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Massad Ayoob on Guns

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Massad Ayoob


Sunday, October 6th, 2013

Am finishing up a third level armed citizen class this week. Second level and higher, we add long guns to the handguns. My own view is that if I can only have one firearm for home defense, I want it to be a handgun for reasons of versatility, but if possible I’d rather have one handgun and one long gun readily available to each person in the household who’s likely to be using deadly force to protect self and family.

I teach the handgun as “infantry,” the long gun as “artillery.” If I have to go mobile, I want a hand free to work communications, illumination, doorknobs, etc. If I have to scoop a little kid and carry same to a safer position, a handgun will be more workable. Same if I have to answer an insistent 3 AM pounding at the door…which might just be a cop, who won’t take it well if I open the door holding a 12-gauge or a .223 rifle. But if the whole family is barricaded in the safe room and criminals are kicking down the door, it’s probably shooting time, and a .223 class autoloading rifle or a fast-firing shotgun gives way more power and hit potential on multiple targets in unforgiving circumstances.

For a very long time, the shotgun has been the traditional choice of long gun for defense inside the house. In recent years, though, .223 rifles such as the AR15 have become hugely popular for this function. In this week’s class, two thirds of the students are using shotguns, and one third, autoloading rifles.

Symposium time: readers, what are your choices of home defense firearms? Handgun, or long gun, or both? And if there’s a long gun in the defense plan, did you choose shotgun, rifle, or both?

And – most important, and most interesting – why did you choose as you did?


  1. Fred Says:

    I keep my G19 in the nightstand. It’s the weapon I carry everyday and I am most familiar with it. 2 extra 17 rd mags and 1, 33rd mag in the drawer along with it. Wife has a Model 60 with .38 spl loads. Same reason it’s the one she is most comfortable with. We also keep a Mossberg 500 in the closet with light mounted, cruiser ready and a side saddle on it. That’s the heavy artillery. We live in a semi rural suburban area. I think it’s important to train with the weapon you plan on using and my G19 is my everyday gun.

    If I wanted to use a rifle it would likely be an AR15 with a suppressor or an AK in 5.45 with a suppressor. If I need my rifle I’ll probably be shooting a lot and I’d like to retain my hearing. Either rifle would likely be the SBR versions I have.

  2. Dennis Says:

    Re; stated concerns of government finding out who owns the guns——-
    Yes, the NRA has fought valiantly to keep gun ownership lists from legally existing, but don’t think for a minute that a quick NSA data check won’t reveal every round of ammo, reloading component, weapon purchase, etc. you have made in the last 10 years using a credit or debit card over the internet or even at your local Wal-Mart. The government knows who has the guns, maybe not the make and model, but the who and where. This, like most of our freedoms has been has forfeited in the name of national security. If it ever came to a national gun confiscation your house will be searched no matter if you sold every gun you ever owned. Sad but true. This is not to mention state records of hunting license purchases.

  3. Ken Says:

    The wife and I both have .45’s in bedside table lockboxes. We also have a Mossberg 12 ga locked to the wall behind the bedroom door using a “Shotlock” gun vault. It is loaded with 00 buck, but I also have several rounds of #4 in the buttstock sidesaddle. The #4’s are there for rattlesnakes and whatnot. The shotgun has come off the wall a couple times – but so far only for those “legless” critters. We have both practiced opening the shotlock in the dark and in a hurry. I have no doubt we could access it if needed. The bedside vault is one of the micro-vault types and easily opened. My carry pistol is in there so I practice opening it every day. I keep the .45s loaded with 230 gr hollow points. The wife and my twin teenage boys have both practiced with the pistols and shotgun. I had reservations about her desire for a 12 ga, but she is scary good with it. Fast on the reload too! I need to get her into 3-gun…

  4. Tom606 Says:

    I normally carry a customized Springfield Armory 1911 in .45 ACP with two spare magazines and a Surefire flashlight.

    However at home when I’m not wearing my pants, I have a Glock 20SF mounting a Streamlight M3 light always nearby as it holds twice the ammo and doesn’t need to be cocked or have any safeties deactivated.

