8 Great Tactical Shotguns at 8 Competitive Price Points

mossberg 590 tactical shotguns

New for 2016, the 500 Tactical 8-Shot Heatshield embodies today’s tactical shotgun in every way. An affordable option available to most people everywhere, shotguns like these are setting the standard for self-defense and protection in the line of duty.

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.

mossberg tactical 20-gauge

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.

benelli nova

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.

mossberg 930 tactical

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. 

wilson combat border patrol

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. 

fn slp

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. 

benelli m4 cerakote

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. 

About the author: Max Slowik is a writer with over a dozen years of experience and is a lifelong shooter. He has unwavering support for the Second Amendment and the human right to self-defense. His ambition is to follow Thomas Paine, as a journalist by profession and a propagandist by inclination.

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Rem870 November 25, 2016, 6:15 pm

    Remington 870 by Wilson Combat is awesome shotgun but it is pretty expensive. I also like Benelli Supernova Tactical, very good and reliable shotgun. The only semi-auto that I like from the list is Beretta 1301, inexpensive, reliable and very comfortable to shoot.

    • DonnieLI April 15, 2020, 3:27 am

      the remmy is one of the most best cheap sided shotguns out there

  • Frank Incremona July 24, 2016, 3:29 pm

    If we’re talking tactical shotgun then why were the UTAS and KEL TEC shotguns added to this list?
    Let’s face it; when the shotgun is reliable and holds 15 shots, it doesn’t get much more tactical than that!

  • Ryan February 14, 2016, 10:29 am

    No mention of Weatherby’s threat response line? PA-08, PA-459 and SA-459 are all very competitive with the shotguns mentioned both in price and features.

  • Nick February 12, 2016, 9:37 pm

    My dad carried a 590A1 as a sheriff. 20″ barrel, 8+1 capacity, ghost ring sights, tang safety, side bandolier (slugs and 00 buck). Pretty sweet rig. Shot really nice too. The stroke was smooth and solid. I shot that and the 870 (in the 26″ and the shorter 18″ varieties), and liked them both. For about $125 cheaper, I’d go for the ‘Moss.

  • Joe McHugh February 12, 2016, 6:27 pm

    The only shotgun that passed the U.S. Army reliability test is the Mossberg 590A1 pump shotgun. The Mossberg people like to brag about the fact that their aluminum receiver shotgun is more reliable than the steel receiver Remington 870. The secret in this incongruity is that the Mossberg bolt locks into the steel barrel extension, so the aluminum plays no part in the strength issue.

    The only shotgun slide that is smoother operating than my Mossberg 590A1, is my Winchester Model 12. The slide action on the Mossberg feels butter smooth.

    By the way the standard “Ghost Sights” on the 590A1’s are amazing. Like all firearms with these Ghost Sights, your eye only “sees” the front sight and the target, with the rear sight appearing as a “Ghost” ring during target acquisition. If you miss the target, you need to work on your severe flinch problem.

    • Kilrain July 24, 2016, 7:42 pm

      “The only shotgun that passed the U.S. Army reliability test is the Mossberg 590A1 pump shotgun.”

      If memory serves, Mossberg was the only company to submit a gun for testing since it met the specific specs of 3443, such as dual extractors, etc. Remington didn’t submit a gun for testing because even if it passed, it didn’t fit the specs. This claim, while accurate, is pretty much marketing hype. And for the record, I love my Mossberg 590A1 and 500.

  • Tacticool February 12, 2016, 3:57 pm

    They didn’t miss any shotguns the article says 8 shotguns at 8 competitive prices. There are lots of other great tactical shotguns on the market but competitive doesn’t mean the cheapest. It means what you get for the money or the price of one model vs. a similarly priced different model. Competitive is relevant to other things as well such as your income and what your wife will let you spend on tacticool weaponry ! I love these the most regardless of their price tags. Vepr 12, srm 1216, kel tec ksg and I’m heading to pick up a dp-12 now. I’m still trying to decide if I need to ad a uts-15 to the collection. Variety is the spice of life . I get away with it by telling my wife they are investments and I’ve never lost a dollar on any gun I’ve owned but that’s only because I have never sold one ! Lol cheers fellow lead slingers !

  • Robert February 12, 2016, 11:56 am

    Well, not exactly a shot gun but the Taurus Circuit Judge rifle/shotgun is a pretty nifty gun. Shoots .410 in any load plus the .45 long Colt. Can be used for small game hunting when not used for home defense. 5 rounds in a pistol revolver design that will not jam or fail when you pull the trigger, in double or single trigger mode. I just got one and it is a great fitting gun in my hands too.

  • Joe February 12, 2016, 10:19 am

    Wheres the versamax tactical!?!? Great gun it cycles anything and includes tritium sights, extended bolt handle, enlarged safety, and extended tube. It has a relatively wider forearm that I prefer. I like it ALOT!

  • Jeffrey L. Frischkorn February 12, 2016, 9:42 am

    I have a semiautomatic Tri-Star, all black with a full pistol grip, short barrel, ghost ring sights and such like. Thing is, I really don’t keep it for that purpose. When I began looking at these shotguns my impression quickly changed from defending my homes against near-do-wells to defending my turkey-hunting blind against marauding gobblers.. The Tri-Star comes with a barrel that is threaded and it just so happens with a pitch that accepts choke tubes for my Franchi shotgun. Bingo, I now have an inexpensive semiauto with a short barrel that can be easily swung about in the confines of a fabric hunting blind and pointed out a portal toward the bright and colorful head of a surprised tom turkey. Oh, and it cost me far less than what most shotgun manufacturers pass off as turkey-hunting specials, too.

  • calisdad February 12, 2016, 9:20 am

    Yeah- when you leave off lower priced models it really shows the true purpose of the article. My Winchester Defender with ATI furniture will do just fine thanks. If 11- 1 3/4″ rounds (without a mag extender) won’t get the job done I’ve got real problems on my hands.

  • Chuck February 12, 2016, 9:18 am

    How did you miss the Remington 870 and 887?

    • Ryan February 12, 2016, 9:41 am

      They didn’t, the Wilson Combat Border Patrol is a Remington 870 that has been tricked out by Wilson Combat.

  • Scorpion February 12, 2016, 8:40 am

    How can you have a tactical shot gun list with out menching the kelteck Ksg. It rewrote the book on tactical shotguns. Since the introduction of the KSG you have had a large amount of other companies building more compact bullpup shotguns. When the KSG came out it made all the mossburg and other look alike tactical shotguns obsolete.

  • George B. February 12, 2016, 7:59 am

    You didn’t mention the Savage 320 . A 12 ga pump with synthetic stock & pistol grip and a street price of $227 is certainly something to consider.

  • Quincy February 12, 2016, 7:42 am

    Vepr 12 tops all shotguns

  • Robert compton February 12, 2016, 6:58 am

    You have left out the best tactical shotgun of all , Remington 870,.

    • Ryan Wallis February 12, 2016, 9:44 am

      No they didn’t, read about the Wilson Combat Boarder Patrol, it is a Remington 870.

  • Aaron February 12, 2016, 5:38 am

    No 870?!

    • Ryan Wallis February 12, 2016, 9:46 am

      YES 870, read the section about the Wilson Combat Boarder Patrol!

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