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Why a Shotgun Makes a Great, Affordable Home Defense Tool

Some things just never change. In a time when pistol caliber carbines and ARs have become so popular, especially with some of younger gun buyers, a shotgun is still quite affordable and remains an outstanding choice for home defense. The technology might be centuries old, but it still works extremely well and will stop bad people with evil in their hearts.

Decisive stopping power

Yes, pistols poke holes in people. Rifle put holes through people, too. And shotguns? Well, with the right loads at the distances you’ll find at the typical homestead, shotguns are downright devastating. They leave large, ugly holes. Don’t believe me? Just as Clint Smith, master of subtlety (NSFW).


Most folks don’t have $1000 to $2000 to drop on one of today’s hot-selling pistol caliber carbines. Add more for a quality red dot or holographic optic, plus a sling, spare magazines and maybe even a set of pop-up irons. That two or three grand won’t buy Wayne LaPierre a new suit, but for most folks that’s real money.

Alternatively, you can protect your home just as well with a $100-200 used pump shotgun.

No, that’s not heresy.

A pump gun will work, regardless of gauge. Whether it’s a 12 gauge, a sweet 16 or 20 gauge – it doesn’t matter. You can find effective buckshot and slugs any scattergun you own. You may have to look a little harder for 16 gauge buckshot, but it’s out there.

I don’t recommend .410, but if it’s what you have or all you can handle, it surely beats a harsh word and an upraised fist.

Leave the birdshot loads for little birdies. Sure, at three or four feet, birdshot will perform similarly to buckshot. However, the prudent defender will not let the bad guy get within arm’s reach because at that range, the attacker can strike faster than the defender can react.

Buckshot will deliver its buckshot-like performance from the muzzle out to 20 yards or more, depending on the set-up.

What is buckshot?

00 buck buckshot ammunition shotgun


Buckshot is typically a number of lead balls from .24 (#4 buck) to .33 caliber (#00 buck).  Each impacts the target and creates its own wound channel. A round of 12-gauge 00 buck will typically have between nine and twelve .33 caliber projectiles. Many commercial 20-gauge buckshot loads carry as many as twenty BBB, #2, or #3 pellets but lots of loads are available. Either way, they create a lot of holes.

Typically, a user can expect about an inch of spread at the target from buckshot for each yard from the muzzle.

And thanks to the good people in Hollywood, TV and movies have educated almost everyone on the universal sound of peace. If a potential evil-doer doesn’t reconsider their initial plan after hearing their victim racking a shotgun, that should serve as a big clue to the defender. Some dispute the effect of the sound of racking a scattergun, but it definitely doesn’t hurt.

Is shotgun capacity a problem?

Sure, you won’t have 30-round magazines, but that’s okay.  Remember, with a shotgun, you’re not poking holes in someone. You’re cleaving hunks of flesh from their bones and/or shredding tissue.

Score just a single hit on the bad man in the center of the chest with a slug or buckshot inside your home and you’ve provided them a leg up in their effort to successfully take the room temperature challenge.

Most shotguns, even the hunting guns, will have four- or five-shot internal magazines.  Four plus one in the pipe will serve to defend against all but the largest, most-determined adversaries. If you face the risk of a half-dozen intruders, you may need something belt-fed and crew-served anyway. But for the rest of us…

Image via

Feel under-gunned with five rounds?  Buy a Sidesaddle shell carrier and attach it to the gun’s receiver. Or you can attach them to the stock.  Or both.  With four or six rounds on the receiver and six more on the stock, you’re carrying well over a dozen rounds, minimum.  Gun battles overwhelmingly are “come as you are” affairs.  Seldom do you have a chance to kit up.

Remington 870DM magpul

Dan Abraham for TTAG

Want still more capacity? Remington and Mossberg make removable magazine-fed pump shotguns that will give you up to 20 rounds depending on the model and configuration.  In my experience though, the bigger the magazine, the more likely you’ll face reliability issues.  Your mileage may vary though.  But make sure it works before trusting your life to it.

What about a shotgun’s recoil?

Yes, shotguns produce recoil. Avoid magnum loads and you’ll avoid the worst of the punishment. A good butt pad on the stock will absorb some of the recoil, too. Using the proper stance, learned through training and practice, will do wonders for absorbing recoil and making for much faster (aimed) follow-up shots.

The best news: thanks to female law-enforcement officers, today we have reduced recoil buckshot and slugs for 12-gauge boom-sticks. These provide good performance with significantly less felt recoil. That means faster aimed follow-up shots should you need them. Frankly, I prefer these to standard loads and you might, too.

Image via Remington.

What’s more, no bad guy will absorb a chest full of “managed recoil” buckshot and say, “Boy, I sure am glad you didn’t shoot me with standard buckshot!”

Jury appeal

As a secondary consideration, a pump action shotgun won’t scare the sheep as much as a tricked out AR “military” style rifle or whatever the gun banners and anti-2A politicians pejoratively label modern sporting rifles. Cowboys and old-school cops use shotguns, so they must be as American as baseball, apple pie and pickup trucks, right?

Or at least that’s what you hope the average person who knows little about guns will think while sitting on your jury. After all, if you do face trial for self-defense gun use in the home, your jury of peers won’t be twelve NRA members, Arfcom or TTAG readers.

Ease of use

Pump shotguns are easy to use. Just about anyone can figure it out. Look down the barrel and put the bead on the target.  Squeeze the trigger. Pump the gun, lather, rinse and repeat.

GSL Defense Training photo

Again, affordability

Did I mention affordability? You can get a perfectly serviceable used pump shotgun for as little as $100 or so. It may not be pretty, but it’ll go bang an protect your home and family in an emergency.

What’s more, some of the affordable import guns can also follow you home for well under $200, brand new.

Even tricking a shotgun out with sling swivels, a sling, and a side-saddle shell carrier, you’re still way under the price of a quality, American-made holographic sight.

The moral of the story: there’s an effective, affordable shotgun out there that just about everyone can afford. No matter the gauge or capacity of your shotgun, it remains far better protection than any pacifist male. Or even a group of pacifist males for that matter.

Source: The Truth About Guns

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