Pistol, AR-15, Shotgun - The best for home defense is?

Considering a pistol, AR – 15, or a shotgun for your primary home defense weapon? Great choices! And each can be effective depending on the type of home you have, how much space you have, the room you need protection in, and what is or is not allowed by law. As states begin banning specific weaponry, your options may become limited, but there is always a proper backup.

Space is one of the most important aspects when deciding which of these firearms is right for your home defense needs. If you live in an apartment and only have space for a hidden gun safe for example, chances are it can store a pistol so you won’t have access to an AR or shotgun. And if there is space in a closet by the front door for a traditional gun safe you can access, your AR – 15 is able to be there when you need it most.

This guide takes the following into consideration when recommending how to choose between these three firearms for home defense:

  • Room size
  • Rural, urban, suburban dwelling
  • Type of gun safe that fits in the space
  • Length of room and or distance
  • Ease of refilling ammo
  • Amount of rounds per loading

Comparing the AR-15, a standard pistol, and a shotgun.

AR-15 Rifle Standard Pistol Standard Shotgun
Penetration Medium (because fragmentation) Strong Strong
Magazine capacity 30 rounds 15 rounds 5 Shells
Length 36" 4.5" 22" - 28"
Accuracy Medium-High (pointability) Medium High
Turning corners Difficult Simple Difficult
Points of contact 4 2 4
Easy to Control if Hand-to-Hand Fighting No Yes No

AR-15s dominate when it comes to home defense because the capacity is higher than a pistol or shotgun, it is lightweight, and much like a pistol, the AR-15 has comfortable grips. And just like a pistol, the controls can be maneuvered by a single hand. Much like a shotgun, AR-15’s are not as effective if you live in a home with narrow hallways, corners, or you’re in a room like a bedroom with furniture that can block your ability to aim and angle. That’s where pistols come in.

For next to your bed, in an office, or spaces without much distance between yourself and the intruder, pistols are better for home defense than shotguns or AR-15s. If the intruder gets close to you the pistol can be used to bludgeon them during hand-to-hand combat while not hindering your mobility like a larger gun. Not to mention you can control and hold the pistol with one hand compared to your long guns which could wind up in control of the attacker.

Don’t count a shotgun out for home defense when comparing them to AR-15s and pistols. Yes, they only hold five shells, but they’re easy to reload and the accuracy and penetration give you control of the situation when there is enough distance between you and the intruder. If you live in rural spaces, and a trail cam detects a disturbance, shotguns can be quite helpful as you can control the situation from a safe distance. And in a larger room with things you do not want destroyed, the accuracy and aim compared to an AR-15 or pistol will keep you and your home better put together.

There’s pros and cons to each firearm, so a good rule of thumb is for crowded rooms with furniture, tight spaces, and where you could wind up in a fist fight with an intruder, go pistol. If there is space to angle and you have wide hallways, AR – 15s are your best bet for home defense. If you need accuracy, want full penetration, or need distance, go with a standard shotgun.

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