The Best Calibers for Different Home Defense Firearms

Once you've decided on a home defense firearm platform, you have to choose a caliber.

When it comes to choosing a home defense firearm, there are a lot of effective options. One of the most popular self-defense firearms for the home is the shotgun. They come in a range of sizes and many models offer easy accessorizing.

People who live in apartments often opt for a handgun as their primary home defense gun, often the same gun they use for concealed carry for an efficient combo.

Still, others prefer a rifle, usually a carbine or a pistol caliber carbine as a home defense weapon. It's up to the individual gun owner, but once they decide on the platform, they then have to decide on a caliber.

Here are some things to consider, whether you use a handgun, carbine, or shotgun for home defense, and recommendations for the best calibers for each.


Calibers For Home Defense

The most popular defensive load for a shotgun is a 12 gauge loaded with 00 buckshot to #4 buckshot, usually in a 2.75" shell.

In home defense scenarios, there's no need for 3-inch magnum shells, which just add recoil and would be overpowered, and slugs will almost certainly over-penetrate at close range.

The best choice for a 12-gauge shotgun is a load designed for personal defense, like Federal's new Force X2 shells. Each round holds nine copper-plated 00 FX2 buckshot pellets that are specially engineered to split into two equal-size pieces on impact, creating up to 18 separate wound channels. That improves the transfer of energy from the payload to the target, and minimizes over-penetration. After all, drywall isn't great at stopping most projectiles.

The X2 is also loaded for less recoil for easier follow-up shots on target and better accuracy in a self-defense situation. In a semi-automatic shotgun, that's a devastating amount of firepower, especially important because shot placement can be difficult in high stress situations.

Of course, a 20-gauge shotgun is also a viable home defense gun that is a bit more manageable for smaller-framed people, which is important to consider if you have family members who may need to defend themselves with this shotgun.

Some would argue that a 12 gauge, even though it has always been the standard for law enforcement, is overkill for home defense. What's certainly true is that a 20 gauge offers plenty of stopping power against bad guys. There are also plenty of personal defense ammo options in 20 gauge on the market.


Calibers For Home Defense

If you choose a handgun for home defense, be sure to practice with it a lot. A handgun requires more training and more skill for adept shooting, especially when under pressure. However, you can't beat them for ease of use for personal protection in close quarters, like a house or apartment.

Many find the magazine capacity offered by 9mm pistols to be quite attractive for defense, and that's not a bad way to think about it. The more handgun rounds at your disposal, the better.

Modern personal defense hollow point 9mm Luger ammunition is extremely effective and also offers very little recoil in a full size 9mm handgun. Federal's Personal Defense HST ammo with 147 grain bullets are a very popular choice in 9mm and an excellent self-defense round.

Of course, barrel length, weight, and the size of the magazine don't really matter if a handgun is a dedicated home defense gun, because you won't have to carry it or conceal it. This means that, if you are more comfortable with a handgun chambered in .45 ACP or 10mm and can shoot it well, then it's certainly an option worth considering along with a reliable extended magazine.

Additionally, while they have a limited capacity, revolvers are also an option for home defense and many great self-defense loads are available in .357 Magnum, a powerful round that also doesn't kick too hard in a full size wheelgun.


Calibers For Home Defense

A home defense firearm that is gaining popularity is an old-school long gun, the lever action. A lever action carbine is easy to use and intuitive—and while a .44 Magnum handgun requires a certain amount of experience to be entirely comfortable and accurate, a .44 Magnum or .357 Magnum loaded with hollow points becomes a devastating defensive weapon with very manageable recoil.

And with modern ammo like Hornady's LeverEvolution or Federal's HammerDown cartridges, lever guns are more fearsome than ever. The only downside is that lever guns are slow and a little difficult to reload, and reloading speed should definitely be considered for any defensive gun.

But there are plenty magazine-fed semi-auto carbines out there, and one of the most effective rifle calibers is the ubiquitous .223 rem/5.56 NATO. Home defense ammo in .223 offer bullets and powder loads that help mitigate over-penetration, and firearms can be found in almost every configuration and size a person could want or need, including tried and true AR-15 variants.

The bigger and slower .300 AAC Blackout is also worth a look, as it offers low recoil and plenty of power, while sub-sonic loads help minimize over-penetration and recoil.

All that being said, if all you have at hand is an old hunting rifle in .30-30, it will sure get the job done, and it's a whole lot better than nothing. The best caliber is one that is effective on the target and that you can shoot well and confidently.