Safety and Training

5 Home-Defense Shotgun Tips and Accessories

Remington 870 black pump-action shotgun laying on some wood logs

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.

DP-12 Shotgun right profile black
The DP-12 has two 7-round magazine tubes and two barrels. It’s a double-barrel pump gun. Pump once and shoot twice!

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

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

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.

Spare Ammunition

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.

Interstate Arms Hawk 12 gauge shotgun right profile
The IAC Hawk closely resembles a Remington 870 with a couple of upgrades and a much lower price tag.

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.

Shotgun Fit

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.

Mossberg 500 JIC Flex 57340 6-Shot 12 gauge shotgun
The Mossberg 500 JIC Flex fits the bill for close-quarters maneuverability. The small size also makes it easy to store in a vehicle or motorhome when travelling.

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.

Training

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?

Federal Personal Defense buckshot shotshells
Federal Personal Defense buckshot is reliable and gives an excellent pattern.

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.

[dave]

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (30)

  1. Hey guys! Most shotguns, although very very good home defense tools don’t have drop safeties. Long periods of storage, leaning up against a wall etc. could represent a time bomb of an AD waiting to happen. Be careful what you choose for home defense. Safety first.

  2. shotgun vs ar at 10 yds for defense? Physics. A typical AR-15 projectile weighs anywhere between 55 to 62 grains, maybe a bit more if handloaded, up to 77 grains, but usually the heavier projectiles are more often suited to accuracy competition usage. Weigh a 2-3/4″ 12 gauge 00 buckshot round unfired, then weigh a spent hull from such a round, subtract empty from full and you get weigh of payload and propellant sent downrange. Powder is really light, the wad is negligible, so most of this number is the weight of the shot. Conservative estimate, about 90%. Now, once you have that weight translated to grains, you can compare energy on target. Take weight of bullet or shot pellets times flight speed in feet per second (again, rough estimate for 10 yds past muzzle, 1100, or about Mach 1, for shotgun, 2600 fps for AR round). Take that answer and multiply it again by the same speed number just used. Take that answer and divide it by 450,240, and what you then have is foot-pounds of energy hitting whatever at the specified range from the weapon. AR-15 sends 1 very light-weight bullet downrange very fast (about Mach 2.5), but the weight of all that shot hitting darn near simultaneously, weighing much more, altho going slower, will make a bigger hole in the belly of a home invader. Which would you rather be hit with, a slammed ping pong ball or a baseball pitcher’s up-and-in ? Which would leave a bigger mark on you ?

    1. I know you have the physics right, cause that’s part of my job. My primary concern about using my Shotgun vs my AR or AK is possible over penetration in a residential setting

    2. Thank you for taking the time to explain this to me. It all makes sense now. At this point I think it is imperative to explain to novices like me, that pointing a shotgun correctly is almost as important as aiming for the target using a handgun or rifle.

  3. I am new to this. Please explain why you want a tight pattern (size of a fist at 10 yards). Why not use a rifle I.e. AR15 then? I thought the purpose of the shotgun is to hit the target by just pointing in the general direction of the object you want to hit.

    1. The .223 has an impressive penetrating power. And therefore, has the potential to enter a neighboring home. the pattern of most birdshot increases by one inch per yard. And buckshot expands even less. So you do need to aim, and also be aware of over penetration into assent rooms.

  4. Mossberg 930 spx 12 ga 9 shot is my home defense shotgun. I swapped out original stock for a Harris tactical urbino stock it has a shortened lop, wife can handle it well. I agree 100% a good shotgun is a force multiplier and my home defense collection wouldn’t be without one…great article!

  5. Effective blog. Personally it helps me a lot & All firearm are good but i liked most Recoil for my personal safety.

  6. Have depended on a 18″ bbl 12 gauge Remington 870 pump with fore and aft pistol grips and a sling for decades for home defense. With a wide open choke and 7 rounds of 00 buck in an extension tube mag and 6 more in a side saddle. As a back up, a Dan Wesson .357 magnum loaded with Black Talon hollow points and a Ruger 9mm for my wife.

    1. Do not leave a shotgun loaded. The spring will take a set, and will not load a round. If you need to keep rounds in it load the minimum needed, 2 rounds in a 5 round tube 3 in a 7 round tube. A shoulder bag you can slide your hand unto without trouble with a dozen or more rounds. You can sling it with you and load up as you shoot a round as time permits load another.

