Book Review: The 12 Gauge Shotgun – A Beginners Manual for Home Protection

When I received an e-mail from Charles Marais in South Africa, asking me to take a look at his book on using the shotgun for home defense, I was very excited.  The perspective offered is vital, due to the political climate there, which is like a glimpse into our own future.

For context, the environment there is that crime is rampant, and farm attacks/home invasions are increasingly violent and increasingly racially-motivated, with at least tacit government approval.  Some elected officials there openly discuss property confiscation based upon social justice ideals.  There is also the very real possibility there that if you call the police, they may not arrive for a long time, or at all.

That environment makes home defense that much more critical, and lends a certain credibility to any home defense book written from that perspective.

Right away, Marais scores points with a statement that matches my “Don’t-Be-There-Jitsu” philosophy.  He warns: “Do not go to stupid places places with stupid people at stupid hours, doing stupid things”.  Those are words to live by.  Example: Illegally entering the US Capitol when encouraged by undercover BLM leaders and CNN producers and some dude wearing a Buffalo hat and no shirt.

The book makes the important point that in most parts of the world, including many cities inside the United States, the shotgun is the only firearm that is legal to own, and therefore the only gun that can be used for home defense.  He also points out that shotguns can be found in homes in nearly every part of the world.  That makes the study of the shotgun a vital task & a worthwhile investment of time.

It’s worth noting also, in light of current proposed bills in the United States Congress, that, as Marais points out, “The shotgun will probably be the last firearm type to be banned.”

The book dispels a number of myths about shotguns with solid evidence.  One of the best is dispelling the myth that “racking” the shotgun or firing a warning will scare off a defender.  He also dispels the myth that you don’t have to aim, giving some specific drills for you to prove that fact.

One of the best things about this book is that addresses an issue that nearly every other book or video on the topic doesn’t…the use of single shot or double barrel shotguns for defense.  Marais explains the use of every tactic in the book from that perspective, as well as with the more popular pump or semi-auto guns.  Here in America, we assume everyone has access to either a pump or a semi-auto, but elsewhere in the world, you can’t get those guns.  My first shotgun was a single shot, break-action 20 Gauge.  The book is worth owning just for that perspective.

The only type he didn’t discuss is a bolt-action shotgun, which is fairly rare, but my father has one and it’s a great gun.  Get cracking with a second edition, Marais.  In all seriousness, the discussion including double barrel & single shot corrects a serious deficiency in firearms training media, so thanks to Marais for doing it.

The book contains a lot of detailed information on how various types of shotgun actions work, and how various shotgun shells are made.  I learned a lot from here, despite having trained extensively in shotguns my whole life and owning a 12 gauge pump since I was 18.  There are charts explaining the conversion of US shotgun shell markings to UK, which is actually quite helpful, as well as his discussion on translating all the markings on shotgun shells.   

Marais goes into great detail on the mechanics of shotgun handling.  He discusses various carries (his “Indoor Ready” is what we in the Executive Protection business call “PSD Ready”), methods of tactical reloading, including for break action shotguns, and clearing malfunctions.

Marais includes a number of very good range drills and a discussion about patterning your shotgun with various loads and shells, which is vital if you intend to use a shotgun to defend.

Marais was a combat medic in the South African Defense Forces, so when he gives a detailed discussion of what gunfire does to the human body, it’s not merely academic, he’s been there and seen it.  His experience makes his discussion about shot placement being more important than what type of round you use to stopping power that much more valid.  Interestingly, during a training session at Blackwater (or whatever they call themselves this week), one of my instructors said exactly the same thing when someone asked him what pistol caliber was best.  He said “shot placement matters more than what round”, which is almost verbatim what Marais says.

Marais gives a detailed discussion of various types of shot, slugs, and specialty ammo, including non-lethal rounds.  He also describes what accessories you need, with an emphasis on being able to see your sights under low light.

I want this

Some of the discussion is South Africa specific, such as the availability of pepper grandes (and quite frankly, we’re jealous) and the frequent discussion of being attacked by machete (a legit concern in South Africa).

There is a chapter on a subject near and dear to my heart; using the shotgun as a “cold weapon” and retaining the gun if someone tries to take it from you.  This is so often overlooked, and I recently wrote an entire article about it.  If you intend to defend yourself with a shotgun, you need to know that it’s a valuable weapon even when empty.  Marais gives a good discussion of various striking and manipulation tactics with the shotgun.  It always frustrates me when you see an action movie, and when the star’s gun is empty, they always look at it, throw it to the ground, and then start wrestling with someone else over a gun.  It would be a lot easier to just butt-stroke them with your own empty gun, then take theirs.

In the book, Marais gives a good discussion of preparation, the OODA Loop, and defensive planning.  These are all vital things, above & beyond just learning to shoot, that you need to consider.  His “MARCH” acronym is awesome, but you need to buy his book to learn it.

A few chapters are dedicated to room combat or clearing.  He gives a good overview of what the US Military calls “Precision Clearing” versus “Dynamic Clearing”, which is moving slowly and quietly, rather than bursting through doors.  So many people want to train in Dynamic Clearing, because it’s fun, but it’s unrealistic for personal defense or even group defense.  

In summary, the book is a great addition to your library, and if you intend to use a shotgun as a home defense weapon, you need this book.  It’s available at:



I’m glad I have it, you will be too.


Published by JD

I am the author of the Tactical Wisdom Series. I am a personal protection specialist and a veteran of the US Marine Corps. I conduct preparedness and self-defense training.

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