Sound asleep in your bed at night—your “sweet dreams” are interrupted by the sounds of breaking glass downstairs. Your significant other reaches over and shakes you with a nervous “Honey, I think someone’s in the house.” Getting out of bed you ask your spouse to call the local police as you arm yourself with your trusty 12-gauge pump. What next? Do you go down the stairs and search, and if so how do you do it? Also, is your shotgun optimized for performance in its role as home defense firearm? What options and accessories can/should you purchase for your scattergun to make it a worthy home defender?

Having a firearm for home defense is only one part of the equation. Being able to shoot under realistic conditions is another. But the third and often neglected part of firearms usage for self-defense are the tactics such as use of cover, searching techniques, room entry, and suspect challenging and covering. Additionally, modifications and accessories as well as ammo can be selected to improve your gun’s performance.

There is a segment of instructors in the self-defense field that state that at no time should the home defender go in search of bad guys in their domicile. Suggestions such as ensconcing yourself and your family in a safe room and awaiting police arrival are recommended. The problems with this concept are multifold. Firstly, the violent nature of today’s offender has increased. The honorable “cat burglar” no longer exists, if indeed he ever did. You’re more likely to be awakened by a suspect under the influence of alcohol, narcotics or both smashing his way into your home in the middle of the day or night. Even if theft is his primary motive, other crimes such as sexual assault can occur if the predatory criminal sees the opportunity. Push-in or home-invasion-type robberies—when armed robbers enter your home knowing that you’re there— are increasing as well. How about criminals with no connection to you or your home attempting to kick their way in to escape the police or other criminals? If this sounds farfetched you haven’t been reading the paper or live in a pretty quiet neighborhood, which may make you more of a target not less.

In addition to the above scenarios there’s also the issue of time. How long will it take for uniformed police officers to get to your house? A burglar brazen enough to assault your home in the dead of night (or during daylight) knows that they have minimal time to get the goods they’re after and make their escape. That means a few short minutes. When my late father passed away, a burglar who read the obituaries came a calling in the dead of night. Cutting a porch screen and pushing open a back bedroom window, he probably thought he had it made until he entered the hallway and initiated a motion sensor in the alarm system a police officer son (yours truly) had purchased for his parents years before. When the alarm sounded the burglar opened up the deadbolt on the front door and walked out, sadly never being arrested for this and likely many other burglaries.

The Shotgun

As a police officer, if I’m conducting an aggressive search warrant for a bad-guy in a house, something I’ve done hundreds of time, I want a long-gun. Whether it’s a H&K MP5 sub-gun, 5.56mm M4 style carbine, or a Mossberg 12 gauge, I feel more secure and can shoot better with a long-gun. With four points of contact—upper pectoral area, hands and cheek weld, as well as an increased sight radius—I have more potential to successfully deliver rounds on target. Make no mistake, inside the standard room dimensions in most homes your shotgun pattern will look more like one large “rat hole” versus a man-sized spread. This necessitates aiming, and aiming with a long-gun is most easily accomplished by firing from the shoulder.

Is your 28-inch single barrel 12 gauge ideal for home defense? No. What accessories do I look for in a shotgun? First of all take the standard 12-gauge pump-action with an 18- to 20-inch barrel and increase hit probability with decent ghost ring sights. Most shotgun manufacturers offer workable ghost rings sights direct. Red-dot sights like the ones from Aimpoint (T-1), InSight (MRDS) and others offer the same advantages for the shotgun as the carbine shooter—quicker time on target. Are red-dots a necessity? No, but if you’re interested in maximizing performance, red-dots are the way to go. I like pistol-grip-wearing shotguns as I find that accuracy and control are enhanced by such setups. I’m partial to the recoil reducing pistol grip stocks of Blackhawk’s Knoxx Stocks and ATI. Both companies offer less felt recoil as well as adjustable buttstocks. Adjustable buttstocks allow a shorter stock and for most shotguns this is an improvement as the longer stocks put you at more of an angled stance which increase felt recoil.

White lights are a requirement for any firearm in my opinion. Is that crash in the middle of the night an intruder or your son sneaking in after a night out? White lights allow you to: navigate, locate and identify potential threats as well as assist you in shooting more accurately. I’ve been playing this game long enough to have seen various iterations of lights and mounts for shotguns. Early attempts at mounting small penlights to shotguns frequently led to light failure based on the high-recoil impulse of the 12 gauge. SureFire integral forearm/lights are certainly one great way to go. ATI offers a less-expensive option with their tactical shotgun forends which allow easy mounting of short pieces of accessory rail. These short rails allow lights or lasers to be easily affixed to the forearm. My own preference is an InSight Model M3X LED light with a remote touch-pad switch. This set-up allows an on/off actuation of the light versus a constant on.

