Best Tactical Shotgun for Home Defense [2019 Reviews]

If you ask a gun expert (or someone who thinks they're an expert) what type of gun to use for home defense, chances are they'll tell you to get a shotgun.

In this guide, I'll breakdown our choices for the best home defense shotgun and explain what makes a tactical shotgun perfect for protecting your castle.

Preview

Mossberg 590A1 - Best Pump-Action Tactical Shotgun

Mossbert 590A1

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Benelli M2 Tactical - Best Semi-Auto and Overall Shotgun

Benelli M2

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Mossberg Maverick 88 - Best Budget Tactical Shotgun

Mossberg Maverick 88

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Before expanding on how we determined these picks, here's a quick list of the best tactical shotguns for home defense:

  • Mossberg 500/590 (Best Pump-Action)
  • Mossberg Maverick 88 (Best Budget Pump-Action)
  • Mossberg 930 Tactical (Relatively Affordable Semi-Automatic)
  • Benelli M2 (Best Semi-Automatic & Best Overall)
  • Benelli M4 (Alternative for Best Semi-Automatic)
  • Remington 870 (Pump-Action Alternative)
  • KEL-TEC KSG (Best Bullpup)

Continue reading, or jump ahead to learn more about our picks for the best home defense shotguns.

Why Choose a Shotgun for Home Defense?

So everyone is recommending a shotgun for home defense, but why?

Ammo Versatility: Birdshot, Buckshot, and Slugs

There are three primary types of shotgun loads: Birdshot, Buckshot, and Slugs. Each is optimal for different purposes.

Types of Shotgun Shells Birdshot, Buckshot, Slug

Birdshot

Both birdshot and buckshot loads are filled with multiple pellets. As you can see in the picture above, birdshot pellets are smaller, which allows more pellets to be loaded into a shell.

Shotgun Pellet Size

As the name suggests, birdshot is primarily intended for and used to hunt birds. Since birds and small varmint aren't what I'm looking to defend my home against, I wouldn't personally use birdshot for home defense.

While being shot by birdshot would in no way be fun and quite possibly be lethal to a human attacker, it's not the best choice. Birdshot will no doubt leave a horrifying wound, but it generally lacks the ability to penetrate deep enough in an attacker to hit vital organs. Put simply, this makes it less likely to neutralize a threat in a home defense situation. Birdshot also has a very limited effective range.

The one positive of all of this is that birdshot is least likely to over-penetrate through walls. Thus, some people living in apartments opt for birdshot loads for home defense. If overpenetration is a concern to you, I'll say that I'd prefer having a tactical shotgun with birdshot than no gun at all.

Last to note on birdshot is many semi-automatic shotguns have issues reliably cycling birdshot loads.

Buckshot

Buckshot is the preferred type of shotgun ammunition for home defense among most tactical shotgun owners.

My preference for shotgun ammo for home defense is #1 buckshot, which can deliver 16 pellets to your attacker at over 1000 feet per second. As ballistic gel tests show, this would create a huge stretch cavity in your attacker while also penetrating deep enough to hit vital organs.

#1 Buckshot Ballistic Gel Test

Buckshot does run a greater risk of penetrating through walls, compared to birdshot, but it's also far more lethal than birdshot. If compared to slugs or rifle ammunition, it's much less likely to over-penetrate.

You can be confident buckshot will neutralize attackers and be effective out to 30-50 yards.

Slugs

A slug is one larger solid projectile. Compared to birdshot and buckshot, slugs have the longest effective range. Many slugs are effective to 75-100 yards, with some even being capable of ethical hunting out to 200 yards if shot from the right shotgun.

Shotgun Slug

For home defense, I prefer the multiple projectiles buckshot offers. The primary benefit is that buckshot is less likely to over-penetrate or penetrate through walls, whereas slugs will easily penetrate through multiple interior walls. If accepting this level of penetration from your home defense firearm, I'd start considering a rifle over a shotgun.

While buckshot's spread is often assumed to be far greater than reality shows, the spread of buckshot pellets does also slightly improve the chances of hitting your target.

With all of that said, slugs have legitimate home defense uses, such as against large animals or if you aren't concerned with penetrating through walls.

What Do We Mean by "Tactical Shotgun"?

If you are looking for the best home defense shotgun, you don't want to go with the classic hunting shotgun. Instead, you want one that's designed more for tactical situations.

Barrel Length

The most apparent difference between a hunting shotgun and a tactical shotgun is barrel length.

