Why I Plan to Switch From a Shotgun to an AR-15 for Home Defense

If you would like to know why I intend to switch our home-defense gun from a shotgun to an AR-15…

And why YOU may want to do the same, then this article will explain everything.

Let me get something out of the way first. I love the shotgun. It’s one of the all-time great “American guns.” But to see why I don’t think it serves a home-defense role anymore, keep reading…

The Shotgun Is One of America’s Best Home-Defense Guns

The shotgun is simply a devastating and effective weapon when used for “social work,” aka as a home-defense tool.


Simply put, it has extremely reliable stopping power.

With a 12-gauge loaded with 00 buck, you get the equivalent of a minimum of EIGHT shots of 9 mm — in just ONE shot. All in a relatively tight pattern, delivered to the bad guy.

If I recall correctly, Tom Givens said that in his 20-plus years of police experience, he only ever recalls one incident where an officer had to use more than one shot to put down a bad guy (and I believe it was because the first shot was not a center-mass hit).

What’s more, the pump-action shotgun has proven itself reliable. As early as WWI, these shotguns have been counted on to get the job done in combat.

So What’s Wrong With the Shotgun?

Absolutely nothing is wrong with the gun.

The problem is the person behind it…

Let me explain.

As a gun guy, it’s easy to forget that not everyone loves guns as much as I do. It’s also easy to forget that not everyone loves training as much as I do.

Finally, it’s arrogant and kind of stupid to forget that I’m not the only one who may have to potentially use the designated home-defense weapon.

In short, I have a wife. And like most women, her upper-body strength is not the same as mine. She also doesn’t have as much training as I do.

Remember I said that the pump-action shotgun is super-reliable? It is. As long as you can work it reliably…

You see, the No. 1 problem people have with pump guns is user error. Short stroking it or in some other way messing up the functioning.

Why It’s Important to Train With Your Home-Defense Guns

I recently had the pleasure of accompanying my wife to a Women’s Shotgun Home Defense Class with Steve “Yeti” Fisher of Sentinel Concepts at the MASF Range in Virginia.

Truth be told, I had no idea this was going to be run by Steve Fisher. I just thought it was a shotgun class.

But it was eye-opening, to say the least.

While my wife and I had spent some range time with the venerable Remington 870 home-defense shotgun, she had never taken a day-long class. (I had previously taken a one-day defensive shotgun course with Tom Givens.)

I won’t get into the class details except to say it was excellent (and there’s a great review here if you care to read it). But it showed the shortcomings of the shotgun — at least for me and my wife.

What Problems Did I See With the Shotgun?

The shotgun is heavy. Sure, this isn’t THAT big of a deal. After all, the concept of use for the home-defense shotgun is to barricade yourself in the bedroom and wait. BUT it’s still heavy, especially fully loaded and when you are “running the gun” all day.

While this may not matter in a one- or two-shot self-defense scenario, it still makes training harder. And maybe less fun. So are you less likely to shoot the shotgun, aka practice with the gun you’ve chosen for home defense.

Quite simply, without adequate training, it is a hard gun to “run.”

The operation is different. My wife has done some pistol training. She has shot a handgun more times than any other gun.

The manual of arms with a handgun is: Insert magazine, rack slide, pull trigger. The manual of arms with a shotgun was very different for her. She’s a quick learner, but it’s still something to think about under stress. Even remembering to take off a safety or rack a shotgun could add seconds of reaction time in a self-defense situation.

It’s really good to have commonality between weapon systems so that your training with one gun helps with the others.

Less ammunition. Barring a total collapse of society where we have to fight an army of zombies, I don’t think this matters much. Again, two of the most respected experts on the shotgun are Tom Givens and Steve Fisher, and both of them have never seen a shooting where the person with the shotgun needed to shoot more than once or twice to stop a threat. But still, it’s a thing.

It kicks rather hard. Yes, I know we are all tough guys and the recoil doesn’t bother us. It doesn’t bother my wife, either. But it still takes TIME to learn how to “stretch” the shotgun to manage recoil and adopt the aggressive body posture to mitigate it. Time and training.

Accuracy. It’s not that the shotgun is NOT accurate. Not at all. It’s just that…

  1. Everyone believes the myth that you don’t need to aim with a shotgun (you do).
  2. My wife was less accurate with the shotgun because she was dealing with all the other shotgun “issues” (manual of arms, racking the pump, handling the size and weight, managing recoil, etc.).

Why the AR-15 Instead of the Shotgun for Home Defense?

For basically the opposite of all the reasons above:

  • It has plenty of stopping power. Any arguments about the stopping power of 5.56 will immediately be referred to the enemy combatant kill list of every American war since the introduction of the M16 in Vietnam
  • It’s light, ergonomic, easy to handle and VERY easy to shoot. Much easier than a shotgun for the untrained and even easier than a handgun (because of more points of contact, it’s like a handgun on “easy mode” for defensive shooting)
  • It operates similarly to a handgun. Like a handgun: Insert magazine, rack slide (“charging handle”), press trigger. Like a handgun, if it malfunctions, tap, rack, bang. Simple — and all the practice with the handgun reinforces the AR-15 manual of operation
  • More ammo. Again, if you used up a standard 30-round magazine in a home-defense situation, you would most likely make it into the Guinness book of world records. But the fact remains that there are more rounds of ammunition in the gun when you pick it up
  • There is hardly any recoil. Many, many, many smaller women shoot them and think it’s fun
  • Better accuracy. It’s much, much easier to hit stuff with the AR-15 because it’s so light, easy to operate, ergonomic and simple in operation.

Should You Switch to an AR-15 for Home Defense?

I don’t know.

Take an honest assessment of yourself and your situation.

Are you the only one who will use your home-defense weapon? Then you have to assess not just yourself, but your entire family situation, including whoever is going to back you up.

Do you actually train with your shotgun? Can you make multiple accurate hits under pressure? Can you run the gun reliably? Can you mitigate the recoil, weight and functioning to get ACCURATE hits (yes, you need to aim the shotgun).

Only you can answer those questions. As much as I love the shotgun and continue to train with it, I believe the AR-15 is a better choice for my family.

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