Personal Defense

Should You Choose a Pump-Action or Semi-Automatic Shotgun for Home Defense?

Bob Campbell loading a shotshell using a combat loading technique

Despite the popularity of modern self-loading rifles and handguns for defense use, the shotgun reigns as the traditional home defense firearm. I find that the shotgun offers the best handling, reliability, and hit probability for my use. The shotgun simply fits the bill more closely for home defense than any other type of firearm.

The shotgun’s primary advantage is wound potential. Couple this with fast handling and a natural point, and you’ll have a great all-around personal-defense tool. Shotguns also have a wide range of available munitions to choose from or match to your intended purpose.

Bob Campbell operating and shooting a pump-action shotgun showing an empty hull in the air and a loaded shell being pumped into the chamber
A pump-action shotgun may be handled very quickly. Here, the author has a shell in the air and another round almost in the chamber. The key is practice.

Reduced recoil buckshot, magnum buckshot loads, reduced recoil target loads, slugs, and even buck-and-ball loads can be combined in one loadout to offer great versatility. I would never discount a humble single-shot shotgun as it may hit as hard as a $2,000 self-loader. A double-barrel may be a brilliant, fast-handling piece. However, most home-defense shotguns are pump-action or self-loading shotguns.

Pump-Action Shotguns

The pump-action is a manually operated shotgun. They are sometimes referred to as slide-action shotguns. The user operates the shotgun by moving the forearm to the rear to eject the spent shell and then moving the forearm forward to load a fresh shell into the chamber. Most of these shotguns use a tubular magazine that is mounted under the barrel. Although, there are pump-action shotguns that use a detachable magazine.

Controls include a bolt release and safety. The pump-action doesn’t rely on recoil, gas, or springs for reliable operation. The action is simple, and the moving parts are few and robust. While the more expensive shotguns are often smoother in operation, even inexpensive pump-action shotguns are reliable.

Most pump-action riot-length shotguns, those with an 18 to 20-inch barrel, weigh 6–7 pounds. I have seen some very good deals under $300 recently. The Turkish-made shotguns are not the smoothest on the low end, but some offerings are very smooth. They are affordable and reliable — a good combination of traits. While I prefer the 12-gauge for home defense, the 20-gauge offers less recoil and may be a reasonable choice.

There can be tradeoffs in any design. As a rule, pump-action shotguns, of the same weight as self-loaders, exhibit greater felt recoil. A recoil pad and the proper stance go a long way toward mastering recoil.

overhead view of a man shooting a Remington Versa Max Tactical shotgun
Remington’s Versa Max Tactical is a fighting shotgun that is without equal!

Semi-Auto Shotguns

Self-loading shotguns have a long recoil stroke spreading out some of the recoil force and using some of the recoil’s force to operate the action. Modern shooters accustomed to self-loading pistols and rifles may have more difficulty mastering a manually-operated shotgun.

In an emergency, you could hold a self-loading shotgun in one arm and fire it. Not well or accurately, but you could fire it. (A brave FBI agent, wounded in one arm, once shucked a pump-action shotgun with one arm and ended a gun battle.)

Self-loading (semi-automatic) shotguns are made ready by racking the cocking handle on the bolt. This loads a shell from the magazine, in a similar manner to the pump action. Once the action of the semi-automatic is loaded, the shotgun is fired with a press of the trigger. The shotgun fires, the bolt recoils to the rear as the spent shell is ejected, and the action begins over again.

Bob Campbell shooting a shotgun loaded with slugs at long range
At longer range, switching to a slug (solid) load evens the odds.

There are three types of self-loading shotguns. Some use inertia to operate the action, others use recoil, and some use gas operation. Gas offers the least felt recoil. Recoil operation, such as was used in the old Browning Auto 5, is the most brutal. Inertia types such as the Benelli and some Turkish guns are very reliable.

Gas operation taps a bit of the gas generated in firing into a gas tube. The gas goes through the tube and operating rods ram the bolt to the rear. As the bolt meets the end of its travel and the spent shell is ejected, recoil springs sent the bolt forward. Self-loading shotguns are often very reliable with standard pressure shells. However, gas-operated shotguns are not as reliable with the lightest loads. While some offer a degree of adjustment for light and heavy loads, the shotguns usually function best with standard full power buckshot loads in the personal defense context.

