By the Numbers: America’s Top 5 Shotguns

Kel-Tec KSG shotgun, gray, profile right

Semi-auto handguns topped the list, which was not much of a surprise. Likewise, semi-auto rifle topped it category, but when it comes to shotguns, that sweet sound of a pump being racked tops the list. Then again, with some of the awesome sales over the past couple of years, who hasn’t picked up a couple extras for when a SHTF scenario becomes reality?

Mossberg 590A1

The Mossberg 590A1 is one of the best home defense shotguns available on the market today. The Parkerized 590A1 is an outstanding representation of excellence in performance and function. The Mossberg 590A1 comes with an 8 round capacity giving you plenty of ammunition to keep 2 legged miscreants at bay. This is truly a defense purpose-specific shotgun giving users the same outstanding shotgun that passed the Mil-Spec 3443 protocols. The Mossberg 590A1 is the only true Mil-Spec Shotgun available. When you buy a shotgun to defend yourself and your loved ones go with the best go with the Mossberg 590A1!

Specifications and Features:
Mossberg 590A1
Pump Action Shotgun
12 Gauge
3″ Chamber
8 Round Magazine Tube
20″ Barrel
Bead Sights
Cylinder Bore
Parkerized Finish
41″ Overall Length
13.875″ Length of Pull
7.25 lbs Empty
Heavy-Walled Barrels, Metal Trigger Guard and Safety Buttons Built to Mil-Spec Demands
Tri-Rail Forend and Tactical Light Forend Models
Free Gun Lock/10-Year Limited Warranty Included

Remington 870 Police

The ultimate choice for virtually any close-range scenario The Model 870 Police Breacher System is designed to meet the needs of today’s modern law enforcement community. Based on the durable Model 870, it is designed to fire any 12 gauge 2 ¾” and 3″ load, including standard shotshell, buckshot and breaching rounds. This complete system includes a parkerized finish, retention holster and a button sling and attachment. To complete the package, a soft storage case is provided with dual backpack capabilities.

Specifications and Features:
Remington 870 Police
Pump Action Shotgun
Stock: Black
Barrel Length: 11 ½”
Gauge: 12
Finish: Parkerized

870 Police complete Door Breacher System, with parkerized finish
11.5″ barrel with stand-off that comes with rebar grooves
Velcro side saddle for easy transition between loads
Retention Holster for duty belt (Accessory or Standard)
Button Sling and attachment
MCS style receiver with Picatinny rail mount on top for optics
Soft case for storage with dual backpack capabilities
4-shot magazine capacity (3 + 1)
Sort-fore-end with handstop
low light illuminator on fore-end (Optional)

Mossberg 500 Tactical

The Mossberg 500 Tactical is a great choice for home defense, patrol duty or competition. It features a 20″ barrel with heat shield, fixed cylinder bore and ghost ring sights. The extended magazine tube holds 7 rounds. The Mossberg 500 has been a favorite of sportsmen, law enforcement and the military for decades, with good reason. Simple to operate, total reliability, combat rugged and outstanding performance are all hallmarks of the Mossberg 500.

Specifications and Features:
Mossberg 50567
12 gauge
Pump action
20″ barrel with heat shield
3″ chamber
7 rounds capacity
Fixed cylinder bore
Ghost ring sights
Synthetic stock
Sling swivel studs
Overall length 41″
Weight 7 lbs
Matte blued

Mossberg 500

No other shotgun even comes close to the Mossberg 500 pump action’s remarkable combination of modern design, custom type features and affordability. All come in an array of stocks, barrels, finishes and combo options that make it the perfect, versatile choice from first-time hunters to seasoned veterans alike.

Specifications and Features:
Mossberg 500 pump action all-purpose field shotgun
12 gauge
28″ vent rib, ported barrel
6 round capacity
Ambidextrous thumb safety
3″ chamber
Quiet carry dual action bars
Twin bead sights
Accu-Set choke tube system
Black synthetic stock
Matte blue finish
48.5″ overall length
14.5″ length of pull
1.5″ drop at comb
2.13″ drop at heel
Drilled and tapped
7.5 lbs

Kel-Tec KSG

The KSG is the innovative 12 gauge pump action shotgun from Kel-Tec! Designed primarily as a defensive shotgun, it features a single 18.5″ barrel fed by two separate magazine tubes. A manual selector lever behind the trigger guard allows you to select which tube is feeding the hardened steel receiver. The KSG ejects downward to clear the chamber to give you more reliable operation when you need it most! The dual tube magazines hold an impressive 12 rounds of 3″ shells (6 rounds each) giving you some serious firepower. It will hold 14 rounds of 2-3/4″ shells and its simple reliable action can cycle shells as small as 1-3/4″ if you want to hold even more shots! A familiar cross bolt style safety, a pump release lever located in front of the trigger guard and the ability to clear the chamber without feeding a round are important safety features in any home defense shotgun. The Zytel synthetic forend and pump have top and bottom picatinny rails for mounting lights, optics and accessories. The synthetic stock has a nice thick soft rubber recoil pad to tame the recoil of this powerful shotgun! Take it to the range for shooting fun during the day and sleep peacefully at night with the KSG by your side!

