Tactical Shotguns Still Deliver in 2016
For well over a century the shotgun has been used as an effective, reliable firearm for self-defense, duty and service. Over the years the shotgun has gone through changes that run the full spectrum from unnecessary tweak to total breakthrough with new advances in operation and manufacturing that continue to alter and refine the combat shotgun to this day.
Lately shotguns used for self-defense, law enforcement and military service are widely referred to as tactical shotguns, although even in recent years, the tactical shotgun has undergone some extensive changes and adaptations.
Two of these would-be enhancements that are fading fast are stocks with vertical pistol grips and tri-railed forends also with vertical or angled foregrips, or rail covers to make them comfortable and easy to use.
The railed forend will continue to have its place for many tactical shotgun owners but people are going back to conventional forends with a few good reasons. They can add weight and sometimes complexity to a shotgun and also add to its cost. That weight can lead to short-shucking on pump guns, and other mounting systems, like clamp-on light adapters, have subtly pushed the railed forend to the side as a way to fix accessories to tactical shotguns.
People are also rethinking the vertical pistol grip stock on shotguns, pumps in particular. With some shotgun designs, like on Mossberg shotguns, the pistol grip moves your hand far from the safety, which can make a bad time worse in a hurry. They also dump a lot of recoil energy into the web of your grip, stressing your thumb and wrist, especially if you don’t have a perfect hold on your shotgun.
That being said there, is a place for vertical pistol grip stocks on shotguns especially for anyone who may need to open a door by force. Some designs are better than other for this, and we’ve got those guns covered.
The tactical shotgun is still pretty tactical, but in a sense is going back to its roots. These shotguns, including manually-operated pump shotguns and gas-operated semi-auto shotguns, have simple, cost-effective straight polymer stocks and forends, improved aperture sights for longer-range shooting and precise work with slugs and more often than not, the ability to add a red dot sight for easy target acquisition.
1. 500-series — $350-$475 Street
The humble Mossberg 500 series is one of the most universally-loved pump-action shotgun designs all around the world. With countless variants in and out of production, it could not be left off this list.
For 2016 Mossberg has released a new 500 Tactical with an 8-shot capacity, rifle sights, a heats hield and standard polymer furniture that is already listing for less than $400. The 500 Tactical is also offered in both 12- and 20-gauge, a rare option in the world of tactical shotguns.
If you want all the bells and whistles and have a little more money to spend there’s always the 590 and 590A1 variants to consider. Also new for 2016 is the 590 9-shot Tri-Rail, which comes with short, unobtrusive rails at the front of the forend for a light.
A third new model to check out in particular is the 590A1 7-shot, a slightly more compact option with a full-length magazine tube. Mossberg also offers several of their tactical shotguns in left-handed configurations; they’ve got something for everyone.
Click here to buy a Mossberg 500 on GunsAmerica.
2. Nova and SuperNova Tactical — $400-$450 Street
The Benelli Nova and SuperNova, with their strong track record and solid aftermarket support, are getting a lot more much-deserved recognition as excellent entry-level pump-action shotguns. The polymer overmolded steel construction is practically indestructable, highly scratch- and rust-resistant.
While there are many affordable pumps on the market, most are for hunting and shotgun games. Benelli stands out with their Nova Tactical, a low-cost option that ticks off the right boxes for a modern self-defense shotgun.
The European-styled shotgun does more than just get the job done, it looks great doing it. The starburst pattern that runs the length of the furniture provides a solid grip on the stock and forend and the sights are swept to minimize snagging. The sights are also interchangeable, with ghost ring and open sight options available including tritium night sight options.
The SuperNova Tactical is a good choice for anyone dead-set on a pump shotgun with a vertical pistol grip stock as it incorporates Benelli’s ComforTech recoil-reduction system and the stock uses gel grip inserts to reduce the impact under recoil.
Click here to buy a Benelli Nova or SuperNova on GunsAmerica.
3. SXP Ultimate Defender — $450 Street
The SXP series is fast, thanks to Winchester’s “inertia-assisted” action. The speed of the lock-free action isn’t just handy for busting clays and taking game. In a self-defense situation where rapid follow-up shots are critical even fractions of seconds count.
Winchester has had Defender models for some time but more recently introduced the fully-equipped SXP Ultimate Defender. The shotgun comes with ghost ring sights, a receiver-mounted Picatinny rail for optics, two forward-mounted rails for lights, and, uncommonly for most tactical shotguns, it has interchangeable chokes.
Even though most encounters happen at ranges where shotguns don’t greatly benefit from a choke, that doesn’t mean chokes are completely irrelevant. In addition to giving the shooter the option of dialing in a shot pattern, interchangeable chokes can add other functions to a shotgun
Case in point, the SXP Ultimate Defender comes a ported standoff choke that helps manage recoil and can be used for breaching doors. The SXP Ultimate Defender is also offered with standard and marine finish options.
Click here to buy a Winchester SXP Ultimate Defender on GunsAmerica.
4. Mossberg 930 Tactical SPX — $675 Street
It’s no surprise that Mossberg, the biggest name in budget pumps, also makes one of the more affordable semi-auto shotgun designs out there, the 930. Even the 930 SPX, the company’s flagship Tactical-series model, can be found for $700 or less.
