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7 Best Home Defense Tactical Shotguns – 2024 Guide

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Last Updated: May 15, 2024

Your home is your castle, which means there is always an option for it to be stormed. Everybody knows the rules: once you break and enter – be ready for a duel. And duels favor all sorts of weapons, home defense shotguns included. Though the choice of weapons is quite varied, few make for a better choice than a shotgun. Shotguns’ ability to inflict devastating damage with a single pull of the trigger is unparalleled, and there is nothing else to settle for when it comes to protecting your life. However, not all shotguns are up to the task. In this article, we’ll highlight the features that every home-defense shotgun should possess, explain why those features matter and share our top picks that make for excellent guardians of peace.

Table of Contents

Best Shotguns for Home Defense

Features of Good Home-Defense Shotguns

First and foremost, all the best home defense shotguns are tactical weapons. If you are an avid waterfowl hunter with a 28-inch barreled shotgun, don’t rush to put a home-defense label on it. A tactical shotgun is quite different from a hunting one, and there are many reasons for it. Here is the list of features that distinguish these two subtypes.

Barrel Length

The law stipulates that shotgun barrels cannot be shorter than 18 inches. That’s exactly what you should aim for when choosing a home defense shotgun. Shorter barrels allow for higher maneuverability, and that benefit is too important to give up. Houses, except for the most luxurious ones, are full of tight spaces, corridors, and doorways too narrow for a full turnaround with a 28-inch shotgun. The optimal length of the self defense shotgun barrel is around 18-20 inches

Best Home-Defense Tactical Shotguns

Type of Action

Shotguns boast the highest number of actions possible, and diversity like that is more than welcome. With that being said, only two of them made their way into our list. Speed of operation is of utmost importance for home defense shotguns, and lever- or bolt-action shotguns were never known for that trait. Single shots are absolutely out of the question, regardless of how many barrels there are. Pump-action and semi-automatic shotguns are the only worthy candidates for the place at your nightstand. They offer the fastest action cycling speed, increasing your chances of landing the stopping shot.

Sight Compatibility

Better to have and not use than to need and lack. This golden rule is fully applicable to tactical shotguns as well. Even though shotguns can hardly be called high-precision firearms, a set of rear and front sights can increase your precision in a way you could never imagine. It doesn’t have to be a red-dot sight necessarily. Even preinstalled iron sights can work miracles with your accuracy. For the same reason, optics-ready shotguns with accessory rails will score more points, allowing you to mount that red dot

Choke Tube

Having a choke tube can greatly impact the effectiveness of the weapon. Choke tubes help sharpen your accuracy with a tactical shotgun and offer a myriad of benefits that are too good to neglect. They funnel and constrict the shot as it exits the barrel, producing a tighter and denser pattern on the target. While chokes are most often used on shotguns for hunting or shooting clay targets, there’s no reason a tactical shotgun can’t have chokes too. After all, you’d probably want to cause as little collateral damage as possible, and choke tubes can keep your spread more focused.

Different choke tubes can increase a shotgun’s effective range, protect the gun barrel, and reduce gun-barrel stress caused by heat. The choke size you choose depends on what kind of situation you anticipate using the shotgun for. Tighter chokes result in more patterned shots, whereas wide chokes only slightly reduce the spread, if at all. Your self defense shotgun can easily do without a choke tube, but if you want, there is no reason not to get one.

Best Home-Defense Shotguns 2022

Shotgun Gauge

Gauge is the shotgun’s caliber – the measurement used to express the inner diameter of the barrel. Though there are all in all six most common tactical shotgun gauges, only two of them will be under today’s spotlight. The 12-gauge is by far the most popular shotgun caliber, and home defense is no exception. It is also the most powerful option among mass-market shotguns. However, this power comes at its own price. The 12-gauge shotguns tend to be larger and heavier than their smaller-gauge relatives. Not to the point of uncomfortably heavy, but the recoil will be quite fierce. If you have trouble handling recoil, then opt for 20-gauge home defense shotguns. They are friendlier in terms of recoil and still deliver significant punch despite a smaller bore diameter.

