It’s all in the length

Some years ago, I recommended a shotgun as a primary home defense weapon for those who were novices at the shooting sports or the use of firearms for defensive purposes.  My recommendation still stands.

I’ve heard objections from some people over the years that a shotgun – or a rifle, for that matter – is simply too long to use effectively inside a building.  “You won’t be able to go around corners without exposing yourself!”  “A bad guy will simply reach out from cover, grab the muzzle and push it down – then you can’t hit him!”  My response has always been that with proper training, those aren’t problems at all.

Now Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch, whom we’ve met in these pages before, and with whom I’ve trained when his establishment was still based in Texas before it moved to Oregon, has produced this video illustrating that a long gun isn’t all that long in practice.  It’s worth watching.

That shows the reality very clearly.  A long gun is perfectly adequate for home defense – in fact, more adequate than a handgun, more often than not – if one knows what one’s doing.  If one doesn’t, no firearm will be particularly useful.



  1. When my advise for a home defense weapon has been asked for, my default answer has been a 20 gauge youth model pump shotgun, loaded with single ought buck.
    Cheap, short, fast, and reliable is hard to beat. Especially once you start talking about overpenatration and jury perceptions.

  2. Long guns have one advantage- power. Handguns have lots of advantages.
    You can have it with you.
    You can conceal it, yet have it ready for action.
    You can hold a phone in one hand and the gun ready to use in the other.
    Ditto for all sorts of other tasks. Flashlight, for example.

    I am sure that a respected trainer can overcome all these objections. They are gun nuts. This is what they do everyday. For the average person,not so much.
    As far as retaining control of a long gun at grappling range? A lot easier said than done. At least with a handgun, there is a spare hand free to fend off an attacker.

    Answering the door with a shotgun- very iffy. I have neighbors who are not gun friendly in any way- not the people I want calling cops on "brandishing". Or letting it be known around the area. Same with all sorts of other encounters. Remember the guy in NH who was convicted on a brandishing charge because some antigun nut came up his drive and he had a visible but holstered weapon? They claimed they were "threatened". This type of thing is becoming all too common.

    So the long gun is somewhere safe in the house. Is it loaded? Locked up? Secure from theft? How quick can you retrieve it and get it ready? Is it IN YOUR POSSESSION when things go pear shaped, or do you have to run to another room, past the kids and wife in the kitchen, to go retrieve it, leaving them as the buffer? Can you get that shotgun into action while lying in your bed?

    IMO, in some ways, combat experience biases people toward weapons effectiveness, and puts little weight on the realities of day to day life. Yes, if a gang of thugs starts breaking down the front door, and you have time to get a long gun, sure, do it . But many times the situation is far more ambiguous and the threat is not clearly defined.

    IMO, get a decent handgun, learn to use it, and carry it with you at all times. Safe, secure, and ready to use, at home, outside, shopping, wherever- same gun, same carry, same reload. It should become as an old pair of shoes. Comfy and familiar.

    Concealment until needed, and speed of response, favor the handgun.
    This does not mean a long gun is not a valuable tool, but IMO, it should be second to the handgun as a personal defense weapon.

  3. Something I had to think about for home defense, which shoulder to mount the shotgun? I'm right-handed but in my house the main hall goes right from my bedroom door to the front entrance, so I mount left side to give me better visibility down the hall.

    It doesn't hurt I am left-eye dominant so sighting is a bit easier..

  4. I realize this is heresy, but…..maybe more than just one gun for homestead defense?

    I'll not contest that a shotgun, in either 12 or 20 gauge, can project more power than a handgun, at least at living room distances, nor will I suggest that, as raven (above) points out, a shotgun is suitable for one-handed operation or concealment.

    It would undoubtedly benefit most homeowners, or at least those of a mindset to "repel boarders," as Jeff Cooper put it, were the idiotic NFA barrel length restrictions discarded to allow shotgun barrels shorter than 18 inches and overall lengths of less than 26 inches; a 14 inch barrel with an abbreviated stock would be quite a bit more maneuverable in close quarters.

    But were that the case, eliminating the NFA restrictiions on shotguns would also mean dumping the fingerprinting, $200 tax stamp, the 4-8 month aproval period, and the possession and transfer restrictions on NFA-regulated guns on…wait for it……short-barrel rifles, aka SBRs.

    Enter the short-barreled pistol caliber carbine (PPC), in a major caliber – 45ACP, 10MM – with a 10 inch barrel and 6-8 inch suppressor plus a 20-25 round magazine. Best of both worlds, methinks: major, proven caliber, 3-4 times the round count of a shotgun, suppressed to conserve hearing, more manageable recoil (and adjustable stocks) for smaller people, and widespread availability of highly useful accessories like red dot sights, the Vickers sling, and cross-compatibility with a handgun of similar caliber.

    The most popular rifle for years has been the AR-15, introducing huge numbers of people to its manual of arms, IPSC is adding PCC matches because of the popularity of the genre, even with the current stifling restrictions, and the platform readily lends itself to a multitude of caliber options.

  5. @Anonymous at 5:18 AM: More than one gun is a very good idea, for those who are able to afford it and shoot enough to master all their weapons. For a novice, or someone who can afford only one gun, it's not so good. (The latter are the people for whom my earlier articles were written, as I noted above.)

  6. There is a geographic issue as well. I live in the PRK (People's Republik of Kalifornia) so high-cap magazines AND suppressors are both banned, but my 18.5" pump shotgun or the Keltec 15 round double tube design are both fully legal.

    I hope both with change under Trump but we are under the 9th Circus that goes its own way on gun laws..

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