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Top 10 Stopping Power Home Defense Guns [2019]

Today, I’m going to help you find the best home defense weapon by discussing the topic with experts in the field.

When it comes to defending yourself and your family, the first step in acquiring the proper home defense weapon is to explore your options.

With hundreds of shotguns, rifles, and pistols to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which firearm will best suit your needs.

Quick Navigation


Why do you need a home defense gun?
How can I help find the best home defense gun?
Are shotguns good home defense guns?
Are pistols good home defense guns?
Are rifles good home defense guns?


“Just show me the list!”

For those of you not interested in the reasons and explanations about why and how these guns make our list of 10 best home defense guns, here they are. “Just show me the list!” However, please continue reading.

We highly recommend reading the entirety of this post since the business of purchasing and handling firearms is a serious matter not to be approached with a cavalier attitude.

Best Shotguns:

  1. Mossberg 500
  2. Remington 870
  3. Beretta 1301 Tactical

Best Pistols:

  1. Glock 22
  2. Sig Sauer P238
  3. Smith & Wesson M&P 380
  4. Taurus Judge

Best Rifles:

  1. Armalite M-15 14.5” Tactical Rifle
  2. Bushmaster XM-15 Standard
  3. Sig Sauer SIG516 Patrol

Now that’s out of the way, onward, for you learned, autodidacts.  Sure, you could head to your local gun range and ask the instructors for their input.

But it can be intimidating walking up to complete strangers and asking which pistol they recommend, or which shotgun they think you should buy.

And even if they give you great answers, that’s still only one person giving you suggestions.

If you’re going to decide on the best home defense weapon, you need to talk with as many weapons experts as possible.


Why Do you Need a Home Defense Weapon?

It is important to have a firearm for protection in your home. Statistics show that in the United States there were around 1,401,840 burglaries in 2017.

The victims of these burglaries lost about 3.4 billion dollars in property losses. Out of these burglaries, 67.2 percent were residential properties.

Numbers don’t lie. You want to be able to defend yourself in the event of a burglary. We all think that these things will not happen to us, however, they do in fact happen all the time to a lot of people.

A burglary can include a theft but doesn’t always. A person can enter illegally by breaking a window, slashing a screen, or even entering through an unlocked door or window.

The burglaries recorded in 2017 included 57.5 percent of burglaries involved forcible entry, 36.2 percent were unlawful entries, and 6.3 percent were attempted forcible entries.

If someone is entering your home illegally and you feel unsafe, you have the right to have your gun for protection purposes. It’s hard to beat the peace of mind a home-defense firearm lends.

Whether you prefer a pump-action shotgun or a small handgun, you should select a firearm that you are comfortable with and that best suits your home-defense needs.


How Can I Help You Find the Perfect Home Defense Weapon?

I served in the United States Marines for nearly eight years. During my time in the Corps, I worked with several weapons systems ranging from M9 Berretta 9mm pistol to the M240 Machine Gun, and I deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. When it comes to firearms, I know a thing or two.

But I wanted to see what other weapons experts preferred for home defense weapons as well.

So, I reached out to several weapons experts — NRA Certified Instructors, Gun Range Owners, Security Specialists, Range Safety Officers, Private investigators — to get their input on which firearms were best for home defense.


Are Shotguns Good Home Defense Guns?

Shotguns are popular home defense weapons for several reasons: they’re relatively cheap, easy to use, and provide plenty of knockdown power. But in the event of a home invasion, sometimes the best weapon is intimidation. And there are few things more frightening than the sound of a pump-action shotgun loading its next round.

1. Jennifer Gebhardt, Ms. Fire

“My favorite firearm for home defense is a pump shotgun”, said Jennifer Gebhardt, an NRA Certified Instructor at Ms. Fire. 

“The first sound I want an intruder to hear coming from down the hall is the rack of that shotgun. Anyone that has ever heard that sound NEVER forgets it.”

Ghardt is right. If you hear an intruder bumping around your home, one pump of your trusty shotgun will likely be enough to send them bolting for the door. In situations where your or your loved one’s lives are on the line, it’s always better if you can avoid firing your weapon at all. But if it comes down to it, always be ready to defend yourself.


