Finding a good tactical shotgun is not easy and which one is the best for home defense? Before we dive into the different shotguns and their advantages and disadvantages, we should take care of a fundamental question.
First, why should you decide to have a shotgun at all in order to defend your home?
The answer is relatively easy and consists of two parts:
- First you need a weapon that ends a fight ideally with one shot
- Second you need this weapon not to endanger your loved ones in another room or your neighbors
A shotgun uses a variety of rounds, we will take a look at them now, but we picked the most common one here: The buckshot, this is by far the best round for home defense as it shoots 8 to 16 pellets with one trigger pull. That means you shoot one time and hammer your target with a group of eight to sixteen small balls in calibers around nine millimeters. Each one of them has the power of a 380 ACP to a 9mm round, but you do not hit your target with one of them but with the whole group.
Most people think that you spray the bullets over a large area, the reality is that you shoot them in a very tight pattern of the size of a small plate depending on the range. This means in the best situation you will hit the attacker with a group of lead bullets into the chest spread out less than the diameter of the palm of your hand. The simultaneous hit of multiple pellets ends the wish to continue any kind of attack. The success rate of a shotgun is unparalleled when it comes to stopping a perpetrator.
Second, each little round has the size and force of a small handgun round, this will stop them pretty fast when they hit obstacles what makes them very safe for use at home, there is no danger over penetration.
In short, a shotgun is a perfect choice to end a fight before it really begins and to protect innocent people in adjacent rooms or houses.
- The Different Kinds Of Ammo
- What Makes A Shotgun Tactical
- Best Tactical Shotgun As A Home Defense Weapon
The Different Kinds Of Ammo
Shotguns are the most versatile guns when it comes to ammo choices. You can have small pellets with a large pattern that is ideal for hunting birds. This gave them the name birdshot then you have the good old buckshot that I mentioned above and then there are the slugs. Birdshot and slugs are not necessarily the best choice for home defense, but they might be acceptable in certain conditions. Birdshot comes with two little pellets to really make an impression. However, in a house of very short ranges it might still stop an intruder.
Slugs on the other hand are too strong to be shot safely. They easily penetrate several layers of wall, so that you might accidentally not only stop the intruder but also in the life of a bystander. However, on a ranch or in a generally very large area, they might still make sense. Let’s take a closer look at them
Birdshot is not a recommended self-defense load. One round comes with a great number of little lead pellets. The small size of each one of them allows for more balls to be loaded. However, the numbers used to identify them must be misleading. You can get number 12 to number two shot and even bb shot. The lower the number- the bigger are the pellets and the smaller is the amount of them in each round. Again it is not recommended to use them for self-defense as their low weight will keep them from penetrating deep enough into the body of an attacker to reach a vital organ.
Buckshot is the most common self-defense load. Here it is the same, the smaller the number for the shot – the bigger are the pellets and the less are inside one round. The most recommended load is number one buckshot or triple odd buckshot.
The first comes with up to 16 pellets and the ladder with up to 12 pellets. Each of these pallets has a diameter of or close to nine millimeters and the muzzle energy is somewhere between a 380 ACP and 9mm, this makes each of them strong enough to actually reach and damage vital organs. Combine to make sure that the probability of that to happen is higher and the attacker bleeds out very fast.
Slugs are the most powerful of the different shotgun rounds, however this comes at a price. A slug is practically just one single projectile that is shot from a shotgun. This means it soaks in the complete energy of the powder and this makes it very powerful.
The price for that is that you have a high probability of over penetration. It will easily go through an interior wall after this through the exterior wall of your house, the exterior wall of your neighbor’s house and through your neighbor himself.
Be careful when shooting slugs! Another advantage and the main reason why slugs are used is that it does not come with a spread pattern. A birdshot or buckshot load consists of several pellets, the further they travel – the more they spread out. This makes them ineffective after a certain range, usually, that happens between 50 -120 yards. Slugs however are still a viable round for targets beyond 200 yards. In most of your home defense situations, this brings you no advantage as these encounters happen in a distance of 21 feet or less. Only where you can realistically expect the distance to wind into more than 100 yards, should a slug be considered as a defensive load.
