Best 12 Gauge Shotgun: 2019 Guide & Reviews

Because it is one of the most popular guns in America, we won’t bore you with background details on the 12 gauge shotgun. Instead we have compiled a list of the best 12 gauge shotguns on the market. Below you will find the shotguns categorized by the following characteristics:

Best home defense and tactical 12 gauge shotguns

Benelli M3 (Upgraded to M4 Version)

Benelli - M3 Tactical Shotgun

One of the most innovative guns when it was released, and still to this day for shooters who may want to use a shotgun for more than a single use purpose. The big benefit to this gun and why it serves well to present the Benelli M3 as the first gun in a list of the best 12 gauge shotguns, is that it can serve as a pump shotgun AND as a semi auto shotgun.

It makes it a perfect shotgun for hunting of all types; home defense and tactical use and for range work.

It is included in the tactical and home defense section of this article because it has a distinct slant towards the tactical. It includes some of the best ghost ring sights on the market; a short barrel length (19.25”) and a good overall size with a pistol-grip-integrated and low bore
axis shoulder stock.

The most important part of this gun is its ability to shoot any load, no matter what it is, in 12 gauge. This includes low recoil specialty rounds or door breaching rounds; this is a perfect fit because it can function immediately as a pump action shotgun, with the flip of a switch and the rack of the fore end.

In the field for ease of use and a bit faster cyclic rate, the semi-auto position allows the shooter to reduce mechanical input and increase follow up shot times. There aren’t a ton, but the aftermarket accessorizing options do allow for some customizations.

Pros

  • As innovative today as it was when it was
    released; well over a decade ago
  • Superior smoothness in the action
  • Can handle any load on the market, even in mixed
    mag-tube loadouts

Cons

  • No real cons

This is best for

A shooter that can legitimately utilize the versatility that the Benelli M3 can offer.

FN SLP

Compact and well thought out, not to mention, made by a famous tactical maker (FN), this is a stellar tactical and home defense shotgun that ticks all the boxes on a list of best features, and still lives somewhat in the shadows of a market full of very big brand name offerings.

It is a sleek, smooth and subdued gun, and yet it is obvious that you are getting a tactical shotgun at the same time. Ghost ring sights and an optic mount gives you a lot of quick sight acquisition options. The simple furniture makes it easy to use in tight areas which handling is improved again by the short OAL of 38.75” and the 18 inch barrel length.

It is this chrome lined barrel with an invector choke installation that allows good load tuning and great durability. It is capable of shooting the full magazine tube capacity in less than a second. That kind of speed is a game changer in the defensive world.

Pros

  • Super-fast shotgun
  • Compact design allows for easy use in small
    areas like a home
  • Good price point considering the additional
    features

Cons

  • No cons

This is best for

Apartment dwellers that need a home defense shotgun.

Kalashnikov - KS-12T

Kalashnikov - KS-12T Shotgun

The AK design is timeless when it comes to reliability and durability; this is a design that is closely tied to that original design, and for all intents and purposes, it delivers on AK promises of reliability and durability, while offering familiar control positioning and feel of the overall weapon.

Quick reloads and a large capacity for 12 gauge rounds, this is an easy choice for those who need the ultimate in firepower for whatever reason. There is availability to 50 round drum magazines which can make sporting purposes easier and more interesting.

This shotgun functions and feels more like a rifle, making it very easy to wield in close quarters combat like you might encounter in a home defense scenario. The 38 inch overall length is impressive, as is the furniture and ability to mount all types of accessories. In all, the Kalashnikov KS12T is a high capacity, high accuracy and easy to use shotgun that is perfectly suited to a top position on this list.

Pros

  • Considering the price point and the significant additional
    tactical features, this represents a very nice value
  • Good reliability
  • Very good durability
  • High potential capacity, including the
    opportunity for a market available drum magazine

Cons

  • No cons

This is best for

Shooters who value sporting uses as highly as they value the tactical/defensive properties of such a firearm.

