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7 Best Pump-Action Shotguns [Home Defense & Hunting]

We walk you through our favorite pump-action shotguns for home defense and hunting and look at the pros and cons of pump-action shotguns.

Why are pump shotguns such a dominant force in the firearm industry?

As a people, we’ve moved on to semi-auto rifles and semi-auto handguns, and while semi-auto shotguns exist and are prevalent, the pump-action is still incredibly common.

Remington 870

If I had to guess, it’s because the pump-action is still relevant to modern shotgun tactics and employment.

So, let’s dive deeper into pump-action shotguns. I’ll talk about the pros and cons of the platform as well as walk you through some of my favorites.

Table of Contents


Summary of Our Top Picks

  1. Best for Home Defense

    Mossberg 590 Series

    Good duty and defense model, tactical style, large aftermarket

  2. Editor's Pick

    Remington Model 870

    Versatile platform, lots of calibers and models

  3. Lightweight Option

    Benelli SuperNova Tactical

    Lighter than the 870, reversible safety for lefties

  4. Best Budget Option

    Mossberg Maverick 88

    Wallet-friendly but decent quality

  5. Best Box-Fed

    Iron Horse Sentry 12 Shotgun

    Box-fed magazine shotgun with AR like controls/ergonomics

  6. Best Bullpup

    KelTec KS7 Compact Shotgun

    Bullpup design, super smooth action, M-LOK slots

Benefits of Pump-Action Shotguns

Pump shotguns tend to offer a number of benefits over semi-auto designs. The main being the ability to use any kind of shotgun round.

Semi-autos depend on a certain amount of power to function reliably, but pump shotguns have no such issues.

Pump-action shotgun cutaway
Pump-action in action.

A pump gun can eat the lightest loads without issue. Pump shotguns can handle those uber-light trap loads, short shells, less lethal loads, breaching loads, and more.

If it can safely chamber and fire, it can be used in a pump-action shotgun.

Pump-action guns also offer an exceptionally affordable firearm with a high-quality design.

A nice Remington 870 or Mossberg 590 costs less than a budget-grade AR-15. Pump shotguns still offer a rapidly cycling design and allow for proper combative use.

Mossberg Retrograde 590A1 Shooting
Mossberg Retrograde 590A1

A manual action means the weapon isn’t maintenance heavy and can be used and abused without much TLC, and it will keep shooting.

As manual operating weapons, they are not targeted by anti-gun bans and are common across the United States and the world.

Downsides of Pump-action Shotguns

Pump-action shotguns aren’t perfect…

They tend to be mechanically reliable, but it’s more likely that a shooter can cause a malfunction. Short stroking is a very real thing that can occur with poorly trained shooters.

Shotgun Tactics Pump Action

Pump shotguns also require two hands to operate quickly and accurately — so not useful if you have a hand or arm injury.

Recoil with pump guns is more intense than semi-autos, and it takes a skilled shooter to even get near the firing rate of a semi-auto.

You can learn more about the differences between pump-action and semi-auto here!

Best Pump-action Shotguns

Even with these downsides, pump shotguns remain popular, and we’ve gathered the best for your consumption.

Picking the best pump-action shotguns isn’t an easy endeavor.

How do you pick the best pump-action shotguns when you have well over a hundred years of pump shotguns? I admittedly had to limit my choices somehow.

For this list, I picked shotguns that were still in production and not imported or produced in such small batches they were impossible to find.

1. Mossberg 500/590 Series

Since 1961, the Mossberg 500 shotguns have dominated the American market.

The 500 series typify and exemplify the pump-action shotgun layout. This basic gun utilizes a tube magazine, dual action bars, a bead sight, and a field stock.

Mossberg Retro Shotguns, 500 and 590
Mossberg Retro Shotguns 500 and 590

Mossberg makes a ton of varieties of the 500 and 590 series.

The 500 tends to be the sporting option, but security models exist. The 590 series is exclusively a tactical series of shotguns designed for home defense and duty work.

