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Thoughts on house guns

The house gun is merely the gun you keep accessible at your home in case something goes bump in the night. I think there are generally three schools of thought on the house gun: handgun, carbine and shotgun.

My personal preference is for a handgun because it’s much easier to navigate narrow hallways with a smaller weapon. And since the likelihood is almost infinitely greater that the thug going bump in the night is of the tennis-shoed variety and not the jackbooted kind, stopping power is more important than penetration. Additionally, over-penetration can be bad in terms of accidentally shooting through your walls and into an occupied bedroom or, even, your neighbor’s house. My house guns are a Sigarms P229 in 9mm and a Glock 30 in 45ACP.

I suppose a short barreled rifle would function adequately as well but there is a danger of over-penetration of the walls (though 40 grain 5.56 Nato has been shown to penetrate less than a 40S&W). But a cop (and probably a jury) is likely to be more sympathetic to someone shooting an intruder with a handgun than with their ninjaed out, uber-tactical, M4 style AR-15. While an appropriate carbine may work well, I still prefer the handgun for these reasons. A carbine in a handgun caliber may work very well also.

Some folks swear by the shotgun for a house gun for a variety of good reasons. However, when I look at it, those reasons aren’t enough to sway me. One of the reasons they propose is that, awakened at 2:30 in the morning, you’re likely not going to be at your best in terms of aiming a weapon. Hence, the spray pattern of the shotgun is quite forgiving in terms of hitting something. Yes, it probably is. However, said pattern may not be forgiving to passers-by and other non-hostile targets, like furniture and pets. Also, one of the things people who favor shotguns say is that the distinctive kachink sound made when pumping the gun is intimidating and will scare people off as part of the Holy Shit! factor. My thoughts on this are that, simply, I will not warn invaders to my home. If you’re in my home uninvited rummaging through my belongings, I will lawfully assume that you mean me and my loved ones harm. You will be considered a hostile target. The only warning you will receive will be the 230 grain, jacketed hollow point piercing your flesh.

An important factor for a house gun is a light. There are a variety of flashlight mounts for shotguns, rifles and pistols. I prefer the handgun because you don’t really need a mount if you use the Rogers/SureFire technique. I’d recommend a Surefire flashlight (a Nitrolon can be had for about $30) because a blind goblin is better than a sighted one. I would even consider a laser sight on your house gun merely for the rapid target acquisition capability and the Holy Shit! factor.

Your thoughts?

Update: Sure it may violate the don’t use uber-tactical gizmos rule but I’m thinking a sound suppressor would be ideal on a house gun. After all, firing a weapon without hearing protection (particularly in close quarters) can cause temporary loss of hearing function and impact communication with your family. Conversely, the loud bang may scare off other varmints, assuming there is more than one going bump in the night.

Update 2: Bear in mind also that the gun you use in a self defense situation will likely be confiscated by the police as evidence. The gun’s return may take a while or may not even happen given police red tape. So, don’t use Dick Cheney’s $13,000 shotgun and have a second house gun.

40 Responses to “Thoughts on house guns”

  1. countertop Says:

    As one of my father’s friends commented at his 60th Birthday roasting a couple of weeks ago – Gun Control in our house is hitting the burglar three times in the kill zone and not damaging any of the art work.

    Handgun works much better at that than a shotgun.

  2. Rustmeister Says:

    I’m in the handgun camp, too.

    Mine’s a Redhawk loaded with Glasers, mini-maglight in the other hand.

  3. Les Jones Says:

    Handgun here, too. Leaves one hand free for a cell phone, flashlight, opening doors, etc.. Also lots easier to secure when not in use, and lots easier to hide when you’re answering the door late at night.

  4. Jay G Says:

    I’ve patterned my Winchester 1300 at 7 and 10 yards. Even at 10 yards, which is pretty much the furthest distance I’m going to be shooting inside my house, 00 buckshot keeps to an 8″ group (at 7 yards it’s 4″). An 8″ spread at COM isn’t going to have much to worry about, over-penetration-wise.

    The way my home defense plan works, the gun is leveled down the stairs. Should ( need to fire it (G-d forbid), the Earth is my backstop.

