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Self-Defense Guns: Home Defense and Survival Guns

In theory, any gun can be a self-defense gun. Here are a few guidelines.

By Corey Graff, Online Editor

Home Defense Shotgun/Weapon

A criminal staring down the barrel of a 12-gauge shotgun is likely to have a change of mind. Home defense shotguns are effective and can be loaded with lighter shot to minimize wall penetration. 

Self-defense guns are as varied as the potential threats you might face. From home defense, to street defense, to personal protection during times of civil unrest or natural disaster, having the right firearm close at hand to keep you and your family safe is critical. But which to choose?


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Household Guns for Self-Defense

We spend up to half of our living lives at home. When you factor in time spent sleeping and weekends, it’s obvious that a good home defense gun should be at the ready at all times.

Tactical shotguns for home defense are a top choice. For one thing, home defense shotguns can be loaded with shot of various sizes to minimize penetration through walls. And they unleash a blast the likes of which will stop even the biggest and most committed criminal.  No human being, no matter how evil, can continue walking into a shotgun blast.

Contrary to scenes glorified on the silver screen, accuracy in Close Quarters Battle (CQB) with a shotgun is still important. It’s not a magic wand with special powers. But unlike a rifle or handgun, the risk of missing and sending projectiles through walls is lessened with a shotgun loaded with shot.

There are a plethora of tactical-style shotguns on the market today, both in single shot (double barrel), pump-action and semi-automatic. The best shotguns for home defense have extended magazine tubes to hold more shells, illuminated night sights, slings, rails to add tactical lights and choke tubes fashioned for close-range work.

Even so, handguns – especially those equipped with lights and lasers – can be effective home defense guns as well. They facilitate greater maneuverability, and you can even hold a cell phone to call for help while securing the handgun in a ready position to shoot if need be. Many experts consider handguns the best home defense weapons available.

As with all guns kept in the home, safely securing the firearm is vital, and a handgun can be kept close to the bed in a quick-access safe.

But AR-15s and other carbine rifles are still popular home defense guns and have their place. They’re short. They can be equipped with powerful lights. And they can be shot fast. Thanks to 30-round capacity magazines — as proven when Korean merchants defended their properties and lives with them during the LA riots — a single armed person with an AR-15 can keep an entire mob at bay, until police arrive. That can make all the difference when your family is hunkered down and under attack by multiple armed individuals. 

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Gun Digest Buyer's Guide to Concealed Carry Handguns | Best Handgun for Concealed Carry

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Street Defense Guns

Your greatest advantage while on the street is the element of surprise. The best way to achieve surprise and not alarm the population with the presence of a gun is by carrying it concealed.

We have a primer here on Choosing Your First Concealed Carry Handgun, but when considering the best gun for concealed carry be sure to choose a pistol you can effectively conceal in the climate in which you live. On the one hand, the best handgun for self-defense is the one you have on you. Truthfully, there are so many great designs on the market you should visit a gun shop and see which fits your hand best. I like Glocks. You might like something different.

I advise carrying a semi-automatic handgun as your primary gun because they generally hold more rounds and the semi-auto action mitigates recoil making them easier to shoot shot-after-shot. Get the biggest handgun (as in frame size, not caliber) you can effectively conceal.

Watch enough surveillance videos of street attacks and you’ll see that the ability to draw and shoot the firearm quickly is critical. This doesn’t leave much time for weighing all the legal pitfalls of justifiable use of force, but assuming you are justified, you must be able to draw the handgun and fast.

Handguns for Self-Defense

The Springfield EMP 1911 in 9mm might be the ideal concealed carry gun for women. The single stack design makes it slim and easy to grip, yet it packs 9 rounds of 9 X 19, and it comes with night sights.

Handguns for Women

Revolvers for concealed carry are still popular. They are simple to learn and shoot — for everybody, including women — provided you don’t plan on having much time to train.

On the other hand, if you can sneak in regular practice sessions, the semi-automatic handgun affords some distinct advantages, including less recoil, better ergonomics and more rounds available. But you need to shoot regularly to become proficient.

.38 Special in +P loading is considered the minimum for self-defense use, and there are many medium-frame revolvers chambered for the bigger .357 magnum cartridge that will also shoot the .38 Special. Ladies should go this route — with a heavier revolver — as opposed to the tiny lightweight .38 special only sixguns (which are handy-dandy to carry but transmit intense recoil to the shooter).

Women tend to have smaller frames and hands, so consider the 1911-style single stack pistols in 9mm. A single stack mag gives the grip a smaller circumference and thus is easier to wrap your hands around to get to the trigger.

One advantage ladies have is the wide range of concealed carry handbags and concealed carry purses for women. It’s not unusual to see a woman carrying a purse, and there are specialty versions designed to conceal full-sized handguns and extra mags — and still be stylish!

For more in-depth tips on self-defense for women, I strongly recommend you check out Personal Defense for Women by noted author Gila Hayes.

World-renowned revolversmith Grant Cunningham fleshes out the double-action revolver - shooting, handling, carrying, maintaining and accessorizing - like no one else can. Whether you're considering a revolver as a primary or backup concealed carry gun, or for hunting or target shooting, this book has everything you need to know.

Author Gila Hayes teaches you the building blocks to the self-defense lifestyle, including awareness, confrontation avoidance – and knowing when and how to fight back if necessary. Learn personal safety and security in your home, vehicle, workplace or on the street.


Save 10% Off Select Self-Defense Products!
Use Promo Code: SAVELP

Final discounts will be displayed within the cart for qualifying items. Discount not valid on pre-orders, value packs,
subscriptions, and 3rd party products. 1 use per customer. Other exclusions apply.


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Corey Graff is the Online Editor for His personal interest in firearms includes handguns for hunting and self-defense as well as guns from the World War II era.