Few guns conjure up as much folklore and cliché as the shotgun. A long-time staple of those serious about home defense, it shares an equal-sized crowd of uncertain or fearful onlookers. They are loud, pushy, and big. These three things have been a stopping point, keeping more people from adopting this venerable classic to defend their castle. But with proper selection and knowledge of how to run it, the shotgun is ideal for home defense.
Home Defense Shotgun Selection and How to Run It
Shotguns are a solid choice for home protection for a variety of reasons. The first and foremost reason is stopping power. This term is tossed around, but with a shotgun, it has real meaning. The chance of first or second-round fight-stopping shots with shotgun ammunition is a reality.
The baseline for stopping power is a round’s ability to penetrate a minimum of 12 inches into a target. This is the general standard used by the F.B.I.
Using #1 buckshot, a shotgun can deliver 16 pellets at high velocity into an intruder. These pellets combined have a surface area of 1.13 square inches and is equivalent to shooting someone 12 to 15 times simultaneously with .32 ACP or .380 ACP rounds. It is indeed a fight stopper.
The simplicity of function is another reason that shotguns are a good choice for home defense. With even simple training, a shooter can easily and quickly bring a shotgun to bear on an intruder in a home. As a long gun, it is easier to aim and keep on target than a handgun. This, combined with some simple modifications, the shotgun can be a formidable weapon in close quarters.
When it comes time to buy a home defense shotgun there are a few things to consider. In all actuality, there are many things to consider but let’s take a look at what I believe are the core items to look at before you make your final selection. Considering these few points can lead to you getting the shotgun that best serves your needs, without breaking the bank.
Operation and Gauge
Pump or gas gun? The two primary main styles of shotguns are pump-action and semi-auto guns, which are often referred to as “gas guns.” This is because they operate on a gas blowback system.
When choosing between the two you need to look for guns that are known for reliability. The pump-action shotgun is more reliable between the two systems because the action is manual. Gas guns can have cycling issues if not lubricated properly, have light loads, or even if the shooter is not set firmly enough behind the gun.
Of course, you can overcome this by choosing a well-made semi-auto gun and really learning to run it. However, out of the box, the pump-action wins in this category.
Second, on the list of things to look for is caliber. There are numerous calibers, or more specifically “gauges,” in shotguns. While 12 gauge is the most common, it is by no means a must. What will determine the gauge of the shotgun are two things. What is the purpose of the gun and what can you handle?
I tend to lead people to either 20 gauge or 12 gauge. Either of these two will work as a general round for most people. These two rounds can be easily found at any sporting goods store or gun store, in a variety of flavors from birdshot—which is nice to train with—to defensive loads.
The final thing to consider is the aiming system. Contrary to what Hollywood may suggest, you do in fact need to aim your shotgun correctly if you want to hit your target. There are many options but as you can guess, it is up to personal preference.
The most common sighting system is a bead sight. This is literally a BB-style object placed on the end of the barrel and used as a point of reference for the front of the gun. While it has been around forever, I believe there are better options.
First is an actual rifle sight set up. This would have a blade-style front sight and a notched rear sight. These are very easy to use and increase accuracy. The next is a ghost ring-style sight. This is a blade front sight with an aperture-style sight in the back. This is my favorite of the iron sight options because it is very easy to use and very fast.
The last option is an actual optic, which is the most accurate tool. With advances in optics, they can now easily manage the shock and recoil found in a shotgun. All of these are helpful in making sure the shot that you launch downrange actually hits the target.
Running Your Shotgun in a Home Defense Scenario
When it comes to deciding to use a shotgun for home defense, the first thing you should do is seek professional training. With that under your belt, you can begin to fine-tune your skills inside the home. A few solid tips, though, are worth looking at.
First, do not “go hunting” in your home unless you must. If you hear noises, get your weapon, and position yourself with a clear shot at the doorway into your area. Call 911 and get help on the way. If possible, rest the shotgun on the bed without sacrificing your shot. This will make aiming easier and slow fatigue as the police make their way to you.
Second, if you must move through your house, make sure that corners are clear before you move out around them. Prudent use of light is helpful for searching in low light. Once again, you need to be able to confirm your target.
Third, keep the weapon as close to your body as possible when out and moving. In the event an intruder surprises you and grabs the gun, you have a better chance at retention. If the gun is too far away from your center, you could be easily disarmed and end up in a very bad situation.
The shotgun is a classic weapon that still serves a solid role today. And with the proper selection, the shotgun is a very solid home defense option.
Accessorized well and mixed with training the scattergun can be the 12-gauge insurance policy you are looking for. As with all things, with knowledge comes power. This is even truer with the shotgun. With knowledge comes serious power.