    My ideal home defense long guns would be an AUG with 16″ barrel and/or a Kel-Tec KSG, both with Aimpoint red dot sights. These are short guns and very handy inside the confines and narrow hallways of a house.

    I don’t have either of these at this time, but am saving to get them. In the meantime, I’m getting by with my 16″ AR-15 with collapsible stock mounting a Leupold 1.5X-4X scope with FireDot reticle and an 18″ Remington 870 loaded with 2 3/4″ #4 turkey loads. A 24 loop bandolier with Brenneke slugs and 00 buck is kept next to the shotgun and a US Palm ballistic vest with three pockets holding 30 round MagPul magazines and a spare Glock 20 magazine is next to the rifle. Both also have Streamlight M3 lights mounted on them. These are the only long guns not kept locked in my gun safe. I also have a Kevlar helmet and Surefire flashlights with each long gun in their closets. Various edged weapons, mostly inexpensive Cold Steel machetes are kept in each room also.

    I have my old, Safariland police duty belt in a box by my bed as it has all the equipment I would need if I am awakened in the middle of the night.
    By snapping on the belt buckle, I have a SIG 220, two spare magazines, a Surefire 6P flashlight, 21″ ASP baton, and S&W handcuffs available for use.

    Don’t forget the hearing protectors also, especially the electronic ones as you want to keep your hearing and also be able to detect enemies sneaking up on you. There’s a good chance a home invasion will involve more than just one intruder and long guns, especially with short barrels make a lot of noise. Green lasers mounted on your guns will also give you an advantage as they disrupt your enemy’s vision in low light.

  5. Max Says:

    One thing I was reminded of as I read through the comments: My father corresponded with Col Jeff Cooper for many years. When Jeff wrote to him, at random points in his letters would be the sentence “Can you reach your gun?” Its a great question that reminds us that all the firepower in the world won’t do squat if its out of reach when we need it most…

  6. Jack Zeller Says:

    DW PM-7 1911 10mm with Buffalo Bore 180’s, backed by Glock 31, Colt Carbine, and 12 ga. pump in that order…

  7. Lew Says:

    In my first post on the page I mentioned “(M1 .30) Carbine is usable by a person after losing use of an arm.”
    Most of the guns people mentioned in this discussion are fine defensive weapons. What happens if you take a hit?
    I’ve read articles discussing what to do if a person in a gun fight should lose use of an arm or a hand. It was scary.
    My choice, 1911A1 .45 could be a real albatross if my right arm were injured and I had to operate the slide. My M1 .30 Carbine is easily loaded, aimed, fired and magazine change left (weak) handed. It’s kinda short to use as a crutch but better than the 1911.
    That’s just a little something to consider in a back up gun.

  8. Kirt Says:

    Interesting thread… I’m old school and of the keep it simple school of thought. Kept in a quick access lock box near at hand is a S&W Model 625 with an M&P 340 as backup each loaded with modern defensive ammunition. Extra speed loaders for the 625 too. Also a Surefire flashlight with 200 lumens of illumination, a cell phone and my Benchmade blade, Why? Because I am know these defensive tools well and I am confident (years of familiarity and practice) I can employ them effectively if necessary.

    Also available if necessary and conditions warrant, is a Stoner system modern defensive rifle and a Remington 870 Marine Magnum loaded with #00 buck. (My preferred #1 is hard to come by these days. I carried variations of all of these defensive tools back when I carried a badge and I believe that under stress I can still use them effectively.

    Good luck with your research.

  9. Bill Nance Says:

    I think a lot of peolpe are missing the point of Mas’s post.

    “Symposium time: readers, what are your choices of home defense firearms? Handgun, or long gun, or both? And if there’s a long gun in the defense plan, did you choose shotgun, rifle, or both?

    And – most important, and most interesting – why did you choose as you did?”

    No one cares what your specific rig is. Save it for your local gun forums.

    The point was, (unless I’m seriously misunderstanding it) Are you a long-gun only kind of person or a handgun only, or both, and WHY did you choose the specific rigs?

    The WHY could be answered a thousand ways. Everywhere from “It’s what I have” -Always a good answer IMO. to “I chose this specific rig based on ballistics, police experience and this cool video from Youtube.

