Best Gun for Home Defense

P. Henry
By P. Henry July 14, 2016 11:46

Best Gun for Home Defense

One of the purposes of this prepper website is to provide information and if we have to settle some of this in the comments, that’s fine by me.

To frame the case for my belief on this subject a little more clearly, I will throw out the disclaimer that when I make this recommendation I am speaking to people who do not have any other firearms currently. If you are realizing just now that you may need a firearm for home defense and are looking for the best weapon to purchase first, this post is intended for you.

For the person who has nothing, I am going to go out on a limb now and describe what I think the best weapon you can purchase “right now” for a lot of various factors. The factors for deciding this weapon are based upon current events and the political climate to no small degree.

To cut to the quick, I will say that if you don’t buy any other weapon, a 12 gauge shotgun is the absolute best option you have right now. I honestly believe that when all else is considered, it is the best gun for home defense. Let the cussing begin! Why do I say a shotgun and not a pistol or machete or AR or AK? I’m glad you asked!

Cost

A 12 gauge shotgun is about the cheapest gun you can buy when you consider that most handguns now are selling for over $500 unless you buy a .380 concealed carry. Can you spend $3500 on a fancy shotgun that will be a collector’s piece? Of course you can, but that isn’t what I am talking about. If you have a ton of money you would obviously not stop here, but for the average person trying to make wise decisions with their finances, a shotgun is practical and affordable for most of you out there.

When people start looking for a defensive or tactical shotgun the focus turns to 2 main models, Remington and Mossberg. The Remington 870 is a legend and is the standard issue shotgun for a lot of police departments and armed forces. That alone drives the cost up. Adding all sorts of cool hardware like Picatinny rails, fore grips and pistol grips run the cost up too. You don’t need all of that stuff. Not now anyway. You need something to protect your family and the nice Benelli semi-auto isn’t called for here either.

GunsI recommend buying a used shotgun that you don’t pay more than $300 for. Go to your local gun show and you will find lots of options. If you are looking in the right place you can get a new Mossberg for less than $200 but with each passing day that gets harder and harder. Is the Mossberg any good? Yes they are. Is it better and more reliable than a Remington 870? I don’t know. Here is what I do know though and that is if you do not have anything, you will wish you had something, even an old Mossberg when the Zombies or bad guys start coming in the front door.

If you are curious, there are lots of reviews on YouTube comparing the two and you can make your own mind up. There is an entire review comparing the Mossberg 590A, the Remington 870 and the Winchester 1300 defender by Nutnfancy that I highly recommend for its thoroughness. Either one is going to work just fine for you and you might find another model entirely. The brand isn’t the point so much as the type of weapon.

Availability

This is an easier one to deal with. Unless you have been living underground in your own doomsday bunker, you know that guns and ammo are flying off the shelves. If you were waiting to purchase an AR, you will have a while to wait if you are lucky. If you aren’t lucky, you might be SOL on the AR front. Shotguns however do not have the attention of the gun grabbers yet and they are still available. This availability results in cheaper prices as mentioned above. You can still go into your local sporting goods store an easily find a shotgun. You can’t say the same for an AR.

Ease of purchase

Shotguns or long guns generally don’t have the ridiculous licensing requirements that purchasing a handgun does. After a quick call and some paperwork, (provided you have a clean background) you can walk out with your very own 12 gauge piece of mind to add to your security preparations. You can go on your lunch hour and bring a brand new present home to your spouse after work. It’s better than flowers!

Availability of ammo

Just a quick check online finds plenty of ammo for the 12 gauge. You can’t say that for most common pistol calibers especially with the DHS purchasing 1.6 billion rounds for their own use. Another plus is there is a pretty wide variety of ammunition you can use in most shotguns. Most shotguns accept either 2 ¾ inch or 3 inch shells. Some, like my particular Mossberg model accept both. You then have Buckshot which is the most deadly, Slug, steel shot, bird shot, turkey or varmint loads and target loads. So many choices, so little time! You can easily buy a few boxes and have plenty of security for most any scenario. Now, in a total grid-down, end of the world apocalypse you will wish you have millions of rounds stored up, but we have to start somewhere. I like to buy a box of each caliber that I have (when I can) whenever I go to a sporting goods store and keep it locked away.