Which shotgun is best for personal defense? The choice is often individual. If you grew up hunting with a pump-action shotgun, a home defense shotgun with a riot-length barrel is a natural. Even if you are familiar with the self-loading shotgun, there are several types of action.

As an example, the Remington 1100 operates in a different manner than the Benelli M4. The action can be confusing if a considerable amount of practice hasn’t been undertaken. Learning how to load the shotgun, decock the action, and make the shotgun ready are important. If not in the proper state of readiness, you may rack the Benelli action, and it will not load.

Shotgun Variations

We should address modern variations on each type. The standard traditional pump-action shogun offers good hit probability, based on feel and balance. I feel the variants with detachable box magazines are not as well balanced. While they offer 5 or 10-round capacity, they also require a spare magazine to stay in the action.

Benelli ARGO gas system
Benelli’s ARGO gas system is a model of reliability.

With the tubular magazine under the barrel, either type may be quickly topped off with shells to replenish the ammunition supply. With 4–8 shells in the magazine — depending on the exact model — it isn’t likely you will need additional shells during a gunfight. Just the same, a shell carrier on the butt stock holding a few extra shells solves the problem.

I also feel that the AR and AK-type shotguns are counterintuitive for most defense uses. These firearms are heavier than conventional shotguns and must be aimed more carefully than the fast-handling traditional shotguns. Another advantage of the tubular magazine, when needed, a slug may be quickly loaded to address hard targets or targets behind cover.

There are similarities of the two types beyond the tubular magazine. Each type should be kept with an empty chamber in the home. Even quality shotguns are more likely to fire when dropped than handguns and most rifles. It takes but a moment to rack the action and make it ready.

Pump-action shotgun, black, righ, profile with picatinny rail and fiberglass stock
While some prefer a true pistol grip, the straight stock and semi pistol grip seem to be the best choice for most of us.

In the case of the pump-action shotgun, be certain to practice quickly hitting the bolt release. With the bolt racked on an unloaded shotgun, the action is cocked. When you fire the shotgun, the action is released. So, you will need to learn to quickly actuate the bolt release — safety demands you do not simply pull the trigger to release the bolt!

The bolt release is usually near the trigger guard. In the case of the Benelli/Beretta-type of self-loading shotgun, when the bolt has been racked, the shotgun must be fired or decocked to activate the shell elevator. Be certain to practice with dummy shells.

Based on a less-complicated action and operation, the pump-action shotgun is better suited for most of us to deploy for home defense. While the self-loading shotgun offers an instant back-up shot, the pump-action shotgun is only slightly slower.

Birchwood Casey Zombie Deer target with multiple holes and a box of Hornady Critical Defense 00 buck shotshells
Many loads, including Hornady’s Varmint Express #4 buck, offer real effectiveness on dangerous threats — perhaps not zombie deer though (unless they are made of paper).

A good hand with the pump-action shotgun will use recoil to his or her benefit. As the muzzle rises in recoil, the forend is brought to the rear. As the action is controlled in recoil, the forend is slammed forward, and the muzzle is brought back on target.

In the end, for personal defense and home defense, I prefer the pump action. The bottom line, for most of us who carry a handgun every day and concentrate on training with the handgun, the home defense shotgun should be as simple and easy to use as possible.

If your primary interest is the home defense shotgun or a firearm used for area defense, and you are willing to train, then a self-loading shotgun will give you an advantage. As for myself, I am going to deploy the proven pump action for the foreseeable future.

