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5 Best Home-Defense Shotguns of 2023: Tactical, Pump & Semi-Auto

Quickly learn what makes a tactical shotgun, why it's so effective, ammo selection, pros/cons, and our best home defense shotgun picks.

    At this moment, I have a safe full of nice and expensive rifles and handguns. But…it’s a shotgun that sits by the bed.


    Beretta 1301 Tactical Shooting
    Beretta 1301 Tactical Shooting

    Because, per trigger pull, it delivers the most terminally devastating payload possible from a controllable, shoulder-fired firearm.

    When it comes to home defense, we all want the most effective weapon possible. Our family, lives, and homes deserve that protection.

    Mossberg 590A1
    Mossberg 590A1

    That’s not the only reason, though.  

    Throughout this article, we are going to dive into what is a tactical shotgun and its pros/cons.

    Mossberg Retro Shotguns fire ball
    Mossberg Retro

    And, of course…our favorite ones across all price points.

    Update: We added our favorite picks from our Best Tactical Shotgun Video to this article!

    And if you can’t wait for our best picks across pump and semi-auto shotguns…

    Summary of Our Top Picks

    1. Best Pump-Action

      Mossberg 590A1

      Time proven and battle-tested, the Mossberg 500/590 series is hard to beat.

    2. Best Beginner Shotgun

      Remington Model 870

      Another super popular and proven pump action shotgun.

    3. Best Combat Shotgun

      Benelli M4

      Nice aftermarket and an extremely reliable short-stroke piston system

    4. Best Modern Tactical Shotgun

      Beretta A300 Ultima Patrol

      Ergos are good, controls are easy to reach and use, and the performance was flawless

    5. Editor's Pick Semi-Auto

      Beretta 1301 Tactical

      Our current favorite semi-auto shotgun that's light, reliable, and optic ready.

    Table of Contents


    Why You Should Trust Us

    Sean Curtis has been shooting since childhood but really began to delve into guns more during his law enforcement career of over two decades. He received continued training for his roles in SWAT and as a POST-certified handgun instructor.

    FN 502 Tactical - Sean Sul

    He began writing in 2014 for Police1.com, covering many topics, including firearms reviews. From there, his works spread to Guns.com, American Survival Guide, Gun World Magazine, and the Glock Annual.

    Sean wrote freelance reviews for Pew Pew Tactical since 2018, then came on board full-time in 2021 where he soon began focusing on videos.

    Best Home-Defense Tactical Shotguns

    With all this in mind, let’s look at the top tactical shotguns on the market today…

    1. Mossberg 500 Series

    If you want one of the longest-serving combat and police shotguns, the Mossberg 500 is for you.

    Mossberg 500 with Surefire
    Mossberg 500 with Hogue Stock, Surefire Dedicated Shotgun Forend, Side Shotshell Holder, and shotshell bandolier

    One of the “Big 2” in the pump shotgun world…the Mossberg 500 is one of our favorites.

    The big difference from the Remington 870 (the “other” popular pump shotgun) is that its safety is on top of the receiver and accessible with your thumb.

    Mossberg 500 Safety Switch
    Mossberg 500 Safety Switch

    And since it’s so popular…it has one of the largest pools of potential upgrades. Check out all of them in Best Mossberg 500 Upgrades.


    Need something that’s built upon the 500 receiver but more hardened for combat and tactical use?

    Enter the Mossberg 590A1.

    Mossberg 590A1
    Mossberg 590A1 with an awesome paint job and Side Shotshell Holder.

    Mossberg has built a wide variety of different configurations for the 590A1.

    This includes Ghost ring sights, or night sights, fixed or collapsible stocks, and capacities of up to nine rounds.

    Regardless of the features you choose, you are getting one of the best pump-action combat shotguns ever designed.

    Mossberg Retrograde 590A1
    Mossberg Retrograde 590A1

    Built for the dangers involved in military life, the Mossberg 590A1 is a solid combat shotgun. From the finish to the thick-walled barrel, the 590A1 is a tank.

    Here are the stats on the 590A1:

    • Action: Pump Action
    • Capacity: 8+1 12ga, but other models exist
    • Barrel Length: 20 in
    • Overall Length: 41 in
    • Weight: 7 lb
    • Sights: Ghost Ring

    And every one we’ve shot has had the satisfying racking action that just gets better with more use…so keep shooting!

    Best Pump-Action
    at GrabAGun

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    You can even mount a bayonet to it if that floats your boat. As a pump-action shotgun, it can handle everything from powerful magnum loads to the lightest reduced recoil ammunition and even less-lethal ammo types.

    Also, be sure to check out our Best Upgrades for the Mossberg 500/590 Series.

    What’s your take on the Mossberg 500 variants? Rate it below!

    Readers' Ratings

    4.93/5 (1994)

    Your Rating?

    2. Remington 870

    Something can always be said about a classic hardwood stock and pump.  

    Combined with the classic Remington 870 platform and you get a design that has lasted the test of time.

    Best Tactical Shotguns Wyatt 870
    Remington 870

    The Remington 870 gives you 6+1 capacity and an 18.5-inch barrel for maneuverability inside close quarters. You get a front rifle sight, so I would certainly suggest adding a nice adjustable rear sight.

    The main difference from the Mossberg 500 above is that its safety is a button near the trigger.

    Remington 700 Safety Button
    Remington 700 Safety Button

    The 870 design is so well known and so popular that there are tons of different accessories for it available.

