We’ve talked Rifles vs. Shotguns for home defense, and now it’s time to take a look at the other end of the spectrum: handguns. Specifically, if you can only afford one gun, a long gun or a handgun for home defense, which should you chose? Well, like everything, the answer is “it depends.”
Picking a handgun for home defense makes a lot of sense. It’s easier to maneuver in close quarters than a long gun, you can effectively fire it with one hand in case you need to do something important with your other hand, like shelter a child, open a door, or use a flashlight. Most modern service handguns readily accept weapon mounted lights and lasers, which make hitting stuff in low/no light a lot easier. They’re light, and easier to secure from curious children than a rifle or shotgun. A home defense handgun can be carried on the body all day and then put in a quick access safe at night.
The cons of a handgun are that all handgun rounds suck at stopping fights. Rifles and shotguns are much more effective at ending people who are intent on doing bad stuff. If you live on a farm or a ranch, a handgun might not have the reach or puissance necessary to effectively solve the problem, especially if you’re more likely to deal with four-legged intruders. Pistols are harder to shoot well than rifles and shotguns, requiring more skill and practice to master. An AR15 with an Aimpoint on it is about as simple a shooting tool as you can imagine.
A lot of this is going to depend on your personal situation. For example, if you’re a single adult living alone, your home defense strategy could quite reasonably be “shelter in place while calling 911”, for which a rifle or shotgun makes perfect sense. Hunker down, call the po-po, and shoot anything that comes through the bedroom door that isn’t a good guy.
However, if your HD plan involves getting family members and moving them to a safe room, it makes a lot of sense to use a handgun. The big reason for this is the freedom to use that other hand to do stuff. I like weapon mounted lights on long guns, but on handguns there is frequently the temptation to use the gun as a flashlight, which is not a good idea. Doing that and you end up pointing the gun at lots of stuff that you don’t want to point a gun at. Using a handgun means you can use a flashlight with your free hand giving you flexible illumination, and you can still open doors and grab stuff with your light hand.
Again, every person’s home defense situation is going to be very situational. What works for me may not be your best solution, which is why I encourage everyone to take a realistic look at your needs. Perhaps your best bet is a handgun for moving through your house to secure family in a safe room, and then a long gun once you’re at the safe room. However, the Gun Nuts Bottom line is this: whatever your home defense plan is, practice it. If you have fire drills with your kids, you should have “badguy emergencies” or whatever you want to call it. If you live by yourself or with another adult, make sure everyone knows their role if the balloon goes up at 2am.