Top 6 Home Defense with a Gun Myths

Home defense shotgun

USA –-( What is more frustrating than myths that get passed around with such regularity when no one pauses long enough to examine whether or not they are true? Maybe a case of the shingles, but other than that…

Here are some firearms and home defense myths that just won’t die.

It won’t happen to you:

“Who cares?” you might think. “It’ll never happen to me.” You’re right, it probably won’t. However, there are one heck of a lot of burglaries every year. Since “home invasion” isn’t a named crime, statistics are difficult to obtain. A “home invasion” can be a burglary. It can be an assault, It can be an armed robbery. It can be rape or murder. You get the idea. Since there is no specific tracking for violent home invasions, we have to look at the associated crimes. Depending on the year and source, consider these figures.

  • There are between two and nearly four million burglaries every year in the United States.
  • In about a million of these cases, someone is home when the intruder breaks in.
  • Over a quarter million people become victims of a violent assault associated with a home break-in.

That’s a lot of action. That’s as many as 10,958 self-serve home-entries each and every day. Or, you might think of it as almost eight per minute.

Oh, one more interesting tidbit. While most people assume that nighttime carries the highest risk of a home invasion, most incidents occur between the daylight hours of 10am and 3pm. Food for thought for your overall home security plan. Lock those doors during the day too!

A laser will just give away your position:

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard this myth repeated. I think it persists because there is a nugget of largely irrelevant truth to it. There are a few things to consider before discounting the value of a laser sight on your home defense firearm.

First, are you planning to play a game of “Ninja find the other ninja” in your home as part of a defense plan? If your primary use of a firearm involves sneaking through dark villages and buildings so you can kick down a door and kidnap someone, then this myth is valid. A laser probably will give away your position. If your use case involves defending yourself and family from someone breaking into your home, you might want to reconsider your tactical plan if it involves you sneaking around playing cat and mouse with a band of tactical commandos who are going room to room looking for you. I’m sure there’s an example of a highly trained Delta Ninja Seal Omega Sector Assault Team planning a nighttime attack on one of our suburban homes, but the vast majority of cases are better resolved by hiding in place, armed and ready, while calling the police for backup.

As an industry acquaintance once said, “A laser won’t give away my position. What will give away my position is me yelling something to the effect of, ‘Get out of my house before I shoot your sorry @ss!’”

Second, laser beams are largely invisible. Unless your home is full of smoke or fog, all that’s visible is the light on the firearm itself and the dot on the target. With rare exception, the beam in between doesn’t show. Give it a try.

The only reason you see this laser beam is because the cave is chock full of smoke. Otherwise it would be largely invisible except for the dot on the wall.
The only reason you see this laser beam is because the cave is chock full of smoke. Otherwise it would be largely invisible except for the dot on the wall.

Third is the modern miracle of pressure switches. Lasergrips like the Crimson Trace models feature pressure-activated switches. Squeeze tighter and the laser is on. Loosen up and it’s off. There’s no hand-crank operation that fires it up continuously for an hour or so with no shutoff capability. If you need to move to a child’s room or discreetly escape, turn it off maybe?

Fourth, before you pull a trigger in your home in the middle of the night, you’d better be darn sure of what you’re shooting at. That means either there’s enough light so you can see your target (which means they can see you) or you’re using a light of some sort. A laser isn’t going to be the thing that reveals your presence.

I poke some fun at this myth, but it’s a serious topic. I don’t care if you choose a laser or not. What I care about is the ability to get shots on target as fast as possible in poor light conditions and from unconventional positions that tend to happen in a self-defense scenario. I’ve not found anything more effective than a laser at making that happen. Your mileage may vary.

Read My Related Article : Things You Learn Shooting Laser Gun Sights in the Dark

Racking a shotgun slide:

Is this one a myth or not? I’ve not yet found any volunteers to break into my house at night so I can rack an 870 to see if it freaks them out.

I suspect most people really, really wouldn’t want to hear this noise while trying to steal your Xbox, and there is the crux of the matter. Most “home entries” are not invasions but simple attempts to discreetly steal stuff. In two-thirds or more cases, the dude breaking in would much rather not encounter anyone, so I suspect we can agree that the dreaded racking noise would cause a sudden desire for Depends undershorts.