    This includes numerous different designs of sight saddles, lighting options, and even scope mounts for a red dot.

    Here are the general stats:

    • Action: Pump Action
    • Capacity: 6+1 12ga
    • Barrel Length: 18.5 in
    • Overall Length: 39 in
    • Weight: 7.5 lb
    • Sights: Front Bead
    Remington 870 with Streamlight
    Remington 870 with 20″ Barrel, Choate Extention Tube, and Streamlight TL-Racker.

    You can swap the barrel with any other 870 barrel without modification as well. Top it off with a solid sling, and you end up with a perfect home defense pump-action shotgun.

    Check out all the options in our Best Upgrades for the Remington 870!

    Remington 870, Top Folding
    Remington 870, Top Folding

    If you were going to pick just one upgrade, though, we highly recommend the Streamlight TL-Racker. Not only is it awesome looking, but the integrated flashlight adds a lot of tactical and practical usefulness.

    The design of the TL-Racker also makes the shotgun easier to rack, a major plus in a high-stress situation. Otherwise, it’s another workhouse pump shotgun that has a stellar reputation.

    Best Beginner Shotgun
    at Kygunco

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Got one you need to clean? Or want to see how easily one breaks down? We go over it in our 870 Cleaning & Lubing Guide and video:

    No worries…we’re here to help!

    Want to get even gun-dorkier? We now have a full hands-on article covering the Remington 870 vs Mossberg 500 in greater detail.

    3. Benelli M4

    You could put any Benelli on this list, to be honest, but the M4 might be the king of combat shotguns.

    When the U.S. Marine Corps needed a semi-auto shotgun, they went to Benelli. And Benelli designed their first gas gun, the M4.

    Benelli M4
    Benelli M4

    The internal auto-regulating gas-operated system, or ARGO, provides an extremely reliable short-stroke piston system using dual pistons to ensure reliability.

    This shotgun beats out Benelli’s inertia guns if you want to strap on optics, lights, and such. Inertia guns are picky when it comes to weight, and when you add weight, you can affect the gun’s reliability.

    Benelli M4 12
    Benelli M4 12, Upgraded

    Gas guns don’t care! Load ’em down and have at it. The Benelli M4, in particular, seems to love just about every load I’ve ever put through it.

    From reduced recoil tactical loads to even light buckshot loads. The only ammo I’ve had it cough on were ultra-light skeet loads loaded for 950 feet per second.

    Benelli M4 7

    Not to mention, the M4 also allows for a good degree of customization. It’s a shotgun with a cult following and decent little aftermarket. It’s soft to shoot and boringly reliable.

    If you want the best, be prepared to pay for it, though. This gun and its accessories are far from cheap.

    • Action: Semi-Auto
    • Capacity: 5+1 or 7+1 12ga
    • Barrel Length: 18.5 in
    • Overall Length: 40 in
    • Weight: 7.8 lb
    • Sights: Ghost Ring
    Best Combat Shotgun
    at PSA

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Check out the upgrades we recommend or read our review on the Benelli M4.

    4. Beretta A300 Ultima Patrol

    The most recent entry from the Italian shotgun giant Beretta, the A300 Ultima Patrol, was announced at SHOT Show 2023. We tried one there and later got one for extensive testing, which we covered in a review.

    In short, we loved it. The Ultima Patrol has a lot of modern tactical shotgun features that normally would cost a shooter dearly, but Beretta kept it around (sometimes under) $1,000.

    Beretta A300 Ultima Patrol_08

    Ergonomics are solid, with aggressive grip textures where you need it. The controls are nice and big, the front end is optimized for accessories, the magazine tube is extended, and it is red dot capable.

    These upgraded features would cost a pretty penny if you had to add them in after purchase, as you might have to do for an M4. No, the A300 Ultima Patrol is ready to rock, out of the box.

    Best Tactical Shotguns Wyatt A300

    This Beretta may not have a rotating bolt head or the B-Link gas system found in the 1301, but the performance characteristics were solid. During testing, we experienced zero malfunctions through a variety of ammo.

    We delivered rounds as fast as we could pull the trigger, and the accuracy was great too. Recoil mitigation was sound between the gas system and buttpad.

    Beretta A300 Ultima Patrol_08

    All these features, combined with the price, make the A300 Ultima Patrol a great option.

    • Action: Semi-auto
    • Capacity: 7+1 12ga
    • Barrel Length: 19.1 in
    • Overall Length: 38 in
    • Weight: 7.1 lb
    • Sights: Fiberoptic front, ghost ring rear
    Best Modern Tactical Shotgun
    at Kygunco

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Check out the full video review below!

    5. Beretta 1301

    Beretta has cornered the market on fine combat shotguns. Owning both Benelli and Stoeger, they produce some fantastic firearms.

    Beretta 1301 Tactical
    Beretta 1301 Tactical

    While the M4 might be the king of combat shotguns, the Beretta 1301 is vying for the crown.

    The Beretta 1301 powers through with a gas-operated system that utilizes what Beretta calls the BLINK, which integrates a cross-tube gas system.

    Best Tactical Shotguns Sean 1301
    Beretta 1301 Tactical Shooting

    Beretta claims it cycles 36% faster than any other semi-auto shotgun. I can’t measure that claim, but I can attest that this gun cycles like a maniac.

    The 1301 Tactical provides you with a fast cycling, low-recoiling gun with minimal muzzle rise. It spits out lead and plastic hulls rapidly, allowing for excellent control over the gun and making it very easy to get rapid follow-up shots on target.

