View Full Version : Thoughts upon then comparison of the handgun, shotgun, and carbine for home defense

03-01-2014, 08:54 AM
This is something I was asked to write up for another site which has mostly new or semi-knowledgeable gun owners. There is much left out, and is what I thought was more a primer to give them a place to start thinking about the tools used for home protection. It is very basic and of course simply my opinion for whatever that may be worth to the relatively new shooter.

What is the best weapon for the defense of home and property, obviously the one you are best prepared to use, meaning the one you are most familiar and adept with. Some however are generally considered better than others. According to most experts the top contenders are the handgun, the shotgun, and the carbine. Here are a few thoughts based upon my own experiences, for what they are worth, your mileage may vary.

Before we start I will say that probably the safest tactic during a home invasion is to hide in a fortified room with all loved ones, call the authorities and protect that room until they arrive. That said, it is not always possible, and there are times when one is forced into traversing the home in what is called home clearing. This tactic is best performed if it has been trained for ahead of time. There are many good schools which can provide for basic home defense tactics and shooting skills. If one is able to, they are worth attending.

The handgun is perhaps the least effective choice. Its relatively small caliber and one handed operation make it harder to master than the long gun, and it brings the least amount of overall firepower in terms of overall size of wounds and energy imparted to the body to the table. The handgun however is handy to use during house clearing drills and it may be used one handed with a separate flashlight. I feel its best use is for home clearing and backing up the longarm for room protection or outside if the fight moves there. As a side note here I will say, I personally do not like attached lights because their use violates one of the fundamental safety rules of gun handling, NEVER point a firearm at anything you do not intend upon destroying. That all said however, the natural portability of the handgun makes it the firearm that the average user will be most likely to have close to hand at any given time, perhaps making it the first overall choice and purchase of may users. Therefore careful thought must go into its selection, ammunition, carry and usage. The responsible user will practice as often as possible, or at the very least until they are proficient in the use of their selected weapon.

The shotgun is perhaps the most powerful weapon the normal homeowner can normally be expected to handle. The range is not as great as the rifle but at close range the shotgun can put more lead on target faster with a much greater overall foot-pounds imparted than any weapon that will be normally used for home defense. The best choice in a HD shotgun will have a relatively short barrel of say 18.5-20 inches, unless one goes the short barreled shotgun/destructive device route with the BATF. Leave the long 28 inch or better shotguns on the range or bird hunting woods. The shotgun is best used for static room defense, or when the fight moves outside. Its overall length make it less effective for home clearing drills, unless one is trained in tactics which make its length less vulnerable to grappling tactics by an intruder. By its nature the shotgun is less effective for use with a handheld flashlight, so it is probably best used with an attached light, but extreme care must be taken, and great attempts must be made not to point the muzzle at innocents. The shotgun is also not as magical in the ranges of most home encounters as one would be made to believe. In the ranges of most home encounters the shot pattern of the shotgun will be more in the size of a fist, rather than measured in feet. So proper aiming techniques must still be employed. The shotgun has an advantage in the ability to use both shot and slugs. Shot is effective for close range and comes in many sizes which can be chosen for the best balance of effectiveness and the least amount of over penetration where innocents may be injured. Slugs can be used where surgical precision shooting is needed. It is important to practice with both types and on the physical transitioning between the two types of shells, i.e. removing a shotshell and inserting a slug.

The carbine is a very effective weapon, which many ex-soldiers and competitive shooters may be most comfortable with. They come in both rifle and handgun calibers and various action types, the semi-auto and lever action being the most popular. They are shorter and more handy than a full sized battle rifle. They are generally the most accurate option and with the large ammunition reserves in some models, perhaps the best use for when the fight moves to the outside. It can also be an effective choice for static room defense. They can however be problematic in the over penetration department and careful selection of proper ammunition is a must. They also suffer the same issues as the shotgun where light use and room clearance are concerned, so great care must be taken when they are pressed into these roles. The handgun caliber carbine with its long barrel will give more range and accuracy than the handgun, but is not as powerful as the carbine designed to use a rifle cartridge. Rifle cartridge carbines must have their ammunition very carefully selected to limit over penetration and endangerment of innocents.

