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In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss about using a shotgun for home defense. A high-quality pistol is an excellent choice for an on-the-go self-defense firearm. However, when it comes to home defense, there are few things more well-rounded than a pump action shotgun.
Home defense can have multiple definitions depending on what and where “home” is. For example, an urban home may need protection from human intruders and other bad actors. Meanwhile, properties in rural areas might also need protection from predators like bears, wolves, and other wild animals.
This article discusses what you need to know about shotguns, their pros and cons, and why it’s an ideal home defense platform.
The pros and cons of shotguns
Below are the primary strengths of using a shotgun for home defense.
1. Stopping power
In general, shotguns have superior stopping power compared to pistols. A 12-gauge buckshot, in particular, offers excellent stopping power that only high-caliber rifles can match. In addition, buckshot shells fire multiple pellets. For example, the typical #00 shell fires nine 9mm bullets, hitting a target simultaneously.
For home defense, you probably don’t want to use something as small as a .410, as these are suited for small game hunting and pest control. On the other side of the spectrum, slugs’ amplified penetration isn’t ideal for home defense as its projectile can shoot through walls. Buckshot is a good shell option for home defense as it has minimal spread in close quarters, providing more accurate firing.
2. Requires minimal skill
Shotgun shells’ projectile spread results in the ability to take an effective shot with basic gun-handling skills. Compared to handguns and rifles, shotguns don’t require as much accuracy to stop a threat, as each pellet contained in shells spreads out and can create a separate wound.
However, it’s important to note that the popular pump-action shotguns require practice to get used to the action-release function. It’s common to struggle with unlocking the bolt for safe loading and unloading, which could lead to unintentional discharges. And while semi-automatic shotguns are the easiest to operate, those from quality brands can be woefully expensive, particularly for non-enthusiasts.
Keep these in mind when scouting for a home defense shotgun.
3. Lower costs
A good break or pump-action shotgun costs much less than high-quality semi-automatic shotguns, pistols, and rifles. You can usually get a solid pump action shotgun for a third of the price of a semi-automatic pistol, plus the practice ammunition is more affordable. And while general-purpose shells are priced comparably to pistol and rifle ammo, you’ll usually be firing fewer shells.
Of course, break-action shotguns are your most cost-effective option, as you can get one for under USD$200. However, they have low ammunition capacity and take longer to reload—not ideal for home defense emergencies.
4. Easier to maintain
Compared to pistols and rifles, non-semi-automatic shotguns have fewer moving parts and are mechanically simpler. This makes them less vulnerable to mechanical malfunctions, easier to clean and service, and friendlier to inexperienced gun handlers.
Below are some shotgun weaknesses regarding home defense.
1. Slower to engage
Most shotguns have actions requiring manual cycling, resulting in longer intervals between shots. This delay can be crucial during critical self-defense situations like home invasions. Alternatively, spending time on your shotgun handling skills reduces shot intervals considerably.
2. More difficult to maneuver
US law requires personal-use shotguns to have barrels at least 18.5″ long. This can be an issue when navigating homes with tighter hallways and corners. While you can get a short-barreled shotgun (SBS), this requires approval and paperwork from the Bureau of Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).
If SBSs appeal to you, getting a short shotgun classified as AOW (any other weapon) is best, as it entails lower fees.
3. Low ammo capacity
Apart from longer shot intervals, tube-fed and break-action shotguns are loaded one shell at a time. And while you might see seasoned shotgun handlers reloading these types of shotguns with tremendous speed, it takes years of practice to get to that level. Meanwhile, 10-, 12-, and 20-gauge shotguns can only hold a maximum of seven shells.
However, while it may take longer to reload and take follow-up shots, the sheer power of a 10- or 12-gauge shotgun is enough to drop a threat. It should suffice for your home if it’s good enough for the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
A shotgun’s strength far outweighs its weaknesses when it comes to home defense platforms. Additionally, its accessibility and broad scope of use further amplify these benefits for non-gun enthusiasts. Of course, the best home defense weapon is the one you can fire accurately, confidently, quickly, and safely. So, if you’re looking for your first firearm, it’s best to go to a shooting range and see which one you’re comfortable with.