From time to time I have people ask me about weapons for home defense. Below are some guidelines for selection, storage, or use.
My one overarching piece of advice for any weapon system or self-defense tool is to get trained, and get trained well. This goes for any person in your family who may access a weapon. This goes for everything from guns, to knives, to pepper-spray. Seek out training, get trained, practice, get more training, practice … repeat as forever.
Always, always, always, without exception, learn and follow your local and state laws.
Selecting Home Defense Weapons
I know a bit about firearms, and quite a bit more about knives. I am not going to tell you make an model of weapons I think are superior for home defense. There are plenty of sites out there for people to argue those merits. Instead I want to give you guidelines for selection so that you can make your own informed decisions.
- First consider what you are legally allowed to own. Yes, we’d all love a rocket launcher for home defense, but let’s be realistic. Are you legally allowed in your location to own a knife, gun, pepper spray, taser etc? If so, are there permit qualifications?
- What is your home environment like? Do you have children? Small hallways? Most modern firearms, particularly rifles will go straight through walls in your house. You don’t want to accidentally shoot a loved one. Machetes are great, but might be difficult to wield on that narrow staircase. Pepper spray in an enclosed space is going to affect every person in the house – including you. Shotgun shot and safety slugs in handguns are supposed to reduce wall penetration – do you really want to risk your kids lives on “supposed to”? Consider the environment.
- Consider capacity. Under stress conditions, most people miss most shots with a handgun – even well-trained police officers. If you are going the route of a handgun or carbine, consider magazine capacity. I know a lot of people love revolvers for a lot of reasons (including the fact they seldom jam), but I would rather have 10-16 chances than 6. Police and civilian tasers are normally a one-shot and you’re done deal. I am not a big fan for civilian use. Handheld weapons, knives and baseball bats and such, never run out of bullets, but are only good close up.
- Consider effect. A lot of articles in gun magazines refer to “stopping power” of handguns. They are all full of crap. A few years back I sat in on a lecture given by an FBI consultant who had completed a study on firearms. The FBI’s firearms experts concluded that no handgun in the world with the power to be reliably lethal or knock down an opponent in one shot. Yes, it does happen sometimes. Many people are shot multiple times and survive. Even when a shot destroyed the heart, an opponent still had a number of seconds to press an attack. Knives are nice, but very seldom instantly lethal. If you carry a knife you should know how to use it to stop an attacker. Impact weapons like bats and sticks can be used to great effect but require a lot of room to wield.
Take each of these things into effect when choosing a weapons system. Realistically you should wind up with multiple choices for maximum flexibility.
Storage of Home Defense Weapons
Storage is a very important consideration for any weapon. On one hand, and weapon you own must be kept out of the wrong hands. Your local laws may dictate trigger locks or other safety mechanisms. You don’t want children, a home-invander, or drunk uncle Bob getting their hand on something that could hurt someone.
On the other hand, for a weapon to be effective, you need to have access to it when you need it.
Ideally, you would have access to your personal defense tools throughout your home. This might be too expensive or impractical. If permitted legally, and it’s practical – you might consider carrying your weapons on your person while at home and awake.
You should have a designated safe room in your home which, at least has a locked door and access to a phone. This is a good place to store a firearm in a safe and place other survival tools.
Learn how to use improvised weapons too, so that anything in your hands can be a tool for survival. We teach improvised weapons as do some other schools. Also learn empty hand defense, so it can be a bridge to get you to your weapons system.
Use of Home Defense Weapons
Specific uses are going to depend on the weapon, but here are some basic guidelines:
- Again learn and follow all applicable laws. The laws on self defense in the home can be a little difficult to understand. Consult a lawyer or take a self defense law class (offered sometimes by NRA instructors who are lawyers or police officers).
- Have a plan for your family and practice it. In a home invasion scenario – getting at least one person out of the house to get help is the best idea. Barring that plan to retreat to your safe room. Have code words practiced, yelling “Escape” means everybody leaves through the nearest exit and meets at a safe place. Yelling “safe room” means everybody runs for the safe room. You may decide ahead of time that in a home invasion, one adult who has training might act to block and attack the invaders – delaying them so others might get help. As a parent, it’s a sacrifice I would make. The point is to plan and practice.
- Seek the best cover possible. Put anything you can between you and an attacker. Hard objects are best, but barring that – knock over furniture in his path or throw things. You’re simply trying to delay and distract. If you plan on owning a firearm – learn how to shoot from all different positions in front of and behind cover. If you have a edged or impact weapon think of it as a shield. Make your attacker come through the weapon to get to you.
- As soon as possible, somebody needs to call 911. If a household member is armed, inform the dispatcher that the homeowner is armed, with what and, if possible, where. Stay on the line.
May you never have to use this knowledge. I would rather you have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.