So you want to buy a home defense shotgun. Congratulations! You’ve chosen the best type of gun for defending your home. A good rifle can drop a prize buck at 300 yards or more. A good pistol can be your last line of defense against a mugger or carjacker. But for defending your home, nothing beats a good, reliable shotgun.
In our effort to find the best shotguns for home defense, we’ve read publications, polled our friends, and scoured the web to find a large selection. Then we narrowed our list down to fifteen guns that are reliable enough for the job.
Shotguns come in many shapes and sizes, and we’ve tried to build a list that reflects that. Depending on your body size and your experience with firearms, your needs may be wildly different.
Not only that, but some people want to accessorize their shotgun. This requires a shotgun-light and mounting rail which will increase the price. Other people want a barebones gun that’s enough to get the job done without any extra bells and whistles.
There’s also the matter of overall length. A pure home defense shotgun will typically be a shorter, tactical model. However, some people want to use their home defense gun for hunting as well. To that end, we’ve thrown in a few longer shotguns that can be used for both purposes.
15 Best Home Defense Shotguns of 2020 – Protect Your Family!
The Stoeger P3000 is a 12 gauge tactical shotgun with an anodized aluminum finish. It has an overall length of 40 inches, with a barrel length of 18 ¾ inches. The polymer stock has hashing on the grip for extra friction, and the pump action is easy to work.
One thing we really like about this gun is that it has relatively low recoil for a 12 gauge. While the rubber butt pad is more or less standard, it has a fairly long 14 ¼-inch pull length. This allows the recoil to spread out over a few extra milliseconds, which doesn’t sound like much, but you’ll feel the difference in your shoulder.
This is an affordable, reliable shotgun that has pre-drilled swivel mounts for adding a strap. Other than that, though, it doesn’t have any customization options. There’s no rail for mounting a flashlight, and no pre-tapped holes for a sight. What you see is what you get. At the price, it’s still not a bad deal.
- Relatively low recoil
- Few customization options
Why it’s recommended: The Stoeger P3000 is a solid choice for anyone who wants a reliable 12 gauge shotgun at a low price.
The H&R Pardner is a pump action, 20 gauge shotgun that holds four shells, plus an additional shell in the chamber. The overall length is 41.2 inches, with a 21-inch barrel. The polymer stock has a clean, ergonomic design, and the grip is at just the right angle for comfort.
We can’t say the same for firing it. The recoil on this gun is powerful, far more than you’d expect from a 20 gauge. It’s also made in China. So why buy a 20 gauge with high recoil? Why not just get a 12 gauge?
Simply put, the Pardner is as cheap as they come. We couldn’t even find a 10/22 at this price. Even as cheap as it is, the Pardner is extremely reliable. You can run 2 ¾-inch or 3-inch shells through it all day without experiencing a jam. It’s also tapped and drilled for a scope, which isn’t necessary for home defense, but is practically a necessity if you want your home defense gun to double as a hunting shotgun.
- Ergonomic stock and grip
- Tapped and drilled for a scope
- Cheap as dirt
- Made in China
- Kicks like a mule
Why it’s recommended: The H&R Pardner isn’t the best shotgun for home defense, but it will get the job done cheaper than any gun on the market.
The Benelli Supernova Tactical is a 12 gauge, pump action shotgun that measures 40 inches in length, with an 18-inch barrel. This is literally the shortest barrel you can have in the US that’s legal in all 50 states. The polymer stock is easy to grip and ergonomic. The stock fits comfortably in the fatty part of your armpit, just like it should.
As one would expect from the famous Italian gun maker, Benelli’s Supernova is extremely reliable. Brass shells, aluminum shells, and discount shells will all go through it, in either 2 ¾-inch or 3-inch lengths. The tubular magazine holds 4 rounds, plus one more in the chamber.
Not only that, but Benelli makes several barrels for it. If you want your home defense gun to double as a turkey gun, you can order a 28-inch barrel and make that happen. On the other hand, there aren’t a lot of aftermarket stocks available. This just isn’t a popular enough shotgun for there to be enough of a market.
- Ergonomic polymer stock
- Very reliable
- Multiple barrels available
- Poor aftermarket support
Why it’s recommended: The Benelli Supernova Tactical is the best shotgun for multi-purpose use, provided you don’t mind buying a second barrel.
The Winchester SXP Defender is a 20 gauge shotgun with a 4-round capacity, plus one in the chamber. It measures 38 ½ inches overall, with an 18-inch barrel. At 6 pounds, it’s lightweight, so anyone should be able to handle it. The action is very smooth, and it reliably shoots any 2 ¾ or 3-inch shell you load into it.
