Below is an answer I gave to a post on a popular firearms forum. The question revolved around what made AR-15 so good for home defense, it seems a handgun would be better as it can be held in one hand and pulled back tight to be shot at very close range.
“Do you have a holster handy for the bump in the night at O’ Dark Thirty? If not, the pistol also becomes a detriment because you can only have 1 hand free (plus side; 1 free hand, downside only one free hand!). With an AR and a sling you can instantly have both hands free.
There is a reason military and LE teams don’t use pistols as primaries. If you look at the problem of dealing with armed threats in a structure with friendlies, the nature of the threat and problem is the same whether you are talking military operations in Afghanistan, a meth lab in any town USA, or your house. A compact long gun has more power, can be slung for hands free operation, is more accurate, can have light and Red Dot Sight, and with good ammo selection (be it carbine or shotgun) can have less penetration through the structure.
As far as shooting at contact range…I would argue if they are w/in 3ft, shooting is not the most efficient course of action. Gunshot wounds more often than not, do not have an instant effect. If they do, it is because either a) the CNS is hit, or b) the “shootee” has decided to quit. Even if shot through the heart, the person has anywhere from 7-30 seconds of conscious voluntary control left (enough time to finish the issue one way or the other).
Shooting a handgun from retention…you won’t be hitting them in the Heart. You’ll be hitting from about the navel to the lower edge of the sternum. If you hit the spine, it’s luck. So, realistically, you are causing a handgun wound to the stomach, possible kidney, spleen, liver, lung etc. The blood loss will not have a rapid incapacitation effect from these organs. So, you are still left fighting for your life until it is over (they, or you, are injured to the point of being non-functional).
Hand to hand combat skills (or edged/impact weapon strikes if immediately avail) are the best answer this close. I realize that this is beyond the skill set of most folks. But…that is where the AR, or long gun, comes back into play as superior. Instead of trying to shoot from retention, when you round the corner and he is in your face, drive forward and muzzle punch them in the throat, sternum, or solar plexus. All your bodyweight in motion focused on the tiny metal muzzle surface area is devastating. Lethal injury is the likely result, and it will knock them back giving you room to shoot.
You can also slam the fore end into the side of their neck (along the line the jugular vein runs) and it will knock them out. Stomp a knee, stomp an ankle, easy gross motor movements. When I teach soldiers the US Army bayonet training…I spend 2/3ds of the time teaching it without bayonets. I show them how to effectively drive in with all their bodyweight and strike with the M4 to vulnerable enemy anatomy w/o a bayonet. This way they see it isn’t the knife on the end of the gun that makes it lethal, it is lethal already.
Of course, you can strike with the pistol as well, or the free hand, the long gun is just a way better blunt impact weapon.
What if they are so close the rifle is jammed between you and/or they are grabbing it? Oh no…slam all your weight into whatever vulnerable anatomy of theirs is exposed (don’t have favorite “moves” or targets, take what they offer you). If both their hands are on your AR, there is no way they can stop you from gouging out their eye, or slamming your forearm into their throat (or side of the neck, or a heel-palm to the chin). Ignore the rifle, let them grab it; deal with the actual threat which is the attacker’s functioning body. Then, once they are down, you can scoop up your kid in both hands and get out.”
Just some random thoughts on the subject, doesn’t mean a handgun might not be the best choice for you for a home defense firearm. The real answer is get both!