Best Home Defense Gun, I Choose an AR-15

Okay, many people ask me:

“what is the best home defense gun?”

The answer requires a bit of an explanation so stick around, I'll give you one.

I don't just choose my AR-15, I have multiple things that I've incorporated into my home defense strategy. I've put a strategy together beforehand. My AR-15 is my preferred gun for home defense if it's within reach. I'll explain why in a bit. But first:

The guns people use for home defense is a hotly debated topic. To be honest, I generally have the opinion that the gun you have access to is the best gun for the job at that moment. That being said, there are tools that are better than others. That is why there is a “gun hierarchy” in my home, and yes I probably have more guns than the average person does.

Let's take a look at a few considerations, for each firearm choice.  Ultimately we will land on my go-to home defense weapon at the end of this article and why I chose it.

Starting with my least favorite home defense gun:


Home Defense Handgun:

This is, not Shotgun World. So, it should come as no surprise that I own a handgun. Or two …

Anyway, handguns are a way of life for all of us here at Concealed Carry. I have secured handguns in various places throughout my house that are easy for an adult to get to if needed. And, a handgun sits in my bedside safe with a few spares, loaded.

Handguns do have some limitations, however. For example:

capacity can be limited

When compared to other guns on this list, even a Glock 17 with standard capacity mags holds fewer rounds than you might need. Especially if there is more than one bad guy in your house and you find yourself in a shootout.

Of course, you can get extended capacity magazines for your home defense handgun. However, when you do that it can make the gun feel heavier due to the added rounds. This isn't a huge difference, but can definitely make the gun feel different. Also, not all after-market magazine extensions are created equal, and some have been known to induce feeding malfunctions with the gun.

handgun capacity

Fewer points of contact

An as a factual matter, it is easier to shoot a long gun well, than a handgun. When I say ‘well' I mean accuracy and recovery wise. In general, having four points of contact, (stock weld, forehand grip, dominant hand, and contact in the pocket of the shoulder) aid in recovery and stability. Additionally, a longer sight radius makes aiming a bit more forgiving. So in general, shooting a long gun will be easier than shooting a handgun. However, while this is true for most people, it certainly does not apply to everyone.

For me, handguns still play a role in my home defense strategy but if I could choose between my handgun or a rifle, I'd choose a rifle. And if I didn't have a choice I'd take the handgun over nothing.

Home Defense Shotgun:

The shotgun is the go-to home-defense gun for many, many gun owners. Heck, I've even written an article for a different publication on why I thought it was the best home defense gun. I've since changed my mind, and, sadly, cannot change that article.

Moving on …

There are some myths concerning this gun for home defense that many people may not have thought about. We've covered these myths more in-depth in a different article, so I won't go back into it too far here.


shotgun good for home defense?

The myths, just in case you need to know them, are this:

  1. You don't need to aim
  2. You don't need to keep it loaded because the sound of racking it is all a criminal needs to hear to send them running for the hills

Again, those are myths, not truths. If you disagree with either of those, please go read the above-linked article.

If you're good to go, the next thing we need to discuss is the type of shot you're going to use. We read a lot of different comments and posts about what type of shot is best for home defense and while I won't tell you what is right or wrong, I'll tell you what I use.

What is the best shotgun load for home-defense

Suffice it to say that there are pluses and minuses to either buckshot or birdshot and that debate goes outside the scope of this increasingly long article. Personally, my Mossberg 500 is loaded with 00 Buck, and the reason why is because it's a last-ditch attempt at bad guy stopping.

What this means, at least for me in my isolate and defend strategy, is that our scattergun is occupying my wife's hands and is ready to take over should I be taken out. I'm likely not leaving my family behind to search the house for the bad guy, gun at the ready. They will have to come and find us. We have a defensive strategy that gives my family a huge tactical advantage.

different shotgu loads for home defense

Many people have ideas about what makes the best shotgun load for home defense.

The 12 gauge filled with buckshot will likely dislocate her arthritic shoulder, but if she had to choose between that or protecting our children she's willing to do what she has to.