Mossberg 590M

Mossberg 590M

A magazine fed version of the venerable Mossberg 590 is a beast when it comes to capability and durability. The tactical feature set and the history of performance by this variant proves the prowess of these setup.

10 rounds in each magazine offers significant firepower, but more importantly, the easy changing of magazines allows for significant backup considerations. In the heat of the moment, having 20+ rounds of 12 gauge is quite interesting.

The Mossberg is among the more durable shotguns ever made and has been used by law enforcement and military to great effect. The size and cyclic reliability with any load makes the Mossberg 590 with the magazine feed option a very good choice for home defense or other close quarters combat.

The receiver sheds some weight compared to certain competitors because it’s made from anodized aluminum. It is also drilled and tapped for optical or other sight mounts or accessories. The lifting components for the shells are very robust compared to most shotguns.

Pros

  • Proven history of durability and reliability
    especially for hard hitting loads
  • Higher capacity pump shotgun for extended
    engagement
  • Well harmonized feature set

Cons

  • Fit and finish is not as good as some other guns
    on this list

This is best for

Home defense users that need a no-nonsense, low maintenance shotgun.

Remington Versa Max Tactical

Remington Versa Max Competition Tactical Semi-Automatic Shotgun

The Remington Versa Max Tactical is perhaps the most deliberate shotgun design on this list from a tactical perspective that still espouses traditional shotgun design. It is an obvious winner with regards to the customized features and integration.

The vent rib is a nice inclusion which helps to divert heat signature from the barrel and keeps the eye moving to the front sight or the optic, which can be mounted on the frame attached mount.

The 9 shot (8+1) capacity gives more than enough for a home defense scenario; the extended trigger guard allows for gloved hand use if used in a tactical scenario; and gives more flexibility in combat situations and during fast reloads.

A 22 inch barrel is more than enough for any use, including hunting or range work, but it also offers good opportunity for mixing shotgun loads in defensive situations. The added velocity and spread control of a 22 inch barrel can be helpful in certain domiciles.

This is a great focal point for a Remington line that has gone from very tactical to not so much in the recent years. As a cornerstone variant in the product mix, this gun shows Remington’s commitment to tactical options, despite a marked movement towards hunting centric lines of late in the shotgun portfolio.

Pros

  • High capacity with traditional design
  • Overtly tactical, in the best possible way
  • Super reliable, and a proven option for
    semi-automatic shotguns

Cons

  • It‘s not a long shotgun, but it’s longer than
    some of the dedicated scatterguns on this list, which for home defense
    purposes, may make this slightly less desirable

This is best for

Traditionalists with a penchant for dedicated tactical accessories. Shooters who want every advantage without additional weight or frivolity.

Kel-Tec KSG

KEL-TEC - KSG

Innovative and interesting for any shooter who wants maximum capacity and the ability to cycle any type of load. The KSG by Kel-Tec offers two magazine tubes and a total capacity of 12 rounds. Integrated sling attachment points and the ability to cycle many different loads from super short or low recoil rounds to magnum plus loads, are obvious important features.

Interestingly, these are among the most mundane design characteristics and least interesting marketing points. The polymer frame shell over a steel inner body and the ambidextrous design, including a bottom ejection port are innovative features for a shotgun that threatens to shake up the industry. Since its introduction, this design has been copied and replicated by many other manufacturers.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In this case, Kel-Tec has brought the most innovation to the sector in decades through the KSG.

Many points available for optics or other accessory mounting and a tiny overall length (26.1”) makes this bullpup design an easy choice for tactical shooters.

The strength of the ambidextrous feature set improves the shooter compatibility.

Pros

  • Innovative design that prioritizes compact size,
    easy cycling of tough-to-shoot rounds and bottom ejection of spent casings
  • Built well, even if it does suffer some basic fit
    and finish detailing concerns
  • Reliable and proven on the market
  • High capacity

Cons

  • Fit and finish isn’t perfect on the details

This is best for

Shooters who want something different or who truly need the most compact pump shotgun that can legally be shouldered.