    Beretta 1301 Tactical
    Beretta 1301 Tactical Internals

    Beretta wisely includes a stock that allows shooters to shorten or lengthen the length of pull of their stock.

    It makes it easy for shooters of all sizes to adapt the gun to their preferred LOP. Like the M4, the 1301 has a cult following, and there are lots of high-quality upgrades available.

    Beretta 1301 Tactical Reload
    Beretta 1301 Tactical Reload

    You likely won’t need much, but you can improve the gun’s ergonomics and make it a little easier to accessorize.

    Here are the stats for the 1301:

    • Action: Semi-Auto
    • Capacity: 7+1 12ga
    • Barrel Length: 18.5 in
    • Overall Length: 38 in
    • Weight: 6.4 lb
    • Sights: Ghost Ring
    at Bereli

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Check out our full review or watch the video review below!

    *Honorable Mention Mossberg 940

    Mossberg has already graced this list with their OG 500/590 models. However, they’ve definitely got chops in the semi-auto realm.

    Mossberg 940 Pro Tactical

    While we had good luck with the 930 SPX Tactical, the gun wasn’t reliable for everyone. Mossberg went back to the drawing board and created the 940 Pro Tactical as a result.

    The results are impressive. With a 7+1 capacity and upgraded gas system, the 940 Pro Tactical is competitive out of the box, so you won’t have to be upgrading.

    Mossberg 940 Pro Tactical

    The 940 Pro Tactical runs exceedingly well, and you can get full details in our review here.

    Although it is red dot capable, newer versions are even coming equipped with a Holosun 507k. The mount is clean too, straight to the receiver with no Picatinny rail needed.

    Available Coupons

    This means co-witness between the fiber optic front sight and red dot is possible, and you can keep your normal cheek weld.

    • Action: Semi-Auto
    • Capacity: 7+1 12ga
    • Barrel Length: 18.5 in
    • Overall Length: 37.5 in
    • Weight: 7.5 lb
    • Sights: Fiber optic front

    Semi-Auto or Pump-Action?

    In the home defense shotgun, only two actions matter, the pump-action and the semi-auto. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

    Benelli M4 (bottom) and Mossberg 500 (top)
    Mossberg 500 (top) is a pump-action, while the Benelli M4 (bottom) is a semi-auto.

    I’ve become a big fan of the semi-auto design, but most of my shotguns are pump-actions.

    Why? Pump-actions offer unbeatable reliability.

    They can function with any ammunition. Not to mention, the manual cycling action allows it to eat super light recoiling loads.

    Shotgun Tactics Pump Action

    This style also tends to be quite affordable.

    It’s hard to mess up a pump-action shotgun. Even the cheapest ones typically work with little issue.

    Higher-end pump shotguns like the Mossberg 500 series and Remington 870 series can often be had for less than $350.

    The downside is that they open up room for human error. Short stroking can cause jams, and racking the pump fast and hard requires a little extra training.

    There’s also the fact they typically fire slower than most semi-autos.

    Semi-autos offer a faster firing rate and allow for rapid follow-up shots.

    Benelli M4 4
    Semi-auto Benelli M4

    These gas or inertia-operated guns fire quite rapidly and have much lighter recoil than pump actions — the simpler manual of arms makes them more intuitive in the heat of the moment.

    Semi-auto shotguns tend to be pricier, especially good semi-autos.

    A half-decent semi-auto costs twice what a good pump gun does.

    Benelli M4 (9)

    And a premium grade, like the Benelli series, gets into Gucci AR territory.

    Semi-autos tend to be pickier about ammo, so you have to ensure the gun works with your preferred brand.

    But if your semi-auto can handle reduced recoil loads, then you’ll have a super soft shooting shotgun.

    Other Options

    Maverick 88

    How about another budget choice…that’s essentially a clone of the Mossberg 500?

    Maverick 88
    Maverick 88 with Fab Defense Recoil Reducing Side Folding Buttstock

    The Maverick 88 is made by Mossberg, and the primary difference is that its safety is not on top…but in front of the trigger.

    And besides that…if you blindfolded us and had us shoot that or a “real” Mossberg…we wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

    Maverick 88 Safety
    Maverick 88 Safety

    This cuts down the price drastically, and the 88 can be had for around $200 if you look around.

    But because it’s essentially a 500, it fits (almost) all the upgrades. For us, we put on a nice recoil-reducing and folding Fab Defense buttstock and a side saddle.

    • Action: Pump Action
    • Capacity: 5+1 12ga
    • Barrel Length: 18.5 in
    • Overall Length: 39.5 in
    • Weight: 6.25 lb
    • Sights: Front Bead
    at Kygunco

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    We also have a full-on review of the 88.

    Stoeger M3K Freedom

    The Stoeger M3K Freedom is the tactical-sport derivative of the Stoeger 3000 series. This shotgun is ready to rock and roll out of the box.

    Stoeger M3K Freedom

    It’s also one of the most reliable semi-auto shotguns and is priced affordably. We are breaking the rules on length a bit here, as the Stoeger M3K has a 24-inch barrel.

    It also features an extended magazine tube with a 10+1 capacity, oversized controls, extended choke tubes, and a fiber optic front sight.

    Brock Big Boy

    Stoeger is a subsidiary of Benelli, and like Benelli M2, the M3K has a buttery smooth action and excellent reliability, making it an outstanding choice for those looking to get into the competitive 3-gun competitions on a budget.

