When choosing a defensive tool for home defense, there are pros and cons to every method you consider. Let’s look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of some various tools and also talk about some general techniques to keep you safer at home.
First, the top priority for home defense is safety. You have to consider your lifestyle, habits, and the maturity level of your children when considering which tools to utilize for home safety.
A firearm is an effective tool if used properly and accompanied with quality training and skill development. A firearm is a tool, but it is not a home defense plan.
A home defense plan encompasses things like access control so that you can limit access to intruders while still providing access to the people who live in the home. Keeping your doors locked at all times can serve as a deterrent to intruders, but it may be difficult for those with younger children who come and go frequently. Finding a reliable method to limit or deny access to an intruder is one factor of a home defense plan.
Another thing to consider in your home defense plan is what to do once you are aware that you have an intruder. There are three essential steps in this planning; notification, delay, and response. In the notification step, you have some means of being notified that an intrusion is occurring. This can be an alarm, a loud dog, a camera, motion detecting lights, or some other way of letting you know that someone is breaking into your home. Next, you need to delay that intruder until you can make it to your defensive tool and get it ready. It is essential to know how long it will take to get to your tool, open any safes or cabinets, load it, and make it ready for use. Then you have to use your access limitation planning to delay that intruder for however long it takes to make that tool available and ready. You can supplement this delay by adding stronger doors and locks inside the house between bedrooms and living areas. And finally, you have to plan how you will respond to the intrusion. My advice is first, if safe and possible to do so, egress from the house and contact authorities. If it is not safe or possible to leave the house, then I suggest barricading in place and making the intruder or intruders come to you. This provides you a more defensible position and limited lanes of attack from which an intruder can seek to harm you and your family. Going out into the house looking for the intruders should only be a last resort if you have loved ones spread out in the home and in danger.
And lastly, your plan should have a means of calling for rescue. This can be as simple as charging your cell phone on your nightstand instead of in the kitchen. Having quick access to your phone, installation of a panic alarm, or some other means to contact authorities to come to your rescue is a key part of your home defense plan. Then retreat to a barricaded position and wait for the intruders to either leave, authorities to arrive, or for the intruder to seek entrance to the room in which you have taken cover.
Make your plan first, and then choose the tools you will use to implement your plan.
Let’s talk about some of the tools available for home defense and some of the myths, pros, and cons of each.
Shotguns come in a variety of sizes and styles, from a traditional and familiar pump, to hunting and tactical configuration semi-automatics. A shotgun is a very effective means of home defense, but it can be a bit of a handful for a novice shooter who isn’t used to the loud noise and stiff recoil.
A common misconception about a shotgun is that you don’t need to aim them, and that is obviously not the case. They do have a wider margin of error than say a rifle or pistol, depending on the ammunition you use, because they spray multiple projectiles. However, they do have sights on them for a reason. They are also long and unwieldy, especially in tight spaces. A shorter pistol grip shotgun like the Mossberg Shockwave may make it easier to maneuver in tight hallways than a longer sporting shotgun. A longer shotgun can leave you leading with the barrel as you enter a room or turn corners, and an intruder can grab that barrel as you enter, and then you will be left struggling over the weapon.
On the upside, they are inexpensive, easy to use, and extremely effective weapons. There is a wide range of available ammunition loads in various power factors and even mini-shells that give you less recoil and more capacity in the gun.
The best gun for defense is the one you have when you need it and the one you will practice and become proficient with. My old Henry rifle is one of my favorites and I am pretty deadly with it at a good distance. It is not however, my first choice for fighting off a home invader. For that purpose, I rely on a shorter and easier-to-use modern sporting rifle like an AR-15. The AR-15 is an excellent choice for home defense, because it has a shorter overall length, is modular and adjustable, has very light recoil, and is relatively lower-powered than a high-powered hunting rifle. It is easy to equip with a low-powered optic, like a red dot, for close engagement. It is also easy to add a light for positive target identification in low light. It has a higher ammunition capacity than a handgun and is much more accurate and easier to shoot.
Like the shotgun, it is longer than a handgun and leading into a room with the barrel extended can make it susceptible to being grabbed by a hiding intruder.
If you choose to carry a concealed handgun outside of the home, it is an easy transition to carry inside of the home as well. I carry all of the time, both outside of the home and when I am relaxing at home watching TV. My gun goes on my belt when I get dressed and gets taken off when I get undressed to go to sleep. Having a comfortable holster makes it more likely that you will leave your gun on when you are home. It is a very easy step to transition that concealed carry gun to a bedside table or safe for home protection when you go to sleep at night. Another option is to have a dedicated home defense pistol staged and set up to deal with home intruders. I keep a pistol in a nightstand safe equipped with a light and laser for home defense at night. The light gives me positive target identification and the laser allows me to fire from a compressed retention position without raising the gun and extending it in front of myself if necessary. This means I am less likely to have the pistol grabbed when walking around a corner. A handgun is very easy to maneuver in tight spaces, sufficiently accurate for the ranges at which you might have to use it inside your home, and depending upon the caliber and ammunition you select, more than powerful enough to neutralize a threat.
For those who may not be able to afford a gun, don’t feel comfortable with a firearm, or may not legally be able to own one for home defense, there are a couple of non-lethal options worth considering. One is the Taser Pulse. This single shot device fires a pair of electrified probes 15 feet with compressed nitrogen. These probes can incapacitate an attacker for 30 seconds and additional 30-second charges can be administered if needed to control an intruder until help arrives. It features a laser for aiming and a light for positive target identification. This is different than a stun gun that uses pain for compliance and requires contact with the attacker.
Another option is pepper spray. Sportsman’s Warehouse sells a wide assortment of pepper sprays and gels that can inflict pain and incapacitate an attacker at a distance of up to 10 feet. The Home and Away kit from Sabre Red gives you a larger wall-mountable home defense canister and a portable keychain dispenser so you can be protected both at home and when you are away. Avoid using bear spray in your home as it is not certified for use on humans and you really don’t want to succumb to the stronger spray in the confined space of your home.
Whatever tools you use, practice your plan. Learn to safely identify any targets before you engage. Keep that finger off the trigger until you have identified the threat and are ready to fire so you don’t inadvertently discharge a firearm as a startle flinch response. And communicate and coordinate your plan with all of your family members ahead of time. And when possible, call authorities and let them engage the bad guys. That is what they get paid to do. Barricade in place until help arrives rather than seeking out trouble in the dark.
A great place to get started in training for home defense is a concealed carry class. Every Sportsman’s Warehouse store offers concealed carry training. Ask your customer service representative or visit their store page for details on their next class. Make a home defense plan, practice it, and get the best tools that you and your family need to be safe.