I like extended magazines and sidesaddles on combat shotguns. Extended mags mean that you can shoot more before you have to mess with the shotgun. Sidesaddles allow you to carry five to six spare rounds mounted on the receiver. These spares can be more of the same fodder or alternate ammo such as less-lethal rounds or slugs.

Slings for tactical shotguns in the military and law enforcement roles are a must but not so much for the homeowner. Slings can hook on doorknobs or otherwise get in the way if/when you’re moving through a structure.

Full-blown shotgun conversions to a more combat effective configuration are available from such imminent custom shops as Hans Vang of Vang Comp, Wilson Combat-Scattergun Technologies, Nighthawk Custom or Aimpro Tactical.

Feeding Your 12

I’m a fan of 00 buck. If I shoot someone I don’t want to tick them off, I want to dump enough energy onto the target to drop/stop them in their tracks if at all possible. Tops on my list is Federal Premium Reduced Recoil 9-pellet Tactical Buckshot load. This load includes Federal’s Flitecontrol Wad, which has increased accuracy capability out to extended range heretofore not possible with 12-gauge buckshot fodder. The reduced recoil drops the muzzle velocity down to 1,145 fps, is more manageable in terms of recoil and penetrates less than the standard 00 buck at 1,325 fps.

If over penetration concerns exist, the Home Defender HV-Star by Lightfield is a good option. Lightfield does not maintain it is a “less-lethal” round admitting that it may in fact cause death or serious injury at close range. The HV-Star’s real benefit is that the flexible, orange 75 grain projectile (think Koosh ball on steroids) is that the projectile at a muzzle velocity of 850 fps can deliver 120 ft/lbs of energy on target but offers little chance of over-penetration of sheet rock or other home interior wall mediums.


In profile a pistol armed defender with sidearm at eye-level at full extension is not much if any smaller than a shotgun armed homeowner. So the notion that a long-gun armed defender searching a structure cannot move or search safely is simply not true. Law enforcement tactical operators in this country and our nation’s military search teams perform such tasks everyday without overall exposing themselves.

Although accuracy is significantly enhanced by bringing the shotgun to the shoulder and sighting when shooting or confronting a suspect at gunpoint, we don’t want to necessarily search or “lead” with the shotgun up and out. Searching with a firearm regardless of pistol or long-gun requires a variety of different positions. We may, for instance, have the shotgun up as we approach a doorway. As we near the edge we then may retract the shotgun to an armpit tuck position. This can free our support hand to open doors or fend off physical assaults. We may use an indoor ready position to move which brings the muzzle down toward the floor on our support side, which reduces our profile while moving though tight areas but allows the muzzle to be brought to bear if/when a threat is perceived. Traditional low-ready with the head up and scanning, stock mounted in the pec/shoulder and the muzzle pointed downward at a 45-degree angle can also be used while searching. Low ready allows you to see more low lying threats than if you have the shotgun up with a cheek mount. While searching remember that you may only see a part of a suspect—leg, shoe or shoulder versus the entire person, if they’re hiding.

“Slicing the pie” also known as “quartering” a room means that you clear only a part of a room from a safe distance back from the doorway. Although care must be given not to lead with a foot thereby exposing your position, the usual method is to roll-out from the hips and clear a segment of room, take a small step laterally, the roll-out again. In this way we can clear a room without exposing ourselves to an armed suspect secreted inside. You should be ready to shoot as you roll-out, this means having the shotgun up and ready.

If you confront a suspect at gunpoint you will probably hold the shotgun on their high-chest sternum area or high center mass from on their side or back. Shots to these areas increase the likelihood of stopping an assailant. Holding a suspect at gunpoint is a little different. In order to see their hands you may need to lower your shotgun point of aim to the lateral pelvis. Still a devastating shot with a 12 gauge loaded with buckshot, the pelvis hold allows you to keep track of their hands, or more accurately, what’s in them.

Ordering a suspect to face away from you or order them to the ground are both sound tactics. Just remember to monitor their hands as you order them away or down. If you lose track of the hands it may mean that they are arming themselves. If at all possible use cover, i.e. the corner of a wall or doorway prior to or after you confront a suspect.

Final Thoughts

Shotguns were used in by-gone eras to defend the homestead and are still a viable option today. The difference is that improvements in shotgun technology have increased effectiveness with the scattergun. What our forefathers used to protect the family in their day, we can with today’s advances in training and equipment, use to protect ours. PHD

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