    All great answers.

    “I have this cool XXX (take your pick of HG or LGs) what has XYZ cool stuff” is not an answer.

    “I chose XYZ and ABC for their characteristics of DFE” IS a very HELPFUL answer.

    Just some input.

    I know a lot of people who have put a lot of TLC into their rigs. That’s awesome and good for you. It just wasn’t what was asked.

    +1000 BTW for the guys that answered .30cal Carbine because of the low over penetration BTW.

  10. Conrac Says:

    I have a 12 guage because you can scare em away by racking a round or definetly by blasting it off the balcony of my upstairs bedroom. You can also shoot them through the door.

    -end sarcasm

    Seriously, I do keep a 12 guage by the bed loaded with .00, a Sub2K which handles Glock 9mm mags in a strategic location downstairs, and a Glock G26 I carry everywhere but the shower. Not really into the AR since I already have my Sub2k and the bonus is my Glock and Sub2k eat the same ammo with the same magazines.

    My wife is proficient with all of my weapons as well but prefers the 12 guage. She is definitely a keeper 🙂

  11. Davebsr Says:

    My carry gun (Glock19), because it is what I know and isn’t worse than any other good SD choice with regard to overpenetration. JHP because there are at least 4 good reasons to carry premium JHP over ball. Yes to electronic earmuffs because I like hearing. Yes to spare ammo handy (because bad guys travel in packs).
    No long gun is in my plan because the safe is unrealistically far away for a slam-bam home invasion. But a 5.56 AR with a light, sling, and red dot would be my choice. Light to see, sling if I need a free hand/retention, and red dot because I can focus on what I am aiming at and not my front sight.

  12. WT Says:

    .45 Colt Commander, GP100 with .357 mag rounds, Mossberg pump 12 gauge, and Ruger Mini-14. Why? Most familiar from military days, stopping power and (relatively) easily obtainable rounds.

  13. Mary Beth Robinette Says:

    We have a well rehearsed plan. We both roll out of bed where he grabs a pump shotgun (I know auto’s are faster but pumps are more reliable) that has a light and if possible takes cover in the bathroom (two steps away). All the while he has a clear view of the long hall leading to our bedroom. Meanwhile I roll onto the floor and grab my Xdm 5.25 45, that has 13 + 1 in the weapon and two spare mags which attached to a belt (If I would have to move from my position it would be easier to take the extra ammo. with me if it’s already on a belt). In my free hand I would have my cell phone and be ready to call the police, my phone sits on the floor with the cover flipped open and 911 already dialed in. That way all I have to do is hit send to contact help.
    About a month ago we had the opportunity to put our plan into action. It was about 2am and the burglar alarm went off!!!!!! Fortunately, it was a false alarm. But I was VERY pleased that we each went into position automatically (that’s the value of
    not only having a plan, but also practicing the plan) and immediately we were yelling; “we are armed an prepared to defend ourselves…etc…”
    Well, the house was silent and remained that way, so after a good while we checked things out carefully and discovered the false alarm.

  14. Mike B Says:

    I was not going to comment, but as I feel the broad range of circumstances leads to many people illustrating thier need for different options. THANK GOD we live in america and still have choices; but lets not be complacent about that.

    Now my circumstances are a little different, I am what most would consider a “Firearms Expert” including being a NRA instructor in about 7 disciplines, a Veteran, and competitive shooter, and CCW license in SC and Utah. I am a father of 3 and husband. We live in a nice neighborhood and have nosey neighbors, but still i believe that every home should be well armed. I am also disabled, and use a wheelchair. I keep my M&P 40 in my chair within easy reach 24-7, even when I am in the shower. After several months I convinced my wife to keep a revolver in her nightstand when we are home (in the safe when we go out) and have show the kids (all over 18) how to obtain, load and use handguns and long guns that are normally locked up.

    The truth is if you don’t have 10 second access to something your not well protected. Which means you have about 10 seconds from the point you recognize immediate danger to the point you should be able to defend yourself. I.e. you cant walk around all day with a shotgun, so carry a handgun, keep the long guns handy in case of real emergency when time allows you to arm yourself properly. And any handgun will do, at least its better than a knife, which is better than a bat, which is better than car keys… understanding where the dangers lie that s the most important aspect of self defense.

