Shotguns: Without a doubt, a classic pump-action shotgun is the go-to choice for many folks. These guns are longer, making them easier to aim; powerful, with the ability to easily stop an intruder; and they look menacing enough that some intruders might retreat upon seeing one.
Unfortunately, the shotgun also has its share of drawbacks. A shotgun can be heavy and bulky to hold and operate, although adequate practice can make the task more manageable. Shotguns tend to have significant recoil, making them more difficult to use and control. Finally, the shot from shotguns can sometimes over-penetrate, meaning it can go through walls or other barriers and potentially striking the wrong person.
Handguns: The handgun is sometimes overlooked as a home defense weapon because of its small size. For some people, though, this is the perfect choice for home defense. These guns are small enough to stash nearby for easy access, they fire multiple rounds before reloading, and they are light enough for most people to manage.
Handguns, however, require better aim and are often more effective at closer range. Like shot, handgun rounds have the capacity to over-penetrate, adding additional risk in a home defense situation.
The stopping power of a handgun has mostly to do with caliber. 9mm, .40, .45, and .357 are all popular choices for home defense rounds.
If you choose a handgun, you will need to decide between a revolver and a semi-automatic pistol. While a semi-automatic might seem to be the obvious choice, a revolver is a surprisingly effective and reliable weapon. It is simple to use and rarely jams. Semi-automatic pistols are more likely to jam but allow you to fire multiple rounds in rapid succession. There tends to be more of a learning curve with a semi-auto but this can be overcome with ample practice.
Rifles: Some people might consider a rifle to be their last choice for a home defense weapon but it is a gun worth considering. Rifles are long and easy to aim, yet are generally lighter than shotguns making them easier to operate and maneuver. Rifles are also available as semi-automatic weapons, meaning their rounds can be fired one right after another. Best of all, with the right ammunition, you will retain adequate stopping power but reduce the risk of over-penetration.
Although typically lighter than shotguns, rifles are still long and therefore harder to stash away conveniently. A semi-automatic is as likely to jam as its handgun counterpart and over-penetration is still likely with powerful ammunition.
While any gun is better than no gun at all during a home invasion, it is especially important to choose carefully when picking a rifle for home defense. A rifle that is too powerful can cause too much damage while a rifle that isn’t powerful enough can cause too little damage. With this in mind, I recommend a Colt AR-15 rifle that is chambered for .223 ammunition.