Remington 870 DM

Remington 870 DM

We didn’t include a traditional Remington 870, because the 870DM is so interesting from a usability perspective. But the review and list addition of the DM extends to the traditional variants of the 870 pump shotgun, which has been one of the most beloved and proven shotguns in history since its debut. It remains one of the most popular by volume and easily the most legendary gun on this list.

The DM version offers a magazine fed attachment that changes the fundamental capabilities of the shotgun. While this particular variant of the gun hasn’t been in existence for very long, and therefore, it cannot prove its reliability, it is built upon perhaps the most reliable shotgun model in the modern era.

Capable of shooting back to back to back (and more) magazines full of 6 rounds of magnum shotshells, the Remington 870 DM has become a low priced leader, with a tactical component that few other guns can come close to.  In the case of the shown variant, it is a simple and adds no non-essential components.

The underlying materials are steel and wood for the most part and the reliability and durability are significantly robust compared to some industry peers who rely on aluminum in some cases.

A nice size overall, this is a gun that’s simply made for tactical and defensive use. The 8.5 inch barrel and the 38.5 inch overall length and slim features means it’s mobile and easy to shoulder quickly.

The famous pump action will cycle any round commercially available.

Pros

  • All the benefits of the classic 870 shotgun, but
    the innovative magazines feed too
  • Clean easy to understand interface with a proven
    safety mechanism
  • Sustained magazine fed capacity

Cons

  • No cons

This is best for

Anyone who has ever used an 870 shotgun. This gun will do everything you need it to do. Any shooter who has NEVER owned any shotgun and needs to know their first choice is the right one.

Best 12 gauge shotguns for the range

Browning BT-99

Browning BT-99 Golden Clays Adjustable Comb Single Shot

As close to a custom trap and clays gun as you can find from the factory without paying for a custom shotgun. The BT-99 is a brilliant display of what is possible when you take a single shot shotgun seriously. The gorgeous grade V and VI walnut stock from the Browning Factory is highly figured and polished to a spectacular gloss finish.

The adjustable comb and recoil pad are integrated into the gun very well and the recoil reduction technology is amazing. The 32” barrel combines with a precision designed forcing cone and a tight choke integration to give maximum shot patterning.

A massive vent-rib gives no heat deflection and keeps the eye aligned properly in conjunction with the LOP (13.375”) and the drop that aligns bore axis lower and directly below the eye.

Judicious use of chrome plating in the bore and the specificity of the design of the chamber and forcing cone delivers many thousands of rounds and years of accurate use on the range.

Integrated porting gives additional recoil reduction and minimizes the discomfort of long days on the range. Combined with a 2 3/4” chamber, the overall recoil mitigation system on the BT-99 is impeccable.

This is not a lightweight shotgun, but it is exceptionally balanced even at nearly 9 lbs. It is also not a small shotgun; at 49 inches overall, it swings long, but smoothly. It is a range gun through and through.

Pros

  • Easily the best single shot on the market that
    isn’t a true custom for all day single target range work
  • Beautifully detailed and innovative yet
    traditional in design
  • The gold standard of the range shotguns from the
    big makers

Cons

  • Expensive for casual shooters

This is best for

Dedicated range warriors who shoot at competitive events and can afford the best of the best.

Mossberg - Jerry Miculek Pro Series 930

MOSSBERG - JERRY MICULEK PRO SERIES 930 Shotgun

A bargain, if you look at all the options that come as standard features on the 930 with a 24 inch barrel. It is also able to be used in the field, and as a self-defense shotgun; but it is dramatically styled as a competition shotgun. From the high capacity and the fast cycling features, this is bred to be a very good shotgun for range purposes.

Built in conjunction with the worlds fastest shooter Jerry Miculek, this is a shotgun that is made for speed. The feature set and controls are made for speed as well, including a nicely oversized bolt actuation handle. Faster loading is facilitated through a well-beveled loading gate and recessed furniture to help make tactical competitive reloads a realistic option.

