The Defender’s Arsenal: Choosing the Perfect Shotgun for Self-Defense

Regarding home defense, a shotgun can be an effective and reliable tool. Its versatility and stopping power make it a popular choice for many homeowners.

However, selecting a suitable shotgun for your specific needs requires careful consideration. This blog post will explore key factors when purchasing one for home defense.

What is a Home Defense Shotgun?

The concept of home defense can vary depending on your geographical context. The primary concern in urban areas with high crime rates may be protecting against human intruders. In suburban and rural environments, the focus might shift to safeguarding pets or livestock from potential threats posed by wild predators such as coyotes or bears.

Regardless, a home defense shotgun is a firearm specifically designed and chosen to protect oneself and their home from potential intruders or threats. It typically features a short barrel length, reliable action type, and appropriate ammunition to provide effective close-quarters defense within the confines of a home environment.

Things to Look For in a Home Defense Shotgun

You should consider several important factors when shopping for a shotgun for self-defense. By researching before purchasing, you can make an informed decision when selecting the best weapon for self-defense. Let’s take a closer look at these considerations:

The Defender’s Arsenal - Graphic 1

Gauge Selection

Shotguns come in different gauges, the most common being 12 gauge, 20 gauge, and .410 bore. The gauge refers to the diameter of the shotgun’s bore. Generally, a smaller gauge corresponds to a larger diameter, meaning the gun uses larger shots. For instance, a 12-gauge shotgun will employ larger shots than a 20-gauge.

So, what’s the best shotgun gauge for home defense?

We recommend 12 gauge for home defense due to its superior stopping power. It delivers significant stopping power and wider shot spread at longer distances, increasing the chances of incapacitating an intruder. Additionally, the availability and affordability of 12-gauge ammunition make it a practical choice for most individuals.

Barrel Length

Regarding barrel length, most people prefer a shorter option for home defense shotguns. A barrel length between 18 and 20 inches balances maneuverability and effective range. Shorter barrels make it easier to navigate confined spaces, such as hallways and doorways, while still offering adequate accuracy and spread.

We highly recommend selecting a shotgun model with an 18.5-inch barrel — the legal minimum barrel length in most states. While longer barrels pose unlikely problems when hunting upland birds in open fields, they present challenges in close-quarter maneuverability. Given a shotgun barrel’s relatively short effective range, there are no significant benefits of opting for a longer barrel for home defense purposes.

Length of Pull (LOP)

The length of pull (LOP) refers to the distance between the butt of the gunstock and the trigger of a shotgun. The average LOP on shotguns typically falls within the 13 to 15 inches range, with the standard length commonly set at 13.5 inches.

Choosing the right LOP is vital to ensure comfort and proper shooting technique. A longer LOP may provide a more comfortable fit for longer arms, allowing for a natural and ergonomic shooting stance. On the other hand, a shorter LOP may require you to uncomfortably bring your shoulders up and potentially compromise your shooting form.

While live-fire is preferred, you should at least dry-fire your intended firearm before purchasing.

Action Type

Shotguns can have different action types: pump-action, semi-automatic, and break-action (single or double-barreled). There’s even a revolver shotgun. Each has pros and cons, but people often favor semi-automatic shotguns for home defense.

When every second counts in high-stress situations, a semi-automatic shotgun allows for faster follow-up shots. It automatically cycles the action, eliminating the need for manual pumping. Additionally, the reduced recoil of semi-automatic shotguns enables quicker target reacquisition, improving accuracy and shot placement. Its smoother and faster action cycling enhances overall handling and ease of use, particularly for individuals with limited strength or dexterity.

While pump-action shotguns are known for their reliability, modern semi-automatic shotguns have made significant advancements in terms of reliability and are now widely trusted for home defense purposes. With these benefits in mind, a semi-automatic shotgun provides a compelling option for those seeking a reliable, rapid-fire solution for home defense.