2. Joseph V. Kocian, K-Products

“Along with the intimidation factor, shotguns have several other advantages.” 

Joseph V. Kocian, owner of K-Producs, and Ohio NRA Certified Instructor, prefers shotguns for home defense because “it’s impossible to miss.”

Moreover, Kocian argues that a “20 gauge can be handled by any family member with almost no aiming techniques.”

While I understand what Kocian is saying when he argues that “any family member” can handle a shotgun, I’d personally prefer that only those who know what they’re doing handle the weapon.

If you have family members that are old enough — and responsible enough — take them along to the range and have them practice safe handling techniques with you. That way, if they need to, they can defend themselves too.

Shotgun 00 buckshot affects on pumpkin

But shotguns also pose potential hazards in a home invasion scenario. A shotgun’s recoil can be intense. And in close-range situations, a shotgun can sometimes prove to be more trouble than it’s worth.


3. TJ Johnston, AllSafe Defense Systems

“In close-quarters combat, a shotgun is unwieldy”, TJ Johnston, an NRA-licensed Training Counselor/Chief Range Safety Officer and owner of AllSafe Defense Systems, said.

“When an assailant is within arms-reach, it is easier to disarm them than an attacker with a handgun. And in-home defensive situations are always at close range. And the power of a shotgun requires an operator capable of withstanding the significant recoil.”

Johnston is absolutely correct: a shotgun kick can be hard to handle for novice shooters. If you’re anything like me, you remember the first time you pulled the trigger on a shotgun and felt that recoil. I still remember the bruise on my shoulder because I didn’t seat the butt-stock of the weapon properly.

Considering how ideal a shotgun may or may not be in a home invasion scenario is crucial. Because if your family is inside your home at the time, and you’re not being mindful of where you’re aiming, pulling the trigger can have devastating consequences.


4. Joel Durden, Lockwood Gun Training

“If (there) is a possibility a family member or co-occupant might be in the line of fire, I’d avoid a shotgun as a home defense firearm”, Joel Durden, Owner and Lead Instructor at Lockwood Gun Training, said.

“(Whether) you’re using birdshot or buckshot, a cylinder core barrel will spread enough at 15 feet to potentially hit a family member if it’s a hostage type situation.”

The safety of family or friends also present in your home during an invasion is paramount. The last thing you want to do is put your loved ones at risk by not taking well-aimed shots, if the need presents itself. But while the barrel spread should be considered in close-quarters situations, some of that risk can be mitigated by making sure you’re comfortable with your weapon.


5. Thomas A. Fiala, ATS: Advanced Tactical Solutions

“Most importantly, make sure you practice and shoot your ‘home-defense’ firearm of choice”, Thomas A. Fiala, Chief Firearms Instructor/Range Safety Officer and Executive Operational Security Specialist at ATS: Advanced Tactical Solutions, said.

“You would be surprised how many people have an everyday carry firearm and a home defense firearm that they never or very rarely fire.”

I couldn’t agree with Fiala more: joining a local shooting range and getting plenty of practice can help ensure that, if the time ever comes where you’re facing a home-invader, nobody except the criminal will be injured. During my time in the Marines, it seemed like we were constantly on the rifle range. That consistent repetition and practice is what helped transform me and my fellow Marines into the effective riflemen and women that we needed to be in war zones.

Mossberg 500 12 gauge shotgun

Recommended Shotguns

Mass (lbs)

Length (in)



Recoil Energy (lbs)

Gel Penetration (lbs)

Mossberg 500



12 gauge




Remington 870




Beretta 1301 Tactical




A. Summary: Observations comparing with pistols rifles and shotguns:

  • Medium to long length barrels of shotguns may decrease maneuverability around tight spaces and may make it easier to be disarmed by assailant.
  • Higher recoil energy as compared to pistols and some rifles may decrease control and accuracy.
  • The spread of a shotgun blast cartridge at medium to longer ranges can decrease precision and increase risk of striking unintended target.
  • Heavier weight may decrease control, handing, and target acquisition speed.
  • Higher grain, larger mass rounds poses increased risk of over-penetration beyond intended target.
  • Less magazine capacity compared to rifles may risk ammo shortages to negate threat.

