Prepping 101 – Best Gun For Home Defense

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Last Updated on March 26, 2021

There are few things more likely to start a fight than the discussion of firearms and more specifically, what is the best gun for home defense if you are just starting your emergency preparations. There are entire survival forums on this subject alone and if you want opinions, there are lots of places to find them. Similar to the conversation regarding Bugging Out Vs. Hunkering down, there are a lot of options, opinions, and reasons why you should or should not do one or the other given by everyone.

Speaking of opinions, I have my own on the subject of the best weapon you can buy and I will share it now along with my rationale for having said opinion and I welcome anyone to comment if you agree or if you disagree. One of the purposes of this prepper website is to provide information and if we have to settle some of this in the comments, that’s fine by me.

To frame the case for my belief on this subject a little more clearly, I will throw out the disclaimer that when I make this recommendation I am speaking to people who do not have any other firearms currently. If you are realizing just now that you may need a firearm for home defense and are looking for the best weapon to purchase first, this post is intended for you.

Could this be the best gun for home defense?
Could this be the best gun for home defense?

For the person who has nothing, I am going to go out on a limb now and describe what I think the best gun for home defense you can purchase “right now” for a lot of various factors. The factors for deciding this weapon are based upon current events and the political climate to no small degree.

To cut to the quick, I will say that if you don’t buy any other weapon, a 12 gauge shotgun is the absolute best option you have right now. I honestly believe that when all else is considered, it is the best gun for home defense. Let the cursing begin! Why do I say a shotgun and not a pistol or machete or AR or AK? I’m glad you asked!

Best gun for home defense – deciding factors


A 12 gauge shotgun is about the cheapest gun you can buy when you consider that most handguns now are selling for over $500 unless you buy a .380 concealed carry. Can you spend $3500 on a fancy shotgun that will be a collector’s piece? Of course, you can but that isn’t what I am talking about. If you have a ton of money you would obviously not stop here, but for the average person trying to make wise decisions with their finances, a shotgun is practical and affordable for most of you out there.

Prepping 101 - Best Gun For Home Defense - The Prepper Journal
Cleaning supplies are an important consideration for SHTF.

When people start looking for a defensive or tactical shotgun the focus turns to 2 main models, Remington and Mossberg. The Remington 870 is a legend and is the standard issue shotgun for a lot of police departments and armed forces.

That alone drives the cost up. Adding all sorts of cool hardware like Picatinny rails, foregrips, and pistol grips run the cost up too. You don’t need all of that stuff. Not now anyway. You need something to protect your family and the nice Benelli semi-auto isn’t called for here either.

I recommend buying a used shotgun that you don’t pay more than $300 for. Go to your local gun show and you will find lots of options. If you are looking in the right place you can get a new Mossberg for less than $200 but with each passing day that gets harder and harder. Is the Mossberg any good? Yes, they are. Is it better and more reliable than a Remington 870? I don’t know. Here is what I do know though and that is if you do not have anything, you will wish you had something, even an old Mossberg when the Zombies or bad guys start coming in the front door.

If you are curious, there are lots of reviews on YouTube comparing the two and you can make your own mind up. There is an entire review comparing the Mossberg 590A, the Remington 870 and the Winchester 1300 defender by Nutnfancy that I highly recommend for its thoroughness. Either one is going to work just fine for you and you might find another model entirely. The brand isn’t the point so much as the type of weapon.


This is an easier one to deal with. Unless you have been living underground in your own doomsday bunker, you know that guns and ammo are flying off the shelves. If you were waiting to purchase an AR, you will have a while to wait if you are lucky. If you aren’t lucky, you might be SOL on the AR front.

Shotguns however do not have the attention of the gun-grabbers yet and they are still available. This availability results in cheaper prices as mentioned above. You can still go into your local sporting goods store and easily find a shotgun. You can’t say the same for an AR.

Ease of purchase

Shotguns or long guns generally don’t have the ridiculous licensing requirements that purchasing a handgun does. After a quick call and some paperwork, (provided you have a clean background) you can walk out with your very own 12 gauge piece of mind to add to your security preparations. You can go on your lunch hour and bring a brand new present home to your spouse after work. It’s better than flowers!

