Get a Grip: Shotguns for Self-Defense

I’m the proud owner of a (rebuilt) Remington Wingmaster 870. I’m not a “shotgun guy” – but I’m learning. I bought it at a pawn shop, to be used for home defense. I immediately took it to a gunsmith I trust, who rebuilt it from the ground up – took it from what looked like an abused weapon to one that runs and runs and runs. He also added a magazine extension tube, shortened the barrel to within an inch of the legal limit, added a front sight, and cleaned it up. That was stage one. Now I’m perfectly happy shooting it as it is. But my dad had trouble dealing with it’s length/weight (he’s 84), and the rest of my family is not built like I am (6’4″, 235 or so lbs.). So it looks like I’m in the market for some parts for the venerable 870. No problem…Midway USA to the rescue. But not so fast, buck-o. The Mighty Wingmaster is apparently the shotgun version of a Jeep Wrangler – or what the AR-15 is to carbines – a platform that allows, nay encourages you to modify it in almost any way you can imagine.

I’m looking at a pistol grip, a folding stock, and an adjustable stock. All three offer advantages – and disadvantages. Here are the three I’m considering:

Pistol Grip stock for Wingmaster 870

A pistol grip makes for a short weapon, but it means you gotta hold ‘er steady. No bracing this one against your shoulder – there’s nothing to brace. Hogue says pistol grips “are molded from a fiberglass-reinforced polymer assuring stability and accuracy. Non-slip stocks are durable, weatherproof and extremely comfortable with a standard length of pull of 14-1/4″ or with a shorter 12″ length of pull for small shooters or for use with body armor. The Tamer grip provides hours of comfort and recoil protection with it’s Sorbothane insert, palm swells and finger grooves.”

Folding stock for the Wingmaster 870.

The folding stock is kind of the best of both worlds. Which worries me. It’s light a light switch – off or on, with no in-between. And I’m afraid the very people that need it shorter will find shooting a pistol grip sans stock to be a handful. (No pun intended.) Advanced Technology makes this one. The Midway USA catalog says it “Allows the shotgun to function with the stock extended or folded. Quick release button allows buttstock to fold or unfold instantly. Reversible for right and left-handed shooters. Stock includes integral pistol grip, mounting adapters and required hardware. This Marine model features stainless steel hardware for corrosion-resistance.”

AR-15-style, adjustable stock

The adjustable stock (just like you’d find on an AR-15) seems to offer a good compromise. But I’m not sold. I’m not sure if it will adjust to be short enough for comfort, and long enough to suit me. Plus, it makes it look like an AR-15, which is not necessarily a good thing (I’m already intimidating the Hell out of my girlfriend over the “guns in the house” thing). Not sure I want to add “black assault weapon” to my list of perceived sins.

The Knoxx Industries SpecOps adjustable stock boasts “an M4-style sliding stock allows the length of pull to be adjustable from 11-1/4 to 15-1/4″ to fit most shooters or those wearing heavy clothing. Lacking the recoil reduction capabilities of other the Knoxx stocks, it is the cost effective choice for those who find 12 gauge recoil tolerable.”

Remember, I’m not just looking for something for my use. It’s got to make the shotgun usable for everyone from my 12-year-old daughter to my 84-year-old dad. (Not that they’re gonna be shooting it a lot, but if it’s purpose is home defense, I’d like them to be able to use it.)

So now, I’m turning to the ever-growing TTAG community for some advice. If you’ve had any experience with different shotgun stocks, lemme know. I’ll be interested to hear what you think.

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About Brad Kozak

Brad Kozak is an iconoclastic, curmudgeonly graphic designer/marketer/writer/musician/advertiser/conservative creative guy. In 2007, he completed a gradual transition from a conservative semi-pacifist to a proactive, armed citizen, willing to exercise his Second Amendment rights to protect his family and property. His idea of “gun control” is hitting where he aims.

6 Responses to Get a Grip: Shotguns for Self-Defense

  1. avatarMartin Albright says:

    Brad I wonder if you aren't going at this backwards. Looking at the catalog and asking "which of these goodies should I get?"

    Instead, focus on your situation: What is it that your shotgun can't do now that you think the accessories will allow it to do?

    And if the answer is "I want to make a 12 gauge shotgun tolerable for a 12 year old girl or an 84 year old man" I don't think there are any accessories out there that will do that. If that's really your goal then trade in that 12 for a 20 gauge. A 20 will be more than adequate for a defense situation and the recoil is a lot less unpleasant.

    Less recoil = more enjoyable to shoot = more shooting = more proficiency with said weapon. Also I believe 20 gauge ammo is a bit less expensive, though I'm not sure since I don't own a 20 gauge.

    IMO there has been an unneccessary "arms race" in both shotguns and rifles. Where .30-06 used to be perfectly adequate for any big game in the Lower 48, I've now seen hunters who think that a .300 Win Mag is an absolute minimum. Shooting a .300 Mag can be called a lot of things but "fun" isn't one of them. With shotguns, we've gone from 2 1/2" shells to 3" magnums and now some 12 gauge guns shoot 3 1/2" "super magnums." I can't even imagine what it's like to shoot one of those and I doubt that I ever will.

    (yes, I know the 3 1/2" was supposedly introduced to make up for the fact that waterfowl shooters have to use less-dense steel shot because of pollution regs that forbid lead shot, but still: 3 1/2"? When ordinary 2 1/2" shotshells leave my shoulder black-and-blue? No thanks!)

