To start, let’s get on the same page as to a definition of home defense. We are not talking about a horde of zombies staggering towards your domicile, or a team in black tac-gear stacked on your porch about to make a dynamic entry… …we are talking about being woken up in the night to a window breaking or someone forcing entry into your home.
We will just lightly be touching on the liability of a gunfight taking place in your home. That topic is deep and varied based on a number of factors, including where you live geographically.
What we will be talking about is selecting a good weapon for the job. Not the Right one or the Best one, but a good one. If I knew the right or best one, this would be a short article, but I don’t and a lot of factors come into play. So let’s start with what we are looking for.
I would like something lightweight. Why would you want to be walking through your house with a boat anchor? Whether you find out that a falling limb broke a window and establish your house secure in the first 60 seconds, or you are barricaded in the back room with your weapon trained on the door for 45 minutes waiting on your local understaffed law enforcement agency makes it out, things get heavy.
In the confines of most modern homes, you will find doorways and hallways. This leads me to wanting a weapon that is maneuverable. Something I can collapse in (bring in towards me rather than held at arm’s length) when approaching corners and yet still have the weapon operational. In short, if it has a 28” barrel, you should probably leave it in the gun safe.
Accessibility is key. Having the perfect weapon down the hall, downstairs in the safe of your study isn’t helpful. With this, we run into the issue of your situation. Do you have kids or are you taking care of an elderly parent with dementia? Do you have house guests with kids, or what do you do when they come stay? Do you often have friends or friends of friends over for gatherings? The single person living a monastic life that can just keep weapons on end tables and stuffed under couch cushions is the exception, not the rule.
Where do you keep this go-to weapon? There are a number of storage devices that can secure your weapon and yet still allow fairly quick access to it. If you do have one of these, they are not a turnkey solution. Regardless of where you are stashing this potentially life-saving tool, Train. Can you recover it quickly and quietly when startled out of your REM cycle?
*Quietly* Having touched on sounds, let me say this. Something potentially bad may be imminent for you and your family. Take every advantage you can and try and keep quiet. It is like a really intense game of tag where you may die, don’t broadcast your whereabouts if you can avoid it. “But when I rack my…” Yes, maybe they will be frightened and run off, or… You just turned this burglary into a murder, congratulations. If you decide to attempt to scare away the bad people with a loud noise, you may have only accomplished two things. 1- You have probably let them know where you are with a pretty good degree of accuracy and 2- You have just upped the stakes to a lethal encounter. That person(s) will now be alert and defending their life, either trying to leave or continuing on for whatever purpose brought them there in the first place…
We will also be wanting something we are comfortable and proficient with. If the best gun happens to be something you don’t have a lot of training with, it really isn’t of benefit. “But this caliber is…” Shot placement, shot placement, shot placement. Now that we have established that you need to actually aim, what can you consistently and effectively shoot? Are you the only person potentially employing this weapon? Can your spouse effectively employ the weapon?
On the subject of caliber… “I read that in the FBI study this caliber penetrated…” The FBI probably didn’t come out and shoot your weapon in your house. Is your home brick, stick frame or ICFs? Do you have multiple stories or share a wall with a neighbor in a condo? There is a lot of good information out there, but what is pertinent to you and your situation? While over-penetration is real, it shouldn’t dictate your choice in caliber. Just stay away from anything you would bring on Safari for the Big Five.
Bad things happen at night. Ironically, very few people train at night, in low light or no light conditions. In your house, the best course may be to turn on your lights. That is a tactical decision you will have to make dependent on your situation. But what if the lights don’t turn on for whatever reason, or you don’t want to telegraph that you are occupying a lit room in that section of your house?
This brings us to hand-held and weapon-mounted lights. These provide a few benefits to us, from being used momentarily to navigate, as well as to Positively identify our target. Are we aimed in on a bad guy, our child, our dog or our drunk neighbor that thought he locked himself out of his house? The light being used, if it is hand-held, does it have any form of retention and can it be activated momentarily? What do you do with it if you need to pick up a phone or open a door? If weapon mounted, does it take an additional hand to activate? With whatever choice you make, train with it… …and without it. Everything may fail at some point.
While we touched on a weapon being lightweight and maneuverable, is it handy? What I mean by handy is this. Can I still manipulate it effectively with one hand? Am I lugging around something so unwieldily that I have to yell down the hall “Time-Out!” and set it down on its bipod in order to do anything that would require me to remove one hand from the weapon system? You may need to have a hand free to open doors, open windows for egress, pick up a crying child or dial 911…
In our house; a two story stick frame structure on a 1/4 acre city lot, with two young boys ages 2 and 4, we have a pistol for home defense. We keep at hand my wife’s Glock 17 with tritium sights, mounted SureFire X300 Ultra and a DG-11 switch (this is an adapter that mounts to the rear of the X300 allowing the light to be activated momentarily with pressure from the middle finger of the shooting hand). The pistol is kept in a GunVault safe near our bed.
Does our pistol fit the above criteria for us? Yes. Is it the best option? I don’t know, but it works for us… My wife and I both have Glock 17s set up identically, we are both proficient with them. We can, in a bind, be holding one of our boys, sandwiching our cell phone to our ear with our shoulder, employ the pistol and manipulate the weapon mounted light if needed all at the same time…
Additionally, these pistols are usually kept on our person during the day. Weather (clothing) dependent, these are our concealed carry pistols. While bad things do happen at night, people force entry into known occupied houses during broad daylight as well.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of criteria, it is a good starting point for deciding on your home defense weapon. If you take anything away from this I would like it to be: Something > Nothing and train, train, train… …and a good dog never hurts either.
You are responsible for the safety of yourself and your loved ones.
Stay armed and stay proficient.