Related: The Lost Art of “Cut Shells”

Usefulness

A 12 gauge shotgun is one of the most versatile weapons you can have if the SHTF. You can of course use this as your defensive weapon and you can hunt small and even large game with it. A 12 gauge with bird shot is good for most small critters or birds but you want to be careful you don’t blow them to pieces.  Throw some buckshot in there and you can go after the lone doe after all of the other deer are gone. A .22 is similarly good at plinking and shooting small game, but I wouldn’t want to face down a gang of intruders with a .22.

Accuracy

One good thing about shotguns from the perspective of someone defending their home is that you don’t have to be as accurate as you do with a handgun. A shotgun has a nice blast pattern that will hit anyone in the general direction down range to a certain extent. The flip side is that a shotgun is not generally relied on for its accuracy or range. This is a close quarters type of defensive weapon so you won’t be picking off the bad guys at 100 yards with this. When the Mutant Zombie Motorcycle gang rolls into your town, they will need to get a little closer before you can take them out, but that is for a different post. Another consideration since we are discussing accuracy is that you have to practice common sense. If someone is in your house and you shoot a shotgun, those rounds will go through sheet-rock walls and could hit someone on the other side. This is no different from just about any other type of common round though.

Ease of Use

A good shotgun is pretty simple; point and shoot. In some cases, the wracking part to get another round into the chamber takes a little practice. You want to make sure you don’t eject the good shell you had in the chamber so it isn’t perfect, but with practice this can be minimized. Most people will recommend a 20 gauge for a woman because they kick less but I guarantee you that your wife won’t mind the kick at all if someone is coming after her and she is forced to fire. A shotgun is easily handled by a woman and has less moving pieces to remember when you are stressed. That goes for guys too. Just the simple act of racking the shotgun and the unmistakable sound that causes may prevent you from having to use it in the first place.

This article was written by P. Henry and first appeared on The Prepper Journal

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P. Henry
By P. Henry July 14, 2016 11:46
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40 Comments

  1. Firearms Manager July 14, 13:45

    If you are new to self defense like the author of the article, go to your local gun shop & ask their advice. A 12 ga shotgun may not be the best choice esp if your wife may be the one to use it. Typically a 12 ga shotgun is going to have a substantial amount of recoil. It is very important that whoever is using the firearm is comfortable with its recoil, this will directly affect how proficient/accurate they will be when shooting the firearm. If you/they can not hit an assailant/target when shooting the firearm, then it is useless.

    Reply to this comment
    • Kurmudgeon July 14, 14:58

      Sounds like someone hit the snark button without bothering to read the last paragraph in this article.

      Reply to this comment
      • Firearms Manager July 14, 15:56

        My recommendations come from years of Law Enforcement experience, and then working in sales role at firearms retailers for over 15 years. You have to remember, a woman is not going to shoot a home defense shotgun the first time at an assailant. She is going to go to the range. If she develops bad shooting habits at the range because of excessive recoil, these bad habit will carry over into a real world situation.

        Reply to this comment
  2. Barefoot Rebel July 14, 13:46

    Very good article. I think you make a good recommendation for a budget-conscious, first-time buyer. When my wife and I married my father gave me a nice early model Remington 870 Wingmaster. Over the years the collection has grown from that humble beginning. Great article as usual, keep up the good work.

    Reply to this comment
  3. john July 14, 14:00

    Reading this, i would like to add barrell length. I have the 870 tactical with the 16 inch barrel. Short is easier to control than long bulky 20 or 22 inch barrels.

    Reply to this comment
    • Jake July 15, 01:42

      A 16 inch barrel on an 870 Remington shotgun is illegal unless you have a federal license / permit. Minimum barrel length is 18 inches and 28 inches overall.

