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is 20 gauge adequate for home defense?

Discussion in 'Shotguns' started by aguywithagun, Dec 25, 2012.

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  1. Black Knight

    Black Knight Member

    Jun 19, 2006
    Charlottesville, VA
    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.
  2. odorf

    odorf Member

    Nov 29, 2012
    franklin county mississippi
    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
  3. mgkdrgn

    mgkdrgn Member

    Jul 21, 2008
    Lexington, SC
    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.
    ZVP likes this.
  4. spotch

    spotch Member

    Dec 29, 2011
    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.
  5. tactikel

    tactikel Member

    Apr 28, 2009
    Northeastern Illinois
    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:
  6. Isaac-1

    Isaac-1 Member

    Apr 3, 2011
    SW Louisiana, not near N.O.
    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.

  7. mljdeckard

    mljdeckard Member

    Jun 5, 2006
    In a part of Utah that resembles Tattooine.
    If it was me, I would find someone who loads for 20 ga, and have them make me a case of #4 buck.
  8. Alaska444

    Alaska444 member

    Oct 2, 2010
    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.
  9. Esoxchaser

    Esoxchaser Member

    Jun 7, 2012
    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. ;)
  10. d-dogg

    d-dogg Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    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.
  11. rodinal220

    rodinal220 Member

    Jul 9, 2005
    Works just fine for HD.
  12. bubba in ca

    bubba in ca Member

    Nov 15, 2010
    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!
  13. Fred Fuller

    Fred Fuller Moderator Emeritus

    Mar 26, 2004
    AL, NC
    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...
  14. Boattale

    Boattale Member

    Dec 6, 2012
    Long answer: It's more about the indian than the arrow.

    Short answer: 20 Gauge is a damned fine arrow.
  15. BP Hunter

    BP Hunter Member

    Jan 9, 2006
    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.
  16. Kymasabe

    Kymasabe Member

    May 28, 2006
    Northern by birth, Southern by choice.
    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.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2013
  17. Roadking Rider

    Roadking Rider Member

    Jun 12, 2012
    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.
  18. raa-7

    raa-7 Member

    Oct 20, 2012
    North Country / Florida
    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.
  19. 45crittergitter

    45crittergitter Member

    Sep 24, 2003
    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.
  20. foghornl

    foghornl Member

    Dec 27, 2002
    When you do YOUR part, the 20-ga will perform its part.

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

    Waywatcher Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    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.
  22. figment

    figment Member

    Mar 27, 2008
    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.
  23. ThatGiantMidGet

    ThatGiantMidGet Member

    Jan 25, 2013
    Opelika, AL

    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
  24. PedalBiker

    PedalBiker Member

    Dec 19, 2006
    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.
  25. Fireforger

    Fireforger Member

    Mar 20, 2011
    What, no 16 gauges!

    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.
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