In a world of 30 round suppressed short-barreled rifles, it’s somewhat in vogue to question the value of using a shotgun for home defense. However, they’re still absolutely viable, and in some cases even preferable…if you know what they can and cannot do.
Fact and Fiction About Using a Shotgun for Home Defense
For a number of reasons, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about using a shotgun for home defense. A lot of these are based on incorrect portrayals of shotguns in film and media. Some are based around the idea of using birdshot in a shotgun, which is a terrible idea. Others come from the fact that shotguns are some of the most ubiquitous guns in possession in American households. So we’re going to break down some of these bad ideas and give you some useful tips on how to employ the shotgun.
Fiction: You Don’t Need to Aim a Shotgun
You’ve probably heard this one before. “If someone breaks in, just point this in their general direction and pull the trigger.” Unfortunately, that’s not really how shotguns work, especially at the confined ranges you see in houses and apartments. For example, a Beretta 1301 Tactical using Federal Flite Control 00 buckshot will keep all 8 pellets in a fist group at 15 yards. That’s definitely too tight a pattern to just “point in their general direction” and absolutely requires you to aim.
However, the flip side to this is that because shotguns can be accurate, if you’re using a shotgun for home defense you can take fairly precise shots. It’s a good idea to pattern your shotgun with your defensive ammo of choice at whatever the longest shot you’d theoretically take is. For instance, if the distance from your bedroom to the front door is 15 yards, pattern your shotgun at 15 yards.
Fiction: Use Birdshot so You Don’t Overpenetrate Walls
This is probably the worst shotgun myth, and one that keeps sticking around no matter how many times people explain why it’s a bad idea. Maybe it’s because lots of people have shotguns and birdshot in their house? Or they’ve seen a YouTube video of someone exploding the leftover groceries with birdshot? Regardless, it’s terrible idea to use birdshot in a shotgun for home defense, and here’s why.
Birdshot is for killing birds, all of which are smaller and easier to kill than people. The point of using a shotgun in a home invasion scenario is to stop the threat to your life and family, right? So why would you use a cartridge that will not reliably stop a human-sized threat? It’s like telling someone to use a .177 airgun for home defense instead of a 9mm because the air gun won’t go through dry wall. As we’ve seen above, shotguns are plenty accurate, so the best way to make sure your buckshot pellets don’t go through drywall is to aim the shotgun and stop the threat.
Fiction: Shotguns are too Bulky and Long for Home Defense
This might be true if you’re trying to use a 26 inch barreled turkey shotgun as a primary home defense gun. However, there are a plethora of good defensive shotguns available, all of which are compact enough for CQB. Using your grandfather’s pheasant gun doesn’t make sense when you can buy a brand new Mossberg 590 with good sights and an 8-round tube for like $500.
What’s the Best Shotgun for Home Defense?
Best is largely a confluence of factors including cost, features, and availability. With that in mind, here are some recommendations for shotguns. We’ve already mentioned two great guns, the Beretta 1301 Tactical and the Mossberg 590 Tactical. Both of these have excellent sights, good capacity, and a reputation for reliability. The Beretta retails around $1300, which is a lot, but it’s also semi-automatic and widely loved. The Mossberg 590 series is huge, and depending on the features can go from $400-$600. Here are some other choices:
- Remington 870 Tactical – the obvious inclusion, can be found for $400-$600 depending on features
- Mossberg 930 Tactical – a more affordable semi-automatic option than the Beretta
- Savage/Stevens 320 Security w/Ghost Ring Sight – if price is your primary concern, the Stevens 320 still offers some solid features, but with a price tag of only $300
Hopefully, this will help guide you through the process of selecting, setting up, and using a shotgun for home defense. Just don’t use birdshot.