Top 5 Shotguns for Home Defense

Remington 870 Tactical Home Defense Shotguns

Everyone in the defense-minded world has an opinion on what the best home defense gun is.  Yes, that everyone includes me.

That is not what we will be talking about in this article, as that will devolve into a shouting match between revolvers, semi-auto pistols, shotguns, AR’s…

Instead, I am going to limit this 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.

Best Home Defense Shotguns: The Criteria

So, how did I decide on this list? The qualifiers:

  • Ability to shoot both 2¾ and 3-inch shells (12 gauge)
  • Factory capacity of 5+1 or easily upgraded to such
  • Able to run shot or slugs
  • Ability to reload in a reasonable time frame

This means, there will be no double-barrel shotguns on my list.  Sure they are dead simple to work, but most have trap/skeet barrels.

Those are really too long and also have reload times measured in minutes.  I realize they don’t out in the field, but most people will store the back-up ammo in the BOX.

Finding the box, opening it and reloading from the box, in a dynamic situation… is just a bad idea.

As always, whatever gun you have is better than the perfect gun you don’t have.  That being said, a side-by-side or an over-under is NOT the best option.

In no particular order, here are the top five home defense shotguns:

1. Kel-Tec KSG

This is my current bedside shotgun.  The Bullpup design allows for a 20” barrel in a very compact 26.1” overall length and the shotgun only weighs 6.9 pounds empty.

This makes for a very quick-pointing and handy weapon.

The fact that it holds 14+1 2 ¾” shells make it the capacity king, and that is before we opt for the Aguilla or Federal shorty shells.

With these 1¾” shells, the capacity goes up to 24+1.

I run one of my magazine tubes loaded with a dozen Aguilla 00 buck shells, along with one chambered.  The other tube is loaded with seven Remington “Slugger” 2 ¾” slugs.


2. Remington 870

The Remington 870 was one of my original home defense shotguns.  I think it was the third or fourth firearm I purchased.

It has seen at least 1000 rounds since I purchased it as an LEO trade-in. The only issue I ever had was the elevator spring let loose in the middle of 3-Gun competition.

A friend of mine and I intentionally chose to run a very basic kit in that match.  I couldn’t think of a better basic choice.

Even with the elevator broken, by simply flipping the gun upside down to re-chamber, I was able to finish the match.

This choice is not as handy at 38.5”, but with a +3 mag extension, the capacity is a very respectable 7+1.

The factory setup with wood furniture weighs 7.5 pounds.

That is what I ran in my 3-Gun match and had the elevator not broken, my main handicap would have been slower reloads on stages with more than 8 shots.

3. Mossberg 590A1

I prefer the heavier gauge barrel and the heavier feel of the Mossberg 590A1 over the 500 series, but they are pretty awesome too.

The only real disadvantage to the 500 series is the lack of ability to extend the magazine.

My A1 has a 20” barrel and the bead sight, although I would prefer the ghost ring sight if I was to do it over again.

The extra 1½” barrel makes little difference in pattern or maneuverability, but it does make the overall length 41” and brings the weight in at 7.25 pounds.

Mossberg 590A1 Home Defense Shotguns
The Mossberg 590A1 features several upgrades from the original 500 as requested by the U.S. military.

4. Benelli M2 Tactical Shotgun

Here, I break from my standard of “home defense gets a pump gun,” because of the real-world reliability of the Benelli inertia-driven semi-auto action.

If you abide by the minimum load requirements, you will have loading failures about equal to a pump gun (almost never).

I really do not like pistol grips on a shotgun, but that is a personal preference.

This Benelli can be purchased with either option, a 5+1 capacity and the ability to increase that, and a choice of ghost ring or open rifle sights.

The factory setup comes in at 39.75” long and 6.7 pounds.  It also has removable chokes: IC, M or F.

In a home defense scenario, I would certainly run the IC for greater spread and energy dissipation beyond 20-25 yards.

M- Modified or F- Full, will concentrate the pattern and increase the efficiency of the shot out to roughly 10 yards each (a rough average).

That is great if you need that much reach, but it also greatly increases the risk of a clean miss and over-penetration of the light walls within a home.

My version of this gun would have a +3 magazine extension, the ghost ring sights and no pistol grip.

This would bump the capacity up by two as the factory provides a +1 extension.

Benelli M2 Semi-Auto Shotgun
The Benelli M2 has unmatched reliability for a semi-auto shotgun and is one of the best home defense shotguns.

5. Stoeger M3K 3-Gun / Benelli M2 3-Gun

Yes, I know I am going to get hate mail saying they are NOT the same gun.  You are correct, they are not.

But, all upgrade kits use the same components on the internal and external parts. The Benelli is a much finer-crafted rendition of what most would see as the same base gun.

Most importantly, both use the Benelli inertia system.

It is much more like comparing a base trim Mustang GT to a Roush upgrade Mustang than comparing a Fiesta to a Mustang.

Whether in the Stoeger M3K or Benelli M2 trim, this gun is a bit of a compromise for home defense due to barrel length.

At 24 inches, this is more than a bit less handy than the shorter options.  The overall length is 45.5” and the gun weighs 6.75 pounds.

Having said that, the inertia action and the fact that I live on a piece of property where I may well have to engage at distances beyond 50 yards, makes this is a considered compromise.

This scenario would not be true home defense, in that it would more likely be used against four-legged varmints after our livestock.

But, it would certainly work against the two-legged type.

Some would say grabbing a rifle is the better option at that distance, but I do not have clean fire lines or solid backstops in all directions.

I do have a near-zero chance of 00 or #4 buck leaving the property, certainly at anything resembling lethal velocity.

The longer tube combined with a modified choke, allows buckshot kills of coyotes out past 75 yards.

I also run a +6 tube for a total capacity of 9+1.  Her main job is 3-Gun, but she is very happy on aggressive predator duty.

Stoeger M3k 3-Gun Shotgun
The Stoeger M3k 3-Gun shotgun provides all the benefits of the Benelli M2 at a more affordable price.

The main job of any defense-related gun is reliability.

With any of the home defense shotguns listed above, after they have made it through the break-in period (200 rounds), the shooter is most likely to be the point of failure.

That means you need to train with the gun, properly clean and maintain, and run a quality load that works flawlessly in your gun.

Then let the gun do what it was designed to do.

home defense shotguns
What’s your favorite shotgun for home defense? Did we leave any out? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author:

John Bibby

John Bibby is an American gun writer who had the misfortune of being born in the occupied territory of New Jersey. His parents moved to the much freer state of Florida when he was 3. This allowed his father start teaching him about shooting prior to age 6. By age 8, he was regularly shooting with his father and parents of his friends. At age 12, despite the strong suggestions that he shouldn’t, he shot a neighbor’s “elephant rifle."

The rifle was a .375 H&H Magnum and, as such, precautions were taken. He had to shoot from prone. The recoil-induced, grass-stained shirt was a badge of honor. Shooting has been a constant in his life, as has cooking.

He is an (early) retired Executive Chef. Food is his other great passion. Currently, he is a semi-frequent 3-Gun competitor, with a solid weak spot on shotgun stages. When his business and travel schedule allow, you will often find him, ringing steel out well past 600 yards. In order to be consistent while going long, reloading is fairly mandatory. The 3-Gun matches work his progressive presses with volume work. Precision loading for long-range shooting and whitetail hunting keeps the single-stage presses from getting dusty.
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 (36)

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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……

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. You missed the IWI Tavor 12ga shotgun. With 15 + 1 capacity (2 3/4) and bullpup shortness, it’s a winner for home defense.

  12. 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?

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

  15. 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?

  16. 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.

  17. 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”.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

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