The definitive answer

I have heard at least a dozen answers to this question! Most answers reflect the speaker’s personal preference. That’s human nature. Most people select what they think is best. So, when asked, you should expect them to tell you to choose their favorite. Makes sense! Or, does it?

Your options

In this article, I’m going to compare Handguns against Shotguns and Tactical rifles. We’ll assume, for the sake of argument, that bullet capacity is not a factor. Statistically speaking, this is fair for two reasons: 1) Most home defense situation require 3-5 shots before the intruder tries to escape. 2) Each class of gun I mentioned has at least one model capable of shooting 5 or more rounds without reloading.


If everybody was built the same, and as physically capable as a Navy Seal …
If everybody lived in homes with long broad hallways leading to their bedrooms …
If all things being compared were the same, except the gun …

I would highly recommend everybody go out and buy a tactical shotgun with double-aught (00) buckshot.

Unfortunately, we’re not all the same. People come in all shapes and sizes, with greatly varied strengths and preferences. So, the advice I give my students actually puts the shotgun in last place. This is based entirely on the belief that your gun selection is personal to you, your size, your experience, and your personal situation. That said, the following is my advice, in a nutshell

Get the most powerful gun you can afford, and enjoy shooting enough to WANT to shoot more often, so you can become confident and competent through frequent training.


Using the previous statement, that Navy Seal would buy the shotgun with 00 Buckshot. The rest of us would get the super-cool AR, with flashlight and laser attachments, or the 9mm semi-automatic pistol that fits neatly into your nightstand gun safe, and can be concealed in your favorite slacks. If your house or apartment is small, with short or narrow hallways, get a pistol. If you’re working out and have a really strong handshake, try a .45ACP. If you’re more petite, or have small hands, get the 9mm or .380ACP. If you have a nice ranch-style house with long hallways and grown or no children … get an AR15 with defensive bullets.

The most important part of any gun you purchase is YOU! You should enjoy shooting it enough that you look forward to shooting it several times a year. In a perfect world, you should get out at least once a month. Shooting is a perishable skill. It isn’t like riding a bicycle. Take a couple of months off and your nice 4-inch pattern might double in size. That makes it more likely you’ll miss, and less likely you could successfully defend your life, or the lives of your loved-ones.

Ignore any advice that comes from a person who fails to ask about your hand-strength, shooting experience, and most likely need to use the gun. Go for something you really like. If you can afford it, get something cool, by a brand you’ve always wanted to own.


In a dynamic critical situation, you need to be able to rely on reflex and practice as much as possible. When tunnel vision sets in, and “fight-or-flight” limits your fine motor skills, prior training and familiarity with your defensive gun will greatly increase the likelihood that you will survive.

If you have to defend yourself or your loved ones, you want to do it with lots of practice and confidence behind you!