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The Less-Than-Lethal Shotgun: A Safer Way To Stop A Threat?

The ‘Less-Than-Lethal’ Shotgun: A Safer Way to Stop a Threat?

Preparing for a home defense situation is basically an act of arming yourself for a dark, nasty and unfortunate hypothetical scenario. Also, the chances of finding yourself in such a scenario increase in certain areas of the country — and thus, the responsibility of acquiring a suitable defensive weapon increases accordingly.

But then, there are variables to consider. In a home with small children, keeping a fully loaded AR-15 or Glock 17 by the bed is not something that every home defender is comfortable with. However, the eerie possibility of that nightmare scenario occurring still isn’t going to vanish in the presence of children.

So, what now? Are there alternatives to lethal weaponry, which don’t involve a Louisville Slugger or MMA training? Answer: yes. For this particular dilemma, you might consider purchasing a pump-action 12-gauge shotgun, such as a Remington 870 or Mossberg 500, but instead of loading it with 00-buck shot …

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How about loading that sucker with “less-than-lethal” beanbag rounds?

The Most Basic Objective of Personal Defense

Here are a few reasons why I find these to be a considerable home defensive option, despite its unconventional nature …

First, let’s clear the air on this one: Killing a human tends to lead to some rather complex, life-altering implications (not including that of the psychological drawbacks of dropping some guy in the place you call home). Throw in a court case, teams of forensic investigators, and lots of paperwork, and this 30-second crisis just got a whole lot longer. So, because your home is not necessarily a military combat zone, let’s iron out what “self-defense” actually means, according to

“Self-defense is defined as the right to prevent suffering force or violence through the use of a sufficient level of counteracting force or violence.”

In other words, the point is not to cause death — instead, your objective according to the law is to stop the intruder’s ability to present a lethal threat, if one were presented, that is. In most cases, a home intrusion will happen because the offender is looking for anything they can sell on eBay, so they can purchase tickets to the next Eagles game … or something like that.

The ‘Less-Than-Lethal’ Shotgun: A Safer Way to Stop a Threat?With that being said, it could be very difficult to ascertain whether or not the crook is armed and dangerous, or just plain stupid and didn’t realize you’d come back from vacation already. In which case, a 12-gauge beanbag round would do a beautiful job in securing the homefront — and not to mention, there would be a great deal less death going on.

Beanbag Rounds: They’ll Teach Crooks a Valuable Life Lesson

The beautiful side is the fact that this particular home defensive option would afford a less-than-child-hazardous method of keeping the crooks at bay. No, beanbag rounds are not meant to be used as a toy, especially due to the fact that they still maintain the power of being kicked in the (insert body part) by an enraged bronco.

Also, when people say that these rounds are considered “less-than-lethal,” that means they can kill on accident. Obviously, a human fist doesn’t possess the same lead-based killing power as a slug, but the FBI’s findings on the topic are astounding. In fact, more than half of all Americans in the 2011 survey suggest that punching and kicking are responsible for more homicides than shotguns.

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However, the police do implement these less-than-lethal options, especially when things get out of hand but lethal force is simply not needed. From a law enforcement perspective, it’s usually best to have an immobilized crook with a notably bad Charlie horse, then have a guy bleeding on a public sidewalk, as the local news arrives five minutes before the EMS to the scene.

But, Then Again…

Unfortunately, there will be drawbacks to less-than-lethal ammunition. For one, using beanbag rounds is, itself, an $8 box for 5 rounds of tactical compromise. Quite frankly, a hotly debated topic of discussion is the so-called “stopping power” of live ammo, so beanbag rounds will certainly be problematic to that end. Also, it is rumored that less-than-lethal ammunition will provide auto-immunization before a judge in the event that the beanbag round ended up killing the crook; however, there are zero guarantees in such sticky situations, (and, let it be known, I’m no attorney and this is not legal advice).

