Shotguns for Home Defense

Many people currently use a shotgun for home defense.  The shotgun is a good choice, however as with any firearm, it is important to understand the weapon and how to use it properly.   There is a lot of mis-information out there regarding shotguns.  No other weapon has been given such a big reputation for stopping power and ease of use.  Some of it is true, but some of it is also incorrect and exaggerated.  Incorrectly using a shotgun you can miss your target and potentially cause personal injury.  I am hoping to provide some clarity and understanding so you can make an informed decision if you are considering a shotgun to protect your home.

First a little about “what is a shotgun”:  What makes a shotgun different from a typical handgun or rifle is what comes out of it.  Handguns and rifles fire a single bullet.  Shotguns fire many pellets at the same time held together by a plastic “shell”.  Pellets can be very small (these are used for bird hunting) or larger (used for deer hunting or self defense).  There is also what is called “slug”, which is a single bullet for a shotgun and only used for very specific purposes.  The bigger the pellets the more stopping power.


You will also hear about “gauge”.  This is basically telling you how big the “shell” is.  The bigger the shell the more pellets it holds.  The 3 most popular are 12 gauge, 20 gauge, and .410.  The difference is the 12 holds more pellets than the 20.  The .410 holds the least amount of pellets.  The more pellets of a certain size the shell can hold, the more stopping power.  Note: If you own a pistol that shoots shotgun shells like the “Judge”, it will shoot .410…more on that below.


9mm, .410, 20 gauge, 12 gauge                          12 gauge 00 buck (          .410 00 buck   (

Why do people recommend shotguns? …The shotgun has great stopping power, which means if you were to shoot at an attacker with one, and hit them, it has a very high probability of stopping them by only shooting once…if the right ammunition (Shells) are used.  That part is true.

You will often hear “you don’t need to aim, just point and pull the trigger”, or worse “you only need to point it down the hall and shoot”…the assumption being made that the pellets will spread out in a group so wide that they will hit anything in front of you.  That part is not really true.

A typical self defense distance is around 20 feet in a home.  If you use self defense ammo (often called “buckshot” or “00 Buck”) the reality is the group of pellets will only spread out to about the size of the palm of your hand at 20 feet.  If you just point without aiming, there is still a high probability you will miss altogether.  If you use shells with small pellets (called “birdshot”), there are more pellets in the shell and they spread out further, but only a couple of inches more.  Still no bigger than your hand with fingers spread open at best…you can still miss.  If you are going to use a shotgun you still need to aim to be sure you hit what you need to.


21 feet, 00 Buck (                                    15 Feet, 00 Buck (

You will hear that shotguns “Kick”.  This is the recoil caused by the ammunition firing.  The same as when your pistol jumps when you pull the trigger.  This is very true.  You aim a shotgun by putting the back (Butt) against your shoulder and looking down the sights.  When you fire the shotgun the recoil causes it to push back…or Kick.  A shotgun shooting defensive shells (“buckshot”) kicks harder than most rifles, and if not held properly, will bruise and potentially injure your shoulder.  If you do not stand properly it can also cause you to fall backwards. If you use small pellets (“Birdshot”), it will kick less, but will have far less stopping power.  The smallest Birdshot can bounce off a water jug at the distance across a large living room.

The below video shows what can happen if you are not properly holding the shotgun.  This is completely avoidable with proper instruction:


When held and aimed properly, the shotgun can be easily managed.  This video not only shows the proper way to hold the gun but also shows how “birdshot” spreads at different distances:


The bottom line is this:  If you are going to use a shotgun for home defense, be sure you practice with it just like any gun.  Training will help you to shoot it effectively without hurting yourself.  If you choose a 20 gauge (fewer pellets) instead of a 12 gauge, it will have less recoil ( “Kick” ) and still have great stopping power.  If you use a .410 keep in mind it has very few pellets and you have to be very very close to have sufficient power to stop an attacker.  .410 shotguns are typically what parents who hunt will start their children off shooting when they are very young…and very often they shoot with it runs away rather than stopping.

That brings us to the Pistol type shotguns such as the “Judge”.  Because the barrel on this type of gun is very short, the pellets have a much lower speed, which means less stopping power.  They also spread out more at a short distance.  The recoil is also very noticeable.  If you are going to use this type of gun it will be important to be very close to your attacker to be effective, and you will still need to be able to effectively aim your gun.

                judge group                                                                                            .410, 00buck, 15 feet, from a” judge”  (

A shotgun can be a great self defense weapon, however it still has its limitations and can be hard to manage without proper training.  Always shoot the gun you shoot best and are willing to continuously practice and train with.

To learn more about Femme Fatale Arms & Training or to reach out to us for more information, visit our website:






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