Home Defense With a Shotgun
Home Defense with a Shotgun: A few things Ive learned over the years.
For self-defense inside the home at short distances, the brand of ammo, type of choke, or size of (#1 or larger) buckshot isn't as critical as shot placement from a well-fitted 12 or 20 gauge shotgun with a simple weapon light (i.e. Streamlight TLR1 or etc...). An open Cylinder (C) or Improved Cylinder (IC) choke with Low Recoil (LR) buckshot is preferred for quicker follow-up shots.
While #1 buckshot offers the best overall terminal performance for civilians, LE Agencies still prefer hardened 00 buckshot due to its superior penetration. Sales is the driving factor as to why there are not more #1 buckshot loads to choose from for civilians. The International Wound Ballistics Association advocates #1 buckshot as being superior to all other buckshot sizes.
Shotgun Home Defense Ammunition, .357 SIG -- A Solution in Search of a Problem?
Home Defense Shotgun Ammo
The Box O' Truth #45 - Shotgun Chokes and Buckshot Part Two - Page 1
As for a shotgun, keep things simple! A lot of fancy stuff on a Home-Defense (HD) shotgun isn't necessary! A plain-jane / reliable pump or semi-auto shotgun with a short barrel will do just fine! (SIMPLICITY and RELIABLILITY are the operative words here.) An open-choked 18 1/2" - 20" barrel is ideal and an illuminated front bead sight provides the fastest sight picture.
Make sure the rear stock fits you OK (shorter aftermarket stocks are available from Hogue, Remington, or Knoxx Industries). A shorter LOP (Length of Pull) stock might be needed so that things can quickly line-up (straight) using YOUR natural Point of Aim (POA).
Pattern your shotgun at the range with buckshot. Practicing with #8 target loads is perfectly acceptable and saves a lot of wear and tear on the shoulder.
Pistol grips and slings reduce your reactionary and follow-up times (They have proven to be a liability inside the home!). Slings are useful over longer distances outside the home, but get in the way in close quarters. If you insist on a sling, get a quick-disconnect model for removal inside the home. A full-size stock with a pistol grip is a better overall setup than just a small stub mounted to the receiver. Most civilians will do just fine with a standard OEM stock that fits their size.
Federal's LE 9-pellet LE132-00 load @ 1,145 fps with LR Flight Control (FC) wads offers outstanding performance in and outside the home (civilian version is PD132-00). These hardened copper plated buckshot pellets penetrate plenty and full-power loads are not needed unless your semi-auto won't function reliably with LR shells or you need extended range in more open areas. The full-power version of 00 buckshot with FC is LE127-00 @ 1,325 fps.
LE - Tactical Buckshot
"Birdshot, because of its small size, does not have the mass and sectional density to penetrate deeply enough to reliably reach and damage critical blood distribution organs. Although birdshot can destroy a great volume of tissue at close range, the permanent crush cavity is usually less than 6 inches deep, and this is not deep enough to reliably include the heart or great blood vessels of the abdomen. A gruesome, shallow wound in the torso does not guarantee a quick stop, especially if the bad guy is chemically intoxicated or psychotic. If the tissue crushed by the pellets does not include a vital cardiovascular structure there's no reason for it to be an effective wound.
"Many people load their shotguns with birdshot, usually #6 shot or smaller, to minimize interior wall penetration. Number 6 lead birdshot, when propelled at 1300 fps, has a maximum penetration depth potential of about 5 inches in standard ordnance gelatin. Not all of the pellets penetrate this deeply however; most of the birdshot will only penetrate about 4 inches."
Shotgun Home Defense Ammunition, .357 SIG -- A Solution in Search of a Problem?
The whole point of self-defense (SD) is to IMMEDIATELY stop the threat and a shallow wound from birdshot doesn't put as many odds in your favor as buckshot does! While still deadly at a slower pace, birdshot is more likely to leave the BG additional time to inflict harm (than buckshot). Use what you want for SD, as it's your life on the line. Most people want to put more odds in their favor and buckshot is more effective at preserving life than birdshot.
