Throwback Thursday: Combat Shotguns Galore!

12 gauge pump action shotgun on wood detail and shells.

Shotguns are often seen as one of the best do-it-all firearms. Whether you’re hunting out in the field or defending the homestead, a solid shotgun is a good companion. However, all shotguns are not created equal, and there are some features that are more desirable for self-defense than others. Here are some of the best combat shotguns available today!

FN Self-Loading Police Shotgun

FN SLP 12-gauge

The soft recoil and reliability of a gas-operated, auto-loading action. These combat shotguns also have the exclusive speed-loading feature made popular by John M. Browning’s famous Auto 5. With the bolt opened, just thumb a round into the magazine and that round is automatically loaded into the chamber. The feature makes mid-combat reloading as quick as possible.

This shotgun also features a shorter stock to facilitate shooting while wearing body armor. The ghost-type sights with tritium insert allow a better and quicker acquisition of the target. They are mounted on a picatinny rail, allowing the installation of other types of sights should the mission require it.

Whether you are carrying it on a military assignment, in the squad car, or simply pulling nightstand duty, the FN Self-Loading Police Shotgun is a perfect mix of functionality and reliability.

Legion Saiga 12

Saiga 12 combat shotguns

What if an AK could fire 12-gauge shotgun rounds? Oh wait, it can. The Legion Saiga 12 is a Kalashnikov-pattern 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun.

Like the Kalashnikov rifle variants, it is a rotating bolt, gas-operated gun that feeds from a box magazine. This means you can carry a lot more ammunition with you, in easy to transport and store box magazines. Reloading is a snap as well, since there is no need to feed rounds into a tube individually.

Of all the high-dollar shotguns out there, this one will put the maximum amount of firepower downrange in the least amount of time. Standard features include a rotating bolt, gas-operated, magazine-fed, hammer-forged, chrome-lined barrel. A machined steel bolt, AK side scope rail, external screw chokes, and five-round capacity polymer magazine are included.

Designers made the iron sights perfect for quick target acquisition, and the smooth-bore barrel has a three-inch chamber, which accepts 2.75-inch and three-inch ammunition. The safety is a large lever-safety on the right side of the receiver, just like a standard AK.

If you want one of the most dependable semi-auto combat shotguns, buy a Saiga and you will see why experts consider the AK action one of the most dependable actions in the world.

Mossberg 500

Mossberg 500 Persuader shotgun left profile

Ah, our old friend the Mossberg 500. This old warhorse has been in service since 1961, and shows no signs of slowing down. Perfect for any shotgun application, the 500 has changed little since its early days on the drawing board.

Police, military, hunters, home defense enthusiasts, and zombie hunters alike have all carried the 500, and with good reason. What makes this little shotgun so great? Price initially comes to my mind. How else can you get a gun with this much firepower for $250 bucks?

Another huge advantage to the 500 is the ability to add all the extras. There are thousands of ways to customize your shotgun. New stocks with adjustable lengths, pistol grips, rail systems, optics, ghost rings, flashlights, slings, you name it, someone has stuck it on a Mossberg.

If that wasn’t enough to convince you, the 500 is a pump-action gun, so you can literally fire any type of 12-gauge ammunition you can get your hands on. I have two barrels for my Mossberg. One is an 18.5-inch barrel for home defense; the other is a 26-inch bird barrel I use for hunting. I have always said that if I could only have one gun, it would be a 12-gauge pump shotgun.

Remington 870

Remington 870 Tactical Home Defense Shotguns

Police squad cars all across the country have carried the Remington 870 for decades now. This Express Synthetic model holds seven rounds of 12-gauge ammo and its twin action bars help ensure that smooth pump action that made the 870 famous. A simple bead sight tops the 18-inch cylinder bore barrel.

Remington milled the receiver from solid billet steel, and the finish is a weather-resistant coating. The 870 can shoot three-inch magnum shells as well as 2.75-inch standard shells.

The Remington 870 is legendary, and a great shotgun for just about any purpose. In combat, the cross-bolt safety is easy to disengage without having to move our hand.

Endless arrays of aftermarket parts are available for the 870 as well. Pistol grips, Picatinny rails, red dot sights, ghost rings optics, you name it, you can stick it on an 870. Since it is a 12-gauge shotgun, it is one of the best home defense weapons imaginable.

Being hit with 00 buck is like being hit with eight to ten .38 Special projectiles simultaneously. This weapon can literally stop an intruder in his tracks, immediately. A shooter can feel comfortable knowing that taking an 870 into combat means the gun will cycle perfectly, every time.

Remington 1100

Remington 1100 Combat shotguns

Remington tactical shotguns are rugged, ultra-dependable, and continually evolve as they’re called to serve in new, increasingly demanding environments. Remington built these combat shotguns on a time-tested and extremely reliable legendary standard of quality and a level of flexibility that only comes with experience in the field.

The Model 1100 Tactical shotgun comes with a standard stock and a 22-inch barrel. It is chambered for 2.75-inch 12-gauge. Reliability is at the forefront when talking about an automatic shotgun. The 1100 has a stellar reputation both on and off the battlefield. Police, military, and private contractors around the globe rely on the 1100 for their combat needs.

