View Full Version : AR better than a Shotgun for home defense?

Bennett Richards
November 15, 1999, 07:18 PM
Residents of the Tactic-l list have been involed in a heated discussion as to whether the AR carbine and it's variations are FAR superior to the Shotgun in MOST home defense situations. Many of the contributors agree ( many of these guys are professional instructors...)

I personally disagree....

What do YOU think on this subject?


November 15, 1999, 08:22 PM
Why not mount a shortbarrel pumpaction shotgun underneath the barrel on an AR15? Kinda like an M203 setup? :)

The only problem I see here is laws getting in the way...

November 15, 1999, 11:19 PM
I totally disagree. With a .223 carbine you run the risk of severe over penetration compared to 12 gauge OO buckshot that I use in my home defense gun. The sound of the slide of a pump action shotgun racking should scare the hell out of an intruder but the sound of pulling the charging handle of AR doesn't do much for me. I'm not a professional, just an ordinary joe but for a home defense situation, I'll take my pump shotgun. Just my 2 cents.


November 16, 1999, 04:19 AM
With all due respect to the above posting, penetration can be alleviated with quality frangible ammo. You get greater continuity of fire with the rifle, plus more versatility to a rapidly changing situation. You should go with whatever you are more comfortable with. A good shotgun can work wonders with the proper training, but it does have its limitations.

"peace, love, joy, and happiness..."

November 16, 1999, 04:27 AM
It has been shown over and over that multiple hits simultaneously have much better shock value than one single projectile and a small one at that. If someone is in doubt, for a one on one comparison pull a 450+grain slug and a 55grain bullet set them side by side and ask which one would you rather get hit by if you had to.

If they want to get extreme pull 30 of those little 55 grain bullets and 120 00buck pellets and set side by side.

I can personally lay out all 120 pellets in 2-3 seconds not even full auto comes close on a one to one projectile basis, this can also be done with 000 buck if ya want to shoot through people some of the time.

I'll go head to head with anyone who has an AR against my M1SUPER90 at point blank, guarranteed I'll get more lead on target and faster than they will.

If you want to doubt the 12ga you better compare it to something worthy of the title firepower. The flamethrower takes all.

Dave McC
November 16, 1999, 07:10 AM
Aa 12 ga pump, properly operated, is the most effective weapon inside 25 yards. And, less likely to give you trouble after the incident.


The Perp's family's lawyer, or the DA holding up an AR 15 in front of the jury(carefully screened to weed out anyone with firearms experience) and waxing eloquent about "Automatic Weapons with high capacity magazines", only designed to kill people. DO not think it can't happen...

Also, touching off a 12 ga inside will cause hearing damage, doing the same with a 5.56mm will cause deafness.

November 16, 1999, 09:50 AM
I have two flat top AR's : one 24" scoped and one 16" with red dot. I wouldn't consider using them for home defense if I could get to my Mossberg 590.

The 16" is short enough to get around corners ok, but the shotgun could end the event in one second with much higher probability than the AR. I would pick the AR if I was engaged in house-to-house fighting in a military conflict, but for home defense the shotgun can't be beat.

I think the whole trade off is sustainable fire and variable range vrs stopping power.
Neither of the first two seem important in my kitchen.

Matt VDW
November 16, 1999, 09:54 AM
From the standpoint of legal liability, I'd have to think that most shotguns would appear more benign in court than most AR-type carbines.

The over-penetration of building materials issue favors the shotgun when used with birdshot, but frangible .223 bullets break up faster than most people think.

The AR offers faster loading (from a fully unloaded condition), easier unloading, lower recoil, better range (if things move outdoors, an unlikely scenario), and better ergonomics from unconventional firing positions. (Try firing a pump shotgun one-handed, or from a prone position).

Personally, I prefer a shotgun for routine defensive duties. I'll save the .223 carbine for fending off the hordes of radioactive zombies that are going to be rampaging after Y2K. ;)

Food for thought: When a half-dozen FBI agents armed with Remington 870s tried to apprehend a pair of bank robbers armed with a Ruger Mini-14, the supposed superiority of the 12 gauge pump inside 25 yards didn't result in a quick victory over the bad guys.

