Image source: screen grab (YouTube: hickok45 channel).
When looking for a home defense shotgun, the senses can be annihilated by the numerous varieties that are out there.
But what are the best, most reliable ones? Rather than choosing the top five brands or models, we decided to break this down by action-types or how the shotgun works.
For gauges, I generally recommend the 12, 20 and 16 gauges above all else. .410 bore shotguns can be useful, as the recoil is mild and a host of self-defense rounds are offered. In general, I avoid the massive 10 gauge and diminutive 28 gauge — unless you are attacked by a flock of birds — as there are severe limitations on the ammunition types for these two.
1. The pump shotgun
Easy to use and the hallmark of home defense for more than 100 years, the pump shotgun is probably the number one long gun choice for home defense in today’s world. Holding anywhere from 3 to 12 rounds based on configuration, the pump shotgun offers rapid follow up shots and the option of a quick reload.
Chances are that you already have one of these shotguns made by Mossberg, Remington, Winchester, Benelli or one of the myriad of other companies that produces shotguns today.
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The most common examples include the Mossberg 500/590 series, Remington Model 870, Winchester 1300 or Defender, Winchester Model 12, Benelli Nova, Kel-Tec KSG and Maverick 88.
2. The semiautomatic shotgun
Older semiautomatic shotguns may have had their limitations with regard to reloading quickly or reliability, depending on the type of shells used, but modern semiautomatic shotguns have proven themselves to be adequate fight stoppers with the right ammunition.
Follow-up shots are quicker than the pump shotgun, and perceived recoil is only slightly greater as opposed to some of the original models used to protect home and family.
I prefer the Remington 1100 or 1187, or the newer Benelli M1 and M3 versions.
3. The side-by-side shotgun
Long before the semi-auto and pump shotguns came into common usage, the side-by-side double barrel put food on the table, quelled more than one riot and protected more homesteads than any of the various revolvers or lever-action carbines that claim to have won the West.
More modern renditions use internal hammers and can be had by European American Armory, Baikal, Remington and a few others that cater to the Cowboy Action Shooting realm.
4. The single shot shotgun
For the shooter on a budget, a single shot shotgun may be a sane alternative. Costing less than $100 in some places, these shotguns are better than a small caliber handgun as your only option for self-defense at times.
A shell carrier mounted to the butt stock provides quick reloads at your fingertips.
The most common single shots on the market today are produced by Iver Johnson, Harrington & Richardson as well as a few store brands made under license by these companies.
5. The lever action shotgun
Not as common in history as we may have been led to believe through the magic of movies, the lever action shotgun debuted as Winchester’s answer to keeping their tradition of fine lever guns going forward. With the originals now holding value as collector’s items, one need only look to the Italian replicas as examples of how costly it was to make these shotguns.
A number of Chinese-made versions are imported, and if you have to have one based on the nostalgia of watching Terminator 2 more than once, they make a great home defense shotgun with a little work.
We left out the over/under shotgun, for a number of reasons. Most have barrels that are way too long for maneuverability inside the home, and even a shorter barrel makes it slow to reload, as the action must almost always have to break a sharper angle to remove spent shells than a typical single shot or side-by-side shotgun.
Apart from those limitations, if it is the only firearm you have with which to defend yourself, it beats trying to hold down the fort with a sock full of nickels.
I strongly recommend the shortest barrel you can legally use and the addition of a flash light (for target identification) and a sling (for portability). Some butt stocks will allow the use of shot shell carriers, and others can be mounted to the receiver.
The most important accessory, of course, is ammunition, so you can practice often with your self-defense loads of choice to see how the shotgun patterns and feel its recoil.
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