Home defense is a hot topic, especially when it comes to which type of firearm is the best choice. I have always favored a shotgun for home defense, as they have many advantages when you consider protecting your home and family from intruders. While there are multiple types of shotguns, many homeowners wonder which is the best tactical shotgun for home defense.
Tactical shotguns differ from hunting shotguns in several ways. A hunting shotgun typically has a longer barrel than a tactical shotgun. A shorter barrel aids in maneuverability in the confines of a home. The most popular type of tactical shotgun is a pump-action. Semi-auto shotguns also come in tactical configurations. A tactical shotgun may also include a pistol grip and rails for mounting flashlights or other accessories.
Choosing a tactical shotgun for home defense involves more than buying a shotgun that looks cool. Any gun used for personal defense must be reliable and functional. You must also be comfortable and confident in your ability to use the tactical shotgun effectively.
What Should You Look For in a Tactical Shotgun for Home Defense?
When I consider a home defense shotgun, there are several important factors on my list. The features below are the factors that I used to compile this list of the best tactical shotguns for home defense. You may have other considerations, but I believe that any shotgun used for personal defense should include the following:
To be legal in the United States, a shotgun must have a barrel at least eighteen inches in length and an overall length of twenty-six inches. In the field, a hunting shotgun with a twenty-six or twenty-eight-inch barrel is preferred to maximize the effective range. On the other hand, a tactical shotgun is meant for use in the confined spaces of your home. A short barrel length ensures that the shotgun is easily maneuverable.
If you want to get a lively discussion started, toss out a question about the most effective bore size for a personal defense shotgun. In general, the only two choices that I would consider for a home defense shotgun are twelve and twenty gauges.
My personal preference is 12-gauge. Twelve gauge is the most popular bore size for both tactical defensive shotguns and for hunting shotguns. The choices in styles and types of shotguns are much broader and there are more options and accessories available.
Some people argue that a twenty gauge shotgun delivers less recoil without significantly less known down power. I cannot tell much difference in side-by-side comparisons. I find that familiarization and practice do more to alleviate the recoil situation than the bore size of the shotgun.
Pump or Semi-Auto Shotguns
There is a lot of sentimentalism attached to single shot and double-barreled shotguns. For specialized shooting such as clays or when hunting, these types of shotguns are quite useable. However, for personal and home defense, a repeating shotgun with a larger shell capacity is in order.
When it comes to personal and home defense shotguns, a semi-auto or pump shotgun action is the only choice that makes sense. Most tactical shotguns feature longer magazine tubes and quicker reloading than any other style of shotgun.
The advantage a semi-auto shotgun has over a pump shotgun is the simplicity of operation. In a home defense situation, stress levels are high. A pump shotgun demands a certain level of skill and practice to operate. A semi-auto tactical shotgun only requires that you take the safety off and pull the trigger. Almost anyone can successfully shoot a semi-auto shotgun.
Magazine Tubes and Capacity
Self-defense has a different character than sports shooting. Hunting regulations in most states limit the number of shotgun shells in the magazine of your shotgun. In general, the capacity of a hunting shotgun is limited to three rounds.
For a home defense shotgun, I recommend an ammunition capacity of at least five shells. Ideally, this would be a 5 + 1 configuration. There are some tactical shotguns on the market that can accommodate a much higher capacity. However, these are highly specialized shotguns and may not be appropriate for the average homeowner who wants a self-defense shotgun.
The stock configuration for a home defense shotgun is a function of its use. Many new tactical shotguns feature a pistol grip. A pistol grip can make controlling a 12-gauge shotgun easier in many instances. Some shotgun manufacturers are now including an AR-15 style collapsible stock and pistol grip on their shotguns.
At least two manufacturers are making an abbreviated stock shotgun for self-defense. However, I don’t recommend this style of shotgun for home defense because a shotgun must still be aimed to be effective. Without some sort of shoulderable stock, the accuracy and effectiveness of the shotgun are questionable.
Sights, Optics, and Rails
Unlike sporting shotguns that have only a front bead sight, tactical shotguns should have a full set of sights. This is especially true if you anticipate shooting slugs through your tactical shotgun.
In addition, it is reasonable to expect a tactical shotgun to include a Picatinny rail on the receiver to mount an optical sight. The addition of a red dot or holographic sight to your tactical shotgun can make a huge difference.
