A Nurse with a Gun

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Home Defense Shotguns

Bubba's Tactical Shoot'emupgun
There is a lot of bullshit out there in the home defense shotgun arena. A lot of money can be made in the plastic tactical whizbang market, and it leaves the newbie wondering if the shotgun itself is really a necessity if he has all that extra junk to throw at an attacker. The truth is, a combat shotgun needs very little to be a devastatingly effective weapon, and they can be bought on the used market very cheaply. There is no reason for any home not to have one.

I'm going to dispense with the crap and keep things simple. I assume the reader has already made the decision on a home defense shotgun versus a handgun. What a person needs is a maneuverable gun with a reasonable capacity, and some replenishment ammo. All else is superfluous. The olive drab coated picatinny railed bright light laser guided Walter Mitty guns are fine, but a person should not confuse function with glitz. Of a concern as well is how that gun will appear when held up by a prosecuting attorney in front of a jury if must be used. A gun that looks like a duck gun rather than an evil black rifle will always influence a gun ignorant jury less. Finally, as in handgunnery, you can not substitute plastic high tech add on accessories for technique. I instead recommend a good solid hands on course to learn how to employ the shotgun well. Knowing your weapon and your capabilities with it is essential to successful self defense. The Clark family offers a course second to none in my area. I am unsure of what is available elsewhere.

A quick word on pistol grips i.e. no stock and firing from the hip........Hip shooting with a pistol grip is based on the common delusion that a shotgun with an 18 inch barrel will spray buckshot in a 4 foot pattern at ten feet, thus negating the necessity of aiming the gun. That's Hollywood. Get a real stock, and aim the gun. The 18 inch shotgun will not place an impenetrable 4 foot wide hail of lead down your hallway. My cylinder bore guns group 00 buckshot about 3-5 inches at 15 feet. At best, you might have 7 or 8 rounds in the magazine, so you had better be using them effectively. Look down that receiver and barrel. Aim the gun. To do that, you need a stock.

Mossberg 500
The best deals on shotguns will be found in a pawnshop. This was a 28 inch Mossberg 500 Field Gun I found priced at $100 during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I needed a "loaner" gun. At any other time I would have expected to pay $80-100 for it. It's humble, yes, but it is a no bullshit platform to build on. I chose this particular shotgun because of the slick barrel, the corncob forend, and the overall condition. I like the "cob" forend, as it does not overlap the receiver. This allows a sidesaddle installation. The slick barrel allows for easy trimming and a heatshield if desired. I simply cut it down to 18.5 inches for better maneuverability and reinstalled the bead sight.

I prefer the Mossberg 500/590 for several reasons. The safety is located sensibly on the back of the receiver. Being thumb activated, it does not require the shooter to reposition his trigger finger. The same can be said for the slide release, which is operated with the second finger. The deciding factor for me though is the way the shell lifter works. On the Mossberg, it is up out of the way through most of the operation on the forend. This allows easy reloading of the magazine. If a person ever gets his thumb caught between a Remington shell lifter and magazine during a tactical reload on a course of fire, he will praise Mossberg's design afterwards.

One of the first decisions to be made is whether a 5 round magazine is sufficient. You can buy extensions for the magazine to bump it's capacity up to seven rounds if you like. The barrel length has to be 20 inches to support that extension though, so the capacity decision must be made prior to shortening the barrel.

Winchester 1300
I am of the opinion that a 5 round capacity is suitable for my use. Thus, for me, the barrel will usually be a 18.5 incher. Before going any farther, one must make sure their used shotgun is a reliable one. Take it out and run a box or two of shells through it. Repair or tighten anything needed. Disassemble and lube it. It is amazing the dirt, mud and gunk these guns will harbor after a life of duck hunting. On my $100 Mossberg I had to tighten up the forend, and remove a limiting rod from the magazine.

As far as ammunition, I am a believer in 00 Buckshot. I like the low recoil police rounds, and the two and 3/4 shells allow me to squeeze five shots into a Winchester magazine after the limiter is removed.

