The shotgun has been the go-to for home defense since its inception. What could be better than a scatter gun launching multiple 9mm-sized pellets at an intruder at 1,300 feet per second? Best of all, you can get a quality shotgun for relatively cheap, and ammo isn’t expensive either.

There’s nothing wrong with a shotgun for home defense; it’s a beautiful piece of equipment, but you need to determine whether the shotgun suits you and your home defense strategy.

Kalashnikov shotgun

What could be better for CQB than a shotgun? Source: reddit

If you live in a house with the closest neighbors hundreds of yards away and don’t have to worry about those pellets I mentioned hurting anyone else, then, by all means, get yourself a good ol’ Remington 870 and call it a day. 

There’s more to it, though, than just if you live close to neighbors, like in an apartment building.

Let me explain. 

Have You Ever Heard Of Overpenetration? 

Overpenetration can occur in different ways. Are we talking about it through the target or walls and barriers? 

Both. For many reasons. If you have long enough hallways, remember it’s a scattergun we’re talking about. Depending on the load and the barrel length, the pellet spread may cause the majority of the pellets to miss the target. 

Those things have to stop somewhere—hopefully, in the wall if you’re lucky. If you’re not lucky, then you have WAY more significant issues on your hands. 

A longer barrel and, in some cases, the shotshells (ammo) can mitigate spread to a certain degree. 

Why is over-penetration a big deal? Don’t you want the rounds to have as much penetrating force as possible? 

You know the universal safety rule, “Be sure you know what’s beyond your target,” and all that good stuff, right? Well, shotguns have a ton of penetrating power. Again, buckshot launches a few 9mm-sized pellets at 1,100-1,800 feet per second, which is extremely fast. 

Two pieces of sheetrock wall won’t stop a blast from a shotgun, and everything on the other side is vulnerable to some hefty damage or even death. 

Having a house as opposed to an apartment can make it easier, but if there are kid’s rooms nearby, it’s best to ensure their walls have bookshelves wherever you think you could possibly catch an intruder. This way, there’s more material to stop the rounds should an incident occur. 

Let’s hope that never happens.

Benelli M1014

A Benelli M1014 For Home Defense? Yes! Source: reddit

What About Changing Gauges?

Shotguns come chambered in many gauge sizes, from 10-gauge to .410 bore, and you don’t always have to use a 12-gauge for home defense. 

Note that the lower the gauge number, the more powerful the shotgun will be. Since 12-gauge is the most common size, we typically consider it first when choosing a shotgun for home defense. But does it make a difference? 

federal top gun 12 gauge #8 ammo
Federal Top Gun 12 Gauge 2.75" #8 Ammo
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Yes. But there are always two sides. While a smaller gauge will be better for use in a home defense situation, you want to have enough penetrating power, and some higher gauges can be questionable in that area. 

Especially if the target is wearing thick clothing or just overweight, shooting a higher gauge can make it harder for you to put him or her down. And that’s not a gamble you should take when your lives and your family’s lives are on the line. 

So, while changing gauges may work, it will likely be harder to find ammo when you do so, and those styles of shotguns may not be ideal for home defense. Smaller bore shotguns like the 16-gauge are usually found only in hunting shotgun barrel lengths (longer), which are not the best for indoor use. 

The good news is that if you live in a state with a hotter-than-average climate, a 20-gauge shotgun may serve you well since intruders won’t be wearing thick coats and jackets like you would find somewhere in Alaska or Wisconsin. 

winchester superx 20 gauge ammo
Winchester Super-X 20 Gauge 2.75" #7.5 Ammo 250-Round Case
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But if you live in a state that gets colder throughout the year, stick with the 12-gauge. 

But You Want A 12 Gauge…

There are ways for you to get what you want. 

Let’s be honest here: any round will penetrate more than we need it to if we miss our target. To mitigate that, the first thing to do is NOT MISS. Well, that can be hard when the adrenaline is pumping. 

So, you have to reinforce the barriers. Bookshelves and other furniture in front of your walls are a great way to slow those rounds down before they leave your domain. 

You can also try to gauge what’s behind the wall you’re shooting towards. This is tricky since you can’t just ask your neighbor to explore their house—or maybe you can if you’re friends—but this helps you know where your neighbor(s) may be during a break-in. 

Of course, you can never be too sure, but it’s better than not knowing anything at all. 

Run through scenarios in your head to help see if a shotgun is the best option for you.

Benelli shotguns

Which would you take for home defense? Source: reddit


Shotguns are still a top option for home defense, but it all depends on where you live. 

If you have thin walls and share them with the neighbors, a shotgun may not be the best option, but there are ways to slow those rounds down as much as possible before they leave your walls. 

If you live in a home with a lot of space between you and your neighbors, a shotgun can be a great option for home defense. Ammo capacity could be a worry, but you’re not John Wick, and I doubt that many people are going to come into your house, especially all at once. 

If you’re worried about that, buy an AR-15, but think about the same things we just discussed. 

Other than that, the shotgun is good to go. 

Be good and take care.

Brian Zerbian
Brian is a USMC Veteran and avid gun enthusiast from New Jersey who loves to spend his time shooting, writing, listening to classic rock, and learning new things.
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