The Best Home Defense Shotguns of 2024, According to Experts

Five expert shooting instructors pick their favorite shotguns for home defense
The Beretta 1301 Tactical is one of the best home defense shotguns.

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn More

The shotgun is one of the most iconic firearm platforms of all time. As versatile as it is popular, the shotgun seems to be the one firearm in this current political climate that’s still widely accepted as, well “acceptable.” When used in a defensive situation it quickly becomes one of the most effective firearms available. 

Due to the surge in popularity of carbines and pistol caliber carbines for home defense, shotguns seem to have taken a back seat in the market. While carbines and PCCs have rapidly evolved into new and improved systems, the same cannot be said for the shotgun. The shotgun in essence hasn’t changed much in decades, but the way we train with them and the tactics we employ while using them has rapidly evolved. Gone are the days of, “Rack it and the bad guys will run away.” Enter tactics and training based on real world experience. Contrary to popular belief a shotgun does require training to be proficient with, especially in a defensive situation. 

I spoke with defensive shotgun instructors to get their input on the best shotguns for home defense. 

How We Chose the Best Home Defense Shotguns

I interviewed five of the most prominent names in the shotgun tactics world, who have more firsthand use of this platform for offensive and defensive use than most of us have on any gun we own. 

Steve Fisher (Sentinel Concepts)

Steve’s career as a trainer started in the 90s, first at NTFT and then later as the owner/ lead trainer of MDFI. He also was one of the primary Instructors for Magpul Dynamics (now Core). He was responsible for the development of new programs and tactics for several local police departments and new training curricula based on low light, home defense, and the use of the carbines, handguns, and shotguns in various roles. 

Clint Smith (Thunder Ranch)

Clint Smith, President, and Director of Thunder Ranch is a Marine Corps veteran of two infantry and Combined Action Platoon tours in Vietnam. His experience includes seven years as a police officer during which he served as head of the Firearms Training Division as well as being a SWAT member and precision rifleman. He also went viral for his rant about the effectiveness of shotguns saying, “Pistols put holes in people, rifles put holes through people, shotguns at the right range with the right load will physically remove a chunk of shit off your opponent and throw that shit on the floor.” Safe to say he’s a big fan of shotguns. 

Jack Daniel (Thunder Ranch)

Jack Daniel is the lead instructor at Thunder Ranch in Oregon. He served in Law Enforcement for 19 years and was the Support Division Lieutenant, where he oversaw Major Crimes, Narcotics, and Evidence. Jack was the Team Leader for his agency’s SWAT Team for many years, before leaving to serve as the Lead Instructor at Thunder Ranch in 2022.

Darryl Bolke (Hardwired Tactical Shooting)

Darryl Bolke spent almost two decades working in a patrol division of his former West Coast agency, where he served as a firearms trainer assigned to SWAT, helicopter flight officer, and Field Training Officer. He now runs a training company called Hardwired Tactical Shooting.

Matt Haught (Symtac Consulting)

Matt has a long history of competitive and practical shooting as a frequent pistol, shotgun, 2-gun and safari rifle match competitor. He brings an armed citizen’s perspective to teaching at Symtac. Matt along with his father Rob Haught developed the extremely effective “Push-pull” method of mitigating shotgun recoil, allowing the user to shoot faster and more accurately. 

Best Shotguns for Home Defense: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall: Remington 870 Tactical Synthetic

See It

Key Features

  • Price: $449.99
  • Action: Pump
  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3 inches
  • Capacity: 6 Rounds 
  • Barrel Length: 18 inches
  • Weight: 7.5 pounds

Pros

  • Reliable
  • Simple to operate
  • Extensive aftermarket support 
  • Widely available 
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Safety is not ambidextrous 
  • Requires specialized tools to perform gunsmithing 
  • Used models vary in quality

From the duck blind to the silver screen, the Remington 870 has been a part of American culture since 1950. It is also the first shotgun that most of the experts mentioned first when asked, “What’s your favorite shotgun for home defense?” The Remington 870 is extremely reliable and very easy to operate, making it ideal for high pressure situations. “I grew up in a waterfowl hunting family shooting thousands of rounds through an 870 in the worst kinds of conditions. I still have some of those guns, and I would trust my life to them,” Fisher says. Another reason the Remington 870 takes the top spot is its availability, you can find one virtually anywhere and for a very affordable price. 

