The shotgun, a 12-gauge Mossberg 590 in this instance, has…

The shotgun, a 12-gauge Mossberg 590 in this instance, has power and simplicity, but considerations of function, environment and individual capabilities are critical to making it your primary weapon for home defense. Sean Utley Photo.

As a weapon of personal defense, the benefits of the shotgun are undeniable. The most obvious is power. At close range (say 10 yards), an attacker shot accurately with 00 buckshot will have to deal with the equivalent mass of 4.5 rounds of 9mm pistol ammo—all at once. The impact alone is likely to permanently incapacitate most mortals. But is it right for everyone?

In many ways, particularly when compared to a magazine-fed AR or a semi-automatic pistol, the shotgun will at first, seem simple. Big clunky cartridges, big round holes to put them in, and actions so loose and open that even a first-timer can perform basic functions in an intuitive way. Countless American homes have ‘Grandaddy’s’ side-by-side that only requires breaking the action at the trigger and loading the rounds straight in to each barrel. Click, it’s closed—safety, trigger, check—point and shoot. Its’ the equivalent of going to the fat, baby Lego blocks from an erector set. The parts are so meaty and simple, how could you go wrong? The answer has many layers and even more misconceptions.

Let’s start with the most visually obvious: wield-ability. Typically, shotguns are longer and particularly when fully loaded, heavier than most ARs and certainly more so than handguns. Getting the weapon up and on target requires space, strength and coordination. Can your 130-pound wife pick up your fully loaded Bennelli Super Nova loaded to the gills with 3.5-inch goose shot, chamber a round, and engage an attacker? Is there adequate physical space in your bedroom to do so? What about the bathroom? Further, can she get it from a kid-safe location without pulling sweaters, hidden Christmas presents, and the three pairs of shoes she just bought on sale down on top of her head? One might argue that the shotgun can be used as a physical weapon as well as a firearm. OK, when was the last time you delivered a vertical butt-stroke to anything? Twenty years ago in basic training? What about her? Likely never. Perhaps you sleep in an open bay, have no children, hang your shotgun fully loaded over your bed, and have a wife who is a former Marine and a Krav Maga instructor, so none of these issues come into play. Well, this article isn’t for you anyway, and most of us live towards the other end of the spectrum and need to ask tough questions and contemplate the sober answers about the physical constraints of our homes and loved ones.

Under the watchful eyes of Magpul Dynamics Instructor Mike Olivella, a student works through a shot-to-slug changeout to engage a distant target through a vehicle.

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