The number of debates surrounding which firearm is best for home defense is likely only bested the great 9mm v. .45 ACP argument. At the end of the day, it boils down to your personal means, preferences, and situation. Personally, I do not believe in limiting myself. Why choose between a handgun, shotgun, or AR, when I can have them all? That is to say, in the appropriate places, within reach at the right time, and properly secured, I like the strategy of having all three. That being said, I could make a case for only having an AR, shotgun, or pistol. It is not so much the choice of weapon, but the ammo selection and most importantly, personal ability that are likely the key factors when choosing a firearm for home defense. However, you can’t wrong with a shotgun to defend the castle.
For those considering a shotgun, there is no shortage of arguments in your favor. Since its invention, the shotgun has served a defensive and offensive role in law enforcement, military duty, and personal defense. It is truly a multipurpose weapon. In the hands of a seasoned shotgunner, it offers a level of precision whether breaking clays or on the tactical shotgun course. The same shotgun can then be wielded by the neophyte and offer better accuracy than the handgun or rifle in a tactical, close quarters confrontation.
The sound of shotgun’s pump action being operated can be enough deterrent to stop a fight. The shotgun’s payload is a fight stopper. Semi-automatic, pump, double barrel, or one of the new modern offerings that combines these features, such as the DP-12 or Kel-Tec KSG, whichever you choose, here are 5 points to consider.
Recoil is a force to be reckoned with, but it is not the deal breaker most think. I have seen sub 100-pound women run a course of clays, not to mention that young girl the majority of us have seen social media. She is 13 years old and cleans a 3-gun course with an ACR, Benelli 12 gauge, and Smith and Wesson M&P (check out the video). I think that is proof enough, but it is not what the young girl can do, it is what you or your loved ones can do. If the recoil of a 12 gauge is too much, drop down to a 20 gauge or even a .410. True, most do not consider the .410 shotgun, but think of what it can do from a Taurus Judge.
Slings are not normally pictured with home defense shotguns, because few feel they would need one. Perhaps, that is simply because they have never considered the utility of a sling. Let’s start with the potential downside, because that is what most would address first. The sling could be noisy and possible give away your position.
On the other hand, there are dozens of scenarios where you may need both hands free. Opening a padlock while checking your property, tending a wounded loved one before the police or EMS arrives… Also, in a worst-case scenario where you were fighting for control of the shotgun, a sling can be an asset. And what about beyond the home in a survival situation, civil disorder, or should a riot or mob ever approach your home. These are somewhat far fetch scenarios I’ll admit. I am not necessarily recommending a sling, but it is something to consider.
Long, drawn-out gunfights are a thing of the movies, but in the intro to this story I did mention double barrels for home defense. Standard sporting shotguns with a plug would be limited to three shots, and other range in the number of rounds they can hold. I think this falls into the category of, “I’d rather have it and not need it then need it and not have it.” We hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
Here is a case where a sling can do double duty and serve as a bandolier. Other models have sidesaddle that are attached to the action or elastic or neoprene carriers affixed around the stock. Of course, in the case of the modern tactical model carrying 15 or rounds, you have a heavy weapon, but one that should be ready without the worry of reloading.
Another advantage of spare ammunition is the ability to have different types of loads at the ready including, birdshot, buckshot and slugs.
This one is a biggie and probably the most overlooked. I’ll admit, I have recommended and sold a fair number of shotguns for home defense without asking all of the questions. Most often, the purchaser is concerned with price point, a few features, and not much else. Shotguns do need to be aimed—to a degree, this is an entire topic of its own.
The problem arises when a 6’2” man goes out and buys a shotgun, takes it to the range and then readies it in the home for defense. What about the lady of the house? If she went to the range, our big strapping hero probably loaded it up and pointed her in a safe direction to take her 12 gauge pummeling with a gun fit for him. Did he ever think, in his absence or when injured, she would be the main person to defend the home, children, treasure?
Let’s say our hero is married to a 5’1” woman. A shotgun with a telescoping stock is a great solution. It allows you both to have the proper fit. Otherwise, unless you shoot a shotgun with a similar length of pull, spend a few bucks and have a gunsmith fit the gun the shooter with a shorter length of pull. Remember, you’ll do better shooting a shotgun that is too short than you will trying to shoot one that is too long.
There is an art to shooting a shotgun well. Fortunately, compared to other firearms, the learning curve is fast to become proficient. That does not mean a trip to the range once a year is sufficient. A home defense shotgun is potentially the last thing that stops the wolf from blowing your house down and harming everyone inside. The last defense… Do you really think a box of ammo once a year is sufficient?
Consider different shotgun courses. Look into sporting courses that will teach you to shoot a shotgun accurately. Then advance to tactical course that will teach you, and anyone in the home—yes, make it a family affair—to use it to defend your home.
One of the most dangerous myths regarding the defensive shotgun is that a person can just poke it in the general direction of the target and hit dead center. Sadly, such is definitely not the case. The shotgun must be aimed if one expects to hit the intended target.
A shotgun for home defense is a wise choice. Whether you rely solely on it, or as one part of your home defense strategy depends on you and your situation. Remember, we hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Should the wolf ever come knocking, I have a great recipe for roasted wolf…
What firearm or firearms do you keep for home defense? What training courses have you attended? Do you have a home defense shotgun tip? Share your answers in the comment section.
Growing up in Pennsylvanias game-rich Allegany region, Dave Dolbee was introduced to whitetail hunting at a young age. At age 19 he bought his first bow while serving in the U.S. Navy, and began bowhunting after returning from Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Dave was a sponsored Pro Staff Shooter for several top archery companies during the 1990s and an Olympic hopeful holding up to 16 archery records at one point. During Daves writing career, he has written for several smaller publications as well as many major content providers such as Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Outdoor Life, Petersens Hunting, Rifle Shooter, Petersens Bowhunting, Bowhunter, Game & Fish magazines, Handguns, F.O.P Fraternal Order of Police, Archery Business, SHOT Business, OutdoorRoadmap.com, TheGearExpert.com and others. Dave is currently a staff writer for Cheaper Than Dirt!
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