Editor’s Note: We’ve begun a series here on GunsAmerica that’s designed to highlight some of the least expensive options available for home defense. There’s a reason for this; many people who want to exercise their Second Amendment rights are often met with advice about exactly which gun they should buy, and why. Yet that advice doesn’t always take into account the fiscal realities of those living on a tight budget. So where can they turn? Right here.
We’re going to light up the options and talk about the guns that don’t always make it into the list of guns we feature in the GunsAmerica Digest. We know full well this series isn’t going to appeal to everyone. It isn’t suggested reading for those of you who are already experts. That said, we always value constructive criticism in the comments section below. Help us help others by telling us what works for you, and why–and how much it costs. We all have to start somewhere, and GunsAmerica is a fantastic place to start.
If you’re looking for more in depth information on the less expensive guns on the market, check out the coverage we’re doing of Cheap Guns. These are full reviews, and get into much more detail.
Cheap Shotguns for Home Defense
The word shotgun covers a lot of ground. You can pay six-figures for an engraved Italian masterpiece, or you can buy an old single shot break action in decent working order for less than the cost of a date night (with dinner and a movie). And there are shotguns at every price-point in between.
While there’s nothing wrong with a solid single shot, they are slow to load. And they only hold one shot. Why this is less-than-optimal should be obvious. Automatic shotguns are also popular, though the automatic action on some guns can be finicky. Lower priced autos, especially. And the last thing you want in a defense situation is a failure to cycle a round.
That’s why so many people love the pump shotguns. These are the best of both worlds. You get the reliability of an old break action, but more than one shot before you have to reload. Some hold up to 8 shells. While the action may not cycle as quickly as an automatic, they are fast enough, and make a very menacing sound when racked.
But let’s step back…
Why a shotgun? These answers vary, but there are some expected answers. Shotguns shoot a variety of ammunition. The three main types are slugs, buckshot (bigger balls, but not as big as slugs), and birdshot (lots of small balls). All three are lethal. Birdshot and buckshot spread out a bit when they exit the barrel, but you do still have to aim at your intended target.
Then there’s the menacing look of a shotgun. They’re lethal. Everyone knows this, and the guns have an ability to be quite persuasive. The look and sound of a pump shotgun is hardly ambiguous. But they are large, most of them (bullpup shotguns being the notable exception–more on that later). And larger guns require more room to move, something most don’t consider before buying a gun they intend to use in the tight confines of their home.
That last part is important. Shotguns are often the gun of choice of people who are worried about over-penetration. Shoot a rifle inside a house and the bullet will likely puncture walls. Sometimes several walls. While slugs and buckshot may punch walls, they won’t travel as far as high-powered rifle or pistol rounds. Birdshot is less likely to make it through stud walls. It still can, but it will loose speed and pose less of a risk. Know your round. Test penetration on dummy walls at the range.
And while we’re on that topic, practice everything. Make the gun safe and practice moving about in your house. In the dark. How hard is it to use a shotgun where you might have to use it? Practice and training will make it much easier.
12 gauge Shotguns
The go-to shotgun round for police, military, hunters, competitors… the 12 gauge. This is a hard hitting round that comes in endless varieties. All of them kick, so keep that in mind if you are slight. There’s no point in buying a gun you can’t use effectively.
The gauge refers to the weight, in pounds, of the maximum sized sphere (cannon ball) which would fit in the barrel. So 12 lead balls, of the max diameter which fits in the barrel, would equal 1 pound if you were to weigh them. If we thought about caliber, as in rifles, the caliber would be equivalent to .73 caliber. That’s a lot of knockdown power and decisive fight stopping energy. While not sending people flying through the air as in Hollywood flics, a Hornady STS 12 gauge, 300 grain, rifled slug traveling at a muzzle velocity of 2000 fps deposits 2664 foot pounds of energy into the target, more than 1 ton!
There are countless listings for less than $3000 on GunsAmerica. Make sure you frequently check out the web listings yourself as they change daily. Save money, and then save your family; what a bargain.
For $200 you can get a used Remington 870. The item description says this one belonged to a police department. As such, it will show signs of wear, but will–more than likely–run like a top. The 870 is the #1 option for this class of guns.
If you’d rather go with a Mossberg, there are a number of options there, too. The 500 line of pump guns are notorious work-horses. And Mossberg imports Maverick guns that will get the job done, too. Some of the listings you will see for these less-expensive guns can leave you wanting a bit more information. Be patient with the sellers. Their margins on this end of the price spectrum are thin. If they don’t provide enough info, ask a question. The description on this one is really minimal (Nice clean hunting gun.)but I bet the gun would work well, regardless.
Don’t overlook other options, though. Search TriStar, and Ithaca, and Stevens, and Winchester…. This is a broad class of guns. Many of them are purpose built for home defense (shorter barrels, longer magazine tubes, no sight ribs…), but even the sporting models will work–and you can often swap out a long barrel for a short barrel for a minimal expense.
20 Gauge Shotguns
20 Gauge follows the naming convention meaning 20 lead spheres. Uber-macho internet commandos scoff at the idea of using anything less than 12 gauge for home invasion defense. However, 20 gauge shotguns are a bit easier to safely and effectively manipulate for many people of smaller stature, including some women and children, all of whom may, one unlucky night, be called upon to defend the hearth. In fact, a 20 gauge shotgun can propel a standard Federal Power Shok 2-3/4″ hollow point (HP) rifled slug weighing ¾ oz at a muzzle velocity at 1600 fps. This slug then strikes the target and dumps 1865 foot pounds of muzzle energy.
“New In Box Manufacturer: Savage Arms|Stevens Model #: 320 Security Pump Shotgun Type: Shotgun: Pump Action Finish: Matte Black Stock: Black Synthetic with Vertical Pistol Grip Sights: Bead Safety: Manual Barrel Length: 18.5″ Overall Length: 39″ Weight: 6.85 lbs Caliber: 20 Gauge Capacity: 5+1 Action: Pump Action Chokes: Cylinder Receiver: Matte Black Chamber: 3” Features: Rotary Bolt Design, Dual Slide Bars, Side Ejection . Credit card accepted though online check out. We only ship to an FFL. Shipping is $20.00 for priority mail, insurance extra. “
It is hard to go wrong with either a 12 or 20 gauge pump action shotgun, Make sure everyone in your household knows how to operate it, and can use it while under duress. A side saddle ammunition holder is a great idea for keeping a handful of extra hands within reach. I’d also consider a sling and a weapon light. Remember, you want to identify and then mitigate any serious threat within your home.
Talk to your family about cover, concealment, penetration of walls… and elimination of the threat. I recommend sending every responsible household member to an Appleseed shoot (www.appleseedinfo.org) for basic marksmanship training, and then on to Survival & Tactical Systems, Gunsite, the Smith & Wesson Academy or the Sig Sauer Academy for additional armed self-defense and safety training.
About the Author: D.S. Standard is a poly-lingual international adventurer, a certified 1 Mile Marksman, and an accomplished martial artist, who has mastered snow-blowing, powering his home with a generator and surviving our rollercoaster economy. He and his family hail from New Hampshire, where they try to live up to the State’s “Live Free or Die” credo and they hope that you will experience Liberty, rather than safety, in your lifetime.