      Reply to this comment
  4. Hedgehog July 14, 14:35

    I have an 870, but not for self defence. For self defence I have an old double barreled, external hammer Baikal $125.00Cdn.! load 1 barrel with #9 shot, for sheer bloody mayhem and no exterior wall penetration and the other with buckshot. For the ladies get a 20 Ga. or a .410!

    Reply to this comment
  5. Nolan July 14, 14:35

    Great Article! Informative as always!

    Reply to this comment
  6. Ric July 14, 15:58

    Shotguns are the most versatile of firearms.

    However, They are bulky and do have recoil (refer last paragraph) but you need to consider the logistics. Will you find 16 or 20 ga when the SHTF?

    Recoil can be overcome by acquiring reduced load ammunition. At 7m, any shot shall be effective.

    It may also help a tyro if the chamber is loaded with snap cap.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Black July 14, 17:50

    I’m not great at math; however 1 &1/8 shot, 3dram charge. The felt recoil in 20 ga. is going to be greater than a 12. Smaller bore longer shot column, more friction than with a 12 bore. The ladies can handle a 12 as good as a 20.

    Reply to this comment
    • Keith October 7, 17:09

      really? really? you ever fire a shotgun yourself? If not, please do not comment on which one kicks most. Recoil has as much to do with brand and style of gun, gauge and the kind of shell you are firing. If one were to take, for example, a 20 gauge single shot shotgun firing a 3 in. magnum slug which will kick more than a simi-automatic 12ga shooting clay pidgin loads. But both being equal in the type or style of guns as well as the shell (yes, 12 ga. will have more shot/lead/powder than the 20ga) the 20ga will be less kick than the 12ga. When I was 13 hunting dove for the first time with a single 12ga and shooting num 8 short brass, at the end of the day my mom had a fit because of the bruised shoulder and bloody lip from “old thunder”. My dad took me to the store and I bought (yes my own money) a 20 ga. and problem solved.

      Reply to this comment
  8. Nolan July 14, 21:16

    Gas operated shotguns have less recoil, too…

    Reply to this comment
  9. Jake July 15, 01:56

    I would recommend a 12 gauge Remington 870 with a hydra-shock stock, with a pistol grip butt stock combo and a 18 to 20 inch barrel with an open bore / no choke. You can use a 1 oz slug (deer slug) for distance (drops about 4 inches in 100 yards). # 4 buck shot works good for self-defense ( 27 – 22 cal. balls) .

    Reply to this comment
  10. left coast chuck July 15, 02:13

    It is a common misconception that one cannot miss with a shotgun.

    In s standard tract home in the U.S., under 2500 sq ft. the ranges at which an intruder will be encountered mean that the shot pattern will not be more than an inch or so in diameter even with a cylinder bore choke. It doesn’t take a ballistic Phd to realize that it is fairly easy to miss a target if your bullet is just an inch and a half in diameter. A shotgun needs to be aimed just as any other weapon needs to be aimed. You wouldn’t say about a knife, “Well, you are so close, all you have to do is stab him, anywhere will do.”

    While mathematically the actual recoil between a 20 ga and a 12 ga may be quite small, the recoil we feel is perceived recall. There are other factors entering into perceived recoil other than just the physics involved. Even the noise of the shot affects how we perceive recoil. Just ask any shooter who has fired a rifle and then fired that same rifle with a suppressor on it. He will report that he shoots better with the suppressor because the gun doesn’t kick so much. The recoil is still the same. Velocity may be reduced due to the added weight of the suppressor, but it is the suppressed noise of the shot that lessens the perceived recoil.

    Everyone has their own personal “best home defense” weapon. I might suggest a 18 inch (unless your state regulations are different, a shotgun barrel must be 18 inches in length to satisfy the federates) 870 or 500 and reduced recoil buckshot. While even #9 shot is devastating at 6 feet, any buckshot from #4 on up in size will do a better job.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Toni July 15, 03:56

    I am a small female. 112 lbs, 5’2″ tall, petite built. A 12 gauge knocks me through a loop. I have a 410, and love it. Easy to handle quickly, and hip shoot. Wouldn’t trade for any other type.

