Shotgun vs Pistol for Home Defense

shotgun vs pistol

There's always a done of debate of shotgun vs pistol for home defense. Stopping power, penetration, ballistics all come into the discussion.

We found a good video from Clint Smith at Thunder Ranch that talks about one aspect – weapon length. He makes a good point as to how far a weapon normally extends. Now I am going into dangerous territory here. I disagree with Clint Smith ( a gun legend).

Clint talks about carrying the pistol in normal shooting position. I was trained in and can shoot in other positions that would reduce the profile of the weapon.

We want to know what you think about shotguns vs pistols for home defense; at least for the length argument. Let us know in the comments.


  1. He kinda leaves the ‘argument’ open-ended.
    “Which would you prefer to do, hit a person once with a pistol;or a shotgun?”
    This leads us (or me at least) to consider the shot gun is likely to hit SOMETHING, whereas you just may miss your target entirely with a rushed, single-shot from a pistol.
    In close-quarters, I guess getting SOME of the target is better than NONE.
    I LOVE my Sig P220…but my Persuader seems more convincing.

    • Bill Roderick says:

      Your perception that a shot gun since it speads will hit something is incorrect, at 10-15 feet a 12 gauge shotgun (cyl bore) which is approximately 3/4 of an inch will only be approximately 1 1/4 inch still must be aimed. Your SIG P220 .45 with a 230 grain bullet(+P) has 460 ft lbs energy. A 12 gauge with 1 1/8 ounce of #8 shot has about 1200 ft lbs of energy. Your choice.

      • Charlie V says:

        Might try a cyl bore buck barrel 22″ with 00 buck shot, A modified or full choke will keep that pattern much tighter for longer range. I was surprised at how much it opened up in 10-15 feet, had about a 12″ pattern at that range. And i will/can shoot from the hip and be darn accurate especially at that distance, tested it on targets,
        Personally would prefer the pistol as the my super single is just that… a single shot, so more time reloading ;-) Do not own a pump.

    • TurtleWax says:

      If you live in an apartment building I would always choose a shotgun over a pistol because a pistol can go through a lot of walls and hurt a neighbor.
      In a home isolated from other neighbors a pistol or shotgun would be a good choice. Based on OVERPENETRATION & safety to family members who may be in other rooms, I still say shotgun with #6 or smaller shot is best choice.

  2. I’m with you on this one; I too have to respectfully disagree with Mr. Smith here. Although in a “proper” firing position the the difference in extended length of the pistol and shotgun is negligible, the handgun does not have to be fired from a fully extended position and CAN be fired from a much shorter extension, whereas there is no way to significantly reduce the extension of the shotgun.

  3. if I could only have one I would choose the pistol. I have both as each can have their strong points for different situations.

  4. 5 metrers , pistol is the best exceeding 5 shotgun do the rule

  5. The video is very misleading. As a professional photographer, I can state that the camera angle greatly distorts the difference in actual lengths of the respective muzzles. The videographer should be ashamed to allow this to be posted without a disclaimer. However, I actually think the options on weapons should be based on the comfort and skill level of the user, and, of course, what you can get to faster. I can keep a handgun on my bedside table.. A shotgun may be little too big.

  6. I use a pistol with a shot-shell. Best of both worlds.

    • Dana Rogers says:

      thats the way to get it done.

      • Actually, a pistol loaded with shotshell is the worst of both worlds. Better to just fire a hollowpoint round than ratshot. There are revolvers that shoot .410, but then you’re talking a level of expense that allows you to buy a fancy whatever in any caliber. In my current home I have pistols with lasers as primary home defense, but in my previous home (it was larger with a longer hallway, and a huge yard) I preferred a short-barreled 12 guage. Truthfully, I’ve only once had to get up to investigate a bump in the night, and the pistol was fine. I think the best advantage the shotgun has over a pistol or revolver is the anecdotal evidence showing the homeowner that has to fire a shotgun rarely has to fire it twice, whereas the homeowner firing a handgun often fires more than one one round.