Indoor environments can make it challenging to maneuver a long firearm. Under U.S. federal law, the minimum barrel length for a shotgun is 18" and the minimum overall length is 26". Ideally, you'll want to get as close to these minimums as possible for maximum maneuverability.

Hunting shotguns have longer barrels, generally from 24"-30"+.

Mossberg 935 Magnum and Mossberg 500

Action Type

Lever-action or bolt-action shotguns may be fine for hunting, but you'll want one with a faster operation for home defense. This leaves you choosing between pump-action and semi-automatic shotguns.

Semi-auto shotguns are the fastest operating option by a fairly significant margin. Every time you pull the trigger, a round is fired, the spent shell is ejected, and a new shell is loaded in the chamber for your next shot.

Benelli Inertia System

Benelli Inertia System (Image Source)

They're also generally lighter recoiling because some of the energy is used to cycle the action.

The downside is they can be more picky with ammo and sometimes prone to jams. With that said, semi-auto shotguns have come a long way over the years and are generally very reliable if you buy a reputable brand. I prefer a semi-automatic for home defense.

Pump-action shotguns require you to manually cycle the action by "pumping" the forend in a back and forward motion after each shot. Though they can be slightly more reliable if handled correctly, the manual cycling creates more potential for human error. Novice shooters, in particular, are likely to short-stroke them when trying to operate them quickly.

Whichever option you to choose, be sure to put time in at the range to get familiar with your firearm.

Capacity and Magazines

For a self-defense situation, I am always looking for higher capacity, so long as the added weight isn't drastic and it doesn't affect the performance of the gun.

Shotgun shells are large, meaning you won't be able to achieve close to the same capacity as an AR-15 or even most pistols. I am, however, generally comfortable with a shotgun with a capacity of 6+1 or higher.

Most commonly, you'll come across tactical shotguns with tube magazines, though some are fed by external box magazines. I'd generally recommend staying away from box magazine fed shotguns as they're notorious for having reliability issues.

Panzer Arms BP-12 Bullpup Shotgun- Best Bullpup Shotgun (Semi-Auto)

Panzer Arms BP-12 Box Magazine Fed Bullpup Shotgun

Gauge

Whereas the internal diameter of a handgun or rifle barrel is usually measured by caliber, shotguns are typically measured by gauge.

Shotgun Gauge Size Chart - 10 Gauge, 12 Gauge, 16 Gauge, 20 Gauge, 28 Guage, 410 Caliber

Image Source: Hunter Ed

Most military and police use 12 gauge tactical shotguns, and I'd suggest you do the same if you can handle the recoil. If 12 gauge has too much kick, you can consider a 20 gauge shotgun, though I'd recommend avoiding anything smaller if you can help it. I'd always prefer any gun over no gun when I need it, though.

Stock or No Stock? Pistol Grip?

While a shotgun without a stock will have a shorter overall length than one with a stock, it will be a lot harder to manage recoil. Personally, I'll always opt for the control, accuracy, and speed a stock offers, over the better maneuverability of no stock.

Shotgun With Pistol Grip and No Stock, Shotgun With Just Stock, Shotgun With Pistol Grip and Stock

As for pistol grips in addition to a stock, I'm also a big fan of them for most shotguns. However, fewer people are likely to agree with me on this one. Ultimately, this will come down to personal preference and what makes sense for your particular shotgun.

Ready for Accessories

As far as accessories go, all of my home defense guns have at least a red dot sight and weapon light.

Red dot sights allow me to get on target quicker than traditional sights.

Home defense situations are most likely to occur at night, so having a light source directly on your firearm is a must, in my opinion.

Thus, I'd only consider tactical shotguns with rail sections or quality aftermarket products designed specifically for them.

You'll also want to get a side saddle to keep shells for reloading close by.

Shotgun Side Saddle

Now that we've covered what to look for in a tactical shotgun, here are our picks for the best home defense shotguns.

1) Mossberg 500 & 590 Tactical Models

Let's get started by taking a look at a relatively affordable series of pump-action shotguns. Mossberg's 500 Tactical and 590 Tactical series have long served as the shotguns of choice for U.S. Armed Forces and law enforcement across the country.

All Mossberg tactical shotguns are built to last, with any of them being more than capable of serving as your home defense weapon. The 590 (and 590A1) models, however, are a bit more suited to heavy-duty use. They offer thicker barrels that are less susceptible to bending or denting. You'll also find that 590 models generally hold one more round when compared to similar 500 models.

