Some Pointers and Picks for Home Defense

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 By Jeremiah Johnson

Good Day, Readers! In this piece, we’re going to cover some recommendations on firearms for your home-defense needs. Needless to say, we’re facing some difficult current events, with the killings that occurred in Texas and New York. These senseless, wanton, reprehensible murders place an unwarranted stigma on gun owners. Aided by armies of leftists and their endlessly-fawning media machinery, Democratic and RINO politicians are calling for more gun control measures.

Yes, they want gun control over the citizen-serfs while handing out billions of dollars worth of weaponry to Ukraine to aid in a proxy war against Russia.

They want gun control while they strike down laws denying entry to the illegal aliens crossing our southern borders, undoubtedly with terrorists hiding in their midst.

They want gun control because they understand that the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States was designed to enable the citizenry to resist any tyrannical rulers oppressing the people illegally, in opposition to our Constitution.

In the midst of that “zoo” and its “zookeepers,” let’s take in a breath and cover a selection of firearms to help protect your home and family. To deal with the “wolves at the door,” you need neither the quackery of politics nor the quagmire of issues emanating from our reverse-role, upside-down “society.” Let’s get into it.

What are the basics?

First, let’s cover a few principles to follow that you can use to form your base. I’m primarily writing this article for ordinary, conservative people who may never have picked up a gun before. If you’re a veteran or someone who has worked with firearms all of their life, please bear with me. The former group may recall some of this material as a “refresher,” and the latter group may pick up something new that they can use.

The firearm itself isn’t as important as your basics. The fundamentals of good marksmanship lie in good breathing, aiming, and trigger squeeze. The objective of your marksmanship: clean, well-placed shots

Practice leads to perfection.

You need to set standards for yourself and any loved ones who will be learning to shoot, and (as a family), you need to enforce those standards by self-discipline.

Safety is first.

Treat every firearm as if it’s loaded, and afford it the respect it deserves. It’s a useful tool that can protect you and provide meat for the table, but you must be careful and know how to use it properly. If you’ve never used a firearm before, I advise linking up with a veteran or an experienced hunter, preferably a level-headed individual. If not, then I advise you to enroll in a formal course of firearms instruction.

There isn’t any room for Hollywood antics or “loose cannons” where your family’s safety and the safety of others are concerned. 

“Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos” have their place and time on the battlefield, but even a great warrior can be just as great a liability, to themselves and to others, without the proper internal discipline. This translates into self-control, and this simple fact:

You must defend others who cannot protect themselves, and most of all, you must protect them from yourself…by keeping a clear head and a good heart.

Now, let’s move on.

A husband and wife should shoot the same firearms.

Sometimes this poses a challenge because one or the other may have difficulty firing the larger calibers of handguns. We’ll address that point soon. You and your spouse should fire the same thing because your rounds and your magazines or speed-loaders are then interchangeable. The same holds true for the parts. 

Spare parts are a very neglected item for most gun owners. 

After you buy the main weapon, buy the cleaning kits, the holsters, the magazines, and the accessories. They usually don’t buy the spare firing pins or extra high-wear parts, such as magazine release button-springs. In a worst-case scenario, if both pistols malfunction, you may be able to build one working one out of them. 

Two firers defending a home are always better than one. I don’t want to get ahead of myself and delve into tactics such as room clearing as a team, but regarding home defense, a husband and wife (unless one is unable to) should defend the home as a team. Now let’s discuss my preferred choices of calibers, my reasons for them, and some types you may wish to consider.

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.45 ACP

In my opinion, this is the most versatile, affordable, and effective cartridge there is. The history goes back to John Browning, who designed and invented the Model 1911 ACP (which stands for “Automatic Colt Pistol”) for the U.S. Army during the campaign in the Philippines. The .38 caliber revolver was ineffective against the Morro Indians, a fierce warrior tribe who fought against our Army when the Philippines were a U.S. territory.

When that 230-grain bullet for the .45 came into play, the situation was reversed. The M-1911 then became the mainstay sidearm for the U.S. armed forces up until the 1980s, when they switched to the Beretta 92-series in 9 mm caliber. 

Experience on the battlefield has led to the return of the .45 in service.