Why buckshot? Because birdshot loses momentum much faster and the hallway we use as a choke point is very long. Can birdshot be devastating? Of course, it can, especially depending on the distance you find yourself away from a bad guy. But for us, we've made the decision that it's not enough given the length of our hallway.

Evidence against using birdshot for home defense is growing

However, there is a growing number of documented instances where birdshot failed to penetrate deep enough to disrupt any of the vital organs and stop the bad guy. What you are relying on is a physical response to the pain of being shot rather than a physical disruption of the way the body works. And we all know not everyone stops the attack because they feel pain.

Our good friend Greg Ellifritz at Active Response Training wrote a great piece explaining this.

Ultimately, regardless of what happens to me, I want my wife and kids to stay alive.

Many shotguns, like my old, trusty Mossy 500 also have capacity problems and don't even hold as much ammo as a modern-day pistol. Still, it plays a role in our overall strategy.

birdshot not good for home defense

No doubt this hurt, but the birdshot does not penetrate deep enough to effect major organs.

Pistol Caliber Carbine:

Yeah, I love my PCCs.

Pistol caliber carbines catch a lot of hate from some gun folks, and I'm not entirely sure why. I guess it's because shooting a pistol round through a rifle raises some evident contradictions. Rifle rounds perform better than pistol rounds when used in rifles and the converse is true as well. So maybe just shoot a rifle round through rifles and pistol calibers through pistols.

Nevertheless, I've got one that takes 32 round Colt Sticks in AK platform that I've got thousands of rounds through without a single malfunction.

I work between 12-16 hours a day, split between my day job at Concealed Carry, and my own business. At all times it's within reach with 4 loaded mags nearby.

Why is this the one right within reach?

Let's think about this for a moment:

  • Low recoil means faster follow up shots
  • Low-cost, readily available ammo (when not in a crisis like COVID-19)
  • A longer barrel means slightly increased performance over the handgun
  • A longer sight radius means better accuracy
home defense with pistol caliber carbine

One of Jacob's range trips with a PCC from Palmetto State

There are other things unique to this particular gun that make it fantastic for use in home defense situations, but that should suffice.


I love my AR-15 pattern rifles. To me, this is the best home-defense gun out there. They're the most accurate, offer the best performance, allow quick follow-up shots, and the list goes on.

I consider any AR pistol with at least a 10.5-inch barrel up to a rifle with a 16″ barrel as a solid option for home defense with the .223 round.

Are they loud? Yes. But, to me, the ability to stop bad guys in their tracks with the capacity they have is outstanding.

And, oddly enough, sometimes someone will say an AR-15 is too loud for home defense. But will then go on to recommend a 12 gauge shotgun instead, as if they're somehow quieter. In reality, both fall within the 155 – 160 dB range. Both become louder, to a degree, with each inch shaved off the barrel for either gun.

So, whoever is in the room of the house at that point is going to have at least temporary hearing loss, regardless.

What about over-penetration of this particular round?

Honestly, I'm not any more concerned about the .223 than I am the 9mm or buckshot.

There is a lot that goes into how a round will penetrate, and it's a little inaccurate to paint an entire caliber as having the same penetration. However, gun safety rules always play into real-life situations. Knowing your target and what's beyond/around it is key no matter what kind of gun you're shooting at a bad guy. Why? Because they ALL have the capability of penetrating through people, walls, and then more people.

over penetration concern for home defense

What calibers will and won't over-penetrate walls inside my home?

Yes, even a .22lr has been shown to penetrate through a few walls.

I actually worry less about over-penetration

when shooting .223 than other calibers.

While contrary to what you may think or have been taught, it's been shown over and again that .223 and 9mm will penetrate walls about the same, even though the .223 is moving a lot faster. But, because the .223 has a higher probability of stopping the attack sooner. Therefore, fewer rounds need to be fired limiting the number of possible misses you may have.

Additionally, the .223 projectile immediately loses ballistic stability and begins to tumble. This severely cuts its velocity down and therefore how and what it will travel through after hitting an object.


