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Matt Landfair Discusses Weapons For Home Defense

We’d like to welcome Matt Landfair, Veteran Police officer, firearms/tactics instructor and founder of It’s not the kind of thing you’d generally see on SSD, but we thought it was worth a share.

The ability to protect ourselves and our loved ones at home is of paramount importance. With this in mind it is best to understand the options available to maximize your effectiveness if you need to use deadly force in defense of yourself and your family while at home.

Before delving into weapons, it is important to understand the need to have a plan already established and practiced before you need to use it. If you hear that bump in the night, or you hear an obvious entry into your home or hear people that don’t belong – do you call 911, bunker down with a weapon and lock yourself in? Do you arm yourself and investigate? If family members (specifically children) are in other rooms, can you communicate with them or reach them without putting yourself or them in potential danger?

Whether you bunker down or investigate you need the ability to identify potential threats. Optimally we all have night vision goggles with infrared lasers mounted to our weapons so we don’t give away our positions, but not many have that luxury. For the rest of us normal people, we need light. That light can be activated by a wall switch, a handheld flashlight, or a weapon mounted light. Don’t depend on any one option of these. Have backups in place because you might not be able to reach a switch, power might be out, batteries might be dead in the flashlight, etc.

Half of our life (roughly) is in the dark. Sure we might be asleep during most of that darkness, but we know it isn’t scary. We also know the layout of our homes, minus the Legos and toys on the floor that reposition themselves frequently. We know where people would be during the day or in the middle of the night. This knowledge helps us as the protector of our family.

We still need to act safely in defense of our home and loved ones when we handle weapons.

An unloaded weapon is of no use in this situation, treat it accordingly. If you are afraid of handling loaded weapons, or you prefer to keep the chamber unloaded during your investigation of the potential intruder, you should not be responding to anything with firearms. Please get professional training as soon as possible to help you become more comfortable with a loaded weapon.
Never point your firearm at anything you are not willing to kill/destroy/pay for – this also applies to people on the other side of walls. Point the weapon at the bad guy, not an innocent or your kids/spouse.

Always be sure of your target including thing in front and behind it. This is an important aspect of the rules. You need to be able to identify the intruder is a threat and not your child who got up for a glass of water, or your teen who is trying to sneak back into/out of the house late at night. This is where light is important. Again, we know the layout of our homes, we know where people might be, take that into consideration if you need to fire indoors. Be aware of the X, Y, and Z axis of where your projectiles might go.

Triggers are not touched until you are on target and you have made the conscious decision to fire. At this point you have positively identified this is a threat using light and you will press the trigger to stop the threat OR you have positively identified the person not to be a threat – you do not touch the trigger.


This is not a wall you want rounds entering.

Now that the safety rules are out of the way, you need to go through each rule while you do a walkthrough of your response to an intruder within your home. This is the time to think about those walls that can’t be a backstop to your weapon’s fire. Know the longest open distance within your home. This is a distance that you should be able to engage targets and achieve intended accurate hits. Does your flashlight or weapon light illuminate that far end of the house sufficiently to determine if there is a threat – would you be able to see what is in their hands? If you are using a shotgun, do you know what type of pattern will be produced with the shotgun shells you use for home defense at that distance? Don’t only train for this distance; the ability to shoot further and closer are important. Don’t set yourself up for failure by assuming there will only be one intruder or home invasions only occur at night.

I mentioned the need for training. To maximize your effectiveness and efficiency with your task as home defender, you need training. You need training with the weapon you are going to use. Truly this is unavoidable, but it is also rewarding and enjoyable. Instruction from a professional is the responsible step as a firearm user.

Now is the time for the information that can either educate or upset people. If you find you are upset by any of this information please assess it, check it, and go test it. People who are emotionally attached to this stuff have a difficult time accepting fact.

There are three possible factors that stop the bad guy- psychological (giving up – which we have no control over), bleed out (which does not immediately stop the fight), and a shot to the brain (instant stoppage). Those are the only ways to stop the bad guy- no kinetic or hydrostatic or magic. I forgot to mention, warning shots do not stop the bad guys – don’t do it.

Our weapon choices are really limited to three main categories: pistol, shotguns, and carbines/rifles.

Photo courtesy of Dr Gary Roberts.

Pistols can provide excellent maneuverability, decent capacity, but are the worst performers of the three. Modern ballistic ammunition designs provide wound channels that are indistinguishable between 9mm, .40, and .45 acp. I will repeat that – Modern pistol ammunition design places 9mm, .40, and .45 acp all roughly within the same performance of each other. With that in mind- 9mm allows for greater capacity (gun dependent) and less recoil which means getting back on target for faster follow up shots.

