In the never ending debate about home defense firearms, the shotgun and the AR-15 tend to come up the most.
These hotly contested guns both bring a lot to the table for the homeowner looking to protect their family, but there appears to be no clear-cut winner that suits everyone.
Is the shotgun or AR15 better for home defense?
A shotgun is a better option for a powerful shot up close, but the rifle is superior in distance and precision. The shooter will also have to determine which firearm they’re more comfortable with and the layout of their home to figure out which is best.
Choosing between an AR15 and shotgun can be hard, as these popular weapons both have a lot to offer.
We’ve done our best to compare them where it matters most like usability, accuracy, and capacity, so you’ll be able to settle the debate of the best home defense gun once and for all.
Table of Contents
The Shotgun: An Overview
A shotgun is a long barrelled and smoothbore firearm that shoots a shotshell when fired and they come in forms including automatic, semi-automatic, and pump action.
The shotshell or cartridge that’s fired from them contains a number of tiny pellets inside that spray out, also referred to as shot, or could have a single projectile inside of it instead, referred to as a slug.
There are many different shotguns available, including various calibers from .22 to 2.0 inches, and varying gauges from 12 to 20. These guns come in a range of styles including single and double barrel varieties, and even combination shotguns. The options for customization are massive and you can personalize one to your exact requirements, and even for home defense.
The most popular use of the shotgun today is by military and police force, as well as hunters, and civilians who are looking for a powerful home defense weapon.
Their ability to expel a powerful shot in close to medium quarters means you can take down an intruder with one shot, as long as they haven’t run too far, and the mere sight of one of these weapons can be enough to scare someone away.
The AR15: An Overview
The AR15 is a less common option for a home defense weapon but a good one nonetheless, and is a name used to describe a specific category of firearms.
These lightweight semi-automatic rifles were originally based on the ArmaLite AR-15 where it got its name, which began as a more basic version of Eugene Stoner’s AR-10, and there have been many iterations over the years.
An AR-15 rifle is a powerful piece of weaponry and it’s become one of the most criticized firearms of modern times because it’s often been used in mass shootings, but also one of the most loved by gun owners. These guns are often regarded as a civilian version of military weapons because of their prowess.
Those who take gun ownership seriously and use their firearms responsibly will consider the AR-15 ideal for home defense.
Their power and precision, especially over longer distances, make them ideal for targeting someone who’s attempting to attack your home, but you have to be prepared to put in the effort to master them.
How Do These Guns Compare?
The only true tell of a home defense weapon is to see how it performs in all of the important areas and there’s more than one that should be considered for home defense.
We’ve compared the AR-15 and shotgun to find out which one is better suited to defending the home in categories like accuracy and capacity, so read on to find out which is your best fit.
Their Ease of Use
The ease that a firearm can be fired at isn’t something that just beginners have to worry about, but anyone using a gun in a home defense situation.
As tensions are running high and you have little time to act, you’ll want to be sure your weapon of choice is going to be easy enough to handle.
Even if you’ve never handled a firearm before, an AR-15 is a good place to start. Although they can seem intimidating, they shoot quite softly which means they’re easier to handle, and they have lighter recoil than most guns out there.
Not only are they good in the moment but their ongoing care and maintenance are pretty simple as well. With all of the customizations possible for these guns, you can get an AR-15 that has everything you’re looking for and is easy enough to handle.
A shotgun has always had the reputation of being easy to shoot and the mere sound of the racking of one of these weapons is considered enough to scare anyone away.
However, first-timer gun owners would be better practicing with a handgun or rifle than starting out with a shotgun. That doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t learn the basics, and beginning with a pump action shotgun will still make it relatively easy to master.
Capacity and Ammunition
In a situation where you need to defend your home, you don’t want to be left in the lurch.
If you imagine that you’re in a face off with a prowler who’s found their way inside your house, you’ll have to think about how many shots you’ll need to take and what your firearm is capable of holding.
The average shotgun will hold around six shots, sometimes more and sometimes less. You’ll need to determine whether or not you feel comfortable making a shot with this many rounds, even if it’s with a shotgun that’s traditionally known for being more forgiving.
If you do need to reload, it can take at least 10 seconds, which is critical time you can’t lose in a defense situation.
