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Personal Defense

The Home Defense Shotgun

by Wiley Clapp   |  September 10th, 2005 152

An expert’s tips on selecting the optimum home defense shotgun.

The Home Defense ShotgunThe misconceptions surrounding the defensive shotgun could easily fertilize California’s Imperial Valley for months, if not years. Such statements as “Use a shotgun–you can’t miss” or “My 12 gauge will cover that wall” are plain BS. The stuff Hollywood puts out is even more misleading. For the record, you can easily miss with a shotgun, and the pattern covers only very small walls at short yardage. Cinematic scatterguns may lift grown men completely off their feet or stop large cars in their tracks, but real ones don’t do anything of the kind. Nevertheless, the shotgun remains an excellent choice of armament for use in home, camp or ranch defense–just about anywhere concealment is not an issue.

Shotguns have a long history in combat roles. They have proven effectiveness in that they launch multiple projectiles. When the sportsman swings his long-barreled Browning Auto-5 at the leader in a wedge of high-flying Canadas, he is using the multiple-projectile concept to increase the probability of a hit. But when he triggers the same firearm at an armed intruder in his home, he is trying for terminal effectiveness–a centered hit on the intruder where all of the pellets strike vital areas.

The point is simple–proper selection of a fighting shotgun and effective ammunition, combined with training, give the defensive shooter one of the most devastating firearms possible. In this article we’ll spend a little time on ammo but mostly look into choosing an appropriate shotgun for home defense.

Gauges, Pellets, Chokes
How about some yardsticks for choosing a gauge? I believe there is at least some use for anything from a 10 gauge to a 20 gauge. That means 10, 12, 16 and 20 gauge, all of which have some form of buckshot load available. The best choice, by a wide margin, is the 12, which has dozens of different buckshot choices. The 10 gauge is usually large, heavy and inclined to recoil so hard as to be intimidating. Going down the scale, 16s and 20s are OK, but gun and ammunition choices are limited. That leaves the 12, where, again, the ammo choice is very wide.

Also, for about the last 10 years, the American ammunition industry has responded to a law enforcement request for shotgun loads with less recoil. At the same time, it has made most of these 12-gauge loads in such a way that they also shoot much tighter patterns.

Let’s consider pellet size. Regular shot runs from No. 12 all the way up to 000 buckshot. The odds-on favorite for combat (read anti-personnel) use is 00 Buck. Double-ought pellets are approximately .33 caliber and weigh around 52 to 54 grains apiece. You can get as many as 12 of them in a 2 3/4-inch “short magnum” shell, but standard and low-recoil loads use either eight or nine pellets. This is probably the best all-around choice. However, there is a low-recoil load from Federal that uses eight 000 pellets that I feel is the best possible compromise. But to be frank, this is an area where there’s a lot of leeway. At “inside the house” ranges, 10 to 12 yards is a long shot, and shot size isn’t critical. Even No. 8 birdshot will pattern into a six- to eight-inch circle at these distances. And it’ll do plenty of damage, too.

What kind of barrel do you want on your fighting scattergun? First of all, you want as short a tube as possible. This is not because a short-barreled shotgun has any ballistic advantage but rather because it handles better in confined spaces like hallways. The legal minimum is 18 inches (as long as that length does not result in a gun with an overall length less than 26 inches). Many shotguns are currently made and sold with 18-inch barrels, so they aren’t hard to find. You can have a shorter barrel if you live in a state that permits it, can qualify for the transfer and are willing to pay the $200 Federal Tax Stamp. I am sort of a shotgun nut, so I have a 14-inch 870 Remington, and I guarantee you that it handles much better than an almost identical gun with an 18-inch barrel.

When you talk about shotguns, the subject of choke always comes up. Choke is the degree of constriction machined into the muzzle end of the barrel. It’s a way of controlling the size of the pattern at a given range. For many years, most fighting shotguns came in cylinder bore. But we have come to understand that, even with buckshot loads, a certain amount of choke is a good idea. Improved-cylinder or even modified chokes work very well with buckshot, tightening patterns a bit and thereby extending the gun’s effective range. So if you can get your scattergun with a choke (improved-cylinder or modified) in its short barrel, by all means do so.

What You Need, What You Don’t
If you watch the movies or read too many gun magazines, you may be puzzled by what the typical Hollywood fighting gun looks like compared to the plain J.C. Higgins pump your grandfather gave you on your 13th birthday. Actually, there may not be much real difference. Today’s modern warriors have convinced themselves that they have to have all of those things all over the gun in order for it to be “real-world effective.” I hold a contrary view, and my own guns have very little in the way of extras bolted on.

Let’s take a look at some of these devices and modifications. For one thing, a blue-steel-and-walnut shotgun works just as well as one that is tactical black all over. If your daily business involves kicking in crack-house doors, you might have need for a few extra shots, but the extra-long extensions screwed to the front of your magazine tube probably aren’t going to be used. Other forms of ammo supply–sidesaddle carriers, butt cuffs or the Speed Feed stock–certainly carry some extra rounds close at hand, but they are equally questionable. A dedicated combat shotgun needs ghost-ring sights so the gunner can get the most out of slug loads, but a gun intended purely for dealing with home invaders probably doesn’t. Nor does it need any form of laser or red-dot sighting system. You are unlikely to have to carry the gun on a 13-mile recon patrol, so you probably won’t need a sling.

You do, however, need a buttstock. Pistol-grip stocks that are widely sold turn a decent shotgun into a useless piece of junk. Shotguns are amazingly easy to miss with under the best of circumstances, but cutting off or radically shortening the butt simply removes your ability to point the gun as it was intended to be pointed.

One other item that can be added to today’s shotguns with relative ease is a strong, simple-to-operate weaponlight. SureFire seems to have the only game in town here. A powerful light mounted on the gun not only gives you something of a shield of light behind which you can work, it also allows you to be sure of your target. Basically, I’m against any modification or accessory that lengthens, widens, unbalances, complicates, adds weight, requires a battery (OK, except for a light), creates extra edges and corners or otherwise adversely impacts your ability to quickly use your shotgun. Just keep it simple.

Double, Pump Or Auto?
Let’s move on to selecting an actual action type for your home-defense needs. It should be obvious that your choice must be utterly reliable. It has to work. By the same reasoning, the gun has to be quick and easy to use. Finally, it would be a really nice bonus if the whole shebang carried a modest price tag. The overwhelming majority of fighting shotguns are really nothing more than sporting guns with short barrels. And, yes, it is possible to shorten an existing gun to fulfill your home-defense needs. Just be sure the shortening job goes to a gunsmith who has the necessary skill and equipment to do it properly.

  • Bruce Redding

    I could not agree more with this entire article. I have an 870with a slug barrel and rifle style sights, close at hand in my home and I feel that it is the perfect home defense firearm for me. People do seem to think that a shotgun allows you to forgo aiming, but if you practice with your shotgun at real world distances it can be a real eye opener just how little spread you get at in house distances. I have a Streamlite illumination system installed on it and I feel very confident This setup will be good for whatever seems to be ailing me. Thanks for an excellent article.

    • Los

      Ready for the unbelievable mess that slugs create? I used to use slugs too until I realized that pulverize and drop are different. Double odd buck is suffcient

  • Robert B

    This is a well conceived article. The only part I disagree about is using anything other than buckshot for defense. You should select the proper load for your needs and birdshot is for birds. See the box o' truth website.

    • Robert B

      I should clarify that slugs work very well also.

  • william

    I have a coupla shot guns for various reasons, but my weapon of choice in home is my 357. Sits on my night stand just waiting for some sucker to invade my castle.

