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.

  • John

    I own two Remington 870 shotguns with extended magazines, 18″
    barrels and ATI stocks in 12 and 20 gauge. Why both, because my wife feels far more comfortable shooting the 20 gauge and in a “God Forbid” scenario, she can back me up with the 20, while I engage with the 12. Very honestly, having both, if I was just starting to shop for a home defense shotgun, I would buy the 20 because it is faster, lighter, quicker and within the house – just as effective.