B. Notes:

  • Min-max ranges of recoil energy and gel penetration for shotguns are shown due to the multitude variables that can affect the outcomes of both.
  • The min-max results of shotgun recoil energy and gel penetration were found from researching data across multiple sources, including live tests.

Are Pistols Good Home Defense Guns?

When it comes to home defense, having a lightweight weapon that’s nearby in your time of need is important. Many gun owners will often keep larger weapons like shotguns and rifles tucked away in safes to ensure no accidents occur. But if someone breaks into your home, you likely won’t have time to be fidgeting with safe locks.

In situations like this, pistols are always a great choice. Pistols are small enough to lock away near your bedside, easy to use, and in many cases, powerful enough to stop an intruder in their tracks.

“My go to gun for home defense is a handgun”, Joel Durden, Owner and Leader Instructor at Lockwood Gun Training, said.

“Caliber doesn’t matter much, .380 ACP to .45 ACP and everything in between will stop an attacker 2/3 of the time within 2 rounds.”

Sig Sauer P238

“My go to gun for home defense is a handgun”, Joel Durden, Owner and Leader Instructor at Lockwood Gun Training, said.

“Caliber doesn’t matter much, .380 ACP to .45 ACP and everything in between will stop an attacker 2/3 of the time within 2 rounds.”

The knockdown power that comes with higher-caliber pistols is complimented by their ease-of-use. In the event of a home invader, being able to move quickly and quietly through your home could mean the difference between life and death. And having a handgun you’re comfortable with can often be more effective than a shotgun or rifle.


6. Michael Harris, Blackfeather Investigations

“If you ever try to navigate your home with a shotgun, you know the reason (for using a pistol),” Michael Harris, Senior Investigator with Blackfeather Investigations, said.

“If you ever try (to navigate your home at) night (then) you really know how unwieldy it can be. Now think about trying to get your family to safe haven or carry a child in your arms while going to safe haven.”

But deciding on which pistol to choose for your home defense needs can be complicated.

There are hundreds of options on the market today, so considering the pros and cons of each model can help you make the best decision before purchasing your weapon.


7. Matt Eidson, former US Marine, State Rep. ND

“My home defense pistol of choice is the Glock G22 .40 caliber pistol. Glocks are fantastic weapons that are easy to clean, fun to shoot, and almost never run into any issues like jamming.”

“You could drop a Glock into muddy water and, more often than not, it will still fire. Plus, it’s a cost-effective weapon trusted by law enforcement agencies across the country.”

But deciding your go-to weapon requires considering several factors, not just the ones I mention.

Glock 22

8. Patrick C. Batiste, S.H.I.E.L.D Munitions & Training

shield-logo-white“Many will immediately suggest the most feature-loaded or most popular handgun with no regard for the main purpose of what this firearm is chosen for,” Patrick C. Batiste, Owner of S.H.I.E.L.D Munitions and Training, said.

“In my personal search, I have realized that MY choice should adequately fit three main measures; sight radius, amount of ammunition readily available, and possibility of over penetration.”

Sight radius is the distance between the front and rear sight of a pistol. According to Batiste, a “longer sight radius will usually yield a tighter group (especially when consistently using a good shooting grip, sight alignment, and follow through)”. When it comes to finding an adequate sight radius, Batiste suggests a “longer handgun slide will have a longer sight radius.”

Keeping this in mind, he suggests “a 5 inch slide but nothing shorter than a 4 inch slide when designating a firearms specifically for home protection”.

When it comes to magazine size, Batiste suggests a larger magazine for your home defense pistol: “at least 15 rounds.” Batiste’s third measure, “over penetration,” refers to the likelihood that a round might penetrate a wall and harm an unintended target.

In order to mitigate the possibility that a family member or loved one might be injured by an ill-placed round, it’s crucial to remain aware of what lays beyond your target before you pull the trigger.

