Shooting Straight: Ditch Your Home Defense Shotgun

wilson combat shotgun
There are lots of reasons to own a shotgun, but that doesn’t mean home defense is the best one. (Photo credit: Wilson Combat)

Times change. That applies to more than the disturbing resurgence of 90s clothing or the way trucks are turning into glorified Tonka toys. Your home defense shotgun—the one that’s propped up near the front door or leaning against the wall by your bed—it’s time to get rid of it. Or, at least, store it properly and start checking out the realities of 21st century home defense.

Yes, I’m talking about the fact that an AR-15 rifle beats the hell out of a shotgun for a lot of tactical applications the average home owner will be involved in.

Remington 870 Tac 14
Not actually a shotgun, but the Remington 870 Tac 14 is a 12 gauge gained some popularity for home defense. (Photo credit: Kat Stevens)

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve trained with every long gun short of muzzle loaders for tactical use. That includes bolt actions, lever actions, AR-15s and, yes, shotguns. If someone tells you that you flat-out can’t use a particular firearm for self/home-defense just because, they’re full of it. Granted, I probably wouldn’t advise a muzzle loader or a flintlock, but you do you.

Everyone including our not-so-esteemed POTUS has waxed poetic about the use of shotguns for home defense.  In case you need a refresher, here’s what Biden said: “I said, Jill, if there’s ever a problem just walk out on the balcony here…put that double-barreled shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house.” (He went on to spout more garbage such as people don’t need an AR-15 and that they’re harder to use and “you don’t need 30 rounds to protect yourself.”)

And let’s not forget that time Biden advised “…if you want to keep someone away from your house, just fire the shotgun through the door.”

double barreled shotgun
POTUS has made it clear a double-barreled shotgun is all you need. (Photo credit: Case Auction)

Then there’s the all-too-common idea in the gun world that a shotgun is going to have the greatest possible impact in a home defense scenario. With a shotgun, you can’t lose, they say. Why, just the sound of a pump-action working will frighten away the average home invader!

Let’s not worry about the possibility they might be hopped up on whatever the street drug Flavor of the Week is or ask why your defensive firearm didn’t already have a round chambered. Use birdshot to defeat worries of over-penetration, they say. Just point and shoot!

Yes, there are some in the gun world who fall somewhere in the middle. They know better than to claim birdshot is a smart choice or to suggest you need no training or trigger time to run a shotgun gun for self-defense. Even so, they’ll still tell you that you can’t possibly beat a shotgun when fending off a violent home invasion.

Spoiler alert: having a gun you can run reliably that’s close at hand? That’s the gun for you. Is a shotgun the Best Thing Ever? No.

mossberg shotgun
The Mossberg 500 ATI Tactical is the company’s take on a defensive shotgun. (Photo credit: Mossberg)

The AR-15 has a lot to offer over the shotgun. A carbine-length AR is maneuverable, easy to operate, and gives you options for distance…because not all home defense scenarios take place at the same distance, guys.

Unlike a shotgun, your AR-15 isn’t going to change pattern depending on how close your target is. Do you need to be aware of trajectory and how it changes? Absolutely, but that’s still easier than patterning. Then there’s the capacity factor. That’s well worth getting into.

POTUS might think no one needs a 30-round magazine to defend themselves, but the reality is you can’t predict how many home invaders you might be facing. And if you live out in the country, it’s entirely possible you might find yourself facing a major issue like a group of violent illegals or junkies.

Would you rather have a shotgun loaded with a single-digit number of shotshells or an AR with 10, 20, or 30 rounds? Unless you possess and can use a crystal ball to see into your self-defense future, you can’t know the number of attackers or whether they’ll act as a team or in a disjointed rush.

While it’s possible to reload a shotgun quickly, your average gun guy can’t palm shotshells for speedloading (it’s a skill worth honing, though). An AR-15 is simple and fast to reload, thanks to the fact it only takes a magazine change.

Most AR-15s have Picatinny rails that make it quick and easy to add a red dot sight, LVPO, or whatever type of setup you prefer for close quarters. Some shotguns are also optics ready out of the box, but many aren’t.

Another issue of shotgun versus AR-15 is that many, if not most people who use shotguns for home defense use whatever 12-gauge they had sitting in the closet. That could mean it’s a wingshooting shotgun with a 28-inch barrel or it could be an old pump that’s tough to cycle under stress. Hunting shotguns and defensive shotguns (which typically have 18-inch barrels) are not the same thing. Do you really want a 26-inch barrel on the gun you’re using in close quarters to attempt to defend your life?