It’s no secret, historically, reader comments have strongly favored the shotgun over any other platform for home defense. The question then turns to, “What is best for you?” Do you prefer a shotgun or another platform for home defense? Would you recommend a pump-action or semi-automatic shotgun for home defense? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • Four boxes of shotshells including buckshot and slugs from Hornaday, Remington, Winchester, and Federal
  • Table with multiple open shotshell boxes and several empty hulls
  • overhead view of a man shooting a Remington Versa Max Tactical shotgun
  • Pump-action shotgun, black, righ, profile with picatinny rail and fiberglass stock
  • Toros Arms Copolla self-loading shotgun, right profile
  • Bob Campbell loading a pump-action shotgun with the chamber open by reaching over the top
  • Bob Campbell operating and shooting a pump-action shotgun showing an empty hull in the air and a loaded shell being pumped into the chamber
  • Woman wearing a purple t-shirt with red ear muffs holding a pump-action shotgun
  • Birchwood Casey Zombie Deer target with multiple holes and a box of Hornady Critical Defense 00 buck shotshells
  • Bob Campbell shooting a shotgun loaded with slugs at long range
  • bob Campbell braced against several 55-gallon barrels shooting a shotgun with a spent hull in the air
  • Benelli ARGO gas system
  • field stripped Toros Arms Copolla 12 gauge shotgun
  • Bob Campbell loading a shotshell using a combat loading technique

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 (33)

  1. I love how most of the people criticizing pumps don’t realize that a “short stroke” is operator error. And not just a fault of the gun. Train properly.

    On top of that, in regards to skeet. The gun is held at a completely different angle than what is typical for an engagement. When was the last time you pointed your shotgun in the sky at the range?

    Maybe I’d prefer a semi auto for skeet and duck hunting. But I’m willing to train to make sure I can use my pump action in a time of need in regards to an engagement.

    I can much more easily break down my entire mossberg 590 than I can a benelli m4, let alone part complexity.

    Ultimately, use what makes you comfortable. Not what others tell you to. But don’t blame lack of training on a good pump action. It’s okay to admit a semi automatic can be easier to use.

  2. Im in a wheelchair and 74 years old male. I have different hand guns but for home defence my choice is either a Winchester 1300 Defender shot gun with a pistol grip handle or a .410 gauge (or .45colt) 5 round revolver. I live in your typical subdivision with close by homes with people in them, which prevents use of bullets from revolvers and semiautomatic handguns, very dangerous. I rely on buckshot, birdshot or whatever for a deterrent that won’t put my neighbours in danger. I’m checking into rubber bullets for use as home defence ammunition . Shot guns are a formidable source of protection for the home, and that .410 gauge hand gun is tight beside my pillow. Be vigilant , and always be safe.

  3. Years ago when I worked in law enforcement and even before that I’ve seen some of the effects of the 12ga… be it 00 buck and #7 heavy game load… A guy I went to high school with became very upset over a break up and turned his 12ga on himself under the chin with 00. Took half his face off… but he lived. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of dollars and many surgeries later his face was mostly repaired… sadly a few years later he and his dad were riding 4 wheelers and his dad hit him from behind, ran up over him and his ATV… you can guess the rest. My brother-in-law decided to “investigate” the business end of his 12ga with #7 because of marital issues. Under chin… took top of his skull off. He lived for two days, although he was all but brain dead, his body kept functioning without ventilation or circulation assistance. That was not pleasant. I was radioed to do a well check once, turned out to be a sucicide. Middle of August, in a small mobile home with no A/C and the windows were closed… had been there a few days… that’s a smell you’ll never forget. Guy had used a .410 with a small game load… took the back of his head off and painted the walls and ceiling with all sorts of lovely bits. The shotgun in any gauge or caliber can be devistating but sometimes it can be ineffective even at point blank. Guess it all depends on the luck of the draw but I still believe the shotgun is a formidable defense tool for the home if weidled and used properly.

  4. I have seen a number of comments regarding shotguns as a home self-defense weapon which have gotten under my skin, and not just on this blog. And some of those who made those comments claimed to be an expert in the field without giving evidence of the same. Basically, the choice of the weapon needs to be adequate to the task of deterring an intruder from committing whatever misdeeds he has in mind. By definition being a deterrent must be a weapon that will deter the perp from his activity, and not provoke him to kill the bearer of the weapon. Weapons that have failed in that regard are what Bob has called minor calibers that, unfortunately, many ill informed people still cling to claiming it will work. Those calibers (all handguns here) are .22, .25, .32, and .380. I would submit even the .38 Special should be in this category. My conclusion is based on having worked for more than 30 years in busy metro ER’s and working hundreds (well in the high three digits and maybe even four, but I never kept a log of them) of GSW’s in just about every caliber imaginable.

    I realize that not everyone can handle my preferred caliber of .45 ACP and I will not shame anyone for that. We gotta do what we can do. That being said, I am amazed that so many people tout the 12 gauge as the best home defense shotgun there is, the be all, end all of weapons as it were.

