There are three firearms used for personal defense—the pistol, rifle, and shotgun. The shotgun is sometimes shied away from due to its recoil. The proper technique, leaning into the shotgun and controlling recoil, goes a long way, and so does extensive practice with light recoiling birdshot loads.
The myth that you cannot miss, and need not aim the shotgun, must also be addressed. Of course, the shotgun must be aimed. The shotgun has a good feel that leads to a natural point. This helps make the shotgun an effective combat weapon.
The 12 gauge shotgun’s wound potential is unequaled in the field of shoulder-fired weapons at moderate range. The ability to deliver a heavy payload, with real accuracy and speed, makes the shotgun far superior for home defense, area defense, and even against large dangerous animals. Important to success is to have a shotgun that is properly fit to the shooter. Magpul has taken steps to make the shotgun much more viable for all shooters.
Magpul introduced the SGA stock some time ago, and the stock has become popular with professionals. You may order the parts individually or in packages. The product is produced with the modular outlook, and this means the shooter may add a stock, forend, and other accessories as they choose.
The aim of Magpul products is to offer superior ergonomics and fit while making the shotgun easier to handle and faster on target. The Magpul SGA stock achieves this in several ways. For example, the stock features spacers that allow a short or long length of pull as the user demands.
A sling can be as important in controlling the shotgun as it is for a rifle, depending on the shooters training. Magpul components offer options for mounting slings. The stock design is the best I have tested, as far as re-directing recoil. The shotgun still kicks, but the recoil energy feels different. The path of recoil is changed and both comfort and rapid recovery are much better with this stock.
The design is a type of semi-pistol grip. This is an innovation among shotgun stocks. There is stippling and roughening of the grip in order to give a firm hold when firing. As for the length of pull, I left my length of pull shorter than most shotguns because I like to get my eye close to the Ghost Ring sight for good accuracy.
The recoil is more to the shoulder than the wrist. If you lean into the shotgun on firing—as you should—the result is excellent control. For those using shotgun slug scopes or red dot sights, the cheek piece may be raised as well. Cheek riser kits are available with risers from .025, .050 and .075 inch. This allows excellent adjustment and brings the eye to the stock. Spacers allow changing of the LOP. This is a well thought out and versatile stock that has proven durable in hard use.
Installation is simple with common hand tools. The Magpul stock allows a short LOP of just 12.5 inches without any spacers in place. For maximum handiness in the home, this isn’t a bad set up and one that invites fast work. Recoil control is good. Therefore, it is essential that you deploy the shotgun with a workable recoil pad.
My Magpul SGA features a rubber recoil pad with plenty of give, and it works well. The Magpul forend is an excellent accessory that compliments the stock well. The forend features hand stops that prevent stubbing the hand in forward motion, or the hand slipping off of the forend to the rear.
The forend offers excellent adhesion and abrasion when firing. I find the forend makes for positive control when cycling the action. In the advent of a stuck shell, or the too common swollen body we see in cheap shells, the Magpul forend offers excellent lever for shucking that shell out of the chamber. Magpul furniture is a wise addition to a credible combat weapon. This investment makes for a more capable and tractable firearm.
For home defense, you do not need a magnum-power loading. On the other hand, the oft-recommended birdshot, number #7 or even #9 shot, is far too light for effective personal defense. This shot penetrates perhaps two to three inches in gelatin versus the 12 to 18 inches needed for adequate wound potential. A heavily clad intruder might only be stunned. After all, birdshot is intended to humanely kill a small animal weighing but a few ounces.
Buckshot uses projectiles more properly called balls than pellets. An important class of 12 gauge buckshot is the reduced recoil shell. Rather than operating at a velocity of 1,600 fps, as is the full power standard, reduced-recoil loads operate at about 1,250 fps from an 18-inch barrel. This makes for a well-defined difference in recoil.
The payload of eight 00 buckshot balls is standard and penetration is adequate for personal defense. These loads remain much more powerful and effective than any handgun caliber and most rifle loads. The Hornady American Gunner is affordably boxed in 10-round boxes and offers excellent performance. I have recently fired a group at 5 yards of approximately 2 x 2 inches with all eight balls in this circle. I prefer this tight pattern, as the greater the cohesion of the load, the greater the wound potential.
With a few improvements, the shotgun becomes more tractable, more ergonomic, and more easily controlled. Improved aiming systems make for increased hit probability. These additions truly make for an improved weapons system.
How well does your home defense shotgun fit you or other family members? Do you have a tip for taming hard-kicking shotguns? Share your answers in the comment section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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