Glock 22

Another factor to consider is whether you prefer a magazine-fed pistol or a revolver. The basic pros and cons are simple: magazine-fed pistols could jam, revolvers don’t (there’s always the possibility of a misfire, though). However, magazines can hold between eight and 15 rounds, the typical revolver holds only six rounds.

But as was mentioned in the shotgun section of this article, one of the most effective ways to defend yourself and your family against home invaders is to be prepared and comfortable with your weapon of choice. Whether you purchase a magazine-fed pistol, or a revolver, won’t matter when the time comes if you don’t know how to use the weapon.


9. Keith Fisher, Fisher Arms

“Because I teach defensive (handgun shooting), and enjoy shooting handguns most, I practice extensively (almost every day) with my carry pistol”, Keith Fisher, NRA Certified Instructor and Owner at Fisher Arms

“I am not only very proficient with it, it is sort of part of me.”

At the end of the day, a pistol is great choice for a home defense weapon. Because when faced with the possibility of defending yourself and your family, sometimes even the smallest weapons are most effective in the right hands.

Recommended Pistols

Mass (lbs)

Length (in)



Recoil Energy (lbs)

Gel Penetration

Glock 22



.40 S&W

Short recoil



Sig Sauer P238



.380 ACP

Short recoil



Smith & Wesson M&P 380



Taurus Judge



.410 / .45 Colt

Double action

7.1-10.5 / 6.8-23.9

6.5-16.5 / 8.5-12.75


A. Summary: Data observations comparing with pistols rifles and shotguns:

  • Shorter barrels of pistols may increase maneuverability around tight spaces and make it more difficult to be disarmed by assailant, especially with close retention shooting techniques.
  • Lower recoil energy but overall less grip surface may decrease control and accuracy.  Range training can offset this factor.
  • Lighter weight may increase handling and target acquisition speed.
  • Higher caliber rounds pose increased risk of over-penetration beyond intended target.
  • Less magazine capacity compared to rifles may risk ammo shortages to negate threat.

B. Notes:

  • Min-max ranges of recoil energy and gel penetration for pistols are shown due to the multitude variables that can affect the outcomes of both.
  • The min-max results of pistol recoil energy and gel penetration were found from researching data across multiple sources, including live tests.

Are Rifles Good Home Defense Guns?

Few weapon systems conjure up more nostalgic images than rifles. Whether it’s the Henry Repeating Rifle, used in countless movies like “Silverado,” “Legends of the Fall,” and “True Grit,” or the classic bolt action Remington Model 700 so many hunters have used over the years, it’s hard to deny our country’s fascination with these weapons.

During my time in the Marines, the two weapons I used more often than not were the M16 and the M4. Overall, I preferred the M4 for its shorter barrel and lighter weight. But several of my Marine friends preferred the M16 because, to them, it was more accurate. Either way, I remember long, grueling days of training with my M4: days on the rifle range, and days practicing room-clearing exercises.

But when it comes to home defense, rifles might not be the best option.

Rifles, such as America’s gun the (AR15), even in a pistol configuration might be a bit cumbersome to handle in a hallway, corners and doorways, much like a shotgun also, Joel Durden, Owner and Lead Instructor at Lockwood Gun Training, said.

Durden isn’t the only one to find rifles like the AR15 problematic as home defense weapons.


10. Michael Hernandez, FT3 Tactical Range

“There are limitations that should be noted (with tactical-style weapons for home defense purposes),” Michael Hernandez, Senior Instructor at FT3 Tactical Range and NRA Certified instructor/Chief Range Safety Officer, said.

“A rifle length or even M4 length (14 inches) would offer difficulty in maneuverability in halls and small rooms.”

While I agree with Hernandez that maneuverability can be affected in tight hallways or small rooms, I’d argue that adequate training can make tactical movements through tight spaces effective. However, I say this knowing full-well the average person doesn’t have access to training facilities that prepare you for engaging an enemy indoors. The potential issues with rifles as home defense weapons don’t stop there.

11. Martin Morehouse, NRA Instuctor

Martin Morehouse, an NRA Instructor Trainer, says that “semi-automatic (rifles) chambered in a modern cartridge like the 5.56mm/.223 Remington can be less than ideal for home defense…”

“…the bullets from this type of cartridge tend to destabilize and lose energy fast on hitting an obstacle, like residential walls, but still deliver plenty of energy to intended targets.”