Read: 12 Gauge vs. 20 Gauge: Choosing a Shotgun for Your Application 


Nothing can describe the home defense shotgun’s preferred capacity as the simple truth the more, the better. Tactical shotgun shells are much bigger than firearm cartridges, so combat shotguns can’t boast the capacity of pistols and rifles. Considering how limited the capacity options are, settle for nothing less than 5 rounds. It’s the necessary minimum for a self-defense situation. The chances are not every shot you make will hit the target, so having more tries without needing to reload is mandatory. Everything above five rounds is even better, so go for quantity. 

Side Saddles

Side saddles can boost your self defense shotgun’s firearm’s utility and effectiveness. Also known as shell carriers, they allow for extra rounds to be conveniently stored directly on the shotgun, providing quick and easy access to additional ammunition. This can be especially critical in a home defense situation where every second counts. Furthermore, having extra rounds readily available can be comforting: knowing that you have more than just the rounds in the gun at your disposal makes you worry less, even if slightly. It’s also worth noting that side saddles add very little weight to the firearm, so they typically do not affect the handling or maneuverability of the combat shotgun.

Home-Defense Tactical Shotguns


Since it’s reliability and ease of use we are after, every home defense shotgun needs a stock. Stocks allow for a more comfortable shooting experience, make firearms easier to handle and improve accuracy. A pistol grip is also an option, but only if it goes together with a stock. Pistol-grip-only shotguns might look cool and be fun to shoot, but they are far from being the first choice when it comes to home defense.


The weight of a self defense shotgun is a crucial factor to consider as it can significantly affect your ability to handle and control the firearm. A shotgun that is too heavy may be difficult to maneuver, especially in tight spaces typical in a home defense scenario. You also never know for how long a potential self-defense situation may last. It may cause fatigue over time, which could have a detrimental effect on your accuracy. Conversely, a shotgun that is too light can have increased recoil, which can make it more challenging to handle and could also affect accuracy.

For home defense purposes, an optimal weight for a tactical shotgun typically falls within the range of 6 to 8 pounds. This weight range strikes a balance between ease of handling and recoil management. All the best shotguns are within this weight range. They are light enough to be maneuvered easily around corners and doorways, yet heavy enough to help manage the recoil produced when the weapon is fired. However, the right weight can vary depending on your strength and comfort level, so listen first and foremost to your own sensations.

Best Home-Defense Tactical Shotguns 

It’s high time you met our top home defense shotguns. All the firearms featured in this list possess (with some variations) characteristics we’ve outlined above.

Mossberg 500 Special Purpose

Mossberg 500 Special Purpose

The world of American tactical shotguns rests on the shoulders of two titans, and Mossberg 500 is one of them. Bearing the title of the most-produced shotgun of all time, Mossberg 500 could not but open our top with reliability proved by many a decade of diligent service. The fact that this tactical shotgun was adopted by the military only adds to the piggy bank of its merits.

To be done with the harsh technicalities, Mossberg 500 Special Purpose is a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun with an 18-inch barrel and magazine capacity of 5+1 rounds. As you can see from the picture, the stock is in place and, even more than that, is replaceable (with a pistol grip included in the bundle). The shotgun’s smooth operation is secured by twin action bars. It might feel a bit clunky in the beginning, but give the moving parts of the action some work – and the cycling will feel as smooth as butter in no time. 

The Mossberg 500 features an open-bottom shell lifter that allows for easy and quick reloading. The safety is located on the top of the rail and can be easily accessed without breaking grip. The action release button is located behind the trigger guard which makes for a second conveniently placed feature. The only thing that could have been better is the accessory rail. The Mossberg 500 Special Purpose comes without one, and the only optics preinstalled is the front bead. That is probably the only drawback this titan has. Apart from that, Mossberg 500 Special Forces is a true asset for everyone looking for a self defense shotgun.