Telling people to just use a shotgun for home defense is the long gun version of telling a woman she needs J-frame. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all gun and there’s not even a tiny dose of reality in the belief that a shotgun is the “ideal” home defense weapon for the average person.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that you’re going to be kilt in da streets (or the house) because you have a shotgun. But I’m also not willing to sugarcoat the situation and say that your shotgun is perfect because it requires no skill or training and hey, it was good enough for your ol’ grandpa. I’m pretty sure you’re not your grandpa, and I hope you’re willing to take advantage of advances in technology.

Whatever gun you use for home defense, spend some time shooting it. Get used to the trajectory or pattern—depending on the platform—and make sure that training time involves using the same ammo you’ll use for home defense.

Don’t just toss it in a corner or assume you can get to it no matter what. Stop and consider whether you’d be cut off from your gun if a violent home invader kicks in your front door or got in through that window you like to leave unlocked. Is the gun so long it’s going to be way easier for the bad guy to get ahold of the barrel and render it pointless? Or, worse, take it away?

Did you even lock your front door? Well, did you?

The reality is a shotgun isn’t the ideal home defense tool for most people. The fact is there isn’t an ideal platform for everyone and every situation. But odds are very good that you’d do better with an AR-15 or a handgun.

Don’t fall victim to decades-old mindsets and stick-in-the-mud advice. Be willing to evolve—and to do what it takes to defend yourself and your family in your own home. That might mean ditching the shotgun for an AR-15. I’m just saying.

10 Responses

  1. I had a shotgun before I had an AR. Since getting an AR, the shotgun retired from home defense duty.

  2. Thinking a long gun for home defense might not be as easily deployed as would a handgun. Holding a handgun out, forward ready, extends the arms about as far as a long gun would, making it about the same distance forward as the hold needed for a rifle/shotgun. And, pulling the gun back in order to get around corners is about the same needed to do the same for a rifle/shotgun. A rifle/shotgun may not have more capacity than a handgun.

  3. Anothet complete load of horseshit from the “my opinion is right, and everyone else is wrong” writer.

    This site is getting more like TTAG every day.

    1. “This site is getting more like TTAG every day.”

      But this one is only weekly. How much different from TTAG should we have expected?

  4. More crap dribbling from Stevens’ keyboard. I’ve got an AR, a cheap Winchester knock-off shotgun, and a .44 magnum all ready for home defense duty. Which one will I use?? It all depends on the situation. However, I’m in the boonies, my closest neighbor is several hundred yards away, so using an AR-15 for curtilage defense is workable. What about if you live in an area with multi-family housing? Or an apartment? Is an AR appropriate?? Hardly.

    Instead of saying “ditch your [X],” why not say, “if you have this firearm, then use it for home defense in this way.” The excellent Paul Harrel would make videos on using bolt action rifles for self defense, because maybe that is what someone has and they can’t afford something else. Stevens ain’t no Paul Harrel. Harrel has class and is knowledgeable, Stevens is a f*ing twat.

    Personally, I say ditch your crappy, jam-o-matic, under-powered semi-automatic 9mm for home defense.

    1. I’d use a shotgun if I lived in multi-family housing. I live in a brick and thick stone house on a wooded lot without close neighbors. If a projectile manages to make it through a window, it’ll eventually hit a tree. The kids’ bedrooms are upstairs. Mine’s on the main level. Harrell also has great videos on shotgun and AR penetration for home defense.

    2. “Personally, I say ditch your crappy, jam-o-matic, under-powered semi-automatic 9mm for home defense.”

      The only serious handgun for self-defense is .500 S&W. Other than that, just find a quick and convenient escape path.

  5. There are different weapons for different situations. The shotgun has its place as a close-in defensive weapon against more than one attacker. A well sighted AR – especially with a night capable sight – can keep attackers at bay for 100, 200, even 500 years. When the shotgun is depleted, the spouse will be reloading while one defends with a .40 Cal, 9mm, or .380 pistol. it is important for effectiveness that the shooter is comfortable and capable with whatever weapon is selected. Ammo selection is quite important for the purpose intended.
    Don’t scoff at any weapon. They can all kill in the right hands.

  6. “I’ve seen a few people shot over the last 40 years, and yet the single most destructive gunshot wound I recall was a 12 gauge direct head hit from a skeet load across a very small living room. Bluntly, at the sound of the shot the fight was over.” – Clint Smith

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