The cost must always be a consideration. Tactical shotguns are very niche firearms. Most tactical shotguns are not suitable for sports shooting unless you compete regularly in three-gun shooting matches. For this reason, it is imperative that you find the best ratio of features to price.
To be practical, a home defense shotgun is probably going to sit next to your bed for the majority of its life. With luck, you will never have to discharge the shotgun except at the range during practice. However, if it should come down to the safety of you or your family, you want to know that the shotgun you have chosen will operate reliably and consistently.
My Picks for the Best Home Defense Shotguns
Considering the factors above, these are the tactical shotguns that I think are the best choices for home defense. Your needs and situations may dictate something slightly different. However, the basic requirements for any home defense shotgun remain the same. As you shop for your home defense shotgun, this list should give you an idea of where to start looking:
1. Mossberg 590A1 Adjustable Tactical Shotgun
When I start looking at any firearm for critical self-defense, I usually look to see what the U.S. military and law enforcement are using for the same basic situations. In most instances, the military and law enforcement don’t buy junk, and following their lead on equipment is usually a safe bet.
The Mossberg 590A1 tactical pump shotgun has passed the rigorous MilSpec 3443E specifications. The 590A1 is the choice of many military and law enforcement agencies. As far as my criteria, the Mossberg 590A1 checks all the boxes.
- Rugged dual push bar design eliminates binding during the pump action. This pump action is one of the most dependable and durable on the market.
- Heavy wall shotgun bore in cylinder choke for use with any shotgun ammunition, including rifled slugs.
- The Mossberg 590A1 is chambered for 3″ magnum 12-gauge shotgun ammunition.
- A twenty-inch barrel length gives top performance with easy to maneuver length.
- Each Mossberg 590A1 Tactical 9-shot shotgun includes a six-position adjustable tactical style stock with an adjustable length of pull between 10.5 inches and 14.25 inches.
- The barrel and receiver can be ordered with a Parkerized or Marinecote finish for corrosion resistance and lifetime protection.
- Factory mounted ghost ring full adjustable iron sights are included.
- If you want to mount forward accessories such as a flashlight or laser-designator, the Mossberg 590A1 includes a Magpul M-Lok forearm.
- The magazine capacity of the 590A1 has a capacity of 8 full-size 12-gauge rounds plus one in the chamber.
- The total weight of the Mossberg 590A1 shotgun is 7.75 pounds.
- Overall this shotgun measures 36.12″.
You will be hard-pressed to find a shotgun for home defense that features this sort of features list. Add the fact that this shotgun has been accepted by the military for combat use, and you have the equation for a total package for your home defense shotgun needs.
The Pros and Cons of the Mossberg 590A1 Tactical Home Defense Shotgun
There is very little bad to say about the Mossberg 590A1 Tactical pump-action shotgun. Mossberg has designed this shotgun to be a workhorse. No other tactical shotgun on the market has met the rigorous military specifications. This is my breakdown of the pros and cons of the Mossberg 590A1:
- The reliability of the Mossberg 590A1 is unsurpassed. Ask gunsmiths and operators and you will find out that these shotguns just don’t fail, provided the operator doesn’t short-stroke the pump action.
- The dual extractor system and dual push bars ensure consistent loading of fresh ammunition and unloading of expended shell casings.
- A plethora of factory and OEM accessories and upgrades are available for the Mossberg 590A1. You can customize this shotgun to your heart’s content.
- The center of the comb safety location is easy to access for both lefties and righties.
- The factory ghost ring sights are well made, easy to use, and of high quality.
- Many find this tactical shotgun a bit more expensive than comparable shotguns.
- The Mossberg 590A1 may be a bit heavier than competing tactical shotguns.
If you are shopping for a tactical home defense shotgun, I recommend the Mossberg 590A1. This is, in my opinion, the best home defense shotgun for the money you can buy.
2. Remington Model 870 Tactical Express
The Remington Model 870 pump-action shotgun is iconic. There aren’t many shotgun enthusiasts who haven’t shot or owned an 870. In its sporting configurations, the Remington Model 870 is one of the most popular hunting shotguns in the world. When dressed up properly, the Remington 870 becomes a superior tactical shotgun. Thousands of police vehicles across the U.S. routinely carry an 870 as standard equipment.
