Which gun to get?

On the topic if today’s citizenry being outgunned by the military:

I had the privilege of growing up in a shooting family where guns were just part of life. As such, I’m kind of the resident gun guy in the circles I hang with, and get asked often about suggestions on guns to buy.

I have had a lot of friends ask me over the last few years what AR-15 I think they should buy. This question usually comes up during political “gun grab” scares, or times when the ammo market is running dry. My answer to them is usually to talk them out of an AR-15 altogether.

The reasoning I give has to do with what you envision yourself doing with it. If you’re looking for something strictly for home defense against baddies, or something to go plink with at your local range or buddy’s property, there are much better choices. If you’re serious about getting into a gas-operated .223 like an AR-15, you need to understand the cost of ammo; how to maintain it; whether or not your local range will let you shoot it there (many indoor ranges won’t); whether your wife or teenager can pick it up and operate it with minimal experience; the dynamics of over-penetration in an urban setting, etc.

By the end of the conversation, I’ve usually talked most people into a 9mm carbine and call it good. Cheap ammo, easy to find, light recoil, easy-to-clean blowback action, fun to shoot for all ages and builds, etc.

Aside from being an actual gun enthusiast or sportsman (long range competition shooter, etc.), there is only one other situation where I think owning an AR-15 makes sense for Joe citizen, and that’s if you’re actually preparing for the expectation of armed conflict – either in the form of civil conflict or invasion from a foreign aggressor, where having a 200-500 yard combat rifle in a chambering that makes ammunition readily available during such a conflict is a good thing.

But you see, that conversation becomes more theological than it is about gun advice. By then we’re asking questions about the Christian’s role in armed conflict, the topic of just war, the topic of justified resistance against governing authorities, etc. What would you see yourself actually doing in the event of a civil war or invasion from a foreign aggressor, dear Christian? Once you have answered that, then we can talk about if an AR-15 makes sense for you.


For home defense? Depends.

Do you have shared walls? 9mm with self defense ammo, maybe 12 gauge with buckshot.
Got no neighbors for miles and space to shoot? Maybe an AR15 chambered in blackout. Shortest barrel you can get.

Would love to hear different opinions.

5.56 NATO/.223 55 grain hollowpoint ammo overpenetrates significantly less than 9 mm or buck shot. It also has significantly better terminal performance than 9 mm. (In layman’s terms: it puts the hurt on.) It’s somewhat higher recoil than 9 mm, but quite manageable, even for children of, say, age 10 and up.

The major advantage of an AR-15 in 5.56 over a 9 mm carbine will be terminal performance of the round and magazine capacity. AR-15s are also quite simple to operate from an ergonomics perspective too.

ARs are no longer 200-500 yard firearms, either. Close-quarter doctrine switched away from the submachinegun towards the AR in both police and military circles circa 2000, primarily for the benefits of less overpenetration and the relative terminal effectiveness of the 5.56 over the 9 mm. There are a plethora of options for sights, slings, accessories, etc. to make an AR-15 a formidable close-quarter weapon.

I’m not trying to talk anyone into an AR as a home defense gun—I think most folks would benefit from the versatility of a full-sized 9 mm pistol for that job—I’m just adding some color to the discussion.


I’m not disputing that as a general statement. There’s been a lot of testing done that would demonstrate that. Still, the actual dynamics of what bullets do when they penetrate a wall are more widely varied in a .223 based on ammunition type (e.g. Will the bullet tumble vs. fragment? Will those fragments maintain a straight path through the first wall? What happens if it hits a wall at a particular angle? Etc.). I’m just saying that there’s more to think about with ammo choice than Joe I-Don’t-Have-Any-Experience-With-Guns-But-I-Think-I-Should-Buy-One Citizen (the guy I’m talking about) may be interested in. Handgun rounds may overpenetrate drywall more, but at least they do so in a more predictable fashion, which is a point that I think gets overlooked. It’s easier to teach Joe, “always be mindful of what is on the other side of what you’re shooting at,” and make the general statement, “use FMJ for practice and JHP for defense,” than it is to get him into the wide world of .223 ballistics, and Hornady TAPs, V-Max, etc. Opinions may vary.

