What is the Best Gauge Shotgun for Home Defense?

Posted by Mandu Moses on Oct 27th 2023

Variety of shotguns aligned

A shotgun is one of the most influential and versatile firearms for home defense. It can deliver a devastating amount of damage in a single shot, and you can load it with different types of ammunition to suit different situations.


Image by Sascha Luehr

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a shotgun for home defense is the gauge. This is basically the diameter of the barrel and the shells that fit in it.

The most common gauges used for home defense are the 12-gauge and 20-gauge. There are also 10-, 16-, 28-, and .410-gauge shotguns out there, but more than 50% of all American-sold shotguns are 12-gauge.

When it comes to home defense, 12- and 20-gauge shotguns are both great options, so, let's talk about them;

Why Are 12 And 20 Gauge Shotguns So Popular?

shotgun barrel


The 12-gauge is the standard shotgun gauge and the most popular choice for most American gun owners. It's also the cheapest per round in most situations.

It has the widest variety of ammunition available, including birdshot, buckshot, and slugs. The 12-gauge has the most stopping power and penetration. This means it can neutralize an intruder more effectively and shoot through barriers like doors and walls if needed.

12-gauge shotgun

Image by Emilian Robert Vicol

On the other hand, the 12 gauge may come out as a heavier and bulkier option than smaller gauges. This can make it harder for you to maneuver in tight spaces. Also, it has more recoil, which can affect your accuracy and comfort in addition to making follow-up shots slower and more difficult. It can deliver a devastating amount of

Furthermore, the 12-gauge can over-penetrate, which can be good or bad depending on the situation. It can go through your target and hit your enemy or threat behind, or pose a fatal risk especially when shooting around your family.

Some of the best 12-gauge shotguns to buy for home defense are:

  • Remington 870: A classic pump-action shotgun that is reliable, durable, and easy to use. It has a capacity of 4+1 rounds and can accept different barrel lengths and chokes.

Remington 870 hardwood 12ga home defense

  • Mossberg 500: Another popular pump-action shotgun somewhat similar to the Remington 870 with slight differences in design and features. It has a 5+1 rounds capacity and a tang safety that is easy to reach.

Mossberg 500 12ga pump action shotgun

  • Benelli M4: A semi-automatic shotgun mostly used by the US military and law enforcement. It has a capacity of 5+1 rounds and features a gas-operated system that reduces recoil and improves reliability.

Benelli M4 12 ga shotgun


The 20-gauge is a smaller and lighter shotgun gauge than the 12-gauge. It has less recoil and noise, making it easier to handle and shoot for most people.

20-gauge Beretta

A 20-gauge shotgun can fire effective shells for home defense, such as buckshot or slugs, but with less power and range than the 12-gauge.

The Advantages Of 20-Gauge Shotgun
  • The 20-gauge is more user-friendly and manageable than the 12-gauge.
  • There is a lower risk of over-penetration and collateral damage.

One notable demerit of the 20-gauge is that it has less stopping power and capacity compared to that of the 12-gauge.

Additional Tips

Here are some additional tips to help you get started on your shotgun learning journey:

  • Choose the proper ammunition. Make sure the gauge and shell length match your shotgun’s specifications. Do not use old or damaged shells.
  • Use proper ear and eye protection. Protect your hearing and vision from loud noises and flying debris.
  • Learn how to shoot a shotgun. Adopt a proper stance, grip, sight alignment, trigger control, and follow-through.
  • Learn how to clean a shotgun. Keep your shotgun in good working order by cleaning it after every use.
  • Seek professional instruction. If possible, enroll in a reputable firearms training course or seek guidance from an experienced shooter.

Related Resources

  1. 7 Proper Firearm Care and Storage Tips
  2. Ranking The Top 10 Hunting States in America for the 2023 Season


A shotgun is only as good as the person behind it. The best gauge for you depends on your personal preference, skill level, physical ability, and situation.

Additionally, the type of shell, barrel length, action type, and accessories also affect the efficiency, accuracy, and power of your shotgun.

Both the 12-gauge and 20-gauge shotguns are excellent choices for home defense. However, the best gauge of a shotgun for home defense is the one that you can shoot accurately and confidently.

You should practice with your shotgun regularly and familiarize yourself with its operation and safety features. You should also follow the basic rules of firearm safety and store your shotgun securely when not in use.