Have you ever been in a gun store and heard a clerk tell a new gun owner that the best home defense gun is a pump-action 12 gauge? Simply rack the action and the noise alone will scare off most intruders. We all know one guy who parrots this advice like he’s “been there” or “seen stuff.”
If you are new to the world of defensive firearms or even if you’ve been around guns all of your life, let me give you a solid piece of advice: that statement is bullshit and any person who repeats its effectiveness has never personally witnessed it. The only kind of home intruder frightened by sudden loud noises come from the animal kingdom.
For the sake of argument, let’s say that a loud noise deters criminals 50 percent of the time — and I assure you the number is much closer to never. Relying on a one in two success rate of frightening off an attacker is negligent at best. Especially if you’re not prepared to use the shotgun for anything more than ‘making noise’.
The most powerful dissuading aspect of a shotgun isn’t the noise it makes or its reputation, it’s the amount of hot lead it hurls at a target. That said, the scattergun isn’t the one-hit wonder armchair generals and Hollywood make it out to be. Even with an National Firearms Act-regulated 12-inch barrel, a user must aim the shotgun carefully to hit the desired target. The cone of fire is much narrower than most people believe. If shotguns really spread out to the size of a beach ball at 10 feet and launched aggressors across the room, wouldn’t every military on Earth ditch their weapons for these portable howitzers?
Don’t get me wrong, the shotgun is an excellent defensive weapon, but just like pistols and carbines it has its limitations. Most shotguns have limited ammo capacity, tremendous recoil and cumbersome reloading techniques. Yet, the shotgun’s ability to stop fights faster than carbines or pistols has earned it a permanent reputation as the ultimate home defense weapon. I agree that shotguns are tremendously effective, in the appropriate scenario, when wielded by trained hands.
The substantial payload of home-defense double ought buckshot rounds that make it an effective manstopper, also make it difficult to control. While length of pull is important on a home defense carbine, it is crucial on a home defense shotgun. An ill-fitted shotgun coupled with these powerhouse loads will cause the shooter great pain and can lead to bad-habits, such as flinching. Even worse, the anticipation of this recoil and pain makes the weapon less conducive to training. This is essential with a tube-fed shotgun as the reloading procedure is more difficult and very different from almost all centerfire rifles and handguns.
Food for thought: if something is difficult to perform in ideal conditions, it will be impossible to execute under adverse ones. The only way to make something awkward and unfamiliar become second nature, is to train consistently.