  7. I choose neither. I would not have said this two years ago, but I am leaning toward an AR pistol with a 7.5 inch barrel, and Streamlight TLR mounted. 30+ round capacity for multiple shots, and multiple invaders. Reduced overall penetration of the .223 round, enhanced with the shorter barrel, which still produces 2100 FPS out of the 7.5 inch barrel. Easy for any family member to operate.

  8. IF I am moving through the house, I prefer the pistol, as shooting from retention or other non-standard positions is easier. If I am defending a fixed position, such as our “safe room”, I’d rather have the shotgun. Much more downrange performance from #4 Buck than from one or two pistol rounds. The common misconception that a shotgun charge spreads within household distances is overblown. One inch per yard is more realistic, and most rooms are less than 7 yards deep.

    • Mick,
      Good points. Your point about the shotgun patterns is important. Too many people think they can point a shotgun in a threat’s general direction and hit it. Let’ say you are about 7 yards from someone. That means the spread is about 7 inches, you have a good chance of not hitting someone or just putting one or two pellets in them if you aren’t aiming.

  9. John Blankenship says:

    A good train of thought,go to various rooms of your home.check out the path a bullet might go.make your judgment on the thought of where a family member might won’t stop everyone with just one if you have a lighter gun you will probably have to shoot several times.remember,it’s not a good thing to kill a family member trying to protect them.

  10. Harlin Cheatwood says:

    I lean toward the shotgun for 2 reasons 1 Thugs are afraid of shotguns even the sound of loading a pump shotgun make most thugs run ! 2. A shotgun is a pretty good weapon even after ammo is gone !

    • If you don’t have a round in the chamber you are already behind, only in the movies do they rack in a rounding before defending against the perp.

    • If the intruder hears my shotgun, then he has really good hearing to pick out the sound of my safety clicking to the fire position.

  11. A pistol is easier to operate one handed, so if i have to open a door, call 911, or carry a child, i can still be effective. I can operate a weaponlight and shoot with one hand. Shotgun may be more devastating to get hit with, but both hands have to be on that weapon.

  12. In our home our pistol is intended to protect us while we get to our shotgun. So, which is better? It depends totally upon where we are in the house when the SHTF.

  13. Marine Gunner says:

    There are various considerations for choosing a home defense weapon. Circumstances, CQC skill, training, experience, physical strength, agility, age, gender, physical size, etc., all can affect the choice, so I’m not a big fan of anointing one type of gun for an application such as home defense. I wouldn’t do it for hunting, either. I don’t use my shotgun for pig hunting and I don’t use my AR for duck hunting. Laws aside, rifles can be used to hunt ducks and shotguns to hunt wild Texas boar but these wouldn’t be the ideal choices. So it is with home defense.

    That said, let’s talk about four basic types of home defense; immediate response (to home invasion, for example), aggressive response (house clearing after intrusion), barricaded defense after your home is invaded (say by multiple perps), and civil unrest (perhaps the most dangerous)..

    Since I’m a 6’2″ 220lb Marine combat vet, I tend to be more aggressive. Still, if I know that my home has been invaded by multiple perps, I’m going to barricade with my family behind me. In this case, it’s shotty time for me and pistols for my wife. If I suspect that it’s only a single intruder I’ll probably leave my wife barricaded with the shotty and I’ll go with a pistol to clear the house room by room. If it’s home invasion, I’ll go with whatever is closest and take my chances.

    Finally, if it’s civil unrest, I’m going with my AR, plate carrier, extra mags, and my Ka-Bar, my wife with the shotty, and both of us packing backup pistols and plenty of ammo. In this case, I’ll likely have notice so I will definitely be barricaded, heavily armed, with food and water.

  14. Richard Shannon says:

    I am 63 and have had previous heart and stroke problems. My eyesight has been effected too. Although I felt entirely comfortable with just a hand gun, several of them, I have recently felt that a shotgun would help overcome some of my physical shortcomings.

    The most difficult question is how fast can a weapon be put into action. A weapon being carried will certainly be faster than a shotgun in the closet. However when you are asleep and not carrying (assumed) then I would rather have the shot gun in hand.

    There is no issue of “one shot stopping” with the 12 gauge. OO pellets will do the job. Plus I have a holographic sight which help me at night.

    It always a personal choice. At least there are options!

