Shotguns: A Strong Weapon for Home Defense – Part 1 of 2

Master Instructor, Tom Russell, has provided a two part article about how shotguns are much more effective for home defense.
Read the second article about Shotguns: A Strong Weapon for Home Defense Part 2 of 2


Though shotguns are very useful in the sporting field our concern is its role in defending the home. In the hands of one properly trained in its use, the shotgun can be an extremely effective in home defense. This is especially true in 20 and 12 gauge. Within its range it is the most powerful handheld weapon that is commonly available. If you place a solid hit on an unarmored troll with a shotgun the fight is usually over right there.

A full charge from a shotgun produces extreme trauma to the body. Rifle and pistol bullets punch holes, but if the range is sufficiently close the shotgun will literally remove meat and bone. In short, if you are properly schooled in the use of the shotgun it is an extremely effective crime stopper.

ShotgunProficiency Trumps Action Type
Shotguns are available in a number of configurations such as pump-action, semi-automatic, single-shot, double-barreled, and even John Brownings’ lever action is once again available. Which one you have or purchase isn’t as important as learning to use it proficiently. They all have their pros and cons.

Short Stocks vs. Long Stocks
In my opinion the butt stock on most shotguns is about an inch to an inch and half too long. A thirteen inch length of pull seems to serve the needs of most shooters. “Length of pull” is determined by measuring the distance from the trigger to the center of the end of the stock. The “too long” stock has a tendency to hit the point of the shoulder, especially in smaller statured shooters. This occurs when the longer reach to the trigger forces the shooter to angle the torso in such a manner that the butt comes to rest against the deltoid muscle which takes the full recoil of the shotgun. A shorter butt stock helps mitigate this tendency.

A butt stock with a length of pull of around thirteen inches and a quality butt pad will make your training much more enjoyable. Yes, the shorter stock places the firing hand closer to the face and the thumb can be driven back into the nose during recoil, however, this can be avoided by laying the thumb along side the stock, leaning slightly into the gun, and not using ammunition designed to crunch a T-Rex. More power is not always better! We are still dealing with mere human antagonists here. When the zombies start showing up by all means pull out the three and half inch 00 buck, put a mouth guard in so you don’t lose your fillings, and have at them.

Gauges and Loads
As mentioned, the 20 and 12 gauge shotguns are both very effective. The 20s are usually lighter, more compact and therefore easier to run, though the difference is slight with a strong shooter who is really proficient with his shotgun. The charge of the 12 would be greater, all things being equal, and this is a good thing so long as recoil isn’t too extreme. For some time Federal has been producing a “Low Recoil” 00 buck load that has proven to be very effective. The “low recoil” appears to be achieved by reducing the powder charge and thus the velocity by about 100 feet per second, but the load has proven very effective in actual use.

Butt Cuff by King Custom Leather

Reload, Reload, Reload
Due to the size of shotgun ammunition, capacity will always be smaller than a repeating rifle of similar size and purpose. For this reason you want to be able to efficiently reload your shotgun and you will want to have ammunition available to reload it with. An extended magazine tube allows you to carry 6 to 8 rounds in the gun ready to fire. The down side is that the shotgun will be longer. This is fine for many but I prefer a shorter gun and that means I have to attach shell carriers to the outside of the gun. Two types of external shell carriers that I use are the side saddle mounted to the action and a butt cuff. I have both on my Remington 870. With four in the magazine, six in the side saddle, and five in the butt cuff I have fifteen rounds in and on the gun. The finest butt cuff I have found is by King Custom Leather. Remember, however, you really need to practice keeping the shotgun loaded. Remington Dummy Loads have the heft and feel of live ammunitions but are totally inert. Practice that reloading!