    Now, granted, a goblin might be able to make it through the door and up the stairs before I can get to the Winchester. Which is why the SW99 .40 is right under the bed with 11 rounds in it and 20 more loaded up (will change to 13 rounds loaded and 24 rounds in mags once I move to NH…).

    There’s also a 5-D cell maglite and a katana within easy reach. Just to be safe, of course…

  5. Addison Says:

    What? you only have *one*?

    I’ve got the Glock 30, a CDNN-knockoff Xeon light on the table. A Mossberg 590 with folding stock and a CDNN-knockoff mounted light next to the bed, and behind the door an AK with 20 rounds (and a spare mag) in the bedroom. (The M1 Carbine might replace the AK if it starts feeding reliably, just bought it, and haven’t taken it to the range since I changed lubes and got some new mags)

    OPTIONS, people! OPTIONS! 🙂

    Got to keep them open! Don’t restrict yourself!

    On the List Of Things To Do, get a Safepacker (sling it over a shoulder in case of having to go outside, place to holster).

  6. robert Says:

    Reading about and listening to accounts of such things it seems that usually the police steal ALL the guns in the house, not merely the ones that get shot.

    Police took ALL of Mark Wilson’s guns out of his apt, even though he was dead on top of the only one he had shot outside the Smith County courthouse.

    Police get excited about guns. Period. They steal them, then lie about when/whether/and how you might get them back.

    I’m thinking of splitting my arsenal to two safes in two locations. Or three.

  7. Drake Says:

    Amen on no warning Uncle. Never understood why folks want to do that…the only warning I give is the click of the safety disengaging. If said intruder is smart enough and hears well enough to discern that and flee, good for him/her. Elsewise, Mr. HK lights him up with Gold Dot 200s…used to be Corbon 165+Ps but I also worry about overpenetration in my condo. I utilize a rail light and tritium night sights.

    Remington 870 is backup.

  8. SayUncle Says:

    Reading about and listening to accounts of such things it seems that usually the police steal ALL the guns in the house, not merely the ones that get shot.

    I’m of the mind to tell them that if that is their intent, they will need to deal with two shootings today.

  9. Ron W Says:

    Sounds like we have to be concerned about the criminals we may shoot and then the legalized ones that show up afterward “to serve and protect” us.

    I’m wondering what or if there is a law re: the confiscation of a weapon or weapons by the police used in lawful self-defense. If there isn’t, there needs to be one enacted that would strictly monitor when and whether that could be done and if the weapon needs to be temporarily confiscated; that it’s prompt return AND DELIVERY by the same “peace officer” be mandated. A failure to return the weapon should be considered as theft or better, armed robbery by the confiscating officer.

  10. Phelps Says:

    There is also the “jury friendly” nature of shotguns. A nice one with a wooden stock, just like grandpa used to hunt turkeys with around Thanksgiving.

    Of course, I have a nasty black tactical shotgun, because I also believe in the stopping power and overpenetration arguments, and my 20.5″ barrel and 00 buck seems to be the best comprimise.

  11. Civis Proeliator Says:

    We sit in the handgun camp also. Our wife has a S&W Model 10 .38 Special on her side of the bed and there’s a Ruger P-90 on ours. A Ruger P-95 is in another spot in the house. Flashlights accompany all three. We are, however, in the market for a shorty pump which will also stay prepared for Mr. Goblin. When we are able to buy some land and a house we’ll keep our L1A1 prepared as well. Of course in a SHTF situation (like we recently saw in NO), all bets are off and MBRs will be the main go-to.

  12. cube Says:

    I would also suggest that you use what works, what you are good with, and what you can trust with you life.

    If you are better with a black tatical carbine than a handgun (maybe because of miltary training or some such), it might make sense to use carbine until you can get some training time on another weapon.

  13. tgirsch Says:

    “The only warning you will receive will be the 230 grain, jacketed hollow point piercing your flesh.”

    Reading that makes me think that maybe, just maybe, you’ve masturbated to one too many Tom Clancy novels…

  14. SayUncle Says:

    Nah, never read Clancy. Don’t care for it.