Availability of ammo

Just a quick check online finds plenty of ammo for the 12 gauge. You can’t say that for most common pistol calibers especially with the DHS purchasing 1.6 billion rounds for their own use. Another plus is there is a pretty wide variety of ammunition you can use in most shotguns. Most shotguns accept either 2 ¾ inch or 3-inch shells.

Some, like my particular Mossberg model, accept both. You then have Buckshot which is the most deadly, Slug, steel shot, birdshot, turkey or varmint loads, and target loads. So many choices, so little time! You can easily buy a few boxes and have plenty of security for almost any scenario. Now, in a total grid-down, end of the world apocalypse you will wish you have millions of rounds stored up, but we have to start somewhere. I like to buy a box of each caliber that I have (when I can) whenever I go to a sporting goods store and keep it locked away.


A 12 gauge shotgun is one of the most versatile weapons you can have if the SHTF. You can of course use this as your defensive weapon and you can hunt small and even large game with it. A 12 gauge with birdshot is good for most small critters or birds but you want to be careful you don’t blow them to pieces.  Throw some buckshot in there and you can go after the lone doe after all of the other deer are gone. A .22 is similarly good at plinking and shooting small game, but I wouldn’t want to face down a gang of intruders with a .22.


One good thing about shotguns from the perspective of someone defending their home is that you don’t have to be as accurate as you do with a handgun. A shotgun has a nice blast pattern that will hit anyone in the general direction downrange to a certain extent. The flip side is that a shotgun is not generally relied on for its accuracy or range.

This is a close-quarters type of defensive weapon so you won’t be picking off the bad guys at 100 yards with this. When the Mutant Zombie Motorcycle gang rolls into your town, they will need to get a little closer before you can take them out, but that is for a different post. Another consideration since we are discussing accuracy is that you have to practice common sense. If someone is in your house and you shoot a shotgun, those rounds will go through sheet-rock walls and could hit someone on the other side. This is no different from just about any other type of common round though.

Ease of Use

A good shotgun is pretty simple; point and shoot. In some cases, the wracking part to get another round into the chamber takes a little practice. You want to make sure you don’t eject the good shell you had in the chamber so it isn’t perfect, but with practice, this can be minimized.

Most people will recommend a 20 gauge for a woman because they kick less but I guarantee you that your wife won’t mind the kick at all if someone is coming after her and she is forced to fire. A shotgun is easily handled by a woman and has less moving pieces to remember when you are stressed. That goes for guys too. Just the simple act of racking the shotgun and the unmistakable sound that causes may prevent you from having to use it in the first place.

So for all of those reasons, the 12 gauge is my hands-down favorite for your first defensive weapon for the home. If you have more money, there are a few other items I would recommend for your survival battery of arms, but I will save that for later too.

Please let me know if you have any thoughts on the best weapon for the person who has nothing.

0 0 votes
Article Rating

About Author

Freedom-loving American doing what I can to help prepare and inform others. Editor and creator of The Prepper Journal 2013-2017, 2020 -

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

No problem with the idea of a shotgun for the person who has nothing. For the total novice, however, I’d recommend the 20-gauge over the 12. Mostly for the reason you referenced, the lower kick. Also, with the proper load (buckshot) a 20 will be every bit as effective at taking down a bad guy as the 12, without the possibility of your lady dislocating her shoulder because the butt wasn’t seated tightly. Personally, I have an old (nearly antique) but still very serviceable Winchester Model 94 .32 Special brush rifle that my grandfather bought new back in1950. The iron… Read more »


Thanks Larry, Yes, the 20 gauge is an excellent alternative that’s true and perhaps I should have broadened the topic to include that caliber as well. I know that I wouldn’t want to take a shot from either and I don’t think the average bad guy is going to be analyzing whether or not he has a .20 or a .12 pointed at his chest. The remainder of your comment flows nicely into another post I will be doing soon and that is how to build out the rest of your Survival Battery of Arms. Foreshadowing!!! Thanks for joining the… Read more »


I like shotguns too, some interesting short barrel ones out there now including 870 and saiga conversions. But in all the home defense discussions I dont see any talk of the various scenarios. It seems most HD talk assumes that you are wide awake, waiting up for the threat with a rifle or shotgun in your hand. I think the discussions need to identify the most common situations we might find ourselves in and then talk about the right weapon for the situation. A typical scenario not talked about is when you are sound asleep and you wake up thinking… Read more »