Mossberg 500
I actually own four six home defense shotguns. I keep them on hooks inside different closets, above the closet doors, around my house. If I am at home, I am seldom more than 20 feet away from one. If I ever need more than five rounds, a New York reload is ready. I store them safety off, chamber empty, trigger pulled, magazine full. Stored this way, I do not have to think whether I am holding a Winchester or a Mossberg. They work the same. The action is unlocked and ready to shuck in a shell. The added benefit of multiple shotguns, is if one is ever taken as evidence after it is used, I still retain more. I am unsure whether I would be able to purchase another at that time, but I doubt it.

Winchester 1200
Speaking of the shuck-shuck noise of a pump shotgun..... Many say that the sound will make a criminal crap in his drawers. Well, it might, and it might not. It is not my goal to make an intruder have a fecal hemorrhage. It is my goal to render my home safe again. It is my contention that in 100% of the cases, the shuck-shuck sound will cause a rapid rearranging of priorities among all involved. There is no question that the 12 gauge shotgun is a formidable defensive weapon, and the realization that one is loaded just for you is intimidating like little else.


Barrel shortening

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Blogger Mr. Completely said...

Very informative post! If I remember right, the Mossy 500 won't allow a magazine extension without changing barrels, as the lug that's part of the barrel is in the way of the longer tube.

Got a link and post up for you at Mr. Completely about this post..

...........Mr. C.

11:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the Ithaca Police model. I have a Deerslayer slug barrel with rifle sights, and the gun is ugly black, but with a full stock. I only have a standard magazine, but really see no need to enlarge it, since I've drilled on combat-loading. With the Ithaca, you poke the shells in the bottom to load the magazine, and they eject out there as well, making the gun neutral for handedness (except for the crossbolt safety.

A 5 round sleeve and a 12-round bandolier sling complete the kit.

I carry the gun with 2 magnum rounds of 2 2/4" 00 Buck and 2 Federal slugs in the magazine. On the sleeve I have a game load and 3 Smith and Wesson Sabot slugs, which I can hit a man-sized target out to 150 yards with. The bandolier sling carries some 00 Buck and 8 more slugs.

In shotgun combat, the buckshot is a quick reaction round, and almost all firing after the initial couple of rounds will be slugs.


1:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post.

I'd like to offer one vote for adding a light to defensive shotgun. I replaced the fore end of my 590 with one that has a light built into it, and it is really quite handy. Other than that, my gun is just as it came out of the box. Simple is good.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Josh said...

One thing that I did when modifying my home defense shotguns is to incorporate a Surefire forend. While an expensive option, most home invasions occur under cover of darkness, and you don't always have the option of hitting the light switch. My Mossberg 500 can deliver 225 lumens of light seconds before delivering 7 rounds of #4 buckshot if the threat is real and not just my drunk brother needing a place to crash. A Choate pistol grip full length stock and a sidesaddle also rest on my primary defense gun. The other two are plain Marine models (stainless steel).

12:31 AM  
Blogger Phelps said...

I take a slightly different outlook on the sound issue. There are two outcomes:

1) the guy hears it, rearranges his fecal storage plans, and hauls ass out of my house, or

2) he hears it, and keeps coming.

If it is #2, I know that I have to shoot at that point, and have no problem doing it.

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A articulate, well written and informative comparasion on the Rem 870 vrs the Moss 500. Bravo !
BTW the 870 was issued to at least the US Navy back in the 70's. I know because I carried (and occasionally used) one on BG's

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For several years, my defense shotgun was a Winchester Model 1300 Defender (18" cyl. Bore) - I agree with the copper-plated #6 shot (2 3/4" shells) - Wall penetratin is a big deal. When you have three kids and a wife in the home, it is of critical concern; Those who live in an apartment instead of a home should really consider shotguns - Even an ounce or 1 1/8oz. load of #6 at interior range is plenty enough. People who are not "gun savvy" are probably best suited for either a shotgin or a .22 caliber revolver. I say that because two issues: Having a long-arm taken away, and having random bullets fired into walls instead of intruders.