  15. tgirsch Says:

    Whatever. You sound eager to do it, is all I’m sayin’. 🙂

  16. SayUncle Says:

    Not eager to do it at all. In fact, I hope I never, ever have to shoot someone. Just a fact of life that I will not tolerate threats to my family. It’s a conscious decision not based on any Rambo-type desire to play out an action movie scene.

  17. Drake Says:

    I get my gun-masturbatory advice from this dude:

  18. SayUncle Says:

    And no one should confuse willingness with eagerness. Some one who is eager to do such a thing likely has mental issues. It’s like exercise: yeah, i’m willing to do it so I can live longer but I’m not real thrilled by the idea.

  19. Drake Says:

    I would think that a situation whereupon someone would use lethal force in their home would be short, chaotic, and noisy. The acquistion and engaging of an intruder would be quick…real quick, else the advantage slides back to the intruder. 3-4 shots from a handgun, the flash, the noise(and ringing ears), the smell of powder, trying to ascertain whether your fire incapacitated the intruder, collecting your family etc.

    Honestly sounds like a big mess even before the dolts in blue arrive. I wouldn’t be eager to do it.

  20. Ron W Says:


    I think your inference of SayUncle’s “eagerness to do it” is evident of him having thought it out and has determined he WILL shoot someone that needs shooting–that is someone who has broken into and entered his dwelling

    When someone breaks in your house isn’t the time to begin the philosophical thought process of whether or not you will use deadly force. As I understand the law in Tennessee from my gun carry permit class, anyone who breaks into someone’s house has legally put the occupants into danger of serious bodily injury or death and that is a lawful reason to use deadly force and have the “peace officers” to declare it a “justificable homicide” if his aim was good.

  21. Les Jones Says:

    Drake, I get advice on both deer hunting and picking up women from Kirk Pulver.

  22. Fox Says:

    Mine’s a Glock 21 slung under my bed in a kydex holster, loaded with a mix of glaser and hydrashok… Surefire G2Z (NRA edition, of course) sitting on the bedstand… oh, and my carry gun (Glock 19 with crimson trace grips) in the drawer along with the extra mags…

  23. Standard Mischief Says:

    I’m firmly in the kachink faction myself. The shameful thing about Maryland is that the criminals are practically protected by statue. I take notice of every defensive shooting reported in our “free and fair” (hah) local media, and as far as I can determine, every single defensive shooting, no matter how clear it is that it was done in self defense, the victim (homeowner) gets dragged before the grand jury. Every single one.

    We had one where the bad guy scaled a ladder to the second floor, broke in to a second story window, and attacked the homeowner. You could not get a more clear cut case of self-defense. Yet the AG sent the case to the Grand Jury (although he did say he did so “without comment”).

    Maybe putting the Attorney General’s head on a pole is a bit harsh in this case, but he ought to be run out-of-office, and tarred-and-feathered, or some other equally demeaning public punishment.

    I’m even shopping for a wood stock to go on my 870, although there is, happily, the letters “HD” (home defense) right behind the “870”.

    I suppose I can explain, when they hold up that “evil black shotgun”, what the “HD” stands for, and why I chose the thingy that goes “kachink” instead of something like a evil black house gun.

  24. Wes S. Says:

    For my house gun, I went with a shotgun as well; a 12-gauge Mossberg 500 pump with traditional wood stock and forend, and an old-style smoothbored “slugster” barrel (just under nineteen inches in length, with an improved choke and rifle sights). Since I live in a one-bedroom apartment, I load mine with standard #6 field loads; it’s just about as effective at close range as buckshot – everything being “at close range” inside my apartment – and #6 shot is a lot less likely to completely penetrate either felons or thin Sheetrock walls to endanger my neighbors than the traditional double-ought buck.

    I figure that, should worst come to worst, a couple of rounds of #6 ought to dissuade just about anybody from continuing hostilities…and that the nice wood stock and deer-slug barrel ought to be proof against the “evil black gun” argument. Although the one time I had to actually “use” my gun for defense, I never actually had to fire it thanks to the “ka-CHINK” factor.