These are just a few thoughts on the considerations one must think of for the selection of the best tools to help protect ones family. They are derived from my own experiences and conclusions which may or may not be close to your own. Perhaps they might at least give one food for thought, if so they were worth putting down.

gun sane
03-01-2014, 09:12 AM
This is a good read, lee. So many pick their firearms with little regard for the pros and cons of tactical situations in which they may be used. Your piece here should help them to consider those factors.

03-01-2014, 09:47 AM
I think everyone has a opinion of which type of firearm is the best for self defense in a home invasion. Any firearm or other weapon is better than none at all. But it boils down to what the individual is confident and proficient with. A "fortified room" may be a good idea if you live in tornado alley, but in case of the "possibility" of a home invasion is just a little too much.

03-01-2014, 10:14 AM
As I stated this was simply my own take upon the subject, each person should of course go with their own comfort level. A fortified room is not all that big of a deal. It does not mean that is has to be bullet proof, it can simply mean the use of a good solid core door, with heavy duty hinges and solid framing, long screws, and a solid locking system. Simply something to slow down an attacker and keep them at bay until such time as help can arrive. Since I do go hunting occasionally leaving my wife alone I like her having the option of simply closing the door and being relatively safe ande armed with a weapn she is familiar with. The modifications mentioned took a very short time and little money to accomplish and I did not, or do not consider them an unreasonable addition since it also helps her feel safe. In part it is because we were broken into one time and her sense of security was shaken and with home invasions on the uprise it is an easy thing to do. Just my opinion of course :) .

And honestly, for the purpose of the above composition I have found few people, and trainers, who when I discussed it with them, did not agree that hiding in a room and not wandering around the home was indeed the safest course of action, even if it is not indeed practical in all circumstances, IE. those with children in various parts of the home. Which is why I suggested just that to those who are relatively new and untrained. My wife has instructions and we have practiced them, not that she will follow them knowing her, that if she hears a noise she is to go to the bedroom, lock the bedroom door, get her shotgun and revolver, sit revolver on the bed, point shotgun at the door, and use either the phone or cellphone, both of which are located on bedside table to call the police and then wait for them to arrive. Living within a hours drive of Detroit, and their drug trafficking and crime starting to spill northwards more and more, these do not seem to be unreasonable actions to me.

As far as a fortified room and a tornado, not a good idea. The tornado can remove a house from the face of the earth, no matter how fortified a room, in about an eye blink. Have seen that first hand and pray I never do again. Basements and storm or root cellars are the best there I believe.

03-01-2014, 12:25 PM
That's why it is called a three gun competition.

Michael T
03-01-2014, 10:49 PM
Here what we had when my girls were small. My house has a weird lay out due to was a 1 room cabin and add on's over the 100 years. Anyway 3 bed rooms form sort of L must go thru 1st to get 2nd and 3rd . 2nd middle room has large closet which just happens to match up with my walk in In master bed room 1 little layer of dry wall . We fixed dry wall( cut ) that they could bust out lower and slip in to master room and remain hidden in the master walk in. This was originally to be used as fire escape If fire on that end of house was no way to get out due again of the lay out. This allowed them to escape to master and ground floor windows and BR door which is located with a few feet of front door. One you take what was a 1 room cabin a 100 years ago and start adding kitchen ,bathroom and bedrooms as need over the 100 years you get a mess.

gun sane
03-01-2014, 11:17 PM
One you take what was a 1 room cabin a 100 years ago and start adding kitchen ,bathroom and bedrooms as need over the 100 years you get a mess.