I feel at least slightly qualified to defend my home with a weapon- So my choice is an M1911 Govt. Model with 230gr GHDP's - Your mileage may vary/

- tC

12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

very interesting site I as a former paramedic have also seen many wounds from gun blast but the most amazing were from shotguns.

8:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a good article about penetration distances of various shot weights.


2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My friend and neighbor peppered my dads dog from almost 100 yards with # 6 . The dog died the next day .
The vet found 1 piece of shot in his lung.
This is what I was told. Is that possible?
I want a shot gun for home defense but now I don't know.

11:13 PM  
Blogger dropd1us said...

Im a gunsmith at 1 of 8 Remington premier warranty stations, I also work on other firearms as well, from 1903's to AR-15's and any shotgun that a customer can bring, and I can strongly say that if you can not get to the Remington 870 loaded with 1# and 000 buck, grab the Glock and let it rock! Also remember that bird shot at close range inside the home for the first shot makes a devastating wound cavity that will not penitrate as deep or go through walls like buck shot, and with the proper shot placement, it will more than likely be your only shot.

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

kinda like that feller dirty dick cheney shot huh?

11:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I held my Winchester defender sideways as though I had fallen, right side up. I was curious how it handled [fed ammo] if I was on the ground in a state of kaos, and my feed jammed. 2 3/4 buckshot shell. That was disturbing. For some reason, I did not try that with my 500. Just a thought. Maybe I didn't pump quick enough but what if I was hurt and HAD to feed slower!

9:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


How did you "tighten up the forend" on the Mossy 500? I just picked up one myself from a pawn shop for $75 (WOO-HOO!), and that's the only thing wrong with it - forend is sloppy.


4:32 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

It all depends on why it's loose. most of the time, tightening up the nut in front of the forend does the trick.

6:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for this post and for your gunshow posts. I followed your advice and just returned from the gunshow with a used 18.5" Mossberg 500 with 5 round tube that already had the sidesaddle and heat shield installed. I completely took it apart and found not a speck of rust inside. The wood on the forend was loose, too. That tightened right up by screwing the nut down further. There is still some play in the forend, though. I think that is inherent in the design. Now to find some Federal #1 buckshot loads... I'm going to run some boxes of birdshot through it tomorrow. Those clay pigeons, empty milk jugs, cans and cardboard men had better watch out.


4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An all around great article on social shotguns. Those pictures at the top, with pistols and knives duct taped to the shotgun had me laughing for a good 10 minutes!

3:15 PM  
Blogger Doge said...

For a "New York Reload" I have an old savage arms 20ga side-by-side cut off and hand-held. It's super small and perfect for very tight quarters. Though it has two shots at most, it's good as a last resort. No one would wanna get in front of a double-trigger pull with shot from one hole and a deer slug from the other all at once. Hope to soon get an over-under with the same setup so I can holster it more comfortably.

2:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two Mossberg's one has a Knoxx CopStock the othe a Knoxx Spec Op's stock! Both magazine loaded hammer down safety off with military 00 buckshot.

9:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very informative post! I hope to get a Mossberg 590 in the next month or two for my home. One quick question for you though - if you leave guns all over your house, couldn't a potential criminal also have easy access to them?

4:07 AM  
Blogger Rorschach said...

He'd have to know where they are and survive long enough to get them...I'm pretty sure Xav would be doing his utmost to make sure the intruder didn't get that far....

8:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

good post. I would hate to walk into my house & find that there are intruders in there already w/ all my loose & loaded shotguns around.

I try to keep everything i can in the safe for that reason almost as much as so it doesn't get stolen.

Also, a light is important, b/c w/o it, how are you going to properly ID your target before you blast him to kingdom come?

4:45 AM  
Anonymous flivver said...

I found your blog recently, and love your writing... Quick question: you mention that you've got these all over the house. I think I've seen you write, elsewhere, that you've got a couple of kids. Any fears about the kids finding the guns and getting hurt? I'd have guns all over the house if it weren't for my kids. I don't think they'd ever touch them, but if they did -- and got hurt -- I'd never forgive myself.


