Guns & Weapons

Best Shotguns for Home Defense: Choosing A Weapon for Home Protection

Best Shotguns for Home Defense

With so many shotguns available for purchase, it may overwhelm you when you first take on the task of looking for one of the best shotguns for home defense. There are many factors playing a role in what makes a good shotgun for home defense. What’s more, while on weapon may be perfect for one person, another shotgun might be better for another.

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The features of a gun, and one’s ability to use the weapon will need to be taken into consideration, and no doubt, your budget will play a big role in the type of gun you end up buying to protect you and your home.

Shotgun considerations

There is a lot of forethought that has to go into finding and choosing the best shotguns for home defense. In considering the different options that you face, you will be an empowered buyer who can make informed decisions about your weapon investment. Once you have a solid understanding about shotgun options, you will be a more confident buyer.

When you are looking for the best shotguns, there is plenty to consider. While you already know the purpose of why you are investing in a shotgun, you will still need to consider things like the stock length, the length of the gun barrel, the choke, the length of pull, and the gauge of the weapon. The length of pull is the measurement between the butt of the gun and the trigger.

You will definitely want to make sure you invest in a weapon that you will be comfortable using. You should hold the gun in your hands, put it up in the firing position, and see how the weapon feels as you hold it. To that end, consider the weight of the gun as well.


There are both left and right-handed shotguns, and while some people are ambidextrous and it makes no difference which hand is dominant, for others, getting a weapon based on dominant hand use is important. Still, additional considerations include weapon brand, size, and which of the four basic types of shotguns you want to use for home defense, each of which has pros and cons associated with it.

If you are interested in learning more about shotguns, we have several reviews in our article on the best survival shotgun that may interest you.

Safety considerations

Today, about one third of all Americans own a gun of some kind, and according to recent statistics, nearly 300 million people have firearms that are owned privately. Of course, owning a weapon will definitely provide you and your family with a sense of being secure and protected in one’s home, but it can also have the reverse effect on some family members by making them nervous that a gun is actually in the house.

This fear is not only genuine; it is actually a legitimate fear because owning a gun makes the environment where the gun is more dangerous to live in: Accidental shootings can, and do happen. In fact, in the process of trying to defend yourself and your home, the likelihood of an accidental shooting is quadrupled.


If you are looking for one of the best shotguns for home defense, you will also want to think about where you will keep the gun when you get it. This is particularly true if you have children in the home.

When considering the chances of an accidental shooting are four times higher with a gun in the home, and that in more than 20 percent of cases where parents believed their children have never come into contact with a weapon are proven wrong by the children in question, considering where you will put a gun is imperative. You will want to keep a gun locked away, but also easily accessible to you in an emergency situation.

Single shot & pump action shotguns

The single shot and pump action shotguns are two kinds of weapons you need to consider. Below is information about the single shot and pump action shot gun options you have when looking for a gun for home defense. The pros and cons of each are listed. Bear in mind that the single shot and pump action weapons are two of four options that you have when shopping for a weapon.

Weapon Advantages & Disadvantages
Single Shot This type of weapon only holds a single bullet at a time.

Pro: The weapon is often one of the cheapest guns on the market.

Pro: Since these guns fire a single shot at a time before requiring reload, they are considered a bit safer than guns with a less immediate reload need.

Con: May not be terrific in an anxiety driven situation or in a condition where you are defending your life or home.

Con: A single shot shotgun is less effective if you need multiple shots for a moving target.


Pump Action A shotgun that allows for the firing of more than one bullet, but that also requires you pump the weapon before you make every shot. Pumping the weapon forces the spent shell out of the shotgun.

Pro: Affordable.

Con: Not a very quiet weapon, which may alert a home intruder of your presence before you want to do so.

Con: The pump action will slow you down a bit in a situation that requires rapid or quick repetitious firing-action.

Auto-loader & double barrel

Just as the single shot shotgun and the pump action weapon are two types of shotguns to think about when seeking the best shotguns for home defense, you will want to think about two more gun types as well: The auto-loader & double barrel shotguns.