  • michael

    As a shotgun self defense proponent and being skilled in its use, I find Wiley's article to be entirely correct and informative, this is great information! I do find the semi-auto shotguns to be faster in competition and follow-up, but the slide action guns are nearly l00% reliable.

  • Lt. Col. Jim Kennedy

    I agree with this very good article except for one item and would add a couple of extra comments. I would add that a sling may prove to be very useful in a home defense situation. One may have to pick up a small child to move them out of the way, administer first aid to a family member, call 911, move furniture or other item. These actions are hard to do one handed and a sling allows the user accomplish these actions without putting the gun down – DO NOT DISARM YOURSELF. Mas Ayoub, another authority on firearms, suggests that #2 or #4 shot is probably optimal in situations such as we are discussing. 00 buckshot and #7 1/2 shot will work but considering things such as penetration of home walls and effectiveness on the bad guy #2 and #4 shot hits the "sweet spot" pardon the pun. And my suggestion for action type is pump. A pump can be easily cleared when a jam or misfire occurs and during combat type situations these things seem to happen. And a pump can handle multiple length shells. One may want to have different shells to handle situations that may arise following the initial espionage of gunfire. Pumps are generally considered to have better reliability than semi-autos. I also installed an extra shell holder on my buttstock. I fell it it is less intrusive than a side-saddle shell holder I agree that a light on the shotgun is a useful thing. I installed my on the barrel/magazine tube with a on/off switch on the rear of the light. I can therefore turn the light on with my left thumb when I grab the gun on its forend. This type flashlight also avoids having wires and add-on switches. .Finally having the shell holder on the buttstock allows one to gut a small light with a diameter like a 12 ga shell to be slipped into one of the shell slots. Flashlights fail just when light is most needed. I would recommend that everyone even thinking about home defense and possibly purchasing a shotgun read from the writings of three authors, Wiley Clapp, Clint Smith and Mas Ayoub. They have good ideas on this subject. Having been through a couple of years of combat, most as a Special Forces A Team commander in Vietnam, I will go out on a limb and say these three guys will steer you in the right direction.

  • Pete

    For years I kept a 20 gauge coach gun loaded with 3 inch #2 magnum shells near my bed. Especially for women who have never handled a gun, I recommend a hammerless 20 (or 12) gauge coach gun. The only thing they have to remember is to push off the safety. And I believe that for the 12 there are now some very effective buck and ball loads.

  • Capt RVanO

    Great article! While I prefer #4 Buckshot if I was possibly going outside the house proper, # 7 1/2 is what is in my M870 Express.

  • Bernabé

    Last year I bought a 12 gauge Turkish double for hunting boars in the woods and also for my defense gun. It`s an Huglú (CZ-USA imports them under their name for the States, I believe) model 202 B. It´s rather what you call a modern coach gun. Side by side 20 inches barrels, hammerless. Nice feeling gun, easy to maneuver in short distance places like a house and its back yard.

    I used it several months ago to stop a robbery in process at my neighbor`s house, and I cannot say I had to shot it for them to get on their belies to the floor, till the police took them away, because it wasn´t needed.

    They quickly understood the message as they had a look at the twin short barrels 12 gauge pointing at them. As I didn´t have any buckshot that day, I loaded it with Remington slugs.

  • James Lewis

    My home defense gun is a Mossberg 590a1 with a 20 inch barrel. It is very easy to move around the house with. I patterned this shotgun with a varity of different load sizes from 10 yards to 35 yards. The results were very interesting to say the least. After testing the different loads, I chose the 3 inch Magnum 00buck. Mostly for its pellet count and penetrating power. My patterning board was a 3 ply 1/2 inch piece of plywood. The 3 inch Magnum's regularly blew holes all the way through, out to 35 yards. Pattern sizes at 10 yards were about 1 1/2 inches and at 35 yards, roughly 20 inches. My only other comment would be to practice with your home defense gun as much as possible and with everyone in your house who may have to use it. Good article. Thanks!

  • Jay Love

    Great article, especially the part about items attached to your weapon, needed, versus not needed? I have often wondered to myself as to the pro's and con's of these attachment items as I looked at them in gun shops or magazines? I tend to feel as does the author in that most of these neat little add-ons while nice in their own way are not needed or required in a good self defense shotgun, (or other self defense gun) and can actually hinder you more than help you in most cases? the added weight factor and loss of control is enough for me to want to keep a good gun as simple as possible for night time and other surprise engagements??

  • Dale Bailey

    The shotgun is an obvious inheritor of the role of the blunderbus in home defense. The sound of a pump shotgun chambering a round does psychological damage to a perp missing in semi's, magnifying effectiveness.

    Check out Ket-Tec's bullpup 12 ga. w/ a14!!! round magazine. Home defence on steroids!

    • Ross

      I was hoping somebody would comment on the sound of the pump shotgun here. I feel that it is one more advantage for choosing a pump gun, and a HUGE one at that. The sound is unmistakeable, and easily one of the most terrifying things a perpetrator could hear in an otherwise quiet home environment. Five bonus points to the pump gun please. :-)

    • Scott E. Mayer

      The sound of a pump shotgun chambering a round tells the bad guy

      1) where you are

      2) that you have one less shell in a limited-capacity gun

      3) you weren't ready.

      Please, leave that shotgun racking silliness to Hollywood.

      • USMC Vet

        But it's scary sounding Ross, and it worked for Chuck Norris….right?

        • Antonio

          I'm kinda thinking that given today's legal ramifications of pulling the trigger, even in one's own household, I'd take the chance of letting them hear me rack my 870 and forcing them to make a call. If the sound compels the criminal to leave, that's good: no blood, no lawyers. If they continue to advance, they're stupid and/or psycho, and I'm chambered and ready to defend. This is, of course, in theory.

          • qudjy1

            Im with you Antonio – the goal isnt to kill someone – its to protect yourself – killing should be the last resort The rack gives that perp one last chance to get out.

          • big john

            if someone breaks into your home while you are there with criminal intent, the goal is to kill them. If you have another goal, use another tool other than a gun. Why do people think that all criminals take a class that teaches them to identify the sound of pump shotgun? If you are planning to defend yourself with sounds, why not have your tape recorder ready to play a German Shepard barking.

      • Unknownjoe

        I'll just say that leaving a round in the chamber sounds more disasterious than letting them hear you. especially if there are children in the household. G&A recently post an article about teenager shooting his friend in the head…with a shotgun. Work harder not smarter. Practice gun safety so we have to read articles like the one i mentioned above

      • rack it

        shotgun racking silliness?

        unless you're house is being invaded by a small squad of bad guys I don't see the point in worrying about having "1 less shot"

        the fact that you "weren't ready" becomes instantly irrelevant the moment you rack a round.

        As for letting the bad guy know where you are: I'm not too worried. I don't care if he thinks I'm a "rookie" as Jim says. Let him underestimate me, that makes my job easier if I am forced to defend myself. Hearing me rack a round isn't going to give him much of an advantage unless he knows the layout of my house and its rooms. If he's put that much effort into it then he probably put some effort into knowing where I was before he came in. If the guy's good enough to get the best of me just because he knows what room I'm in then he's probably good enough to get me before I know he's there.

        Plus I have to second Antonio on the legal aspect. It may seem silly but in today's legal environment if you don't warn the criminal you could find yourself in trouble even if you were otherwise within your rights. Plenty of people have found themselves on the wrong side of a good lawyer "defending the poor innocent perp". Making sure that the criminal and anyone else within earshot knows that you are armed and prepared to defend yourself reduces the legal pains later on.

