Home-Defense Gun Series

NOTE: Find more articles in our Home-Defense Guns Series below:

Article 1 | Article 2 | Article 3Article 4 | Article 5 | Article 6

Home-Defense Question:

My significant other and I live in what used to be a quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of a large city where we both work. We live an alternative lifestyle that drew no attention until we moved to our present location. Recently we have had our cars vandalized and have received threatening phone calls sufficient to cause us to consider buying a firearm to protect ourselves in our home. We at first were going to purchase a double-barreled shotgun as was mentioned by a political figure sometime back as his weapon of choice. But, in doing a little research on personal protection and home defense, a handgun seems like a better option. Could you give us a few reasons why one might be better than the other for our purposes?


It sounds as if you and your significant other might not have a lot of experience with firearms but have come to the startling realization that under certain circumstances, you have to take responsibility for your own personal safety. It is unfortunate that you have to live in fear for now, but being proactive and taking your situation seriously rather than just hoping it will go away is a good start.

My suggestion for both of you is to enroll in a training program that involves situational awareness, some basic personal-defense skills and some foundational firearms skills. I would also like to suggest that you become familiar with the law in your locality regarding the ownership and use of firearms as well as any legal concerns you may run into if you use your firearm in self-defense. Since you are already aware of the USCCA, contacting the home office for information relevant to your specific location would be a good next step.

The Double-Barreled Shotgun

To answer your question about having a double-barreled shotgun as opposed to a handgun, I’ll give you some upsides and some downsides for each. This should allow you to factor in the specifics of your individual situation and make an informed decision that will give you a little more confidence in taking care of your personal safety and your significant other’s safety.

A double-barreled shotgun is one of the most effective weapons that can be owned and used by the responsible citizen for personal defense in close-quarter encounters. It is relatively inexpensive and simple to operate when compared to other types of firearms. Ammunition is plentiful, and for home defense, you have a wide variety of options to meet your needs.

The double-barreled shotgun might sound like a good option and it might fit your needs, but there are a few things to consider that you might not be aware of.

Many people think if a shotgun is pointed in the general direction of an adversary at the distance of a room, the adversary will be swept off his feet and put down for the count with the pull of the trigger. After all, that’s the way it works in the movies, doesn’t it?

The reality is the shot charge, regardless of its size and lethality, is unlikely to spread more than 4 to 5 inches from one side of the room to the other. There are lots of variables that could be considered, but to keep it simple, I’ll give you an example that should make sense to work with.

Things to Consider About Home-Defense Shotguns

With any defensive shotgun, the shot pattern starts out less than an inch in diameter at the muzzle end of the barrel. A general rule when defining pattern diameter of the shot charge — from exiting the muzzle to impacting the target — is 1 inch of increase for every yard traveled between the muzzle and the target. Take into consideration that an average room is 12 feet across, which equates to 4 yards. In turn, using the above formula means that the diameter of the shot pattern is only 4 to 5 inches at best.

What this means to you is that you can’t just point the shotgun in the general direction of the target and expect to hit it. You have to aim the shotgun as you would any other firearm at across-the-room distances.

The Handgun

A handgun requires a little more attention to detail in learning how to handle it safely and effectively.

The shotgun requires two hands, a shoulder and a cheek on the stock to shoot accurately, which limits mobility and flexibility in a dynamic or fluid confrontation. Also, you should take into consideration that a double-barreled shotgun is a two-shot proposition before a reload is necessary. Hopefully, there won’t be more than two attackers and your marksmanship under stress is straight and true. Of course, where and how you carry the spare ammunition for the reload needs to be addressed, as you will likely need it if you have to fire the gun.

Things to Consider About Handguns for Home Defense

A handgun requires a little more attention to detail in learning how to handle safely and effectively. Revolvers are easier to load and unload than semi-automatics in that they have fewer buttons and levers to contend with in those processes. The average revolver holds six rounds of ammunition where semi-automatics hold 10 rounds or more on average. Semi-automatics and revolvers are similar in accuracy and effectiveness with the right ammunition selections and can be operated with one hand as well as two. Handgun ammunition consists of only one bullet per shot and has only a portion of the power generated by the shotgun ammunition. This, in turn, might mean that multiple shots are required on the target to stop the aggression.

The trade-off for the handgun’s size and convenience as opposed to the shotgun is it is, more often than not, more difficult to hit a target with. This requires training and practice to stay proficient to a greater degree than the shotgun.

In either case, whichever you choose (Why not both? One for you and the other for your partner!), training should be a part of the commitment to take care of yourselves. It will build confidence as well as the willingness to act should you ever have to meet that challenge.

Home-Defense Guns Series

Committing to home defense with a firearm is an important first step in being prepared for the worst. With some great tips from Scott Wagner on how to choose a home-defense gun (Article 1), you’re ready to look more specifically at some of the options. Up next, Duane Daiker dives deeper into the more popular options for home protection: the large handgun, carbine and shotgun. Bob Campbell discusses the benefits of using a shotgun in Article 3, while George Harris weighs shotguns against handguns in Article 4. If you weren’t able to get a carbine due to the increased interest in guns, Scott has some other options for you in Article 5. Finally, Scott has tips on how how to stage and store your firearms safely.

Find more articles in our Home-Defense Guns Series below:

Article 1 | Article 2 | Article 3Article 4 | Article 5 | Article 6