To shotgun, or not to shotgun: Observations on self defense with the shotgun

In hemmed-in situations, you must resort to stratagem. In desperate position, you must fight.” Sun Tsu

There are dozens of misconceptions regarding the use of shotguns, from the “just point and shoot” too the “it will penetrate less”. I dont expect that many will agree with what I am about to say in this article, however, being a person of facts it is important to understand that what I am writing is based either in personal testing or research done using others documented testing.

The first misconception I want to get out of the way is that the 12 gauge is the ONLY choice in self defense with shotguns. This is patently false, sure like everything there will be loadings that are simply better by default based on any number of reasons. However, statistically the difference between 20 gauge and 12 gauge at standard home defense situations is negligible. A solid 20 gauge buckshot loading will terminate a two legged or four legged varmint at standard home defense distances with almost identical results to a 12 gauge; eg., death will result. The real differences are in recoil and ability to accurately place shots where they matter most. In this the 20 gauge will be the hands down winner. Unless all individuals in the house train regularly with a 12 gauge only, the 20 will be easier for the less well trained to more easily and accurately place shots where they belong. Check Brass Fetcher for some interesting results with different loadings and gauges. Obviously I will not argue that the 12 gauge is a more powerful round generally speaking, however, the trade off for a small bit of additional power over the benefits of increased accuracy is in my mind not worth it.

What is most important with firearms – I know, this is something I say over and over again. Likely you will hear me say it again.

  1. Reliability of the firearms
  2. Ability of the user regardless gender or age

I have female friends who have and use with amazing regular accuracy and ability a 16 gauge single shot firearm. I have friends who use and love 10 gauge firearms. Myself personally, I prefer a 12 gauge firearm. However, I have a family, a wife, daughter and son. A 12 gauge is not necessarily the best decision for self defense with the family dynamics involved. However, a 20 gauge can be utilized by ALL members of the family with far better accuracy potential. This being said what about the .410 gauge shotgun round, honestly, I dislike it in many ways. You actually have to train harder to hit better simply because it does not have as many pellets available. Now, you will never hear me say anything negative about training, in fact if you dont train please just stick with a pile of rocks you will be better off in the long term.

Now is the time where I list the NEVER DO THIS section of the article. This is going to be a short list but a VERY important one. Some of these things are done for “safety reasons” however, again, if you dont train enough to feel safe with your firearm regardless condition of carry, STICK WITH ROCKS!

  1. Never keep a primary self defense gun without a round in the chamber, leave the safety on and ensure its safe location. Racking a gun DOES NOT an intruder dissuade, it simple means you are untrained at best and will be dead at worst. The ONLY time’s this should occur is if you care about local laws and some local legislature believes this is necessary. If the firearm is NOT your primary defensive tool or even secondary than unloaded is perfectly fine.
  2. Never assume just pointing the gun in the general direction of a threat will get the pellets there. This is absolute bullshit. Average practice distance at established ranges is 15 yards which is 45 feet, your house in any given direction unless you have a castle maxes out around 10-15 FEET not yards. At 10-15 FEET the average pattern from 00 buckshot can EASILY be small enough to miss a target entirely or only hit with ONE pellet, which is still approximately a 90 grain .380 round, however, the entire point behind the shotgun is the ability to introduce a threat to your family to a 9-15 of these pellets virtually ensuring immediate or rather quick cessation of the threat. So, PRACTICE, and practice with FULL sized loads, if you shoot #4 buckshot PRACTICE with it, etc.,
  3. NEVER seek out problems or place yourself in a situation that may call for the defense of life with deadly force. I dont care who you are, its just fucking stupid to do.
  4. Never assume shooting someone in self defense or at all is an easy thing to do. Most humans (as in over 90% statistically) are incapable of harming another human without being under extreme duress and almost all humans will within 45 seconds of the event ending experience what is called an adrenaline dump. This will cause projectile vomiting, fainting, shaking and extreme memory issues. You will need and should IMMEDIATELY seek counseling from ptsd specialists.

The above is also why MEMORIZING the following is essential for the individual who decides to assume control of their own fate to as much a degree as is possible.

1. That individual attacked me!

2. I will sign the complaint!

3. Point out the evidence (DO NOT OVER EXPLAIN SIMPLY SAY, “there is the evidence/eg., witnesses”)

4. Officer you will have my FULL cooperation AFTER I have spoken to counsel!

I am sure I have missed a few things, however the basics are rather simple, if you choose to use a shotgun for self defense and have a family, get a 20 gauge – I recommend Mossberg 500, Maverick 88 (also made by Mossberg), Remington 870 for pump guns, understanding that most individuals will not practice enough and that short stroking is not only a real issue but a common one for pump gunners the following are shotguns I would recommend in semi auto.

Remington 11-87

Mossberg 930

Browning A-5

I have used all of the above shotguns and have had no problems with any of them as far as reliability is concerned. I do have preferences of course and would love a Benelli or a Bianchi or a Franchi however, having never used any of those with any real time behind the trigger I can only honestly suggest the above listed shotguns.

If you think I missed something (and I surely did) put it in the comments and remember, I never delete comments unless its obvious spam from some site selling viagra (which doesnt work nearly as well as Cialis!)

Oh yeah, I did miss one thing, I still personally prefer my Glock 19 and AR15 with a surefire 60 round magazine, however, I do have a shotgun and DO practice with it! Also it has been proven over and over, 5.56 or .223 rem will not penetrate as far as 12 gauge 00 or slug through a house, so please, stfu with that shit.

Free the mind and the body will follow


About Jesse Mathewson

Jesse Mathewson is the author of the popular blog, and provides commentary to many varied places based on a background that includes education in criminal justice, history, religion and even insurgency tactics and tactical training. His current role in his community is as an organizer of sorts and a preacher of community solidarity and agorism. He also runs Liberty Practical Training, a self defense school specializing in the practical applications of defensive approaches versus the theoretical. As an agorist, voluntaryist and atheist his life is seen as crazy and wild by many, though once they get to know him most realize he is a bluntly honest individual who will give you the shirt off his back if he believes it is necessary to help you. Very simple, "That which is voluntary between all individuals involved is always right, if it is not voluntary, it is always wrong."
This entry was posted in Authored by Jesse Mathewson, Liberty Practical Training, Review, Self Defense and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to To shotgun, or not to shotgun: Observations on self defense with the shotgun

  1. Unclezip says:

    20 ga coach gun. Works for the wife, and swings/points easily. I have the same in 12 with 3 inch buck, and would not want to be on the wrong end of those two barrels. I tell the Baroness if she has to shoot the 12, just plant the stock against the nearest wall and pull the triggers.


  2. Alfred E. Neuman says:

    Reblogged this on The Lynler Report.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lillyaffenpinscher says:

    I like the less than lethal options available for shotguns, Jesse, shoot shoot, then tenderize with my walking stick!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. jeffreycanthony says:

    One of my favorite articles i go to when someone says “12 gauge is the only way” supports this.

    Has a lot of neet background on why not just for self defense, but overall firearms use.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.