      • Chris T

        1: it tells him what to run away from

        2: 1 less shell is pointless, he should be deathly scared of that "one" shell.

        3: Irrelevant. You're obviously ready now. And now he knows that you know he is there.

  • Jim Fleming

    1. I represent "perps" often in court, the hard ones like it when you rack your pump, they say it tells them where the rookie is located. 2. I like #4 buck, but that's just me. 3. No matter what load you choose, pattern your shotgun with different manufacturers' shells, at different ranges. They DO NOT all perform the same. Find what works in your barrel and then do not mix and match.

  • Bill Whiteley

    One thing implied but not stated in Mr. Clapp's article is that if you use your shotgun in home defense and kill or wound your assailant the authorities will confiscate your firearm. Ergo the cheaper the better.

  • bigjohn

    Excellent article. Mr Bill Whiteley how much is your life or your families lives worth. Who cares if your gun is confiscated? You and your family are safe. Have you every purchased a cheap tool and it broke doing the performance of a job you trying to complete. Then you had to go back to he hardware store and purchase the tool that you should have bought the first time. In self defense you can't afford to buy cheap or make very many mistakes. cheap can cost you your life or someone elses life. Would you prefer a an R-G over a Springfiled or Smith? If I were a bad guy I would love for you to rack that shotgun and tell me where your are located. I would then just start shooting in that direction never giving you a chance to fire back. Stop listening to those movie heros Those are only movies not real life, remember bad guys bring shotguns now to commit their crimes. The bad guys read gun books, purchase gun training videos and have the same training materials available to them as cops.Not all criminals are idiots as much as we like to think so. Every person that knows anything about firearms knows that the shogun is the best all around defensive tool against man or beast.

    • big john


  • WLT

    What about non-lethal rounds? Do I have to kill the guy? Can't I just mess him up a little bit? I was thinking a bean bag chambered with safety on, light bird shot next, and 00 in the rest of the tube. If I knock him down with the NL round, it doesn't matter if he hears me chamber anything else.

    • big john

      Perhaps you can start off by insulting him verbally and progress to calling his mother.

    • Unknownjoe

      Its not about killing them; it's about incapacitating, or doing what is reasonably nessecary to get them to stop their hostile intentions. Just remember that they can still shoot at you after being hit by a bean bag

    • James

      It isn't about killing him, but I'd rather have him dead so I don't risk going to jail for attempted murder or assault with a deadly weapon or anything like that. That's just me, and it's terrible that that's the way it is nowadays.

  • Merlin

    I prefer the Mossberg 590 8-shot 12 gauge with 00 Buck. I already have one "racked", giving me a 9-shot total. And I won't "rack" to scare the bad guy. He's in MY house without an invitation….it is what it is. I also do not believe in "non-lethal rounds" You may only get one shot. And at 2 in the morning in the dark, and half awake, the fine motor skills are just not there. When I'm done "messing him up", I'll probably throw up, and call 911. Some of you talk like you can shoot someone, and just eat dinner afterwards. To shoot and kill another human being takes more than you might imagine. Trust me…..I know a little something about that.

  • Michael

    Good article, one very important area often overlooked: Training, seek high quality professional training from an established source. Books and videos have a place but hands on training from Thunder Ranch, Gun Site or the one in my neck of the woods Oregon Firearms Academy will give the man or woman a priceless advantage. Slings are a must have but you need to know how to manage the sling so it does not cause a problem, back to that training thing. My Mossberg 500 is equipped with a Surefire light, strong nylon sling, side saddle (a few extra rounds are not a bad thing but again you must know how to take advantage of and manage your extra ammo). I do have an Aim Point red dot sight. I have received professional training and have used three types of sights: a bead only–bad choice makes aiming at anything over a few yards difficult and precision aiming at any range very difficult to impossible; ghost-ring sights: great choice, fast to use, durable, much higher degree of success in precision aiming, consider tritium front for advantage at night or low light. For me the red dot offered one big advantage: my eyesight is poor if my glasses are not worn and getting them on and keeping them on in a dynamic fast changing situation is not 100%, I am able to identify my target without them at in-house distances but seeing ghost-ring sights in the dark is difficult to imposable, the red dot works much better for me. I also find it to be faster on target in all conditions than a ghost-ring. I do have ghost-ring backup sights.

    Last, buy high quality equipment and weapons, practice a lot and seek out high quality training. For the person advising purchasing cheap, bad choice, I’ll gladly give up what I used to protect and possibly save my grandchildren and my wife. For I know I have high confidence in my equipment and my training to achieve success in defending what is precious to me.

  • Wheelgunner

    Pleeeez . . . don't use bird shot. Bird shot can get you killed. (Unless, you are attacked by a covey of quail.) Mossberg did a test a couple of years ago and at something like 7 feet away, it only penetrated 2 in. of meat. You need penetration that will kill. the BG isn't shooting to wound, why should you? What if the BG ducks behind your couch or chair? Is bird shot going to do anything other than mess up your furniture? He's gonna fire back. He's not going to pose and say, "Oh, bird shot, huh? Here! Shoot me in the face!" Chances are he's going to be moving (unless he was brain dead before he entered your home). Maybe wearing a think coat in winter, etc., etc., etc. If it won't penetrate drywall, it's not going to penetrate a BG deep enough to stop him. #4 buckshot is the smallest I'd suggest. There's a good reason why the police use slugs and 00 buck. It penetrates deep enough to kill.

    • big john

      this man knows what he's talking about.

  • John

    Despite what everyone says, the best choice for home defense is the gun you have at 2:00 in the morning when you and your familie's lives depend on it.

  • Kirsten Curts

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  • Brian

    In the article, "You do, however, need a buttstock. Pistol-grip stocks that are widely sold turn a decent shotgun into a useless piece of junk."

    Why is this? I have the mossberg 590a1 with pistol grip and adjustable stock. Yes I leave the stock on the one setting that fits best to shoulder it. But not being a big guy I like the pistol grip to help pull the firearm into my shoulder. Please tell me you're referring to those "yahooooo's" who think they are going to shoot a 12gauge using just the pistol grip and not shouldering it.

    • USMC Vet

      yeah…i can

    • Manchu

      He's referring to pistol grip only models. The ones with a stock and pistol grip are fine. The stock to shoulder connection helps stabilize the weapon. Pistol grip only makes the weapon harder to shoot at a target properly. Of course, this could be remedied by lots of range time. Know your weapon and your limitations with it.

  • Brian

    Also, I see so much talk about buck shot, 00, 000 whatever it may be. If you had to put one shot to the chest of an attacker is buck shot really that much more effective than a 1oz slug. It's a 12ga 1 oz shot! I'm no expert, just asking. Maybe someone has done a test on this at some time?

  • Hondian

    If you have people in the house, you must be careful about over penetration and what is behind your target. You could kill the bad guy and someone you love behind him. (Having multiple loads available is a good idea.) The best defense is a good offence. Therefore, don’t forget to have the best security system you can afford and make sure it is always on. An ounce of prevention is worth ………..

    • USMC Vet

      more than a ton of regret. This is why I tell people to buy a dog. The louder the better.

      • rack it

        i second that. in fact get two. a big mean one and a little annoying one to wake him up.