Bennett Richards
November 16, 1999, 10:53 AM

Those guys in LA were armed with H&K91's at full auto foring AP 308 and full auto AK's. The perps were wearing full body armor with balistic plates that would STOP a 308AP...223's would NOT have made a diff.
Still would have been hard to stop.


November 16, 1999, 12:17 PM
before one judges the weapon system i think one should evaluate the potential adversary

1) 6 black clad ninjas?
you are dead before you are even aware.
i doubt many on TFL has much of a worry from assassins. If you do, good luck, go for the claymores and slip into the escape hatch.

2) Joe burglar?
He wants to steal your possessions for a quick profit motive. Lights and a dog will make this threat go elsewhere. I doubt he is coming in, if he even thinks you are home. If you live where Burglars enter occupied homes, a shotgun racking should turn him back. I would move elsewhere.

3) Home invasion team
They look for easy access to uber wealthy homes, take you by surprize, get your assets and boogie. They use the remote in your car to open the garage door and swarm the house. Better perimeter control thwarts their efforts. You can't always be ready though.

4) roving hordes of suburban Y2K zomboids?
Fire power is not going to protect you. Allies will. Bartertown is open...

5) Random drunk/stoned dofus?
Prolly is going to knock on door and bluff way in. Racking the SG will make him go elsewhere.

did i miss any?


November 16, 1999, 12:47 PM
I believe there was only one 870 at the Miami Shootout, and I don't think it was brought into play until the end. The SA that used it was firing and pumping one handed.
Also the perps were ready and had deadly intent from the get go. The FBI wasn't ready and did not have the weapons expertise or resolve that the BGs had. At least not until the very end.
I give the FBI credit for learning from their mistakes and making their tape available to LE for training purposes.

Neil Casper

Matt VDW
November 16, 1999, 02:15 PM
Ben: I was talking Miami, not Los Angeles.

Neil: Your info on the Miami shootout seems to be more complete than mine; I thought that the FBI special agents had at least two shotguns but I certainly could be wrong. Could the second shotgun have been stored in a car trunk where it wasn't accessible during the fight? Anyway, I agree that mindset made more of a difference than weaponry.

Doesn't the FBI now issue carbines or SMGs rather than shotguns for "high risk" arrests?

November 16, 1999, 03:20 PM
One thing I do remember about the Miami shootout was that shotguns played a very minor role. One of my criminal justice professors made it abundantly clear that the FBI agents were not properly prepared. Some poor planing on their part was to leave the shotguns on the backseat of their cars. When the gunfight started, they couldn't get to them. The final end of the fight was by agent Mirales (spelling???) with a .357 mag revolver.

To each his own on the carbine/shotgun theory but as for a non-leo who should only be looking to protect his/her home and family, I still think the shotgun is the best choice. How many of your neighbors that have guns own an AR-15? How many own a shotgun? I know that in my case, none of my neighbors have an AR but several have shotguns. Same goes with my co-workers? Out of 70, only two of us have AR's but about 30, give or take a few, have shotguns. Don't forget cost. AR-15 costs around $750 for a post ban carbine while an 8 shot 12gauge pump can be had for about $250. That's a big difference. So for the cost of an AR, I could buy a pump gun, equip it with a forearm light, sidesaddle or speedfeed stock and still have enough left over to pick up a pistol or revolver to go with it plus lots of ammo. Just food for thought.


November 17, 1999, 09:45 AM
Don't forget that if you use a weapon in an HD scenario, chances are that it will be confiscated for evidence. Do you want to lose your most cherished, most expensive, most accurate, etc weapon to an evidence locker, perhaps forever? Get a weapon (AR, shotgun, handgun, Phalanx or whatever) that is dedicated to HD duties and not just pulled out of your regular inventory during an emergency.