Again, as a general statement, no dispute. However, some of the .223 rounds designed to minimize over penetration do so at a sacrifice to terminal performance, so you still end up in the weeds of a more involved discussion than my fictional character is really interested in having.

They are very much still 200-500 yard rifles. They didn’t cease being this just because they’ve also been adopted for close quarters. They’ve just taken on additional roles. I’ve shot in a few CMP Leg matches, and can report that the .223 is still very much alive and well as a full fledged rifle cartridge. Of course, I had a lot more fun shooting my M1 in those matches than these dudes with their new-fangled black rifles. :slight_smile:

Anyway, my point wasn’t really that the AR-15 is a bad choice for home defense, period, for all people. I do believe it requires more of a commitment to the gun world though, and the kind of person I was referring to isn’t the type of person looking to make that commitment.

I’m more interested in what the person I am talking to actually has in his mind and his heart than I am about the gun I am suggesting for him.

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Both these were factors in choosing what I chose - the Taurus Judge.

The sole purpose for this weapon is to defend against home invasions in a house where at night it’s possible that others are sleeping or otherwise present in other rooms beyond the point where the invader is attempting to enter, especially if he’s already gotten inside.


  1. It makes a Lot of Noise when fired!

  2. You may load and fire 410 shotgun shells or 45 Long Colt rounds from it.

  3. Winchester makes a special round for this pistol that emits three metal discs and 12 BBs.

One analyst reports:

“The PDX1 410’s three flying discs penetrate eight to ten inches into 10 percent ballistic gel from seven to 15 feet, … The BBs penetrate four to six inches at the same distance . . . You get the shot of the BBs and the deep devastation of the discs. It’s the best of both worlds.”


  1. It makes a Lot of Noise. The discombobulating power of the sound of the gun can affect the shooter as well as the invader.

  2. It’s very hefty and the trigger action (when not cocked) is tight. You’re not going to get off all five rounds in a second, even two unless you’ve got powerful and limber fingers. My wife dreads shooting it, which is a Big Disadvantage if it’s the only weapon available to her.


When my dad passed away, I helped my mom sell off most of his guns. Mom then wanted to get a gun for the home that she felt comfortable with. We ended up getting a Judge for her as well.

These are good rounds, and the ones I bought for Mom. We tested a few of them, and I was impressed by how well they patterned. The discs maintain an impressively tight little group at 15 feet.

I also handload .45 Colt, so Mom can practice cheap whenever she wants.

This was the catch-22 for Mom. The double action pull actually takes quite a bit of strength for her. The single action pull is very nice though if you have the habit of cocking first.

Yes, it is very nice, as I’ve learned at the firing range. I’m truly double-minded about this, because . . .

Habits like that come only by copious practice, and that’s impractical for me. Safe practice ranges are quite a distance from me, and the end of my driving days are now visible on the horizon.

I could, of course, “train” myself to cock it, using mere mental practice. I’ve run beaucoup mental scenarios through my head. Still do, since our neighborhood is (theoretically) vulnerable. No invasions out here yet, but police response times are so bad as to be nonexistent.

But, in the adrenaline charged environment of an actual invasion, I’m chary of unintentionally setting the pistol off by bumping into something in the dark (I’m not going to turn the lights on if I’m sure the booger man is really out there!). And, yes, I’m apt to be clumsy on my feet from progressing diabetes. A home invader isn’t going to give me time to limber up after I’ve levered my stiff and creaky carcass out of the bed.

So, I’ve decided to let the expected higher dose of adrenaline to compensate for the tight couble-action pull of the trigger.

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I hear you. One option would be to purchase some snap caps and just sit at your desk and practice dry firing when you’re bored. Snap caps are designed to make the gun dry fire safe by giving the firing pin something to smack into when you pull the trigger. Probably don’t really need snap caps with the Judge’s transfer bar design, but still recommended for piece of mind that you aren’t overstressing the firing pin when you dry fire. Dry firing like that will help with trigger control and muscle memory in lieu of going to the range. Besides, it’s just fun. :slight_smile:

I used to do cowboy action shooting with Dad and Grandpa, so the single action revolver and I became friends over the years. In fact, my favorite gun to carry (though I don’t carry it often) is my .45 Colt Vaquero in a high-riding pancake holster. Maybe I’m weird, but carrying it feels like I’m carrying around a little part of my family legacy or something.