Best for Home Defense
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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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The weapons are similar, and both come in various designs and calibers. They share a similar setup but differ in the magazine tube and barrel design.

Popularity breeds innovation, and you can find a 500 or 590 in nearly any configuration you want.

This includes magazine-fed models, field guns, slug guns, and the Shockwave style firearms. Price varies depending on features, and the more basic models can be very affordable firearms.

Tavor Shotgun vs shockwave
Tavor Shotgun vs Shockwave

At their core, these guns are designed to be robust, easy to use, and ergonomic.

at GrabAGun

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Mossberg uses a tang-mounted safety that’s ambidextrous and just perfect. The controls are laid out simply, easy to access, and very easy to manipulate.

With great popularity comes great accessibility. You can accessorize your Mossberg nearly as much as an AR-15. You can slap all manner of stocks, forearms, lights, and optics on these guns and make them your own.

Mossberg 590 with custom forend
Mossberg 590 with custom forend

The biggest downside to the Mossberg 500 is that their bead sight models are mounted directly to their barrels, and this creates a high point of impact when compared to the point of aim.

Luckily, ghost rings and optics exist for a reason.

You can learn more about the Mossberg 500 and 590 here!

What do you think of the Mossberg 500/590 series? Rate them below!

Readers' Ratings

5.00/5 (122)

Your Rating?

2. Remington 870

People don’t realize how innovative the 870 was when it was introduced in 1950. Winchester’s Model 12 ruled, and how do you unseat a gun known as the perfect repeater?

With the 870, we received the first gun to use dual-action bars for enhanced reliability and anti-bind design.

Remington 870
Remington 870

Mass production was key, and the Remington 870 could be produced at an affordable price while offering a very well-made, high-quality gun.

Remington as a company might rise and fall, but the 870 will live forever.

Remington 870 (17)
My collection of Remington 870 shotguns

This shotgun has been made nearly continuously since 1950 and has become incredibly popular.

Remington has produced dozens of variants to accommodate the tactical crowd, the hunting crowd, trap shooters, wing shooters, and more.

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It’s robust, versatile, and very capable.

Remington also produces these guns in all popular calibers.

Working with an 870 is always an enjoyable experience. The action is slick and smooth, the construction and lock-up are rock solid, and the gun’s raised bead ensures your point of aim and point of impact match.

Remington 870

These guns are top-tier pump shotguns sold at a rather fair price point, at least for the Express models. The price starts to climb significantly when you get into the Field and Wingmasters.

Regardless, you get a solid shotgun that has defined the modern pump-action.

Check out our full review of the Remington 870 here!

3. Benelli SuperNova

The SuperNova series is criminally underrated. I would go as far as to say that the SuperNova is the greatest advancement to pump shotguns since the Remington 870.

Benelli used a heavy dose of polymer in the design, and this cuts weight while providing a corrosion-free design.

Benelli SuperNova Tactical
Benelli SuperNova Tactical

The company took the pump-action shotgun, deconstructed it, and then put it back together.

Its pump is much longer than most and sits further back on the receiver. This allows people with shorter arms to better manipulate the gun.

Benelli installed a magazine cut-off on the pump that allows you to open the action without plopping a round out of the magazine tube. This makes slug-select drills easy.

Lightweight Option
at Guns.com

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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In an interesting twist, Benelli makes the safety reversible for lefties. They also use a recoil-reducing stock with this chevron design to spare your shoulder from the abuse of 12-gauge recoil.

It’s a gun that can also fire 3.5-inch shells. You can hunt nearly anything with a SuperNova, from deer to doves and geese. Those big ejection and loading ports make it a lot easier to load the gun, which is critical for tactical or competition shooting.

Benelli SuperNova Tactical

Across the top, we have ghost ring sights as the standard, and the receiver is tapped and ready for a rail and an optic.

Benelli is often associated with high prices, but the SuperNova is surprisingly affordable.

If I had to pick one pump-action shotgun to escape into the wilds, it’d be the SuperNova.

