There’s not a week that goes past, that I don’t hear from someone asking me “what’s the best gun for home defense…” and I can’t give a pat answer to that question. First of all, what does a person mean by “home defense?” Secondly, what are your physical abilities – or disabilities – when it comes to handling a firearm? What is your budget? What is your skill level with any firearm? And, the list goes on and on. So, as you can see, there is no single or easy answer to what is the best gun for home defense. And, no matter how I try, I can’t convince most people that there is no one answer to this question – there is no “best” gun for home defense. And, if I recommend this gun or that gun, I’ll enter into an endless debate with someone, and I don’t have the time to do this. We are all entitled to our opinions and views on this subject.
I often recommend some type of “riot” shotgun for home defense, and we are talking about a 12 gauge shotgun with a barrel length of around 18-inches to 18.5-inches – something that is a bit easier to handle in the close confines of your home or a hallway. Sporting shotguns with long barrels aren’t recommended because you can maneuver them easily in close quarters. I own several “riot” shotguns, and I enjoy shooting them all. I live in a very rural area, and if someone is breaking into my home, the local sheriff might be a long time in arriving, so I take the safety of myself and my family as my own responsibility. And, “yes” I do keep a handgun as my “bedroom” gun, however, within easy reach is a shotgun.
Many shotguns made today come with an aluminum receiver, and I own several like this. However, my favorite shotgun is my Stevens Model 350 for several reasons. First of all, it has an all-steel receiver – which means it’s heavier and can take a lot more abuse. Secondly, the 350 is very close to the famed Ithaca Model 37 shotgun, that has a bottom eject feature, unlike other shotguns, that eject from the side of the receiver. Nothing “wrong” with a side ejection shotgun, I just like the bottom ejection feature of the 350. Yes, this makes the 350 a bit heavier than some other shotguns – it weighs in around 8-pounds unloaded, this is good and bad. The good part is, it helps tame recoil, the bad is, well….the gun is heavier to carry. However, I don’t plan on an extended romp in the boonies with this shotgun – it is reserved for home defense. Also, the 350 is a pump-action shotgun, and they are very reliable, and not complicated, like some semi-auto shotguns are to get that first round chambered.
The 350 is parkerized in a nice gray/black finish – tough stuff. The furniture is black synthetic polymer, which makes if ideal for my area, where wood stocks can swell from all the rain and moisture in the air. There is also a rifle-style front sight and ghost ring rear sight, and if you’ve never used a ghost ring rear sight on a shotgun, you are missing out on how fast and how much more accurate you can shoot – all things considered – with a shotgun… What a ghost ring rear sight does is, it allows you to focus on the front sight, while the ghost ring rear sight is “ghostly” in appearance – it is a bit fuzzy is maybe a better way to describe it. Still, it is VERY fast to acquire a good sight picture. The safety is easy to reach, and so is the slide release – on some shotguns, you have to change your hold on the gun to push on the slide release – not good! I keep my 350 magazine tube loaded with 5-rounds of 00 buckshot, and the chamber is empty. I also keep the slide closed (locked) so I either have to pull the trigger to unlock the slide (not good) or I can simply push on the slide release to pump the slide and chamber the first round – the smart way to do it.
I also keep a side-saddle magazine holder on the left side of the receiver, and it holds 6 extra rounds of 00 buckshot for me. I’m going to add another side-saddle magazine holder on the right side of the polymer butt stock. I could add another on the right side of the receiver, but that will just add more weight that I don’t need. With 5 rounds in the magazine tube, and 6 more rounds on the receiver, and when I add the other carrier on the right side of the butt stock, that will give me 17-rounds on-hand, with reloads. If that doesn’t get me out of trouble, then I’m in deeper than I can possibly be.
The 350 is easy to load and shoot, although the trigger pull is a bit heavy, then again, we are talking about a shotgun, and not a long-range precision high-power rifle, where pin-point accuracy is called for. So, the heavy trigger isn’t a handicap as far as I’m concerned. I can fire 5-rounds in about 2.5-seconds from the 350, and that’s fast shooting, and I can hit my target out to 25-yards…no trick to this, other than to practice.
