Concealed Carry & Home Defense

CCW Weekend: Is A Home Defense Shotgun Better Than A Handgun?

By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters

A great many companies sell a “home defense shotgun” or “tactical shotgun” intended for that purpose. A lot of people keep a shotgun for that purpose as well. Now, there’s no question that a long gun is better than a handgun in an armed conflict. There is also no arguing that people have used shotguns in defense of themselves.

Is the shotgun necessarily a better tool in lieu of a handgun? That’s another matter. It’s certainly true that you can’t put a shotgun in a concealed carry holster…well, maybe a Taurus Judge, but there aren’t too many pellets of 00 in a .410 shell.

Some people argue about this things and it’s certainly a worthy topic of discussion when planning one’s home defense.

A person might posit that a shotgun is ideal in the semi-rural or rural setting as there is simply that much more space. In this instance, the shotgun becomes practically the ideal personal defense implement as a 3-inch shell loaded with 00 buckshot will take care of anything on two legs and most critters on four legs. For bigger things on 4 legs, switch to slugs.

In the cramped urban or suburban environment, it might not be as ideal. Not all homes are spaciously laid out, and cramped quarters do not lend themselves easily to maneuvering through with a long gun. Since many defensive encounters take place within the home, this is something to think about. A spacious ranch home, absolutely, but the typical apartment may be a bit too cramped. The best use of a handgun is as a close-quarters weapon, which certainly describes the home environment.

A person might be given to thinking that shot is better than a bullet, as many holes in a bad guy is better than just a few. On paper, sure, but in the real world it’s a bit different in the real world. That would certainly be the case when it comes to buckshot and at home defense distances, pellets won’t have had sufficient distance to widely pattern – they’ll trail and cluster close, concentrating the projectiles in a smaller area.

Does this necessarily mean that a determined attacker will go down with one round of 00 or 000? Actually, no.

Bill Allard, one of the famous veterans of the NYPD’s stakeout unit in the 1970s, was armed with a shotgun in a number of the shootouts in which he was involved. One of his most famous took place at a hotel that was a popular target for armed robbery, during which he emptied his shotgun (loaded with 00 buckshot) into one of the robbers who hit the hotel while he was on stakeout, and then had to draw his Colt 1911 to finish the fight.

Likewise, legendary gun writer, paratrooper and Border Patrol agent Charles Askins wrote about a number of encounters where a suspect had to be shot multiple times with buckshot before they collapsed.

The point here is that the larger shell doesn’t guarantee a “one and done.” Follow-up shots will also take longer with a pump gun.

It’s also purported by some people that shot won’t penetrate walls and therefore, it’s safer than a handgun – as handgun bullets will.

This is patently false.

If it penetrates flesh, gypsum board isn’t going to be much of a problem. It doesn’t take much to physically punch through drywall, but you can’t punch through flesh. Buckshot is going to go through drywall. So will birdshot. The Box O’ Truth has done extensive testing to see how well ammunition goes through drywall and as it turns out, shot definitely goes through drywall.

Granted…there is perhaps no sound more distinctive than the sound of a pump shotgun being cycled. An intruder overhearing that may be incentivized to flee.

There’s no question that shot pellets that go in a bad guy probably won’t be penetrating drywall. Furthermore, if there’s anything close to a “do it all gun,” a good 12-gauge is about as close as it gets. You can defend your home and hunt virtually any game, as plenty of deer have been taken with buckshot or a slug – though you may want to swap out a smoothbore barrel for a rifled slug barrel when after Bambi, if at all possible, and back to smoothbore for the duck blind.

But it’s also the case that a pistol is arguably better for the home.

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Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.