    I had a drunken neighbor try to break down my front door about a year ago; he was upset that I’d called the cops on him during a violent domestic dispute he’d previously had with his girlfriend, and he was threatening to kill me for doing so. When he started pounding on the door, I promptly grabbed both my cordless phone and the shotgun. Fearing that he was about to come through the door, I forgot about dialing 911 and chambered a round (I leave the chamber empty for storage).

    Obviously he heard me, for there suddenly was a moment of dead silence from the other side of the door, followed quite clearly by an exclamation of “Oh, SHIT.” Then footsteps, receding rapidly down the balcony giving access to my apartment, toward the stairs to the parking lot.

    I stayed up for about a half-hour or so, then when he didn’t come back I went back to bed without, unfortunately, calling the cops; that was probably a mistake on my part. Nonetheless, the next morning as I was leaving for work, the neighbor, now sober, stopped me in the parking lot and apologized profusely for disturbing me the night before. He never bothered me again…and moved out about a week later.

    So no, I’m not going to rely on the “ka-CHINK!” factor to defend myself, but I speak from experience when I say there’s something to that argument…

  25. AnalogKid Says:

    Firmly in the shotgun camp. Rem 870 with the Pachmayer pistil grip set (makes halls and doorways a breeze). 18 1/2in bbl with no choke (barrel started out at 28in, was professionally cut and rebeaded with no choke reinstalled). #8 birdshot.

    As for a light source, flashlights are like tracers; they work both ways. I use aquariums. The light from even a 10gal fish tank will light up a 12×12 room quite well. Since I actually live in my house, not only do I have the advantage of knowing the floorplan, but I have also had time to set up the tanks to where I can leave myself cetain areas that are still unlit to move in. They also provide me a way of seeing movement (when the goblin/s move across the light, I get to see where and which way).

    As for the kuh-chunk warning, wait until you have a teenager in the house. Their comings and goings will quite possibly make you rethink the no warning theory. Of course, one racking of the slide in the dark will remind them that their nocturnal coming and going patterns should be rethought (it did for me, anyway).

  26. Homer Says:

    My vote goes with both. With a handgun and a light I can maneuver easily, so the DA 45 goes on the nightstand shelf, next to the cell phone (ringer off) and a spare mag. Barely behind the door is the 870. During non-sleeping hours the 45 is in the end table, with a 357 revolver on top of the fridge, at the back where one would have to look to notice it. The retreat path from three doors easily takes one past the fridge.

    A handgun leaves a hand free; answering the door with your hand behind your leg isn’t anywhere near as upsetting to neighbors who drop in as propping the 870’s stock on your hip.

    I’m with Uncle on the warning: None will be given. If you’ve made it past the perimeter protection it’s not a social visit. The winner will be the one who shoots – and hits – first. That would be me.

    Racking the slide on the 870 sends an alert, squeezing the 45 through produces a bang. I’ll take a chance on the bad guy figuring out that bang is the first of two or three. Or all 12 , if necessary.

    I also keep my Pro Ears on the bottom shelf of the nightstand. Not only are they protection against gunfire – the first shot from anything I fire inside will render my hearing useless as a defensive tool – with the volume turned all the way up I can hear small sounds better than I can with bare ears. I suspect, though, that it might be advisable to put them in a drawer before the cleanup crew in blue arrives.

    As for “willingness” versus “eagerness,” I don’t think any rational person is eager to take a life. I also think no rational person is willing to sacrifice his own. I’ve made the decision that my life, and the lives of my family, are worth substantially more than the life of anyone who would threaten us with harm.

  27. Mark Says:

    ‘Eagerness’ means “I want to do it!” ‘Willing’ means “God, I hope I never have to”, while being prepared to. Just in case.

    #4 buck in the Benelli by the bed, some reverse-loaded hollow-base wadcutters in the .38.

  28. catfish Says:

    I’m a carbine kind of guy. Local cop did some tests with .223, 9mm, .45acp, and .40. Standard gelatin block. The .223 with soft points was the only round that did not penetrate all the way through the gelatin and hit the stop plate. Every other round did; in a variety of options – ball, ‘HP’, black talon, etc etc etc.