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The magic bullet that has acceptable terminal performance on an attacker but stops in drywall doesn’t exist. Better to teach people that drywall, stucco, etc are basically invisible to bullets and they need to think carefully about what’s on the other side of their drywall and on the other side of their home’s outer walls (unless said walls are made of block, brick or similar). If overpenetration is a critical factor in gun/caliber/bullet selection, then the best compromise is certain types of 5.56 hollowpoints. And again, if it’s a critical factor, then it’s critical that the user sort that out to a certain level of precision.

I wasn’t disputing the “500 yard” part of your range, I was disputing the “200 yard” part. Set up properly, an AR-15 is very much a 0-500 yard rifle.

Agreed. A man’s heart is critical, and his requirements are next. As I said, I think most people are better served with a full-sized 9mm than with an AR-15, but requirements differ, as do proclivities and taste.

If I may be so bold as to suggest the Smith & Wesson M&P 380 Shield EZ, I will do so. It’s specifically designed for people with limited hand strength, so it’s not difficult to load, rack, or fire. The .380 cartridge is not a big boomer, and the 380 Shield EZ is a large enough gun not to be a big handful with the cartridge. (Most .380s are pocket-sized pistols, which are hard to get a good grip on and turn into a real handful when you fire them.) If it’s not suitable for your household, then it may be suitable for others in a similar situation.

Strong +1 for dry fire. When done safely, it is completely free and strongly beneficial for accuracy and ease of use. Repeated dry fires can also smooth out a trigger press a bit, which is sometimes called “the thousand round trigger job.”

I have very much enjoyed the part of Covid-19 where I get to go out and about masked like a train robber. It taps some cowboy fantasies of my youth. I wish I could get away with a pair of six-guns in a nice cowboy rig to go with it.


Ok, in order to keep this on topic, I’ll ask my question first. For home protection, why not just a shotgun?

Ah. So this is you?


One pastor was struggling with what to do with a church that had rebellious tendencies, and I suggested having a Western themed service so they could all get excited about wearing a face covering. But then I realized that they would still be rebels.



To answer the question (and drive us on-topic? :slight_smile: ), I want to immediately ask the follow-up question: Is protection of the home – or more properly, its occupants, being our wives and children – the only sphere in which Christians should think about the use of arms? In other words, let’s say the shotgun is fine for home defense. But are there other things we should see ourselves as responsible for defending, and how does that inform our gun ownership?

As for the particularities of a shotgun being good for home defense, it will depend largely on the user. While you, as the grown man of the house, may be able to operate that ole’ trusty 12 gauge pump shotgun in the closet, there’s a fair chance that your wife or boys would struggle to wield it.

Which opens up another facet of home defense, doesn’t it? If we believe defense of the home is good and noble as men, then to what extent are we to train our boys up in it? Part of teaching boys to be men involves teaching them what is the just use of force, and teaching them their ordained role as protectors and providers. What should that look like in our education of our boys? And how about our wives and our daughters?

While gun ownership and being pro 2nd amendment is very much tied to American, conservative, evangelical psyche, I don’t think the theology of gun ownership and the just use of lethal force for the Christian citizen is a topic that we do a very good job exploring in our churches.

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I think you really need to have good expanding defensive ammo if you’re gonna use 9mm. That being said I highly recommend a Glock 19 in the 9mm. But I also think the AR-15 is really more effective at fending off multiple invaders as is becoming more common. The 12 gauge is potentially effective but I think it’s mostly a threatening intimidation factor. They are generally too large to wield in residential hallways and doorways. That being said, I could see the helpfulness of a Mossberg Shockwave 12 gauge firearm (not a shotgun, not a pistol), and loading it with half shells, doubles the capacity and lightens the recoil. Still, for the more experienced defender there’s nothing like a 1911 .45ACP to remind the depraved and worldly minded of their mortality.

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Where’d you get that picture of me? That’s me, right down to the quarantine beard.

Google “Cowboy Church.” It’s a thing in this area.