For the rest of the cases, I suspect we can also agree that it would be a great outcome if that racking sound ended the potential confrontation. Just don’t count on it. Be prepared for more, especially now that the intruder knows you’re home and armed.

Don’t use an AR-15 because it will over penetrate:

An AR-15 type firearm can actually make a great home-defense weapon. As with most things, the devil is in the details when considering penetration issues.

Shotgun loads may or may not penetrate like a hammer drill. It all depends on the ammo. Buckshot, for example, goes through many walls like butter.
Shotgun loads may or may not penetrate like a hammer drill. It all depends on the ammo. Buckshot, for example, goes through many walls like butter.

I hear lots of people say things like, “I use a shotgun as I don’t want to worry about over penetration.” That may or may not be a valid plan depending on the choice of ammo. Having shot through lots of scrap drywall in range tests, I can tell you that buckshot penetrates walls just like handgun bullets. That means it’ll go through lots and lots of them. After all, a 00 buckshot pellet is more or less a .32 caliber handgun bullet, but usually moving significantly faster at 1,500 or 1,600 feet per second. Of course, if you go to smaller shot sizes, like bird-appropriate pellets, penetration risk will be greatly reduced, as it will on human targets at ranges past a handful of yards. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking shotguns for home defense. It’s hard to argue with terminal effectiveness. We’re only talking about over-penetration here.

Yes, I've actually tested this myth by doing weird stuff like this. Because science.
Yes, I've actually tested this myth by doing weird stuff like this. Because you know.. science.

Surprisingly, standard 55-grain FMJ and varmint ammo penetrates less than almost all buckshot and handgun projectiles. Although those little buggers are fast at near 3,000 feet per second, they’re light and tend to break up and tumble after hitting barriers. Usually the first and second drywall sheets start the upset and veering off course. By the third and fourth, things are getting wonky. Make no mistake, they’ll easily travel through multiple sheets of drywall, just fewer than other types of handgun and shotgun ammo.

Help is on the way in minutes:

As an AmmoLand News reader, you know the harsh reality of logistics. You’re the first responder to an event in your home. As committed as the local police may be, they’re always going to be the second responder.

Nationwide, the average police response time to arrive at the location of a call for help is about 10 minutes. Of course, that is the average of rural and urban environments. If you live in or near a city, your response times may get as low as four or five minutes. For example, in San Francisco, where you need a police response because you’re not to be trusted with protecting yourself, it will take just under six minutes on average. Other big cities like Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York range from about six minutes to just under 10.

Here’s the problem. The average self-defense encounter goes from zero to “significant results” in about 90 seconds, again on average. So, no matter where you live, you’re not getting help in time to stop anything from happening. But you already knew that, right?

You’re more likely to get killed if you have a gun in the house:

We might as well end with a doozy. The anti-gun crowd loves to share a “statistic” like this one:

“If you have a gun in the home, you’re three times more likely to get killed.”

This little fake-news tidbit that just won’t die comes from a study by Dr. Arthur Kellermann. After years of stonewalling his data and methodology, a couple of things came to light. First, he only counted homicides, where the homeowner died. He didn’t study how many lives were saved by the presence of a gun. Considering that 92% of defensive gun uses don’t involve a shot being fired, that’s a big deal. So, by not including no-shoot scenarios and those where the homeowner didn’t die, he cherry picked about one percent of data to arrive at his conclusions. Oh, and then it was discovered that he also counted homeowners who were killed by guns that were NOT in their home prior to the attack. Meaning if a home invader came in with his back street special and killed someone, that went into his tally. Excellent science there buddy.

About Tom McHale

Tom McHale is the author of the 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 Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

  • 43 thoughts on “Top 6 Home Defense with a Gun Myths

    1. Everyone on here saying “stay put, dig in, hunker down”. Nope i’ve got kids. They are more likely to be a target than I am.

