This idea came about when my friend Ed began to consider all the rifles and handguns that were being kept for home defence by his neighbours. While he was well aware that firearms were sometimes needed, he was also aware that the ammunition fired from rifled arms could penetrate several walls, endangering the user's family and neighbours. The main aim for this page is to encourage those who keep firearms for defence in a city to select shotguns rather than rifled arms. If you read no further but consider this, this page has done it's job. For Home defence in a city, the shotgun is the best choice. A loading of no 1 or 2 buckshot will inflict highly effective wounds at the ranges needed, but is less likely to penetrate walls or carry a great distance. You also have the option of loading a less lethal round for the first shot -salt, rubber slug or shot and teargas cloud are all possibilities. The shotgun chosen need not be a 12 bore -for the ranges we are considering a 16 or 20 bore is adequate, if not to be preferred. You may be able to shoot a 12, but your wife or daughter may have to use the weapon should you not be home.
No. of Pellets
2 ¾" Shell
No. of Pellets
No. 3 buck
The above table illustrates that some very effective loads are available in 20 gauge. Federal offers a 3" round with 18 No.2 pellets, Remington a 2 ¾" with 20 No.3 pellets and Winchester a 3" with 24 No.3 pellets. This article has the interesting information that at 10m(33ft) range the shot from a 20 gauge weapon has greater penetration than a 12 gauge. Put simply, the shot from a 20 hits in a tighter mass.
It occurred to Ed that many people that would keep a gun for home defence would not be that familiar with weapons, and would probably not put in the hours of practice need to make the operation of the weapon second nature. Add to this that the operator could be inexperienced, half asleep, frightened, hurried and possibly in the dark, and you'll agree there is a good case to make the Home defence shotgun's operation as simple as possible. Ed's suggestion was to eliminate all manual safeties and give the weapon a double action trigger mechanism.
Several additional features arose through discussion:-
A torch fitted to the fore-end might prove useful, and could act as an aiming aid. Ed was in favour of a bead as a sight, but in the interests of making things as obvious as possible I suggested a ring sight with crosshairs. The glass of such a sight could be tinted yellow to reduce blue and UV light, improving night vision. Highlighting the cross hairs on the shooter's side with tritium was also possible. The form of stock was considered at length, but the best option seems to be a conventional stock that can have the butt section detached to leave a plow-handle pistol grip. The adoption of a double action mechanism meant a specially designed home defence weapon. Ed's initial suggestion for the form this should take was surprising, but his logic can't be faulted. He was in favour of a four barrelled break open design.
Since this is not a field weapon, the weight of the barrels is not a problem (and recent advances in barrel materials may make the weapon surprisingly light). The operation of the break open is obvious to the novice and the status (loaded or unloaded) can be instantly ascertained. Unlike a weapon with a tube mag, loading can be done rapidly. For safety, Ed assumes the gun is stored unloaded with the ammo hidden nearby and loaded when needed. It could also be stored loaded but broken, depending on the presence of children. Some form of speedloader or clip would be easy to produce. There's a good case for making the weapon clip loading, to prevent an enterprising six year old loading it with loose ammo. My first suggestion on this was to make a six barrelled 20 bore version. This would produce a weapon with a hint of blunderbuss and a lot of Col.Thomas Thornton's volley guns. Definitely something intimidating to stare down the muzzles of.
Two alternate forms suggested themselves.
The first was an autoloader with a box mag and a magazine safety. This could be safely stored chamber loaded with the mag hidden nearby. This is not as compact as the above design, but could use many parts that are common to a "conventional" (non-double action) shotgun. The Saiga 20 would be a good basis for a home defence shotgun.Current price for Saiga 20s in the US seems to be $300-400.
The second alternate form was a revolving shotgun. Some existing models may have double action triggers already. For safety a design that can be quickly loaded by speedloader, clip or ejectable cylinder is desired.
To summarise - The shotgun is a preferable weapon for urban home defence, being more effective and safer. A shotgun with a double action trigger and no manual safeties would be desirable for inexperienced users. One of the forms of shotgun described above would provide simple operation and safe storage.
For an article on shotgun loads for home defence look here
Additional idea. An anodised aluminium cup discharger of about 43mm calibre could be fitted to the muzzle of the single barrelled home shotguns. Similar devices already exist for launching smoke rounds from 12 bores, and these do not interfere with the weapon's ability to fire normal ammunition. This cup discharger would be either smooth bore or rifled. Experiments will determine if rifling offers a practical advantage. This muzzle attachment will be loaded with a golf ball wrapped in a cloth patch, and the breech loaded with a blank shell. This device offers the shooter the option of first attempting to subdue an intruder with less-lethal force before resorting to buckshot. As well as golf balls the device could also launch beanbag "stun" rounds. It may be possible to propel the projectile with an OC-cloud round instead of a blank.
The sound of a pump gun being cocked can be very intimidating. There may be merit in adding a device that can make this noise even on weapons that use another mechanism.
A mobile phone is another useful "Home Defense Weapon". It allows you to call for help without needing to reach a land-line.
