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NSSF Video: Shotgun vs. Handgun for Home Defense — Thunder Ranch

YouTube video cover of Shotgun versus Handgun for home defense

The argument between which firearm is best for home defense is almost as old as the 9mm vs. .45 ACP debate. However, we are still debating it because neither camp has conceded. The primary argument against the shotgun is a longer length leading to less maneuverability. On the other hand, the pistol offers better maneuverability, but lacks the stopping power of a shotgun and you may be giving up some accuracy according to the critics.

In this video, sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Clint Smith, president and director of the Thunder Ranch training center, talks about why the comparative length of a handgun—when used properly—is insignificant to that of a shotgun and that length alone should not be a deterrent when choosing a firearm for home defense.

Did the video change your opinion or strategy for protecting your home? Which do you depend on—shotgun, handgun, or both? What caliber, or gauge? Share your answers in the comment section.

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 (12)

  1. I am one who believes a short barrel shotgun is as good a choice as any and if you read my entire post you would see that I have a great many available options and I also live alone. So for you tactical cowboys who think you are going to rescue someone in a hostage situation you might as well keep on dreaming and playing swat team. You are far more likely to get yourself killed than I am. I would suggest you reread my post before making snide remarks.

  2. For those who think using a shotgun with any kind of shotshell- including ‘buck’– is a good idea, practice some ‘hostage’ situation targets and then tell me the shotgun is the better solution. I’m willing to bet your wife or child will think a whole lot differently. Especially for those who think using a short barreled ‘coach gun’ is a great choice.

    However, the question is really moot since people will use what they have available and there’s nothing wrong with that. My personal choice may not be a shotgun, but it may not be a pistol, either. SBRs are as good a choice for maneuverability as any shotgun.

  3. I’m comfortable with my CZ P07 with 16+1 & my 30 M1 Carbine with a 30 round magazine cartridge aren’t hardball, but 100 gr. Speer plinker with half go the bullet exposed at the nose, will expand quite well. I’m an extremely light sleeper & a hinge that squeaks when the cat slowly pushes the door slightly ajar is enough to bring me to full alert in a heartbeat. 47 rounds available is enough to make me feel comfortable.
    I think we should use what we’re comfortable with.

  4. it would all depend on the circumstances. certainly i would rather have a shotgun or a rifle over a pistol any day. there is no comparison for knock down power. of course it is hard to carry 1 IWB. while there is not much difference at full extension of the pistol there might be times that full extension is not possible. the long guns can be grabbed easier for disarmament. i certainly if i had the choice would rather go with a rifle or a shotgun but i would carry my pistol also. i do not think there is a right or wrong answer on this one just what is right at the moment. in a narrow hall trying to clear a house a long gun might put you at a disadvantage. any gun you have with you is certainly better then the best one you don’t have with you.

  5. I’ll stand by my hi-cap .45 with frangible bullets, but since this article seems to be about the stopping power of a shotgun versus a handgun, why doesn’t everyone call their federal representatives, both in the House and Senate, and get the NFA regulations relaxed to avail the homeowner of a short barreled shotgun?! in either 16 or 12 Gauge. Or perhaps Colt would start building their revolving shotgun?

  6. This video focuses on the differences in the firing position. However, and equally important consideration, in my opinion, is the ability to maneuver the firearm in an enclosed space, either to bring it into the firing position or to move toward or away from a threat.

    With a shotgun, your option is to elevate the muzzle and pull the firearm into your body. With a handgun, you can withdraw the firearm toward your body and maintain covering the target or a potential target. It would also be an advantage, were the “bad guy” to get close enough to grapple with you. If your weapon of choice were a shotgun, you will be struggling to maintain control of the firearm. With a pistol, you can pull the firearm next to your body and get off a shot at the attacker.

  7. Actually a very convincing video. It puts my shotgun in an entirely new perspective. I’m changing my home defense strategy because of this, i.e. keeping my shotgun nearby at night.

  8. Best self defense weapon is the one you have at the time you need it. That being said I have a double barrel coach gun 20 gauge with a very short barrel. I think if the issue is knock down power I would rather use the 20 gauge which I believe is the equivalent to two 44 magnum pistol rounds. However, I also have a multitude of firearms and both my bedroom and study are well equipped with shotguns, 9mm pistols and carbines, 38 caliber revolvers, AR’s, Ak’s, Mini 14, and 45 Long Colts in revolver and rifle. They are all locked up but ready to go if the need should arise. Gives me flexibility to deal most types of problems that might arise. Also, doesn’t speak to other precautions I take when I lock the apartment up for the night. Would be very difficult for someone to surprise me if they entered the apartment and fairly difficult to enter my bedroom in particular if I were asleep. Quite honestly this is the first time I heard that there was an issue regarding firearm length. Bottom line is if I know someone is in the house I arm myself, stay put, and call the police. I would not recommend seeking out the intruder(s) unless you have people sleeping in other rooms and need to leave your room to make sure they are protected. I think it is better to let them come to you, if possible, as there is nothing worth getting yourself killed for if you don’t need to engage them. Just sayin’.

  9. While I suppose that there will likely be some die-hard believers in one or the other of the two firearms under consideration, to me it is really a matter of personal preference. My fairly comprehensive collection of firearms includes rifles, shotguns, pistols, and revolvers, and I have many of each of these pieces at the ready for whatever exigent circumstances may require their employment. I figure that whatever is at hand is what will likely be employed should the need arise, and in each case…..be it rifle, shotgun, pistol or revolver, all are equipped with laser sighting devices and lights.

    My belief is that at typical inside-the-house ranges at which I would engage an intruder, it matters little if I engage with whatever firearm is at hand, due to the use of the light and laser with which each piece is fitted and ready for use. As long as I can illuminate the target to be certain of target identity, and can simultaneously pinpoint the target with the laser that I have diligently zeroed for short range encounters, I figure that I can do whatever is necessary to prevail.

  10. I have the best of both worlds….a S & W Governor. Every night is it loaded with three SIG .45 Long Colt 230 gr V-Max hollow points, alternating with three Federal .410 000 Buck Shotshells. The cylinder is set so the SIG goes out the muzzle first, with the shotshell for a follow up. I also have a full moon clip of Hornady Critical Defense .45 ACP 185 gr FTX hollow points in case I need to quickly reload. The gun, the moon clip reload, and a SureFire Defender flashlight are placed on my night table right next to my head within easy reach. I carry the light in my left hand, and the moon clip on my left pinky. Of course, there are no children in my house.

    Any thug punks want to try a home invasion at my house tonight? You will be leaving for the M.E.’s office in a mop bucket.

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