What Makes A Shotgun Tactical
We are talking about a tactical shotgun, this means we need to establish what a tactical shotgun is. In short, it is a shotgun designed for tactical situations. Of course, this definition is everything but precise, so we need to take a closer look at some details.
The length of the barrel the biggest and easiest to see difference between a tactical shotgun and a hunting shotgun is the length of the barrel. A long firearm is challenging once you try to maneuver it with it inside your living room. So you need to cut it down because of legal restrictions that can be done only to a length of 18 inches while a hunting shotgun comes with a barrel length of 26 inches, give or take to keep the spread of your lead to a minimum.
A less obvious distinction is the action of the gun, it should facilitate an easy first and follow-up shot. That rules out lever-action shotguns as well as bolt action ones even if those two are actually great for hunting. What allows you to cycle the action faster is pumping the gun or not having to cycle it manually at all. This leads us to the so-called pump-action and semi-automatic shotguns.
The fastest shotguns use a semi-automatic action, here each shot itself supplies the energy to eject the spent shell and the load the next round into the chamber. This does even reduce the recoil as some of its energy is transferred into the action, however shooting many follow-ups will show you that the recoil is still not to be trifled with. Apart from that semis are rather picky when it comes to ammo selection, they just need enough energy to actually run the action.
If you buy a good brand of gun with high quality ammo you’ll probably encounter no problems. If you want to be sure you might pass the semis and go to a pump action. Here you provide the energy to cycle the action not the round. That means you will always get the next round into the chamber even if one of them misfires.
The pump action comes with its own downsides first and foremost it is slower than the semi. Furthermore, it is prone to user errors especially the error of short stroking it. The latter happens most of the time with novice shooters. They try to cycle the action too fast and end up not running the full length of the pump, a semi needs more time on the range to learn to unjam it. A pump-action needs more time for learning how to run the action smoothly and avoid short stroking it.
Magazines And Capacity
Usually in a self-defense situation, a higher capacity is preferred. This comes with a downside, the higher the capacity the bigger the magazine which adds itself more weight and to this comes the weight of the additional rounds.
This can affect your ability to maneuver quickly with your gun and bring it on target fast enough. Shotgun rounds are neither the smallest nor the lightest. An AR-15 or most handguns have no problem if you increase the round count. But in a shotgun you will notice the difference, a good number of rounds lie somewhere from six plus one in the chamber to eight plus one.
Most shotguns use internal tube magazines these are very reliable and can be recommended. However there are models that use box magazines, these tend to encounter feeding issues so you might want to stay away from them when your life is on the line.
Usually you classify guns by their calibers. For that, you measure the internal diameter of the barrel.
For shotguns, we do not use caliber in diameters, we use gauge. The gauge spans from 10 gauge to 28 gauge. With 10 gauge being the biggest shotguns and the 28 gauge the second smallest.
There is one smaller variant but this one is not measured in gauge but in caliber or bore, this is the .410 bore or 0.410 cal. This one is actually smaller than the 28 gauge, law enforcement agencies and the military prefer the 12 gauge and use them most of the time with buckshot. This allows them to break open doors and clean rooms with the same ammunition. The recoil of the 12 gauge can still be managed and it offers a big enough load and power for the intended purposes.
Should you feel that you cannot handle the recoil of a 12 gauge you might want to go with a 20 gauge. This is still big enough to down an attacker and common enough to be found in most stores where ammunition is sold.
There is a new development that allows you to have shotguns without stocks while these models are quite popular, I do not recommend to buy them. That is for two very important reasons.
The first is that the recoil will cause you serious trouble in the hand that holds the end grip. It will cause pain and in the worst case damage your joint.
The second reason is precision. I have actually tried to shoot a shotgun without using the stock when I came to a distance of 10 yards and under stress and time pressure all conditions encountered in a self-defense situation, there was no way I could hit the target reliably.
A shotgun without a stock is definitely shorter than one with a stock but what good will you get from that if the only safe thing around you is the target you were trying to point it at.
Accessories are not only for a good look they actually do add value to the gun. For example, iron sights might have been great some decades ago but with a red dot you are just faster on the target.
