By Tom McHale
I get asked all the time these days,what’s the Home Defense Weapons?
USA –-(Ammoland.com)- I just had a wonderful opportunity to directly compare pros and cons of different guns (or best home defense weapons systems as my instructors say) for home defense.
You see, I just (barely) graduated from Tactical Pre-School. They were threatening to have me repeat, but I don’t think any of the instructors wanted me back for another session.
My tactical pre-school took place at the Academi training facility in Moyock, North Carolina. The folks at Beretta Defense Technologies hosted the event as a way to give some of us pre-schooler tactical folks proper exposure to a variety of Beretta tactical guns. You might also know Academi as the former Blackwater training site. Sprawled out over 7,000 acres just south of Norfolk, Virginia, it covers all the tactical subjects for pre-schoolers to doctoral studies. With 25 live ranges, an airstrip, multiple offensive and defensive driving tracks, and several explosives ranges, it’s got everything.
Heck, just sitting in the mess hall trying to match uniforms to special forces teams of various allied countries is entertaining, and just a little bit scary.
Anyway, this is all relevant because my tactical arts and crafts training covered four primary tactical disciplines: pistol, carbine, shotgun and long-range precision rifle. All, well most, of these are pretty darn applicable to home defense. Long-range precision rifle might be a stretch unless you have a reciprocal agreement with a neighbor to set up sniper overwatch hides. (My neighbors suck at long range precision shooting, so that plan is out for me as I would have to carry the load.) The class was a great opportunity to spend a couple of days contemplating the relative pros and cons of using a pistol, rifle or shotgun as my primary home defense platform.
To be clear, our abbreviated training focused solely on fighting with these respective platforms. I learned a lot about each, but just as importantly, the quality side-by-side training time got me thinking.
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of each platform.
Pistols as Home Defense Weapons
As most any tactical trainers will agree, a pistol is a great option if you can’t carry a rifle or shotgun.
The big plus is portability. Not only can you fire it effectively with one hand, that same one-hand benefit allows you do to things in a home defense situation like hold a light, child or cell phone – not to mention tasks like opening doors.
Convenience and portability come with a price tag, however. While none of us want to get shot by a handgun, it’s still a relatively weak fight-stopping tool when compared to a rifle or shotgun. From a pure “energy” perspective, as measured in foot-pounds, it’s about ¼ that of a 12 gauge buckshot load and ⅓ that of an AR-type rifle. It’s also hard to fire accurately under stress. The combination of shorter sight radius and a gun that’s usually lighter than the force required to press the trigger makes for a weapon that takes reasonable expertise to use effectively.
Nonetheless, a pistol is convenient and allows for maneuverability. The addition of a light and laser sights makes it a solid option for home defense.
Rifles as Home Defense Weapons
Most of our tactical carbine training at Academi focused on very short range distances – less than 50 yards, with most being in the 10 yard range.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, a 5.56mm carbine like the Beretta ARX-100 we used, is a great home defense option. A standard FMJ 5.56mm round tends to tumble and fragment when it hits things like walls inside a home. So contrary to popular assumption, over penetration is less of a concern than with pistols.
Also on the benefits side is the fact that a carbine is far easier to aim accurately under stress. Also, addition of a light and laser is easy with most AR-type rifles available today. In most states (sorry NJ your not one), capacity can be at least 30 rounds, so the idea for a quick end to aggression is a series of rapid-fire shots. With a compact rifle like an AR-15, it’s relatively easy to make accurate hits with speed, much more so than with a handgun.
Shotguns as Home Defense Weapons
My big epiphany was in the tactical shotgun discipline. Rather than just learn how to use one more effectively, we gained a whole new appreciation for the capabilities of the modern shotgun.
The high-speed, low-drag instructors always refer to these things as “weapons platforms” so I’ll start using that too, now that I’m a tactical pre-school graduate and am expected to speak the lingo.
Here’s why this segment of the training program was such an epiphany. Having done plenty of testing with shotguns and loads of all types, I knew that patterns at indoor home-defense distances are surprisingly small. What I didn’t fully appreciate was how small and repeatable those patterns can get when you match the right ammo to the right gun.
In the class, we used stock Beretta 1301 Tactical shotguns. A compact, light, but surprisingly gentle, semi-automatic shotgun, it’s a pure cylinder bore – no chokes. We matched it with Federal Premium 00 Buckshot with FliteControl wads. I hadn’t worked with these much in the past, and boy was I missing out. As a “capability demonstration” our instructor Steve had us shooting from five to 50 yards. From 10 yards in, this buckshot load made single large holes in the target right to the point of aim – every time. From 15 yards or so, about the maximum realistic interior home defense distance, we were getting baseball sized groups, again direct to the point of aim. Just to make his point about how predictable a buckshot load can be, Steve set up two IDPA targets at 50 yards and commenced blasting away at the one on the left for ten rapid-fire shots. With 90 pellets going down range at 50 yards distance, only one stray pellet impacted the target on the right. That was impressive. Next up was a demonstration of “hostage rescue” headshot from 10 to 15 yards. The results were shocking in terms of precision and predictability.
The fight ending power of a 12 gauge buckshot load is well known and well documented.
Think of it as hitting a determined attacker with nine different .380 ACP shots, all fired at the same time, into a two-inch circle on your target. Enough said.
We each have to make our own decisions on the best home defense weapons, but after this session, my Beretta 1301, loaded with Federal Premium buckshot FliteControl wad ammo, is what’s sitting beside my nightstand. The ghost ring sights are excellent, but I’ve found that the Aimpoint Micro T-2 ( http://goo.gl/pNnhmY ) optic adds precision and speed, especially in low-light conditions.
Tom McHale is the author of the Insanely Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon. You can also find him on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.