We were concerned about this gun at first, because it’s made in Turkey instead of in one of Winchester’s US plants. However, after doing some research, we’re convinced that Turkish CNC machining is top notch, not like some of the made-in-China horror stories you’ve probably heard. This is just as good as a US-made gun.
While the SXP Defender is very affordable, the savings seem to have come out of the stock, which is injection molded instead of solid. This doesn’t cause any recoil problems – this is a gentle gun – but it does make the Defender a bit front-heavy.
- Short and easy to handle
- Smooth, reliable action
- Low recoil
- Injection molded stock
Why it’s recommended: The Winchester SXP Defender is a lightweight, 20 gauge shotgun that will shoot reliably when you need it most.
The Mossberg 500 All-Purpose Field is a 20 gauge shotgun with a 6-round tubular magazine. The overall length of this model is 45 ¼ inches, with a 26-inch barrel. Admittedly, that’s a bit long for a home defense shotgun, but in our opinion the benefits outweigh the costs.
The 500 is popular for two reasons: reliability and modularity, and the All-Purpose Field is a great example of both of these. To begin with, you won’t have any trouble with jamming. This action is as reliable as they come.
You can also modify it to your heart’s content. Because the Mossberg 500 is so popular, there are multiple barrels on the market, which makes it a great choice if you want to swap out for a shorter one. You can also add sights, change the stock, or add a magazine extension with ease.
The only other downside of the 500 All Purpose Field is the weight. At 7 pounds, it’s a bit heavy for a 20 gauge, but even that isn’t a major issue considering the low recoil. This gun is one of the more affordable shotguns available.
- Low recoil
- Multiple barrels available
- Plenty of aftermarket parts
- On the heavier side
- Barrel is a bit long
Why it’s recommended: The Mossberg 500 All-Purpose Field is another excellent iteration of the world’s most popular shotgun.
The Remington 870 20 Gauge is a pump action shotgun with a 4-round tubular magazine. It’s only 26.37 inches long, with a 14-inch barrel. While this is extremely short, it’s too short to be legal in some states. Check your local laws before you try to order one. The action is reliable, and has no problem firing most 20 gauge shells.
This gun weighs only 5 ½ pounds, so it’s very easy to handle. The pistol grip has a very shallow angle, so it’s comfortable to hold out in front of you, which you’ll definitely need to do. Without a shoulder stock, this gun will smack you in the face if you hold it too close. It’s designed to be hip fired at close range, so unsurprisingly it’s not pre-drilled for sights.
Another nice thing about the 870 is its durability. Drop it in the mud, smack it into a door, do whatever you like. It will keep on trucking as long as it’s well cleaned and lubricated. It’s also very affordable, which is a nice feature in any gun.
- Short and lightweight
- Ergonomic grip
- Poor recoil control
Why it’s recommended: The Remington 870 20 Gauge is ideal for smaller individuals, or for people whose homes have narrow hallways.
The KEL-TEC KSG is a true tactical shotgun. It’s a 12 gauge, with a whopping 14-round capacity due to the dual tube magazines. The overall length is 26.1 inches, with an 18 ½-inch barrel. The pump action works smoothly, and has a feed selector switch behind the trigger guard to switch seamlessly from one magazine to the other.
The pistol grip is paired with a standard butt stock for plenty of stability, although it still has more recoil than most shotguns. It has Picatinny rails on the top and the bottom, so you can accessorize it to your heart’s content. Scopes, flashlights, extra ammo storage, you name it.
The KSG is built like a truck, durable enough to take any kind of beating you can dish out. The only serious drawback is that it’s picky about cheap ammo. Get yourself some higher end shells and avoid the discount Walmart stuff, and you’ll be just fine.
- 14-round magazine
- Pistol grip and shoulder stock
- Picatinny rails
- Finicky about ammo type
- High recoil
Why it’s recommended: The KEL-TEC KSG packs 14 rounds of 12 gauge stopping power into a small package.
The FN SLP Standard is a semi-automatic, 12 gauge shotgun with a 6 round magazine, plus one in the chamber. It’s 38 ¾ inches long, with an 18-inch barrel. The polymer stock is solidly constructed, with no tacky hollow parts. The pump allows you to smoothly chamber the first round, and once that’s done, you keep squeezing the trigger until the threat is neutralized.
This is a durable gun that’s designed for heavy duty use. It also has a Picatinny rail on top, so you can mount a sight without the need for extra modifications.
