Guest Submission by Mark Stanfill On Self Defense And The Folly of The Shotgun Myth



After an open invite on the looserounds facebook page, this opinion piece was submitted by Mark Stanfill. 

The Myth of the Shotgun
I have asked many times, what is the best home defense weapon. Over the years the universal answer always seems to be the shotgun. I, like many that have had “professional” time behind the trigger, tend to disagree.

The explanation always stays the same for those that have never been in a close quarters battle. The wide pattern of the shotgun, the less demand for accuracy, the simplicity of the weapon, the unmistakeable sound of a pump shotgun, and the universal fear of facing a shotgun at close range. While these may all be reasonable beliefs, they do not make the shotgun the answer.

Here are a few little tidbits of info that many people seem to overlook. In a self defense situation an individual’s visual acuity begins to decline along with a rapid increase in heart rate and blood pressure. The body is releasing adrenaline by the ton (so to speak) and fine motor skill and dexterity becomes almost none existent. Well, you may think that these are even more reasons to use a simple weapon that does not require aiming. Here is the truth of the matter, however. When you pick up a shotgun, it is nearly three feet long. Now, you must navigate dark hallways and rooms with your muzzle leading you by 36 inches. Add in the fact that you are losing fine motor skill and dexterity as well as bubbling over with fear and adrenaline, and you now have a bumbling, clumsy nightmare. You simply CANNOT effectively clear a corner with a shotgun because of the weapons length.

So, now you are asking how a pistol is any better, right? The answer is quite simple. Most people shoot their handguns regularly. They shoot them often and are intimately familiar with their operation. This alone is the short answer. When your brain starts to shut down, it will revert to doing what it “instinctively” knows how to do. Many people have practiced the self defense battle over and over, that is what their brain knows how to handle. Even without a “love” of firearms and familiarity with dozens of different weapons, people know their pistols.

The truth of the whole matter is simply when faced with a gun battle or deployment of lethal force, we stop thinking. Our brains generally cannot handle the massive data overload that it is facing. The truth is most people cannot effectively fight with a firearm. At least not without hundreds if not thousands of hours of training. I can tell you from experience that the first time you find yourself engaged in a gun battle you get scared. You forget everything you have learned and you fight ONLY for your survival. There is no technique or form that you will employ, only any means necessary to win.

On that note, when you are seeking out schools or firearms training classes, look for ones that will teach you about real life situations. You are not a private security contractor, or a Navy SEAL, or a hitman. Leave the fantasy camps to the wannabes. Train for situations that you may actually find your self in one day. Also remember that one class will not teach you how to win a gun fight. The class will merely give the foundation and basics of what you must continually practice once you leave the class.


  1. Very nice Article Mark, I will be talking about some of those same things in some home defense articles I have been working on for Loose Rounds. You hit the nail on the head with the info you talked about, especially if you have family or young ones in the home, you want to make sure stray rounds are not flying around. You still have to aim with a shotgun. Also the Shotgun is one weapon you can not function with one hand if needed. I’m my opinion shotgun is the last weapon you should consider out of an AR15 or handgun, especially if you have no training.

    • Thanks guys! The compliment is much appreciated, especially from someone I respect. I wrote this awhile ago when we first began teaching defensive firearms classes. I very much look forward to reading you all’s thoughts on this subject! Again, thanks for this opportunity to participate.

  2. How would you compare the typical home defense scenario to the many video’s online of people in defensive situations?

    We see so many videos where, once the bullets start flying, the perpetrator of the crime (and all his buddies) suddenly get wheels and fly (sometimes flail) to get out the door. While we cannot count on this scenario when defending our families, I would think 99 percent of the time if bullets fly in your home the perpetrator might fire a few shots as they de-ass your premises in a hurry.

    My main concern is I wouldn’t want to corner an criminal in my home. If bullets are flying and a criminal thinks there is only one way out (over your dead body) then he may fight fiercely as he feels it is the only choice.


    • lothaen,

      This is why I feel the AR15 with and higher gr. rounds i.e. (75gr OTM) is one of the best home defense combinations. More than likely if you hit someone center mass with a rifle round, they are not getting up. Also, an AR15 allows you to get more accurate faster rounds on target.

  3. The shotgun: the length and weight of a rifle with neither the range or capacity. The pistol beats it in capacity and maneuverability. Unless you have a Saiga, they both beat the shotgun in reload speed.

    It’s not that the shotgun isn’t effective, but it would be my last choice.

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