You can read up on the SuperNova in our full review!

4. Mossberg Maverick 88

When it comes to affordability, there is no better option than the Mossberg Maverick.

For less than $300, you have a robust shotgun for hunting and home defense. Mossberg makes the Maverick, and it’s like a distant cousin to the 500.

Maverick 88 with FAB Defense Stock
Maverick 88 with FAB Defense Stock

Some cost-saving cuts are made to keep the price low and deliver a basic but entirely useable shotgun.

These cuts include a one-piece forend, a lack of optics cuts, and cross-bolt safety, but they don’t take away from the core quality of the shotgun. It’s still a dual-action bar shotgun with a bead sight and a versatile configuration.

Most 500 accessories will fit the Maverick, giving you room to customize the gun as you see fit. While cheaper, the gun is still incredibly durable and very reliable.

Best Budget Option
at GrabAGun

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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It performs on par with the more expensive guns on this list and eats through nearly any ammo you toss through it. Just because it’s cheaper doesn’t mean it isn’t durable.

If I bought a Mossberg Maverick 88, I’d get the combo field and security model. This option offers you two barrels and doubles the versatility.

Maverick 88 Safety
Maverick 88 Safety

5. Iron Horse Sentry 12

If you told me you needed a shotgun but didn’t like shotguns, I know exactly what gun I’d point you towards.

The Iron Horse Sentry 12 is the perfect shotgun for people who hate shotguns. It’s a box mag-fed shotgun with AR-15-like controls and ergonomics.

Blackwater Sentry 12
Iron Horse Sentry 12

It weighs a little over 6 pounds with capacities of five and eight rounds. Iron Horse uses ambidextrous controls that are absolutely massive and very easy to use. Across the top, we have a full-length rail to mount accessories.

The pump-action is ultra-smooth, and the gun is incredibly reliable.

Best Box-Fed
at Guns.com

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Most box-fed magazine shotguns are hit-and-miss, but the made-in-America Sentry 12 is all hit. The gun works and feeds reliably, the magazines fit in AR-10 pouches, and the stock has an excellent length of pull.

It handles much more like a rifle than a shotgun, and for some, it will be a natural change from one to the other.

Meprolight Foresight on a Blackwater Firearms Sentry 12
Meprolight Foresight on a Sentry 12

Admittedly box fed shotguns have their challenges. The magazines cannot be left loaded for extended periods, or the shells deform.

Magazines mean you can’t top off the gun with a few extra rounds as you run it, either.

It’s a different type of shotgun that takes different training, but for some, it will be worth the investment.

6. KelTec KS7

This might be a controversial one…

KelTec often has some bugs in their guns, but as of right now, the KS7 is the best bullpup, pump-action shotgun I’ve ever used. I’ve had one for several years now, and it runs flawlessly.

KS7 side front

As a bullpup shotgun, it’s hardly any bigger than a Shockwave, but you get a stock and a 7-round magazine tube.

It’s also crazy lightweight at only 5.9 pounds. Bullpup shotguns put your hands awfully close to the barrel, but KelTec wisely put an integrated handguard with the KS7.

Best Bullpup
at GunPrime

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

The action is super smooth and runs like a scared bat. Bullpups often don’t work well for lefties, but the KS7 uses a bottom-loading and bottom-ejecting design to keep hulls out of the faces of left-handed shooters.

A space-age carry handle suits across the top with a massive high visibility fight. That carry handle also offers M-LOK slots to mount accessories, side saddles, and lights. If you don’t care for the side saddle, you can install an optic rail pretty easily.

KS7 boom
KS7 boom!

Recoil can be rough, so learn your push-pull technique to make sure you can control it. It’s a well-put-together shotgun that has taken me by surprise.

Read more at our KS7 Review.

7. Benelli M3

My last pick is always a wildcard, and this wildcard is the Benelli M3. The Benelli M3 is not just a pump-action option but also a semi-auto shotgun.