Remington ensures that the reputation of these tactical shotguns continues by constantly evolving and upgrading the design based on user feedback. The Model 870 Tactical Express design is based on years of service and the best in tactical shotgun design. The features that come standard from Remington may surprise you based on the price for which you can acquire one of these tactical shotguns.
- The receiver is milled from a solid billet of steel giving maximum strength and durability.
- Dual push bars ensure that the slide action is smooth and efficient. No more problems with indexing or twisting while operating the pump action.
- The Model 870 Tactical Express shotgun comes fitted with an 18.5-inch barrel for easy maneuverability in confined spaces.
- An RC Tactical muzzle device is fitted to the barrel to help control muzzle blast and muzzle flash.
- XS Front and rear sight with an integral Picatinny rail offer both excellent iron sights and the option to mount an optic.
- Black synthetic furniture is molded for tactical shotgun operations with a hefty forepiece that can be easily gripped.
- Each Remington 870 Tactical Express has a two-shot magazine extension tube bringing the onboard capacity to 6 rounds of ammunition.
- Overall, the 870 Express Tactical shotgun measures 40.5 inches with the choke installed.
- The total weight unloaded stands at 7.5 pounds.
This list of features is impressive enough. When you add the Remington reputation for quality shotguns it is apparent why the Remington 870 is so popular. Many law enforcement agencies continue to purchase and issue the 870 as a standard-duty shotgun.
Pros and Cons of the Remington Model 870 Tactical Express
Remington Arms underwent bankruptcy in 2020 that shut down its factories for several months. A new company was formed and purchased the pistol, rifle, and shotgun manufacturing. The Model 870 is back in production. By all reports, the same quality and attention to detail is still part of the Remington manufacturing process.
- The 870 Tactical Express is versatile. The detachable and changeable barrel allows you to quickly convert your tactical shotgun to other purposes.
- There is a huge aftermarket of accessories for the Remington 870 shotguns. If you want to customize your home defense shotgun, you will have no trouble finding parts.
- The iron sights on this pump-action shotgun are some of the best factory iron sights on the market. In addition, the receiver of the shotgun is drilled and tapped for optics mounts if you should desire.
- The trigger safety on the Remington Model 870 Tactical Express shotgun is familiar for most shooters.
- One of the smoothest and most reliable pump action shotguns available.
- Takedown and cleaning can be harder than comparable pump-action shotguns.
- You will have to pay extra if you want an adjustable stock with a pistol grip.
There are literally thousands of Remington Model 870 Tactical Express shotguns in use for home defense and for law enforcement purposes. By all accounts, the new Remington 870’s are just as good and just as dependable as their ancestors.
3. Stoeger Freedom Series Pump Action Shotguns
Stoeger is, in my opinion, a stealth manufacturer. The Stoeger brand often goes unnoticed in the glare of Remington and Mossberg shotguns. Stoeger has a long history of producing excellent shotguns for both hunting and home defense.
When I start to consider a tactical shotgun, I am just as guilty about forgetting about Stoeger and their line of well-built tactical pump-action shotguns. The Stoeger Freedom series brings a lot to the table for anyone shopping for a home defense weapon. In fact, Stoeger offers some features in the Freedom Series of pump-action shotguns that other manufacturers don’t offer without going to an aftermarket product.
- The Stoeger Freedom Supreme tactical shotgun is chambered for both 2 3/4 inch and 3-inch shotshells.
- Each Freedom Supreme shotgun includes an 18.5-inch barrel making this an extremely maneuverable shotgun for home defense.
- The synthetic fore stock offers excellent grip characteristics and firm positive action.
- The magazine tube holds seven shotshells plus one in the chamber for a total magazine capacity of eight.
- A unique folding stock allows the Stoeger shotgun to be stored easily. The stock unfolds quickly to provide an adjustable length of pull. Additionally, the shotgun can be fired without unfolding the stock.
- The factory sights include ghost ring sights on the rear sight and a blade on the front sight. These sights are fully adjustable for windage and elevation.
- A Picatinny rail accompanies the iron sights allowing quick and easy mounting of a red dot sight.
- With the stock unfolded and fully extended, the Stoeger Freedom shotgun measures 40.5 inches.
- The overall weight of the Stoeger shotgun is 7.4 pounds.