  • USMC Vet

    I have a Rem 870 with 18.5" barrel, pistol grip, and open choke. I also live in an apartment so penetration is my number one concern. The first two shells are beanbag rounds (yes civilians can legally purchase beanbag rounds, but check your local restrictions before hand). After those are four 2 3/4" birdshot shells. If you try to tell me that birdshot will not kill a man at close range i will call you a lier. My shells are hand loaded, and i use a brush wad for instant spread. I do this so that I can get a larger pattern at extremely close range, and so that the pellets will loose velocity sooner, lessening the chance of me shooting through the walls and into the next apartment.

  • ChooseYourWeaponWell

    First of all have a gun in every room. The BG may get in and surprise you, but they will not know where you have all your defense. Not everyone is killed by people that break into their homes so an extra gun in every room may offer an advantage when needed.

    It would be nice if we all had automated weapons inside the house in front of all the windows and doors, but that is not practical.

    Alarm systems are a good choice as well as a good dog or two as people have mentioned.

    Most of the time after looking at a house you know where the bedrooms most likely are in the house. So making a noise will not matter since they will know where you most likely are anyway. Ever go house hunting? You can usually picture the layout of the house before you go inside.

    Never rely on just one firearm to protect yourself. It is easy enough to have a pistol handy along with the shotgun.

    Use whatever will send the BG to some place he won't like. Never ever consider just wounding someone that comes into your house uninvited. They may come back again. BG's do not stay in prison forever. If they are in a gang you may want to move and move quickly.

    My family will be behind me calling the police. They have to get by me to get to them. I will shoot through walls or anything else to get them. Everyone may not be able to do this depending on how their house is set up. That is something worth considering also. Every house is set up differently and that has to be taken into consideration when deciding how to defend it.

    I spent a career in the military in two different branches. I saw no branch of service that was better than any other branch.

    I will not throw up if I kill someone. I have seen people act in many different ways when they killed someone or saw someone that was killed. No one can say how anyone here will react. Some just get numb to killing.

    I have seen someone from one service beat up someone from another service. No branch is tougher than the other one. It all depends on the person. It is much better to see them working together than fighting each other.

    No matter how much you prepare it is what you don't expect that will get you killed.

  • Fred

    Random thoughts @ Scott and others.

    1) Yes, my family and I are upstairs. Bad guy would be well advised to stay downstairs.

    2) It could be a mistake to assume the shotgun he just heard is the only weapon waiting. Even so, that fifth or sixth shell really isn't going to make a difference in home defense where in the extremely rare situation shots are fired, its only 2-3 rounds.

    3) Anyone keeping a weapon in the bedroom for self defense should also have a dog in the house or at least an alarm system. It helps make you a less attractive target in the neighborhood anyway. The best option is to make the bad guys find a "softer" target and never consider coming into your house in the first place.

    4) Regarding these "tactical shotguns" with all the combat doodads attached and the implication. Do NOT clear your house! Call the police and let them do it. Or at least let them show up before you move. Once you start moving around you might walk into the bad guy's ambush rather than him risking walking into yours. The last guy you want to go searching for is the guy who heard your 12 gauge and didn't decide discretion was the better part of valor. Walking around your house with a flashlight on the end of your 500 marking your position? No thanks. Just turn an upstairs light on, if you have a downstairs light that you can turn on from upstairs, even better.

    5) To second what Antonio says. Many state and local governments are outright hostile to citizens defending themselves. They will go to considerable length to prove you were not justified in your self defense. You can get a new 50" LCD for a lot less than what the lawyer is going to cost you after a shooting. After the criminal case is over then the bad guy himself, or his next of kin, will be taking you to civil court.

    6) Very few bad guys read gun books, they don't read anything at all. Fact is, most of them are idiots. If they weren't idiots they would be on Wall Street robbing people legally instead of breaking into homes. For the hardened criminal going to prison for a year for B&E is a right of passage, for typical American drone with a family and career a year in the pen will destroy his life.

    In short, be willing to defend yourself and your family with lethal force if necessary. Then take every step possible to avoid it.

    • big john

      sierra whiskey

  • Mike31

    I dont like the pause and wait to listen as described in the last video. If you have the momentum in a close quarters enironment like that it needs to be exploited. Violence of action… don't give the bad guy time to breathe. Also in the combat course I noticed that gentleman advanced postions and THEN reloaded. Good job seizing the initiative and keeping the enemy off balance but reloading should be done prior to movement if at all possible. Great article though guy thanks!

  • Unknownjoe

    I definately agree with violence of action (or vice versa) but remember that there are plenty of people willing to lock you up for your actions. Make sure youre in the right before pulling

  • Shepard Humphries

    Nice article. I ussually turn to Gil Horman for my scattergun advice, but this is pretty good!

  • Jamel Eissinger

    Shearer, Ginola and Asprilla are some of my all-time favourites. But the winner will have to be Steve Harper.

  • Paul

    Is everyone against hand to hand combat, I always have a Kershaw 3.5 inch blade and a Cold Steel 6.25 inch along with my Mossberg pump, S&W and I know I am crazy but my trusty Petzl 100 Lumen head lamp (red 25 Lumens) I like to have non lethal light sometimes. Just Kidding You guys are great. Oh Yeah I also have lots of lawyers for friends and a Doberman but my secret weapon is a Rat Terrier named Oscar he is like radar, GPS, and sonar all in one.

  • Wiseapple

    I have three unmentioned contingencies.
    One-Kershaw 3.5″ folder w/ speedsafe
    Two-Cold Steel 7″ Combat Recon
    Three-Petzl 100 Lumen head lamp w/ 25 Lumen Red Light I like NON-Lethal Light sometimes

  • Right to bear arms

    Winchester Mod 1200 – with a 18.5 in barrel (cut down from a 30 inch full choke). Empty chamber with 4 rounds of Winchester Supreme Elite PDX1 (12 Gauge) in the magazine with 4 more in a stock sleeve. Full stock with recoil pad and nylon sling. Works for me.

  • jsr5

    I think the article was a good one except on two points. I think as another poster commented that a sling is a good idea for post shooting other contingencies if you need your hands free. Until the police have secured you do not relinquish your weapon. And if you are going to use a two handed weapon (I personally prefer a hand gun) It SHOULD most definitely have a light mounted on it. Right in the Golden Rules always know your target (and what is beyond it) . You HAVE to positively identify your target before you destroy it. While the police (prosecutor) may exonerate you for killing grandpa Jones from down the street on a alzheimers fueld trip. I doubt you would forgive yourself. and this is increased in importance if there are other people living in your house, You don't want to be a hero who just killed his housemate who was up ill perhaps vomitting or otherwise not noticing you and your gun. i don't suggest running around with the light on but before you fire you need to use the momentary switch and positively ID your target. And I'm with the guys who advocate running silent in the house, the first they should know that I"m there is when my light hits them and that is an instant before I end their life.

    • h8bogez

      JSR…read again, the author was saying that a light would be one accessory he would add to the HD shotgun.

      • dennis

        If you are using your gun for home defense a light makes you a target, how dumb can you get?

        • Garland

          You don't walk around with the light on making yourself a target. You turn it on to identify your target, before you shoot. Not using the light o identify your target and shooting an innocent person, how dumb can you get? That is what gives guns and gun owners a bad name.