Specifications and Features:
Kel-Tec KSG Pump Action Shotgun
12 Gauge
18.5″ Cylinder Bore Barrel
3″ Chamber (Accepts 2.75″ or 3″ Shotshells)
12 Rounds
Hardened Steel Receiver
Dual Tube Magazine
Feed Selector Lever
Cross bolt safety
Upper and Lower Picatinny Rails
Synthetic Stock
Sling Loops
Overall Length 26.1″
Height 7″
Weight 6.9 Pounds
Black Finish

Pump or semi-automatic, which shotgun do you prefer? Give us your top five shotgun picks in the comment section.

Check out the other articles in this series:


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 (22)

  1. I am surprised you used three Mossbergs and one 870 police with a short barrel, which most will never own. I like the Mossberg 590 and the Remington police. I own 5 870 police models in different configurations. I am disappointed an Ithica or Winchester did not make the list.

  2. I love my DP-12. I can’t cycle it fast enough to get just a tiny hang up out of it. I now have standards SKO semi auto 12 ga. It’s built on the AR platform. I plan to run it through some tough testing next weekend

  3. PLEASE be careful with the KSG! especially if performing a speed fire. Feel free to look up the fellow in Arkansas whose left hand was reduced to a “claw” when his VFG broke in the breech closing stroke, and finger in trigger well on trigger. WARNING, its ugly to look at. I was about to buy a KSG when I came across this. I opted on the awesome DP-12. From a Tool & Die background and looking at both choice was easy.

    1. DP12 is an engineering masterpiece, as well as no jams. Sold my Saiga soon as I tested DP12. Only AA 12 is above this but we talking pump.

  4. For a less technical review:
    I own a Mossberg cruiser, a rem 870 tactical and a KSG.
    Of those three, I’d go to the 870 to defend my home.
    It’s unfair to judge the Mossberg due to the cruiser configuration – because it IS reliable – but it’s also an obnoxious little shotgun. I considered it almost unusable until I fitted it with an aftermarket vertical foregrip, which improved accuracy & recoil a great deal.
    The KSG, while fun, suffers from very unreliable feeding. The allegedly soft, cooshy buttpad was also not enough to prevent a two-week green ‘n’ yellow bruise from 10 rounds! There IS an extended buttpad made by Kel-Tec, and it was a worthwhile investment. Now, if the thing would just chamber reliably.
    The 870, though, is just shootable, practical and it works. A Mossberg equivalent would do the same thing; the point here really is don’t go for a fad or niche gun to protect your home. Go for one that’s proven.

    1. Gordon, Thank-you for bringing-up the issues that you have had with the KSG! Due to the unreliable feeding failures, will be sure to take it off of my Christmas list.

    2. A KSG absolutely a must have! No it’s not 100% reliable, but it’s by far the most fun gun I own.

  5. Each to there own!
    The Mossberg has proved it’s self over the years.
    I’m not going to give a bad guy any notice I’m there or have a shotgun!
    He can find out about me and my Benelli M3 when I either pull the trigger or he gets on the ground while we wait for the police!
    His choice not mind

  6. The only surprise is that some thing OTHER THAN a Mossy, or 870 made the list.
    The 500 and the 870 have been around the block and around the world with LEO and MILITARY forces since the came out.
    I prefer the 870 BECAUSE it is/was the first one in my collection, and all my shot guns operate the same as do my orthe weapons by class have the same operational features.

  7. I agree with you on recommending pump shotguns for home defense. After 25 years of law enforcement I am now medically retired. In my experience the sound of that action being worked is universally recognized and understood regardless of any language barriers. 90 percent of the time pumping that shotgun will be enough to stop a bad guy in his tracks. Over the years I worked for three different agencies they all issued 870’s others issued Mossberg 500’s little disappointed to find 3 Mossberg’s on your list and my favorite Ithaca 37 missing. I like the Ithaca because of being left handed the safety is easily exchanged for left hand use the tang safety of the Mossberg is also a plus for South paws.

    1. Am also a fan of the 37, bought 2nd hand in 16 ga 60 yr ago. I’d have liked to get a slug bbl for it but never did because of the fitting involved. I’ve since become owner of several 1100s and bbls and had the good fortune to win an 870 Turkey Special in a raffle. That one w/ the slug bbl has become my home defense guard piece of choice. For me, it’s as close as I’ll find to a natural pointer that the 37 is.

      I opened this thread looking to see the Ithaca mentioned. I can only speculate the reasons why it was ignored.