    Additionally, the M3K is drilled and tapped to accept scope mounts. You also have a wide ejection port for speed reloads and clear and consistent ejection.

    Stoeger M3K Freedom

    Here’s the rest of the stats on the Stoeger:

    • Action: Semi-Auto
    • Capacity: 10+1 12ga
    • Barrel Length: 24 in
    • Overall Length: 48 in
    • Weight: 7.3 lb
    • Sights: Red Bar Front

    KelTec KS7

    Wanna talk about odd ducks? Then take a peep at the KelTec KS7. This bullpup shotgun has descended from the KSG and, to me, is a better option for shotgunners.

    KS7 on a tree
    KS7 on a tree

    While the KSG is cool, it’s heavy and complicated. The KS7 provides a simpler option with a single 7-round tube.

    It’s more than enough for shotgun problems and allows for a simpler, lightweight, and cheaper shotgun.

    KS7 boom

    I ran the heck out of a KS7 and could never get it to fail. It surprised the crap out of me!
    This short and handy little fella provides space-age looks to a pump shotgun.

    The KS7 provides you with a shotgun that’s 26.25 inches long with an 18.5-inch barrel – just legal in both OAL and by barrel length.

    KS7 cool guy pic

    Weighing less than 6 pounds makes it a very light and maneuverable shotgun.
    Reloads are slow like most bullpups, but it’s completely ambidextrous and lefty-friendly. It feeds and ejects from the bottom so no brass slams into your face.

    As I said, it’s tough to mess up a pump shotgun. The weird design doesn’t make it too tough to mount lights, slings, and extra ammo, either.

    • Action: Pump
    • Capacity: 7+1 12ga
    • Barrel Length: 18.5 in
    • Overall Length: 26.25 in
    • Weight: 5.9 lb
    • Sights: Fiber Optic Bead

    Armscor VR80

    On the budget side of magazine-fed shotguns, we have the VR80 series from Armscor.

    If you dislike your traditional shotgun layout and want to go mag-fed, then there’s never been a better time to get into mag-fed shotguns.

    Rock Island Armory VR80

    The gas-operated VR80 offers a 5, 9, or ridiculous 19-round magazine.

    It’s styled after a modern AR-15 and comes complete with an AR-15 grip and stock compatibility. Armscor includes an M-LOK rail system, sights, optics rail, and more.

    Rock Island Armory VR80 Right Side

    The VR80 feeds extremely reliably and digests a wide variety of loads without complaint.

    It’s my favorite of the VR series and delivers a fast cycling, easily controllable platform. Reloads are a bit more intuitive than a traditional shotgun and friendly for those who are a little more familiar with rifles than shotguns.

    Rock Island Armory VR80 Fire
    Rock Island Armory VR80 Fire

    I’m a fan of the 9-round magazine — the perfect mix of capacity and size. With an adjustable AR stock, you can alternate the length of pull.

    While the M-LOK rail allows for the easy attachment of lights, and obviously, the optics rail makes installing a red dot simple.

    Rock Island Armory VR80 Side
    Rock Island Armory VR80 Side

    The VR80 mimics most things about the AR-style rifles, including most of the controls. It’s a little hefty but packs a punch and delivers a shotgun’s power with the handling of a rifle.

    • Action: Semi-Auto
    • Capacity: 5+1 12ga
    • Barrel Length: 20 in
    • Weight: 8.3 lb
    • Sights: Flip Up Irons
    Best AR-Style Shotgun
    at Kygunco

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Check out our full review on the VR80 and the other RIA shotguns.

    What is a Tactical Shotgun?

    What separates a tactical shotgun from a hunting shotgun?  

    Hunting Doves
    Hunting doves

    There are certainly a few different features that make a shotgun tactical, though.

    18 to 20-inch Barrel

    These barrel lengths keep the weapon short and maneuverable when used inside buildings or even vehicles.

    Axeon Shotlight

    It is worth noting that 18 inches is as short as you can legally go with a shotgun barrel without requiring a tax stamp and federal registration.

    Pump or Semi-Auto Operation

    Shotguns come in every flavor imaginable — this includes pump-action, semi-auto, lever-action, bolt-action, and single and double barrels.

    Mossberg Retrograde 590A1 Shooting
    Mossberg Retrograde 590A1

    Pump and semi-automatic actions are the only two that are practical for home defense. They are the fastest forms of operation for a shotgun. (We go over the difference between these two actions later in this article.)

    A Good Set of Sights

    Most shotguns come with a single bead at the end of the barrel that acts as a sight.  

    Omega AR12 Sights and Shooting
    Omega AR12 Sights

    These work for a lot of applications, but if you want to squeeze the most out of your shotgun, a front and rear sight are important, or even a quality red dot.

    Sling Mounts

    A sling allows you to attach the weapon to your body.  

    Blue Force Gear Vickers Sling
    Blue Force Gear Vickers Sling

    This allows you to retain the weapon while using your hands for other tasks and makes it difficult for an attacker to strip you of your weapon.

    Chambered in 12 or 20 Gauge

    12-gauge is the most common combat shotgun caliber, especially when it comes to semi-automatics. It is the more powerful option as well, but also makes the firearm larger, heavier, and harder recoiling.  

    Shotgun Ammo in Stock

    Cost Per Round
    00 Buckshot
    00 Buckshot
    00 Buckshot
    00 Buckshot
    #8 Birdshot
    #8 Birdshot

    A 20-gauge is still a very potent round and is much friendlier for smaller people.