  7. I would suggest _Reduced Recoil_ Federal Premium LE132-00 or PD132-00 with their infamous FlightControl wads. LE=Law Enforcement, PD=Personal Defense. A little YouTube searching will net you videos made by people who have bought both (LE132-00 & PD132-00) to compare and found they shoot and pattern identically out of any given shotgun. LE’s typically cost less, presumably because they make and sell more of them. PD may sound a lot better in a court of law though, so may be worth the extra cost.(?) Maybe buy both and practice with one and keep the other for defensive use.

    Reduced Recoil means 1145 fps at the muzzle instead of the more typical 1325. About the same velocity as typical 9mm rounds, but pushing out 9 nominally 53.8 grain .33 caliber balls all at once. The FlightControl wad is essentially a plastic tube with little side flaps that open out much like car doors do, to act as air brakes similar to those found on older fighter jets. All of the shot is contained inside the open front end of the tube. After the wad leaves the barrel, the flaps open up and cause it to brake and slow down, which lets all of the shot pour out of the open front in a tight stream, which equates to a nice small pattern on the target, much like you would get from a full choke with a traditional wad.

    FlightControl wads are designed for cylinder bore / no choke barrels. In fact, firing them through a full choke will cause your patterns to open up (a bad thing) in comparison to what you get out of an non-choked barrel, as that is not what they are designed for. It is my belief that some of the postings you see on gun forums and such about some people not getting the tight patterns that others do, is because they are firing them through chokes. Don’t do that. The original FlightControl wad loads were marketed for law enforcement use in closer range urban areas, out of typical shorter barreled police / tactical shotguns, which as you know are typically not choked. The same concerns for them apply to home defense – you do not want over-penetration, and every projectile that misses the target and continues downrange has a lawyer attached to it. So reduced recoil loads allow for faster follow up shots with less risk of over-penetration, and nice tight patterns, typically not much larger than your fist at 10 yards or so, which will put all lead on target. Just about perfect.

    I bought a bunch of the LE132-00’s on sale and quickly came to appreciate them very much. Great for punching holes through car doors and refrigerators and such at typical in-house / home defense ranges. Punching holes though things with slugs and buckshot is a GREAT way to illustrate to people the difference between concealment and cover, and may change some minds on what people think they can safely take cover behind…

    I do not pretend to be an expert. I just know I like these LE132-00’s very much out of my Mossberg 500 with an 18.5″ cylinder bore (no choke) barrel. Comparatively easy on my aging bursitis plagued shoulder, yet still plenty powerful with nice tight patterns. If I had to go to a pistol grip only setup for some reason, I’d _insist_ on using these to save my wrist. I’m getting too old for beating myself up if I can avoid it.

  8. The President’s Secret Service detail probably doesn’t shoot as proficiently as that 13 YOA female does! VERY impressive firearms skills.

  9. I prefer a combination of the ease of a pistol with the effect of a shotgun I therefore keep the Taurus Judge close at hand in case someone gets past my front door. They will “Meet the Judge, before they meet the Judge.”

  10. Great article. I agree with your assessment of the shotguns utility in a wide variety of situations. I call my safe a “toolbox”the right tool for the right job. I have a Mossberg 500 with an 8 round mag, 7 round sidesaddle, and a 7 position collapsible and folding stock. One point sing. Alternating loads. Does anyone think I missed anything? I have a Glock, AR, AK, all of them tricked out like the Mossberg. Oh yeah, and​a100 year old .303. Enfield.

  11. On the bandolier/side saddle subject. I use an exposed hammer double barrel shotgun for home defense. On the side saddle I don’t keep extra shotgun shells, I have used molle attachment to install a small holster with a 12 round double stack 9mm subcompact Sig P250. My version of the New York City reload.

  12. The shotgun continues to be the ‘go to’ gun for close in or mid-distance defense. BUT! Keep a shoulder stock on it. Those pistol grip-only guns look really ‘street ‘ tough, but they are ONLY for gut shots. DO NOT depend on them for any type of aiming. You want something with a pistol grip only, get a pistol. This a powerful weapon….and you wrist will let you know it.

  13. What I like about a shotgun for home defense is that you don’t have to worry about the round(s) going through the wall and injuring loved ones on the other side.