Double Barrel Shotgun

Below is information on each weapon and the pros and cons of their use in home defense:

Weapon Advantages & Disadvantages
Auto-Loader An auto-loader is a weapon that depends on the action of an automatic system to force the spent bullet shell out of the gun and to load up the new bullet so it can be fired. The auto-loader is called a semi-automatic weapon.

Pro: If you are looking for a weapon with a low recoil factor, the auto loader delivers an impact that is about 30 percent less than other weapons. The weapon cyclic and absorbs some of the impact when doing so.

Con: The auto loader is more costly than other weapons.

Double Barrel The double barrel shotgun is one of the best shotguns for home defense because it is such a powerful weapon: it holds two bullet shells simultaneously. The barrels are one on top of the other or side-by-side, depending on the weapon in question.

Pro: The weapon is dependable and offers up considerable shot accuracy.

Con: Poor affordability factor:  This is one of the most costly weapons when compared to the four main types of shotguns on the market today.

Con: The power of this weapon results in a significant recoil.


Shotgun barrels

The type of barrel on a shotgun, particularly the length of it, will affect your ability to fire the gun accurately and to handle the weapon effectively. Long barrels are ideal when you have a target that is predicable or not in motion. You will find a long barrel shotgun handles considerably smoother when you are aiming at a target, but the long barrel shotgun will be bulkier and more cumbersome to hold, aim, and fire. If you are in a tight space and you are firing at a target that is not quite so predictable, a shorter barrel shotgun is ideal.

In terms of shooting accuracy, the longer barrel will clearly have the sights further down the barrel. The longer barrel shotgun is considered more accurate than those with shorter barrels. With a short barrel shot gun, the eye alignment is a factor that becomes more important to you as the shooter.

Shotgun Barrels

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Another thing to consider is the look of the weapon itself. While a gun for any reason looks intimidating, a longer barrel shotgun will often look even more intimidating than a short barrel weapon, simply because of its massive size. A menacing looking weapon will definitely serve you well when you are looking to intimate a home intruder.

When you are shooting a shorter barrel weapon, you can anticipate a louder noise and an increase in flash. A longer barrel will definitely have an increase in terms of the muzzle velocity, but it is not major enough to be concerned with when choosing a shotgun for home defense.

Now, regardless of the type of shotgun you prefer, you will have to know how to maintain and clean it. For this, check our step-by-step tutorial on how to clean a shotgun.

Which is the best shotgun?

The answer to which is the best shotgun for your needs is dependent upon your level of skill. If you are comfortable with weapons and you are skilled with their use, an auto-loader or double barrel shotgun might prove ideal, but in the hand of the unskilled, such weapons can prove incredibly dangerous. The problem with auto loading weapons is that once fired, the weapon ejects the shell and loads the next bullet so it is ready for re-firing immediately: This is not the case with single shot or pump action weapons where your interception or action is required before the gun is ready to fire again. Thus, accidental firing is more likely with an auto-loading and double barrel shotgun.

Bear in mind you can still accidentally fire a single shot shotgun if you do not handle the hammer mechanism correctly. To fire a single shot shotgun you have to pull the hammer back. If for some reason you do not fire the bullet, you have to squeeze the trigger and pull the hammer back simultaneously in order to release the hammer.

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This action needs to be gentle, otherwise it can accidently fire. If your thumb slips off the hammer, the gun will automatically fire. In any scenario, it is an excellent idea for anyone who is not intimately familiar with handling a gun, that they attend a hunting course or gun safety course. Even if a person is familiar with guns, a refresher course is always a good idea.

Shotgun gauges & chokes

When considering a shotgun purchase, it is important to know that the smaller the diameter of the barrel is, the less recoil or kick the gun has when it is in use. If you are new to using a shotgun, you may want to consider a gun like a 20 gauge because it has a lesser kick than a four gauge, which is the biggest shotgun available.