    2. Missed the real deal killer in that “guns in the house are dangerous” study – he studied high crime neighborhoods exclusively. Evidently there were too few incidents to have statistical significance in the “good” parts of town. Which means – 25% of his “victims” were killed by the invaders (as mentioned). 25% were criminals themselves and in possession of their guns illegally – who either killed a housemate criminally or were killed in defense when they started a domestic (see below as well). 25% were “innocent victims” of a criminal living in their home (parent killed when a rival gang does a drive by on their son the dealer, for example). And 25% were domestics – which could just as easily been a beat down or a knife or baseball bat – the bottom line of domestic abuse incidents is in most cases low self-esteem and psych issues cripple the victim into thinking they can’t leave. The ones smart enough to leave anyway don’t end up being victims!

    3. I once had my car break down near my parent’s house. I let myself in, petted their attack trained German Shepherd who loved me and then heard the the old man upstairs rack the .45 and yell “who the Hell’s there?” Needless to say I nearly shat all over myself. It was the scariest sound I’d ever heard despite going shooting with him since the age of 6. Living in the country, I keep a ready to go 9mm handy at all times.

    4. . . . I’m in the middle of the woods with no neighbors close by, so I keep my 10MM with green laser handy at all times, but the best protection might be a 12 Gauge (or even a 20 Gauge) shorter shotgun. . . The key is to use “cut shells”, which usually is on a #4 shot shell, but #6 works well too. . . the end of the shell is carefully cut so when fired it comes out as a “slug” but when it hits something it turns into an explosive “grenade-like” explosion. . . Devastating to humans, but will penetrate walls less than buckshot so there is less of a shoot through problem. . . Also, instead of trying to run someone down in your own house, I think it is better to stay in place and wait for them to come to you. . .The idea is for YOU to survive the encounter, not really to save some property which can always be replaced. . . Unless you are a cat with 9 lives, stay in place, hunkered down behind something with a good view of the doorway . . .and wait !

      1. My gun safe is placed in my house where i can get behind it and see all 3 points of entry into my house. I am also never more than about 20 feet from a gun that isn’t in the safe. I don’t have children. Curtains that go the floor are awesome hiding places for long guns.

    5. 5.56/.223 is an excellent round for home defense. it may be traveling at 2900fps but it’s a 55gr projectile. compare that to a 124gr 9mm traveling at 1200fps or 8-12 buckshot rounds traveling at 1350fps. mass and velocity all come into play here and it’s much easier to stop a small car compared to a dump truck…

    6. Valid info. However, I really doubt that anyone, other than those of us who are reading this article, would actually recognize the sound of the action being cycled on any type of firearm, much less that of a pump shotgun. Definite myth!

      1. i have always believed that if you are racking the slide you are already behind on the count. i use number 4 buck. However, if something did happen i would be using my Xds45 with CT lasergrip, within reach on the night stand, as i take cover behind my bed muzzle trained on the bedroom door, wife well hidden behind large dresser.

        1. Sounds good on TV, but I’m not sure I would be willing to face an intruder with an unchambered round in the gun. I think I’d rather be ready to shoot, loaded with the safety off, without telegraphing where I am in the house in a phony macho display.. It ain’t make-believe. It’s live or die.

    7. Should the day arrive when you are home and there is a break in, you might NOT want to go bumping around in the night looking for whomever has violated your home. I will bet I am not the only one who, while wandering around at night with the lights off, has nearly broken a toe on that dresser you KNEW was a foot further away. I doubt there are many who, after nearly breaking that toe, remained silent. Don’t give away your presence and location. Tactically, you have the advantage. Normally the bad guys have little or no knowledge of the layout of your home! Surprise has great value when engaging a target!!! Let the bad guy come to you. Do what must be done to protect your life and that of your loved ones. An I.R. laser and the vision gear to use it is the way to go but most of us can’t afford it. A regular red laser would work just fine. A normal laser will NOT give away your position unless it is very dusty or cloudy or smoky in your home. A laser with a light, when used properly, can both identify the target (and friendlies) and show shot placement to you and the bad guy. If there is time, a bad guy who has noted a red dot on his person, might be reluctant to carry on his evil intent. If not, then do what the situation calls for. Hopefully you may be able to entertain the bad guy long enough for the police to arrive and provide the intruder with accommodations elsewhere. The intruder may actually prefer a chain link sun tan in lieu of taking the room temp. challenge. Not only does this give the bad guy a second chance at life, it provides you with a lack of court days. In the best of situations, court days are not pleasant. I know because I have been in this type of situation. Not fun at all.