An excellent article was written by Peter Kokalis, who was once the assistant editor of the Shotgun News. That piece came out about ten years ago. He detailed the bullet’s mushrooming and expansion from .45″ to .67″ as accomplishing two things: 

           1. Excellent stopping power:  the .45 ACP is a low-velocity round, at approximately 930 fps (feet per second). Don’t let that fool you: it’s an excellent round. Most are not aware of the actual effects of wound ballistics. They think, “Ah, it’s just a hole…a wound you have to deal with.” Not so. 

The shock wave from that bullet’s expansion sends a devastating pressure wave that destroys organs, like the liver, kidneys, and such. Much more effective than the 9 mm round. 

           2. The expansion of the bullet: provides for larger permanent cavitation and a large exit wound. It also couples with the velocity to add to that internal pressure wave mentioned earlier. Depending on the quality of the pistol, you can also use +P rounds (as with the brand “Buffalo Bore”) for greater effectiveness.

J. J.’s Pick: The standard M-1911, and I recommend Ruger’s Model 6700. It’s a full-size frame in the traditional 1911 style that takes most other M-1911 parts. 

Eight rounds in the magazine and one in the pipe. Everything that Ruger makes is outstanding, and as far as gun manufacturers go, they’re my favorite: a good American firm that puts out quality firearms that are both effective and affordable.

In my personal experience, steel is superior to plastic or polymers. 

Yes, you can accessorize with polymer grips if you so choose, but steel slide assemblies and frames hold up the best. 

They take wear, tear, and beatings better than the polymers, and they’re more resistant to high heat. The drawback is “sweating,” the condensation that occurs with sudden changes in temperature, such as going from the cold outdoors back into a warm building. This is a minor/negligible trade-off; steel is best.

Returning to what I mentioned earlier, if a firer has weak wrists, there are plenty of wrist guards and braces that take seconds to slip on before using the pistol. The M-1911 is reliable and time-tested, with two safeties, standard and grip. The .45 ACP cartridge is simple to reload, and it’s readily available. Now, let’s talk about a second piece that is another powerhouse.

.357 Magnum

Another versatile cartridge, the .357 Magnum is a “supercharged” .38 caliber bullet, plain and simple. As a matter of fact, if you have a .357 Magnum revolver, you can also fire .38 caliber bullets in it. (Caution: it doesn’t work in the other direction! .357 rounds have to be fired in a weapon chambered for them)

This cartridge is the “lightest” Magnum round that can still stop a bear if you live in a wilderness area, especially with the +P rounds mentioned earlier. Standard loads are 125 grains, but you have an increase in velocities of 1,100 to 1,200 fps. The .357 has more power than the 9 mm, and the rounds are also available everywhere.

J. J.’s Pick: The Ruger Model SP-101, preferably with the short barrel, 2.25 inches. The revolver is a stainless, 5-shot piece, and it’s a double-action revolver. This means that after you fire your first round, the hammer is “jacked back” into the firing position for you with a very light trigger pull.     

The pistol is light to carry, but don’t let the weight fool you. 

It packs a punch. It’s easy to clean and is very comfortable to shoot. 

It’s really good for firers with smaller hands, and its compactness makes it effective to carry and to use.

12-gauge shotgun

One of the most versatile firearms imaginable. Readers, this suggestion is for home defense, not for hunting, but in a grid-down collapse, you can still hunt with it. If you hunt before then, you’ll probably have to plug the tube and limit the number of shells you can carry. Check the laws for your happy state to find out the statute, as they vary.

J. J.’s Pick: The Mossberg Model 500-A. I recommend picking up one with a pistol-grip for compact ease of carrying and operation. 

I prefer pump shotguns to semi-automatics. They’re easier to clear, and they’re not machined as “tightly” as the semi-autos. This prevents sticking or stoppages due to excess carbon buildup when you’re throwing out a lot of shot/slugs in a short period of time.  

The 500-A was adopted for use by the military after Vietnam. 

Spread out your ammo between shells (I prefer triple-aught or “000” buckshot) and slugs. 

Double-aught buck (00) shells give you more pellets and make for a wider spread/dispersion for starters until you feel surer with your accuracy. Shotguns are simple to use, but they require practice for effectiveness, just as pistols and rifles do.

Some extra info

I’m not really big on accessories or accessorizing. Mounted tactical lights on weapons work both ways, and the bad guy knows to aim for the light. Laser-dot sights and devices need batteries. I’m very “old-school” when it comes to firearms. In my humble opinion, no device or high volume of fire can take the place of clean, well-placed shots.