The speed at which you can fire an 1100 is very impressive. Since it is a semi-automatic, the shooter will still be able to operate the weapon with one hand, should a would be sustained in the other. A pump-action shotgun is far more difficult to operate this way, which gives the semi-automatic a leg up in the combat competition. The 1100 series from Remington is a perfect shotgun for nearly all applications, both on and off the battlefield.

What are your favorite combat shotguns? Let us know in the comment section.

Editor’s note: this post was originally published in December 2011. It has been updated and revamped for accuracy and clarity.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (14)

  1. I grew up on Remington 1100’s, which was actually my first shotgun my parents brought me when I was 16 yrs old. Well many years had passed and I was looking for a home defense shotgun, when in 2008 the movie “The Strangers” was released. After my wife and I watched it, she looked at me and told me “we need a shotgun, living way out here in the country”. BINGO!!! I just got permission to buy a “combat style shotgun”. Even though I had actually basically settled on either a 870 or one of the Mossberg series pump action shotguns, my heart had always been on a Benelli M4 semi-auto. Even though that was WAY out of my price range, LOL!!! So a few weeks later I went to a local gun shop to pick up a range bag for my pistol and to utter disbelief Remington had just released a 1100 “self defense” shotgun. So I put it on layaway and picked it up a few weeks later. My prayers had ben answered because I was always afraid, since my wife was not extremely experienced with firearms, if she was ever “under a stressed” situation, that she may not be able to properly operated a pump action shotgun. Even though it was a limited run for Remington selling that series, I still have it, with the extended mag tube and all. It’s a fantastic shotgun and still shoots great today!! It holds more rounds than the Benelli and was more than half the cost.

  2. For me, my favorite shotgun is still my 1st. Armscor M5 tactical. Smoothest pump action from the factory

  3. I’m surprised the author did not include the Keltec KS7. It’s bullpup design results in an overall length of 26.1 inches, including the 18.5-inch barrel. For in-home defense I load it with the 12 gauge mini-shells, which seem to feed perfectly. And it gives me a 12 round capacity. It goes on the shoulder in a snap as it is light as a feather and still produces only light recoil.

  4. I have a store bought (1971) High Standard pump holding 6+1 12 ga 2 3/4 with 18 1/8 barrel. Auto loaders are nice, but I haven’t needed that advantage. I have this for home defence, so all that fancy stuff is just glitter. And I hope and pray that we never face what the Ukraine is dealing with.

  5. After reading about men’s wives/daughters etc being recoil-sensitive with a 12-guage, I have to recommend mini-shells. They have about half the recoil of a 2-3/4 shell, do the same damage at home defense range, and will easily penetrate 5 layers of plasterboard at 10 yards! I have compared the effect of several types of shot in both sizes, and cannot see any difference. Not only that, but my Mossberg 590A1 holds 13 rounds!

  6. Hello Fellow Scattergun Enthusiasts..
    Just wanted to interject my humble opinion..
    and that would be.. after many many rounds of 12 gauge 00Buck and 1OZ sabo Slugs through a mossberg 930 auto loader, A mossberg 590A1 Pump Action, a Remington 870 Pump Action and a Remington 1100 Auto Loader!!
    I put all these fine proven weapons against my BERETTA 1301 Tactical 12 gauge .. I’m sure as most of you out there that carry, a Sidearm every Day without fail , want to trust your Life that your weapon will go BANG without Fail!! Well as I said before.. just my humble opinion .. but after many rounds.. and not one failure with high brass, low brass my Beretta 1301 Ate everything I fed it, like some big lead munching Pig!! So after testing and serious thought.. I would trust my Life and My families lives to the BERETTA 1301 Tactical.. so be sure to ad to the list as one of the best Combat Shotguns there is out there!!!

  7. I agree with Bo except on one point, using #4 buck on hogs. Years ago I placed a couple of 12 gauge pump-action shotguns on layaway for two brothers. They worked all summer to pay them off, but when they came in to pick up the guns for hog hunting, the only ammo I had in stock was #4 buck. I advised them to go to another store and buy something heavier, either slugs, 00, or 000 Buck, but they refused, saying they bought the guns from me, so they were buying the ammo here as well (got to admire customer loyalty). A couple of weeks later they sauntered back into our hardware store to report the results of their hog hunt. They had just parked their pickup along a sandy stretch of road in a north Florida pine forest when an old tusker popped out of the bush nearby. One of the brothers hit him squarely with a blast of the #4 Buck. This had the undesirable effect of irritating the boar, who promptly charged them. Both men quickly scrambled into the bed of their pickup. The hog couldn’t reach them, so he extracted his revenge by running in circles around their truck, squealing and slashing at it. Each time one of the brothers shot at him, it only made him madder. Between them, the brothers pumped ten rounds into the hog, emptying both shotguns. When the dust settled, the grunter decided to lay down and expire. I now had 00 Buck and slugs on hand, and they bought a box of each, swearing never again to use #4 Buck on porcine.