Talking specifically about the Remington 870 Tactical, it is a lightweight low-profile no nonsense design that holds six, 3-inch shells and will cycle anything you feed it. It also features an all-black anodized finish with black polymer furniture, which helps cut glare. Coming in at under $500 dollars, it’s affordable as well. You can’t beat that price tag for ultra reliability and effectiveness. 

I think you’d be hard pressed to find another shotgun that has more aftermarket support than the 870, meaning you can set the gun up to your exact specifications. All these factors make it easy to see why the 870 is the top selling shotgun of all time, with over 11 million units produced and sold since 1950.  

Read Next: Best Shotguns

Best Pump: Vang Comp Systems Model 077 Remington 870 Tactical

Best Pump

Vang Comp Systems Model 077 Remington 870 Tactical

See It

Key Features

  • Price: $1,250
  • Action: Pump
  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 2 ¾ inches
  • Capacity: 7 Rounds 
  • Barrel Length: 18.5 inches
  • Weight: 10 pounds

Pros

  • Extremely accurate and consistent 
  • Lighter recoiling than a stock 870
  • Very adjustable 
  • Upgraded Internals 

Cons

  • Expensive 
  • Not always available 

The Vang Comp Systems 077 takes all the features of the Remington 870 and turns them up to 11.  They added a Magpul MOE handguard which has MLOK on the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions making it easy for the user to attach a light, switches, or even a hand stop on the handguard. Also included is a Magpul SGA stock, which features adjustable length of pull. The Magpul SGA stock also has optional cheek risers for use with optics or raised sights. Speaking of optics, the 077 has a drilled and tapped receiver that allows the user to easily run a red dot or holographic sight, allowing for increased accuracy and a cleaner field of view. However, the bread and butter of Vang Comp is the barrel modification system.

Vang Comp developed a system that lengthens the forcing cone of the barrel to allow a smoother transition of the shot column from chamber to bore, which decreases recoil and pattern deformation. They then taper the barrel so that the shot column is squeezed together as it travels down the barrel, which increases accuracy and eliminates the need for a choke system. Before the shot exits the barrel, the hot gas exits the barrel through 62 precisely calculated ports. These ports greatly reduce felt recoil, eliminate muzzle flip, and kill muzzle flash. 

Combined with polished internals, staked shell latches, and an enlarged safety button, the Vang Comp Systems 077 is the Remington 870 perfected.  And if you need more convincing that the Vang Comp 870 is one of the best home defense shotguns, three of our experts have signature models with Vang Comp. 

Read Next: Best Pump Shotguns

Best Semi-Auto: Beretta 1301 Tactical

See It

Key Features

  • Price: $1,621
  • Action: Semi-automatic (gas operated) 
  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3 inches
  • Capacity: 7+1 with 2 ¾-inch shells and 6+1 with 3-inch shells
  • Barrel Length: 18.7 inches
  • Weight: 6.4 pounds

Pros

  • Fast shooting
  • Simple Operation
  • Very reliable
  • Manual of arms is similar to a carbine

Cons

  • Malfunctions can be harder to clear than a pump
  • Takes practice to master 
  • Can be ammo sensitive
  • Relatively expensive

If speed is key, then the 1301 tactical is for you. Utilizing an elastic pistol seal and rotating bolt head (like an AR-15) the BLINK system sends rounds down range as fast as you can pull the trigger. The operating system is self-cleaning and ultrasmooth leading to reduced felt recoil. Beretta designed this shotgun with the defensive/tactical shooter in mind. It features an oversized charging handle and large textured bolt release making it easy to operate in any conditions. The handguard has aggressive texturing, and it features multiple sling mounting points. 