November 17, 1999, 03:49 PM
The only 870 used in the Miami shootout was the one used against Matix as he ran between his car and the first reponding agent's car. A wounded agent fired the weapon at Matixs' legs striking him in the feet and shins.

Also, the two robbers in North Hollywood were only protected by IIIA and lower body armor. Keep in mind that one rapped several vests around his chest and legs/arms. Emil Mateseraneu (driver of the white vehicle) did not have as many vests on his body as did Phillips. It was said that Emil only had a IIIA vest (only capable of stopping .44mag rounds and lower) on his chest. This is the reason why the four LAPD Swat members who drove up on Emil as he exited his car, were able to shoot out his ankles and feet.

November 17, 1999, 05:50 PM

My opinion only (moo). Shotguns are your best choice. If you dont have a home defense shotgun, but you have an AR, well fine. If you can get a shotgun, shoot some prairie dogs with the AR.

I know that previously I have mentioned an 870 Marine Grade as my favourite and to a certain extent it is. However, oberkommando mentions his M1 Super 90. I believe Benelli to be the best make of shotgun in the world. I have always hunted with Benelli's and own two 121SL80's (pre Rafaello, Montefeltro, Black Eagle, super 90, etc.). At least 10 of my shooting buddies own the M1, I have shot them and know of nothing better. One guy has a mag extension that allows 9 in and one up the spout. Loaded with anything from #1 buck to 000 buck, this will stop all ten intruders and possibly a few more if you catch them in a corridor and can hit the first guy or two in the throat as some of the pellets should pass through and get a guy behind (just a joke).

Seriously, dz is one hundred percent correct. Think about possible HD threats and what can neutralize them. If you need all 30 in an AR magazine, you better hope the neighbours wake up and call the police 'cause you need help!

The point is, shotguns properly loaded and handled are more than adequate for home defense. Friends, very seldom will there be an engagement range exceeding 7 or 8 yards in the average house or apartment. The most important thing is shot placement. Your first shot must count.

Just a thought regarding the issue of overpenetration of high powered rifle cartridges. I define this as shooting someone that you didn't want to shoot with the bullet passing through walls and things like that.

There, is another problem which is potentially more catastrophic. This is riccochet, which I define as unintentionally shooting yourself.

In a home defense situation, I believe most of you would agree that it would be a catastrophe to be shot by a bullet, fired by yours truly, reflecting off your decorative brickwork mantelpiece.

Suffice it to say that I am not a big fan of either possibility. The Franchi spas 15 was developed as a paramilitary weapon for house to house work, room clearance, etc. to reduce or eliminate the possibility of friendly fire accidents in close quarters. It is a shotgun that you could mistake for an AR carbine on a dark night. The point here is that overpenetration and riccochet are big enough concerns that a Manufacturer decided to build a weapon with the perceived benefits of a modern assault rifle and it happens to be a shotgun.

Remember MOO.


Bennett Richards
November 17, 1999, 07:01 PM
I just read that the other 870 shotguns were in the back seat of the agents cars and had they been able to access them the outcome might have been different.


November 17, 1999, 08:56 PM
I only know off 1 870 in the shooting and i believe MIRILES(sp)used it one handed do to being shot earlier and i think he is the agent who also ended it by advancing on the bad guys car and firing all 5rds for his .38spl 2inch backup.

There were two agents who signed out 2 mp5's but both were in the same car sitting at another bank and did not show up until the after the shooting.


James Montes
November 18, 1999, 04:27 PM
I am not an expert...

But for home defense I would opt for a shotgun over any other small arm. It has great knock down power! Chances of missing your target are slim to none! And they are a heck of a lot cheaper to purchase than an assault style weapons (rifle/carbine-generally weapons used for longer, outside pistol/shotgun range).

IMHO shotgun all the way! A good .45 is not a bad choice either!


November 18, 1999, 06:24 PM
Don't kid yourself unless you paid the trasfer tax for a REAL sawed off you STILL need to AIM your shots with a shotgun.

Shoot at a few clay pigeons with #7 or 9 shot and you'll see what i mean.

