Scopes and Optics

Shotgun Optics — Accuracy and Speed

Man haiming a Kel-Tec KSG shotgun over several wood pallets

Convincing folks that a shotgun needs to be aimed as carefully as a rifle isn’t always easy. An hour of range work is better than a week of conversation. Range work clearly shows the advantages of shotgun optics if the shooter pushes themself to excel.

The shotgun is a formidable defensive firearm in its own right. It is certainly one needing little I could say to add to its reputation.

TruGlo 1x4x32 Tru•Brite scope mounted on a shotgun's Picatinny rail
This is the TruGlo 1x4x32 Tru•Brite shotgun scope mounted on a Toros Copolla T4 shotgun.

The shotgun is underutilized by most shooters because the shotgun isn’t understood as well as it should be. No matter how close to the bone my finances have been, I have always owned at least one quality shotgun. Having had my life in my hand more than once, I prefer to operate on at least an even playing field.

Whatever the catalyst for the struggle, a 50-50 chance of survival is all we may ask for. When it comes to taking advantage of every resource, we should consider shotgun optics.

Shotgun Sights

The bead sight is all we may need for home defense. However, it is a minimal sighting system. Look over the barrel and pick up that front post. A fiber optic front post in the modern fashion makes the system better. Self-luminous tritium sights from XS systems are even better yet.

In dim light, the bead is useless. For accuracy past a few yards, they are not very useful — even in bright light. A defense shooter isn’t trying to catch a bird or hare in a cloud of shot but wishes to center the load in the threat. We need better sights for this. This is particularly true for slug use.

Many shotguns feature rifle-type sights. The Ithaca Deerslayer and some Remington police models feature this type of sights. They are OK but limit the speed of a shotgun.

SureFire shotgun forend with incorporated weapons light
SureFire offers a modern, and highly effective, combat light and shotgun forend combination.

The shotgun is largely aimed by feel not a slow aim using rifle sights. An improvement is the XS Express type. As mounted on my Remington Versa Max Tactical, these sights have a good mix of speed and accuracy potential. Then there are Ghost Ring sights. These aperture-type sights that are very fast and accurate — even at long range. For all-around defense, use of the Ghost Ring is a good choice. But what about optics for a shotgun?

Shotgun Optics

While some of the other sight systems are suitable for defense for those who practice — especially the XS type sights — a red dot sight is the fastest sight to use quickly. When you are shooting for speed, accuracy, and under stress, the red dot works well.

You do not have to line up the sights with the target. Simply look through the sight as you place the bright dot on the target. This is a brilliantly fast system.

Shotgun with an orange and white pattern board
An overlooked part of shotgunning is patterning the shotgun and sighting it in. Be certain to do this after the optics are mounted.

A quality red dot offers excellent accuracy potential. Battery life has advanced tremendously from just a few years ago. There is no argument that the red dot design is a useful defense option if you understand the how to use it. Keep both eyes open, so you’ll never lose your peripheral vision. Practice with the red dot, don’t overthink it, and you will get a hit.

It goes without saying that for this to work, you need to choose a shotgun that is red dot capable. Most modern pump and semi-automatic shotguns are drilled and tapped to allow mounting a picatinny rail. This will allow the platform to accept optics. Some models are equipped from the factory with rails.

TruGlo red dot sight, quartering to
TruGlo offers affordable, but useful, red dot sights that should be among the top contenders for any short list.

For some pump shotguns, including the Remington Adaptive Tactical, the Wraptor forend is an option. This forend not only accepts a combat light, but it is also red dot compatible. SureFire also offers a combat light-equipped forend.

The beginner may wish to choose an inexpensive red dot to get the hang of this style of optic. Bushnell offers affordable optics. TruGlo offers inexpensive to mid-priced red dot sights that I have enjoyed good results with.

The Vortex red dots, both the Venom and StrikeFire, are good choices. SIG optics, designed to accept .308 rifle recoil, work well on shotguns. In this case, it is possible to mount the same red dot you use on the rifle as the shotgun for personal defense. This compatibility may be ideal for many for defense use.

When awakened in the night and rushing to repel boarders, a bead front sight just doesn’t make the grade for the demanding shooter. A red dot sight makes for fast, effective shooting. Remember to dial the red dot down in brightness, so the dot doesn’t wash out the target. With practice, the red dot is one of the most effective shotgun optics for close to moderate range.

Many of use prefer slugs to buckshot, especially if the range is more than a few yards. The red dot continues to shine in delivering rock solid accuracy to 50 yards or so. Combat accuracy is also good.

Once you have made the decision to mount a red dot sight on the shotgun, you must invest in a sight that will stand up to 12-gauge recoil. However, you also need to consider all of the ways you may use it.

Front view of Bob Campbell shooting the Kel-Tec KSG shotgun
Learning to use a red dot sight well takes time, but speed comes with practice.

Many jurisdictions limit certain seasons and areas to shotgun only. For the fellow who hunts deer and boar with a shotgun loaded with slugs, will the platform be dedicated to hunting or serve double duty for home defense? While some use buckshot for short range, the shotgun slug is universally recognized as being deadly effective. Even a standard soft lead slug fired in a smoothbore shotgun is accurate enough to take deer-sized game to 50 yards.

I have experimented with shotgun-type rifle scopes. I chose an example that did not limit short-range accuracy potential and fighting ability, but which offered real accuracy at extended range. I mounted the TruGlo Tru•Brite 1x4x24 shotgun scope on the Toros 12-gauge automatic shotgun.

