is 20 gauge adequate for home defense?


December 25, 2012, 12:27 AM
I want to get something that my brother and older mother can both use. will a 20 gauge get the job done in a home invasion?


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December 25, 2012, 12:31 AM
This ? comes up from time to time . Although many will argue for the 12ga , the 20ga has more than enough energy and stopping power for HD.

Let me put it another way. A 2&3/4" 20ga #3 buckshot delivers about twice the energy as a 357 magnum. Is that enough ? It is for me .

December 25, 2012, 12:32 AM

December 25, 2012, 12:46 AM
Very well actually and it is a good choice for women who are usually more recoil sensitive. You throw much more lead per shot than any handgun.

In addition, with buckshot, you reduce the problem of over penetration into neighboring buildings as well compared to a .357 for instance.

In fact, I have two 20 ga shotguns that I got years ago to teach my kids how to shoot. They now serve me well as my bedside guns. No problem with a 20 ga at all for home defense.

December 25, 2012, 12:49 AM
Yes, with buckshot or slugs.

Just my .02,

Arkansas Paul
December 25, 2012, 12:55 AM
If a 20 gauge with buckshot doesn't stop someone you're in some serious trouble.

December 25, 2012, 12:55 AM
I seen this show where they shot 12ga & 20ga side by side. Both did great,wasnt til target was 50+ yards away. That the 12ga really shined. The 12ga would slug shot 100yards no problem. But for sd/hd,shouldnt be a problem

December 25, 2012, 09:06 AM
A 20 will do fine providing you do your part.

Just like owning a guitar doesn't make you Hendrix, owning a shotgun doesn't make you Awerbuck.

Sav .250
December 25, 2012, 09:26 AM
Try a 20 ga with buck-shot on a watermellon. Enough said.

December 25, 2012, 10:36 AM
A .410 with proper loads in the hands of someone that knows how to use it is fine. Any shotgun loaded with proper loads will work (don't use bird shot).

AI&P Tactical
December 25, 2012, 11:11 AM
Yes, more then adequate. I have been preaching the 20 for HD for years. HD distances are in feet not yards so the light loads of a 20ga take nothing away from your ability to protect yourself. I am not wrong on this one as a perp with a load of #3 buck from a 20ga in his chest is as "Shotgun Dead" as a perp with a load of 00 from a 12ga.

December 25, 2012, 11:53 AM
A 20 is fine, but if you're expecting less recoil for your mom and brother you may be surprised to find that they are about the same as a 12. When fired from guns of equal weight the 20 will recoil less but most 20's are considerably lighter.

A 12 guage 870 is one lb. heavier than the same gun in 20 guage. Run the numbers through a recoil calgulator program such as this. and you will find that with common loads the 20 has slightly more recoil than the 12. Even with lighter payloads.

I personally find the 12 to be more versatle with far more options for loads, including reduced recoil loads that will truly get recoil down to more manageable levels. You can always shoot 20 guage equivalent loads through the 12. You buy the lighter 20 guage gun for carrying miles each day while hunting in rough terrain, not for recoil reduction.

December 25, 2012, 12:10 PM
One would think will all of the people who are REALLY ready for one, there would be some empirical data about any kind of home invasion and shotguns.
In any event I would think a 20 would be fine. I risk my life daily going to bed without a pistol grip, extended magazine, breacher attachment, short barrel, rail, or light.

December 25, 2012, 05:11 PM
can all 12 gauge shotguns shoot 20 gauge loads? I've been looking at the Mossberg 500 mostly.

December 25, 2012, 05:24 PM
can all 12 gauge shotguns shoot 20 gauge loads? I've been looking at the Mossberg 500 mostly.

A 12 ga cannot shoot a 20 ga shell. If you are hand loading, it is easy to load a lighter 7/8 oz shell that is equivalent to a 20ga, but they are not interchangeable.

December 25, 2012, 05:27 PM
A couple of notes,

first a 20 GA buckshot load is very similar in overall performace to these "low recoil" 12 GA loads.

second, while it is true that most 20 GA shotguns are built on smaller frames than their 12 GA brothers and ar therefore lighter, there are some exceptions, such as older full size frame 20GA Remington 870's built before the mid 1970's


p.s. one more note for smaller framed people often a smaller frame gun will work better, particularly things like the Mossberg Bantum sized guns as they have shorter throws on the pump action which can be an issue for people with short arms.