The MYTH of pulling the trigger once and filling a hallway with lead pellets is JUST that a MYTH. BUCKSHOT's pattern is generally designed to cover a 9 inch circle at 50 feet. if you doubt it PATTERN your shotgun.

You'll likely see that at 5 to 7 yards (average shot inside a house) the shot is moving as ONE SOLID MASS for the most part. This is why even BIRD SHOT at that range is LETHAL, it would be like getting hit with a one ounce GLASER SLUG at close range. Hell at "in home range" the WAD is a deadly projectile. A hit ANYWHERE with that will cause massive tramua.. if not lethal trauma.

Case AGINST ar's/ak's/galil's etc:

Imagine the brass that your ar/ak/galil spits out 20-30 feet zinging off walls, headboards, windows, mantles etc and back at you spoiling your aim, going into your pj's raining red hot on your wife.. girlfriend.. dog etc. etc.

Imagine that you STILL need a CN/torso hit with such a small projectile to cause serious injury/death to an opponent.

Consider that blasting away with 30 rounds in the dark WILL ruin your night vision and hearing.

Consider that MOST folks DON'T use frangible ammo.. rather mil spec m855 ball or ss109 steel core ammo.. BOTH are notorious overpenetrators. FRANGILBE loads may create nasty "cratering" wounds that don't penetrate enough. A Good SOFT POINT might not feed reliably in your semi auto.

And last but not least your 30 shot bannana clip is EVIL according to some people. "You shot that poor man who was only stealing your silver with a 30 round clip of tracers and armor piercing bullets designed to kill innocent...blahblah blah". (you've heard that before)


Its REALLY unlikely that the crack head there to steal your stereo to sell for drugs is wearing body armor.. and the average rapist has a difficult time fitting a ski mask over a kevlar helmet. A One Ounce Load of "birdshot" (ie #4 bb's) should be MORE than enough to dissuade a determined agressor from getting to YOU or your loved ones.

So UNLESS you are playing Army.. and have been VERY WELL TRAINED in the use of a semi auto carbine... a shot gun is FAR Better at delivering a lethal wound to STOP an attack.

Hope you NEVER have to use it,


November 19, 1999, 08:38 PM
The 12 gauge shotgun is the most powerfull weapon you could arm yourself with. Nothing comes close to its power in a close-quarters scenario, nothing. It's like pure, raw power!

Man, really used the word power alot in my reply!

Edmund Rowe
November 19, 1999, 11:40 PM
About the shotguns at the Miami shootout. According to Mas Ayoob's description of the gunfight, the FBI supervisor (McNeill?) had a shotgun in his back seat but bailed out of his car without it and used only his .357 revolver.

Other than that only Agent Mireles came to the game with a shotgun.

I think that this gunfight is an example of "no magic guns" as even with his 870 Agent Mireles did not stop the rampaging killers. I think one of them stepped out to blast at Agent Mireles with 3 shots after the Agent had emptied his 870 at them.

For home defense I think either an AR or shotgun will do if the good guy is aware of all the pros/cons of whatever he selects.


November 20, 1999, 04:15 AM
Pete, you of all the members should know that the flamethrower is the ultimate for firepower!hehehe

Doc Rob I agree with all your statements in general, except that the buck will be patterning at 7 yards (unfortunatly) at least out of my gun. Your shell has a lot to do with the pattern to, if you want max dispertion shoot full power 3"mag with no choke and min barrel length 18", but you will still have to aim as you said, but it will be definitely a larger pattern than if one used a TACTICAL (I know you liked that one) load from one of the big three.

November 20, 1999, 01:18 PM
Yeah, but the agent who used the 870 was wounded and could not bring the shotgun up to shoulder. Instead, he set the buttstock against the carseat (correct me if I am wrong) or some other supporting structure of the vehicle and began to fire. He was only able to fire at Matixs' (bad guy) feet and shins. Matix was able to stay in the fight after he received the blast (I think only a few pellets struck him).

