3-Gunning for Home Defense


In a rare fit of advance planning and organization, I’m starting to think about what gear to use at this year’s Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational (M3GI) match. The event takes place August 12 through 17 in the high desert outside of Bend, Oregon, so I’ve got a little time.

As the event title implies, I need to pick, you guessed it, three guns to use—one handgun, one shotgun, and one rifle. Stages are designed in such a way that you must always use at least two, and usually all three guns. Some targets require use of a specific gun type. For example, you might have to obliterate targets one through nine with your pistol and targets 10 through 17 with your rifle. Other targets are optional, meaning that it’s the shooters choice whether to use a shotgun, rifle, or pistol.

The event is more fun than should be legal, especially as it takes place in the absolute dark of night. Last year, shooting started sometime after 9 p.m. each night and finished up some mornings near 5:30 a.m. Who needs sleep?

This year, I’ve already decided to use the Midnight 3 Gun event as a home-defense equipment trial of sorts. Rather than picking guns that are perfectly optimized to for 3-gun competition rules, I’m going to pick guns that are reasonable to use in my home for protection of self, family, and my ABBA vinyl record collection.

What does that really mean? If I was choosing to optimize for the competition and game the rules, I might select the following:

  • A pistol with a 20-round magazine and hair trigger that shoots the lightest-recoiling 9x19mm rounds I can find.
  • A shotgun with a 30-round magazine extension that has a magazine tube that extends 12 feet past the muzzle. Total shell capacity would ideally be in the three-digit range.
  • A short-barreled rifle that fires a low-flash and light-recoiling round like .30 Carbine. Oh, and it would have about a 50-round magazine.

Tweaked out “competition optimized” guns like the shotgun mentioned above are obviously are not necessarily well suited for home defense. You wouldn’t want to be navigating your home in the middle of the night with a six-foot-long shotgun complete with magazine tube extending into the next room. A short and compact model would almost certainly be more appropriate—even if it had lower capacity.

With all that said, here’s what I am considering for each gun category:

At last year's M3GI, the author used a Glock 17 with a rear-activated laser and front-activated light.
At last year’s M3GI, the author used a Glock 17 with a rear-activated laser and front-activated light.


I’ve got a number of contenders going for the perfect home-defense/M3GI pistol. Last year I shot a Glock 17 equipped with Crimson Trace Lasergrips and Crimson Trace Lightguard. It’s certainly no slouch for a home-defense gun: 9x19mm is acceptable as a defensive round, a capacity of 17+1 is solid, and you can find a holster to fit a geared-up Glock. But it’s a new year and a new match. I’ve been there and done that with the Glock, so I’ll be trying something different. Perhaps one of the following:

Beretta PX4 Storm in .40 S&W: I like the bump-up in caliber for home defense, and if I use Winchester Train .40 S&W ammo, recoil will be fine for the competition—not much different than 9x19mm. It’s got a rail, so I can easily add a Crimson Trace Rail Master Pro for integrated light and laser capability.

Sig Sauer P226 SAO: This one stands out because it features the feel and reliability of the famous P226, yet offers single-action operation. Hmmm. Crimson Trace makes Lasergrips to fit it, and the rail allows use of a Rail Master Universal Tactical Light. Holster options are plentiful, and its 15+1 capacity works well for home defense and matches.

Springfield Armory 1911 TRP: This gun is a contender even though it suffers from capacity dysfunction. Mine has seven-round magazines, but I could easily find eight-rounders. So I’d be swapping mags like crazy on the busy pistol stages where platoons of cardboard villains emerge from the dark desert. My personal gun has Crimson Trace Master Series Lasergrips and a Crimson Trace Lightguard, so the “shooting in the dark” element is well addressed. Why am I considering this? It’s the gun that actually resides on my nightstand, and to be honest with myself, my match goal is to use my real home-defense gear in the match.


I think I’ve got this one solved. I just received a brand-spanking-new Beretta 1301 Tactical Shotgun for review. It’s a super-compact 12 gauge semiautomatic. While it has stock extensions included, in case you want more length of pull, it comes in the box short and compact. It’s more like a 12 gauge carbine than a full-sized shotgun and perfect for navigating indoors. Since it’s so lightweight, it’s got more than a little kick, but I have a Kick Eez pad on the way to help mitigate that. I’m going to add a Nordic Components MXT magazine tube extension which adds room for two shells, for a total tube capacity of six, plus one in the chamber. I know, that’s not ideal for 3-gunning competition. I should have a tube with at least a nine-shell capacity, but if I added a larger tube extension, it would stick way out from the muzzle and defeat the “compact handling” advantage of this shotgun for home defense. The tube extension will also allow me to mount something like a Crimson Trace Rail Master Pro up front to add integrated light and laser capability to my shotgun.

Whichever rifle the author chooses, he'll be mounting this Crimson Trace MVF-515 vertical foregrip to it.
Whichever rifle the author chooses, he’ll be mounting this Crimson Trace MVF-515 vertical foregrip to it.


The match rules call for “small” rifle calibers only, so while I could technically use a Weatherby .257 Magnum, it wouldn’t be all that effective for home defense, or the match itself. While bigger is usually better, that’s not necessarily the case for home defense. While a 7.62 projectile will pass through a couple dozen homes before slowing down, a normal .223 Remington round will generally start to tumble and fragment after passing through a couple of layers of drywall, so I’ll limit my choices to that caliber.

Beretta ARX-100: I’ll have my hands on one of these for some upcoming articles, and if I play the timing right, I could probably swing keeping it long enough for the match. Based on the few times I’ve shot one at various events, it’s a beauty. I’d probably add a Crimson Trace MVF-515 vertical foregrip with light and laser. I used the MVF-515 setup on a Smith & Wesson VTAC last year with great success.

Rock River Arms LAR-15: A traditional AR, this is also a solid choice and currently the rifle that resides in my bedroom. It’s got the MVF-515 and an Aimpoint PRO red dot optic. I particularly like the PRO for home defense, as the unit’s 30,000-hour battery life always you to keep the red dot on at all times. I just insert a new battery yearly. The last thing I want to worry about in the middle of the night is turning gear on and off. Having the option of using red dot or light and laser will be nice for the match. Then again, I hear rumors that the more distant targets will be placed at 250 yards—in the dark. So I might have to add an Aimpoint 3xMag to help out with those distant targets.

So that’s what I’m thinking. What say you? I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas and recommendations as to the right choice of gear—given my stated goals of working out some realistic home defense equipment.

Tom McHale is the author of the Insanely Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon.

Read More