Between the heavy stock, the durable construction, and the gas piston semi-automatic action, the SLP Standard weighs in at 7 ¾ pounds, heavier than most shotguns. It’s also fairly expensive, but that’s to be expected any time you buy a semi-automatic shotgun.
- Picatinny rail
Why it’s recommended: The FN SLP Standard is a reliable, semi-automatic shotgun, so you can empty a magazine in no time.
The Remington 870 Express is a 12 gauge, pump action shotgun with a 6-round tubular magazine. The action is smooth and reliable, so you’ll rarely if ever experience a jam, whether you’re shooting 2 ½-inch or 3-inch shells. The stock is molded polymer, with a sturdy feel and enough recoil reduction to keep your shoulder from getting sore.
The 870 is one of the oldest shotgun models in the world, and the most popular after the Mossberg 500. As a result, aftermarket parts are plentiful and readily available. Want to swap out the 18-inch barrel for a 28-inch barrel? No problem. Want to upgrade to a wood stock? Easy!
That said, the design is a bit outdated, so it’s harder to tear down and reassemble than most shotgun, making it hard to do a full cleaning. The cross-bolt safety is also a drawback, since it’s difficult to operate left-handed. On the other hand, the 870 Express is one of the most affordable guns that money can buy.
- Lots of aftermarket parts available
- Smooth action
- Right-handed safety
- Difficult to tear down and reassemble
Why it’s recommended: The Remington 870 has been in service for over a hundred years, and has more aftermarket parts than just about any other gun.
The Mossberg 590A1 Mil Spec is a 12 gauge, pump action shotgun with a 6 round tube magazine. Its overall length is 39 ½ inches, with an 18 ½-inch barrel. Where reliability is concerned, the 590A1 has no peers.
This gun is designed for military use, so it should come as no surprise that everything about it is over engineered. The barrel is double-thickness, and is made of a higher grade steel than the 570. The forging in general is high quality, with as many metal parts as possible, including the sturdy trigger guard. The polymer stock is extremely heavy duty, with a robust butt that’s heavy enough to balance out the thicker barrel. There’s also a Picatinny rail for mounting a scope.
This robust design comes at a cost. Not only is the 590A1 more expensive than the 570, but it costs significantly more. It’s not that the price is outrageous. It’s reasonable, considering what you get. But unless you’re in actual combat, most of the added features just aren’t necessary.
- As durable as they come
- Top-tier reliability
- Picatinny rail included
- Overspecced for most civilians
Why it’s recommended: If you’re looking for a home defense shotgun that will stand up to the demands of a literal war zone, the Mossberg 590A1 Mil Spec will be right up your alley.
The Benelli M4 is another military-grade shotgun. Its tube magazine holds four 12 gauge shells, and the pump action cycles easily. Not that you’ll need it after the first shot; the M4 is semi-automatic. It’s 40 inches in length, including the 18 ½-inch barrel.
This shotgun has enough recoil reduction for smaller-framed individuals, thanks to the solid polymer stock and pistol grip. It also has a Picatinny rail on top for mounting optics. The action will cycle through any kind of 2 ½-inch or 3-inch shells.
All of this adds up to a fairly heavy shotgun – 7.8 pounds, to be exact. It’s heavy on your wallet, too, but that’s what you get when you’re buying a semi-automatic shotgun.
- Decent recoil reduction
- Polymer pistol grip and butt stock
- Includes a Picatinny rail
- Very expensive
Why it’s recommended: The Benelli M4 is an extremely reliable semi-automatic 12 gauge. You can sling a lot of lead with it in a hurry.
The Mossberg 500 Tactical is a pump action, 12 gauge shotgun with a 6-round tubular magazine. It has an overall length of 39 ½ inches, with a 18 ½-inch barrel. Like every iteration of the 500, the action is easy to cycle, and accepts any variety of 2 ½ or 3-inch shells.
The stock on this shotgun has both a pistol grip and a traditional butt stock, giving it plenty of stability and recoil resistance. The polymer is very durable, enough to smack into a door frame and break the wood instead of the gun. Because it’s a 500, you’ll also find a wide variety of aftermarket parts so you can modify your shotgun as much as you like.
We only have one complaint about this gun, and it’s a minor quibble: the heat shield isn’t necessary for anything other than a military weapon, and it gets in the way of most flashlight brackets. Other than that, this is an excellent shotgun at a reasonable price.