In any case, you need to think about how you will respond to a threat that has entered your home. As mentioned above, consider not going to searching for the bad guy. There are a host of tactical problems with this strategy.

complete home defense

You can probably tell that I've given the guns I use in my home defense strategy a lot of thought. I urge you to do the same if you haven't already. And, if you need help in this regard, we offer a home defense course that is fantastic and goes even further into the weapons and strategies spoken about in this article. No surprise it is titled Complete Home Defense.

You can find the course here.

About Joshua Gillem

Josh is a lifelong practitioner and student of the gun. He grew up shooting/hunting with his dad, and was given his first gun, a 12 gauge shotgun, when just a small boy. After high school, he joined the Marines where his love for firearms blossomed as he qualified with an M16A2, an M9, and a 240G. Josh has been writing about firearms and tactics for several years, owns the blog Gunners Den, is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, and believes that each individual person has the right to self-defense by any means necessary. Currently residing in gun-friendly NC, he carries a concealed gun on a daily basis, even in his own house.


  1. frankjbonazza3 on April 6, 2020 at 7:24 pm

    Well spoken Joshua. I come from the same school of thought as you. My AR is my preferred home defense gun, followed by any one of my various pistols. I always have 5+ fully loaded magazines for the AR, and my nightstand pistol also has at least 2 full magazines at the ready… Stay safe friends….

  2. Archangel on April 8, 2020 at 12:58 pm

    300 BLK AR-based PDW, subsonic hollow point ammo, suppressor, holo and laser sights – it’s much quieter and easier to maneuver in the house than a shotgun 🙂

    • yogi on April 8, 2020 at 1:26 pm

      Archangel, similar to my set up except no suppressor (I live in the DPRK of California, thanks Democrats.)

    • BobbyB on April 8, 2020 at 2:27 pm

      Agreed. Mine is a carbine using 220 grain. Bedside I have a CZ 75D 14+1 loaded with a frangible 9mm.

  3. Tom Courville on April 8, 2020 at 1:40 pm

    I carried a Remington 12 Ga, and a Colt 1911 in .45 ACP in Viet Nam, and I am most comfortable with the shotguns ability. The .45 is great for the first shot, but too slow for follow-up shots. I believe the 9mm gives more accurate shots on target.

  4. Robert Jean on April 8, 2020 at 2:00 pm

    While I don’t disagree that an AR15 could be a stellar home defense gun I would have to caution that it will depend a lot on what set up you have. My AR, a Wilson Combat Super Sniper has a 21” fluted barrel as a long range gun should have and an AR specific Leupold scope. First, 21” might be just outside of ideal home defense length. Second, my scope has a darn narrow eye relief band. I would be afraid I would grab the AR and then stall for a couple of critical moments to get into the eye relief zone. And should I miss the zone I’d begin waving a 21” barrel at the perp hoping I can zone in unaided. Having said that, my go to weapons are my 1911 45’s. Especially the double stacks. A good reliable gun firing a decent load and giving me 14 opportunities to neutralize the threat.

  5. MULEY48 on April 8, 2020 at 2:43 pm

    I will go with my mossy maverick 12guage!!
    And I also favor my 1911 .45!!!
    Then my 9MM!!!
    Then my great bushmaster AR15. 5.56!!
    Lots of extra mags!!!

  6. Harley on April 8, 2020 at 3:37 pm

    Well said, I keep a Beretta P X 4 compact in a 40cal with a light and laser next to the bed and a Benelli M1 12gauge with the first two rounds being slugs and the rest 00 buck and if I have to go outside to reach out and touch someone my AR with a 3X magnifier and Red dot a da light are always at the ready.

  7. John on April 8, 2020 at 5:16 pm

    I repect the opinion of my fellow commentators, I fell you don’t need to much
    Firepower unless you going to have abreaking or home invasion by more than
    Three person or more, if feel with a good pistol like 92A1 berretta or a 500 flex
    Moss shotgun would do the job, remember with talking about a powerful AR
    That have a powerful bullet .223 or 5.56 can go thru wall or person. I believe
    In the 2A.

