By David Lapell via Guns.com
If you were to ask five different self defense instructors about what weapon you should use in your home for personal defense, you’ll likely get five different answers. You can bet though that one will most likely recommend a shotgun and another a handgun, but of the two which is better for you and your needs?
The shotgun has been touted as a defensive weapon of sometimes mythological proportions and, while it is formidable, the shotgun has drawbacks. This is something every shooter, no matter how experienced, needs to know.
First of all, a shotgun is not a magic wand, dispatching evil by merely pointing it in the direction of the bad guy. Shotguns with defensive loads like buckshot really do not cover a large area, only a few inches at 7 to 10 yards with a short barrel and improved cylinder choke. This is hardly the wall covering shot pattern a typical Hollywood film depicts. And no, it won’t send someone flying through the air either.
What a shotgun does do however is deliver in a single load of buckshot, no matter if it is 00 or #4 buckshot, much contains more lead and projectiles than any single handgun round can deliver. Depending on the size of the buckshot load you’re using, you can deliver anywhere from eight to 27 pellets or more on target in one shot. The shotgun is a fight stopper and it can do this very quickly.
If you’re worried about the recoil of a 12 gauge shotgun being too punishing, don’t overlook the 20 gauge or even in some cases, a .410 option. Many of the same models that are popular in 12 gauge like the Remington 870 and the Mossberg 500 can be found chambered for smaller rounds and, when loaded with buckshot, these are still more powerful round-for-round than any handgun.
When it comes to the specifics, a personal defense shotgun should have a short barrel, 20 inches or less. It may also be a good idea to install an extended magazine, but that’s really not necessary. Of course pump shotguns are the most common, but there are reliable semi-autos these days too. If you don’t mind the limitations, even a side by side coach gun is nothing to sneeze at. Also, don’t ignore the single barrel, single shot shotguns in your home defense plan. These can be a cost effective option for around only a $100 or more.
So now we come to handguns. If you think that they are easier to shoot compared to a shotgun, well, they are and they definitely are not. Sure the average handgun in 9mm or even a .45 ACP doesn’t have the shoulder thwacking recoil of a shotgun. But what it does have is a shorter sight radius which requires serious practice to be able to shoot well. Practice is the word with any handgun.
Where the handgun outshines the shotgun for personal defense in the home is that when it comes to movement. Moving around an enclosed area like a hallway is a lot easier with a handgun than with a shotgun with its longer barrel and size. Also remember that a long barrel is something a bad guy can grab, if you’re unlucky.
Having a handgun also means, in most cases, more ammo capacity and likely more spare magazines or loaders on your person. When it comes to speed, reloading a semi auto pistol beats any shotgun. Loading rounds into a tube will seem like an eternity when you’re in a rush versus simply swapping out the magazine of a pistol or even a speedloader of a double action revolver if you practice enough.