Everyone in the defense-minded world has an opinion on what the best home-defense gun is. That’s not what we will be talking about in this article, as that would devolve into a shouting match between revolvers, semi-auto pistols, shotguns, AR-15s, etc.
Instead, I’m going to limit this article to those who are firmly in the camp of “a shotgun is the HD gun for me.” For many situations, a shotgun is a great option. Please remember, regardless of your choice, if you don’t train with it, you are planning to fail.
Choosing a Home Defense Shotgun
When selecting a shotgun for home defense, there are several factors you should consider to ensure you get the proper shotgun for your needs. The main considerations should be gauge, action, and barrel length, which we’ll cover. However, you may also want to look into ammo capacity, ability to shoot shot and slugs, and chamber length.
You’ll probably want to select a shotgun with a common chambering such as 12 gauge or 20 gauge. A 12 gauge delivers a more powerful payload, but the 20 gauge features less recoil. No matter the caliber or gauge, it is important you are able to make accurate hits and properly control the firearm. In real life, shotguns are not like the movies — accuracy matters!
You’re also going to want to decide on an action for your shotgun. Pump-action and semi-automatic shotguns are by far the most popular for home defense. They are quick to fire, easy to handle, and have a good reserve of ammunition. Break-action shotguns may be dead-simple to operate, but they are slower to reload and have limited ammunition on board.
Another consideration you will make is barrel length. For home defense, an 18.5- to 20-inch barrel is optimal. They are fast handling and lighter weight, and at home defense ranges, they deliver excellent accuracy.
It is important to choose the right ammo for your shotgun. This will depend on your home environment and personal preferences. If you live in a house with a large property line, your choice will likely be different from those living in a small apartment.
The most popular shotgun ammunition for self-defense is buckshot. There are different shot sizes within buckshot that describe the number and size of pellets, but just know that buckshot utilizes larger projectiles. #4, 00, and 000 Buck are very effective on game such as deer, coyote, and fox. For similar performance reasons, this makes these loads a good option for home defense — depending on your environment and surroundings.
Hollow Point Slugs
Hollow point slugs are also an effective choice for self-defense. A slug is a single projectile that is loaded into the shotgun. Slugs have a large diameter and a lot of weight.
Slugs are great for shooting longer distances because you do not need to be concerned with spread, and they are more effective at penetrating barriers than shot loads. Hollow point slugs provide massive expansion, making them great for specialized defensive use.
Some slugs are meant to be used with rifled barrels so the projectile can properly stabilize, others are loads feature rounds that are rifled to stabilize in standard, smooth bore shotgun barrels.
Shotguns can also be loaded with less-lethal ammunition, such as beanbag rounds, rubber bullets, and rock salt. These are primarily used by law enforcement and correctional officers, but can be used for personal defense if desired.
Some people don’t feel comfortable with using lead ammunition for defensive use, while others don’t like the idea of using less-lethal — it’s just a personal choice.
Shotgun shells come in different lengths from 2½, 2¾, 3, and 3½-inch hulls depending on the gauge and intended payload. The longer shells are capable of holding larger amounts of powder, giving them more power.
Shotguns chambered for the longer length shells can fire shells of a shorter length, but the opposite is not true. If you have a shotgun that can chamber 3½-inch shells, it can fire all of the shorter length shells.
Top Home Defense Shotguns
1. Mossberg 590
One of the best, and most popular, home defense shotguns is the Mossberg 590. Pump-action shotguns are incredibly durable and reliable, and the 590 is a prime example.
The Mossberg 590 comes in a number of configurations, such as the Cruiser, Shockwave, and Persuader. For home defense, I prefer the 18.5-inch Cruiser, but the Persuader has a stock and is easier to handle.
You can also easily swap the barrel out with aftermarket options, so you can use the same shotgun for home defense and hunting. The Mossberg 590 is a great, budget-friendly option for those who want a reliable shotgun that could serve in several roles.
If you prefer, the Remington 870 provides similar features and functions.
2. Kel-Tec KSG
The Kel-Tec KSG is as iconic as it is unique. With two magazine tubes, this pump-action shotgun provides an excellent supply of ammunition (14+1 rounds, 2¾-inch shells).
Additionally, with the flick of a switch, you can change which magazine tube you are loading from, allowing you to quickly swap between multiple types of ammunition.
The bullpup design of the KSG makes it incredibly compact and easy to maneuver. Further, it loads and ejects from the bottom, which makes it a great option for both left and right-handed shooters. The KSG also provides ample picatinny rail space to mount iron sights and red dot optics.