Daniel running the 1301.

“The Beretta 1301 is simple to load, simple to operate, and it goes bang every time I pull the trigger. It’s also a little easier to train people on if they come from a carbine background,” says Daniel. Coming in at under 7 pounds this is one of the lightest shotguns on the list, however it doesn’t recoil any worse than other options. It also comes with a decent set of rifle sights, and a picatinny top rail meaning mounting optics is a breeze. 

There are a couple of downsides to the Beretta 1301. The first being ammo sensitivity, but I want to make clear, this is something that affects all semi-automatic shotguns not just the Beretta. When shooting lighter loads, you may have some cycling issues, that’s why Beretta encourages the use of full power 2 ¾ or 3-inch ammunition. Other downsides of the Beretta are the price, and availability. At the time of writing, it sells for $1,620 street price and is sold out at most major retailers. But if you want a semi-automatic, robust, reliable shotgun, go grab a Beretta 1301 Tactical.

Most Versatile: Mossberg 590 12 Gauge 3-inch Pump Action 20-inch

See It

Key Features

  • Price: $490
  • Action: Pump
  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3 inch
  • Capacity: 8 +1
  • Barrel Length: 20 inches
  • Weight: 7.75 pounds

Pros

  • Ambidextrous 
  • Very reliable
  • Simple manual of arms
  • Good after-market support
  • Very versatile and easily serve multiple roles 

Cons

  • Heavier than some options in this review 
  • Longer than most shotguns in this review

If you’re looking for a shotgun that can fit multiple roles, the Mossberg 590 is a great option. From defense to hunting, the 590 can do it all. With its 20-inch barrel you gain some velocity over 18-inch guns, making it a very capable bird gun. According to the experts I talked to, the barrel length is still maneuverable enough for a defensive situation, but long enough to easily hit moving targets at a distance. The Mossberg 590 also has huge after-market support, and you can purchase different stocks and barrels to fit your needs. 

The Mossberg 500 and 590 series of shotguns are an American staple and rival the 870 in its longevity and reliability. The one advantage the 590 has over an 870 is the fact that the gun is fully ambidextrous, with the safety residing on top of the receiver instead of a cross-bolt design like the 870. 

If you want a reliable, American made shotgun that can be a chameleon, and are not concerned about carrying a little extra weight around, go check out the Mossberg 590. 

Author’s Choice: Benelli M4

See It

Key Features

  • Price: $1,900
  • Action: Semi-Automatic
  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3 inch
  • Capacity: 5+1 (+1 with the ghost load) 
  • Barrel Length: 18.5 inches
  • Weight: 7.8 pounds 

Pros

  • Proven Combat History
  • Super Reliable
  • Very Accurate
  • Ultra Durable 

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Expensive aftermarket accessories 
  • Ammo sensitive
  • Heavy

I found it quite interesting that arguably the most battle proven shotgun on the list never came up in the top three choices for the experts I interviewed, but in my opinion no defensive shotgun list is complete without the Benelli M4. Adopted by the U.S. Marine Corp in 1999 it has been in service ever since as their main combat shotgun. 

The main selling point for the M4 is its rugged reliability. That’s due to the ARGOs gas system, which is a short-stroke dual-piston system. The self-cleaning piston system sits just forward of the chamber where the gasses are hotter and cleaner resulting in more reliable cycling and less fouling of the chamber. The Benelli M4 is built and feels like a tank, like a tool you can take to hell and back. 

However, that overbuilt feeling comes at a cost. Easily the most expensive shotgun on our list, it also has the most expensive aftermarket accessories, especially if you want that collapsible stock. Your wallet will be in tears. The controls are a little less ergonomic than the 1301, specifically the bolt release button being very small, and the safety being behind the trigger.

