Top 5 Inexpensive Guns for Home Defense

These are my picks, based on effectiveness, cost, and reliability. If you disagree with any of my picks, feel free to opine to the contrary in the comments section.

1. Hi-Point Pistol Caliber Carbine in .40 S&W

The Hi-Point 4095TS is the quintessential low-cost high-quality carbine. My pick is in .40 caliber. I know the 9mm ammo is a little less expensive, and perhaps a little more available. But from a long gun, I feel the .40 makes good use of its heavier bullets and greater powder capacity. For example, Buffalo Bore has a number of powerful loadings in +P .40SW, such as the 155 grain Jacketed Hollow Point rated at 1,300 fps (582 ft. lbs.) from a 5-inch handgun. At 17.5″, the Hi-Point carbine will easily push that bullet above 1400 fps. That’s plenty of stopping power for home defense.

A pistol caliber carbine has a number of advantages over handguns and over more powerful long guns for self-defense in the home: excellent accuracy, low recoil, little or no flash, and no problem with muzzle blast. A carbine can deliver a quick double tap to the body, or an accurate headshot, from a much greater distance than a semi-auto pistol. And you can’t argue with the extra velocity. If I had to pick only one firearm for home defense, it would be this one. Inexpensive and highly effective.

2. Remington 870 Shotgun in 12 gauge

Speaking of highly effective guns for self-defense in the home, a single blast from a 12 gauge with a full power loading of double-aught buckshot is the definition of effective. There’s a reason no one talks about a “double tap” from a 12 gauge. The second “tap” is not needed.

Federal has a nice loading with 9 pellets of 00 buckshot at a modest 1145 fps. Fiocchi offers 9 pellets of 00 buck at 1325 fps. Hornady gives you only 8 pellets of 00 buck but at 1600 fps. I’m not sure if there is much practical difference between these loadings. One well-placed shot and your assailant can no longer assail. I’d pick the lower velocity option for its lower recoil.

As for the choice of shotgun, I favor the 870 because it is time (and military) tested. You can get a model called “tactical something” with some nice additional features. But even a turkey hunting gun will work fine for defensive purposes. The longer barrel in a hunting shotgun is not so bad. A little slower to come on target, but less muzzle blast and plenty accurate.

3. Smith and Wesson Model M&P15 Sport (AR-15)

Yes, I know that the M&P15 is not the best AR out there. But try to find an AR with the same quality and reliability at a lower price. The MSRP is listed as $739.00 on the SW site (as of this writing). You can easily spend three times that on an AR from any of a dozen other companies. And I’m not sure how much of a difference it will make for home defense. Any AR offers plenty of stopping power in the home.

Yet, as much as I like the venerable black rifle, it’s not my first choice for home defense. It’s a little overpowered, if you have to use it indoors. The blast and noise is excessive in close confines. But if you live in a rural area, and need a home defense firearm that can reach out and touch the BGs at a few hundred yards, an AR is ideal.

Ammo for the .223 rifle is inexpensive and easy to find. Cheap practice ammo is plentiful and, well, very cheap. And top quality ammo is plentiful and not really that expensive.

4. Marlin lever action rifle (1894) in .357 Magnum

I was torn, for this pick, between the .30-30 and the .357 magnum. Like the choice between an AR and a pistol caliber carbine, one is best for outdoor defense, and the other for indoors. The .30-30 offers ample power. A 140 to 160 grain bullet at over 2000 fps is very effective. If you can hunt deer with it, you can also defend yourself well with it. The .30-30 has decent range, especially with the Hornady (poorly named) LEVERevolution FTX ammo, which maxes out at around 300 yards or so.

But the .357 offers less recoil and muzzle blast when fired from a long gun. And for those who are sensitive to noise or recoil, you can use a .38 Special +P loading for accurate, if minimally powerful, self-defense. A lever-action in .357 is more practical for indoors or close quarters scenarios. It’s also effective at over 100 yards outdoors.

As for the choice of gun, I want a Winchester in .357 (and another Winchester in .30-30). But the Marlin much less expensive. Taking into account cost, and accepting a trade-off in quality, my pick is the Marlin 1894. The 1894 Cowboy model is supposed to have higher quality control, since it is designed to be used in Cowboy style shooting competitions. So that might be your best bet.