  • Jon in Arizona

    Training, training, training! Professional training and periodic refresher training is what it all is about. They will teach you what you need for equipment, about lights, slings, home defense, gun handling and shooting, legal, moral, and ethical issues, frame of mind, and the like. This article and several comments by obviously trained and experienced people are right on for the most part in my opinion. Mr. Clapp knows of what he speaks, as does Lt Col Kennedy, ChooseYourWeaponWell, and Fred. Some others also made good points. I would like to mention a few things: If you are going to maintain a weapon for self or home defense, determine before hand that you can and will use it; don't wait to make that determination until the need arises. At that time, indecision will get you killed. Also, considering the legal (both criminal and civil), ethical (societal standards), and moral (personal standards) issues, use your weapon only for something worth dying for (yourself or family, for instance). Additionally, the purpose of force is to stop an IMMEDIATE (not imminent) threat of death or great bodily harm to yourself or another. Circumstances will dictate when or if you use deadly force. You may first say in a forceful voice: STOP, OR I'LL SHOOT! Or you may not if they are advancing on you rapidly or at close range. You must make a decision when the threat is immediate. When you decide to pull that trigger, it is when you have determined that you are in immediate danger, that the person you are targeting is the danger, and that no innocent will be harmed by your shot. At that point you shoot to stop the danger, not to kill. In any proper training you will be taught that stopping the danger calls for a thoracic cavity shot (with a shotgun, or two shots with a handgun), and if that doesn't work a shot to the cranio-ocular cavity (generally the bridge of the nose area). You keep shooting, however, until the threat is stopped. You never shoot to wound, but to immediately and definitely stop the threat. Keep your eye on the bad guy and your surroundings and your hand on your gun until the police arrive. Then follow their orders carefully and exactly. As for state and local laws, I thank God I live in Arizona where good guys are favored and they believe good guys have the right to defend themselves, their homes, and their families and Arizona laws reflect those values.

    • TomS

      Rather than saying "Stop or I'll Shoot", which might be equivalent to hesitating, what do you think about puting one to three non-lethal rounds in the gun. This has somel advantages. First if the gun is shot accidentally, the injuries will be non-lethal. Second, it shows that the owner's intent is to stop not to kill. If the perp continues to threaten/advance after getting hit with a couple of non-lethals, the remaining rounds are lethal and will stop the intruder it needed.

      • James Keg

        There is no such thing as a 'non-lethal' round. Everything socially considered 'less-lethal', such as beanbag rounds, taser rounds, even rock salt, can kill. That note aside, if you are defending yourself from a threat that will harm you or your loved ones, anything less than lethal is not an option. That home-invader hopped up on PCP broke in to steal money and valuables for more drugs. He WILL shrug off those 3 rubber rounds, and by that point it will be too late to stop him from jumping on you with a knife and ending your life. How will your family feel then about your choice to use less-lethal ammunition? When you make the decision to shoot an immediate threat, you shoot to stop that threat in its tracks. If it dies, it dies, if it lives, it lives; All that matters is that it can do no more harm.

  • CSM Harrelson

    Excellent article. Correct in every aspect. The 12 gauge with nearly any ammo will get the job done. While serving in Afghanistan in 07, the shotgun was feared. On patrols, everyone was aware of the shotgun.

  • Rickr

    While your pumping that gun I will have already shot everyone with my automatic siaga 12 and will be loading another clip. I wouldn't illuminate myself with a light either unless I had to and only then when I was ready to fire. Mine has a light a bright one wich will only come on when I press switch. I think it's bestti only have it on shot and target. The illumination of yourself makes you an easy target for bad guys. Like I said a 20 round drum clip will be a bit heavy on my other comments but as far as I go I can handle it easily. I won't jam or have to reload while someone else is they are a easy target. Throwing 20 rounds and not stopping will probably get the job done easily and won't be anythin left to shoot at. Automatics aren't unreliable anymore they are the thing to shoot keep pumping and I will keep shooting three or four or five to one on target seems a bit more of a threat than target like that incredible clacking on the pump giving them your place to shoot at. I think I will stay automatic and win rather than pumping myself to death against what seems to be a ever more better equipt bad guy intruder coming in to homes. This home will have three point of shooting coming at them and indefensible they will lose this battle easily overtaken by mass firepower and seemingot overwhelming odds of winning most would retreat if they weren't dead exactly upon entry or before most be dead before entry as we would shoot them before they get into house. This is Texas and private rural property don't come knocking unless your wanting to start rocking.

    • Mitch

      Rickr- keep shootin that saiga. great gun. but dont put down the pump; its the pump action that deters intruders, not the shot. i cant tell you how many stories about baddies buggin out after hearing those chambers being filled.

    • old vet

      Get your head out of your games and READ more, even better actually SHOOT a couple of different pumps and autos before you go all expert about something you have no clue of.

    • Pete

      12 year old troll that doesn't have a clue

    • AdamC

      Yeah, so I see Saiga's in my range everyday and they JAM all the time. As does the new Kel-tech. As far as CLIPS go, didn't know there were making those anymore. If you are talking about a MAGAZINE, then only amatuers need that many rounds for one target. Don't what kind of job you have but that is alot of home repair if you miss, and YOU will miss. As a proven battle corpsman, I can gaurantee that. Lastly, a high powered Surefire light does not make you an easier target, if anything it completely blinds your assailant and might even give him a great parting suntan. Tighten up!

    • Cameron

      Rickr, you do realize that as soon as the first round goes off INSIDE, your and the intruder's ears will be rung making the "incredible clacking" not at all in issue. Not to mention the fact that the sound of the reload and the report of the weapon should be in unison.

    • Hitt Shotwell

      i have a saiga 12 it has an annoying habit of deforming the top shell in the mag when stored loaded-thus causeing jams and making it unreliable for defense,which is why the old tried and true pump is superior. remington 870-mossberg 500-590-winchester 1200-1300, (ALL GOOD! TO GO)

      • Andy

        Winchester 1300 Defender – Blue/Walnut stock. It doesn't "look" all bad and evil like some tacticals. But I bought it in 1990 and it has never failed to fire, jammed or failed to eject even once. And it will put a load of buck or #4 on target as well as any black shotgun out there.

        • Hitt Shotwell

          Yep ,i have a old early 90's1300 defender also-it ain't tactical.its dinged and scratched but its 110 %reliable-actions lightning fast and slippery smooth but it will give ya a dose of hurt for sure.too bad they quit making em' the FN version is WAY over priced

    • Mike

      Horse puckey.

  • John

    bird shot is for birds

  • ron

    i have a question and looking for any and all advise. i have a right shoulder replacement [ i m right handed ]
    i am concerned about the recoil on my shoulder so should i opt for a 20 ga. or maybe even 410 with ooo
    buch shot? thank you in advance for your advise

    • Pete

      I believe what ever it is that you can handle and shoot well is what you should have

    • Mikey

      Pistol grip, shoot from the hip, get a quality laser attachment

    • Eddie

      First maybe check with your doctor before you re injure yourself. Second you should train yourself to shoot with your offside hand and shoulder. I'm a retired police officer, firearms instructor and SWAT team leader. I always trained my guys to shoot as well with their offhand as they shoot with strong hand. Notice I said offhand, never did I call it weakhand as some instructors.

    • coveyjt

      Mossberg Chainsaw

  • gavin

    my AK and rossi 461 well abit more lol will do

  • John

    All good advice but how about the female in the house? My choice is a 20ga. in a youth model. Yes standard barrels for these are about 20" or 22". The stock is shorter and adapted to all home resedents. Shorten the barrel if you like but they are pretty handy just out of the box. A good white bead on the front end is a nice addition.
    A few trips to the skeet range and she will be ready for duty. Just remember to anounce yourself when you come home from the poke game.

  • John

    Rickr has absolutely no combat or tactical training, and it shows. Listening to a guy like this is how innocent people with good intentions end up dead.

    • Frank

      I agree with you John.