Remington 870 Express

Remington 870 Express

Being the second pillar that holds the American home defense shotgun market, Remington 870 would share the crown of the most reliable combat shotgun with Mossberg 500. That is if we were giving them out. In fact, Mossberg 500 in part owes its existence to Remington 870, for it was developed to be its prime competitor. The 870 model has been around since 1950 and has gone through many upgrades throughout the decades. As a result, it remains a think-of-first tactical shotgun even 70 years after its introduction.

The Remington 870 Express is a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun with an 18.5-inch barrel and magazine capacity of 6+1 rounds. Sounds familiar, right? The two goliaths of the home defense shotgun world share many features, and their fight for first place is never-ending. But even considering how similar they are, calling them two identical guns produced by different brands would have been erroneous. 

The Remington 870 Express features a replaceable synthetic stock. The pump-action release button is located in front of the trigger guard, so you would have to reposition your supporting hand to reach it. The safety is cross-trigger, which is neither good nor bad – it’s only a question of preference. The Remington 870 is known for its refined and smooth action. For that, we should give it a point over the Mossberg 500. This model is also more customizable and has more aftermarket accessories. The cherry on the cake is the accessory rail and preinstalled XC Ghost Ring sights. The rail is adjustable for windage and elevation, so there is plenty of room for adjustment.  

Rock Island Armory VR80

Rock Island Armory VR80

Leaving no-brainer picks behind, we proceed to the area where choices are less predictable. Take Rock Island Armory VR80 shotgun, for example. Its unconventional look makes it stand out from the crowd. Not that originality is an essential attribute of a self defense shotgun, but it definitely doesn’t hurt. The ergonomics of the VR80 are very familiar to AR-15, which might be a plus for someone already familiar with AR rifles. 

The Rock Island Armory VR80 is also the only semi-automatic shotgun on the list. Pump-actions offer undeniable reliability and can work with a wider range of ammunition. Semi-automatics, in turn, provide a higher fire rate and allow for faster follow-up shots, not to mention lighter recoil. They are a bit pickier when it comes to ammo. It’s up to you to make this trade-off or stick to the classics.

The VR80 is a 12-gauge gas-operated semi-automatic tactical shotgun with a 20-inch barrel and magazine capacity of 5+1 rounds. Semi-automatic shotguns were infamous for their reliability issues until some 10 or 15 years ago. Today, the tendency is for on-level performance, and RIA VR80 protects the honor of the semi-automatics pretty well. It appears even more impressive considering the shotguns’ uncharacteristically low price: semi-autos often cost twice as much as pump-action ones. 

The features are surprisingly plentiful. This combat shotgun features a sleek M-LOK handguard with sections of Picatinny rails and full-length optic rail with preinstalled fold-up sights. All the controls are AR-like in terms of positioning and functionality, very intuitive and crisp. The pistol grip and thumbhole stock are replaceable, so you can mount any AR pistol grip or stock you might have.

Since Rock Island Armory VR80 is a unique mix of a combat shotgun and AR rifle, it should inherit benefits from both worlds. The main advantage of the VR80 in comparison with other home defense shotguns on the list is mag capacity. The shotgun is magazine-fed, meaning you can utilize shotgun mags with higher capacity. Though the gun ships with a regular 5-round mag, other options for VR80 are 9- and 19-round magazines. No other combat shotgun can boast capacity like that, and in situations like home defense, every shot matters. 

Benelli M4 Tactical

Benelli M4 Tactical 

Let’s take a sneak peek into the High-End Alley where all premium-level home defense shotguns dwell. We are instantly greeted by the pizzazz and luster of the Benelli mansion with the Benelli M4 Tactical basking in the light of fans’ appreciation. This 18.5in 12 gauge semi-automatic shotgun is an exceptional firearm designed for high performance and reliable operation under all conditions. Though it has many points of pride, its unique Auto-Regulating Gas-Operated (A.R.G.O.) system undoubtedly enjoys the title of the crown jewel. The dual stainless steel, self-cleaning pistons, enhance the shotgun’s durability and ensure smooth operation.