5. Taurus .357 Magnum Revolver

A revolver in .357 magnum, with a 4 to 6 inch barrel, is a very capable self-defense weapon. Time tested by innumerable police officers, the 125 grain .357 round at over 1300 fps is the definition of one-shot stopping power. And the same firearm that is designed to shoot the .357 can also fire the .38 Special, giving you much less recoil and probably better accuracy.

Which revolver is best in .357? Probably a Smith and Wesson or Ruger. But I’m taking into account cost, so my pick is the Taurus model 66. It offers seven shots of .357 from a six-inch barrel.

Well, those are my top picks for cheap and effective self-defense guns. Add your picks in the comments below.

– Thoreau

13 Responses to Top 5 Inexpensive Guns for Home Defense

  1. Nice choices. Not sure I’d entrust my life to a Taurus…

  2. Remington 870 … very inexpensive … easy to operate and easy to clean … not the best option in tight places, but good none the less … the ruger .357 is another good choice … fairly inexpensive, easy to operate and clean and can use .38 and .357 ammo which is nice when it comes to practicing at range time.

  3. I bought a Taurus Judge – pretty happy with it. Nice pattern with Winchester .410 Supreme Elite PDX1.

  4. If you want to spend less money for a pump shotgun then go with the Mossberg 500…… Its just as good as the Remington 700

  5. Good choices. Many don’t understand how much more oomph pistol calibers produce in carbines. We went with Thureon Defense in 9mm and saw 1430 on the chrono with 124 grain bullets. Great and very accurate carbines but you can’t touch ‘em for what High Point is selling theirs.

  6. I like everything but the Marlin .357 Don’t get me wrong I love marlin lever actions and I love the .357 The problem is that Marlin doesn’t make that rifle in that caliber anymore so the price has gone up considerably. Try the link used in the article. It says that rifle is no longer available!

  7. Don’t forget the S & W Sigma semi auto pistols in 40 cal or 9 mil. They can be bought for $300 or less. Reliable and glock simple.

  8. The Mossberg 500 or 590 is the military proven shotgun. The 870 is a police proven shotgun. Either one is a great choice though I’d prefer the 870 or the 590 over the 500 just for round count.

  9. I appreciate everyone’s comments. I’ve been considering a home defense shotgun for quite a while. Worried about when TSHTF, but also worried when I go shopping about “lonewolf” actors. Still not sure if I should go with shotgun or handgun with CCL. Price is very impt. All my sons are hunters so they can teach me. any advice welcome

    • Talk to your kids and get their input. My suggestion is that you first get a pistol, your CCL, and some training. Next get a shotgun. The pistol can help you protect yourself both inside your home and in public. The shotgun can also but you might get some looks in the checkout line.

  10. Para/Taurus/Rock Armory 1911 with ZombieMax. As good as buckshot in the Remington but without drywall work.

  11. I know several folks who have either the .40 or the 9mm Hi-Point Carbine and love them. While I’ve not fired one, and am not fond of their pistols, many folks are, and they do have a decent reputation for accuracy and reliability IF, kept clean. Since I’ve matured(chronologically), I’m just glad people get what they can afford to get and practice with it. Is there really an “optimum” caliber or carbine for personal defense? Nope, having one in the first place is far more important, than the latest tacti-cool “thing” that is plastered on gun porn covers. The Remington 870 and the Mossberg 590 shotgun variants have proven themselves so well, for so long, it’s hard to see you way to anything else, if you are just starting out. Do, check out local pawn shops and look for “older”(cleaner) versions of shotguns that would work, take the financial savings(if there are any) and buy more ammo to practice with. I feel that ANY lever action is better than nothing, just get a common caliber, .30-30, .357 or .44 magnum, even the .45-70 can be found in abundance most places. The key is to HAVE a firearm you can use and be accurate with.

  12. I have a 870 Wingmaster and have had lots of fun blasting clay pigeons with it. I think the barrel is a little long for home self defense, I also have a Taurus .357 magnum with a 4″ barrel. Inexpensive and a very nice gun. Just bought a 40 cal Glock which will be my primary home defense weapon. I’ve also got a new Colt AR that I’ve yet to fire. I think this makes a nice selection…