When purchasing a home defense shotgun, we recommend you consider a capacity that balances sufficient ammunition and ease of maneuverability. Always check local laws and regulations regarding magazine capacity restrictions in your area.

Most home defense shotguns have a magazine capacity ranging from four to eight rounds. A higher capacity allows more rounds to be readily available without frequent reloading, which can be advantageous in stressful or time-sensitive situations.

However, it’s crucial to balance capacity with the overall size and weight of the shotgun to ensure it remains easy to handle and maneuver within the confines of your home. Ultimately, the ideal capacity will depend on your specific needs, preferences, and the potential threats you may face in your home defense scenario.

Ammunition Compatibility

Ensure the shotgun can handle various ammunition types, including birdshot, buckshot, and slugs. Different situations may require different ammunition, so having versatility in your shotgun’s capability is essential.

The Defender’s Arsenal - Graphic 2

Which Stock Type is Best for a Home Defense Shotgun?

The best stock type for a home defense shotgun depends on personal preference and shooting style. However, there are two main stock types commonly considered for home defense shotguns:

Traditional Stock

A traditional stock, also known as a shoulder stock, consists of a more extended grip and a shoulder rest. This stock type provides better control, stability, and recoil management. It allows for a more secure and consistent shoulder placement, improving accuracy and follow-up shots.

The longer length of a traditional stock also aids in shouldering the shotgun quickly and maintaining a proper shooting stance. A traditional stock is a popular choice for those prioritizing control and accuracy in high-stress home defense situations.

Pistol Grip Stock

As the name implies, a pistol grip stock features a grip that resembles a pistol. This type of stock offers a more compact and ergonomic design, making maneuvering the shotgun in tight spaces easier. A pistol grip stock’s shorter length and vertical grip angle allow quick transitions and easy handling.

It can be particularly advantageous for individuals with limited space or who prefer a more compact and agile firearm. However, it’s important to note that a pistol grip stock may result in increased felt recoil due to the reduced surface area for recoil absorption.

The Best Stock for a Home Defense Shotgun

Ultimately, the best stock type for a home defense shotgun will depend on your comfort, shooting preferences, and home layout. We recommend you try out both stock types, ideally through hands-on experience or rental opportunities, to determine which provides the optimal balance of control, maneuverability, and recoil management for your specific needs.

The Defender’s Arsenal - Graphic 3

What Sights and Accessories Should I Choose for My Shotgun?

People typically use shotguns at close ranges where quick target acquisition is crucial for home defense. Consider a gun with good factory sights or one pre-milled for easy installation. Additionally, consider accessories like a flashlight or laser sight, which can enhance target identification in low-light situations.

Many shotguns come with a factory-installed bead at the end of the barrel. While this small bead may be suitable for hunting, it’s less than desirable for home defense as it is challenging to see in low-light conditions and lacks precision.

To enhance your shotgun’s accuracy, consider upgrading to a ghost ring rear with a tritium-powered front sight that emits a glowing light. This sight combination offers improved accuracy and visibility in various lighting conditions. It is worth noting that many tactical shotgun models from different manufacturers already include variations of these sights as standard.

We highly recommend considering a red-dot sight for superior accuracy and ease of use. Using a red dot feels almost effortless, as there’s no need to worry about sight alignment. It simplifies shooting while on the move or engaging moving targets, as you only need to place the dot on the target and pull the trigger. The advantages of a red-dot sight become especially apparent when shooting in low-light or nighttime conditions, particularly when combined with a reliable white light for target identification.

Our Top 3 Picks for Home Defense

In considering the critical factors to look for when purchasing a home defense shotgun, we’ve narrowed our top picks to three.

Editor’s Pick: Benelli M4 Tactical

The Benelli M4 Tactical is an outstanding semi-automatic shotgun with a reputation as one of the best in its class. Initially designed for military and law enforcement applications, the Benelli M4 excels in reliability, durability, and performance. Its gas-operated system ensures smooth cycling and minimal recoil, allowing quick follow-up shots and enhanced control.

