No, we’re not talking about Tom Cruise parking his F-14 in your living room – even though it might get you a feature in Better Homes and Gardens. We’re talking about guns and, in particular, which ones offer the best bang (sorry!) for home defense. It might come as a surprise then when I tell you: Going to guns is the last line of defense when protecting you and yours at home.
Your home defense plan needs to be based on several layers of security, each one contributing to making your home as hard a target as possible. Deter a home invasion before it starts… get a monitored alarm system and put the company’s stickers on your windows and their lawn sign on your lawn. If you don’t already have them, install deadbolts in your doors.
Consider getting a dog. I’m not talking about a giant man-eating Doberman or, for that matter, a Chihuahua. Even a medium sized dog barking in the middle of the night will provide you with an early warning system and the bad guy, with a lot more to think about. And have a plan. Talk with your family and make sure they know what’s expected of them if that bump in the night turns out to be the real deal.
If the lawn sign and window stickers don’t deter an attack, and the dog barking behind the door doesn’t get the point across… while you won’t have time to wait for them to arrive, the alarm will at least get the cavalry rolling in your direction, and let the neighbors know that something isn’t right.
Now it’s time to think about the unthinkable. He’s in the house. If you can, get everyone into the same room. It’s far better to take a defensive posture and wait for him to present an easy target as he passes through the bedroom door. But if things don’t work out that way you’ll need to be ready to take the fight to him.
Whether you’re in a defensive posture or on the move, the time has come for the gun, but which one? You’ve got three options… handgun, shotgun, or rifle. A handgun tends to be the first choice when thinking about a defensive firearm, but are they the best choice when it comes to defense inside the home? Handguns are convenient to carry which makes them an excellent choice outside the home, but even on the street, all things being equal, you’d be far better armed with a long gun.
Our first concern anywhere, but especially inside the home where loved ones may be just on the other side of that wall, has to be the potential for our rounds to over penetrate. Even with hollow point handgun ammunition, if the cavity in the nose of the bullet gets filled with drywall or wood, the rounds act just like standard jacketed rounds and present a significant risk of over penetration. And handguns are far less forgiving when it comes to aiming than long guns – due to their considerably shorter sight radius. That, taken with the potential for their ammunition to over penetrate, and handguns leave quite a lot to be desired when talking about defense inside the home.
What about shoguns? It’s true that a shotgun offers far better ballistic performance (read: stopping power) than a handgun, and its longer sighting radius and multiple projectiles per shell make it somewhat more forgiving when it comes time to aim… make no mistake, shoguns do indeed need to be aimed. But what about manageability? Shotguns produce considerable recoil even when using reduced recoil loads. In order to penetrate to the FBI’s minimum accepted standard of 12” (fired into ballistic gelatin) those loads need to contain, at the smallest, #1 buckshot which, in its own right, poses an appreciable risk of over penetration (not to mention the issue of putting 16, .30 caliber, #1 buckshot projectiles on target). With all of that to consider, shotguns might just give way to a better choice in home defense firearm, the rifle.
Did he just say “the rifle”!? You bet your life he did. And in particular a rifle chambered for the .223 caliber cartridge. Here’s why. The FBI’s Firearms Training Unit located at the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA has done extensive testing of the .223 caliber rifle round and determined that in urban environments (like the inside of your home) the .223 caliber projectile not only provides “impressive” ballistic performance, but is less likely to penetrate common building material than are the 9mm, 10mm or .40 S&W jacketed hollow point handgun projectiles.
A high quality AR-15 type semi-automatic rifle chambered in .223, of the sort issued by countless police departments to their frontline officers for use in urban environments, can be had for the same price as a similar quality handgun. Sporting a 16” barrel and standard 30 round magazine the AR-15 is a light recoiling, highly maneuverable, extremely hard-hitting weapon system that provides all of the advantages a long gun has to offer while its .223 caliber cartridge helps to mitigate the very real concern for over penetration inside your home.
With an AR-15 rifle from Bushmaster, Armalite, BCM or Colt (to name just a few) paired with your choice of defensive ammunition offerings from Hornady, Federal, Winchester or Speer (to name a few more) you’ll have in your hands what is, without a doubt in my mind, the top gun for home defense.
David Schoenberg is a defensive handgun instructor, an NRA certified pistol instructor, US Training Center certified carbine instructor and a Glock certified armorer. David hosts New Colony Network’s “Training Ground” on BlogTalkRadio every Friday night at 8:00PM Eastern.