The best home defense shotgun might more simply be called the best home defense weapon. In a head to head comparison, there are myriad reasons that a home defense shotgun outperforms most other options by a wide margin.
In this article, you’re going to see us explore the concept of a home defense shotgun as the penultimate defensive weapon. We will also highlight the 8 best shotguns for home defense on the market and give you a unique insight into their capabilities.
What makes the home defense shotgun such a powerful option?
Many factors make it perfect for engagement from 10 feet to 40 feet; with a number of loads offering easy to understand ballistics and powerful stopping force on target.
But the hardware is also a shining factor; with the lower overall swing weight; the easy to manage balance and the durability that comes with a shotgun inherently make it a great starting candidate.
Factor in the wide range of rounds it can shoot without difficulty; the immense stopping power achieved by putting hundreds of grains of lead on target and the lack of over penetration concerns compared to other projectile types and you have a home defense dynamo.
As a system of ammunition and firearms, it is hard to challenge a shotgun in a close quarters situation, especially with the accessorizing available to mainstream offerings and the shoulder fired nature of the long gun.
When in a home, where only standard construction walls separate you from your loved ones, it can be a powerful motivator to use ammunition that has excellent stopping power but doesn’t pose the same risk as other projectiles that have a tendency to over penetrate. Sure, it is nice to know that you are stopping a threat with a high powered, high velocity round, but not at the potential cost of harming a loved one.
With most shotgun loads, the amount of force on target is superior at close range to most other options (pistol and rifle), and yet, the patterning of a shotshell can make it harder for the projectiles to penetrate both sides of a wall. Note: this is not true for all shotgun loads, as larger buckshot and slugs will penetrate similarly to single high-powered projectiles.
Even still, the protection against this overpenetration is a valuable attribute and helps to make a shotgun a very good close quarters choice, especially where friendly fire concerns exist. This is also true in suburban neighborhoods, where a high-powered projectile that misses its target could easily penetrate neighbor’s homes. A shotgun just makes sense for so many shooters in home defense scenarios.
What are we looking for when we search for the best home defense shotgun?
- Compact design
- Moderate to high capacity
- Full shoulder firing capability
- Proven reliability
- The ability to be reasonably customized, or coming from factory with needed modifications
- Easy first shot deployment
- Great value for the money
- Performance superiority relative to peers
- Nothing frivolous in design methodology
Below is a list of the 8 best home defense shotguns which satisfy at the highest level, the preceding attributes.
Best Home Defense Shotguns
Remington - Model 870 Express Shotguns
Available in several variants including a ghost ring sight, synthetic furniture and a 7-round capacity variant, which is the one we will detail here, this is an entry level to mid-level home defense shotgun on the price scale, but happens to be one of the better platforms on this list and in the shotgun world.
You can get similar shotguns with less included from factory, but the baseline Remington 870 is very good as is. Because we believe that a composite stock and 7 shots, with a ghost ring iron sight option is beneficial to a home defense shotgun, we have chosen this variant. The durability is legendary for the Remington 870 (on this list you will see 2 Remington 870’s and two other shotguns that are substantially similar). Their inclusion is no mistake.
Because it is a pump action and has been built with some looseness in the component system and with robust internal parts, it is able to digest just about any shell, even mixed and matched in the same mag tube load. This is important if you want to stack a specific load up front and others in the backup rounds. Having seven shots to do that with is also important. You can shoot magnums and regular shells, in the same mag load (though it is not a best practice to do so). Practice makes perfect, but it’s possible with the 870.
The accessories available for the 870 are also a game-changer, as this allows the user to make this shotgun their own, which can help when it’s dark and you’ve just been woken from deep sleep. A light; optical sight; extra shell holders, and other accessories can help you engage effectively.
- Will shoot any 12 gauge shells
- Proven as a durable and reliable option
- Priced well
- You can find other guns with more bells and whistles for similar price point, even if they don’t have the history of the Remington
This is best for
The shooter who wants a proven firearm from factory and wants to eventually customize it, but isn’t sure yet what they want to add-on.
Standard Manufacturing - DP-12 Shotgun
This is a very interesting gun because, while it wasn’t the first to debut the newest trending style of compact battle shotguns, it might be the best build quality of any of them.
Standard makes this fully ambidextrous dual tube shotgun to the highest quality and honestly, it’s overbuilt for most shooters. But being overbuilt was never a complaint for a shooter faced with a life or death situation. The reliability and the quality of construction and fit and finish of this shotgun is hard to match.
16 rounds of 12-gauge shotgun shells is a potent offering, and the smooth cycling and ability to feed just about any type of load makes this a serious option. The weight of the gun when loaded also makes it a very easy to handle shotgun from a muzzle rise and recoil perspective. Admittedly, it will be heavier than just about any other gun on this list. That doesn’t mean it isn’t well balanced.
