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Shotgun vs. AR-15 for Home Defense

05/17/2013 by Badger Peak

A friend who already has an AR-15 with a red dot sight asked me about getting a shotgun for home defense and I figured I'd share my response here. This was just an e-mail response and wasn't intended to be a complete discussion of the issue, so feel free to add your comments and thoughts.

 
A shotgun has some benefits, but for me, they don't outweigh the benefits of an AR-15. 
 
Shotgun Pros:
  • Slight spread pattern of the shot to increase hit probability*
  • Far more capable of shooting through walls**
  • Slight advantage in energy delivered to the target

Shotgun Cons:
  • Heavy recoil reduces ability of quick followup shots***
  • Ammunition capacity is very small (5-8 rounds depending on model)
  • Range is limited. After you stop the home intruder, you notice his buddies approaching the house from 150 yards away (effectively out of range)
  • Slow to reload (reloading 5 rounds takes about 6 seconds)
  • Ineffective against body armor (armor use is becoming more common among criminals)
 
AR-15 Pros:
  • Low recoil for fast followup shots
  • Large ammunition capacity allows for lots of misses and lots of bad guys
  • Reloading 30 rounds takes about 2 seconds
  • Any AR-15 ammo easily defeats 95% of the armor in existence
  • Range is less limited (same gun that works inside will also deal with threats past 500 yards)
  • Lack of spread makes precision shots easier in the unlikely event of a hostage situation, 
 
AR-15 Cons:
  • Requires specialty ammunition to effectively shoot through walls (and still isn't as good at this as a shotgun)*
  • No spread pattern to improve hit probability
 
* Spread is very minimal in most in-home distances (it will help a little, but not much). It takes about 60 feet for the pattern to be as wide as a man's chest.
** Shooting through walls is rarely needed and is usually inadvisable as it is impossible to be sure of what you're shooting at (intruders could have a hostage, or something else you don't want to shoot). I still consider this an advantage because it gives you the option should the need arise.
***A semi-auto shotgun has dramatically less felt recoil than a pump action and followup shots can be pretty fast.
 
These are just my opinions and a lot of people come down on the other side of that decision. Some of it comes down to what threat you imagine you might face, and your particular "style" of how you plan to fight that threat.
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