  8. Mossberg has a benefit seldom mentioned. The follower is normally up. If a round were to jump the mag latch the round will fall on the ground and can be reloaded and fired without locking up the action. In the 870 the follower is down. If a shell jumps the mag it locks up the mechanism and the gun must be disassembled to fix. I have seen this twice. The first incident was a policeman who bought an 870 and it jammed on the third shot. He sold the gun and never bought another.

  9. I’m 83 and own a Winchester Model 12 that is 85 years old. I’ve own 5 of these in my lifetime. The .410 version with rifled slug was as accurate as any 30.30 I ever owned…. Wonder why so many weapons today look like the owners are fixing to invade someplace. Keep looking for the steel or Kevlar helmet to show up in an ad in the near future. No wonder the “anti assault weapon nuts” scream. Want military looking weapons, camouflage uniform and bloused pant legs and jumpboots ????? Join the military or quit looking like a SWAT team member.

  10. Short n sweet. Both the description and the weapon.
    Although I appreciate the intimidation factor of the charging noise of a pump shotgun, I’m a semi-auto guy. Specifically the catamount fury 2, with the Kushnapup, bullpup conversion.
    Out-friggen-standing!!!! Now THATS an intimidating sound. Round after round of 12ga. ammo being sent your way. Mmmmmm.

    1. I own an 870 with rifled barrel and a 500. Both highly reliable. As for a semi-auto. I carried a Browning semi in the field in the ’60s. I jammed on me and had to be disassembled to clear. A most embarrassing incident.

      That was the end of my enthusiasm for semis.

      FYI: When I began my police career, our cruisers were equipped with Winchester ’97s. I don’t think we replaced them until the ’70s, then with Parkerized 870s. I also toted a Thompson when necessary. Twelve lbs, a slab to tote with no sling.

      I know I’m jumping off topic here, but since we’re sharing likes, except for geese, nothing, IMHO beats an Ithaca 20 gauge double for hours upon hours of carry in the woods.

  11. I just last week received my new Kel-Tec KSG in Navy Blue. So far I really, really like this shotgun. Well built and solid. Smooth action. So far, I’ve added BUIS and a couple of after market upgrades from Hi-Tech Custom Concepts. I thought on this purchase for quite awhile, but glad that I finally “pulled the trigger” so to speak.

  12. Hey Dave,
    It seems that I find myself talking Bullpup now when ever shotguns are the subject. I’m
    A firm proponent of the Bullpup platform and have carried and used such platforms in their Rifle form for years and still do.
    There was and is always a shotgun nearby and a more useful tool in close quarters was never designed unless you use a handgranade.
    I’ve had the opportunity to use several production Bullpup shotguns including the KelTec. They all work fine but are expensive to aquire.
    The solution may be a US made product by a company called Bullpup Unlimited. They make a rugged, reliable, and inexpensive Bullpup replacement stock for both the Mossberg 500 and Remington 870 shotguns. I have to date transformed two of my 870’s into Bullpup platform and have used them effectively.
    It takes aproxmently 20 minutes to make the conversion. Most of the tools needed are provided with the kit with the possible exception of a long shank common screwdriver that may be needed to remove the original rear stock.
    Once the conversion is completed one will notice that the trigger is somewhat stiffer due to the trigger bar extender. It does not effect operation and after several rounds is nearly unnoticeable.
    There is no downside to a Bullpup shotgun that I have been able to discern. However, there are several important positive gains by bullpupping a shotgun.
    – in a breaching or assult stack the shotguns traditional placement was either in the front or rear of the stack do to it being longer than sub guns or assult rifles. Their extra leanth made putting the in the middle of the stack a liability to the stack and sometimes difficult to deploy.
    The BullPup shotgun being as short and at times shorter than verious subguns or assult Rifles allow it to be used in a wider range of applications and positions
    – one of these enhanced positions is deploying from inside a vehicula. It’s shortened overall leanth (9 to 11 inches) allow it to be used from a vechial in the same manner as some assult rifles and sub-guns. This is a close quarters force multiplayer.
    – for those that have an interest in the Bullpup design but may not have the resources to acquire a production offering. These kits offer an inexpensive, well built, and operationally platform to change over your 500 or 870.
    – LE might also consider expiermenting with this replacement stock for some of the shotguns existing within their current armories. SWAT, HRT, TRU, or other speciality teams who operate in an urban environment may find such and old tool to have new options and purpose when in the BullPup configuration.
    And NO, I don’t have anything to do with Bullpup Unlimited Inc. other than being a satisfied end user of their product and having successfully deployed it in the field.
    Bullpup pump shotguns are a game changer.

    1. Pete….I took a look at Bullpup Unlimited. Pretty cool, but I noted that if you don’t already have an 870 or 500 to convert and have to buy both the shotgun and conversion kit, the total price comes out to be about the same as I paid for my KSG. While looking, I saw someone selling a Bullpup Unlimited 870 that is already converted for less than $300. That’s definitely a bargain. The only thing that I don’t like about the converted 870 or 500 is that like the original shotgun, they eject from the side unlike the KSG which ejects down from the bottom.

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