We won’t start the whole “which type of gun is best for home defense” debate here. We might as well throw gasoline on the comment section fire by talking about GLOCK vs. 1911, 9mm vs. .45 ACP or .308 vs. 6.5 Creedmoor. Let’s save those for another day.
The fact is, lots of people still gravitate to shotguns for home defense, just as they’ve done for generations. That’s because they’re generally simple to use, take a wide range of ammunition and are devastatingly effective. There are few home- or self-defense situations that a shotgun loaded with OO buckshot won’t solve.
The most popular shotguns for home defense are generally affordable pump action guns. Again, they’re very simple to operate. Just about anyone can figure out how to use one in about five minutes’ time (don’t wait for a break-in to shoot your shotgun for the first time). And, they’re generally more affordable than semi-automatic shotguns.
All of the big makers produce “tactical” versions of their post popular pump shotguns that are perfect for self-defense use. These models feature shorter barrels (between 18 or 20 inches) for easy maneuverability, synthetic stocks for durability, and generous capacity.
Some models are available in smaller gauges if you’re looking for something with less recoil, but mosty buyers opt for 12 gauge so that’s what we’ll deal with here.
Some tactical shotguns have traditional grips and some have pistol grips. Some models have ghost ring sights mounted while others sport the usual open sights with a brass bead or a bladed front site. We suggest you at least shoulder (even better, go out and shoot) a few to figure out which works best for you.
Most tactical shoguns don’t have interchangeable chokes, either. Their barrels are usually fixed cylinder bores to accommodate buckshot loads or slugs. Most will let you attach a Pic rail if you want to mount a red dot on your shotgun, too.
All the shotguns here are excellent, reliable choices that most shooters can easily afford and rely on. Some are made in the US, some aren’t. But they’re all scatterguns that you can feel good about grabbing should you ever hear that dreaded bump in the night.
While there are some excellent tactical semi-automatic shotguns (and even tactical double barrel guns) on the market, we’ll cover those in another post. The focus here is on easily-affordable (under $400) home defense pump-action shotguns to protect yourself and your family.
And yes, we’ll stipulate up front that “best” is subjective. All five of these are great options, appealing to different buyers for different features and attributes. That’s why we present them in no particular order. It’s hard enough to whittle down the choices to the top five, let alone one single best shotgun on the market.
The granddaddy of them all is a gun your granddaddy very likely owned himself. Big Green makes a number of American-made tactical versions of their venerable 870 shotgun. You can pick the configuration that works best for you.
That said, we like the Express Synthetic Tactical’s feature set including its simple, point-and-shoot front bead, 18.5-inch barrel length and 6+1 round capacity (there’s a 5+1 version, too). Remington has a number of other configurations if ghost rings, Pic rails, or pistol grips are the way you want to go.
Oh, and if there’s something about the 870 you buy that needs tweaking, there are about a ba-zillion aftermarket options to improve or swap out every single part of your gun to make just what you want it to be.
The first question in the comments will probably be, why the Mossy over the 870? Or vice versa? The fact is, they’re both great American-made shotguns that will serve you long and well. One of the biggest deciding factors for some buyers is where they like their safety. The 870 has a crossbolt safety behind the trigger and Mossberg puts theirs on the tang at the back of the receiver. Potato, potahto.
The next question will no doubt be, why the 500 and not the 590 or 590A1? The fact is, you can’t go wrong with any of them. If you want the battle-tested 590A1, you can buy the 590A1. Mossberg makes a dizzying array of models with virtually any feature set and configuration you’re looking for.
The 500 Tactical shotgun, with its classic corn cob fore end, though, has a 20-inch barrel and will likely do everything you’ll ever need a home defense shotgun to do. Adjustable stock, standard or pistol grip, six-shot or eight-shot capacity, ghost rings or bead sight, heat shield or Pic rail…there’s a 500 made for anyone.
The Turkish-made Stoegers offer excellent features and reliability at a not insignificant savings. With its 18.5-inch fixed cylinder barrel, the P3000 lets you choose between 2 3/4 or three-inch loads and will easily handle buckshot or slugs.
The P3000 Freedom Defense also gives you as much as 7+1 rounds of capacity and an easily acquired bladed front sight at a price point that’s $50 to $70 less than similar American-made options.
The Italian-made Nova Tactical shotgun gun is a robust, ultra-reliable choice in a home defense gun that will handle anything you can throw at it. Its unique texturing on the grip and fore end is both comfortable and functional, ensuring a sure hold on the gun when you need it most.
The Nova Tactical gives you options as to sights (open or ghost ring) and its 18.5-inch barrel is a fixed cylinder bore. While it has a smaller capacity than the others here (4+1) the Nova is the only gun in the group that’s chambered to take 3 1/2-inch magnum shells.
The SXP Defender will chamber 2.75 or 3-inch rounds and has a chrome-plated chamber and barrel. Its 18-inch barrel makes for easy maneuvering and has a fixed cylinder bore to handle either buckshot or slugs. The classic corncob texturing on the fore end gives you a firm grip, even when racking the gun when it’s wet.
The Turkish-made Winchester SXP Defender is another very affordable option for someone looking for the reliability and punch a home defense shotgun provides at a price that’s easy on the wallet.