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Handgun vs Shotgun For Home Defense


Picking what kind of gun to use for home defense can be debated from now into eternity. For some a handgun makes sense, while others may prefer a shotgun or even a rifle. It all depends on your situation, your home and its layout, whether you have children in the house and so forth.

Personally I’m a fan of using a handgun for self-defense, but I can see the case for a trusty pump-action shotgun in the right circumstances. But what do I know? I’m just a lowly gun blogger and enthusiast. However I stumbled upon a recent interview of Chris Costa over at Rem870.com where he talks about his gun of choice for home defense.


“My home defense gun is a handgun”

Rem870.com: What upgrades would you recommend having on a home defense shotgun?

Chris Costa: Well, here is where it can get a little controversial and complicated.

My home defense gun is a handgun. It’s got an X300 Surefire on it and is equipped with a DG Grip switch, which allows me to light and shoot with one hand. I also run a suppressor on it.

Imagine waking up in the middle of the night and trying to clear your house with an 18” barrel gun – that’s what a shotgun is! You also need to be able to work a light on it while being stealthy and efficient.

If I wake up in the middle of the night, half naked, needing to defend my family and my home, I can shoot and employ my handgun one-handed while I grab my children and maneuver around my house extremely quickly, all the while knowing that I have 17 rounds at my disposal. If you have to grab one of your kids because they’ve popped out in between you and a threat, then you’re stuck trying to fire a 12 gauge one-handed; it can be done (I do it all the time in my demonstrations), but not without a lot of practice, and it’s certainly not ideal.

I also believe that trying to deal with a threat that you can’t see is a much greater concern than one you can see. If there’s an intruder in my house that is visible, then I am actually in the process of solving that particular problem. If there’s someone in my house that I can’t see, that scares me much more. So imagine that you have someone in your house that you can’t see, you don’t have ear protection, and you don’t have a suppressor and are not using a handgun (handguns naturally being quieter than a shotgun) – if you fire that shotgun it’s going to be extremely loud, and you will probably lose your hearing for a few minutes. Those few minutes can be vital, because the intruder now knows where you are and you’re unable to be as alert as you normally would. Having that suppressor addition is very important to me; using a handgun with a suppressor means if it fires a foot and a half from my ears, my hearing is still protected.

So to sum it up, if I clear my house during the night with a handgun, I can shoot suppressed, I can white light, I can work one-handed if I need to grab one of my kids, and if push came to shove I could pistol-punch an intruder with the muzzle of my gun. I can’t do any of that with a shotgun.

When I think of my shotgun as a home defense gun, I imagine that I’m up and alert, waking around the interior of my house or outside the perimeter. I imagine my family is somewhere safe and that I don’t have to worry about shielding them or grabbing them back. When I think of a 12 gauge as a home defense gun, I imagine I’m anticipating an attack and am preparing for whatever chaos may ensue.

Unfortunately, and especially in America, men have a tendency to buy their women 870 shotguns,12 gauge shotguns, or 20 gauge – any shotgun really. And they tell them, “This is for home defense. If you rack it, you’ll scare the intruder away.” But, it just doesn’t work that way. So now you have a woman on the phone with 911, your children behind her, and she needs to pull and manipulate a shotgun while keeping track of her family and talking to the emergency service line. It would be much easier for her to pull out a handgun with a light already integrated onto it, take cover behind the bed to protect herself and the children, and save her family.

And in regards to ‘racking the pump to scare an intruder’ I’m not there to scare the intruder, nor would I want my loved ones to just scare an intruder; I want to shoot the intruder. If someone steps into my home with malicious intent, they get smoked. A pump shouldn’t be used to scare somebody; it should be used to show them that you mean business.

So that’s how I approach the home defense role, and where I see the shotgun and handgun fitting in.

You can read the entire interview at Rem870.com.


  1. I taught my wife to grab my shot gun, ram the safety forward and since she will be in the hall,I told her to pull the trigger ,pump once and pull again. 64 shot flying down the hall three feet wide. The she is to cqall Servo-pro to clean up the mess. Charlie Tiffany

  2. If you miss with a handgun, there is a chance the bullet will go through a wall and hit someone you didnt want to. Normal shot from a shotgun will penetrate walls but will not carry enough energy to penetrate skin on the other side typically, unless you are using heavy shot or shooting extremely close. Get a Keltec KSG for home defense

  3. Costa dosen’t need a gun for HD. Chuck Norris lives in his beard!!

    I have a G22 and a Rem 1100 Tactical at the ready. Dealer’s choice.

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