Shotguns are a popular choice for home defense for both sexes, but there are several factors that women should consider when they are shopping for a shotgun.
These considerations often pertain to the size of the shooter more than the gender, so they may not apply to tall women with a long reach who can find a suitable shotgun among the traditional models. At the same time, many of these issues apply equally to smaller-than-average men who find a standard shotgun to be an awkward fit.
Still, it is common for women of the same height and reach of men to have a smaller frame, a proportionally longer neck and higher cheekbones, all which are crucial to shooting a shotgun effectively. Women also tend to have less muscle mass near the top of their chest, so usually the butt pad should fit below a woman’s collarbone.
The most important factor for being effective with a shotgun is the fit, getting a shotgun of the right size and proportions for the shooter. About 50 percent of the ability to shoot flying targets is dependent on a good shotgun fit, according to the National Rifle Association. In a potential home invasion, you probably won’t be shooting above you, but you will still want as much accuracy as possible.
According to Outdoor Life, most American shotguns are manufactured to fit the average male shooter, a man about 5-foot-10 and about 180 pounds, so a woman of average height, 5-foot-4, will usually find a standard shotgun to be an imperfect fit. And since a bad fit causes excessive recoil, not taking your size into consideration when purchasing a shotgun is likely to make shooting it more painful than pleasurable.
If you don’t have a good fit with your shotgun, using it is likely to be more frustrating than fun. If a woman is going to be using a shotgun primarily for home defense, and probably not using it on a regular basis, the right fit is even more important. According to Rod Stumbo, an expert in Ohio on shotgun fitting, “On a scale of one to 10, fit is a 10 when it comes to successful shotgun shooting.”
Stumbo spends two-thirds of the year in a customized RV traveling to a dozen of the largest clay-target competitions, altering shotguns to provide the competitors with the right fit. “When a shooter mounts a gun, there should be about two finger widths of space between the knuckle of the thumb on the hand holding the stock’s pistol grip and the tip of their nose,” Stumbo says. “More length than that and the gun needs to be shortened, less length and the gun needs to be lengthened.”
It can be more important to have the right fit for a shotgun than for a rifle. Shooting with a rifle is usually at a static target, which allows shooters a few seconds to adjust their body to the rifle. Most shotgun shooting, whether at flying targets or during home defense, requires the weapon be adjusted to your body before you bring it to your shoulder. And since your eyes are the rear sight when using a shotgun, they need to be in the right place atop the stock when you mount the shotgun, or you are likely to miss even an easy shot.
The pitch of the gun, the angle of contact between the butt of the shotgun and the shooter’s shoulder, is also important. A good fit will ensure the pressure of recoil is more evenly distributed across the entire recoil pad.
American Gun Chic Training with a Shotgun
Women who want to reduce recoil should not assume a lighter shotgun will have less recoil. Your choice of ammunition will play a big role in how much recoil you experience, as well as the potential for over-penetration that can cause excess damage to your home (or worse, cause damage inside your neighbor’s home). Check out this video to get an idea about the payload and wall penetration of different shotgun ammo.
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The pupil of the shooter’s dominant eye should also align with the shotgun’s front sight, and there can be a sex-based distinction with eye dominance independent of physical size. Women are more likely to have cross-dominance, to be right-handed but left-eye dominant (and vice versa). It’s probably best to learn to shoot taking advantage of your dominant eye rather than dominant hand.
Because women now make up nearly half of new gun buyers, firearms manufacturers are designing more shotguns specifically for women. In the last 10 years, over-under (O/U) shotguns have become more common, and there are many more models of semi-automatic shotguns designed for women than ever before.
5 of the Best Shotguns for Women for Home Defense:
The cornerstone of the illustrious Benelli shotgun line, the semi-automatic M2 is highly reliable, lightweight (5.7 pounds), available in 20- and 12-gauge models, and can load everything from target loads to the heaviest 3-inch magnum shells. It has a 14.375-inch length-of-pull and an overall length of 45.5 inches. The superior quality and craftsmanship of most Benelli M2 models will run you more than $1,000, but all Benelli products come with a 10-year guarantee.
A modern mag fed semi auto shotgun. This model has similar features and controls as an AR-15. The AR-12 has an 18 inch chrome plated barrel and ambidextrous controls. The tactical stock has an adjustable comb and a soft rubber butt pad. Includes optional flip-up front and rear sight set and three chokes.
Designed specifically for women, Franchi’s Affinity 3 Catalyst comes highly recommended by the NRA Women group. With a length-of-pull of less than 14 inches, the pitch, comb height and cast of the Affinity Catalyst have been adjusted for the specific proportions of a women’s face. This inertia-driven semi-automatic is available in 20- and 12-gauge models for under $1,000. The Affinity 3 Compact is a youth shotgun whose high adjustability makes it a great choice for women, as well.
The old pump-action standby should not be overlooked, because of its excellent affordability (around $500) and because the series has an option in almost every size and configuration any female shooter could want. The Mossberg Flex system is a great option for women, since it allows you to change the stock, recoil pad, barrel and forend without tools, to customize the fit.
The hot-selling Mossberg 590 Shockwave is not a shotgun since it is not designed to be brought to the shoulder, but it’s a pump-action firearm that shoots 12-gauge shotgun shells, it’s light (5.25 pounds) and has a recoil -resistant Raptor bird’s-head pistol grip design, which disperses much of the force during recoil.
For a women’s shotgun in the $500 range, ATI’s Crusader series is a highly adjustable over-under (O/U) extractor shotgun that weighs just over 6 pounds. Made of high-grade 7075 aluminum, it accommodates shells up to 3-inch magnums, and it comes with five interchangeable chokes. If you want something larger, the ATI Crusader is available in a 28-gauge model.
Popular 12 Gauge Ammo for Women (Low Recoil Ammo)