Stoeger’s self-defensive shotguns are often overlooked. If you need a compact pump-action shotgun for your home or to use as a truck gun, the Stoeger Freedom Supreme may be your answer.
Pros and Cons of the Stoeger Freedom Supreme Tactical Shotgun
The Stoeger Freedom Supreme shotgun has a lot going for it. Overall, this shotgun gets good reviews from those in the industry and casual shooters alike. If you are looking for a moderately priced tactical shotgun for home defense, don’t overlook this option.
- The folding stock on the Stoeger Freedom Supreme is inspired. The stock folds to the left to allow the shotgun to operate with the stock folded. Unfolded, the adjustable cheek rest, generous recoil pad make this an easy gun to fit and shoot.
- The ghost ring rear sight and the blade front sight are well-designed and easy to use. The target acquisition with these iron sights is fast and reliable.
- I like the cross-bolt safety design on this shotgun. The safety operates intuitively and easily but keeps the gun in a safe condition without the danger of an accidental off-safe condition.
- The included Picatinny rail is convenient for mounting a red dot sight on the shotgun.
- The Stoeger Freedom Supreme shotgun feels solid. The shotgun is tight without rattles or unnecessary movement in the pump action.
- There are no Picatinny attachment points on the slide making mounting lights or other accessories more of a problem.
- If a red dot sight is mounted on the Picatinny rail, the iron sights become unusable.
Sometimes storing or transporting a traditional home defense firearm can be a problem. The legal length of a shotgun must be at least twenty-six inches. The folding option of the Stoeger Freedom Supreme shotgun meets this mandate but allows the shotgun to be stored in a much smaller area.
4. Benelli M4 Semi-Automatic Shotgun
Mention Benelli firearms and you almost always get a look wondering how you can afford a Benelli. It is true that Benelli shotguns are expensive. Semi-auto shotguns are more expensive than pump-action shotguns on the whole. The operating system is more complex and expensive to produce.
However, I must confess that when it comes to semi-auto shotguns, I almost always go for the Benelli display. I have shot many different makes and models of semi-auto shotguns and have come to the conclusion that Benelli’s are just superior. From the standpoint of features, Benelli hits those things I consider critical.
Benelli has an outstanding reputation for both quality and customer service. From a shooter’s standpoint, the features included with the Benelli M4 include everything you could ask for. The US Marine Corps thinks enough of the quality and durability of the Benelli M4 that they have approved this shotgun for duty use.
- Fixed synthetic stock with an integrated pistol grip.
- Chambered for 12-gauge shotshells, the barrel length is 18.5 inches.
- The magazine tube comes with an extension on the tactical models giving a decent 5 + 1 round count.
- Available in several different finishes including phosphate, anodized-black, and titanium cerakote
- Includes ghost ring sights. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation.
- The Benelli auto-regulating gas-operated system is durable and reliable. This operating system was designed for and is approved by the United States Marine Corps.
- Each Benelli M4 includes a set of standard choke tubes.
- The receiver is factory drilled and tapped for easy mounting of an optical system.
- Both combat and law-enforcement personnel who require a semi-auto shotgun choose Benelli more than any other shotgun.
Benelli seems to be the standard against which all other semi-auto home defense shotguns are measured. I recommend the Benelli M4 for both professional and home defense.
Pros and Cons of the Benelli M4 Tactical Shotgun
You should expect to pay a premium price if you want a Benelli M4 tactical shotgun. On the other hand, who can deny the appeal of an Italian-made shotgun? While there is a lot to be said for owning a Benelli, these shotguns do have their issues and you should consider those before you lay down the cash.
- The Benelli M4 is probably one of the best manufactured tactical shotguns on the market. The tolerances are extremely tight and the materials are the best that can be found.
- The ARGO operating system is as reliable as a semi-auto shotgun system can be. If you operate in extreme conditions or are prone to going for thousands of rounds between cleanings, you may need a Benelli M4.
- These Benelli M4 shotguns are not prone to operating system failures when the shotgun frame is loaded up with extra accessories like lights, optics, or slings. Unlike inertia-operated shotguns, the ARGO system does mind the extra weight.
- Despite the tight manufacturing tolerances, the Benelli M4 shotgun is not finicky about lubrication or maintenance.
- The Benelli M4 features a large loading port that makes tactical reloading easy and fast.
