Home Defense Overpenetration: Shotgun, Handgun, Rifle

Over-penetration in a home defense situation can cause more harm than the original threat.

If, God forbid, someone should break into your home, you will have a million thoughts racing through your head, and a stress level some people may never feel in their life.

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28 Responses to Home Defense Overpenetration: Shotgun, Handgun, Rifle

  1. Sanders says:

    It is talked about a lot. It is a possibility, to be sure. But, how often does it happen?

  2. Ohio Guy says:

    For the neighbors’ sake, I should change my load. Good article. Thanks Ken.

  3. bobdog says:

    So, uh, if I want to be a safe, responsible gun owner, I should select a home defense round that cannot penetrate two layers of drywall and a sheet of plywood, right?

    Maybe i need to buy a more substantial mobile home.

  4. nurseJT says:

    Meh. My nearest neighbor is half a mile away. Not too worried about this problem in a house lined with bookshelves in most rooms.

    • Wirecutter says:

      I’ve got one neighbor across the road and the two nearest to me on either side are about 1/4 mile away. Plus the exterior of my house is brick.

      • WDS says:

        Exactly what I thought. Brick veneer home too and acreage with lots of trees. Nearest neighbor’s house +/- 100 yds.

  5. Dave says:

    3/8″ drywall is not used to sheath the inside of houses, 1/2″ is. Pretty much renders this test useless.

    • Wirecutter says:

      Not really, how much of a difference is 1/8″ of drywall going to make? Besides, most of the rooms in my house are wood paneling instead of drywall.

      • gamachinist says:

        Second hand experience ( I know the person and house involved, high school friend):
        Gun: Walther P38
        Cartridge: 9mm hollow point.
        Owner tried to clear a jam by field stripping with live round in chamber, requiring the barrel to be pressed rearward, then dropping the hammer.
        Didn’t take care, round went through
        Palm of hand ( made a real mess of that hand, but mostly recovered),
        One paneled wall sheet, one drywall sheet, one shower wall, one shower glass door, two more drywall sheets,one drywall sheet, one outside sheathing ( I don’t know the material), and stopped when it hit the brick outer veneer.
        The house was almost new, built about 1973.

        Drywall makes little difference to a bullet, no matter how thick it is, and plywood not much more.

        • gamachinist says:

          I would like to amend my comments after reading the whole article.
          My comment that drywall makes little difference was based on missed shots.
          I was surprised how many bullets stopped in the gel, or in the first layer of drywall.

      • Dave says:

        He wasn’t testing paneling, and he was building an assembly to mimic modern house construction. He missed it. When testing to publish, it is important to get these things correct. And you would be surprised the difference between 3/8 and 1/2. While 1/8 inch seems minor, that is a 25% difference. That is significant.

        • Wirecutter says:

          We’re talking drywall here, something that you can drive a nail through with one stroke of a tack hammer. 1/8″ isn’t going to make a bit of difference.

          • M. Sage says:

            Exactly. You can fall against the stuff and if you stick a hand or elbow out, put a hole in it. Drywall isn’t very strong.

  6. Backwoods Okie says:

    The best home defense weapon is suppressed. If you have to shoot it’s going to be a good shoot for everyone I know so why involve outsiders that won’t be interested in your best interests. Just need a couple of large trash bags and a place in the country that people dump trash

  7. Chris Mallory says:

    Box o Truth did this a few years ago, more concerned with interior walls than exterior. The only thing they found that would not penetrate 4 1/2″ sheetrock walls 10′ apart was the birdshot.
    The 5.56 they tested did fragment and the fragments were way off trajectory but they were still penetrating. Something to think about if your wife or kids are at the other end of the house.



    • M. Sage says:

      The problem with birdshot is that it’s not suitable for self defense.

      He mentions in the article that old, asinine saw (to his credit he kind of acknowledges how stupid the saying is) of, “you wouldn’t want to get shot by it!” Well, no, but neither would I want to get shot by a Red Ryder BB gun at indoor distances. Doesn’t mean that I’d choose one to defend myself, because someone shooting me with one would only increase my desire to wrap it around their head.

  8. BrassG says:

    #4 buck in a short side-by-side always has been and remains my choice for home defense. It hits like a truck under 25 yards and doesn’t go through walls. Double-ought is overkill. Slugs are ridiculous.

    Second choice is a DA revolver, preferably in a smaller caliber like .38 firing safety slugs.

    I do not use and do not recommend automatics, especially handguns, for home defense. I know it’s all the fashion, but putting an automatic handgun into action is a multi-step process. I have been professionally trained with them and hold expert qualifications in the both the Marine Corps and the Army, and I DO NOT USE ONE for home defense. Which is why you shouldn’t be, either. When you are half-asleep, your heart rate is hitting 150, and you’re fumbling for your glasses while hearing noises on the other side of the bedroom door is NOT the time to be trying to put an auto pistol into action. I don’t care how many times you’ve practiced it in nice calm situations, in a combat situation you need something you can pick, point, and squeeze the trigger and know it will discharge.

    I know a lot of people who think they’re gun badasses and keep automatics next to their beds. They’re idiots. It may cost them their life.

