The case for the Mama Bear: The 20 gauge shotgun is best for home defense.

mama bear

SPOILER ALERT! If you just wanna cut to the chase & buy the best value in home security here you go:

Get the Mossberg 500 field combo in 20 gauge (12 gauge if you can’t resist a bigger boom) They are often on sale at Big 5 sporting goods. Search the web for a coupon. Okay; now that the what to do it covered, here is the why:

There is perhaps no faster way to create a dispute among like minded people than to ask the question of a most suitable firearm for any given situation. Most people are fiercely loyal to their preferences, blindly so. What follows here is an attempt to reverse engineer the question in order to arrive at a list of priorities by which to define one’s best answer, an answer likely to be applicable to most people’s situations. So let’s get to it, but first…

If you agree that your life (body), liberty, and property belongs to you then it follows that you must accept your responsibility to protect them. To agree and neglect to provide for that protection is a dereliction of your duty to yourself and your family. Law enforcement is a reactionary deterrent, at best. Stop expecting other people to wipe your butt, protect your ass, and handle your personal business, because your protection is your responsibility.

Accepting that responsibility for self protection entails more than buying a home defense weapon and burying it in the closet never again to see the light of day. Self protection is an ongoing martial discipline: of mental awareness, of muscle memory, and forethought given to tactical decisions within the scope of the terrain (i.e. your home). As a rule of thumb: every dollar you spend on a home defense weapon should be matched by an hour all adults in the home spend in the practical use of it. Get a home defense weapon, and get trained.

Generally, men are more capable as both aggressors and defenders. However, women need self protection just as much as men do, and both have the responsibility of providing protection for their children. This implies that the weapon used for home defense should be calibrated to the capacity of women as they are weaker and will have trouble handling “guy sized stuff”. Weapons of war are a poor choice for home/family defense, because men fight in war, not women. Get a home defense weapon the women in your life can use too.

Alright: to the topic of home defense. The goal in home defense is to stop aggressors, not kill them. If stopping aggressors equals using incapacitating force or merely deterring them to run away, the goal of home defense has been achieved. As always, the compass of protecting life, liberty, and property is the true north self defense, not the impulsive urge to retaliate against aggression with vengeance.

Step 1 in my view is a course on situational awareness and a tactical appraisal of your home. By far the greatest asset anyone has in self defense is a well trained awareness and tactical mindset. As unpleasant as many find it to contemplate things they find distasteful, mature adults plan for possibilities and eventualities. Ever heard of an estate plan? It’s what mature adults do. How about potty training? It’s what mature adults do. Grow up, create a home defense plan.

Step 2 is to chose your home defense weapon. We have several considerations here. One of them is cost. Rather than obtaining an arsenal, we need one tool for the job of home defense that every adult in the home can use. Another is stopping power. This tool has to be able to incapacitate aggressors immediately. This tool has to be easy to use, because under stress fine motor control degrades.  This tool needs to be as accurate as possible within the parameters of home defense (not as accurate or as powerful as a sniper rifle). The versatility of the tool is a plus as well, and if it’s scary? That helps. So, this tool needs to be inexpensive, effective, easy to use, accurate, versatile and scary. Guess which tool best fits the bill? It ain’t a handgun. Its the 20 gauge shotgun.

For cost, stopping power, ease of use, accuracy, versatility,  and intimidation, the 20 gauge shotgun beats any handgun.

Handguns are expensive, have weak stopping power, are not easy to manipulate, harder to aim, and not versatile. Why have one? They are portable and concealable. My choice for a handgun is a compact 9mm. Handguns are backup weapons, hence the term sidearm.  Also the cost of a quality 45 ACP or 44 Magnum is well north of $500. A good 20 gauge shotgun can be had for around $300. A 45 ACP while generally considered the most powerful, practical handgun delivers about 400ft lbs. of force depending on ammunition. The 44 Magnum, an impractical sidearm for personal defense, delivers 750 ft lbs or more. Buckshot from the 20 gauge shotgun has about twice the stopping power of the 44 Magnum, with far less felt recoil. Skillful use of handgun requires practice, and the 4 inch barrel compromises accuracy.

The 20 gauge pump shotgun is strong enough for a man, but manageable enough for any woman (something that cannot be said of the 12 gauge shotgun), and easier to manipulate than a handgun under stress. With an 18” home defense barrel (get a 26’ hunting barrel as well) and good sights, the 20 gauge is more accurate than a handgun. The pump shotgun also is more versatile than any handgun; you can load them with birdshot, buckshot, slugs, bean bag rounds, flares, and more.

So for cost (cheaper than a handgun), stopping power (twice that of the 44 Magnum), ease of use (for men and women less recoil), accuracy (18″ barrel better than 4”), and versatility (different loads, interchangeable barrels for home defense or hunting) and intimidation, the 20 gauge in my view is first purchase when considering home defense. The best choice is my book is a Mossberg 500 field combo, with interchangeable hunting/home security barrels, rifle sites, 5 round magazine tube, with side saddle and a tactical light. Make sure you have ear protection for everyone is the house, and a way to secure your home defense weapon when you are away (not just a trigger lock). Frontsite is a great place to get trained. 

When I am asked, “What is the best handgun for home defense?”, my answer is, “The 20 gauge pump shotgun, because it’s strong enough for a man, but made for a woman.” (Picture of the Mama Bear Mossberg 500 in 20 gauge with a 26′ hunting barrell, sling and side saddle.) (Guys: I know mostly you will be reading this and considering this information’s applicability to the women in your life, if you prefer the 12 gauge, a mag pull stock and low recoil 8 pellet remington 00 buck will approximate the sizing and recoil of a 20 gauge. Test it out. )


Published by Mario Hostios, Speaker, Trainer, Author

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