December 25, 2012, 05:49 PM
Simple answer - yes it is

December 25, 2012, 06:20 PM
can all 12 gauge shotguns shoot 20 gauge loads? I've been looking at the Mossberg 500 mostly.

He said a 12 ga can shoot 20 ga equivalent loads, i.e. loads with 20 ga weights of shot, not that it can literally shoot 20 ga ammuniton, because it can't be done.

bubba in ca
December 25, 2012, 09:51 PM
Yes, the 20 has adequate stopping power. I would say it has better stopping power than any handgun likely to be used, and 2 and 3 buck are available from major manufacturers.

No, one 20 gauge (presumably pump) shared by 2 persons will not stop a home invasion.
If you are expecting a home invasion, you need (2) .223 carbines and the requisite skills to use them--and 2 handguns for backup, among other things.

And a piece of gratuitous info: 20 gauges with aluminum frames do not kick! I had my Maverick HD out shooting buckshot 10 days after I had my gall bladder whacked with no discomfort at all. I would not have dared to shoot a 12 gauge.

December 25, 2012, 10:01 PM
These folks make some interesting 20 ga buckshot ammo:

The van has a Remington 870 Youth 20 ga w/ 21" bbl, full choke, an extended magazine, & a Pachmayr pistol grip cut down to fit the 20 ga frame. It recoils far less than issue 12 ga 00 buck from a 17" Mossberg 500 the Navy had me qualify on. With #3 buck, I have 140 chances to hit my target.

If one is expecting a home invasion, go to someone else's house. A 20 ga shotgun w/ buckshot is sufficient to repel anyone not wearing body armor.

December 25, 2012, 10:02 PM
It's wise to know the actual performance of your intended defensive ammunition. Properly selected .357 HPs have less penetration at close range than 00 buckshot. Same with Foster slugs: despite what most people "know", Foster slugs at close range penetrate less than 00 buck. I mean, why actually look up tests done by professionals when we can just claim to know how the loads perform! :rolleyes:

20 is enough power, but in a lightweight gun, will still kick.


December 25, 2012, 10:14 PM
He said a 12 ga can shoot 20 ga equivalent loads, i.e. loads with 20 ga weights of shot, not that it can literally shoot 20 ga ammuniton, because it can't be done.

Well, in a way, yes it can be - with a breech-loader - i.e., SxS or O/U, and using subgauge tubes, you can fire 20 gauge ammo out of a 12 gauge gun; but that is not where this thread was intending to go.

I shoot the equal of a 28 gauge load (3/4oz) out of both my 12 and 20 gauge guns - this lets me save on reloading components and allows me to shoot a lot more with a lot less recoil

December 26, 2012, 03:05 PM
Federal's premium #4 buckshot holds 24 pellets, each 0.25" diameter. I'd say it's plenty :uhoh:

20 gauge shells fire the same pellets at the same velocity, just less of them per pull of the trigger.

December 26, 2012, 06:57 PM
+1 to 12Bravo20.

If recoil is a problem, a .410 bore shotgun with the new "Judge" .410 loads is a good alternative to either a 12 or 20 gauge.

December 26, 2012, 07:56 PM
No matter what gauge you choose (12, 16, 20, 28, .410) practice shooting your shotgun with the loads you are going to use. I don't feel under gunned with my .410 one bit (reload my own 5 pellet 00 buck in 3 inch shells)

I can out-shoot most of my friends with my .410 versus their 12's but I also practice a lot. As the saying goes: practice makes perfect.

Black Knight
December 26, 2012, 09:25 PM
IIRC in the early 1990s there was an article in a police magazine where some police and sheriff's departments armed their female officers with 20 gauge Remington 870s. They used the youth stock on some and found them very effective. The only reason they went back to the 12 gauge was so they would not have a problem with different ammo. Imagine one officer with a 20 have to give some ammo to an officer with a 12 or vice versa. The 20 is quite effective in home defense. I have been considering a left handed model for my wife.

