Reader J.R. writes . . .
I like your article on the self defense shotgun. Unfortunately I cannot use a pump. I lost my right arm in Iraq in 2006 so I’m now permanently left handed. I keep my M4 handy because I’m so used to it that, even left handed, I can operate it in the dark with one hand. But I like the idea of a shotgun better.
I keep my Mossberg turkey gun nearby with buckshot loaded, but the safety is so stiff that I can barely flip it off with my shrapnel-mangled left hand. That, and the barrel is way too long.
So what do you suggest? Stick with my M4 that I can operate in my sleep? Or do you recommend a certain semi-auto shotgun?
First and most importantly, thank you for your service. And if I may make a suggestion a pistol might be a better option for you.
The handgun is the perfect firearm for one-handed defensive shooting because that’s exactly what it was designed for. It’s a lightweight firearm that uses ammunition of a large diameter, but with relatively gentle recoil that can easily be fired using a single hand.
Many pistols have ambidextrous controls, but most at least have lefty-friendly controls available. The compact size and light weight ammunition also mean the handgun is easier to hold and maneuver around the house and won’t tire out your arm from holding up the gun as quicly as a rifle or shotgun would.
In terms of a specific type of handgun for one-handed shooting the best option would be a striker-fired handgun like a GLOCK, a S&W M&P, or SIG P320 that doesn’t have a safety, or a DA/SA pistol like the Beretta 92FS or SIG P226 where the pistol’s “safety” is a longer double action pull for the first shot.
Single action firearms like the 1911 are great for accurate shooting, but the need to disengage the safety first can get in the way of putting rounds on target quickly. And since you mentioned that disengaging the safety on your shotgun was an issue, it might be better just to take manual safeties out of the equation completely.
For you, depending on how much strength you have in your left hand a DA/SA might not be a good idea. GLOCK, SIG P320 or similar pistols will give you roughly the same trigger weight as a standard M4 but with a much lighter overall weight and no external safeties to deal with.
As for caliber, I’ve always been a huge fan of the 9mm round. Shot placement trumps all other considerations, and if you’re anticipating some stiff .45 ACP recoil then you’re more likely to jerk the shot under pressure. Especially when shooting one-handed, you’re less able to control the recoil of the handgun so a lighter round is a great idea. It also gives you more ammunition in the same space.
At the end of the day the best option is whatever you feel most comfortable using. If you can handle an M4 better than anything else, then stick with it, because under pressure you want to know that you can reliably put rounds on target when you need to. But if you’re looking for a better solution for self defense with only one hand then the pistol is probably your best bet.
If you really, really want a shotgun then my recommendation is the Mossberg 930 SPX. The safety is mounted on top of the tang and easy to disengage, the action is reliable and the weapon is lightweight. Plus, the factory-installed ghost rings and fiber optic front sight will make putting rounds on target a breeze. You can remove the magazine extension and cap the gun at 5 rounds for a little extra weight savings if you want.
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