The subjects of home defense, home defense training and how to choose the best home defense firearm are often hotly debated on Internet forums, in gun stores and just about every where firearms are discussed. This article will cover this topic based on the experiences of the LMS Defense instructor cadre.
Why own a firearm?
First, let’s establish some common ground. You are contemplating purchasing a firearm because you recognize that it is your responsibility to protect yourself and your family. The law enforcement community, as much as we love and support them, are not legally obligated to protect you. This has been established with case law as precedent.
You have made the decision that you are going to purchase a firearm for protection and home defense. Why not a taser or mace only? Because unfortunately, neither of those options are as effective as a firearm in stopping a lethal threat against you or someone you love.
Here is an unfortunate truth about this decision of what to choose for a best home defense firearm; It is not a simple or a one size fits all answer to this question, nor is there a “best”. Internet commandos that tell you that all you need is a .357 Magnum revolver for every situation are doing you a disservice.
Selecting a firearm for defense can be equated, at a basic level, to a carpenter selecting the right hammer. They all do pretty much the same thing, drive nails, but there are some differences in effectiveness and usability, based on your circumstances. Sure you can use a large 24 ounce framing hammer to nail trim or build kitchen cabinets, however it is not the right tool for the job like a smaller and lighter trim hammer would be.
Experience and Basis of Decisions
When thinking about a weapon for protection and home defense, the first time gun buyer needs to evaluate the problem from three angles: likely threats, available resources and environment.
The threat is going to be different in a high crime area versus a low crime area. Do you have carjackings or shootings happening every night in your neighborhood? That could be a clue that you are in a high crime area. Recently certain areas of Arizona have been experiencing an uptick in forced home invasions. This is an example of a very real likely threat that is higher in that locale than other areas of the country. By contrast, you may live in a rural area where you seldom see people. The threat is naturally going to be lower.
Available resources can be defined as how much time and money can they dedicate to training. Do they have a base level of experience or training to start? How often will they be able to train with this weapon? Training is an ongoing process, it is not a do once, then not worry about it anymore type of thing. If the individual has no foundation of firearms training and can not invest in on-going training, that would limit their choices considerably.
What is meant by environment? Basically, where do you live and in what type of dwelling. Where do you frequent?
How will this weapon likely be used by you? To protect you in your home only? To protect you in public outside your home, or both?
If you are living in what’s called a “shall issue” state, which means if you meet the legal requirements of the state concealed carry of deadly weapons license, the state issues you the license. There is no requirement of demonstration of need as in a “may issue” state. If perhaps you are living in Chicago and New York City, the situation will be dramatically different. Neither of these two areas permit the ownership of handguns and the options for personal protection firearm ownership is limited by the legal system. In those areas and others throughout the country it is impossible for a regular citizen to receive a concealed carry license, but they may be able to own a shotgun, carbine or rifle for home defense.
Other environment variables will effect your choice. For example, if someone is living in an urban or suburban multi-family dwelling or single family unit that is close to neighbors, the penetration or over-penetration of the weapon’s bullets should be considered during selection. A family living on a farm or in rural areas do not have to worry too much about a bullet traveling through an exterior wall and hitting a neighbor. Mission dictates equipment.
Concealed Carry Recommendations
To reiterate, you have made the decision to purchase a firearm for the protection and home defense, or you and your family out in public or in both cases as your local laws allow.
A realistic assessment of training and training tolerance is one of the key factors in determining what type of firearm you should be considering for your purpose. Honestly, if someone is not willing to invest in ongoing training it is irresponsible for them to conceal carry their weapon in public. You can not just go out purchase a handgun, take the concealed carry class and think that you are good to go. Rights come with responsibilities. If you are carrying a concealed weapon you have the responsibility to maintain proficiency with the weapon as well as seeking the types of training that will enable you to make good decisions under stress.
Each situation and circumstance require a different type of firearm, especially when carrying concealed. You should try to carry the most gun you can conceal while wearing the least amount of clothes you normally wear. This usually means that if you tend to wear cargo shorts and a t-shirt in a warmer climate, you probably can not effectively conceal the large framed weapons.
Another thing you need to decide is what caliber of handgun (how big the bullets are). This is a time honored debate that has raged for eons. Nine millimeter is the smallest round that someone should consider carrying. It is economical to shoot and is plenty powerful enough to stop a threat if you shoot them where you should be shooting people. That is in the chest (center of mass) or in the head. The goal is to quickly stop the threat before they can do harm. Unfortunately for the threat’s health, the quickest way to stop them is to shoot them in the heart or central nervous system.
To summarize regarding choosing a concealed carry handgun; choose a weapon that is at least of the nine millimeter (9mm) caliber and in the size that will allow you to ensure it can be carried concealed.
There is one last factor that needs to be considered and that is cost. Do not think that if you buy a used, off-brand handgun for $200, that you are getting a deal. You are not, and you may wind up paying far more for that decision that you realize. Any weapon that you rely on to save a life needs to be reliable above all else. To that end, you should choose from the top tier manufacturers such as, Glock, Smith & Wesson, Springfield, Heckler and Koch, and Sig Sauer.
Home Defense Firearm Recommendations
If you can afford more than one firearm, then please get a concealed carry weapon like previously discussed and a dedicated home defense weapon. If you can only afford one firearm right now, and you can carry concealed, then you should make sure you get a pistol that can fill both roles as a concealed carry weapon and home defense firearm. The pistol you choose for this dual role purpose must have the ability to fitted with a white light for the identification of a target. This is an absolute must without exception. You can not fire at a target without positively identifying it as a threat.
You may not be able to carry a concealed weapon because of your local and state laws. In that case, you will be protecting your family in your home and the weapon you are going to rely on should be a shotgun, carbine or rifle. There is an old saying, ‘pistols are for fighting your way to the rifle that you should have never laid down to begin with’.
Regarding your environment, if you are in the situation where you are living in an urban or suburban area, you will have to choose your weapon wisely to limit the danger to your neighbors in the unlikely event you have to use the weapon to protect yourself and family. It may seem counter-intuitive but a 5.56/.223 rifle bullet actually penetrates less than a pistol bullet such as a .357 magnum. The rifle bullet is a very light bullet that is traveling much faster than the pistol bullet. This means is is more likely to fragment and actually penetrates less drywall type interior walls than a pistol bullet that is heavier. This has been proven in tests where a .357 magnum bullet penetrated eight interior walls, and the 5.56/.223 bullet only penetrated two and a half interior walls.
There is another additional factor to weigh before making a decision; How much time and training are you willing to invest?
If you don’t have a whole lot of time to invest in training, and you live in an multi-family or urban single family home, then you should look to a 18.5 inch, 20 gauge pump shotgun with a white light installed and loaded with minimal penetration buckshot. A good example is the Remington 870 pump shotgun.
If you are willing to invest in more time for home defense training, and effective use of your weapon then choosing a rifle should be the primary option. The rifle is very effective but requires training to effectively operate. The training is required to maintain the weapon, clear malfunctions if they happen, and to effectively learn to fight with this weapon in your environment. The ability to fight with the rifle is the most important aspect that will be addressed with professional training from a company like LMS Defense.
In conclusion, the most important factors to determining the best home defense firearm is how much time you have to dedicate to learning, and maintaining a fighting proficiency with the weapon. The weapon should absolutely have a weapon light on it to allow positive identification of the target. And finally, it should be practiced with a lot. Does this mean you have to go to the range everyday? No. Dry fire is a very effective method of training that should be utilized and can be used every day to keep you sharp. Home defense firearm proficiency can be gained by taking a home defense training course, but it is up to you to maintain fighting effectiveness.