March 15, 2006

Overcoming The "Viagra Theory" of Home Defense

Via Instapundit, I see that a blogger by the name of Miss Kelly is looking for shotgun advice:

National Buy a Gun Day is only 30 days away! I have a great little .22 Browning rifle for plinking, but my husband and I are looking to purchase a shotgun for home security. Not sure what's the best shotgun to get for this, although I'm leaning towards a pump action for the sound effects, which I'm told can be a good deterrent. Would love to hear recommendations from folks. Also wondering if we can get a shotgun that can also be used for trap or skeet, or are guns just too specialized these days? Looking for cost info too, for new and used. Thanks for your advice!

As you may imagine, she's picked up a lot of advice... and most of it is bad. As a matter of fact, I guarantee someone reading this post right now is already thinking about a 12-gauge pump stoked with 00-Buck, without first bothering to really digest the questions in her post.

Let's look over her request again, shall we?

What she did and didn't say…
She wants a shotgun ("leaning towards a pump") for "home security" (we'll define that later) and possibly trap/skeet shooting. She is willing to look at used firearms. Let's go from there.

Looking at her profile, it seems she lives in Massachusetts (not the most gun-friendly state), and she lives with her husband and some animals, but no children seem to be present in the household.

We do not know if she lives in an apartment or condominium, or if she lives in a home, if she lives in a high-density suburban area or if she lives in a rural location. We do not know if she or her husband have any physical limitations. We do not even know the basic layout of her dwelling. It would be nice to have more specifics about all of these things, but we'll make do with information we have.

We'll have to assume she and her husband are healthy, and probably in middle age. As we don't know for certain that there aren't children present, and as Massachusetts is a fairly dense state population-wise, we'll assume for safety's sake that there are other inhabited dwellings in close proximity.

Defining weapon parameters
First, we know that Miss Kelly is looking for a shotgun. This fact has been no deterrent to at least 13 people make comments about other weapons so far. Nice to know they are listening, isn't it?

We also know that the users of this shotgun will be a male and female. While Miss Kelley didn't give her measurements, lets assume she is the "average" American woman of about 5'4" with proportional arms and legs for her height. Any shotgun we pick must be able to be used effectively by her to be, well, effective.

So what do our intrepid commentors at Miss Kelly's give us (those that can remember to focus on shotguns, that is)? No less than 18 posts about variations of the tricked-out pump-action 12-guage combat shotgun, a weapon designed for relatively large, healthy, men.

Following the "Viagra" theory of defense, these folks think bigger and the more enhancements and attachments you can add on, the better it is. That might work for some devices that a woman might to keep in her bedroom, but Miss Kelly is interested in shotguns.

She needs one that will fit her needs, not theirs.

"Home Security"
The phrase “home security” means different things to different people, and a lot of the weapons choices made, paint a picture of people preparing for sustained offensive urban combat operations.

Unless we wake up in al-Anbar in the morning, this is not our reality.

In our world, home security means retreating to a defensible point in your home and firing your weapon only when given no other choice, and firing only until the threat ends. Nothing more than that is legally justifiable.

This is a defensive situation, not an offense one.

Choosing the Home Defense Shotgun
Miss Kelly would be best served by a shotgun designed for the smaller stature of women and teens, and many men will be surprised to find the shortened stocks, smaller gauges and lighter overall weight of these weapons can be desirable, especially in the close confines of a home security situation.

As she has only noted experience with a .22 rifle, and the defensive shotgun will be used indoors in the confined spaces of her home and possibly at night, recoil, flash, noise and penetration are all critical factors in choosing a shotgun as well.

Luckily, O.F. Mossberg, the company that won the U.S. Military contract for combat shotguns in 1979, was diligent, and did their homework for the home security market as well. Their suggestion is a .410 pump called the HS 410.

A .410?

The smallest of the shotgun calibers does seem like an odd choice to those of the "bigger is better" philosophy and it would be an odd choice for a police or military weapon, but it makes perfect sense for a home security shotgun.

A .410 shotgun, at the typical home security distance of near-contact range out to 25 feet, has more short-range stopping power than the vaunted .45 ACP, the .357 Magnum, or the .44 Magnum. The .410 won't deafen you the way a 12 or 20 gauge shotgun could, not will it have excessive muzzle flash or recoil.

In addition—and this is very important—the .410, loaded with birdshot will not over-penetrate walls as 12 and 20 gauge shotguns typically will. All bullets fired by pistols and rifles (even .22s) will easily over-penetrate multiple layers of sheetrock, going into other rooms or even other homes, potentially wounding or killing someone other than your intended target.

Not a great choice for the beginning skeet or trap shooter, a 410 pump is a shotgun Miss Kelly and her husband can learn to shoot well and confidentially in a minimal amount of time, with enough stopping power to immediately stop anyone who invades her home at a reduced danger to others in the area.