Two gas integrations allow for a faster result shot after shot and the milliseconds this system shaves from the overall operation timing allows for less failure by shooters in competition.

Top quality build for a value that simply cannot be matched given the following features: semi-auto operation; extended mag tube and top tier furniture. A fiber optic front sight; a legitimate vent rib and proven wins on the competition circuit; these make this gun a top choice and a great value for the money.

Pros

  • Significant value given how many features are
    compiled as an integrated offering
  • Very fast and easy to learn on
  • Significant speed improvements over many other
    guns in the price range
  • Legitimate performance accolades and wins under
    its belt

Cons

  • Slightly less attention to detail in the finish
    work compared to some other guns on this list

This is best for

New competition shooters. Shooters who may want a
semi-automatic shotgun that can do more than just slay orange targets.

Beretta A400 Xcel Multi-Target

Beretta A400 Xcel Multi-Target Shotgun

The Beretta A400 Xcel is a very good choice for the hunter or range lover that wants a top end, multi-use gun, even if the shotgun is built specifically for trap, skeet and clays.

Not as adjustable as the above listed BT-99 by Browning, this shotgun is still quite adjustable and allows for a lot of customization. It is also not nearly as expensive as the BT-99, though it is a close competitor to the Browning.

Furthermore, the aggressive styling and thoughtful features of the Beretta makes it a first choice for some shooters. These features and styling include a massive vent rib; a tapered fore end and a straight, high lift comb. The bore plane is different than most other guns of this type relative to the frame and fore end and therefore allows for a lower face position and a faster upward swing for some shooters.

It is because of this interesting styling that a gun with a 50” overall length and a 7.7 lb. weight and a 30 inch barrel can be so balanced. It is also fast in cycling, accurate and good looking. The additional capacity compared to other top contenders in this market segment makes it much more interesting to a multi-use shooter.

Small concessions like a 2.5 grade walnut compared to some other competitors’ higher grades; and different finish techniques makes the price point difference extreme. Ultimately, for those who want top tier performance and a reasonable price point in a gun that is capable of more than just days at the range, this is the one.

Pros

  • Very well balanced considering how long the gun
    is
  • Beautiful finishes for an anodized aluminum and
    wooden shotgun
  • Fast cyclic rate

Cons

  • Pricey

This is best for

Shooters leveling up their equipment with a certain taste
for range work.

Best 12 gauge shotguns for hunting

CZ Upland Ultralight

CZ Upland Ultralight

A sleeper option for the hunter and range user, the CZ over/under shotgun is an obvious value. Not just because it has a nice price point relative to the market. It is because in harmony with this price point, the relevant feature set is spectacular, and the build quality is unmatched.

CZ has a long history of delivering significantly well-built options, with extreme tolerances and timeless qualities. It has always been a trademark of the CZ manufactory to offer firearms of better quality than their price point. The Upland Ultralight is no exception.

The name Upland Ultralight is a perfect moniker for this shotgun, because it is both specifically applicable for upland bird use and also it is an extremely lightweight, very comfortable to carry shotgun that can be used all day without difficulty.

The trigger is not perfect, but it is very smooth; and the overall balance and quick engagement of the platform allows for a very good experience. It is 43.75” long overall, but the 6 lb. weight is significantly lighter than most guns; and the smaller LOP (length of pull makes the eyeline easier to acquire a target with, while the 26 inch barrel provides good patterning for dense brush work and fast low flyers.

Pros

  • Very lightweight
  • Good accuracy and simple operation
  • Excellent price point
  • Excellent for fast ground gamebirds

Cons

  • Too spartan in design for some shooters

This is best for

Dense brush game shooters that can justify a longer shotgun
because the weight is so minimal comparatively.

Browning A5 Stalker

Browning A5 Stalker Semi-Automatic Shotgun

In its heyday the A5 from Browning was the preeminent field semi-automatic shotgun. It still reserves a place in the hearts of pragmatic shotgun hunters everywhere. Perhaps not as popular by sales volume as it once, was, it remains as good as ever, if not better with the matte black color scheme.