      In a house, a shot gun has some advantages. Racking a shot gun is a universal language that EVERYONE knows. As far as ammo goes, I have tested #8 birdshot with a cylinder bore choke and found it is better than 000 buckshot against drywall w/studs. As far as the wound goes, imagine a soda can size in diameter and depth. It may be survivable but I have my doubts. There is little to put back together in that wound should e.m.s. be called.

      Running a platform that uses 556 or a 223 ammo in a house is surprising as to how effective it is and it’s lack of penetration, especially when using LIGHT WEIGHT varmint type ammo. Most hide hunters use this type of ammo because it doesn’t over penetrate and it literally flys apart inside the target thus doing serious damage to the varmint and not to whatever is on the other side of that varmint. Another advantage would be magazine capacity. Having 30 rounds at your disposal is very comforting -vs- having 3 to 9 rounds in a shotgun, 6 rounds in a revolver or 2 rounds in a derringer.

      So a laser does have it’s place at home mounted on your weapon of choice. Same thing with a weapon mounted light. Even better is a common laser/light mounted on the weapon of choice that can be operated separately if needed.

      Testing; I have used a rack of pig ribs surrounding heart, lung or intestine organs with the whole mess surrounded with a tee shirt. That works surprisingly well. Also, you might want to get a piece of drywall and some 2 x 4’s and fabricate a small section of wall or two. These should provide you with eye’s on experience as to what works and what doesn’t. There is comfort and certainty in doing and seeing the results yourself -vs- reading about it or watching it on you tube.

      Obviously, none of this will help you if you don’t have immediate access to your tools! That statement should not have to be said but there are some states that require lack of access to your tools and ammo. Civil disobedience may be preferable to taking a dirt nap. You decide.

      Arm up and carry on.

    8. How many movies, etc., have some dimweed grabbing a ‘bat’ and bare footing around his abode, looking for that “noise in the night” that interrupted his slumber? Far too many are rendered ‘overconfident’ in being ARMED in their own home. The advise, “the vast majority of cases are better resolved by hiding in place, armed and ready, while calling the police for backup,” is what any credible self-defense instructor would tell you. A true, tragic, story: Bob (not his real name) and his wife were awakened by an intruder ‘standing by their bed.’ The BG had a shotgun. Bob’s wife relates the ‘rest of the story.’ “Bob was really fast with his .357 magnum revolver, and fired all six rounds at the BG really quickly. “The BG was less than 6-7 feet away. “After Bob’s gun was empty, the BG pointed his shotgun at Bob and shot him dead in the chest, killing Bob. “The BG then walked out of the house. “The BG was later apprehended, and Bob had managed to hit him two times, once in the arm, and once in the leg.” One self-defense outfit runs a home invasion scenario, where all the participants wear vests that let you know if/when you get shot. The ‘homeowner’ is set off to ‘find’ the intruder, hopefully “clearing” areas in his search. Hated phrase, the bottom line according to those running the project, NOBODY doing the search and clear scenario SURVIVED. Hence the, if you can not escape, ‘lock’ down, lock your bedroom door, in place, ARMED, calling the po po! Have all the people in your residence on the same page with a PLAN, in the event something goes bang in the nite!

    9. Good article, (thank you!) and plenty of sensible comments here, too. I just wanted to add that in a completely or almost completely dark situation, you won’t be able to see or identify whatever it is your laser is striking; you’ll only see the dot. You’ll need a light. And if giving away your position is worrisome, then consider tritium night sights that allow you to know where your gun is aimed while being invisible from the muzzle.

    10. Worse yet with the “police are on the way” myth is living where I do. The average response time? 20 minutes.

      I’ll take my chances with my handgun or shotgun thank you very much.

    11. Tom …Thanks , I have argued the fact about being able to see the laser beam for years . That I think can be blamed on hollywood shoot-em-up shows .