The pump action is driven by a pistol grip fore end, that helps to push through hard to cycle loads and helps you to maintain a good grip on the gun when shouldered. Rails offer additional accessorizing options and allow infinite optic choices because of the placement.
- Seriously well built
- Details and execution of this gun are top tier
- Well balanced
- Heavy for some
- Factory doesn’t make enough units to keep it in the same reliability spectrum as some other guns on this list, though it is a very reliable gun
- Parts replacement will be harder than most other guns on this list if needed
This is best for
The shooter who wants a compact but well-balanced shotgun that has ultra-high-capacity.
Benelli M4 Tactical Semiautomatic Shotguns
An obvious winner in this category, this is the civilian version of the military design shotgun that has been with the USMC for two decades. It offers a seriously comfortable pistol grip shoulder stock and a top notch set of ghost ring sights, and without question, the smoothest action of any gun on this list.
That smooth action is simply made but offers significant benefit to the semi-auto loading of this gun. The aluminum frame and the chromed steel bolt and lockup meet up to create a gun that feels monolithic when it is being shot. It feels better in recoil, it feels tight on loading, and it simply doesn’t malfunction.
A rail, and easy to co-witness ghost ring sight as well as a very durable, inherently lubricious coating (NP3) makes this easy to get on target, and an easy shotgun to maintain.
6 shots may be less than some on this list, but the speed to second shot is far faster than any other gun on this list. If you need more than one shot, this is a game-changer.
If you haven’t shot the Benelli m4, you will be surprised by the smoothness of the cycling. If you haven’t shot it, you will be impressed by the fast speed to each subsequent shot. If you haven’t shot the Benelli and you want the best semi-auto shotgun in the world you need to buy it and shoot it.
- Tight and slick in operation
- Superior build quality for an aluminum frame
- Proven platform
- Starting to get expensive
This is best for
Those who want fast follow-up shots and need absolute reliability in a semi-auto shotgun. Shooters who already know what Benelli can offer. Shooters who want the most realistic tactical additions from factory.
Mossberg 500 Tactical Shotgun
The Mossberg 500 is the closest competitor for the Remington 870 shotgun, which is the baseline performance leader for the home defense shotgun market. These two shotguns have battled for years for market superiority. Historically, the Remington 870 has been the one that came out on top, mostly because of historic reliability. Of late, the Mossberg has really come to a level of parity with the Remington on many levels.
Durability and reliability wise, this is as good as the Remington shotgun. Out of factory, and for many years, the Mossberg 500 usually beats the Remington on price. Why are we talking about the Remington so much in an overview of the Mossberg? Because the Remington is that good; and the Mossberg is that similar to the Remington.
If you want a basic shotgun that has a lot of potential to be accessorized; has excellent durability and reliability and has enough capacity to make you capable in a home defense scenario, this is a very good choice. It’s by far the cheapest option on the list and its is an overachiever at that price point.
8 shots of 12 gauge; of which just about any shell can be reliably loaded by this pump action shotgun; makes this a potent home defense weapon. It can also shoot 3 inch magnum shells with this aluminum receiver. It tips the scales at about 7 lbs. The balance and swing of the 41” overall length and the 20” barrel gives a nice compromise between compactness and balance, which is important in close quarters engagements.
- Basic, simple and robust
- More durable by MIL-SPEC standards (3443 standards) than any other shotgun on this list
- Super inexpensive given its relative value
- The fit and finish can leave a bit to be desired for some shooters
This is best for
The budget conscious shooter that needs a legitimately reliable gun from factory but cannot afford to break the bank for it.
KEL-TEC - KSG
Super innovative, not because it started a revolution in the home defense and tactical shotgun market, but because it redefined what a shotgun could be by redesigning it from the ground up. It wasn’t the first that attempted to make a dual tube shotgun, but it’s the first that made a mainstream variant and saw commercial success because it was the first that worked on a large scale. Now they are being copied daily.
The sophistication of the design is that it isn’t sophisticated. It relies on seriously simple components and framework. The polymer wrapped steel design offers 2 magazine tubes and a fixed stock with a pistol grip. The rail on top gives you easy optic mounting or can allow for your choice of iron sights. The compact design gives exceptional balance and better recoil control (helped by the weight of 15 rounds when fully loaded).
It’s true that the fit and finish is not world-class, but the design is generally very good, and the track record of reliability and control for this shotgun is very good.
Disassembly is excellent and the ability to self-service this shotgun is an obvious top design priority when you take a closer look at the KSG.
Despite a less than spectacular fit and finish, the durability of the gun is exceptional. Reliability of the gun has been exceptional too, since its inception.
- Innovative, trend setting and still very usable
- Top quality durability
- Huge capacity
- It seems a bit lackluster in fit and finish, even if it is well built
This is best for
Shooters who want ultra-high capacity shotgun with a compact form-factor and a reasonable price.
