12 Gauge is too much gun?

A lot of shooters are going to the 20 gauge for home defense. And thats fine. It’s a shotgun and it’s not a .410, so that’s a good thing. What I find troubling though is that many of these shooters are doing it because they think 12 gauge is too much gun for them… that they cant handle the 12.

This is unfortunate. I took my 11 year old son out shooting, and he rocked one of my Remington 870 Tactical shotguns. He had no problem cycling the action, handling the recoil… He had no problem with a 12 gauge. Sure, he is the Son Of The Ogre… and he walks with large steps… but he’s still an 11 year old kid.

Some guys think the 12 is so brutal that they are all about gadgets that reduce your recoil… Specifically the Knox Stock. This has a spring system that turns the stock into a shock absorber. Yeah, it works. I like the pistol grip… but the rebound smacks a lot of shooters in the face. You don’t need that. A good, simple recoil pad and proper technique is all you need. My 870 that my boy used has a Butler Creek folding stock, which has hardly any recoil pad at all. But it’s plenty.

The shotgun is not about the Platform. It’s not about what gun you have. It’s not about what stuff you have on the gun. It’s about the shell in the gun. Load selection is everything. With proper load selection you can use the shotgun to hunt everything that runs, walks, crawls, or flies on the Earth.

Some Gun Trainers say that the Shotgun is of limited use. That it has a narrow purpose. That it is good for breaching or for prison guards. Well, yeah, they are good for those tasks. But they are great for a lot of other tasks as well.

If I was to pick one gun… for everything… for defense, for offense, for filling a camp pot, for taking big game… I’d pick the shotgun. Specifically, the Remington 870. In 12 gauge.

Why 12? The 20 has a lot less recoil and 80% of the power, right? Sure. But 12 gauge has a much wider assortment of shells to pick from. 12 gauge shells can be found everywhere.

You don’t need shell loops to carry your shells. In fact, I think loops are limiting. Look at most guys in Tactical Kit carry a small amount of shells, and generally only one type. Sometimes he might carry some slugs on the side. These guys will also wear vests or harnesses and all of the types of gear that allow them to carry just about everything they could ever want. Why not carry some bulk shell pouches? You don’t have to hold each shell individually. It’s faster to reach in and grab a handful of shells, than to pluck each one individually. So you can carry more, get at them faster, and you can hold different shell types in different pouches. Why spend more money on special carriers when so many people advocate the “Keep It Simple” approach?

The shotgun is a simple tool. So keep it simple. Keep it honest. And keep it fed.

9 thoughts on “12 Gauge is too much gun?”

  1. I went this route of thinking and bought a mossberg 20 gauge pump. Later on I found that butt cuffs wouldn’t hold the shells, getting a “tactical” light addon seemed a lot more difficult. By this time I’d also bought an H&R single shot for the wife. She can operate it, but hates the recoil so did I gain anything? No, but now I have two shotguns that are limited by gauge. With hindsight I would NEVER recommend 20 to anyone.

  2. Great posting George!
    There is a 12 ga on each side of our bed.
    My wife is alone at home most of the time and her go to “when things go bump in the night” gun is her Benelli 121-M1.
    Its fun to take to the range, we can hunt deer with it, and it can be used against night bumpers.
    I load up some stompers for my .44, there is great .45 ammo.
    In a “dont come thru my bedroom door” situation, that 12 ga is head and shoulders above any sidearm I own.
    My oldest son loves it and my 12 ga coach gun, has since he first shot them.
    Yea, load them up with hotter ammo and they will slap you around a little bit.
    But, some of us like that sort of thing a little bit.


  3. I won’t argue that 12 gauge isn’t more effective, just that there are reasons for other choices. The number one reason is that there are damn few “short stock” or youth stock options in over the counter 12-gauge guns, but plenty of them for 20. Much better fit for a 5-foot-tall woman than a standard stock. I know you can have them changed out – but I’m talking about stock-ready-to-go options for regular folks.

  4. Often a 20 gauge has more recoil than a 12.

    Light gun = severe kick.

    You can get feather-strength trap loads in 12 gauge. I shoot SASS competition with them. Even a light trap load at short range will screw someone up good.

  5. I wouldn’t want to stand in front of a 20 gauge but would prefer standing behind a 12 gauge. Good post.

  6. Picked up a 20 gauge back when I shot a lot of skeet. 100-150 rounds of 12 gauge a day/3 days a week(even light target loads) will leave a nice bruise on your shoulder. Particularly shooting doubles with a synthetic stocked pump gun. Now the 20 is set up identical to my 12 gauge riot gun. I can practice “run and gun” longer and still use the 12 for real social work. It’s a definite advantage when you’ve got a bad shoulder to start.

  7. 12 Gauge low recoil slugs and buck kick less than 20 Gauge, but you still have all of the other benefits of the 12. It’s also easy to pinch your finger when loading a 20 gauge 870.

    R.S. Breth: For a tactical/home defense purposes, even a youth stock is too long for most women. The “youth” stock is just about right for 6 foot man. The best way to get the right LOP is the old fashioned way…cut it.

  8. Got thinking about this last summer. Picked up a Moss500 18″ 12ga and started reading the BPI Buckshot manual. The big ammo makers should work up a 9-pellet buffered #0 Buck Defense/Tactical load. That’s a 1oz payload, and 1,200fps would be pretty mellow on the shooter and rough on the other guy (I loaded to around 1,300 and I don’t even notice recoil). We could argue penetration between #0 and #00 all day, but enough is enough and anything #4 and bigger is enough.

    Or maybe all of this has been done and I’m ignorant of it…
    Great article!

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