    • eddie

      I agree with you sir

    • Andy

      He's obviously watched a lot of movies though – Or played a lot of shoot 'em up video games. Maybe, one day, he'll actually get the Saiga he's fantasizing about. I kinda hope not.

  • ron

    john, thanks much for your advise and i do plan on getting a 20ga. in the youth model. is there much differace in recoil between the 410ga. and the 20ga.? jus concerned about my shoulder replacement.
    again, thanks much.
    take care. ron

    • Mitch

      410 is smaller, lighter, and more expensive. its a better choice for home defense in the fact that it is more cooperative, but you lose a lot of power very quickly. as well as coin.

  • Steve

    Bird shot will work fine. Aim for the face.

    • John C

      You obviously have no tactical experience. You NEVER shoot for the face…ever. You always try to shoot center-mass for the best chance of a kill. Center-mass gives you the best chance to get a kill because whether you're amining high or low, or east-west, aiming center-mass will give you the best chance to hit something on the target.

      • Gregorovich512

        I DO have (17 of my 21 years in the military) experience in special ops and yes at a distance I would shoot for center-mass. But in urban and close quarters situations, my shots were to the head.

        • art6555

          HAHA isn't it funny all of the advice. Gregorovich…I, too carried a shotty… in Iraq with the Army Infantry and I shot for the head in buildings. My first shot gun over there was an old Winchester 1200, until an extractor broke on a raid (keep in mind this was an old old one) it was replaced with a Mossberg 500. Today in my home I have a Winchester 1300 Defender and a Mossberg 500 loaded with #4 birdshot and love them both. If I ever need them, I will probably automatically go for the head. I love the little pump guns!

      • Seth

        Unless you're Dick Cheney. In that case, by all means shoot for the face. Worked las time right?

      • Ravi32

        John, I am wondering if it is YOU have no tactical experience? I have some close quarters room clearing with a shotgun experience in the sandbox — shooting at the head is preferable

  • Mitch

    watched the videos, and frankly im pretty disappointed. only on the right sholder? you need to be ambidexer. with combat situations, the gun comes out first, not the body. that should be noted for new home defenders.

    also, keeping a light on while using a firearm is a poor tactic. military discontinued use of on gun lights without a corded switch for a reason.

    semi autos are great guns, dont get me wrong. but be prepared to sift through a lot of cheap guns before finding one that works. a pump is simple, cheap, and does not take away from the load being fired.

    but john is right. birdshot is for birds. no stopping power on humans at range. a good 00 round packs about the same amount of lead into one shot as a burst from a sub machine gun. shotguns are still in combat for a reason, and thats why.

    • old vet

      We are talking home defense here, not longer range. again, do not underestimate what smaller shot can do up close. Even with no choke at all shot will not spread at in the room distances.

      • Eddie

        I agree with the old vet. I'm retired now but during my law enforcement career I saw many gun shot wounds. Bird shot up close is nasty to say the least. #4 or #6 should get the job done. Once again we are talking close range 10 to 12 feet. Talking bedroom size, short hallway etc.

    • HAD2

      Mitch: Sounds you have "sifted through a lot of cheap semi-auto shotguns" before you found one that works. So, which ones work? I have a Mossberg 500 A, and it's a fearsome weapon, but I would like to compare some semi-autos as to speed of follow-up shots. I would be very interested in your recommendations.

    • thegoodword

      ambidextrous in combat? since when? people should train on the side theyre comfortable with. adding too many variables is asking for trouble, and i doubt many people reading these comments are going to be doing any real training.

      military discontinued use of surefires without tape switches? sorry bud, not true. try deploying a couple times and keeping your switch intact. i stopped asking supply for more, its easier to just hit the button and know that it works every time (and if situated properly its not uncomfortable).

      semi auto is the best choice for untrained hands. in the event that they need to shoot twice they shouldnt be concerned with remembering to pump, they should solely focus on reacquiring target. once again, why add more variables into a relatively simple equation? youre asking for trouble without proper time and training.

      no stopping power from birdshot? youre not looking to take limbs off. stuffing rocksalt down the barrel with a blank shell would be enough to deter most would-be burglars/assailants.

      • this3ndup

        Not sure what your personal background is, but during infantry training in the Corps we were trained to change sides in a number of situations. When clearing corners, for example, we always shouldered the rifle on whichever side allowed us to round the corner weapon first, and on patrol the same principle held true depending on which side of the formation you were on (to avoid the need to pivot all the way around to present your weapon). Check out some videos of squad maneuvers used by Marines to cross intersections in urban combat, for example. You’ll likely see ambidexterity employed. All this to say that it’s actually a common practice, at least in some quarters. Granted, most civilians will not put in the training time to become comfortable with it, but training on your weak side has value in particular situations and shouldn’t be so readily dismissed.

  • ron

    thank all of you for the good advise and i plan to listen to the experts here and maybe i better start learning
    to shoot [shot gun ] from the other shoulder although i do need the practice to feel comfortable.
    again, thanks.

    • Moss500

      I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous. lol

    • Ron

      Yes, there IS a lot of good advice here, notably mine. There is also some bad advice here. If you’re a novice, do more research, more reading, learn as much as you can. As for shooting… practice, practice, practice.

  • old vet

    Never but NEVER underestimate the effect of any sized shot at in house distances. I have seen first hand the damage even a "light" target load does at point blank, and it's ugly. that charge is one big mass of lead at close range, and it's explosive to say the least.

  • old vet

    So true this hasn't changed much since I served with a small recon platoon in '68. In the really thick "stuff" our point man carried an old Stevens 12GA pump. (They were issuing anything in the warehouses by then) Only had to use it a few times but each time it dropped them like a "trap door".

  • Kenny Graves

    I agree with everything but the sling. Maybe indoors you dont need or want the sling to get caught up on anything in the house but if you are outdoors the sling is invaluable. With a sling you can go to your backup weapon or sling the shotgun to use your hands to do other things without putting the gun down.

    • groffeaston

      I still would use a sling especially if anyone also has a handgun as a defense weapon along with their shotgun. Why? Because if the either the shotgun or the handgun malfunctions and you need to transition to the other weapon quickly, you can do so with out dropping the shotgun onto the ground. Or if you encounter an intruder at an longer range than you are comfortable with shooting at using handgun, a shotgun can be a little more accurate with slugs or larger shot at longer distances.

      The thing everyone has to remember is you have to train or practice with your defensive firearms of choice no matter if you choose handgun, shotgun, and/or rifle or a combination of those. You also have to use the same ammunition you are going to use as your defense round when you practice/train so you can get a feel for how it performs.

      Have a plan, a back up plan, back up to the back- up, etc.. and then practice, practice , practice and practice some more! If you have a family make sure they know the plan and get them involved! This way they will know how to react when something happens and they will know what to do to help protect everyone in the house/family! If you ever have to face a situation where you have to shoot an intruder, remember the possibility of the round to over penetrate and to go further than you anticipate. The projectile(S) may go through interior walls and into another room, or go through an exterior wall and into a neighbor's house.

      • Eddie

        Sir you took the words right out of my mouth. I glad I read this before committing cause it saved me a lot of typing. I agree on everything you said.

  • Jstanley01

    No hit from any kind of firearm "lifts grown men off their feet." They drop like a sack of potatoes.

    • Eddie

      You are right they don't lift up and fly through the air but I disagree with dropping like a sack of potatoes. That doesn't happen. Every shooting is situational. Bullet size and placement play a big role. Bigger the hole, faster they bleed out, faster they fall. A person on a mission can still come at you with a bullet in him / her. Do some research on ballistics so you won't be mislead. Let me know what you find out please.

