Lock and Load: 5 Classic Home Defense Shotguns

Shotguns have been a favorite choice for many years when it comes to personal protection as they provide firepower and versatility with options to fit any budget. There are a lot of myths about what makes a good shotgun for home defense. The basics are easy–it should be a 12 gauge, possess a sturdy and reliable action, have an 18-20 inch barrel, and an easy to see sighting system. Besides those basic hallmarks the things like shell carriers, lights, and optics are extras that can be added later on to fit the shooter’s requirements and help them get lead on target. Let’s take a look at five scatter guns that would make an excellent choice for a defense when things go bump in the night.

1. The Remington 870

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The 870 is arguably one of the most popular pump action shotguns on the planet. There are many in use by the US military and law enforcement agencies. The all-steel receiver is strong and the action is as reliable as the day is long. The Remington 870 comes in many configurations, even fully decked out with Magpul furniture, rails, and ghost ring sights.

The classic 870 has been called on to do just about every job one can do with a shotgun.

The classic 870 has been called on to do just about every job one can do with a shotgun.

The popularity of the 870 has also spawned a huge aftermarket parts industry so customizing and having one shotgun to fulfill a number of uses should be no problem. Going from a hunting shotgun, to one for home defense or competition is as easy as swapping out a barrel. An 870 suitable for home defense can cost anywhere from $350 and $750, depending on the configuration and options available.

2. The Mossberg 590

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Mossberg’s 500 line is rugged, but the 590 is a cut above. This is another very popular pump action shotgun that is in wide spread use by the US military and very well regarded by civilian shooters. The military 590A1 stood up to a grueling series of tests, including a 3,000 round endurance test, and was the only shotgun to pass.

A Mossberg 590 tricked out with Magpul furniture and ghost ring sights.

A Mossberg 590 tricked out with Magpul furniture and ghost ring sights.

Although the receiver is made from high strength aluminum, the shotgun is no lightweight and it can easily stand up harsh use. Dual action bars at the forend actuate the bolt and make for buttery smooth loading and extraction without binding. Mossberg shotguns also use a tang safety so that it can be used by either left or right handed shooters with ease. The cost for a Mossberg is comparable to similar model Remington 870’s so it should easily fit into a home defense budget.

3. Stoeger’s Double Defense

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This shotgun may seem a little different when compared to some home defense shotguns, but it is really nothing more than a modern version of the old coach guns. The Double Defense is a two shot break action shotgun that is available in a side by side or over and under configuration.

The Stoeger Double Defense is a beast. Nostalgia with a tactical twist.

The Stoeger Double Defense is a beast. Nostalgia with a tactical twist.

Both versions come equipped with accessory rails so that red dot optics and lights can be easily attached to the shotgun. Although this is only a double shot weapon, a slip on shell carrier can easily be added to the stock for easily accessible reloads. Even with 20” barrels this shotgun is compact, light, and easy to point to get on target, perfect for those late night strolls around the property. The cost for a Double Defense is about $500.

4. Benelli Nova Tactical

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Benelli shotguns have earned a reputation for having excellent fit and finish and the reliability that goes along with both. Benelli may be best known for their semi-auto shotguns but they also make fine pump action shotguns like the Nova Tactical, which are more than capable for home defense.

The performance of a Benelli for under $500? And you get the odd design aesthetic, too. It is a stylish gun, but incredibly functional.

The performance of a Benelli for under $500? And you get the odd design aesthetic, too. It is a stylish gun, but incredibly functional.

The Nova Tactical shotgun is constructed out of steel but features an overmolded polymer shell to protect it from the elements. Like the Mossberg, the Nova Tactical uses dual action bars for smooth feeding and extraction. The shotgun is also available with either ghost ring sights or standard rifle sights and two different finish options for corrosion resistance. Benelli guns are more expensive. This one sells for around $420.

5. Mossberg’s 930 SPX

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For those who don’t want to break open an action or pump–the Mossberg 930. This the tactical version of their popular semi-auto shotguns set up with ghost ring sights, Picatinny rail, and an extended magazine tube. Even though it is a compact and relatively light shotgun, the gas system helps tame much of the recoil and helps to keep the sights on target. Also like the other Mossberg shotguns it has a tang safety as opposed to a cross bolt safety so that it is ambidextrous for right and left handed shooters. There are other good semi-auto shotguns on the market for self-defense but the 930 SPX offers the best bang for the buck without a doubt at about $650.

