I think it was Clint Smith who said, “A handgun will put a hole in you, a rifle will put a hole clean through you, while a shotgun will blow off body parts.” While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, there is no question that the shotgun is an excellent close-range fight stopper.
With modern defensive buckshot loads, the shotgun will take care of business out to around 30 to 35 yards. With slugs and a good set of rifle sights, you’d be amazed what you can do with a shotgun out to 100 yards, or so. Utilizing smaller shot sizes, the same shotgun will take care of snakes and other pesky critters that you may not want in your yard. The shotgun is capable of being a truly versatile defensive tool.
The shooter gets to pick their poison when it comes to action types, too. Pumps, semi-autos, and double-barreled guns are probably the most practical. If it matters, my defensive shotguns are all 12 gauge pumps that have been fitted with ghost-ring sights and are stoked with Federal 00 buckshot. Although, lately, I’ve been thinking about one of those double-barreled coach guns with exposed hammers. In my rural setting that would make an interesting “back door” gun with one barrel stoked with 00 buckshot and the other barrel stuffed with #6 birdshot.
Another benefit of the defensive shotgun is that there is one to fit just about everyone’s budget. The shooter can get some awfully nice shotguns, already tuned for defensive work, direct from the factory. Or, he might choose to ship a gun off to one of several gunsmiths who specialize in converting a gun for defensive purposes. And, finally, the defensive shooter can usually find used guns, at relatively low prices, in the gun stores and at gun shows. Good shotguns don’t wear out very quickly.
I wish that I could convince every defensive shooter to take the time to pattern test their defensive shotgun. Instead of just shooting it at tin cans a few times, the shooter needs to set up silhouette targets and test the gun at various distances using the intended defense loads. New shooters may be amazed to find out that you can, rather easily, miss with a shotgun.
Finally, I advise everyone to sign up for one of the shotgun classes at Gunsite or Thunder Ranch. Besides being a thoroughly enjoyable week, they will show you some tricks and techniques that will really enhance your shotgun skills. Next to the defensive handgun, a good shotgun is an important part of anyone’s personal defense program.