      • Ron

        Eddie you don’t want them to bleed out. That takes too long, they can still shoot at you while they’re bleeding, and it ruins the carpet. You want to hit them with a large amount of fast traveling lead, so that the hydrostatic shock will traumatize the vital organs. Preferably dead before they hit the floor.

  • Mike

    Any kind of a working shotgun is fine for home defense,the ability and calmness of the user is what's important.I have a couple of 12 gauge doubles,one with 18 inch barrels,one with 11 3/4 inch barrels and the 200 dollar stamp I had to get for it.Specialty shotgun shells for it,incude a combination of a slug,with five 00 buckshot.I hope I never have to use it on a human,but my kids and grandchildren come over often,and if they are ever threatened,well I am afraid I would have to borrow a line from Hop Sing on that old tv western series,Bonanza, when he bailed out the Cartwright family,and said"This gun no shoot far,But I never miss from here"

  • ron

    mike, good points made and i am concerned about wife, children and our grand children as you are.
    thanks for the comments.

  • pyrolighterfighter

    I'll have to disagree with the statement that pistol grips on shotguns turn them into useless pieces of junk.
    I waited several months to get my Mossberg 930 SPX with pstol grips. I find that it helps me stabilise the gun when I'm performing tactical reloads, It keeps the weapon on target,
    To each their own…


    • Rick Felger

      I think he meant removing the stock all together and using just the pistol grip with no shoulder support.

    • Eddie

      Pyro, I thinking what Rick Felger is thinking. You are right about reloading and helping stay on target. I used to teach the same thing.

  • rev

    I can agree to pretty much everything stated in the article, with a few clarifications. A pistol grip IS useful, if it is a pistol grip stock, not just a pistol grip that replaces the buttstock….I think that was the point he was trying to make.
    20 gauge is fairly well-represented in ammo choice these days, and is great for ladies and those of slight stature, to include senior citizens.
    I prefer a pump to a semi for defense purposes, since a misfire can be cleared more quickly with your hand already on the foregrip. No, the noise won't scare a bad guy into filling his drawers, but it can provide you with a psychological confidence boost under the tenuous circumstances you face.

    • old vet

      Agree 100%, have a Mossberg and a Ithica, never a hiccup from either. Have had a missfire or two. (shotshells tend to be a little more "perishable" than other ammo) and I've fired some really old stuff. Just pump out the "dud" and problem solved.

      • old vet

        P.S. always watch out for the rare "squib", they can ruin your day!

  • john

    Years after Vietnam I'm buying a weapon for home defense. I like a pump shotgun because it sounds mean. I like a pistol because it's versatile. I think I'll get a 12 ga. Anyone prefer a pistol???

    • old vet

      If you have the means, get both, for home I prefer a good twelve ga pump but that's just me. Any good major brand will work, they don't stay in business otherwise. Doesn't even have to be a purpose built combat gun, just a reasonably short barrel. I like my Mossberg, but there are lots of other good ones.

    • Normal Joe

      With what I have learned from reading guns and ammo articles, listening to reviews online, any handgun that a person is comfortable and well trained for will do the trick. Key point also to make is not only should you purchase a firearm of any kind, but to practice techniques. Practice in your home with firearm unloaded of course, lights on and off so that things become second nature. My opinion for home defense Taurus Judge, sole reason being 5 rounds of home defense 410 shells makes a big impact. yes they are expensive but how much is a family members life worth, and just to remind you those where HOME DEFENSE rounds, they also come in many other calibers which for me is the determining factor as to which handgun I purchase. I have several 40 calibers hand guns, ar15, 270, and 22 caliber rifle, looking back I would have purchased a Judge instead but I didn't so I practice with what I have and use different techniques. Practice Practice Practice. Average Normal Joe

    • Ron

      Because it sounds mean? Do you mean it sounds mean to you and bolsters your self confidence? Or do you mean it sounds mean to the intruder and perhaps scares him away. You don’t want to scare him away, you want to shoot the essobee. Then he won’t come back, or choose another victim down the block. If you want something that sounds mean, I recommend a rottweiler.

  • Dale Carter

    Racking the slide in the presence of a bad guy is also called "warning him". A round should be chambered and ready to go long before you engage the target.

    • OSCAR

      And it reveals your position too.

    • Ron

      The only time an intruder should hear you rack the slide is after you’ve already shot him and you’re loading the next round.

  • Jon

    If you are handy and already own a long barreled shotgun (mine is a 20 year old 870 ) don't waist money taking it to a gunsmith just to chop 9.5" off the barrel. All you need is a small piece of 1.5" angle iron, a couple of wood clamps, a hacksaw & a file.

    Use the angle iron as a guide. Cut half the barrel then flip the angle iron over and cut the other half.

    Having a choke for inside a house is pointless.
    A light is a plus & one that can strobe would be best .
    Take an old shoulder bag or even a woman's shoulder bag/purse, cut the fold over lid off of it and fill it with 00buck or whatever and you set.

    The bag would be especially handy if you are using a double barrel.

  • Fat Billy

    Automatics shoot faster and run out of shells quicker. The pump is good because it lets the intruder make a choice. When you chamber the first round you announce what's next. Any break in artist hearing the sound will leave, if not they are crazy and you'll have to shoot them. My Mossberg has a pistol grip and folding stock so both options are covered. The folding stock does have a couple of faults. Not as comfortable to shoot and doesn't work for a but stroke. Everthing is a compromise, blond, brunette ect. Later,

  • GPD

    With 30 plus years of ER work I can say with may hours picking birdshot out of somebody. Birdshot works. A standard 1 1/8 oz trap load as 388 #71/2 shot. At 10 yards the pattern will be about 6-8 inches at most. A gastly wound and most ER's don't have enough clamps to stop all the bleeders. I keep mine loaded with Federal Top Gun trap loads, the pretty pink ones in case it goes to court.

    • art6555

      AGREED!! I just bought 10 cases of Winchester #4 birdshot (before the ammo craze, I was buying it for about $55 a case now it is up to $70…ugh). I do not feel that a bad guy wearing a thick jacket would pose any problems with that load. It is like a claymore mine

  • guest

    Saiga's, pragas, shmages. My Mossberg 500 goes bang every time and has never jamed. Period. A wise man once said, "Beware of the man with one gun, he usually shoots it well."

  • Eric

    Pump action keeps it simple and it's reliable. Best of all is the sound: The best shot is the one you don't have to fire, and that "CHUCK-CHUCK" sound will ensure that your target is too busy messing his pants to shoot at you.

    Ex-cop Remington 870 pump guns are dirt cheap. The firing pin is a weak point, so have a new one installed on that tired old gun. (My surplus gun was DOA due to a broken pin, but ten bucks later I was in business.)

    It doesn't get simpler or cheaper than that.

    My load of choice? Cheap target loads. Buckshot penetrates far more than necessary. Little bitty BBs at that range, even in a mild 2 3/4 in. shell, will end a bad guy's career at "in the house" ranges. No question. But they have very little oomph left after penetrating 2 layers of wallboard. It doesn't do you much good to stop the bad guy if you kill your kid in the process. Buckshot is simply unnecessary for this purpose. Too much tool is just as bad as the wrong tool.

    I question the use of a tactical light. The bad guy need only "shoot into the light" and he's got you. Why provide a target? You know where the light switches are, so you have the tactical advantage. Pop on the light and surprise him. There are no guarantees, of course, and it's probably not a bad idea to have a light on the gun IN CASE YOU NEED IT for some reason, but don't automatically turn it on. Never give up a potential advantage unless you can gain a better one.

