Home Defense Shotgun

The Home defense shotgun is the classic American home defense weapon. The shotgun likely gained this status from it being a ubiquitous gun found in nearly every American home at one time. As of late the Shotgun has been challenged more and more by the rifle, and the handgun in the home defense role. I do feel the shotgun is still an excellent choice for home defense.

Why the Shotgun


A quality shotgun from a well known, and respected brand like Mossberg is much cheaper than a quality handgun or rifle. Your typical Mossberg 500 tactical can be had for less than 300 dollars. It’s a simple, but effective home defense shotgun.

Ease of Use

Shotguns are easy to use, easy to clean and easy to maintain. A pump action shotgun will reliably handle any standard load. This includes reduced recoil ammo, and less lethal options. Everything about a shotgun is simple, from loading, to aiming, to shooting one effectively.  

Legal Access

Unlike semi automatic rifles, shotguns are not nearly as restricted in states that favor gun control. Many states like California make owning a proper defensive rifle a real pain. The same could be said for handguns due to age restrictions, and other ridiculous state laws. While some shotguns are targeted by these laws, the majority are not. They are typically the least affected by assault weapons bans, and by other restrictive laws.

It’s a Powerhouse

The Shotgun’s biggest advantage is the power it can pack. A 12 or 20 gauge shotgun’s strength is the multiple projectiles it fires per shot. Multiple projectiles means you have a higher likelihood of hitting a vital organ, or the spinal column. Multiple projectiles also mean more pain compliance and blood loss for an attacker. Make no mistake about it, a shotgun is a powerhouse of a weapon.

What Kind of Shotgun

So there are lots of different types and calibers of shotguns. I mentioned above the best defensive shotguns are going to be in 20 and 12 gauge. No doubt 16 gauge shotguns are potent, but they are hard to find. What’s even harder is finding affordable 16 gauge ammo. 12 and 20 gauge shotguns are very common, as is their ammunition.

Here’s the very basics of shotgun selection that should give you a good framework for a self-defense shotgun.

Pump or Semi Auto

You can disregard single and double barrels, as well as lever and bolt action shotguns. Pump and semi auto shotguns are much better choices for a home defense shotgun. Pump shotguns are manually operated, but with some practice they are still rapid fire weapons. Pump shotguns are insanely reliable and can handle all lower recoil rounds.


Semi-automatic shotguns have less recoil, and can fire considerably faster. There is also less human error to be made with a semi auto shotgun. Semi auto shotguns have become considerably more reliable in the last 20 years, but won’t match a pump action for accident free use. Semi autos will also choke with lighter loaded rounds.

At Least a 5 round capacity

5 rounds is the absolute minimum a shotgun should be able to hold for a fight. Anything less and you are entering bird gun territory pretty quickly. 5 rounds gives you decent fighting power for a home defense scenario. In most situations pointing the weapon at the door and calling police is a solid strategy. I personally prefer at least 8 rounds in my semi auto shotgun.

Probably not enough rounds..

A Stock is A Must Have

While I enjoy my pistol grip only shotguns for their wrist breaking fun I recognize they are a niche shotgun. A shotgun with a stock is much better suited for home defense. It’s easier to handle, more stable, and helps with recoil reduction and control. It also makes the gun easy to aim, and rapid follow up shots possible.

A stock and pistol grip combo is fine, as is a standard stock. As long as there is a stock it’s really up to user preference on the style.

18 to 20 inch barrel.

Unless you want to go the NFA route 18 inches is as short as you are legally allowed to go with a shotgun barrel. Around 18 to 20 inches is desired to keep the gun compact and easy to maneuver. It keeps the shotgun balanced, and lighter weight. Shorter barrels are better suited for a combat shotgun, as proven by military and police use.


A White Light is a Must Have

When something goes bump in the night you need to be able to bump back. You also need to be able to see what’s doing all that bumping. Proper target identification is an absolute necessity when it comes to a justified defensive shoot. A white light makes it so you can easily identify the threat (or non threat) and act accordingly. A white light can also simply help you see, and momentarily blind a threat.

Side Saddle

It’s highly unlikely you’ll need a reload in a home defense scenario, but it’s good to have the ability to, just in case. Since you are unlikely to be rocking a plate carrier with shotgun pouches when a home intruder kicks the door down a side saddle is the solution. Side saddles typically offer 5 to 6 rounds of extra ammunition that mounts directly to the gun. This ensures you got a little extra ammo on you at all times. Side saddles are rapid to reload from and easy to use. They are also affordable and common.

A Red Dot

So this is the least necessary of accessories, but a red dot can be a valued addition. They make aiming much faster, and work in all light conditions. They also make aiming in a stressful situation much easier to do. It doesn’t have to be a large optic, and miniature red dots like my personal favorite the Meosight 3, keep the gun light and easy to maneuver with. The ability to hit a target with the first shot is one I find incredibly important.


The last, and most important topic we’ll cover is ammunition selection. I prefer a No 1 buckshot load because it delivers the most lead per trigger pull. However, any 00 load is an effective fight stopper. I stay away from birdshot, and even lighter buckshot due to penetration issues in a human attacker. These lighter loads often lack the penetrative power necessary to reach the vital, fight stopping areas in the human body.


The Shotgun is a powerful and decisive weapon that works perfectly for home and self defense. It’s big, it’s loud, but man is it effective. The shotgun earned its place in the home defense pantheon for good reasons. Like any gun it’s only as effective as the end user. If a shotgun is your go to for home defense remember to get some training with it. The better you are, the more effective your shotgun will be.

Suman Singha Roy :