A question about shotguns…


August 23, 2008, 04:35 AM
Hi all. I’m looking for a shotgun for home defense. I’m a bit of novice when it came to guns, though I’m learning plenty of new things each day. I haven’t looked much into shotguns and rifles and so forth but I’m thinking of buying a used Mossberg. What different gauges are there and how do I determine which is more powerful than the next? For example, of the 12 gauge and the 20 gauge, which has more stopping power?

What’s the minimum gauge I should consider? Keep in mind I might have a problem with a strong “kick.” I broke some bones in my right shoulder area (I’m right handed) a few years ago that could easily break again.

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August 23, 2008, 05:53 AM
A 20ga will be more than enough stopping power to get the wanted results without the kick of the 12ga.

Dave McCracken
August 23, 2008, 09:08 AM
The Search feature is your friend.. The archives have tons of stuff on this.

August 23, 2008, 09:16 AM
The 12 gauge is significantly more powerful, and can be had in loads that recoil as lightly as a 20 gauge. The ammunition for the 12 will cost roughly half of ammunition for the 20. Ammunition and practice is most important. I really see no point in the 20 gauge, the 12 is cheaper and more versatile.

My skinny little wife can shoot a 12 gauge just fine, especially with low recoil buckshot and bird loads.

edited to add:

You might just want to get a 9mm carbine or something like that, all defense-capable shotguns have significant recoil.

August 23, 2008, 04:44 PM
Try reduced recoil loads. They are still considerably more effective at close range than any 9x19mm.


August 23, 2008, 07:42 PM
The 20 has the advantage of lower gun weight, which might be more important for a small person (wife), than the recoil issue.

I don't care for autos for defense, but many do and a good auto shotgun has little recoil.

August 23, 2008, 08:03 PM
For basic simplicity and going BANG every time, it's hard to beat the basic pump shotgun. Remington 870 / Mossberg 500 series. You should be able to find a good one used / new in the $200 range.

The 12 guage ammo will be more plentiful than 20 guage, and if you get a "light" or reduced recoil load it won't kick much worse than a 20. In fact, since the 20 gun would be lighter, the kick factor might well be a wash. There are also recoil pads that can cushion the blow quite a bit.

If possible, you could try and find someone who has each (guage I'm talking here) and try them out ... or perhaps a store with a range.

Both guns will accept multiple barrels depending on the purpose you have in mind that day, and if taken care of will be still in use by your grandkids.

If you measure the "perfect" choice as being 100, if you stick to the two guns above, in either 12 or 20 guage, you are going to get a 90+ solution no matter what you choose. Don't sweat the last 10% too much ... it won't mean a thing to to the BG coming through the door. ;-)

August 23, 2008, 09:11 PM
As usual on a question of this nature you have received some pretty good answers, and you have received some that are absolute BS.

As Dave suggests, use the search function. There is a wealth of information regarding your questions. Read diligently, it will become apparent what is BS, and what is solid information. It will also become apparent which of the folks that post here often are dispensing solid shotgunning info, and which ones don't know s**t from Shinola.

August 23, 2008, 09:45 PM
I keep a 20 gauge coach gun loaded with number 3 buck. I invite you to stand on the business end of it, take a round in the chest, and without so much as a cough, tell me a 12 gauge is better. :D 20 is plenty. At inside the house ranges, a 20 will stop 'em just as sure as a 12. It's only when you're beyond self defense justifiable lethal force range that the bigger pellets the 12 is capable of firing would count for more, but then, at range, a 20 gauge slug is formidable. It is, after all, over 50 caliber.

August 23, 2008, 11:02 PM
I just bought a Mossberg 500a Field/Security Combo at Big 5 for $249. To that I have added #1 Buckshot for security and #8 bird shot for skeet and trap. While the #1 buckshot pellets are not quite the same size as 00 buck, there are more of them and all in all they do the same job with just a bit less penetration.

August 23, 2008, 11:13 PM
Some time back at Big 5 I bought a Mossberg 500 12 tactical...I have loaded it with slugs and also a Rem 870 12 tactical from a local gun store...keep 00 Buck in it.Both are HD shotguns...with my Saiga 12 also loaded with slugs just in case.

August 26, 2008, 12:19 PM
Another thing to keep in mind....MOST recoil pads as factory installed are not really all that good. A Pachmayr (SP??) or Limb-Saver after-market pad makes a HUGE difference. Also look for the stickies at the top of this forum about shotgun fit and ammo.

August 27, 2008, 01:50 PM
Please, before you buy anything, try a couple different guns first. Rent, beg, borrow, whatever, but you need to get a better sense of what your shoulder will handle and how different guns fit. Used Mossbergs are plentiful, there will always be a good deal somewhere on a gun that actually fits your needs, so don't get in too big of a hurry.

20s sometimes kick as hard as a 12 due to their lower weight. Gun weight affects recoil. You may find you really dislike the muzzle blast of a short barreled 12, or that an 870 express hits your shoulder in a funny place that hurts alot, or that you like the heft of a gun with wood furniture versus synthetic, etc...

As others said: search this forum and you'll find a ton of answers.

Good luck, you'll find what you want easily, the trick is finding what you really need...


August 27, 2008, 03:18 PM
The 20 and the 12 are basically equal as far as muzzle velocity goes. The difference is payload in the shells, available loads, and gun weight.

I have yet to find anything larger than #3 buck in a 20 gauge load. 00 buck and 000 buck are easy to find in 12 gauge. You'll also find a variety of reduced recoil loads for the 12.

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