A close friend of mine — who happens to be a former law enforcement officer — sent me this heart-pounding email after hearing gunshots in front of his home:
It’s currently 11 p.m. here in Vegas on Saturday. Julie and I usually go to bed around 10. We were sound asleep when I heard four (it’s crazy that I can tell you exactly how many) gunshots in front of our home.
I immediately jumped out of bed and retrieved my handgun from the safe. I ran and grabbed both girls and passed them to Julie and set up a chokepoint at the top of my stairs. I proceeded to clear my house, working my way to the front door. As I carefully looked out the window, I could see cars and people scrambling everywhere outside. Julie was on the phone with 911.
The people who live directly across the street were having a birthday party. Apparently, there was a drive-by shooting targeting their home. There were four shell casings in the middle of the road directly in front of my home. Our street was blocked off, with two helicopters above.
It is amazing how quickly you react from your training. I was out of bed and had my gun safe open before Julie even realized what had happened. I have no doubt that if there’d been someone breaking into my home, I would have stopped them at the stairs.
My friend did everything correct that night. If an intruder had entered his home, his quick action would have likely saved his family. However, this would not have been possible had he not owned a firearm.
If you don’t yet own a gun — and think it’s high time to get one for home defense purposes — where do you start? After all, there are dozens to choose from — which is the best one?
To help you make this decision, here are three steps to take before making this important purchase.
Step One: Choosing the Gun for You
The first step is to decide whether you want a handgun, rifle or shotgun. Depending on your situation, one will be more practical than the others.
For instance, my home defense gun is a handgun — a Sig Sauer P226 to be exact. My friend in the story above also uses a handgun, a Glock 19. I’d recommend either model if you’re looking for a handgun.
The reason I use a handgun is because I have several kids under the age of 4 and I want to make sure my gun is secure on my nightstand in a rapid-access safe. Although they do make safes for shotguns and rifles, I haven’t found one I like that would allow me the quick access that my handgun safe does.
My very own Sig Sauer P226, which I rely on for home defense.
I also believe it’s easier to clear a home using a handgun. With a handgun, you don’t have to worry as much about knocking into walls and drawing attention to yourself or turning the corner and having the intruder grab the end of your gun — all of which are more likely with a long gun like a rifle or shotgun.
If you only have to protect you and your spouse, I recommend staying put in your bedroom. In which case, you may prefer a shotgun or rifle over a handgun.
My favorite shotgun is the Remington 870. It’s a pump-action shotgun, the kind you’ve probably seen in movies dozens of times. It’s built like a tank and very easy to operate.
The shells I recommend for home defense are 00 (double-aught) buckshot. One shell of double-aught buckshot sends nine lead balls downrange, which is something you do not want to be on the wrong end of.
If you do opt for a shotgun, please disregard the horrible myth that all you have to do is rack it to send the intruder fleeing. Yes, this noise is intimidating, but you cannot let your guard down on account of the sound — you have to be prepared to use the gun to defend yourself.
If you’re not a fan of handguns or shotguns, then a rifle may be right for you.
The major benefit of a rifle is that it holds a lot of ammunition. Unless you live in a state that isn’t gun friendly, you can have a 30-round magazine ready to go. Criminals tend to travel in packs, so a rifle is ideal if you have to fend off three or four intruders.
The rifle I like best is the AR-15. If you’re going to get one, definitely buy from a quality manufacturer such as Colt or Rock River Arms.
The bottom line is when it comes to choosing a gun for home defense, there is no “right” gun. You need to take the time to figure out the perfect home defense gun for you — which leads me to step two.
Step Two: Give It a Test Run
Step two is a fun one: You need to go to your local shooting range to try out whichever gun you’re thinking about buying.
I don’t care what your spouse, friend or the guy behind the gun counter says, you should never, ever buy a gun for home defense until you’ve put several rounds through it.
After all, this is the gun that could save your life one day, so you need to feel comfortable holding and shooting it. The only way to be sure of that is to get out there and test it.
Step Three: Practice Makes Perfect
OK, so you’ve tested and purchased your new gun. Now comes the final, critical step: You need to train with it by taking a live-fire course and practicing a dry run in your home.
Check out a national firearms school such as Gunsite Academy (with locations in Arizona, Indiana, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington) or Front Sight (located outside of Las Vegas). You can also do a quick internet search to find a local firearms trainer. There is one in almost every city in the country.
When you do a dry run in your home, make sure your gun is empty and triple-check that there’s no ammunition in it.
Then secure your gun however you plan to store it — in a safe, in your closet, etc. Next, go through the motions. Lie in your bed and pretend you hear someone trying to kick in your front door.
Immediately hop out of bed and arm yourself, timing how quickly you are able to access your gun. Your goal should be less than 10 seconds. If it takes you longer, pick a new place to store your gun.
By following the steps above, you’ll ensure that if the day ever comes when you hear someone smashing in your front door, you’ll be fully prepared to defend yourself and your family.