A common question we get regarding home defense is should the home owner use a rifle or a pistol. For about 90% of the population our advise seems counter intuitive; but hands down it is the pistol.
First off, the advantages of a rifle. There are several, but a few that are brought up for home defense situations center around increased lethality, increased capacity, anytime viewability (with a red dot sight) and increased accuracy. I would agree with all of these hands down. Most defensive rifle cartridges will have an increased lethality over defensive pistol cartridges. If all things are equal as far as shot placement is concerned, the balance definitely tips in the rifle’s favor. Even my 17+1 magazine capacity on my defensive pistol still comes up short compared to the standard 30 round magazine. I could add a +2 extension to my pistol magazine, but I could also jump up to a 40 round rifle magazine. Anytime viewability is achieved with both a modern red dot sight like the excellent Aimpoint Micro T1 red dot sight (RDS) in conjunction with a powerful white light such as the Surefire Mini Scout 300a light. Not all bumps in the night are lethal threats so a good white light is critical in your search mode then the ability to quickly and accurately engage a hostile threat with confidence provided from a well zeroed RDS.
So, why dog the rifle so much? Well, most people don’t put things into proper context. If you had no reason to pursue an unknown threat through your home and could strong-point in your master bedroom to wait for the police to arrive then a rifle will be the best option.
If on the other hand, you get up to investigate a disturbance the rifle adds some complexities most will have a hard time dealing with in the middle of the night. While the rifle has all the advantages listed above, it also has a few disadvantages to consider. It will be heavier, it requires two hands to employ accurately and effectively, it is more cumbersome in tight quarters and if you have to carry or herd small children or family it will be very difficult to do both.
This is where a good home defense pistol will come in handy. My recommendation is to select a model with the highest magazine capacity that comes standard. You can get caught up in the caliber wars, but 9mm is a huge advantage here. Do not rely on the extended capacity add-on’s commonly seen. Not that they are a bad idea, but measure off a standard capacity then consider add-on’s a bonus. Most modern day semi-automatic pistols come equipped with a utility rail that allows a powerful white light to be attached. It is one thing to attach the light to your pistol a whole other thing to employ it so practice is critical beforehand. Then lastly, highly visible night sights are the last piece of the puzzle. One thing that has certainly evened the playing field for the pistols is the employment of mini-red dot sights or MRDS. These sights give the end user the same benefits as their big brothers commonly found on rifles.
If you haven’t already conducted drills where you have to move through your home in order to secure a position to strong-point I highly recommend it. Follow all safety guidelines and practice with both a rifle and a pistol, then imagine having to herd family members or work doors or worse fight injured. Of course, the last thing would be to do it at night. Regardless of your final decision, seek out qualified training and practice.