The Best Type of Weapon for Home Protection

Protecting one’s family and home is a major reason why people buy firearms. After all, it is human nature to defend one’s tribe and territory. The question becomes, “Which weapon?” Sure, any firearm is better than no firearm, if there is a threat to you, your loved ones, or a prized possession. But wouldn’t it be better to face an assailant with the right weapon for the job?

There is no perfect firearm when it comes to home defense. Each of the three major options—the rifle, the handgun, and the shotgun—has advantages, but also significant disadvantages. It comes down to balancing the advantages, disadvantages, personal training, and likely environment. With this statement in mind, let’s review the three most popular platforms, their pros, their cons, and their likely application. Then you can decide which is best for your specific situation.


Rifles have proven their usefulness as home defense weapons since the first smooth bore musket was pulled from behind a door to frighten away attacking highwaymen. Chances are that long-ago homeowner did not purchase his firearm for the purpose of protecting his home. The main purpose was to put food on the table, but it was capable of double duty. Because of this, the homeowner did not need to learn how to use a pistol or shotgun. Other family members were also likely to be accustomed to using the rifle, which was another plus should the home need defending while the homeowner was away. The rifle remains a popular home defense weapon to this day.

Unfortunately, while a rifle may make a suitable home defense weapon, it is not the best choice available. Most hunting rifles are slow to load and slow to shoot and do not offer the desired level of firepower. It is either too small to disable an intruder, or so large that it over-penetrates and poses risks to bystanders. Selecting a larger, slower pistol-caliber carbine can reduce the over-penetration issue, but it does little to increase firing or reload times. A tactical rifle can be fired and reloaded very quickly, but this brings back the possibility of over penetration, which puts us back to square one.


Handguns are probably the most popular home defense weapon, partially because homeowners already have a handgun for other reasons or because society has decided that self-defense means using a handgun. Either way, this is the automatic choice of many. Unfortunately, that does not mean it is the right choice.

On the plus side, handguns can easily be used in confined spaces, they can be used one-handed, and because of their small size, they can be stored close at hand. Plus, if you already practice concealed carry, this is a system you are familiar with and already have on hand. There is no doubt the handgun has a place in self-defense, especially in personal protection, but it still is not the perfect home defense weapon.

First, a handgun does require a bit of training for you to become proficient with it. Depending on the caliber selected, your spouse or kids may not be able to use it when you are unavailable. Plus, many of the more popular calibers will not guarantee enough stopping power to drop an enemy in his or her tracks. As with rifles, the larger rounds are likely to over-penetrate and put innocent bystanders, including your family, at risk.

As you can see, you can use a handgun to defend yourself, but whether or not that transfers to home defense is dependent on you, the particular handgun you own, and whether you will be picking off threats as they approach from a distance or as they round the breakfast counter.


The shotgun has lost some of its luster over the years, with many firearms owners completely ignoring it as a home defense option. This is a mistake. In fact, the shotgun may be the best all-around home defense weapon available.

First, it combines the knock-down power necessary to stop most assailants. Second, a pump shotgun can be one of the easiest firearms to master. Third, a medium-length shotgun can be used for hunting a variety of wild game and birds, allowing it too to perform double duty. Fourth, a shotgun matched with the proper ammunition can be extremely devastating to the human body, while all but eliminating the possibility of over-penetration.

However, the shotgun still presents some serious drawbacks. Obviously, this fire system offers a limited number of rounds before reload is necessary. It can also produce a level of recoil that is difficult for many novice shooters to deal with appropriately. Then there is the issue of size; a longer-length shotgun can be difficult to maneuver in confined spaces.

Final Choice

As stated earlier, the answer to the question, “Which firearm is best for home defense?” is not an easy one to answer. Much of the answer is dependent on your personal skill level. The learning curve for a shotgun is relatively small, allowing even the beginner to quickly master its use. A rifle will increase your effective range and allows you to engage targets at a much farther range before you get a close-quarter situation where size becomes an issue, while the handgun is the obvious winner when it comes to size and maneuverability.

In the end, if you already own a rifle, be prepared to press it into double duty defending the castle. Likewise, your concealed carry handgun, or a similar full-sized design, may not be the best home defense weapon, but it allows you to utilize a system you are already familiar with in a proficient manner. But, if you are purchasing a weapon strictly for home defense, the shotgun is hard to beat.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell

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