The 12 gauge shotgun gets a lot of respect in the self-defense world, but the underdog 20 gauge deserves some attention, too. Some even make the case that the 20 gauge is a better choice than 12 for most shooters looking for a way to protect their home. This week we take a look at both sides to see if these upstart 20 gauge fans have any good arguments that might de-throne the legendary reputation of the 12.


Which is better for self-defense: 12 gauge or 20 gauge?

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  • Bury Brewster

    I let my son shoot a 20 gauge all the time when we go out duck and pheasant hunting but I’d stick with a 12 if I had to protect my home.

    • Amanda Dill


  • Jonathan Lunn

    I want a 12 gauge, but to warm my fiancé up to shooting, I bought a 20 gauge. Absolutely love it. If it came down to home defense tho, I think both are ideal to use.

    • Lucky Gunner Ammo

      That seems like a great idea Jonathan. Does she shoot the 12 gauge at all or stick with the 20?

  • Ranger Falcon

    I’ll take my 12 gauge Remington 870 Express over any 20 gauge in a self defense situation

  • Jon Register

    I think a 20 ga is more than adequate with the proper ammo. I personally have 12 ga’s but if I had to use a 20 ga it wouldn’t bother me at all.

  • Ross Butler

    Considering the home defense scenario, I don’t really believe there is a lot to gain or lose either way. If one already has a solid reliable 20 gauge, there is little reason to “stretch the budget” to get a 12 gauge. The 20 gauge tends to be a bit harder to find in 00 size, but as I prefer 4 buck for Home Defense with either, it is no issue to me. If you have a 12 gauge and the higher recoil doesn’t bother you, then you have the most widely used shotgun already!

    • LG Chris

      I don’t think I’ve seen any 00 buckshot for 20 gauge. Do you know of anyone who’s making that? #4 and #3 seem relatively common in 20 gauge, but the larger buckshot is difficult to come by. What made you decide on #4 buck?

    • Joe Ondish

      Actually, due to the size, #1 buck in 20 gauge would give the most equal performance to 00 in 12 gauge. You would get the same 9 pellets in #1, just slightly smaller. I do love the #4 buck as home defense though. To me it is the perfect combination of shot size and amount of shot. While I have no issues handling the 12 gauge, I would caution people simply because the shell is bigger that it makes it better. Unlike the typical thought process, you do still have to aim, even in a home defense scenario!

    • Jon Register

      LG Chris I believe Rio makes some 00 20ga

    • Joe Ondish

      Jon Register Actually Rio only makes as large as #1 in 20 gauge. Still a 9 pellet shell, but no 00 buck.

    • LG Chris

      Joe Ondish that’s a good point about aiming a shotgun. The “point and shoot” myth needs to die. Maybe I’ll do a video demonstration sometime.

    • Joe Ondish

      LG Chris Pretty much anything inside 25 feet will be Paper plate diameter or smaller. Even #8 or #9 shot was grouping about that with only a few fliers here and there. Most people won’t have much longer distances than that…Kinda makes you wonder about the whole shotgun is the best home defense weapon argument.

  • Terry Schaible

    I will take a 12 gauge any day of the week
    Thank You

  • Kevin Key

    Winchester 1300 Defender 12 with seven round magazine tube for me wife has a single shot H&R 20 both by the bed.

  • Whitney Smith

    As a female shooter, I prefer the 20 gauge because of less recoil and a lot lighter to hold up. When it comes to self defense in the home, I’d probably go with a 20 gauge if I was the only one using it. I believe it is underrated! In a self defense situation, I don’t want the 12 gauge to kick hard and possibly out of my hand (depending on how fast I pull up the weapon and where I get it placed on my shoulder or side).

  • J.p. Mckenney

    The 12 GA comes in a shorter barrel for self defense. I have both, but the 20 GA has a longer barrel would be harder to handle in confined spaces. My 12 GA has 20 inch barrels.

  • Lauro Guzman

    if you good …20 is good

  • MrApple

    12 Gauge for me, please.