Long guns for home defense — not such a hot idea

A lot of people with an internet pulpit recommend long guns as ideal for home defense (HD).  Well, that just goes to prove that, as we used to say in the pre-internet days: “Don’t believe everything you read”.  Today I suppose it would be “Don’t believe everything you hear from YouTube personalities with the requisite tactical beards or goatees”.

The primary HD firearm should be a handgun.  Not that there’s not a place for something like a shotgun or carbine in HD.  I really like Massad Ayoob’s notion that the place for a long gun in HD is in a fixed location like a safe room or bedroom,  He compares it to the fixed artillery of an army, while the handgun is like the mobile infantry.  That is, the long gun stays in a fixed location and is brought into play if the BG insists on moving to you (and, duh, you’re justified in challenging with or firing it).

Why?  Well, have you ever tried to move around, at speed and tactically, in your house with a long gun?  Sure, there are some very goofball and unsatisfactory ways you can theoretically do so, but they are just that.  Have you ever tried, with a long gun, to open a door, protect a child, or do any of the real-world things that a HD scenario requires other than runnin’, gunnin’ and looking cool?  (Talking to the nice dispatch operator is a good idea in these situations.)

Handgun, dude.

Story one:  Years ago, like the mid-nineties, a member of a forward-thinking SWAT team on the west coast told me that the team had mostly given up their ARs for building entry and gone back to handguns.  “They were just too cumbersome to move effectively with inside”, was his reason.

Story two:  On a narcotics raid I was on with a local tac team, a few of the SWAT guys went in with ARs.  After it was wrapped up one of the AR operators said to me, completely unsolicited, “These things (pointing to his AR) kinda suck in tight quarters”.

Yup, they do.  And shotguns are even heavier and more unwieldy.

Yeah, I know the M4 is the main military individual weapon, even for urban ops.  But apples and oranges; plus we civilians have complete freedom of  choice – no one is dictating what we carry or train with.

As always, try real scenarios, at real speed and real intent, with blue guns (they are available for most common shotguns and carbines) before saying I’m full of shit.  I may be, and will so concede if you do the homework to prove it.

Now if you live on a ranch, manor, or estate, and we’re talking outside HD (or ranch, manor, or estate defense), then yeah – rifles (or shotguns) are the way to go.  Lucky you!


15 thoughts on “Long guns for home defense — not such a hot idea

  1. I have a similar rationale for me having my long guns in a safe in the basement.

    Just curious what you think about this article (I have no association with it). It makes some points that had me thinking, especially regarding the accuracy bit (although I can’t imagine a hostage situation in my house).

    Still not likely to change, but I might look at a shotgun for the fun of shooting it.


    • Nice article. I completely agree with everything that Steve Fisher said (I don’t know him). But I’d still take the pistol inside a house because no one stands still while aggressing. Reminds me I need write a shotgun post.


  2. Why would I bother doing homework to prove why I prefer a long gun when you didn’t do it to write the article?

    All you provided is subjective stories and claim them to be fact.


  3. Yeah, let me go to bigger heavier pistol rounds more likely to go through interior sheetrock in case I whiff a shot. Let me ignore all the years I spent learning how to work an AR with a white light and Aimpoint inside a building. Let me give up that lovely 40 round PMag of Hornady TAP.



  4. Ralph,
    I agree with your caution about a long gun for home defense. I have argued the point many times, and always get the same evasion.

    The proponents of long guns for interior home defense ignore all the points you brought up. Opening a door, holding a phone, holding a child’s hand, putting pressure on a wound, holding a light, other things a person may want to do with one hand, all ignored because- “MORE FIREPOWER!.
    They fail to realize self defense is not exclusively about shooting. I can understand the thinking, if four or five gangbusters bust in the door and you are standing there, yeah, you want the long gun. Badly. Problem is twofold- one, this is an unlikely scenario, and two, the odds they have that AR with them are very low. They WILL have a handgun with them , if they are serious about home defense. Quick, right now, where is that AR? Can you reach it? Remember to grab the muffs too…..(snark)

    IMO, if one is so concerned about multiple invaders, buy some better doors. Successful security is not all about guns. They are just one part.

    Also, and this is very important- a lot of situations are ambiguous at the start- many things that seem weird are not the start of a hostile encounter, and some that seem normal are. The ability to have a weapon available, that is not obvious, is an immense advantage. Answering the door, for example.


    • Thanks. You touched on something that I forgot to mention. Every time I see someone – cop or otherwise – with a long gun that they intend to use inside, I ask, “Have you ever fired that thing inside without ear pro?” No one has ever said “yes”. An 5.56 lit off indoors, even with ear pro, is unpleasant and jarring. Without protection it will shut you down for a bit. That’s somewhat counter-productive.


      • What, like the same problem doesn’t exist with a 9, 40 or 45? Ever fire one of those off in a room without ear protection? As to using a phone, Someone(s) have just broken into my house and my thought process goes into a debate…”Phone or gun Phone or gun Phone or gun…” A closet can be armored with A500 plate for about $500. Two pieces 2′ by 3′ secured to make a bullet proof cubby in their closet for a kid to hide behind and I know where they are. I’m not gonna look for my kid, the attacker however will have my full undivided attention. Figure out some code words with your family to be able to communicate without full sentences and make the words nonsensical to confuse any assailants. McDonalds, Red Robin, Burger King can mean a whole lot more than a place to eat. Author says there is more to self defense than a gun. Yes there is and the words spilt here could have addressed those issues instead,


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