    Revenge of Amazon 12 Gauge Speed Strips
    12 Gauge Speed Strips

    Capacity of 4+1 Minimum

    The shells a shotgun uses are quite large, and therefore most shotguns are limited in capacity.

    4 +1 will settle most encounters, but preferably you are using something more akin to 7+1 to give yourself that extra edge.

    A Stock

    Any fighting shotgun needs a stock. Pistol grip only shotguns are fun, look cool, and are handy in some situations.

    Rock Island Armory VR60 Shotgun Buttstock
    Rock Island Armory VR60 Shotgun Buttstock

    However, a shoulder stock makes a shotgun much easier to handle, much easier to shoot accurately, and more comfortable.

    What Can the Shotgun Do?

    Why is a shotgun so effective?

    First off…versatility.

    I can fire the widest variety of projectiles from a shotgun. I can engage anything from pests like possums to two-legged varmints and even creatures as big as bears.

    Types of 12ga Shotgun Shells (L to R: Bird, Buck, Slug)
    Types of 12ga Shotgun Shells (L to R: Bird, Buck, Slug)

    The shotgun has three primary loads:


    A load filled with small pellets, ranging from dozens to hundreds depending on the particular load used.

     Designed for hunting birds, clay pigeons, and other small game. Not very effective for home defense.

    12ga Birdshot, Opened
    12ga Birdshot, Opened

    Here is my Mossberg 590 with birdshot…


    A load of larger pellets commonly ranging in caliber from .24 inches (No 4 Buckshot) to .36 inches (000 Buckshot).

    The number of pellets varies per load and caliber of the ball used — perfect for medium game and tactical applications.  

    The most common is 00 (“double aught”) buckshot which is equivalent to nine lead pellets roughly 9mm in diameter.

    12ga 00 Buckshot, Opened
    12 gauge 00 buckshot, opened.

    And here is my Mossberg with buck…there’s a lot more kick:


    Solid projectiles of around 1 ounce in weight. 

    Often quite larger, heavy, and powerful. They allow you to extend your effective shotgun range.

    12ga Slug, Opened
    12 gauge slug, opened.

    Ammo Rundown

    A tactical shotgun is made to end the threat.

    Load it accordingly.

    When we start talking about using a shotgun defensively, we will focus primarily on buckshot and slugs. Inside the home, buckshot is king. If you keep a shotgun as a truck or trunk gun, you can toss in some slugs for longer-range encounters.

    Carrying Extra Shotgun Ammo

    Federal FliteControl 00 Buckshot is my favorite self-defense round. But cheap buckshot like Sellier & Bellot works for training.

    My chosen self-defense slugs are the Winchester PDX Defender segmenting slugs.

    In a home defense situation, you will be in close-quarters combat. CQC moves extremely fast and is supremely chaotic.

    Shotgun Tactics Pump and Ammo

    You want to end the fight as fast as humanly possible. The last thing you want is an extended firefight happening in your home.  

    That’s why the shotgun rules in close quarters.

    Looking for more choices? Check out the Best Shotgun Ammo for Self Defense & Range.

    Shotgun Downsides + Fixes

    However, a shotgun does have some inherent weaknesses. A shotgunner needs to acknowledge these weaknesses and train or accessorize past them.  

    Training is certainly the primary means to overcome weaknesses.  

    Accessories also have their place on a shotgun.

    Short Range

    A shotgun will always have a shorter range than a rifle.

    These range estimations are based on effective combat distances, not hunting bird ranges. There are also different factors that cause variances, like ammunition used and the presence or lack of a choke.

    Buckshot is largely limited to roughly 25 to 35 yards.

    Shotgun Battle Belt 3
    Shotguns have a shorter range.


    This one is massively dependent on the load you use. In general, birdshot is not the best defensive choice.

    It’s made for birds, which are significantly smaller than people. I’d say 5 yards for a critical wounding shot with most birdshot.

    Birdshot is like putting a fire out with a bucket of water. You can do it, but a fire truck works a lot better.

    Sig Sauer Romeo .410 Birdshot
    We like to occasionally blast optics with birdshot.

    Even when loaded with slugs, you are looking at 100 yards effective range for a defensive encounter. Because of the shotgun’s inherent short range, you need to squeeze every yard possible out of it.

    Choking Up

    On a home defense or tactical shotgun, chokes are not needed.

    Most common in a cylinder bore design for a good reason, chokes work best with loads designed for hunting and less for modern tactical loads.

    shotgun choke choke tube
    Choke tube

    Modern loads like FliteControl do not function well with chokes beyond the standard cylinder bore choke.

    In fact, you’ll often see tactical loads open up with a choke that constricts. Modern tight patterning buckshot loads do not work well with your chosen load.

    As always, pattern your load.

    If your pattern seems odd or way too open, check your choke.

    shotgun choke

    Imagine my surprise when my chosen FliteControl load was patterning widely in my Benelli M4. I checked the choke, and for some reason, Benelli shipped it with an Improved Cylinder choke.

    I tossed in a cylinder bore choke, and boom, it actually tightened up.

    Maximize Your Shotgun’s Range

    As a shotgunner, this means having a solid set of basic marksmanship fundamentals.  

    This includes trigger pull, using sights, breath control, and turning your body into a stable firing platform. The old myth you can’t miss with a shotgun is just that, a myth.

    Pattern Your Shotgun

    This means trying a variety of loads and seeing which loads are the tightest out of your shotgun.  

