If you’re a gun owner, there will come a time when you’ll hear someone tell you to “just get yourself a shotgun for home defense.” The fact is, though, that pistols and rifles can be handy to have in a home-defense situation, just as much as shotgun is. The trick is knowing what each gun does well and what it doesn’t do well. For instance, pistols are good for moving about and other tasks where a free hand is needed, like opening doors, leading people to safety and/or holding a flashlight. However, pistols are lacking in firepower compared to a shotgun or a rifle. A shotgun or a rifle needs two hands to use effectively, and they are longer in length compared to a pistol, making them harder to move around inside a house. Shotguns and rifles do have two distinct advantages over a pistol in a home defense environment, though.
A 12-gauge shotgun firing 00 buckshot throws 12 .33-caliber lead pellets at one time into its target. Ouch. A 55-grain .223 bullet weighs significantly less than a buckshot load, but that bullet is traveling at a tremendous speed which allows it to impart a lot of force to the target, far more than common handgun calibers. In short, when it comes to firepower, pistols are pistols, and long guns are long guns.
An AR-15 rifle in the hands of a semi-competent marksman is more than capable of delivering shots on-target out to 100 yards and beyond, and a shotgun with slugs can hit targets out beyond 50 yards. Both of those distances are considered extreme distances for even the most competent of pistol shooters.
So which is better for personal defense, a handgun, a rifle or a shotgun? In my opinion, they all have a role to play in keeping you and your loved ones safe. Let’s compare the advantages and disadvantages of each of type of firearm and how that might affect your choice:
Advantages: Compact, easy to carry, can be shot with one hand;
Disadvantages: Not much ammo compared to rifles, low-powered compared to long guns.
Advantages: Devastating amount of power per round, flexible ammunition types;
Disadvantages: Hard to maneuver in tight spots, needs two hands to operate, (relatively) low ammunition capacity.
Advantages: Powerful rounds. Higher capacity. Great for long-distance work;
Disadvantages: Needs two hands to use. Harder to maneuver in tight spots. Some locales have magazine capacity limitations.