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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.