View Full Version : home-defense bullets/rounds: pistol vs. rifle (vs. shotgun)

February 3, 2012, 12:32 PM

No, I'm not going to give my personal opinion. Just wanted to offer more data points for the debate.

1. The Box O Truth has his conclusions:

Backed-up by some actual experiments:

2. NAVSEA (Naval Surface Warfare Division at Dahlgren VA) did its own weapons penetration tests:

Alas, the posted video doesn't have the results of the shotgun test, but the following rounds are tested:
at 3:43 in the video, 9x19mm FMJ (fired from M-9)
at 4:06 in the video, 7.62x39mm FMJ (fired from AK-47)
at 4:37 in the video, 5.56x45mm FMJ (fired from M-16)

Two limitations:
a. I'm assuming that they're using FMJ and not JHP rounds
b. The NAVSEA mannequins are woefully inadequate in terms of representing "real" bodies (they look like thin sheets of something)

Because of these limitations, I don't find the NAVSEA results conclusive in any way, but they are interesting. Just more fuel for one of the endless fires here at TFL. Flame away!

very respectfully,

February 3, 2012, 12:36 PM

Shotgun alone beat out rifle alone or handgun alone combined, and beat each by a better than 2 to 1 margin. Shotgun alone or in combo with another firearm garnered 75% of the vote.

Glenn E. Meyer
February 3, 2012, 12:39 PM
Training with many quality weapons trumps penetration tests or poll opinions.

Recall, I posted from John Holschen:

When it comes to preparing for individual security….
Amateurs think equipment,
Students think techniques,
Experts think tactics.

Having trained a touch with handgun, rifle and shotgun - I view my training as more important than which of those I pick up. I have quality examples of each and quality SD ammo chosen for each.

No, I won't pick up my NAA 22S for the fight (unless that was all I had :D)

February 3, 2012, 12:55 PM
know what's in your hand and how to use it!

Any firearm is better than none, the quickness and accuracy of response is better than delayed superior(?) response.

Any round for HD should be a "soft-nose / HP" type.

Best I can contribute.

February 3, 2012, 12:56 PM
The "bottom line" conclusion of the first link that you posted - Box of Truth "Educational Zone #143 - What Is the Best Weapon for Home Defense? - A Serious Discussion", is Rifles > Shotguns > Pistols.

The next four links that you posted are just penetration tests of walls - which is only one component in the overall decision making process for what someone would use for their primary HD weapon. So IMO the second set of 4 links does not "back up" the conclusions put forth in the first link.


February 3, 2012, 02:11 PM
I would only use a handgun for self defence if i had nothing else. For in the house shotgun pistol for backup. Pistols are only carried for self defence because of their concealability not their effectiveness.

February 3, 2012, 02:28 PM
Glenn E. Meyer

Training with many quality weapons trumps penetration tests or poll opinions.

Very good point.


The next four links that you posted are just penetration tests of walls - which is only one component in the overall decision making process for what someone would use for their primary HD weapon.

Excellent point as well -- thank you.

Shooters, I apologize -- wasn't necessarily trying to start another pistol vs. rifle vs. shotgun debate (perhaps I should rename the thread). TFL is full of them; in January alone, we've had:

Was focusing more on how the bullets/rounds actually behave. Just trying to add to the body of knowledge here by sharing (though I realize I'm probably not the first to post the video) what I thought were some thought-provoking results from NAVSEA. With all the limitations of their set-up, I don't know if their results necessarily refute Box O Truth...but it was interesting nonetheless to see what they could do with a bigger budget (and range of weapons).

If anything, everything Box O Truth and NAVSEA have done just make me greatly appreciate the maxim/wisdom of many on this board, who emphasize that regardless of what type of firearm one uses for home defense, one is legally/morally responsible for every single bullet/round/pellet fired.

February 3, 2012, 06:48 PM
Personally, . . . I'm of the opinion that whatever you are the most competent with, . . . should be your HD weapon.

I would never want to be on the "wrong" end of one young man I know of who only grabs for his 5 shot .357 when the night has bumps. Anyone coming within his abilities (and they are surely good) is in for a bad dose of lead poison.

On the other hand, . . . I'm equally deft with my 1911 or AR, . . . but just do not feel comforty packin' my semi auto 7 shot 12 gauge.

Just my $.02

May God bless,

February 3, 2012, 09:12 PM
There is something to be said for 30 continuous on-demand high velocity rounds. The AR's strength is it's weakness--and vice versa, IMO.

So lets say you get engaged in a firefight in low light or darkness. people moving about and "adrenaline finger" has combatants squeezing off multiple rounds very fast. Logic would seem to dictate that the outcome favors the person with the best first and last shot accessible with least manipulation(s). Familiarity and skill with a particular weapon may trump this--but it seems to me in a situation where skills or lack thereof are fairly evenly matched--the person with the AR has an advantage over the other types of weapons. This is just my guess--I'm no expert on any weapons experience.

