Do you really need an expensive shotgun for home defense? My friend Steve and I did an experiment with a number of older shotguns and discovered that with the proper ammunition, even older shotguns performed very well and would be suitable for home defense.
The proper ammunition in my opinion is the Federal 8-pellet 00 Buckshot loads using the FLITECONTROL® wad, the Speer Lawman using the same wad, or the Hornady 00 Buckshot load with the Versatite™ wad. All three seem to perform well in most shotguns and throw an acceptably tight pattern within 20 yards—the absolute outer limit for most urban home defense scenarios.
Recoil wise, the Federal and the Speer 8-pellet 00 Buckshot load's velocity is 1145 foot per second (fps) while the Hornady 00 Buckshot load leaves the barrel at 1600 fps so the felt recoil for the Hornady load will be greater.
Multiple projectile loads require particular attention to what is behind your target. YOU are responsible for every pellet you fire and every pellet can maim or kill. This is where target distance and the pattern of a particular load in your shotgun come into play.
For example, the Fiocchi 9-pellet 00 buckshot load from my Beretta 1301 shotgun at 15 yards generally puts all nine pellets within a 10 inch circle. I say generally because occasionally this load throws one wild pellet off the target at that distance. This is also true with the Federal 9 pellet loads as well as the Winchester and Remington 9 pellet loads. Interestingly the Speer Lawman 8 pellet load does that as well. However, the Federal 8-pellet 00 Buckshot load consistently puts all 8 pellets through a hole 2 inches in diameter at 15 yards in my gun.
|9th Pellet Flyer|
The patterns below fired at 15 yards show our results with several older, and in some cases much cheaper shotguns. The center "A" circle is 9-inches in diameter.
Both barrels of the old double shown below were acceptable with the Federal 8 pellet load.Even the cheap single shot fired a great pattern with the Federal FLITECONTROL®
You get the idea. Should you modify your shotgun? That depends entirely on your goal. If it is a family heirloom or has some value in its existing configuration then I would not modify it.
Longer barrels certainly are not as handy for moving around a furnished room or other obstacles. If it makes sense to modify your shotgun, then consider cutting the barrel to a legal 18-1/2 - 20 inches. Previous owners cut down the barrels of the Remington Model 11 and the Marlin 1989 Pump shown above.
A competent gunsmith can do this with little effort if you would like a shorter barrel. The picture below is of a Mossberg 500 Youth Model that originally came with a 24" barrel. A local gunsmith cut the barrel to 18-1/2 inches, reset the bead, and refinished it.
If you have a common shotgun such as the Mossberg 500 or Remington 870 and wish to spend a little more money, you can add some useful aftermarket accessories. I purchased the police surplus 870 shown below for less than $200.00--of course this was before the 2020 gun buying frenzy.
I added a Magpul stock to make the shotgun a little more comfortable to shoot and an Aridus Industries quick detach shell carrier for on-gun reloads. Although acceptable before, this surplus 870 is now a very good home defense shotgun.
With the proper ammunition, granddad's old shotgun is completely suitable for home defense. However, you should go to the range and pattern your particular gun with the ammunition you would like to use. Patterning your load lets you know exactly where the gun shoots and at what range the pattern is too large for home defense purposes.
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