A combination of aluminum, steel and composite furniture materials, the A5 Stalker boasts an industry standalone 100,000 round guarantee.  The quality of build is very high and the legend has endured, because the striking lines and the capability of the gun to stalk any number of animals.

The second shot speed and the feed reliability are hard to beat, with the sight acquisition particularly enhanced by a multi-bead approach. The obvious items that every hunter needs are usually not included in such a svelte package. With the A5 Stalker, the things like sling swivels and a magazine plug and a strong vent rib are included, and yet, they seem so well integrated, and not as add-ons like they frequently do with other competitors.

Pros

  • Proven reliable; weather resistant and durable
  • Superior feature set that cannot be seen as
    additive, but rather well integrated
  • Specifically designed for 12 gauge hunting

Cons

  • May seem expensive on the surface, and may seem
    to be not specialized enough for some hunters

This is best for

Purist one-gun hunters that want a shotgun that can do more than just hunt ducks or deer. This is an -all-in-one with legitimate service history.

Best specialty shotguns in 12 gauge

Savage Arms Model 220 and 212 Bolt-Action Slug Shotguns

Savage Arms Model 220 and 212 Bolt-Action Slug Shotguns

Deer have had better days than the day the Savage Bolt action slug gun was announced. This is a very accurate slug-specific shotgun that doesn’t need to be anything else. It is meant to be paired with a scope and meant to be used at intermediate ranges for large game. Forget the specificity – if you want the most accuracy for shooting with a shotgun on big game, this is the gun.

The detachable magazine allows a hunter in most states to carry multiple loads; without sacrificing legality in the pocket (they are 2 round magazines). The rifled barrels are 22” long and allow for accuracy past 125 yards with certain loads. The forcing cone and rifling gives premium accuracy results in the gun’s sweet spot of 75-125 yards.

The AccuTrigger is proven to be both spectacular and highly undervalued. In the case where a hunting shotgun’s accuracy needs to be sub 2MOA, this trigger is a lifesaver. With premium loads this is easily a 1.5MOA shotgun and capable of taking large game to elk size.

It is extremely specific in its qualities and scope of operations, but it is spectacular in that spectrum.

Pros

  • Superior accuracy
  • The best shotgun trigger in a gun under $1,000
  • Free-floated barrel

Cons

  • Very specific in its scope of capabilities

This is best for

Deer hunters that want the value that the Savage brand can bring. Deer hunters that are looking for something other than expensive to shoot high powered rifles.

Stoeger Coach Gun

Stoeger Coach Gun

A perfect solution to dispatching snakes on a large ranch, birds in the field; squirrels in the forest and home defense for those in the countryside, this is a great fit for a lot of different shooters but doesn’t sufficiently fit into a particular niche. It is this reason that such a good gun has been marginalized. Sometimes it’s not about capacity or practicality, sometimes it’s about delivery.

This gun delivers solidly on a promise: ease, simplicity and reliability, in a short, easy to wield size that makes this a very good choice for a lot of situations.

Some purists would note that the lack of exposed hammers makes this a bit less historically accurate, but the Coach gun is Stoeger’s entry into the Cowboy Action game. It fulfills the task well for many shooters and despite being a specialty item, this is a popular gun on the CASS circuit.

It can shoot both magnum and regular shells, with accuracy to the short and moderate ranges and is easy to understand and fast to second shot. The trigger is good, and the safety is legitimate and both add to the speed.

Pros

  • Short, fast, quick to second shot and easy to
    implement
  • Proven reliable and durable on the CASS shooting
    circuit
  • Able to shoot both magnum and regular shells

Cons

  • Not as historically accurate as it could be

This is best for

Cowboy action shooters who want a coach gun. For carrying in a truck window where legally applicable for impromptu needs.

Conclusion

The 12 gauge shotgun is one of the most popular guns in the
world, specifically, it has a revered status in the United States. The above firearms
represent the best 12 gauge shotguns on the mainstream market anywhere in the
world.

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