The stigma against an AR could just as easily be applied to killer rounds used in other types of weapons, IMO. I don't think the high capacity is an issue in a good SD shoot--AS LONG AS you can state in a logical way why the successive rounds were in response to a continued perceived threat.

Again--these are merely armchair opinions.

February 3, 2012, 09:47 PM
I keep thinking about getting me a 12 G Pump Shotgun or else a pistol grip shotgun, but since I live in a 2 BR apartment, one way in, one way out, an intruder would be very close range. Its harder for him to grab for my handguns and I don't think I will miss at close range. My brother and I have had this discussion a lot because he really believes in shotguns, but he has a big house. I just know I won't miss at close range with my S&W 625-5 4" Long Colt 45.

February 4, 2012, 08:19 AM
I'll take one of my pistols over my 14.5" barreled AR inside my home.
Weapon retention and the ability to clear corners more quickly are my prime considerations.

Glenn E. Meyer
February 4, 2012, 11:38 AM
Don't get a pistol grip shotgun. Look cool but not that useful as compared to a conventional stock. I'll pass on the big speech, trust me.

Like I said - training with each is more important.

February 4, 2012, 01:15 PM
Training with many quality weapons trumps penetration tests or poll opinions.

That kind of says it all.

The only thing I would add is "availability".

When I think of home invasions I think of someone kicking your door in and charging in. It that case I think availability trumps all.

Kind of hard to set around watching TV, playing around with the 'puter, eating dinner, etc with a rifle or shotgun in you pocket.

Not sure the bandit is going to give you time to run to the bed room to grab your "whatever".

I'm a much better rifle shot then pistol shot, but I don't set around with a rifle in my pocket. I do however always have my 642 in my pocket.

I don't worry about over or under penetration, I worry about getting my little revolver out of my pocket and hitting things at the distance presented in my modest size home. That's where I concentrate my pistol training.

Training is great, but why train (for home defense purposes) with a rifle or shotgun if you wont have one available when someone charges through the door?

Think about it, without moving, look around and "honestly" ask yourself if you can reach your self defense weapon.

Do you practice engaging targets from your couch or recliner at distances from where you set to your doors. Where is you closest loaded shotgun or rifle?

Can you draw your pistol/revolver from setting back in your recliner?

Its all about training and defense tactics with what you have available. How many have targets on your door and practice dry firing at it.

(I don't have one on my door, but I do have a hostage target on my granddaughters bedroom door, and dry fire at it with my laser sighted 642)

Some people think I'm nuts, maybe I am. People expect old men to be nuts so who cares.

February 4, 2012, 01:17 PM
@ Glenn (sorry)--with all due respect--why not (assuming you still have a stock for conventional shoulder resting and you're not doing any "shoot from the hip")?
@Kraig: "...People expect old men to be nuts so who cares. " Lechers too. :)

February 4, 2012, 04:30 PM

February 4, 2012, 05:35 PM
I suspect Glenn assumed, just as I did, that you meant a pistol grip only shotgun rather than a shotgun with both a shoulder stock and pistol grip. From what I've read, a pistol grip only shotgun may as well be a single shot.

February 4, 2012, 07:35 PM
There is something to be said for 30 continuous on-demand high velocity rounds.

Add to that, . . . the quickness of magazine changes, . . . another 30 coming down the pike, . . . plus I saw an ad not long ago for 60 rd mags, . . . put that in an AR-Pistol, . . . just plain scary.

The "lots of available rounds" and "quick mag changes" are the two main reasons I have always favored the 1911 and the AR.

Given a choice, . . . in an absolute fire fight, . . . I would certainly much rather have any high capacity 30 caliber rifle, . . . just never for HD, . . . especially if one has to clear even one room.

May God bless,

February 4, 2012, 08:22 PM
OK--here's what I don't get.

For the home defense scenarios we have all pretty much agreed that we are going to avoid clearing the home if at all possible. So chances are I'm not going to need to worry about creeping about worrying about breaking planes and the like. So if you're making a static stand--why not use the best option available?

I have all the weapons described in this discussion at my disposal. I keep most of them loaded at the ready. We've also agreed that most gunfights are likely to happen in dim light or night conditions. With an Eotec HUD holographic sight, a high-intensity surefire light and rounds that are as likely to splatter your target as anything else, I can't see the other weapons equaling an AR carbine in terms of CQB tactical advantage (assuming, of course, you know how to use it). Again, just my armchair guesses.