    With the carbine I’ve got a light, 29 rounds, and it’s easy enough to negotiate through my house if I have to. Pistols are notoriously poor man stoppers; at house distances you do indeed have to “aim” a shotgun and you’ve only got 8-9 rounds; and since I live in Texas, I feel very confident that any home invasion type of shooting will be ruled in my favor by the grand jury, regardless of what my rifle looks like.

    This doesn’t mean that pistols or shotguns haven’t found their way by my bed; or that they won’t be found there in the future. As said above, they all have their place and something is surely better than nothing.

  29. SayUncle » More on House Guns Says:

    […] What follows are a few things on my discussion of house guns. First, is that both my weapon choice and general attitude are specific to my situation. Tam, who is as gun nut as gun nut can be, says, for example: I’m gonna fort up in my bedroom on one end of the house with the SureFire-equipped carbine and wait for the cavalry to arrive […]

  30. Bob K Says:

    12 ga. First round is #2 shot. Close enough is good enough. Second and third rounds in the magazine are deer slugs. They’re the Hotel California of rounds. They enter, but never leave.

  31. yeah yeah sure sure Says:

    My house gun

    I did not see anyone mention the fact that they can’t be home at all times and what does the wife/family do then? I cannot picture my small wife handling my 20 inch Mossberg 500. Likewise I cannot see her with the AR. I know she can hit whatever she p…

  32. OldeForce Says:

    Stubby .38 handy on the ground floor, .44 special on the second floor (230 grain all-lead – won’t go through the wall and get the neighbors’ babysitter), “youth” Mossburg in 12 guage with trap loads (read recent post that body shots at close range are not survivable) in the basement (how many of you forgot the basement and garage?), and wife can handle all three. There’s a Buckmart around with 2 clips (intimidation or head-shot – the caliber choice if you’re from NJ), and a Single Six with .22 mag cylinder in place (amazing what that little bullet will do at close range). The Kimber went to the dog trainer for 45 days of training/kenneling over the next two years (not a bad trade). But I am thinking of a coach gun with exposed hammers, just for fun!

  33. Homer Says:

    Very interesting thread, thanks, Uncle.

    What do you do when you’re not home? I keep everything in the safe, except what I’m carrying, and I can’t remember the last time I walked into the house not wearing a gun.
    I’d suggest some simple tell-tales that let you know immediately if you’ve had, or still have, company.

    RE: shotgun pattern spread. Some testing I was involved in years ago showed that out of a cylinder bore barrel pattern spread is approximately 1″ in diameter for every yard from the muzzle for OO, 1 and 4 buck, out to 20 yards (we didn’t test farther than that). Buffered shot spread a bit less. No appreciable difference noted for 18″ or 20″ barrels. The judgement from all of this was that #1 was the best balance between shot size and pellet count, which seems to be some sort of secret; #1 buck shot loads are pretty hard to come by, 00 and 4 are everywhere.

    The carbine keeps coming up in this thread, and not without reason. A 16″ carbine barrel is shorter than the minimum scattergun barrel, round count will be much higher, substantial gains in accuracy can be had. Years back Tim LeGrande (sp?) had a 30 carbine-to-45 Winmag conversion that, due to chamber size, metalurgy, etc. didn’t quite work, but the basic concept had, and I think, still has, merit.

    The .30 carbine gets advertised as having 357 magnum punch at 100 yards, and on paper it does; military hardball doesn’t win many points, but softpoint ammo makes it a worthwhile choice. As Tam and Uncle have mentioned, there’s increasing interest in 9MM ARs. So, pistol-power carbines are somewhat popular and becoming more so.

