Two primary reasons to consider a shotgun as a defensive firearm are safety and effectiveness. Handgun bullets penetrate walls with sufficient retained energy to harm a person in an adjacent room, or even an adjacent residence. The bulk of a shotgun blast’s energy is expended in the target or wall material, minimizing the danger to others.
The psychological impact that staring down the business end of a 12-gauge has on a criminal is something that law enforcement personnel have known for decades, and many a would-be criminal has surrendered to police or fled the home of an intended victim upon hearing the distinct "click-clack" of a pump-action shotgun racking a round.
More people are realizing the utility of a shotgun in personal defense, and many shotgun makers have catered to this market by offering versions with extended magazines, rail mounts and shortened barrels. But there is a less expensive way to obtain a shotgun tailored to defense than purchasing a whole new gun.
When I started hunting nearly three decades ago, I went out and bought my first shotgun. The purchase wasn’t based on fit, finish or even function. I got what I could afford. Naturally as I became more knowledgeable about firearms and more deeply involved in shooting sports, I upgraded to shotguns more suitable to my needs, but that old Winchester Model 120 Ranger pump gun still sat idly in the gun safe.
I was browsing through a Cabela’s catalog a couple of weeks ago when I came across a couple pages of shotgun accessories designed to turn sporting pump-action shotguns into tactical models. Remembering the old Winchester, I decided to visit a nearby Cabela’s store and see if it had what I needed in stock to give my shotgun a complete makeover.
Advanced Technologies, TacStar and Knoxx are among the companies that make tactical conversion equipment, and I found what I needed on the shelf of the store’s gun department. I’m not really much of a gunsmith, so I was relying on the "no gunsmithing needed" statement on the packaging and the reassurance of helpful store personnel that all the parts would assemble easily.
The complete overhaul of the Winchester Model 120 was surprisingly easy, taking only about two hours. It might have been completed in less time had I not needed to run to the hardware store for a screwdriver long and wide enough to loosen the main screw, that holds the rear wood stock to the action and barrel assembly. I also learned the importance of installing tactical upgrades in a certain order. If you’ll be upgrading the factory fore stock with a pistol grip stock, I recommend you do that first. I installed the rear folding stock first, but then had to remove it to extract the trigger assembly so I could put on the fore stock. For a complete tactical makeover I suggest the following assembly order: fore stock, magazine extension, rear stock, shell holder and finally tactical light or laser. I used both Advanced Technologies and TacStar products from Cabela’s to complete the project, all of which fit precisely in place.
As the pictures clearly demonstrate, I now have a rather intimidating piece of home-defense hardware. I simply couldn’t resist taking it to a local shooting club just to see how it shot. Once I took it out, several people wanted to try it out. Controlling the gun during firing was no problem at all, and recoil was no more than any other 12-gauge shotgun. Some even found it kicked a bit less. What amazed everyone was that even with a slug barrel and open rifle-type sights it managed to break 5 out of 10 clays thrown. Not too bad for a firearm that wasn’t intended as a wing shooter. It’s a home-defense tactical shotgun, and it has all that’s needed to fulfill that role just fine.