    12. One little nit to pick. It is NOT the trace of the laser that people worry about being seen. That is, indeed, invisible, except in smoke. Observe:

      High enough powered to blow through a steel target, and still invisible except for where there is smoke from the target being eaten away. BUT, and this is a HUGE but, it is not the trace to worry about being seen. The light from the laser pointing at one WILL most definitely be seen from the muzzle end! Anywhere near your eyes and it will be blinding! Certainly very noticeable, and I’m talking about low powered pistol lasers now, not ones that cut steel.

      I’m not a fan of lasers anyway, because of the extra weight and bulk, batteries, holstering difficulty, and all the other disadvantages that go along with tech on a firearm. I’ve not found that they make targeting any easier(for me) and to make up for their disadvantages, I would expect them to have pretty serious advantages also, and I just don’t see enough improvement to warrant the problems they cause.

      That’s FOR ME! If you DO see the improvements in your shooting, then, by all means, carry one, assuming you can find a comfortable holster that will hold your pistol with one attached. But you will find a very much more limited set of choices.

    13. Get a kick out of “Help is only a few minutes away”,how long does it take to bleed out?
      I spent over 30 years as a “Street Cop”,I know what I am talking about .

      1. “Remember – when every second counts, the police are only minutes away…” You know the police – they are the guys who arrive and put a chalk outline around the bodies.

        1. That’s right Leon. The police are in fact “Historians”. They arrive ONLY after the crime has been committed; they gather evidence, find and question witnesses, and gather other data — Historians!

    14. Rob Pincus did a great spot on Best Defense years ago that was very telling of penetration in a home using the most common arms much like your pictured setup. After seeing that, I made a switch from buckshot to #6, since at the time I had kids living in the house. Now it is back to the buck since they have moved out. Also, a green Viridian on my CW9 greatly helps and its a lot of fun.

    15. As far as being killed with my own gun is concerned, they’re gonna have to beat me to death with it; ’cause it’s gonna be empty!

    16. Excellent article . So true that we will be our first and possibly last option to survive a confrontation in our home no matter what anyone tells you. If only more people knew and understood the times were in and that it will only get worse from here on out . I know that I am ready to defend my family and myself and my property. I was so proud that both my daughters also wanted to obtain a CCW Permit with me. I now know that they can defend their selfs and their family if need be. My Son already had his . Granddaughters are now next up for training . The times demand it !

    17. I prefer to use lasers on my home defense weapons, as my eyesight is poor without correction. I can see a person well enough, but my sights, not so much. If a simple bump in the night turns into a broken down door, I’d rather not have to request for the intruder to wait a moment while I put on my glasses. Lasers have their place—as do weapon lights or flashlights.

      1. At inside ranges there is no need for sights. Haven’t you ever fired a standard shotgun? Just sight down the barrel at close range. Its quicker and plenty accurate enough at <7 yards. If you can see the target and the gun, and you have normal hand-eye co-ordination, you can hit it. With a little practice you can probably do it just by feel. Try it. Shoot at a paper plate(perfect size for the vitals of any 100-300 pound mammal) from ten feet with the gun down at your waist. I'll bet within 50 rounds you will be drilling the plate with regularity.

    18. Excellent and informative article! I think that your seventh myth (just for the snowflakes) should be “I don’t need a gun for protection because the Police will protect me”. Remember, the Police show up to write the report and sort out everything. We as respectable human beings have to take any reasonable action to protect ourselves, our families, friends, and others that we care about and let the Police worry about the details. It wouldn’t hurt to lobby for stricter punishment for senseless crimes, and swift trials. The criminals are getting out of hand!

    19. It’s all just more of the anti-gunners basic belief that the proper response to a threat of violence is to disarm!

    20. Good article. One comment on lasers: it’s been my experience that shooters new to lasers have a tendency to see the dot on target and then jerk the trigger. That is, they do much better either pointing and shooting, or using sights. The remedy is what Mr. Johnson said – “practice with the laser until it’s second nature.”