Bigger may be better for some applications in the bedroom, but not for home security shotguns.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at March 15, 2006 06:45 PM | TrackBack

I got a Remington 870 12 gauge with a 30" full choke barrel and ventilated rib when I was 12 years old for Christmas. I was a skinny kid and I never had any trouble shooting boxes and boxes of shells. Then again my dad always shoot a Winchester model 410 .410 and he usually got more of whatever we were shooting than me. Either would work fine for the lady I think but you're probably right about getting a smaller gauge for a lady. I knew a girl my age who shot a 20 gauge she did just fine and she got it when she was 12 also.

Regarding over-penetration I'm not sure a sheetrock wall will stop a 410. I think the 410 would just make a smaller hole in the wall.

Posted by: tracelan at March 16, 2006 01:53 AM

Perhaps a shell chambering enhancer could be had for the .410.

Sometimes just the sound of a weapon being readied stops a potential threat.

Posted by: madiho at March 16, 2006 06:51 AM

I don't underestimate a .410 for home defense, I once tried one with a 3" shell with #6 shot on a 2X4 scrap at close range; blew a hole through it. It's not as intimidating to look at as a twelve gauge, but then people who break into other people's houses aren't all that discriminating!

Posted by: Tom TB at March 16, 2006 08:19 AM

I advised her to get a 20 gauge pistol grip Mossberg pump, which is what I have. It too has more stopping power than a .44 Magnum, and it looks meaner!!

Posted by: Martin Hague at March 16, 2006 10:03 AM

I have a nice 12 guage Remington 870 LH with a deer slug barrel. If I ever get the money, I will have Wilson Scattergun Technoligies:
A. convert it to flexitab feed and 3" shells
B. get a pistol grip/thumhole stock, and
C. get a 3" chamber 30" full choke barrel for upland game.

While a 12 CAN kick you, you can buy amunition that WILL do fine for home defense, and WON'T tear a shoulder off. And then you can buy another barrel for trap or what have you....

Posted by: Meredith C. Walters at March 17, 2006 01:38 PM

Meredith, it isn't about recoil as much as it is control and pentration. Almost anyone can be taught to withstand firing a 12-guage loading, but that is beside the point.

A 3-inch 12 gauge, regardless of the loading, presents a major over-penetration risk for in-home defense.

If you hit your target...
Even birdshot loadings can completely penetrate and exit a human body at extremely short ranges, and I've seen the crime scene photos proving it. Buckshot can go through as well, and slugs certainly will.

If you miss your target...
Birdshot loadings from both 12 and even 20 gauge shotguns will go through multiple interior walls. Buckshot loads maintian killing injury through multiple rooms, and slugs can penetrate from one home into another, while killing anyone unlucky enough to be in their path.

Should you survive the encounter while using a 12 gauge in a room or hallway, you will also stand a good chance of permanent hearing loss... if you survive.

Unfortunately the concussive effects of firing a 3-inch 12-gauge shell in a confined space like a hallway or a bedroom, especially at night, is like having a small flash-bang grenade go off right in front of you. Mostly deaf, certainly stunned, and temporarily blind is not a way to win a gunfight.

I hope you get them with the first shot.

You might not get off a second one.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at March 17, 2006 02:11 PM

Hello Confederate Yankee,
Thanks for even more advice. The responses were a little overwhelming. Only had to delete one skanky comment (racist). You're right, I'm not interested in a handgun. Don't like them, find them creepy, and don't trust myself to be able to hit the target under stress, even close up. Someone else also recommended the Mossberg 410 pump. Sounds good, I'll definitely look into it. The responses confirmed that, as I suspected, there won't be one shotgun for these two different purposes. Excellent closing line to your post, so true.

Posted by: misskelly at March 17, 2006 03:50 PM

I have both a 410 and 12 gauge and have used both for hunting. Only problem with 410 is that you have to be dead-on your target to achieve any result because of the rather small pattern of dense shot. My 12 gauge is an old Model 11A Remington semi-automatic, a heavy but beautiful weapon well-balanced for my reach. Living alone I'm not concern about excessive penetration but hopefully I'll never have to use it for defense.

Posted by: docdave at March 17, 2006 05:53 PM

My mother was 4'11", about 110 lbs. and used a Browning Patent 20 ga., which she kept under her bed. The stock was cut down a bit, but she handled it quite well. The .410 requires too much point and shoot ability to make it a good choice for defense in my opinion. If nothing else move up to a 28 guage, which is also an excellent skeet choice. They are light, maneuverable and the long brass loads will give you all the stopping power you need in a tight situation.

Posted by: Lynn at March 20, 2006 05:18 PM