Specifically designed to handle shotgun recoil, this scope has several advantages. At the lowest magnification, the Tru•Brite 30 scope offers fast target acquisition. It isn’t as fast as a red dot, but it is useful for fast shooting at short range. Crank the magnification up and you will have a scope well suited to slug hunting with a shotgun.

Man in tactical garb aiming through the red dot sight on a Kel-Tec KSG Shotgun
A red dot sight is a great addition to a modern shotgun such as the Kel-Tec KSG.

I’ve owned an Ithaca Deerslayer for many years. While it is a classic and a great gun the Ithaca’s iron sights simply are not in the same class as the modern shotgun scope. There is no easy way to mount a scope on older shotguns. A modern shotgun with a well-designed optic is a good option, not only for personal defense, but for hunting as well. Shotgun scopes are not a common item. CheaperThanDirt carries the TruGlo, a couple of options from Konus, and a few others.

The key to mastering an optic is always practice. Choosing the proper red dot or shotgun scope is important. Do your research, practice, and train hard.

Have you made the switch to shotgun optics? What lessons did you learn in the switch? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • over the shoulder view of a SWAT officer wearing tactical gear aiming a shotgun
  • Weaver Kwik Point n battery red dot sight
  • Adaptive Tactical gear forend in clamshell packaging
  • Adaptive Tactical forend for a shotgun
  • TruGlo 1x4x32 Tru•Brite scope mounted on a shotgun's Picatinny rail
  • Kel-Tec KSG shotgun topped with a Bushnell red dot sight and box of Winchester AA shells
  • Bob Campbell shooting a Kel-Tec KSG shotgun with a Bushnell red dot sight
  • Side view of Bob Campbell shooting the Kel-Tec KSG shotgun
  • Front view of Bob Campbell shooting the Kel-Tec KSG shotgun
  • Man in tactical garb aiming through the red dot sight on a Kel-Tec KSG Shotgun
  • SureFire shotgun forend with incorporated weapons light
  • Man haiming a Kel-Tec KSG shotgun over several wood pallets
  • Shotgun with an orange and white pattern board
  • TruGlo red dot sight, quartering to

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
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 (7)

  1. I put a cheap red dot sight on my Remington 1100 mag with 18 inch barrel almost 10 years ago and it is my primary hunting firearm. I have killed multiple deer and turkeys out beyond 50 yards. I got one turkey out at 65 and a deer at 70. The red dot on a shotgun is definitely capable of hitting consistently beyond 50 yards. I typically use the circle dot reticle unless it’s really low light then a switch to a single dot. The cheap red dot handles the recoil way better than I expected, I’ve had to tighten a screw that attaches the sight to the mounting base once in the last eight years or so I’ve had it. I keep looking at more expensive red dots but I just haven’t had a problem with this one.

  2. I’d like to know if the author used that red dot on the KSG sending slugs downrange with his face on the cheek weld…

  3. For the author: I recently bought a Bushnell RXS-100 from Cheaper than Dirt. I mounted it on a Springfield M+P 12. Unfortunately, my cheek weld has to be uncomfortably low to see the red dot despite maxing out (minimizing?)the elevation adjustment. Would a rail on top of the original rail, thereby raising the sight, solve the problem?

  4. i understand the article is about sight options. I have found OOB to be quite effective to at least 20yd.. i use open rifle sights, w/a 20″ slug barrel. i don`t wish to ‘telegraph’ my location at night via a glowing front sight. if i can see it, i presume someone else can also. same consideration for a handgun. i abhor shiny weaponry. Whether hunting,or in self defense situation. Just my personal preference.

  5. So I copy and paste “TruGlo Tru•Brite 1x4x24 shotgun scope” from the article into the “Cheaper Than Dirt” Search box up at the top of the webapge, and that takes me to a cheaperthandirt page showing two scope results.

    I will assume the first of the two results shown on that page, the “TruGlo Tru Brite 30 Series Scope 1-4x24mm Fully Coated Lens Circle Duplex 30mm Tube Matte Black Finish” is the scope you intended your readers to check out for shotgun use.

    I have several 12 gauge shotguns, pump and semi-auto, that a scope like this could look pretty sharp on. My wife will be very “pleased” with you for convincing me that I want to buy one. This is of course all your fault, after all. 🙂

  6. I first got a SureFire fore end light but it was for the wrong shotgun. I then got the correct SureFire light for my simple and cheap Mossberg 500 pump action shotgun. It seemed overkill for my type of shotgun but I didn’t return it as advised by someone. I ended up stripping the threads where the castle nut tightens the fore end to the shotgun. I took it to a shop but they couldn’t promise anything after they tried fixing it. The fore end slid off again after firing the shotgun using slugs at an outdoor shooting range. I finally contacted Mossberg and they sent me a new part free of charge to replace the older one that was ruined. I would later use that shotgun to deter 4 ex-cons from a south central L.A. gang trying to do a home invasion at my parents’ home. I had to defend my handicapped mother’s life as well, and it–not the Sheriff who arrived 14 minutes later–mitigated the threat(s).

  7. I’ve used a Tru Glo Gobble Stopper on my 18″ 870 for years Set to green dot with 80 moa ring, it’s fast to acquire easy to keep both eyes open and track flyers. Hash marks on the ring point to the center dot for accuracy with slugs too. Also have a a Knoxx Spec Ops III recoil reducing stock, and a +3 mag extension

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