If you like the design of the Kel-Tec KSG, but would prefer something lighter weight and don’t need the extended capacity, look at the KS7. Both shotguns are compact, reliable, and great options for home defense.
3. Winchester SXP Defender
For those who don’t like the recoil of the 12-gauge, the Winchester SXP Defender in 20-gauge would make a great home defense shotgun.
The reduced 20-gauge recoil combined with the smooth and fast action allows you to easily make quick and accurate hits. The lighter weight of a 20-gauge shotgun makes it incredibly easy to handle, even by young or small-statured shooters.
The chrome-plated chamber and bore provide excellent reliability and make for easy cleanup. The SXP Defender incorporates a standard brass bead front sight, but the alloy receiver is drilled and tapped for scope bases. This allows you to use a simple, no-nonsense sight setup for up-close encounters, but also lets you mount a red dot optic if you prefer.
Additionally, the shotgun features an Inflex Technology recoil pad that directs felt recoil down and away from the shooter’s cheek to reduce flinching and fatigue.
4. Benelli M4
The Benelli M4 operates off of a gas system that makes it incredibly reliable and soft-shooting. This piston-driven auto-regulating gas-operated (A.R.G.O.) system was designed for the U.S. Marine Corps, so you know this rugged shotgun is ready for anything you throw at it.
The gas-operated M4 is heavier than Benelli’s other variants, but it is softer shooting and can cycle a wide range of payloads more reliably due to the gas system. These are two great features for home defense, and the added weight on the M4 isn’t a huge issue because you aren’t going to be trekking it miles on a hunt.
The M4 features an 18.5-inch barrel, pistol grip, and ghost-ring sights, providing a good setup for home defense right out of the box. Optionally, you could opt for the M1014 version which adds an adjustable stock to the package.
Further, the Benelli M4 accepts 2¾-inch and 3-inch 12-gauge shells. Though it is one of the more expensive options on this list, it is certainly worth every penny.
5. Rock Island Armory VR60
The Rock Island Armory VR60 semi-auto shotgun from Armscor is designed to function like an M-16 or AR-15, and to be just as reliable!
This is a no-nonsense shotgun built using a conventional gas-operated action set in a 7075 aluminum upper receiver. It is chambered for 12-gauge shells and has a 3-inch chamber and a 20-inch shrouded barrel.
The VR60 features a removable carry handle, polymer furniture with a hefty combat-style pistol grip and an elevated bead front sight.
The precision-reamed ordnance-grade steel barrel is threaded to accept the Beretta/Benelli chokes and is constructed to withstand thousands and thousands of rounds.
Additionally, the five-round removable box magazine is large enough for any CQB scenario that may arise. The railed forend allows you to attach a variety of tactical accessories to tailor the gun to your home defense needs.
If you prefer, the Akdal MKA 1919 is another great option with a similar style and function that is sure to serve you well.
Honorable Mention: Standard Manufacturing DP-12
Similar to the Kel-Tec KSG, the Standard Manufacturing DP-12 provides a lot of firepower, but this time with two barrels.
This one-of-a-kind pump-action 12-gauge shotgun quickly fires up to 16 rounds when fully loaded and produces extreme firepower. It loads two shells with each pump, giving you two trigger pulls firing one round each.
The inline feeding design of the DP-12 provides consistent reliability.
The DP-12 features both a top and bottom picatinny rail to mount optics, lights, and lasers.
Constructed with a 7075 pre-hardened aircraft-grade aluminum billet receiver with thermal coating, the DP-12 will stand the test of time. The last thing you want in a home defense situation is to find out that your shotgun broke while you were training at the range.
Further, the DP-12 utilizes a bottom load and ejection port, as well as an ambidextrous button safety, making it great for both left and right-handed shooters. The unique bottom ejection throws empty hulls straight down and out of the shooter’s line of sight.
If you want an intimidating bullpup shotgun that will definitely turn heads, the Standard Manufacturing DP-12 will surely deliver.
Conclusion: Best Home Defense Shotguns
Choosing a shotgun for home defense will rely on a number of factors, including your home environment, recoil sensitivity, and personal preference.
However, if you choose any of the shotguns on this list, you’re sure to have a high-quality firearm that will serve you well.
It is important to remember, regardless of the home defense shotgun you choose, you need to improve and maintain your skills through continued practice and training.
what about the Beretta 1301 Tactical shotgun for home defense? Why did you leave that one out?
