Shotgun Versus Handgun for Home Defense or Do You Need Both?

Shotgun vs Handgun Home Defense

A combat veteran was asked once if he preferred a handgun to a long gun for his home defense. His response was he always carried a pistol so he could fight his way to his rifle. This of course is not advice on what to do as far as home defense weapons are concerned. The statement was presumably tongue in cheek, but it gives you an idea of how some feel about various firearms.

In most people’s minds a shotgun has more stopping power, does not need as much training to use effectively and some do believe it has more of a terrorizing effect on intruders. First, however, let us clear up the myth about “racking” a shotgun to scare off an intruder. If you are pointing, a shotgun at an intruder or one is within earshot and there is not already a shell in the chamber, you lose.

Point and Shoot

You can point and shoot any firearm, and when facing an intruding and the heart is thumping out of your chest that is probably how you would end up aiming and shooting. A shotgun would likely be more accurate in this case especially if you are using birdshot.

A handgun for some people takes more training to become accurate but remember you will only be a few feet away from most intruders or any other aggressor out to do you harm. However, even at a few feet you may not hit your target with a pistol while in a panicked state.

Training equals confidence and accuracy, so you do need hours upon hours of range time to master a handgun or shotgun. To master a weapon means you are accurate with it under stress, can load by feel in the dark under stress, knows the rudimentary mechanics of it, and can maintain it in proper working order.

Size and weight make handguns the preferred choice for many people. A pistol can literally fit under your pillow, lay on a nightstand or be tucked in a drawer in strategic locations around the home.

A shotgun can be propped in the corner for easy access. Some even lean one in the corner near the front door, so when answering the door they can grab it quickly. On the other hand, if you are sleeping and someone kicks in your front door, where is the shotgun, hidden behind the smashed door of course?

Obviously, you would move the shotgun to a more accessible position when you go to bed at night and if you do not, well then, you lose again.

A firearm is only effective when it is in your hands when you need it, not propped somewhere or tucked in a drawer. If you want, a firearm in the home you have to make sure it is accessible when you need it.

Some people claim that a shotgun is not maneuverable in tight places. What tight places, are you talking about, are you practicing in your attic? You are not stalking intruders up and down narrow corridors or crawling through tunnels hopefully.

We are talking your home here. However, you may have to move from room to room and if you do not have enough practice time in you may bang the barrel in doorways in your haste. Even with minimal practice, you can learn to maneuver a shotgun in virtually any space.

Who Else Is In the Home?

Not everyone can handle the recoil of a shotgun, and if you have adults in the home that cannot use the firearms in the home then you need to get firearms they can use. Every adult in the home should be proficient with any firearm available. If a 12-guage has too much recoil consider a 20-gauge, and even then it may be too much so a handgun is the logical choice.


Safety of course comes first, so if you have small children a handgun may not be your preferred choice, because little hands can manipulate a handgun much easier than a shotgun.

Much is made about stopping power, when it comes to firearms. In most instances, shots are exchanged from just a few feet apart, so even a .22-caliber could be effective. A shotgun has more stopping power of course but again not everyone can handle a shotgun.

There is not a right or wrong choice, but there is your choice, so whatever firearm you choose you need to master it along with everyone else in the home old enough to use it. If you are the only one that can use the firearm, and you are not home when something happens, where does that leave your family?

Do not be one of those people that hear of a break-in down the street and immediately run out to buy a pistol or shotgun. When you purchase things based on fear you will make bad choices about what firearm would work best for you and your family. Consider all options and do not drag it home and toss it on a high shelf and proclaim the home protected. The day you bring one home is just the beginning.

Consider the cost of ammunition, accessibility to a firing range, and know the local, state and federal laws concerning the ownership and use of a particular firearm.

Do you live in an apartment building, condominium or heavily populated neighborhood where round penetration through walls and doors could injure someone else and of course consider round penetration through the walls and door of your own home.