    Im sure Ayoob can comment on how many armed people have been assaulted not knowing they were in immediate danger until it was too late.

  15. Eddie Says:

    Ah hell Mas, I just follow the Federal defense guidelines from Self Defense expert, Joe Biden. I holler real loud and empty my double barrel out my bedroom window. If that don’t work I just call the cops on my free Obama phone cause they can get to me in less then 5 seconds anyway right? I would never use an evil Assult Rifle. Those are too hard to aim and shoot for a normal guy like me and only peolple who want to kill kids use those. Feinstien told me so. Her and Rosie O’Donnel are my favorite Hollywood stars…

  16. Sarah Says:

    Vicki you GO, girl. Got my own heavy-loaded 20 guage next to the bed and a Ruger LC9 with me all the time too. 🙂

    Mas, I prefer the shotgun for two reasons: 1. It’s more useful for hunting also, and 2. it was less expensive. Ok three: as Mary Beth said, they are also super-reliable.

  17. W. J. J. Hoge Says:

    Person 1—Kimber 1911, M1 Carbine, Browning BPS 20 ga.

    Person 2—Colt Detective Special (also has access to the Carbine and BPS)

    Person 3—CZ 97, Mossberg 500 20 ga.

    Everyone cross trained with each other’s weapons.

  18. Jack Finch Says:

    Mas, per your recent blog query on our home defense firearms: Kimber Gold Combat .45 ACP, Remington 870 and if they’re still coming and I have time to open the gun vault, then the 1928N TSMG…:-) The Remington 700 in .308 scoped and suppressed is when it is possible to “reach out and touch someone” at maybe 600 yards as they play with the caltrops?… Mare’s side of the bed has her S&W Lady Smith in .38 for backup… 🙂

  19. Art B. Says:

    Mas, I’m following Joe Biden’s advice. A double-barrel shotgun, fire it in the air to dispurse the attackers. There!

  20. Jack Says:

    Glock 21 at bedside, Beretta 1201 semi auto in master bedroom for me. Reasons I feel based on experience in the field and readings that a .45 both excellent choices My wife has a Glock 26 and a .410 shotgun loaded with Winchester self defense load slug and BB’s. In a small safe in my room I have an AR loaded with Hornady Tap in case of several intruders and the need for more firepower.
    My son on other side of house has 12 gauge pump loaded with Winchester self defense ammo.
    Every choice I made is based on many years in the firearms world shooting, being an instructor, police officer, real world shootings and size of person shooting the weapon so they can get hits on target and feel comfortable shooting the respectful calibre.

  21. wr moore Says:

    Interesting points made by many. I stress the need for ear protection myself.

    While I’ve spent decades relying upon and teaching autoloading shotguns, last year I began to question the practice. They’re long, heavy and while Tactical Buck/Slugs or 20 gauge can mitigate recoil, it’s still substantial. (I’m certainly not getting any younger and I note reminders from the body that it’s not as young as it used to be.) There’s also the issues of stray pellets and limited range unless you’re using slugs. I should note I once had a ranch style house where 25 yards inside was quite possible. YMMV.

    Then there’s the MSR/EBR. Light, negligible recoil, stock is adjustable to fit multiple users, single projectile with good range-yet with proper ammo, no significant risk of overpenetration; outstanding ergonomics and readily adapted to individual needs. Many women who’ve fired one for the first time state that “They’re fun!”

    As someone else noted, the Mini-14 has many positives in common and no cosmetic points to assist in labeling it as an EBR (Evil Black Rifle). While I’ve had a Mini for over 30 years, the AR pattern is a better CQB choice. There are good reasons why ARs have replaced shotguns in LE use and what the local LLEA uses can be used to combat negative stereotypes.

    After 40+ years, I finally broke down and bought an AR pattern.

  22. wr moore Says:

    Erk, reading my oh-dark thirty comments, I realize I forgot to mention that a light equipped 9mm is the primary defensive tool. The long gun comes into play if I’m either on stationary defense or checking out what may be going on outside.