The Beretta 1301 Tactical has an 18.5-inch barrel and is just over 37 inches. The gun is a small package overall. I really like the oversized charging handle and bolt release as well.
I currently have the RIA M5 tactical as my home defense shotgun loaded buck buck buck buck slug slug. Wife has Maverick 88 20ga all buck and I have the S&W SD40 as bedside/glove box gun.
I have a Judge on my nightstand with pdx nasty bad high power 410 shells. Next to my bed is the 12 gauge Shockwave with 9 rounds of 12 gauge short shells mixed with buckshot and slugs. I hope I never have to deploy them and God help anyone that puts me to the test.
Well my thought for HOME PROTECTION is that there won’t be an army breaking in so my double barrel coach gun is suitable and if there are more than my 9mm will help me.
All the shotguns you mentioned are good but seem to be an overkill for me
K.I.S.S. so many good deals on so many different youth sized “shorter on both ends” are always left out.The youth 870 and the fun sized Stoeger side by side 20 gauge’s in my safe are perfect for the bedside, wife training and ground blind use if your not stuck on hype. K.I.S.S.
No one remembered the Rellin 843 16Ga pump with 1+1, 2″ hard rubber stock, over and under sights and optional snorkel for people who live on houseboats. Jams only happen if you use peanut butter. It can get sticky if you keep it under your bed. It took awhile to breakin because the bolt cutters were dull. All that said, I like the Remington 870 Marine, without the snorkel.
Just curious, why would you chose the KSG over the Standard Arms DP-12? The DP-12 is better in every way, and the slightly added price is well justified.
Bought a RIA VRBP 100 yesterday, and after putting over 300 rounds of 2 3/4 and 3 inch shells through it, I am SOLD!!! Bullpup design is perfect for close quarters, semi-auto functioned flawlessly, and recoil is less than my Ithaca 37 Featherlight.
My Moss. 500 pump with over the top folding stock(which shortens the total length) has 7+/8+1
capacity depending on shot length. Also have a Taurus J. which is great in close Qtr. loaded .410. I agree with the comment made regarding double barrel lengths, then suggest Bellini??? has the author never ever heard of “sawed off shotgun?” jus saying……
Has anybody considered a SRM1216 ? Have been looking at this one . Any negatives ?
The IWI TS12 is better than all of these for a personal defender.
Please do an article about “other” devices that could serve as home defense. Model 870 TAC-14 and the V3 TAC-13 are two of many fine choices but reside at the top of my list.
Hi, I’m a little disappointed in your list, surely the UTAS 15 capacity 3” mags buck slug or bird and also it can use 2 3/4” should be able to qualify. I have one and actually picked it over the Kel-Tec or the DP-12. The UTAS is double barrel but also has a selector switch on top if you decide to either alternate shots between the two or shot all left first or all right first, it ejects out the side, and to clear a jam just tilt the butt and sweep clean and lighter than the others.
You missed the IWI Tavor 12ga shotgun. With 15 + 1 capacity (2 3/4) and bullpup shortness, it’s a winner for home defense.
Where do you get Aguilla 00 buck minishells? 12 in the mag = 1 3/4 inch minishells. I only find the#4, #1 buck, didn’t know they made 00 buck. where to find/ buy?
I do not see why the Mossberg 590 or the Remington TAC-13 or 14 were not considered? These are excellent close-quarter defense weapons. I am appreciative for others comments concerning the Taurus Judge, it too is a formative close-quarters weapon and like it was said before, 3 different hybrids of shotgun shells and a 45 long colt makes for an interesting combination. I have both the TAC-13 and the judge; the judge is loaded and cylinder spun, that way I get as much of a surprise and the person on the receiving end would get!
New military M-26 might be fun.
In today’s world most of us have both a handgun and a shotgun we keep available for home defense. The Maverick 88 fits that role with a 18.5 barrel installed. It also costs less so you can try many different loads to fit your situation perfect. Without breaking the bank. It is not a competition unit but if home defense is your goal for a shotgun it cannot be beat. And, sorry to say, but if it gets stolen it is easily replaced again without breaking the bank.
Why do you consider only 12 gauge shotguns for home defense? Do you honestly think that a 20 gauge somehow falls short in lethality? Or that someone might not find actual shooting practice less unpleasant with the smaller gun? Or maybe even that a Mossberg 500 Bantam (which *IS* available from the factory with a 5+1 capacity) might be easier for a smaller-statured person to wield?