I’d strongly agree with your comments, Jason, and add a few more:

For the person who’s not interested in having a safe full of guns for lots of different purposes, I’d strongly suggest getting guns that are versatile for multiple uses. Shotguns are the epitome of multi-use guns, but that’s only if the user sees himself hunting birds, shooting trap/skeet/sporting clays, and/or deer depending on the part of the country.

Full-sized pistols are concealable if necessary. They are not the most concealable pistols in the world, but they can be concealed if the user has a need to do so for some reason, such as a specific threat to the person’s life, a general increase in the threat level in the area where one lives (sound familiar to anyone?), or just a growing desire to protect one’s life and family when out of the house. Shotguns are useless for protecting your family members’ lives in the parking lot of a big box store.

I agree with this also.


Huge fan of the Glock 19 for this purpose. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the most balanced, no-frills, best of all worlds handgun on the planet. If I was reduced to one gun, the Glock 19 would be the one I keep.

Now, pair it with a Kel-Tec Sub-2000 that takes Glock 19 magazines, or a Ruger PC9, and you’ve got the best “working man’s” combo of the present day. It’s themodern equivalent of the cowboys who had both a revolver and a levergun chambered in .44-40. :slight_smile:


This may just be the bandanna talking, but I’m a big fan of lever-action carbines in .357.


This is definitely on point advice. If I may make a recommendation, one which may get me booed out of here by true gun aficionados, I recommend the Hi-Point 9mm carbine.

So what if its ugly? It’s cheap to buy, lasts forever, easy to use, impossible to jam, easy to customize, accurate to 150 yards or so, and solid for home defense for all those reasons @jander mentioned. I have one and love it. My wife (a notoriously poor shot) loves it and is a decently accurate with it. My 10 year old daughter can shoot it. I’ve seen YouTube reviews where they buried it in mud, left it for an hour, then fired off 50 rounds without an issue. Reliability counts for a lot in defense situations.

Now, nobody throw anything at me :grinning:.

Also, getting a Glock 19 is a solid recommendation for a handgun, although I prefer my Ruger LCR .357 for self defense, as it’s almost impossible to jam, and if it misfires, you just pull the trigger again. You don’t get that with a semi-automatic handgun. Again, reliability counts for a lot.


I grew up only with rifles and realize now their impracticality for all but the extreme defensive scenarios, especially since I live in a neighborhood.

I’m looking forward to a Shotgun for Defense class I signed up for, taught by a highly recommended police instructor. I hope this Ohio class doesn’t get cancelled.

I was planning on getting a Shockwave, one of those shoulder-stock-less not-a-shotgun-shotguns mentioned above. But the instructor said shoulder stocks are required for the class. I bought a reliable semi-auto and will reconsider a Shockwave-style firearm after hopefully experiencing the class.

A 9mm carbine looks like a great tool to have. I’m planning on choosing a 9mm handgun and then a carbine to share ammo and magazines. This time I’m starting with a three-day course on handguns, much more substantial than the mere CCW classes I’ve taken in the past. CCW classes have yet to give me enough confidence to carry in public. I’m glad this class allows me to borrow their guns, so I can choose my own afterward.


I think you’ll find that the lack of shoulder stock makes a 12 gauge pretty unmanageable, and it can become more of a danger to the user than a help.

I’d file the Shockwave under the category of one of those things that only has a market demand because of Hollywood; not because there’s a practical value.

You might consider that an 18.5” pump shotgun with a stock is still pretty storable, while being a lot easier to shoot than a Shockwave. I actually have a 20” cylinder bore, 8 shot tube Mossberg Maverick not because I need the capacity, but solely because the added muzzle weight drastically improves recoil control.

Just be careful. I think it’s wise that you’re waiting to buy before that class. :slight_smile:


Do you (or anyone else on here) have any advice on buying a shotgun? I’m looking into a Remington 870 or Mossberg 500 series but all stores everywhere are completely sold out at the moment.

I took a turn with a Mossberg Shockwave, and I found it more than a handful. I could not hold on to the forend when I fired it. Aiming it was a challenge to say the least. I wouldn’t tell someone not to get a Shockwave, but it’s either a novelty item or you’re going to need to do a lot of training with it before you bet your life on it.

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