    What about those who cannot handle a 12? And, some of the same people who disparage the .45 will do their best to shame those who cannot handle the 12. Not in this blog and Bob has been very measured in his recommendations (I appreciate that, Bob. I think you do a very good, thorough job with every article, even when I don’t always arrive at the same conclusions you do. But as adults, sometimes we just gotta agree to disagree. It doesn’t mean someone has to throw shade on the other person. Being an adult means I can disagree with my best friend on a matter and we can still be friends.)

    My ADHD was showing and now let me get back to my point. As far as shotguns go, no one should be coerced or shamed into using any weapon that they cannot handle. But the weapon has to be able to perform the function for which it was purchased to do, be a deterrent. By deterring someone, that sometimes means the intruder may possibly be DRT as we used to say in the ER, Dead Right There or sometimes the deterrent is that when the person is shot, or even shot at, they do not die, but they suddenly develop a measure of common sense and decide to vacate the premises. The weapon has deterred them from carrying out whatever malevolent deed they had formerly intended.

    I have a tendency to try to research these matters by consulting with other people if I don’t have enough data that I collected over my years in the Army or as an ER nurse. Mostly, it has been cops that I have known who have seen things and related what in their experience has worked and what didn’t, see those minor calibers mentioned above. I have also seen time when people were overgunned and killed innocent people who were not the target because of overpenetration of their magnum cannons or rifled slugs from that 12.

    I do not believe we can justify using heavy magnum loads in self-defense situations if the defender lives in an urban area. I have treated people who were out on the sidewalk, minding their own business, when they were shot by someone who could not see them through the walls, one through some trees. There is such a thing as too much gun for self-defense. I have a .44 Magnum that is a wonderful hunting handgun. I would NOT use it for self-defense in my house as I have more than one 1911 and a Mossberg 20 gauge shotgun that my wife can shoot. I am 71 and cannot do a 12. Won’t even try.

    I have seen innocent people killed with 00 buck just because they were in the proximity of the shooting. Overpenetration kills people and those victims were not always the intended target. I have heard other stories from a number of cops who related the same. I based my choices on the advice of cops and from what I have seen as far as GSW’s that I have seen during my time in ER, 30 plus years.

    There are some who try to denigrate the choice of #4 buckshot and give numbers about penetration failures, etc. If you ever see a person who was actually hit with that, you will probably change your tune. A defender should not be trying to shoot someone who is running away from them or fleeing their property. Where I am from, that will get you anything from a premeditated murder charge to manslaughter. If they are fleeing, they are not a threat. Unless you are in a 20,000 sq foot home, that 20 gauge with #4 buck, will do the job very well, as long as you do your part. I have even seen #4 birdshot do horrible things to people (it was a hunting accident, but they were still very dead) and at about the same range that a home defender would be needing. The padded hunting jacket did not provide enough protection to save the victim’s life.

    If you can’t find #4 buck, you need to consider that TTT shot is a very close substitute and the number are not that different.

    Rather than go by numbers given by people who have never seen an actual shooting victim, listen to some cops and see what they have seen work and also what they have seen FAIL. As for me, I will fall back on my time in the ER and 50 years ago, when I was with those guys in green who played with very loud toys (guns, grenades, det cord, and C4.) Those were the days, my friend… just not good ones, in any way, shape, or form, other than I was fortunate to come home.

  5. Melanie, even revolvers can fail. I have a drawer full of Taurus revolvers in the shop I would not trust my life with. I have personally owned several S&W and Colt DA revolvers with timing issues, cylinder end-shake, cylinder binding, and weak ignition. I even bought a brand new Ruger SP101 which arrived with a warped crane (quickly replaced by Ruger). There has long been a popular belief that revolvers are more reliable than semi auto pistols (automatics), but more than one test has shown this is not necessarily true. The primary advantage of the revolver is that it is less ammunition sensitive than the typical automatic and it is easier to learn how to operate and clean. The primary advantage of the automatic is it tends to hold more rounds and is faster to reload. Arguments about accuracy, power level, and concealability go both ways. If you are regularly shooting your revolvers, I presume they are being cleaned often and inspected for wear. Of course, this rule applies equally to automatics.

