The Three Gun Battery for Self-Defense

Despite the title, this post has nothing to do with 3-gun competition… Instead, this post is going to be my thoughts on the guns that you NEED for self-defense. Now, if you want something else and can easily afford it, then go buy it! I’m not addressing those purchases here. Rather, this post is intended for the new gun owner or perhaps a gun owner that is reevaluating priorities.

So what do you NEED in your personal armory? This is obviously very dependent on your individual situation and the question always provides good fodder for discussion on forums and podcasts. I’m going to suggest three guns as a minimum, ranked in order of priority of purchase. Your own list may be different. While I believe strongly in what I have written below, your own priorities should drive your choices. No matter what you choose, I suggest thinking seriously about every firearm purchase. Guns are expensive tools that can last a lifetime, and their purchase deserves due deliberation. Here are my suggestions for a minimal three gun battery:

  1. First, buy a 9mm handgun suitable for self-defense and training purposes. (If you need guidance here, check out this article on choosing a handgun.) The handgun is equally suited for both concealed carry outside of the home as well as defense in the home. Further, if you ever need to “bug out” due to natural disaster or other unsafe conditions, the handgun is quickly and easily carried and concealable. Ideally, you will already be familiar with carrying the pistol on your person and will store it secured in a condition of readiness when it’s not in your holster. In short, much like a cellphone, flashlight, or pocket knife, it should be part of your everyday carry (EDC). If you can afford only one gun, this one should be it, if for no other reason than its versatility in a wide range of defensive situations and scenarios. I suggest 9mm since the ammunition is both inexpensive and effective. If I were pressed to recommend a specific gun, I would advise the purchase of a Glock 19, although there are many other good choices.

    Glock 19
    A Glock 19…
  1. Second, buy an AR-15 rifle or carbine. This purchase is a bit harder to justify, but I still think it’s vitally important. A rifle allows you to defend your environment as far as you can see and should allow you to achieve firepower superiority in violent confrontations that exceed the typical. The rifle allows you to easily engage targets that are beyond the effective range of your handgun, or depending on ammunition selection, targets that are behind barriers. While handgun wounds are rarely fatal, the terminal ballistics of rifle ammunition are often far more definitive. I suggest the AR-15 because it is the civilian legal version of the weapon in common usage with military and law enforcement in the United States and as such is enormously popular, with widespread ammunition availability and virtually unlimited aftermarket support from numerous manufacturers. Ammunition selections range from lightweight bullets intended for varmint hunting to heavier projectiles designed for long range performance or barrier penetration. The ubiquitous 55 grain bullet is excellent for home defense in that it will generally either fragment in tissue or be stopped by conventional drywall construction, thereby reducing the risk of injury to innocents. If needed, the AR-15 can be pressed into hunting duty in dire situations, and it is especially suited for defensive use in times of widespread civil unrest. Add an optic, sling, and light, and you will have a formidable weapon. Make no mistake, while I describe the rifle as a defensive tool here, it is primarily an offensive weapon and is thus the next logical expansion of your personal armory.

    Stag AR-15
    Stag Arms AR-15…
  1. Third, buy a rifle or pistol chambered in .22 long rifle. The .22 is ideal for teaching young or inexperienced shooters, offers economical practice and training options, and is suitable for small game hunting. In my opinion, the best .22 firearm would be a clone of one of the two firearms already acquired. For example, I have an AR-15 and a S&W M&P 15-22. The latter is virtually identical to the former in terms of size and manual of arms. Or you might choose a pistol chambered in .22 that is otherwise similar or identical to your concealed carry choice. While .22 supply has not kept up with demand recently, I still think that the diminutive caliber is a viable and appropriate option. Also, guns chambered in .22 are often more affordable than larger caliber weapons.

    A S&W M&P 15-22 next to a similar AR-15…

I have deliberately focused on a battery of weapons tailored to self-defense and survival needs in my selections above. This post isn’t about weapons for big game hunting or competition, it’s about guns for defense of yourself, your family, and your home.

No doubt, some will argue for the inclusion of a shotgun in the above battery, but I feel that the options listed are more user friendly and applicable to a greater range of situations. The shotgun, as a defensive tool, is really more of a niche weapon. Perhaps it is ideal as a singular home defense weapon, but my concept of self-defense extends far beyond the home. While the shotgun does boast impressive power, it makes for a poor rifle when engagements involve distance or the need for precision.


Once your budget allows for further purchases beyond the three gun battery, rather than diversifying your armory, I’m going to suggest a different tactic. Buy ammunition and magazines for the guns you already own. Ideally, I think you should have 1000 rounds per caliber and 10 magazines per gun. This allows you to practice and train at your leisure, and ensures your ability to continue to train and fight when ammunition availability is compromised by political or societal crisis. Anyone who has sought out ammunition during gun control scares or at times of civil unrest or urban rioting can understand the comfort that a stash of ammunition can provide.

Wal-Mart shelf during the Baltimore riots...
Wal-Mart shelf during the recent Baltimore riots…

Only after you’re squared away with ammunition and support gear, and again instead of diversifying your armory, I think your next firearm purchase should be a duplicate of something you already own. Truly, two is one and one is none. Perhaps this concept will be expanded on in a future blog post, but suffice it to say, having a backup is a good thing for many reasons!

One is none, two is one!
One is none, two is one!

To conclude, these are just my thoughts on a popular and often contentious subject of debate in the firearms world… I hope I’ve inspired some consideration of the topic and provided some valuable information. As always, choose wisely, because your life may depend on your choice someday!

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