When it comes to home defense, the best firearm for most shooters is a shotgun. A handgun is for concealed carry and as a weapon of opportunity to stop an unexpected attack. A rifle is for long-range work.
While either may be used successfully for home defense, the shotgun has the advantage in this scenario. A shotgun handles largely by feel, and points well. The shotgun offers a spread of shot that increases the user’s chances of making a hit in the dark.
While it is true that a shotgun must be aimed carefully at short range, the spread is an advantage in some instances. The problem with a shotgun is recoil. The shotgun kicks and kicks a lot, largely due to the weight of its payload.
The 20 gauge may not be as powerful as the 12 gauge, but it will cut a bloody rathole in man or beast, and stop a deadly attack. The 20 gauge offers about three-quarters of the wound potential of the 12-gauge shotgun.
Recoil is also about three-quarters of the 12 gauge, at least in similar size defensive shotguns. Let’s talk about the shotgun and also about load selection.
Why a Shotgun?
The question might well be, “Why any firearm?” Every day there is a headline of some deadly incident that could have been stopped with a shotgun. Home invasions and animal attacks are common in this dangerous world.
The shotgun is formidable protection for prepared individuals. Everyone cannot afford a tactical rifle or even need one. The shotgun is far better suited to home defense than a handgun.
However, there are those that cannot handle the hard recoil of a 12-gauge shotgun. Old and infirm are not always taglines, some older people are tough old birds. Some younger people are short-statured or have a physical impediment.
A 120-pound female has physics against her when trying to master the shotgun. Yet they have a real need for personal protection. The 20 gauge offers a strong choice for most shooters.
The 20-gauge buckshot load that is standard is #3 buckshot, which has 20 buckshot balls in the shell. This is a strong loading for use across the hallway or for close-range protection in a campsite.
The 20 gauge is generally regarded as having 75 percent of the recoil of a 12-gauge shotgun. By the same math, the payload is also about three quarters that of the 12-gauge shotgun.
While the .410 bore shotgun with buckshot has good penetration, the load is so much lighter I would recommend the .410 only as a last resort for more severely limited individuals.
An affordable shotgun is good to have. The pump-action shotgun is simple enough to operate. Load the shells into the magazine.
The action is released by a lever that is usually set near the trigger guard, either in front of the trigger guard or behind the trigger guard depending on the firearm. Then rack the pump action.
This loads a shell into the chamber. The action is locked at this point. Any time the action is cocked and locked, the trigger must be pressed to fire and unlock the action (or use the lever to unlock the bolt).
After firing, the action is unlocked and another shell is pumped into the chamber. After firing, if needed, another shell may be quickly loaded into the magazine, topping the action off with a full load, something that isn’t possible with firearms using a detachable magazine.
The pump-action shotgun then makes the most sense for most shooters. A single-shot shotgun hits just as hard, true, but a single shot is cutting it close in a defensive encounter.
There is nothing wrong with a quality self-loading shotgun, but they are expensive. The operating procedure can be tricky. I think an older shooter who is tiring of 12-gauge recoil and uses a 12-gauge automatic and wishes to move to a 20-gauge automatic would be fine.
A new shooter needing a shotgun would be better served with the pump-action shotgun. I think one of the best values on the market is the H&R Pardner line of defensive shotguns.
Simple, affordable and reliable, they have given great service for many shooters on a budget. They are available in sporting and tactical types. If you desire one of the new breeds of short pistol-grip defensive shotguns, the H&R Pardner’ Honcho version is a viable option.
Practice is needed for this shotgun, but in 20-gauge, the Honcho offers a viable option. The pump-action 20 gauge, Winchester buckshot, and the H&R line of defensive shotguns are good choices.
Remington, Mossberg and perhaps a few others offer viable choices as well.
Other Options for Older Shooters
Whichever shotgun you choose, it should feature a generous rubber recoil pad. The ones with a space in the pad that allows the soft rubber to give a bit under the force of recoil are good options.
Another option on more expensive defensive shotguns is a Magpul-type stock. These stocks help control recoil. As an example, if you have deployed a standard riot-type shotgun with an 18 to 20-inch barrel and the old straight stock, you have been kicked around quite a bit.
Going to a heavier modern Remington 870 with a Magpul stock and a positive muzzle brake may be all of the relief you need, and you may retain the 12-gauge shotgun. With reduced recoil buckshot, it isn’t as great a bear to handle when a heavier shotgun is used.
Another option I find is a lifesaver for my use is the Remington V3 Tactical. I replaced my long-serving 870 with this shotgun. The automatic action absorbs much of the recoil of the 12 gauge, and this makes for a much more comfortable shotgun — and a more efficient tactical shotgun.
If you need just a little break from recoil, depending on the shooter, these are fine options. The V3 Tactical is equipped with XS sights from the factory.
Don’t forget to consider XS tritium front sights for your shotgun, but be certain to check coverage for the individual shotgun before you buy.
These sights are a great aid to anyone interested in personal defense and especially aging shooters.
What defensive shotguns do you prefer? Do you think age matters? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below!