The M4 Tactical Shotgun boasts an 18.5″ barrel, a standard pistol grip, and a black synthetic stock finish. It operates with a 12-gauge cartridge, offering substantial firepower suitable for a wide variety of tactical applications, home-defense scenarios included. The shotgun also comes with either a pistol grip or telescoping stocks, a bolt-lock lever, and a rotating bolt head.

As befits the nobility, Benelli M4 Tactical made an appearance on the silver screen. It found its way into the hands of none other than John Wick himself, assisting him during Gianna D’Antonio’s assassination. The Benelli M4 Super 90, a variant of this model, was also featured in a high-action scene at the Continental Hotel in New York City.

However tempting its superior features and performance may look, as you can see, the Benelli M4 Tactical comes with a hefty price tag. Not to say the shotgun isn’t worth it – you’ll see every cent pay off once you take it in your hands. At the end of the day, you’d probably want nothing short of superior when it comes to home defense, right? If so, Benelli M4 Tactical may very well become your trusted guardian.

Savage 320 Security Thumbhole  Savage 320 Security Thumbhole

The Savage 320 Security Thumbhole is an anticipated upgrade of the brand’s venerable Stevens 320 series. The new look definitely becomes the shotgun, and considering how excellent the performance was before the makeover, it now evolved into its ultimate form.

The Savage 320 Security Thumbhole is a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun with an 18.5-inch barrel and 5+1 round capacity. There is nothing this shotgun has that we haven’t mentioned in other combat shotguns, but that doesn’t make it inferior. The gun features a synthetic stock with an adjustable cheek riser and pistol-style grip organically melded into one construction. Ghost ring sights help with target acquisition, while the front-positioned cross-trigger safety allows switching between the modes without unnecessary hand manipulations
Why do we recommend this tactical shotgun if there is nothing outstandingly different about it? For starters, all the home defense shotguns mentioned above are excellent at what they do. Being on par with excellent is hardly insufficient to find your way in a tier list. But the main reason for Savage 320’s being here is affordability. Other tactical shotguns (at least the first two) are trendsetters and industry legends, hence their price. The Savage 320 Security Thumbhole is more affordable and thus can help more people protect their homes. The best home-defense shotgun is the one that rests under your bed and not on the colorful internet page. Price has much to do with that, that’s why Savage deserves the place among the best. 

Beretta 1301 Tactical

Beretta 1301 Tactical

Want another peek into the High-End Alley? We’ll take it regardless, it’s on our tour program. But that’s the last of it, we promise. We just couldn’t leave without checking out Beretta 1301 Tactical flexing its steel muscles. Engineered for reliability and ease of use, it features enlarged controls and a cold hammer-forged, back-bored barrel. Not only do these elements enhance the shotgun’s performance but also make it user-friendly, even for those with limited firearm experience.

This combat shotgun was designed specifically for law enforcement and home defense, so it won’t be a stretch to say that it’s a perfect fit for the role of a home defender. Beretta 1301 Tactical has an oversized charging handle, making it easy to operate under high-stress situations. The back-bored barrel helps dissipate recoil away from your hand and significantly reduces muzzle climb. Finally, there is this magnificent BLINK gas operating system that allows for 36% faster cycling and that’s A LOT. Seriously, this feature alone was enough to fall in love with this self defense shotgun, but it just happened to have quite a number of other lovable features.

Now, we know that this wonder of a shotgun may seem a bit pricey, but considering how packed with features it is, it easily compares to best shotguns costing more than two grand. If you are still in two minds about it, note that it comes together with a magazine for 7+1 of 2.75″/70mm shells (or 6+1 if used with 3″/76mm shells). If you are ready to make a small investment, Beretta 1301 Tactical is a worthy contender.

TriStar Cobra III Force

TriStar Cobra III Force

The honor of finishing our home defense shotgun parade befell on the rail of the TriStar Cobra III Force. Having Roman numerals in one’s name obliges one to fulfill such tasks with utmost dignity. Though hardly of blue blood, Cobra III Force nonetheless knows its worth and can offer everything you might need from a self defense shotgun.

