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Top 5 Home Defense Shotguns

Top 5 Home Defense Shotguns

In the event of a home intrusion requiring the use of a firearm to defend yourself, engagement distances are unlikely to exceed 10 yards. For this reason, many gun owners and firearms experts consider the shotgun the best type of firearm for home defense.

Before purchasing your first home defense shotgun, it is critical to understand the shotgun’s benefits and drawbacks before learning about the top models in today’s market.

Why Choose a Shotgun for Home Defense?

Shotgun Blast

One of the most commonly cited principles of self-defense shootings and, more generally, defensive gunfights is the Rule of Threes. This principle was created to summarize the statistical average of all gunfights based on reports compiled by the NYPD and the FBI. 


According to the Rule of Threes, the statistically perfect gunfight is:

  1. Over in 3 seconds

  2. Involves an average of 3 shots fired

  3. Occurs within 3 yards

Since the home is not an environment where long-distance engagements are likely, accuracy at long ranges is effectively a non-factor in home defense scenarios. Therefore, the shotgun becomes a great option if you’re looking for a home defense firearm.

Advantages of the Shotgun for Home Defense

Home Defense Shotgun


Although every type of firearm has its own characteristics and pros and cons, shotguns have many facets that make them uniquely suited for home defense. For home defense, you want a cost-effective method to protect yourself in various situations, and with a shotgun, you will find just that.

  • Lethality: In the words of renowned firearms expert Massad Ayoob, the shotgun is “perhaps the most efficient close-range killing machine in the world’s arsenal of small arms.” Defensive shotguns are designed to fire several high-velocity projectiles, meaning a well-aimed shot results in multiple hits, significantly increasing the chances of decisively stopping an attacker.

  • Versatility: A shotgun’s behavior changes depending on the type of shotgun shells it fires. The same firearm can accept multiple types of birdshot, buckshot, slugs, and other projectiles without modifications.

  • Cost: Reliable and effective shotguns suitable for self-defense are available across the price spectrum, from the budget Mossberg Maverick 88 (under $300) to super-high-end competition shotguns such as the Benelli M2 (over $2,000).

Limitations of the Shotgun for Home Defense

Like every firearm, shotguns are not without their drawbacks. If you select a shotgun for home defense, you must be fully aware of the limitations and potential disadvantages, such as:

  • Recoil: Shotguns suitable for self-defense typically generate significantly more recoil than a handgun or a defensive carbine, such as the AR-15. Recoil-sensitive shooters may find shotguns harder to control than other types of firearms.

  • Length and weight: The National Firearms Act (18 USC 921(a)(6)) states that any shotgun with a barrel length under 18.5 inches is considered a Short-Barreled Shotgun. For this reason, most self-defense and tactical shotguns have the legal minimum 18.5-inch barrel, making them longer and heavier than most 16-inch barreled carbines and rifles.

  • Limited capacity: The typical modern semi-automatic pistol has a magazine capacity ranging between 12 and 20 rounds, and most modern rifles and carbines have a standard capacity of 30 rounds. In contrast, shotguns rarely exceed 10 shells in total capacity, meaning significantly fewer shots at the shooter’s disposal.

  • Example: A Remington 870 Home Defense 12 gauge pump shotgun with an extended magazine tube has a total capacity of 6+1 shells. In comparison, a Glock 17 9mm semi-automatic pistol comes with a 17-round magazine, whereas a typical 5.56mm AR-15 carbine comes with a 30-round magazine.

Top 5 Shotguns for Home Defense

If you’re searching for a home defense shotgun, research your options and select the one you find most comfortable. Among all the options, some are more effective than others, including:


  1. Best Pump-Action: Mossberg 590A1

Mossberg 590A1

The Mossberg 590A1 is one of the flagship pump-action shotguns on Mossberg’s catalog and possibly one of the most effective for home defense applications.

The 590A1 belongs to the same product family as the Mossberg 500 and 590 pump-action shotguns, offering durability, reliability, high-capacity magazine tubes, and an array of options suitable for most civilian, law enforcement, and military applications.

Unlike Model 500 and 590 shotguns, all versions of the Mossberg 590A1 are only available in 12 gauge with a 3” (76mm) chamber. However, it will also accept any 12 gauge shells of a shorter length, such as standard 2-¾” (70mm) or Aguila Mini-Shells.