Pat Henry

Thanks for the comments! I know what you mean about being asleep and that is why my trusty .45 is by the bed every night. I don’t know if grabbing this is any easier than a shotgun but it certainly fits on the nightstand a lot easier. This post right here is more about choosing a battery of firearms and my personal recommendations if you are looking for a shopping list. This post doesn’t directly address your point about what to keep by the beside and that may have been covered in one or more posts on home security, but… Read more »


sounds great! One other thing I don’t see mentioned in various HD discussions is how important it is having your phone handy to call 911 for backup. A phone would rank high, esp in the case of a multiple perp home invasion IMHO after dealing w/ the immediate threat. This is where handguns have an advantage in many situations, is being able to have a hand free to open/close doors, dial phone, grab kids etc….much tougher to do with a long gun. Always interesting discussions depending on the scenario. anyone have stats on what the typical home defense scenario really… Read more »


As a Marine that carried both the Remington 970 and the Mossberg 590 in combat and as a former Law Enforcement Shotgun Instructor I have this warning: The Mossberg 590 is the only shotgun to have passed the mil spec of 3,000 rounds without failure and never, ever failed me in combat. The 870 is subject to double feeds and jams because it attempts to load the new shell before completely ejecting the empty to wit the flex tab you see in there how. The 590 doesn’t allow the fresh round out until the last possible fraction of a second… Read more »


Thank you Steve for the great comments and feedback on shotguns! I completely agree with you especially on the center-of-mass comments. With all of the body armor out there I would aim low like you said or for the head.
Center-of-mass is simpler and is what the average person aims for in a panic scenario because its simpler.


i used the mossberg in the military too. i NEVER had any problems with the weapon. not once. reliability is crucial.

the ideal load is buckshot then slug … alternating. this provides alternating wide dispersal radius and stopping power.

i disagree with the dont aim for center mast. hit them with a slug center mast and they are going down and staying down either permanently or for quite awhile.


Thanks for your comments.

Hitting them with a slug will absolutely work as you say if they aren’t wearing level IV plate armor. You never know.

Now even bad guys are wearing body armor in some cases when they bust down doors.



you are very welcome.

level 4 armor is tough and could, possibly, stop the slug from pentrating (i suspect not at extreme close range but further away it might due to a shotguns limited range) it but it wouldnt be able to absorb that impact which would be passed through into the body. that shock would probably kill them. if not it will leave them laying on the floor with internal bleeding, organ damage, and wishing they were dead.

if they are breaking into your house that means it is, by default, close range.


it signed me out and then back in, odd.


level 4 does great at stopping penetration. however, it doesnt do as great of a job at stopping impact power. it may or may not absorb the slug hit but the sheer force of the hit is still going to drop someone to the ground. it may rupture internal organs and cause internal bleeding.

a slug is STILL the ultimate stopping power at close range. breaking in a door implies close range. id take my chances with the center mast shot and consider them “very good chances” indeed.


Slugs definitely if u r trained…. U don’t need extra pellets flying around to clean up later!


I own several shotguns (10 to be exact). Most notably the model or a close relative to the three mentioned: Mossberg, Remington and Winchester. I’ve used all three in varous capacities testing various aspects. I keep tryijng to dislike the Mossberg for some reason (I’m a big Winchester & Remington fan..) but I just can’t. My favorite is my 24″ cylinder bore barreled Mossberg Slugster that I bought from a hunter after deer season for $150. Not only will it put 3 slugs inside of 2″ at 50 yards, with 1 1/8 oz (#4) turkey loads, it packs a punch.… Read more »


Thank you very much for the comment NetRanger!

Daniel Thomas Barnes

I agree that the shotgun us a great weapon for the person with nothing. I also believe it’s a superior home defense tool for the person who stays in one place without having to go find the bad guy keep him or her away from the kids. I’m convinced that a pistol may be a better choice if you have to check things out, because you don’t have a loud sound giving your presence away as you chamber a round (by comparison), and you can cut a corner without revealing a long muzzle in the door frame first. I also… Read more »


Thank you for your comments Daniel.

