The benefits of good fences, good dogs and good cats can’t be overstated in defending the homestead, but there are times when a firearm is the appropriate response. However, the choice of weapons for a given situation should be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis, and in the current societal dynamic your black gun is probably not going to be the best choice most of the time.
The bulk of the threats you will face are threats to your food production from wildlife. These threats run the gamut from small rodent pests, such as rats and mice, to large predators, like coyote and mountain lions, to deer in the orchard. Throw in the occasional bear, the increasing population of wolves in the lower 48, an assortment of winged marauders assaulting your crops and poultry, and the homestead becomes a war zone in a big hurry. With the wide variety of threats, however, defense is not a one gun-fits-all proposition.
That having been said, there is one gun that fills a large number of these needs, and provides the versatility to re-task should the threat suddenly change. The weapon of which I speak is the venerable 12 gauge shotgun. I love the 12 gauge above all other weapons. Granted, this is a personal preference and opinions will vary, but I stand by my assertion that the shogun is by far the most versatile weapon there is in the defense of home and homestead. I have often said that if I could have only one gun in a survival situation it would be a shotgun, and this holds true for “normal” times as well.
Why a shotgun? By changing loads and chokes you can cover such a wide range of situations that other long guns seem almost superfluous. With slugs or 00 buck I can take large game at short range, and I can also handle the larger predators, deer ravaging my fruit trees, home invaders, poachers, rustlers, and all manner of zombies. With game loads I can hunt rabbits and squirrels, knock down winged predators assaulting my chickens, and eradicate crows and other birds that wreak havoc in the garden.
My all-time favorite 12 gauge shell is the magnum turkey load with No. 4 shot. With this load I have taken (of course) turkey, but have also employed it against fox, coyote, raccoon, opossum, water fowl and crows that thought they had made good on their escape. The No. 4 magnum turkey load is also a formidable home defense load. At standard defensive ranges (measured in the distance across the largest room in your house) it is positively devastating. Another advantage of this load over handguns and rifles for indoor defensive work (and over slugs and heavier buck shot for that matter) is that is less likely to travel through walls and create collateral damage. (Translated: You are less likely to wound your wife or kids in a violent confrontation with intruders).
When the coyotes are howling, the Mossberg 500 that lives above my back door is my first go-to gun. This is a gun that has been with me since high school, a field model with a 28-inch vent rib barrel. I have a newer, more tactical version with an 18.5-inch barrel and a fixed pistol grip stock. My “Zombie Gun” lives under the back seat of my truck (loaded with No. 4 magnum turkey loads). It is a part of my defensive armament in more extreme times, but it seldom sees service at the homestead.
My most-often grabbed handgun at home is a now almost-ancient Ruger Mark1 with a heavy 6-inch target barrel and sights. This is my gopher pistol, my squirrel and rabbit pistol, the handgun I carry to run my winter trap line, and the cheap-to-shoot pinker I use to maintain my handgun skills. With the target barrel and sights, it is perfectly adequate against smaller predators, like fox and raccoon, and in a pinch is good enough for head shots on coyote out to about 50 yards (although this is not the first choice, given options). The Ruger spends a lot of time on my hip around the place and if the need were to arise I would not be hesitant to use it in a confrontation with two-legged predators. The .22 long rifle round does have limitations, but it is more versatile than a lot of folks give it credit for.
Next up, in order of my most-employed firearms, is an even-older Marlin model 20 bolt action .22. This is often on the tractor with me, and it is a great rabbit and squirrel rifle, as well as a great weapon against small predators. If I am packing a long gun on the trap line, this is the one. Through the 34 years I have owned this rifle, it has taken more game and fur bearers than all my other weapons combined. I have dispatched everything from moles to coyote with my model 20, and it is an indispensable tool around the homestead.
It is sad but true that the world has become a far more dangerous place over the past several decades. I am a firm believer in being armed at all times, be it on the homestead or on the town. For this purpose, I prefer full-sized handguns, and my weapon of choice is a Taurus PT92. At home, if I am not carrying my Mark1 I am carrying the PT92, sometimes both. Away from the house, the PT92 is almost always riding in an inside-the-waistband holster at the small of my back (IWB, SOB). Threats can arise at any time, and the ability to meet force with force is comforting. Should you decide in favor of the concealed-carry option, odds are extremely high you will never be called upon to present your weapon. Now, however, is a good time to start carrying; familiarity breeds confidence, and you will be ahead of the curve should the social dynamic change in a way which necessitates being armed.
As a “crazy survivalist,” I do have a host of other weapons. My more tactical firearms are more of a contingency plan than a part of daily life. On rare occasions, primarily at night, I will patrol the perimeter of my property with a battle rifle or tactical carbine. This is generally just a training exercise. Once again, familiarity breeds confidence. It is a good idea to put on your fighting load, pick up your battle rifle, and take a walk around your perimeter from time to time, in the event that this activity should become a survival necessity one day. But as a rule, you will be far less conspicuous on a day-to-day basis with your beat-up old shotgun. Marching around in BDUs with an AK or AR may upset folks and draw attention. Walking your property with anything that resembles a sporting arm will not alarm the neighbors or passersby, and a 12 gauge is probably more than enough firepower to handle any threat you may encounter at the current time. High capacity semi-auto long guns are an important part of a strong defense in truly dire circumstances, but you should probably leave them in reserve until after there’s a crisis or disaster.