November 20, 1999, 01:23 PM
Thats a big f*ck up on the agents part. Most cops would deploy the shotgun or rifle (if their lucky enough to have one) if they knew that they were rolling on a man with gun or shooting call.

Douglas in CT
November 20, 1999, 08:57 PM
And now, a short summation...(zzz)

It is apparant that we agree that each tool has a specific function and utilty:
that in close quarters (such as Home Defense) the shotgun is king, and at greater distances the rifle (Ar-15 et al.) becomes the weapon of choice.

The flame-thrower just would not be my weapon of choice inside most light wood frame constructed homes (can you say house fire?). ;)

~Douglas in CT :)

[This message has been edited by Douglas in CT (edited November 20, 1999).]

Edmund Rowe
November 22, 1999, 10:12 PM
My point about Agent Mireles and the shotgun (I think he propped it across the corner of a car bumper) is that a shotgun does not magically end the fight. That gunfight brought one-handed gunfighting to the attention of the professional firearm instruction community.

If you read Jim Cirillo's experiences of NYCPD stakeout unit gunfights, he also stresses that sometimes perps are shot with 12 gauge slugs and remain unimpressed for a very disturbing length of time.

My point being that it's the man, not the gun that wins the fight, and what's between your ears is what saves your butt.


November 23, 1999, 12:41 AM
For an detailed description of gunshot wounds in the Miami shootout see http://www.firearmstactical.com/briefs7.htm


Anyone worth shooting, is worth shooting twice...

November 23, 1999, 04:57 AM
Ed I agree, and have read Ayoob saying simialar thing about some people "hangin around for a while" after being shot by slug.
In these situ's
Go for the front forehead, and they'll all fall.

April 30, 2005, 05:33 AM
I've been in the military for a few years now, I've had a lot of range time with 9mms, A2s, M4s, mp5s, 249s and a lot of other fun stuff, and at three hundred yards I cant hit a sihloet with iron sights. Your first step should always be to assess what you are possibly up against and your environment, then determine the range of apropriate weapons and which one you are best suited to. If you might need to shoot past say 30 - 40 yards especially in the dark, a shotgun might not be your best choice, maybe an ar carbine with a night scope, if you live in an apartment lean towards a handgun (something like a 45 with soft ammo that doesn't penetrate much but decimates flesh) or shotgun. Personally I keep an off the shelf 870 shortbarrel with 6 #4 2 3/4 in the tube and one in on the button, and a good supply of (an assortment [slugs, buckshot, birdshot]) ammo nearby, and training,training, training.
Oh, and don't go out and get a 12 gauge if you can't handle it. If your thinking about it, go down to the local gun club and ask if you can try somebody's I'm sure they would be more than happy to accomidate you. pick something that you are comfortable with, but also pick something that fits your needs.
Practice practice practice!!!!!

April 30, 2005, 08:24 AM
All I have to say in this matter is that should you, after being rudely awakened by a career criminal trying to burgle your castle, shoot said perp in the arse with a load of #7.5 birdshot the local constabulary will have a hard time suppressing their amusement as they haul him away in pain.

I doubt all but the most slimy lipped DA's will probably decline to prosecute you for your act.

An AR will not have the same effect.

April 30, 2005, 03:37 PM
Why not both? A good 12ga for the hallway. But if you need more range or need to penetrate something pull the AR off your back. :) I guess only in a pefect world. :rolleyes:

April 30, 2005, 08:47 PM
Not at all, benzo1355...

And herein lies the rub: Originally Bennett Richard's post was: Residents of the Tactic-l list have been involed in a heated discussion as to whether the AR carbine and it's variations are FAR superior to the Shotgun in MOST home defense situations. Many of the contributors agree ( many of these guys are professional instructors...)

I note that these "Professionals" chose the AR and most of our own (who preface thier posts with things like "I am not a professional" or "my two cents" etc) do not have the real life experience that they folks do. (may) I also believe our folks to be very knowledgeable when it comes to firearms and happen to think in this case they are right, but for specific reasons.