Everything else (lights, lasers, etc.) should be treated as their name implies: accessories. They can enhance the effectiveness of the firearm, but they are not a substitute for good marksmanship. They are niceties, not necessities.

Here’s a simple task for you to master that will enhance your effectiveness greatly when you accomplish it. When you improve your proficiency with training and practice, you should be able to pick up a firearm, familiarize yourself with its basic function, and then hit a target with it “cold” without ever practicing with it. The term “Kentucky Windage” applies here. When you can accomplish this, it will reinforce the fact that you’ve been training and practicing effectively. Your confidence will improve, and confidence always promotes a good follow-through in any task.

The firearm has iron sights. That is what you need, bottom line. If you have weaker eyesight, that’s okay. Your glasses will enable you to see your target, and if you follow the fundamentals of marksmanship and take in a good sight picture, you will hit that target when you engage it.

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Always start with “low-tech,” and then work your way “up.”

Then you can function without being dependent on high-tech toys that can fall apart and fail you.

So, there you are, for starters. To reiterate and expand upon what I mentioned before, the most important component is you. The decisions you make when your home is invaded are matters of life and death. 

You must assess the level of the threat correctly and then respond accordingly, seeking an alternative when and where one exists. Keep this tenet in mind to help guide you:

“The general who wins without fighting has displayed a mastery of battle.” (Sun-Tzu, The Art of War)

When that can’t be done, then fight, and fight to win

Your mind and body are the best tools you have to accomplish that end, to protect your life, and the lives of your loved ones. Temper both mind and body with your heart.

A good heart will enable you to triumph over all things.

Your heart will give you the victory over your greatest opponent: yourself. I hope you like my selections for you, and I look forward to reading your comments. 

Take care of each other, my fellow Americans! JJ out!

What are your thoughts?

Do you agree with the selections here? Do you have something else you recommend? Share your opinions in the comments.

About Jeremiah Johnson

Jeremiah Johnson is the nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the U.S. Army Special Forces.  Mr. Johnson is also a Gunsmith and a Master Herbalist.  He graduated from the Special Forces course at SERE (survival, evasion, resistance, and escape) School, and is an expert in small unit tactics, survival, and disaster-preparedness.  He lives in a cabin in the Rocky Mountains of Western Montana.

Some Pointers and Picks for Home Defense
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  • +1 on good Marksmanship.
    Seen guys at the range, $2-3k, tricked out rifles, sitting at a concrete bench, bi-pod, rear bags and thinking shooting a 1 inch group at 100 yards and they are great shots!

    For me, the ergonomics of a fire arm are what I consider first. If that high end firearm does not fit my hand or puts my trigger finger in a odd position, or the stock is too short/long, and I cannot get that clean, well placed shot, then I pass on it.
    Some firearms just seem to fit. They point well. They almost feel like an extension of you.
    When I used to shoot NRA High-Power Rifle, I ran a NM M1A. It fit me well. I enjoyed shooting it. Put a big ol smile on my face.
    AR15? Nope.

    Two schools of thought on shotguns. 1) Dedicated purpose specific job, like a shot gun just for self-defense, and one for hunting. 2) Shot gun with interchangeable barrels, a self-defense barrel, and another for hunting.

    • Additional note: Economics.
      There are a bunch of guns I would love to own, 38Super, 357SIG, 45 Colt, 35SuperMann, 338Spectre . . . you get the idea.
      When I was first starting out, and to this day, I have a limited budget.
      So, I had/do stick to with common calibers, that are cheap.

      Also, I stick with a general purpose round that can do most everything well i.e. self-defense, anti-material, hunting, long range shooting vs a specialty round that only does one thing well.

    • “.. I ran a NM M1A. It fit me well. I enjoyed shooting it. Put a big ol smile on my face.
      AR15? Nope.”

      Same here. I love my .30 cals. It just feels like a rifle. It may not be lite, nimble, and handy, but what she does have is a feel that is familiar. I could pick out my Springfield in a dark room full of M1A’s. AR’s are only just ok comparatively speaking. At least not so where it come to fitting me.

  • In all things I live by the K.I.S.S principle. While I agree that the Ruger is a quality gun the 1911 platform is not a KISS firearm. The .357 is an excellent choice for SD but has a violent recoil impulse. (Yes i know you can use .38 special) Especially for new shooters which is who the author claims to have wrote this article for. I don’t disagree with the choice of chamberings or firearms but they do require some serious training and practice.