Modern effective defensive pistol ammunition provides a combination of penetration and expansion while retaining mass; that combination with shot placement provides the desired results though narrow permanent wound channels. If pistol ammo is without mass to begin with or the bullet comes apart causing a smaller main projectile the penetration suffers. Frangible ammunition also falls within this category as less effective. Very light and fast pistol ammunition has been introduced many times to the market and it still does not replace modern defensive/duty hollow point ammunition. If you are wondering what specific ammunition to use, contact your local police department and find out what they issue. Ballistically handgun projectiles tend to travel through multiple residential walls fairly easily, causing them to be dangerous for use indoors for other people on the other side of those walls.

Shotguns are a favorite for many for home defense. The size of a shotgun does not stop it from being able to be used, but some configurations with longer barrels cause issues in confined spaces. Shotguns can have a slower follow up shot compared to the other two options as well as a limited capacity and very slow reloading. Unfortunately shotguns are a more complicated weapon to use under stress without training compared to the other two options. They are not a simple point and shoot weapon – you still need to use the sights. The sound of just racking a shotgun will not stop a determined attacker – don’t do it. Murphy’s Law says you will face the determined attacker.

Ammunition choices for shotguns provide many options. Duty ammunition fired at a single attacker can be devastating causing wider permanent wound channels (depending on distance to target). Bird shot is a bad idea due to lack of penetration – it will not stop a determined attacker just like the pistol ammo without mass. There are studies that place #4 shot all the way to slugs as effective to stop an attacker. Ammunition deemed to be effective to stop determined assailants also has the danger of penetrating multiple residential walls making it a less than optimal choice for home defense.

For this next section, I am going to use a 16” AR15 as the example for carbines. Depending on where you live, you can have reliable magazines from X capacity to Magpul’s new D60 (I said reliable). Being semiautomatic no additional actions are needed to fire once it is loaded and the safety is switched off. AR15’s have lower recoil than other weapons which allows for faster follow up shots. The design of the weapon allows for easy use within confined areas as well as increased accuracy. AR15’s are the best option for use against multiple assailants.

Depending on your choice of ammunition, you can have that combination of sufficient penetration and permanent wound channels on aggressors without excessive over penetrating residential walls like pistols and shotguns will do if you miss. That training will reduce the chance of you missing by the way.


So here is the score:

Pistols are smallest, have less death power and more penetration of walls.

Shotguns can be devastating on a single target with duty ammunition; they are slow with limited capacity and can penetrate walls.

Carbines have most capacity, most accurate, most stable shooting platform (less recoil), provide desired ballistic results, less penetration than other options with walls.

No matter what you choose, go with a proven option. Don’t settle on junk when your family may depend on you and the performance of that weapon. Store your weapons so they are accessible to you without being a danger to those that shouldn’t have access. Get training. Don’t buy another gun – get better with what you have. Follow those firearms rules as outlined – be sure of your target, identify the target is indeed a threat.

This article was originally published on and reprinted with permission from Matt who retains the Copyright to his work.

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40 Responses to “Matt Landfair Discusses Weapons For Home Defense”

  1. Eddie says:

    Never thought i’d see the day Ponies are on SSD, time to burn this site down.

  2. jellydonut says:

    ‘your teen who is trying to sneak back into/out of the house late at night’

    Which is why, if you intend to go around searching your house with a gun when you hear a noise, you should be an open parent and talk to your teenagers and realize that they’re going to do stuff, not try to contain them within your bubble, because that doesn’t work. If they’re going to a party or whatever, you’re better off knowing and better off if they can actually tell you when they are leaving and not need to sneak back in when they come home.

    • Ben says:

      And better off not being a retard and bumbling around your own house at night, especially with armed parents. But whatever.

      • Mike says:

        If a parent is going to shoot before identifying their target, then it sounds like their the retarded ones. But whatever.

        • Ben says:

          Sorry, I was not clear enough in my comment. What I meant was, the teen has no business doing such at night, without the parent knowing when the teen is coming home. I’ll try to be more clear next time.

          • jellydonut says:

            It’s a teenager, they’re going to do dumb shit, and you can’t expect anything else. It’s your teen. You’re going to say ‘oh well, shouldn’t have been doing that’ after you shoot him or her?

    • mark says:

      This really is a very important point, there have been tragedies like this over the years.

      It would be good to establish a basic countersign/ safe word with family members similar to the “flash/ thunder” phrase used in WW2.

    • balais says:

      That is why weapons lights are critical for a home defense gun, not just a “cool to have” and “tacticool” thing. Given the advancements in weapons lights today, there is no excuse not to have one.

  3. T says:

    Never point your gun at something you don’t want to pay for? With all due respect to the author, with whom I agree and have now learned from, that’s most likely an unavoidable option, especially if one’s response is to confront the threat. And if there’s ever an intruder in my house, I’m not going to be thinking about my new TV or what have you.