There’s no denying that the Benelli M4 has a certain cool factor to it, especially with the combat history it has. I would never question anyone purchasing one. But if you do, be prepared to eat ramen for the next year. 

How to Choose a Home Defense Shotgun

One common sentiment from all five experts was that a shotgun is a superior “in the house” fighting weapon. “Having 7 rounds of flight-controlled buck is absolutely devastating, and I’ve never felt under gunned with it in my hands. It doesn’t matter what kind of firearm you shoot off in your house, it’s all going to go through walls. That’s where training comes in,” Fisher says. 

Pump or Semi-Auto Shotgun for Home Defense

The shotgun is a situational firearm much like a carbine. Choosing the right one depends on your application, and firearm experience. For someone who grew up shooting a pump gun, racking the slide between each shot fired is second nature, but for someone who has minimal experience or grew up shooting carbines, then a semi-auto may be the best bet. 

Shotgun Ammo for Home Defense

Load selection is also very important for a defensive situation. All the experts I talked to are extremely pro 12 gauge over 20, due to a couple of factors: load quality, load variety, and recoil management. All our experts recommended a 12-gauge No. 4 buck. They all agreed it has the best repeatable pattern, and noted a huge difference between No. 4 buck and No. 4 bird. 

Another reason they were so pro 12 gauge is because of the variety of loads you can find in 12 gauge. “No two shotguns are the same—they all pattern differently, even two of the same models. The best thing invented was the five pack of shells,” he says. Those five packs are a cost-effective way of figuring out what specific ammo your shotgun likes. The last reason that all our experts chose 12 gauge over 20 was how the guns themselves shot. “I love the size and handiness of a 20 gauge, but you’re talking about a much lighter gun which means a lot more felt recoil compared to a 12 gauge,” Haught says. In essence it all comes down to training. You can’t go wrong with any of the shotguns on this list, but you must train with them and dedicate the time to become proficient. 

FAQs

Q: Is a 12 gauge too much for home defense? 

In my opinion, and that of the experts, a 12 gauge is a great choice for home defense. If you do have to use one in a defensive situation, it will take the fewest number of rounds fired to end a fight. “My favorite gun to bring to a pistol fight is a 12-gauge shotgun,” Bolke says. 

Q: Which is better for home defense, a shotgun or AR-15? 

All our experts agreed that a shotgun is better suited for home defense than an AR-15. I was surprised by this answer because this isn’t the most popular opinion. But what really caught me by surprise was the reasoning. They all said that the shotgun is still the most “accepted” defensive weapon. I’m not a lawyer, but I see where they are coming from. In the eyes of a jury, especially those in non-2A-friendly states, they mostly view the shotgun as a sporting firearm still. And possibly in the eyes of a jury, grandad’s shotgun is less offensive than the evil “weapon of war” AR-15. Unfortunately, in today’s political climate the way you defend yourself and your family matters. 

Q: Are shotguns effective for home defense? 

As we stated above, shotguns are extremely effective for home defense. They usually only take one shot to eliminate a threat. “With buckshot, I get to shoot something nine times every time I pull the trigger,” Bolke says. Shotguns at a minimum are a force equalizer, if not a force multiplier. 

Read Next: The 4 Rules of Gun Safety

Final Thoughts on the Best Home Defense Shotguns

To be honest when I started this article, I was convinced that my current home defense firearm (PCC) was the best system. But after talking to these five experts, and shooting my shotguns a little more, I believe I have experienced the 12-gauge awakening and am currently switching my primary home defense system to a shotgun. From the variety of rounds you can feed into the system, to the one-shot stopping capability, the 12-gauge shotgun seems to be not only a viable home defense firearm, but the optimal one. At the end of the day though, like any firearm, training matters. You’re either shooting a shotgun or feeding it, so if you do decide to adopt the 12-gauge as your primary home defense firearm go out and get some training.

Share

Liam Ward

Contributor

WHY YOU CAN TRUST OUTDOOR LIFE