It’s one of the rare guns that offers a hybrid design that mixes a Benelli inertia system with a pump-action design.

As a hybrid, you get the best of both worlds. A fast-firing rate with lower recoil in semi-auto mode and the ability to cycle any round in pump-action.

Benelli M3 in the movie Heat.

All it takes is the spin of a ring, and your gun converts easily.

Like all Benelli shotguns, this is a fine piece of Italian engineering. Everything about the gun reeks of quality.

This includes awesome controls, excellent accuracy, and incredible reliability. The pump-action is uber smooth and very satisfying.

at Kygunco

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

The main downside is that when the gun runs empty, the bolt locks to the rear, and you can only release the bolt with the press of the bolt release — not the pump.

That makes it a little less ergonomic, but you can make it work with practice. Oddly, there aren’t more hybrids, as it is the best of both worlds.

Final Thoughts

Pump-action shotguns are a common choice for defensive, hunting, and sporting — remarkably reliable, affordable, and capable.

Shooting the Remington 870

The pump-action shotgun is the way to go when you need a quality defensive weapon and are on a budget.

What’s your favorite pump-action shotgun? Let us know in the comments below. In need of a home defense shotgun? Take a look at our list of the Best Home Defense Shotguns.

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23 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Mike Marquis

    I found I have to be selective when choosing pumps. The newer 870 is far from the older ones. Example - when you pulled the shotgun into your shoulder and pulled the trigger, the pump released immediately and the pull to eject was all one smooth motion. I now find the safety gremlins have changed the design to require a forward push to release the pump before pulling rearward for ejection. True of several manufacturers except the Benelli Nova. Annoying!

    January 31, 2023 5:18 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Kurtis Hughes

    The 870 will Always be my #1 Choice. The Wingmaster Express that I bought in 1980, still sits next to my bed as I type. Although it has been re-purposed from a duck gun to a "Defensive"gun. I still have all the original wood stock, fore stock, and 28" vent ribbed barrel (the original 32" was cut down to 20") sits in my gun safe
    As Herman stated very aptly below, ... "if you keep them cleaned and oiled, they will still be around when I am gone." ... And mine is gunna protect me until I step into Glory, then my kids and grandson can arm wrestle for it. LOL

    January 30, 2023 8:58 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    Don’t overlook the Stevens 320. It’s a Winchester 1200 clone. Very reliable.

    January 30, 2023 2:59 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    “Everything about the gun reeks of quality.”

    -You Keep Using That Word. I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means.

    January 30, 2023 9:52 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    870 tactical with a mesa tactical side saddle for me. I love those ghost ring sights.

    January 30, 2023 8:36 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Kurt Schilling

    Interesting list. I'll say one thing: Ithaca M-37 Military and Police, the old workhorse.

    January 29, 2023 8:13 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Herman Meister

    Over the years stating in the 70's, I have had 5 Model 870's. Really hard to come up with a better shotgun. I have given several to my grandchildren and if you keep them cleaned and oiled, they will still be around when I am gone.

    January 29, 2023 4:59 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    I prefer a pump shotgun over a semi-auto shotgun. With a pump shotgun, if my gun is dirty, I can muscle the next shell into the barrel. However, with a semi-auto, if my gun is dirty, that next shell might not get into the barrel.

    Another thing I like about a pump shotgun is that when you pump it, the pumping sound will put someone on notice. For example, if someone is trying to break into my house, and they can hear me pump the shotgun through the wall, they will know what is coming, and they will likely decide to leave while they can. You don't have this sound effect with a semi-auto shotgun.

    With guns, I don't want high-tech; I want low-tech and simple -- less to go wrong in a critical moment.

    January 29, 2023 3:59 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Mike Vee

      Unless you live in a tent, nobody will hear any gun being racked/pumped. The only thing you are doing is alerting a potentially armed criminal that you are armed. It's a fallacy that a dope head or criminal will be scared off by the sound of a pump action.

