When looking for home defense shotguns, it is important not to get too lost in the details. There are just a handful of qualities that you need to consider for this special kind of gun because just a handful of qualities make the best home defense shotgun. In fact, the shotgun is widely considered the best gun for home defense — period.
One is stopping power. How powerful is the shotgun? How powerful do you want it to be? Weaker shotguns will have less kick (recoil) when you fire them, but they will also do less damage. The reverse is true — more powerful shotguns have greater kick but are much more likely to stop a criminal in their tracks.
The measure of a shotgun’s power, or caliber, is denoted by its “gauge.” The two most commonly-used calibers of shotguns for home defense are the 20-gauge and the 12-gauge.
The 20-gauge shotgun generates less stopping power than the 12-gauge, but it can be an ideal weapon for a smaller-framed person or a woman. It will produce less kick, and though the shot will be less powerful than a 12-gauge it can still do significant damage to the target. The 12-gauge shotgun is the most common choice for those who are less averse to risk — it’s for people who want to obliterate their target and are willing to withstand the stronger kick to ensure this. An additional benefit of the 12-gauge shotgun is that an indirect hit is more likely to do more damage than an indirect hit from a 20-gauge.
This might make all of the difference during the moments immediately after the home invasion begins and you are caught by surprise. If you aim, fire, miss, but get close, a fringe pellet from a 12-gauge will do more damage than that of a 20-gauge.
If you want the added power of the 12 gauge home defense shotgun but prefer less kick, consider buying reduced-recoil loads. You can preserve your stopping-power but reduce the pain you experience from the kick.
This leads us to another important trait for home defense shotguns — the kind of stock.
Should you get a regular stock or go with a cool pistol-grip stock like the action heroes from the movies?
The answer is simple: get a regular buttstock, otherwise called a shoulder stock. The reason for this is that, unlike what people may tell you, the shotgun’s massive “spray pattern” is an exaggeration. At a distance of 18 feet, a common 00-buckshot round will create a circular pattern about 6-inches in diameter. It creates a larger pattern than a pistol or a rifle, but you can’t get away with just pointing “in the general direction” and firing.
A buttstock allows the shooter to firmly support the gun and aim it more easily. A pistol grip stock tends to put the wrist in an awkward position because of the way it must be held. This makes it easier to damage your wrist when firing and makes it harder to aim properly.
Defending your personal property and your loved ones in your own house or apartment is something you should take seriously. You have to aim at your target to make sure you hit him, and the best way to do that for most people is by using a shotgun with a standard buttstock.
I’LL TAKE THAT ACTION
The most common type of operating mechanism for home defense shotguns tends to be the pump-action. It is a favorite among home defenders for several reasons. It allows you to fire multiple shots faster because it reloads quicker than other kinds of action mechanisms. You can quickly go from empty-handed to locked-and-loaded because you can safely store a pump-action shotgun with rounds in the stock — all you have to do is pick it up and rack the forearm (the “pump”). Put the gun to your shoulder and voila, you’re ready to go.
Pump-action shotguns are simple mechanisms. Their simplicity makes them extremely reliable, even in adverse conditions. You can count on it to work when you need it to. It’s easy for someone who isn’t a gun enthusiast to learn to operate and become comfortable with — a requirement if they intend to use it.
It’s common for people to say that, should someone break into your house, all you have to do is rack your shotgun and they’ll get scared and run away. You shouldn’t rely on this piece of conventional “wisdom”. It may or may not be true of the particular criminal who breaks in. Are they kids just out getting into trouble? They’ll probably hear the racking sound of your pump-action and realize they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. Are they drug dealers or drug addicts or someone who’s down on their luck, especially considering this economy, with nothing to lose? Then the sound probably won’t phase them.
Either way, you need to be prepared to use your gun.
HOW LONG SHOULD YOUR BARREL BE?
Home defense shotguns typically come with barrel lengths of between 18.5 inches and 20 inches. Shotguns used for sport typically have barrel lengths of 28 inches or longer. The minimum legal length is 18 inches — any shorter than that and the gun becomes illegal in accordance with the National Firearms Act originally passed by Congress in 1934.
The shorter lengths are ideal for the home environment. Houses typically feature tight-quarters and close-turns. A shotgun with a short barrel is less likely to snag on objects when you are maneuvering through your house. The shorter barrel length also helps to produce a wider shot pattern at shorter distances — ideal for the home environment.
The advantage of a 20-inch barrel over the shorter barrels is that you can typically store one or two extra shells in the stock. Home defense shotguns that have 18.5-inch barrels can typically store four to six shells in the stock, depending on the shell length. A shotgun that stores five in the stock can store one in the chamber — this is called a “six-shot model”.
A shotgun with a 20-inch barrel can store up to eight rounds in the stock and one in the chamber. This is called a “nine-shot model.”
Just remember to always follow gun safety rules, especially if storing chambered rounds in your home defense shotguns. Keep the safety on at all times and always treat the gun as if the safety doesn’t work. Never point the gun’s barrel at anything that you don’t want destroyed.