I was interviewing Michael Shain of AIMPRO Tactical for my home-defense shotgun column in Shooting Illustrated when an intriguing topic came up: Can the average hunting shotgun be used as an effective home-defense firearm?
“If a hunting shotgun is what someone has and wants to use, that’s fine,” Shain said, “But there are definitely some differences between a hunting shotgun and one set up specifically for home defense.”
However, you can adjust a hunting shotgun for home-defense purposes rather easily. So, if you’d like to use your shotgun for home defense during the off-season, here’s what to consider.
Shorten the Barrel A hunting shotgun’s key disadvantage in terms of home defense is its large footprint—a fancy term for the gun’s size, especially its overall length. Long barrels balance the gun beautifully for wingshooting, but impede indoor maneuverability such as in a hallway. A longer barrel also runs the risk of being grabbed by an intruder in close-quarters or as you round a corner.
So, consider a simple adjustment: Remove your 28- or 30-inch vent-rib barrel and replace it with an 18-20 inch fixed-cylinder bore. It’s light, maneuverable, and a cylinder choke will handle any personal-defense load. If you do nothing else to ready your shotgun for home defense, switch to a shorter barrel.
Remove the Magazine Plug Obvious? Maybe. But I’m amazed how many friends rely on plugged guns for home defense. A shotgun is indeed a fight stopper, but three shots may not suffice for every situation. So, pull the plug. Just don’t forget to replace it come September.
Sights Given that most home invasions occur at night, you may want to consider replacing your shotgun’s plain bead with something more visible.
“A lot of hunters are really comfortable picking out a bead in low light,” Shain says, “But if you have aging eyes or otherwise struggle to find the bead when the sun goes down, you should consider a more visible sight.”
A simple fiber-optic bead or even a red dot can make all the difference in the world. I advise against using them for wingshooting, as I believe they lead to aiming rather than instinctive-style shooting. However, without poring into detail, a home-defense shotgun is aimed like a rifle—highly visible sights are the way to go.
Stock/Forend There are plenty of stock options for defensive shotguns, but the biggest consideration for a hunting shotgun is its length of pull. It is designed to fit you—to aim where you look. But a home-defense shotgun, as noted, is aimed like a rifle and benefits from a small footprint. Therefore if you opt to use a second stock for home-defense purposes, consider a shorter one. A length of pull of 13 inches or less is ideal.
Your forend could be improved by swapping it for a railed model, which allows the addition of accessories. I highly recommend a flashlight.
There are certainly other tweaks you could make to more completely convert your shotgun from hunting to home defense, but I believe these to be the most realistic and least permanent (you do still want to hunt with it, right?) Whether you make all or none of these adjustments, you’ll still possess what I consider the most effective tool for home defense. Given that the energy of a 12-gauge shotgun blast is equivalent to four simultaneously fired rounds of .45 ACP, who could argue differently?