While Morehouse agrees that these calibers are lightweight, short, and easy to use, he also says that their disadvantage is that they are very loud, especially in confined spaces.

Morehouse isn’t kidding when he talks about 5.56mm rounds destabilizing and losing energy after hitting an object. It was often said between me and other Marines that, if we had to be shot, we’d prefer a 7.62mm over a 5.56 mm any day.

We preferred the 7.62mm because, more often than not, being shot by that round was cleaner: the round would enter and exit the body. A 5.56mm, on the other hand, bounces around when it makes first contact. The rounds are even known to change direction multiple times inside the human body.

Armalite M-15 rifle

Regardless of whether a rifle is the best choice for a home defense weapon, at least one thing is clear: if you’re considering a rifle as a home defense weapon, you’re better off selecting a tactical-style weapon (with a shorter barrel, around 14 inches), over a hunting rifle.

Hunting rifles, with their long barrels and typically smaller magazines, aren’t designed for home defense.

Recommended Rifles

Mass (lbs)

Length (in)



Recoil Energy (lbs)

Gel Penetration (in)

Armalite M-15 14.5” Tactical Rifle



5.56x45mm Nato

Gas-semi auto



Bushmaster M4 Patrolman

6.7 lbs


Sig Sauer MCX Noctis Patrol



5.56x45mm Nato

Short Stroke




A. Summary: Data observations comparing rifles with pistols and shotguns:

  • Longer barrels may decrease maneuverability around tight spaces and make it easier to be disarmed by assailant.  This risk can be mitigated by tactical training.
  • Lower to medium recoil energy may make increase control and accuracy.
  • Longer sight radius can increase accuracy
  • Heaver weight may decrease control and handling speed.
  • Higher penetration poses increased risk of over penetration beyond intended target.
  • Increased magazine capacity of certain rifles will provide sufficient ammo counter threat.

B. Notes:

  • Min-max ranges of recoil energy and gel penetration for rifles are shown due to the multitude variables that can affect the outcomes of both.
  • The min-max results of rifle recoil energy and gel penetration were found from researching data across multiple sources, including live tests.



In summation, myself and 10 other weapons experts all discussed the pros and cons to different weapons systems for home defense. We considered whether shotguns, pistols, or rifles are better for protecting yourself and your family. We also gave a few examples of each weapon type for you to consider.

But whether you choose to purchase a shotgun, pistol, or rifle as your home defense weapon, the most important thing to remember is to continually train with your weapon of choice. Having trigger discipline, understanding muzzle control, and developing dependable muscle memory for when disaster strikes are all factors that can make all the difference.

But more than anything, two points must be considered above all others when selecting a home defense weapon: reliability and control.

“Any modern firearm from a reputable manufacture, that is kept clean, lubricated and stored properly will be reliable when needed”, Michael Hernandez, Senior Instructor at FT3 Tactical Range and NRA Certified instructor/Chief Range Safety Officer, said.

“Size and caliber (will) determine (control) for each shooter. Using the largest controllable caliber is ideal. Not just one shot but tested by multiple shoots. Can you control the gun and be accurate with that caliber and gun size is the question you need to ask and test.”

Regardless of what weapon you choose for home defense, be sure to be prepared: have a plan, know your weapon, and know what to do if the worst happens. The best preppers are those who consider every outcome and work with what they’re dealt.

Martin Morehouse, an NRA Instructor Trainer, argues that, when it comes down to it, your home defense weapon “is whatever you have available. Consider its strengths and weaknesses, and build your home defense plan around it.

Be sure to consider bullet penetration, available backstops, potential fields of fire, potential users, local legal considerations, available training, and other factors specific to your location. We are unlikely to be defending an isolated compound in the wilderness.”


Author Bio, Matt Eidson

Matt Eidson is a former United States Marine with deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan, and South Korea.

He is a State Representative in North Dakota, where he also works as a graduate teaching assistant at the University of North Dakota and a freelance writer in Grand Forks, North Dakota.



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