1:41 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

My youngest shoots her own shotgun, a 20 gauge.

8:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For me we just went out yesterday and bought a WW1 trench gun, i have it as a "shirt rack" next to my bedside loaded with 4 rounds of #8 birdshot and chamber empty safety off ready to lock n load, hell! i could fill it with a rock salt load for deer hunting and i could pre season my meat without hafting to take the pellets out!
word verification: catishly

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i use a Remington 870 express for home protection. that gun, coupled with the back-up home protection shotgun holder allows me to sleep safe at night.

if you have never heard of the back-up, check it out at http://www.home-backup-protection.com/
its cheap and super simple. but most importantly, it keeps my shotgun within arm's reach at night.

4:40 PM  
Blogger notcpio said...

I recently purchased a Mossberg 590A1. Do you know if the magazine tube is removable like on the Mossberg 500 Persuader? If so, what am I doing wrong?

3:49 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

It's removable. I'm not sure what you are doing wrong. First time, you may need a strap wrench. Grip it near the reciever and work slowly, as the receiver is aluminum.

7:43 PM  
Anonymous Maloney said...

See thats correct. I own 37 firearms, and I have 3 for home defense. Since we are in Canada we have little chance of home invasion thank god, But you never underestimate the idiots correct? I have a double barrel 1935 Hennigon Brazil Made, Unloaded but with a 5 stack sleeve on the side of Magnum Pheasant (I want to cripple the person to the extent they will never ever be able to use their limbs or genitals again), and the spread is a mere 1inch at 5 feet. I have a second, A Winchester Ranger 210, which I converted the barrel to a 12 inch riot model, with the overall length of 29 inches, I keep with a ready sling and a 5-round saddle of 00 buck. It keeps 5 in the tube and thats all I need. I keep that under my desk in my room. The Third is my Czech SA58P, This is absolutely my last resort firearm as it is an assault rifle. Canada deems the SA58P a sporting rifle, but with a 30 round magazine and steel washed M43 (7.62x39mm 139gr) Czech Surplus rounds, It will go clean through the engine of a honda at 100 Yards, and it meant to stop a mob, nothing more. My little brother decided to spend 1000 at least on his Mossberg 590 Tactical, which he installed a Knoxx Recoil Stock, a Double Knoxx side saddle for 12 cartridges, a Side Receiver Saddle for another 6 Cartridges and the Tube holds 9 Cartridges in it. I compared it to my 50$ CIL 624 12gauge shotgun, and the only difference is that my CIL can not take slugs, and only holds 5 rounds plus one in the chamber, compared to his 9 plus one in the chamber and his ability to take slugs. His is amazing for outdoor applications, as is my CIL, but for home invasion it is pointless, unless there is a mob, then he can have 28 High powered loads ready to go for protection of life and defense of his home and property. You dont need to spend loads on home defense, Even a small semi automatic .22 would stop a home invader in his tracks, regardless of what the retarded hollywood motion says. 22's go through hippy vans at 100ft, and I am witness to it, and I have photos. If you know how to use the firearm, stick with it, and always be prepared. I am going to fav your blog I hope you do not mind.

1:20 AM  
Anonymous cedar chest said...

This is a very informative post. I think I should have my own home defense shotgun in my house. This day, you will never know when the bad guys are going to attack.

7:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good read. Question. When involved in a defence shooting (home) will LE take only the weapon that was fired or all firearms in the home? The later makes no sense... that's why I am afraid it is possible...

2:14 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Anon, it can work either way, depending on the municipality, and even the individual situation and case within the municipality.

5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to all who recommend birdshot, your have not done your research, probably no research at all. Birdshot does not have sufficient stopping power for a human. There are several cases of people being hit by birdshot who were still walking around when EMS arrived. If you want a load that will do the job, you have to use something that will penetrate walls. The best way to avoid putting a hole through your wall is to put a hole through the attacker. Also, use reduced recoil loads and have an emergency plan. Have an idea of where you will be, where your attacker will be, and where your loved ones will be. Even though things rarely go according to plan in a high intensity situation, it is much better to have a plan than no plan at all.