Mossberg mav 88. 6+1 with AR 15 type buffer tube conversion for endless buttstock choices.
Twin bar system for reliability, never had an issue. Never tried mini shells in it, but may have to just to see.
You insist on a gun that will handle 3-inch shells, and then load it with “shorty” rounds?
14 rounds in the KSG was few enough that you wanted shorties to get more shots, but 7 rounds in the Remington is “respectable”?
I never have found a case where a civilian fired more than four shots of 12-gauge in self-defense, and the title does say “home defense” not “competition”.
The aurthor states double-barrel shotguns are not good for home defense because the are too long, but recomends a 24″ Stoeger M3K 3-Gun / Benelli M2 3-Gun. A 24″ bbl double-barrel shotgun will be shorter then a pump or semi in the same bbl. Stoeger and other companies make 20″ bbl double-barrel shotguns. As far as the reloading, if you use a butt stock shell holder you have 5 shells on the gun. As stated in EVER gun article by EVERY aurthor TRAIN WITH YOUR FIREARM!!!!
With training you can manipulate a double-barrel shotgun in the time restaint for shotgun in lawenforcement.
Was wondering what type of foregrip you used on the KSG. I researched quite a few and ordered one from Sun Optics that was supposedly reliable. It snapped off after racking the slide a few times. I also noticed the one in the picture had a flashlight attached and would prefer this setup.
I have a number of defense shot guns, (Mossberg 500/riot barrel w/pistol grip, Remington 1100, etc.)But by far my favorite is the Kel-Tec KSG and KS7 w/ upgraded triggers and parts. I have shot hundreds of rounds through these Bullpups w/ zero failures. They are 28 1/2 inches long making it easy to sweep through hallways and tight spaces. It takes a bit of getting use to but that being said these light high capacity short shot guns are the best for home protection hands down and they are fun to shoot.
I never understood why Benelli would keep selling a semi-automatic shotgun to military and police that only had a 5+1 shell capacity? Field gun, sure! But a tactical weapon, primary use against someone shooting back, should always have more rounds! Another, related question: Why are the .20 GA semi-auto tactical models are not offered with extended magazine tubes? Also, I concur with previous comments on using .410 GA/.45 LC weapons for home defense. Although I own multiple firearms, my “Home Defender”, the first gun I’d reach for during a home invasion, is a Smith & Wesson Governor. I like having the versatility of shooting both shot shell and large caliber bullet.
I have an 870 LW but for upstairs protection I have an antique that still shoots very well… A 16 gauge Nobel pump…. I also have other pumps and even a Rem Police 11-87…but the old timer does the job.
I have a KSG as well. It was hard to rack for about the first 250 rounds. I had a few FTF/FTEs. It broke in some and I got better at racking it. No longer an issue. I’m still not quick at loading it, but with its capacity, it’s not an issue. I agree with it’s ease of handling. I installed a spent shell deflector and a full length aluminum under lug for my fore grip mount. The more I use it the more I love it.
Please people. While all of the above shotguns make fine HD weapons, you neglected to mention the BEST two. #1 the Vepr 12. Semi auto, AK platform, magazine fed (with various sizes). You can easily add red dot or reflex sights, lights and various other
acessories and even folding stocks. This is an extremely reliable weapon. Have have run over 1000 rounds of various ammo without so much as a hiccup with extremely fast follow-up shots. This will eat up any ammo except “shorties” but who really uses those anyway. This is why the Vepr 12 has become the KING of the three gun. #2 Saiga 12. Reason… see above.
I own the Mossberg 500 and a cheaper version the Maverick 88 also made by Mossberg. Both have the 5+1 capacity and are very dependable great for intruders or a bug out situation. The only problem with those two shot guns that I have heard of although never experienced was, if they are dropped in just a certain way. They may become jambed to the point where you have to actually take the weapon apart to fix it, but it has never happen to me. I try my danmest not to drop my guns.
The Taurus judge that was mention by Mr. Hicklin would also be good for a bug out because it shoots 2 types of rounds. The more round types a single gun will fire without alterations the better it is when the world goes crazy.
While not a conversation shotgun/long gun the Taurus Judge line of revolvers will fire .410 in shot, slug and a special self defense hybrid of sorts.
In addition it chambers the .45 long/Colt. Also available in 3″ .410. I own one, I don’t have any association with Taurus. I almost forgot, it is a 5 shot revolver and the ammo can be mixed.
Have you seen the Black aces tactical pro M ?