    When you pattern a shotgun, you learn how the pellets hit over different distances. The old rule of 1 inch for every yard is not always accurate. Again, chokes and ammo selection cause a lot of variances here.

    Patterning FliteControl at 10 yards
    Patterning FliteControl at 10-yards

    With my Federal FliteControl 00 Buckshot ammunition and a cylinder choke, I get basically one ragged hole at 10 yards.  

    At 15 yards, we have a palm-sized group. At 35 yards, I cover the A zone of an IPSC target, which is roughly a 6×11-inch rectangle.

    Patterning FliteControl at 15 yards
    Patterning FliteControl at 15-yards

    Buckshot gives me about a fist-size group at 10 yards.  

    At 15 yards, I’m hitting mostly in that same 6 x 11-inch rectangle, and at 20 yards, I’m covering the entire upper torso of an IPSC target. At 35 yards, the entire target is covered, and some pellets miss.

    As you can see, patterning is quite dependent on the weapon, the choke, and the ammunition.

    Reliable ejection pattern is always a plus

    Patterning will allow you to find the best load for your shotgun, and you can also squeeze out a little extra range from it. 

    You should also test slugs, see how and where the slugs hit, and zero your sights for slugs.

    Federal Mini Slug Pattern
    Federal Mini Slug Pattern

    Why Do Sights Matter?

    In terms of accessories, the best thing you can do here is get a good set of sights.

    Open rifle sights were the old standard, and they still work fairly well. However, a solid set of peep sights mounted on the rear of the receiver are much better.

    Omega AR12 Sights
    Omega AR12 shotgun sights

    My favorite set is made by LPA and is completely adjustable for zeroing.

    To Optic or Not?

    I used to think irons were enough, and in many ways, they are.

    However, like every other firearm on the market, a shotgun benefits greatly from red dots. Red dots on shotguns provide you with a very intuitive aiming option for shooting in any environment.

    Multiple Shotguns with Optics

    You can most certainly succeed without an optic on a shotgun, but I’ve found that red dots on shotguns make me a faster and more efficient shooter.

    You can focus on your target and put the red dot where you need it to be. A red dot-equipped shotgun allows for rapid and instinctive shooting.

    Holosun 507c Mini Red Dot
    Holosun 507c Mini Red Dot

    My personal favorite is the Holosun 507C.

    It’s teeny-tiny, and I use the 32 MOA reticle to pattern my buckshot. With my chosen shotgun and load, I know that every pellet is landing inside that circle at 15 yards.

    at OpticsPlanet

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    For more on shotgun optics, check out our article.

    Lower Ammo Capacity

    Your basic combat shotgun is a tube-fed model that typically contains seven to eight rounds.  

    Personally, I prefer tube-fed for a shotgun over a magazine any day of the week. 

    External box magazines are often bulky and occasionally unreliable. A tube-fed shotgun gives the user a smaller profile and a reliable feeding system.

    Saiga Shotgun
    Saiga Shotgun

    Seven to eight rounds is a relatively low ammo capacity compared to the 30 rounds a standard modern sporting rifle can hold or even the 17 rounds most 9mm handguns can hold.  

    To address this weakness, you need to learn how to top off a shotgun.

    shotgun speed reload keanu
    Shotgun Quad Load with Keanu Reeves

    In a perfect world, your shotgun will never go completely dry. You should always ‘top it off’ when possible.  

    This means feeding the tube during each and every lull in the action.  

    One of the more common tactics is to fire two, load two. Maintaining this rhythm will keep you from ever running out of ammo.

    To top off your shotgun, you need to have ammo on hand. My personal preference is a side-saddle ammo carrier.

    Shotgun Battle Belt 5

    This gives you a reload on hand as soon as you grab the weapon. So if something goes bump in the night, you can respond immediately and still have a reload on hand.

    Just remember to train with that side-saddle; it isn’t there to just look pretty.

    TacStar Sidesaddle
    TacStar Sidesaddle

    Lastly, always keep the shotgun fully loaded.

    There is no reason to pump your shotgun unless you are reloading for a second shot. Do not fall for the gun store gossip that “racking the shotgun will scare them away.”  

    It won’t, and you’ll give away your position. The only time they should hear the sound is because you’re about to take a second shot.

    For more bad shotgun myths, check out the Worst Shotgun Tactics You Should Avoid.

    Managing Recoil

    Recoil on a shotgun sucks, right? Well, it doesn’t have to. You can control recoil and mitigate recoil with a technique known as push/pull.

    Rob Haught came up with the push/pull method of recoil control, and I’ve found it to be the most effective means of mitigating both recoil and muzzle rise with a shotgun.

    The technique is remarkably simple.

    You push forward with your non-dominant hand and pull rearward with your dominant hand.

    This creates tension that helps eliminate recoil and institute control over the gun.

    Before you pull the trigger, you apply tension and relax it after you pull the trigger. When you first start, you’ll find yourself moving a little slowly.

    Mossberg Retrograde 590A1 Right
    Mossberg Retrograde 590A1

    You’ll have to build a rhythm with the gun and your push/pull to employ it rapidly, especially with a pump-action.

    I’d advise starting with dry fire and finding that rhythm. Once you do, you’ll be able to rapidly engage with a pump or semi-auto with less recoil and muzzle rise.

    Final Thoughts

    A tactical shotgun represents the absolute power a shoulder-fired weapon can have.