  23. Ken Andrews Says:

    My constant compangian is a Para Commander 1911, in 45 ACP of course. My choice of home defense rifle is a JRC 16 inch barrel, semi-auto carbine also in 45 ACP.

  24. George Says:

    My strong hunch is that people are using AR’s as home defense weapons mostly because 1., they own one and want to get some use out of it 2., they may believe that an AR will really frighten a bad guy and 3., they either haven’t really thought things out thoroughly and/or they are not oriented to the practical and tactical aspects of home defense scenarios.

    Having your hands full of long gun in close quarters is basically asking for problems. In typical home confrontation space & distances, a handgun, optionally equipped with a laser sight in the hands of a well practiced hand-gunner, is all the firearm that is needed. Other considerations should include, immediate accessibility, potential for bullet over-penetration and killing neighbors, getting into a physical struggle with the intruder while trying to keep control of a long gun and even often lover-looked issues such as peering around corners or doorways while maintaining cover and retaining muzzle control / point-and-shoot capabilities. All of which are extremely challenging with a long gun.

  25. Michael Simons Says:

    I have a Sigma 40 cal VE that I grab first and I sling my shotgun over my shoulder. It is a custom 870 with a 10 shot tube and a Ranger ammo sling.

  26. PAUL NELSON Says:


  27. Mick Says:

    Well, Christmas Day has passed, and I need to add Crimson Trace Laser Grips to one of my J-frames! Santa was so very nice. Also include a Taurus 709 acquired since my 10/7/13 post, dead-nuts reliable with everything I’ve run thru it and keeping it stoked with Critical Defense +P 9mm 110 gr. Variety is the spice of life.

  28. Earl R. Says:

    There are a few practical considerations worth mentioning.

    If you live in a city or town, rather than a rural area, a miss with a high-velocity rifle round like the .223/5.56 in a Mini-14 or AR is going to travel a long way. If you kill or injure someone in the next house or walking down the street a half mile away, you are likely to be sued for millions. You don’t need a rifle for home defense unless you live in a rural area or expect to engage criminals at 50-100 yards.

    Be aware that ARs and other tactical rifles do not appear “juror friendly” to those who don’t own guns. Who do you think that THEY think owns these guns. (A wood-stocked Mini-14 is better though.) Please don’t scoff at this consideration. It is very important if you live in a “blue” or “purple” state where there are many non-gun owners. A liberal district attorney or grand jury may decide if you are charged with a crime or exempted for self-defense. Judges may also not be gun owners, and they have a lot of influence in self-defense cases. A prosecuting attorney WILL parade your AR in front of a jury and call it a “military-style” weapon.

    A lower-velocity pistol caliber carbine like the Ruger PC series (9mm or 40S&W) is much mor practical (made 1996-2006, many available used). Also less noise, less muzzle flash, cheaper ammo. Also less noise and flash compared to a handgun. The gun was marketed to police. PC means “police carbine” which is juror friendly. It doesn’t look like a military rifle.

    The next choice would be an all-steel wood-stocked 20 guage shotgun with a 22″ or shorter barrel (or a similar 20 guge semi-auto shotgun). A lighter steel & alloy pump-action 20 gauge will have too much recoil for most people. (Shotgun recoil is UNDER rated by most gun writers.) Personally, I like the quality of a 22″ Browning BPS Upland Special, and it is a “gentlemen’s and ladies: gun that is very juror friendly. Engraving with wood on this gun is even better. Same goes for an engraved Remington 860 Wingmaster with a short barrel.

    As far as handguns, Ruger SP101s in 2.25″ and 3″ barrel or an older 2.75″ or 4″ Ruger Speed Six/Service Six/Security Six are also very juror friendly, compared to black semi-autos. The current full-lug Ruger GP100s (except maybe the 3”) are too heavy for many people to hold at arm’s length for any length of time – as might be needed for home defense or holding a criminal for the peace officers. Use 38 Special +P instead of 357 Magnum rounds. Less noise, less blast, adequate power, and more juror friendly. Non-gunners hear “Magnum” and think of Clint as Dirty Harry (who THEY don’t like).

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