The main reason I like a shotgun in just the same situations you mention is that it is very forgiving to stress and aim. In the hands of a competent shooter I agree that a pistol and well placed shots make for a better choice but if you can only get one weapon or you are selecting your first weapon I think a shotgun gives you more flexibility.


Daniel Thomas Barnes

I agree with that. Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately), i haven’t been in the high stress situation like that where i would have that kind of aim problem. It’s certainly something to think about.


Lose the superlatives like Mutant Zombie Motorcycle gang, doomsday bunker & etc., you might have a article worthwhile reading. Stick to the facts.


“take it easy Jim”…this is not meant to be the National Geographic graphic. A little “levity” is good for the stress 🙂


I am a woman living alone in a large home on 20 acres along a deadend road and have never held a gun. All the comments have given me my decision. I have large rooms including the bedroom and know that I will be frozen in extreme fear waiting for Trouble to enter rather than have my very buckled and weakened knees take me throughout the house looking for Trouble. My first purchase will be a Mossberg 500 (SPX) or 590, 18″–20″, pistol grip. Price will determine. Second purchase DA service revolver 4″, .38 special. Scared…hell yes, being a woman… Read more »


Thank you for your comments!

I have a Mossberg too and am looking to pick up another for my wife. They make great shotguns and I am glad the comments here have helped you. Hope you keep coming back!



Word of caution, try it before you buy. I bought a 20 gauge for my wife and when I took here to the range found that she was not able to handle that even with a light load 2.5 shell. Now my wife is about 105 lb, and had never fired a weapon, but…
We now have a Mossberg .410 and she has had good patterning with 000 buck at the 15 – 20 feet distance (in house distance).


Living in the UK its hard to get a gun, we can get a shotgun license but its expensive and you have to jump throught a few holes.
Seeing as I can’t afford to buy a shotgun i will have to get a machette, better than nothing.


Excellent write up: I agree that a shotgun is a great choice if it is the only weapon you have. However, there are a few myths that are perpetuated in this post that should be corrected. First: “A shotgun has a nice blast pattern that will hit anyone in the general direction down range to a certain extent” I think this is an exaggeration. The general rule is that a shotgun spreads at 1 inch per 1 yard of range. A properly patterned shotgun spreads less than that. At indoors, home defense ranges (<5-10 yards), a 'blast pattern' will not… Read more »


Thank you very much for the comments apamburn!


during the shortage every store i went in had 7.5 20 ga not the best but was always available


every store i was in during the last yr had 7.5 20 ga not the best load but was available


Shotgun ammo seems to be one of the only calibers I could find that wasn’t affected as much by the recent shortages. I don’t know if this is because there was so much supply or people felt this wasn’t as likely a candidate for confiscation.


12 ga, for all the reasons you mention. Extended tube magazine, LED laser and spot light, pistol grips. If it was good enough for trench warfare in WW1, it’s good enough for shredding criminals.

Tina Cobbs

At the risk of sounding ignorant… which I am… what is the difference in a 410 and a 12 g and a 20 shotgun? I grew up country, and shot my fair share of snakes and turtles out of the tank… but always with a .22 revolver. I have never shot a rifle. Hubby keeps his grandfather’s 410 in the closet, but I have no idea what shells to buy and how to shoot it. Hubby doesn’t believe in Zombies, so I prepping on my own. Thanks! [email protected]

Pat Henry

Tina, That isn’t ignorant at all! The gauge of a shotgun refers to the size of the barrel, or more specifically how many balls of each size caliber you would need to make up a pound. I know someone will chime in and correct me on the specifics, but all you need to know is that the gauge determines the size shot that is going to come out of the other end to a large extent. This link will show you visually the difference a .410 has much smaller cartridges so smaller shot is going to be used. Going up… Read more »

Tina Cobbs

Thanks, Pat! That was exactly the info I need. I, too, hope we are all proven wrong and just end up with some extras. But… I’m convinced something is in the wind. Take care!


I am a relatively weak woman, so I was thinking I might want to have a .410 shotgun for the weaker kick. Does anybody have info on its home defense and hunting utility as well as the relative availability of ammo?


My brother tells me to get a Taurus Judge which will fire .410 shells as well. Opinions?

