Subscribe to get the latest news

Shotgun or Pistol for Home Defense?

Posted by Team Armscor on Feb 1, 2019


When people go to a firearm dealer to purchase their first gun, it is most commonly for home defense. Protecting yourself and your family in your own home is one of the best reasons to own a gun, but picking which gun to defend your family with can often be difficult. 

We've broken down the pros and cons of shotguns versus pistols for home defense: 


A pistol is arguably the most versatile self defense weapon, because it can be used for home defense, concealed carry or kept in your car. When thinking about whether or not to purchase a pistol to defend your home, there are a few key things to consider: 

  • Penetrating Power

    When you fire your weapon in your home, you open yourself up to concerns you don't usually have in an outdoor shooting environment. When picking a pistol for home defense, you'll want to consider how easily its rounds can penetrate a wall. After all, if you have family members in other rooms in your house, you want to ensure that they are safe. 
  • Stopping Power

    One of the most obvious concerns gun owners have when picking a gun for home defense is how successful that firearm will be at stopping an intruder. Depending on the pistol, placing shots on someone who has broken into your home can be difficult and, if the rounds are small, they may not stop the intruder from advancing into your home unless you place your shots well. 
  • Maneuverability

    This is the most fiercely debated element of home defense weapon selection. Depending on your situation, the level of maneuverability needed by your home-defense firearm can vary. Pistols are seen as the most maneuverable option for home defense because of their short barrel length and small size—which allows you to clear rooms more easily than two-handed firearms, such as shotguns. If your house has a lot of hallways, or if you have family members in other rooms, a pistol may be the best choice to protect your home. 
  • Ammunition

    When using a pistol for home defense, it is important to use defense ammo. Defense ammo is designed to expand on impact, which does significant tissue damage but also decreases the likelihood that the round will penetrate the walls of your home. 


When it comes to home defense, the shotgun is another popular option that comes with its own set of limitations. If you're thinking about purchasing a shotgun for home defense, you'll want to consider much of the same criteria as you did with the pistol:

  • Penetrating Power/Ammunition

    For shotguns, the penetrating power of the weapon depends upon the type of ammunition that you're shooting. If you're shooting slugs, you'll have a much higher chance of penetrating walls than you would with buckshot. Similarly, the gauge of the shotgun will have an impact on the round's ability to go through walls.  
  • Stopping Power

    This is one of the biggest benefits of using a shotgun for home defense. Shotguns are famously excellent at stopping intruders in a close quarters situation, such as a break in. If the other restrictions of a shotgun don't hold you back, it will certainly be the most effective way to shut down a criminal. 
  • Maneuverability

    Home defense is different from other types of shooting because it is close quarters combat. With a shotgun's long barrel, maneuvering down hallways and through doors safely is significantly more difficult than it would be with a one handed weapon, such as a pistol. If you are able to barricade yourself in a room, and don't have family members in other parts of the house to protect, maneuverability doesn't matter as much as stopping power. 
  • Action/Capacity

    In a home defense situation, you want to ensure that you have the ability to place multiple shots on a target before they are able to do harm to you or your family. For this purpose, a semi-automatic shotgun is much more effective than a pump action or double-barreled over-under shotgun. 

Choosing the right firearm to protect your family is a difficult equation and there is no "right" answer. Using these criteria as a guideline, pick the gun that you feel would best suit your house, your family and your skill. That is the best way to ensure you stay as safe as possible when danger comes knocking. 

Safe Storage 101

Topics: Rifles & Shotguns, 1911, Concealed Carry & Self Defense