Commentary – Thoughts on the shotgun as a “one gun” arsenal

A common thread with lots of comments at forums all over the net is “If you could only have one gun….what would it be?” I try to stay away from discussions like that because they tend to end up with bickering and displays of juvenile antics.

The truth is most of us do not have to have only one gun – so the discussions are somewhat fruitless. However – for those on a budget, reality sets in and a “one gun arsenal” may be all that can be afforded.  So – for them – the discussion of a one gun arsenal is very important.

Everyone has different needs and situations they may find themselves in. So – what one may choose as a one gun arsenal may not work so well for someone else. A popular concept is the good ole shotgun as a “go to” gun.

Not a bad choice in my opinion.

mossburg 500
Mossberg 500

The shotgun is a good consideration for numerous reasons:

  • several quality models available at relatively  inexpensive prices
  • generally very reliable and durable
  • lots of accessories to modify the shotgun to fit your own needs
  • diverse selection of ammunition to meet varying needs
  • single models can change barrels to meet varying needs
  • ammunition availability at publication time excellent
  • firearms can be modified to meet the needs of many missions

Shotgun shells can be purchased with different loads from small bird shot to powerful slugs and can reach distances from point blank to over 100 yards. The shotgun is truly one of the most versatile firearms out there. With a single gun small game can be taken close up, a home can be defended at varying distances (depending on loads used), and a deer can be dropped at 100 yards.

Remington 870 Tactical Express

I have a Remington 870 Tactical Express. Great shotgun and purchased for well under $400. I am now looking at getting a semi-auto shotgun added to my system.

If you are on a budget – a good shotgun is an excellent choice.


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  1. Rourke, I agree with your assessment and also believe that the shotgun is a “One Gun” arsenal. You hit on some very good points and they are about as affordable as it gets. I personally have three different shotguns and take them out shooting all the time. I have a newer Single shot H&R that I have several different barrels for already. I also have an old 12 guage of the same make that was give to me by my father many,many years ago as a first shotgun for bird hunting. It still works and looks great and I would trust my life to it. Great post and a good heads up!!

  2. Howdy, Rourke! I like shotguns, too, but…Ammo is bulky if you need to carry much. Range with rifled slugs is decent for hunting, but maybe not for engagement against organized groups of bad guys. Nowadays, bad guys are equipping themselves with body armor, and I don’t think a shotgun would be as effective as a rifle. That having been said, if I could only have one gun, it would be a .22 rifle. Any game animal can be killed with one–my father, during the depression poached deer with one, always going for neck shots and rarely lost any deer. An old friend who’s a retired cop told me that during peace time, more people have been killed with a .22 than any other cartridge. It’s only weakness–as with the shotgun–is it’s a relatively short-range weapon, and useless against body armor. Head shots against a foe equipped with a vest would work, and here, I think that at any distance a .22 would likely be more accurate than a scatter gun. Just one man’s opinion…

  3. I agree too, and feel that the Shotgun is still king if the hill. (Protection first/Survival second). Just recently a 11 yr old girl from Montana defended her home against 2 males during a home invasion. she used a pump shotgun an took out one guy at the top of the stairs, the other at the bottom of the stairs with one shot each. According to Chuck Hawks a .12 2-3/4 slug “Rottwiel-brand” has a 1,475MV and retains (1,170 ft-lbs) of energy at 100 yrds. I dont one would be getting up to fight so much.

  4. First of all, good write up on the virtues of the 12 gauge. For home defense the 12 gauge (Remington 870 or Mossburg 500) are the very best and yes, we have them both, one set up tactical and the other for hunting. .22LR is another excellent homesteading /farming firearm, I have a Marlin M-60 semiautomatic. That is the gun of choice for most of the “kill’in” that gets done around here. Now, given that we live out in the mountains of Central Appalachia more firepower is needed as .308/30-06 is a common around here, so for very little money ($110 just this past week) a Mosan M-91 can be had as well as 7.62x54R that can still be had in bulk for about $0.40 per round. This rifle on iron sights can hit man sized targets out to 800 meters (Battle of Stalingrad) and will also out distance the 5.56 or 7.62×39. Now, if you are concerned that you will have to deal with a mob and that they will get in closer than a bolt action or lever action will serve, then a magazine feed 7.62×39 or a 5.56 NATO is the best choice. One should also note that there is no reason to buy all your guns at once. Start with that pump shotgun, then the rifles. I did not get a handgun until after I had bought a Marlin .30-.30, a Marlin .22LR and Remington 12 gauge shotgun.

  5. much wisdom here from all posters. . . . I keep shotguns situated at various places throughout my house, and other things are close at hand too. . . but the scatterguns are my first gun to grab. . . .

  6. I concur, if I was starting to prepare for long term crisis or disaster, and could only afford one gun, it would be a shotgun. We have both pump and semi-auto in .12 and .20 gauge, plus a few .410GA/.45LC platforms. A .22 LR would be 2nd (Ruger 10/22 or Marlin 60. Third would be a handgun in .45 ACP or .357 Magnum. Fourth purchase would be a Modern Sporting Rifle (getting out of the habit of using the “A” word conjured up by liberals to sound scary). Last would be a bolt or lever action, .308, 30-06 or 30-30.

  7. I agree, hard to beat the varied usefulness of a shotgun. It can be a bit intimidating for some, but that is easily overcome with practice. Mossberg has come out with it’s new “Flex system” which, after you buy the base shotgun and whatever accessories you want, you can convert your base gun to fill whatever need you have. Build it into a tactical shotgun, then in just a couple of minutes convert it into a trap shooter or long range slug gun. It’s a pretty nice system.

  8. I have a Hi-Standard 10B that I shopped for about ten years to get. A $400 purchase climbed to $800 as I added a tube extention to open it up to 9 round capacity,extended follower, a compensator/choke, dot sight and an old M60 sling. Shoots like hell with quick target aquisition, bull-pup recoil beats the crap out of me, and looks like a prop from a Sci-Fi movie…but….when something goes bump in the night, I grab my Win. 1200 with full choate stock; full of #4 buck to answer the call. Regards, D.

  9. Although we own both semi-auto and pump shotguns in .12 and .20 gauge, the guns that my family has enjoyed the most recently were the .410 GA Rossi Circuit Judges. I bought the wood stock model as a “truck gun” and purchased a shorter, synthetic stock model for my wife. These were the first firearms that I obtained that were not made in America. Anyway, I think that these guns would be great survival weapons. You would need a mixture of shot shells and .45 Long Colt rounds. They are small, durable, portable, relatively lightweight and reliable. The action is simple, like loading and shooting a big pistol. I am considering matching the Circuit Judge with a .22 LR pistol (Ruger MK-III or Hi-Standard Sentinel) and putting them with some survival supplies in a Hide or Cache.

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