Pat Henry

You aren’t probably so weak that you cant handle a shotgun CCR but maybe I’m wrong. If you are in reasonable health and can get around without assistance, a 20 gauge shotgun should be perfectly fine for you. Are you worried about the kick? If so, you might be surprised at how strong it actually is. Have you ever fired a shotgun? If not, I would recommend going to a range with someone you trust. Then I would shoot a .410 and then a .20 gauge. If you find you really don’t like the .20 gauge then the .410 is… Read more »

Rick Connelly

In my opinion if all you people are that concerned with home defence,first would be a alarm system that would alert you of window breakage,entry that trips a infa red zone,these things would firsthand give you the heads up if you were sleeping a gun is maybe too late,and a good guard dog as backup,call 911 right away and most likely when the intruders hear the alarm your gun regardless of its calibre wont be needed at least you would have ample time to use it

Pat Henry


Thanks for the comments, but what if you don’t have power? What if the police are overwhelmed in other emergencies? What if you don’t have a dog, or the bad guys shoot the dog?


Rick Connelly

in that siuation,I would still have a gun,preferably a short barrelled shotgun with 00 buck as my last couple of rounds,warn the intruders I am armed ,dont confront them,let them come to you,be prepared in a position of the room,say a corner and be ready if the door is breached,fire


Mike, I agree with your post, and Im just trying to help out, Im not by any means trying to be negative or a know it all, however, I would position my self in a room and be ready if the door is breached as you would, but position yourself in a way that you can cover your rear and have an escape plan, murphy always shows up in situations like this, being in a corner restricts your options or retrograde operations, if there numerous intruders and you have a miss fire or jam, you might find yourself in a… Read more »


For a first defense gun I would go with a handgun. I have a Mossberg 500 loaded with 5 rd of 00 buck., but I do not take it with me when I answer the door or if I check out a noise in the backyard.. I have my Texas CHL buy a handgun first and a shotgun second. You can always have a handgun with at all time. Your shotgun will stay in your bedroom till you go get it. If you have a handgun first you can be armed while you go get your shotgun. As I sit… Read more »

Pat Henry

Thanks for the comments Mike and I understand what you mean. I was writing this from the perspective of if you only had one weapon or could only acquire one single weapon what would it be. I can get a shotgun much cheaper, with less hassle than a quality handgun and I can also use that for hunting.



I am a retired Airborne Infantry soldier and then retired from a professional firefighter/paramedic department, I have seen what weapons can do and witnessed it first hand in combat and as a firefighter, this is only my opinion, there are many others but this one is I do not mean to go against any of the other posts on here, its just mine. with that being said, I have a small collection of firearms, USAS UTS-15, AK-47, M-4 in .223/5.56mm, Mossberg 500, and some .22, and some handguns in 9mm. I have these different weapons for different threats, I… Read more »


Shotgun pellets DON’T spread much over short distances.

“Once again, please notice the size of the
entrance spreads….2 1/2″ to 3 1/2”.
Therefore, anyone that says, “With a
shotgun, you don’t even have to aim. Just
point it in the general area of the bad guy,
and you can’t miss”, does not know what
they are talking about.”


I have been told, and have read, by some so called experts, and some friends that have been gun enthusiasts since childhood, ( I am not one of those by the way) that a .410 is the way to go, rather than a .12 gauge, because off the kick, that unless you practice all the time with your shotgun that you are never really ready for. In my situation, (I am a below the knee Amputee), and my balance is not very good, even with my prosthetic on, let alone if it is off, that a .410 would be better… Read more »


bluzrider, I wouldn’t say that you need to practice all the time, however, that being said, that as any firearm you do need to practice with it, how it fires, what type recoil, and the exact moment of trigger pull when the firing pin hits the round. Depending the type of shooter you want to be will determine how much you need to practice. I know of your situation after reading your post, you can train your body to react to the recoil, and yes that means, my best advice to you is, if you have friends that have… Read more »


Hi Bob, And thanks for the input, I do appreciate it. My thoughts exactly, I do have a lot of friends that are lot more educated in guns that I am, and they will be more than willing to let me try out different types of shotguns, rifles, and different caliber hand guns. We usually take a weekend and get together at a friends property and shoot what everyone has brought. In the past I never really had the thought of home defense in mind, but you better believe that will be my first priority this year. As a matter… Read more »