  6. To Colonel K
    It doesn’t matter how reliable the pump is; it may be 110.00000% reliable. You’ll still have problems if you short-stoke it. Notice my statement, “IF” I were to use a shotgun for defense, it’ll be an autoloader. Since I know for a fact that I occassional short-stroke them, (even in a fun situation), I depend on revolvers hidden around the house with OEM factory 125grn 38 +P loads, (not my reloads).
    I can’t ever recall a revolver malfunction with OEM factory ammo but I have had a few with my reloads. In the handful of (reload) failures it was always due to cylinder binding caused by me not fully seating the primers. Besides, if I were to use my reloads in a defensive situation & actually kill someone, the prosecution would be claiming I deliberately loaded up extra-special super killer rounds, specifically reloaded to be evil. Therefore, for home defense I stick with “harmless” OEM factory 135grn 38+P loads for home defense, (Speer Gold Dots).
    I shoot handguns weekly in matches from late fall through early spring so I’m well practiced in shooting them. (I live in New Hampshire & prefer my local indoor (i.e., heated) range during the winter. Once it starts warming up though I switch over to shotgunning mode. I short-stroked my 870 twice yesterday during 2 rounds of 5-Stand.
    Yep, gimme a revolver with OEM 125/135grn 38+P loads for home defense anyday.
    (Sorry if I got carried away, I had fun replying 🙂

  7. To Nicksdomain
    The Mossberg 590 is among the most reliable shotguns on the planet. Nothing better.
    If your shotgun only functions with one type of shell it is seriously sick. Probably a
    problem with the chamber, may simply need cleaning, or the ejector may have a problem.
    You should get this shotgun to a gunsmith as soon as possible.

  8. Melanie, I think we’ve all experienced short stroking with a pump shotgun. In the Mossberg 500/590 it is no big deal, but in a Remington 870 it can become a major problem to clear. I would caution you about switching to a semi auto shotgun. They tend to be softer and faster shooting than pumps, but I have never found one that is as reliable as a decent pump gun, meaning the likelihood of a malfunction is greater with them than with a pump. There may be exceptions to this rule. The Benelli M4 gets high praise for reliability, as does the Beretta 1301 Tactical. Both Remington and Mossberg have recently come out tactical semi autos that are winning high praises from reviewers, but I have yet to put one through the paces, so I can’t say whether or not this is truth or hype. Caveat emptor!

  9. Why no discussion of the differences/preference of the standard configuration shotguns vs bullpup designs?

  10. I used to think a pump action shotgun was the ultimate for home defense. That was up until I started using one for skeet. I’ve been shooting pumps for skeet & 5-stand for a good number of years now & it’s still surprizing when I’ll occassionally “short-stroke” the 2’nd round when a fast 2’nd followup shot is needed.
    You get caught up in the excitement of that fast 2’nd shot & 1) don’t fully eject the 1’st shot, or 2) don’t rack the slide back far enough to scoop up & load the 2’nd shell.
    So as I’ve said, this happens occassionally on a friendly game of skeet or 5-stand. And it doesn’t happen just occassionally to me. Same thing happens occassionally to anyone else shooting a pump during skeet/5-stand. So I can’t imagine how often someone would short-stoke it under a real life or death situation.
    Therefore I’ve long changed my thinking. If I were to use a shotgun for defense, it’ll be an autoloader.

  11. I have an IWI Tavor TS12 with a Sig Sauer Red Dot sight. I have different loads in the three tubes with quick access. The recoil is minimal and it is absolutely a home defense beast.

  12. I have a Mossberg 500 in my closet and a Remington 870 in my car. Both are modified with the Shockwave chickenhead grips and pump straps as well as side carriers for extra shells. I’ve taken both of these unusual weapons out to the range many times to familiarize myself with the particular technique required with such a setup. For my money, they are the most lethal, versatile, and portable weapons you can have. Much easier to aim and shoot than a pistol, way more projectiles on the target, and almost no penetration of walls or even doors. With practice, I have learned to get off five rounds in three seconds, completely destroying a target twelve feet away.