Unlike most other tactical shotguns, the Mossberg 500 and 590 models have the safety located on top of the receiver. I'd argue this is the ideal location if not using a pistol grip, but awkward if you are planning to use a pistol grip and stock.

Mosberg 500 Tactical SPX Safety Location

Mossberg 590A1 18.5"

While you can't go wrong with any of the 500 models or 590 models, the 12 gauge Mossberg 590A1 with an 18.5" barrel is our favorite of the bunch.

Mossbert 590A1 with 18.5 in barrel

Built to MilSpec requirements, the 590A1 is the beefiest and most durable tactical shotgun from Mossberg. Upgrades include a heavy-walled barrel, metal trigger guard, and metal safety buttons.

Mossberg 590A1 Sight Options - Ghostring & Fiber Optic or 3 Dot Sights

The 18.5" barrel 590A1, comes with either a ghost ring rear sight/fiber optic front sight (shown top) or dot sights (shown bottom).

This pump-action shotgun has proven itself in combat, so it can easily handle your home defense needs.

Mossbert 590A1 with 18.5 in barrel

$512.99 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

  • Barrel Length - 18.5" (20" also available)
  • Overall Length - 39.5"
  • Weight - 7 lbs
  • Capacity - 6+1 (or 8+1 for 20" barrel models)
  • Fixed Synthetic Stock
  • The Only Pump-Action Shotgun to Pass Milspec 3443E

2) Mossberg Maverick 88

If you're on a tight budget, the pump-action Maverick 88 is the best home defense shotgun for the money.

Mossberg Maverick 88

$219.99 at PSA

+ Compare Prices & Availability

Prices accurate at time of publishing

The Maverick 88 very closely resembles the Mossberg 500, while costing around half the price. Not too much is lost by dropping to the cheaper model, as the Maverick 88 still has many of the same features that make the 500 so well regarded. It still has Dual Extractors, Twin Action Bars, and an Anti-Jam Elevator.

The Maverick 88 will meet what most citizens are looking for from a home defense shotgun, though you may end up wanting to make a few upgrades. The good news is, almost all Mossberg 500 accessories and parts will fit the Maverick.

There are, however, two significant differences between the Mossberg 500 and Maverick 88.

First, the Maverick has a cross-bolt safety located in front of the trigger, rather than the top-mounted tang safety found on the Mossberg 500. This placement is less accessible than the 500 if not using a pistol grip and stock, though a definite plus if you are.

Mossberg Maverick 88 Safety

Second, the Maverick 88 is not tapped for scope mounts, unlike the Mossberg 500. Most Maverick models come with basic bead sights. You can, however, find aftermarket products, like the TacStar Tactical Railmount/Sidesaddle, that will allow you to mount scopes and red dot sights.

TacStar Tactical Railmount with Slimline Sidesaddle Mossberg Maverick

As mentioned throughout this guide, we'd recommend going with an 18.5" barrel for maximum maneuverability.

18.5" Maverick 88 Info:

  • Overall Length - 39.5"
  • Available in 12 Gauge or 20 Gauge
  • Capacity of 5+1 for 18.5" Models
  • Bead Sights
  • 6.25-7lbs, depending on 18.5" Model

Mossberg Maverick 88

$219.99 at PSA

+ Compare Prices & Availability

Prices accurate at time of publishing

3) Mossberg 930 Tactical - 8 Shot SPX

I'm not being lazy by listing a bunch of Mossberg firearm;, they just happen to make some fantastic tactical shotguns for home defense. For those of you getting sick of it, I promise this is the last Mossberg on the list.

Mossberg 930 Tactical SPX

$707.99 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Unlike the pump-action 500 and Maverick 88 models, 930 models are semi-automatic. In our experience and from what we've seen from others, the gas system of the 930 SPX cycles very reliably. As is the case with all semi-auto shotguns, you may be more likely to have cycling issues with low-powered ammo. We have, however, found that the 930 SPX actually handles low-brass birdshot surprisingly well.

As you'd expect from the first semi-automatic shotgun on our list, the price of the 930 SPX is higher than its pump-action counterparts. Despite this, the 930 SPX is still very affordable compared to competitors like the Benelli shotguns we'll cover below. We believe it's the best tactical shotgun priced under $1,000.

The 930 SPX has a top-mounted tang safety (like the 500 models). Its side-mounted charging handle is knurled and well-sized for easy handling.

The ghost ring rear sight and fiber optic front sight are great, but the available rail space also allows you to fit a red dot sight if you so choose. The front sight is AR-15 height, allowing you to co-witness with optics that you may already own for an AR-15.