The standard version is the 590A1 9-Shot (catalog model 51660). It features an all-purpose 20-inch barrel, an 8-shot magazine tube for a total capacity of 8+1, all-black synthetic furniture with fixed stock, an all-metal trigger guard, and a standard bead sight. 

The 590A1 was designed to meet the U.S. Navy’s requirements (MIL-S-3443E). It was adopted in 2001 by the Navy, obtaining the military designation M590A1, and remains one of the standard service shotguns of the U.S. armed forces to this day.

Variants and options

Mossberg offers numerous options and standard factory variants for the 590A1 shotgun. Options include a Picatinny rail for red dots, ghost ring sights, and an optional shorter 18.5” barrel with a matching 6-shot magazine tube.

Mossberg 590A1 Variants

Factory variants include a tactical model with pistol grip and M4-style retractable stock, the 590A1 Retrograde with wood stock and slide, heat shield, and ghost ring sights, and a version with a Marinecote receiver, barrel, and magazine tube, designed to withstand naval environments.


  • Manufacturer: O.F. Mossberg & Sons

  • Model: 590A1

  • Caliber: 12 gauge, 3”

  • Action: Pump-action shotgun

  • Capacity: 6+1 (7-Shot models) or 8+1 (9-Shot models)

  • Overall length: 39.5” (7-Shot) or 41” (9-Shot)

  • Barrel length: 18.5” (7-Shot) or 20” (9-Shot)

  • Weight: approx. 7 lbs.

  • MSRP: $704 to $1,049


  1. Best Semi-Automatic: Benelli M4

Benelli M4

Benelli is one of the world’s most prestigious shotgun makers, manufacturing a complete line of modern shotguns with cutting-edge technologies for all applications.

One of the most well-known Benelli shotguns is the M4, sometimes known as the M4 Super 90 (after the “Super 90” product family it belongs to). The Benelli M4 is a 12 gauge, gas-operated, semi-automatic shotgun designed to meet military and law enforcement needs. 

The Benelli M4 is famous for employing the Benelli Auto-Regulating Gas-Operated (ARGO) action, a short-stroke, dual-piston operated system featuring no linkages, action bars, or mechanisms adding unnecessary weight to the firearm. 

Benelli’s ARGO system employs a gas port just ahead of the chamber. This system allows the M4 to exploit the shell’s gases when they are at their hottest, reducing the amount of fouling that enters the action and increasing cycling reliability even in adverse conditions.

The shotgun was tested during the Joint Service Combat Shotgun (JSCS) program and subsequently adopted by the U.S. Marine Corps in 1999, receiving its most well-known designation: M1014.

Although current-production Benelli M4s have dropped the “Super 90” designation, the features and specifications are identical. The standard configuration, the M1014 (catalog model 11701), has the same features as the military version: 18.5” barrel, 3” chamber, retractable stock, pistol grip, a standard Picatinny rail, and rifle-style iron sights.


  • Manufacturer: Benelli Armi

  • Model: M4 / M1014

  • Caliber: 12 gauge, 3”

  • Action: Semi-auto shotgun

  • Capacity: 5+1 or 7+1

  • Overall length: 40”

  • Barrel length: 18.5”

  • Weight: approx. 8 lbs.

  • MSRP: $2,149

  1. Best Budget Shotgun: Mossberg Maverick 88 Security

Maverick 88

At first glance, the Mossberg Maverick 88 Security may appear identical to the Model 500. Externally, they are similar to shotguns, to the point that many Mossberg 500 accessories are 100% compatible with the Maverick 88 Security. 

All Maverick shotguns are manufactured at Mossberg’s new facility in Eagle Pass, TX, using a mixture of parts made locally and in Mexico instead of the older, more established factory in New Haven, CT.

Most of the differences between the Maverick and higher-priced Model 500s are internal. A differently-designed trigger mechanism, a cross-bolt safety system instead of the Model 500’s thumb-operated switch, fewer options and accessories, and slightly lower overall build quality.

