Shotguns & Home Defense

By on July 28, 2017

I like shotguns. In most cases, they’re the ideal firearm to use in the home for self defense. They’re easy to shoot, accurate enough (if you are), and can deliver significant stopping power to the desired target (if you do it right). But the crux of the biscuit–the important stuff you need to know–starts long before you pick up any gun to defend yourself or family.


What Home Defenders Need to Know

Examples of Real World Information You Need to Think About:

  • What are the home and self defense laws in your state? Know what can you do legally.
  • How might adrenaline affect you? Keep your defense plans simple.
  • Where are the best places in your home from which to shoot, or escape? Figure it out and practice.

From having logged 10,000 hours in my book project, I feel confident in conveying these important points and much more. I thank my mentors for much of what I’ve learned and assimilated. The rest was research and study; trial and error; and lots of practice.


Because I Was Asked

Beta readers of my forthcoming book (Sept 2017), At Home In the Real World, asked for recommendations for firearms. I obliged, narrowed it down, and make 3 suggestions. For new shooters, I recommend 2 shotguns and ammunition for use inside the home. (Ammunition used inside dwellings is critically important!) My third recommendation is, Shoot What You Have.


Use What You Inherited

In the featured photo above, I’m holding my Dad’s 12-gauge, Ithaca 37 Featherweight shotgun. He used it to bring home geese from Canada, deer from Pennsylvania. That’s when it had a 28” barrel. My brother Ab inherited it from my father. When I told him of my Calamity May journey, Ab gave it to me. Awesome gesture, Bro!

I modified this legendary shotgun for home defense. Because of its interchangeable barrel, I swapped out the long barrel for one that’s 18.5”. I took out the limiting rod and now load 5 shot shells in the magazine (plus 1 in the chamber). I installed a thick recoil pad, and the length of pull still works for me. And, I can now put a sling on it. It cost me about $180 to go from geese-in-the-sky to hallway ready.



Here I am wearing gear required for a defensive shotgun class. I had to capture this moment….loaded for bear! I’m holding the shotgun I inherited, (an Ithaca Model 37 Featherweight with an 18.5″ barrel–that I put on it), a  ‘dump pouch’ to hold new and spent shotgun shells, my revolver (Smith & Wesson Model 13, .357), and two speed loaders.
Not shown, 870 rounds of ammunition, and a shotgun borrowed from my girlfriend, a .410 Mossberg 500 Tactical with a forend pump. The 2-day class was cancelled, I was relieved.

Over the Top Training ?

To push my limits and add to my training, I signed up for what promised to be a grueling defensive shotgun course: two 9-hour days, 600 shotgun rounds (including 20 rounds of 00 and 20 slugs), 250 handgun rounds. The handgun had to have a holster, 3 magazines, and speed loaders. Each shotgun had to have a sling and a dump pouch for all that ammo. It was pretty much intensive police training for civilians.

I was nervous as hell though about shredding my right shoulder. Slugs alone from that powerful 12-gauge are not taken lightly by anyone. And these long classes, back to back, take a toll. After buying ammo and gear, and putting it all together…..class was cancelled. Honestly, I was relieved.

[Caveat: I can think of 3 really good reasons to take a course like this: to shoot moving targets; to shoot on the move; and, shoot under stress. You won’t get that at local gun ranges.]


Shotguns & Pioneers

When I ran this class by one mentor who’s trained sworn law enforcement officers, he said, “Suzy, you don’t need that kind of training for home defense”. He continued, “Shotguns are fun…. and easy to use defensively once you know a few things”. With that, the image of frontier women 150 years ago in sod houses using shotguns for defense and food popped into my head.

I shoot what I inherited (and modified), practice dry fire, and log hours at the range. There, I shoot bird shot at torso targets, 10 to 25 feet away. Results are more consistent than handguns; wound damage more significant. Under stress, I hope to be equally effective.


Bottom Line

Many shotguns for home defense are straightforward to use, and appropriate for most homeowners.


September 2017

Starting mid-August, I’m offering shotgun seminars in the tri-state area (Western Pa, Ohio, West Virginia). The intent is to share 1-hour of basics that home defenders need to know, and, best practices for home defense. Hands-on shotgun shooting will be available, as allowed.

New shooters and hand gunners, come out ! I look forward to meeting you.


May all your calamities be averted !

Suzy Meyer, Author
Pittsburgh, PA

I'm a landscape architect, gardener, and of late, a certified NRA instructor. I enjoy practicing T’ai Chi, playing bocce, and walking through watersheds.. This blog is my journey full of learning curves to calm the chaos.


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