The 930 Tactical SPX comes loaded with ghost ring sights, a receiver-mounted rail, ambidextrous thumb safety and oversized, sharply-knurled charging handle. The only thing missing is ammo and maybe a flashlight clamped onto the front end.
If you’re on a limited budget but aren’t willing to compromise on performance when it comes to a semi-auto tactical shotgun you don’t have to, thanks to the 930 Tactical SPX.
One of the great strengths of the 930 is its ambidextrous safety, making it a lefty-friendly shotgun. However it’s important to mention that tang-mounted safety, present on the 930 and 500-series Mossberg shotguns, is out of reach with pistol grip stocks.
If you must have a vertical pistol grip, stick to other models.
Click here to buy a Mossberg 930 Tactical SPX on GunsAmerica.
5. Beretta 1301 Tactical — $975 Street
The 1301 Tactical is a relative newcomer to the shotgun world based on a fresh design by Beretta. It’s a featherweight at just over 6 pounds and thanks to the semi-automatic operation, recoil is still a non-issue.
The 1301 Tactical uses Beretta’s Blink gas piston system that is designed to require less cleaning a preventative maintenance and cycle quickly for rapid follow-up shots. It features oversized controls including the enlarged charging handle and extended bolt release button that are easy to use from either side.
In addition, to the ghost ring sights the 1301 tactical sports a section of rail for a red dot sight up top and has checkering all along the polymer stock’s grip and full-length polymer forend.
Right now the 1301 is only offered in a single configuration. There’s nothing wrong with one configuration so long as you get it right, and the 1301 does fine.
Click here to buy a Beretta 1301 Tactical on GunsAmerica.
6. Wilson Combat Border Patrol — $1,135 Custom
Rounding out the front of the pack is the Remington 870–of course, this isn’t a big-box special, it’s a completely overhauled 870 semi-custom package made to order by the legendary builders at Wilson Combat and Scattergun Technologies.
The Border Patrol is their entry-level package at that, but it still manages to bring a lot to the table with improved peep sights including a tritium front night sight, non-binding hi-contrast follower, enlarged safety, extended magazine and complete refinish for superior rust- and corrosion-resistance.
Wilson Combat offers even higher-end models, the Standard and the Professional. Of course for anyone on a budget who just needs their existing 870 tuned up and polished, they also offer their Remington Steal service for $229.
Click here to buy a Wilson Combat Border Patrol on GunsAmerica.
7. SLP and SLP Tactical — $1,200 Street
The FN SLP is another newer shotgun design built for hard use both as a self-defense shotgun and a competition shotgun, and as a result, includes features like interchangeable chokes that are so uncommon on the tactical scene.
There are two noteworthy differences between the standard model and Tactical version: the SLP has a traditional-style polymer stock, where the Tactical has a vertical pistol grip stock, and the Tactical also comes with a forward-mounted rail where the standard model has nothing.
The SLP Tactical is another decent option for someone looking for a breacher shotgun as the semi-automatic action will take care of the recoil issue and it can be used with an extended standoff choke. The flashlight mount is just a nice touch on top of that.
Even though the SLP is the competition-minded version, there’s nothing not to take seriously as a self-defense gun. They are all excellent options for protection and duty use.
FN has released MK I versions of both SLP models with rifle-style sights, barrel-mounted rails for optics and extended barrels and magazine tubes. These are good options for anyone looking to maximize their capacity where overall length is not a concern.
Click here to buy an FN SLP Tactical on GunsAmerica.
8. M4 — $1,775 Street
Closing in on its third decade of service the Benelli M4 has proven to be a shotgun years ahead of its time, although well-appreciated by many. Today it’s still one of the best tactical shotguns out there, tweaked and updated to fit today’s shooters perfectly.
Built around Benelli’s ARGO or auto-rotating gas-operating system, the shotgun has dual gas pistons that provide excellent reliability in the worst conditions. It features Benelli’s interchangeable ghost ring sight system, has a rail for optics and is threaded for chokes.
New for the M4 is an upgraded optional flat dark earth Cerakote finish on the barrel, receiver and magazine assembly. Cerakote is a very tough finish that’s quickly becoming a must-have for hard-use guns, plus it gives the M4 a nice two-tone look.
Of course that price tag isn’t for everyone. Thankfully, Benelli’s got the M2 Tactical. With a street price that’s competitive with the Beretta and FN shotguns with the same Benelli flair.
The big difference between the two is that the M2 is inertia-operated, and that may make the M2 even more appealing than the M4 to some shooters. Inertia-operated shotguns will run dirty and fouled and can go a long time without needing cleaning–the M2 is more than just a friendly price.
Both are offered with pistol grip stocks, too, and like the FN, combined with standoff chokes, make excellent breaching shotguns–with a lot of weight backing that up.
It’s a good time to be in the market for a tactical shotgun, no matter what your budget happens to be. From updated classics to completely new designs these guns prove that the shotgun continues to stand at the front line of self-defense firearms.
Click here to buy a Benelli M4 on GunsAmerica.