Kalashnikov USA - KS-12T
The rifle user’s shotgun for tactical scenarios. This is the home defense shotgun for the AK shooter. With substantially similar controls and loading; functionality and durability to the AK series of rifles, this shotgun has become a very popular option.
The timeless design of the Kalashnikov is just one part of the benefits of this shotgun; the capacity is massive, especially for those who find themselves in need of sustained reloading capability. A tube magazine is a pain to reload more than a couple of rounds at a time. In a tactical scenario, or a sustained firefight in the home, this could be a detriment to tactical superiority.
Having a second or third magazine readily available and pre-loaded allows you to shoot 20-30 rounds in seconds, not minutes. The ergonomics and feature set locations are excellent. The load handling capabilities are very similar to the original AK design (excellent reliability from load to load and durability regardless of the strength of the load).
The breakdown is simple; the parts are robust and the replacement parts are fairly readily available because of the popularity of the shotgun. There are micro adjustments available on this shotgun by virtue of the design that will allow for ease of integrating new components parts and new loads to the ecosystem without bad results. The design is impeccable.
- Familiar features and placement
- Easy magazine reloads and extensive firepower options including high capacity drum magazines
- Super durable and very reliable
- No real cons
This is best for
Those who already shoot the AK platform. Shooters who need repeat high capacity loading for whatever need. Shooters who want to be able to use drum magazines for a shotgun.
Remington 870 DM
An actual innovation for a gun that didn’t need to be innovative even after decades of being the best seller. This variant of the Remington 870 is a great addition to the product portfolio and adds a new dimension to the shotgun that has served as a home defense shotgun for millions of homeowners over the years.
You can now use a magazine on the pump action Remington 870; and not only a magazine, but one made in partnership with Magpul, who makes some of the most flexible, proven magazines in the world for many different applications.
The ability to add a second load of shells in a matter of seconds or less makes this a tactical dream. The proven design of the 870 and the reliability it is known for doesn’t suffer, and the capabilities of the shooter increase exponentially in an extended firefight scenario.
Other than the magazine feature, Remington utilized a “less is more” philosophy here; and it is obvious that they made the right choice. The price is spectacular for the mag fed option and the ability to further customize the gun remains; without changing the great base features of the 870 shotgun.
This might be the best gun on the list, but unfortunately, we can’t claim that yet as it is not yet proven in massive numbers.
- The same old design for most of the gun; some new innovations that just make sense
- Durable and easy to understand; intuitive to use
- More capacity and faster reloading without the use of a tube mag
- Hard to find a con with this one
This is best for
A shooter who has used the 870 before; loves it and needs more capacity or faster reloading. Home defense users that want simplicity with innovation in a budget friendly option. Anyone who was trying to make this happen with aftermarket add-ons or modifications by one-off gunsmiths in the past.
MOSSBERG - 590A1 Tactical
VERY SIMILAR to the Remington 870 with ghost ring listed above, this is a step up on the accessorizing track. It offers more stuff for a moderate price point shift. Sure, it’s about $150 more on average than the above shotgun, but it has more than that in upgrades.
Of note: the extra shotshell capacity (8+1) is a big additional specification (the barrel gains 2 inches as well); the AR-15 style grip and buttstock help transition AR purists into the shotgun game as well as keeping your accessorizing costs going forward to a minimum. The ghost ring sights are very durable and well made – they offer fast sight acquisition and quick first shot deployment.
The fore end offers a tri-rail, which will help you to strategically mount optics or other accessories.
A big value driven specification is the durability and build strength of the Mossberg 590. It is truly moving towards the best practices in the home defense shotgun market. From factory for the price, it is hard to beat this combination of component parts for a home defense shotgun.
- Super durable; built to last
- AR-15 furniture makes shooters of the AR-15 that much more prepared to use this shotgun with efficiency in the moment
- 9 shot capacity
- No real cons
This is best for
The shooter who doesn’t want to have to customize a factory offering. Anyone who wants a proven 12 gauge shotgun with great ergonomics.
There are more than enough good home defense shotguns. The above selections represent the best home defense shotguns on the market. They are a diverse, usable, intuitive group of shotguns that generally have excelled in reliability.
Many of them are high water mark achievers in other specifications, like durability or speed. What’s clear is that the shotguns on this list are made for the close quarters engagement and offer robust feature sets that aren’t over the top or frivolous.
When you are looking for a gun that can protect you and your family in the middle of the night, when you’re awakened rudely by a home intruder, you don’t want complex or overwrought.
These guns are all built on that premise. While some might be overbuilt from a hardware perspective, none of them are difficult to use or finicky. THAT is what makes them so good. They offer what you need, without offering something you would never want just for the sake of adding it to a specification list.
These shotguns occupy a rare space in the market that proves they excel in close engagement like you will find in a home defense situation. The fact that the shotgun delivers more lead on target with easier handling and better accuracy that a handgun; and doesn’t suffer from potential overpenetration like many high-power rifles do - that’s enough to make them very special options for your home defense needs.
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