December 27, 2012, 01:38 PM
a 20 gauge will do just fine as a home defence gun
a 410 will do a fine job also.
get a pump, the sound alone, of you racking a shell will send most hommies running
i personaly like the mossburg 300-a 12 g pump with a pistol grip
it will do the deal

December 27, 2012, 02:21 PM
The 20g will be better than any handgun, hands down.

However, IF you are going to 20 to reduce recoil, you are likely to be in for a surprise. As the 20g guns are very often lighter, your felt recoil will be as great as, if not more than the same gun in 12g.

Also, you have a lot more flexibility of the loads you shoot in a 12 over a 20, including reduced recoil loads. I can't recall ever seeing them in 20g.

December 29, 2012, 10:25 PM
As someone that's been giving this *a lot* of thought, I'd like to add my .02. Take it with a grain of salt because I'm a total newb, but I'm a newb that's read quite a bit over the past few months lol.

So the 20g 870 is about a pound lighter than the 12g 870 when new. That does bring the 20g recoil closer to the recoil you get with the 12g, BUT I think it's important to keep in mind that the lighter 20g seems to 'handle' better than the heavier 12g for me, and it's ALWAYS possible to add weight to the 20g to get it up to 12g weight. For home defense a lot of people want to add a light on the front, and adding weight to the stock is no problem either.

I really like the way the short-barrel, extended tube 20g 870 feels. Still, after tons of thought I'll probably end up with a 12g semi-auto as my all-around gun just because there's SO MUCH 12g ammo and so many varieties out there. It's not set in stone, that's just where I'm leaning now. Still, I can easily see myself being happy with a 20g too.

December 29, 2012, 10:44 PM
A 45-70 which killed millions of Buffalo launched a 500gr bullet @1500 fps. The 20 ga has a 480gr slug at 1250fps. It will do the job :cool:

December 30, 2012, 01:55 AM
Your statement about the weight 20 GA 870's vs 12 GA 870's is true is you add words "current production", as the 20 GA 870 has came in 3 distinct frames, the original full size from 20GA which weighed about the same as the 12GA (Same frame), the LT and the LW. (I think, but am not sure that the current 20GA is the same as the 20GA LW frame). As far as ammo selection goes, there is less choices for 20GA, but that still many types to choose from, probably dozens of viable defensive shot loads alone, and probaby dozens of different slug options also.


December 30, 2012, 02:29 AM
If it was me, I would find someone who loads for 20 ga, and have them make me a case of #4 buck.

December 30, 2012, 03:02 AM
There is some overlap between 20 ga and 12 ga recoil, but in reality, the 12 ga can generate nearly double the recoil between the two.

I taught my 12 yo kids to shoot a 20 ga and it didn't bother them much at all. They were not as big as an average woman. The recoil should not be much of a factor for most people.

In addition, the risk of over penetration with a .357 for instance is not as much. Buckshot should not be able to go through an inside wall to an outside wall to your neighbors outside wall to an inside wall. I have two by my bed and my .357 but I hope I would reach first for the 20 ga. More lead, more knock down power, easy to point and shoot and less worry of over penetration since we live in a condo.

December 30, 2012, 07:39 AM
No need for buck shot at HD ranges. Out in the grouse woods my 20ga with 7/8 oz of #8 has taken down saplings as big as my wrist at 5 yards when they jumped up and got between me and the bird. ;)

December 30, 2012, 08:01 AM
Theoretical stopping power? Sure no problem, it will do the job.

Now, unload the shotgun before you go to bed tonight. Put it where ever you are going to keep it. Set your alarm for 2:17 a.m. When the alarm goes off tomorrow morning, bolt out of bed, grab your empty shotgun, cycle an imaginary round, remember to move the safety to fire, and make it to your front door in less than 2 seconds without tripping over anything, or having the shotgun hang up on anything.

Seriously, give it a try.

Would you under those conditions be able to discern an intruder from the family dog, or one of your kids?

Would you be ready to fire before an intruder could deduce the location of someone to take hostage?