- Polymer pistol grip and butt stock
- Plenty of aftermarket parts available
- Heat shield can get in the way of some accessories
Why it’s recommended: The Mossberg 500 Tactical is another excellent member of the 500 family of shotguns.
The Mossberg SA-20 Tactical is a semi-automatic, 20 gauge shotgun with a 5-round tubular magazine. It has a polymer butt stock as well as a pistol grip for better ergonomics and stability. The overall length is 40 ½ inches, and the barrel is 20 inches long.
The stock is hollow, but still extremely sturdy, and the hollow stock makes it very light. This shotgun only weighs 6 pounds. It’s also relatively affordable. The action is extremely reliable, but only works with 3-inch shells; if you try to load it with 2 ½-inch shells, it will jam.
- Polymer butt stock with pistol grip
- Only fires 3” shells
Why it’s recommended: The Mossberg SA-20 Tactical is a semi-automatic shotgun with less recoil than larger, 12 gauge versions.
The Remington 870 TAC-14 is a 12 gauge, pump action shotgun with a 4-round tube magazine. At 26.37-inches, it’s very short, with only a 14-inch barrel. Like all shotguns under 18 inches, check your state laws to make sure this is legal where you live.
The polymer stock is angled for ergonomics, but there’s no butt. This gun is for hip firing, or for holding well away from your face when you fire it, because recoil reduction is just about nonexistent. It weighs only 5 ½ pounds, and is durable enough to stand up to any conceivable home defense situation. The action is highly reliable with both 2 ½ and 3-inch shells.
Because it’s a variation of the 870, there are plenty of aftermarket parts available. Best of all, it’s reasonably priced.
- Short and lightweight
- Wide variety of aftermarket parts
- Poor recoil control
Why it’s recommended: The Remington 870 TAC-14 is one of the smallest shotguns on the market, perfect for clearing narrow hallways.
If you want all the power of a 12 gauge shotgun in the smallest possible package, the Mossberg 500 JIC should be the first one on your list. This gun has an overall length of 28 ¾ inches, shorter than an AR, never mind most shotguns. The barrel is 18 ½ inches long, just long enough to be legal in all 50 states.
This is a pump-action shotgun with a tubular magazine and a 6-round capacity, which can be increased to 7 rounds if you keep a round in the chamber. The back of the gun ends with the polymer pistol grip; there’s no shoulder stock. On the one hand, this is how Mossberg managed to make the 500 JIC so short. On the other hand, you won’t be able to brace it against your shoulder, so prepare for some serious recoil when you pull the trigger.
Not only is this shotgun affordable, it also comes with a cleaning kit, a carrying strap, and a watertight storage tube.
- Short and easy to handle
- 6-round capacity
- Comes with a carrying strap and cleaning kit
- Poor recoil control
Why it’s recommended: The Mossberg 500 is the world’s most popular home defense shotgun, and the JIC is their most compact model.
Key Considerations When Choosing a Shotgun For Home Defense
If you’ve never owned a shotgun before, or even if you’ve never owned one for home defense, there are some things you’ll need to consider before you make your purchase. We’ve put together a quick buying guide, so you can get answers to the most common questions.
12 Gauge or 20 Gauge – Which is Better?
If you’re also looking to use your home defense shotgun for hunting, skip ahead to the question about shooting small game. In this section, we’ll focus solely on home defense applications.
The short answer is that it really doesn’t matter. In a home defense situation, you’ll be shooting from 20 feet at most, and that assumes you’re in a very large room. At that range, any shotgun is going to stop an intruder in their tracks. That said, there are some benefits and drawbacks to both sizes, so let’s look at each of them.
12 Gauge Shotguns
The 12 gauge is by far the most popular type of shotgun. This makes it easy to find ammunition, so you can get plenty of practice on the range without having to run all over town just to find shells. It’s also the most powerful shotgun available outside of unusual specialty models.
On the other hand, a 12 gauge kicks like a mule. If you’re a smaller individual, it’s likely to be too much gun. It’s also going to be heavier than a 20 gauge. Recoil aside, you want to be able to aim your home defense gun, or it’s not going to do you much good.
20 Gauge Shotguns
The 20 gauge is less common than the 20 gauge. This means you may have trouble finding ammunition. It’s becoming more popular by the day, though, so ammo is likely to be more available as the years go on.
However, a 20 gauge is lighter and has less recoil than a 12 gauge. If you have a smaller than average frame, it’s going to be a more manageable weapon. At the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference. Like we said, either size is going to put an end to your home invader problem as soon as you pull the trigger.
What Makes a Shotgun Good For Home Defense?