Home defence assault pistol
This is an old idea that has been superseded by that of the Home defence shotgun. Many of the concepts described can be applied to that weapon also, so I'll reproduce the old text here:- Was thinking on the subject of home defence guns. Should be easy for all the family to operate except children and intruders. Since concealment and weight isn't a factor I though of assault pistols - easier to shoot than a pistol but more manoeuvrable than a long arm. The greater weigh also means less vibration damage to integral flashlights or lasers. A long barrel will reduce blast and flash in a confined space and a well designed flash hinder will also reduce felt recoil. A DAO mechanism is preferred for simple operation by those unfamiliar with guns and a magazine safety for those that hide the mag separate from the gun. The Bushman IDW has two magazine stops. One holds the mag in the well, but the gun can't fire till the mag is pushed into the second stop. An idea that occurred to me the other day was an assault revolver for home defence. The first chamber of a revolver can be loaded with a low pressure blank that will just frighten a child that manages to fire the weapon. I'm thinking of a 10 shot version of the Italian Mateda "Pistolver". This had reduced muzzle flip and turning in the hand, but was long and heavy, which is a small penalty on a assault pistol. For extra safety the cylinder could be removable for hiding. There'd need to be some mechanism to ensure the blank chamber was always the first fired, but I'm sure something could be designed into the thing. Other ideas for a Home Defence Assault pistol is a grip safety that does not protrude unless the gun is ready to fire, a built in flashlight with an aiming dot and illuminated (LED) sights. The revolver would be better suited to low velocity plastic ammo suited to indoor shooting.
Although a shotgun may be your primary home defence arm, you may still make use of pistols. For defensive purposes, the best handguns are large bore weapons such as .45ACP, .45 Long Colt and .44 Spl. .44 Magnum may produce too much penetration so it may be prudent to use 44 Spl for Home Defence in .44 magnum revolvers. Some shooters use .38 Spl in their .357s for the same reason. You may own medium bore pistols for other purposes such as race-guns or hunting, and wish them to serve also serve in a defensive role when indoors. Loads suitable for target shooting or long range hunting may not be ideal for close range defence, so you'll need "home-loads".
Should it be necessary to shoot an intruder, we want a round with a good level of stopping power for its calibre. For an automatic that means JHP or JSP rounds. Revolvers can be loaded with more effective soft lead loads, or efficient rounds such as reversed Hollow-base Wadcutters. Hollow points should be treated with vaseline. We also don't want the round to penetrate interior walls and endanger family and neighbours.
Generally for self-defence or combat applications I advocate heavy-weight bullets of at least 200gr. For home-defence their range and penetration may not be desireable. Unless you live in a mansion, shooting range will only be a few metres. This suggests the use of lightweight high velocity bullets that give a very high terminal energy at such close ranges. For conventional bullets this means weights in the region of 110-125gr in 38/357/9mm, 135gr in .40/10mm and 180-200gr in 44/45. Many rounds of this weight are used by police, and seem to be effective, at least at the ranges we are considering. What I don't have is data about their tendencies in penetrating interior walls. The only information of this type that I have found on-line so far has been for high penetration rounds such as the 147gr 9mm or 180gr .40, which not surprisingly are very good at passing through walls.
The requirements stated above also suggest the possibility of using less conventional ammo such as frangible ammo or pre-fragmented rounds (PFR). Most well known of these are Glaser Safety Slugs. There seem to be mixed reports on how effective these are, even at the close ranges that should favour very light high velocity rounds. The IWBA site shows a gelatin penetration of only 5" (12cm) from a .357 at an unspecified range. Reports from actual use sometimes mention very shallow wounding.
It seems to be a matter of dogma with many IWBA writers that energy has no contribution unless it causes damage. Energy resulting in a wave of displacement passing through plexi of the periferal nervous system may have a stunning effect, but this is not as a relieable mechanism of incapacitation as physical damage to the CNS or damage that results in a drop in blood pressure. No mention is made of the Glaser's performance against interior walls, but these rounds are apparently used by Sky Marshalls. These rounds are usually much lighter than conventional ammo, which accounts for their high muzzle velocities and energy. In some automatics firing such light rounds may possibly cause problems with the weapon cycling.
Typical Glaser Rounds and their Muzzle Velocities.
An alternative to Glasers are Magsafe, which are claimed to use a larger size of pellet to produce deeper tissue penetration. Magsafe claim 10-13" for their rounds compared to 5" for Glaser Silver. The latter is the same penetration quoted for No6 birdshot fired from a shotgun. The "SWAT" range of Magsafe ammo is claimed to produce little or no penetration of interior walls. The IWBA review of these rounds seems to confirm this. What worries me about the Magsafe is the makers claim that they did well in the "Strasbourg Goat Trials." Many believe these to be a hoax, and even if they are not, Goats are not large enough to be analogues for adult humans.
Magsafe "SWAT" Rounds and their Muzzle Velocities.
Magsafe do offer .45 Long Colt rounds, but not in their SWAT range.
Rounds like the Glaser and Magsafe were designed to produce a very rapid dumping of their energy into the target. We now know that causing physical damage is a more relieable mechanism of incapacitation. The original Glaser "Blue" use No.12 birdshot of 0.05" diameter. Glaser "Silver" use No.6 of 0.11" and Magsafe use No. 2 or 3 of 0.14" or 0.15" . I believe an even more effective round can be made if even larger pellets were used, such as 0.18" diameter BBs or 0.19" BBBs. I estimate that a 38/9mm round of approximately 80gr would hold 7 to 9 pellets, while a 145gr 44/45 would hold 14 to 16. These pellets would create larger wound tracts, increasing physical damage. The pellets might need a binding agent to keep the pellets in a tighter mass. Something water-soluble such as toffee occurs to me.
.44 magnum, .44 Spl, 9mm Luger, .357 magnum and .38 Special revolvers and .45 Automatics can be found with "snake loads."
These are usually loaded with No.9 to No.11 shot which is too small for home defence. Many .45 Colt derringers can chamber .410 shotshells, and some shotshells will also work in revolvers of this chambering. .45ACP revolvers can use shotshells made from .30-06/.308 brass. Loaded with several balls of buckshot these may be a viable alternate close range load. The Thunder 5 Revolver is designed to use 3" .410 Shotshells or .45 Colt rounds.
There is an obvious requirement for pistol ammunition designed especially for home defence. More information is needed on close range terminal effects and performance against interior structural materials.