    Reply to this comment
    • SallyAshus July 17, 00:22

      Thanks for your comment, Toni! You just gave me the practical information I actually need for myself, my sister, and our daughters to defend ourselves when SHTF.

      Reply to this comment
      • FFL TX September 9, 18:48

        We just received 30 Semi Automatic .410 shotguns that we purchased at the 2015 ShotShow. Awesome little gun. Came with two 5 shot magazines. After firing a couple boxes through one of these with both shot and slugs, I would highly recommend them for home defense.

        Reply to this comment
    • Brad October 1, 18:50

      I’m a solid 190 lb male & there are shells, that when fired from a 12 ga do a job on me, and I never want to fire them again. There are other shells that I fire from the same gun that have hardly any kick at all, such as low brass #8 “birdshot” & there are many female shooters that fire this type of shell from 12 gauges all day long in competition without problems.
      Anyone who thinks that birdshot is not a viable load for home defense should check out “Shotgun Ammo For Home Defense” by gunblast.com on youtube.
      A 12 ga is not just far more effective than a .410, but in my experience it’s also a lot easier finding ammo for a 12 ga, not to mention the resale value of the gun.
      I understand that the larger size & weight can be a problem, but if it’s recoil that’s causing you to hesitate
      I would at least try a 12 ga with birdshot, for the practical reasons listed above & many more.

      Reply to this comment
  12. Lotech July 15, 04:10

    Good article. I personally think that just like every other gun, the best one depends on the “fit” to the person. After all the biggest difference in shotguns from h&r single shots to the high end browning or Beretta is “fit and finish”. They all shoot the same handful of rocks just as far and practically as well as each other. With that said I’ve shot several deer with my Mossberg 500 20ga that never noticed that the big fat hairy guy was using a”girl’s gun”! Your talking about unbelievable energy either way that flesh just can’t handle. If you want a gun, get the one that fits you. If it’s a 12ga rem 870 buy it. If it’s a Mossberg 20ga that’s lighter & thinner get it. BUT… a .410 isn’t a gun anyone honestly looking to keep the boogie man out would purchase. Its too small to even properly train kids with. Theres just not rocks in that little shell. All that said there’s no argument that 12ga shells are more common. (Nothing a Lee load all can’t fix)

    Reply to this comment
  13. Gwen July 15, 04:28

    I have a Remington Model 870 20 gauge JR. Express with an 18″ barrel and pump action (tactical black). I am a 5’3″ female and live alone. I wanted self defense (in addition to martial arts) and a friend who is a sheriff’s deputy recommended this gun. While most of the comments on this site discuss recoil when women are handling the gun, I haven’t see any of you guys mention weight. The weight is what was the deciding factor for me. I just don’t feel that I have the same control with the bigger guns–even though I could get used to the recoil. (This was the same issue when I was shopping for a cross-bow.) Why would you give a weapon to someone that is simply too heavy to control the accuracy? This control is also critical to confidence. Now, I know I can control that weapon if I have to go up against some bad guy who is almost sure to be a lot bigger person than me. Would YOU want to have to go into that situation with a weapon that is uncomfortably heavy and you are not sure if you can hit a target? (But, hey, you’ll get used to it. Does that statement make you feel like a bad-a**? It makes me pretty nervous.) Most men just do not think about strength as an important factor. I now feel confident I can hit anyone who decides my house looks like a good target. It might “only” be a 20 gauge, but I am positive I will hit any target I want. Isn’t that what you really want for your wife, daughter, mom, or girlfriend?

    Reply to this comment
    • Kimmer September 12, 22:03

      In the military, straight out of high school, we trained with many guns. Yes, being of little size, they were heavy and awkward. But the more we trained, the better we became. being an MP I was issued a 2 gauge twice a month. Try holding one for twelve hours standing outside the bank on pay days, with full NBC gear hanging off your duty belt.When you do it enough it becomes more natural. Now as a disabled veteran, I still have the 12 gauge for me and the smaller 410 for all others to use. I will also say, get your CCW. When you first begin to carry, it will fell strange and awkward, but the more you carry the more natural it and you will feel.

