A Pump Shotgun for Home Defense

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posted on February 3, 2015
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When stuff happens at home—like the ubiquitous bump in the night—what is your first move? Typically, the first bleary notion that enters your head will be something like, “I need to get my gun.” You probably think that means your pistol, but is that the best choice? Each person’s situation is unique, but there are a number of considerations.

How many people live in your home? Are they all accounted for? Do you live in a single-family house or an apartment complex? What local laws are you subject to, especially those relating to firearm ownership and possession? What are the ages of those living with you? Did you hear anyone call out in distress? Who, besides you, may be responsible for security? There are dozens of other questions that need to be answered, and virtually all of them should be addressed before that bump in the night occurs.

If you are a regular reader of this website you likely already have several guns earmarked for self-defense and regularly make it to the range for practice and are familiar with guns and tactics. But if everyone in your household is not as enthusiastic about guns as you are, they may be in a world of hurt if they grab your competition pistol when that bump in the night happens and you are not there. What they need—and arguably you as well—is a relatively simple gun that has superior stopping power and is easy to operate. I would offer that a pump shotgun fills that bill splendidly. Here’s why:

Power and Versatility
Even if you or your significant other are recoil-shy and choose a 20 gauge, you still have 7/8 to 1 ounce of projectile(s) with every round launched at 1,200 fps or more. The typical 20-gauge payload is 1 ounce or 437.5 grains, making it a little less than twice the mass of a typical .45-caliber bullet (230 grains). At across-the-bedroom ranges there will be a negligible loss in velocity and power.

A shotgun offers a choice in projectiles from birdshot to slugs. If you live in an apartment or even the typical house with drywall rather than lath and plaster, birdshot will almost always do the job at bedroom ranges and have less of a tendency to penetrate into another room and put innocents in jeopardy. On the other hand, if you live in a rural area and may have to deal with threats—human or otherwise—that may be outside, buckshot and/or slugs can deliver that power out to somewhat longer range.

Simplicity of Operation
A pump shotgun is far less complicated to operate than any other scattergun, with the possible exception of a double barrel. The double is not necessarily a bad choice—don’t incorporate Joe Biden’s tactical response; it will get you killed or arrested—but the pump isn’t that much more complex to operate and offers a greater magazine capacity. Anyone of normal strength for their size and ordinary manual dexterity can run a pump gun effectively.

Why not the latest and greatest semi-auto with a magazine extension and a quick-loading port? After all, they are the winningest guns in 3-gun competition. While that may be true, we aren’t talking about folks with superior competition skills. Those people spend a lot of time at the range practicing their gun handling skills. If you and your family are part of this crowd, you don’t need or want my recommendations. The average non-gun enthusiast who wants to be able to protect his or her family doesn’t have the skills necessary to run a comp gun, and most of them are not inclined to take the time and ammo required to gain those skills.

A Few Caveats
I would avoid—no, make that run away from—shotguns with a folding, collapsing or no buttstock. Again, such shotguns are for those whose skills have been developed and honed to make up for the difficulties in handling such guns, especially under stress. Most good home-defense shotguns come in what is commonly called riot gun configuration—a short, usually 18-inch barrel with no choke. Some of the short-barreled shotguns have choke tubes because they are meant for deer hunting. Choke tubes can back out of an under-maintained gun; avoid them. If you want to use the same shotgun for deer hunting, buy an extra barrel with choke tubes. Aftermarket sights aren’t a bad addition, but remember the K.I.S.S. principle: Keep It Simple Stupid. A simple set of iron sights, perhaps with tritium to make them visible in poor light is all one needs at bedroom ranges. Lastly, consider buying what are marketed as a youth shotgun, especially if you and/or your significant other are of small stature. Taller people can adapt to a short stock easier than a short person trying to adapt to a longer stock.

While it isn’t necessary to be a range warrior, spending several hours each week practicing, each person who might be called upon to use the home-defense shotgun will need some range time to learn the basics and some more time at the range occasionally to review and maintain those skills. Don’t force the non-enthusiast into an all-day range time if all they need is an hour or two every few months to maintain their skills. If their interest blossoms and they want to become more sophisticated and skilled, great! But let them make that choice.

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