Buck Bigod

I make a living killing people in self-defense. I am eminently qualified to judge weaponry. I am 5’9″, weigh 320lb., shoot the biggest bucks, catch the largest bass, have mustache and goatee, religiously wear camouflage. I worship an idol of Dale Earnhart.
I played high school football. That fact should qualify me for veterans benefits. I chose to make a career of self-defense because I believe in America. More people should engage killing for self-defense. We could rid the world of color and ethnicity.

big buck buck

y’ know, when i’m a killin in self defense I do appeerciate low recoil. killin in self defense is rooteen for me .I make a living killin in self defense.i weigh 3 hunert libs and have a mustache and gottee an I ware camoflaj my back kep me out of the service but I got training on the weekend at the shooting range they is some training you cant giet with uncle obama


great article, I 100% agree and with all the recoil compensation out there (I use a skeet shooter pad) even smaller women will have little trouble with a 12 gauge and its recoil

Pat Henry

Thanks Sean!


Is a double barrel 16 gauge any good for home defense? There is one here at the local pawn shop and it is pretty cheap. Also, what is your opinion of having a vicious doberman guard dog to warn you somecone is in your house? The intruder will have to dispatch the dog giving you time to get out the weapon. Should the shotgun be stored loaded if there are no children about?

Hunter Hutchinson

Pat Henry

Thanks for your questions Hunter. A double barrel 16 gauge is better than nothing, but you give up some power over a 12 gauge. Additionally, you only get two shots before you are reloading. I would prefer a 12 gauge if the shooters are comfortable with the kick over the 16. 16 gauges are sometimes recommended for women or smaller framed individuals but they will still take care of business. I highly recommend a dog for the early warning side of things. Hopefully they will warn you in advance so they don’t have to sacrifice themselves. Storing loaded weapons is… Read more »


I have a question. I’ve been doing a lot of research and have decided on the Mossberg 590 for our first gun. I really appreciate your post as well as all of the comments! When it comes down to purchasing this gun, however, I get a little confused on which model? There are the 590 special purpose and the 590a1 special purpose, and they each have a bunch of different models. Which exact model is it, or is that all just preference as the gun and its reliability is the same?
Thanks guys

Pat Henry

Thanks for the question Heather!

The models are essentially the same gun, but with different configurations/accessories. Think of it like a car. There is the base model or the EX which has a slightly different instrumentation package or leather interior. Both the 590 and the 590a1 are the same shotguns, but the a1 series is more geared toward tactical implementations. Do you want things like an adjustable stock or a pistol grip? That is where the difference is.

They will both kill you just as dead.



Thanks for the article. I’m new and shot a gun before and finally considered for my home protection. Please advise me if the weapons of my are correct.
A remington 870 special purpose marine magnum
B glock g41 or g21 gen 4
C g19 gen 4 ( for my better half)
So ,here are the three home protection that I will be purchasing. Any advice would be helpful. Thank You.


You have a nice list of home defensive weapons, I spent 23 years in the military as an Airborne Infantry soldier, Im just throwing that out there to let you know that Im not an armchair quarterback, this is just my personal opinion, and there are many different situations in defending your home. I would look into purchasing a long gun, its my firm belief that if they situation were that my home were under siege, lets say looters, gangs or the famous zombie apocalypse…lol, I would want to engage the perpetrators as far out as possible before they have… Read more »

home invasion

This web site truly has all of the info I wanted concerning this subject and
didn’t know who to ask.


Destination marketing practices, lead generation generation,
how-to follow up and convert leads, Facebook advertising, Twitter instruction, Googleplus training it’s all available within the MyLeadSystemPro – MLSP Relationship Marketing Education Software.
MLSP MyLeadSystemPro is indeed much more than a marketing education system, it is a
web-based societal neighborhood inside ‘s own right.


WRONG! High Point TS995 best home defense $290.00 PCCs (pistol Caliber Carbines) have 40% more MV than a pistol because of the barrel length.


This is great! Just what I’ve been looking for. Thanks!!


You still have to aim a shot gun it’s not a magical weapon


In a gunfight I’d put my Keltec KSG up against the Remington or Mossberg any day. Shorter overall length and 14 rounds…. sweet.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x