Although the Maverick 88 Security is cheaper and perhaps not as durable as its higher-priced equivalents, the practical differences are minimal. Millions of Americans trust the Maverick 88 for home defense and other civilian applications because it is a highly reliable shotgun, especially in its price range.


  • Manufacturer: O.F. Mossberg & Sons

  • Model: Maverick 88 Security

  • Caliber: 12 gauge (3” chamber)

  • Action: Pump-action shotgun

  • Capacity: 5+1 or 7+1

  • Overall length: 41” to 47.75”

  • Barrel length: 18.5” to 28.5”

  • Weight: 6.5 to 7.5 lbs.

  • MSRP: $253 to $283

  1. Best 20 Gauge Shotgun: Mossberg 500 Super Bantam

Mossberg 500 Bantam

Younger or more recoil-sensitive shooters may find 12 gauge shotguns generally uncomfortable to shoot. Although 12 gauge is a proven self-defense cartridge, 20 gauge shotguns have been around for nearly as long and have a long history of effectiveness. While going to a 20 gauge means less power in exchange for less recoil, an attacker is unlikely to notice the difference.

20 Gauge Shooter

If the 20 gauge is the self-defense shotgun cartridge for you, then a reliable shotgun such as the Mossberg 500 Super Bantam is what you need. The Mossberg 500 Super Bantam offers the same features and reliability as its larger equivalents in a smaller, lighter package.

The Model 500 Super Bantam All-Purpose features a stock with a removable recoil pad and 1” spacer, allowing a young shooter to grow with their firearm and progressively increase the length of pull. 

The 20 gauge chambering and modern construction allow the Super Bantam to be a remarkably lightweight firearm, rated from the factory at approximately 5.25 lbs., or about 2 lbs. lighter than a typical 12 gauge shotgun.


  • Manufacturer: O.F. Mossberg & Sons

  • Model: Model 500 Super Bantam All-Purpose

  • Caliber: 20 gauge, 3” chamber

  • Action: Pump-action shotgun

  • Capacity: 5+1

  • Overall length: 39.75”

  • Barrel length: 22”

  • Weight: approx. 5.25 lbs.

  • MSRP: $489

  1. Best Bullpup Shotgun: Kel-Tec KSG

Kel-Tec KSG

A bullpup is a firearm with a trigger mechanism in front of the breech instead of behind it, as on a standard firearm. 

Bullpup firearms allow for shorter overall lengths for a given barrel length, resulting in more compact and maneuverable guns without sacrificing ballistic performance. Although the most famous bullpup guns are rifles (e.g., Steyr AUG, FAMAS, L85, etc.), bullpup shotguns, such as the Kel-Tec KSG, are also available.

First introduced at SHOT Show 2011, the Kel-Tec KSG is an unusual 12 gauge pump-action shotgun that is intended for civilian and law enforcement applications, combining multiple previously unseen features in tactical shotguns.

Although the KSG’s overall length is just 26.1”, its bullpup construction means it possesses an 18.5” barrel. Combined with its unloaded weight of 6.9 lbs., the KSG is very short and compact, ideal for home defense applications. 

Its most unusual feature is the double magazine tube, each capable of accepting 7 shells and giving the KSG a total capacity of 15 rounds (7+7+1). A switch allows the shooter to select either magazine at will. For example, an operator may load slugs in one tube and buckshot in the other, switching to either shell type according to their needs. 

The KSG’s unusual design and unique features made it a common sight in various movies, TV shows, video games, and other fictional properties. A prominent example is the movie John Wick (2014), where the titular protagonist uses the KSG in the “Where is he?” scene.

John Wick KSG


  • Manufacturer: Kel-Tec CNC Industries

  • Model: KSG

  • Caliber: 12 gauge

  • Action: Pump-action shotgun

  • Capacity: 7+7+1

  • Overall length: 26.1”

  • Barrel length: 18.5”

  • Weight: 6.9 lbs.

  • MSRP: $825

Find the Ideal Carry Holster at We The People Holsters


When it comes to home defense, you want the most effective firearm possible. But when you’re away from home, a quality handgun and a reliable holster are what you’re counting on for personal protection. We The People Holsters offers a selection of 100% American-made holsters compatible with an extensive selection of pistols and revolvers. 

Browse our IWB and OWB product selection and carry your favorite handguns confidently.

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