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The 3 Best Guns for Home Defense

Choosing the right gun for home defense can be an overwhelming decision, especially if you are a new shooter. When making your decision, take into consideration things like your budget, ability level, and what you are most comfortable with. No gun is perfect for every situation, but each of the firearms listed below serves well in a home defense role. Here is my list of the 3 Best Guns for Home Defense and some honorable mentions. 

Best Rifle for Home Defense: AR-15

Rifle Home Defense AR-15The first firearm in my list of the 3 Best Guns for Home Defense is the AR-15. Most AR-15’s shoot inexpensive .556 or .223 ammunition. Both of these are intermediate cartridges that are powerful enough to take down a target but still have manageable recoil. This low recoil makes the rifle very controllable, even in the hands of a small shooter.

*Important: If your rifle’s barrel is marked .556, it can shoot both .556 and .223 ammo. However, if your barrel is marked .223, do not attempt to shoot .556 ammo through it.

AR-15’s have a larger capacity than shotguns or pistols unless you live in an area with magazine capacity restrictions. This gives the user more than enough ammo to get through a defensive situation, even if it involves multiple assailants. Most AR-15’s have 16 or 18-inch barrels. This, combined with the rifle’s low weight, make it maneuverable in a home or around other structures.

Although the AR-15 looks intimidating, it is actually a very good firearm for a new shooter, as long as you observe proper safety rules. Having an adjustable buttstock, combined with low recoil make it a good step up after a new shooter masters basic fundamentals on a .22. I have started new shooters on a .22 and successfully transitioned them to my AR-15 in one shooting session. They were able to do so safely and with an acceptable level of accuracy for their skill level.


A great thing about AR-15’s is that they are highly customizable. One of the most useful customizations is being able to adjust the stock to fit the shooter. Take my wife and me as an example. She is small, and I am tall and lanky. We can both shoot my rifle accurately and comfortably simply by adjusting the stock’s length of pull. Some rifles have a fixed stock, but most feature a collapsible stock like one on my rifle.

AR-15 rifles also have tons of options for sights and optics. Although you can set one up to shoot long range, the best setup for home defense optimizes the rifle for short and intermediate-range shooting. Mine has an Aimpoint Pro red dot sight and backup irons. This setup allows me to quickly acquire targets at close range but still shoot accurately out to 200-300 yards.


Although early Vietnam-era AR’s had reliability issues, most modern AR-15 rifles function very well, as long as they are properly maintained. Using good magazines, such as Magpul P-Mags are another way to ensure that your AR-15 functions reliably. 

Companies such as Daniel Defense, BCM, and Colt offer premium AR-15 rifles that are built to or exceed military specifications. Other companies such as Smith and Wesson and Windham Weaponry produce excellent rifles but cost less than the others.

Honorable Mention

The AK-47 is a good alternative choice for someone looking for a defensive rifle. They feature a simple and rugged design that is optimized for reliability. AK’s shoot the 7.62×39 round, which is very effective at close range. A couple of downsides are they have slightly more recoil than AR-15’s and are a little less customizable.

Best Shotgun for Home Defense: Mossberg 500/590

The second firearm in my list of the 3 Best Guns for Home Defense is a 12-Gauge shotgun, specifically the Mossberg 500 or 590. 12-Gauge shotguns are powerful close-range defensive weapons. They shoot several types of ammunition, including birdshot, slugs, and buckshot. Even though they are versatile, they are relatively inexpensive. You can buy a good-quality shotgun for about half the price of a good quality rifle or pistol. Good entry-level shotguns sell for around $250-$300 dollars, so if you are on a budget, they are a good choice.

When selecting a home defense shotgun, get one with an 18-inch barrel. Shotguns such as these will likely be labeled something like “police model” or “defender”. Shotguns meant for bird hunting usually have longer barrels, which can be cumbersome in confined areas.

One drawback to using a shotgun is that they have high recoil. AR-15’s and most handguns have fairly low recoil, which most shooters should be able to handle. Shotgun recoil can be difficult for some shooters to manage and may even injure small or frail shooters.

Types of Shotguns

Shotguns come in different varieties, including single shot, pump, and semiautomatic. I don’t recommend a single-shot shotgun due to how slow follow-up shots will be. Reloading them is a slow process that will only become slower when you are stressed out and have shaky hands. Semiautomatic shotguns are pretty reliable but may be more prone to malfunction than other types of shotguns if they are not properly cleaned and maintained.

I personally recommend a pump shotgun for most home defense applications. They are reliable and give quick followup shots. Two of the most popular pump shotguns are the Remington 870 and the Mossberg 500. Out of the two, I recommend the Mossberg 500 or its high-end variant, the Mossberg 590.

In my experience, Mossbergs function more reliably than other types of pump shotguns. Part of the reason for this is that Mossberg shotguns have two extractor claws, while other shotguns only have one. I cannot recall having feeding problems with any Mossberg shotgun I have fired.

Best Pistol for Home Defense: Glock

Glock Pistol

The third firearm in my list of the 3 Best Guns for Home Defense is a Glock pistol. The main advantage of using a pistol for home defense is that they are highly maneuverable. If you have to move through confined spaces, such as narrow hallways, they are much easier to handle than a rifle or shotgun. They are also much easier to store when not in use. If you have small children, you can keep your pistol in a quick-access safe next to your bed and access it in seconds. You can also use your pistol for concealed carry, allowing you to protect yourself with the same weapon, whether you are at home or out on the town.

Important Considerations

A pistol is a good weapon for home defense, but it does have some drawbacks. The first drawback is the risk of over-penetration. Some calibers, such as the 9mm have a tendency to go through their target with enough energy to pass through several walls. This is hazardous to other people inside a house and even those that may be outside. If you live in an apartment, the risk of hitting a bystander is even greater.

Another drawback to using a pistol for home defense is that handguns are more difficult for most people to master than rifles and shotguns. Even small movements from the shooter can cause accuracy issues due to a handgun’s small size and short sight radius. In a confrontation, your body will experience an adrenaline rush. When this happens, your fine motor skills will go completely in the toilet. There have been instances of a police officer getting into a shootout with a criminal from only a few feet away, both of them emptying their weapons, without either of them getting shot.

Which One Should You Get?

Glock handguns are excellent choices for a defensive handgun. Countless police agencies all over the world use them due to their reliability and ease of use. Glocks are excellent choices for new handgun shooters and experienced shooters alike. They may not be everyone’s personal preference, but they are extremely reliable and accurate enough for most situations. Glocks come in several different sizes and calibers to suit your needs. 

Honorable Mentions

Although I recommended Glocks, many other manufacturers produce high-quality handguns as well. There are honestly too many to list all of them, but a few do come to mind. Smith and Wesson M&P’s, CZ-75’s, Springfield XD’s, along with many others have outstanding track records and loyal followings.


Hopefully, after reading this article, you have a better idea of which gun will work best for you as a home defense weapon. If you pick any of these three, you will be well-equipped to handle a defensive situation. Just be sure that you practice regularly and get training on whichever weapon you choose. Having a gun is only one small part of being able to defend yourself. You need the proper mindset and training to go along with it.

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