By Sheriff Jim Wilson, Shooting Illustrated
Nowadays, it seems a lot of attention is focused on using the AR-15 as an ideal gun for home defense. While the AR-15 is a fine choice, citizens considering a long gun for home defense should not overlook the shotgun. There are a number of reasons why the shotgun will fit the bill quite nicely as a home defense firearm.
Cost is one of those considerations. Compared to other defensive firearms, shotguns are not all that expensive. This is especially true when you consider the variety of used shotguns available in virtually every gun shop. I bought two Remington Model 870 Police shotguns sold by a state prison system, and I can tell you a suitable defensive shotgun can be purchased for just a couple of hundred dollars.
In addition, long-barreled sporting shotguns can have the barrels shortened by a gunsmith and will serve quite nicely. Your defensive shotgun does not have to have a synthetic stock, accessory rails and an extended magazine to do service protecting you and your family.
When ammunition is considered, nothing is quite as versatile as a home defense shotgun. It can be loaded with birdshot for use inside the home (to prevent over-penetration), various sizes of buckshot for use out to about 25 yards and slugs for use out to 100 yards. Of the two Remington 870s I use, the house gun is loaded with low-base shells with No. 6 shot, while my car gun is charged with high-velocity 00 buckshot—with slugs close at hand when needed.
When used at effective ranges, the shotgun delivers an impressive amount of energy to a target. A center hit with a 12 gauge, or even a 20 gauge, will generally take the fight out of the most determined criminal. It is the rare documented gunfight that involves more than three or four shots from a defensive shotgun.
Unfortunately, too many folks think that all you have to do is point and shoot a shotgun to restore peace to the immediate area. Such is not the case, as we proved in this test. At close ranges—those most commonly encountered in gunfights—the payload from a shotgun is surprisingly tight, about the size of a fist. A shotgun has to be aimed to be effective, action movies notwithstanding. It is critical to practice with the defensive shotgun to know exactly what your chosen load does at a particular range.
So, while the shotgun may not be currently the most popular choice for home defense, it should not be overlooked by serious defensive shooters. It is a relatively inexpensive and quite effective home defense gun that many people can count on.