store the gun safely and securely if you are on the road.
Keeping all of the above in mind, let’s see what some of your options look like when it comes to home defense.
There’s no doubt about it, rifles are a prepper’s best friend. Rifles bring a combination of accuracy, power and range to the table that is unrivaled by any other handheld firearm. From big scoped rifles to tiny, nimble carbines, there is a rifle out there to serve any purpose.
A big advantage that rifles have for home defense over handguns is power and capacity. A shot from a rifle is often fatal and far more debilitating that a shot from a handgun, all things being equal.
Most modern semi-auto carbines use magazines that contain upwards of 30 rounds or more, ensuring you’ll have enough ammo in the gun for all but the most desperate of encounters.
Your average handgun, even with a slightly extended magazine, will rarely hold more than 18 or 20 rounds, tops. No small amount of lead to sling, but it does not come close to a rifle’s capacity.
The same thing that makes rifles so good also makes them, potentially, a liability. Rifles exhibit as a rule lots of penetration, with your older intermediate .30 caliber rifles being the worst offenders.
Penetration is great when you need to punch through a wall or car and get someone, but you really don’t want to be worried that a shot could potentially exit your house. 16”-20” of penetration is ideal for self-defense. Plenty of rifles exhibit way, way more than that.
I’m going to give you my pick for a defensive carbine in a moment, but first let me tell you what to look for when selecting an ideal home-defense rifle:
- Semi-automatic action.
- Uses detachable magazines holding at least 20 rounds…
- Capable of decent accuracy at 300 meters. (Good for SHTF)
- Chambers a centerfire intermediate cartridge – 5.56mm is ideal.
- Can employ an optical sight and mount a white light for positive target identification.
The Best Home Defense Rifle: the AR-15
Using the criteria above, the clear choice and reigning champion of modern carbines is of course the AR-15.
The AR-15 is America’s most popular sporting and defensive rifle for good cause: it has an almost unbeatable combination of accuracy, power, light weight and reliability, its ubiquity makes it the obvious choice for preppers as parts, service and so forth can be found anywhere in abundance.
The AR is also the most customizable and adaptable rifle on earth and it is a snap to set your gun up with an optic, light and sling, three indispensible items for self-defense purposes.
The Runner Up: the AK-47
The AK-47, actually today the AKM and its many, many derivatives,. It’s a little uncomfortable even in 2019 for some preppers to consider an AK, the “Bad Guy Gun” as rifle they’ll use to defend home and hearth. Nevertheless, the AK-47 is an amazing choice for a survival weapon and there are good reasons to consider one:
Compared to an AR, it is heavier and fires a typical 7.62x39mm round with a ballistic trajectory that looks like Beto O’Rourke’s political career. But it is simple, durable and easy to maintain.
While nowhere near as adaptable or modular as an AR in most guises, the modern AK market has seen huge increases in the amount of goodies you can tool your avtomat up with, including the ever important sling, light and optic.
AKs are not renowned for their accuracy past 200 yards or so, but even in extremis it will be the rare fight indeed you get in past 100 yards or so.
Shotguns are the close-range cleavers of home defense guns, with a little twist of Swiss Army Knife thrown in. A shotgun firing buckshot is hands-down period the most destructive firearm you can employ, and very capable of inflicting multiple, dreadful wounds with each pull of the trigger.
Their other major advantage is their ability to adapt to changing needs by simply swapping shells: you can use slugs for added range and precision, either against threats or game, large shot for defense in close range hunting and birdshot for bagging birds. You can also fire a variety of specialty loads like flares and non-lethal ammo.
Shotguns have a couple of big disadvantages that you should be aware of before you commit to one. First, they have pretty stout recoil. Second, their capacity is very, very limited, rarely more than 7 rounds, and they are slow to load. Lastly, the most popular of shotguns, pump actions, actually require a fair bit of training to be effective with.
But warts and all shotguns are ferociously nasty weapons to confront if you are an intruder hell bent on causing harm. Shotguns chosen for self-defense should ideally be:
- Pump-action or semi-auto.
- Chambering 12ga or 20ga shells,
- Capable of mounting a shell caddy and a flashlight.
- Equipped with a sling.
The Best Home Defense Shotgun: Mossberg 590A1
My favorite pump-shotgun is one the military has relied on for decades, and is proven tough in all conditions. The Mossberg 590A1.
I put this one first because it’s great fir for both home protection and hunting. It’s a tactical shotgun, a long and heavy one, meaning it holds 9 shells fully loaded with one in the pipe instead of the usual 6 or 8. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
The Mossberg 590A1 passes all military requirements for operation use. It’s easy to maintain, tough and reliable. While it is heavy at over 7 pounds loaded, when you need a shotgun that will get you home from the gates of Hell, this is the one.
Runner Up: the Remington 870
If you choose a Remington 870, one thing is clear, you will find plenty of parts to replace or upgrade this shotgun. After all, it is the most plentiful and popular shotgun on earth! Heck we are talking completely ubiquitous here and it has the aftermarket and factory accessories to show for it.
Compared to the Mossberg above, the Remington has a nicer, faster action, and an ever greater breadth of accessories you might want to install. Everything from stocks, to forends and lights and shell caddies.
The only bad thing about the Remington is the fact that it is not made in one consistent grade across the board. The entry level Express guns suffer from noticeably worse quality than the original Wingmaster and Police grade guns, so you’ll be spending even more to get an equivalent level of gun that you would from Mossberg.
Since I am not planning on setting any land speed records with a pump shottie, I’ll take the known toughness of the Mossberg any day.
Handguns are great in two scenarios: In very tight quarters and as convenient weapons to conceal and carry when long guns are just too much.
This is why a handgun is a great thing to have by your nightstand in case of a burglary or even a post-SHTF home invasion happening at night, while you sleep.
There are way too many good handguns today to even begin listing them all, but whether you want a semi-auto or a revolver, you should not settle on quality.
Any handgun you choose for home defense should meet the following criteria:
- Chambered in 9mm/.38 Special or larger.
- Have a reputation for quality and reliability under adverse conditions.
- Be of common make from a major manufacturer.
- Be of fullsize or compact dimensions (the latter to allow for easy carry).
- Be able to accept a frame mounted flashlight.
The Best Home Defense Handgun: the Sig Sauer P226
My favorite handgun all around is the Sig Sauer P226. This is a rather pricey Cold War-era favorite, bit one with an outstanding and well deserved reputation for accuracy and dependability.
While it is large and heavier than most of the plastic fantastics you encounter today, it makes up for it with a super reliable DA/SA trigger operation, which allows you to pull the trigger immediately with no manual safety to fumble while still affording you a margin of protection against inadvertent discharges.
The Runner Up: the Glock 19
The Glock 19 is about as perfect a handgun as you can get. Affordable, accurate and dead-tough reliable with more parts and accessories made for this gun than any other, you will not go wrong with the Coca-Cola of pistols.
Glocks are not forgiving of mistakes in handling owing to their lack of safety alongside a comparatively short trigger, but so long as you get training and practice good, safe gun handling you’ll be fine. Millions and millions of users cannot be wrong!
The Bottom Line
What gun is best for your home and situation? That is up to you to decide based on your unique circumstances.
A handgun is a fine all-purpose gun for travel and home. Rifles bring great range and power. Shotguns inflict terrible carnage, but you must train around their shortcomings. All are valid if you have the will.
Using this article as a guide, it should be an easy matter to settle on one that will take care of business when things go bump in the night.