      January 29, 2023 7:36 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Joe John

        So which one is it, fallacy guy? Can they not hear it unless he lives in a tent or is he giving away the element of surprise to an armed foe?

        January 29, 2023 8:07 pm
        • Commenter Avatar
          Mike Vee

          Next time you hear someone trying to break into your house, stand there pumping your shotgun and let us know how that works out for you. Even if a "pump" was audible outside the home, you just risked someone firing the 1st shot at you. Stop watching movies, they won't save your life.

          January 29, 2023 8:14 pm
          • Commenter Avatar
            Joe John

            Just keep racking it? That sounds really stupid but, you do you, guy. I'm the one who's seen too many movies? Right... I'll let you get back to clearing your 1 bedroom apartment with your 10.5" AR.

            January 29, 2023 9:30 pm
          • Commenter Avatar
            Mike Vee

            Now you sound uneducated and 15 years old.

            January 29, 2023 10:10 pm
          • Commenter Avatar
            Joe John

            That one isn't going to work on me, bud. I have a master's in mechanical engineering and a PE. What's your degree in?

            January 29, 2023 10:37 pm
          • Commenter Avatar
            Mike Vee

            No degree. I retired at 38 after coding software and have 400+ acres in North Alabama. Time to go to bed Joe, you lose. And, for god's sake please don't give any one self-defense advise.

            January 29, 2023 11:14 pm
          • Commenter Avatar
            Joe John

            Ah. So you were projecting a little bit with the whole 'uneducated' comment? Interesting ad hominem to go with while sporting a GED (since you're a fan of fallacies.) Reading must be a challenge for you too, because the only one giving advice here was you, Bill Gates. You just couldn't handle it when I pushed back on yours. Sorry I hurt your feelings.

            January 30, 2023 6:36 am
          • Commenter Avatar
            Mike Vee

            Goes to show having a piece of paper on the wall, like all of the other snowflakes, means nothing as far as intelligence. You just proved it. When you go to sleep tonight just remember I pay more in annual property taxes than your income for the year. You lose again dummy.

            January 30, 2023 7:18 am
          • Commenter Avatar
            Joe John

            So when your pathetic attempt to win an argument by calling me uneducated backfired completely, you then resorted to flashing your checkbook and saying 'my yard is bigger than your yard' which is even more pathetic. Keep it up though if that's all you got.

            January 30, 2023 8:17 am
          • Commenter Avatar
            Mike Vee

            Troll = Joe John. You're very boring and argue like a 12 year old girl. You tried to be a smart a$$ from your initial post assuming I lived in a 1 bedroom apartment. I merely pointed out that pumping a shotgun does not scare off a meth head or home invader. Fact is an armed criminal may open fire on a bluff like that killing a family member behind the door/window in another room. Your lack of common sense gun protocol and self-defense shows your lack of education on THAT subject. Don't pick a fight you can't win next time.

            January 30, 2023 8:31 am
          • Commenter Avatar
            Joe John

            Poser = Mike Vee. Once again, you're really struggling to win, Mikey. I mounted the M2, the M249, and the Mk19 for the entire 352 days I was in Iraq. I guarantee I have more trigger time than you; both on and off the range. I don't typically like to punch down on guys by bragging about my degrees or military experience but, you keep wanting to take it there. You should probably stick to python and not give tactical advice based on stuff you've read on the internet; real world experience is what counts, son. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to maintaining the country's hydropower infrastructure.

            January 30, 2023 9:05 am
          • Commenter Avatar
            Mike Vee

            Hard to believe you topped your own stupidity. I figured you'd be a know it all grunt that thinks he's a war hero. From here on out, you can address me as Sir, I outrank you. Get back to work, I'm going to clank some steel on my farm.

            January 30, 2023 12:23 pm
          • Commenter Avatar
            Joe John

            Haha Air Force reservist? Very impressive.

            January 30, 2023 1:36 pm
          • Commenter Avatar

            FFS guys...

            January 30, 2023 11:11 am
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