- The biggest complaint is the price of these shotguns. I know quality is expensive, but it is hard to justify this kind of money for a home defense shotgun.
- The stock is definitely utilitarian. There is no adjustment so you are stuck with the factory length of pull. If you are competing in three-gun matches, this could be an issue for small-framed or large-framed individuals.
Regardless of your opinions about price and style, the Benelli M4 remains an impressive shotgun. It may have its roots in sporting and hunting shotguns, but the M4 version is a fighting shotgun.
5. Beretta 1301 Tactical Marine
Beretta Firearms are usually associated with fine sport shooting or hunting shotguns. Who hasn’t dreamed of a Beretta Silver Pigeon over and under double-barreled shotgun in their gun safe? Unfortunately, a 28 inch over and under shotgun just doesn’t make a good home defense firearm.
Now you can have the precision and reliability of a Baretta shotgun in a tactical configuration. The Beretta 1301 Tactical Marine Shotgun has been designed and manufactured as a home defense shotgun. Beretta has taken its years of shotgun experience and an understanding of the tactical needs for self-defense to produce this home defense weapon.
- The Beretta 1301 utilizes the BLINK gas-operating-system. Originally designed for the Beretta A400 platform, this gas-operated system is touted as the fastest shotgun cycle on the market.
- Many shooters prefer a shorter length of pull on a tactical shotgun. The Beretta 1301 features a 13 1/16 inch length of pull. The shotgun does come with additional spacers that allow you to extend the length of pull up to 1 5/8 inches.
- The drop and cast of the shotgun stock can be further adjusted using the included shims.
- All of the Beretta 1301 controls have been oversized to ensure swift and precise control during the stress of a personal defense situation.
- A two-piece bolt carrier group, familiar with Beretta semi-auto shotguns, is standard on the 1301. The two-piece bolt action allows the bolt to be held open even when the shotgun is empty.
- A ghost ring rear sight and bladed front sight complete the aiming picture. The rear sight is easily adjustable for windage and elevation. The front sight blade enjoys a tritium dot protected by curved wings on each side.
- A length of Picatinny rail sits in front of the rear sight.
- The synthetic stock and fore guard are heavily embossed for a secure grip.
- A patented Aua-Tech finish ensures the best protection for the shotgun, even in a saltwater environment.
You may not anticipate trudging through extremes in weather and geography with your shotgun. However, it is good to know that the tactical shotgun you choose for your home is capable of handling whatever conditions may be thrown it’s way.
Pros and Cons of the Beretta 1301 Tactical Shotgun
Even Beretta sometimes misses the mark with their shotgun designs. Sometimes, what seems like a big advantage turns out to be a disadvantage for some people. Finding those hidden disadvantages can make the difference in how satisfied you are with a shotgun purchase.
- The lightest weight traditional tactical shotgun on our list. A lightweight and short configuration make this Beretta shotgun fast to maneuver and bring into action.
- The Beretta 1301 is the only tactical shotgun barrel on our list that comes with a factory-installed tritium front sight.
- The BLINK operating system makes the Beretta one of the fastest cycling semi-auto shotguns on the market.
- A salt water-resistant finish may not be a necessity for you, but it speaks to the dependability and longevity of these shotguns.
- The magazine tube holds five 3-inch shotgun shells.
- The lightweight of the Beretta 1301 doesn’t do much to absorb the recoil from three-inch magnum shotshells. The BLINK gas-operating-system does take some of the bite out of the recoil. However, you will still feel each shot in your shoulder.
- Make sure you get a Gen 2 version to ensure you don’t have double-feed problems.
Make no mistake. The Beretta 1301 is no presentation sporting clay shooting shotgun. This tactical shotgun is a workhorse. This is a combat shotgun without a doubt, and it will serve anyone needing a home defense weapon.
My Last Thoughts
Tactical shotguns are a specialty act for the most part. They are usually designed for a very specific function and don’t do well if pressed into service in other ways. Most of us would never attempt to take any of the tactical shotguns into the woods for duck or turkey hunting.
In the end, my preference for a tactical home defense shotgun remains a pump-action weapon. No one ever wants to resort to using a weapon unless it is the only alternative. In my mind, a pump-action shotgun gives you one extra alternative. If you have ever heard the distinctive sound of a pump-action shotgun being charged while you are in the dark, you will understand this last alternative.