  13. I have pump-action, inertia-operated, and gas-operated shotguns. One is an AR-pattern. I use the pump-action as my primary home defense arm. My gas-operated shotguns are ammo-sensitive and I generally only use full-power shells in them. My inertia gun (Beretta 1201FP) works well with some low-recoil ammunition as long as it’s over 1200 fps. The inertia-operated guns run as simply and clean as a pump-action as all the gases, powder residue, and ballast go out the muzzle on each shot. On gas-operated shotguns, some of the above-mentioned debris goes into the operating system and action. It’s no big deal, but it’s something to take into account. If you’re recoil sensitive and like a soft-shooting gun with full-power ammunition, gas-operated shotguns are a great choice.

  14. My choice is a Mossberg pump with 18 inch barrel and 00 buck; my Remington 1100 is a little long (28 inch) for in the house use! But great for bird hunting! 🙂

  15. I have a Remington 870 tactical and recently purchased a Armscor VR82 20 gauge. Let me tell y’all something she runs very well, you need to shoot hot loads for about 50 rounds then no malfunctions. I would definitely recommend the VR82. Yeah it’s Turkish and lot of them guns are really reliable and this one is no exception. I would trust my life Armscor RIA VR82

  16. Have an H&R Pardner Pump (Rem 870 clone) chambered for 3″ in 12ga. Barrel shortend to 18.5″, 6 position AR style buttstock, Eagle fore end, UTG heat shield and ghost ring combat sights, Streamlight flashlight under mounted on barrel. 5 shell carrier on stock. 00 Buck in 2 3-4″.
    Should be more than plenty.

    But also have a break action Stevens 301 single in 12ga with 26″ barrel and modified choke… kicks like an angry mule with hemorroids but is plenty effective as well.

    Both will most assuradely get the job done if needed.

  17. When I was in law enforcement, we always had a Remington 12 gauge in the cruiser. It was dependable, handled well and packed a punch. So, in my younger days, I gravitated toward the 12 gauge for self defense purposes. My 20 gauges were reserved for pheasant, partridge, woodcock and rabbit hunting. Many years ago when I left law enforcement, I purchased a Mossberg 590 12 gauge for home defense and I still have it. It’s a wonderful and formidable weapon and one that I would bet my life on in a firefight. But as I’ve gotten older and a wider range of ammunition has become available, I’ve also added a Mossberg Maverick 88 20 gauge to my home defense arsenal. It’s lesser recoil is a bit easier on these old bones, it’s maneuverable and “Mossberg dependable” and the impact of a 20 gauge with the right load of buckshot at eight to ten yards is very close to what you could achieve with a 12 gauge.

  18. Best place I have found to get a cheap home defense shotgun is at auctions. I picked up an older sxs 12 for $125 and some 20 ga shotguns for $300 and less for my wife to handle. Youth 20 ga mossberg is perfect for her 5’ frame. I have a friend that’s a gunsmith and he looks them over and replaces parts or repairs them if needed.
    I also stock up on buckshot at the auctions when available.

  19. No comments in the article, or in the comments regarding cartridges that won’t eject in a pump shotgun. I’ve fired every brand of shells from my Mossburg 590, only ONE ejects properly! I have had to push some out of the barrel with a rod! Only the Federal law enforcement with an ACTUAL brass head/rim, the rest are plated steel. A magnet is the only way to tell. The steel doesn’t contract like the brass and thus sticks in the chamber. All had brass heads many years ago.
    Mediocrity in action.

  20. When I was 18 years old, I bought my first shotgun, a Mossberg 500, 12-gauge pump with a pistol grip. That shotgun was easy to shoot and naturally pointing from the hip. The fore and aft safety was intuitive, forward for fire, the same direction the bullets go, aft is safe, towards yourself like you are holding the bullets back; this safety design could be used in the pitch-black dark. Currently, I have two Winchester model 1300 Defender, 12-guage pump shotguns holding 7 rounds in the tube, one with the old brass bead sight and the pother with a light gathering fiber optic sight. I’ve had the Winchesters for 25 years now despite reports of a problem with a plastic bushing, I expect these shotguns will outlive me and be capable of providing service to someone else. I load with 00 Buckshot or #4 Buckshot and have some slugs available.

