Choosing a Home Defense Shotgun

shot Shotgun with Chamber Lock Showing Gun Safety

Many gun owners turn to a shotgun when it comes time to choose a weapon for defending hearth and home, and for good reason. 

A good shotgun is an excellent choice for those folks who are looking to defend themselves, their loved ones, and their homes. Because of this, there are several dozen good options available for a good home-defense shotgun.

So how do you choose?

With so many options available, it can be difficult to decide which shotgun should earn pride of place in your home-defense lineup, but don’t worry. Like a good shotgun, we’ve always got your back.

Here’s a look at everything you need to keep in mind when choosing a home-defense shotgun, and some models to look at first to help narrow your search a bit. 

Why a Shotgun?

Shotgun And Cartridges

When choosing a shotgun for defense, it helps to have a good understanding of exactly why so many people choose to use a scattergun for protecting their home in the first place.

First and foremost, a shotgun is probably the most practical and effective tool on the planet for quickly stopping the average threat to a human being quickly. Anything from a snake on up to a Grizzly bear can be stopped with the proper application of buckshot. 

That’s because inside 12-gauge 00 buckshot, there are 9 projectiles that are almost the same size as a 9mm or .38 Special bullet. That’s a lot of lead going down range, and that’s just with one shot.

I have a law-enforcement buddy on the Atlanta PD’s SWAT team who has frequently said “If you can’t stop it with a full tube of buckshot, you need to switch to something that’s belt-fed while you call in an airstrike”.

 I have to agree with that.

Second, it’s important to remember just how versatile a shotgun is, thanks to the variety of loads available.

Between buckshot, birdshot, and slugs (not to mention the ridiculous number of specialty rounds) you can cover just about any situation where your life would be in danger, and you can do it all with just one gun. 

If I had to pick just one gun to carry with me into the zombie apocalypse, it would probably be a pump-action 12 gauge shotgun. Rick Grimes can keep his Colt Python.

Problems with a Shotgun

Man shooting a shotgun

That doesn’t mean a shotgun is perfect however, and there are a few things you need to keep in mind if you choose to keep one in your home for defensive purposes. 

First, overpenetration. One of the cardinal rules of gun safety is to be aware of your target, and what lies beyond it. This is especially important with a shotgun, as both buckshot and slugs are highly capable of penetrating multiple interior walls inside a home.

Birdshot can as well, but it’s not really suited to home-defense anyway.

When choosing to use a shotgun, it’s important to be aware that if you have to use it in the case of something like a home invasion, you need to know where your loved ones are, and what’s likely to be behind where you’re shooting.

Beyond that, shotguns that are suitable for home defense are long and difficult to maneuver inside of a building, especially if you haven’t done any formal training with one in that type of situation.

Fortunately, these are all problems that can be overcome with prior planning and a little bit of training.

I highly recommend taking a tactical shotgun class if you can, as that will really help you get an idea of what is required physically when it comes to using a shotgun indoors.

Pump vs Semi-Auto vs Break Action

Hunter holding a shotgun

This is possibly the biggest source of debate when it comes to using a shotgun for home defense.

Some will say a break action is enough and you don’t need anything but a good ole double-barrel.

Some others say that a semi-auto is the best because it fires faster and you don’t have to worry about short-stroking it.

Still others will tell you that semi-autos are unreliable and break actions don’t have the capacity you need, so you should always choose a pump.

The truth, like with most things in the firearms world, is that there’s no one solution that fits everyone’s circumstances. 

If you are on an extreme budget and still want to get a shotgun, a 12-gauge can be had for right around $100.

If you have the money, you can get a higher-end semi-auto that will function reliably, and will be consistent when shooting. 

The best mid-range option, it has to be said, is still a pump-action. You get more round on tap, as well as faster reloads, and a cheap pump action is going to be more reliable than a semi-auto, but only slightly more expensive than a cheap break-action.

Options to Look At

A break action shotgun

If you’re looking for a shotgun, I have a few recommendations for you.

First, if you’re on a very tight budget, I’d recommend looking for a used firearm. These can typically be had for very little money, and you can maybe get them to throw in some ammo as well.

A step up from that, you have budget pump-action options like the Mossberg Maverick 88 that can easily be had for $200 or less, and will provide you a little more flexibility. 

Beyond that, we have mid-tier pump action options like the Mossberg 500/590 series, and Remington 870 series. Of the two, I’d recommend the Mossberg options as Remington’s quality has sadly declined in recent years.

If you have even more money to spend, you may want to look at a semi-auto. The problem is some folks complain about reliablity. There are low-end ones, but if you’re concerned about reliablity, you’ll have to spend more money.

If you’re looking for a serious semi-auto for home defense, the gold standard in my mind is the Benelli M2, which while expensive, is an absolute workhorse and won’t let you down. 

Parting Shots

There are a lot of shotguns out there that are geared towards home defense. Hopefully you now have a good idea of what your own needs are, and how to get your hands on a shotgun that will meet them.

Have any questions or thoughts? Leave a comment below. And don’t forget to check out Gander’s full selection of shotguns. There’s something at every price point. 

Choosing a home defense shotgun


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