I fall into the professional category and prefer to take my AR with me whenever conducting a raid or building search. Why? Nothing to do with caliber, as I consider the .223 to be a viable alternative to the 12 ga, but my choice is based on the fluidity of the situation. It may spill over into the street beyond and the ranges increase. Inside some of the buildings I enter may pose ranges at well over 35-50 feet. There is also the slight chance that covering fire may need to be applied in a bad situation and since there will be friends with me. And my AR is set up with better sights and light capabilities to handle targeting problems. I am very confident and comfortable with the gun. I will have hearing protection and body armor in such instances.

On the other hand, my 11-87 Remington is what I have at hand at home. For ranges inside MY house, it is adecuate and there is little chance of me taking the situation to the street if I ever have to use it. Additionally I do recognize the courtroom appearance of the scatter gun being more benign. I will likely be alone or with the wife, who will have a handgun, but remain in a defended position. I am very comfortable with the gun and getting more confident with it as time goes by. (Fairly new - only bought it a couple of months ago) Is it a better weapon for defensive purposes because of these things? No, but it fits the situation of home defense a little better in my opinion... But just a little.

So the original opinion of all those "professionals?" Valid - they use what they are most comfortable and familiar with. It will work.

TFL's consensus? Valid - we will use what we are most comfortable and familiar with. It will work too.

I'll use both, but not at the same time - to much chance of my slings fouling each other!! ;)

May 1, 2005, 12:58 AM
For general home defense(that meaning a situation where I'd have to act fastest, the shotgun is prefered(at least for me) for the following reasons:

1) BG is less likly to survive(Bad people don't need to live, and they definatly don't need to be sueing)

2) Its pretty fool proof, and less prone to the dumb mistakes

Though, for all other situations and for situations where I could think on it, I would go for a rifle as its what I am most comfortable with.

May 1, 2005, 01:47 AM
Box Of Truth (http://www.theboxotruth.com/)

May 1, 2005, 05:36 AM
for real 5.56 performance there's also the ammo oracle at:


and an article on 5.56 for urban use at:


lots of good information out there to make intelligent choices.

May 1, 2005, 09:32 AM
Let's see....

AR-15 (any type) - 30 round magazine = 30 projectiles downrange.

12ga Shotgun - 6 rds 00 buck @9 pellets ea = 54 projectiles downrange.

Nuff said? :D

May 1, 2005, 11:47 AM
i've heard pros say they think a shotgun is the absolute best thing at close range. i don't know how big all your houses are, but i doubt you've got a hallway longer than 20 yards. shots longer than that and i'd assume you live on a farm and the guy is running the hell away into the corn while you're shooting. shooting him at that point is only going to get your own butt thrown into jail. even if you live in a state with fair gun laws that lets you shoot at people after they have ceased to pose a threat, you're still likely looking at a pretty bothersome civil suit from the criminal's survivors. the only situation where i'd pick an AR for home defense is if that team of ninjas breaks in. one or two guys i'd feel safest with my 12ga in hand and .40 on hip.

May 1, 2005, 12:32 PM
The longest straight shot in the house is 24'. The longest back yard shot is 45'. The longest overall shot is from the driveway to the sidewalk/street and frankly if I shoot someone that far, things must have really gone EOTW wrong.

At the 7 ~ 16 yards I will be shooting, keeping 8 pellets of 00 inside 6" patterns is not an issue. A 12 guage just makes sense.

It I was in a more rural setting and property protection was an issue, I would keep a carbine handy. I live in urban Los Angeles. Form and function means my 870 is the one handy and my carbines and rifles are in the safe.

On the other hand, a slicked Marlin lever action carbine in .44 or .45LC makes for a decent house gun too. Just need to get a light mount for it....

Para Bellum
May 2, 2005, 01:40 PM
Don't forget that a familiy member can easily be used as a BG's shield in a homde defese situation. If so, even a pistol is better for a precise shot than a shotgun...
I have a 12ga and 00 ready but I do believe that it is only a good choice for very few situations...