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Shotguns: Our Top Picks for Home Defense

A Pew Research Center survey shows that the main reason people own guns is for personal or home defense. While many prefer pistols and rifles, tactical shotguns definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. In this post, we’ll explore home defense shotguns, highlight important considerations for choosing one, and review the top models available, including their performance and benefits.

Good Home-Defense Shotgun: What Is It?

When choosing a tactical shotgun for HD, evaluate key factors to ensure it fits your needs. Below is a list highlighting these crucial factors:

  1. Gauge: The 12-gauge is highly recommended for its stopping power and availability of ammunition, plus it can hold more shot due to its larger diameter. However, 20-gauge can be an alternative for those seeking less recoil.
  2. Capacity: Look for a shotgun with a capacity of at least 5 rounds. Higher capacity means fewer reloads, which can provide a significant advantage in a home defense scenario.
  3. Action Type: Pump-action shotguns are renowned for their reliability and simplicity, making them a popular choice. Semi-automatic models offer quicker follow-up shots but can be more expensive.
  4. Barrel Length: Shorter barrels (18 to 20 inches) are preferred for maneuverability within the confined spaces of a home. Remember that shotguns with the buttstock (i.e. designed to be fired from shoulder) and having a barrel length of less than 18 inches are subject to NFA.
  5. Stock Configuration: A stock aids in control and accuracy. Consider collapsible or adjustable stocks for customization to the user’s build and comfort.
  6. Accessories: The ability to add accessories such as a flashlight or laser sight can be beneficial for identification and targeting in low-light conditions.

The Best Home Defense Shotguns

Best Budget: Mossberg Maverick 88
Best Classic Pump: Mossberg 590 (or Remington 870 Tactical)
Best Semi-Auto: Beretta 1301 Tactical
Best Mil-Spec Combat: Benelli M4
Best CQB: Mossberg 590 Shockwave

Mossberg Maverick 88: The Best Budget Home Defense Shotgun


What we love:

  • Highly affordable, making it accessible to a wide range of users.
  • Simple design and dependable operation.
  • Compatible with a variety of Mossberg 500 accessories, allowing for customization.

Potential deal-breakers:

  • Fewer features compared to more 500 and 590 models.

When it comes to getting the most bang for your buck without compromising reliability, the Mossberg Maverick 88 stands out in budget-friendly home defense shotguns. The shotgun provides specs and reliability close to the celebrated Mossberg 500 but at a much lower price.

The Maverick 88’s charm lies not just in its affordability but also in its durability and reliability. It’s a truly good beginner shotgun. While many recommend the standard M88 Security model with a 20-inch barrel and 7+1 capacity, those prioritizing maneuverability might want to consider the 18.5-inch version that offers a slightly reduced 5+1 capacity but is easier to maneuver in tight spaces. Moreover, there’s a version of the M88 Security sporting a top-folding stock and pistol grip. Note, however, that this particular submodel is strictly for defense and is less preferable for frequence range trips.

Priced around a modest $250, you might second-guess its quality, but rest assured, this shotgun punches well above its weight class. Built on the robust foundation of the Mossberg 500, it boasts up to 90 percent parts interchangeability with its pricier sibling, ensuring that its “budget” tag is all about the price, not the performance.

mossberg maverick 88 18 inch shotgun 12ga

MOSSBERG Maverick 88


Mossberg Model 590: The Best Classic Pump-Action Shotgun


What we love:

  • Known for its durability and reliability in adverse conditions.
  • Wide aftermarket.
  • Features a heavy-walled barrel.

Potential deal-breakers:

  • None. The standard 590 is ideal.

The 590 is arguably the best pump-action perfectly balancing build quality and affordability. Even more – it’s a legendary firearm, a piece of American history, having served in military and law enforcement for decades. 

You might encounter this model along with the Mossberg 500 and Remington 870 – the other two pump icons. While all three are iconic in their own right, the 590 steals the spotlight in the realm of tactical home defense, unlike the 500, which tends to lean more towards hunting and sport.

On the other hand, the Remington 870, despite its iconic status, has experienced a slight decline in popularity among home defense enthusiasts due to quality concerns, particularly with the finish and extractor, noted by users on forums. These issues seem to mostly affect the Express made between 2008 and 2020, which used lower quality parts. However, other versions like the Wingmaster remain highly regarded for their quality. As a result, many recommend opting for an older police trade-in Remington 870.


The Mossberg 590’s design is practical for real-life situations. Its ergonomics are spot-on, with easily accessible safety and slide release. The always-up shell lifter allows for smoother, quicker action in stressful situations.

Another advantage, compared to the Maverick 88 in particular, is that the 590 is easily customizable with tons of upgrades and accessories available on the aftermarket. Whether you want tactical lights, sights, or stocks, the 590 can be tailored to your needs, enhancing its home defense capabilities.

mossberg 590 security 18 inch shotgun 12ga

MOSSBERG 590 Security


mossberg 590a1 20 inch shotgun 12ga



Beretta 1301 Tactical: The Best Semi-Auto Shotgun


What we love:

  • Fast cycling.
  • Lightweight and easy to maneuver.
  • Designed for tactical operations.

Potential deal-breakers:

  • Premium pricing compared to other tactical shotguns, such as the Beretta A300.

When discussing the best semi-auto shotguns for home defense, the Beretta 1301 Tactical often takes center stage, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s known for its fast operation and user-friendly design, combining advanced tech with practicality, making it a hit with enthusiasts and experts Despite semi-autos typically being heavier and needing more upkeep, the 1301 Tactical shines for its reliability and performance.