#TriBall(12 Ga.) Buck 20.41 g (315 gr.) 15.24 mm (0.60")
#0000 Buck 5.51 g (85 gr.) 9.40 mm (0.380")
#000 Buck 4.54 g (70 gr.) 9.14 mm (0.360")
#00 Buck 3.49 g (53.8 gr.) 8.38 mm (0.330")
#0 Buck 3.18 g (49 gr.) 8.13 mm (0.320")
#1 Buck 2.62 g (40.5 gr.) 7.62 mm (0.300")
#2 Buck 1.91 g (29.4 gr.) 6.86 mm (0.270")
#3 Buck 1.52 g (23.4 gr.) 6.35 mm (0.250")
#4 Buck 1.34 g (20.7 gr.) 6.09 mm (0.240")
#FF Buck 1.18 g (18.2 gr.) 5.84 mm (0.230")
#F (TTT) Buck 1.05 g (16.2 gr.) 5.59 mm (0.220")
#TT Buck 0.98 g (15.1 gr.) 5.33 mm (0.210")
#T Buck 0.89 g (13.7 gr.) 5.08 mm (0.200")
#BBB 0.66 g (10.2 gr.) 4.82 mm (0.190")
#BB 0.57 g (8.8 gr.) 4.57 mm (0.180")
#B 0.48 g (7.4 gr.) 4.32 mm (0.170")
2 3.76 mm (0.148")
4 3.28 mm (0.129")
5 3.05 mm (0.120")
6 2.77 mm (0.109")
7.5 2.39 mm (0.094")
8 2.26 mm (0.089")
8.5 2.16 mm (0.085")
9 2.01 mm (0.079")
12 1.3 mm (0.05")
Cabela's just offered Estate brand 00 or #4 buck, 25 rounds, for $12.99. Gonna try some.
Because of overpenetration concerns -- and because I'm far more likely to dispatch a garden-raiding groundhog with it than a bad guy (I hope!) -- I think some #4 birdshot will be the first load or 2 in my pump, then maybe buck. Hope it never comes to needing that. The last thing in the world I ever wanna have to do is shoot someone.
The Estate brand from Federal in buckshot is probably not hardened nor copper plated like Federal's Tactical loads are, so standard #4 buckshot from Estate won't penetrate as much as one would think.
While I strongly suggest buckshot versus birdshot, at least consider upgrading to the heaviest birdshot you can find.
Awesome post! I joined just to comment and ask a few questions...
I took a firearms course a few months back and it was drilled into us that a handgun should be used to fight your way to a long gun. I tend to agree. I would much rather fight it out with an intruder armed with my Remington 870 than any handgun.
The question I have is, what sort of light should I use? I saw this LED flashlight at a gun show recently and the seller was dropping it on the ground, abusing it and had another one in water to show it was waterproof. I found the same light he was selling on Amazon and wanted to know if anyone has one or could offer suggestions, reviews or recommendations.
I'm concerned with the switching on/off of the light. I figure most home invasions happen at night and a weapon light is a must have but I want something I can turn on/off without having to move one hand off of the firearm. Do you think the remote pressure switch would work with the pump action of most shotguns?
I figure for $50 it is quite a bargain compared to a Streamlight without a remote pressure switch or other accessories.
I understand the birdshot tradeoff in penetration but again I'm playing the odds -- what is the chance I will have to use it in HD in the first place, and what is the chance that 1 1/4 ounces of #4 won't stop a guy at 7 yards or less and if so what is the chance a second load won't do it and I'd have to go the round 3 which is #4 buck?
A police officer buddy of mine gave me some of the Federal tactical buck shot loads they carry. They stay in my 870 full time...I'm more worried about doing away with a bad guy as fast as possible than some kind of varmint in my back yard. Way I look at it is, more than likely the varmint I need to dispatch of will give me time to change loads...bad guy won't...you decide.
As stated above, use a pistol to fight your way to your long gun.
Why a shotgun is BAD for home defense:
- User's ignorance of shell loadings (penetration of buckshot, limitations of birdshot, etc)
- 2 handed operation is necessary, which limits the use of illumination devices (flashlights). Although the accessory market for this has improved, but the user is responsible for being familiar with the manipulation of a weapon-mounted light (most won't).
- most civilians do not understand the difficulty of using a long gun in a tight hallway or navigating a tight corner without compromising your self/weapon and maintaining a ready position
- It is hard to have a shotgun in a ready position that can be easily reached from a lying position in bed. If it can be achieved, it is likely that the shotgun is much to easy to be accessed by everyone else when you are not around (burglars, children, anyone else)
- Myths of "I only have to rack it for it to work" and "I don't have to aim" reduce effectiveness
Why Shotguns are a good idea
- simple to use
When choosing a load for your HD shotgun, consider your layout, sleeping arrangements, proximity to neighbors, building materials. While I am not against buckshot, I am finding myself being more and more convinced that intermediate sized shot (BB, BBB, #4 Buck) made of heavier, denser material can be exceptionally potent as a general utility/defensive round.
shotguns in 12ga are still the best weapon for in the home defense. easy to use easy to point when your tired and bleary eyed. pistols take a lot of skill and concentration to use under the best of circumstances. shotguns erase a lot of those issues just by their very nature of ease of use.
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