  21. I have a venerable 12 ga Winchester 1300 pump action shotgun which I bought years ago for trap and skeet shooting and I used it for duck hunting. The barrel is the typical long one, which came with the firearm when I bought it. I assume it is not the ideal for home defense. Is it possible to retrofit it with a generic shorter barrel?

  22. My money is on the pump shotgun.

    There is nothing quite like the sound of a person racking a shell into the chamber.

    When my daughter was in college, I sent a pump shotgun with her. She had to pull it out on 3 different occasions as someone was beating on her door…… She would YELL… “I have a shotgun and know how to use it” ( and she did ) and then rack a shell into the chamber…. they left all 3 times and no-one had to get shot.

    Like I said …. There is nothing quite like the sound of a person racking a shell into the chamber.

  23. I keep a Mossberg 590 for my property defense, not inside my house. I think it will work well for outside at night, say if someone has bad intentions out by my shop building or around my equipment. I really like it but it does have one flaw that I have found. It will not cycle short brass loads, like field loads. You have to keep trying to pump the empty out several times before it will cycle the next round. Not a big deal since I keep tall brass #4 buck in it. But if anyone has a solution to the cycling issue with this model shotgun, it would be appreciated.

  24. Though I’ve never been in any life or death shoot-out, I have been in many hunting related shoot-outs ! At times I had to let go of my gun with one hand and that automatic keeps shooting with one hand which the pump can’t do ! What if wounded in one arm in some worse case scenario ? An automatic keeps you in the fight if reduced to one hand !

  25. As a Left-eye dominant, in the shotgun category of home defense, I recently had the opportunity to hold one of the new S&W, M&P12’s. I have to say the brilliance of engineering that went into the M&P12 to be a true 100% ambidextrous is something to be hold (If only the AR could be this brilliant). It literally works no matter if you are right-handed or left-handed, as the only difference is you want the magazine selection toward your off hand, when you start. In other words, if you are left handed you want to start with the magazine selection button sticking out on the right side of the shotgun (slap it when that tube runs dry), and if you are right handed you start with it sticking out on the Left side. Ejection is out the bottom. Full capacity with 3″ is like 12, and goes up from there, depending on shell length. Only improvements I can think of would be: Be nice if the recoil pad was a GEL type for something this light. NOT a fan of the S&W 60 grit sandpaper grip texture. Be nice if S&W would make other (optional) grip textures for their inserts. I prefer the tacky rubber of a Hogue myself. Would be nice to see a review of the M&P12 here.

  26. When I was young, I would have said a 12 gauge pump rules. Police carried them in their squad cars, so they had to be the ideal option. Many years latter, I realize that so may factors need to be considered to find what is best for the individual shooter. Now in my 70s, I have a .410 Mossberg 500, with Hornady Critical Defense rounds. (My 12 gauge is now too much for me to handle.) Many novice level shooters would be better off with a short barreled 20 gauge, and a “youth” style pump action. At short range (~7 yards), a load of buckshot center mass from a 20 gauge should deter all but the most determined felon. The rule of “A center mass hit with a .32 ACP is more effective than a miss from a .300 Win Mag” should not be forgotten.

  27. The shotgun is not the best choice for everyone, but it would be my first recommendation for personal defense where feasible. I’ve yet to find a Turkish semi auto that is properly put together and functions reliably. For that matter I have yet to a find semi auto I would trust my life with, but I have not owned a Benelli or Beretta, so I can’t speak to them. I am interested in getting my hands on the new Mossberg 940 Tactical to see if the hype is real. In the meantime I will continue to use pumps and SxSs. I do recommend strongly that anyone who prefers to use a semi or pump, take the time to learn the peculiarities of their operation and practice shooting them occasionally. Unlike a revolver or break-action firearm, their operation is never intuitive and few of them function identically.

  28. The Mossberg 500/580 are the most ambidextrous-and left hand friendly of pump shotguns.Thumbs DOWN on shotguns with cross bolt safeties.Fir up close,#4 buckshot or heavy turkey loads[1-7/8 oz] are my choices

  29. I have a Remington 870 with a Knoxx Spec Ops III recoil reducing stock. It’s equipped with a Gobble Stopper green dot and a Streamlight HLX railmount flashlight. I keep it stoked with #4 buck, and have 00 Buck and slugs avaialble on the side saddle

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.