An AR-15 style rifle is capable of holding 30 rounds, as long as you’re using a standard magazine. With these 30 rounds and the right accuracy, you shouldn’t have a problem getting at least one bullet into the intruder.
As you have more rounds and thus more opportunities to get it right, it seems as though the AR-15 is the winner in this category.
No two home defense situations are the same so no matter what the scenario, you want a gun that can reach as far as you need it to.
When it comes to shotguns and AR-15s they each have something different to offer in this regard, so find out which one we prefer in this setting.
One of the biggest selling points of the AR-15 is its accuracy, but you need some basic shooting skills to be able to benefit from this. Another great thing about these weapons is that even the cheaper models are still considered inherently accurate, so even taking one shot from far away might get the job done.
If you’re someone who’s lacking in precision when it comes to shooting a shotgun might be helpful.
Due to the scatter of shots that occurs as it’s fired, you have a better chance of hitting someone that’s in the line of fire, especially when they’re at close range. This spreading of fire means even the least accurate shooter can sometimes get things right
Range and Distance
Just as important as accuracy is a gun that’s able to fire as far as you need it to but there are a lot of variables that determine the range of a firearm.
This is one area where the AR-15 style and shotgun differ greatly, so it all depends on what the homeowner needs to protect them.
The AR-15 shines in long distance mode and can deliver a shot between 400 and 600 yards most effectively. If you think you’ll be trying to take someone down from further away and need a precise firearm that goes the distance, the AR-15 will be the safest bet.
A shotgun varies quite a bit in range, so you’ll have to look at the choke size, length of the barrel, and ammunition to determine what it’s capable of.
Generally speaking though, a shotgun is better known as a close range firearm and won’t perform as well when you’re trying to shoot anything accurately over 100 yards. For close quarters where you need to take someone down within 100 yards, a shotgun will be the most reliable option.
Closed Area Maneuverability
When you envision yourself in a situation at home that would call for your gun, chances are you’re someone where like a bedroom or a hallway.
For this reason, you’ll need your home defense gun to be easily maneuverable in tight spaces and close quarters, so let’s see how our two contenders measure up.
The AR-15 is a larger style gun and it’s not going to be as effective in closed areas but there are some smaller styles that are. While it can still fire the projectile effectively, the chance that you could seriously injure or kill a nearby family member is a lot higher.
You’ll also find it harder to move around corners and hide out in tight spots when you’re toting one of these, which might be a dealbreaker for some in a home defense scenario.
Depending on the style of shotgun, these firearms can be effective in tighter spaces and would work in a home defense situation if they’re short enough.
Using a sawn-off shotgun that has a shorter barrel length is a smart move for this type of setting as it gives you all of the usual benefits of a shotgun but without the bulk. A handgun or pistol would be a better option for a closed area due to its size and should be considered for home defense as well.
AR-15 vs Shotgun: The Final Say
After seeing what rifles and shotguns each has to offer for home defense, it seems there’s no clear-cut winner in this debate.
If you need something for close range, the shotgun is the answer, but if you envision yourself needing to take the shot from far away and still craving precision, nothing beats a rifle.
Nothing beats the feeling of knowing you have a reliable firearm helping you guard your house, no matter if it’s a shotgun or a rifle, or something else entirely.
If you’re wondering how to choose the perfect home defense weapon to guard your house, read on for some commonly asked questions that’ll give you a push in the right direction.
Is a Handgun Good for Home Defense?
A quality handgun or pistol is a smart choice for home defense as it’s small, easy to use, and ideal for close range.
Although not as powerful as a shotgun or rifle, this lack of power makes them easier to maneuver indoors which further adds to their suitability if you’re looking for a home defense weapon.
Does a Shotgun Recoil?
The recoil momentum in a shotgun is usually noticeable when shooting these types of firearms, but to varying degrees depending on the style of firearm.
The type of shotgun you’re shooting will determine its recoil amount, and how effectively the user can handle it, with some people finding the use of shoulder pads to absorb some of the recoil necessary.
Can You Use a Revolver for Home Defense?
Revolvers are a popular option for a home defense weapon because they’re easy to shoot and reliable, but without sacrificing power.
These smaller caliber guns are often the preferred firearm of choice for elderly and women users who might not feel comfortable with the recoil of other types.