February 5, 2012, 09:20 AM
Another link here that is VERY interesting to consider is the muzzle flash of different types of ammo in the dark. The AR carbine is equipped with a standard flash suppressor. http://www.theboxotruth.com/docs/lowlight8.htm

February 6, 2012, 01:03 PM
Glenn and Kraig are absolutely correct.

Training, training, training.

Practice, practice, practice.

That being said my HD gun is whichever pistol I have handy with whatever load is in it and my plain Jane Remington 870 with 7-1 oz slugs and six more on the side saddle.

Glenn E. Meyer
February 7, 2012, 11:45 AM
Pistol grip with a stock shotguns - that's a different beast. Don't have one but in shotgun class, the instructor mentioned that intense practice with such is hard on the wrist - leads to problems.

I have a bad wrist to begin with, so I go along with that for moi.

February 7, 2012, 08:01 PM
I'm no expert Glenn--but the ATI scorpion pistol grip and AR stock which I put on my 870 really DO reduce recoil impact significantly. I've pounded away with magnums and slugs and have been just fine--do that with just the wood stock and I'm cruisin for a bruisin.

Glenn E. Meyer
February 7, 2012, 09:47 PM
I haven't shot one of the recoil reducing stocks as compared to the solid pistol grip stocks. Been tempted. I'm interested. I was told (whatever), that the movement disrupts sight picture - what do you think?

The comment about wrists was the solid ones transmitting more recoil to the wrist.

February 7, 2012, 10:23 PM
As far as the AR for HD, I still tend to think that putting fifteen to sixteen .30 caliber pellets 12 to 14 inches deep in an assailant with each pull of the trigger is going to be more effective than putting a single .223 caliber bullet into an assailant with each pull of the trigger.

February 8, 2012, 12:50 AM
Home defense use of a high powered rifle in a urban area might guarantee you a charge of public endangerment even if you were in the right.

The risk of overpenetration and blatant shoot through are simply very high.

You would be better served by a shotgun or handgun in those cases where you live in an urban area.

In the rural areas,there can definetely be very good reasons to own and be very good with a high powered rifle such as a AR-15.

Living anywhere near the Mexican borders of Texas and New Mexico as well as any place an hour from any major city come to mind as places where a few Ar's and a collection of loaded mags at all times would be a wise investment to make.

It's not right that it's this way but these are the legal arguments you might face if you used a high powered rifle for home defense in an urban environment.

It could make the urban area's district attorney's decision to let you off with no charge undoable (versus the use of a shotgun or a rifle).

February 8, 2012, 02:36 AM
@BN Real: Where I live it is well-known that 1) gangbangers hit homes in numbers; and 2) guns and assault rifles are out on the street and actively used. The Chattanooga PD recently up-armed to level the playing field by buying 30 AR's.

If a gang of potentially armed thugs break into my home and I probably have mere seconds to respond I'm grabbing the best weapon option available. I may be wrong, but given the widespread publicity of serious violent crime and murder in my area I doubt the use of an assault rifle in HD would be a liability compared to a ".40 or better" handgun (unless of course you take out innocent neighbors).

As the "box of truth tests" show, the issue of penetration versus defense effectiveness is a tricky one. My impression from these tests is that common large caliber handgun rounds and buckshot actually go through more secondary structures than a lower-power non-pointed 223 round which seems to lose it's velocity fairly quickly going through common home walls. My impression is that if I'm engaged in a firefight where the outcome is determined by how quickly I can get the most rounds off, whether or not I use an assault rifle is a question of semantics if the BG's are armed and in numbers. Either way, I'd rather be alive and take my chances in court than dead.

The gang activities and violent crimes are not hypothetical scenarios I've conjured up in my head to justify using this kind of weapon--it's a daily fact of life (and death) here. Chattanooga has a chronic epidemic of gangs and violent crime making it one of the most dangerous cities in America.

To steal a line from Tom Berringer: "what I know, is cause I live here."

February 8, 2012, 11:28 AM
What about the use of frangible ammo in urban settings for SD/HD? It's my understanding many, if not most police depts. are using or are switching to this ammo to avoid collateral damage. I personally use hollow point ammo in .357/.45/.380 but am thinking very seriously of switching. If the worst happens I don't want to be responsible for complicating the life of the nice girl who lives across the hall.

Frank Ettin
February 8, 2012, 12:37 PM
What about the use of frangible ammo in urban settings for SD/HD? It's my understanding many, if not most police depts. are using or are switching to this ammo...[1] Frangible ammunition has a poor reputation for penetration, and it's doubtful that it would deliver adequate terminal performance for general use in self defense.

[2] I have no reason to believe that any police departments are switching to frangible ammunition for general duty use (although they would probably be using it for some training applications). Do you have any evidence?

February 8, 2012, 08:29 PM
Now that I think about it the source was probably a history channel program about new developments in ammo. Statements made on this program may or may not be true but they stuck in my mind.