  15. Personally, I prefer a pump action shotgun for home defense. First, there’s the psychological factor: More often than not, the sound of the action tends to make many criminals rethink the error of their ways. Second, there’s the variety of loads. For example, one of my greatest concerns is overpenetration. As such, I feel that #6 shot will be fine, particularly when working in close quarters. It’ll do the job without AS MUCH worry of the pellets going through a wall or window, hitting a neighbour’s house, and opening you up for legal issues.

  16. I have an Ithaca 12 ga. model 37 pump riot shotgun, pistol grip,8 rounds OOBK with one in the chamber. (You really need to forget about scaring some bad guy with that “racking” noise. a surprise first shot works much better) It hangs from my headboard within easy reach. I’m 6ft. 4, 220 lbs. so the size and/or kick isn’t a real concern for me. Beside me is my beautiful wife who is capable of 2in. groupings at 10 yds. on a consistent basis with her S&W 9mm, 15 shot auto. I guess you could say that an intruder will get the best of both worlds. We are the only two living in our home, and have no neighbors, so we are very comfortable with our firearms being “in condition one”. But it really does boil down to whatever feels right, or works for you. Just get something. I have two different relatives in two different states that have been the targets of home invasions in the last several months and sadly neither was prepared.

  17. Andre Hollems says:

    I use my handgun, to get to my shotgun. Shotgun a stationary, handgun is on my hip…


  19. For me it’s kind of a toss up. I’m a pretty good shot with my m1911 a1 but with the layout of my house I worry about hitting one of my kids with a ricochet or something. So my other real option is my 12 ga Remington 870 super mag. I understand the shot won’t travel through the sheetrock so well. It just has such a long barrel it’s hard to clear my house. I’d like to buy a shorter barrel but I’m broke. I also have other weapons around the house in case I run out of or can’t get to more ammo. Namely; fighting axe, machete, hunting knives, an old hammer-drill bit that’s like a mace etc. all of which I know how to fight with. I guess what I need more than anything is a game plan. But yeah, kind of a toss up for me.

  20. Here’s how I see it… If you are an accomplished shooter and can maintain grace under pressure then the handgun is the way to go. However, few of us fall into that category. IF that is the case for you, then the short barrelled, pump, scattergun should be the weapon of choice. There are several things to remember when you are choosing your home defense weapon but three stand out beyond the others. 1. A shotgun round, 999 times out of 1000, will not penitrate a wall and do harm to someone in an adjoining room or the house next door. 2. A shotgun is a “general vacinity” weapon. You don’t have to be Annie Oakley or Wild Bill Hickok to hit the Bad Guy. 3. If there is a sound the Bad Guy has never heard before, he will recognize the sound of a shell being racked in a pump shotgun – a GREAT deterrent!

    • If the shotgun is your go to weapon, why wouldn’t you have a shell already chambered? All I need to do is grab and go with my shotty, shell already chambered.

  21. A shotgun is a great backup in case your primary jams etc…in the case of a semiautomatic. Having a revolver as a backup would be better in a situation like a home invasion.

  22. But if you take a pistol grip and put it on a long gun then it takes it and brings it back down to a pistol length

  23. Timm Ross says:

    If your into remodeling your room, then Shotgun…you can’t go wrong. Yet, if you want to secure the problem then bring it down a little…I use for close use around corners, behind the door, under the desk areas…my Bonds Arm .45/410 Derringer ( 410 buck shot ). Stay safe…enjoy your day

  24. In my house I’d definitely have to say pistol instead of shotgun because of the tight areas. I think it’s less about pattern than about maneuverability. Either way, train with what you have to be more proficient.

  25. KARL BEIL says:

    A single shot with my 12 gauge pump, with 00 buckshot, is the equivalent of hiting someone with 8 32 caliber projectiles. EIGHT 32 caliber hits with ONE trigger pull. Can’t do that with a handgun.

    • Robert Forrest SR says:

      My thought is the best weapon that you can use is the one you have on hand with her using a shotgun or pistol either one’s going to be effective just a matter of what you can get to it the time

  26. William Crowley says:

    Kel-Tec KSG 14 shot pump. Scared yet

  27. No because it will jam

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