Long Guns For Home Defense.
The fact of the matter is that I don’t like long guns for home defense for most people and most situations. Not that they don’t have their place, sometimes out of necessity, sometimes out of utility. I understand that in Chicago and D C, where legal handgun ownership by private citizens is either highly restricted or impossible, a lot of people keep a Winchester carbine or Remington shotgun as a “hunting weapon” handy. If you live in the boonies on a large piece of property, they can have some real advantages. In either case they will certainly do the job, but you have to be aware of the issues that come with them. (The D.C. and Chicago handgun bans have been overturned by the Supreme Court, though both governments still throw substantial roadblocks up to gun ownership.)
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 an unskilled person. Unless you are highly trained they tend to lead you around corners where maybe you don’t want people to know where you are. They also can have over-penetration issues, especially with rifle caliber weapons.
Pistol caliber lever action rifles are not a bad choice, a lever action carbine in .357 or .44 caliber will certainly do the job. Recoil will not be as bad as with a handgun, though you are still dealing with flash and muzzle blast issues. A .357 jacketed hollow point will go through a LOT of wallboard. If it doesn’t hit a stud, it could go clear through most houses.
Full power 12 gauge loads will also penetrate a lot of wall. The lead pellets sort of eat their way through and make a hole for the following ones. Also firing one indoors is absolutely devastating to your sight and hearing. They do make excellent reduced power 12 gauge loads, which are shorter than standard loads and therefore you can carry more rounds in the weapon. I have even heard of people using breaching rounds for interior self defense. They are made specifically for blowing the hinges or locks off doors. The slug is made of compressed metal powder or ceramic. Pretty much zero ricochet or over-penetration issue, and they are very effective up close and personal, kind of like a big Glaser Safety Slug. You should be aware that the reduce power loads will usually not reliably cycle a semi-automatic shotgun.
Some people go with either a semi-auto in either 12 or 20 gauge or a double-barrel shotgun. Remington makes a real nice semi-auto. The Benelli is very, very good. The new Mossberg semi-autos are also not too shabby. There is much less recoil with the 20 but at close range they will still do serious damage to a person. You can not get the wide variety of loads for a 20 that you can for a 12, at least not so easily, but some can be had. If you have a person in the house who is very small or very recoil sensitive, the 20 might be worth considering. A double barrel also has it’s advantages. It’s real simple. You don’t have to remember to pump it, you can’t short-stroke it. It isn’t fussy about it’s load. You only get two shots though, and anybody looking at it KNOWS you’ve only got two shots before you run dry. If you don’t do it with two, make sure you’ve got a plan B.
A .223 rifle has it’s uses too. The round will almost never go all the way through a person in a torso hit, but will usually penetrate soft body armor. A Ruger Mini-14 will do the job here, though many people go for an AR-15 variation.
The M-1 Carbine, especially if you have one that will feed soft points, is not a bad anti-personnel weapon either. The late Jim Cirillo used one to great effect in his days on the NYPD Stakeout Squad. IMHO they point a lot better than an AR. I recently (08-13) went through a 3-gun match using a stock milspec M1 Carbine and did tolerably well with it. (I outshot several people who were using scoped ARs and, due to problems with my leg, I was shooting off-hand with iron sights out to 200 yards while they were shooting prone with scopes.) A competent shooter with a decent weapon is far superior to a mediocre shooter with a primo weapon.
If you live in the country, or have a house with bullet resistant walls, a long gun might a reasonable way to go. I still think the handgun is a much better purpose all-around weapon, and this column is mostly written for Peace Officers who will be carrying a weapon on them, not for house defense. Never the less it is something worth thinking about.
(Older comments have been left attached as they are still relevant.)
Next Week, Chapter 11 , Self-Defense and the Law.