What type of ammunition is best for home defense? What type of firearm is the right choice for protecting your “castle”? These are questions that are asked every day in gun stores across the country, but the answers vary wildly. Some say 9mm, .40, .45 for handguns are the best for home defense. Handguns are easy to use, easy to manipulate and very accurate.
Others say 5.56/.223 in a carbine platform. Again, this platform is historically easy to use, accurate and powerful. There are certain advantages to a carbine for home defense, and advantages to a handgun for home defense, and in the interest of full disclosure I must admit that here at Defensive Tactics and Firearms, we offer courses on both of these platforms.
To me, however, the greatest firearm for home defense is a pump-action 12 gauge shotgun. I’ll enumerate the reasons why, in my opinion, this is the best choice for individuals seeking to protect their family and home.
Ease of Use
At its most base description, a shotgun is a tube with a firing pin. Barring a catastrophic failure in the firearm itself, a pull of the trigger will result in discharge. Mechanical failures within the pump-action shotgun are exceedingly uncommon (and indeed, I would encourage those interested in purchasing any firearm to extensively research the model they’re interested in). Additionally, shotguns are truly point and shoot firearms. Their range limitations allow one to be slightly less focused on the fundamentals, and still achieve good effects on target.
Let me say that again, so there is no misunderstanding. I’m not saying that you do not need to apply the fundamentals when shooting a shotgun. I am saying when it is 3 am, you get jostled awake by the sound of broken glass and open your bedroom door, it is OKAY and realistic that you likely won’t be aiming down the sights effectively. I don’t know about most of you readers, but at 3 am I can barely hit the toilet when I get up to answer the call of nature. A shotgun allows a startled and adrenaline filled individuals the opportunity to still hit the target.
I just bought a Maverick 88 shotgun from a sporting goods retailer for less than $180! Is the Maverick 88 the top of the line shotgun? Nope. It is cheap and very reliable, though! I know, without a doubt, that it will function as intended as long as I keep it clean and lubricated. Could you say the same thing about a $180 pistol or carbine? (HINT: No. No you could not)
A shotgun is typically very customizable. You can change the stock, sights, forend, magazine tube, barrel, etc. You can truly make this shotgun customized exactly to the user. Pistols are typically difficult to modify, sure, they may have a super cool tactical rail. You can put a light or a laser on this, but any other modifications can be costly or difficult to install. A carbine, while being more modular than a pistol, can still be pricy to modify. I bought a pistol grip/collapsible stock, side saddle and forend light for my trusty Maverick 88 for less than $50.
A 9mm handgun shoots ONE 9mm round. A 00 Buckshot round is nearly equivalent to NINE 9mm pellets at the same time. Do we really need to elaborate on this? (For those who insist on arguing about calibers, we will do another blog on how size doesn’t really matter)
Is buckshot not your thing? Do you have a hallway in your home longer than 15 yards? Can I come over to your mansion? No? Fair enough. Back on topic, I just said size doesn’t matter. What I really meant was for the most part, handgun calibers don’t really translate to “stopping power”. You know what does, though? 1 oz of lead. Just imagine 1 oz of lead traveling at hundreds of feet per second. Sounds pretty devastating, right? Now imagine that 1 oz solid lead with a hollow point, and you’ll see how a would-be home invader will certainly regret his/her decision.
It’s an ICON
There is almost no sound more universally recognized than the racking of a pump action shotgun. Put yourselves in the shoes of a home intruder. You break in, expecting a quiet home upon which you can release your malfeasance. All of a sudden you hear, “Get out of my house, don’t come any further” and the unmistakable racking of that devastating piece of American ingenuity called the 12 gauge pump action shotgun. You’re probably going to listen, aren’t you?
Make no mistake, that is the goal of home defense. For as much devastation and stopping power as a shotgun can bring to bear, the goal is ALWAYS to deter an intruder. We’ll write another blog on home defense strategies, and why shooting an intruder is always a last resort.
Shotguns are, pardon my French, dur a cuire. They are an affordable, easy to use firearm that will effectively deter (or stop) any threat. They allow the user to be confident in their ability to stop the threat and protect themselves or their family.
Derek is the lead Combatives Instructor for Defensive Tactics and Firearms. Derek served seven years in the infantry of the United States Marine Corps where he had the opportunity to serve as a combat instructor and combat marksmanship coach. Derek is a NRA Law Enforcement Handgun/Shotgun Instructor and is currently pursing his law degree.