    As for stock styles, call me old fashioned but I like a plain, standard-style sporting stock, in either wood (expensive) or plastic (ugly but affordable.) You can hold the gun steadily in both hands while keeping your finger near the trigger just in case – can't do that with a pistol grip stock, you either hold it at "port arms" with your hand across the neck of the stock, or you have your hand on the pistol grip, in shooting position, which is better for shooting but worse for keeping a firm hold on the weapon.

    A slightly shorter-than-average stock (like a youth stock) will make it easier for shooters of small stature to hold the gun, but long-armed shooters can still hold it firmly.

  2. avatarRobert Fure says:

    As Martin touched on at the end of his post, I'd recommend looking into changing the stock. You can either get a youth stock or look for a shortened Length of Pull stock. Hogue makes a bunch. They can generally take about 2-2.5" inches off the length of the gun.

    An 870 has a 14" LoP standard, and the "Junior" guns are usually 13". If you find a "Law Enforcement" stock, they're generally 12 or 12.5" LoP.

    I'm going to get a reduced LoP stock for my Moss590. Easier to maneuver, easier to work the action, easier to hold for smaller shooters. (I'm a big shooter and like it)

  3. avatarRobert Farago says:

    When considering modifications to my home defense shotgun, I always imagine a prosecutor holding the weapon above his head in front of a jury.

    The more doo-dads and gee-gaws you put on the weapon—flashlights, big ass sight, ammo holsters, sling—the more you'll look like a firearms fetishist just itchin' to shoot him some burglar. A pistol grip has bank robber written all over it. Expandable stock? Militia. I'm still to-ing and fro-ing about the $12 ammo sleeve on the stock. Seriously.

    I'm with Martin on the inadvisability of asking anyone other than a healthy adult to fire a 12-gauge. The SuperNova has a ComfortTech stock and it still knocks my 100-lbs. wife backwards (we're working on it). In fact, that's an excellent question. What firearm WOULD you recommend for a child or elderly person for self-defense? If any.

    • avatarRobert Fure says:

      One would hope that a legitimate case of self defense would never even make it to trial. A gun is a gun, no matter what it looks like. If a prosecutor wanted to make you look like a bad guy, he'd talk about your SuperNova and its Human Hunter Military Grade Ghost Rings and it's Recoil Reduction Technology for Increased Rate of Fire. Hopefully he'd just look like an idiot.

      As for a child or someone elderly, they could try a shotgun in 20 gauge loaded with #4 shot or a 9mm carbine, like the Beretta Cx4 Storm or something of a similar size.

  4. avatarRobert Farago says:

    I hear ya on the SuperNova = military gestalt, but it doesn't look that bad. And don't under-estimate the old perception is reality deal. It doesn't matter what the prosecutor says. It's what the gun looks like.

    In truth, you're best off killing a home invader with a hunting rifle that just happened to be nearby. While I'm all about the twelve vs. six men thing, you have to think ahead.

    As for the kid thing, I suppose the key is for them to use THEIR gun. You know; if. My six-year-old is partial to a Ruger .22 while the 12-year-old and 13-year-old are Henry Golden Boy qualified. But here's the thing: it's MY job to protect them (and the non-gun COD player). The only situation I could imagine where they'd have to fire instead of me is if I was dead. And I'm gonna do my best to stay alive as long as possible.

  5. avatarMonte says:

    Of the three mods, the only possible one I would advocate is an adjustable stock.

    There is not one single firearms training facility I can think of that advocates the removal of the stock on a self-defense shotgun. Your number one defense posture is gun on shoulder, eyes open, front site focus, center of mass aim. Period.

    That pistol grip thing is movie hogwash. Shooting from hip may be called for in certain situations, but it's NOT a first option (or, in the case of a pistol-gripped shotgun, the only option). The single advantage of a pistol grip is concealment, which implies criminal intent. But you are in your home, defending it and what is precious to you. A pistol gripped 12er is an uncontrollable, un-aimable noise-maker. Follow the advice of experts who are in the job of staying alive (and keeping their students alive). Full stock, ghost ring sites.

    Now, back to the adjustable stock…I presume you want the gun to be flexible — so anyone from your geriatric father to your prepubescent daughter can adjust the weapon to their frame. Again, if you must diddle with your 870, this is the least objectionable option, but I will go on record as saying, "I really wish you wouldn't."

    As sure as shooting, the gun will be used by someone else at the range, you'll put it away and forget to reset the stock to its primary shooter. That'd be you. And when the moment of truth arrives, it's all wrong. You throw it to your shoulder and whoops, your nose is covering the rear site, your trigger finger is behind your chin, and you…miss. Game over.

    No one gun fits everyone, or suits everyone's abilities. The only – only – thing that matters is you fine-tune your weapon to you.

    Robert's point is valid: if your father or children are called upon to defend themselves, they may reach for your gun (and should be able to make it go bang with reasonable ability), but in that instance, it'll be because either you are not home, or you are dead.

    If you think Pops needs his own pops, a small-framed 20 makes short work of bad men. Perhaps an Ithaca Featherweight? Also suitable for women and small children. (Its unique bottom ejection also means it works well for both righties and southpaws.)

    Martin, as a waterfowler who shoots 4 – 6 cases of 12 per season, I can attest that yes, 3 1/2 mag has more than a little recoil and blast, however, today's modern 12 semi-auto makes this very tolerable…I recommend the Benelli Super Black Eagle, personally.

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