    Don't forget to unload it once in a while and let the magazine spring relax. Replace that spring annually. (Just replace it with your smoke detector batteries.)

    Smithing the 870 is simplicity itself, and you can quickly find everything you need to know on the internet.

    Keep It Simple is the best possible advice. And remember: Check your state laws. If you are in a "castle doctrine" state you are generally within your rights to shoot first and ask questions later once an intruder is inside your home. No need to figure out his intentions, or whether or not he's armed. If a "reasonable person" would feel that his life is in danger, or his family's lives are in danger, then you can fire. You are not a cop. A cop's rules of engagement do not apply. If he's in the house……blast him. Hopefully he'll make better choices in his next life.

    • Ben

      What a well written piece. I may just have to reconsider the 00 I had planned on using.

    • RandleMcMurphy

      Eric, appreciate your thoughts and myself have an 870. However, you contradict yourself a bit here. First you mention that the “CHUCK-CHUCK” sound you will “ensure your target is messing his pants”. Then you question the usage of a tactical light which you say will “provide a target”?

      I say chambering a round will give you away quicker and let the perp assume cover and await your appearance. Having a round chambered already and THEN firing up a 200+ Lumen flashlight (preferably using a strobe setting if you have one) will blind and disorient the perp. Flipping a house light on may surprise him a bit but, it will not blind and disorient. Especially if you’ve already chuck-chucked a round and by then HE is the one with the tactical advantage!

      The very last thing that vermin who enter an occupied home should see or hear is the mere millisecond sound of the trigger going “click!” and then a bright blinding flash of orange/white/red as 9 pellets traveling at 1300 fps make their way across a typical 14 foot room in 1/64th of a second (approx) and (hopefully) terminate him with extreme prejudice (like that stolen line?).

      At least that’s how I see it. Everything else I agree with you on and thank you for your public service too!

    • Ron

      Your chuck chuck comment is wrong. The only time an intruder should hear you rack the slide is after you’ve already shot him and you’re loading the next round.

  • Cauthon75

    After reading this article, does anyone really think that the recent school shooter – who had a shotgun, although I have not heard what kind of shotgun it was – would have been seriously handicapped in his evil plans if he had not had an IAW (Imitation Assault Weapon)?

    " there is a low-recoil load from Federal that uses eight 000 pellets that I feel is the best possible compromise." And that would be vastly more deadly than that little .223 that he actually used. It is too bad that we have to talk about such facts, because we will be in a lot more danger if the killers find out how much more deadly the shotguns are, but it is important for our legislators and the news media to know the truth (if they can handle the truth:-)

  • ART B.


  • Michael

    We all have different sorts of background, various moral views, way different firearms training and experiences. I like Weatherby, pumps maybe you like Remington semi autos better.

    The only way to know if you really will pull the trigger when it comes to home invasion is to be there. Maybe the gun is first rate, perhaps your skill with firearms and tactics is high, still you may not fire. Of course maybe you will. My fondest hope is you are not able to answer that question. The mental and legal fallout will be horrendous. It's a tough time in our culture and there aren't any easy answers. Good luck to us all!

    • old vet

      It's become a sad situation that one may have to worry about all the crap that will fall on them if he/her must protect the lives of themselves and their family. One must know the legal climate in their area.

      • simkatu

        The problem is more what happens when you shoot your son when he’s coming through the window. The last thing on my mind isn’t going to be what are the legal ramifications of what I am doing, but rather, is this person I’m getting ready to kill a 6 year old child, my teenage daughter sneaking in, her friend sneaking out, or my wife investigating a noise she heard.

        Once I know for sure its a “bad guy”, I don’t give a rat’s patootie about blasting him into pieces. The only hesitation on the trigger is the fear that after I pull it I’m going to hear, “Dad….”.

        • Ravi32

          Gun owners prevent 500,000 to 3 million crime’s per year. That includes thousands and thousands of murders prevented.
          Of the 2,100 gun homicides per year that are not suicide or criminals killing criminals, about 4 deaths per year (in country of 350 million) are people accidentally shooting someone in their own family in a home defense mistake

  • jeff myers

    Several great insights here. Real gun owners get long and genuinely want to help each other. I recently bought an H@R Pardner Protector 12- 18.5. Damn good gun for the price(under $200. As an ex Indy cop, I still fear and respect the rack and ruin of the 12 guage! I've seen what they can do at close range, so I sleep better with mine beside the bed-tube loaded, not chambered, safety on(personal choice since I have a 2 yr. old at home). I have a large boxer that sleeps with us, so I should have a few extra seconds to get things in action. Be safe, brothers.

    • zardac

      Sleeping with Gerry Cooney?

  • Ron McLaurin

    When pie(ing) around a corner you video’s all display the target at a distance with optimal geometrical angle to engage. If the target is waiting for the homeowner directly or 180 degrees within the door/hallway entrance it would be impossible to (pie-in) on the intruder; In such a scenario, knowing you target & what is behind it, would you recommend firing through the wall with a 9mm or .40 caliber instead of sticking your head out in plain sight of the intruder to prevent a fatal blow by either gun or knife assault?

    • bobby digital

      Sure, but without a visual confirmation of your target, how do you know what you’re shooting at? What if it was just your son or daughter who snuck out and got locked out? Try living with yourself after that or explaining it to your wife and law enforcement.

  • forgetmenot

    A shot from a 20 ga with #3 buckshot has the same muzzle energy as 2 shots fired from a .44 magnum. I would say a 20 ga is more than OK. Racking the slide on a shotgun in order to intimidate a threat will only get you killed. It is a very recognizable sound, and also one that gives away your position and your intentions. A person entering your home hellbent on robbing, raping, or murdering doesn’t have a lot of rational thought to begin with. Don’t depend on scaring someone with a the sound of a gun being chambered, scare them with a shot being fired at them and hitting them. Just my opinion, YMMV.

    • James

      I agree. Racking a slide is a Hollywood myth. It makes for more impact in a movie, but not much else. In real life it can contribute to your death.

    • Ron

      I completely agree. The only time an intruder should hear you rack the slide is after you’ve already shot him and you’re loading the next round.

  • Brandon

    Great post! I’ve just written a post about defending yourself with a shotgun at my blog and I’ve linked to this article because you go more in depth with gauges, pellets, chokes, and what you do and don’t need.

    I focused on the stopping power, and the safety aspect that shotguns provide for home defense. The last thing you want is for a round to penetrate a wall and hurt a loved one or a neighbor!

    I think in combination with my post and yours it will really help my readers. Thanks for sharing.

  • Pat

    I have a 20ga pump and a 12 ga auto. I feel safe with either loaded with birdshot in the house and less likely to shoot through walls.

  • Pat

    I find myself having to disagree with the advice of never shooting for the face. My normal pistol drill is three shot. Two to center of mass and one to the head.. Sounds good with a shotgun as well.

  • DBrown

    A friend who had happened to go by his house at lunch heard someone break the window in his garage side door. He got his Shotgun, went to the utility hall leading to the garage and racked the slide ….. he heard the would be robber tear out the door and got to the front door in time to see him jump in a waiting car and leave. You may consider it ‘giving you away’ but many of these suburbian burglers just need that noise to convince them to retreat.

    • Ron

      So he jumped in a car and left. In other words, you let him get away, to victimize another person, perhaps not as well prepared as you were. You should have rid the world of that vermin.

      • CharonPDX

        So you would chase him down and shoot him in the back as he is leaving?

        Alright, have fun with that lawsuit…

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