It’s never too early to think about your home defense posture. Whether you’re in a small apartment or a rural farmhouse, it’s critical to have the right shooter handy when shit hits the fan. But unless you’re already a savvy gun owner, finding the right option for you can be a bit daunting.
That’s why we asked our team of former Special Operators, SWCCs, and SEALs what they would choose if they were back at the beginning of the gun-buying process. See what they picked and why.
Best All-Around Home Defense
There’s nothing quite like a Mossberg 500. It has been produced for over 50 years, and with more than 10 million 500s built by Mossberg, it is one of the most prolific scatterguns in history. And no wonder. The 500 is probably one of the most versatile and reliable shotgun platforms ever devised. The 500 series boasts four additional models — the 505, 510, 535, and 590 — which allow for dialing in your needs for bore size, barrel length, choke options, magazine capacity, and even stock and forearm material options.
The wide range of options in the 500 series makes this shotgun a clean up hitter for just about any application from tactical stacks to home defense.
Since the Mossberg 500 is so prolific, there is a slew of accessory options out there. From red dot scopes to lights, foregrips, and slings, you’d be hard-pressed not to find something optimized for the 500 series at your local gun dealer or sporting goods store. Unlike other types of rounds, shotshells continue to be readily available. And, should you choose to reload your own shells, the process is rather easy and quick, making it a great sustainable option even when things get hairy.
That said, finding a good 500 is getting really hard. Most local shops have waiting lists and are competing to get the same small batch of guns. If you can get yourself on a waiting list, do it. You’ll likely pay a bit more due to demand, but the end result is well worth it.
Best Home Defense Handgun
The 1911 is likely the most iconic handgun in America today. Its other names pay tribute to its service record. Known as the M1911, the Colt 1911, or the Colt Government, the .45 caliber handgun served honorably as the standard-issue sidearm for the U.S. Military from — you guessed it — 1911 through 1985 when it was replaced by the M9 Beretta 9mm.
There’s a slew of reasons why the 1911 was the sidearm of choice for soldiers from WWI right on through Vietnam. It is a total workhorse. Relatively easy to clean and super reliable even after hundreds of rounds, the 1911 will take a lickin’ and keep on kickin’.
One of the under-sung qualities of the 1911 is the single-stack magazine design. This slim mag profile keeps the whole gun slimmer, making it a nice option for concealed carry.
While the 1911 is produced by several different manufactures — Springfield Armory, Smith and Wesson to name two — our go-to is the Kimber 1911 with the 4″ barrel. The Kimber 1911 is used by LAPD SWAT, MARSOC Marines, and the U.S.A Shooting Rapid Fire Pistol Team. It’s the most widely produced version of the 1911 for good reason.
Last but not least is the lead that the 1911 slings. The .45 ACP round provides excellent stopping power, making it ideal for a home defense situation when every round counts. The 1911 is also very accurate and has a manageable kick despite the .45 caliber round, and a low muzzle flash.
Think seriously about the Kimber 1911 if you want a great gun you’ll own for decades to come.
Best Option for Rural Settings
Ruger Ranch Rifle .223
Not all home defense situations are created equal. For many, it means clearing small rooms of a house or apartment, a process that’s often better served by handguns or scatterguns. But for some, home defense extends beyond the boundary of four walls and includes a large yard, fields, or farmland. What’s more, it can also sometimes mean defending livestock and animals from predators, or clearing pests from crops. For the longer-reaching home defense needs, the Ruger Ranch Rifle is a great option.
For starters, the Ruger Ranch Rifle is versatile and lightweight, owing primarily to the composite stock material and short 16″ barrel. The composite will feel cheap to those with classic wooden stocked rifles, but this combo makes it a great choice for riding in a truck gun rack or on a four-wheeler; you won’t have to worry about scratching up your prized Remington.
The Ranch Rifle is also ambidextrous with a tang-mounted safety slide and the ambi mag release. It comes stock with a short magazine and sling mounting points. And while it lacks stock iron sights, it comes with a picatinny rail making it very easy (and quick) to mount optics. It’s capable of sending an array of rounds downrange — from 50 to 77 grain — and has very little recoil even with heavier rounds. The barrel also comes threaded for sound and fire suppressor attachments.
While the Ruger Ranch Rifle might not be your first thought for home defense, it is a great all-around shooter, especially for those who might need to engage targets up to about 100 meters. It also doubles well as an easy-to-use hunting rifle for game.
Bug Out Style Home Defense
KelTec Sub 2000
The KelTec Sub 2000 is definitely not what most people think of when they think home defense. But this ingenious little weapon is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. In fact, we did a full review of the KelTec Sub 2000 recently and were very impressed by its overall punch.
But the real reason the KelTec 2000 is on this list is its compact, folding design. The Sub 2000 folds completely in half, making it extremely compact and easy to carry. It can be kept in a tennis racket case or bug-out bag and hidden easily in a vehicle. Folding or bringing the gun into action only takes some seconds.
The KelTec only chambers a 9mm, but from the 50 yard line, a competent shooter will be able to rapidly and accurately engage multiple targets with effective fire; this means hitting head or chest shots. Take a knee, or slide into the prone, and you’ll increase your precision even more. Beyond 50 yards is when the 9mm starts to peter out a bit, and drop starts increasing rapidly.
The unique design makes it a natural choice for a bug-out gun, and its reliability and ease of handling make it a great self-defense tool. The ability for it to share mags with your handgun shouldn’t be overlooked.
Best Beginner Home Defense
There’s a reason that the Glock 19 is issued to Special Forces. It’s light, durable, relatively cheap, and very easy to operate and clean. As handguns go, few can compete with the all-around nature of the Glock 19.
Like the Mossberg 500, the Glock 19 is a prolific gun across the United States, with many companies making accessories, holsters, aftermarket grips, sights, and much much more for it. This makes owning a Glock easy, especially for first-time gun owners. It’s safe to assume that whether you’re stopping in at Bass Pro Shops or your local gun shop, you’ll find everything you need to own, use and maintain a Glock.
However, Glocks lack a traditional on-off safety lever. Some feel this makes it a “faster” option for beginners while others see it as increasing the risk of accidental discharges. Most who are familiar with handguns will see it as an advantage, however, as it enables the user to fire immediately without separately manipulating a safety. Nevertheless, the gun does offer a three-point safety system. The system, designated “Safe Action” by Glock, consists of an external integrated trigger safety and two automatic internal safeties: a firing pin safety and a drop safety.
Glock has a slew of different chamber options in their handgun series. If the 19’s 9mm chamber is too small for your needs, there are several options for .45 ACP and .40 S&W rounds that deliver the same easy-to-use and easy-to-maintain properties.