  • Yes, training and practice are crucial. I don’t mean to start a hot “war of words” about calibers, but… The .38 was abandoned in favor of the .45 ACP. Compare the ballistics of a .38 with 9mm. The only advantage that a 9mm has is it is a semi-auto and can use higher capacity magazines (depending on brand and model). the .40 S&W can replicate (and in some cases outperform) the .45 ACP for those with “deep pockets”. I have tritium sights on my primary weapons as well as laser grips. If you can afford to have a gunsmith install tritium sights, consider it. Very useful for low light conditions, and they don’t need a battery.

  • So far, my wife has refused to be a shooter, thinking she will panic and shoot the wrong people. Being patient…
    I carry a Glock in 10mm. It has adequate stopping power, is a great fit for my hand, shoots more accurately for me than anything else (due to the fit, I believe) and has 15 round magazines, meaning I can carry 45 spare rounds in my back pocket. I also carry a concealed-hammer 38 special revolver in my front pocket. I always use holsters. I have found that people need to try some different setups until they find something that is a great fit for them. I generally carry a rifle in my backpack scabbard when traveling. I strongly recommend purchasing multiple identical firearms to have spare parts for a prolonged supply interruption (if you can afford it). I also think it’s a great idea to try as many brand, style and caliber combinations as possible before purchasing. I also recommend saving until you can get a quality firearm, rather than buying cheap and planning to upgrade later. Just go ahead and get something good and proven. Also, more mainstream calibers are better from a supply standpoint. My Glock 20 pistols have interchangeable barrels and allow 3 different ammo choices (10mm, 40 S&W, and 9×25 Dillon, which is a bit rare, but was the only ammo I could consistently purchase for a while because of it’s lack of popularity). Also get 22 caliber firearms which are similar to your primary firearms, so you can practice with those. This will increase your confidence, improve your technique, and help eliminate flinching from recoil. Then practice and learn as much as you can. It’s a very cool hobby, and there is so much to learn. People just don’t realize how deep the pool of knowledge is. This will set you up for high proficiency and high confidence. Also, after learning some basics, remember to practice shooting with you non-dominant hand and/or non-dominant eye, as well as from various positions, like laying sideways or sitting on the ground. Also practice singlehanded reloads with both hands. You don’t want to try these things for the first time when you are fighting for your life and have an injury. But be careful and do this training without ammo the first several times, so you don’t shoot yourself! Finally, with an unloaded firearm, see if you can draw from your holster with your other hand. If you need to draw but your primary hand is wounded and bloody, it’s going to be a terrible time to discover you can’t reach your weapon with your other hand. Work that stuff out in a safe environment. Finally, realize that you will always need more ammo than you think. Try some timed and difficult shooting drills and you see that your gun runs empty faster than you can imagine. Don’t set yourself up for failure.

  • My wife and I use .22 cal – ya – I know – she has MS and that is all she can handle so I shoot the same gun – Ruger SR 22. She is a really good shot – 3 rounds in a 3 inch circle in 2 sec at 25 feet. Of course, the target is stationary, but oh well. We are both 76, so – it is what it is.

  • I’d consider the Taurus Judge (shoots .45 and 410 shells) with PDX Home Defense rounds. Revolver that is fool proof, no jamming. Easily maneuver through your home compared to a shotgun. PDX has a fairly large pattern, still lethal, and less likely to penetrate walls. You won’t need precise shots on target.
    I also like the idea of a laser, especially for my wife. If a bad guy is in your home and he identifies a laser (shining on a wall in the dark), he knows what’s on the other end of that laser is not good news for him and hopefully decides to leave without a confrontation.

  • Okay, I’m Canadian, and we have really convoluted laws with handguns and the whole self defence thing – not having a 2A sucks. But having experience with firearms in general, and being ex-mil I’ll add a few thoughts of mine here.

    1: I don’t consider a handgun a true self defence weapon for the home. As far as I’m concerned a handgun is a self defence weapon for when you are out and about (concealed carry). As you have stated they require a lot of practice/training. Generally in a high stress situation (adrenaline dump) they are inaccurate. There are way to many stories of well trained federal agents that have emptied their handgun in an encounter, and then having failed to hit the assailant, wound up subduing him by pistol whipping him with their empty handgun. Also, they just don’t have the knockdown power of even a small gauge shotgun. The object of any encounter of this type is to end it quickly and efficiently – which a shotgun will do. In the military one of our DI’s used to say, “You pistol is a weapon of last resort. A pistol is what I shoot until I can get to a real weapon.”

