The Best Home Defense Shotguns – 2023 Update

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 best shotguns for home defense in 2023 are:

  1. Beretta 1301
  2. Remington 870 Police
  3. Mossberg 590A1
  4. Benelli M4

Our choices for home defense shotguns haven’t changed over the last few years. However, there are a couple shotguns that are newer to the market that are worth keeping an eye on. While these two shotguns have not yet proven themselves as home defense shotguns, we think both have the potential to be reliable, affordable options.

The two new home defense shotguns on our radar for 2023 are:

  1. Beretta A300 Ultima Patrol
  2. Mossberg 940 Pro Tactical

We’ll go into more detail about these six 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 about features.

Home Defense Shotguns: What To Look For

shooting a short barrel 12ga shotgun

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.

Shotgun Sights

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

hornady critical defense 8 pellet is one of the best loads for home defense

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.

Best Home Defense Shotguns Ranked

ShotgunAction TypeCapacityBarrel LengthLength of PullChokeSightsWeight (lbs)MSRP
Beretta 1301semi-auto7+118.5"13"Optima-Choke HPGhost ring sights/picatinny rail6.35$1,720
Remington 870 Policepump6+118", 20"14"Improved Cylinder (IC)Rifle7.5n/a
Mossberg 590A1pump6+1, 8+118.5", 20"13.87"Cylinder BoreXS Ghost Ring7$727-812
Benelli M4semi-auto5+118.5"14-3/8"Standard Choke Tube MGhost Ring7.8$2,099
Beretta A300 Ultima Patrolsemi-auto7+119.1"13"Mobilchoke (MC)Front FO; Rear Ghost Ring7.1$1,099
Mossberg 940 Pro Tacticalsemi-auto7+118.5"12.5"-14.25"Accu-Choke System - Cylinder Bore Choke InstalledFront FO; Optic-Ready7.5$1,189

Now that we have some standards, let’s look at the guns that are good to go for home defense. As we said before, the best home defense shotguns in 2023 are:

  1. Beretta 1301
  2. Remington 870 Police
  3. Mossberg 590A1
  4. Benelli M4

We’ll also be looking at two new options for 2023. These shotguns don’t yet have the track record of the four listed above, but have the potential to serve as home defense shotguns in the future. The two new home defense shotguns to be on the lookout for 2023 are:

  1. Beretta A300 Ultima Patrol
  2. Mossberg 940 Pro Tactical

Keep reading to see why these stack up as the best shotguns for home defense.

Beretta 1301

the beretta 1301 tactical is the best home defense shotgun on the market

Action TypeCapacityBarrel LengthLength of PullChokeSightsWeightMSRP
Beretta 1301semi-auto7+118.5"13"Optima-Choke HPGhost ring/Picatinny rail6.35 lbs$1,720

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: $1500. 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 police is one of the best pump shotguns ever made

Action TypeCapacityBarrel LengthLength of PullChokeSightsWeightMSRP
Remington 870 Policepump6+118", 20"14"Improved Cylinder (IC)Rifle7.5 lbsn/a

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.

Mossberg 590A1

the mossberg 590a1 is an affordable option for a home defense shotgun

Action TypeCapacityBarrel LengthLength of PullChokeSightsWeightMSRP
Mossberg 590A1pump6+1, 8+118.5", 20"13.87"Cylinder BoreXS Ghost Ring7$727-812

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 $600. The action on the Mossberg might be a little rougher than the 870 Police, but the 590A1 series has a good reputation for reliability.

Benelli M4

the benelli m4 is an excellent choice for a semi-auto home defense shotgun
Image from Benelli.
Action TypeCapacityBarrel LengthLength of PullChokeSightsWeightMSRP
Benelli M4semi-auto5+118.5"14-3/8"Standard choke tube MGhost Ring7.8 lbs$2,099

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 $1800 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 the four shotguns above is going to give a lifetime of service, deliver great performance, and be reliable when you need it.

Beretta A300 Ultima Patrol

the beretta a300 ultima patrol 12ga shotgun

Action TypeCapacityBarrel LengthLength of PullChokeSightsWeightMSRP
Beretta A300 Ultima Patrolsemi-auto7+119.1"13"Mobilchoke (MC)Front Fiber Optic; Rear Ghost Ring7.1 lbs$1,099

New from Beretta in 2023 is the A300 Ultima Patrol semi-auto shotgun. Beretta’s 1301 shotgun is on our list of best home defense shotguns, but their new offering may be a solid choice for shooters not ready to drop nearly two grand on a shotgun.

Beretta makes the A300 Ultima Patrol in the US, as opposed to the Italian-made 1301. It uses a falling block style bolt which Beretta calls the Angular Gas System (AGS). This differs from the 1301’s BLINK gas operating system, which is slightly faster than the A300 Ultima Patrol’s Angular Gas System. The A300 Ultima Patrol has enlarged controls, an enlarged loading port, aggressive forend texture, 7+1 capacity, and interchangeable chokes.

With the A300 Ultima Patrol being so new, we have yet to see how it holds up to rigorous use and high-round count shooting. However, what we’ve seen so far looks promising. Its MSRP is $1,099, but can be found for under $1,000, making it a solid option for shooters looking for a semi-auto shotgun at an affordable price.

Mossberg 940 Pro Tactical

the mossberg 940 pro tactical 12ga shotgun
Image from Mossberg.
Action TypeCapacityBarrel LengthLength of PullChokeSightsWeightMSRP
Mossberg 940 Pro Tacticalsemi-auto7+118.5"12.5-14.25"Accu-Choke System - Cylinder Bore Choke InstalledFront Fiber Optic; Optic Ready7.5 lbs$1,189

The next shotgun we’re keeping an eye on is the Mossberg 940 Pro Tactical. This semi-auto shotgun comes optic-ready with a receiver cut for reflex-style optics. With an MSRP under $1,200, it joins the Beretta A300 Ultima Patrol as an affordable semi-auto shotgun.

Mossberg first released the 940 JM Pro Competition in 2020, and in March of 2022 released the 940 Pro Tactical. Many shooters have found reliability issues with the Mossberg 930, so the 940 will have to prove itself before it can make the ranks of a home defense shotgun.

An early with the 940 Pro Tactical is with the magazine capacity. Some shooters are finding that they can’t fit 7 rounds in the magazine tube due to the magazine spring. It appears that even official customer service reps are giving conflicting guidance on spring length. 

That being said, there’s hope that the newer 940 is more reliable than its predecessor once the smalls issues like magazine capacity are worked through.

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?

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