The “handgun vs. shotgun for home defense” debate has been going on for many years now. Both handguns and shotguns have pros and cons to take into account when deciding how to defend your castle, should the need arise. Saying one or the other is better (as a blanket statement) is akin to saying that a GLOCK 19 is the best gun for every single person to conceal and carry.
I recently had the pleasure of attending a Gunsite Academy women’s-only media event sponsored by Remington Arms, EOTech and Galco Gunleather. Under the supervision and instruction of Gunsite Academy rangemaster Il Ling New we handled and shot Remington Versa Max Tactical 12-gauge, semi-auto shotguns ($1,399 retail value) during day 1 of the course.
After our initial classroom safety briefing and reminder to drink at least 10 gallons of water per day, we took to the range to pattern the Versa Max Tactical shotguns.
Versa Max Tactical 12-gauge shotgun
Being left handed, I’m generally skeptical of any semi-auto shotgun that is specifically set up for a right-handed shooter, especially if the safety is located on the trigger guard. But, the nice folks at Remington prepared for my “handicap,” and flipped the safety to the other side to compensate for my “south paw” shooting habits.
Il Ling instructed us to shoot from 10 yards, at paper targets with 2 large black circles. We saw where our shots hit and also the spread of the pattern made by the Remington 2-¾-inch, #6 shot.
I noticed that the felt recoil was very manageable, upon initial firing of the Versa Max. I am not generally one to complain about felt recoil, since I shoot 12-gauge shotguns on a regular basis and am used to shouldering the recoil. I found the HiViz fiber optic front sight helpful when acquiring the target, but slightly on the small side. The oversized bolt release and safety button made for easy manipulations. To my relief, my thumb did not get caught in the loading gate while loading shells, like it has done in so many of the other semi-auto shotguns I have used in the past.
One great quality of the Versa Max Tactical is the Picatinny barrel clamp that allows for a light or other accessories to be attached. This feature levels the playing field when comparing it to a handgun with a mounted light.
After assessing our targets, Il Ling stated that although shotguns have both pros and cons, she preferred to use a shotgun for a home-defense situation. Below are her reasons why.
Pros of home-defense shotguns
According to Il Ling, at indoor distances, a shotgun load can pack more of a punch (in energy) than a handgun bullet and the pellets of a shotgun shell cover more surface area, though penetration varies widely depending on conditions and the type of load that is used.
“Shotguns can shoot a wider variety of ammo and thus can be more appropriately loaded for various conditions like dry-wall or shared-wall dwellings or rural homes with potential indoor-outdoor use i.e., snakes of both the 2 and 4 legged variety,” said Il Ling.
She recommends that anyone using a shotgun for home defense find and measure the farthest distance in their home that may have to be shot across and practice making your shots at this distance, much like we patterning your shotgun at the range. This will also help you select your ammo type, based on different variables.
Cons of home-defense shotguns
It can be difficult to maneuver a shotgun in tight spaces, as well as managing the overall cumbersome quality of a shotgun compared to a handgun. Imagine yourself holding a gun that weighs nearly 8 pounds, while trying to assess a threat, and also wrangling your children to safety at the same time. Shooting a shotgun one-handed can be done, but requires extensive practice, whereas support-hand shooting with a handgun is more reasonable.
Il Ling recommends that people who plan to use a shotgun for home defense “learn how to maneuver safely (muzzle control,) efficiently (quietly and with no extra movement) and defensively (don’t announce your position by letting the muzzle jut out) while on the offense.” Then use those techniques to move from important location A to critical location B in the home. For example, moving from the master bedroom to the safe room.
Do you prefer a handgun or shotgun for home defense? Leave your comment below and tell me why.