1:02 AM  
Anonymous ken d said...

anonymous you should do some of your own research. at 20 feet, the distance across my living room, #6 birdshot still has a really tight grouping. more than enough to do serious damage to anyone hit by it.

12:11 PM  
Blogger SigArmored said...

Thank you for you're upfront view of the home defense shotgun.I have yet to purchase one for my home.I am at this point protected by my training with a p226 and a Bersa mod28.backup.
I have been researching the shotgun option extensively and you're like of the mossberg over the other available shotguns out there have helped me to make up my mind .I have heard it said that you should load the shotgun minus one ,saving the magspring,and replace the magspring once a year or so.Being the fact that the spring itself is a $5.00 part and may save you the rare hiccup under stress.Was wondering you're thoughts on the subject any help would be greatly appreaciated.
Bill Bainbridge

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The skorts are made from a great fabric and would be wonderful and they have a button and a snap at the top for security and comfort. Made well.Nice pants!!

4:15 AM  
Blogger kevin2780 said...

I think this was an excellent article. I personally have a mossberg 590 which holds 8+1 that is more than enough in my opinion I have practices that simulate real life scenarios. Train like you fight right??? I prefer the Federal Tactical reduced recoil 2 3/4 00 buck load and also sometimes Hornady TAP law enforcement ammunition red box.I also have an 8 round side saddle where I keep 6 rounds of 00 buck and 2 rounds of Federal Tactical Trueball rifled slug also law enforcement grade reduced recoil just in case I need a slug to punch through a wall or a locked door handle. Never know. As far as after market add ons I already said the side saddle and I also have a surefire led foreend. That's all I don't believe in all the extra useless shit. Hope this helps anyone.

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand how 18.5 inches could be slightly easier to maneuver around a corner in a home (slightly!!) but not sure why I would want to give up the extra rounds and go to the trouble of cutting off 1.5 inches from a perfectly good 20 inch shotgun?

My son has a Mossberg 500 20 inch and now wants to trade it in for half of what he just paid on an 18 inch 590. Doesn't seem worth it to me.


2:08 PM  
Anonymous GVSU 2013 said...

You make a solid point but it comes down to preference, a 12 gauge with pistol grip AND fore-grip (for-grip is a must or its useless for accuracy) is just as effective at close quarters as a stock only with added mobility, concealment abilities, and reduces weight. With a two hand setup you can aim the gun as you would with a stock but can rotate the weapon with added speed and easier to make quick adjustments. Just my thoughts on the topic and I agree you cant beat a full stock for accuracy but at 5 to 20 feet if you know what your doing you can afford a little play in accuracy to have the ability to move with precision... in my opinion at least.

10:26 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

I don't see why you don't even consider the rifle. For my home defense, I have an SVT-40. The 7.62x54R rounds are absolutely horrific in what they do to human flesh. Plus, I can easily control the recoil and very rapidly and very precisely put 10 rounds on target. And assuming that doesn't work, I've got a fixed bayonet and the steel butt plate. How do I not have a great HD setup with this?

12:14 AM  
Anonymous daniel said...

I have several weapons at my disposal in my house. I have no wall penetration worries, so I can, and do, use Winchester Winlite (now discontinued) Low Recoil 00 buck in my modified Rem 870. I also have a tactical Marlin 795 with a 25 rd Promag Mag filled with Stingers. For pistols, I have a Charter Arms Bulldog Pug 44spl with Hornady CD loads, a Ruger LC9 with Hornady CD, a Diamondback DB 380 with Hornady CD, a Browning 1911 22 with Stingers, and a Kel Tec PMR30 with 30 rounds of Federal 30 grain JHP. I can carry any one of these pistols with comfort, and I think they are all great defensive guns, inside or outside the house. These days it is just good sense to be armed at all times.

10:10 PM  

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