Is a 20 gauge with buckshot safer to fire indoors than a .357? Take a couple of pieces of 1/2" drywall to the range with you and shoot at them from 2-3 yards, with a watermelon 2 yards behind them. You tell us what you think.

December 30, 2012, 10:20 AM
Works just fine for HD.

bubba in ca
December 30, 2012, 10:28 AM
My shotgun is not unloaded--ever. It is in its own safe in the bedroom with the key in the lock at night.

My shotgun does not go to the front door, at least not to go thru the door. Anything outside the house is a hunker down and call the police item.

Stray rounds are a concern--that`s why a long gun is the ultimate HD gun--given like training, the chance of hitting the perp is at least double with a long gun compared to a handgun. Handguns are for CC, in your own house carry a weapon. Everything worth shooting can over-penetrate.

Identifying your target applies to any firearm. And the gun is not the first defense--our first defense happens to be motion lights and burglar bars on all windows and doors. The shotgun is the backup to the burglar bars and the revolver is the backup to the shotgun!

Fred Fuller
December 30, 2012, 03:30 PM
IMHO the shooter is the most important factor in the equation. If the shooter can manage it, a 20 gauge will definitely do the job. But there are no magic wands where home defense/self defense firearms are concerned. The SHOOTER has to be able to run the gun and get hits. That takes training and practice.

The question is, how much experience/training/practice do all the expected defenders in the household really have? Are they ready and able to use a shotgun, if needed? If not, would it be easier to teach them to use a shotgun, or something else that might be easier for a beginning shooter, like a pistol caliber carbine?

I don't know the answers, but those are some of the questions I'd be asking...

December 30, 2012, 10:41 PM
Long answer: It's more about the indian than the arrow.

Short answer: 20 Gauge is a damned fine arrow.

BP Hunter
December 31, 2012, 01:28 PM
The 20 gauge shotgun is more than adequate for home defense. I just bought myself a Mossberg SA20 - 20 gauge semiautomatic shotgun in an 18 inch barrel. I used 2 and 3 buck and the grouping was surprisingly large of about 8 inches at 7 yards. My Benelli Tactical 12 gauge grouped very nicely of about 2 1/2 inches at 7 yards with 00 buck.

January 1, 2013, 10:08 AM
Honestly, 20 gauge is more than adequate for home defense. I have a 12 gauge that serves multiples purposes and I feel is too much for home defense. If I were buying a shotgun for home defense ONLY, I'd look for a .410. If you're blasting away inside the house, you're less likeley to accidently kill someone in the next room with a .410.

Then there's the argument that long guns aren't the right choice for home defense because as you're coming out a door or around a corner, the barrel comes first and could be grabbed by the intruder. I'm not about to shoot from the hip with my shotgun, it would be shouldered if needed so that barrel tip is at least a foot and a half in front of me. My shotgun is my second choice in my home, my .38 revolver is my go to gun.

Which brings us to the next idea. What about combining the two, a .410 gauge shotgun in a revolver platform.
Introducing, the Taurus Judge.

Roadking Rider
January 1, 2013, 07:02 PM
For inside the home distances a 20 Ga. is a very good choice. Did you ever see what #3 buckshot does to a mellon shot out of a 20Ga. short barreled shotgun in real life in the home distances of 12 to 15 feet. I do not agree with the use of a 410 Ga. for HD. I do not think it will stop a BG who could be hyped up on who knows what.

January 1, 2013, 09:31 PM
I have a 20 gauge and I'll tell you,I would not like to be on the business end of my Beretta with those 3'' shells with no. 2 buck at 10-15' no sir ! or any load really,even some light bird shot will wreak havoc on a human.Try some test shots on some 1/2' or even some 3/4" plywood and youll see the damage and patterns.And most home defence situations will be at very close ranges.I would say that a Judge Taurus with the .410 loads are adequate also.

January 25, 2013, 06:24 PM
A 20 is probably better than a 12 for inside use and handling and has plenty of power for that use. The problem may be that there are FAR fewer "tactical" accessories and defensive ammo choices for 20 gauges.

January 26, 2013, 08:41 AM
When you do YOUR part, the 20-ga will perform its part.

Or has been said, 'tis the Indian, not the arrow.