    I’ve probably become obsessive about this, but I see a purpose, if not a need, for a short barrel, major pistol caliber carbine with a folding stock, direct blowback action to keep it simple. Something along the lines of a paratrooper .30 carbine, but in a better caliber. 45ACP doesn’t make the grade because bullet drop at 100 yards is too great. 9MM is too small. 40-43 caliber seems about right, with a power level in the 41-44 magnum range, say 200-250 grain bullet at 1700-1900 FPS, and a 15-20 round double stack magazine, and a barrel comp like the one Springfield puts on the SOCOM. A rimless 41-44 mag cartridge seems pretty close to center here, which we have in the long defunct 44 Automag case, unless someone could pull a Ruger and build a reliable folding stock autoloader around the 44 mag, but with greater magazine capacity.

    Keep it short, light, add an under rail for a tac light, ghost ring sights (or a simple mount for a dot sight or laser), 12-15 rounds of 43 caliber, seems like a winner to me. I’d buy one, maybe two, and retire the 870 from its home defense role.

  34. ben Says:

    Kimber Ultra Carry (soon to be replace with Springfield 1911A1) and a pair of muffs for the ol’ ears.

  35. Rey Says:

    12ga Mossberg loaded with #1 buck. Carry pistol is PT24/7 12+1 .45 acp goodness. Shoot about 400 rounds a month for practice. Cant over stress the critical importance of training. Measure your living spaces. spend a few minutes war gaming an encounter inyour house. Decide where you will fight from (defensive posture is always better than offensive) and practice, practice, practice.

  36. Resistance is futile! Says:

    Carnival of Cordite #49

    Hello and welcome once again to the Carnival of Cordite! Just a few quick announcements before we begin: Next week, the Carnival of Cordite will be hosted by AnarchAngel. The following week, check out the Carnival of Cordite at The

  37. bjbarron Says:

    Handgun: .357 Colt Trooper – Ol’ Neverfail
    Shotgun: Shortie Mossberg Reloadable Claymore – with reduced power loads

    All in the bedroom. I’ve got a .38 S&W snubby in the home office loaded with +Ps.

    I have 4 automatic pistols – 3 of them premium types and the only one I would really trust to work like a revolver is my Makarov. They stay in the safe.

    My rifles tend to be 7.62 and I don’t really want to shoot thru a hundred houses and hit the High School a mile away. The Colt is bad enough. The SKS is in the safe with a charged stripper clip inserted but not loaded. That will get replaced by an AR when I get done building it.

    Living as I do in Joisey, no matter what I do or who I save – I’m in trouble. It’s not like I can depend on our new gov for sympathy. I still burn up hundreds of rounds a month anyway…if anyone is going to be lyin’ on the witness stand – it’s gonna be me.

    Oh, and the wife can handle the Colt…If there’s anything left after the dog finishes up.

  38. zorn Says:

    All comments from people who have most likely never been in a life and death situation with a handgun. A shotgun would scare a would be intruder more than a handgun, you COULD shoot the guy right through the wall, which to me makes it a much better choice to have.

    And of course a shotgun wont be stolen to be sold on the black market so some 15 year old in the bronx can hide it in his baggy jeans.

    Seriously, comments like ‘3 shots to the killzone and dont damage the artwork’. Ever been in a life and death situation before? Had someone point a gun at you with intent to kill? I havent, but i also dont pretend to be a hard ass killer either.

  39. FallenAngel Says:

    Well, I’m just hick from TX and a girl at that, but one of the things MY daddy taught me was to never tell anyone just what kind or how many weapons you may or may not have, even in a 2nd Ammendment friendly crowd. That being said, I also have a rather large german shepherd who is trained to eat anyone I tell him to. It’s better than any alarm system Brinks ever came up with.

  40. save_the_rustbelt Says:

    Don’t the forget the bolt locks and lights for starters – anyone who is dumb enought try to get in here will need an axe, and that will be really noisy, which gives me plenty of time to make my phone call and load.

    And don’t depend on a land line phone, even an amateur can trace a phone line coming into your house and snip the line – keep a cell phone by the bed.

    (A widow lady friend of ours always had a dog the entire time she was married and raised her children. She is now alone and within a month of her dog’s death someone busted her sliding door and burgled her place while she was there. Fortunately she did not wake up. When she did she grabbed her phone but the kitchen phone was off the hook and her cell was elsewhere. Lucky lady. New alarm system and cellphone beside bed.)

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