Opinion: Gunsmith, Michael Ware gives us his rundown of the top home defense weapon features you should consider with your weapon choice.
USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- I build and customize a lot of home defense weapons. Most are firearms, but I’ve been commissioned for just about every kind of small arm you can think of. I have a lot of people that come in wanting the down and dirty list of things I recommend they buy for that ‘bedside defender’. Many customers leave shocked that I’m not a ‘gear snob’ like so many out there.
Sure, I have my favorites, just as anyone does. But, what works for me may not work for you, and there are quantifiable reasons why in most cases.
I’m simply not an “all or none” guy in this genre of life. That said, there are some everyday things that are essential to carefully consider when you make your buying choices or you’re adding and/or modifying a weapon specifically for home defense.
If there is one universal truth when it comes to a home defense weapon, it would be this: Make sure you’re well practiced with your home defense choice.
With no small irony, many people are least practiced with their home defense choice when compared to the others in their collections. If I’ve had one customer come through my shop and tell me he carries a G19 daily and leaves an 870 by the bed for home defense, I’ll bet I’ve had a thousand. I immediately ask them how much they practice and how many classes they’ve been through with their trusty G19. Some even surprise the heck out of me and rattle of beautiful twisting tales of being on their third extractor because they’ve shot their midsize 9mm so much. Then I ask the follow-up question, “And how many scattergun courses have you taken? Especially those with a curriculum including low light scenarios? None? How often do you take that same 12ga to the range and run the heck out of it with those punishing 3 ½” 00 buck loads you have it loaded with by the bed?” Crickets…
Think about it a bit. If you’re going to use a home defense weapon, it will be indoors, within close quarters more than likely, and probably dark. Night sights are something many people install. Trijicon, Meprolight, XS Sight Systems, Ameriglo, and others are in our shop routinely.
This parlays into one of the critical components I like to have people consider on a home defense rig – a light. There are legitimate arguments you can make for a weapon-mounted light and also a handheld light. I’m less worried about those choices, as they are individual preferences than the idea someone has no light at all. The other consideration is what kind of light in terms of brightness, focus, and intensity.
If I lived in a big sprawling open ranch in Montana and I might give chase or retreat outside into nature, a powerful light starts to make sense.
If you’re like most of America, your quarters are a bit closer, and I’d just about bet dimes to cold dog turds your hallway outside your bedroom is white or very light color. Thus, an ultra-bright light may zap your night vision and end up being too much. I’ve seen home defense shotguns mounted on weapons with scotch tape over the lenses to diffuse the light a tad and tame it a bit. You might have to try a few configurations to see what works best for you. Surefire, Streamlight, Inforce, Cloud Defense LLC, and First Light USA are among the many great options available.
Snag Free And Simple
Another key feature is a weapon that is snag free and simple to use. If somebody has made their way into your home at 3:15 am, you’re going to be groggy with poor vision. Your heart rate will increase, and your natural dexterity will diminish in most cases. You don’t help yourself by choosing a complicated weapon, or you’ll be in trouble potentially. You know those huge tactical latches on the charging handles of AR-15s? Yeah, no. When you have a long-barreled AR out in a field of prairie dogs, and you’ve got the Hubbel Telescope mounted atop it for a scope, you benefit from a handle that sticks out there far enough you can use it easily. A home defense carbine with a latch that sticks out way too far is a liability you should be reconsidering. It’ll catch on all kinds of things and hem you up or slow you down.
Spare Mags or Speed Loaders
If you’re running a handgun, do you have a reload? Do you need a reload? Where are you going to put it? I know some people who have waited for a sale and bought a simple khaki hunting vest and hung it on the inside of their bedroom door or back door of the home. The vest has loaded gun magazines, a spare flashlight, a cordless phone in some cases, a knife, and things of that nature. They grab their gun, slip on the vest, and they’re ready even if they’re naked as a jaybird. I also know a guy that keeps a tomahawk strapped on his, but that’s a story for another day. (related read, Speed Strips vs. Speedloaders )
If you’re running something like a shotgun or carbine, you might consider a sling. There are plenty of times when you might want to check a door handle, pick up something, or use another hand, possibly both, and I don’t want you to be separated from your defense tool. Too few people use slings these days. Think this one over. MAGPUL, V-Tac, Blackhawk, WMD Guns and many others offer great sling choices, and MAGPUL, Grovtec, GG&G, Troy, and Midwest Industries have plenty of accessories and mounting hardware.
Get yourself a reliable and simple weapon that lends itself to problem-free function. Then add the right accessories for you and practice!
About Michael Ware:
Michael is a Christian husband and father to two children. He owns and operates Controlled Chaos Arms, a premier custom weapons shop in the Midwest. He serves as Chairman of the board of Directors at the Iowa Firearms Coalition. The pursuit of truth drives him in research and his writing.
Michael enjoys shooting, hunting, and fishing throughout the Midwest and Rockies. An avid outdoorsman and tireless supporter of all Second Amendment virtues, he can be found in his gun shop, in a tree stand with his kids, or on Capitol Hill lobbying in support of Freedom and Liberty at any given time.