Person with Shotgun

There are many different types of shotgun chokes that determine a shotgun’s spray pattern, including full, modified, improved, cylinder bore, and skeet choke. The three fundamental chokes break down as full, modified, and improved cylinder. To understand the best choke for a gun for self-defense, an understanding of the fundamental choke types is needed:

Choke Type Description of Spray Pattern
Full Includes a dense spread, narrow spread, and a tight constriction.
Modified A spread of medium width and one having less constriction
Improved Cylinder Open spread, wide spread, and minimal restriction.

The most common choked used for the purposes of home defense and that is used by members of law enforcement includes Cylinder Bore Choke. The same type of choke is used for grouse and quail hunting. The latter choke has the widest spray spread. You can also get weapons with special chokes that create a wider or narrower spread, depending on what you want to use the weapon for at the time. The cylinder bore creates a pattern of a 30-inch group at 40 yards. The group contains about 40 percent pellets.

Remington Model 870 Express

The Remington Model 870 Express is a 12 gauge tactical model featuring a 2 3/4″ to 3” chamber and an 18 1/2” gun barrel. The weapon features front blade sights, a synthetic matte black finish on the forearm and stock of the weapon and it weighs 7 1/2 pounds in all. The receiver and the barrel of the weapon feature a blued finish. The gun has a capacity of 7 bullets, and a Rem choke. The Remington Model 870 Express is among the best shotguns for household defense because of its ease of use and care.

Remington 870

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The gun is also great for use when hunting, and at shooting ranges. The Remington Model 870 Express is well liked because of its rugged design, accuracy, and compact design. At around $500.00, you will find the weapon affordable, and the weapon comes with a number of customization options. The Remington Model 870 Express cycles its ammunition well, and you will find the weapon dependable in serious situations. One of the cons associated with the weapon is that the ammunition is a bit on the expensive side.

Mossberg 535

Another reasonably priced tactical shotgun, the Mossberg 535, makes the list of the best shotguns for home defense. The weapon has a 20” barrel fitted with a cylinder choke. Unlike the Remington Model 870 Express, the unit only has a capacity of five bullets. The gun features a 3.5” barrel, ghost ring sights, and a black synthetic stock that is adjustable. The pump action shot gun is a 12-gauge weapon fitted with adjustable rear and blade front sights.

The barrel and receiver had a matte blued finish, and the stock & forearm have a matte black synthetic finish. The Mossberg 535 comes with a cross-bolt safety and a capacity of four in the magazine plus one in the chamber. You will find the Mossberg 535 light, easy to use, simple to clean, and it makes for an easy shot with excellent accuracy.

The weapon has a fierce and intimidating appearance, thereby lending to its ability to serve as a superior weapon for home defense. The Mossberg 535 holds a price tag matching the Remington Model 870 Express at around $500.00.

Winchester Super X Pump Defender

The Winchester Super X Pump Defender is a pump action shotgun with a forearm featuring a deep groove to lend an extra element of stability to the weapon in question. The gun is created with metal that has a non-glare surface, and you can use rifled slugs or buckshot with the gun. This weapon serves up a wide spread pattern because of its choked barrel.

The forearm and stock are comprised of a tough composite material. This 12-gauge weapon hosts an 18 1/2″ barrel, a 2 3/4″to 3” chamber and is lighter than the Remington 870 Express and the Mossberg 535 as it weighs 6 pounds 4 ounces. The weapon is fitted with bead front sights made of brass.

Winchester Super X Pump Defender

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The barrel and receiver are matte blue, and the stock and forearm are matte black. The safety is a cross bolt unit and the gun has a cylinder choke. This weapon has a capacity of five in the five in the magazine and one in the chamber. The Winchester Super X Pump Defender is among the best shotguns for home defense because of its price. The weapon costs about $390.00.

The Winchester Super X Pump Defender is easy to take care of, light, durable, and excellent for short range, shooting ranges, hunting, and home protection purposes. The cons associated with the weapon include the lack of a warranty or user’s manual.

Escort MPP TackStock

The Escort MPP TacStock is priced just under $350.00. The 12 gauge shot gun features an 18” barrel, a 2 3/4″ to 3” chamber, and it features semi-automatic action. This weapon features ghost ring/HiViz Fiber Optic Sights, a cross bolt safety, and a cylinder choke. The barrel and receiver hosts a matte blued finish and the stock and forearm have the classic matte black synthetic finish.