  8. One thing the author fails to address is that there are many people who cannot safely wield a 12 ga. My wife is one such individual. She can (and has done so) shoot a 20 ga without problems. She is recoil sensitive and were she to need to use a 12 gauge, she would most likely hesitate and lose the farm with that hesitation. That is why I have a Mossberg 500 in 20 gauge loaded with TTT shot, oh, the choke is improved cylinder.

    Now, I am a fan of .45 ACP as well as the 1911 (that goes back 50 plus years and is still my number 1 go-to) and over the years, I have found that some of the same people who believe that the 12 gauge is the only reliable man-stopping home defense shotgun, pooh-pooh those who favor the .45 ACP round in handguns as too much for some shooters. That is an interesting, if not seriously confusing, irony to me. I have been told that people should shoot what they can control and actually hit something with. That is the argument I have seen used to justify calibers that prove more deadly to the shooter than to the shootee. But some of those same people do not believe it follows with the 20 gauge.

    Having spent several years in the Army, albeit 50 years ago, and then more than 30 years working in busy metropolitan and inner city ER’s, I have seen many GSW’s, from handguns, rifles, and yes, even shotguns. I first heard this next from a cop many years ago, but having seen what I have, I have come to believe and now say that a 20 gauge pump, loaded with #4 Buckshot, (TTT is a more than viable substitute and is easier to find) will have a devastating effect on whatever is the target, be it man, beast, or something non-living before it was shot. Try using it on a wild pig and you will see that it is very lethal. And pigs can be pretty tough to take down when they are pissed. Also good on feral dogs that decide to get closer than is in my comfort zone.

    To those who are recoil sensitive, do not fret, or be dismayed. It is not a character flaw, it could be just the way you are made. Not a problem! The 12 is not the only player for this game. The 20 does a more than adequate job IF the target is hit. It is easier to hit the target if one is not afraid of the gun.

  9. I own a marvick 88 it’s my bed side shot gun it’s simple works all the time it’s a perfect home defense weapon in my opinion

  10. The ergonomics of the Remington 870 are inferior to those of the Mossberg 500/590. The latter has a well positioned top mounted ambidextrous thumb safety, while the former uses a right-hand cross-bolt safety that is neither intuitive nor can be operated without repositioning the shooting hand. At the very least, Remington would have been better off placing the safety forward of the trigger guard rather than behind it.

    The location of the 870’s action bar release also requires the shooting hand be re-positioned to operate it and it is often stiff and hard to engage. By contrast the Mossberg is easy to operate without shifting the shooting hand out of position.

    But the worst feature of the 870 is the loading gate/elevator which, if not manipulated correctly, can lead to a difficult-to-clear jam when loading, unloading, or if you soft-stroke or short-cycle the action during firing. By contrast, the skeletal shape of the Mossberg shell lifter/elevator prevents these problems.

  11. I’d say for practical combat running, the semi-auto action would be a hair faster (though not a hair more reliable!). That being said, I run an 870 LE with a handful of mods that make it as quick and effective as it gets. There’s a YT out where Hickok45 starts out with a table full of shotguns and asks the question – “if you could only go out the door with 1…” – then the camera pans across the entire list. As soon as I saw there was an 870 on the table, I said to myself “that one”. Sure enough, over a 30 minute slot, he eliminated every one on that table except that 870. I i know some outfits went with the Mossbergs, but I’ve seen Remingtons in service since the 70s (Vietnam) all the way through last month with my grandson getting his first patrol car with one in the carrier. I do have a couple other specialty tools, but the 870 is my all-around, go-to business tool.

  12. One area not addressed by the Author and a worry for those who use the Saiga is that shells left in the magazine will be pressed oval from pressure of the magazine spring and jam in feeding, as I learned to my horror one evening. In the dark.

    I unloaded the magazine and reloaded with fresh shells from a near by box which allowed the shells to feed fine. The oval ones were tossed. I leaned a valuable lesson in that plastic shells are NOT brass ammo and need to be left in the box or carrier till needed.

  13. …While in the 82nd Airborne Division back in the day, along with my M-60 Machine Gun, and my .45 automatic, I also carried a Mossberg in a bullpup configuration in a holster on my side, and that was loaded with flechette rounds…(hey, central america was a dangerous place to be back when Ortega was running his death squads.
    For close range fire-fights, my Mossberg couldn’t be beat….8 in the tube and one in the chamber and with 19 flechette darts per round, it was nothing short of effing awesome.
    And with the ability to unload every last round in less than 4 seconds, that was a wall of death that was sent downrange.
    The gomers never knew what hit them.
    Never had a jam, never had a mis-fire, and it was all business, all the time.
    Eighty-Deuce on the loose…
    (By the way, apparently Daniel Ortega is now running on the Democratic ticket down there….that’s a far cry from his Marxist leanings, eh?)

  14. I’ll stick with my Mossberg 590A1 first generation. I’ve modified it to the point that it’s a poor man’s trick combat weapon. It’s even good for pheasant hunting.

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