      1. I’m still not buying that 223 cartridge is a good home self defence round.
        Standard generic 55 grain grain FMJ @ 3000 FPS will overpenetrate everything. If you have to use your AR15 for protection, that 55 grain FMJ will enter & exit the perp, go on through him & continue on destroying everything in its path. Possibly exiting your house & going next door. What about your misses? They keep on going until they hit something else. Suppose your 223 round goes through a window?
        Short barrelled pump shotgun? Yes. Bullpup shotgun like the Keltec. KSG? Yes. 3000 FPS self loading varmint cartridge? Nope!

        1. Please reference your data for the 5.56 55 gr fmj ballistics you claim will happen. Because without it your subjective option on how a 5.56 55gr fmj routinely is a devastating barrier blind round is lacking and defies basic physics. Doesn’t matter what you use you better be following universal safety rule number 4. “Know your target and what’s beyond it.”. Here is some of my referenced data, particularly pages 23-27.

    21. Killing an intruder is so you can safely wait the twenty minutes it takes the Police to get there, and the other ten it takes them to go in without shooting, and it gives you time to stick a knife in the criminals hand if he didn’t have one !!

      1. I totally agree. If you enter into my home without me letting you in, you are going to get shot. I’ll work out the details after. Also, it’s also dangerous to come onto my property without an invite or reason like a delivery. Good luck scum bags.

      2. Go ahead and place that knife.. you WILL undo the good you just did by defending yourself.

        Know that the chemical residue left on the hasp of tha knife will be different whether he holds it before he died, or it was put there afterward.

        His simple presence in your home uninvited is cause enough to apply lethal force in most states. In the other states, WHY are you still living there?
        Read guys like Mas Ayoob, , Greg Ellifritz…… both are/have been LE, detectives, and expert witnesses in many murder and self-defense trials. There unwavering advice, if you want to survive the aftermath, is DO NOT ALTER A THING in the crime scene before the coppers arrive. Unless it is a very unusual situation….. and it better be the ONLY sensible thing to do because of the situation.

        In most jurisdictions, altering evidence at a crime scene is a criminal offense. They will be able to determine where you were, where he was, the exact angle of entrance, and exit, of any of your rounds, and do that with a VERT high probability of being correct.

      3. And BAM, you go to jail, do not collect $200. Why? For being stupid and tampering with evidence and a crime scene not to mention lying to a police officer to cover up what you did! Now, how smart are you?

    22. So, if I have a gun in my house I’m 3X more likely to get killed. What if I have four gun? Will I be 12X more likely to get killed? Or only .75X. How many guns do I have to have to be immortal. The best accountant I ever was represented by explained that any business proposition where the bottom line was presented as, $x,xxx.00 that somebody, somewhere snookered the books. In real life if you are calculating any data, there is no way it will end up “$0.00”. Looks like this is another case of figures never lie, but liars sure can figure.

      1. You are exactly correct. If you have several guns in your house you’ve already been killed and someone else obviously wrote this comment because you’ve been long dead!

    23. Great article! Only thing to add about lasers is that you still need viable, respectable shooting skills to efficiently use a laser. If you just stick the gun out, and turn on the laser, many times, an inexperienced shooter will end up playing the- where’s that pesky dot- game. If your laser is not sighted in, and you miss your adversary by 1/2 inch, your dot maybe down the hall, or out in the yard some place. So practice with the laser until it’s second nature.
      As for using .223/55gr for home defense. Accuracy and ease/efficiency of aiming beats over penetration worries. I have seen 5.56 go through one sheet of wall board, but not the 2×4 holding the wall board. I have seen 5.56 go through an aircraft seat from 2 feet away, into the compartment bulkhead, but not penetrate the pressure vessel, or the 1/8″ aluminum structural member. So after you tell your professional gun carriers to clear, and safe their weapons BEFORE getting on the plane, make sure they understand the diffetence between clear then safe, and safe then clear!
      And remember that only perfect practice makes perfect! Just practice, doesn’t do didly squat.

      1. That’s an excellent point. Still need that grip, recoil, and trigger control with a laser! It just makes it easier to see but certainly doesn’t anti-jerk the trigger 🙂

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