Escort MPP TackStock

The stock of this weapon features a special carrier where you can carry two additional shells. The gun has a menacing appearance. The handle is easy to operate and engage. Once you fire the final shell for the Escort MPP Tacstock, the gun locks open. The magazine tube allows for five shells in all.

Benelli Ultralight Semiautomatic

This semiautomatic shotgun is a top of the line shotgun, making it and excellent addition to the list of the best shotguns for home defense. The Ultra Light Shotgun is available as a 12, 20, or 28 gauge weapon. It has a chamber measuring between 2 3/4″ and 3.” The weapon is priced between $1500.00 and $1600.00. It is called the lightest semiautomatic rifle on earth.

The receiver is made of a light alloy, and it has a Weathercoat® wood stock. Its inertia driven system allows for adjustment free use. The choke and barrel are cryogenically treated to increase and improve the density of the pattern the gun produces.

Bennelli M4

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The Benelli Ultralight Semiautomatic has a rotating bolt head that results in a chamber pressure contained by the rotary locking head, that locks into a barrel extension made of durable steel. The weapon has a bolt lock lever with three critical purposes: The first being when the chamber is empty it locks the bolt back. The second function of the bolt lock lever is that it will release a shell from the gun’s magazine.

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It also makes clear, by feel and sight, that the hammer is cocked. The bolt lock is positioned directly in front of the weapon’s trigger guard. The trigger guard features an ergonomic design and the trigger is gold plated. The gun comes with a durable, gun case for ease of storage. It has a mid bead and red bar front sight.

In summary

A shotgun is an excellent option when it comes to home defense. Finding one of the best shotguns for home defense is highly dependent on your level of skill as a gun operator, your preferences in terms of a weapon, and the features of the weapon in question. You will need to compare the top shotguns and consider features, operation, advantages, disadvantages, and your budget if you are going to choose a suitable weapon for your needs.

Do not forget to factor in a method of storing the weapon once you purchase it as well. If you want a weapon for home defense, you will need to defend your home and the people in it from accidental injury as well.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you click on one of these links and make a purchase, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Also, as an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. If the information in this post has been helpful, please consider purchasing through one of the links in this article. Thank you.

About the author

David Dawson

David Dawson is a retired security specialist with over 20 years of experience. He worked for a secret manufacturing facilities and hospitals in Illinois. David's responsibility was to protect people in case of any disaster or cataclysm that might occur. Now he keeps on doing it through teaching others about how to prepare and survive flood, earthquake or even war.


  • I own the Remington Model 870 Express for hunting and shooting. It has a black color and looks intimidating if I need it in defending myself. I got it for about $300. It has a long lifespan, like 70 to 90 years long. So I guess it will stay with me for the rest of my life, and when the children grow up, it will be there for them. What a better legacy to leave than a great hunting shotgun?

  • If you’re a hunter, your shotgun can now serve two purposes. Otherwise, I think it would be wise to own a lighter shotgun and to practice every now and then especially with heavier ones. I have a Mossberg 500 because it was highly recommended by an acquaintance and the thought of owning it and possibly passing it on to my kids is relieving. However, be responsible to be informed on the laws governing your states because even at a home defense standpoint, some courts can put the blame on you (like New York).

  • A lighter shotgun doesn’t benefit as much as a heavy gun from the swing’s momentum, the lighter gun demands more body English and tighter control.

  • Articles like this one always make me smile. I agree with the assessment of shotgun styles and their pros/cons, but I don’t believe that a shotgun necessarily makes the best weapon for home defense. All factors equal, the capacity, accuracy, and maneuverability of a short-barreled modern sporting rifle (like an AR) cannot be denied. Obviously over penetration is always a concern, but beyond that the versatility, and ease of use by men and women make it a clear front runner for home defense.

    • Thanks, Andy for your views. The purpose of a firearm is to fight your way to your rifle. We agree with you that a short-barreled modern sporting rifle is highly versatile and resourceful for self-defense. We will reflect this in our next posting on self-defense weapon.

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