What is the best shotgun for home defense? That’s a great question, and one that gets asked a lot. Shotguns are popular for home defense because they’re effective, easy to use, and affordable. There are also a lot of myths about shotguns which bolster their popularity.
We’re going to get into what makes a shotgun good for home defense in a minute. But first, odds are good you want to see names of makes and models. So, without further ado…
Best Shotguns for Home Defense
The top four shotguns for home defense are:
- The Beretta 1301
- Remington 870 Police
- Mossberg 590A1
- Benelli M4
We’ll go into more detail about these shotguns later. But to answer the question of what is the best shotgun for home defense, we need to go into a little more detail.
Home Defense Shotguns: What To Look For
To give you the bottom line up front, the best shotgun for home defense is a reliable, well-made 12 gauge with good sights firing 00 buck from a quality company.
I recognize the traits aren’t nearly as exciting as the firearms themselves. To say a reliable, well-made gun you can put on target is a good shotgun is somewhat a boring answer. In order to understand why that list of four shotguns is credible as a list of solid home defense shotgun choices, we need to get into what makes a shotgun good for home defense. Understand, this is a list of ideal features that we want on a defensive gun, so if your gun is missing one of them, don’t worry.
For assistance with this article, I talked to Tim Chandler of Justified Defensive Concepts. He’s one of the leading experts in defensive shotguns. He offered some valuable insight in what you want in a defensive gun.
Length of Pull
The first thing Chandler mentioned is the importance of a length of pull under 13 inches.
Length of pull, abbreviated LOP, is the distance from the trigger to the back of the stock. Having LOP under 13 inches allows the shooter to control the gun better, which helps reduce felt recoil. Lower felt recoil theoretically means you’re getting more shots off on your target faster.
The next requirement is good sights. I know people don’t think you have to aim a shotgun, but that is not true. You definitely need to aim a shotgun, especially at home defense distances. At 15 yards, my Beretta 1301 shoots a 6-inch pattern. At 5 yards, a common household distance, it will shoot every pellet into a group the size of a quarter. You absolutely have to aim shotguns.
A good home defense shotgun should pattern consistently, be well-made, and robust.
Home Defense Shotgun Ammo
Ammo choice is important as well. For 12 Gauge ammo, 00 buckshot is the standard, and if possible the best loads are Federal Flite Control 8 pellet or Hornady Critical Defense 8 pellet. Both of these loads use a proprietary wad that keeps the pellets together longer, delivering awesome terminal performance. Federal also makes their Flite Control load in #1 buckshot, which I personally haven’t used, but experts recommend highly.
Regardless of what buckshot you select, it’s imperative you pattern it with your gun, and hopefully adjust those sights to make sure you’re on target.
Home Defense Shotguns
Now that we have some standards, let’s look at the guns that are good to go for home defense.
Right off the bat, the best defensive shotgun on the market right now is the Beretta 1301 Tactical. It hits all the right points with adjustable sights, a rail for mounting optics, and adjustable length of pull. According to Tim, it also has “near Glock 19 levels of reliability and durability” which is pretty high praise.
The only problem with the 1301 Tactical is the price: $1300. I know, it’s a lot of money. Which brings us to our next recommendation, the Remington 870 Police.
Remington 870 Police
The Remington 870 is probably the best pump shotgun ever made, and the current production Police models are high quality. They’re half the cost of a 1301, making them a good bargain for a robust, reliable shotgun. Older used 870s from the 80s and 90s can also be had for great prices if you’re willing to look into the used gun market.
But if an 870 isn’t to your liking, the second pump action gun on our list might be.
The Mossberg 590A1 comes in a variety of finishes and options, but a basic model with good sights and 9 round capacity can be had for $500. The action on the Mossberg might be a little rougher than the 870 Police, but the 590A1 series has a good reputation for reliability.
Back to semi-autos and big bucks, the Benelli M4 is also an awesome shotgun. It ticks all the right boxes for a well-made, easy shooting gun. However, like the Beretta 1301 the Benelli is very expensive, around $1700 for a new gun. One thing you’ll find is that semi-autos tend to be more expensive than pump guns due to their comparative complexity. And because it’s more expensive than the Beretta, the Benelli is last on my recommended list of guns.
Any one of those shotguns is going to give a lifetime of service, deliver great performance, and be reliable when you need it.
Worst Shotguns for Home Defense
As we wrap up, it’s important to briefly note what isn’t on that list: turkey guns, rifled deer slug guns, and .410 handguns. There’s a reason for that, and it’s because the guns on this list are designed for a specific purpose – fighting. Turkey guns are designed to kill birds. Deer slug guns are designed to be rifles. While they have their purpose, it’s not for home defense. Besides, if you want the best shotgun for home defense, shouldn’t you get one that’s made for that?