    Mossberg Retro Shotguns ads
    Mossberg Retro Shotguns

    If you go the tactical shotgun route, remember that, like every weapon, you need to train with it to be effective. A shotgun is only as good as the shotgunner holding it.

    What shottie did you end up getting? Let us know in the comments! Need some gun food for your new scattergun? Check out the Best Shotgun Ammo for Home Defense, Hunting, & Plinking. Looking for upgrades? Check out our article on the Best Home Defense Shotgun Upgrades.

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    414 Leave a Reply

    • Commenter Avatar

      Vietnam veteran - Unless I missed it - you did not cover the use of a "Shot spreader", which expands shot bolus. Some times called a "Duckbill" - on the end of a short BBL 12 gage. My home, hall way to front door is 25 feet (8 yards +/-). Duckbill gives me an ovel (Horizontal) of 12 to 16" X 4" on average. This is with #4 shot ( NO "00" or slugs permitted). Lots of 12ga Shorty's on the market today. Remington makes "Shorty" pump and semi auto to choose from. I modified an old Rem 11 and the shot spreader is the GATOR available from Paradigm SRP. This approach is worthy of mention>

      September 21, 2023 10:59 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      America. So You dont have access to Fabarm. STF 12 beat-up all other pump action.

      August 5, 2023 1:34 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      I'd love a Benelli M4 but prices are ridculous. So, my goto shotguns are Remington 870 Police and Mossberg 590 Special Purpose. Both are great.

      August 3, 2023 6:32 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Great review Travis. I've used my 18" fully modified Saiga 12 for many years. I utilize a CSS quad rail for mounting a Fab Defense 6V 500 lumen flashlight, and a Double Ace tactical stock to keep it light.

      July 11, 2023 5:00 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Richard Head

      I’m a fan of my bullpup semi auto 12ga.
      10 rd mags of buck shot.

      June 29, 2023 7:43 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Genius Geophren Mwape

      I need Airgun number 3

      June 26, 2023 12:29 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Genius G. Mwape

      Need airgun number 3 please

      June 26, 2023 12:28 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Chuck Cochran

      I had to have surgery to both shoulders and just can't handle heavy recoil anymore, so I'm looking for a good 20 gauge that won't dent my fixed income too badly. So far, no luck. All I've run across are North of $500.
      One would think a .410 would lend itself as a norm for an AR style shotgun, but so far nothing affordable has passed by.
      Lots of good tips and advice Travis.

      June 20, 2023 7:15 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      counterfeit money for sale

      I think you have mentioned some very interesting points, thankyou for the post.

      May 8, 2023 5:43 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      Let’s not overlook the Stevens Model 320. It’s a Winchester 1200 clone. Works very well and inexpensive.

      April 17, 2023 11:08 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        counterfeit money for sale

        nice respond

        May 8, 2023 5:44 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      "In materials, the 870 has the upper hand since its receiver is made out of steel while the Mossberg is alloy. "

      Small correction;

      Mossberg's receiver is made out of an aluminum alloy. Remington's receiver is made out of steel (an alloy of iron and carbon).

      April 1, 2023 2:05 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Don Lang

      I got the Maverick 88, threw some new furniture and a few accessories on it and now I have a lean mean fighting machi...er, weapon!

      March 26, 2023 7:10 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Carlos D. Ortiz

      Be careful about advertising for Kygunco aka Kentucky gun shop who have long histories of suspected online gun scams.

      March 9, 2023 8:26 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Chuck Cochran

      After two surgeries to repair damaged shoulders (from years of working overhead), I discovered I could no longer tolerate heavy recoil. Two or three shots and the joint is screaming Ave Maria in high C and both were Semi-Autos. Whole reason I went to the AR platform was due to the light recoil.
      Thought about trying a 20 ga, but no one in my area owns one that I'm aware of. I won't buy one until I can try one.
      So for now, I'll stick with my .300 AAC AR an my PPQ backup.

      February 28, 2023 7:58 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Barry L

      That’s a pretty weak response. First of all, the Mossberg 940 Pro Tac is a shotgun. Second, while the Shockwave & Tac 14 aren’t classified as shotguns by our all-knowing overlords at aft, the majority of folks reading this article probably don’t know that. You, as the author, and supposedly informed industry “expert” using that as an excuse is kinda lame. All of the firearms I mentioned use shotgun shells as ammo and launch either birdshot, buckshot or slugs from their muzzle.

      February 27, 2023 3:44 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Travis L Pike

        Words matter and if you call me an industry expert but expect me to use the wrong term then that seems like an odd oxymoron.

        February 28, 2023 7:20 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Any thoughts on a true takedown model that will store and transport like an AR-7 or Chiappa LA322?


      February 27, 2023 6:35 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      Any thoughts on the Mossberg 940 Tactical?

      February 27, 2023 1:15 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Jim Hovater

      My current HD shotguns are both in 20 gauge: a Stoeger M3020 Tactical (a Benelli M2 clone), loaded with (3) #3 buckshot and (2) W-W Defender segmented slugs, and an RIA VR82 with 10-rd mags loaded with #3 buckshot.

      February 26, 2023 8:22 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Barry L

      The 1301 is in a class by itself. That being said, not sure how the Remington 870 Tac 14 and/or the Mossberg Shockwave were omitted from this list. The Mossberg 940 Pro Tac should have been mentioned too.

