There’s a wealth of information and opinions available regarding the best weapon for home defense. However, there’s a surprising lack of relevant info specifically regarding the sort of defense weapons that work best for defending an apartment. It’s an odd oversight considering that there are more people renting right now than there have been since 1965.


Basically, the issues that apply to any home defense situation apply to apartment defense—except that there are more shared walls and more people behind them in an apartment complex. The population dynamics of apartments make choosing a weapon with a lower likelihood of over-penetration far more important. The last thing anyone wants to do is inadvertently endanger the safety of a neighbor should the worst-case scenario require firing a gun to protect yourself in an apartment building.

Of course, there are way too many specific calibers, loads, and variations (not to mention the thousands of brands and models) to present a comprehensive study here. So this article is going to focus broadly on three firearm archetypes as stand-ins for all the rest: 9mm handguns, 12-gauge shotguns, and rifles chambered for .223.

9mm Pistols

The 9mm is a solid pistol in general for self-defense, apartment or not. It has a large enough caliber to effectively stop an intruder, but is not overpowered for the population density found in an apartment building. Plus, 15-20 cartridges in a handgun that can be held comfortably by most adults is hard to beat.

An often overlooked consideration for any weapon someone plans to carry or employ as their home defense piece, or both, is how expensive the ammo for it is. No carry is going to prove a successful solution if the owner isn’t practicing with it and bulk 9mm ammo is one of the least expensive calibers available.

Should you choose a 9mm handgun as an apartment defense carry, chamber it with hollow-point slugs. Not only are they more effective at bad guy-stopping than FMJs, they tend not to penetrate as many living space barriers, like drywall, as ball or FMJ slugs.

12-Gauge Shotguns

Undeniably effective close-quarters weapons, shotguns combine a lot of power with a lot of lead (probably steel). The problem is, lots of powder throwing lots of steel isn’t going to be slowed down a whole lot by drywall, plaster, and hollow-core doors.

Buckshot and slugs are both capable of inflicting considerable collateral damage. One solution that’s been suggested by a number of forward-thinking apartment-protectors is chambering your scattergun with #5 or #6 turkey shot. The velocity of a smaller shot dissipates more quickly than buckshot and is still capable of stopping an intruder in their tracks.

Rifles Chambered for .223

The AR-15 and its variants chambered for .223 may seem like dangerous and unnecessary overkill in an apartment, but, believe it or not, that’s not necessarily the case. As thousands of AR fans on hundreds of firearms forums have pointed out: .223 ammo, in many circumstances, is actually less prone to over-penetration than a 9mm ball.

There’s certainly some truth to that, but the fact is that the .223 cartridge is a projectile backed by a whole lot more powder and power than a 9mm slug. If you do decide to go with a rifle chambered for .223, at least load it with a split-core, frangible, or Glaser safety round.

Perhaps most importantly: Everyone’s situation is unique and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Choose a weapon that you are comfortable with; consider the size and arrangement of your living space, and think about how important it is to you to have a free hand to reach light switches or doorknobs, hold a flashlight, or call the authorities. Because the best gun for defending your home, apartment, condo, or house is the gun that works best for you.

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