January 26, 2013, 10:19 AM
It's still a .62 cal shoulder fired weapon, which is no slouch. Weighs less, recoils less than a 12. The loads in a 20 are similar to Reduced Recoil 12 loads, which are common these days.

The standard buckshot load of 20 pellets of #3 (.25 cal) @ 1200fps is a nearly perfect home defense load, IMO. Pellets are bigger than #4, widely considered the minimum size, and there are 20 of them.

January 26, 2013, 10:26 AM
there are a lot of choices for ammo, at least there "were"... that include how much powder is loaded and thus are lower recoil. For shooting clays, I bought my wife a 20ga mini bantam and several cases of low recoil shot.

I'm not sure if there are low-recoil buck or slug shells, slug by the nature of the weight of the bullet is alway going to have some recoil though.

You could also consider a recoil reducing shotgun which has a shock absorber in the stock. Fitting the shotgun to the person (length of pull) should be an important consideration as well as what has already been recommended.

January 26, 2013, 10:26 AM
Yes a 20 Gauge Is enough For home Defense, but I am the one to argue to get a 12 Gauge Instead because Its not that much more In cost Per Round. If You Get a 12 Gauge though I would get a Semi auto (Trust me) a Mossberg 500 20 Gauge Pump Kicks harder than a Mossberg 930 12 Gauge Auto, So Yeah I would Get the 12 Gauge auto :D I know this because my Dad owns the 930 and My brother owns the 500 Pump :D

January 26, 2013, 10:51 AM
The biggest problem with 20 gauge is that the shells go fully into a 12 ga chamber, but hang up in the forcing cone. Then if a 12 ga shell is subsequently loaded you now have a problem.

There is nothing wrong with 20ga for home defense. It's just a recoil/ power tradeoff you need to make.

Instead of 20 ga I use reduced recoil 12 ga in a pump.

More important than what you choose is that you become proficient with it.

January 26, 2013, 11:11 AM
Maybe I'm the vintage guy here, but how about a sawed off (legal) 16 gg. double barrel, #4 buck. And yes, I've had to grab and go with it, load it, and check uncomfortably strange noises in the house (we live in the country). So far, I've thankfully not had to use it, but I have trained with it and I have taken game like deer (slugs), varmints, and small game. Not my first choice for hunting but it did give me plenty of live training.

January 26, 2013, 11:19 AM
The Mossberg 500 is a fine choice. Available in .410, 20 gauge, and 12 gauge - I own all 3.

Ammunition is not interchangeable between the 3.

January 26, 2013, 11:28 AM
I do not agree with the use of a 410 Ga. for HD. I do not think it will stop a BG who could be hyped up on who knows what.If I said I was using a 12 gauge reduced recoil tactical load that had five pellets of 000 buck, would you say it probably wouldn't stop a bad guy?

To the original topic: yes, with the right ammo choice 20 gauge is more than adequate for home defense.

All the rest is just commentary on platform, accessories, preparation, training and mindset.

There isn't a shotgun gauge or bore can be named that isn't adequate for home defense when properly applied.

January 26, 2013, 06:34 PM
20 gauge works for me.

And if 8 rounds isn't enough, I got 10 round steel magazines also.

January 27, 2013, 04:12 AM
I recently cut down an old Moss 500, 20 gauge for a lady friend of mine. 19" barrel and 12" pull. Today at the range was the first time she gotten to shoot it. (only the second time she has shot a shotgun)

At HD ranges she was a natural! fast to the shoulder, positive reloading ect. We used a tape measure and mark the distances to the target that matched distances in her apartment, longest being 39 feet.

She now is very confident that she can defend her self in her apartment with the 20 gauge pump. This is a great improvement over her 9mm handgun which due to limited hand strength she could not control or operate reliably.

Brass Fetcher
January 27, 2013, 04:53 AM
20ga is adequate and is also what I use for HD.

Here is a comparison piece that I put together, shooting the different shot sizes into ballistic gelatin :

As someone mentioned earlier, is a source for about every shot size, loaded into 20ga shells.

Best of luck,

January 27, 2013, 05:23 AM
Thanks for that tip on the 20 gauge buckshot! I took a look and that is a wonderful resource.

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