The Benelli M4 is renowned for its rugged construction and ability to withstand harsh conditions, making it a reliable companion for home defense purposes. Its reputation for reliability and performance has made it a popular choice among law enforcement agencies and discerning shooters alike. If the price is a deterrent, consider the Benelli M2 instead.

Benelli M4 Tactical Specs:

  • Barrel Length: 18.5”

  • Overall Length: 40”

  • Weight: 7.8 lbs

  • Gauge: 12 Gauge

  • Capacity: 5+1

  • Stock: Comes Standard With Picatinny Rail and Pistol Grip Stock

  • Sights: Ghost Ring Rear Sight and Windage-Adjustable Front Sight

Runner Up: Beretta 1301 Tactical

Highly regarded, the Beretta 1301 Tactical delivers tactical and home defense applications. This shotgun is built on Beretta’s proven 1301 platform and offers exceptional reliability, fast cycling, and impressive handling characteristics. Its gas-operated system ensures smooth and reliable operation, minimizing recoil and allowing quick follow-up shots.

Equipped with various tactical features, the Beretta 1301 Tactical offers customization options to suit individual preferences and mission requirements. Whether for personal protection or professional use, the Beretta 1301 Tactical is a reliable and purpose-built shotgun that delivers exceptional performance in high-stress situations.

Beretta 1301 Tactical Specs:

  • Barrel Length: 18.7”

  • Overall Length: 37.8”

  • Weight: 6.4 lbs

  • Gauge: 12

  • Capacity: 7+1

  • Stock: Pistol Grip or Traditional Stock Option

  • Sights: Ghost Ring Sights w/ Picatinny Rail

Most Affordable: Mossberg 930 SPX

The Mossberg 930 SPX is widely known to be one of the best-priced semi-automatic shotguns under $1000, offering exceptional value for its features and performance. Equipped with a ghost ring rear sight and fiber optic front sight, it provides excellent sight visibility and offers rail space for attaching a red dot sight if desired.

Additionally, the AR-15 height front sight allows for co-witnessing with existing AR-15 optics, providing versatility and compatibility. Plus, Mossberg offers variations of the 930 SPX with or without a pistol grip, catering to individual preferences and shooting styles.

Mossberg 930 SPX Specs:

  • Barrel Length: 18.5”

  • Overall Length: 38” (pistol grip & stock model) or 39” (stock only model)

  • Weight: 7.25-7.5 lbs

  • Gauge: 12

  • Capacity: 7+1

  • Stock: Pistol Grip or Traditional Stock Option

  • Sights: Rear Ghost Ring Sight w/ Front Fiber Optic Sight

The Defender’s Arsenal - Graphic 4

Choosing Your Shotgun, Ammunition, and Accessories

Responsible firearm ownership entails understanding and abiding by local laws and regulations and investing in proper training for safe and effective use.

It’s advisable to visit a reputable firearms dealer, seek guidance from knowledgeable professionals, and consider hands-on experience and training to ensure you make an informed decision that aligns with your specific needs and circumstances.

Once you’ve chosen the best shotgun for you, check out Ammo Planet for ammunition and accessories. You won’t be disappointed.

More 2A News

Choosing the Best 9mm Target Ammo

Discover the key factors and considerations for choosing the best 9mm target ammunition to enhance your shooting experience and accuracy on the range. Unlock accuracy, affordability, and more.

Read More

Meet 2023’s Newest Lever-Action Rifle: the Bond Arms LVRB

Discover the revolutionary Bond Arms LVRB, 2023's newest lever action rifle that combines classic appeal with adapatbility and modern innovations.

Read More

Different Types of Handguns: A Comprehensive Guide to Firearm Terminology

Discover the different types of handguns and explore their characteristics, uses, and notable examples in this comprehensive guide.

Read More

Connect with us

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
Ammo Planet

©2023 Ammo Planet | Sitemap