    Other thing to consider is lines of fire and windows, because stray bullets outside can cause a whole host of new issues.

  4. seans says:

    Done a lot of live tissue testing. Surprisingly the best results we have seen so far with 9mm has been with the Liberty 9mm that is 50grain and pulls 2000FPS . Wouldn’t recommend it yet without a lot more testing, and generally state go with traditional hollow points, but don’t rule out a hole class of ammo cause it didn’t do well in the past.

  5. Dellis says:

    “Modern pistol ammunition design places 9mm, .40, and .45 acp all roughly within the same performance of each other. With that in mind- 9mm allows for greater capacity (gun dependent) and less recoil which means getting back on target for faster follow up shots.” – –

    The above statement I believe and preach, which has caused more arguments among my fellow shooters than anything else. Ever hear it like this..”Well sure a 9mm is better then having no gun at all, but if you really want to put the bad guy down you’re gonna need the knock down power of the .45!”

    When I disagree and suggest there isn’t much difference ballistically you would think I was a leper. It’s ridiculous.

    Thank you for a great read, very informative.

    • Bushman says:

      Next time you will have that kind of argument, ask your opponents, did they have anything higher than “C” for math and science in high school. It usually explains pretty much.

      • Stefan S. says:

        Bushman…Sounds like an comment a liberal would use. Can’t win an argument go for the personal attack.

        • Bushman says:

          Some science skills are a kind of required to understand ballistics and to make reasonable statements about it. Basically, ballistics is a part of physics.

          There is nothing “personal” in that question, because there is no sense in spending time on discussion, if opponent can’t demonstrate, that he is qualified to discuss this subject. So, there is no “winners” or “losers” in situation, when opponents just don’t know what are they talking about – there shouldn’t be any argument at all.

          And no, experience can’t completely replace scientific understanding, because without science it’s impossible to evaluate impact of every factor on particular result.

          If, from your point of view, questioning someone’s qualification for discussion any subject is a sign of liberal views, I have nothing to add.

          • Erik says:

            Or even more simply put:

            When all the rounds can out up similar numbers, is someone being shot going to know a couple ft/lbs or fps difference, or are they just going to know they’ve been shot and it sucks?

    • Mike D says:

      I hear this crap all the time. Most of it comes from uneducated, non-practicing firearms owners who are mostly just culture fanboys. I hate when they lead newcomers astray with their unbacked claims that .45 ACP is the best round for self defense. I usually try to stay the grey man out in public, but I absolutely have to interject when I hear it around the office. All too often gun owners are keeping other gun owners misinformed. Many thanks to Mr. Landfair for the well thought out and well written article on such a frequently debated topic.

      • balais says:


        You dont like a cartridge that produces more recoil and gives you on average half the capacity of a competitor cartridge that produces similar energy and penetration?

        blasphemy! 😉

      • Backin NOLA says:

        The same ones who profess the .45 as the end all of caliber rounds are the ones that say in the next breath “All a female needs is a .38 revolver”….

        • Bill says:

          And I wonder how I survived carrying a .38 long enough to transition to a 9mm while attending the autopsies of people killed with .22s.before I switched to a ,45 prior to the agency making me carry a .40.

  6. tirod says:

    Two things we need to see considered – first, the concept you actually need to go room to room clearing your own house. Remarkably there is another post on a blog were the instructor has individuals confronting an armed gunman who literally lays on the floor doing nothing, until he raises his gun to fire. In most cases the homeowner is shot dead.

    Can you really defend yourself by entering into a room and getting up close and personal with someone else who also has lethal force? Why can’t you simply back out and call the police? It’s the locker room measuring contest all over again, thinking YOU are better than them. Not a good defensive measure setting yourself up for a lethal force contest.

    Just back out and call the cops.

    Second – nobody talks about lanes of fire. Nice shot of the Pretty Pony décor, but would there be any gunfire thru it anyway? Stand at the beginning of your bedroom hall and then track where gunfire will be coming – and going. You might be firing thru the front doorway into your neighbor’s bay window in their living room. They might be firing past you into the neighbor’s den behind you. Is that what you want?

    How do you prevent them doing that?

    Hunkered down in your safe room, beating down your door, can you fire thru it, or are you limited because the kids bedroom wall is opposite? Are they going to fire thru the door and do you have cover? Can either of you shoot thru the wall and get a hit? Conversations like this aren’t concealed to them – they listen in, even post.

    Maybe you really needed to get out the back door and leave to phone in from the house behind you. If you can get out of your back yard at all. Hopefully it’s not laid out as an open killing field concealed from all your neighbors. It’s ok, tho, after a few days people tend to notice the smell.