Mossberg offers 930 SPX models both with or without a pistol grip.

Mossberg 930 SPX Models

$707.99 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Mossberg 930 SPX Features and Info

  • Barrel Length 18.5"
  • Overall Length 38" (pistol grip & stock model) or 39" (stock only model)
  • 12 Gauge
  • 7+1 Capacity
  • 13.75 (pistol grip & stock model) LOP or 14" LOP (Stock Only)
  • Rear Ghost Ring Sight, Front Fiber Optic Sight
  • 7.25-7.5 lbs

4) Benelli M2 Tactical Shotgun

Taking price tags out of the equation, Benelli makes the best tactical shotguns for home defense.

Though they make some great pump-action shotguns at more affordable price tags, their semi-automatics are what they're known for.

The first Benelli semi-auto shotgun on our list is the M2 Tactical.

Benelli M2 with Pistol Grip

$1,199.99

at Sportsman's Guide

Prices accurate at time of publishing

All Benelli shotguns are incredibly well crafted. Whereas a Mossberg is like a bulldozer, Benelli shotguns are finely tuned Italian sports cars. This is immediately evident in the ergonomics and fit & feel when shooting them.

The M2 uses Benelli's Inertia Driven operating system. This simple design leads to an incredibly fast, smooth, and clean operation. These features also make it incredibly reliable, easy to clean, and lighter than other systems.

The Benelli M2 is our pick for the best home defense shotgun, rivaled only by the other semi-auto Benelli firearms on our list. This gun will not only be ready when you need to use it for self-defense, but also easily be able to be passed down to future generations if properly maintained.

Benelli M2 Tactical Features and Info:

  • 18.5" Barrel
  • 39.75" Overall Length
  • 6.7 lbs
  • 12 Gauge
  • 5+1 Capacity
  • Available With Ghost Ring or Open Rifle Sights
  • Available With a Stock & Pistol Grip or Just a Stock

Benelli M2 with Pistol Grip

$1,199.99

at Sportsman's Guide

Prices accurate at time of publishing

With all the positives I have to offer about semi-auto Benelli shotguns, I do have one gripe with them. I find the cross-bolt safety location (behind the trigger) pretty annoying and unnatural. Despite this, I think all the positives of the M2, M3, and M4 more than makeup for this downside.

Benelli M2 Safety Location

5) Benelli M4 Tactical Shotgun

The M4 is another semi-automatic shotgun from Benelli. It was designed for and adopted by the U.S. Marine Corps.

Instead of the Inertia Driven system found in the M2, the M4 has a gas operated system. The M4's gas system is not like what's found in most gas operated shotguns, though. Instead, the Benelli Auto-Regulating Gas-Operated (A.R.G.O.) system is a short-stroke dual-pistol design.

Benelli M4 Auto-Regulating Gas-Operated System (A.R.G.O.)

The benefits of this, compared to other gas operated shotguns, is that A.R.G.O. is cleaner and more reliable for extended periods of shooting.

Benelli M4 Tactical Shotgun

$1,849.99 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Benelli M4 Features and Info

  • 18.5" Barrel
  • 40" Overall Length
  • 7.8 lbs
  • 12 Gauge
  • 5+1 Capacity
  • Comes Standard With Picatinny Rail and Pistol Grip Stock
  • Ghost Ring Rear Sight and Windage-Adjustable Front Sight

The fact that the Benelli M4 was chosen as the U.S. Marines Joint Service shotgun goes a long way in proving its reliability. With that said, I don't believe there are any substantial benefits to it over the M2 as a home defense shotgun. Considering the M4 can costs $600+ more than the M2, I'll be sticking with the M2.

After all, the M2 has been proving its reliability since the 1980s.

6) Remington 870

The Remington 870 is another widely popular pump-action shotgun series, including many tactical models that are great for home defense.

Remington 870 Express Synthetic Tactical

From $369.99 at PSA

Prices accurate at time of publishing

870s are usually priced around Mossberg 500 models, or sometimes in between a 500 and Maverick 88. This has led to a long-time comparison of the Mossberg 500 vs the Remington 870.

As you probably guessed by us covering the Mossberg shotguns first, that's where our allegiances lie.

The most obvious difference between these shotgun titans is their safety locations. While my somewhat unique preference would be a safety in front of the trigger, most people love Mossberg's top-mounted tang safety. Remington's cross-bolt safety is located behind the trigger, which is arguably the worst possible location of the three.

