If you like your home defense shotgun, you can keep your home defense shotgun. This article is not for you. I’m not going to convince you to ditch one of the — if not the most — lethal close-quarters combat firearms made by hand of man. An incredibly dependable gun that can fire everything from less lethal rounds to one-ounce slugs (delivering over 3,100 ft-lbs of energy). If you want a genuine conversation stopper, the shotgun is it. That said, the shotgun has a few dramatic shortcomings for home defense . . .
For one thing, the National Firearms Act prohibits Americans from owning shotguns with a barrel length shorter than 18 inches or an overall length shorter than 26 inches. Negotiating the confines of your standard-issue middle-class house wielding a Mossberg 500 or Remington 870 is a daunting prospect. Doing it during an adrenaline dump, exponentially so.
Shotguns are fairly heavy firearms. While the aforementioned adrenaline surge tempers the weight issue in the heat of battle, the size and recoil of your average 12-gauge (loaded with double-ought buckshot) makes the weapon a “guy thing.” In other words, for a lot of people (read: women and smaller folk), the shotgun is an intimidating firearm to wield. Confidence is low.
Weapons retention is also an issue. If the bad guy gets within bad breath distance of the shotgun-armed home defender, the perp can grab the firearm’s 18″ barrel, preventing a successful conclusion to the incident. Or much, much worse.
Shotguns are also INCREDIBLY LOUD. Setting aside the danger of permanent hearing loss (i.e. sacrificing hearing for survival), a deafening shotgun blast is extremely disorienting. Most home defenders would have tremendous difficulty orienting themselves for follow-up shots, or other tactical operations.
Home defense shotguns also require two hands. That’s not good in a situation bound to require non-firearms-related manual tasks, such as opening doors, grabbing kids, calling 911, or manipulating a flashlight. Sure, you can put a light on your shotgun. But most people are not trained to use indirect illumination. They’d be muzzling all and sundry, most likely with their finger planted on the trigger.
Which brings us to the most important shortcoming of all: operator error.
All of the above challenges can be ameliorated with proper training. You can learn how to negotiate corners and tight spaces holding a shotgun. You can buy smaller, lighter, more female-friendly shotguns. A simple corkscrew motion will remove a bad guy from the end of a home defense shotgun (as will firing them). And, again, you can bounce weapon-mounted light off of reflective surfaces.
But let’s face it: most people who buy home defense shotguns have no training whatsoever. They buy a shotgun and throw it under their bed, lean it against a closet wall or put it up on a high shelf. If push came to ballistic shove, there’s a high chance they’d miss their target (a possibility of which they are barely aware). Even among those who do train, well, I’ve seen at least a dozen people short-stroke a pump-action shotgun in the heat of action.
There are plenty of other alternatives to a home defense shotguns. Many gun folk rely on bedside handguns or AR-15s. Now, though, there’s an even better perhaps even ideal solution: the new SIG SAUER MPX semi-automatic pistol, equipped with a SIG brace.
Nick had a first look at this bad boy – in full auto – back in April [click here to read his review]. I had my first encounter with the semi-auto SIG-braced set-up yesterday at The Texas International Firearms Festival. The gun’s shorter than my forearm and holds 30 9mm rounds. It’s entirely accurate and endlessly ergonomic. Recoil is minimal. In short (so to speak), it’s a pussy cat.
We hear that the MPX will cost about the same as a lower-priced AR-15. Which raises the question posed by this article: why would an average gun owner choose a home defense shotgun over the smaller, lighter, more user-friendly SIG-braced MPX? Especially when you consider the fact that MPX owners are 100 times more likely to take the SIG to a gun range and play with it (i.e. practice)than a shotgun?
Because they don’t know any better. OK, yes, lethality. Only I reckon lethality is more a factor of operator skill than weapon choice. A gun owner who chooses the wrong firearm for their skill level starts out behind the proverbial eight ball. The vast majority of armed Americans would be better off using a SIG SAUER MPX than a home defense shotgun.