By Bob Campbell,
When considering a firearm for home defense there are three choices, the handgun, the rifle and the shotgun. There are many arguments
for either and the choice must fit your lifestyle. The handgun is the most common firearm kept at home ready. Part of the reason is that many of us carry a handgun during the day and then unholster the handgun and place it at the ready in the evening. But many do not carry on a regular basis by choice or by law, and like to keep a firearm at the ready in the home. Even though I normally carry a good service grade handgun—a 1911 .45, a Browning High Power 9mm or a Colt .357 Magnum—I prefer a long gun at the ready for home defense. Let’s face when compared to a rifle the “weak .38” and “strong .45” are more alike than they differ. The long gun is also a great truck gun. A reliable, powerful, relatively short and maneuverable rifle is an ideal choice.
The limiting factor with the handgun is hit probability. It is the most difficult of the three—shotgun, rifle and handgun—to use well. The more powerful handgun cartridges such as the .357 Magnum, .357 SIG, .40 and .45 are difficult to control well for the occasional shooter. Fast follow up shots are more difficult. Accuracy is difficult to achieve when combined with speed and dim light shooting. The portable handgun’s main advantage is that it may always be with us and answer a threat. But in the home we should have planned ahead and have a long gun ready.
The handgun is best for personal defense against the unexpected as a reactive weapon. The long gun represents aforethought. With a degree of preparation we may choose a shotgun for home defense. The shotgun has plenty of power when loaded with buckshot and features a good natural point. The real problem is recoil. All of my defensive shotguns wear a thick and effective recoil pad. Recently I had the pleasure of overloading my senses with a 12-gauge shotgun that was light and handy and did not have a recoil pad. This old pump really got my attention and frankly I do not care to fire it again. Lighter loads such as birdshot lack the penetration needed for personal defense so best to choose a reduced recoil load such as Fiocchi’s reduced recoil buckshot loading. Just the same, the shotgun kicks hard. The occasional shooter will not fire the shotgun enough to master the type, and all of us have busy lives. If you are willing to train hard and learn how to properly use the shotgun, it is a great defensive firearm. Just the same the shotgun must be mastered and must be aimed as carefully as a rifle in the home. I have mastered the shotgun but feel that the rifle is a better choice.
A modern black rifle is the ideal home defense firearm on most counts.
The 5.56mm rifle is the easiest firearm to use well and to get quick hits with at close range. The rifle is far more accurate than the handgun or a slug loaded shotgun. All of the ammunition you will need in a defensive situation is in a single 20 or 30 round magazine. In the unlikely event you need more ammunition a speed load is easily executed by those that practice. The same rifle may be used in 3Gun Competition, hunting, and personal defense. The rifle is challenging to master but not as difficult as the handgun or shotgun. Recoil simply isn’t an issue. With the proper hold and trigger press good results will be had. The rifle handles quickly with a good natural point. Red Dot sights such as the Burris AFF3 offer brilliantly rapid hits. The LaserMax handguard mounted laser is another option for close range battle. Once you have learned basic safety and manipulation you may develop good close quarters battle skills.
The real problem with the rifle is blast and concussion. It is advisable to keep a good pair of ear muffs with the rifle in case of home deployment. Most rifles have a flash suppressor but the blast is still quite an experience in close quarters. But then, so is just about any full power defensive handgun. The muzzle of the rifle is further from the eyes and ears.
A great advantage of the rifle is that .223 loads are highly frangible. The wound potential of the .223 Remington/5.56mm rifle isn’t open to question. However, the rifle also has the advantage of offering less penetration in wallboard, bracing and furniture than the 9mm, .40 or .45 caliber pistol or the shotgun. The .223 Remington cartridge is really a great all around home defense loading. A lot of research isn’t really necessary, simply select a good quality maker and use the 55-grain JSP. Black Hills Ammunition offers first quality remanufactured loads for practice (Blue Box) and quality factory new loads for critical use.(Red Box). I would avoid loads below 50-grains as penetration may be inadequate. The balance of expansion and penetration favors the 60- to 69-grain JSP loads. If you live in a true four season climate where felons may be heavily bundled, then the heavier bullet loads are ideal.
Tactical Walls offers the best solution to the problem of keeping the firearm safe but accessible. This isn’t a gun safe for elimination of any chance of a thief gaining access to the firearm but a modern piece of furniture that is both secure and stylish. Even if discovered as a hiding place for firearms, considerable effort with a heavy hammer and crowbar would be required to get into the Tactical Walls constructs. Yet, they are instantly accessible by use of magnets that unlock the hidden shelf. If you own only a gun or two this is a good option for storage. If you own a gun safe but wish to keep a rifle at the ready, the Tactical Walls shelf as one example is ideal.
When using the modern AR 15 rifle there is no reason to accept a less than perfect fit. Hogue Inc. offers good quality replacement handgrips, stocks and handguards that make shooting the modern sporting rifle much more comfortable. Available in a number of styles, these accessories are first class quality and well suited to all around use.
Good quality spare magazines are essential for practice and for personal defense. These magazines do not last forever, they are a renewable resource. Brownells.com offers their branded magazine that is good enough the US Armed Forces.