Remington 870 Safety Location

Remington 870 Safety Location

Mosberg 500 Tactical SPX Safety Location

Mossberg 500 Safety Location

I'd argue a cross-bolt safety behind the trigger is not ideal for shotguns with only a stock or shotguns with a stock and pistol grip.  It is, however, an okay compromise for both options. This would be my guess as to why you even see Benelli use this location on their semi-auto shotguns.

The Remington 870 does arguably gain durability points for its steel receiver, compared to Mossberg's alloy receiver. Keep in mind, Mossberg pump-action shotguns are used by the U.S. military, so there shouldn't be any concern over the 500 or 590s reliability.

The steel receiver of the 870 also means that it's a bit heavier than the Mossberg 500, which is both a downside and an upside. The 870 is worse for carrying around, but the extra weight eats up more of the felt recoil. For a home defense shotgun, I'd say the steel receiver is a slight net positive.

Though 870s have a durability advantage in receivers, Remington doesn't, to my knowledge, offer thicker barrels like Mossberg does with the 590A1. Advantage Mossberg.

Tactical models of the Remington 870 with 18.5" barrels usually hold 6+1 shells. This is 1 more shell than the standard capacity of 18.5" barreled Mossberg 500s, but the same as 590 models.

Having said all of this, Mossberg 500/590 and Remington 870 shotguns are both great options. I'd ultimately make my decision based on whether you plan to use a stock & pistol grip or a stock without one. If you don't plan to use a pistol grip, go with a Mossberg 500/590. If you are considering a pistol grip, then take a look at the 870 (or even the Mossberg Maverick 88).

Remington 870 Express Synthetic Tactical

From $369.99 at PSA

Prices accurate at time of publishing

7) KEL-TEC KSG

Last on our list is a tactical pump-action shotgun that's "a bit out there" compared to our other picks - The KEL-TEC KSG. To some, it's the best tactical shotgun for home defense, while many others think of it as a novelty.

The KSG is a bullpup shotgun, meaning its action is located behind the trigger. The design of bullpups allows for much shorter overall lengths.

Whereas most shotguns on our list with 18.5" barrels have an overall length approaching 40", the KSG has an overall length of just 26.1". This makes it the most maneuverable shotgun our list by a wide margin, being just 0.1" over the minimum federal requirement.

KEL-TEC KSG Bullpup Shotun - Best Overall Bullpup Shotgun

$850.99 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Unique features of the KSG don't stop with it being a bullpup, as it also has dual magazine tubes that put its total capacity at 14+1. You can manually select between the two magazine tubes if you empty one or want to use different ammo in each tube.

The drawback of the KSG is KEL-TEC's history and reputation. KEL-TEC is known for making some super low-budget firearms of questionable quality. You'll definitely never catch me owning a KEL-TEC pistol. However, I think it's clear that the company designed and manufactured the KSG to a higher standard than their handguns.

Some will argue there were some issues with 1st generation KSGs, but the vast majority of KSG owners praise newer models. You'll also see plenty of claims of round counts in the thousands on forums.

I'll also prefer a semi-automatic shotgun or rifle to a pump-action shotgun for home defense. In other words, I won't be owning a KSG myself for this purpose. If I did find myself in the market for a pump-action for home defense, though, I'd take a long look at it.

If not the overall best pump-action shotgun for home defense, it's at least the best bullpup shotgun (though facing limited competition).

KEL-TEC KSG Bullpup Shotun - Best Overall Bullpup Shotgun

$850.99 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Which Shotgun Should You Choose?

Having reviewed our six choices for the best home defense shotgun, I'll leave you with some parting thoughts to help make your decision.

If you're primarily concerned with buying the overall best tactical shotgun, we'd go with either of the semi-automatic options we covered from Benelli: The M2 or M4.

The semi-automatic Mossberg 930 SPX Tactical is an excellent alternative to the Benelli shotguns at a relatively affordable price.

As for pump-action shotguns, we'd opt for the Mossberg 590A1 or another tactical shotgun from the 500/590 series if you aren't planning on running a pistol grip. If you are planning to run a stock and pistol grip on your home defense shotgun, the Remington 870 or Maverick 88 have safeties in a better position.

Speaking of the Maverick 88, it's the cheapest way to get your hands on a home defense quality shotgun.

Finally, for those placing an emphasis on maneuverability, check out the KEL-TEC KSG bullpup shotgun.

Benelli M2 Review
Benelli M2

Product Name: Benelli M2

  • Quality
    (5)
  • Durability
    (5)
  • Reliability
    (5)
  • Performance
    (5)
  • Ergonomics and Feel
    (4.5)
4.9

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