Shotguns for self-defense

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Shotguns for self-defense

Post by timmy » Sat Jul 03, 2021 3:26 am

We have, at various times, discussed handguns for self defense here, and I've made my own opinions clear on this point, agreeing with the original FBI paper "Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness" (which you can read and/or download here:, the gist of which calls for a penetration of at least 305mm, regardless of the cartridge used.

We also recognize the limitations posed by the available cartridges, mainly 32 Automatic and 32 S&W Long, and to a lesser extent, 7.62x25.

There are some who respond to this discussion by stating that they don't care for a pistol or revolver for self-defense, but prefer a shotgun instead. While this argument fails to address the point that long guns are simply not reasonable choices in many situations (such as walking down a busy street in a large city), there is validity in choosing a shotgun for self-defense in other situations such as what might be termed "home defense."

I believe in shotguns as a defensive weapon, myself, and have kept a short barreled 16 gauge pump around for just that purpose. The time has come when I have started to seriously consider loads for this shotgun in its role of home defense. For some time, I've kept a couple of boxes of slug rounds for this purpose (they only come five to the box) and feel that it is time to consider something more useful.

The problem with 16 gauge in my neck of the woods is that they are not very popular. Finding any kind of 16 gauge ammunition is very expensive and chancy at best, but this is only a small problem because I reload. I've been researching what might offer the best performance and this may relate to anyone here choosing a shotgun in the Indian context.

The same issues that govern handguns also apply directly to shotguns in this case. A flying projectile is subject to most of the same concerns (the important ones, at least), no matter how or with what they were launched. Weight of projectile, velocity, and composition are still the things we need to look at here, but perhaps in a different way.

Two issues present themselves in the consideration of shotgun use right away and both are tied to the power of a shotgun compared to a 32 Automatic pistol or 32 S&W long revolver: Firstly, over penetration may be a problem with a shotgun, and secondly, recoil may be a problem with a shotgun, especially if using a double or repeater and the need for a quick second shot is called for.

I've found that many who are experienced in loading slug and buckshot loads for self defense recommend reduced recoil loads, where the projectile velocity is kept at or below 1200 f/s - 366 m/s. This results in lower recoil, less shot deformation in buckshot loads resulting in tighter groups, and less penetration. (Here, with the shotgun's power, buckshot size selection can result in very deep penetration which may cause problems inside the house or other building.)

A pretty comprehensive gel test was run on various shot sizes and slugs, which can be viewed here: ... 7&t=109958

If you are considering the use of a shotgun for self defense purposes, the information presented here may be of interest to you.

I note that many have commented on Remington brand shot's softness. This will result in pellet deformation when fired and cause wider dispersion of the pellet group. Some brands of ammunition use pellets hardened with antimony, making pellets harder. These pellets retain their shape better and group tighter.

Also note that even reduced slug loads still achieve tremendous penetration depths.

For a choice in buckshot, it's possible for anything from #4 buck to 000 buck to meet the requirement for 305mm of penetration. My own plan is to try several sizes. I don't have the ability to measure penetration, but I can test velocity and group size, which I will do.

This is my take on shotguns for self defense at this point and I wanted to share it for your consideration, whether positive or negative.
“The principle of self defense, even involving weapons and bloodshed, has never been condemned, even by Gandhi.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” - Maya Angelou

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