There is a growing population of people in the gun world who believe that in order to have a solid home defense plan, one must own a purposefully built AR with a night vision sight, all of the lasers and lights that would fit on it, and any other bells and whistles for any remaining rail space. A setup like the one pictured above can easily run you thousands of dollars, possibly more, but it is by no means the only thing capable of protecting you from everything that goes bump in the night. If you can afford the aforementioned AR system, don't let me be the one to stop you, but if you want that warm fuzzy feeling without having to take out a small loan or pawn off your first born then here are some suggestions for you.
A good ol' 12 gauge buckshot round is my personal preference for home defense. This offers plenty of knockdown power with less threat of over penetration. There is a host of shotguns being produced with home defense in mind and some are just as costly as the AR, but for those that aren't worried about having defend our homes against the incursion a pump or even a double barrel shotgun would more than suffice.
My personal choice is going to be the pump and there are plenty of options well under the $500 mark. My shotgun of choice is the Winchester SXP Defender, coming in right at $350 it is one of the smoothest actions of all pump shotguns and feeds any round you throw in the chamber. Of course, there are other options available, the Mossberg 500 and Remington 870 offer great platforms that can be customized with all the accessories you could ever want.
If you aren't a fan of the pump action, there are also several double barrel options built specifically with defense in mind. The only downfall of going to a double barrel is that you are limited to two rounds, but if you foresee two rounds of 12 gauge not being enough firepower, I would begin to reconsider what kind of situations I plan on getting myself in.
Handgun shooting is a different breed of sport altogether and employs new techniques and practices but for those who carry a handgun on them and are accustomed to doing so, a handgun is second to none for defense. Handguns were designed with defense in mind, as their smaller size makes them easier to conceal and are less unwieldy than a long gun when operating in narrow spaces found in households. One thing to keep in mind with handguns is to be sure to get the right ammo. Drywall and wood are no contest for a fast moving pistol round; full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets can penetrate through several layers of drywall before coming to a halt. If you think a handgun might better suit your needs and are willing to train to become proficient in using it, they are definitely a viable option.
The options for handguns are endless, with prices ranging from just a couple hundred dollars and up in to the thousands depending on model. Choosing a cartridge is another factor, with the most popular defense handgun calibers being .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP and .38 Special, but that is a whole other topic unto itself.
As with any gun you plan on using, whether it be for defense, hunting or any other purpose, plan on putting in the time to train and become proficient with your weapon. No one wants to have to use their weapon to defend themselves from danger, but if the time should come, you do not want to be the one who is unfamiliar or uncomfortable with their weapon.