A key feature of the Beretta 1301 Tactical is its BLINK gas operating system. This system lets the shotgun cycle 36% faster than others on the market, according to Beretta. While it’s hard to verify this figure, users do notice its fast cycling speed. The shotgun also has a cold hammer-forged, back-bored barrel that reduces recoil and muzzle flip, improving handling and accuracy.

The 1301 Tactical comes in several versions, with both standard and pistol grip stocks, adjustable for different users. Its overall design is ergonomic and the build is optimized for tactical use, with oversized and textured controls, a Picatinny rail for accessories, and other features. The series uses an 18.7″ barrel and has a 7+1 capacity.


For those finding the 1301 Tactical’s price high, the Beretta A300 Ultima Patrol is a more affordable choice at around $1,000. It offers good ergonomics, textured grips, large controls, and is ready for accessories.

All in all, whether you choose the fast and innovative Beretta 1301 Tactical or the affordable Beretta A300 Ultima Patrol, both are excellent home defense options.

beretta 1301 tactical 18 inch semi auto shotgun 12ga

Beretta 1301 Tactical


beretta a300 ultima patrol shotgun 12ga

Beretta A300 Ultima Patrol


Benelli M4: The Best Mil-Spec Combat Shotgun


What we love:

  • Consistent performance thanks to the ARGO system.
  • Battle-proven design used by military and law enforcement around the world.
  • High-quality construction materials.

Potential deal-breakers:

  • Premium pricing, making it one of the most expensive options among tactical and home defense shotguns.
  • Heavier weight.

For those in the market for what could easily be described as the ultimate combat shotgun, revered not just by civilian enthusiasts but also boasts the distinction of being a staple in the Marine Corps arsenal and featured in the John Wick movies, the Benelli M4 stands out as a premier choice. This shotgun stands out not just for its appearance on screen or its use in the military but also for its exceptional performance and reliability. The M4 was Benelli’s first gas-operated shotgun, and it quickly became legendary for its innovative and dependable design.

At the heart of the M4’s reliability is the ARGO (Auto-Regulating Gas-Operated) system, which uses a short-stroke dual-piston design. This clever system places the self-cleaning pistons close to the chamber, leveraging hotter and cleaner gases for more consistent cycling and minimal fouling. Also, the M4 is built to withstand severe conditions, capable of using a variety of ammunition types, from reduced recoil rounds to lighter buckshot loads, with ease – though it might balk at ultra-light skeet loads designed for minimal speed.

Despite its many strengths, the Benelli M4’s high price is a significant consideration. It’s one of the most expensive shotguns on the market, and adding accessories like a collapsible stock can increase the cost even more. Just be aware that owning one might mean cutting back on expenses elsewhere to afford it.

benelli m4 tactical 18 inch shotgun 12ga

Benelli M4


Mossberg 590 Shockwave: The Best Stockless Shotgun for CQB


What we love:

  • Highly maneuverable.
  • Does not require a tax stamp for possession due to its classification.
  • Aestetic.

Potential deal-breakers:

  • The stockless design can make accurate shooting and recoil management challenging for inexperienced users.
  • Its legal status may vary by state.

Stockless shotguns are at the heart of a big debate. Their compact size makes them super handy and easy to maneuver, which a lot of people love. They also have a cool aesthetics. Yet, they are not the best guns for the inexperienced as they are difficult to control and, hence, shoot fast. This raises questions about how practical they are in general. But, in situations where quick action is needed in tight spaces where you don’t need to aim due to being close to the target or using a traditional shotgun is hard, these guns are very useful. Adding upgrades like a recoil strap for better control when shooting with the grip near the cheek or a flashlight and laser forend combo, can make them even more efficient for HD.

The Mossberg 590 Shockwave is a great example of a good stockless shotgun. It comes with different barrel lengths (14.375″ and 18.5″) and can hold either 6 or 7 rounds, depending on the size. There’s also a 590S version compatible with short-shell ammunition (1.75″, 2.75″, or 3″), allowing for an increased capacity of up to 9 rounds.

mossberg 590 shockwave 14 inch shotgun 12ga

MOSSBERG 590 Shockwave


mossberg 590 shockwave 14 inch shotgun 12ga

MOSSBERG 590S Shockwave


When choosing a tactical shotgun for home defense, it’s essential to consider personal factors along with the gun’s features. Think about your budget since prices vary, ensuring you choose a firearm that fits your needs without overspending. Consider where you’ll use the shotgun—some models are better for city apartments or country homes, depending on their size, maneuverability, and capacity. Focus on the shotgun’s main purpose; for protection, prioritize reliability and ease of use. If you also plan to use it at the gun range, look for versatility and comfort for extended use.

The 12-gauge is the most common and versatile gauge for home defense due to its stopping power and wide availability of ammunition types. However, a 20-gauge can also be a suitable choice, offering less recoil and making it easier for all members of a household to operate.

Pump-action shotguns are renowned for their reliability under various conditions with diverse types of ammunition. Semi-automatic shotguns offer the advantage of faster follow-up shots. Your choice should be based on comfort, reliability, and your ability to handle and operate the shotgun under stress.

Buckshot, particularly 00 buck, is widely recommended for its effectiveness in stopping a threat. However, the choice of ammunition can also depend on your living situation. For instance, individuals in apartment buildings or homes with thin walls might consider lighter loads or specific defense rounds designed to reduce the risk of over-penetration.

A reliable flashlight or weapon-mounted light is essential for target identification in low-light conditions. Additionally, consider a sling for ease of carry and stability, and a method for storing extra ammunition on the shotgun for quick reloads, like a side saddle.

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