    For all you people talking about “my nearest neighbor is X miles away,” even if you don’t care about your neighbors, what if your grandkids are visiting, soundly asleep in the guest bedroom? You gonna make sure you shoot around them? At 0300, in the dark, with a 150 heart rate, while fumbling for your glasses?

    Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.

    • Wirecutter says:

      I keep both a 1911 and an AR next to my bed. I shoot both regularly and the 1911 is no more difficult to get into action than a DA revolver – in fact, the 1911 is a little easier because it’s a natural pointer. Any revolver I’ve ever shot (and it’s been plenty), not so much.
      The AR is for situations where I have some warning such as noise or one of my dogs barking.
      And we rarely if ever have overnight guests, so I don’t worry about shooting one of them accidentally.

      • Wirecutter says:

        Also I’m not sure what you mean about getting an automatic into action. Many, many automatics nowadays are striker fired with no external safety. Pick it up, point and shoot just like a revolver except instead of 5 or 6 rounds, you have 8 or 17 or whatever your particular gun holds. And with my 1911, swipe the safety down, point and shoot. That’s it.
        Or are you assuming that folks keep an automatic that doesn’t have a round chambered next to their bed? Now that’s foolish.

        • grayman says:

          I was going to say the same thing. I keep my HI-Power locked and loaded, like you WC all I have to do is pick up release safety and point and shoot. If you do not keep chambered all you do when you rack the slide is give the intruder and annoucment that you are coming same with a pump shotgun.

    • M. Sage says:

      Dunno about you, but my pistol is loaded. The only times there’s not a full mag and a round chambered is when I’m doing dry fire practice, swapping out between practice ammo or cleaning it. It’s a P226, so it’s got even fewer steps to get it into action than your coach gun does, since you have to cock hammers. Plus, I’ve got night sights and a light… you? Or if I grab my AR15, the red dot is on (no, the battery isn’t going to die), it’s got a light, and there’s 30 in the mag and 1 in the chamber. Firing grip, swipe the right thumb down and it’s go time.

      “I have been professionally trained with them and hold expert qualifications in the both the Marine Corps and the Army, and I DO NOT USE ONE for home defense.”

      OK, so two things: First, was this professional training in the Army and/or Marine Corps? And second, Army and USMC standards for use of a pistol are really pretty low.

  9. Paraclete says:

    Neighbors aren’t really the issue, unless on lives in an apartment
    or condo setting…It’s about who’s in the next room of your dwelling,
    if one is about to take out the crazed intruder with your firearm.
    Massad Ayoob suggested, years ago, that if you’re using a shotgun
    you should consider bird shot…like # 7 and the like.
    That will still kill the bad guy but won’t take out your loved one in
    the next room. Should one be using a pistol, the frangible rounds
    like air marshals use could be considered. One could also plan out
    your floor plan so that where one might hold up, the back drop of the
    targeted bad guy could be a book case.
    Groin area shots will keep the round low, while presenting a larger
    target area being easier to hit.

    • M. Sage says:

      #7 bird IS NOT a fight-stopper unless the person you shoot with it says “holy shit, he shot me!” or “ow, this fucking hurts!” and decides to quit. #7 bird is NOT LETHAL unless the recipient has bad luck equal to a lotto winner’s good luck. Relying on a psychological stop (he DECIDES to stop) as opposed to a physiological stop (he is physically unable to continue, often because he’s dead) is a very bad idea. You need to have to MAKE them stop, not hope to convince them to stop.

      Instead of looking for a magic bullet that will stop a threat and still not manage to go through a medium that you can put your fist through without trying too hard, train and practice so you won’t miss. Because that magic bullet? It doesn’t exist.

      • Paraclete says:

        I’m confident that should anyone be shot, in the groin
        area, it will drop them.The bleed out from a hit in that
        area would be a mortal wound. If you doubt me, you
        stand over there and we’ll see. I wouldn’t want to be
        on the receiving end, would you ?
        There is no magic bullet, but having a plan is
        more than half way, to winning the battle.
        If one holds up in a area which forces the perp to
        be funneled, in order to enter that area, furniture
        placement, such as book cases in that funnel area,
        would be an excellent back drop which must be passed
        in order to enter said area. Naturally, the defender would
        be using their .45 or .357 or what have you…end of perp.

        • M. Sage says:

          No to all of those. You’re very unlikely to reach a femoral with 6 or lighter bird shot, and there are a lot of people who will fight through pain, fear and lethal wounds to kill you.

          They might be statistical anomalies, but so is having someone break into your house. Or do you lie to yourself and think that only soldiers can possibly have that kind of mental makeup? Are you going to ignore that drugs like PCP and meth exist?

          I’ve always been a proponent of holding a choke point and ambushing an attacker… but do it with something that can put them down. You can’t control the choices they make – if you could, you wouldn’t have to worry about being attacked – you can only control the ones you make. Make the right choice and pick defensive ammo that can penetrate deep enough to cause incapacitating wounds.

  10. Bad_Brad says:

    I’m surprised they didn’t include HST’s in their tests. Hydo Shock doesn’t seem to be that popular anymore since the release of HST. Most Departments use HST. So if you ever were in a shoot it would probably be legally advantageous to be using the same ammo most departments use.

    • M. Sage says:

      I agree. Hydra Shok still works, but the design is two or three generations old and is a bit long in the tooth. HST and Critical Defense are where it’s at.

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