    • Julio on February 12, 2022 at 10:35 pm

      It’s the other way around,The Ar-15 is recommended as a home defense weapon Because the weapon is designed so that the round disintegrates upon entering the body and is not as likely to pass through the body and walls behind it. The muzzle velocity makes this happen.

  8. william hopkins on April 8, 2020 at 5:34 pm

    . . . the very best defensive weapon you can have, IS ONE YOU CAN GET TO, ARE VERY FAMILIAR WITH, AND ONE YOU CAN HIT WITH, other than that it’s a virtual pissing match. . .I prefer my 10MM handgun along with my SBR .308 (AR10) but my shorty mag fed 12 Gauge will work too.

  9. Bob Kalda on April 10, 2020 at 1:09 am

    I agree with the writer’s analogy. If I unfortunately ever have a break in I will be in a defensive posture I will have no need to go looking for trouble but those uninvited will best advised to not enter my defensive funel. Our primary or secondary alarm will awaken us well in advance. My primary defensive weapon is also an AR. A 300 Blk, 10.5″ with dot & laser/light. Loaded with Lehigh Defense 78gr CQB rounds (2 30 round mags) with 2 more ready mags of 110 gr Hornadys. Then a 10mm & 20 gauge 870 with #1 Buck that is the wife’s primary and her 9mm. This with 2 cell phones and a panic button to the wireless alarm company.

    The 78 CQB rounds group 1 inch at 50 yards and will not exit a 160 pound Whitetail at 20 feet. The deer dropped in it’s tracks and I would expect an intruder would fair near the same but would have to endure at least one if not two hits. For the 300 Blk I wouldn’t use anything else.

  10. Tom McFarland on April 7, 2021 at 6:33 pm

    I agree with you on the AR-15. The politicians seem to be forgetting that back in the 60’s when those same lawmaker realized that our Police were out gunned, they gave them long guns to carry in their vehicles, most of the long guns they gave them AR-15’s. Now they want to take the ability for us to defend ourselves and our families, against those same criminals. I live out in a rural so AR-15s are used to control coyotes, hogs;and self defense. It appears that some of our politicians don’t hunt or give a rip about those of us who do.

    • allen Thomsen on April 9, 2021 at 7:59 am

      Wow! I would not want to live in any of these areas , Nebraska while being Red is just not as crazy as the South, however we have our share of the vaccine and mask deniers, we can hardly shoot them, but we sure can give them the Pepper Gel.
      I guess if I lived in the South I would have nothing less than an MG 42.

  11. Steve0 on April 8, 2021 at 9:51 am

    I have my sub-2000 Kel-tecs in strategic locations with several 33 rd. Glock after-market mags loaded. I have no optics on these lightweight 9mm carbines. The effectiveness of the modern-day 9mm rounds have greatly improved in recent years. But, I also like my SBR (Palmetto) .223 with a 10.5 barrel. It has a red-dot and is so easy to control with less recoil than my longer barreled .223’s. Pistols are strategically placed throughout the home, I keep a Taurus 40 cal with light and two mags by my bedside table and a S&W Governor also in the bedroom. I’m probable the best w/ the peep sights on the Sub-2000, with very good groups at 25 yds.

  12. James Puckett on April 8, 2021 at 1:02 pm

    Joshua, Great article. I am a retired Chief Warrant Officer of the United States Army. I also spent 11 years in law enforcement where I retired in 2018. I read all your articles and even teach some of your material with as the source.

  13. Garry Bryant on April 8, 2021 at 5:16 pm

    FYI: Research on this subject was done be DUKE University, the conclusion as the best home defense weapon is an AR15 with varmint load. This type of shot load was found to just bairly pass through a wall then fall to the ground.

  14. frankjbonazza3 on April 15, 2021 at 9:10 am

    My primary home defense weapon is a 300 blackout pistol with 7.5” barrel, a 400 Lumien flashlight attached to the rail, a Holosun 406a optic and a red laser also. I use 110grain Barnes Hollowpoints. It’s pretty quiet, easy to maneuver, and it’s effective… I also keep my Canik TP9SFX with Vortex Viper Optic and flashlight on rail I my nightstand with a spare 20 round mag…

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