Is that why you hired the Canadian contractor to add a new outhouse? :poke:


03-02-2014, 06:09 AM
I strongly believe in the old adage about long guns (rifles & shotguns) being chosen for when you are expecting trouble. Handguns are for when you are not expecting trouble.

03-02-2014, 06:42 AM
One you take what was a 1 room cabin a 100 years ago and start adding kitchen ,bathroom and bedrooms as need over the 100 years you get a mess.
I live in one of those. Wife wanted to see what was in a space that was on top of the original fireplace brick and was walled in so she poked a peek hole through the drywall. Surprise Surprise surprise...we found a full finished closet hidden with a removable piece of paneling and strips barely tacked on from one of the other walls. Talking to one of his grandsons he asked if the guns and money was still in there!?! Unfortunately not. :crying: Also hear tell of a buried tanker trailer in the back, maybe that's where the guns and money is?

Pond Scum
03-02-2014, 08:46 AM
Good write up Lee1959. Easy reading and straight forward primer! :smile:

03-02-2014, 09:37 AM
"The handgun is perhaps the least effective choice. Its relatively small caliber and one handed operation make it harder to master than the long gun, and it brings the least amount of overall firepower in terms of overall size of wounds and energy imparted to the body to the table."
I don't understand this comment. Most self defense handguns are larger calibres than the majority of rifles. Sure they have lower muzzle velocity but at close ranges a rifle round will just go through a person - that velocity is use to get that rifle bullet out to farther ranges where the lower energy still has to be large enough to do osme good. But the handgun round does a significant amount of damage at close range.

03-02-2014, 10:57 AM
Compare the overall ballistics of any handgun to a rifle round. Perhaps I worded it a bit awkwardly, I apologize, but in overall power a handgun is a weak sister to a rifle cartridge which is normally used for combat or HD defense uses. This of course also depends upon the ammunition selected. Military FMJ will penetrate more where current commercial defense loadings using modern frangible bullets are designed to dump all of their energy into the body and limit over penetration. It works the same way for both handgun and long gun ammunition designed as self defense loads or as military ball ammunition.

02-01-2015, 08:33 AM
I strongly believe in the old adage about long guns (rifles & shotguns) being chosen for when you are expecting trouble. Handguns are for when you are not expecting trouble.
This just makes good old horse sense. I keep my 40 night stand, my tactical rifle closet. Surprise! Yep its the 40.

02-01-2015, 10:02 AM
I believe your write up is good.
With ANY fire arm training is needed. Training is key. People need to drill, and occasionally drill again. And thats what the majority will not do.
I always recommend a handgun first- because they are just easier to maneuver with.

02-01-2015, 11:07 AM
Handgun, shotgun and carbine for home defense? Yes.

We have the first two but my wife is thinking we should move to the outskirts of town with room to grow our own food if necessary. That means a carbine is necessary. I like my wife's thinking. :thumbs up:

02-01-2015, 07:22 PM
The hydrostatic shock coming off even a 5.56 round makes it a serious man stopper at the ranges we are dealing with, and 30 round normal capacity tops everything else, no 12 ga pump in this class, and even 9mm, and .45s can do serious damage to a neighbor. I'll go with the odds if I can and grab the combat AR15 if time allowed, but there will be a pistol on the nightstand for speed. I will never beat up the HD shotgun, but I don't see it as the best choice

Pond Scum
02-01-2015, 08:54 PM
I generally have a 1911 in the nightstand and a 12 gauge 870 in the closet but I am thinking I need to put an AR in the closet ..... I"m thinking a SBR in 300 Blackout or AR pistol. I just need to get more practice with the AR platform. I'm pretty comfortable with my 1911's..... A class on AR's should probably be in my future.

02-02-2015, 06:59 PM
I bought a shotgun for home defense. With a pistol grip only, you lose control. swap that for a stock & you lose maneuverability. I sold my shotgun & put the money towards an AR pistol build.


They offer the best total round capacity in a compact, accurate package + fast reloads.