A lot of people consider a shotgun to be the best all-around weapon for home defense. And while there are many reasons why a shotgun might be the best home-defense weapon for you, you need to make an informed decision about the best home defense firearm that fits your specific needs and makes you feel best prepared in case of a home invasion.
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant more people spending lots more time at home, which in turn has meant an increase in home improvement projects, including reassessing all the things you need to put in place for the best home defense.
There are a number of enhancements to the exterior and grounds of your house that can reduce the chances of someone breaking into your house at night, signs alerting strangers to the presence of your alarm system, trimming shrubbery to eliminate hiding spots, or having a simple lighting system that’s triggered by motion sensors. Choosing the best firearm is an integral part of your home security plan.
Over the last 18 months, we’ve been asked a lot more often, “What is the best gun for home defense,” and most people expect the answer to be some kind of shotgun. While there are several models of shotguns that are certainly among the best home defense weapons, there is no single firearm we can categorically name the Best Home Defense Gun.
Affordable Home Protection
It’s easy to understand why so many people assume a shotgun is a one-gun-fits-all solution for home defense. Certainly, shotguns are among the best home defense guns. Shotguns are among the most affordable home protection weapons, with many shotgun models available for under $300. They are reliable, they usually have a long barrel, and they are shoulder-fired, which can make a shotgun easier to aim for beginners and infrequent shooters.
Double Barrel Shotgun used in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, October 26, 1881,
by Val Kilmer in the 1993 film “Tombstone.”
Shotguns are the most traditional of all firearms. Most hunters and firearms enthusiasts owned a shotgun among their first weapons. Characters in western films and TV series have carried and fired a lot of shotguns for as long as either medium has been around.
Hunter using a Silencer on a Shotgun
Aiming a Shotgun
The spray of shot from a shotgun does require a less precise aim, which many consider to be an advantage for novice shooters in a stressful situation. And, as many shotgun enthusiasts will tell you, shotguns send a whole lot of lead toward the target. But because the shot from most every kind of the best shotgun shells for home defense travels more slowly than the shot from any other kind of weapon, firing a shotgun is often less likely to penetrate the walls of your home and injure someone on the other side.
Many people consider the 12-gauge shotgun the best all-round weapon, effective for hunting, garden pest control, guarding the family campground, eliminating intrusive wild animals, like foxes or coyotes that increasingly appear in population centers, and of course, home defense. Many mistakenly believe that the simple sound of pumping a shotgun in preparation to fire is an effective deterrent and can repel an intruder without you even having to fire a shot. Many firearms experts will tell you it’s a false belief that can be dangerous in terms of home defense.
The sound of pumping a shotgun not only warns an intruder of your presence, it signals your general location and tells them you are armed with a shotgun, which could give them a tactical advantage in the situation. As Travis Haley of Haley Strategic Partners has emphasized, "I don't use a shotgun to scare someone. I use a shotgun to SHOOT someone."
So, a shotgun might be the right home defense weapon for you. Or it might not.
Training with a Shotgun
It generally depends on your experience and skill level, the specifics of your family, and the layout of your home and its proximity to your neighbors and their property. The most important thing to know is that if you have no training and don’t regularly practice with your home defense weapon, a shotgun is not going to overcome your lack of basic skills. For instance, actor Keanu Reeves spent months working with shooting instructor Taran Butler to prepare for the role in John Wick.
Keanu Reeves training with shotgun
You want a weapon you are completely comfortable using, but you do not want a weapon that gives you a false sense of confidence.
Reloading a Shotgun
Pump-action shotguns must be manually reloaded, with the shooter manually pumping the second shot into the chamber. It’s a fast, fluid motion when the shooter is proficient with the weapon, but a novice might not reload, pump and aim fast enough to get off a second shot. A semi-automatic shotgun, also known as a semi-auto shotgun, is a good option, but these are more complicated and more expensive than a traditional shotgun, and if you are considering a semi-automatic weapon, you should look beyond shotguns to consider a handgun or rifle.
Storage Of Your Home Protection Shotgun
If you are leaning toward choosing a shotgun, make plans for how you will store it safely and still be able to access it quickly when you need it in an emergency. The other members of your household must understand your shotgun is not a toy and respect your rules regarding the weapon.
Maneuvering a Shotgun in Your Home
If your house has tight corners, a shotgun might be cumbersome. Most shotguns are usually well over three feet long overall. Shotguns are heavy, and some of the bigger gauges have a relatively harsh recoil. There are smaller shotgun models, however, such as the Mossberg Shockwave, with its 14.375-inch barrel, overall length barely more than 26 inches, and unique design to minimize recoil.
Shop Mossberg Shockwave Models
Traditional shotguns have a smaller capacity than most handguns or rifles, holding fewer than six shots (a double-barrel shotgun will only hold two shots). There are, however, magazine-fed shotguns that will hold many more shells, as well as adapters that will allow a larger capacity, but these are bigger and more cumbersome weapons. These are often the weapon of choice for competition shooters like Jerry Miculek, who uses a 16-plus-1 shotgun.
Jerry Miculek, shooting a 16-plus-1 shotgun in competition.
Inside a Shotgun Shell (Photo: americanshootingjournal.com)
Ammo Considerations When Using a Shotgun for Home Defense
Some kinds of shotgun ammo will over-penetrate walls, which can be a serious problem in apartments or condos, particularly those with thinner walls. Slugs and buckshot have the deepest penetrating power, while birdshot will penetrate less. You’ll be responsible for any damage from the projectiles you fire, so you should take this into consideration when you are evaluating your options.
You don’t have to imagine what kind of damage you could do in such a situation, YouTuber Edwin Sarkissian has an entire series of videos illustrating the effects of various firearms on sheetrock, including “Shotgun vs. Drywall”:
Shotgun Pattern and Home Defense
Most important, don’t make the mistake of believing that the wider pattern of shot from a shotgun means you don’t have to aim, or that the wider blast will compensate for poor aim. A shotgun blast needs distance for its pattern to spread wide, and inside your home you will probably be relatively close to your target. At fifteen feet, a shotgun blast pattern will likely expand to a size no larger than a fist. To hit your target, you must learn the fundamentals of shooting, and routinely practice with your gun. If you are a novice or even if your skills are rusty, a shotgun will not take up the slack.
For many people, a shotgun is an excellent choice for home defense, but it shouldn’t be considered the best choice for everyone. Consider your specific needs when making the decision to purchase a firearm for home defense.