The TriStar Cobra III Force is a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun with an 18.5-inch barrel and a magazine capacity of 5+1 rounds. Though the profile of this combat shotgun is far from being traditional for pump actions, that doesn’t affect the gun’s effectiveness one bit. The Picatinny rails adorn the top of the receiver and the underside of the fore-end. The latter is extremely handy for mounting lights, which will prove to be a lifesaver in many situations. 

That is yet another shotgun featuring preinstalled Ghost Ring sights which only proves how fitting they are for home defense shotguns. Like all other featured shotguns except for VR80, Cobra III Force has a tubular magazine and is bottom loaded. The safety is similar to that of the Remington family of firearms, located at the top rear of the trigger guard.

The TriStar Cobra III Force boasts one feature every shooter will appreciate. The return spring, located in the forend, makes reloading much easier and faster. It might pose some problems for competitive shooters, but since it’s the home defense we are talking about, it only assists the shooter.

Home Defense Shotgun Sale

Ammo Choice for Home-Defense Shotguns

Let’s say one of these self defense shotguns tickled your fancy, and you got it. What should you load it with? Some may say that choosing shotgun shells is incomparably easier than handgun and rifle ammo. While the choice might not be quite as varied, it’s nonetheless far from meager. You can choose from three primary shotgun loads and their countless variants.  


Birdshot shells are filled with small pellets whose number may vary from dozens to hundreds, depending on their size. Unless you plan to protect your home from birds and small varmints, we don’t recommend using it. Being shot by a birdshot is an experience far from pleasant, but this load is by no means the most effective. They lack penetrative power and won’t be able to reach deep enough to inflict severe damage. That’s not a definite drawback, though. Birdshot loads won’t over-penetrate through walls, reducing the severity of collateral damage.

Ammo for Home Defense Shotguns


Buckshot pellets are bigger than birdshot, so there are fewer of them in a single shell. Their number varies depending on the load, but it rarely exceeds two dozen. The pellets vary in caliber from .24 to .36, with the most common load being nine 9-mm lead pellets, a.k.a. double aught. The effective range of buckshot is up to 50 yards, which is enough for the overwhelming majority of homes. Buckshot loads inflict more damage but also have a higher chance of over-penetrating, though it’s not as high as with slugs and rifle ammo.

Short Shotguns Home Defense

Shotgun Slugs

Slugs are one-piece projectiles weighing around 1 ounce. You can consider them the bullets of the shotgun shell world. There is only one slug per shell, so all the energy the shot produces drives only one projectile. That results in slugs having the longest effective range of 75-100 yards among all shotgun loads. As you can imagine, they also boast the highest penetrating power, which is often an overkill for home defense. Since slugs contain a single projectile, your shots would have to be more accurate. The wider spread of buckshot might be more optimal for home defense.

That’s our guide to the best home-defense shotguns. Remember that any weapon is only effective if you know how to handle it. Having a shotgun barrel pointed at their face might scare off some violators, but you should always be ready to put your firearm to use. A shooting range is the best place to hone your skills and meet fellow gun owners.

Check out our top deals for Guns For Sale and other “Best” articles on Gritr Sports:


Key features to consider include barrel length, type of action, sight compatibility, gauge, capacity, and stock. Each of these elements can impact the shotgun’s effectiveness in a home-defense situation.

The optimal barrel length for a home-defense shotgun is typically around 18-20 inches. This provides a good balance between maneuverability and accuracy.

Pump-action and semi-automatic shotguns are highly recommended for home defense. These types provide fast cycling of rounds, which can be crucial in a self-defense situation.

 Yes, sights can significantly improve your accuracy and precision. Options include rear and front sights or even red-dot sights.

The 12-gauge is the most popular and powerful option for a home-defense shotgun. If recoil is a concern, a 20-gauge shotgun can be a more manageable choice.

A semi-automatic​ shotgun offers quicker shooting and reloading capabilities ​compared to a pump-action shotgun, potentially​ giving you an edge in a high-pressure situation

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