The point to using beanbag rounds in your 12 gauge is to offer a way to provide a home intruder with a valuable life lesson that they can think about from inside their prison cell. But keep this in mind: According to most manufacturers, all less-than-lethal bets are off, if the target is hit in the head or chest within a range of seven yards. So that, too, should be an item of concern. And, of course, this also brings me back to the most obvious drawback: If proper firearm safety is to always treat the weapon as if it is loaded (with live ammunition), then to point a 12-gauge Remington 870 at an armed intruder should carry more-than-enough lethal meaning, since death is a primary function of a firearm, after all. Yet still, your best judgment and preparation will always be your primary home defense, no matter what.

What do you think? Would you consider using less-than-lethal ammo? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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  1. The obvious problem with dealing with an intruder is that he/she is never alone. Coming through that window along with the badguy is the lawyers, the legal system, special-interest groups, their family, and of course the media. You will always lose if you don’t consider the aftereffects of firing a weapon. Once a friend remarked how he loaded blanks to use on burglars but when I told him at extreme short range that plug of gas can kill too he laughed saying how with no bullet would that happen. Ignorance will not save you in court.

  2. This is a very risky recommendation. Non-lethal rounds are fine for someone who knows that she or he has immediate support, including secondary and effective incremental means leading up to a lethal response (say, police attempting to stop a riot).

    However, none of these factors should be, or even can be, assumed by a person facing either an unprovoked attack or sudden home invasion.

  3. “According to most manufacturers, all less-than-lethal bets are off, if the target is hit in the head or chest within a range of seven yards.”

    A firefight within 21 feet of each other in a house is going to be an almost standard situation….

    I think one should leave these for riot control or scaring off bear…

  4. A State Policeman told my Dad if he ever faced that situation to make sure the intruder got totally inside the house, then shoot to kill. “Dead men don’t sue”. You may not be charged with murder or manslaughter for using non-lethal rounds, but you can be sure you will be sued!

  5. I will only plug US Lawshield, at, there is a lot of great information on their website. Anyone in my humble opinion that has a firearm, or in my state, a weapon in their home should be a member or a member of a like organization. US Lawshield has seminars all over, and they explain the laws right out of the mouth of an attorney that may represent you in court. They also include a law enforcement officer, active or retired, but a real cop to explain things and they answer your questions too! Check out the website, they are now in all 50 states. I am a member but not an employee nor am I compensated for this reply, i just believe everyone should have some sort of coverage.

  6. If I am forced to shoot in self defense I am shooting to kill. There will be no less lethal option. No one is going to learn a life lesson in prison after being hit by a bean bag round. They will just be released and will probably go on to bigger and better crimes like killing a home owner straight away before they burglarize the place.

    • A rather well known gun writer many years ago said, “I don’t shoot to kill. I shoot to live”.
      Makes a lot of sense, especially in our litigious society where everything you post could come back to haunt you in court.

  7. Zephan Connors

    I currently own firearms and one of the primary reasons I own these firearms is for self-defense. That being said, I hope and pray that I never have to make that decision to use lethal force. Along with all the legal hassles and complications that will come with that decision, I will also have to live with the burden of taking a life, something no gun owner wants to do, despite what the liberals say. I was once told that one of the most frightening sounds a person can hear is the cocking of a shotgun. I hope that if the time comes that sound alone will be enough to send the intruder running. IF not, it would be nice to know I could choose to use a less-than-lethal round. Ideally, I would load one or two less-than lethal rounds followed by the lethal rounds. If the bean bags, or rubber shot pellets don’t stop the criminal, then I guess I just have to rely on the lead. I always tell people, that the best possible outcome for any gun owner is to draw the weapon and never have to fire it. Everyone leaves alive and the gun did its job, it protected.

  8. I think bean bag ammo is a great way to use the shotgun as a non lethal self defense weapon if you don’t want to take a life. The great thing is it fits along side a taser or pepper sprays as a group of tools you can use. And if you do need a lethal weapon, it can be filled with normal shotgun rounds.

  9. You can try using les-lethal ammo but have several rounds of buckshot ready if something goes wrong…

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