Reader Sam Bocetta writes:
The shotgun is the original home and self defense firearm and they are still, arguably, the best weapon to choose to defend your home and yourself against intruders. The reason is simple – with a longer barrel and more contact with the gun, you’re always going to be more accurate with a shotgun than with a handgun.
That’s not to say, however, that you can’t miss with a shotgun. Accuracy is as important a consideration when choosing a shotgun as any other weapon. Though some people still claim that “my shotgun can cover that whole wall,” in reality, with most modern smoothbores, the spread is pretty tight especially at personal defense distances. That’s actually a feature, however, because if you can hit someone from across a room (and you really should be able to) you’re delivering multiple rounds directly on your target.
Which gauge to go for in a self defense shotgun? While some prize lighter weight of smaller caliber for its reduced recoil, to my mind you should go for at least a 20-gauge, and preferably a 12. And, of course, with a large gauge shotgun you can adapt the shot mix to suit your purpose, and even using your gun for hunting when it’s not protecting your home.
The last consideration is whether to get a pump-action or semi-auto shotgun. My advice is straightforward – keep it simple and get a pump. For a start, you’re likely to already have experience in using a pump action, and the last thing you want in a self-defense situation is to be learning new skills on the fly. Secondly, the physical effort required to move the mechanism in a pump-action is normally enough to clear any jams that may happen due to irregular ammo or improper cleaning, making pump-action shotguns one of the most reliable weapons around.
There is plenty of advice out there for choosing a good self-defense shotgun, so have a good look around before you settle on the shotgun that is perfect for you. However, you could do a lot worse than checking out these options first:
The Mossberg 500 was the first issued to Marines, and many found that it was one of the deadliest close-combat weapons they had ever used. When this weapon was released it set a new standard for pump-action shotguns, and retains a good reputation for reliability and ease of use.
The Mossy 500 is a robust, simple weapon, used throughout the country by law enforcement and the military, and unlikely to be replaced any time soon. There’s one in every price category and more recent versions come with Mossberg’s FLEX system, which allows you to customize the gun quickly and easily, and makes what was already a great firearm shine.
Benelli M1014/M4 Super 90
Though an imported gun and therefore limited to 5+1 rounds, the M4 is one of the most reliable available. Like the Mossberg, it has also seen extensive military use, and the results are very impressive. It’s said that during this testing 25,000 rounds were put through one of these before anything had to be replaced.
While I recommend that most people go for a pump-action shotgun for self-defense, if you prefer an auto-loader, the M4 is the way to go. Unlike a lot of semi-auto shotguns, Benelli’s gas system is simple and reliable, making it almost as reliable as a pump.
The only disadvantage here: the cost. But if you can scrape up the cash for an M4, you’re getting a top quality shotgun that will give you many years of reliable service.
Winchester 1897 and IAC 97T
The Winchester 1897 was the original close-combat shotgun, issued to soldiers during WWI. It was so effective that the Germans tried to get it declared illegal for use in war. Though an amazing gun, the Winchester is now quite rare, so it’s great that IAC has released their 97T model, a faithful reproduction.
Though this weapon takes a bit of getting used to, it’s great fun to fire, and after a few days on the range will feel as natural as any other shotgun. For the price, this is a solid gun for self-defense that will not let you down.
There’s one other shotgun you should definitely consider:
The Shotgun You Already Have
Ultimately, a shiny new gun is no better than the person using it, so before you invest a few hundred dollars in a new weapon, consider whether the one you have really needs to be replaced. You’re likely already really good at shooting it, which in the end counts for far more than all the “advanced features” of a more modern weapon.