      Reply to this comment
      • angelo564 October 1, 15:40

        I am mixed about the CCW. If the CCW is government issued are you not on a “gun grabbers” list? How about some thoughts on this?

        Reply to this comment
        • vocalpatriot July 15, 23:52

          yes the unstated purpose of a ccw is a actionable list. Where I live this is not needed, nor will I EVER comply with this Illegal requirement from those that seek to rule us rather than represent us. My recommendation would be to collectively disobey these authoritarian wananbe rulers.

          Reply to this comment
  14. Ric July 15, 07:00

    Further to my earlier post, and in reply to Toni and those in wheelchairs:

    Firstly, a shotgun for someone confined to a wheelchair is not the best option UNLESS that person is large/heavy and determined or extremely skilled; such people can use a shotgun successfully especially if the shotgun has a rubber grip without a butt. It takes practice, but I have seen big guys in wheelchairs use this type of shotgun to great effect.

    As for Toni and other light/small framed persons: There is a technique to shoot a shotgun without putting the butt to the shoulder, and this works for small people shooting 12 ga! Put the butt under your armpit and grip tightly with your upper arm. If you’re right handed (Clever/sinister people do the reverse please) turn your body a 1/8 turn (30-45*) to the right. The long barrel will allow you to point instinctively.

    You are using this for defensive use not for wing-shooting, if you can hit an A3 size piece of paper at 5m (5 yards) you’ll do just fine. After a while and with confidence, you may start to learn how to shoot from the shoulder, but this is not essential. DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU!

    It doesn’t matter if people laugh at you, and call you a sissy for using this technique. If you can hit the target, and you know that you can, does it matter what idiots think?

    Reply to this comment
  15. Ghost July 18, 14:22

    The best weapon is a brain that is alert, and preplanned some reaction drill into a response. You need to have already planned what you are going to do when the intruder is there at 3 am , or you find some punk in your garage some morning. Situational awareness is very important, especially for females, who are more often targeted.
    For women, Id recommend a .410, as some of the other commenters suggest. Don’t forgot to go do some trap and skeet shooting to get the feel of it and to develop some hand eye coordination and get use to using it under some kind of pressure.
    I also really like revolvers for home defense. You know its loaded, no slide to rack or forgot to rack, no safety to forgot to disengage when you are woken from a deep sleep. I prefer a SW 686 .357 magnum as a bedside gun.

    Reply to this comment
  16. bob July 20, 00:40

    Every well thought home defense battery includes a 12 gauge slide action shotgun. as mentioned, the advantage of having an 18 inch barrel indoors is significant compared to a field length shotgun and I don’t think the matter should be understated. And as the author mentioned, I don’t believe that in a time of stress that the recoil is going to be a matter of import, although becoming”recoil shy” at the range is going to make for some bad habits. Recoil can be managed somewhat by keeping one’s knees and waist slightly bent and keeping one’s weight forward, and being sure the buttstock is situated more on the pectoral muscle rather than directly on the shoulder. On that note, smaller shooters will benefit greatly from a shorter buttstock. Lastly, as shotguns are somewhat limited in round count (thinking multiple assailants) a shotshell carrier fixed to the weapon can be a big plus. You can get the elastic ones that slip over the buttstock for about 8 bux, or go for the kind that bolts directly to the receiver. All that said, there’s not much that compares with a shotgun’s stopping power at close range.

    Reply to this comment
  17. Ricky Quincy July 22, 13:21

    Stock fit. For small women a youth gun is better. My wife petite. Got her a Remington 870 youth 20ga. Put a magazine extension on it so it holds 8 rounds. She loves it. Also, practice soooo important so they will have muscle memory built in when the world becomes surreal and fear freezes most. Keep it loaded and ready along with a bag holding 30 buckshot and 30 slugs in separated compartments. The right equipment, along with practice, and experience are the right ingredients to bake a nasty pie for the bad guys.