The only catch with the semi-auto is you don't have a pump to cycle. That sound alone is a great threat deterrent.

The only catch with the semi-auto is you don’t have a pump to cycle. That sound alone is a great threat deterrent.

For home defense, I lean more towards to pump action shotguns because they are usually cheaper, easy to use, and utterly reliable. Ammunition selection plays a large role in the defense shotgun use whether you are equipped with a semi-auto or pump action. If the shotgun is going to be used mainly by the woman of the house, I’d recommend checking out the 20 gauge versions of the shotguns above or reduced recoil 12 gauge rounds. Remember that shotguns are not simply point and shoot weapons so seek out training and practice as often as possible to remain proficient in its use. As always shoot safe and shoot often.

About the author: Ian Kenney Ian is a lifelong firearms enthusiast and veteran of the Global War on Terror. For over a decade, he has been actively competing in precision rifle and action shooting competitions. Ian has also contributed to multiple online publications, covering general firearms topics, precision rifles, and helping to improve the skills of shooters.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Jon July 15, 2015, 1:08 pm

    I have a number of good scatterguns for home or truck duty. Mossbergs 590A1, 835, 500 AOW, Saiga 12, Benelli M1 Tactical. High Standard model 10B is the only one not reliable enough to be counted on in a serious social situation, its value is more as a historical curiosity.

  • Jackpine June 22, 2015, 6:48 pm

    Winchester Defender out, Stoeger in? Huh.

  • Jim W. June 22, 2015, 9:27 am

    OOPS….I failed to mention that my Model 37 is a genuine Military & Police….7 in the magazine + 1 in the pipe.

  • Jim W. June 22, 2015, 9:25 am

    Like the other Jim above, you’d have a VERY difficult time prying me loose from my 1972 Ithaca 37 12-ga. In addition to being butter-smooth and fast, it is also capable of “slam-fire”….that is, I don’t need to remember to release then pull the trigger for successive rounds….just pump until it goes “click”. That’s a LOT of firepower, and a helluva lot of noise. Wouldn’t take any Remington or Mossberg for it.

  • Russ September 22, 2014, 6:09 pm

    I own a 870 7+1, ATI adjustable stock, Magpul forend, big dot tritium front sight and six extra carrier.
    It’s loaded with 00 buck and the carrier has slugs.
    No sling to get caught up or a light to get me killed.
    I call that perfect.
    Out of those guns above I like the Mossberg 590.
    Here’s my TOP-5

    1. 20 GA youth 870 with a big dot tritium front sight. (cheaper, smaller and gets HD done)

    2. My 870 described above.
    The next 3 are more for moving to the outside of my home.

    3. AA12—There’s nothing better. Just for fun, go see this video–>

    4. VEPR 12 GA (reasonably priced, ass kicking and available) Check it out—-> https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=fMfzN5LZc3o

    5. MKA 1919 (Guns America had this video a while back)—>

  • Jim September 22, 2014, 11:52 am

    Call me old fashioned but I’ll never trade in my Ithaca model 37 with extended mag tube and raybar sights. Bottom eject and load, 100% reliable..Have a Choate folding stock but don’t prefer it. Along side my Rossi Coach gun “lupara” makes a perfect home defense pair. The Rossi features exposed hammers so continuous availability loaded is not a concern vis-a-vis safety or spring tension. Shoulder slings and ammo carriers round it out.

    • Russ September 22, 2014, 4:44 pm

      Old fashoned!
      There, I called you it.
      (just messing with you)

  • Joe McHugh September 22, 2014, 11:16 am

    The Mossberg 590A1 is the best firearm of its type bar none! If nine 3-inch charges of double 00 buck shot from my 590A1 doesn’t stop a home invader, it is an armored machine that doesn’t breath air.
    I would have purchased a Remington 870 but the manufacturer has stumbled recently with its quality control efforts. Now that Remington is in the process of moving to Alabama, it should be able to compete better without restrictions and regulations from the People’s Republic of New York State.
    The author is right about the functioning of the Mossberg pump action, it feels like the twin operating bars are gliding butter smooth. Oh, don’t worry about the receiver being made from aluminum, the bolt locks into the steel barrel assembly and it is every bit as strong as the steel framed Remington.
    I’ll leave you with this observation, if the threat is within 50 yards, you can make it a non-threat with this Mossberg.

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