Twenty-five years ago, “home invasion” was not a term that was widely used or recognized outside of law enforcement circles.

Today, that is not the case. A variety of threats face an increasing number of citizens. Furthermore, as Baby Boomers get older, physical issues may decrease their effectiveness with a firearm. Older, arthritic and less likely to have been exposed to firearms earlier in their lives, many of these law-abiding citizens have recognized that in the event of a criminal attack there will be a delay before police can respond. One positive change is that women are the fastest growing segment of gun owners. How best can Joe and Josephine Citizen defend themselves until professional help arrives?

One answer is the humble shotgun—versatile and reliable. But a 12-gauge slug has nearly the same energy at the muzzle as the 7.62 NATO cartridge. In short, it’s a big hammer. But for some, it’s too much gun to shoot comfortably. What are the alternatives? Thankfully, gun and ammunition manufacturers are recognizing the value of shotguns and ammunition for self-defense in loads other than the traditional 12—in particular the 20 gauge and .410 bore loads.

Can a bad guy tell the difference between being hit with a 12 gauge or a 20 gauge? It’s hard to find candidates to interview.

Deer have been compared to the average person in terms of body weight and effectiveness when it comes to shooting into living tissue, and the 20 gauge has certainly taken its fair share of venison.

Twenty-gauge ammunition is as versatile and easy to obtain as 12 gauge, and as the average age of the population increases, a short, handy 20 may be a great home defense gun for people with minor physical challenges that may prevent use of some other weapon such as a pistol or a 12 gauge.

If perception is a concern, in some circles, a simple 20 gauge may be perceived more as an innocuous sporting gun than, say an AR-15 or a Beretta 92. Another reason for exploring the use of a 20-gauge shotgun as a viable home defense gun is that most people can learn to shoot it quite well. The twenty loaded with either #3 or #2 buckshot (or even birdshot at very close range) may not overpenetrate walls to the same extent that a 12 gauge loaded with 000 buckshot may.

It may also be a suitable trunk gun for trips into the wide-open spaces where a longer shot may be required, and a quick change to a slug may be appropriate for self-defense.

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