    Reply to this comment
  18. Bobbie August 20, 14:39

    I have M.S. and know I can’t handle a rifle. It’s got to be small and light for me.

    Reply to this comment
    • Lucy August 20, 17:12

      Bobbie, I’ve exhausted all sites having anything to suggest for limited physical ability with a shotgun. I used a 12 gauge when younger with no problems and was accurate, pridefully so. Now, the recoil literally blows it outta my hands and prevents me from wanting to use it. We have a tax free gun show next weekend in our area. My husband will use our 12 gauge with a new pistol grip and a new 18.5″ barrel, while I have decided on either a .410 or a 20 gauge because of my limitations. If I have to go with a youth size, I will. If there’s a will, there’s a way for me as well as for you if we need protection. Research sites for limited ability, sites for seniors, and forums (you do not have to be a member to read the questions & comments) pertaining to guns. Not only do they offer great suggestions, but WHY they suggest what they do. Just from all my reading I’ve learned sooo much more about shotguns and handguns. I also have a Taurus PT111 G2. Long story short, 2 men didn’t offer to explain how hard loading the magazine would be and the recoil either. I’ve seldom used it. I won’t let my weakness overrule my need in a defensive weapon though. This week I’m loading and reloading the magazine to help the spring loosen up and I’ll be taking it to the gun show and have someone there work on it if need be, or trade it for a revolver which I’m more comfortable with. Blessings in your search.

      Reply to this comment
      • left coast chuck October 12, 05:22

        Lucy: I see the gun show has come and gone. I would suggest that you look around for various devices that help in loading magazines. I have a ring that goes on my thumb that help me push cartridges into a .45 acp magazine. I have seen ads for devices that help load .22 magazines. I feel confident that with a little on-line research you can come up with a device that doesn’t cost too much money and will help you load your magazines. I think my thumb device was a buck.

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  20. Rem870 October 30, 20:36

    Shotgun is the best choice for home defense. Just don’t forget to add magazine extension, flashlight and sidesaddle. Those upgrades are must have for any home defense shotgun. Both shotguns described in this article are good. Remington 870 and Mossberg 500 are the most popular pump-action shotguns in the world.

    You also forgotten to add that you can make your own shotgun ammo at home. Reloading of shotgun ammo is very simple. You can even cast slugs and buckshot. It is little trickier but still possible to make birdshot at home.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck January 11, 19:45

      For a shotgun for home defense, round shot is not absolutely necessary. It is the most efficient shape for accuracy and distance but some time ago there was a company manufacturing shotgun shells with square shot. They may still be doing so, I haven’t checked recently. The theory was the square shot spread out more. It was for shooting trap and was supposed to enable you to break more birds. In the days of smooth bore muskets, if round shot was not available, pieces of nails and glass were rammed home over the powder. Small stones have also be used. Probably not great for the bore but if it is your life or the bore of the gun, you know the answer.

      Reply to this comment
  21. Wild Bill January 11, 18:42

    I would like to recommend the Savage Arms Stevens 320 Pump Shotgun in both 20 and 12 gauge. It is dirt cheap … has iron sights but best of all for beginners it has a pistol grip at the trigger making it easier to grab when pumping. I have trained newbies on it and it worked great… the investment of 199 bucks was worth it.

    Reply to this comment
  22. Hacksaw January 11, 20:23

    The best type of gun is one that is readily available, loaded, and fires accurately every time the trigger is pulled.

    Reply to this comment
  23. vocalpatriot July 16, 00:07

    Inside my home I have one hallway likely to be between “us and them”. A shotgun would suffice on that straight way if we stay at our end and they at theirs..but if that changes then a handgun will be the best option. I’ll start with a 9mm semiauto with defensive rounds and that will probably be that.
    However, if a shotgun were the order of the day, then I would consider opting for 12 gauge mini shells with and adapter installed on a pump shotgun.
    Seems like a workable solution.
    Any thoughts?

    Reply to this comment
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