By Bob Walsh
LONG GUNS FOR HOME DEFENSE
The fact of the matter is that, for most people and most situations, I don’t like long guns for home defense. Not that they don’t have their place, sometimes out of utility, sometimes out of necessity. Until recently if you lived in D.C. or Chicago the legal ownership of handgun was problematic. A lot of people kept shotguns or lever action carbines as “hunting weapons” because they had no option. If you live in the boonies on a large piece of property they can also have some real advantages. For most people, not so much.
Long guns are not as handy as handguns. (Pardon the pun.) They are much harder to maneuver in a hallway. They are easier to take away from you unless you are highly trained in weapons retention. They also tend to lead you around corners, telling an observant bad guy exactly where you are. In addition unless you have bullet resistant interior walls there are major potential over-penetration issues.
Pistol caliber lever action rifles are usable for this purpose. Recoil is not nearly as bad as with a hand gun, though you are still dealing with muzzle blast and flash issues. Also a .357 JHP or .44 magnum round can go thru a LOT of wallboard. If you don’t happen to hit a stud the bullet could travel all the way thru many houses.
Full power 12 gauge shells will also penetrate a lot of wall. Also firing a shotgun indoors is absolutely devastating to your hearing and vision in the short term. They do make excellent “shorty” reduced power 12 gauge loads that also have the advantage of taking one or two more rounds in the magazine. I have even heard of people using breaching rounds for interior defense. They create a horrific wound, but have very little shoot-thru potential. They also have very little ricochet potential. You should be aware that reduced power loads will probably not cycle properly in a semi-automatic shotgun.
Some people will go with a double-barrel, or a semi-auto 12 or 20 gauge. The Benelli is the current state of the art, though Remington and Mossberg make good ones also. You can get a better selection of rounds in the 12 gauge, but some specialty rounds are available in 20 gauge and buck shot and slugs are generally no problem with either. A double barrel has some advantage in that you can’t short stroke or otherwise jam it, but it only has two shots and anybody looking at it KNOWS it only has two shots so you need to be sure to have a Plan B.
A .223 rifle can be a good choice. The round will almost never go all the way thru a human with a body hit but will penetrate most soft body armor. A Ruger Mini-14 will do the job but many people go for an AR-15 variation of one sort or another.
The M-1 carbine, especially if you have one that will feed soft points, can be a good choice. The late Jim Cirillo used one with considerable success in his days on the old NYPD stakeout squad. They also point very well. A while back I went thru a 3-gun match at my local IDPA club shooting a MilSpec M-1 carbine with military sights. Due to a problem with my leg I can not get into a kneeling or prone position and then back up in a timely manner so I was shooting the 200 yard portion offhand. I outshot eight of the 23 people who were shooting scoped AR-15s from prone, and I am not an outstanding rifleman. They are good guns and are easy to shoot reasonably well.
If you live in the country or have a house with bullet resistant walls, a long gun might be worth considering. I still think a handgun is a much better weapon for home defense generally speaking, but circumstances are different for everybody. Think carefully, give due consideration to your needs and situation, and make your choice.