    1. That’s a VERY INCORRECT statement. Look up Paul Harrell’s online video regarding “wall penetration ” of various shotgun loads.

  14. While I understand what you’re saying about people thinking they only have to point a shotgun in the “general” direction and expecting to nail the object they’re shooting at.
    I think aiming a shotgun may not be the best way to defend yourself especially at close range with birdshot or even buckshot.
    If you are a seasoned clay shooter or wing shot, you already have the ability to point and shoot smaller objects than a home invader, again at close range you would be at a disadvantage to take the time to aim before pulling the trigger.
    If you are not a seasoned shotgunner it would be a good idea to either learn to shoot clays first as an introduction to shotgunning and, or, go straight to a shotgun self defense course.
    As I said before, if the threat is close as in a home invasion, if your shotgun is close, point and shoot, threat over.

  15. My son and I shoot a lot of sporting clays so I’m a big fan of shotguns, for sport ant home defense. I keep a tactical outfitted Mossberg 500 for home defense, but when my son brought home a KelTec KSG I was very surprised. And very skeptical. Until we took it out to shoot it. WOW! What a great firearm. We put 250 rounds through it the first time and it worked like a charm. Glad to see you highlighting it. I recommend it to all my friends for home defense.

  16. Great article thanks. From my own experience though I would not recommend one of those bandolier slings. The offer a big swinging unwieldy handle for the bad guy to grab and take the gun away from you, and worse they throw off your aim and balance of the shotgun in a big way.

    Instead, I use a Speedfeed stock with 4 extra shells, two on each side, and a Sidesaddle. With 6 in the gun that gives me 10 extra, which is plenty to carry.

    Likewise I’d avoid the pistol grip, which murders the web of your hand, makes operating the safety on a Mossberg harder, and is much harder to hit with. However, if you have to have one for a vehicle or close quarters then it is far better than an unwieldy gun you don’t have with you!

    For women I really like the 20 gauge, especially in an autoloader; the 20 has 75% of the knockdown power of a 12 gauge, but only half the recoil, and in a softer shooting gas gun is just the ticket for a smaller person who doesn’t like the full power of a 12 gauge.

    Anyway, good overview of the subject, thank you.

    1. I’d say the pistol or sporter grip choice is more related to what the particular user is accustomed to, or what they have found from experience is less painful. I, as an Army vet, grew up on the M-16 series of rifles, then after several years of retirement, tried shooting skeet. The angle of the sporter stock gave my shooting wrist more ache the day after 2 boxes of shells than the recoil did to my shoulder, with a 12g autoloader. I swapped the stock to a pistol grip style and wrist pain went away. I also found it easier to pull the gun into my shoulder with the pistol grip vs the other stock, in the attempt to limit the shoulder pummeling. Just my $0.00002 (adjusted for inflation), YMMV

    2. BTW, the safety on my skeeter is a button above and behind the trigger, Rem 11-87, which now wears a smooth-bore fixed IC short barrel and mag extension loaded with 00 for home defense, if the turkey / HD Rem 870 with mag ext and target loads aren’t enough to finish the fight. Web of shooting hand gets no damage as middle, ring and pinkie fingers of trigger hand all pull the stock into the shoulder (yes the 870 has a adj. LOP recoil-absorbing aftermarket stock) (Wish I could get one for the 11-87 but the recoil spring tube is in the way … maybe if the mrs gives me a V3 someday for my birthday ???)

    3. Self defense. Why have most experts in past articles recommend 00 buck for shot gun?
      Has anyone patterned it? 20″ barrel?
      Try #2 lead and it will make a pin cushion out of most anything in your home. Yes, I would rather dodge 9 pellets of buckshot , but 60-70 pellets of # 2 lead , leaves few the ability to return fire. I have tested on soft flesh animals at close range. Geese , coyotes, gophers. Second shot ,at most,all I experience is complete silence. From what I have experienced 00 buck is not the ideal load for stopping the intruder.

    4. 00 buck is traditional because it kills things the size of a man (bucks, for instance). I question the relevance of geese and coyote testing because of the dramatic size difference. 00 buck has been more extensively tested on humans (police and military use) than other shot loads, with good results. A loose pattern isn’t a big issue in the home, where your target is probably ten feet away. Since all shot pellets are lead spheres traveling at similar speeds, the biggest ones can be expected to have the best penetration — I want to punch through fat, muscle, and coat to reach the vitals.

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