In order to attach your accessories, you need to have some kind of rails attached to the gun or at least the possibility to mount some of them.
What you want to add to your home defense shotgun is a light. Most of the time you’ll have to defend yourself at night, you do not want to shoot a loved one or a neighbor who might have the keys to your home. You want to be sure that you aim at a bad guy. Also, a light allows you to see immediately what you are pointing at so that you can shoot to actually hit. Furthermore, as you have no idea of knowing what you got yourself into trying to defend your home you might want to have options.
First, you want to have the ability to top up any round you might have already expended, you also want to have a choice of ammo. In a shotgun, you have the advantage that you can top it up while it is loaded as long as you do not use a box magazine, better even what you put in last will be in the chamber first. This means pretty simple that you should have two saddles on your shotgun. One is the left side next to the action, the empty shells will be ejected to the right, so no problem with the left side mount. The second saddle goes to the right or left side of the stock depending if you are a righty or a lefty. For my shotgun at home, each saddle has six rounds for a total of twelve plus eight rounds on the extended tube in cruiser ready. Cruiser ready means that there is no round in the chamber but the tube magazine is at full capacity, the eight and the tube are triple knot buckshot and three in each saddle for six all in all are also triple knot buck, the other three in each saddle for a total of six are slugs. This way I always have some range or more penetration when I need them.
Best Tactical Shotgun As A Home Defense Weapon
1. The Mossberg 500 And 590
The Mossberg offers you a lot of advantages for both the 500 and the 590 models. That starts with them being relatively affordable. Also, if you’re not sure what to pick you can just follow a big example. In this case, it is the military and law enforcement agencies all over the country. They are in use with them and you can be sure that happened after thorough testing and considerations.
In short, if you’re not sure which model you can trust, trust the model these users choose. Besides these two obvious advantages priced and being tested, they are almost indestructible. They have to withstand a lot of abuse from soldiers and officers who do not own them. In your hands, they will survive the next decades.
However, if you expect a rather heavy use I recommend you go with the 590 or better the 590 A1. They have thicker barrels that withstand even more abuse as an added advantage for both the 590 and 590a1. They hold both one more round than the 500 models.
Many shooters including me also prefer the position of the safety on the Mossberg 500 and 590. They find it on top of the receiver this makes them easy to reach when you’re not using a pistol grip.
The downside with the position is that it’s quite awkward once you do actually use such a grip. While I can recommend the 500 and 590 models I do recommend the Mossberg 590 A1 with a barrel of 18.5 inches the most. This is the one that is the most durable and is proven in combat, this means it can handle easily anything you might encounter in any cell for home defense situation. You can get it all ready for a little bit more than 500 us dollars. It weighs only 7 pounds and offers you different sights and a 20-inch barrel if you want an 8 plus 1 capacity. With an 18.5 inch barrel, you get only 6 plus 1 or 7 plus 1 with the magazine extension.
2. Mossberg Maverick 88
Mossberg offers you a good alternative. The maker of the successful Mossberg 500 and 590 offers you also the maverick 88. The big advantage is the price. For a little bit over $200, you can get a gun almost as good as the 500 and 590 models.
In fact, the differences are much less than one might think this makes it a very good deal.
It comes with twin action bars anti-jam elevator and dual extractors. Also, most of the accessories and upgrades that are out there for the Mossberg 500 will also fit the maverick 88. So what is different between both of them?
First, you get a cross bolt safety in front of the trigger guard with the maverick 88. This makes it harder to use when you have no pistol grip, on the other hand with the grip it would be a lot easier.
Second, the maverick is not prepared for scope mounts, you just get basic bead sights. However, there is something you can do about that with the tacstar tactical rail mount and side saddle, you can get a Picatinny rail for your sights and six holders for extra rounds.
The model with the 18.5-inch barrel has a capacity of 5 plus 1 and a weight of 6.25 pounds.
3. Mossberg SPX 930
Here comes another Mossberg, you might see that Mossberg is a big player in the market for home defense shotguns by making it several times on this list.
This time it is for an eight-shot semi-automatic model. The good thing about Mossberg in this regard is that the action is so perfected that it cycles reliably with a big range of rounds. Even in the realm of low-powered rounds with which many other semis have a problem the 930 cycles them without a hitch.