    Exaggerated? No really, no more than the whole idea of trying to shoot back against a band of committed felons who’ve mistakenly chosen your house as the guy who robbed their boss and who’s harboring his disaffected girlfriend. Which are the top two reasons for home intrusion.

    So, what are you doing to stop that? Armoring your house the same way the Cartel does, or presenting a Stu and Sally Suburbanite presence? How do intruders assess you as a risk? Nice big “Enter here and Die!” stickers?

    Rhetorical – or questioning the real motives for some of the things we do? Is it just posturing to pump up your ego, or, are you really ready to do the right stuff to survive a lethal gunfight.?

    You have to actually attend one to be a target – should you even buy a ticket at all?

    • 32sbct says:

      Backing out and calling the cops is not much of an an option if the cops are a half hour away. Not everyone lives in a densely populated area. By the time they arrive they will just be documenting what already happened, not stopping an intrusion.

      Based on this article I am seriously looking at a 9 mm AR carbine. It may be the right combination of a shoulder fired weapon but a caliber that is better suited to indoors use then a .223/5.56.

      • T says:

        I’ve seen the 9mm AR platform fail more times than just about any other subgun/SBR/rifle platform… Mostly feed issues. Probably not true of them all, but just a heads up.

      • Rick says:

        Better suited because of what? Increased overpenetration through walls? The 5.56 does very well if you are concerned down range hazards. I’ve had rounds completely come apart after a few layers of drywall.

      • Dependable duty pistol ammo has some of the most over penetration issues (no matter if it is fire via handgun or carbine) of the options I highlighted for use within typical US made residential walls.

        Read the article. There are 5.56 ammo offerings that will have the least over penetration in residential walls and yet provided desired results in stopping the bad guy.

      • Bill says:

        Sure it is – gather the spouse and spouselings, get them in the room with you and shove the dresser on to the door. Cops love to drive stupid fast, and those of us who actually get there without crashing out will shove Peanut the Malinois through the forced window. When the screaming stops (the barking won’t) and you hear us laughing at the guy, you’ll know it’s been taken care of.

        I’m sort of being not facetious. We may not get there in time to save your kid’s Xbox, but I’d rather investigate that than a killing, of any sort. And realistically, look up the number of rural home invasions. Our country hoods may be stupid, but they know every house has at least 4 guns in it, which is why we investigate a zillion thefts from barns, commercial establishments, and storage facilities, and extremely few burglaries in which someone is home. They are smart enough to wait till no one is home, then break in and steal all the zooty SHTF/anti-zombie/counter-home-invasion guns.

    • straps says:

      The article is more about tool (platform and ammo, touching on application) than technique.

      Whether you should move toward trouble varies by the layout of your home, the size, composition and distribution of your family, public safety response time, the laws of your state and finally, the conditions an intruder (sober burglar, drunk robber, tweaking home invader) has imposed upon you.

      In most cases, you’re better off taking a defensive posture. In some cases, gaining the optimal advantage could actually entail movement. In ALL cases, it’s CRITICAL to consider (then reconsider, then engage someone knowledgeable) the tools and techniques.

  7. Dellis says:

    I personally think too many people go to fast to….”I need to arm myself!”

    While I would agree with that for the most part these are the same people who leave doors open, garage open, car running in driveway or car locked in driveway with garage remote inside, but hey, they got a gun so it’s all good!

    I am perhaps over zealous of locking our place up even when home. Before bed it’s a ritual to check dooors and windows, turn off power to garage remote, etc. No obstructing bushes by doors or windows. We have motion lights and garden lights on. We have 3 large dogs that alert us everytime someone is approaching..yes it can be annoying as all hell when they bark at a dumb cat crossing the yard but I still check each time. So I have, as silly as it may sound, a “layered” defense system, at least in terms of alerting us there is someone around the house.

    Next up will be a motte…with crocs or lava, ya, hot molten lava!

  8. Darrel says:

    I am nearing my end of service on Active Duty right now, which is in reality not much different from living with your parents. I am starting to have to think about things like where I am going to live, how much of my crap I’m going to have in my flat, what kind of job and financial situation I’m going to be in, etc. It’s a lot to think about.

    Articles like these really make me think about defending my property seriously, something I haven’t really had to consider yet. It would be nice to live in a low crime area without filthy degenerates trying to break into my residence, but sometimes that’s not always an option. I feel like if I had a family, I would be exponentially more serious about home defense as well. I would not normally read articles like this without them being presented to me like they are here, on a site that I already use.

    I might be taking the wrong message from this article, but it seems like a suppressed, short barreled AR with visible lightings attachments and good maneuverability is the best tool for the job? My brain can’t think of anything other than a MK18, I must be obsessed.