The most important factor when choosing a home defense shotgun is how easy it is to manage. On a hunting trip, you can deal with a ginormous gun with a long barrel. In a home defense situation, you’re going to have to navigate hallways, narrow spaces, kitchen counters, and so on. A shorter gun is better.
Weight is also a factor. You need to be able to move with this gun, and bring it to bear quickly. When you’re hunting, you usually have time to line up your shot and aim. In a home defense scenario, as soon as you see the intruder, they’re going to see you – and that’s assuming they don’t already know where you are. You won’t have time to aim.
For that matter, it’s good to consider a gun with a rail for mounting accessories. Why? Because, once again, you don’t have much time to aim. A flashlight or laser sight can help you fire quickly, but you’ll need somewhere to mount it.
Finally, it doesn’t matter how good your shotgun is if you haven’t practiced. A home invasion is a stressful situation. You won’t have time to think, and adrenaline will be flooding your veins, lowering your physical dexterity and making it hard to remember how to operate a gun you haven’t fired in a year. The key here is practice, practice, practice.
Take your gun to the range at least a couple times a year – once a month, if possible. This will make shooting it a matter of muscle memory. If, God forbid, you should ever need to use it in an emergency, you’ll be prepared.
Is it Legal to Modify Your Shotgun?
It depends on what kind of modifications you’re making. Most modifications, like attaching a flashlight or sight, or adding a choke, are perfectly legal.
However, there’s one thing you should never, ever do. Don’t saw off your shotgun barrel. Legal issues aside, it’s dangerous. You may end up cutting internal parts that are essential to your gun’s operation. If your gun is a pump-action – which most shotguns are – you won’t be able to remove more than a few inches anyway without cutting through the ammo tube, which will ruin your shotgun.
In addition, possessing a sawed-off shotgun is a federal felony. Unless you have a burning desire to spend a minimum of 2 years (up to 10 years) in federal prison, and pay a $100,000 fine, it’s just a dumb thing to do.
Can You Use Home Defense Shotguns For Small Game or Pests?
In principle, yes. In practice, it depends on your load and what kind of gun you’re using and what it’s loaded with.
Many home defense shotguns are “tactical” shotguns. The word “tactical” gets thrown around a lot, but when used to describe a shotgun, it usually describes one that’s designed specifically for home defense. These shotguns typically have short barrels – around 18 ½ inches – as opposed to the longer 26 or 28-inch barrels you’ll typically see on a hunting shotgun.
This short barreled design makes them easy to maneuver in a small space, but it also makes them less accurate. This is no problem if you’re shooting at a man-sized target at room-width distances, but it can make hunting small game a challenge.
In addition, your standard load for home defense is going to be .00 buckshot. This type of shot has just a handful of very large pellets, and is designed for medium or large targets. However, these large pellets spread out as they get further from the barrel, and can easily miss a rabbit, possum or rat.
For small game, you’re going to want to use birdshot, typically somewhere between #4 and #7. This shot uses a much higher number of small pellets. The result is a much denser spread, which is almost guaranteed to hit even a very small animal.
So yes, you can use a home defense shotgun for small game hunting, but it’s liable to be less accurate, and you’ll need to load it with the appropriate shot.
So, what’s the best shotgun for home defense?
It depends on what you need.
To begin with, you’ll need a gun that’s right for your body size. A 12 gauge shotgun packs a ton of punch, but that doesn’t do you much good if the first shot leaves you with a bruised shoulder and flaccid arms. They say “go big or go home”, but the truth is that you don’t need to go big to protect your home. At short ranges, a 20 gauge is plenty of gun.
You’ll also need the right load. Some people recommend using rock salt or bird shot for a “warning shot”. Don’t. Warning shots are for prison guards and rent-a-cops. If your life or the life of your loved ones are in danger, you need the first shot to be lethal. Stick with .00 buckshot, and you’re guaranteed to stop an intruder before they harm anyone else.
And as always, practice, practice, practice. A gun is only as good as the person behind the trigger.
We hope our guide helped you to find the best shotgun for your needs. At the very least, we hope we answered any questions you might have. Thanks for reading!
Check out all the other gun articles put together by our expert team here at Guns & Safety Reviews;
Best Shotguns For Home Defense
Check out our review of the 15 best shotguns for home defense on the market today.
Mossberg 500 JIC
Benelli Supernova Tactical
Winchester SXP Defender
Mossberg 500 All-Purpose Field
Remington 870 20 Gauge
FN SLP Standard
Remington 870 Express
Mossberg 590A1 Mil Spec