There’s a huge debate about what sort of gun is the best for home defense. Many different “experts” have their own opinions on this, with some recommending one thing and some recommending something else. But most of them are looking at the issue from the viewpoint of effectively stopping the bad guys, not looking at what would be the safest guns to use for home defense.
The argument boils down to a choice between shotguns and pistols, and then further breaks down into what sort of pistol is best. Rifles are basically left out of the argument, as few people think a rifle is practical for use indoors. But then, using a shotgun indoors is difficult too.
There are actually three parts to this question of which guns are safe for home defense. One part is the safety of protecting your family from harm. The second part is that of not accidentally wounding a family member with a missed shot. Both are equally important, especially when you consider that in such a situation there are usually more bullets that miss their target, than there are that hit the target. Finally, the third part is that of keeping control of the gun and not allowing the bad guys to take it away from you.
Shotguns for Home Defense
There is one camp which prefers the shotgun for home defense. The supposed main advantage of the shotgun is that it is a “point and shoot” weapon, which doesn’t have to be aimed accurately, as the shot spreads out and will hit them anyway. Then, when it hits them, it will do a lot of damage, guaranteeing a one-shot victory.
In reality, the spread from a 12-guage 00 Buckshot shell in the first 20 feet is minimal, and it’s rare that you’re going to have a shot farther than that inside a home. You have to be shooting at a distance of 50 feet or more, for the spread to guarantee a hit.
The other part of that problem is that any of the shot that doesn’t hit the bad guy is going to keep going, passing through two or three walls, before it loses its momentum. So, if you miss the bad guy and one of your children is in the next room, there’s a chance that you might hit them, injuring or even killing them.
There are two parts offered for solving this problem, neither of which is popular, because they reduce the effectiveness of the gun. The first is to use Number 8 Birdshot, rather than 00 Buckshot in the gun. At close range, that’s effective, but it doesn’t have as much penetration power to go through the walls. The other is to put a holographic “red dot” sight on the gun, so that you can actually aim it.
Finally, shotguns are a bit long for use indoors, especially hunting shotguns. Tactical shotguns, which have a shorter barrel are better, but the best sort of shotgun to use for home defense is a “bullpup” design, which has the action behind the trigger, shortening the gun considerably. There are only a few of these on the market, but they have been developed specifically for use indoors.
Pistols for Home Defense
The other camp prefers the use of pistols for home defense, because the shorter length makes for much better maneuverability. When it comes to working your way around corners, the most critical part of clearing a building of bad guys, that shorter length is important. As for which pistol, that depends a lot on personal preference.
Many people would say to use the biggest pistol you are comfortable shooting. I’ve even said that myself. But in this case, I must break away from that, because we are talking about safety. Just as with the shotgun, you must be concerned about penetration; how many walls that bullet can pass through and who it might hit on the other side.
This places us in a bit of a dilemma, as the pistol rounds which are most likely to do serious damage to the bad guy, are also the ones which are most likely to go through multiple walls.
To start with, avoid the magnum rounds, they definitely don’t qualify as a “safe” gun for home defense. There’s no reason you need a .44 magnum or .357 magnum, unless you are hoping to scare them with it. That’s not a good defensive strategy. I would also avoid the 9mm, although that is one of the most popular rounds and one of my personal favorites. The 9mm was designed for penetration and we’re trying to avoid too much penetration.
I’m going to swim against the current here and make a suggestion that might seem a bit strange. That is to go with a low velocity pistol, like the .380 ACP. Unless the bad guy is on drugs, the reality is that if you hit them anywhere, with any bullet, the shock of being hit is going to cause them to turn and flee, if they can.
It’s Actually the Ammo That’s Most Important
Regardless of what sort of gun you ultimately choose, it’s the ammo, not the gun, which will make it a safe gun for home defense. Since we are discussing this from a safety viewpoint and penetration is a major part of that, we need ammo that is designed not to penetrate too much. Fortunately for us, there is such ammo on the market. It is called “frangible” ammo and it is designed so that the bullet breaks up when it hits.
This means that if the bullet misses the intended target and hits a wall, it should break up before it can penetrate the wall. That makes it considerably safer than any other type and turns any gun into a safe gun for home defense.
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