I have had zero failures to feed, function and eject with the 350, and the action is fairly easy to operate, too – some pump-action shotguns require a pretty aggressive “pump” to load and ejection rounds and when you tie-up a pump-action shotgun, you are in serious trouble, it takes time – a lot of time – to clear a double-feed. And, I keep the 350 loaded with only 00 buckshot – I live in a rural area, so I don’t worry too much about over penetration – my guest house is next door, however, should I have a break-in, it will come from a direction opposite of my guest house. If you live in a big city or have neighbors next door, you might want to consider using bird shot, or a #4 shot for self-defense – in the confines of your house, this will get the job done – as most shootings take place at very close distances – yes, 00 buck is better, but you have to balance all things, and take into account where you live and the danger of over penetration. Just something to think about – now you see why I can’t give anyone a pat answer, as to what is the “best” gun or ammo for home defense?
I recently received the Alpha Tech Shotgun Flashlight Mount, for testing for an article, and I thought it would make a perfect product to add to my Stevens Model 350 shotgun. Without going into the details, on how easy it is to install this flashlight shotgun mount on your shotgun, you can find complete information on their web site. Now, I’ve tried some other flashlight mounts on my shotguns, and while they worked, they weren’t to my satisfaction – not durable enough, and many simply clamp onto the barrel. The Alpha Tech Shotgun Mount is a bit different, in that, it attaches to the magazine tube – again, I’m not going into details – you can find complete info on their web site, but it only takes a couple minutes to install this mount. And, it is made out of steel, and black in color, with a sling adaptor on it, too. There is a “ring” for installing your flashlight, and you need a tactical flashlight that has a barrel of 1-inch – and that is easy to find. It only takes a few minutes to get this whole thing up and running.
Now, this particular Alpha flashlight mount wasn’t designed for the Stevens 350, because of the set-up in relationship to the barrel/magazine/disassembly tube set-up, I was able to tinker with it, and make it fit on the 350, with a shim. While not the perfect set-up, it works. I could have put the mount on my Maverick shotgun – and it fits – however, I wanted it on my 350. Alpha Tech is in the process of developing mounts for other shotguns. Contact them for details to see if they have a mount that will fit your shotgun.
If you are planning on using a shotgun for home defense, I highly recommend you have some type of flashlight mounted on it for several reasons. Firs of all, it helps you ID an intruder, secondly it can blind the intruder, and it helps you get on target in the dark – since you can’t see your front sight in the dark. Right now, the Alpha Tech Shotgun Flashlight Mount is made to fit many shotguns, including the Remington 870 and Mossberg 500 and many others. They are in the process of making one that will fit on the Winchester line-up of shotguns, too – check with them to see if they have a mount for your particular shotgun.
I found the Alpha Tech mount to be well-built, and very solid. I fired several boxes of ammo through my Stevens Model 350, and the mount showed no signs of coming loose. Full retail for the mount is $48.50 and a worthy accessory to complement your shotgun for home defense. It’s also a great mount for law enforcement officers to have on their shotgun they have in their patrol cars.
So, with the Stevens Model 350 and the Alpha Tech mount, and a good tactical (bright) flashlight, I’m pretty confident that should I have to use my shotgun at night, I can ID my attacker(s) and I have a shotgun that is totally reliable. The Stevens Model 350 is hard to pin down as far as price goes – so many sporting goods shops and gun shops discount Stevens shotguns, it’s hard to come up with a price. I believe you can find a brand-new one for around $300 give or take a few bucks, and it’s a great deal, on a shotgun that will give you a lifetime without problems. And, just because this shotgun is made in China doesn’t take anything away from the quality – you can get as good as you want from China. I don’t especially enjoy contributing to the Red Chinese government, however in this case, I’ll make an exception. So, if you’re in the market for a good affordable pump-action 12-gauge shotgun for home defense, take a close look at the Stevens Model 350 for your next purchase. If all you can afford is one gun – then a good shotgun for home defense is hard to beat! – SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio
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