      February 26, 2023 8:21 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Travis L Pike

        They arent shotguns but firearms

        February 27, 2023 7:32 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Kurt S

      Well, let's see. I've been using an Ithaca M-37 M&P 12ga. with 18.5" barrel for the last 40 years and only paid $100 for it. Got into a big argument with older brother who maintained that a Mossy 500 was the way to go 'cause it had a bayonet lug. He was a Marine, so go figure. And when I was Young and Dumb, I had a sawed off double barrel 12 ga. Greener. Blew up several pumpkins with it and scared the crap out the family dog. Be realistic, why don't ya. Virtually any relatively short barreled shotgun will do for repelling boarders in a "goes thump in the night". There are very few critters or varmits that are going to do much of anything other than bleed when they catch a ounce or more of lead or steel shot moving at 1100-1300 fps. Cape Buffalo and Elephants for example. Zombies, gremlins, possums not so much.

      February 26, 2023 8:02 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Gus McCall

      I have an Ithaca 20” 7+1 great shotgun

      February 26, 2023 6:23 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      As a Boomer boomer, I once again yield to the wisdom of Col. Cooper, who noted that in his shotgun classes, autos actually went "bang" much more reliably than pumps. This was mainly due to operator error, and that was amongst gun folk who were presumably at least semi-skilled before they got to the class. And that was decades ago, when the makes, models and off the shelf reliability with autos was much more limited than today.

      February 14, 2023 7:47 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Tom Jamison

      I picked up the Beretta 1301 about a year ago, and absolutely love it. Best bedside gun. Thinking of going to mini-shells. Any opinions on them?

      February 13, 2023 5:20 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Barry L

        Good luck getting them to cycle. Mini shells are pump gun ammo.

        February 26, 2023 8:23 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Standard Manufacturing DP-12 Double Barrel Shotgun

      February 10, 2023 10:53 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      I always thought that 410 was enough to stop somebody but after reading your article it seems like 410 gauge is not acceptable and you don't think that it could stop someone? I skimmed the article so I might have missed that. And also the shorter shells for more capacity? I missed the recommendations on that if it was there?

      December 9, 2022 10:35 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      For shits and giggles and for under 150$ at sportsmans guide try the GFORCE ARMS GF2P its a 12ga pump w/20" brl holds 5 three inch (also fires 2 3/4 " shells) synth stock,handguard and gotta pistol grip to boot I knicknamed it kinda likka hi point -lil phuggly, kinda heavyish, but sunnyofabeach it works and well

      October 23, 2022 7:06 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Matt Roseberry

      How about the Benelli Nova or Super Nova tactical pumps. $399-$599 for Italian made quality!

      July 25, 2022 8:11 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Raymond Merriman

      Just one point, all these fancy 12's seem to (there are exceptions) have one flaw. I am talking tactical now, no magazine that is detachable, to me that is very important if for instance you were in a firefight and your gun runs out of ammo and you are reloading BANG your dead. get my point? With a mag your time to reload is tiny by comparison . just my take.

      July 22, 2022 6:08 am
      • Commenter Avatar

        Tube magazine? You’re never going to lose a tube magazine. If you still have the gun in your hands, you still have the magazine. It isn’t likely to ever get damaged from rough handling. It does not provide a right angle surface to snag on door frames or on brush if outdoors. It does not provide a convenient handle for yanking the gun out of your hands. It is 100 percent reliable. Should something go bump in the night, I can toss a 25 round bandaleer over my shoulder as I’m grabbing my shotgun. Are you going to stuff a spare box magazine under the elastic waist band of your BVD’s??? I’m afraid most of us have seen too many living dead movies. I prefer a 4 or 5 round tube magazine to keep my shotgun as light and lively in my hands as possible. That is more important to me than having 10 rounds on board.

        January 24, 2023 11:53 pm
      • Commenter Avatar

        While topping off the tube magazine as opportunity presents itself, there is a shell in the chamber standing guard to instantly deal with an unexpected threat

        January 25, 2023 12:12 am
      • Commenter Avatar

        The article is about HD guns, not run-n-gun matches or fighting a war. I'm thinking if you anticipate multiple armed invaders who are hardened and determined to the point they don't scatter at the first sound of gunfire (like maybe you live w/in ten miles of the border), you probably need a rifle, or at least a 5.56 carbine.

        February 14, 2023 7:15 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Al Keller

      Think this article on shotguns is very informative with right on info. Would like to see something about the pro's and con's of mini-shells and regular 2 3/4, 3 in shells. Also am concerned about the issue of over pennetration feel that is an important issue that is underrated. Thanks for your educational articles.

      July 18, 2022 2:40 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Jacki Billings

        Thanks for reading!

        July 18, 2022 4:35 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      Hi Guy,
      You are absolutely spot-on about the Shotgun's 'most devastating load delivery'.
      In close quarters there's little else that can compete.
      While all these are fine defensive shotguns, I'm glad to see you at at least mentioned one bullpup. I know its hard when you are not used to them,,,,,but,,,
      I've had most all of these shown here at one time or another, also the KS7, DP12, the Turkish Semis, and the KSG.
      I've settled into old age and retirement with the S&W M&P 12 for inside the house.
      All I can add to your excellent writing is that the semi-autos might not feed 'just any' shotshell, and the 'pumps' and 'bullpumps' might not cycle undersize shells like the minis. exception being KSG, KS7 and M&P 12. Those three will cycle broken glass.
      What it really boils down too, especially in a shotgun, is fit, comfort and ability (simply put, can you handle it).
      There's enough of each model floating around that between borrowing and/or renting one should be able to try out at least a few different models at the range.

      June 12, 2022 4:35 pm