Beretta Blog

Home Defense: Why I Choose a Shotgun

Posted by Bill Miller

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on Oct 3, 2018 8:08:00 AM


The instructor of the course I attended to acquire my first Minnesota Permit to Carry was a goofball. The six-plus hours of classroom instruction were heavy on his tales of bounty hunting adventure and his personal political and religious views. They were vapidly light on meaningful content. Though this was nearly a decade ago, and I have attended much better “thinking man’s” carry training since, one piece of good advice from “GI Joe” still rings loud in my head:

“There is nothing worth killing for that isn’t worth dying for.”

Also See: 5 Things to Know Before Buying a Home Defense Shotgun

As I’ve thought about my home defense plan and run through possible intruder scenarios in my head, this has been a major consideration. What is in my home that I am willing to die to protect? There are two things – those whom I love and myself. And while I might not be willing to die for my dog, I’d have to seriously consider shooting anyone about to do her harm.

I will do anything possible to avoid shooting another human being – unless they threaten the immediate physical well being of my loved ones or myself. If I’m forced into shooting, I want a single shot to reliably and finally end the confrontation.

As you can imagine, this philosophy impacts my planning, our training (as a family), and my selection of firearms for home defense.

As much as I dislike the question, “What’s your favorite kind of hunting?,” I hate the question, “What’s your favorite kind of firearm?” as much. If I gave an answer, the questioner might assume I’m willing to forego anything that’s less than the favorite, and that’s just not so.

I own all categories of firearms and enjoy shooting them all. I can see a place in a solid home defense plan for most. For my wife and me, ours includes both pistols and shotguns. A biometric gun safe – programmed for both of our fingerprints – is bolted to the nightstand next to our bed. It contains a .40 S&W handgun for self protection that is fully loaded plus an extra loaded magazine. The bullets are Federal Hydra-Shok jacketed hollow points.

Locked up in the corner of my wife’s walk-in closet, which we consider our safe room, is a short-barreled, laser-equipped 12 gauge shotgun like the Beretta 1301 Tactical. Because it’s locked with a cable lock, the chamber is empty, but the magazine is loaded with four rounds of 1 oz. #8 birdshot loads at 1,350 fps. Two keys to that cable lock are hidden in the closet within easy reach.


The distance from the top of the stairs outside our bedroom to the landing in the entryway of the house is 14 feet – just more than four yards. The distance from the back corner of the safe room to the only door is six feet – two yards.

If you held a metaphorical gun to my head and made me choose a single firearm for defense of my home, I would select a shotgun. Why? Mostly because I’m a “shotgun guy.” Shotguns are what I shoot more than anything else. For sure, shooting off hand, I’m more accurate with the shotgun than a rifle or pistol – even or especially – at home defense ranges. I’ve patterned and sighted shotguns at close ranges for turkey hunting, and I’ve killed birds with them as close as four paces. The terminal ballistics at those distances are devastating.

For all those reasons, I’m more familiar with my shotguns than I am with the rifles or pistols. As covered recently in this very Beretta Blog, for hunting and even clays shooting, familiarity with a gun trumps all else. That’s absolutely even truer for home defense … in the dark … under nearly unfathomable stress … of an actual life or death decision.

My defense shotgun has a large ghost ring peep sight, but is also equipped with a laser sight. At bedroom defense ranges both sights are probably unnecessary, but are there just in case. The laser must be turned on if I want to use it, but I prefer that to an automatic grip switch because it allows me to make the laser decision based on the situation we’re facing.

So if I love the shotgun so much, why is the pistol closer at hand? It’s because of the readiness and accessibility factor. The pistol in the biometric safe is there in case the intruder somehow made it up the stairs before we realized he was there. As fast as I can lay my hand on the safe, the pistol is in it, and we can barricade behind the bed.

But if we alert when the intruder is still downstairs, as I believe we would, then it’s time to grab the pistol and go into the safe room as we call 911 on the cell phone. The shotgun gets unlocked, and a round goes up the spout as quietly as possible. I make sure my wife is set with the pistol then I sneak out to the head of the stairs and barricade behind the half wall there. If the intruder sets foot on that landing 13 feet away, I have a terrible decision to make. But I can do it confidently because in my hands I have a tool I trust and know will do what I call upon it to do.

I offer up these intimate details of our home defense plan simply to show that each situation is different. We don’t have children in our home and are diligent about triple-securing all home defense firearms – unloaded, out of sight, and locked up – when we have invited guests. Our preferred defense philosophy is “retreat, retreat, retreat” silently, but be prepared and try to wait it out for the authorities to arrive and handle the issue.

The creation of your plan and the selection of the right firearm(s) to execute it are deeply personal decisions, but I hope this post helps you think it through – and make the right choices. More than anything, I pray you never have to use whatever you choose.

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Topics: Self Defense, Dynamic Shooting


Written by Bill Miller

Bill Miller is an outdoor writer/editor who has hunted and/or shot competitively and recreationally in 41 states, 9 provinces, and on 5 continents. While he enjoys all kinds of hunting and shooting, at the core, he's a shotgunner - ever since his youngest days when his parents issued his allowance in shotshells rather than cash. He shoots trap, skeet, sporting clays regularly and has shot the international clays games, FITASC, helice, ZZ bird, live pigeons, StarShot, and more. His writing has appeared in North American Hunter, Delta Waterfowl, Clay Target Nation, Waterfowl & Retriever, Game & Fish Publications, Quebec Outfitters magazine, and many more. He hosted hunting and shooting sports shows on ESPN, espn2, ESPNU, Versus, the Outdoor Channel, FoxSports, Sportsmen's Channel, and Pursuit Channel, He is currently the Executive Editor for - the world's largest media platform for family campers.

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