Having a semi-automatic action means that this gun is a little bit more complicated which translates to a higher price. It is still affordable with only some $700 but that is more than for Mossberg pump-action models.
Like the 500 models, the 930 comes with a top mounted safety its charging handle is on the right side and easy to grab, you have ghost ring rear sights and fiber optic front sights, you also have a rail for red dots if you want to put one in. You can choose between variants with and without a pistol grip. The barrel comes at a length of 18.5inch you have a seven plus one capacity and the weight stands at 7.5 pounds.
4. Benelli M2 Tactical Shotgun
Number four on this list is not a Mossberg, it is a Benelli, the company is known to make some of the best home defense shotguns on the market.
Especially with their semi-automatics, they stand out of the crowd. That is why I put the M2 tactical on here.
It comes at a price of $1200, it is a very well made and works with great ergonomics and a good field to shoot it. The operating system is inertia driven which makes it very fast and very smooth, also this leads to a great reliability.
Furthermore, its semi that is lighter than most others and it is very easy to clean. If you maintain it well it will serve you and the next generation of your family well.
It comes with an 18.5 inch barrel and a weight of only 6.7 pounds the capacity is 5+1. The only downside is a cross bolt safety that is located behind the trigger that makes it not that easy to operate.
5. Benelli M4
Here comes another semi from Benelli. This one was designed for and subsequently adopted by the u.s marine corps. It works with a gas-operated system using a short stroke dual-piston design. This leads to less filling and more reliability especially when you shoot many rounds.
This special system comes at a price that is in the area of $1849. For that, you do get a reliable semi-automatic shotgun with an 18.5-inch barrel, a 5+1 capacity, and an overall weight of 7.8 pounds.
It has proven itself in combat many times. Besides that there’s actually not much benefit to get when choosing the m4 over the M2 you do pay $600 more for the M4 but you can easily go with the M2 instead.
6. Remington 870
The Remington 870 is a shotgun that is widely popular among shooters. One of the reasons for that might simply be its low price of $370, this puts it halfway between the Mossberg 500 and Maverick 88.
What do you get if you choose this shotgun?
You get a cross bold safely that is located behind the trigger, this is one of the worst locations you can choose for that. As a compensation, you get a steel receiver that is very durable. For this you pay with a little bit of extra weight, the added weight itself has also two sides to it. It makes this gun harder to carry around. On the other hand, it soaks up the recoil quite nicely. This makes this gun a little bit more comfortable to shoot. It comes with an 18.5 inch barrel and a 6+1 capacity.
7. Kel-Tec KSG
The Kel-Tec KSG is a shotgun that is in its own way extraordinary. Some like it as the best tactical shotgun and others see it as a cool novelty. It is a bullpup design with a pump action. The bullpup design makes it very short.
The other shotguns come with an 18.5 inch barrel and an overall length of 36 to 40 inches. For the KSG with its 18.5 inch barrel, it has an overall length of only 26.1 inches. This makes it very maneuverable especially inside your home.
It is not very expensive, it costs $850 that is very reasonable for a semi-automatic system. Apart from its maneuverability thanks to it being so short, it gives you another great advantage you get a capacity of 14+1 using two magazine tubes. Not only do you have more rounds than normal, but you can also manually select the tube. This way you can load buckshot in one and slugs and the other one and switch as you need it.
However it might still be a hard sell, Kel-Tec is famous or rather infamous for low budget guns with a questionable reliability, this does not automatically mean that the same can be said for the shotgun.
The users of the KSG tell about a shotgun that is very reliable. The model gets showered with praise.
Read Also: Top 10 Shotgun Scope Reviews
What is the right shotgun for you? With that kind of variety, how can you choose the right model for you? The best way is to start with your needs.
If you have to buy a gun with a tight budget go for the Mossberg Maverick 88
If you can afford everything you dream of go with the Benelli m4
If you have to save at least a little bit choose the Benelli m2
If you need a high capacity use the Kel-Tec KSG
If you just want to shoot from time to time and just keep it ready for home defense in an absolutely average setting go with the Remington 870.