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When it comes to home defense, or just defense in general, there are many ways to go. For many, some type of handgun is their primary source. Others choose something in the modern sporting rifle (MSR) family, such as an AR-styled carbine.

I think that as long as you practice and train regularly with any firearm, it can be used for self-defense. My personal preference for a primary home-defense weapon is the shotgun. Nothing says, “Get out of my house!” like a 12-gauge shotgun.


My particular defensive shotgun is a modified Remington 870 Express. I replaced the factory barrel with an 18.5-inch barrel, which is available at most big box stores. I also removed the factory buttstock in favor of a six-position, collapsible stock similar to one you might find on most common MSRs. I also added an extended magazine tube to give me room for an additional three shells, for a total of eight overall. I also added a buttstock shotshell ammunition carrier for an additional six rounds, just to give an added advantage.

If you don’t want to go through the trouble of modifying your old hunting shotgun, many firearm manufacturers, such as Mossberg, Remington and Benelli, sell ready-made, purposebuilt, tactical shotguns.

This is a sampling of what you will find inside your shotgun rounds: #7 shot (right) and 00 Buck (left).


To go the extra step, there are some other add-ons to think about. Adding some type of lighting system is a good consideration. Unlike using a handheld flashlight with a pistol, using one with a shotgun can be unwieldly. It’s best to keep both hands on a shotgun when maneuvering, as well as when firing.

It’s unlikely you need to “kit up” with all this gear, but it never hurts to have it on hand. Selecting the right gear and weaponry for a fight is a task no person will regret if the time ever comes when they are needed.

Companies such as Streamlight and Orion make lights that attach to a Picatinny rail—if your shotgun has one. If not, you can opt for a light and a mount that attach to the magazine tube of the shotgun. If you go this route, be sure not to overtighten the mount and squeeze the tube too hard, because it might cause shells to get caught up.

I own the Streamlight TRL-1 HL. At 800 lumens, it will definitely light up your threat. You might also check out the SureFire Dedicated Shotgun Forend; the light is internal to the forearm that you would replace on your shotgun. For an extra measure, you can also add ghost ring sights or electronic sights, such as an EOTech XPS2, Aimpoint Micro or a Vortex Razor for quicker threat acquisition.

Pace Planning

One of the many things you learn in the military is planning. It is a meticulous process that, at times, is aggravating … until you see the benefits.

One piece to it is what is called a PACE plan—preparing for glitches in your plan by having a backup plan. PACE stands for “primary, alternate, contingency and emergency.”

Primary is self-explanatory: It’s your primary system, whether it is related to weapons or communications. For the purposes of this column’s topic, it would be your primary weapon—such as the shotgun.

Next is your alternate—the pistol. This is followed by your contingency, which could be a knife or a backup gun. For emergency, you’d better have some hand-to-hand skills, some good running shoes or a good medical kit. Hopefully, the situation doesn’t go that far … but not planning for it will almost ensure that it does. Then, it’s too late.


Select your ammunition wisely. While your 12-gauge target ammo will stop an attack, it might not be the best defensive ammo to use. Using 00 Buck is a good choice for most applications. There is not much over-penetration; and, if you should miss, it is unlikely to penetrate your neighbor’s zero-lot-line home. It still provides nine to 12 .32-caliber lead pellets—moving at more than 1,300 fps. I would not want to be on the receiving end of that.

There is a great difference between 00 Buck (top group) and #7 shot (bottom group) for pellet sizes and effects on a threat. While both have their merit, the 00 Buck will penetrate better. Both groups represent five shots at 15 yards.


When using a shotgun for defense, there are several considerations for movement while in your home.

When clearing corners, you would use a tactic similar to the one you would use with an MSR. You want to “pie” around corners. Limit your exposure, and do not extend the barrel past the corner. Slowly swing your body away from the corner-side wall so you can see around the corner without exposing yourself to danger.

Keep in mind that the interior walls on a home provide little to no cover (that is, protection from incoming fire); only concealment. If possible, avoid shining your light, because it gives away your position to intruders. Extending the barrel past the wall without being able to see could provide an assailant with the ability to gain control of the barrel. Finally, once you have cleared a corner, continue to move forward cautiously to clear the remainder of your house.

“Keep in mind that the interior walls on a home provide little to no cover (that is, protection from incoming fire); only concealment.”


As a caveat to the above, if you are not moving through your house to secure loved ones, remain at a strong point and call 911. Moving through your home in an uncertain situation invites unnecessary danger.

If you are moving to loved ones, once you get to them, make that your strong point. Get behind cover and wait for help. Roomclearing and offensive maneuvering through your home allows for a more-even playing field for intruders. Let them come to you. Warn them away if you must, but do it from a position you are secure in.

I would also add the following: Do not risk your life to rescue a pet. While it might be a big part of your family, your life is more important. Also, if you are secure, don’t come out until you know authorities are there. Remain on the line with 911 and ask for confirmation that law enforcement has arrived. Describe yourself so as not to be mistaken for the intruder.

When executing corners, you have to be careful not to expose yourself to the threat. This is the sequence in “slicing the pie” or “pie-ing” a corner. As you move through the sequence, make sure you do not expose the barrel of your gun past the corner wall and give yourself away. And only use lights as a last resort.


The shotgun is a tool. Like any tool, it is only as good as the craftsman who wields it. This is not something you want to buy, load it with ammo and then place it in the corner for that terrible day you need it. It requires training and an understanding of its capabilities and constraints.

As always, seek out a qualified professional for training. Practice with your ammo, see what it will do, how it patterns, and what it will and won’t penetrate. It will be loud—all the more so in a confined space. And, when used correctly, a shotgun will stop a threat in their tracks and make them wish they had gone to your neighbor’s gun-free zone.

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About The Author

Brian Berry is a retired Army Special Forces Command sergeant major. He is a former Special Forces weapons sergeant and has multiple combat tours under his belt. Brian is the co-founder of Spartan Defensive Concepts, at which he teaches concealed carry and defensive marksmanship courses. Brian retired in 2014 and is now a consultant currently working for the Special Operations community, as well as a senior instructor for American Survival Guide University.


Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the July 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.