    2: Mossberg shotgun. I love the Mossberg shotguns, both the 500 series and the newer 590’s. I will disagree with you about the pistol grip, however. It may make it shorter and more convenient, but it detracts from its usability. The Mossberg safety is on top of the receiver and is extremely awkward to work with a pistol grip. The Remington 870 is a much better set up for this with the safety located behind the trigger guard. The other issue with a pistol grip is that it pretty much negates the “one, well placed shot” that you talk about. A pistol grip is great for shooting from the hip, but even experienced shooters have accuracy issues shooting from the hip. Trying to hold a pistol grip shotgun up in front of you to aim it will often just get you bashed in the face by the recoil – not a good thing at a time like this. Get a good stock. A rubberized Hogue short LOP, or a Magpul SGA – both will give you excellent control and help with accuracy in any situation. The sacrifice in length is more than made up for in manageability.

    3: This is your home. Get the best tool for the job that you can afford. Use the KISS principle. Stay low tech as much as possible – less things to fail, or go wrong at a crucial time. In your home you really don’t have to worry about conceal-ability, or convenience, or even weight (you’re not carrying it on a 5 mile March). A good side-saddle allows you to have ammunition always attached to the firearm. I have a couple good lights for my shotguns with QD (quick detach) mounts that attach to picatinny rails on the shotguns. They give you the option to mount or remove a light in seconds depending on the situation and what you need at the time. Like you say – bad guys can shoot at the light. But I don’t want to shoot the wrong person in the dark either. Try wandering through your house in the dark, holding a shotgun in one hand and a light in the other, and tripping over some toys the kids didn’t put away – not the greatest recipe for success.

    4: Find what works for you and stick with it. Shoot it. Practice with it. Get comfortable with it.

    • Mossberg also offers the Maverick 88 which is essentially a no frills version of the 500 and has the safety in the trigger guard like the Remington 870. The exception is the safety is at the front of the guard vs the rear.
      I believe the only parts from the 500/590 that aren’t compatible with the 88 are the trigger group (due to the safety location) and the forearm (due to the action rails being molded in on the 88) but 500 forearm and action rails can be swapped to the 88.

      • Very true, and I’ve owned a couple maverick’s over the years. The older ones only had a single action bar, so they couldn’t be swapped out to the 500’s, and you wind up with a chance of your pump binding in a stressful situation. The newer ones now have 2 action bars and can be swapped, but by the time you invest in the parts it’s probably cheaper to just get a 500. I also don’t personally care for the cheap plastic trigger group on the maverick. I should also clarify: I think that the safety is in the proper place on a Mossberg. Being able to work it with your thumb on a traditional stock is, I feel, the best position. The 870 behind the trigger guard means you have to try and work it with your trigger finger, and there’s always the chance that you’ll fumble it. I’m just pointing out that with a pistol grip it’s awkward. And I’m not even against pistol grips – they have their place and purpose – just not on a home defence shotgun. (Again, in my opinion)

  • Excellent thoughts Lone Canadian….I know someone who is a Devil Dog, and he said the same thing about the Mossberg and Remy models you referenced. He highly recommended them based on his own experiences…and like you, he stressed training yourself in all kinds of situations.

  • 38 special and 38 are two different calibers. My 357 magnum revolvers will fire 38 special rounds. I don’t think they will fire 38 caliber. That distinction has to be made. 38 caliber rounds will not fit into a 38 special revolver or a 357 magnum revolver.

  • I like the moss. 500 12 ga. one with a short barrel I have 2 with pistol grip full stocks also have a 20 ga. youth model for the wife also have 2 tarus mod. 85 38 spl. his and hers in our night stands I never leave home without a hand gun on me . I keep them handy and loaded every thing else is locked up in the safe

  • I remember an acronym from years back called BRAS.
    Breathe
    Relax
    Aim
    Shoot.

    I really like my Springfield .45 1911, S&W .357 Magnum, Taurus .44 Magnum, Ruger P-89 DC 9mm, and my Uberti .45 Colt.

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