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Random Thoughts On That First Home Defense Gun


Image by Oleg Volk. Used with permission. blog.olegvolk.net

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As a firearms and personal defense instructor for just shy of 25 years, I’ve had countless people ask me what’s the best gun for home defense. If only it were so simple. That question is analogous to “Which car should I buy?” The answer is always, “It depends….”

For those wanting to buy their first defensive handgun, especially for those who aren’t going to practice much, I generally recommend selecting a revolver and here’s why: The operation of revolvers is very simple and intuitive, making it a great selection for new handgun owners or those who aren’t going to practice (and let’s face it…most won’t). What’s more, revolvers are dead-nuts reliable compared to semi-auto pistols.

From a safety perspective, they are very safe because once the cylinder is open, even Alec Baldwin can figure out if the gun is loaded or not. That is if he opens the cylinder.

Colt Python
Dan Z for TTAG

To use a revolver, simply stuff the cylinder with live rounds, close it, point it at the target and pull the trigger. It’s the ultimate point-and-click interface. It even works great from the pocket or purse.

Semi-automatic pistols, like the ones most cops carry today are a little more complicated to use. And they generally don’t work as well from the pocket or purse.

That said, if modern pistols like GLOCKs appeal to you, that’s fine. You’re not alone. Seek out training to learn how to safely load and unload the gun and how to handle it safely.

Shotguns – simple, affordable pump-action shotguns – make outstanding home defense guns. Loaded with buckshot, a 12-gauge or 20-gauge will decisively drop an intruder with a single blast.

Plus everyone knows the sound a shotgun makes when chambering a round thanks to Hollywood. Some call it the “universal sound of peace.” If an aggressor ignores that sound and continues their attack, that’s a clue that they aren’t there selling Girl Scout cookies.

Jon Wayne Taylor shotgun coronavirus
JWT for TTAG

Are you intimidated by a shotgun? Rest assured, the intimidation flows in both directions. Even bad guys who have had guns pointed at them previously generally want little to no part of a shotgun.

What do I use for home defense? The same thing as my fellow GSL Defense Training instructors.

First, a bit of background: Each of my fellow instructors are quite fluent in handguns and pretty good to exceptional with long guns as well. In other words, we can have whatever we want and make it work effectively.

Other than the one fellow who has an autistic son at home, we all have pump-action shotguns as our general purpose, go-to home defense gun. Ponder that for a moment.

home defense shotgun remington 870 DM
Courtesy Dan Abraham

In any event, once you settle on a gun that fits you (or fits your hand for handguns), consider visiting an indoor range and asking to rent that particular gun to try it out before you buy. You might discover that the gun that looked and felt good to you isn’t one you can manipulate if you have any physical limitations (including things like arthritis, for example).

As you will soon learn first-hand, there’s some paperwork associated with purchasing a gun and in some states there’s even a waiting period before you can take your new purchase home.

You’ll also learn from your visit to the gun shop that gun aficionados are generally pretty nice people and more than willing to help.

Lastly, get some formal training. Classes are readily available and affordable. They’ll make you safer and more comfortable around the gun. They’ll also improve your effectiveness in using it defensively. A good training class will never make you an expert marksman or gunfighter overnight, but they can make you an expert on safety in a day.

After class, you can then share proper, safe gun handling skills with your friends and family to keep them safe, too.

Training or not, you’ll need to practice at least once in a while if you hope to successfully operate your gun under stress. So go visit your favorite local range a few times each year to shake off the cobwebs and re-familiarize yourself with shooting your new gun, otherwise knowns as your emergency rescue tool.

Enjoy your new purchase. It may even turn into a hobby. It’s fun, empowering, and could even save your life someday. You can’t say all that about most recreational activities.

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